2012 in focus
17 December 2012
2012 was an eventful year, from big events like the London Summer Olympics and the U.S. presidential race, to regional conflicts in the Middle East and Africa, to smaller issues closer to home. Reverberations from last year’s transformative Arab Spring still heavily affect Syria and Egypt; and the slow recovery from the recent global economic crisis brought bitter austerity measures to parts of Europe, leading to widespread protests. This photo essay from The Atlantic is in is in three parts. Thanks to It’s work…honest for bringing it to our attention.
How James Baraz ruined his mother’s life
17 November 2012 James Baraz‘s 91 and 1/2 years old Jewish mother spills the beans and demonstrates how to tell a story. You need to stick with it but the punchline is worth it.
14 November 2012
31 October 2012 This year we’ve celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Rolling Stones’ first gig (12 July) and 50 years since The Beatles first hit single (5 October). But how about this?
Michelangelo’s masterpiece turns 500
On 31 October 1512, the “Warrior Pope” Julius II held a simple vespers prayer service for 17 cardinals to mark the completion of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling. Michelangelo’s masterpiece, one of the great marvels of human achievement, is officially 500 years old today. This article was published by The Smithsonian in 2009 commemorating the beginning of Michelangelo’s work on the ceiling.
In the spring of 1509 a Florentine named Buonarotti was beginning to work on one of the defining masterpieces of Western Civilization. His first name—Michelangelo—would also reverberate through the ages. But his ceiling frescoes in Rome’s Sistine Chapel had gotten off to a terrible start. He was working on the largest multi-figure compositions of the entire ceiling when the fresco plaster became infected by a kind of lime mould, which is like a great bloom of fungus. So he had to chip the whole thing back to zero and start again. But by the time Julius held his vespers service 1512, Michelangelo had succeeded in creating a transcendent work of genius, one which continues to inspire millions of pilgrims and tourists in Vatican City each year. ________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 25 October 2012
With less than two weeks to the US presidential election, the debates are over: the 2 presidential candidates, the 2 vice-presidential candidates, the 2 first lady candidates….
Pick a card, any card…ahhh, not that one!
18 October 2012
Goanna’s rock anthem Solid Rock was the first Australian hit that dealt with Indigenous Australian land rights. It was first performed in October 1982 – you can view other versions on You Tube. In Gordon St Tonight had a brilliant contemporary version featuring Shane Howard, Missy Higgins and Dan Sullivan but WordPress doesn’t support the ABC’s video format.
On the US website Slate in early 2011, the late Christopher Hitchens advised that “US style of tea is best thrown away”. In a complaint that will resonate with many travellers to the US, Hitchen’s main gripe was that Americans seem to offer only cups of tepid water, with teabags served separately. Indeed, I was once escorted – rather forcefully – from the kitchen of The Jefferson in Washington for offering an accelerated lesson to kitchen staff in the art of making tea.Hitchens provided a list of guiding principles, the most important of which is making sure that boiling water is added to the tea. “Grasp only this, and you hold the root of the matter.” Next, he insisted that your teapot be pre-warmed. As for milk, “use the least creamy type or the tea will acquire a sickly taste. And do not put the milk in the cup first.“The question of whether milk should come first or last is one that has divided polite society for eons, as George Orwell observed in his 1946 instructions on making tea (Orwell is with Hitchens).
“Education is the most powerful lever for equity”
Andreas Schleicher, OECD Deputy-Director of Education speaks about the key finding of this year’s OECD Education at Glance. He says education spending is rising across the OECD but access to higher education remains unequal in most countries. Governments should increase investment in early childhood programs and maintain reasonable costs for higher education in order to reduce inequality, boost social mobility and improve people’s employment prospects. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
A mythical creature
31 August 2012 The tale of a mythical creature transforming into a majestic dragon, created by COFA graduate Sushan Yue, is UNSWTV’s most popular video. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
17 August 2o12 When British Olympic gold medallists including Chris Hoy, Victoria Pendleton and Jessica Ennis did a karaoke version of Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now last weekend, it became an internet sensation (2 million plus views to date) . Problem is Paralympics GB had the same idea four months ago only for their thunder to be stolen by their Olympic counterparts. The Paralympic version of Don’t Stop Me Now has had fewer than 8000 viewings.
That should increase as they get credit for having the idea first – click HERE to view.
So…you’re into Facebook?
9 August 2012
3 August 2012 You could argue that popular music is “better today but in the Sixties it was more creative — or at least more experimental. Research by a group of Spanish scientists analysing the Million Song Dataset found that while popular music is in many ways unchanged over the years, it has become more homogeneous. This chart shows “timbral variety” over the years — a way of measuring how diverse the different kinds of sounds appearing in songs are. Nobody should really be surprised that the late 1960′s was the peak of different kinds of instrumentation being used in pop music. On the other hand, one could argue that this is because back then we didn’t know how to do it right, and there was a lot of experimental crap, whereas we’ve now figured it out. ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 26 July 2012 If a British newspaper report is correct, Mary Poppins and Lord Voldemort will clash in a tense battle scene during Friday’s Opening Ceremony of the London Olympics. The Sunday Times reports that a sequence featuring some of the best-loved literary characters in British history will climax when a 40-foot Voldemort, the notorious villain from the Harry Potter books, rises out of a bed in the center of Olympic Stadium and scares away representations of Alice from “Alice in Wonderland,” Captain Hook and Cruella De Vil. (Oliver Twist will presumably be waiting in a line at a concession stand.) Instead of being done in by Harry Potter, Voldemort will meet his match in a British nanny with an umbrella and a penchant for melody.
From It’s work…honest – the blog that serves as your virtual watercooler, your virtual sofa (minus the crumbs), you know, the one that got taken away when they re-organised the office…
Making wheels go around – faster
19 July 2012 There’s a lot of science in sport (apart from performance enhancing drugs). The Australian men’s cycling pursuit team has conducted ground breaking wind tunnel analysis with the assistance of Monash University in their quest to be at their very best for the Olympic Games in London. ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
12 July 2012 In the half-century since playing their first gig in 1962 at the Marquee Club on London’s Oxford Street, the Rolling Stones have shown a remarkable visual flair – as shown in these pictures from The Rolling Stones 50, a new book commemorating the band’s career [from The Guardian 9 July 2012]. _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
5 July 2012 The Irish Hand Dancing clip on YouTube went viral a couple of years ago and has been viewed by almost 9 million people. But a surprising number of people haven’t seen it, so as a community service we’re reblogging it.
28 June 2012 The Portsmouth Sinfonia was an orchestra founded by a group of students at the Portsmouth School of Art in England, in 1970. The Sinfonia had an unusual entrance requirement, in that players had to either be non-musicians, or if a musician, play an instrument that was entirely new to them. The orchestra started as a one-off, tongue-in-cheek performance art ensemble but became a cultural phenomenon over the following ten years, with concerts, record albums, a film and a hit single. They last performed publicly in 1979. ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
16 June 2012 A month or so ago, North Melbourne Institute of TAFE launched its University Blues website aimed at attracting students to NMIT’s offer of a no-fees place in a selected diploma course. It is only open to students that can show that they have already incurred a higher education debt elsewhere in the first semester. Featured headlines include Why the top universities don’t care about teaching you and University: A waste of time? But it’s not all negative: for example, the site acknowledges that Australian universities generally rate highly in the international rankings and it’s full of practical survival tips that apply equally to university as to TAFE study – such as, How to cut costs while studying fulltime.
Harvard Business Review 27 May 2012 The world is moving fast and it’s only getting faster. So much technology. So much information. Emails. Twitter. Facebook. Link-in. The ping of an incoming text message. But trying to speed up to match the pace of the action around us is counterproductive. The faster the waves come, the more deliberately we need to navigate. Never before has it been so important to be grounded and intentional and to know what’s important. You need to make two lists:
List 1: Your Focus List (the road ahead) What are you trying to achieve? What makes you happy? What’s important to you? Design your time around those things. Because time is your one limited resource and no matter how hard you try you can’t work 24/7. List 2: Your Ignore List (the distractions) To succeed in using your time wisely, you have to ask the equally important but often avoided complementary questions: what are you willing not to achieve? What doesn’t make you happy? What’s not important to you? What gets in the way?
10 bets you will never lose
The Conversation 4 & 5 June 2012 This year will be the last Transit of Venus to be seen in our lifetime. The next will not occur until 2117. If it’s cloudy or you can’t view it safely, you can follow it on a number of websites, including the NASA website and Australia’s Siding Spring Observatory. If you are really keen, you can observe the transit at the Siding Spring Observatory or Mt Stromlo Observatory in the ACT. See also Venus nears its moment in the sun, but what’s a transit anyway?
21 May 2012 The Googlification of knowledge continues apace, with Google announcing it is building a Knowledge Graph: a huge collection of the people, places and things in the world and how they’re connected to one another.
This is how we’ll be able to tell if your search for “mercury” refers to the planet or the chemical element–and also how we can get you smarter answers to jump start your discovery.
This comes via It’s work… honest , the blog that serves as your virtual water cooler.
See also The Conversation : Google’s Knowledge Graph – has search just changed forever?What is it? How does it work? And will it change the way we find information online?
The 5 minute university
17 May 2012 ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
14 May 2012 Ever wondered what a widget is? We just thought it was a word made up by economists to represent a manufactured product, that was later adopted by the computer industry as the name of a bit of web software. It’s both those things but it also turns out that a widget is a real thing: a small nitrogen-filled ball inserted into a can of Guinness to generate the beer’s famous frothy head when poured. We know this courtesy of the blog It’s work…honest . IWH asks you to think of it
…as your virtual watercooler, your virtual sofa (minus the crumbs), you know, the one that got taken away when they re-organised the office…
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7 May 2012 NASA explains the “super moon” – in this case a”perigee” -of 5 May which, if you didn’t see, you have obviously missed. Never mind, there’s another next year and now you know what it is and to watch out for it. ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
4 May 2012 A photography exhibition of what Canberra means to 25 ANU international and domestic students from the disciplines of science, visual art, social sciences, Asian and Pacific studies – and even business. The exhibition runs from 2 May until Wednesday 16 May at the Theo Notaras Multicultural Centre – Level 2 of 180 London Circuit, Canberra (North Building). _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Obama slow jams the news
28 April 2012 The affordability of university education in the US has become a real issue and costs are set to increase even more with a proposed doubling of interest on student loans. But the Barak Ness Monster ain’t buying it:
…now is not the time to make school more expensive for our young people.
This is the sort of thing you can only do once but as Mae West said of life, if you get it right you only need one. Watch how Obama dumps the mike and Jimmy Fallon’s reaction. _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
26 April 2012
The weekend of 21/22 April 2012 saw the 20th annual Apollo Bay Music Festival. In the past the festival been a pretty good experience. But something has gone dreadfully wrong. It’s a shadow of what it was a couple of years ago: no headline acts, about a third of the musical roster, maybe a third of the attendance and a seemingly alienated community.But it wasn’t without points of merit.
Street buskerOne is tempted to describe Kurt Gentle as a “precocious talent”. Just let’s call him a very talented guitarist in the style of John Butler, down to the dreadlocks (and one of his guitars was given to him by Butler). Kurt brought along the entire stock of his self-recorded CD and sold out within two hours. This is a pretty muddy YouTube clip of Kurt performing but it gives you the flavour.
When Dawkins explained that the universe had come from nothing, but that nothing was really very complex and, in fact, consisted of something, people laughed. Dawkins was annoyed and, like a humourless school marm, peevishly scolded the audience: “Why is that funny?”
Yes, well, “nothing”certainly can be complex. The Buddhist notion of nirvana approximates “emptiness” – gate gate pāragate pārasaṃgate bodhi svāhā – which would seem to be like “nothingness” which must be close to “nothing”. Engage a serious Buddhist on the nature of “you” and “you” (whoever or whatever “you” are, if “you” are anything at all) will come away thoroughly confused (if that is not “your” permanent state of “mind”, – if “you” have one, that is). This nicely segues to news that researchers at The Australian National University have developed the fastest random number generator in the world by listening to the ‘sounds of silence’. The researchers have tuned their very sensitive light detectors to listen to vacuum – a region of space that is empty. Professor Ping Koy Lam says vacuum was once thought to be completely empty, dark and silent until the discovery of the modern quantum theory. Since then scientists have discovered that vacuum is an extent of space that has virtual sub-atomic particles spontaneously appearing and disappearing. If you ever have need of a random number generator, you can download it here. See also:
- The origin of the universe: is there a role for God? (The Conversation 19 April 2012)
9 April 2012
The Scan recently relocated to Elwood, a short stroll through the St Kilda Botanical Gardens to Acland St – trams, shops, cafes and restaurants, supermarkets. The Gardens feature a Little Man standing in a lake, umbrella unfurled, his hand reaching out feeling for rain. But he’s being rained on by his umbrella, A poignant metaphor on life ? In a recent stroll, we came across a handwritten sign held down by a stone on a post, “See you there!” See who? See who, where? A note perhaps to somebody in particular, perhaps to nobody or perhaps to everybody. As everybody knows:
Looking through the crowdI search for something elseBut every time I turn aroundI run into myself.
At the St Kilda end of the Gardens, you’ll find the Port Phillip Eco Centre, full of all sorts of information, a garden with two Blue Tongued Lizards, tea and coffee on a weekend and a conference room for smallish conferences, staff meetings etc – very reasonably priced.
29 March 2012 ….cool enough for Lennie Kravitz, for starters. The Pop phone handset plugs into your mobile. If you’re not into the retro feel of it – and it does feel very good – then there’s the health benefit. With mobile phones labeled as carcinogenic by the World Health Organization due to the amount of radiation they release, there are a few simple ways to prevent radiation exposure, one of which is using a headset (sort of daggy ), or a handset attachment like the POP Phone adapter which keeps the harmful radiation far away from your face. It claims to eliminate over 99% of absorbed phone radiation. Available in all sorts of stores but much cheaper online. _________________________________________________________________
Installation technicians Mary-Anne Crawford and John Freckleton at work in front of a painting of ex-Bulldogs prop Ryan Tandy painted by Brad Styles for entry into this year’s Archibald Prize at the Art Gallery of NSW. Obviously didn’t impress everyone – the prestigious Packers’ Prize went to Raelene Sharp’s portrait of actor John Wood. Picture: Justin Lloyd ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
22 March 2012 Christopher Shea writes in the Wall Street Journal that physicists studying Google’s massive collection of scanned books claim to have identified universal laws governing the birth, life course and death of words, marking an advance in a new field dubbed ‘Culturomics’: the application of data-crunching to subjects typically considered part of the humanities. Published in Science, their paper gives the best-yet estimate of the true number of words in English — a million, far more than any dictionary has recorded (the 2002 Webster’s Third New International Dictionary has 348,000), with more than half of the language considered ‘dark matter’ that has evaded standard dictionaries. The paper tracked word usage through time (each year, for instance, 1% of the world’s English-speaking population switches from ‘sneaked’ to ‘snuck’) and found that English continues to grow at a rate of 8,500 new words a year. However the growth rate is slowing, partly because the language is already so rich, the ‘marginal utility’ of new words is declining. Another discovery is that the death rates for words is rising, largely as a matter of homogenization as regional words disappear and spell-checking programs and vigilant copy editors choke off the chaotic variety of words much more quickly, in effect speeding up the natural selection of words. The authors also identified a universal ‘tipping point’ in the life cycle of new words: Roughly 30 to 50 years after their birth, words either enter the long-term lexicon or tumble off a cliff into disuse and go ’23 skidoo‘ as children either accept or reject their parents’ coinages. ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
8 March 2012City Library, in the New York sector of Flinders Lane near GHQ , has become a firmly established institution for Melbourne city workers, students and residents over the 8 years of its existence. With a cafe (Journal) at the entrance, in the main areas it’s all buzz and go. Up on the mezzanine, there’s a piano and oft times someone playing (there is a sign that you do need to be competent!). If you’re really lucky, you’ll get a recital from a little old lady, whose playing sounds not dissimilar to Keith Jarrett (she is truly remarkable). There’s usually some kind of art exhibition hanging in the mezzanine and regular late afternoon performances (music & poetry). You can speak at normal levels without a librarian shushing you. But if you’re there to work, there are a variety of spaces where the normal library quiet prevails. And of course there are books, newspapers magazines, CDs and videos available to browse, listen to, view and borrow and banks of public access computers. ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 1 March 2012 If you have to buy bottled water….Thank You Water is a “social enterprise” the profits of which go to funding projects to provide drinking water for people who can’t buy bottled water. ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
23 February 2012 We were introduced to the world of hacking last week, when some apparently international visitors obliterated one of our sites and disabled the other. The point? None whatever, just mindless internet vandalism. The potential capacity of “private hackers” to cause widespread mayhem – whether for political, economic or other purposes – is of growing concern to governments and corporations, as this article from Digital Trends explores.
The US National Security Agency reportedly believes hacktivst collective Anonymous could soon wage attacks on key US infrastructure. Anonymous says such accusations are nothing but ridiculous fear mongering. The United States government and hacktivist collective Anonymous aren’t what you would call “friends.” After Anonymous’ ongoing barrage of distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks on various .gov websites, the National Security Agency (NSA) is reportedly concerned that the hackers may soon upgrade their attacks to full-blow assaults on key US infrastructure, like the electrical grid.
16 February 2012
2 February 2012
Street stuff takes many forms – good, bad, stunning, mediocre, vandalism, singing, playing, drawing, writing, singing , playing dancing, profound, profane, philosophising, obscene, even gardening. Here’s a random selection from places near The Scan’s global headquarters in Melbourne . Here’s a blog on street photography – including a current exhibition at the No Vacancy Gallery of photography by Serana Hunt at Fed Square – and the recently finished Urban Scrawl exhibition at City Library featuring the work of Precious Little and Kaff-eine. They even do guided tours of Melbourne’s laneways these days – see Paste Modernism. GO TO THE GALLERY….
It started as a three-week project in the winter of 2010 to pay tribute to the Sydney Opera House, the arts epicenter of the nation. After drawing together Australia’s and the region’s best performers, it ended nine months later. “It grew in ambition,” said director Paul Goldman. The Ship Song Project has now come to life. The idea was to use Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ 1990 song and recreate it, filmed beneath the Opera House’s architectural sails. The result is a musical amalgam of Australian opera, dance, classical, folk and rock that edifies the harborside home to the arts. ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
The practice of meditation is traditionally associated with shaved heads, kaftans, sandals and lentils. But the positive effects of regular meditation is gaining increasing recognition in the workplace, including major corporates such as Caltex, Nestle, IBM and Blake Dawson, according to the Australian Finanacial Review (15 July 2011). The Harvard Business Review noted there are all sorts of good reasons to meditate. Jon Kabat-Zinn, in his book Full Catastrophe Living, offers good instructions on how to meditate and examines persuasive research into how it reduces stress, speeds up healing, decreases pain, and increases presence. Kabat-Zinn is a bit of an expert: Professor of Medicine Emeritus and founding director of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. But it’s not just about “personal development”. Losing awareness of how we’re feeling or what we’re thinking affects our relationships, our decisions, and our actions. Those are business issues. While many meditation traditions have religious associations, there are plenty of secular varieties these days as well. Just Google to find a practice near you that suits your proclivities. It can’t hurt, can it? Check out The Guardian (UK) Headspace meditation podcasts. _______________________________________________________________________________________________________
The art of tea
On the US website Slate earlier this year, Christopher Hitchens advised that “US style of tea is best thrown away”. In a complaint that will resonate with many travellers to the US, Hitchen’s main gripe is that Americans seem to offer only cups of tepid water, with teabags served separately. Indeed, I was once escorted from the kitchen of The Jefferson in Washington for offering an accelerated lesson to kitchen staff in the art of making tea. Hitchens has provided a list of guiding principles, the most important of which is making sure that boiling water is added to the tea. “Grasp only this, and you hold the root of the matter.” Next, he insists that your teapot be pre-warmed. As for milk, “use the least creamy type or the tea will acquire a sickly taste. And do not put the milk in the cup first.” The question of whether milk should come first or last is one that has divided polite society for eons, as George Orwell observed in his 1946 instructions on making tea (Orwell is with Hitchens). However, the science is now settled on this issue: as set out in The Tea FAQ (The definitive guide to tea) “…pouring milk into a cup of tea at near boiling temperatures will scald the milk (denaturing the proteins), giving your cup of tea an odd flavour. It is therefore best to add your tea to a cup that already contains the milk, much like tempering the egg base when making custard in order to bring it up to the proper temperature without ruining it”. As with climate change, I’m siding with the science. _______________________________________________________________________________________________________
If you tell people you’re on Twitter, you tend to get one of three reactions: