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Who invented Post-Its?

8 Apr

Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion was on TV the other day. And while I didn’t see the whole movie, I did tune in just in time to catch my favourite bit.

It’s where Romy tries to take credit for inventing Post-Its, only to have her lie brutally undone by an acerbic Heather Mooney (Janeane Garofalo), who reveals they were really created by a guy called Art Fry from 3M.

It’s a cringe inducing catch-out, and the recriminations from the popular girls Romy is trying to impress are brutal. But it did inspire me to find out his story. The answers lay in MIT’s Inventor of the Week archives.

Turns out it all began with a colleague called Spencer Silver, a senior chemist in the company’s research labs, who had created a high-quality, low-tack adhesive that was strong enough to hold papers together but weak enough to let them pull apart without tearing. He freely shared his invention with colleagues but none could come up with a marketable way to sell the product. Until it came to Art’s attention. MIT takes up the story…

“Fry sang in his church choir and was frustrated by the fact that, when he stood and opened his hymnal to sing, the paper bookmarks he used to mark the songs on the program would slip out of sight or even on to the floor. In a moment of insight that has become legendary in the realm of contemporary invention, Fry, musing during a rather boring sermon, realised Silver’s reusable adhesive would provide his bookmarks with precisely the temporary anchoring he required.”

And thus the seed was sewn, resulting five years later in the official release of Post-its.

And for the record, the reason they were first created in yellow is because the original testing/playing around was done on some scrap paper, which just happened to be yellow, and the colour struck a chord.

And now, let’s watch the magic moment …

Who plays Ted’s kids on How I Met Your Mother?

7 Apr

I mainly started watching How I Met Your Mother because it stars Willow from Buffy, aka Alyson Hannigan. But it only took about two episodes for me to fall in love with the show itself. I can’t articulate why, as Ted has to be one of the most annoying people on the planet, but love it I do.

Anyway, as regular viewers will know, the show is told in flashback form by Future Ted, whose voice is provided by Bob Saget, aka the dad in Full House.

However I had never really been interested in knowing who plays Future Ted’s kids, until I suddenly realised the girl looked familiar.

So I IMBDed her and discovered there’s a good reason why, as she’s done a bunch of TV, from The Young and The Restless, which I certainly never watched when I should have been studying at uni, to Desperate Housewives.

But where I really knew her from was two movies – action flick Kiss-Ass, where she played superhero girlfriend Katie Deauxma, and Hot Tub Time Machine, where she played Jenny.

As for the son, I’m sorry to say I didn’t recognise him from anywhere. But his name is David Henrie and he’s done a bunch of stuff too, including TV shows Judging Amy, NCIS, Cold Case and Wizards of Waverly Place.

Now we just need to know their names on the show. And that of their mother. Just please don’t let it be Victoria!

Did Isaac Newton really discover gravity when an apple fell on his head?

4 Apr

Every so often – usually when I’m recounting the alleged thievery of biscuits belonging to an understanding high school Physics teacher – my brain reluctantly turns its attention towards science.

So today I decided to put the focus to good use and look at the truth behind a popular scientific legend – that Sir Isaac Newton discovered gravity when an apple fell on his head. And, like all the best myths from history, it seems to have at least a little grounding in reality.

I found one intriguing backgrounder on the topic at the Culture Lab blog at New Scientist, which profiled a historical manuscript that went on to become a biography of the scientist by William Stukeley, who was apparently told the following anecdote firsthand by Newton. He remembers the telling as such..

“After dinner, the weather being warm, we went into the garden and drank tea, under the shade of some apple trees…he told me, he was just in the same situation, as when formerly, the notion of gravitation came into his mind. It was occasioned by the fall of an apple, as he sat in contemplative mood. Why should that apple always descend perpendicularly to the ground, thought he to himself…”

You can read the full manuscript here at the Newton Project, which is a non-profit group dedicated to making his unpublished and published works freely available online. If you have time, I do recommend it, as it offers some pretty interesting insights into the development of his theory on gravity and more.

Certainly he did more good with his apples than a certain snake ever did in the garden of Eden…

What inspired Lisa Lutz to write the Spellman books?

3 Apr

Today filled me with a massive amount of happiness. And not because the approach of Easter means times for my annual chocapocalypse. Instead it was because I found out about a new book by one of my favourite authors. And I didn’t even know she’d written it.

Her name is Lisa Lutz and I first stumbled across her several years ago in the same way I discovered Janet Evanovich – because her book cover wouldn’t stop screaming at me from the shelves.

It was called Revenge of the Spellmans and I loved it immediately, not least because she incorporated a really quirky technique in her story, which was to use footnotes to tell what a character was really thinking when it was at odds with what they were saying. It sounds tricky to do but she pulled it off, and today that book still makes me laugh out loud.

Even better it had two predecessors – The Spellman Files and Curse of the Spellmans – so I didn’t have to wait too long (hello JK Rowling) before diving into more of the series.

Anyway, as luck would have it, yesterday brought a phone call from my mother who asked me to buy myself a book she could give me for Easter. So I headed to my favourite online bookstore and there it was – book five, Trail of the Spellmans. Just the sight of it made me a very happy girl. So much so I suspect it will be gone long before the chocolate eggs I will hopefully receive on Sunday.

Of course under my Mum’s rules I’m not actually allowed to read it until she gives it to me. So to while away the time I decided to find out what kickstarted the story. Naturally the tale was to be found on her website, where this interview – old but still relevant – filled in the blanks. Here’s the pertinent bit..

Question  You burst on to the writing scene in your early 20s, penning a screenplay. From what I gather, that didn’t go so well. Fill me in . . .

Answer  I wouldn’t say “burst” — more like stumbled. Eyes were on me for a brief, awkward moment and then they returned to whatever they were previously doing. There was certainly no fanfare involved in my long and unsuccessful screenwriting “career.” I wrote many screenplays over that 10-year period, but only Plan B got any real interest. During that time I mostly made my living doing odd jobs or office work. Plan B was optioned in 1997 and it was finally bought and made in 2000. The resulting film, based on what I’ve read on the IMDB database, is unwatchable. My so-called screenwriting career was over at that point, but I didn’t realise it at the time and continued to write screenplays, because that’s just what I did. As each one was finished, the rejections came quickly and without any signs of hope. The last screenplay I wrote was The Spellman Files. I couldn’t get anyone to read it — and that’s when I decided to write it as a novel. It was a total act of desperation, but as I worked on it, I realized that the story really needed more space to be told properly.

Now, for those who haven’t read any of the books, they focus on Izzy Spellman, whose family runs a private investigation firm. Between her parents, siblings and a straight-laced cop called Henry Stone, things never get boring (or entirely legal). Here she describes how she came to create their world.

I first envisioned the Spellmans over seven years ago. And if memory serves me, which it rarely does, the entire cast of characters sort of came to me over a short period of time. The germ of the idea was always to write about a family of private investigators and how the nature of the business affected their family life. I knew that if the parents were spying on their children, they’d need a motivation. That’s when Isabel’s character took form. I figured a history of rebellion would keep the parental unit constantly on watch.

To whet your appetite even more I figured Lisa wouldn’t mind if I shared the following excerpt from the first book, which is also available here

THE SPELLMAN FILES: CHAPTER EXCERPT

The Interview —
Chapter 1

72 hours later

A single light bulb hangs from the ceiling, its dull glow illuminating the spare decor of this windowless room. I could itemize its contents with my eyes closed: One wooden table, splintered and paint-chipped, surrounded by four rickety chairs, a rotary phone, an old television and a VCR. I know this room well. Hours of my childhood I lost in here, answering for crimes I probably did commit. But I sit here now answering to a man I have never seen before, for a crime that is still unknown, a crime that I am too afraid to even consider. Inspector Henry Stone sits across from me. He places a tape recorder on the center of the table and switches it on. I can’t get a good read on him: early 40s, short-cropped, salt-and-pepper hair, crisp white shirt and a perfectly tasteful tie. He might be handsome, but his cold professionalism feels like a mask. His suit seems too pricey for a civil servant and makes me suspicious. But everyone makes me suspicious.

“Please state your name and address for the record,” says the Inspector.

“Isabel Spellman. 1799 Clay Street, San Francisco, California.”

“Please state your age and date of birth.”

“I’m twenty-eight. Born April 1, 1978.”

“Your parents are Albert and Olivia Spellman, is that correct?”

“Yes.”

“You have two siblings: David Spellman, 30, and Rae Spellman, 14. Is that correct?”

“Yes.”

“Please state your occupation and current employer for the record.”

“I am a licensed private investigator with Spellman Investigations, my parents’ P.I. firm.”

“When did you first begin working for Spellman Investigations?” Stone asks.

“About sixteen years ago.”

Stone consults his notes and looks up at the ceiling, perplexed. “You would have been twelve?”

“That is correct,” I respond.

“Ms. Spellman,” Stone says, “Let’s start at the beginning.”

I cannot pinpoint the precise moment when it all began, but I can say for sure that the beginning didn’t happen three days ago, one week, one month or even one year ago. To truly understand what happened to my family, I have to start at the very beginning and that happened a long time ago.”

See what I mean about her funky writing style? Want another taste of her words? Well you can read excerpts from all the other books at her website, including this selection from her latest. But to finish, I had to share these questions I pulled out from an onsite Q&A, which also revealed another two more Spellman books are on the drawing board.

Q. Is Lisa Lutz your real name?
A. Yes.

Q. How old are you?
A. You should know better than to ask questions like that.

Q. Where do you get your ideas?
A. I have an imaginary friend named Ralph. I steal his ideas and pass them off as my own.

Q. Do you have any fears?
A. Many. Trucks, mostly. But I’m not fond of moving vehicles in general.

Q. What is a typical day like?
A. Breakfast in bed while reading the New York Times. I do the crossword puzzle, even on Sunday, without any help. Then I write for an hour. In the afternoon, I usually go yachting or I fly my jet. Wait, no. You meant a typical day for me. That’s a typical day for Stuart Woods.
Hmmm, a typical day for me always involves the consumption of coffee (unless I’m being held hostage) and maybe some writing or thinking about writing, and almost without fail some teeth brushing.

Like I said, happy days…

What inspired Don McLean’s song American Pie?

2 Apr


A road trip beckoned today as part of an all-too brief holiday through Australia’s southern states.

Fortunately, it wasn’t the kind of horrific trip most of us endured with our parents in childhood when all we wanted to know was ‘Are we there yet?’ Instead, this one was fun. The kind with roadies, stereotyping of small country towns and CD compilations featuring the best movie songs of all time (BTW does anyway know the film that featured Belinda Carlisle’s Mad About You?).

Anyway, one of the tracks that boomed through the speakers was Don McLean’s American Pie – all 300+ minutes of it (or so it seemed). And it took me back to my twenties, when it was considered a badge of honour to remember every word.

It’s a skill I still boast today. And as I sang of jesters and thorny crowns, I got to wondering about the inspiration behind the lyrics.

For half the song I decided they were about the JFK assassination. But my supposing wasn’t enough – I wanted to know the real story.  Yet no clear answers were forthcoming – and that’s exactly how the artist likes them.

In an interview here, McLean had this to say:

“The idea that I had, was that it was about American politics in music running in sort of a parallel trough, if you will. That was a concept in my head. Then I decided to make up a dream using rock and roll and other kinds of imagery to move forward from the death of Buddy Holly right up to the end, and that’s how it came out.”

Further clarification comes from his website

“American Pie is partly biographical and partly the story of America during the idealised 1950s and the bleaker 1960s. It was initially inspired by Don’s memories of being a paperboy in 1959 and learning of the death of Buddy Holly. American Pie presents an abstract story of McLean’s life from the mid-1950s until the end of the 1960s, and at the same time it represents the evolution of popular music and politics over these years, from the lightness of the 1950s to the darkness of the late 1960s, but metaphorically the song continues to evolve to the present time. It is not a nostalgia song. American Pie changes as America itself is changing.”

Musical aficionados who have studied the song pin meanings to certain lyrics. For example, the jester who sang for the king and queen is rumoured to be Bob Dylan. But this has never been confirmed.

In short, what McLean hopes is that fans find their own meaning and inspiration in the song. And he must be on to something since it remains a classic more than 30 years since its release in 1971.

Here’s a few other American Pie facts…

* It was named as one of the five greatest songs of the 20th century in a poll by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Recording Industry Association of America. The other four songs were This Land is Your Land, Somewhere Over the Rainbow, Respect and White Christmas.
* It was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2003.
* It has been played more than three million times on American radio alone.

And now let’s watch him sing it live.

James Cameron dived into the Challenger Deep. What is it?

1 Apr

Ever since I was a little girl I’ve had this fantasy about the ocean.

It involves draining all the water away – naturally while freezing time so the animals don’t die – and then wandering around to see what’s really down there.

I suspect the result would be equally terrifying and fascinating. I mean we already know about Jaws, Godzilla, Orca and the creature from Cloverfield, but I bet there’s a beast or two that would make them look like fluffy kittens.

Yet I imagine there would also be pretty some pretty cool stuff. And in the same way people say our jungles are full of scientific and medical breakthroughs we’ve yet to discover, I bet the same goes for the deepest part of our planet.

Someone who shares my fascination is uber-director James Cameron, who this week became the first solo person to reach the 11km Challenger Deep, an undersea valley in the Mariana Trench that is Earth’s deepest realm.

It was only the second manned dive into the Deep, the first being in 1960 when Lt Don Walsh and late Swiss engineer Jacques Piccard made their journey in the bathyscaphe Trieste. Cameron completed his journey, which took just over two hours, in a one-man vessel that collected videos, photos and samples.

You can read more about his trip – and watch a video – at National Geographic, which is a partner in the DEEPSEA CHALLENGE project. But I was inspired to learn more about his destination. So I set myself a challenge to learn a few facts about the trench. Here they are…

* The trench was created by ocean-to-ocean subduction, which basically means the Pacific Plate was forced underneath the Mariana plate.
* Measuring 11,033m deep, it lies in the Pacific Ocean.
* The trench stretches 2542km long and 69km wide.
* The pressure at its deepest part is more than 8 tonnes per square inch.
* Mt Everest – the highest point on Earth – would fit into the trench and still have almost 2200m of water above it.
* The deepest point, called Challenger Deep, is named after the British Royal Navy ship HMS Challenger II, whose crew made the first recordings of its depth in an expedition from 1872-1876.
* Four descents have been made to the bottom. As well as the two that were manned, the Kaiko reached the bottom in 1996 and Nereus in 2009.

 

How do you make toffee apples?

31 Mar

Tonight I have the good fortune to be staying in Adelaide, a place I once used to live, work and dream of getting out of.

Now, I’m being a little bit harsh with that last comment, especially as I made some great friends while working there for three years. And it was one of them who reminded me of my almost literal fall from grace when I sprained my ankle perving on boys (at least that’s how she puts in). Clearly I should explain.

At the time, I was working as Features Editor for the Sunday Mail, where my rounds included entertainment. So every year when the Adelaide Fringe Festival rolled into town, I was snowed under with more stories, reviews and tickets than I could shake a leg at.

One year, as part of the gig, I headed down to the city’s parklands to interview two guys who were members of a famous strongman show that involved lifting each other in all sorts of weird and wonderful ways to the huge delight of the audience. And it’s here things went pear-shaped.

My friends will tell you I’ve always been partial to a bit of hot shoulder action, so when these two HUGELY muscled gents appeared wearing only singlet tops, I stopped looking at the ground and consequently tread in a hole, spraining my ankle badly. I needed physiotherapy, which sucked, but in the tradition of silver linings everywhere, the gents in question did carry me back to my car.

Anyway, all the pain made me doubly determined to see their show. And it was as good as the hype suggested. But the memory that really stands out is the toffee apple I had at intermission.

It had been years, nay decades, since I’d last indulged. And my memory had not let me down on how delicious they were. So tonight, after relaying my sad tale of woe, I decided it was time to revisit the past and find out how to make them. Reader moriais on taste kitchen came to the rescue. So here goes…

TOFFEE APPLES

Ingredients
15 small apples, red or green
4 cups white sugar
1 tsp white vinegar
1 cup water
1 tsp red food colouring

Method
Lightly grease a baking tray. Wash and dry the apples and insert chop sticks, thick wooden skewers or paddle pop sticks into each apple. Combine sugar, vinegar and water in a small heavy based pot. Bring to the boil and stir in the food colouring. Heat to 150C or simmer for about 20 minutes or until a small amount of syrup dropped into cold water reaches crack stage – it should set hard and be hard to crack with your fingers. 
Remove pot from the heat and stand in a baking dish of water until the mixture stops bubbling. When the mixture has stopped boiling, hold an apple by its stick, dip into the syrup, tilt the pan (and the apple) until the whole apple is covered. Rotate the apple and let it drain a little then place on a baking tray to harden.Repeat with the remaining apples.

Oh. My. God. How delicious does this sound? Soooo worth the effort. Now if anyone needs me, I will be in the bathroom trying to unglue my jaw!

 

 

How did The Rock get his nickname?

30 Mar

As I have already complained written about several times this week, I embarked on a massive spring cleaning project at the start of my current holidays.

Part of this involved loading all my CDs on to iTunes. And while I talked the other day about finding enough Kylie Minogue to make me happy, there was one other disc that really caught my eye – and not in a good way. It was called You Can’t See Me and was released by John Cena, a name that will be instantly familiar to rednecks and young boys as he’s a superstar of the wrestling word.

Anyway, while he seems to have a decent voice I can’t say I found much inspiration in tracks such as Don’t F*** With Us, which I imagine is a sensitive exploration of the human psyche. But it did remind me I’d been seeing adverts for a WWE match-up between Cena and The Rock. And naturally, I then wanted to know how The Rock got his nickname.

Truth be told if my real name was Dwayne Johnson and I wanted to build my action man persona, I would probably change it too. But it seems the reason is actually personal. When he first began pro wrestling, the athlete used the name Rocky Maivia to honour his father, Rocky Johnson, and grandfather, Peter Maivia. This was later shortened to The Rock as befits his charisma and ringside popularity, although he now prefers to go by his real name, especially given how hot he is in Hollywood.

And you know what? That’s more than fine by me. I mean would you want to argue with him?

Are strawberry lovers really duds in the sack?

29 Mar

Yet again dodgy internet providers put paid to my quest for knowledge tonight, forcing me to turn elsewhere to learn something new.

Fortunately I was well prepared for such an eventuality given I own more than 1000 books. And while a good 70% of those fall under the tiresome definition of chick lit I just knew there would be a gem to help me out. And there was.

It was a very old title called Fortune Telling With Food by Noriko Kuriyama, which promised, among other things, to unlock the secrets of your psyche depending on your breakfast/snack/lunch/dinner of choice.

Here’s a few of her findings:

* No one is more passionate than lovers of raw cabbage (or more flatulent, but that’s another story)
* Eggplant lovers love themselves too much
* Green onion lovers are jealous mates
* Potato lovers get along especially well with their spouses
* Turnip lovers do well in the stock market
* Fig lovers often become wealthy
* Grapefruit lovers marry for looks only
* Herring fans make mountains out of molehills

And finally, comes my, ahem, favourite – strawberry lovers don’t have good sex techniques but they can keep going a long time.

Anyone recognise themself?

Did Kylie Minogue’s famous gold hot pants really cost 50 pence?

27 Mar

You know you’re in trouble when you have to hire a mini skip to do a spring clean. And sadly that’s the situation I found myself in today.

Now, in case you think I’m a crazy woman hoarding cats, used tissues and/or tins of Spam, I should point out my trash was 90 per cent magazines as I am obsessed with them and love to read and re-read them.

But every so often I have a brain snap and decide to de-clutter. So out go tabloid tales of Princess Kate, the Kardashians and Ryan Reynolds and in comes a feeling of smug domestic goddess satisfaction.

Anyway, I don’t know if it was something in the water, but while cleaning up I decided to attack my collection of CDs as well. I mean they take up a LOT of space and since I have a neighbour I know would adore them, I decided to upload the tracks to iTunes and bid them farewell.

And it’s here the night turned judgemental.

You see, I am exceedingly well-known across several states (and even continents) for allegedly having uncool music taste. As if it’s somehow shameful to still know the words to Gotta Pull Myself Together by The Nolans.

But as I uploaded and burned, even I had to confess that the lyrics “boom, boom, boom, let’s go back to my room” are unlikely to be uttered in a Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech any time soon.

Then I hit on gold – a stack of Kylie Minogue discs dating back to the early days of her career. When the power ballad Especially For You was just about the most romantic thing this teenage duck had ever heard.

 

Since those early days I’ve loved everything from Shocked (remember the scandal around whether she’d replaced the title word with another starting with f?) and What Do I Have To Do? to Love At First Sight, although I was apparently the only person in the world not to like Can’t Get You Out Of My Head.

Then there’s Spinning Around, which apparently rebooted her career in 2000, although some of us had stayed loyal. But of course for most people the music isn’t the most memorable part of that song – it’s those hot pants.

I wanted to know if it’s true they really only cost 50 pence. And the short answer is, yes. But they weren’t even intended for a film clip. As the star herself told Who: “I wore them for a ‘Nerds, Tarts and Tourists’ fancy dress party – I’ll leave it to you to imagine which one I went as!”

Kylie also revealed she wasn’t necessarily as carefree in them as she appeared.

“I actually wasn’t confident (in them), that’s the crazy thing. I remember feeling quite self-conscious and kept wrapping a robe around me on set and would discard (it) right before the take.”

If only she had known what a phenomenon they would become.

Now watch the film clip.

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