sneedle flipsock

13 august 2004: beautiful plumage, the norwegian blue

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This week:



Wearing a top-hat made of Albrecht Dürer watercolour pencils, topless model "Svetlana is cradling an armful of Polychromos pencils, as used by Karl Lagerfeld to sketch his fashion designs. All Faber-Castell artists’ pencils contain bright non-fading pigments." See also Sian doing something seductive to a fountain pen, and wearing a close-fitting cloche made of 228 fountain nibs.

More silly hats, this time in the knitted medium.

11 August 2004 | top of page


Can you tell if someone's lying? According to a 1991 research study, if you're an American judge or administrator of polygraph lie-tests, then you have a 50-50 chance of guessing correctly. Secret Service agents can spot a lie eight out of 10 times. (via BoingBoing)

A British company has developed wallpaper that allows mobile phone signals but prevents Wi-Fi signals escaping from a building. The aim is to stop outsiders gaining access to a secure network.

A report (PDF) by the Business Council of Australia and the AVCC recommends that the government reduce the amount of regulation involved in commercialising the products of university research. Changes to intellectual property law are also needed, according to the report. The free trade agreement with the USA could adversely affect our ability to commercialise R&D, as it will require us to adopt American-style patent and copyright laws.

Or you might like to buy a scarf that protects you from mobile phone radiation: "Size 1 is for gentlemen who like to wear the scarf to the coat, a jacket or to a suit. Size 2 is for laydies and gentlemen who prefer a broader scarf." Mm-hmm. Straightjacket, anyone?

11 August 2004 | top of page

Beautiful plumage, the Norwegian blue

M'colleague Adrian made some mysost, a Norwegian cheese also known as gjetost. Clever man!

Here are some serving suggestions, and a recipe for 'Sami beef' that uses mysost, juniper berries, mushrooms and other delights to make a reindeer stew. Roast venison with gjetost sauce. Eggplant and gjetost strudel. Baked apples, more baked apples, peach cobbler and golden apple souffle. Veal fricassee. More Norwegian recipes, and more. Buy Norwegian cheeses. Sing a merry Norwegian cheese song while you cook.

10 August 2004 | top of page


Californian company Acacia Media Technologies wants tertiary colleges to pay royalties for use of streaming video in distance learning and video lectures. Acacia bought streaming-media patents from another company, and is now demanding payment for a technology it didn't create. Look for similar things to happen if Australia signs the free trade agreement with the US--one of the conditions is that we 'align' our patent and intellectual property laws with theirs.

Instead of human tour guides for its huge campus, Arizona State University is providing GPS-assisted tours that use handheld PDA-style devices to help prospective students and their families find their way around. Other American universities are using palmtops for orientation activities and for communicating with students about administrative matters.

The US Computing Research Association says the number of newly declared computer science and computer engineering majors in the USA and Canada fell 23 per cent in 2003.

Nine people have been charged with almost 2000 criminal offences relating to an eight-year A$30 million fraud at Victoria University.

The University of Queensland Press is having financial problems. The UQP board says costs need to fall 25 per cent for the bookshop and press to break even by 2006.

The Australian newspaper announced its annual awards for educational publishing.

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry says universities should encourage graduates to sit a skills test designed to demonstrate they are ready to work. Some might say this encourages us to conflate the different concepts of 'training' and 'education', and to give skills-based, short-sighted training more importance than a broader understanding of how to cope with the world's uncertainties and challenges.

The AVCC decided it doesn't want Melbourne University Private, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the university, as a member.

10 August 2004 | top of page


In eight months 1.3 million people have visited the Smithsonian Institution's new Steven F Udvar-Hazy Center near the city of Washington, DC. In 14 months, the new City Museum of Washington has attracted only 33,000 visitors. "The reason for the difference? Wondrous stuff to look at --or a puzzling lack of such, at the City Museum."

In case you missed it on The Panel, or you just want to relive the wackiness, here's the 3'45" video of the Horn Guy twitching his air horns to perform Beethoven's fifth symphony, Vivaldi's "Spring", a couple of French folk tunes and an unforgettable rendition of "Popcorn". (thanks, Eric)

"Spiral Jetty is the Great White Whale of American art. It is huge in scale and vast in metaphorical implications... To see it requires a quest into a remote and deserted wilderness. Like Moby Dick, for many years the Spiral Jetty has been lost beneath the surface of the waters – a drowned masterpiece. And now it has re-emerged, transformed, glistening and white as snow, from the mysterious depths."

Flipsock friends Neroli, Fraser and Melissa spent the weekend making creative cakes with their friend Davo. No naughty substances were involved: just four sober adults and a big pile of sugar-filled lollies. (thanks, Neroli)

Luciano Pavarotti was booed off the La Scala stage when he hit a bum note in a 1992 production of Verdi's "Don Carlo". The performance was recorded, but you won't hear the dud note in the new DVD edition: EMI has rewritten history.

Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston are major players in the literary world. No, really.

At BoingBoing, the four regular contributors invite a fifth person to contribute a 'guest blog' in their right-hand navigation bar. This month Rudy Rucker's guest blog rocks: he's touched on Russian pop art, Moore's Law, seashells and the appealing notion of a 'lifebox', a collection of images, sounds and other stuff describing your life's experiences.

10 August 2004 | top of page

Get it right

The Cluetrain Manifesto at work: see a problem, fix it. Simple, and good business.

We grumbled recently about newspaper web sites that want you to register but do nothing to safeguard your password (Sneedle Flipsock 23 July 2004). Adrian Holovaty points out that it's not only about security or privacy--with their dearth of personalisation features, newspapers rarely give you a good incentive to register. Jeff Veen observes that if your site is broken and people really want to use it, they'll find a workaround. True, but that's not really a Cluetrainy substitute for good design and customer service.

10 August 2004 | top of page

Out in the open

The recently-completed Stata Center was MIT's largest building project since 1916. Architect Frank Gehry found inspiration in Japanese houses, prairie dog towns, colonial mansions and orangutan villages.

"One of the goals at the Stata was to overcome the secretive quality of MIT's typical dark corridors, lined with closed doors behind which everything happens invisibly. Studies showed that students felt isolated in such surroundings. So at the Stata there is transparency everywhere. Glass walls open views into the heart of labs. You can look from the student street upward through atriums into the towers. The hope is to make work visible and, therefore, educational."

You can see the building via webcams and time-lapse videos of the construction process. (Requires Flash and Quicktime) The Stata Center is home to the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.

In a recent conference keynote speech about university campus design, eminent Melbourne-educated architect Bill Mitchell discussed the Stata Center's features and Gehry's approach to making it a people-friendly space that encourages learning and collaboration. (Matt Jones took notes.) Quoting Charles Moore, Mitchell suggested that "the fundamental principle of campus design should be to figure out the exact spot that the next revolution should begin".

9 August 2004 | top of page

Information science

His name has appeared on the programs of international library and information science conferences for years, even decades, yet eyewitness descriptions of A.I. Mikhailov, "the legendary and apparently near-ubiquitous Soviet information scientist", vary rather a lot: he's conspicuously balding, or has a full head of white hair. He's tall and gangly, or short and portly. A survey of 67 conference attendees "seems to indicate strongly that there may never have been an A. I. Mikhailov, or that if there were, virtually all public appearances were by someone else posing as him."

Why Wall Street wants Google's IPO to fail.

It takes a brave organisation to share its knowledge base with the rest of the world, "So there was considerable surprise and not a little bit of controversy when the University of Pennsylvania’s The Wharton School decided to make one of its most valuable research tools, the Wharton Research Data System (WRDS), available to rivals." The gambit has turned competitors into customers, technology into a selling point for the university, and is "giving the school an edge in the ongoing battle to attract star researchers."

9 August 2004 | top of page


Trying to understand the success of Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code", Jonathan Freedman wonders whether it has something to do with the scary world we live in: "The 21st century may be replete with technology that can do everything and science that can explain everything, but human beings seem to crave the mysterious and miraculous, the forever out-of-reach... Adults want to escape too. The world of 2004 is a fearful place. Is it any wonder we yearn to soar away - as if by magic?"

Tolkien knew a lot about words beginning with W.

The Wooden Rocket Awards are for science fiction on the web/Internet.

Ray Bradbury imagined a world 500 years hence, and told the US President's Commission on Implementation on US Space Exploration Policy [sic] about it.

"Immature people crave and demand moral certainty: this is bad, this is good. Kids and adolescents struggle to find a sure moral foothold in this bewildering world; they long to feel they're on the winning side, or at least a member of the team." Ursula Le Guin says the best fantasy fiction explores the grey areas between Good and Evil.

via Ansible | 9 August 2004 | top of page


2004 flipsocks:

17 Dec: the sock has flipped
10 Dec: anything anywhere any time
3 Dec: instant flattery
26 Nov: the steamroller of branding
19 Nov: fried v rice
5 Nov: the page with no name
29 Oct: and then there were none
22 Oct: filled with naughty laughter
15 Oct: get souls and disconcert the public
8 Oct: ooh, aah, ooh
1 Oct: pinch and a punch
24 Sep: design is the new art
17 Sep: footsteps of Aeneas
10 Sep: slow art, viral aesthetic
3 Sep: I can see your house from here
27 Aug: forever blowing bubbles
20 Aug: jargon for the digital age
13 Aug: beautiful plumage, the Norwegian blue
6 Aug: brokenated terribility
23 Jul: Alice underground
16 Jul: color-coded
2 Jul: for so long treated as nouns
25 Jun: looking for love, echidna-style
18 Jun: joy-to-stuff ratio
11 Jun: fun's fun but a girl can't dance all night
4 Jun: pink dinosaur
28 May: two people every minute
21 May: incompitnce [sic]
14 May: zygomatic smile
5 May: mailbox
30 Apr: bananaguard
23 Apr: mmmmmWAH!
15 Apr: playtime
8 Apr: googlewhack
2 Apr: we wish to inform you...
18 Mar: daffy dills
12 Mar: echo chamber
9 Jan: refund profologies


Also on this site:

about this site
home page

who is geoffrey ebert?
testing for the fun factor
chicken at the (higher education) crossroads
crawford's theory of interactivity

home-page real-estate wars
the eagle has landed

must-reads for web people
recent reads

pop-culture quotes

they shoulda been words

lemon and rosemary risotto

Written In Blood by Chris Lawson
The Salmon of Doubt by Douglas Adams

Without whom (web):

frankenstein journal (Chris)
tbn97 (Troy)
webster's encyclopedia [sic]
science playwiths (Peter) (Neroli)
Maverick IT network consultants (Rick)
Look! There's a castle! (Brent)
Cairns Corporation (Gerald)
Homosapien Books (Julie and Bruce)
Southern Sky Watch (Ian)
Panda's Thumb (Ian again)
ABC Science-Matters (official)
science-matters (unofficial)
Bovios (Alex Burns)
Lee Battersby
Little Malop Gallery
Digest of Usability Resources and News (Dey)
WooWooWoo (Andrew)



Without whom (also):

Ramona P Lovechild
Katherine with a K
Katherine (no relation)
Claire (no relation)
Toby and Jann
Paul, Warren, Dr K and The New Reality


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