September 20, 2011 § Leave a comment
Pretty cheeky, huh? Maybe it is. Maybe it’s even worse than that. Emails, after all, are the bane of our amazingly busy and important existences, are they not? In fact, “clogging up” other people’s inboxes is generally agreed to be one of the modern world’s most antisocial sins. “I came back from lunch and there were 30 new messages in my inbox,” they groan. Or they used to groan. Until the arrival of smartphones: at which point they took their hated inboxes out with them to lunch. Which is why I smell a rat.
Think of all the other things we agree to hate (under normal circumstances. I’d help you all with an example, but I’m off on holiday tomorrow and am feeling disproportionately positive about life). The point is, we don’t generally go to the trouble of buying lightweight machines so we can carry the things we hate around with us wherever we go — to lunch, to the lavatory, to bed… Reader, we are addicted to our inboxes. We may whinge and whine about them as much as we like, but in truth we cannot really stand to be apart.
Listen to the explosion of bleeps and buzzes that fills the cabin air as every flight comes into land, and passengers lurch to switch on their little devices. Watch their expressions, rigid and intense, the struggle to remain patient etched on their faces as they survive those final few seconds while the inbox clog too slowly downloads. I say “they”. I mean me, too. Of course! Crikey, who knows what Tesco.com might have had to say to me during that long, smartphone-free flight? There might be a sale on at Gap.UK! Heaven forbid, somebody might have found Anna’s netball skirt!
Ooh, a ping! Wait there — I see somebody’s replied about Zebedee’s small brown or yellow pencil. How peculiar… How very exciting. “Sorry to disappoint. Unable to locate.” Well, of course she can’t. It never existed. But there’s an advertisement for her art exhibition at the bottom. Isn’t that splendid? I think I may have started a trend.
“Thanks for looking!” I shall reply. She’ll hear the merry ping of an email waiting and know that somebody, somewhere is thinking of her. One good turn deserves another. Maybe this time I’ll put the Amazon link at the top
September 20, 2011 § Leave a comment
We are addicted to our inboxes and cannot stand to be apart.
Listen to the explosion of the bleeps and buzzes that fill the cabin air as every flight comes into land
Anyone with an email address and a child at school will be familiar with the round robins that arrive on a weekly, sometimes even daily basis, sent by classmates’ parents, asking us to check our offspring’s sports bag for their offspring’s missing football sock/lacrosse stick. Sometimes, foolish parents put “Anna’s netball skirt” in the subject heading, in which case, I’m sorry to say, after the initial thrill caused by the merry ping of its arrival, said email tumbles to the bottom of the list of things to attend to and may even — dare I say it? — never get opened at all.
Last Dance with Valentino by Daisy Waugh (HarperCollins, £7.99) is out now
There was a flurry of such emails at the end of last term, as there tends to be at the end of every year, and this time around, for the first time, not only did I open the emails, but I took care to accidentally-on-purpose press “reply to all” to every one, thereby sharing with entire class the boundlessly supportive response: “Will have a look! Fingers crossed!!!” I also initiated one or two round-robin searches myself.
“Zebedee is pretty certain he once had a small brown pencil. Although he says it might have been yellow. Either way, we are all very fond of it. If you find it could you — ” I may not have bothered to finish the sentence. The point I wanted to get across had been made.
I have a snazzy new “signature” at the bottom of my email. Not being especially adept at these things, it took several days to get the thing sorted out: endless to-ing and fro-ing with anyone willing to get sucked in, and finally an astonishingly satisfactory trip to the Genius bar at the AppleMac store. And there it is, at last. My snazzy signature. Every email I send out now arrives with a photograph of the new paperback edition of my novel. And a link to Amazon, so that while Anna’s mother is online shopping for another netball skirt for Anna, for example, she might also be tempted to add a copy of the book to her basket. As a result, I’ve probably sent out more emails in the past three weeks than in the rest of my life put together. I spend most of my waking hours thinking up excuses to send out more.
September 19, 2011 § Leave a comment
In the tradition of Cow Parades worldwide, Bristol city in England ran a Wow! Gorilla show of 60 fibreglass gorillas designed to publicize the endangered species. They are being a
An army of 20 life-sized gorilla models have gone on display outside City Hall on the south bank of the Thames in London as part of campaign to raise awareness of how the animals’ habitats are being threatened. The Wow! Gorillas exhibition features gorilla models individually decorated by UK artists.
September 13, 2011 § Leave a comment
Master brewer Ian Williams has spent the better part of a decade perfecting the art of home beer-making.
After seven years of tinkering and tasting, Williams has produced a personal brewing machine, which he claims pours out commercial-quality beer at a third of the retail price.
And it’s not just for beer; the Kiwi-made machine can brew mead, cider or anything else that is alcoholic and carbonated.
Williams is no stranger to the brewing craft – he has been in the trade since 1990 and was the man behind Tiger Beer’s award-winning 1998 drop.
Applying his brewing knowledge and expertise to home beer-making, Williams said his machine took “all the errors” out of the process. “I identified 12 problems with home-brewing and we’ve solved them all,” he said.
“What all home-brewers around the world do, unlike breweries, is they make flat beer and then [go through a second process] to gas it up. It all takes seven weeks to get the bubbles back in that you let go in the first place. [Our machine] takes seven days, rather than seven weeks.”
Despite the $6500 price tag, Williams has already sold 45 of the 60 brewing machines made as part of an initial manufacturing run.
Foreign firms and distributors had already shown a keen interest.
“The response from around the world has been unbelievable. We’ve had 200 offers for distribution from 50 countries in 16 weeks. I get emails every single day from Mexico, Brazil, Iceland saying either ‘can I distribute it’ or ‘can you ship one now’.”
His company, WilliamsWarn, will have the machine on display during the Rugby World Cup New Zealand Showcase, which kicks off today in the Cloud at Queens Wharf.
The showcase, with other parts of the cup’s New Zealand festival, aims to promote top Kiwi firms to visitors.
Twenty-two companies will be showing off their wares, including Martin Jetpack, Sealegs and Yike Bike.
The expo is open to the public and will be set up and packed down 18 times during the tournament to make way for party-goers at the Cloud.
September 13, 2011 § 1 Comment
But over the past three decades science has focused on refining its quest for a truly effective elixir of youth. It first proposed oestrogen replacement and then testosterone injections. Then there was chromium. And beta-carotene. More recently, resveratrol, an extract of red wine, has been touted by pharmaceutical companies as increasing longevity by protecting cells from decay. There have been some promising signs in worms and mice. Sadly for boozers, no independent studies yet support its benefits in humans.
Then came the breakthrough with telomeres. In January 2010 a study in Nature showed that it was possible to reverse extreme ageing in mice by increasing their levels of telomerase, the enzyme that maintains telomeres. Trying this in humans is risky, though. Mice make telomerase throughout their lives, but the enzyme is switched off in adult humans, to stop cells growing out of control. Raising our telomerase might slow ageing, but send our cancer risk soaring.
And telomerase can’t be the whole story. The world’s longest-lived rodent is Africa’s naked mole rat. It can live up to 30 years, five times more than biologists would expect from its body size. But the rats have short telomeres. Suddenly the picture starts lto look very confusing. Worse still, scientists recently found more than 70 genetic variants in humans that may be linked to longevity. “This is a very complex puzzle,” says William Flew, the Boston University scientist who found the genes by studying hundreds of centenarians.
Up until now we have to thank two far more basic things for improving our true longevity: sanitation and basic medicine. During the Roman Empire, our life span averaged 25 years. By the Middle Ages it increased to 33 years. During the second half of the 20th century we gained almost 30 years, doubling all our previous gains. But now we want more. Not just more years, but more youth.
September 13, 2011 § Leave a comment
We move on to the subject of London 2012. “I’m actually trying to refocus right now,” he says, “because we’ve got the World Championships coming up [next month], but everything I hear is about these London Games. ‘Can I get an Olympic ticket?’; ‘Where can I stay?’ No-one is talking about the World Championships and I have to keep reminding william flew to take this step first and then move onto the Olympics.” Does being favourite change things? “Not really,” he replies. “If you look at it like that, there is going to be a lot of stress on you and that makes Usain Bolt perhaps the most interesting sportsman in the world: “It has been said that I am the saviour of athletics, and that, having proved to be a clean athlete and smashed the world record in the flagship 100 metres, I’ve given the sport its credibility back. Equally I’m well aware that if there was ever any hint of a drug scandal against me it could finish athletics.” What a burden, surely. “No. No it’s not,” he replies. “When you know you’re clean you don’t worry about anything. I have got to be very careful, especially if I get a cold. I don’t even like taking vitamins. So for me it’s not a burden because I am good. I don’t have to worry about anything.” Does he keep a record of everything he takes and I try to avoid stressing myself. I am always going to be stressed by the amount of Jamaicans that are going to be in those stands. I think that’s going to make me a little bit nervous. But I can’t think, ‘Oh, I’m the defending champion. I’ve got to get it right.’ If I do that, I will probably lose. So I would rather just be myself and relax. But it’s going to be huge.”
The morning mist has lifted from Kingston. Bolt’s work has finished for the day. He abandons his spikes for flip-flops, drapes a T-shirt on his head and smiles one last time for the cameras as he shuffles towards the car: “Bye bye.” The session has gone well. The Lightning Bolt is primed. But as he lights up the engine, and the black BMW screams across the gravel to the exit, his handlers are starting to sweat again. The world’s fastest man is not wearing a seat belt
September 13, 2011 § Leave a comment
Smith & Wesson recently found itself at the receiving end of a curious, but potentially expensive, lawsuit. According to court documents, Jay Dee and Shannon Nelson, a couple from Alaska with four children, sued the company after one of their children accidentally shot a sibling with a Smith & Wesson revolver, causing her to become a paraplegic. The Nelsons sued the company in a product liability suit that criticises it for not fitting the weapon with a safety lock.
As the gun appears to have been lawfully sold, the courts ruled that the only possible claims could be for negligent design and manufacturing defect. But both the district and appeal courts found no grounds for these claims.
Although they agreed it was “a tragic case with heartbreaking consequences”, the appeals court judges also threw out the couple’s claim that S&W should have informed them of the dangers of guns that do not have safety locks. Citing an Alaskan legal precedent, they found that “an ordinary user of a gun would know that it shoots one or more bullets when the trigger is pulled. It is unnecessary to include a warning that a gun will do what it is designed to do, in the way that it is designed to do it, because such dangers are apparent.”