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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Birthday Yum Cha

Last weekend it was Pei Lin's birthday.

We went out for yum cha at The China Grand Restaurant, Market City (in the city) and then went to see Star Trek in a cinema that wasn't very far far away (right Chris?) :)

.. Great Yum Cha, highly recommended.

Thanks very much to Cobb, Lina, Brian Chris and Veronica for coming to help us celebrate.

.. Hope you had a lovely day sweetheart.

Charge drivers for when and where they go

CHARGE motorists more for using city streets during peak hours than those who drive on suburban and country roads - that's how traffic expert and NSW Government adviser Professor David Hensher plans to solve Sydney's transport crisis.

Social costs of Australian road congestion will rise to $20.5 billion by 2020 - with Sydney accounting for $7.8 billion - estimates from the federal Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics show.

Professor Hensher, the head of Sydney University's Institute for Transport and Logistics Studies, recently presented his "Congestion and Variable User Charging" proposal - which involves satellite-tracking vehicles - to the Roads and Traffic Authority.

He recommends charging motorists for when and where they drive, and not simply the amount of fuel they consume.

Fixed charges such as registration should be abolished as they encourage driving because owners try to get their money's worth.

A congestion levy on cars entering the centre of Sydney would follow the model that has operated since 2003 in London, where he says traffic has fallen by about 30 per cent.

"The current pricing system is unfair," Professor Hensher said.

"Those who contribute more to congestion and pollution are not paying their fair share. Those who avoid congestion and use more environmental friendly cars are paying more than their fair share."

He proposes abolishing the federal excise of 38 cents a litre on petrol, as well as state fuel taxes. Instead, vehicles would be fitted with a satellite tracking device.

Motorists driving in peak hours in built-up suburbs, such as Mosman or Annandale, which have public transport alternatives, would pay more than drivers who travel through Galston or Camden or regional and rural NSW, where mass transit is poor or non-existent.

Drivers would swipe a "smart card" when buying petrol to determine their levy, which would vary according to use. "Many drivers would be much better off and would end up paying no levy because they live and drive in areas outside the zone," he explained.

The Dutch Government and Oregon in the United States are introducing variable user charging.

NRMA president Wendy Machin said before introducing such a system the state would need major upgrades to public transport, including services that ran across the metropolitan area, and not just to the central business district, as well as flexible working and school hours.

"Commuters would also need extensive and up-to-the-minute road and public transport information so that they could make informed decisions about how best to get around," she said.

Professor Hensher recommends ploughing some of the revenue from the levy back into roads and public transport. "The Government is planning 300 new buses for Sydney but it's not enough to keep up with demand," he said.

"If the Government puts a sufficient amount of the revenue back into transport, it will send a positive message to the electorate and recognise that those who pay should get a benefit."

Friday, May 29, 2009

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Burgerstein - Would you eat hamburger from the lab?

So what's for dinner in 2022? A new report released by Britain's Food Ethics Council last month identified some of the possibilities - more food grown in allotments, more functional foods - and in vitro meat, meaning meat that's been grown from animal stem cells as opposed to meat cut from a carcass.

When reports of meat grown experimentally in the lab by Dutch researchers first surfaced a few years ago it seemed a bit far fetched, but not any longer. Two years ago an international group of scientists formed the In Vitro Meat Consortium, and last year the Norwegian Food Research Institute hosted a conference to discuss the challenges of producing in vitro meat commercially. If it does reach supermarket shelves, say researchers, it could help solve a few problems, like lessening the impact of livestock production on the environment, helping to prevent foodborne diseases, and reducing the need for millions of animals to be factory farmed.

One organisation working to produce meat from cell cultures is New Harvest which makes it clear that the technology now being developed could create processed meats like hamburger or sausages, but that the know how to create an in vitro steak or a chop doesn't exist - at least, not yet.

The production method, according to New Harvest's website goes like this, 'the production of cultured meat begins by taking a number of cells from a farm animal and proliferating them in a nutrient-rich medium. Cells are capable of multiplying so many times in culture that, in theory, a single cell could be used to produce enough meat to feed the global population for a year. After the cells are multiplied, they are attached to a sponge-like "scaffold" and soaked with nutrients. They may also be mechanically stretched to increase their size and protein content. The resulting cells can then be harvested, seasoned, cooked, and consumed as a boneless, processed meat, such as sausage, hamburger, or chicken nuggets'.

Unnatural? Well, yes - but so is a lot of stuff that ends up in our shopping trolleys, including foods from animals that have often led very unnatural lives. And as Ondine Sherman, managing director of the animal advocacy organisation Voiceless points out, "A lot of people might find in vitro meat icky - but then keeping animals in captivity and slaughtering them ls is pretty icky too. For people who like meat - but not how it's produced - it could be a viable alternative."

Would you eat an in vitro burger?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Campbell's Chunky Fully Loaded Man

How awesome is the new Campbells Chunky Soup Ad!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Transport for all need not cost $600b: expert

A SWEEPING, multibillion-dollar transport plan, to be unveiled next week, would link almost every home, office and university in Sydney to upgraded train, tram and bus services within 30 years.

The discussion paper from a leading transport researcher, Garry Glazebrook, of the University of Technology, Sydney, proposes six new metro lines, a heavy rail link to the barely serviced suburbs of south-west Sydney, and trams serving the inner suburbs and Parramatta.

Six major bus ring routes would directly link minor centres without commuters having to divert through the city.

While Dr Glazebrook's plan would cost $40 billion, it averages just $1.4 billion a year, in addition to the current expenditure of $3.2 billion a year on public transport.

He says it is a fraction of the estimated $660 billion Sydneysiders would spend on car travel over the next three decades if mass transit is not upgraded.

His proposal would also allow a 25 per cent increase in peak-hour trains on the existing heavy rail system, which is groaning under a large increase in patronage.

The key to the Glazebrook plan - which has taken shape over the past five years, as the Carr, Iemma and Rees governments have unveiled, altered and abandoned three previous designs for better public transport - is to integrate all the different services.

Trams would be linked to metro stations, for example, to ensure passengers wait a peak-hour maximum of five minutes when changing modes.

Dr Glazebrook said his plan would slash travel times on journeys from the outer suburbs to the city. "Trip length is also a key factor," he writes.

"For short trips, comfort is not so important but high frequency is vital. For long trips, comfort and travel speed become important."

The plan would also increase services to Sydney's job-rich "global arc", which covers the commercial centres between Macquarie University in North Ryde and Sydney Airport, as well as the city's second central business district, in Parramatta.

He proposes rolling the plan out in three stages.

The first stage, between 2009 and 2016, would include building a metro link between Epping and Castle Hill, a metro link between Parramatta and Strathfield, and tram lines from Lilyfield to Dulwich Hill, Rozelle Bay to Drummoyne and White Bay, and Circular Quay to Central Station.

Two bus ring routes - from Manly to Bondi Junction, via Mosman, Drummoyne and Kensington, and from Dee Why to Brighton, via Frenchs Forest, Chatswood, Burwood and Rockdale - would start operating.

Phase one would also include the first stage of the south-west heavy rail link.

The second stage, from 2016 to 2026, would link the north-west and west metros, via the Sydney CBD, and include a fast heavy rail link from Chatswood to Wynyard. It would also extend tram lines into the eastern and southern suburbs and convert the underused Carlingford rail line for trams.

The final phase, between 2026 and 2036, would complete the heavy rail, metro, tram and bus networks, and enable a high speed rail link between Newcastle and Canberra, serving the Central Coast, the Southern Highlands and Wollongong. A key element of the plan is to provide 30,000 parking places at 40 interchanges located at strategic points on the road and rail networks, along with 220,000 secure bicycle and scooter places. Dr Glazebrook would fund the expansion of the network by a mix of fares, efficiency savings, congestion and parking levies, increases in land values around stations, and carbon trading.

He said he hoped the Federal Government would contribute through its infrastructure budget.


Thursday, May 14, 2009

City of Sydney considers naked streets

STEPPING off the footpath in the centre of Sydney can be a perilous exercise. Even in a city usually choked with traffic, cars still manage to tear past. The alternative - waiting at a major intersection up to three minutes for traffic lights to change - is ignored by 70 per cent of pedestrians.

Now, the City of Sydney wants to take control of several main arteries through the central business district, rip out the traffic lights, strip the streets of safety signs, impose a speed limit of 10 kmh and give pedestrians the right of way.

The proposal for "naked streets" - the term used in European cities where streetscapes devoid of lights and signs are common - is designed to discourage driving in the CBD, without imposing financial disincentives, such as the congestion charge that is levied on motorists entering the centre of London during the day.

"We need to reclaim the city from the dominance of the car," said Councillor John McInerney, who chairs the council's traffic and transport committee. "The roads are public spaces that should accommodate pedestrians, cyclists as well."

At the moment, the city has only one such road, Barrack Street. Despite its appearance, the street is open to traffic. But its paving, street furniture, speed limit and general ambience causes most motorists to avoid it.

The council wants to expand the concept to Castlereagh and Pitt streets, which run almost the entire length of the CBD, and to O'Connell, Bent, Philip and Loftus streets at the northern end and to Hay, Harbour and Sussex streets and Eddy Avenue, at the southern end.

Cr McInerney says the key to the success of "naked streets" is the appearance. The paving for pedestrians needs to be the same as for vehicles. "That in itself sends a message to the driver that this is very much a shared space," he said.

The proposal has won the support of Ian Faulks, a former director of the NSW Parliament's StaySafe Committee.

Mr Faulks, now a consultant to interstate and overseas governments, says even a 20-30 kmh speed limit would be acceptable, as it would allow cars to stop quickly without hitting any pedestrians. He also says the European and North American experience shows drivers unconsciously slow down - and do not seem to mind - because of the surroundings.

"The trick is to make the road look like the sort of place where you need to exercise extra caution,"

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Monday, May 04, 2009

Slap all your troubles away..

.. with the Slap Chop

.. and Rap Chop, the brilliant remix:

Shadow Hair, Mr Extreme and the not-really-super heroes

Shadow Hare and Dark Guardian ... just two of the masked men and women seeking to fight for justice and the American way.

Shadow Hare and Dark Guardian ... just two of the masked men and women seeking to fight for justice and the American way.

It's certainly not a bird, or a speeding bullet, or a plane. It looks more like a guy in a silly lycra outfit.

Wearing masks and the full superhero get-up, a band of "real life superheroes" are patrolling the world's cities trying to clean up the streets.

So claim the comic book-like crime-fighters, a loose association of costumed do-gooders who say they are taking up the fight for justice for ordinary people.

Boasting names like Dark Guardian, Citizen Prime, and Green Scorpion, the mainly US-based characters say they need to wear outfits to protect their identities from the evil-doers they attack.

Most have MySpace pages where they reveal the philosophy of their superheroism.

Florida superhero Amazonia wrote why she was prompted to strap on the black Zorro-like mask and defend her city, Ocala:

"I finally had enough of seeing the gangs terrorizing the downtown section of my city. They would mug, beat and otherwise harass senior citizens and women.

"So I took up the mantle of Firebird and set out to do what I could to help others."

Many of the superheroes say they are armed with weapons such as stun guns, which can be legally carried in the US.

"Shadow Hare", a 1.7 metre, slight-of-stature 21-year-old Cincinnati resident who carries handcuffs, a stun-gun and pepper spray, boasts: "I've stopped many evil doers ... such as drug dealers, muggers, rapists, and crazy hobos with pipes."

Many of the superheroes' good deeds are of a civic nature - such as volunteering with charities or feeding the homeless.

But some make more bolder claims of actual crime-fighting.

Shadow Hare said he dislocated his shoulder two years ago while helping a woman who was being attacked.

He also said he was working with a San Diego-based superhero called Mr Extreme to "track down a rapist".

On his MySpace page, Dark Guardian writes of the moment he saw two men with baseball bats waiting to beat someone up outside their house late at night.

"I park across the street from them. I wait and watch them. I make sure they see me so they know someone is watching, soon after they leave.

"I didn't have to go and fight two guys with bats to stop a crime. I just made my presence known and they decided to stop what they were trying to do."

On another occasion he writes of confronting a deranged man trashing a store.

"I stood in front of him and made sure everyone got out of the store. I tried talking him down. The store had already called the cops.

"Once the police came he cooperated and was hauled away. If he came at me or anyone else this story would end differently and I would have been in court myself because I had my knife at the ready.

"Glad it ended the way it did."

Some superheroes also formed together under different banners to tackle crimes in unison, such as the Allegiance of Heroes.

One such group, titled the Justice Society Of Justice, claims to offer "twice the JUSTICE as the leading competitors!".

An online "Superhero Registry" lists members of the "the Real-Life Superhero community", outlining their speciality (for example public service or crime-fighting), where they patrol, whether their identity is secret and if their status as a superhero has been confirmed.

The website states the superheroes are not just role-playing, but that this is "a movement among ordinary people to make the world a better place in an extraordinary way".

"There are always those who will take something less seriously, but the Real-Life Superhero community is generally composed of sincere, well meaning people who have finally decided to go out and make a difference."

The heroes wear costumes to inspire others, protect their privacy, and "conceal vulnerabilities in one's protective gear", the site says.

People can also make their own submissions to be added to the registry but acceptance usually requires evidence of heroic activities through "media documentation of such activities, or testimonials from established Real-Life Superheroes".

On his MySpace page, superhero Dark Guardian also writes of the weight of expectation on real superheroes.

"What I got most out of being a Real Life Superhero is living up to the name. I have to be the living embodiment of a superhero. With that comes great responsibility.

"I have walked away from being a Real Life Superhero before , but I couldn't give it up. It is who I am. It is what I believe in.

"And it will help change the world."

But police appear not to have warmed to the idea.

"We expect people to report crime to the police and not put themselves in jeopardy," New York Police Department spokesman Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Browne said in an article about the "superheroes" last year.


Sydney's curious case of the cereal intruder

Caught on cerealcam ... the brekkie bandit.

Caught on cerealcam ... the brekkie bandit.

A mystery intruder has been plundering cereal and sleeping on the couches for weeks at one of Sydney's marketing agencies.

Staff at the The Marketing Store were perplexed and slightly amused when, almost daily, they would arrive at their Ultimo office to find a trail left by their unwanted nocturnal visitor.

"My office was the starting point for it,'' said the agency's Asia Pacific president Doug Chapman.

"I'd come in and I'd notice somebody had been sleeping on the lounge or doing something in my office.

"All the cushions would be on the floor and it would be all messed up. I kind of wondered whether it was someone bonking on the lounge.''

Even more peculiar, was the absence of large amounts of cereal - about six bowls a night - from the stocks in the office kitchen, and evidence that the showers had been used.

Fingers were initially pointed around the office.

"I put the word out through the office but nothing eventuated,'' he said.

"About four weeks ago I came in and it was in a particularly bad state - there were some tablets lying around, and some tobacco or weed on the floor.''

After reporting the matter to the building landlord and checking security passes, the company ruled out an employee, concluding the intruder had to be entering the building overnight.

But office security cameras never managed to point in the right spot to detect anyone, Mr Chapman said.

While the company hires creative people to promote clients' brands, it was a moment of genius from the woman who runs the kitchen that snared the unwanted visitor.

She came up with the idea of hiding a camera in a cereal box.

"She knew we were either huge eaters or someone was stealing cereal,'' Mr Chapman said.

"She got a cereal box and hid a small camera inside and put it on a benchtop in the kitchen.''

The camera was linked to a computer and activated by motion sensors, snapping clear photos of the intruder on his next visit and emailing them to staff, Mr Chapman said.

They showed the man slipping into the office via an overhead ventilation panel (the office is on the building's fifth and top floor) and then leaving via the fire escape.

On his next visit, the intruder was greeted by a security guard. The company called police, warned the man, but decided against pressing charges.

"We didn't want to press charges but we did warn him - told him it's a bit off-putting for the girls, and those who have to work late night.

"We took it very seriously ... although it was a little funny getting the daily updates.

"But we knew he wasn't stealing anything ... he could've easily taken computers, he didn't take any drinks.

"He was a particularly neat guy. He'd come in at 4am, have breakfast - and it was a hearty breakfast, six bowls - clean up after himself, shower and then leave.

"He'd made his home here.''

The company doesn't know what the man's motives were - he wasn't interrogated - but it didn't appear that he was a typical vagrant.

"He was fairly young, in his mid 30s, and very clean cut for someone that was supposedly homeless.''

The company's office in Ultimo is situated close to a number of university and TAFE campuses, and also near a lot of students accommodation.

The Marketing Store's intruder mystery was revealed on marketing blog Mumbrella.


Fast Food Folk Song (at the Taco Bell Drive-Thru)

Thanks to Chris for sending this one through.. love it.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Durian, Possums & mediacentres in Sydney

Hey all you Malaysians..
.. look: I told you we could buy durian in Australian supermarkets :)

(not that we do buy them)

All is going well here, we're all setup in our little place, Pei Lin is settling in nicely and starts work 2moro, so that's all very exciting.

Also the other night there was a brushtailed possum on the fence outside our balcony:


Cute little fella isn't (s)he?

I have been nerding it up a bit too.. almost used all my monthly peak time download allowance already, and it's only been 5 days. We've also got our voip all set up, so Peilin can call home whenever she wants without me tapping my foot and tapping my watch at her :).

I've downloaded Mythbuntu, but sadly it doesn't support my video card on my old pc straight out of the box, and I don't have another screen to plug in so can't see what I'm doing. I already had xp on the machine, so I've downloaded Mediaportal instead, it's a free mediacentre that runs on top of windows.

It's designed to be plugged into your tv from there you can access all your media. I'm very impressed at the moment.

last Sunday Nishan and Louna took us out for a nice chinese lunch in Eastwood, and Tuesday night we went to our local with Nick & Hanna & Mark & Serena & Lenny & Justin, a couple of Nick's mates and had the $13 cook-it-yourself steaks there, that was delicious. A good night.

Not much else is news I think.. Oh, I've got a bit of a cold at the moment.. I hope I can shake it before work 2moro. Sniffle Snort. Sniffle Snort.

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