Red Sun Rising

Sydney Harbour Bridge, blanketed by red haze

The Sydney Harbour Bridge, blanketed by a red haze (photo: Ian Sanderson)

Sydneysiders woke to a strange sight early this morning. A massive dust storm had swept across the state, blanketing Sydney in a plume of dust that stretched for over 600km. It turned the sky an eerie orange-red and I’ve never seen anything like it. It felt like we had been transported to Mars.

The colour came from the red soil and dust of the outback, which had been whipped up and carried inland by fierce gale force winds; it’s estimated the dust plume travelled over 1500 kilometres to reach Sydney. Scientists are saying it might be the worst dust storm in NSW’s history, which I can believe. The pollution in Sydney was awful all day and you couldn’t breathe easily, even after the haze had started to lift.

I was still awake when the dust storm hit. It was incredible; the wind howled and the entire sky seemed to go blood-red in minutes, so much so that I couldn’t see more than 20 metres down the street. The last time I can remember anything like it was after the Black Saturday bushfires, when the sky reflected the fire and there was an overwhelming smell of ash. But even those skies didn’t compare to this; this was like stepping onto another world.

With the UN climate conference beginning in New York, some green groups have suggested that it’s more evidence of global warming. I’m not so sure. Usually I’d be the first person to agree but nature doesn’t need a reason to be wonderful or terrible; I think sometimes these kind of freak occurrences just happen and we shouldn’t ascribe everything to global warming without evidence. I found it very beautiful, despite the chaos it caused.

Unfortunately I didn’t think to take any photos; I didn’t realise how widespread it was at the time. But there are some incredible photos on Flickr and I thought I’d post some of them to give an idea of what it was like. There’s still a dusty smell in the air and the winds are still strong even now, 18 hours later.

I doubt I’ll see anything like it again in my lifetime. Unless I go to Mars.

Under the Bridge

Another view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, from beneath, the eerie light reflecting off the harbour. The bridge just seems to fade away and you can barely see the other side. (photo: Ian Sanderson)

Opera House

Here the Sydney Opera House has all but disappeared, with the dust at its peak in the early morning. Ferry services were cancelled until the haze cleared. (photo: NSW Maritime)

Oxford Street

Sydney’s Oxford Street seems transformed, the sidewalks almost deserted. The sepia tones remind me of a scene from the early years of photography. (photo: Cowboy Dave)

Sydney Towerluna-park

Two of Sydney’s iconic landmarks, Sydney Tower and Luna Park, swallowed by the dust storm. Luna Park was closed due to the dust, winds and poor visibility. (photos: Cowboy Dave and Tolomea)

St Marys Cathedral

St Mary’s Cathedral, lit up a brilliant shade of pink-red. You can see where some of the dust has settled on the grass as well. (photo: JezKerwin)

QVB

Sydney’s Queen Victoria Building, in the heart of the CBD, as the haze has started to lift. Looks like many people found masks or are using tissues to cover their mouths. (photo: Dr. Snafu)

Sydenham Station

Sydenham station is one of the major railway links in Sydney. The station was blanketed by the red dust and trains were late or cancelled for much of the morning. (photo: MOles)

Sydney CBDDarling Harbour

The Sydney CBD and Darling Harbour; the streets are almost completely deserted on the left, while on the right it’s more like Baghdad than Sydney. (photos: Malcolm Tredinnick and Original Nomad)

Bondi Beach Park

Bondi Beach Park in the early hours of the morning. You can’t see it here but some people still took an early morning swim, despite the pollution and low visibility. (photo: sebr)

Traffic-Button

A traffic button at a pedestrian crossing, showing the accumulation of dust. It covered most vehicles as well. You wonder how much work it will be, cleaning up tomorrow. (photo: Malcolm Treddinick)

The Mystery of the Montauk Monster

Montauk Monster
The Montauk Monster: Creature from the Deep or Something Else?

I had a different post planned today but when I saw this photo I couldn’t let it go. For the last few days I’ve had hundreds of strange searches leading to an old post and they all seem to be looking for a picture of a turtle without its shell. It made me wonder if there was a news story that might be creating interest… and surely enough I found this. I’m guessing it’s what they’re looking for.

Apparently it’s the remains of some kind of animal that washed up onΒ Long Island. It’s been dubbed the Montauk Monster and there’s all kinds of speculation about what it is. Some think it’s the decomposing body of a raccoon or the remains of a turtle without its shell; others think it might be a marketing ploy or even a mutant which had escaped from a nearby government animal-disease research facility.

What strikes me about it, though, is how sad the image is. A poor animal dies and instead of feeling sorry for it there’s this kind of morbid fascination. But I guess that’s to be expected; we’re attracted to the strange and unknown and I’ll admit, I’m as interested as everyone else. Still, I’d like to think we could give it a little more respect.

Personally I don’t think there’s much to most of the theories. If it were a viral marketing ploy, it would have been claimed by now. And I’m sure it’s not a turtle; if a turtle lost its shell you’d be seeing muscle, not skin, and there are scruffs of hair around its neck, which means it’s a mammal, not a reptile. I’d guess it’s probably the remains of a dog, perhaps a bull terrier. The face looks similar and if you take decomposition and bloating into account, most of its body parts are in the right places.

It could be a shaved raccoon except the size makes me doubt it, but I could be wrong. It could also be a fake but either way it’s definitely not a turtle without its shell, as my searchers seem to think! For a while those searches were driving me crazy. I mean, it’s nice when an old post gets discovered, but it takes hours to write my other posts; that one took 5 minutes. Ain’t blogging grand?

Anyway, I thought I’d include a fun quiz to go with the mood. Apparently I’d be a zombie if I were a monster in real life… I can see that. I’m often sleepwalking through life, mainly because I don’t get much sleep! And I love Thriller.

I wonder what kind of monster you are? And any ideas on what this thing is? It’s starting to creep me out.:?

Quiz

Update: Okay, I have now had 470 searches for “turtle without a shell” in three days! Seriously, guys, take a look at some of my other posts. This one’s a good one… and this one… and this one. πŸ˜‰

Update: Newsday posted a new photo of it on August 1. Looks even more like a dog to me now. Poor thing.

You've got to be kidding me

Update: If you’re searching for images of the Montauk Monster, please see this post. If you are seeing ads with this post, I apologise; it is WordPress who have put them here, not me.

You’ve got to love eBay, don’t you? Between finding a sweater for a bargain in just the right colour or a copy of an old favourite book, it seems like you can find just about anything if you look hard enough. And then there are the bizarre auctions. I’m never quite sure what to make of those. Some are fun… others are so dumb they make your head hurt.

Why would people want to bid on some of these things? I can understand that a time machine has novelty value but buying someone’s used tissue? Or a hairball? Ew. I don’t need the tissue, the thought of it is enough to make me sick. And then today I saw Nana the Banana octopus. “Nana” is a used banana skin which has been dressed up as Nana Walker Bobana, a fake President… it’s so stupid I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry.

But it gets worse. Just after Nana I saw this: the body of an alien found on a beach in Florida. It’s possibly the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen. And it went for $53! Are they out of their minds? If you’ve got too much money, give it to a charity, don’t waste it.

I don’t even see how it’s supposed to resemble an alien. It looks fake to me or like a turtle without its shell… and why are its arms in a superhero pose? I guess it just proves that there’s always someone who’ll buy anything… especially if it’s dried and preserved with “little otherworldly scents”. πŸ˜•

It’s interesting seeing everything that’s been created in the wake of eBay’s success. Most of these bizarre auctions are silly but they’ve become so popular that they’re an entire industry now. Without eBay PayPal wouldn’t have become as widely used as it is now and eBay’s support of Skype has helped it to become successful. It’s spun off a number of online auction tools – and that’s not even mentioning the sniping websites that wouldn’t have existed otherwise.

Sniping’s the main thing I dislike about eBay. Perhaps it’s the kind of items I bid on (usually CDs and DVDs) but I end up getting sniped in most of my auctions. I don’t mind being outbid but I hate being sniped at the last moment; it doesn’t break any of eBay’s rules but it’s infuriating and if I were a seller I’d be tempted to leave negative feedback; annoying as it is for bidders, the sniped bid is usually much lower for sellers, so they don’t like it much either.

We do have maximum bids, which in theory should protect bidders, but most people prefer incremental bids and it’s really up to eBay to level the field. But they won’t as sniping is part of the experience. And maybe it is… I’m just bitter as I’ve been sniped four times this week and two came in the last five seconds. But more people will do it if it seems like it’s the only way they can win.

I think the truth is that eBay needs a competitor. At the moment other auction sites can’t match its size and eBay’s dominance has allowed its auction services to stagnate even while branching out into other areas. It needs to become relevant again and perhaps competition is the best way to do that, which would benefit the consumer. Whether there’s a legitimate competitor out there, though, I don’t know… eBay might have too much of a monopoly already.

Anyway, I’ve just been frustrated; I hate being sniped and then I saw those bizarre auctions and it reminded me of how bloated eBay has become. I wonder what you think? Do you like eBay? Do you think a new competitor would be good for eBay? Does bid sniping bother you? Is it an alien, a turtle or something else? Let me know what you think. πŸ˜‰

You’ve got to be kidding me

Update: If you’re searching for images of the Montauk Monster, please see this post. If you are seeing ads with this post, I apologise; it is WordPress who have put them here, not me.

You’ve got to love eBay, don’t you? Between finding a sweater for a bargain in just the right colour or a copy of an old favourite book, it seems like you can find just about anything if you look hard enough. And then there are the bizarre auctions. I’m never quite sure what to make of those. Some are fun… others are so dumb they make your head hurt.

Why would people want to bid on some of these things? I can understand that a time machine has novelty value but buying someone’s used tissue? Or a hairball? Ew. I don’t need the tissue, the thought of it is enough to make me sick. And then today I saw Nana the Banana octopus. “Nana” is a used banana skin which has been dressed up as Nana Walker Bobana, a fake President… it’s so stupid I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry.

But it gets worse. Just after Nana I saw this: the body of an alien found on a beach in Florida. It’s possibly the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen. And it went for $53! Are they out of their minds? If you’ve got too much money, give it to a charity, don’t waste it.

I don’t even see how it’s supposed to resemble an alien. It looks fake to me or like a turtle without its shell… and why are its arms in a superhero pose? I guess it just proves that there’s always someone who’ll buy anything… especially if it’s dried and preserved with “little otherworldly scents”. πŸ˜•

It’s interesting seeing everything that’s been created in the wake of eBay’s success. Most of these bizarre auctions are silly but they’ve become so popular that they’re an entire industry now. Without eBay PayPal wouldn’t have become as widely used as it is now and eBay’s support of Skype has helped it to become successful. It’s spun off a number of online auction tools – and that’s not even mentioning the sniping websites that wouldn’t have existed otherwise.

Sniping’s the main thing I dislike about eBay. Perhaps it’s the kind of items I bid on (usually CDs and DVDs) but I end up getting sniped in most of my auctions. I don’t mind being outbid but I hate being sniped at the last moment; it doesn’t break any of eBay’s rules but it’s infuriating and if I were a seller I’d be tempted to leave negative feedback; annoying as it is for bidders, the sniped bid is usually much lower for sellers, so they don’t like it much either.

We do have maximum bids, which in theory should protect bidders, but most people prefer incremental bids and it’s really up to eBay to level the field. But they won’t as sniping is part of the experience. And maybe it is… I’m just bitter as I’ve been sniped four times this week and two came in the last five seconds. But more people will do it if it seems like it’s the only way they can win.

I think the truth is that eBay needs a competitor. At the moment other auction sites can’t match its size and eBay’s dominance has allowed its auction services to stagnate even while branching out into other areas. It needs to become relevant again and perhaps competition is the best way to do that, which would benefit the consumer. Whether there’s a legitimate competitor out there, though, I don’t know… eBay might have too much of a monopoly already.

Anyway, I’ve just been frustrated; I hate being sniped and then I saw those bizarre auctions and it reminded me of how bloated eBay has become. I wonder what you think? Do you like eBay? Do you think a new competitor would be good for eBay? Does bid sniping bother you? Is it an alien, a turtle or something else? Let me know what you think. πŸ˜‰

5 sayings that don't make sense

We all have favourite sayings and similes we use. Sometimes there’s just no better way to describe a situation than with an analogy, and I know I use “my two cents” and “don’t judge a book by its cover” a lot. But if you think about some of our sayings, quite a few don’t make much sense. Often the reason is that the meanings are archaic and you need to know their origins to understand them. So here are a few of the stranger ones demystified. πŸ˜‰

5) It’s raining cats and dogs
When has it ever rained cats and dogs? Obviously never, so its literal meaning makes little sense. But its origin is hard to pin down as well. The most likely origin is that in London in the 17th century, heavy rain used to fill the streets and carry along dead animals and people created the analogy over time.

4) A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush
I think this is one of the best sounding proverbs and its meaning is fairly obvious: that it is better to accept a small advantage and what you have now than to risk everything in search of more. The bush part often trips people up, but it dates back to medieval times when a falcon might rest on your hand, the “two in the bush” being prey.

3) Make no bones about it
Make no bones about it is fairly odd if you think about it. What do bones have to do with stating something without hesitation or objection? But its origin is in an earlier phrase: “to find bones in”, particularly in a meal or soup. To find no bones meant you had no problems; the saying likely evolved from that.

2) There’s more than one way to skin a cat
Some of these sayings don’t seem to like cats much. This one means that there are several ways to do or achieve something, and the most likely origin is that the cat originally referred to a catfish (which has a tough skin) and the saying was shortened over time. It’s also possible that it’s a variation of the expression “to skin the cat”, which was a child’s gymnastic trick, the “more than one way” being the different ways of performing the trick.

1) As straight as a die
I’ve always found as straight as a die very strange, in that its literal meaning is to be honest and true; how does that relate to a die being straight, something which it obviously isn’t? The simile actually dates back to an earlier saying, “make this borde as smoothe as dyce”. If you think of dice being smooth and “true” in casting them, then it makes more sense.

5 sayings that don’t make sense

We all have favourite sayings and similes we use. Sometimes there’s just no better way to describe a situation than with an analogy, and I know I use “my two cents” and “don’t judge a book by its cover” a lot. But if you think about some of our sayings, quite a few don’t make much sense. Often the reason is that the meanings are archaic and you need to know their origins to understand them. So here are a few of the stranger ones demystified. πŸ˜‰

5) It’s raining cats and dogs
When has it ever rained cats and dogs? Obviously never, so its literal meaning makes little sense. But its origin is hard to pin down as well. The most likely origin is that in London in the 17th century, heavy rain used to fill the streets and carry along dead animals and people created the analogy over time.

4) A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush
I think this is one of the best sounding proverbs and its meaning is fairly obvious: that it is better to accept a small advantage and what you have now than to risk everything in search of more. The bush part often trips people up, but it dates back to medieval times when a falcon might rest on your hand, the “two in the bush” being prey.

3) Make no bones about it
Make no bones about it is fairly odd if you think about it. What do bones have to do with stating something without hesitation or objection? But its origin is in an earlier phrase: “to find bones in”, particularly in a meal or soup. To find no bones meant you had no problems; the saying likely evolved from that.

2) There’s more than one way to skin a cat
Some of these sayings don’t seem to like cats much. This one means that there are several ways to do or achieve something, and the most likely origin is that the cat originally referred to a catfish (which has a tough skin) and the saying was shortened over time. It’s also possible that it’s a variation of the expression “to skin the cat”, which was a child’s gymnastic trick, the “more than one way” being the different ways of performing the trick.

1) As straight as a die
I’ve always found as straight as a die very strange, in that its literal meaning is to be honest and true; how does that relate to a die being straight, something which it obviously isn’t? The simile actually dates back to an earlier saying, “make this borde as smoothe as dyce”. If you think of dice being smooth and “true” in casting them, then it makes more sense.