Smelly penguins are a thing of the past

Here in the Cape, we’re lucky enough to have a couple of local colonies of the African Penguin (Spheniscus demersus) which one can pop along and visit, should one feel the need. Summer days are obviously nicest to spend in the sun, by the sea, getting up close and personal with these curious birds; with just one rather large drawback – the smell.

Penguins eat fish (which smells) and then they defaecate (which smells). It’s like smell². In short: penguins stink.

The penguins at Boulders Beach (so called because of the huge boulders there) and at Stony Point (so called because it’s all stony)* are a huge draw for the tourists, most of whom go home with a head full of wonderful memories, a camera full of wonderful photographs and a nose full of wonderfully fishy poo. Each time I go and visit Boulders, I am reminded of the need to do something about the dreadful whiff that greets me as I open the car door. And again when I arrive there.

But now I can, thanks to an offer from The Guardian in the UK. The UK isn’t known for its penguins, but there are, of course, several zoos and wildlife parks which have penguins in them. And I’m guessing that’s the market that The Guardian is trying to corner here, with the Penguin Steam Cleaner:

psc

They’ve even made it look a little bit penguinesque, so as not to frighten the birds on approach.

The Penguin Steam Cleaner features:

  • Continuous 1600 watt high-pressure (good for repeated penguin cleaning)
  • Steam exits at 105°C (bit warm, but penguins are well insulated)
  • Powerful jet nozzle, ideal for awkward spaces (beak, webbed feet, wingpits etc)
  • And it removes creased feathers. What more could you ask for?

    It’s expensive, but I reckon that the SanParks, who run Boulders, could get a better deal if they bought a job lot. After all – they have a whole load of penguins to clean.

    I will be pitching my idea to them later this week by getting one of these wonderful devices, “borrowing” a penguin and demonstrating the myriad of benefits a steam-cleaned penguin colony would bring to both their visitor numbers and their beleaguered olfactory systems.

    * I don’t make the rules.

    Panasonic Lumix DMC FZ28

    I’m feeling somewhat limited by my current camera, the 7.1MP point-and-shoot goodness that is a Sony DSC-W17 and I feel it’s time to move onward and upward and get something with a bit more power. Looking at the Flickr stats for the W17, it seems that I’m not alone in this. Following extensive research (of both cameras and bank balance), I have decided that while in the UK on the 2009 Kids in Tow Tour, I will be purchasing a Panasonic Lumix DMC FZ28.

    panasonic-fz28
    Coming soon to a cute blogger near you: The Panasonic Lumix DMC FZ28

    Now, before you trash my ideas and tell me that I could get a bigger zoom this and a better lens that, that I should be buying Canon or Nikon, Sony or Fuji, I’d like you to take a step back. Because there are certain limitations here. Namely my skill as a photographer and my wage packet as a scientist. What I’m trying to say is, it would be pointless to buy anything more fancy, even if I could afford it.

    And I’ve done my research. Plenty of it. I have been reading up on Brian Micklethwait’s thoughts for a long while now, although he appears to have about two limitations less than I have have described above. He is torn between Canon and Nikon, but the reviews of the Panasonic are excellent and this seems to be the camera to fit my needs, with a long extendy bit at the front (always nice), a button to press to take a photo and a little clip on either side to attach the strap to. All the boxes ticked.
    And check out that DC Vario-Elmarit 1:2.8-4.4/4.8-86.4 ASPH. Leica lens. Whatever that means. Glorious.

    The final clincher, however, was the name. Many hip-hop and rap artists from the 80s who have branched into photography went (obviously) with Kodak. But Joseph Simmons, Darryl McDaniels and Jason Mizell were always a little different, a little ahead of their time and they headed for Panasonic.
    What’s good for hip-hop is good for digital photography and the fact that it has taken them close on twenty years to bring this baby out tells me that it must be something special.

    Amazon.co.uk #fail

    I got my Dad two brilliant books for Father’s Day. He’ll love them, if amazon.co.uk and their “premium” courier company, ShittyLink, ever actually get around to delivering them.

    The story so far = two failed delivery attempts + a wasted day + a stinking email complaint + a grovelling reply.

    But still no books.

    Bring forth the sarcasm and the crying child: 

    Thanks for your last email. I was consoled. 

    Briefly. 

    However, my father has had to continually ring Citylink and (having stayed in all day as he said he would) has now found out that the parcel has been in Rotherham all day. Poor parcel. But that’s beside the point. 

    So – you (or rather your courier) didn’t manage to leave a note when they allegedly came to deliver the parcel on Saturday, didn’t fulfill their obligation to deliver after 10:30am on Monday and have failed to show up at all today despite my Dad wasting his entire day at home. 

    In summary, it’s not great, is it? 

    You know, I actually have no problem when things sometimes go awry. It happens to all of us from time to time. I used to work in a hospital lab and once almost killed a patient by mistake. (She got better). But when a company has one task – namely to courier goods from one place to another, not anything as taxing as therapeutic drug monitoring (which is really difficult and can easily go wrong) – and they mess it up time and time and time again, it annoys me. When they repeatedly waste the time and effort of their customers, that annoys me more. And when they claim to be offering this as a “premium service” – well, it’s just like some sort of sick joke, isn’t it?
    I want to laugh, but I can’t. I hurt too much.

    Truly, it probably doesn’t even matter when this order turns up now. You’ve ruined Father’s Day for my Dad; you’ve wasted an entire day of his life today and you’ve wasted his money in having to chase your “premium” courier company all over South Yorkshire on the phone. 

    My 3 year old son keeps asking why Granddad hasn’t said thank you for his books. I told him that the useless company I ordered them from couldn’t get their arses into gear to organise a simple delivery. He cried. Copiously.
    I reckon that’s basically a whole lifetime of potential orders you’ve lost – and who can blame him? 

    I look forward to hearing how you plan to sort this out.

    It’s raining here in Cape Town, I’m off to the rugby this evening and have plans for tomorrow as well, so I’d appreciate some sort of solution preferably within 48 minutes and not the 48 hours you promised in your last email. 

    Yours, in foolishly optimistic anticipation,

    6k.

    I’m actually really disappointed. I’ve only used amazon.co.uk three times over the past year or so and this is the second time that they’ve let me down. Suffice to say, it’s going to take a lot to get me to use them again.

    Tomorrow: my next letter to them, because the books blatantly aren’t going to arrive plus a report on what could be the muddiest game of rugby ever. It’s been raining HEAVILY for 24 hours all over Newlands. Handling errors deluxe.

    Is F1 legend Michael Schumacher really The Stig?

    Is F1 legend Michael Schumacher really The Stig?

    No.

    The importance of twitter explained

    A common complaint of Twitter users is the assumptions made about Twitter and Twitter users by non-Twitter users.

    Twitter does have many different uses depending on what you want to get out of it, whether it is organising get-togethers, discussing or seeking solutions to technical problems, sharing photos and news stories in real time, promoting your blog (apparently, anyway) or business. It isn’t just a little chat service for nerds and geeks. Although, of course, it can do that too if you want it to.

    So, before you step forward and slate what you don’t know or don’t understand, try looking at it using Brian Micklethwait’s criteria:

    I’ve said it many times before, but it will bear constant repetition. When some new technique of communication is invented or stumbled upon, you should not judge its impact by picking ten uses of it at random, averaging them all out, and saying: Well that’s a load of trivial crap, isn’t it?!? How will “I am just about to make another slice of toast” change the world? The question to ask is: Of all the thousands of uses already being made of this thing, which one is the most significant? And then: Well, is that very significant? If yes, at all, then forget about the toast nonsense.

    And the other thing to point out is that, even if you don’t care about some stranger being about to make some toast, there may well be some other strangers out there who do. For them, such twitterings may be very significant. What if the person about to toast suffers from suicidal depression, and his mere willingness to attempt any household task however trivial is a source of rejoicing to all his friends?

    But there will always be the haters: those who can’t or don’t want to understand. Simon Heffer of the Telegraph, for example:

    One very good reason why I would not join Facebook or Twitter is that I cannot imagine there is a soul anywhere on earth that I am not in touch with in any case who could care less what I am doing at any moment of the day. I cannot believe that anyone should want to spectate the ordinariness of my existence, for I certainly have no wish to spectate anyone else’s.

    But then again, Simon Heffer is described in this month’s British GQ as “a pasty faced Billy Bunter figure with a penchant for college ties”.
    David Cameron wrote of him, thus: 

    “The attitude that he personifies – hatred of the modern world – is not just part of the problem. It is the problem.”

    Of course, the simple rule for Simon and his type is: If you don’t like it, don’t do it. And stop whining. Yes, you’re going to hear about it in the newspapers and on the TV, but if it really bothers you that much, then skip those stories and read about the war in Afghanistan or the latest goings-on in the World T20.

    Or do you really consider yourself so very important that just because you don’t get it, the rest of us aren’t allowed to either?