Saturday, January 27, 2007

Australia day...

...was fantastic fun and whilst the hangover is still a little in evidence this morning has been one of those mornings that makes you glad to be alive.

I've been sat at Coogee beach watching someone's border collie jumping at the water from the showers. There are the usual hard-core of ocean swimmers ploughing their way accross the bay who won't be out of the water for an hour yet, not even the shark alarm phases them. I've finished a much needed bacon and egg roll and am trying to drink the coffee that my addiction craves but that is simply too hot for such a sunny morning. The bus I wanted home has just left behind me, I've decided to walk anyway.

As I'm scrawling this in my notebook it's 7:30am and the sun is already so powerful that I'm squinting with my sunglasses on. Without exagerating, the light has a unique colour that makes the world appear as if drenched in golden syrup.The pacific, for once living up to its' name, is glittering and the beach squeeking under my bare feet is already warm and unusually deserted.

One of the things you are never told about Australia is the smell. The eucalypts give the country a uniquely distictive odour. In the moments before a rainstorm they have the rank reek of a tomcat's favourite alley, territorially marked. After the downpour they give off a a sinus clearing mentholated perfume that makes you take enourmous lungfulls of crisp morning air. After a big storm the scent can last for days.

A lot of the hard edges to Australia, whilst they remain on many of the people, have come off the country itself. Bushfires still wipe out huge areas of the country and drought threatens the livelihood of everyone inland but as a whole Australia is in a boom time. The greatest resources here being the country itself - more or less a licence to print tourist dollars - and the people. The reason that Australia punches so far above its' weight in so many different ways is because the people here will back themselves to take on anything or anyone and will honestly give it their best shot.

Whilst walking back accross the clifftops, beaches and the rocks, scaring crabs back into their pools, getting indignant looks from skinks and seabirds alike, I realise something that has probably been very clear to everyone else; I'm going to be staying here for a while.

My Country is the poem probably most quoted on Australia day.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Vibrating condoms


All I wanted was a soft drink and look what I found! Bonus.

Anchor, what?

in: Balmain East NSW, Australia

Surely that anchor is too big for a boat that size.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Apple announces iCandy

Steve jobs today unveiled the latest in Apple's suite of digital technology, a sweet, or rather a sweet dispenser. Apple is bravely stepping into a market arena long dominated by PEZ and seen by many as one that is ripe for a serious hardware manufacturer to bring high-end functionality into. The announcement brings to a denouement months of speculation in the confectionary press that Apple were about to make inroads into their market – famously there were even mock-ups of what iCandy might have looked like published in Chocolatier Today.

According to Mr Jobs this won't just be any sweet dispenser but the one sweet dispenser anyone will need or want. “iCandy is a total confectionary solution in a single, desirable and easy to use device for grown-ups that does away with ugly and cumbersome front-end,” said Jobs. “iCandy combines the functionality of other sweet dispensers with the ability to pre-select the flavour and texture of the item dispensed as well as order new sweets online through the iSweets software that comes with it.”

It seems that whilst iCandy will dispense many other forms of previously available sweets, sweets that are purchased via iSweets will come in a sealed container that can only be opened by placing it in the iCandy device. Speculation has started that this will mean that the previously much vaunted business model of partnering with manufacturers such as Haribo to produce a significant new channel will not gain the market share predicted. “People won’t really bother with the iSweets store outside of the occasional curiosity purchase,” says Richard Laybrook of Toffee and Butterscotch News, “probably preferring to put sweets from packets they already have into the device”.

The unveiling of the actual iCandy device received astonished gasps from the audience who despite their journalistic objectivity couldn't get enough of the rounded corners and shiny effect on the interface. One of the questions from the audience focussed on the design culture at the company and whether this device had reinvigorated what had been seen as a stale and stagnant process at Apple. The criticism has been that new devices and new versions of devices are simply given more rounded corners, a shiny effect on the interface and released to market in a new colour. The iCandy with its shiny effect and rounded corners was clearly a huge departure for Apple available as it is in black, white and silver on the same device and will soon be available in nearly 4 colours but remained true to the Apple aesthetic. "Yes," quipped Jobs, "the strongest flavour of iCandy is Apple."

A technology blogger in the front row, who was clearly a week late, questioned Jobs on whether or not this was in fact anything new at all and wasn't he guilty of lumping together many technologies that were approaching obsolescence in a very thin, very shiny new case, giving it good packaging and sticking the letter i in front of a generic name to make it sound cool? Wasn’t this, he continued, a symptom of over-investment in product design, marketing and the miniaturisation of old technologies in favour of genuine innovation? Unfortunately Jobs reply was never heard as a several burly Apple PR execs reminded the blogger that he had an urgent appointment elsewhere that wouldn’t require his press credentials which he gladly surrendered to them after almost no struggle at all. Another question asked if Apple HQ was really the most appropriate place to release the product when the Confectioners Association of America was meeting only a two hour drive away, but everyone pretended they hadn’t heard the journalist and nothing more was said.

Further speculation as to Apple’s future direction was ignited this week as a company lawyer contacted the estate of Isaac Asimov to enquire as to the trademark status of the iRobot name.

iCandy will be available in America in July 2007 once it is fully feature complete and will be rolled out into Europe and the world by May 2008.



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Sunday, January 14, 2007

Last night at the festival bar

Festival Bar

Not the world's greatest photo, but an interesting light effect.

Barracuda sound System are playing onstage with just about every band member from Watussi there too, and a couple of people from the audience. Total number of people onstage must have been close to 30.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Wot I dun on my holidayz

Dredging

Sand dredging off Lakes Entrance

It was a very un-australian Christmas Day in Queenscliff where we spent it. It only reached 14 Celsius all day and there was rain and hail. Queenscliff is just south of Melbourne which has a reputation for the least predictable weather outside of New Zealand.

On the drive down we took a quick detour to Canberra to meet the Cheetahs at the nearby zoo. They actually let you in the cage with them. They have one hell of a purr and genuinely appear to like human attention. More pictures when I've dragged them off Em's camera.

We drove back along the coast after a quick stop in Melbourne to watch England lose the ashes and a detour via the Yarra Valley wine region. I like wine. I like drinking it when someone else is driving me between vinyards. Unfortunately this is the most expensive way to do this as you end up buying far too much of it. We were relatively restrained and bought no more than three bottles at each place.

New year was spent at a guesthouse/hotel just North of Wilsons Promentory on Australia's South Eastern corner. The isthmus is a huge national park and a designated wilderness for a large part of that. It is also beautiful, but there are snakes, bad snakes.

The drive up the coast was also stunningly beautiful despite the bushfires. We stopped at a couple of places worthy of note. Raymond Island has a huge Koala population for the size of the place, we counted 19 in an area about half the size of a football pitch. You can get really close to them and remarkeably they were sitting up and paying attention. Koalas don't normally do anything at all.

Montague Island is another national park reserve and a place of great significance to the local aboriginal people. A lighthouse was built on it 125 yrs ago from granite blasted from the Island itself. The boat ride out was fairly interesting, it was not a calm day.

I'm not sure I'm ready for a new year. I wasn't quite finished with 2006 and now it's gone.