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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Red Dwarf voyages back to Earth

Cult comedy Red Dwarf is returning to TV, 21 years after its initial launch.

The show has been resurrected by digital channel Dave for a two-part Easter weekend special, which sees the cast finally return to Earth.

Written and directed by Red Dwarf co-creator Doug Naylor, the new show reunites the line-up, including Coronation Street's Craig Charles.

The hit show, which ran for eight series on BBC Two between 1988 and 1999, won an International Emmy award.

'No holds barred'

Set three million years into the future, the show followed the exploits of Dave Lister, slovenly crew member of the mining ship Red Dwarf - and the last man in the universe.

He was joined in his weekly attempts to make it back to Earth by a cast of oddballs including human hologram Arnold Rimmer, mechanoid servant Kryten and Cat - a preening half-man, half-animal who evolved from the ship's cat.

At its peak, Red Dwarf pulled in around eight million viewers and was broadcast in more than 25 countries.

It has sold more than seven million DVDs and videos.

The new two-part series Red Dwarf: Back to Earth will be followed by a "no holds barred" episode without sets, special effects or autocue.

The weekend will climax with Red Dwarf: the Making of Back to Earth, a behind-the-scenes special from the new episodes.

.. Thanks to Mick for passing this across the news desk!

Monday, January 26, 2009


Over the last week I've been watching lots of 'Fringe'.
It's sort of 'son of x-files', and is co-created by J.J. Abrams, the guy behind 'Alias', 'Lost' & 'Cloverfield'.

Thoroughly enjoyable, the mad-scientist character Dr Walter Bishop is one of the best characters I've seen recently.

As is typical for Abrams creations, there are hidden hints in the show credits and various websites etc created that help the viewer piece together what is going on.

Check it out.
To get you started, check out:


Sunday, January 25, 2009

MGMT - Electric feel

Catchy song, cool clip. Been a while since I've been to one of these parties unfortunately.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Happy Chinese New Year
Kong Hei Fatt Choy!

To the person who organised Australia day celebrations in our Office:

.. This is a Sausage Roll

.. This is not. This is a travesty and quite possibly an act of war.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Monkey Magic

Monkey Magic
“In the worlds before Monkey, primal chaos reigned.

Heaven sought order,
but the phoenix can fly only when it's feathers are grown.

The four worlds formed again and yet again,
As endless aeons wheeled and passed.

Time and the pure essences of Heaven,
the moistures of the Earth,and the powers of the Sun and the Moon all worked upon a certain rock
- old as creation,
and it magically became fertile...

Elemental forces caused the egg to hatch.
From it then came a stone monkey...

The nature of Monkey was irrepressible!

Ip Man

Yesterday we went to see the excellent Ip Man, the story of the Wing Chun KungFu Grandmaster who trained, (among many others) Bruce Lee.

It's thoroughly enjoyable, with lots of great (and brutal!) fighting and especially earlier on, humour.


.. and back from Sydney


My girlie and I recently flew back to Sydney to spend xmas and (gwei-lo) new years with my friends and family. It was her first trip to Oz, and as we're planning on moving back there in a couple of months time, it was also the 'sell the city to the girl' trip. :)

.. I think it was successful.


We :
  • walked across the Sydney Harbour Bridge
  • Caught the ferry to Manly & went to the beach
  • Ate meat pies
  • Drank Australian beers
  • Had nice coffee in the CBD
  • Went to Chinatown for dinner
  • Caught Sydney trains
  • Caught Sydney buses
  • Caught Sydney taxi's
  • Lunch and clothes shopping in Newtown
  • Roamed around the Rocks markets

.. The only thing I can think of offhand that we didn't get to do was go to Glebe markets, which is one of my alltime favourite Sydney rituals. Ever since I was at university in sunny Wagga Wagga, the two or three times a year that I was able to trek across to Sydney and go to the Glebe markets was the epitomy of Sydney cosmopolitanism for me.

I'm pretty sure that says more about me than it does about Sydney =)

Anyhoo, here's a few pics.

inside the ritzy sactum of the QVB

Jet coffeee is goood coffeee

QVB's indigenous tile design

Delish Turkey Xmas dinner at my sisters house..

Pei Lin in tropical Eastwood

obligatory Harbour bridge pic

on the ferry to Manly

Speed chess is a spectator sport, (or was it cleavage?)

Down & out on Elizabeth st (bum on seat)

looking from the Opera house back to the city

Australian Chinese food - lunch in Eastwood.
Top right is not Char Kway Teow, despite what the menu says.




transit 1

transit 2

transit 3

Town Hall stn escalator detail

train detail (yes, we caught a lot if trains)

Building detail on Elizabeth street

I wasn't sure about the prospect of moving back, would I be bored with everything being so familiar?
Nope. I'm looking forward to it.

It's not about 'there's no place like home' ~ I'm not originally from Sydney but from a small town in South Central NSW ... and sorry to say, but I don't really miss that place at all. Home is where the heart is. I've always loved city life. There may be a time when I move away from it, but I will always enjoy returning.

Sydney is a lovely city, sometimes we need to step away to see things more clearly :)

Monday, January 12, 2009

Kinesis K2 solar and wind-powered portable charger

The Kinesis K2 solar and wind-powered portable charger stores enough juice to recharge your average mobile phone 5 times. It comes with a variety of attachments, including usb, all stored inside it's yellow plastic body when not required.

It should retail for around $140 AUD, and I think it's pretty darn awesome.

.. more here:

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Season 3 - IT Crowd

Hilarious stuff!

Yoda hat for babies

Last week when we were in Sydney we met with my cousin Stephen and his family and got to talking about making a yoda beanie for his 7 month old to wear while in his backpack carrier.

Looks like it's already been done. There's another million dollar idea down the gurgler :)

Presenting the yoda baby hat.

Outlander: Vikings vs. Aliens :)

Last weekend we went to see Outlander which was a vikings vs aliens geekerific splendourfest.

Most of the film takes place in olden time viking laden earth, but there are several interesting detours into the 'backstory', which takes place in a hi-tech, space-age alien environment. I want to say 'paradoxically', but it just actually isn't. That's a pity because it's a really cool word.

Probably quite obviously, this was my choice, and I really enjoyed it.

Outlander scores 7/10.

Friday, January 09, 2009

The future of the watch?

The cell phone is like some kind of pocket-size Death Star, moving through the gadget universe and destroying all in its path. First, PDAs. Then cameras. Then media players, GPS devices and more. One of its forgotten casualties is the wristwatch. Don't look now, but wristwatches are poised for a comeback.

The reason? Wristwatches are now trying to beat cell phone at their own game: Convergence.

People, especially young people, have found wristwatches redundant because their cell phones tell the time. But a new generation of wristwatches turns the tables and feature full cell phone functionality.

Cell phone wristwatches have been lurking at the fringe of mainstream computing for probably a decade or so. But, suddenly, they're appearing in higher numbers, better form factors and in more usable configurations. Plus, they're getting less dorky and more cool.

LG unveiled recently its LG GD910 watch phone, which like the iPhone is all screen with virtual, on-screen buttons. The GD910 has a camera, so you can do real videoconferencing like Dick Tracy. It supports MP3 files and Bluetooth.

Another new contender is the sWaP Mobile Phone Watch. It surfs the Web, plays music and video, takes pictures and more. Data is stored on a standard MicroSD card.

But the most promising and, well, most awesome new cell phone wristwatch is the Phenom SpecialOps Cellphone Watch. The watch has a cell phone keypad on the strap, and, like the others above supports Bluetooth, MicroSD, MP3s and more. It even comes with a tiny, pull-out stylus for using the mini touch screen.

Even more interesting is that the Phenom SpecialOps watch is just one of many cell phone wristwatches for sale by Phenom. They've got sports cell phone wristwatches, business cell phone wristwatches and even watches made for girls and women -- and accessories and peripherals to go with them! (They've also got a cell phone wristwatch that defies description.)

I think this could be a real trend. A cell phone wristwatch lets you basically just not carry a cell phone -- and still be able to make and receive calls, take pictures and entertain yourself on the subway.


The LG-GD910 phone will go on sale first in Europe and builds on a prototype shown at CES 2008.
the center of the watch face is a 1.4-inch touchscreen display that is used for most interaction. It is used as the keypad when making a call, for example. There are also buttons down the side of the phone's body.

The WCDMA (wideband code division multiple access) phone supports the latest 7.2Mbps (megabits per second) HSDPA (high-speed downlink packet access) data system, so downloads should be fast. It can also make video calls via a small camera above the top right corner of the screen.

Other features include Bluetooth, an MP3 player, a speakerphone and a text-to-speech function. The handset is also waterproof.

SWAP watch

CAST out your mobile phones (but keep the SIM card, it’s quite important) and get ready for a new dawn in mobile technology.

The sWap Watch has arrived.

For too long the mobile phone has dominated the landscape of techno communications, while the trusty watch was left alone on the bedside table, gathering dust while we, its selfish masters, galavanted from meeting to meeting, keeping time with our trusty pocket sized PDA’s. The mobile phone heartlessly usurped the watch of its fundamental duties but the ‘sWap Watch’ is out for revenge and will not stop until the mobile phone has gone the way of the sun dial and the Dodo.

The tables have now been turned. The sWap Watch doesn’t just double as a mobile phone – it’s like having a multimedia centre strapped to your wrist, and all without the crushing shoulder strain.

Want to check your emails? Surf the internet?

Listen to music? Take Pictures? Watch a movie?

MAKE a movie? It does ALL of these. It’s in danger of completely eradicating boredom, revolutionising every minute of your day into a potential fun zone. The next time you’re stuck on the train you’ll just need to check out the 1.5 inch screen on your wrist for an instant fix of entertainment that’ll turn your commute into a pleasure cruise rather than a chore. The memory card slot allows you to insert a Micro SD card to upgrade the already impressive 512MB memory to a whopping 2GB. With all that memory you’ll have no problem storing all the MP3s and movies you’d need for a short jaunt.

If you really get bored (and with this watch, it’s hard to see how you could) you could even check the time (from one of the many different watch faces stored in it’s memory) or make a phone call.

The watch will accept most SIM cards, so upgrading is hassle free and making calls couldn’t be simpler – just plug in the hands free kit and you’re good to go. If you really want to go one step beyond and banish those pesky wires along with your mobile phone then you’ll be ecstatic to hear that the watch is Bluetooth compatible. You won’t even have to fork out for the headset as it’s included in the package.


functions as an MP3/MP4 player through a MicroSD port. Other features include a 1.3" touchscreen display, Bluetooth, speakerphone, numeric keypad and a videocamera.

Yes, this cellphone watch handles video when the iPhone still doesn't.

... The future has arrived and it’s a wristwatch.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Backyard bliss may soon be a memory

THERE are two Sydneys of the future. In one we build on empty paddocks 45 kilometres from the CBD, where workers wake before dawn to spend hours in traffic driving to work.

In the other we abandon the McMansions of Kellyville - and our cars - in favour of high-rise apartment living and subway transport.

The state's transport boffins want us to choose the latter in a new blueprint for the city that relies on an underground metro. The Federal Government backs it, too.

The rationale for moving away from large houses on large blocks in far-flung suburbs to inner-city living is cost - both economic and environmental - transport and planning experts say.

In an era of peak oil and climate change, where higher petrol, water and electricity prices will significantly increase the cost of living, we can no longer afford suburban sprawl, they argue.

That does not mean the death of the backyard and the cul-de-sac. But it would mean fewer of them.

The debate about higher-density living has been going on for decades, but every time it is raised there is a community backlash, says Professor Peter Newman of Curtin University, a former NSW Sustainability Commissioner and now a member of the advisory board for Infrastructure Australia.

Newman says resistance to high-rise living comes mostly from Anglo-Saxons worried crime will rise and house prices fall.

"That has … been shown to be nonsense," he says.

Apartment complexes can be designed to encourage a sense of community, safety and provide for affordable housing, because "design is everything".

"If you want to make a slum, you can … density doesn't wreck or create an area, in itself."

Research by Newman and the planning and infrastructure consultancy Parsons Brinckerhoff found Sydney's suburban sprawl costs the economy and the environment twice as much as inner-city housing. The cost of infrastructure, transport, health and greenhouse gases for new housing built on a city's fringe is worth $653 million for every 1000 new dwellings, compared with $309 million for inner-city development, they say.

For every 1000 housing blocks, the Government could save $85 million on power, water, sewerage, schools and hospitals if it built close to central business districts rather than on the city's fringe, and $250 million in transport costs could be saved in 50 years.

That amounts to an $85 million subsidy to developers on the fringe, Newman says.

During the past five years Sydney's middle-ring suburbs, such as Liverpool, Hurstville and Blacktown, have joined fringe suburbs in what Griffith University researchers describe as a new landscape of oil and mortgage stress. Car use, income and mortgage repayments have combined to affect more than 40 per cent of Sydney's suburbs, according to work done by the university's Jago Dodson and Neil Snipe. This comes as the State Government has backed away from big rail projects in the north-west and south-west of the city, areas crying out for public transport.

If at least some of our residential housing must be high-rise - and planners tell us there is a market - can we trust the Government to sell the idea to the community? That could depend on whether this Labor administration can restore the community's trust in its relationship with developers.

Until voters believe planning reforms are for their benefit instead of developers', they will fight to keep the suburban dream alive.

Get ready Sydney: high-rise suburbs coming

SYDNEY will be reinvented as a high-density metropolis serviced by mass-transit subways under a transport blueprint being developed by senior state and federal government bureaucrats.

Powerful new legislation underpinning a proposed metro network costing $13 billion will enable transport and planning officials to reshape the inner suburbs of Sydney, paving the way for apartment towers as high as 15 storeys as well as large-scale retail and office blocks.

To justify the multibillion-dollar investment, tens of thousands more people would have to live and work within walking distance of the proposed Parramatta Road metro stations, according to planning officials behind the overhaul.

Heritage inner-west suburbs such as Glebe, Leichhardt, Rozelle and Camperdown are to be among the first to face radical changes should both the $8.1 billion West Metro underneath Parramatta Road and the $4.8 billion CBD Metro go ahead.

A joint state and federal government study into the West Metro, leaked to the Herald, revealed it would "significantly reduce travel times between western Sydney and the Sydney CBD".

"It would also provide significant support for transit-oriented development, urban revitalisation and services to new rail markets," it said.

The controversial population targets in the inner west, set in the State Government's planning blueprint, the Metropolitan Strategy, would be eclipsed by new targets to support a mass-transit subway.

"It is not to say the Metro Strategy is wrong but the world has shifted," said a senior state planning official. "The next round of the Metro Strategy will have to consider greater in-fill [urban density]."

But in the face of anti-development campaigns in the inner west, the state Labor Government may have trouble selling the high-rise living plans to nervous western Sydney MPs.

The Transport Minister, David Campbell, acknowledged that an overhaul of the areas serviced by the metro was a central concern for the State Government.

"One of the main benefits of this corridor would see the revitalisation of urban growth and employment for communities along Parramatta Road," he said.

Late last year, a team of advisers from Infrastructure Australia took a bus tour to one such location, MarketPlace shopping centre on Marion Street, Leichhardt, to scout the location for a metro station.

A new transport authority, quietly legislated by the State Government in late November, has been given unprecedented powers to develop the land above and around proposed metro stations.

On November 26, a Sydney Metro Authority was created by a special amendment to the Transport Administration Act. It still does not have a board or chief executive but it has new powers "to carry out development, or facilitate, manage or finance development, on land located on, or in the vicinity of, metro railway systems". RailCorp has no equivalent power.

Concentrating housing around train stations is a well established policy in cities around the world to ease congestion, prevent suburban sprawl and reduce the cost of services such as water, power and transport.

The Rudd Government is leading a new push to make Australian cities look more like London, Tokyo and Singapore, which have twice as many people and jobs per hectare as Sydney.

Infrastructure Australia, a federal body set up to recommend funding for transport projects across the country, said in a recent influential report that residential and commercial densities in Sydney were too low.

"Increasing densities around rail stations can increase the economic and other benefits that might flow from the considerable public investment in urban rail projects. However, this is an area where governments have a mixed record," it said. "Much more can be done to increase densities around transport nodes. A strong, proactive approach needs to be taken to integrate land use, zoning and planning policies more effectively."

One member of the Infrastructure Australia board, Professor Peter Newman, said in an interview with the Herald that Sydney and Melbourne could no longer afford to exist as two-tiered cities where the wealthy had access to transport and the poor struggled on the fringes.

"That is one of my themes, that we stop cities developing into eco enclaves surrounded by Mad Max suburbs," he said.

"If you want to go with the metro, you would need to think about higher densities, and in particular, high densities around the train stations.

"They will be apartments, there is no doubt about that. Chatswood is the best example but a lot of people will find that hard to take."

A spokesman for the Planning Minister, Kristina Keneally, said there would continue to be a mix of housing styles in the city, including single dwellings, terraces, townhouses and low-, medium- and high-rise apartment buildings. "Home purchasers will continue to make choices between these housing styles which suit their personal circumstances," said the spokesman.

Two previous government plans in 2001 and 2005 tried to force councils to boost population throughout the inner west and revitalise Parramatta Road. Both failed in the face of strong community opposition.

Initially, 130,000 dwellings of up to six storeys were to be built along the road at a rate of 4000 a year. Four years later that was cut to 70,000.

The 2005 Metropolitan Strategy declared 30 per cent of new residents would be housed in greenfield areas in the north-west and south-west of Sydney, serviced by extensions to the CityRail network. The remainder would be squeezed into existing suburbs.

But since the former premier, Morris Iemma, dumped the rail expansion in favour of a metro network, the Metropolitan Strategy has fallen by the wayside. Now, as Sydney continues to grow, the argument that established suburbs should house more people has gained currency.

Ku-ring-gai could be seen as a model for how these new densities could be achieved. Last year, the Government usurped council planning powers to allow a dramatic increase in building heights along CityRail's North Shore line. Two-storey shopping strips like Roseville and Turramurra will be overshadowed by mixed-use developments as high as seven to nine storeys, and Gordon will have 15-storey towers.

Technically, the Department of Planning remains the consent authority for any such development. "Any changes will be managed in the context of existing planning processes, including consultation with local communities," Mr Campbell said.

Transport officials behind the new railway line successfully lobbied to have the power enshrined in legislation, creating new tensions with the Department of Planning.

The legislation makes it easier to package property development with private sector construction contracts to help finance the railway line.

One source told the Herald funds from property development were better spent, however, on local amenities that could include anything from bicycle lockers to libraries.

"It is better off to help the amenity around the stations," he said.

Go west - it will take you only 27 minutes to the city

THE revolutionary $8.1 billion West Metro will transport up to 30,000 people an hour from Parramatta to the CBD in less than 27 minutes, stopping at nine underground stations, according to secret feasibility work being undertaken by the state and federal governments.

Thirty single-deck trains each hour would run through twin tubes underneath Parramatta Road if sufficient state, federal and private sector funds emerged in coming months to pay for the project.

The metro would link with the Rees Government's promised CBD Metro, costed at $4.8 billion, to create the first of what the state's top transport planners hope will be a city-wide network of modern, driverless subways.

The two final routes being considered for the project, obtained by the Herald, include metro stations at Granville or Rosehill, Auburn or West Homebush Bay, Burwood, Five Dock, Leichhardt, Camperdown and Sydney University.

There will also be multi-million-dollar transport interchanges constructed around metro stops built at Parramatta, Olympic Park, Camellia, Strathfield and Central Station, where passengers can switch between CityRail, metro and bus services.

A separate transport bureaucracy, the Sydney Metro Authority, has been given unprecedented powers to redevelop land around stations, raising high-rise apartments along Parramatta Road to help boost the project's viability.

Senior government officials have confirmed the target travel time from Parramatta to Central is 24 to 27 minutes. CityRail services now take between 26 and 32 minutes, but the metro would operate via all stops at such a high frequency that commuters would not require a timetable. It would also capture big inner-west catchments in areas such as Five Dock, Leichhardt and Camperdown, which are not directly serviced by the existing rail network.

The Transport Minister, David Campbell, said station locations had not been finalised.

"There is no final determination on alignment or stations for the project and this will only be determined after more detailed planning, should the Federal Government fund the project through Infrastructure Australia," he said.

Parramatta Road is one of the country's most congested arteries, with average vehicle speeds during the morning peak just 28 kmh, down from 33 kmh in 2004. A draft of the joint NSW and Commonwealth feasibility study claims the new line could dramatically ease this gridlock.

"It has the potential to significantly reduce travel times between western Sydney and the Sydney CBD, and to relieve congestion in the western corridor and the broader rail network," the study said.

There are 1300 trips operated by Sydney Buses along Parramatta Road each weekday, carrying more than 50,000 commuters. The CityRail Western line carried 35 million passengers in the 12 months to December 2007, with more than 32,000 people on 24 trains during the 70-minute height of the morning peak.

"A significant number of [these] services exceed 'crush capacity' of 135 per cent, with loads often up to 180 per cent," the feasibility study said.

The now-shelved North-West Metro was to have carried 50 million passengers per year under Victoria Road. Senior transport planners hope the Parramatta Road project might garner similar figures.

The study said the metro was the Government's central tool to combat the strangulation of the existing rail network.

"The recent strong growth rates in peak period rail patronage, combined with future growth, will see capacity exceeded on several parts of the CityRail network," it said.

The West Metro is a key contender among the 94 projects being considered by the Rudd Government's Infrastructure Australia, which will award about $8 billion to transport, water and energy projects around the country from the Building Australia fund.

The Herald has been told, however, that Infrastructure Australia has been sorely disappointed with the lack of detailed analysis undertaken in NSW for both the West Metro and the CBD Metro.

If the metro fails to meet the mark, the Prime Minister would be forced to announce another road, a duplication of the clogged M5 East, as the Commonwealth's project in Sydney - a tunnel that would do nothing for urban congestion.

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