Call me a taxi

A week of IT

Call me a taxi

More sophisticated label printers and more flexible programming mean incomplete names or functions on conference badges are a thing of the past. E-tales recalls a time way back, when a group at a conference became known as the “Works and Develop men” because that’s what their Ministry of Works badges said. The fixed field length would not accommodate the final ‘t’ in ‘ment’.

Such inflexibilities seem to have gone the way of the old ministry itself, or so we thought. But, at a recent event, we spotted a representative for the “Dept of Prime Minister and Cab”. Maybe Helen’s economising on high-speed limos in preparation for the sacrifices a Green-influenced government might impose.

Xena over the moon about Gabrielle

We are over the moon at E-tales. New Zealand may be just a couple of cloud-shrouded islands at the rear-end of the southern hemisphere, but our girls punch way above their weight and now, heavens above, they’re going to be staring down on us all — literally.

Xena, the recently discovered tenth planet which was named after our very own warrior princess, has been found to have its very own moon and it has been named, appropriately we feel, for Xena’s beautiful sidekick, Gabrielle. Shine on, girls.

Drunk on words

At E-tales, we love a good stupid word. I mean, who thinks these things up? We thought we had a winner earlier in the week from the NZ Network Operators Group (NOG), which is usually pretty sensible and straight down the line: all posts to the group must be on-topic and if they’re not about NOG-related issues they must be about beer. So, it was great to see NOG using the word “ølfrygt” — a Danish word meaning “the fear arising from a lack of beer”.

However, even the wonderfully obscure ølfrygt was pipped to the post as most obfuscating word of the week by one contained in a US story about a Microsoft application. The application in question is apparently “available programmatically”.

Getting drinking down mat

On the subject of beer, we at E-tales just love the latest kitsch invention from two boffins from the Land of Beer — the thinking beermat.

The electronic beermat is the brainchild of Andreas Butz of Munich University and Michael Schmitz of Saarland University, New Scientist magazine reports. The mat contains microsensors which alert the barkeep at the bar when the beer in one’s glass is running low. Don’t you just love researchers? As Marvin the paranoid andriod might say: “Brain the size of a planet ... and … hey, maybe it’s not such a bad idea.” Some researchers think alcohol is good for you, so maybe our lager lads are onto something more than just finding a clever way of getting the next round in.

Fancy man lights the way

And now for a really fanciful story. Most kids like to play dress-ups, but they usually grow out of it by about age ten. But not all, apparently. Online newsletter The Register reports that there is a seriously obsessive website out there called Buy Costumes, and one of its hot items is an “officially licensed” Darth Vader costume. Sadly, however, it doesn’t come with a light-sabre — that’s sold separately. Still, the costume is a snip at a mere US$799 (NZ$1,146). Lots of faux leather and injection-moulded armour are included and it even comes with a breathing mask, although the wearer probably has to provide the heavy breathing. Mind you, given the weight of the costume that shouldn’t be hard. And, for the girls, there are Princess Leia and Padmé costumes — the latter could be equally challenging to wear.

Bringing UFOs down to earth

The trouble with many UFO sightings is one feels bound to check out the sanity of the observers before checking out the alleged flying saucer. Which is what makes an Australian study into a 40-year-old UFO sighting in Melbourne so intriguing.

Lots of people, many of them ordinary kids and teachers at the local primary and high schools, claim to have seen the silvery flying saucer the size of a couple of cars hovering over their suburb of Westall nearly 40 years ago. Apparently, it then landed briefly in a nearby paddock, leaving scorched grass behind.

There are claims the Australian air force hushed up the UFO sighting up, but the Australian Skeptics Society has a more down to earth theory: the RAAF was trialling an experimental aircraft.

Still, Canberra English lecturer Shane Ryan plans to carry on with his research, despite drawing a blank from the RAAF, and publish a book on the subject next year to mark the 40th anniversary of the sighting on April 6.

Unotron cleans up

It may not be that innovative as tech products go, but the latest keyboard has got the cleanie in E-tales very excited indeed. Called the SpillSeal, it is seriously washable – you dunk it in the sink. Given that some health people claim keyboards are 14 times more germ-laden than the average toilet seat, and that they are partly responsible for the new strain of hospital superbugs, the scrubbable PC is obviously the way to go.

As they say in Yorkshire: “Where there’s muck, there’s brass.” Manufacturer Unotron should clean up.

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