27 April 2011

Getting from A to B risk free

THERE are few things more sobering than seeing blood being hosed off the road. Or white sheets covering an unspeakable but undeniably recognizable entity. Or the sight of someone being consoled by emergency services, near a metal wreck that could not possibly have been a car..could it? It is one thing to see these images on TV shows, advertising, newspapers or the Internet. It is another thing to see them first hand. 

My partner and I were first on the scene to a single vehicle crash on the Bruce Highway, Christmas Eve a few years ago. We were travelling southbound, just before Brisbane, and a car drove up an embankment and flipped over onto its roof a few hundred metres in front of us. 

While my partner was on the phone to 000, desperately  trying to fit his arm in the wrecked window to turn off the engine, fuel was spilling out of the car and the passengers were screaming. I was trying to put my recently acquired first aid training to use by asking questions to keep the passengers calm and conscious. The smell of alcohol was overpowering. The car was so crumpled that, laying on the road, looking through the window, I could not make out where the bodies started and where the ended. Or how many people were in the car. So when a female starting screaming about her “babies” I thought there were children in the car. It took every ounce of self control not to just walk away and cry. 

It felt like time had stopped and the police were never going to arrive. Other cars stopped both to try help, and to gawk. One man was ripping the front of the car and turning the engine off manually somehow while debate started to rage about trying to get the passengers out of the car. Then emergency services started to arrive. Police took our statements and said we could leave. The passengers were still in the car when we drove away – firemen were using the Jaws of Life. Disturbing. Heartbreaking. Sobering. We never heard anything about it on the news so I pray it wasn’t a fatality. But who knows? Only their family.

Easter Sunday, on the Bruce Highway heading from Brisbane to the Sunshine Coast traffic was at a standstill. I rang Queensland Government Transport and Traffic Hotline (131940) to find out what was happening. It was a multi-vehicle crash over 1km ahead. Thirty-five minutes later, being diverted off the now closed highway,  I saw the eight crumbled up vehicles sitting across all three lanes, facing every direction, smashed together like a puzzle. The Queensland Police Service reported there were no fatalities but after seeing the mess I don’t know how that is possible. 

What disturbed me the most was not the sight of the wreckage. Or the six ambulances called to the sight. Or the four police cars, or the two fire trucks. It was the cars speeding past me when we were back on the highway. I became paranoid that I was driving well under the speed limit as car after car zipped past me. I wasn’t. Everyone else was speeding, making up for lost time I suppose? It was a 100km zone and cars would have easily been pushing 120km. These weren’t single occupant cars either. Or P platers. These were predominantly cars full of families. I was, and still am gob-smacked. Flabbergasted. Bewildered. Disturbed. Frustrated. 

The problem with drivers today is arrogance and ignorance. Simple. Everyone knows that speed kills, drink driving makes you a bloody idiot, red lights mean stop and seat belts save lives. Yet every day we are surrounded by people who flaunt a blatant disregard for the rules. Why?

The Transport Accident Commission Victoria (TAC) surveyed Victorian drivers in January this year about their perceived socially acceptable driving behaviours. Speeding was deemed the most “socially acceptable” of all illegal driving behaviours. Of those surveyed up to sixty percent believe driving ten percent over the speed limit is acceptable.  Many drivers across the country (and even the world) would no doubt agree. To put this in perspective, consider the following:

To drive from my house to my parent’s house is 81km, and involves driving on roads with speed limits ranging from 50km suburban streets right up to 110km zones on the Bruce Highway. If I drive ten percent over the speed limit the entire journey, I will get to my destination six minutes earlier. SIX MINUTES!!! 

Government departments can introduce as many different rules, regulations, advertising campaigns, fines, incentives or educational initiatives as they want but realistically, the problem comes down to the individual. How do you change the mentality of the driver who is willing to disobey the law, despite knowing all the risks associated? 

Next time you considering ignoring the rules or regulations of driving consider this:

Can you afford the fine?
Can you afford to lose your license?
Can you afford to repair your car?
Can you afford to lose your car?
Can you afford to destroy your life as you know it?
Can you afford to cause grief to all who love you?
Can you afford the guilt of knowing you destroyed someone else’s life?

Are you an arrogant and/or ignorant driver?

20 April 2011

Dead alien or elaborate hoax?

WEBSITES across the world today have been reporting on footage allegedly showing  a "dead alien" found in Russia on April 17. Whether you believe the footage is true or a hoax, one thing is for sure - debate is raging again about alien existence.

Rather than write a long winded article on alien visitations, the Roswell conspiracy, ancient alien theory and UFOs (this is coming, just not yet) I thought I'd post some interesting videos that have been shared around the office today.

Firstly, the dead alien sensation:

Secondly, a compilation of "UFO sightings" from the past few years, and a freaky phone call):

Okay so the phone call was proven to be a fake. The man allegedly rang in days later and confused to the hoax. But what was with the eerily timed outage?

Thirdly, if you are in any way interested in the universe and the possibility that "something" is out there, then the below documentary is sure to entertain. The documentary covers everything from the big bang theory to dark matter, from black holes to other galaxies. It is truly fascinating (but is 45mins long).

Is it completely ignorant and arrogant to believe that we are the only life forms in the whole of the universe? Whatever your argument, possible the most sensible opinion is that anything is possible, so never say never.

Do you believe in aliens and UFOs? 

19 April 2011

Pre-mix spirits drinkers rejoice

Media coverage of the AERF report on Channel 7's The Morning Show

WAR has again been waged, but the question this time is who will really benefit?

Woolworths and Coles are slashing alcohol prices on pre-mix spirits, such as Bundaberg Rum and cola and Jim Beam and cola cans. The major supermarkets have been at war with their prices for bread, milk, eggs, chicken and even laundry detergent, using slogans along the lines of "because everyone needs milk./bread/eggs/etc." Does everyone need alcohol? What next - cigarette prices slashed?

According to media reports, the alcohol price war started a week ago, right around the time a report, commissioned by the Alcohol Education and Rehabilitation Foundation (AERF) found that more than four million Australian's drink to get drunk. About half of those surveyed said they get drunk at least once a week. Thanks to the supermarket giants, these people will now have more money to fund their efforts providing their indulgence is pre-mixed spirits.

Why would the supermarkets choose alcohol as their next price war?

AERF chief executive Michael Thorn said that over the past decade Australia's problem with alcohol had got worse.

"There's been an increase in violence, an increase in hospitalisations. There's an ongoing indigenous despair and rising community costs conservatively put at $36 billion a year," he said in Canberra, April 14.
Lowering prices on alcohol cannot possibly help the situation. Thorn said aggressive marketing of alcohol by both producers and retailers tells a sorry tale for Australians. He called for a minimum price on alcohol because there is clear evidence that price influences consumption.
Won’t anyone think of the children? The alcohol war is also likely to raise concerns regarding the fact that pre-mixed “alcopop” drinks are a source of major concern in relation to young and under age binge drinking by health campaigners.
It is easy to point the finger at who is responsible for alcohol issues in society Government? Retailers? Individuals? The real issue is that Woolworths' and Coles' actions cannot possibly help. One thing is for sure, discounting pre-mixes just in time for the Easter/Anzac Day long weekend is sure to boost profits - not that they needed the help considering the extra grocery expenditure that will take place also.

For the record, Woolworths own and operate Woolworths Liquor, BWS, Dan Murphy's and Langton bottle shops. Coles own and operate 1st Choice, Liquorland and Vintage Cellars bottle shops.  
Is discounting pre-mixed spirits a good thing or a bad thing?

18 April 2011

Fly Killing 101

To say I hate flies would be an understatement. I'm sure I'm not alone in this hatred. The sound or sight of just one little disease spreading winged a*#hole makes my blood boil, sending me in a blind rage, trying to kill the critter with any suitable object in sight. While they pose an extreme inconvenience to me at all times, a fly in my room at night, when I wish to sleep, is the pinnacle of annoyance. I can't even watch footage of people who have flies lingering around them - this sends me mad but with no hope of resolve except to shut off the TV or computer, followed by a shiver up my spine.  

Sure flies (like every other creature on this earth) play a vital role in our eco-system. Their maggots help decomposition of dead animals and other organic material. Having no decaying animals at my house, therefore making their role in my immediate eco-system seem redundant, I can’t help but wish they would procreate elsewhere off (if you know what I mean).

Besides being a cause of irritation and aggravation, people tend to detest flies because they are disgusting. Flies are capable of carrying over 100 pathogens, such as salmonella and parasitic worms. It also doesn't help their reputation that they vomit on their food (read OUR FOOD) to aid their digestion, and leave their faeces on everything they touch.

Despite being vile, despicable creatures, there are people who believe flies should not be harmed. Back in June 2009, US President Barack Obama upset People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) when he killed a fly with his bare hands during a television interview. PETA spokesperson Bruce Friedrich told the media at the time that PETA would be sending Obama a Katcha Bug Humane Bug Catcher device (see left) because they "support compassion for even the... least sympathetic animals." This devise allows you to catch flies, or other insects or spiders, and release them elsewhere, rather than just kill them. For those of you who think this device is a good idea, maybe don't read the rest of this piece – you may find the following distressing.

If you are still reading, I think I know why. All this talk of flies and their despicable nature is eating away at you and driving you insane. You're lusting for a fly kill aren’t you? Well, I've got some great news for you. I've compiled a list of fly killing arsenal to aid in your murderous rage.

Venus Fly Trap Plant

The Venus Fly Trap is the most famous carnivorous plant in the world. All varieties (there are more than 20) catch and digest insects and arachnids. Basically when an insect climbs inside the jaws of the plant, tiny hairs are triggered and after a few seconds the plants closes, allowing digestive enzymes to retrieve all the nutrients possible. After a few days the plant reopens, leaving an skeleton to be washed or blown away.
Some say Venus Fly Traps are hard to keep alive, but being that they are relatively inexpensive (I got two at the markets for $10 each) and low maintenance (sit the pot in bowl of water, re-fill when empty), I think they are worth the try.

Venus Fly Trap Robot

Yes - that's right, a robot that mimics the real thing. When motion sensors detect a fly or insect within its jaw, the robot snaps closed, leaving the fly trapped in the jar below for your enjoyment or sick experiments. No mess, just death. Slow and painful death. Potential extreme annoyance hearing the fly buzzing around in the jar though?

Fly Gun

This spring loaded plastic projectile gun makes swatting flies fun. By fun, I mean fun for the whole family, whether shooting it at flies or each other. Can be very frustrating though as the gun sometimes loses its course no matter how fantastic your aim.

Rolled up newspaper or magazine
Just roll up and swat fly when they remain stationary. Inexpensive and easy...unless your aim or reflexes are bad. The aftermath can get pretty messy to clean up though (ewww...fly guts).

Fly swatter

Cheap and easy to find at supermarkets or hardware stores. Method is self explanatory, mess is normally a little less than rolled papers but can still be icky.

Fly Spray

Best option for those with bad reflexes or aim, and those with a penchant for poisonous murder. BUT one has to ask what is worse for your health - fly germs or poison?

Do flies send you into a murderous rage?

16 April 2011

Jury is still out on Mayan calendar predictions but what about Mayan worry dolls?

WORRY dolls are an arguably ingenious idea. Created by the Ancient Mayans and replicated by multiple Central American cultures, the idea is that you tell the worry doll your problems, place it under your pillow and the doll will take your problems away or deal with them for you while you sleep.

Guatemalans, Peruvians and Mexicans (to name a few) might be onto something with these inexpensive, simple creations. A study into “emotional closure” by Xiuping Li and her colleagues at Singapore's National University found that metaphorically dealing with issues like regret and distress can actually alleviate the issue at hand.

In their research they asked respondents to write down a regret they needed “emotional closure” from and place the note in an envelope. Half the group then sealed their envelope, the other half didn’t. Those who sealed their envelope afterwards reported they felt far less negative about the regret. Li and associates conclusion: expressing an issue, then sealing it puts the troubles metaphorically “out of reach” and enables a higher level of emotional healing than simply expressing the issue.

What does this mean for the worry doll? Worry dolls are commonly given with a box or bag that they are to be put into before being placed under one’s pillow. If we believe even a speck of Li’s study, then by telling the worry doll your issue and then sealing it up, you are likely to achieve some emotional healing, albeit sub-consciously.

Cultures who believe in worry dolls give children a worry doll at a young age, to help them through life from their earliest awareness’s. Today worry dolls are often used in child therapy, specifically hospitals.

The Child Life Therapists at Westmead Children's Hospital in New South Wales use worry dolls as a form of expressive art therapy to help children deal with the stresses of their ailments and hospital life.

UC Davis Medical Centre, in Sacramento California, run a Healing and Performing Arts program for children with cancer. Art (including worry dolls) is used to help the children express their feelings and emotions about their cancer journey.
Grade 7 Languages students at Thurmont Middle School in Maryland America learnt about determination, having a purpose and helping someone in need by making worry dolls and donating them to children at local hospitals. The students learnt about worry dolls in Guatemalan culture as a way to address the issue of health, specifically the fears of children while in hospital. The outcome was to help comfort the hospitalised children and increase their chances of improved health.

Western psychologists often use worry dolls (or “worry warriors” in psycho-babble) as a creative way to teach coping skills for grief, anxiety and stress in children.

There is also a multitude of worry dolls designed specifically for adults. A quick check on EBay and you will worry dolls for work, marriage, love, travel, you name it!

So if you know someone who is not dealing with life’s obstacles very well, and missing sleep because of it; forget flowers, chocolates and alcohol and get them a worry doll. Actually, make a hamper containing flowers, chocolates, alcohol and a worry doll: you can never be too prepared.

Do you believe in worry dolls?

13 April 2011

Not tonight honey, I'm spending time with the dog.

Cav had is own Collingwood Guernsey for the AFL Grand Finals 2010

LONG suspected, now confirmed: Australian women prioritise their dogs over their partners. The PawClub.com.au surveyed over 80,000 dog owners and found 77 per cent of women surveyed spent more time with their dog than their partner. Four out of five female respondents admitted they devote more money to their dog than their partner also. You can view the results here.

The survey also revealed dogs are firmly ingrained in our psyche as another member of the family, with 52% of dog owners surveyed confirming they sign their dogs name on birthday and Christmas cards.

There would be seldom dog owners surprised by this survey.

So why do we love our dogs so much?

Studies show dogs make us both physically and mentally healthier, and therefore happier. They lift our spirits and help us relax. They motivate us to actually get some exercise because, rain, hail or shine, they are always keen for a walk. Dogs keep us company and make us feel safer when we are alone. They also put our minds at ease by safeguarding the house when we are out.

For children, studies have shown that growing up with pets (particularly dogs) during infancy helps to strengthen the immune system and reduces the risk of allergies linked to asthma. Teenagers who grow up with pets are more likely to have a positive outlook on life and report less loneliness, restlessness and boredom.

What's not to love?

There is another side to the story, and it won’t leave you feeling warm and fuzzy. Dog behaviourists argue that by treating your dog as equal, you are creating a myriad of behavioural problems. Your dog is less likely to be obedient when it thinks you are equal, and is more likely to display aggressive, jealous behaviours towards your partner if your actions place the dog on a higher pedestal. Canine experts also argue that assuming dog’s actions carry human emotions is one of the biggest areas to overcome. For example, when a dog is constantly leaning on you, putting his paw on you, using his nose to make you pat them, and always feeling the need to be touching you in some way, behaviourists argue this is not your dog loving you; it is your dog displaying dominant behaviours.  In the dog world, space is respect. A dog that is constantly nudging you and leaning on you, is disrespecting you, and being the alpha dog.

They argue the most important thing to remember is although we have domesticated dogs, we cannot rid them of their animal instinct.

Whether you agree with the behaviourists or the majority of Australian women, or prefer cats instead, one thing is for sure: life is better with a pet.

The experts may say  Cav is trying to be the alpha dog, but I prefer to think he wanted me to take him on holidays too.

Do you spend more time with your dog/s than your partner?

Vigilance the best prevention for "rock spiders"

THERE is a name that, when mentioned, conjures tremendous, intensive debate and hateful, vicious emotions in the hearts and minds of most Australians. 

Dennis Ferguson. 

Ferguson, arguably the most infamous paedophile in Australia, is being talked about again after the Queensland Police Service (QPS) and various media outlets yesterday tried to dispel rumours that he is residing on the Sunshine Coast. 

Although some minds may have been set at ease, the notifications caused mass debate and commentary, especially online. 

The QPS posted a "#Mythbuster" status around 1.30pm and within a few hours had received over 400 comments, and counting. The QPS was forced to sensor multiple comments due to their offensive or threatening nature. The Sunshine Coast Daily website and Sunshine Coast Facebook page may have to do the same (if they have not already). 

Dennis Ferguson is a vile creature, no doubt about it, but there is a bigger picture here. 

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, in 2009-2010 there were over 48,000 reported cases of child abuse in Australia, with over 12% being sexual abuse cases.  However these statistics do not highlight the full extent of the issue, for a number of reasons.

Firstly, this data excludes abuse perpetrated by a non-family member or person known to the family (these are dealt strictly with police not child protection services). 

Secondly, these statistics only represent cases reported to child protection services (again, not police). 

Due to the confidential and personal nature of the crime,  Australian statistics for child sexual abuse are non-existent or unverified.  All sexual abuse statistics, regardless of age, are grouped together in State and Territory Police reporting.

Statistics from the United States are generally thought to be accurate for Australian society also. The alarming statistics are as follows: 

30% sexual abuse offenders are relatives of the child

60% are acquaintances (friends of the family, babysitters, neighbours, etc)

10% are strangers

Sure no one wants Dennis Ferguson or any other known sex offender to be living near them *cue the debate over accessible sex offender lists (like in the US) or “send them back to jail” arguments*.The sad, scary fact of reality is, however, the face of paedophilia is likely to be far more familiar to you and your children than Dennis Ferguson’s beady eyed, creepy mug. Don’t let the Daniel Morcombe tragedy make you forget that “stranger danger” is not the only danger lurking in the world.

11 April 2011

The charity challenge: help a stranger

AUSTRALIANS and New Zealanders are renowned as the most charitable nations in the world. This was proven when the Charitable Aid Foundation (CAF) conducted an investigation into charitable nations, September 2010.

Using the Gallup World View World Poll for their investigation, the CAF found that, compared to 151 other countries, Aussies and Kiwis are (equally) the most charitable with both their money and their time. What might surprise you, however, is that the survey was not restricted to donations or volunteered time to charity/aid organisations. The survey also considered how many people had helped a stranger in need.

Remember the movie Pay it Forward? It is the story of a young boy who attempts to make the world a better place, one good deed at a time. The brilliance of this movie is the fact that it could work.

Believers of the “Six degrees of separation” theory or karma would argue that by engaging in one good deed, you will soon be rewarded with help from a stranger yourself. What have we got to lose?

A friend of mine once gave some international visitors the $2.50 they were short at Woolworths. She was lined up behind them and said that besides the fact that it was only small change, she wanted to prove a point to the woman behind her who was huffing and puffing "hurry up."

"I know how confusing money can be in different countries so I just wanted to help them out a little and give them a nice story to tell about Aussie kindness when they got home.  Can you believe the cow behind me sniggered at me when I did it! The incident was more embarrassing for her than the visitors I think."

Another friend of mine paid for an elderly lady's haircut one Sunday after he heard the staff tell her that seniors' concessions would not be honoured  due to increased cost of labour that day. He told me,

"I wish I could have stayed to watch her face when they told her."

Finally, a third friend recently received much praise on Facebook after posting her kind act of the day as her status. A little old lady had withdrawn a large sum of money at an ATM, then walked away without it. So this friend grabbed it and ran after her to give it back.

Whether it be an act of human decency, a kind gesture to make someone smile, or helping someone in need, when is the last time you did something selfless for someone you didn't/don't know? Imagine if we all went out and completed a random act of kindness. It may not make the world a better place but it just might make someone's day. What harm can it do?

Share your stories of random acts of kindness below, whether you were the giver or the receiever. Let's celebrate that there are still good people out there in the world.


07 April 2011

Voice silenced with every cancerous puff

TOBACCO giant Philip Morris Limited, Australia has started a campaign on behalf of smokers nationwide to allow their thoughts and opinions to be aired. The “I Deserve to be Heard” campaign (IDTBH) involves information cards being put in all Philip Morris tobacco products, recommending smokers go online and have their say about issues affecting smokers. The issues in question are proposed “excessive” bans on smoking outdoors, heavy taxes on cigarettes and retailers unable to display cigarettes.
Firstly, let me make clear that I am a dirty, filthy, money wasting, cancer enticing smoker.  Yet in debates about smoking I normally take the side of a non-smoker. I find the biggest problem with smoking is that it is legal. Why?
 Smoking reaps no health benefits, no societal benefits, so why has tobacco not been banned?
Despite being a smoker, my view on the IDTBH campaign and “poor me” attitude of many smokers is simple:
No, you DON’T deserve to be heard.
Being a smoker and whinging about the public scrutiny is like getting a Mohawk and complaining about people staring at you. What did you think was going to happen? As a smoker you choose to single yourself out. Own it.
For those of you who haven’t checked it out, you can find the IDTBH website here. Below is my opinion of their arguments.
Excessive Smoking Bans Outdoors
There is nothing worse than being at the beach, or a park, or walking through your shopping centre entrance and getting caught up in a plume of smoke. Being outside does not make the smoke and associated stench disappear; it is just lessened.
We all know cigarettes are highly addictive, but if you cannot get through a mere few hours without lighting up, you may have a larger problem than just willpower.
Why should a non-smoker, young or old, be subjected to this? Their choice of clean, fresh air is taken away by the choice of a smoker to pollute the airways. The other side of this debate normally sees someone arguing that our airways are polluted anyway, or that minor passive smoking as you walk through a shopping centre entrance cannot be that bad. Valid points, but the real issue is choice.  
So why is a non-smoker’s choice more important than a smoker’s? Because the non-smoker does not afflict anything negative on the health, well-being and comfort of the smoker (unless they are a jerk, but this is off topic).
For the record, I do smoke on beaches, in parks and outside of shopping centres, but only in designated smoking zones or where it is legal to do so.
Heavy Taxes on Tobacco Products
The only thing legalised tobacco has going for it is the massive amount of tax revenue it brings in. About two-thirds of the retail price of a packet of smokes is government tax, but only one percent of this is spent of preventative health measures, such as anti-smoking campaigns.  So clearly the government do not want us to quit.
Smokers arguably cost our health departments a lot of money.  The tax revenue versus health cost debate is made all the more confusing by the fact that government don’t ban smoking. Again, if the health costs outweigh the tax revenue, why is tobacco still legal?
Governments seem to constantly create laws and regulations for the betterment of humanity and/or to save lives. Helmets for bicycles, seat belts in cars, and fences around swimming pools...the list goes on. None of these things have EVER killed or disabled more humans than tobacco allegedly has. Are these lives more precious than those of a smoker? Children’s lives may be, but adults?
Hidden Displays and Packaging Changes
The IDTBH campaign argues that hidden tobacco displays and packaging changes will negatively impact smokers in regards to wastage of time. They argue because retailers will take longer to find your desired brand, you will be forced to waste more time in queues.
Is smoking a cigarette not a waste of time? An example to ponder: when I clean my house (top to bottom, full, spring clean), it takes me an entire day. I encourage myself to clean by setting myself tasks with rewards for completion. By rewards I mean cigarette breaks.  Whenever I have (unsuccessfully) quit smoking, I could clean my entire house in a mere few hours. The moral of this story: smokers waste time daily, what’s a little extra queuing going to change?

So smokers, speak up if you want. I dare say you’ll run out of breath before you make your point.

Friends today, gone tomorrow

FRIENDS come and go, like the tides. It's sometimes a sad fact of reality and sometimes a blessing, depending on the “friend”. Not Facebook friends, real friends.

What constitutes a real friend? Facebook, and our ever advancing technologically savvy world, have definitely blurred the line.  

David Wong, Senior Editor of Cracked.com says scientists have coined a term for the test of real friends, The Naked Photo Test. The test is: imagine a naked photo of yourself. Not just any naked photo - one with you in an extremely compromising, perhaps even highly abnormal position. How many of your "friends" would you trust to look after the photo and keep it secret? According to the theory, they are your real friends.

So what constitutes a "real" friend for the rest of us?

Do you class real friends as people who impact your life?

People you actually have face to face contact with, or would stop and chat to in the street?

The people allowed to  see you without my make-up on?

The photo above is from one of my birthdays. It is typical of the type of stupid, fun, crazy stuff we all celebrated together (the girls front centre are NOT really kissing, by the way). They were my nearest and dearest circle of friends. I would have trusted them with my "naked photo", and they all saw me sans make-up multiple times. How many am I still close with? Not as many as I would like, because the tides changed and those swept out to sea found an alternate life and circle of friends elsewhere.
The poem Reason, Season, Lifetime has always helped me make sense of my ever changing friend list. Along with changing jobs, partners, houses, gyms, and so on, our friends rarely stay the same for any extended period of time. Or at best we lose touch, then reconnect months or years later, usually via Facebook.

Whatever your definition of "real" friend, and despite how you feel about friends coming and going, here's hoping that your friends make you feel as warm and fuzzy as the little characters in the clip below (what's not to love?).

06 April 2011

ICE, ICE baby - it just might save your life

IMAGINE you were in a car accident, or fainted in public, or were involved in some other incident where paramedics, fire-fighters or police were called to the scene. Imagine you were unable to talk to the emergency services. How would they find out important medical information for you or let your next of kin know of the incident? ICE.

ICE is the name if the movement where your “In Case of Emergency” contact or contacts are saved in your mobile phone under “ICE” to enable easy identification of who to speak to in an emergency. 
The idea was allegedly conceived by British paramedic Bob Brotchie in 2005 and has gained worldwide acknowledgment and acclaim ever since. Brotchie, after noticing patients usually had a mobile phone with them when he attended incidents, reasoned that the ICE contact idea would aid all emergency workers.
Sound like a brilliant, simple idea? Yes? Not to everyone. There have been multiple criticisms about ICE.
Firstly, some critics argue emergency personnel on site are time poor, so next of kin wouldn’t be contacted prior to admittance to hospital. There is some merit to this criticism. Emergency personnel are extremely busy and time poor, especially at the scene of an incident. However I have personally been in a situation where paramedics called three contacts in a friend’s phone until they could relay the message of a car accident injury. I’m sure many people out there would have a similar story.
Secondly, critics argue contacting relatives about a seriously injured person is a sensitive task, making phone contact with next of kin inappropriate. There is merit in this argument also, however in this day and age society in general are prone to receiving both good and bad news via the phone. Furthermore, if emergency staff are too time poor and busy to call next of kin (as in above criticism), what are the chances they have the time to drive out to someone and relay information face to face instead.
Thirdly, critics have said that most people’s next of kin is their parents, whose details are normally saved in person’s mobile under “Mum” or “Dad” anyway. Again, definitely merit to this argument also, but (a big, whopping huge but), not true for all. If I were in any sort of incident where my next of kin needed to be contacted, the absolute last people I would want contacted would be my parents. For those whose parents are their emergency contact, what if they are saved under “pet names” for their parents? Are emergency personnel familiar with culturally significant names or foreign languages? Would emergency services know “Baba” is the Armenian name for “Dad”?
Whether you agree or disagree with the critics of ICE, ask yourself, what is the harm? What ill can come from having contact saved in your phone under ICE??

Have you saved ICE contact/s in your phone?

01 April 2011

Pinch, punch and prank

UNTIL midday today I am not going to believe anything I read, hear or see. I'm gullible at the best of times so I figure it's better to be safe than sorry on April Fool's Day.

Unless you live under a rock you would know April Fool's Day is a widely recognised and celebrated day of practical jokes and general foolishness. The earliest recorded association between April 1 and foolishness was in Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, published in 1392.

Australia is amongst the countries who only celebrate April Fool's Day until midday rather than the entire day. The idea is if you fall for a practical joke or are subject to foolishness before midday, you are the April Fool. However, in Australia, if you play a joke after 12pm then you are the fool, regardless of whether the unsuspecting prey fell for your joke or not.

A quick Google search highlights the wonder that is April Fool's Day and how the biggest, most memorable pranks have come from some of the biggest corporations in the world.

Who could forget Burger King's "Left Handed Whopper" stunt in 1998 (which resulted in people ordering both left and right hand varieties of the burger for some time after the prank was revealed)?

Remember Dick Smith's iceberg stunt in 1983? For those unaware Dick Smith claimed he had towed an iceberg back from Antarctica into Sydney Harbour.

Dick Smith and his "iceberg" 1983

Arguably the crème de la crème of April Fool's pranks are from the BBC, most notably the Swiss Spaghetti Crop stunt of 1957 and the Flying Penguins prank from 2008. An update for the confused and gullible - spaghetti does not grow on trees and no penguins can fly (but the BBC videos are pretty convincing). 

So today it's not just pinching and punching you need to be wary of until midday. Someone could be trying to make an April Fool out of you.

1957 Spaghetti crop prank: BBC

2008 Flying Penguins prank: BBC