Friday, 26 July 2013

My next dream car - Nissan LEAF

I love Nissans and I am pretty excited about the Nissan LEAF which is the one of the few 100% electric cars in Australia.  Naturally there's a huge waiting list so even if I wanted to buy one now I wouldn't get one anyway for a few years, I'm sure.

But just looking at it, its a nice sized car, and it doesn't look tiny like the other electric cars I've seen.  In fact, it looks about the size of my old Mazda 3.  (Images from

The inside looks roomy, and looks like it could at least put 2 boosters in it for the kids.

It even comes with a whole host of extra technophile features that are totally unnecessary but make you feel like you're driving some sort of futuristic car.  These include:
  • A timer for the airconditioner that can get you to warm up the car at 6.30am before you start to drive for workat 6.45am
  • Built in SIM so it can constantly updates itself with new info
  • Apps on your iPhone or Android so you can see how much charge you have left in the car, or even tell it to start charging remotely (if the car is plugged in)

It has a little 12V solar panel on the rear spoiler that helps power many of the interior accessories.

So how far can it drive?  On a full charge, the car can go 170km it says.  Not bad for city driving. Not sure if that would be ok for me when I drive about 100km a day but if I had no side trips, it would probably be ok for a trip to work and back.  With the air-con on, it probably brings it down to about 120km.

So how do you charge one of these babies?  Well, there are 3 ways to charge it.
  • Home.  You can charge it at home if you have the right power system installed - an electrician can do that for you apparently for about $200.  It takes 8 hours to charge up a depleted battery.
  • Charging stations.  I don't know where there are any of them around here, but that would be pretty cool.
  • Fast charge can be done from a 415V power system so you can rapidly get it to 80% in 30 minutes.
According to, the car drives very well.
When it comes to drivability, the Nissan Leaf is an interesting car. You’re actually going to feel it accelerate just like you would in a sportscar. It’s a bizarre sensation given there is no engine noise. It feels and sounds like a Japanese bullet train about to hit cruising speed as it accelerates from the lights. With 280Nm of torque available from a standstill, the Leaf is much more lively than a Prius and many other cars (no official 0-100km/h figures yet).

Steering feel is very light, much like a Lexus. That makes it easy to manoeuvre around town and get in and out of car parks. 
- Alborz Fallah, 2012 Nissan Leaf review

I am pretty excited hearing this.  I would really like to have one!  Here is the full list of energy saving features that the vehicle has.

Energy-saving features 
Automatic lights-on system
LED headlamps with load-sensing leveller
High luminance LED rear combination lights
Full colour rear view monitor, with vehicle width/distance display function
Rear windshield wiper (intermittent)
LED high-mount stop lights

Active safety features 
 VDC (Vehicle Dynamic Control [TCS functionality included])
ABS (Anti-lock Brake System)
EBD (Electronic Brakeforce Distribution)

Passive safety features 
High-strength safety bodyshell
Impact-energy-absorbing body construction to mitigate pedestrian injuries
SRS airbags for the driver and front passenger
SRS side airbags for the driver and front passenger
SRS curtain airbags
Two-stage load-limiter-equipped double pretensioner seatbelt for driver and front passenger
Emergency Locking Retractor (ELR)
3-point seatbelts for all seats

So, in a few years, guess what I'll be driving! :D

Sunday, 14 July 2013

My son, the beautician

One day my son will probably be mad at me for writing about his quirky toddler behaviour.

He's always enjoyed putting moisturiser on himself, and putting it on me, but he's gone that little step further!

I have a Ped-Egg for the calluses on my feet.  I quite enjoy doing my feet whilst curled up in front of the television watching a movie. My son J watched me with interest and wanted to do it on my foot.  Now, I can hardly take it out without him running over to industriously file away at my foot with my Ped-Egg.

I also enjoy having a shower with the kids rather than popping them in the bath.  I have a facial scrub that I do every day in the shower and now, my son will put a blob of the facial scrub on his hands and scrub my face for me.  He also enjoys putting shampoo in my hair (though I wish he would learn to give me a head massage as well).

The other funny thing is tweezering my eyebrows.  He likes to pretend to use the tweezers to do my eyebrows though I have to be careful he doesn't poke me in the eye.

Makes me wonder - will my son one day become a beautician?  And if so, I wonder if he will get cross at me for all those dreadful home hair cuts I've been doing for him!

Sunday, 7 July 2013

World War Z - how I liked the movie AND the book, and how it COULD happen


When World War Z was advertised, I had no idea what it was about.  It didn't even occur to me that Z stood for Zombie until somebody told me.  It's not even that obvious from the trailers.  I do like seeing the major cities though in the posters that were out.  Of course, I like the Sydney one best.

Sydney, Australia
Berlin, Germany
Rome, Italy
Barcelona, Spain
Paris, France
Mexico City, Mexico
New York, USA
London, UK
Rio, Brazil
Moscow, Soviet Union
In the movie, the human race is infected by a saliva/blood borne virus that kills the host and animates it into a zombie. United Nations representative, Gerry Lane, has been asked by the government to try to track down the origin of the infection, and thus help find a vaccine to save the remaining population, and the rest of it plays out like Dawn of the Dead or Resident Evil or any of those other zombie movies with your fill of zombie action and scary moments.  Ultimately the solution lies in the zombies only attacking healthy people, so Gerry innoculates himself with a deadly virus and finds that the zombies largely ignore him.  There are some aspects from the book in it, but really, it's quite dissimilar.

There are some moments in the movie which I thought were great insights into human nature.  Jerusalem, Israel, was free from infection and when Gerry goes to investigate, they had early warning and their walls which were already high, were built even higher.  The whole city was built to repel attacks and so it survived quite well.  They also let in all refugees and Gerry found this a surprise, but they said "For every person we save, it's one less zombie to fight."  A really great sentiment, in my opinion.  Very different from the other perspective of saving a few people and then shutting out the rest so that they don't possibly contaminate the healthy population.

It's not a wonderful movie, but it's not bad for a zombie movie.  Entertaining, eye candy (in the form of Brad Pitt) and a bit of token science thrown in for an attempt at reality.

The book on the other hand (by Max Brooks), is a collection of war stories, collected 10 years after the Zombie war.  The interviewer is a United Nations agent, and the book is a wonderful insight into humanity in different cultures, as well as the different political methods which are unique to each country.  Zombies in the book walk, and don't run, and are relentless in their assault (unlike the movie where they chase you down).  They are also mindless in that they can't open doors, undo seatbelts - they are just automatons without reasoning, logic or learning who just seek and bite.  Zombies freeze in the cold, so many people went to the snow, but they reanimate when the snows melt.   They also are found in the ocean, walking along the ocean floor and can pop up on beaches after walking for long distances.  It is the brain which has to be destroyed for the zombie to stop, for even dismemebered, they will still come at a victim.

One recount of an organ transplant causing a zombie to rise was interesting - no doubt because of the organ trafficking that comes from China.  Another account by the someone in Tibet smuggling people out of China and how families would take their infected out seeking a cure was also quite interesting - it showed how the infection broke out in other places.  Another account of the Americans using chemical warfare in attempt to kill the healthy AND the undead merely provided more hosts for zombies - disastrous!  The Jerusalem story was very similar to the movie (obviously in a culture that had been constantly attacked for genocide multiple times), and in India, a place where people would make a pilgrimage to die became a zombie hot zone because people kept going there to die and then becoming zombies.  Another interesting facet of human behaviour was seen in a Palestinian refugee who was heading to Jerusalem, being dragged their by his father, thought that the zombie infection was some kind of cover-up or ruse, and even when inside the safety of Jerusalem, when he saw Israeli's fighting other Israeli's, he thought that it was a civil war and actually rejoiced for a moment before he saw the zombies for himself.

I really enjoyed the book.  I never thought war recounts could be interesting, but in this war story it was fighting an enemy that was relentless and unstoppable, with no agenda except human decimation.  It also dealt with the aftermath and rebuilding of civilisation.  How useful professions such health, farming, construction, engineering became the cornerstones for rebuilding society - and other professions which we value so highly in the current era such as banking, finance, and information technology suddenly became redundant.  Even the psychological aspect was dealt with in a really interesting manner - people were dying from "giving up" or "lack of hope" and someone went out and made movies of stories of hope which reduced the number of those sorts of deaths.

But the scary thing is that this COULD become possible - if mother nature decided to make it that way.  There are a number of mind controlling mechanisms between other species in nature that sound quite terrifying if they occurred in vertebrates or humans (information taken from io9).

The wasp Hymenoepimecis argyraphaga preys on the spider Plesiometa argyra in an Alien-like manner.  The female wasp stings the spider to paralyse it then lays an egg in its abdomen.  When the larva hatches, it feeds upon its host and the spider continues to go about its business as if nothing is wrong.  After a few weeks, the larva releases a chemical to build a web totally different from its normal web - basically just threads bonded together and the spider sits there waiting to die.  When the larva emerges, it kills its host with poison and sucks it dry, and then makes a cocoon which hangs from the web and the wasp will eventually emerge.  That the parasite can emit chemicals that can control the host's mind... creepy!

The Cordyceps family of fungi are all endoparasitic on insects and spiders.  The Ophiocordyceps unilateralis fungus attacks ants of the Camponotus leonardi species.  Once infected, the ant is compelled to go away from the nest to an area with specific types of conditions for the fungus to grow - and then clamps down with its jaws to the leaf to die there.  The fungus consumes all the ants tissues (except the muscles for clamping down with its mandibles) fortifying it structurally and once the fungus is ready to reproduce, the fruiting bodies erupt from the ant's head.  These ants when infected are commonly known as "zombie ants".  You can see an example of Cordyceps attacking ants on BBC here.  The Last of Us, a FPS game about zombies, the zombie infection is based upon Cordyceps.

Destroying the reproductive capabilities of its host is another nasty way for parasites to work.  The female larvae of the barnacle Sacculina carcini seek out crabs as their host.  They attach to the underside of her shell, creating a bulge which eventually becomes a knot.  Tendrils are then spread inside the host to draw nutrients.  A male Sacculina comes along and implants inside the female barnacle, and they continually reproduce.  The crab is now infertile and its behaviour is also modified by them - it stops growing and moulting and even cares for the barnacles' eggs.  If the crab infected was a male, the barnacle sterilises it and then causes changes in the crab to make it more like a female crab's body by widening and flattening the abdomen.  It forces hormone changes in the crab so that it acts more like a female, and also takes care of the barnacle's eggs.

The article details a great number of other interesting parasitic mind controlling infections - if you're into that kind of thing, I recommend reading it.

So my mind has been turning over these things since I watched the movie and read the book.  What if this happened?  What if I was a survivor?  What are the REALLY important things in life?  How can I be make my life a more productive and useful one?  I wonder if everyone who read the book ended up thinking these things - maybe not - but it is a really good example of how decadent and self indulgent our society has become, and maybe a good war would bring us back to the values which truly define the human spirit.

A change of reading habit

Perhaps it's because I'm busy these days, and between work and parenting and gaming I just don't have time to read books like I used to.  However, there is one rather embarrassing thing that I HAVE noticed about my reading habits..

... and that is that I read a book AFTER I have watched a movie.

Take Harry Potter, though that was what started it all, I think.  I watched the first movie and then after that I read the books as they came out.  That was well before I had children though.

More recently, there was Stephanie Meyer's Twilight.  I read the books after I watched the first movie.  I actually quite enjoy the movies, and I liked the last one especially as Bella came into her abilities.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - I watched both versions of the movie and then I read all three books.  The Swedish version is very good, I thought.  Though Lisbeth was annoying towards the end, but it was still a good read, and a good watch.

The other day I saw my sister watching Beautiful Creatures, and I only saw the end.  I didn't know what it was about but she told me it was a book, so I read the book.  I read all the books, actually.  Another teenage romance with a supernatural.  It was not a BAD read, but it was a teenager's book, really.

Hunger Games was another that I read after I watched the movie.  I haven't even read the second book yet, but probably because the book did not engage me as much as I thought it would.  Weird, since it was so popular and I managed to read through Beautiful Creatures, so why can't I get through this teenage book?

The latest one was World War Z.  Zombie movies are generally not my thing, but I watched this one because I had heard good things about it.  Then when I was talking about it, a World of Warcraft guildmate told me that he refused to watch it because it was nothing like the book.  So I was curious, I read the book.  And it really was different.  So different that it has been on my mind for days, that I thought I would write about it in its own post.

I even have a reading list of books to read from the movies I've watched!

  • The Big Year.  I quite enjoyed the movie - it's about birding and competition, which is already something that interests me - so I would like to see how the book pans out.
  • We bought a Zoo is another one which was a cute movie, and I wonder how it reads as a book.
  • The Help - I really really enjoyed that movie.  My sister says it's a good book.

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Potty training your mouth

A gaming friend of mine was writing about how she was playing games late at night and her mouth just let loose with all sorts of language that she was glad her son couldn't hear.  It's funny because as a gaming parent, I have similar issues.

Swearing and cursing are things we don't want to teach our children, but they are things that they pick up when they're listening to you talking.

One funny time was when our family went out for lunch at Kitchen by Mike, in Rosebery.  Mike McEnearney is the force behind the menu, whom with Jeffery de Rome (both of whom worked at Rockpool in sydney as senior chefs) have come up with this concept of great food in a canteen type environment.  Rustic tables, cutlery in tin containers, a line-up and get served ordering system make it an interesting experience.   Unlike other canteens though, the prices are not cheap, but the food is really nice and it has a coffee section as well.  There is minimal table service so if you're looking for that - you're looking in the wrong place.

It's great for kids because they can just sit at the tables and you don't have to wait for food, you go get it yourself and pay for it and sit.  By lunchtime it's gets packed so get in early.  There is also room to sit outside.

I took some WoW friends to eat there once.  I'm not sure if the menu was not mainstream enough for them.  But they have cakes and desserts as well and the menu changes daily.

Anyway, back to the story.  So we had just had family lunch and we were walking back to the car.  My daughter kept stopping to tug at her leg and pants and scratching.

"What's wrong with you?"  I asked, looking down at her leg.
"Fuck my leg's itchy," she replied, as she tugged the pants down.  She just said the F word.  Just like that.
I was taken aback.  "What did you say?" I asked, calmly, thinking maybe I'd misheard her.
"I said fuck my leg's itchy," she replied.
I put on my nice calm and it's not-a-big-deal voice.  "Oh, you can't say that word E, it's a bad word."
"Which word?"
"Fuck.  It's a bad word.  You can't say that word.  I'm not going to say it again because it's a bad word."
"That's not a bad word.  Shit is a bad word," she replied.
Oh my god.  This was just getting better.
"Yes, that's a  bad word too.  But the F word is a bad word.  You can't ever say that or you will get in big trouble.  Ok?  Please don't say that word again."
"Ok, Mama," she replied.
I hugged her, so she knew she wouldn't be in trouble.  After all she must have heard us saying it.  Which made me wonder. "Where did you hear that word?  Who says it?  Did you hear Mama saying it?"
I know that I say that word a LOT but mostly at nighttime when the kids are asleep.  Anyone who hears me playing World of Warcraft especially in arenas and doing poorly in a raid will hear me drop a couple of bad words... well, maybe more than a couple.
"No, not Mama.  Dad says it."
Aha!  SPRUNG!  I admonished my husband for his use of swear words in front of the kids.  I mean, she even used it in appropriate type of context that you could hear in an everyday occurrence.  If you don't watch your mouth that is.

My daughter is well trained now.  She never says the bad words, but whenever she hears them, or she hears us saying them, she says "So-and-so said a naughty word!" and whoever says it apologises for saying it and tried really hard not to say it again.  Relatives, friends, are also suitably admonished and they contritely say sorry and try their best not to swear in front of my kids.

But your kids will hear these words at school, on TV, or read it on the internet.  I think it's important to let them know that it's NOT a good word, and try hard not to use it.  If we can exercise some restraint, then so the kids.  In fact, I am really impressed with the amount of restraint my daughter has, because she never says the words anymore.  If she can do it, why can't we?

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Coming to terms with the post-baby 30-something year old body and dressing it

People always talk about how your body is never the same after you have a baby.  Your boobs aren't the same - they end up like deflated balloons compared to the oomph you had whilst breastfeeding; your belly is jelly and covered in stretchmarks and scars (if you had a caesarean)... the worst of it is right after you stop breastfeeding and you look in the mirror and you feel so old and worn out.

However, nobody tells you that it slowly does come back.  Probably because a bit of weight gain comes back after breastfeeding ends, but the bra filled out again after about a year, but the muffin top wouldn't go (but I wasn't really trying very hard).

My wardrobe choices have now changed to reflect the change of times.  Underwear is a big thing now - preventing the muffin top is super important in trying to look good under dresses and figure hugging skirts!

The undies I love the best are the new comfy tops by Bonds.  No digging, they sit nicely and don't fall off (like some other undies do that don't give you VPL or muffin top from digging into your hips)

I ended up changing ALL my old undies to these because I love them so much!

And would you believe it, now I have to buy SPANX to smooth out all my wobbly bits - I have to say they do a great job smoothing out everything.  And you can wear them instead of undies as well!  However, they tend to dig in at the waist making an uncomfortable line there but the rest is quite good.  Sara Blakely, the founder and creator, was the youngest woman to join the Forbes Billionaire club.  And they are actually quite comfortable to wear, imagine that!

On the top, I can still wear my usual bras but I wear a lot more push-up bras than I used to.  But hey, all the models wear them, and they have fantastic figures already, so surely it wouldn't be bad if I did!

And talking about dressing your age...

When I was younger, I thought that 40 somethings couldn't get away with what 20 somethings wear.  But you know, 40 really is the new 30.  I'm not quite there yet (but I'm close) and I still wear the same things that I wore 10 years ago.  Perhaps even a little more outrageous than I used to.  I've turned into a bit of an Alannah Hill fan and her designs tend to be rather whimsical instead of mainstream.  For example, my favourite items by Alannah Hill:

It's Hard to Die Frock

My Pussy Bow Frock
Pray for her coat
None look very 40ish and all look a bit outrageous (but that's just what I like!)  Fashion is forgiving if you can carry it off :)

I wonder what other mums have to share about clothing that helps with the post baby body bulges!  Or how they dress to hide it.