Archive for June 26th, 2009

Happy 35th birthday to the commercial use of the barcode

Technically speaking, the barcode itself is older than 35, but today (June 26) does mark the day that it was first used commercially, all the way back in 1974.

(FORTUNE Magazine) – As revolutions go, this one ignited with something less than a boom. But that doesn’t mean the events of June 26, 1974, didn’t usher in a transformation. On that day a checkout clerk slid a ten-pack of Juicy Fruit gum over a bar-code scanner at a Marsh supermarket in Troy, Ohio. The cash register automatically displayed the price, and an era was born.

The IBM UPC barcode is everywhere in our lives. As somebody who was not alive before barcodes became ubiquitous, I can’t imagine life without them. The mere thought of a weekly grocery shopping trip without barcodes is the material of nightmares.

My favourite use of the barcode though is in making self-serve checkouts possible. I gravitate toward self-serve checkouts when I’m in a store which has them. I just find the process of dealing with a competent (if slightly naggy) computer to be much more enjoyable than the process of dealing with a checkout operator who wants to argue with me about how many packets of biscuits I’m buying.

Happy birthday to the commercial use of the barcode!


June 26th, 2009 at 11:02pm

Arctic still not warming: heading for bumper ice season

Average temperatures in the Arctic have not gone above zero degrees Celsius yet this year, which makes this year a particularly cold year up there as normally the average temperatures would be above zero by now.

The average arctic temperature is still not above (take your pick) 32°F 0°C 273.15°K–this the latest date in fifty years of record keeping that this has happened. Usually it is beginning to level off now and if it does so, it will stay near freezing on average in the arctic leading to still less melting than last summer which saw a 9% increase in arctic ice than in 2007.

Yes, that’s right, it’s the coldest year on record for the Arctic, and they not only had a 9% increase in ice last year, but they’re on track for another bumper ice season.

Temperatures usually begin flatlining in late June which would suggest less ice loss, although the water temperature beneath plays a key role and all of the warm water that entered the Arctic when the Atlantic was very warm in the middle 2000s (now is nearer normal) may not have circulated out yet.

And there we have further support for the fact that the planet is cooling. The seas were warmer a few years ago than they are now.

Meanwhile CNN’s Ross Hays has even more good news:

Kiruna had had the coldest June in 150 years!

Kiruna, incidentally, is in Sweeden, where Ross is based.


1 comment June 26th, 2009 at 04:50pm

Senator Steve Fielding sides with the truth

As I noted yesterday on Facebook (and thanks to Padders for pointing it out to me), I am very pleased to see that Senator Steve Fielding has sided with the truth, and declared that global warming/climate change is not caused by human activity.

After talks with the government and top scientists, Senator Fielding, whose vote could be crucial in passing the Federal Government’s plan to put a price on carbon emissions, has released a document setting out his position.

“Global temperature isn’t rising,” it says.
Senator Fielding’s document was prepared with the help of some of the country’s most prominent climate-sceptic scientists.

It says it is a “fact” that the evidence does not support the notion that greenhouse gas emissions are causing dangerous global warming.

The even better news is that this could be the end of Kevin Rudd ridiculous Emission Trading Scheme.

The Government is struggling to muster enough votes to pass the legislation ahead of a vote scheduled for tomorrow [Thursday/yesterday].

Senator Fielding’s stance appears to torpedo the chance of the scheme passing as the Government would need his support, as well as that of the Greens and independent Nick Xenophon.

The support of the Greens is not assured. The party is concerned that the Government’s model for emissions trading lets big polluters off too lightly and has an emissions reduction target which is too weak to do any good.
If all cross-bench senators reject the ETS, the Government would need the support of the Opposition to pass the scheme.

Since that article appeared on Wednesday, the vote on the ETS has been delayed until August.


1 comment June 26th, 2009 at 03:35pm

Gym subsidies for the obese; price hikes on alcohol and cigarettes

I’m playing catch-up here with stories from the last few days, so I apologise that some of these stories are a few days old, but this one made me fall off my chair when I heard about it.

One of the federal government’s infamous “taskforces” are proposing that obese people be given subsidies on gym memberships.

OVERWEIGHT people could be paid to lose weight under a radical plan to combat the nation’s obesity crisis.

The Rudd Government’s National Preventative Health Taskforce is next week expected to call for tax breaks or subsidies for gym memberships and fitness equipment. Parents could also get tax breaks to help pay for children’s sports club membership.

Junk food ads could be banned in children’s TV time and there could be new voluntary restrictions cutting salt and fat in packaged food. Fast-food restaurants could also be asked to give a calorie count on menus.

So let me get this straight…if I go and put on 500kg in the next two days, I could get a subsidised gym membership? Great! Somebody ring McDonalds and get them to bring a truck to my place.

A Sydney resident has been quoted in the article, stealing my thunder. Why should fat people be paid to join gyms, when people who aren’t fat (like me) have to fork out excessive amounts of our hard earned dollars to join gyms if we want to improve our physical fitness?

Darlinghurst resident Fleur Carter said yesterday it was unfair to offset the cost of overweight people to use the gym when the same scheme wasn’t extended to other people.

The 26-year-old pays $90 a month to use City Gym, where she is exercising to try to put back on weight she lost after a recent illness.

“You have got other people as well who have got health things like asthma where it is medically better for them to be fit,” she said.

“The Government doesn’t pay for them to go to the gym.”

And in signs that Australia is headed for a soft tyranny under Kevin Rudd after all, we’re all being told to change our lifestyles to fit the government’s agenda.

Employers will also be asked to do their bit by encouraging employees to stand while using the phone, instituting meetings as participants walk and organising regular work breaks.

Meanwhile the long-suffering smokers and drinkers are once again set to be forced to pay more to do something which is perfectly legal.

The cost of a pack of cigarettes could also rise by as much as $3 a pack to encourage 130,000 people to quit smoking and the taskforce will call for new restrictions on pubs and other venues selling alcohol.

And the justification for a soft tyranny? Further down in the article, this hoary old chestnut is trotted out as a reason.

The task force has warned, unless we change our lifestyles, the next generation may be the first to live for a shorter period than their parents.

How many times have we heard that one?

Meanwhile, over at Smart Company, recent ABS statistics have been interpreted in this headline:

The more we spend on weight loss, the fatter we get

Yes, it seems that despite our increase in spending on our personal fitness, we continue to expand.

62% of the country’s population was overweight during 2007-08, up from 54% the previous year

Gym membership…I think I’ll pass thanks Kevin.


June 26th, 2009 at 01:09pm

RIP Farrah Fawcett

I am also saddened today by the passing of Farrah Fawcett at the age of 62. I’m not particularly familiar with her work, but do recall seeing her appear in the television series I Dream Of Jeannie, and I sympathised with her over her battle with cancer.

Farrah Fawcett, the multiple Golden Globe and Emmy-nominated American actress best known for her role as the vivacious Jill Munroe in the 1970s television series “Charlie’s Angels,” died in a Santa Monica hospital. She was 62.

Her spokesman, Paul Bloch, confirmed that the iconic actress died Thursday morning at 9:28 a.m. PDT. [2:28 AM AEST]

Her long-time partner Ryan O’Neal told People magazine Thursday, “She’s gone. She now belongs to the ages … She’s now with her mother and sister and her God. I loved her with all my heart. I will miss her so very, very much. She was in and out of consciousness. I talked to her all through the night. I told her how very much I loved her. She’s in a better place now.”
Fawcett was diagnosed with anal cancer in September 2006 and, despite going into remission and enduring extensive chemotherapy and surgery both in the U.S. and Germany, it was revealed earlier this year that the cancer had spread to her liver. She stopped receiving treatment in May.

Fawcett documented the trials and tribulations of her battle with cancer in the NBC documentary “Farrah’s Story.”

Without doubt, this is a very sad day for the entertainment industry.


3 comments June 26th, 2009 at 12:09pm

Jerk of the week nomination

My nomination for Casey and Heather’s “Jerk Of The Week”. Segment should air on just after 11am Canberra time.
Update: Segment delayed to tomorrow due to coverage of the death of Michael Jackson. End Update

Your “Jerk of the Week” submission
Drivers who don’t stop at pedestrian crossings

Why should this person be the “Jerk of the Week”?
Especially when said people are driving a bus!

Your Name (Optional)
Samuel Gordon-Stewart

June 26th, 2009 at 10:55am

RIP Michael Jackson

I was most disturbed to wake up a bit under an hour ago to the news that Michael Jackson has died, aged 50.

Music icon Michael Jackson, whose fame spanned from his childhood with the legendary Jackson 5 to a superstar solo career that earned him the nickname ‘King of Pop,’ died Thursday afternoon at a Los Angeles hospital, a source close to the family told FOX News. He was 50.

Debra Opri, a former Jackson family attorney, confirmed the singers death after other media reported that he had fallen into a coma. He reportedly was taken by ambulance at 12:30 p.m. local time to UCLA Medical Center, where he died at 3:15 p.m.

Multiple reports said he had gone into cardiac arrest, though the official cause of death wasn’t immediately known. A news conference is expected later Thursday at the hospital, where fans have gathered to pay tribute to the singer.

Jackson’s death brought a tragic end to a long, bizarre, sometimes farcical decline from his peak in the 1980s, when he was popular music’s premier all-around performer, a uniter of black and white music who shattered the race barrier on MTV, dominated the charts and dazzled even more on stage.

I was also most disturbed to see some people harping on about Michael Jackson being a paedophile. These people need to keep one thing in mind.

In 2005, he was cleared of charges he molested the 13-year-old cancer survivor at Neverland in 2003. [..] The case took a fearsome toll on his career and image, and he fell into serious financial trouble.

Jackson was never convicted, in fact he was acquitted, and if he were still alive, such accusations would be considered slander.

The important thing on this sad day is to remember Jackson for his wonderful talents, and to a lesser extent, his interesting personality.

Jackson will receive my Musician Of The Week award on Sunday, and today receives the Samuel Salute.

May you rest in peace Michael. The world misses you.


4 comments June 26th, 2009 at 10:04am

Ludicrous court battles

The stuff which clogs up out courts…some days I just have to foam at the mouth and fail to produce sentences.

the classic children’s ditty Kookaburra and the Men At Work hit Down Under are set to go head-to-head in court amid accusations part of the rock anthem is a rip-off, The Daily Telegraph reports.

Music publishing company Larrikin owns the Kookaburra song and claims the melody that accompanies the line “Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree” is reproduced in Down Under. The case is due to start in full within days.

A fresh battle erupted yesterday, with lawyers for Down Under songwriters Colin Hay and Ron Strykert, and music giants Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Sony DADC Australia, EMI Songs Australia and EMI Music Publishing, claiming Larrikin doesn’t actually have copyright to Kookaburra – the Girl Guides do.
The entertainment giants, along with [Colin] Hay and [Ron] Strykert, have lodged a counter-claim against Larrikin alleging misleading or deceptive conduct.

The part of the Down Under song that is alleged to have breached copyright is the distinctive flute riff.

According to court documents, lawyers for the songwriters and the record companies will argue “the Down Under work does not incorporate the whole or any substantial part of the Kookaburra work”.

As this is before the courts, I should refrain from comment…I’ll just foam at the mouth in disbelief instead.


June 26th, 2009 at 09:36am


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