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June 8, 2005 - Random news bits

Now that all our jobs have been moved to India, they apparently have a labor shortage and are recruiting 120,000 westerners to come reclaim their positions - who would've thought communication skills would ever be a selling point for American computer scientists. Meanwhile, Japanese business men have been ordered to adopt casualwear over suits and ties in an effort to combat global warming - "Want to save the world? Just take off your pants". An Israeli scientist invented a way to breathe underwater without an air tank - the 1kg battery and bulky array of cables and tanks makes it still slightly less convenient than gills. And some group over in LA successfully demonstrated cold fusion - maybe this will make the headlines once they use it to power a new, supercharged segway.

May 22, 2005 - The end of our species

In a weird twist of science, a cockroach has been enabled to control robots (as reported here). It's only a matter of time before these machines are equipped with laser beams, or possibly giant shoes, and the roaches bring to a speedy end the brief age of man.

May 21, 2005 - That's one big zorba!

The 29th annual Brisbane Greek festival decided to take on a record for the "World's Largest Zorba Dance" set by the Melbournians earlier this year. So in an hour's time, we had amassed 1600 people in one continuous line which circled the park 4 times. Then, shoulder-to-shoulder, we "left-kick,right-kick,step,step,stepped" for 7 minutes while chaotically compressing and rarefying and falling over each other to a lively Cypriotic tune; the officials claim there was never a break. It was quite a hodgepodge of cultures and a certain authenticity was lost in that I was wedged between two Australian blondes rather than sweaty Greek men, but I've never been one to get too hung up over tradition. I'm told the record will be listed under "Jeff DePree et al." This craziness was followed by a celebrity dance-off that included a Lebanese Elvis impersonator among others; despite the brilliant combination of 50's rock n' roll and Greek dance, the crowd ultimately gave the prize to a Big Brother star who "accidentally" lost her pants halfway through the Zorba.

May 17, 2005 - An airline that doesn't screw you over?

When I bought my round-the-world ticket, it was explained to me that I would have unlimited date changes on my flights but I would have to arrange them with the airlines myself, and I was warned that though the changes were technically free the airlines could exercise their prerogative and charge me whatever fees they wished. I've noticed a growing trend in the airline industry to make the customers as miserable as possible - in the States, free peanuts and rental headphones have been eliminated and in Australia, the beverage service costs $3 a pop. Additionally, if you ever attempt to change your flight times, it usually goes something like this:

Jeff: I would like to change the date of my flight
Customer Service: I'm sorry sir, but according to the conditions of your ticket, you can only change dates if you pay 300% of the original price, would you still like to make the change?
Jeff: No... I guess I'll change my schedule, thanks.
Customer Service: Wait a minute sir, the terms also say that I have to kick you in the crotch just for asking.

So as I went in to change the five remaining flights on my ticket, I was prepared for an epic struggle. However, Singapore Air apparently has this half-baked theory that they can succeed through customer satisfaction and treat even the cheapskate backpacker like they actually appreciate his business. In five minutes, my five remaining flights were all switched to different dates and times along with seating and meal preferences, and I was assured that if ever the whim hit me to change my dates again, I could just come in and do it. From now on, I always fly via Singapore - even if I'm just going to the west coast.

April 24, 2005 - My first marathon... attempt

Part of the annual ANZAC day festivities is a nationwide "Lest We Forget Run" and as luck would have it, the Brisbane portion of it is a marathon that goes along the river just a few kms from my house. So, not having anything better to do at 6AM on a Sunday morning, I decided to take part. There is a popular school of thought on the issue of marathons that claims you need at least 3 months of training prior to attempting a race; this would tend to suggest that since I had not run in the past 8 months, what I was doing might just be a really dumb idea. I rode my bike the 4 miles to the start; this was pretty exhausting in itself and I briefly considered returning home and hopping back into bed, but the spirit of the assembled crowd convinced me to do a stretch or two and jump into the lineup in time for the pistol.

I felt great for about the first kilometer; then I began to notice that my calves, ankles and knees were immensely sore, on top of that my stomach hurt (perhaps from weeks of "carbo-loading" in preparation for this day) and blisters were starting to take shape; these would no doubt get annoying over the remaining 41k. The course went along a river-hugging sidewalk for 5km before doubling back, winding through the gardens and crossing the river. I kept pace with the 2nd place female (bad enough that one girl was beating me) for the first 19k before dropping back to hang with some of the older, more decrepit competitors. My foot now had a sizeable hole in it from my abrasive "running socks" and various parts of my body were beginning to throw in the towel. There was a fundamental flaw in the course design in that, despite the countless miles of riverside paths in the city, the race was just two 13.1 mile laps, and so I was forced into a position where the after-race snacks and a bike-ride home were just a few meters off the track.

So I settled for completing my first half-marathon with the nearly acceptable time of 1:44 (only need to knock 10 minutes off and double the distance to qualify for Boston!). My bike somehow broke sometime that morning and so I had to carry it home.

Refusing to abandon my belief that distance running is just a matter of having the right attitude, I'm choosing to blaim this failure on my running socks. I got these things for free but the list price is $10 and hundreds of people shell out this ridiculous sum because they believe they'll be better runners; well it doesn't work that way - they're just socks - they don't let you walk on water or jump extra high, they just keep your feet from chaffing against your shoes (and do a pretty poor job at that!). This is just part of a huge misconception in the running world that you need to spend money to run - running is one of the few sports that you can do equally well wearing a pair of tightie-whities as you can in a five-hundred dollar space suit. At the height of my running career, I wore a pair of $30 sneakers, and I crushed hordes with fancy spring-loaded, nitrous-injected super-shoes, and there were plenty of people who beat me running bare foot. So save your money, and use the time you've spent looking up shoe reviews to go for a run.

So what's my next marathon attempt? Looks like the Queens Cup in Pattaya, Thailand on July 17th. You may be asking: " ow can you have a marathon in the middle of July in coastal Thailand?" Well naturally it's at 3:30 in the morning!

April 15, 2005 - Blood for pie

The American blood centers could learn a thing or two from their Australian counterparts - when I walked into the Brisbane blood bank, they offered me an extensive menu from which I could select from a variety of pies, sausage rolls and other savory hot snacks - all I had to do was give them a pint of bodily fluid that will completely regenerate within 24 hours. Now if only they didn't have that pesky 8-week rule, I'd have myself a lunch plan!

April 14, 2005 - Yay, shots!

I don't know about you, but I've always enjoyed getting sharp things stabbed into me; so you can imagine my elation when I saw that I would need the following innoculations for my upcoming trip:

  1. Combination Hepatitis A, Typhoid
  2. Cholera
  3. Rabies (3 shots)
  4. Hepatitis B Booster
  5. Hepatitis A (again)
  6. Polio booster
  7. Measles/Mumps/Rubella booster
  8. Malaria prophylaxis
Man I love travelling!

April 12, 2005 - Back on the ferry

My athletic alternative to public transport met a premature end today. Two weeks ago, my bike got a flat tire, but rather than patch it, I discovered I could just reinflate it twice a day. This worked great for about a week and then the hole got so large that I was riding half of the way on the rim. When I finally got to taking it apart, the tire fell apart in my hands. Anyone in Brisbane looking to buy a slightly "pre-loved" roadbike?

April 3, 2005 - Line up for new Star Wars film begins

Apparently a group of die-hard fans has already begun lining up for the May 19th premier of the newest Star Wars movie at the Chinese theatre in Hollywood; they so far seem undeterred by the news that it's actually opening down the street.

March 12, 2005 - Mass Exodus of Women from IT sector

This Slashdot headline caught me by surprise today - the article suggests that in the past several years women have moved away from tech jobs in large numbers. The rather unbelievable implication of this, is that at some point in the past, there were actually women in these positions. Perhaps they have simply been disguising themselves as Asian men to avoid the social stigma attached to computer nerds.

Feb 28, 2005 - My email client thinks I'm gay!

So lately I've been using GMail, a free email service that claims "no untargeted advertisements." You can imagine my dismay therefore when the sidebar displayed a series of promotions for dating services with "thousands of hot men." I'm not really sure how the service got the impression that I'd be interested in men, but since my email's esteem for me is a high priority in my life, and I don't want it spreading any nasty rumours to my contact list, I'll need to take steps to prove to it I'm on the right team. If you're a guy, make sure your notes to me revolve around football and loose women, and avoid bringing up any soft subjects like cooking, clothes, or interior design that might be misconstrued; this also applies to women with ambiguous names like "Chris" or "Alex". All other women (to whom I'm not related) should use sexually charged language to further persuade the data mining bots. Thanks for your help - together we can set this thing <bot-priority:"high">straight</bot>!