Stuart’s Hell
Michael Giacometti is an Alice Springs man on a mission, drawing close to to finishing his gruelling challenge of dragging a 180kg cart over 1000 sand dunes in Australia’s Simpson Desert, from east to west, unassisted and away from roads and tracks.
In September 1845, after 18 months in central Australia searching for the inland sea, Captain Charles Sturt wrote to his wife about the dramatic, red sand dunes that marked the end of his journey:
Ascending one of the sand ridges I saw a numberless succession of these terrific objects rising above each other to the east and west. Northwards they ran before me for more than fifteen miles… The scene was awfully fearful, dear Charlotte. A kind of dread came over me as I gazed upon it. It looked like the entrance into Hell. Mr Browne stood horrified. ‘Did man’, he exclaimed, ‘ever see such a place?!’
Michael is walking from Bedourie (Qld) to Mt Dare (SA), covering 485km in 24 days.
This has never been done before, crossing east to west, because it means Michael will be hitting high sand dunes face on, at the steepest point.
He says he is doing this to immerse himself in the desert and raise awareness of man’s impact on the earth. We should also think of Michael when we grizzle about not being able to water our lawns because he will be surviving in treachorous conditions for three weeks on just 100 litres of water – that’s 4 litres a day, which is the same as a one half-flush of a toilet per day. In fact, his complete water consumption for such a gruelling journey will be the same amount of water you and I use in one average day!
You can follow Michael’s story at http://www.michaelgiacometti.org and progress updates at http://www.michaelgiacometti.org/progress.html

Broadband Choice
Whirlpool is a very popular, Australian-based forum for IT and Telco geeks. They have a handy page that helps you cut through the garbled marketing messages regarding broadband plans and mobile plans, etc. Part of this service is a page set up for you to enter your telephone number into, and it advises you on how ready your exchange is for ADSL2 and other technologies.
And there is one great spin off this function. If you are looking to hire a tradesperson and all you have is a landline number, you can plop their number into this service and it tells you which exchange they are connected to. I used it this week, when searching for an electrician.
The great thing about this site is that although it is written by and run by geeks, it takes the time to explain things in detail AND it points out the traps such as noting whether your broadband connection counts just the data coming to your machine or whether it also counts data you are sending out (or upstream). If the latter, your usage rates can jump 10-50%
You can find the service at http://bc.whirlpool.net.au

St Kilda Film Festival
This week sees the St Kilda Film Festival travelling show roll through South Australia. The event is 25 years old and this year’s competition attracted 700 short films. Unfortunately the festival’s website is boring. It just has the basic information about the event and the films, but there are no snippets to watch. This really needs to be addressed. However, you can see one of the films that is travelling, on the Tropfest website, because the film was entered in both competitions. The film is Beggar’s Belief, and it is quite a funny, quirky story, that just gets ironically weird. You can link to that from the Tropfest site here – http://www.tropfest.ninemsn.com.au/article.aspx?id=380367. While on this page, you will also see the winning film from Tropfest, Marry Me, which, if you have not caught up with it yet, is a beautiful story of unrequited love and BMX bicycles. If you click on any of the movies, other than Marry Me, you will have to watch a 30 second commercial before the main event – you don’t need to start clicking madly, thinking you have gone to the wrong place. (Tropfest has been running since 1993 and is now the world’s largest short film festival.
Back to St Kilda Film Festival, and the touring show will be in Mt Gambier, Tuesday, at the Sir Robert Helpman Theatre; here in Adelaide Wednesday, at the Palace Nova; Renmark Thursday, at the Chaffey Theatre; Port Pirie Friday, at the Northern Festival Centre, and Whyalla Sunday, at the Middleback Theatre. It’s actually doing the opposite of our health system – the film festival is going out to meet the people in regional areas, instead of forcing them to travel to the big city! The festival’s official site is http://stkildafilmfestival.vic.gov.au.
A friend of a friend of a friend knows you’re on vacation
As you know, I am a passionate advocate of social networking sites. But someone does need to pay the piper. In the case of sites like these, the trade off is giving away personal information to the site provider. So, you get membership to a warm, fuzzy, online community where you can rekindle old friendships, make new ones, and take part in global conversations, in return for the site operators being able to aggregate user information, sell it to advertisers, who in turn use it to target advertising. I think that is a win-win. But, as the Canadian Office of the Privacy Commissioner rightly points out, there are some downsides to not thinking about how much personal information and media you share on these sites. You need to remember you are giving full rights to your words and pictures and information to these companies.
Some of the downsides can be:

  • increased marketing coming at you (although, it is likely to be targetted)
  • lower types of people learning when you are on holiday and seizing the opportunity to rob you (or learning when you are having a large party that they could gatecrash)
  • getting curly questions from potential employers who have researched you online
  • giving away your date of birth (I always use a fake, but memorable one)

This link will take you to a video that asks, “what would you want a friend of a friend of a friend to know about you?” As the commissioner points out, joining a social network is our personal choice, “but we would hope that people would take a minute to think about their choices – and how much information they end up handing over to corporations, advertisers and marketing companies.” Fair call. The video is here.

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