Archive for October, 2010

Dear Robyn,

Today I tried out some of the finalists for the “Do Us a Flavour”  Chip competition Bluebird is running at the moment. The one where they let the public loose on designing winning potato crisp varieties. I entered it myself – my flavour was “Pan Fried Rainbow Trout with Lime”.

So now that there are four finalists with chips out in the stores I thought I’d put in my vote so I have been trying them – so far three from the four flavours;

Paua Fritters with Lemon Wedges
Sunday Roast (the Crispy Bits Left in the Pan)
Butter Chippin
Cheesy Garlic Bread

It’s quite remarkable how fast Bluebird got these flavours out. Do they have “crispy bits from the Sunday roast” flavour lying around in the lab somewhere? Just in case?….

The first pack I tried was Paua Fritters. I was quite keen to try this since my own flavour was also a seafood with citrus and to be honest I wasn’t convinced that could work on a chip. But surprisingly it does! Sort of like seafood dip does. And the chips really do taste like Paua. I’m quite impressed with this flavour because any kind seafood is my favourite food – EXCEPT Fugu (blowfish which the Japanese eat and is deadly poisonous if prepared wrong and I am not brave enough to play Russian Roulette with a fish) and Paua! Every time I’ve eaten it in the past I’ve thought “hmmm, great flavour, shame about the bits of rubber truck tyres”. Problem solved, bung the flavour on a potato and bingo – edible Paua without any automobile parts. I quite like the exciting, exotic flavour of this one and that you can’t get Paua anywhere else but NZ. So so far this one is getting my vote.

Cheesy Garlic Bread is not bad either. Actually also tastes pretty much like it’s title – mild cheesy flavour that’s been briefly shown a garlic clove. Just enough so it doesn’t run away screaming. It could easily be anything else though – chicken for instance. I am wondering if this one will win because the flavours are not particularly overpowering and it’s pretty easy to blob in front of the tele with a bag and realize you’ve munched most of it while you weren’t paying attention even though you swore you would only eat a few. The Paua one by contrast is quite citrus tangy and smacks you in the head so you can’t really think about anything other than what you are eating.

The last one I tried was Sunday Roast. I think this is a great idea for a flavour but don’t think Bluebird pulled this one off unfortunately. If it tastes like a roast then it’s a roast containing mostly pumpkin that someone cooked by accidentally putting it in a Tupperware container and melting it in the oven! And forgetting to put in the roast while they were at it. I think the spare chemicals Bluebird had lying around in the lab might have been “Sunday Roast With The Crispy Bits From The Pan Make By Your Inept Flatemate (606).”  Ate two chips and then felt sick so I’ve left the rest for Phil to polish off. Will be interesting to see what he thinks as foods always taste 100% different to him from what I think.

So that just leaves Butter Chippin which I haven’t seen in the stores. But it sounds interesting as it’s supposed to be based on spices like cinnamon, chillis, ginger and coriander which I love. So looking forward to seeing how that one works.

Anyway, what do you make of my Photoshopping efforts with the trout? You had to supply a “photo” with your entry but I don’t have ready access to Lake Taupo or fishing gear to land a fish for a photo so I grabbed a painting of one online and a photo of some swimming pool water and did some morphing to make it look somewhat like a fish underwater. After a bit of messing around with the components below I got the image at the top of this page.

Anyway, if you happen to try any of the chip flavours I’d be interested to hear which ones you like or think will win!

Morgan 🙂


Re Rules for your Gremlin

Posted: October 18, 2010 in Humour
Tags: ,

Dear Robyn,

I am not going to believe you about the Gremlin unless you can provide EVIDENCE that it exists.



(avoids letterbox on the .00000000000000000000001% off chance that it does, along with the celestial teapot, pink unicorn and the bearded guy in the sky….)


Dear Morgan,

I finally posted your webcam off today. You should get it tomorrow or Wednesday. I put it in a little white envelope with your name on it. I wrapped it up in bubble wrap three times over, and taped it down with bright red and yellow polka dot sellotape. I also put a gremlin in there. Yep. A gremlin. The Gremlin is brown and fuzzy, with orange dots and goes ‘Meeeeeeeeep Meeeeeeeeeeeep’. If you give it water, it grows into a supersized gremlin and starts eating birds. You might like to try and avoid giving it water if you value your canaries and budgies’ lives.

You really need to be careful though, as it can choke on feathers, and if it chokes, it vomits up purple gel. Which is a pain as it can stick to everything, and if gets onto your hair, it’ll turn your hair permanently bright purple and you’ll never get it out, not even with other coloured dyes. However, if you collect this purple gel in icecream containers, you can roll it all up and make very very bouncy rubber balls. When the bounce, they change colours. These balls have super powers. Depending on what colour it turns, they have the power to change something around the world, like turn Christians into Atheists, or make idiots grow a few brain cells, and sometimes they can put criminals into prison.

You have to be careful of these gremlins as when you’re asleep, they can put their fingers up your backside and they can make you feel like you’ve got worms. Not a pleasant experience by any means. This in turn will make you start dreaming strange things, like being abducted by aliens, and can even make you wake up giggling uncontrollably.

The Gremlin I sent you is Bright Green, 2 inches high and weights 300 pounds. She responds to the name ‘Blob’. You must not feed the gremlin Egg. Egg is bad for gremlins. If they eat egg, they turn bright pink and start dripping bright pink everywhere. Like the purple vomit, you can’t get rid of the pink in anyway. Everyone will not only be able to tell you have gremlins, but you fed it egg!  However, if you collect this bright pink substance, wearing black sequinned gloves, and put it into blue glass, leave it for 2 hours, you can then stretch this pink substance out as it becomes very very stretchy. If you then poke this stretchy bright pink substance into your electrical sockets around your house, the power companies will think you’re supplying them with power, and start paying you. The problem is, it’s PINK POWER. and it’s no good. No good at all. It stuffs up all the electrical currents around the world. If they find out that it’s coming from you, they’ll start charging you double. The only way to stop the power companies from finding out it’s coming from your home, is to coat your house with raspberry coconut icing. This puts up a barrier.

Lastly, keep cat food away from your gremlins. You do NOT want your gremlin to eat cat food. They get as high as a kite. When the gremlin gets high on cat biscuits, it starts crawling around on the ceiling. You have to be very very careful as it will suddenly unscrew a lightbulb an throw it at you. But first it blows on the lightbulb, turning it into a cream pie. It gets, well, messy! There is no point ducking as it has an aim like nothing else. No matter how you bend, or where you hide, it’ll get you. If you say the word… ‘camnamathodrianothan’ while the cream pie is being thrown at you, the pie will turn into a chocolate pie. Just before it hits you, and you manage to also say ‘thanomanogrampianodian’, it’ll not only be a chocolate pie, but it’ll get fresh strawberries and rich raspberry sauce on top as well. Now, if you try to eat it, but you haven’t said ‘squerialicalomaniacious’, you will turn bright yellow with green and red dots for 48 hours. After 48 hours have passed you will begin to fade, but it’ll be 10 days before you’re totally ‘normal’ looking again. So you must learn those three words. They are vital if you are to survive a Gremlin high on cat biscuits.

If you forget these three words totally, and the cream pie hits you, you will end up in a Cream Pie Coma and sleep for 10 years. The only thing that will awaken you out of this coma, is if a sexy German guy comes in with a Bazooka, shoots out Seven windows (Windows 7 is fine), high fives the gremlins, bounces one of the rubber balls around the room for 10 minutes, (and you just hope it doesn’t fly out one of the windows he has just shot out), unplugs all the Pink Power out of the electrical sockets, looks at you, and asks…

Are you..

By any chance…



My advice for you is to just play it safe, and keep the Gremlin in the bag it came in. Do not open!

Cheers Robyn

Dear Robyn,

Those inventions you came up with in your last blog post are great. The “hand-held machine that would ‘hear’ any conversation then ‘instantly caption’ speech” is an awesome idea. Imagine that, being able to walk into any movie theatre or watch any TV programme without having to worry about whether captions are provided or not. Or see what someone is saying if you can’t quite hear or lipread them. That would solve some really annoying problems if translators were readily available. I am surprised they aren’t already though because as far as I can tell the technology is more or less available now to do this. However, it doesn’t seem to be designed especially for translating entire conversations on portable devices for anyone who wants to have a complete conversation or, if it could also instantly translate one language to another – travellers wanting to chat with people who speak a different language. That said, I don’t see why it couldn’t because the following technology does exist at present:

  • Dragonspeak for iPhone which can be used to convert spoken words into text for sending text messages. Unfortunately looks like it is designed mostly for short messages, not conversations, but the regular PC installation is used for creating entire Word documents.
  • Voice recognition software in cellphones used mainly for controlling functions like “voice dial”.
  • Filtering software such as is already used in your implant to reduce annoying background noise in busy situations. Something you’d probably want the device to do if it is to translate a single conversation in a noisy environment like a cafe.
  • To have a built in mic, a clear screen and portability. All of these things are extremely common on iPhones and other types of cellphones and portable devices.

So really what you are after mainly requires the integration of the above but with the software having a focus on translating long conversations. And to go a step further there are already rough language translators, for example  Google Translate which doesn’t do a bad job. I use it often when I am reading the German newspaper. It’s always close enough to understand the translation even though it is not perfect. It would be enough for travellers to speak to locals without any knowledge of their language and be understood.

I had a look around on the net expecting some complete technology like this to leap out at me that already does what you want but couldn’t find anything easily. But it looks like all the technology to create a more purpose built solution is there so maybe all that is needed is for someone to integrate it all and make a downloadable app for popular phones and devices.

Your animal interpreter machine is a neat idea too. I would love to know exactly what my pets are saying to me also.  Granted, it’s fairly easy for us humans to work out the basics of what Fluffy and Fido are saying already without extra help. We do share basic psychological similarities with animals after all. Fluffy running up to you when you walk in the door, smooching your leg and purring loudly means “hello”. Fido growling loudly while chewing a bone is almost certain to mean “back off buster, this is all mine! Don’t make me add your leg to my collection”. Different animals seem to have little trouble understanding basics either. The cat would understand Fido’s growling also and leave well alone. Mind you, having said we share similarities with animals, if you come running up to me and smooch my leg at the airport or growl at the dinner table I am NOT going to come to Blenheim to visit you!

But not all animal sounds are that easy to interpret unless you are an animal psychologist. My parrot Gibson makes some sounds that I can recognize what they are easily. Squawking grumpily at me when I cover his cage at night means “hey! I haven’t finished watching the tele yet!” and Dave and Harry (my canaries) singing pretty tunes means “hey girls, we’re over here!” But sometimes if I am talking to Gibson he’ll come right up close to my face and purr loudly like a cat (I kid you not). We don’t have a cat and he has never heard one so this must be legitimate bird language. I have no idea what he is saying and I’d love to know! He could be telling me anything, “hey man check this out, I can do cat impersonations” or “hmmm yes, I agree with you totally, Turing Machines would work better with five heads” or “hey honey, want to come back to my place?” (which is a bit disturbing since he says this to Phil also….) But it would be cool if I could find out in a few seconds what he is really saying or tell him something in bird speak. “Gibson, please clean up your cage” would be a good start…

Another thing I’ve actually seriously considered inventing myself before is a portable device you can put on your table in noisy cafes or places that will filter out background noise so you can hear the people you are talking to easily. I personally find it really annoying trying to chat with my friends in cafes when there is loud background music blaring and everyone shouts over it to be heard. Seems to be a really common complaint so I thought of these two solutions.

  1. A directional white or pink noise generator that masks out some of the background noise at a certain radius away from you. Preferably installed in your cellphone so you can take it anywhere, the idea being you just stick it on the corner of the table and it creates a private space for you – like taking your own walls everywhere. This sort of thing is used already in a bigger sizes – namely the fountains that are installed in the middle of shopping centres and food courts are there to cover up competing conversations. When I asked my Dad (an experienced electronics whiz) about this idea he revealed that in the 1970s his company was involved in inventing something like this for office blocks so whole buildings could generate white noise and make areas people could hear each other better in. The idea didn’t catch on at the time unfortunately, but then, new clever ideas often don’t catch on the first time even though they do years later.There might be some problems with this though. Firstly any unit would have to produce a signal of good enough quality to work. Bit of a challenge on a cellphone. And as my Dad points out, our local shopping centre probably got rid of the fountain because it made people run off to the toilet more often and the Centre’s cleaning costs went up! Perhaps that was the reason the technology his company were developing never took off either. Who wants their employees spending the whole day in the bathroom instead of working!
  2. The second idea is reverse phasing. The unit samples background noise a certain distance away from you, reverse phases it and emits the reversed (inside out) signal again. The effect of this is to cancel out sounds altogether so they become silent. Although that sounds like science fiction this is a simple trick we used to use in the recording studio for removing undesirable sounds from recordings (like record crackle, generator sounds from live gigs or to remove the lead vocal from a recording so someone else could sing over the remaining instrumental tracks). Some people have been playing around with this already with the intent of making say, vehicles that are silent. But realistically, who the hell wants to be run over because they didn’t hear the Mac truck coming down the road? People would get used to this and learn to look more carefully, but I’m sure animals would be completely confused. It would also be inconvenient for blind people who navigate by sound. An odd side effect of that could be that if you didn’t produce the reverse phased signal 100% in sync with the original you could get flanging – a sort of strange, out of this world swooshing sound that musicians use deliberately in recordings to make psychodelic effects (e.g. guitars sounding like they are flying past on jet engines.) So, considering live sound might always have a slight delay between sampling and reproduction, this might produce an effect that is either slightly annoying at one extreme or makes people feel like they’ve been teleported back to flower power days and have been smoking something illegal at worst! And even more disconcerting would be that if some of the sampled sound happened to be in the exact same frequency you were talking in it would seem as if your own voice is cutting out! Now that would be freaky!
  3. The third idea is the best of all and comes from my Dad. Obtain some cotton wool, some string and two empty tin cans. Poke two holes in the bottom of the cans and attach string. Then stuff cotton wool in one ear. Now you have the perfect solution. Just hold a can up to the ear without wool, pull string tight and you and your companion can have a private conversation no problem! Damn! I knew the best solutions were the simplest!

Somehow I don’t know that this invention is very far away. The ideas I’ve put there use standard audio physics that is very commonly understood by sound engineers. But there are also inventions with hypersonic sound (or rather, producing sound using ultrasound). In the video at the end of my post, Woody Norris shows off his invention which places sound wherever you want it and can be used for applications like directional advertising in supermarkets (you hear an ad only when you are standing directly in front of it), or, as he notes, the military could use it to create the sound of fake troop movements in places there are no troops! He also has inventions for cancelling out sound like I’ve just mentioned and came up with an application I never thought off – cancelling out the sound of your partner snoring! Now that is something I could do with!

Morgan 🙂

Video of Woody Norris talking at TED about Hypersonic Sound

Image by Per Hardestam

Inventions and Technology

Posted: October 1, 2010 in Computer, Fun, Humour, Opinion

Dear Morgan,

I only have a vague recollection of asking you those two questions about inventions and technology, so I must have have asked you a fair while ago, when I was very young!  I have spent a week dreaming up all these weird and wonderful inventions that I would like, so here they are:

1).  I’d like to invent a perfect man.  One that tells you you’re wonderful.  One that brings you breakfast in bed every morning.  One that is prepared to forgo the rugby game to take you shopping with a visa card with no limit!  Perfect men don’t exist at present, which is why I’d like to invent one. The Perfect Man would be able to fix anything that needed fixing, keep the house tidy, keep up with outside chores and still have lots of energy for ‘later’!  There are a few more things on this list that these perfect men would do, but I’m not sure of our exact reader age, so therefore will leave it to your wild imagination (which I know you have!).

2). I’d like to invent a hand-held machine that would ‘hear’ any conversation then ‘instantly caption’ speech anywhere, anytime.  So where ever I am, or whatever I am doing, I can have full access around me by being able to read my ‘machine’.  This would also be fully equipped to translate any language, which would then be a boon for travellers, travelling around the world.

3).  I’d like to invent number 2, just for being able to understand animals.  An animal interpreter machine. Just the other day a magpie cawed at me, and I’d like to know which swearword it was so I could say it back to him!  I’d name this machine the Doolittle Translater.  Like #2, this machine will have to translate English back into the animalspeak so I could explain to the cat just WHY she doesn’t need the electric blanket on when it’s nearly summer, and why she really doesn’t need a litterbox when outside is lots of garden and dirt that can do just as well!  I’d also like to know why she continually tries to bury her food in kitchen, and would like to explain to her that I would prefer her plate left where I feed her, and not in the middle of the kitchen floor where I trip over it! This machine just may save someone’s life.  Mine!

4). I’d like to invent the instant teleporter, so I could choose to be anywhere, anytime in the world instantly.  Going to London for the day would be a reality.  Heading to an erupting mountain somewhere off the beaten track with my camera would be a walk in the park.  There would be no need to find housesitters as you could be home in time to feed the animals.

5). A pill that I could take that would instantly restore my hearing to perfection!

So those are my inventions.

Technology?  Anything?

1). Adobe CS5.  Photoshop.  The mother of all photoshop versions.

2). a Canon 100-400m Lens for my bird photography

3). a Canon 10-22mm wide angle lens for my landscapes

4). An electric car.  I hate the price of petrol.

5). Solar power right through my house (I hate the price of electricity).  Do you think we could have solar powered cars too?

6). A Mini Laptop for travelling.  (My current laptop is too big to lug around)

7).  A ride on lawn mower.  Although if my invention for a perfect man came off, this would be redundant in the technology section!

8). A utility bed.  Yep – A bed in my room where at the touch of a button, a TV screen pops out at the end of it for me to watch.  Another button and a computer comes up from underneath.  Another button and there’s tea making facilities and/or unlimited champagne.  If my invention for a perfect man comes off, there would be no need to get out of bed!

9). A printing press for all my artwork I’m just getting into now.

10). An electronic piano.  One that looks like a real piano, but does a gadzillion things electronically in terms of music. They’re only $17,000 or so new!

11). The latest cochlear implant complete with remote control, in bright pink!

12). A new fridge.

13).  A nice big spa pool.  Complete with book holders, drink cabinets and holders, computer holders for waterproof laptops.

14). A computerised treadmill.

15).  A computerised watering system for my garden.

I’m sure I have more technology that I want, but can’t think of the rest right now.  I love gadgets, so anything new on the market I want to try anyway!