The Big Bang Theory and Hot Tub Time Machine meet at Australian Synchrotron

For all the nerds, geeks and all the “regular” people who are not afraid to show their “geeky” side, this month’s calendar had one very important and exciting day. I am talking of course, about the Australian Synchrotron Open Day.

Australian Synchrotron opened in 2007 and in what’s becoming a yearly tradition, the scientists and the support staff are opening the doors to this marvel of engineering, volunteering their time and knowledge to bring the science to the masses and give our kids (and there was A LOT of kids) a taste of what science is, and hopefully inspire some of them to become the next Albert Einstein.

Synchrotron Open Day

This is how visitors were greeted

This year I decided to take this opportunity and see what all the excitement is about. Secretly, I was hoping to see Dr. Sheldon Cooper in attendance, or Leonard Hofstadter, or maybe even their girlfriends. Unfortunately, I didn’t see them, but I did see a guy who closely resembled Howard Wolowitz, down to the weird hair and a skivvy. Although, I am absolutely convinced that Penny was there at some point. How else do you explain that many bottles of nail polish?

Penny was here

Penny…..Penny…..Penny….

What I found very intriguing, was the scientists’ fascination with aluminum foil. It was EVERYWHERE! They either treat the whole thing a bit like a primary school science experiment, or they are really paranoid about the government spying on them.

There were dozens of bits of gear, all wrapped in foil

There were dozens of bits of gear, all wrapped in foil

At one stage I even began to wonder if those scientists are really all that smart. I mean, you would have your doubts too, if you found that they need these type of signs to aid them in their work:

Those scientists really worry me...

Those scientists really worry me…

But as I was moving along, I realized that I have little reason to worry. The scientists definitely knew what they were doing. One of the projects I spotted was obviously a robotic can opener; a must-have in every household

Robotic can opener

Robotic can opener

Soon after, I’ve discovered even more amazing project Synchrotronians (is it a word?) were working on. Not sure if the Hollywood producers borrowed their idea for a movie from our scientist, or our scientists drew inspiration form a Hollywood blockbuster, but the fact remains: Time Machine is real, and it is right here, in Melbourne!

Hot Tub Time Machine

Hot Tub Time Machine

Overall, it was a great day, the staff there were very helpful and did their best to explain even the hardest theories and hypothesis in a way that anyone would understand.  They were there on a Sunday, during their time off, away from their families. Yet they made all of us feel like a family, welcoming us to a wonderful world of science.

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Managing your own financial affair isn’t a rocket science.

I finally did it. With only 8 days till the deadline, I have submitted my Tax Return.

It was an intense 2 hours, skimming thru ATO’s regulations, digging out 12-months old receipts, generally trying to do the right thing.

Tax Time is the time to get involved

Tax Time is the time to get involved

All this made me remember doing my very first Tax Return, all those years ago. It used to be a very involved process. First, it required a visit to a Newsagency to pick up a copy of the Return, and to get a pack of smokes (I’ll need them). Then I needed to clean up the dining table, so I can spread all the papers out, next step was realising that I don’t have a black ink pen, so back to the Newsagency I go, getting a bottle of vodka from a bottle shop while I’m out (I’ll need it later too). Finally, about an hour after I’ve started filling in the form, I hopelessly stuffed it up. Stuffed it up to a point that I just knew that no amount of Whiteout would fix it. Which only meant one thing – another visit to the Newsagency, to get another blank form.

Back home with the form, thoroughly frustrated, I spend the next few hours doing my best impersonation of an old accountant. I grumble, I argue with the form I’m filling in, I’m yelling at my pen, I admonishing the receipt for deciding to play hide and seek with me.  At long last, it is done. Two sets of forms and a pack of smokes later, I feel totally exhausted, but my Tax Return is done. Now all that’s left to do is to jump in a car and drive to the local Tax Office branch to make sure my forms are there in time. By the end of the day, the place looked a lot like this:

Paperwork during tax time

Paperwork during tax time

 

Looking back at the way I did my first Tax Return, I suddenly realise that today’s tax affair is rather boring, uneventful, even dull.

After having a late breakfast on a Sunday morning, I downloaded eTax software from the ATO website, “digging out 12-months old receipts” in reality only took a couple of minutes, as most of them are electronically stored in my e-mail. No hunting for forms or for pens. No wasting time going to and from Newsagency. If a mistake is made, all it takes is to hit the Back button and correct the mistake. And once all is done, getting the information to the Tax Office is as easy as pressing the Lodgement button.

All this makes me wonder why would people pay hundreds of dollars to have their basic Tax Returns done by accountants? Unless you have a complex financial portfolio consisting of investment properties, shares, running a couple of small businesses, you don’t really need anyone sticking their nose in our financial affairs. Think about it – a lot of people would pay a few hundred dollars to an accountant, just to have a couple of hundred dollars in tax return. next year, why don’t you give it a go and try doing it yourself. After all, if you were smart enough to have finished high school, you are smart enough to manage your own Tax Return.

Putin’s nomination for Nobel Peace Prize

OK, I admit it. I am a big fan of a current Tsar of Russia, Vladimir Putin. So it would come as no surprise that when I’ve heard about Putin being nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, I just jumped at an opportunity to write about this deserving man receiving equally deserving prize.

Putin nominated for the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize

Russian Tzar is nominated for the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize

Everyone knows about The Nobel Prize. But what is the criteria to get nominated for such a prestigious award? Here is what it says: The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded to “the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses”.

It makes sense then, that the latest nominee is the Russia’s darling, Vladimir Putin. After all, supplying weapons to regimes known for their genocidal tendencies is totally in line with “reduction of standing armies” – with enough weapons you can reduce any opposing army, right? It is during Putin’s administration that Syrian rebels received supplies of high-grade weapons. It is also during his administration that the conflict between Russia and Chechnya escalated to its highest form.

So why did he get nominated? Did someone make a mistake? A once-off lapse of judgement? Hardly. Unfortunately, The Nobel Prize became too much of a political tool and not enough of an instrument by which true peace achievements can be recognised.

Lets have a look at a few other Laureates, whose achievements are controversial to say the least…

2009 – Barak Obama. Yes, he is a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate. Deserving choice, some might say. It would be, if it wasn’t for the fact that he got nominated only 12 days after taking office. I wonder what outstanding things he’s done in these first 12 days?

2004 – Wangari Maathai. Wangari is Kenyan environmental and political activist. Controversy? She has been accused of claiming HIV/Aids was spread deliberately in Africa by Western scientists.

Anwar Sadat - Nobel Peace Prize Laureate

Anwar Sadat – Nobel Peace Prize Laureate

1978 – Anwar Sadat. The President of Egypt received this honour for his part in negotiating the peace agreement with Israel, known as Camp David Agreement. What’s interesting is the reason he got involved in the talks in a first place….Egypt attacked Israel, got their ass kicked by Israelis and had no choice but sit at the table and negotiate.

1973 – Henry Kissinger. Reason? His role in Paris Peace Accords.  What wasn’t mentioned during the nomination is that Kissinger instituted the secret 1969–1975 campaign of bombing against infiltrating NVA in Cambodia.

Putin’s nomination gives him an honor of joining other nominees: Tzar Nicholai II, Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler. It also proves once again that anyone can be nominated. The Nobel Prize has become nothing more than a popularity award. It makes me think that Nobel Prize these days is just like the Logie Awards… makes the winners feel all warm and fuzzy, but doesn’t really mean anything to anyone else.

Logies Award or Nobel Prize?

Logies Award or Nobel Prize?

 

What’s common between Aussie Rules Grand Final and Illegal Immigrants?

Like most Australians, I was glued to the TV today, watching the Holy Grail of the Aussie Rules. Both teams showed true premierships qualities, played good game of football and provided plenty of entertainment. In a tradition clearly borrowed from the American Super Bowl, we even were treated to a half-time entertainment show from an Australian legends, Hunters & Collectors.

Aussie Rules Grand Final is no place for politics

Aussie Rules Grand Final is no place for politics

And that was the point at which I just had to say: I am not a whinger, BUT…..what the hell was Mark Seymour thinking when he decided to put on that t-shirt saying “asylum seekers”? He has an opinion about illegal immigrants? Good for him! Now take that opinion and shove it where sun don’t shine, because I’m not interested in it. Here’s a news for you: AFL didn’t pay you for your political views. They paid you to come out and sing a couple of songs. If anyone ever will become interested in your views on Australian politics, you would get an invite onto different kind of show, where people talk about politics, not sports or music.

Unfortunately, this is not a single case, for performers all over the world make dubious choice of hijacking a musical stage to drive a political agenda. Today it was Hunters & Collectors, before them it was Jamie Foxx and Dixie Chicks, Pussy Riot and Madonna. Now, don’t get me wrong – I am not against expressing political views through music. Just look at the history of another Aussie legend – the Midnight Oil. Their songs are as political as they get, they never minced their words, making very clear where they stood on any given issue. When you went to their concert, or bought their CD, you knew exactly what you were getting. They’ve come up with a whole lot of hits, true Aussie anthems, and they did it while being honest about their views.

Don't talk to me about politics, go back to snorting coke

Don’t talk to me about politics, go back to snorting coke

So here’s a bit of advice to all those actors, singers, musicians who feel compelled to impose their political views on the rest of the world…..DON’T. Just because you have (or think you have) a talent in one area, doesn’t mean you understand anything about what else is happening in a world. So why don’t you do us all a favour, and go back to singing, dancing, snorting coke, or whatever else you occupy yourself with.

Footy Finals, Kennett’s Curse and Weird Superstitions in Sport

So it finally happened. From twenty points behind at three-quarter time, the Hawks turned the game around and finally broken The Kennett Curse. As entertaining as the game itself was, this isn’t about the Aussie Rules. It is about something strange, something out of left field. This post is about superstitions in sport, and boy, there are some weird ones.

So, what superstitions are out there?

Lets start off with one of the best tennis players of all times – Serena Williams. Most of us would cringe at a thought of wearing our socks more then once. Serena doesn’t mind it. She actually likes it, likes it so much that she only wears a single pair during any given tournament. Really? Eeeew!

Change of socks anyone?

Change of socks anyone? (image courtesy npr.org)

Even Big Bad Bezza is not as gross. Footy legend Barry Hall admitted that he wore the same pair of his favorite underpants for every game. Naturally, he made sure to explain that he washed them in between games.

Switching to cricket, Ricky Ponting’s level of play was not the only consistent aspect of the legendary cricketer’s career. Despite numerous pleas to get a new cap, Ponting refused to wear anything but his trusty baggy green. Another cricket great, former captain of the Australian Test cricket team Steve Waugh, played every game with a red handkerchief given to him by his late grandfather in his pocket.

Moving onto track and field, Fabrice Lapierre, an Aussie long jumper, begins every approach by putting his gold necklace, an 18th birthday present from his parents, into his mouth and biting down before his launch.

Want to have a swing like Tiger? Not a problem. Tiger Woods wears a variation of a red Nike polo during the final round of tournaments. The red color supposedly is linked to Stanford, where he spent his college days, and gives him an increased sense of aggression.

But my personal favourite is the story of Socceroos playing in 1970 World Cup qualifiers. Apparently, according to legendary Socceroo Johnny Warren, the team hired a witch doctor to curse their opponents (supposedly for a bit of a laugh.) Australia beat their “cursed” opposition Rhodesia 3-1, but then decided to screw the witch doctor out of his $1500 fee. Rightfully upset, the witch doctor reversed the curse onto the Socceroos. They lost their next match to Israel (Partly because three players succumbed to illness during the match) and ultimately failed to qualify. Apart from a blink-and-you’d-miss-it appearance in the 1974 World Cup finals, the Socceroos didn’t return to the FIFA World Cup until 2006. What’s real spooky here, is that their qualification occurred shortly after comedian John Safran travelled to Africa in 2004 and hired another witch doctor to reverse the curse.

Kennett's curse is over

Kennett’s curse is over

But going back to Kennett’s Curse… According to Melbourne master of darkness and The Haunted Bookshop owner Drew Sinton, Hawthorn’s midfielder needs to pee in each corner of the ground to help break the Hawk hoodoo. It makes sense. Geelong are Cats, and cats can give a spray. So the Hawks should mark their territory. It’s an animal thing and it’s highly symbolic.

Is there such thing as bad publicity?

For me, TV is an endless source of entertainment, amusement, frustration and, surprise, surprise – material for my blog.

The latest “light bulb” idea comes after watching an Old El Paso ad, the one advertising Mexican Rice Kits. Apparently, Mexicans are a backwards people, complete baboons, who just recently discovered what to do with forks.

It got me thinking: do we really need this kind of racist advertising to push a product? And what other ads are out there, playing on our feelings of superiority towards other races?

I found quite a few examples of what can be construed as racist advertising. One of the oldest ones is a Jell-O ad from the 60’s, implying that if it wasn’t for the Western Civilization, Japanese still wouldn’t know what a spoon is. Another one is a South Oak Dodge ad – again having a go at Japanese. All those imported cars must be really pissing that guy off.  Not to be outdone, the Japanese advertising for the Play Station Portable White is pushing the limits of advertising. Italians contribute to the list with the ad for Coloreria Italiana. Closer to home, KFC had to pull down its ad depicting a white Aussie cricket fan, offering fried chicken to West Indies supporters. What’s interesting here, is that this ad was deemed racist over in America, but in Australia we just laughed it off as an example of Australian humour. To be honest, I don’t get what the problem is – the guy is sharing his food with his mates…we’re all mates, aren’t we?

Dick Smith Australia Day

Dick Smith Australia Day ad

And what about the infamous Australia Day ad from an Aussie icon Dick Smith? I mean, seriously, who doesn’t like some dick?

Just to finish it off, here is an ad from Volkswagen, promoting its new model VW Polo. In this commercial German car maker is stereotyping Muslims as terrorists. It’s actually funny coming from Volkswagen, the company with really close ties with Nazis and Hitler.

I’m sure there are plenty more of these ads out there. Some are actually racist, some borderline so, and some are just labelled as racist by bigots or people with no sense of humour.

I am not a whinger, but it is a Politically Correct world we live in, where making fun of other people’s race or religion is frowned upon. Unless you are an Aussie, of course. In Australia, we are allowed, no – expected, to take a piss out of everyone. Anything less would be un-Australian.

As for everyone else – avoid the dangers of being labelled a racist and stick to the good old axiom that “sex sells” and play it safe.

Sex Sells

Sex Sells

Food that kills you, or food that helps you living longer

I was busy on my PC the other day, editing a video I filmed earlier and I had one of those infotainment shows on TV, just for a bit of a background noise. I wasn’t paying too much attention to the TV, until I’ve heard them saying that milk is bad for our health. By the time I found the remote control to adjust the volume, they already moved onto another
segment-“no loss of suction” vacuum cleaner, or maybe it was the Fat Trimmer, or ABRocker, or some other “must-have” invention. But my curiosity was now piqued. I wanted to know more about the dangers of milk and it’s by-products.

Cows are out to get us

Cows are out to get us

So naturally, I turned to my friend, Mister Know-It-All: Google. 
Sure enough, I find this article in Huffington Post telling me that Mark Hyman, MD warns us all about dangers of milk in his piece “Dairy: 6 Reasons You Should Avoid It at All Costs…” It sounded pretty serious, so I immediately decided to adjust my eating habits and exclude all dairy products from my diet. After all, there is plenty of other food out there, right? But just to be on a safe side, I decided to check what else can potentially kill me. Imagine my dismay when I realised that red meat increases my risk of dying by 13% (Thanks, LA Times and BBC News); fish in general is a big “no-no” according to Vreeland Clinic and PETA assures me that salmon is practically waiting to kill me.

At this point I’m starting to freak out. No meat, no fish, no dairy – that smells like a vegetarian diet to me and I DON’T DO VEGETERIAN!

What are we to do?

What are we to do?

Once the initial shock wore off, I decided to check what other people eat, in particular people in countries with a high life expectancy. So I’ve consulted with Wikipedia, and it informed me that among the top 10 countries with a high life expectancy are Andorra, France, Italy, Israel, and Spain – all Mediterranean countries, all famous for their
cuisine containing cheeses, lamb, fish. Another country on a list is Japan, and their love of fish is well known. Closer to home, Australia is also in a top 10 and we are famous for our seafood and our beef.

Now, I am not a whinger, but… I would really like to know one thing. All those “specialists”, all those so-called “gurus” go out and disseminate the message of doom and gloom. Why? What do they stand to gain? Who paid for their “research”?