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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Life is not a success-only journey...

Believe it or not, it's my daily newspaper horoscope:


That's not a horoscope, it's an aphorism. I wuz cheated! But where the devil did it come from? It's a quote, I thought. Who said it?

So, being a talented detective, I googled it.

And while I couldn't learn who said it first, I found it quoted a lot --- in self-help blogs, and advice for the depressed... Which I suppose is no bad thing, at the end of one year and the start of another, with the mysteries of 2014 still to evolve.

But still, it seems an odd kind of day's prediction.  I'm accustomed to being promised great things, including financial windfalls, and not being challenged with Zen-type pronouncements. 

So I kept on looking.  And found out where the Dominion Post get their horoscope column, albeit a day out of date, considering it is New Year's Eve, downunder.

Here it is:

Monday, December 30
Saying goodbye to 2013 is all about being thankful for the journey and despite the ups and downs, triumphs and challenges to appreciate the wisdom and experience you've gained along the way. Life is not a success only journey and the person who never fails, never trips up and never makes a mistake is a person who never truly lived. As you look back at the journey that you've been on, paint yourself in as the hero of the tale.


Daily Numbers
12, 22, 28, 29, 32, 40
Daily Compatibility

Monday, December 30, 2013

2013 Darwin Awards

Presumably named after the author of The Origin of the Species, this award series is supposed to commemorate human stupidity.

And here -- or so I am told -- is the 2013 array of the most cringing examples of the Ascent of Man

I feel as if I have read some before, but they are always good for a laugh ... and that momentary feeling of superiority.

1. When his .38 caliber revolver failed to fire at his intended victim during a hold-up in Long Beach, California would-be robber James Elliot did something that can only inspire wonder. He peered down the barrel and tried the trigger again. This time it worked.
2. The chef at a hotel in Switzerland lost a finger in a meat cutting machine and after a little shopping around, submitted a claim to his insurance company. The company expecting negligence sent out one of its men to have a look for himself. He tried the machine and he also lost a finger. The chef’s claim was approved.
3. A man who shoveled snow for an hour to clear a space for his car during a blizzard in Chicago returned with his vehicle to find a woman had taken the space. Understandably, he shot her.
4. After stopping for drinks at an illegal bar, a Zimbabwean bus driver found that the 20 mental patients he was supposed to be transporting from Harare to Bulawayo had escaped. Not wanting to admit his incompetence, the driver went to a nearby bus stop and offered everyone waiting there a free ride. He then delivered the passengers to the mental hospital, telling the staff that the patients were very excitable and prone to bizarre fantasies. The deception wasn’t discovered for 3 days.
5. An American teenager was in the hospital recovering from serious head wounds received from an oncoming train. When asked how he received the injuries, the lad told police that he was simply trying to see how close he could get his head to a moving train before he was hit.
6. A man walked into a Louisiana Circle-K, put a $20 bill on the counter, and asked for change. When the clerk opened the cash drawer, the man pulled a gun and asked for all the cash in the register, which the clerk promptly provided. The man took the cash from the clerk and fled, leaving the $20 bill on the counter. The total amount of cash he got from the drawer… $15.
7. Seems an Arkansas guy wanted some beer pretty badly. He decided that he’d just throw a cinder block through a liquor store window, grab some booze, and run. So he lifted the cinder block and heaved it over his head at the window. The cinder block bounced back and hit the would-be thief on the head, knocking him unconscious. The liquor store window was made of Plexiglas. The whole event was caught on videotape.
8. As a female shopper exited a New York convenience store, a man grabbed her purse and ran. The clerk called 911 immediately, and the woman was able to give them a detailed description of the snatcher. Within minutes, the police apprehended the snatcher. They put him in the car and drove back to the store. The thief was then taken out of the car and told to stand there for a positive ID. To which he replied, “Yes, officer, that’s her. That’s the lady I stole the purse from.”
9. The Ann Arbor News crime column reported that a man walked into a Burger King in Ypsilanti, Michigan at 5 A.M., flashed a gun, and demanded cash. The clerk turned him down because he said he couldn’t open the cash register without a food order. When the man ordered onion rings, the clerk said they weren’t available for breakfast… The frustrated gunman walked away.

10. When a man attempted to siphon gasoline from a motor home parked on a Seattle street by sucking on a hose, he got much more than he bargained for. Police arrived at the scene to find a very sick man curled up next to a motor home near spilled sewage. A police spokesman said that the man admitted to trying to steal gasoline, but he plugged his siphon hose into the motor home’s sewage tank by mistake. The owner of the vehicle declined to press charges saying that it was the best laugh he’d ever had and the perp had been punished enough!
With thanks to Jacqueline Church Simonds


Friday, December 27, 2013

Wonderful Wellington

Sent to me by the photographer, Bev Tyler

It's always an eye-opener to see the view you almost take for granted through another person's lens.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013


It's Santa Day downunder, the painters, the builders, and the scaffolders have gone, the house is looking Quite Decent, and so it's time to relax and wing thoughts to friends


Friday, December 20, 2013

Tempelhof to become grand library

From The Guardian

One of Europe's first city airports, Tempelhof, made history when western allies used it to break the Soviet blockade of West Berlin in 1948. But since its closure in 2008, politicians in the German capital have been unsure what to do with it.

Now the site is set to be transformed from a historic monument to a hub of historic learning: on Wednesday the city senate unveiled two possible designs for a new central library adjacent to the airport's disused landing strip.

If either of the designs is realised, the building will be intended to become a rival to Paris's Pompidou Centre: an architectural "statement building" with 3,200 seats for readers, galleries, event spaces, restaurants and a children's library. The iconic airport will be reborn as a vibrant focal point for the city's notoriously scattered cultural life.

The proposed cultural centre already has high expectations to meet. Berlin's existing central libraries draw 5,000 visitors a day, but culture senator AndrĂ© Schmitz predicts that the new building will attract twice as many – approximately 3.5 million a year, roughly equal to the numbers at the Pompidou Centre, which hosts a viewing platform for tourists in the heart of the French capital.

The British Library at St Pancras, London, which, unlike Berlin's, requires membership but serves as a legal deposit library for the entire country, receives around 4,000 visitors a day.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Tupaia rediscovered (2)

Book Review from the Bookseller

Book review: Tupaia – The Remarkable Story of Captain Cook’s Polynesian Navigator by Joan Druett

This book is in stores now and is a finalist in the New Zealand Post Book Awards.

As remarkable as this sounds, when I first travelled to Australia, at the age of 20, I was taken aback to find that there were a number of James Cook monuments, hotels and the like. And that Joseph Banks was responsible for naming all of their plants too! The problem is that you only know what you know, and what you are taught and exposed to.

In my case, post-colonial views of history that seem to only focus on the New Zealand aspects of the voyages, and have removed, or at the very least diminished, certain key history makers from the stories. Tupaia, a noble Polynesian who encountered Captain James Cook in the Tahiti Islands and set sail with him on his journey south aboard the Endeavour, is one of them.

Joan Druett clearly sees Tupaia as an extraordinary man whom European history books have not served well. She clearly likes and respects her main character and yes, this biography does read at times like a story – a compelling story too. Druett sets the tone for her book early on when writing about Tupaia:

“… he was Tahiti’s highest priest. Then the canoe without an outrigger arrived.”
Immediately Druett had my attention and she held it until the end.

That the Crew of the Endeavour were not the first Europeans to meet Tupaia was probably “lost in translation”. But, in reality, by the time Cook and Banks arrived, Tupaia had already met and traded with another crew of Englishmen, and a French contingent led by Louis De Bouganville.

Regardless of these prior meetings, the meeting of the Endeavour crew on April 11, 1769 was momentous since as Druett puts it “the expectations of all on board had reached a pitch of excitement.” They could never have anticipated that they would sail away with local men on board, who would prove to be crucial for Cook’s navigation of both the South Pacific seas and its people and customs.

You know what happened next – the Endeavour crew sailed south to New Zealand. Tupaia, according to Druett’s meticulous research was a key figure on the boat, but he succumbed to illness before arriving back to England, and was almost forgotten in the public aftermath. Almost.

This engaging book, has made me reflect on the facts of the Cook voyages; reminding me that there were dozens of people either on board, or that the crew encountered on these great voyages of discovery. Tupaia was just one of them – a translator, astronomer, navigator, artist, mapmaker, geographer – one of a number of remarkable men of the time. And this is his story.

Reviewed by Gillian Torckler

Tupaia - The Remarkable Story of Captain Cook’s Polynesian Navigator
By Joan Druett
Random House NZ
9781869793869 (Hardback)
9781869797133 (Paperback)

PS:  Tupaia, The Remarkable Story of Captain Cook's Polynesian Navigator won the general nonfiction section of the New Zealand Post Book Awards in 2012

Six Days to Christmas

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The beginning of the finish

You may remember this...

Four intensive weeks later ...

Is that brave, or what?  But it is the last chance to clean those lovely new windows before they are taken out of reach ...

And where is the removed scaffolding?

On our little back deck

While Ron wonders if his carpentry will take the strain...

We shall learn more in the morning, no doubt.

They're stealing our bird!

Wellington (AFP) - In a finding likely to be a bitter blow for many New Zealanders, researchers have found the country's iconic kiwi bird probably descended from an ancestor that flew in from Australia.
Palaeontologist Trevor Worthy of Adelaide's Flinders University said fossilised remains suggested the flightless bird did not evolve from the extinct giant moa, as has long been assumed.

Instead, he said an ancestor of the kiwi dating back 20 million years discovered in the South Island was more closely related to another giant flightless bird, the emu, which is still common in Australia.
Worthy, himself an expatriate New Zealander, said it appeared the fossilised South Island bird and the emu evolved from a common ancestor, which originated in Australia but also spread to New Zealand.

"If, as the DNA suggests, the kiwi is related to the emu, then both shared a common ancestor that could fly," he said.

"It means they were little and volant (able to fly) and that they flew to New Zealand."

Worthy said it was not uncommon for birds to "jump" from Australia to New Zealand, citing the Mallard duck, the little banded dotterel and the cattle egret as three species which regularly fly back and forth.

He said the research, published by the Society of Avian Paleontology and Evolution, was not conclusive.

"We need to find wing bones to put the theory beyond all doubt," he said.

New Zealanders have long complained about their trans-Tasman neighbours appropriating everything from champion race horse Phar Lap to actor Russell Crowe, and any Australian claim to the kiwi is likely to intensify the rivalry.

Trends in the year's bestsellers

From Digital Bookworld

Another year of Amazon dominating book sales in the U.S.; another list of the big winners that benefitted: Amazon's top-twenty best-selling books of 2013.

For those involved in the industry, there's more to the list than big name authors and best-selling titles:

1. Ebooks are big winners: For only one out of the 20 books on the list did print Amazon purchases outsell Kindle books.

2. Penguin Random House dominates: The big publisher had nine of the 20 best-sellers - and seven of the top ten.

3. Self-published trumps Amazon: There were three self-published titles on the list (another testament to the power of ebook distribution), but no titles from Amazon Publishing.

Complete top-twenty best-sellers list.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Best Bumper Stickers

It must be the silly season....

Best Bumper Stickers



My Mother Is a Travel Agent for Guilt Trips

 I Used to Be Schizophrenic, but We're OK Now
Coffee, Chocolate, Men;  Some Things Are Just Better Rich


 Liberal Arts Major....Will Think for Food

Gravity...It's Not Just a Good Idea.  It's the Law

Love May Be Blind, But Marriage Is a Real Eye Opener 

 If at First You Don't Succeed, Skydiving Isn't for You


 The Trouble With the Gene Pool Is That There's No Lifeguard

 Get a New Car for Your Spouse.  It'll Be a Great Trade

Old Age Comes at a Bad Time

 I used to have a handle on life, but it broke.

Out of my mind...Back in five minutes.

 God must love stupid people...He made SO many of them.

 Taxation WITH representation isn't so hot either!
 Madness takes its toll.  Please have exact change.

My wife keeps complaining I never listen to her ...or something like that.
 Alcohol and calculus don't mix.  Never drink and derive.

Friday, December 13, 2013


This is really poetic ...

Today, says Lindsay, I'm giving this tool box away (just the empty tool box - I'm keeping everything that was in it)...

This tool box isn't just an old tool box, in fact it was bought brand new halfway through this year at the beginning of the Infinera project.

It carried just about everything I needed to build up an Infinera shelf which included......

- A battery drill
- Two batteries (note neither of the batteries were plugged into the battery drill during transport - CAA requirement - also the batteries weren't Lithium Ion batteries - another CAA requirement)
- The battery charger for the battery drill
- Drill bits of random sizes
- A labelling machine
- Label cartridges
- Battery Charger for the labelling machine
- A small mini but very comprehensive socket set.
- A mini deep socket set, ratchet, and extension piece
- 12 screw drivers
- 5 pairs of pliers and cutters of different types
- Wire strippers
- 5 pairs of crimpers of different types
- A knife and spare blades
- Patch cords, cable ties, Velcro, cage nuts, crimp lugs
- Plus other some other stuff.

After packing the tool box, it weighed just under 23 KGs. Oh wait... No, it once weighed 23.1 KGs, so I had to take an extra patch cord in my carry on baggage while the, now, 22.9 KG toolbox went into the haul.

It didn't carry anything dangerous or flammable. no, It didn't carry any cans of CRC. No, it didn't have a butane torch, or even a cigarette lighter. And yes, the batteries are Nickel-Cadmium batteries which weren't plugged into the battery drill during transit. Someone from Christchurch can vouch for that, she will also add how well organised this toolbox was.

It's been to Christchurch (via a Queenstown diversion) for some exchange work, to Palmerston North a number of times as we built three sites there, then to Napier (via Auckland), once for the exchange build work, and then for the Infinera, it's been to Gisborne (via Auckland) for an exchange build, and to Wellington, and finally, it went for a trip to Wellington via Nelson.

As it just flew under 40 sectors (oh the joys of most Hamilton flights going through Auckland), the handle got a bit tired. It popped out on me three times. I also know of a time when the handle popped out on a baggage handler (I was standing on the other side of the aircraft when it happened) and then it broke, but that just meant carrying the toolbox with both hands.

 It's been a good toolbox, I'm sure the friendly staff from Air NZ would agree, especially the rampies. But it's time to hand the tool box on...

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Best selling Indies

From GalleyCat at

It's really nice to see SF leading in the titles.  Maybe the Fifty-shades-inspired glut of erotic romances is coming to an end?

Amazon Self-Published Bestsellers for the Week of December 10, 2013

1. The Atlantis Gene: A Thriller (The Origin Mystery, Book 1) by A.G. Riddle: “The Immari are good at keeping secrets. For 2,000 years, they’ve hidden the truth about human evolution. They’ve also searched for an ancient enemy–a threat that could wipe out the human race. Now the search is over. Off the coast of Antarctica, a research vessel discovers a mysterious structure buried deep in an iceberg. It has been there for thousands of years, and something is guarding it. As the Immari rush to execute their plan, a brilliant geneticist makes a discovery that could change everything.”

2. The Midwife’s Revolt by Jody Daynard: “The Midwife’s Revolt takes the reader on a journey to the founding days of America. It follows one woman’s path, Lizzie Boylston, from her grieving days of widowhood after Bunker Hill, to her deepening friendship with Abigail Adams and midwifery, and finally to her dangerous work as a spy for the Cause. A novel rich in historical detail, The Midwife’s Revolt opens a window onto the real lives of colonial women.”

3. Married by Christmas by Scarlett Bailey: “Anna Carter is on the brink of her dream Christmas wedding, she’s got the dress sorted, the church books, even the reindeer to pull her in a sleigh to the ceremony. But now – only two weeks before her big day – her perfect husband-to-be drops a bombshell… Only nothing’s going to stop Anna’s plans – not even the pesky inconvenience of discovering her groom already has a wife!”

4. Trouble by Samantha Towle: “Mia Monroe is running. Running from a person she doesn’t ever want to find her. Running from a past she doesn’t ever want anyone to know. Desperate to find a future, that yesterday, she could only dream of having. Jordan Matthews likes easy. Easy women. Easy life. Then he meets Mia.”

5. Snowbound by Blake Crouch: “For Will Innis and his daughter, Devlin, the loss was catastrophic. Every day for the past five years, they wonder where she is, if she is—Will’s wife, Devlin’s mother—because Rachael Innis vanished one night during an electrical storm on a lonely desert highway, and suspected of her death, Will took his daughter and fled.”

6. The Atlantis Plague by A.G. Riddle: “In Marbella, Spain, Dr. Kate Warner awakens to a horrifying reality: the human race stands on the brink of extinction. A pandemic unlike any before it has swept the globe. Nearly a billion people are dead–and those the Atlantis Plague doesn’t kill, it transforms at the genetic level. A few rapidly evolve. The remainder devolve. As the world slips into chaos, radical solutions emerge. Industrialized nations offer a miracle drug, Orchid, which they mass produce and distribute to refugee camps around the world. But Orchid is merely a way to buy time. It treats the symptoms of the plague but never actually cures the disease.”

7.  Broken by Kelly Elliott: “Layton Morris and his brother Mike grew up not knowing what it would be like to live in a normal home. With no running water or electricity in their home, no parents around to protect them, they quickly learned how to survive and depend only on each other. When a tragic accident takes Mike away from Layton, and the only other person that he ever let into his heart walked away from him, leaving his heart shattered, Layton focuses all of his time and energy into the ranch he and his brother dreamed of.”

8. Lovable Christmas Angel: Book #3 – Romance and Heavenly Spirits by Mimi Barbour: “Christmas in Hawaii! How lucky can a girl get? Except Leilani is bringing her mother’s ashes home to Waikiki and has an urgent plea of help from an aunt she’s never even met. After winning two free nights in prestigious Hotel Jordan, things take a turn she never expected. First she gets stuck in an elevator with the prickly, but luscious Mr. Jordan. Secondly, her aunt is a sick woman and only held on for one reason. She wants to pass on her most precious possession – her five-year-old grandchild. The same little fellow that takes one look at Leilani, slaps his fist on his hips and yells, ‘Go away!’”

9. Until You (Fall Away Series) by Penelope Douglas: “Have you ever been so angry that hitting things felt good? Or so numb that you actually felt high? The past few years have been like that for me. Traveling between fury and indifference with no stops in between. Some people hate me for it, while others are scared of me. But none of them can hurt me, because I don’t care about anything or anyone. Except Tatum.”

10. Stinger (Sign of Love, Scorpio) by Mia Sheridan: “Grace Hamilton was the girl with a plan. She knew exactly where her life was going and prided herself on always achieving her goals. It was who she was, and how she lived her life. She never stepped outside the lines, and never considered what she might desire and whom she was actually trying so hard to please. Until him…”

Mister Whippy threatened

Stag party stunt gets out of hand

Every now and then a news item crops up that absolutely begs to be featured -- with an equally irresistible cartoon.

A chainsaw-wielding man wearing fishnet stockings chased a Mr Whippy van down the street after a stag party got out of hand.

Police Sergeant Colin Stewart said the man, who is in his 20s, had reportedly emerged from a Rangiora property, revved the chainsaw into life and held it above his head as the ice-cream van went by.

"He was shaking it and waving it," he said.

Mr Whippy "wasn't travelling at great speed - probably within the 4kmh limit" so the man made chase along the footpath - still holding the running chainsaw.

He abandoned the chainsaw before leaping into the van's passenger seat.

Stewart said the man was polite. He said hello to the driver before alighting.

Police were provided with a description of the offender, namely a man wearing black fishnet stockings.

"It made him reasonably easy to identify," Stewart said.

When officers made inquiries at the property, the man "put his hand up to it".

"He was apologetic. It was more a disorderly behaviour thing than a direct threat [to the driver]."

Stewart said the offence was alcohol-fuelled at the end of an unusually hot day.

Monday, December 9, 2013

What not to do in a job interview

Bizarre Things That Candidates Have Done In Job Interviews


We all know the standard things we should do on a job interview: show up on time, research in advance, prepare for possible questions, and make sure you have your own questions to ask the interviewer.
It may be more difficult, however, to know what not to do.

To know just how outrageous people can get on job interviews, we turned to staffing firm Robert Half, which for decades has asked its offices about the most extreme interview antics.

Here are some of the highlights:

The candidate with helicopter parents
"After answering the first few questions, the candidate picked up his cell phone and called his parents to let them know the interview was going well."
The candidate who was really into her looks
"When told she would meet with another interviewer, the candidate said, 'Wait just a minute.' She then took out a large bag from her briefcase and proceeded to reapply her makeup and hairspray, all in the first interviewer's office."
The candidate who didn't understand references
"When the hiring manager called the candidate, she asked him to bring several copies of his resume and three references. He called back an hour before the interview and asked to reschedule, saying his references couldn't come with him."
The candidate who was too attached to her boyfriend
"At the end of the interview, the candidate expressed her interest in getting the position, but only if her boyfriend liked the company and the hiring manager. She then said, 'He's waiting outside. Can I bring him in to say hello?' "
The candidate who wasn't prepared for the most common interview question
"When asked why he wanted to work for the company, the applicant responded, 'That's a good question. I really haven't given it much thought.'"
The candidate who called her current employer in front of her interviewer
"After arriving for an early morning interview, the job seeker asked to use the hiring manager's phone. She proceeded to fake a coughing fit as she called in sick to her boss."
The candidate who ate breakfast during the interview
"The candidate asked for an early morning interview. He showed up with a box of doughnuts and ate them during the meeting, saying this was the only time he'd have to eat breakfast before going to work."
The candidate who bad-mouthed all managers
"When asked by the hiring manager why she was leaving her current job, the applicant said, 'My manager is a jerk. All managers are jerks.'"
The candidate who was uncomfortable talking about money
"When asked what the candidate was currently earning, she replied, 'I really don't see how that is any of your business.'"
The candidate who brought his dog to the interview
"The person got up to leave just a few minutes after the interview had begun, saying he left his dog in the car and needed to check on him."
The candidate who wasn't a good salesperson
"When asked how the candidate would improve sales if hired for the position, he replied, 'I'll have to think about that and get back to you.' He then stood up, walked out and never came back.
The candidate who lied on his resume
"After being complimented on his choice of college and the GPA he achieved, the candidate replied, 'I'm glad that got your attention. I didn't really go there.'"
The candidate who couldn't brave the cold weather
"The company sent an employee to meet a prospective candidate at the airport. The applicant got off the plane, said it was far too cold to live and work in this city, and said he was taking a flight home. He never met the hiring manager."
The candidate who loved the outdoors too much
"The job seeker halted the conversation about work hours and the office environment, saying she didn't like being confined to a building, but would consider taking the job if she could move her desk to the courtyard outside."


It's Christmas card time again, along with elevating thoughts ....

These came on an accompanying bookmark, which is always such a useful present.  It is so much better to use a proper bookmark, instead of that book voucher you rediscover just as it has expired ....


To laugh often and much
To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children
To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends
To appreciate beauty
To find the best in others
To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived


Sunday, December 8, 2013

Sunday quote

The best cure for sea sickness, is to sit under a tree. 

Spike Milligan 

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Saturday quote

After the game, the King and the pawn go into the same box. 

Italian proverb. 

A computer once beat me at chess, but it was no match for me at  kickboxing. 

Emo Philips. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

Friday quote

America is the only country where a significant proportion of the population believes that professional wrestling is real but the moon landing was faked.

David Letterman. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Thursday quote

When the white missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said "Let us pray."  We closed our eyes.  When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land. 

Desmond Tutu. 

Reminds me of the Kanak elder on New Caledonia who said to me, "Captain Cook, he came with nothing, and he went with everything."

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Super Rich Fortresses

Fascinating story from the oddly named io9 -- fascinating not because of the story itself, but because of the comments.

(As often happens)

Scared of the scary hoi polloi, the super rich are building bunkers...

... maybe because their progeny are reading the Hunger Games series.

The mega-rich are building houses with security that far eclipses anything seen in The Purge. Including a 2,500-square-foot ballistics-proof house inside the main house, called the "safe core." And a helipad on the roof. And infrared detection of anyone approaching, up to 15 km away. Dystopia now!
Top image: WSJ
Forbes has a pretty hilarious rundown of the insane security features deployed by people whose wealth and paranoia are both limitless. Along with a profile of Al Corbi, whose house that is in the above picture, from a previous Wall Street Journal profile. Some hilarious quotes from the Forbes piece, which is getting picked up everywhere:
[The Corbi family] sleeps easily inside a 2,500-square-foot home within a home: a ballistics-proof panic suite that Corbi refers to as a "safe core."  
[Infrared cameras] can pick someone out even from a hiding place, from a kilometer away in the lowest-end models to as much as 15 kilometers away in the premium versions. 
And don't forget the smoke. The Corbis have a system that billows out fog screens that range from a harmless smoke meant to disorient intruders to a noisome gas with disabling effects lasting up to 24 hours. 
Gilbert, Ariz.-based Creative Home Engineering specializes in a different kind of portal: secret passageways. Started by an ex-Boeing engineer, the company custom-crafts clandestine entrances that double as bookcases or wardrobes or walls.
Also, according to the WSJ piece, "dirty bomb" shelters with their own air purifiers are becoming way more popular, as are secret escape tunnels that lead outside. In general, the market for ludicrously expensive security measures — the word "bunker" comes up a lot — has grown massively in the last five years.
Or so roar the commentators.
"Why does this all remind me of the France in Tale of Two Cities?" asks one.
"The aristos try to wall themselves away from the rest of us and the dirty, smelly world in their panic rooms, bullet proof limousines and their gated communities but if a revolution comes, it will all be for naught. Paranoia and fear only generates more paranoia and fear in the people you fear."

Others, very sensibly, point out that the most heavily defended bunker can be betrayed from within.  "Pay your servants well," one advises.

After all, even Bin Laden's fortress failed.


Wednesday quote

If life were fair Elvis would still be alive today and all the impersonators would be dead. 

Johnny Carson 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Tuesday quote

I don't  believe in astrology.  I am a Sagittarius and we're very sceptical. 

Arthur C Clarke. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Monday quote

The last week of quotes was very popular, so here goes another....

The first piece of luggage on the carousel never belongs to anyone

George Roberts  

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Tupaia ... just discovered

Book Review: Tupaia by Joan Druett

Tupaia: The Remarkable Story of Captain Cook’s Polynesian Navigator by Joan Druett, Random House, RRP $55, ISBN9781869793869, Available Now.

Random House has done a fantastic job recently of gorgeously produced, hardcover history books/objects of art (see The Great Wrong War) and they’ve continued that tradition with Tupaia. Presented in a printed hardcover, with liberal use of illustrations, and a simply beautiful design, Tupaia has instant appeal.

Fortunately, again as with The Great Wrong War, we’re also treated to an amazing historical record and a wonderful read.  Tupaia is a beautifully produced, enthralling history of a previously sidelined figure in the story of European exploration in the Pacific.

Tupaia (the man) was a Tahitian priest/politician, a skilled navigator and he joined the crew of the Endeavour at Tahiti, sailing on their circumnavigation of New Zealand and the subsequent trip up the coast of New South Wales.

Druett has clearly put a huge amount of research into not only Tupaia’s travels with the Europeans but his life previous to the European arrival, along the way providing an informative picture of local Tahitian life, politics, religion and culture.

Druett presents everything with an eye to narrative so the story never becomes dry or  boring, and she enriches the book with a thoughtful approach that builds on the research, presenting cultural theories that challenge the standard historical story that has been told again and again around Captain Cook.

It all adds up to an entertaining and illuminating read, with the bonus of a beautiful object for your shelf.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Under reconstruction...

If this blog seems a bit sporadic at the moment, the reason is in the picture above.
Yes, that is our house.
Normal service will be resumed in due course... they say.

The Digital Middle

How low should you go when pricing an eBook?

Digital Book World reckons the money is in the middle.

Draw a horizontal line and write “Free” on the left side and the number “$9.99” on the right side:

The Digital Middle 1

Free represents content that readers can get at no charge, such as book samples, blog posts, free resources, etc. The number $9.99 represents the typical price used to sell digital e-books. To date, most publishers and authors concentrate their efforts on either end of the line. They give away free content to promote their titles and entice readers. Then, they charge consumers around $9.99 or more to purchase a digital e-book.

Notice the wide gap between free and $9.99. I call it the “Digital Middle,” and I believe there are millions of dollars to be made in this middle space. However, this money can’t be realized until publishers and authors stop fixating on long-form content on the left side of the line. The 250-page trade book (and e-book) can still remain the basis for publishing fiction stories and non-fiction ideas. But, the growth opportunity is in the digital middle using shorter-form content at various price points.
Someone is already making millions in this middle space…guess who?

Amazon is known as a company that rarely turns a profit. Yet, they’ve found profit in the digital middle with their Kindle Singles division. They don’t sell $9.99 e-books. Instead, they sell original short-form content at prices ranging from $.99 to $4.99. Content length is between 5,000 – 30,000 words and the topics include interviews, short stories, memoirs, humor, essays, etc. According to the New York Times, the Kindle Singles division has sold over five million units and made over ten million dollars in less than three years – and they did it profitably!

Shorter pieces?  That's an idea.  I notice bestselling authors like Michael Connolly and Lee Child are doing it, while others club together to put out cheapish collections.

Hit the link at the top to read more of the interesting argument.

What interests me still more, though, is why the commentators concentrate on fiction in their analyses.  How is nonfiction doing, I wonder? 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Win a signed copy of an award-winning mystery

Want a treasure in your bookshelf?

Entering is simple. To win a signed copy of a winning novel, all you have to do is 'like' the Ngaio Marsh Award Facebook page. Nothing else. Easy as. The more entries there are (ie likes on the page), the more personally autographed copies of the book will be given away.

 You can win by liking the facebook page HERE