Thursday, January 31, 2013


"The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese. "

- Unknown 

A related proverb:

“Free cheese can only be found in a mousetrap.”

- Russian proverb

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Popes, Doves and Cauldrons

Reading a story yesterday about the Pope and a pigeon, or more correctly, a dove, brought to mind another memorable instance where the symbol of peace instead became a victim . . . 

The Pope and the Dove: 

Pope Benedict VXI last Sunday released a dove from a Vatican balcony window as part of a Caravan of Peace celebration. The month of January in the Vatican is dedicated to a “Caravan of Peace” which culminates in a march by young people to St Peter’s Square on the last Sunday in January. Traditionally prayers are said and the Holy Father releases two doves as symbols of peace. 

So it was last Sunday: 

Pope Benedict XVI holds the dove of peace up to the sunlight 

The dove is released 

The dove takes flight in what was meant to be a symbolic moment 

All good so far. Then a seagull that apparently resides nearby took exception at the intruder, chasing and harrying the terrified dove as it tried to escape among the ancient pillars and porticos. 

The  seagull swoops upon the unsuspecting dove

The crowd watched as the dove flapped and ducked the seagull's attacks looking for a hiding place among the coves and inlets of the Vatican facades

A happy ending, though, the dove got away. 

Not so lucky were the doves in the following items. 

Olympic Doves: 

The 1900 Paris Olympics was a weird collection of events, sort of like an Olympic Games on acid. This Olympics saw sports that were unique to this occasion: poodle clipping (ie who could clip the most poodles in 2 hours?); firefighting; delivery van driving and obstacle swimming races. Also the one and only time that live animals were killed in an Olympic event was at the Paris 1900 Olympics. The event was live pigeon shooting where the aim was to shoot more pigeons than other competitors, clay pigeon shooting without the clay. A Belgian won with 21 kills. There was also a competition to shoot running deer but using moving cut-outs, not real deer. Apparently one of the reasons that the pigeon event was not repeated in later Olympics was the mess it made, with dead pigeons, feathers and blood everywhere. 

Australia’s Donald MacIntosh at the 1900 Paris games.  MacIntosh won bronze in the live pigeon shooting event.

Which is all by way of introduction to another item about doves at the Olympics.  Fast forward to the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Korea, where the doves were again symbols of peace in an Olympics context rather than targets. 

As we all know, Olympic Games and Olympic opening ceremonies have become bigger and bigger, so much so that the Olympic motto should perhaps become Higher Faster Stronger Costlier. The spectacle of the opening ceremony always includes the lighting of the Olympic cauldron which is usually located high up on the stadium wall. Korea was no exception. 

For Korea the Olympics was a coming of age display, a showcase of its technological advancement and sophistication.  

South Korea's President Roh Tae Woo officially opened the Games, the Olympic flag was raised and the Olympic hymn was played. The customary release of doves was uneventful. 

Release of the doves 

The crowd's excitement grew as former Korean Olympians ran into the stadium to finish the torch relay. Four of the runners, holding torches, were to light the cauldron and they held their torches aloft as the platform on which they were standing began an ascent and raised them to the cauldron. What was obvious to the billions of people watching, as it must have been to organisers, was that the doves which had been released had settled on the stadium high point, the cauldron. 

Did the organisers take action to remove the doves? Make a noise or do something to chase away the doves?  Defer the actual lighting and have  everyone think they were good guys? Nope, the ceremony proceeded and the cauldron was lit. The billions watching saw a number of doves take off and the rest killed, either whilst perched or in the air: 

(at about the 4.30 mark) 

It was the last time that doves were released as part of an Olympic opening ceremony. 

Call me paranoid but has anyone noticed the similarity between the above Olympic cauldron and:

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Tuesday Quote

“What comes first, the compass or the clock? Before one can truly manage time (the clock), it is important to know where you are going, what your priorities and goals are, in which direction you are headed (the compass). 
Where you are headed is more important than how fast you are going. 
Rather than always focusing on what's urgent, learn to focus on what is really important.”

- Source unknown

Monday, January 28, 2013

Australian Firsts and Inventions, Part 1

On this Australia Day celebration, it is apt to look at the list of Australian firsts and inventions.

Part 1 today, other parts will follow.

  • The cochlear implant, aka the bionic ear, a device that enables some deaf children to hear, was developed in Australia. The Australian Bionic Ear is the result of pioneering research commenced by Professor Graeme Clark in the late 1960s at the University of Melbourne Department of Otolaryngology. 
Cochlear implant, 2011 

The original prototype multi-channel cochlear implant, or bionic ear, front left. Signals from inside the ear were transmitted to the receiver, attached to the cable at right, which was plugged into the portable speech processor, back left. 
  • The wine cask, the plastic bag inside a box, was developed by Tom Angove in 1965. 

  • The boomerang, ancient weapon of the aborigines. Although other cultures have throwing sticks, none came back to the thrower if it missed the target. 
  • Jack Brabham, Formula 1 World Champion in 1959, 1960 and 1966, was the first to win a World Championship in a car of his own design (1966) 

  • Telephane, the forerunner of television, was invented in 1885 by Henry Sutton in Ballarat, 3 years before the 'birth' of Scotsman John Logie Baird, who made use of Sutton's patent. Sutton devised the telephane to transmit the running of the Melbourne Cup horse-race in Melbourne to the town of Ballarat. It did not have a screen, and the viewer had to look into a hole at the end of a long tube with a signal transferred by telegraph line. 
  • In 1902 Tasmanian stationery company, Birchall's of Launceston, started selling the world's first notepads called Silver City Writing Tablets. Proprietor J A Birchall decided that it would be a good idea to cut the loose sheets of paper that he sold into half, back them with cardboard and glue them together at the top. Hence the invention of the notepad. 
  • World’s first secret ballot in elections (1856). The principle had been adopted by the miners at the Eureka Stockade rebellion in 1854 and was officially first used in Tasmania 2 years later. In the US the system was referred to and known as the “Australian ballot”. 
  • First place in the world to grant women the right to stand for election to parliament. (Australia was the second country to give women the vote, in 1894, the first having been New Zealand in 1893). 
Edith Cowan (1861-1932) 
Australia’s first female Parliamentarian, Member of the Parliament of Western Australia 1921-1924 as the Member for Perth.

Also one of the faces on the $50 note 

  • The electric drill was the invention of Arthur James Arnot, who patented it in 1889. He designed it primarily to drill rock and to dig coal. 
  • Froth flotation process: The process of separating minerals from rock by flotation was developed by Charles Potter and Guillaume Delprat of New South Wales. 
  • In 1905 Anthony Mitchell invented the tilt-pad thrust bearing which revolutionised thrust technology, whatever any of that means. 
  • The world's first prepaid postage system was introduced in Sydney in 1838 using embossed letter sheets and envelopes. Customers could buy letter sheets and envelopes already done or have their own paper embossed. 
Embossed paid envelope, printed to private order, sent 1849 
  • The world's first refrigeration plant, 1858. Using the principal of vapour compression, James Harrison had produced the world's first practical refrigerator. He was commissioned by a brewery to build a machine that cooled beer (how more Australian could that be?) He also produced the world’s first ice making machine. 
  • The first disposable latex medical gloves were manufactured in 1964 by Australian company Ansell. They based the production on the technique for making condoms, for which the name Ansell was already well known. 

  • First country in the world to beat America in the America's Cup. In 1983 Australia 11 won the America's Cup, the first country to defeat the Americans in 132 years.  The trophy remains the oldest in international sport.  Down 3-0 in the best of 7 series, Australia 11 with its boxing kangaroo flag and controversial winged keel came back to win 4-3.  Alan Bond had brought with him a golden spanner to unbolt the trophy from its plinth in the New York Yacht Club; designer of the winged keel, Ben Lexcen, had commented before the racing began that when they won the Cup they would put a steamroller over it and turn it into the America's Plate.

Australia 11 wins the final race to make it 4-3

Prime Minister Bob Hawke declared in the immediate aftermath that "Any boss who sacks a worker for not turning up today is a bum."

Skipper John Bertrand, Ben Lexcen and Alan Bond celebrate receiving the Cup which, by the way, is named after the boat that won the first race.  The trophy was for an 1851 race around the Isle of Wight, England in 1851 which was won by the schooner America. 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Photographs and Photographers

I have mentioned previously that there used to be an old joke that there was a test to gain admission to the New York School of News Photography.  The exam included a question:  If you had the choice between taking a Pulitzer Prize winning photograph of a sinking ferry or to save women and children aboard that ferry, what film speed would you use?   It is apt for what follows in this post.

Last week I posted the following Pulitzer prize winning photograph, an image of a young couple who had just fatally lost their 2 year old son in the surf when he had wandered away onto the beach from their nearby home: 

The photographer, John L Gaunt, was the subject of criticism for intruding on their grief. 

Thereafter I received an email from Byter Doug: 
Hi Otto,  
That's a very powerful picture of the couple grieving by the beach. I have a copy of a book of prize-winning photos (I think by the Associated Press) and review it occasionally. I look at this one for 10-15 minutes every time. It's very, very powerful.  
I suppose that it's a reminder to parents that they have to be eternally vigilant, especially around young children. If you live by the beach or a busy street, it only takes a few moments for a child to get himself or herself into terrible trouble. Most parents would think "there but for the grace of God goes I". How many times do you look back at your child's life and remember a moment which could have gone horribly wrong? And in this case, for this terribly unfortunate family, it did. I'd imagine that most parents think about such times when they see this picture. 

The other aspect is the impact on this poor couple. It would be bad enough to be indirectly responsible for your child dying. You would never forgive yourself. However, this couple would have been easily identifiable in the picture and it was presented on the front page of a high-circulation newspaper on the next day. 

Suppose that you are publicly identified as parents who were unable to properly supervise their child, which unfortunately resulted in the child's death. To be honest, I don't see how the parents could respond to that. If they didn't have any other children (which isn't identified in the AP book), then it's entirely reasonable to believe that they'd kill themselves out of guilt and public shame. 

It's a very powerful photo. But I'm not sure that I'd take it or submit it. Maybe that's why I don't work for a newspaper. 

Did you ever read about that couple which jumped off a cliff after their child died? They threw down the child's favourite toys, then jumped after them. I could see something like that happening to the couple in this picture quite easily. It would probably depend on whether they'd have any other children to live for. It's so terribly tragic. 

Here's the story --terribly sad... 


Doug raises some interesting points that have been argued almost as long as there has been photography: 
  • To what extent should the photographer be a chronicler of what he or she sees? 
  • Are any topics off limits? 
  • To what extent should the photographer intervene in situations being observed and photographed? 
  • What restraints, if any, should there be on publication? 
  • Does the public's right to see and read news overcome the individual's right to privacy?

Some quick comments: 


As early as the 1876, Willoughby Hooper (1837-1912) was photographing the skeletal survivors of the Madras monsoon famine. He was one of the first to take such photographs.

Hooper had the sufferers brought to his studio in groups where he then photographed them.

It was argued by some that the photographing of such victims was exploitative of their suffering; others argued that the photographs raised awareness and could result in alleviation of their suffering. Sympathy for Hooper, however, evaporated when the public learned that he had simply returned the people, including children, he had photographed, to their original countryside without any assistance, no food, no medical treatment. 


The following photograph was taken by Kevin Carter when he was 33. It has been the subject of a previous Bytes post at:

The photograph, taken in 1993, shows a barely alive child struggling to reach a feeding centre. As Carter positioned himself to photograph the child, a vulture landed in the shot and waited for the child to die so that it could eat her. Carter waited 20 minutes in the hope that the vulture would spread its wings but it did not do so, so Carter took the shot, chased the bird away and left. Depressed and with his own mental demons, he left the Sudan the next day. 

The photo highlighted the plight of the Sudanese suffering but also prompted discussion as to the boundaries of photography and as to his non-intervention to assist the child to the feeding centre. There was also criticism of watching the child for 20 minutes rather than assisting. The St. Petersburg Times in Florida summed it up: "The man adjusting his lens to take just the right frame of her suffering, might just as well be a predator, another vulture on the scene.” 

Two months after receiving the 1994 Pulitzer for the photograph, Carter committed suicide. 


British photojournalist Ruhani Rabin was engaged in photographing the plight of the Sudanese in 1998. The Sudanese government had yielded to international pressure and allowed food aid to be distributed. Rabin took the photo below in the camp of Ajiep where more than 100 people per day were dying. It shows a crippled boy, who had queued for hours for food, having his food taken by a stronger man who is striding away: 

Criticised for not intervening, Stoddart responded “I am a photographer, not a policeman or an aid worker. All I can do is try to tell the truth as I see it with my camera.” His photograph did, however, raise funds for Sudanese relief. 


In 1989 a human crush occurred at a soccer match at the Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield, England. 96 people died and 766 were injured, the worst stadium-related disaster in British history and one of the world's worst football disasters. Many of those who died were pressed against wire fences. Some had managed to get over the fences. Photographers on the playing field area photographed those who were crushed against the wire: 

Should photographs such as these have been taken? Published?.. 

News broadcasts today are immediate and much more visual. We want our news and we are disappointed if we don’t see on the spot pics and videos. Does our desire for news and images override privacy, dignity and taste?


If we need any further consideration of the above issues, consider the photograph of the body of 15 year old Fabienned Cherisma. In 2010 after an earthquake in Haiti, Fabienne was shot three times by the Haitian police, as a looter. Two of those shots were at point blank range. She had taken two plastic chairs and three framed pictures. 

The photograph of Fabienne lying face down in the dirt on top of the pictures is poignant: 

The photograph, by Paul Hansen, won the International News Image award at the Swedish Picture of the Year Awards. 

Canadian photographer Lucas Oleniuk also won an award, in Canada, for his photo of Fabienne Cherisma, with looters and their spoils in the background. 

Photographer Nathan Weber took a different photograph, one that also showed the various photographers on the scene: 

The Weber photograph caused further questioning of the appropriateness of taking such photographs, which in this case continued even after Fabienne’s family arrived. 

Difficult questions and issues that will still be argued 100 years from now.

As Doug said, "I'm not sure that I'd take it or submit it. Maybe that's why I don't work for a newspaper."

Saturday, January 26, 2013


"Do pay attention, 007."

Back in the 1960’s, the CIA boffins came up with some harebrained schemes on taking out Cuba’s Fidel Castro. With the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion, President JFK and his brother, Attorney General RFK, authorised the CIA to use all means to destabilise Castro and to assassinate him. Many of the schemes that the CIA proposed would have been thought ludicrous in a James Bond film: impregnate Castro’s cigars with LSD so that he would trip out publicly; give him a pen with a poison tip; explode clam shells whilst he was diving in the Caribbean; sprinkle his shoes with an agent to make his beard fall out (a reflection on his masculinity in Latin culture). 

It would be dangerous, however, to underestimate the power and resources of the spooks and their bosses. There may well be bizarre black ops that have succeeded, or failed, that we know nothing about. There have even been allegations that the CIA was involved in the destabilisation and eventual dismissal of the Whitlam government in 1975 as a response to Whitlam wanting to shut down the military tracking base at Pine Gap. 

What is frightening is that the people who come up with some of the harebrained covert ops and black ops have considerable power and operate in secrecy, which makes fascinating a revelation in a book that was released in 2011. 

The following is a reprint of an article from Mail Online which reviewed that book and some of those schemes: 

As wartime plots go, it stood as much chance of success as Captain Blackadder’s attempt to avoid battle by sticking two pencils up his nose, putting underpants on his head and claiming to be from the planet Wibble. 

With no end to the Second World War in sight, British spies came up with a plan to lace Adolf Hitler’s food with female sex hormones to curb his aggressive impulses. Agents planned to smuggle doses of oestrogen into his food to make him less aggressive and more like his docile younger sister Paula, who worked as a secretary. 

Adolf Hitler

Paula Hitler 

He explained that oestrogen was chosen because it was tasteless and would have a slow and subtle effect, meaning it would pass Hitler's food testers unnoticed. 

The Allied plot to turn Herr Hitler into Her Hitler was just one of a number of wacky ideas cooked up to break the stalemate, according to a new book. Others included dropping glue on Nazi troops to stick them to the ground, and disguising bombs as tins of fruit being exported to Germany. The hare-brained schemes are revealed in Secret Weapons: Technology, Science And The Race To Win World War II, by Professor Brian Ford. 

He said: ‘Research had showed the importance of sex hormones – they were beginning to be used in sex therapy in London. The Allies hoped to smuggle oestrogen into Hitler’s food and change his sex so he would become more feminine and less aggressive.’ Professor Ford, a fellow at Cardiff University and a pioneer of popular science, said the Government gave serious consideration to the plan, and that it was perfectly plausible. British spies were already in place and poised to carry out the plot. ‘Hitler had testers who used to taste his meals so there was no mileage in putting poison in his food because they would immediately fall victim to it,’ Professor Ford said. ‘Sex hormones were a different matter. They affected you only if you took them for months on end, so no one would have realised the hormones were in the food.’ 

The bizarre Allied plots to win the war have only now come to light after the publication of documents never previously seen because of their sensitive nature. The British were not alone, however, in hatching far-fetched schemes. 

The Nazis planned to poison sausages, chocolate and Nescafe if they lost the war, leaving them where they would be found by Allied troops. 

Secret files published earlier this year revealed a network of Nazi saboteurs who were prepared to fight to create a Fourth Reich in the event that Hitler’s empire crumbled. Four German agents arrested in northern France in March 1945 revealed the range of poisons developed by Nazi scientists. They included cigarettes to be offered to Allies by spies. They would give the smoker a headache, and the spy would then offer an ‘aspirin’ to his victim which was in fact poison which would kill within ten minutes. 

In the BBC’s hit comedy series, Blackadder Goes Forth, Captain Edmund Blackadder, played by Rowan Atkinson, tries almost everything to avoid going over the top in the First World War. In one famous scene he feigns insanity by donning underpants, sticking pencils up his nose and claiming to be from the planet Wibble. 

Paula Hitler was the only one of Adolf's full siblings to survive to adulthood. She worked as secretary in Vienna in the 1920s, and received financial support from her brother until his suicide in 1945. She was interrogated by American agents after the war but released, and lived a secluded life until her death in 1960. 

Professor Ford’s book also refers to some other crazy schemes, including a giant, explosive Catherine Wheel intended for use on the beaches of Normandy:  "The nuttiest one was the Panjandrum - an enormous wheel full of explosives with rockets strapped to the wheel. It couldn't have worked yet they spent what, in modern parlance £1 million on the idea, testing it over the waters of Cardiff and Western Super Mare." 

See the Panjandrum and other bizarre weapons by clicking on: 

By the way

Some of the comments by readers at the end of the Mail Online article are worth repeating: 

* * * * *

I am very glad they didn't succeed in turning Adolf Hitler into a woman, because then he would have become really vicious. 

* * * * * 

"British spies came up with a plan to lace Adolf Hitler’s food with female sex hormones to curb his aggressive impulses." 
They'd obviously not met my ex-wife then. 

* * * * *

This would have caused Furore amongst the Nazi hierarchy and Frau-ght with danger. All a red Herr-ing really. 

* * * * *

Imagine Hitler with PMT; it doesn't bear thinking about. 

* * * * * 
According to NASA (called them earlier) planet Wibble does not exist

* * * * * 

“This is a crisis. A large crisis. In fact, if you got a moment, it's a twelve-story crisis with a magnificent entrance hall, carpeting throughout, 24-hour portage, and an enormous sign on the roof, saying 'This Is a Large Crisis'. A large crisis requires a large plan. Get me two pencils and a pair of underpants.”

- Blackadder