Drunken monkeys and solar panels

I am a curious person. I’ve mentioned it before, this tendency to lose myself in the pursuit of interesting things. It becomes a bit like the proverbial rabbit hole as I follow some convoluted thread through not only my regular ‘haunts’ but also to new and inspiring sources that I inevitably add to my ‘follow’ list.

This week’s haul has been particularly rich in the ‘how interesting’ department so here are a few of the titbits I loved the most.

The smell before the storm

I love that smell just before a storm hits. It’s a really clean, slightly metallic smell that heralds the impending downpour. Well according to my regular dose of Mental Floss, that smell is caused by electrical charges that break down atoms which then reform into nitric oxide. This reacts with other chemicals in the atmosphere to create ozone which causes the ‘chlorine’ odour.

However, I question the chlorine claim. After all, I swim a couple of times a week and believe me, that pool smells like chlorine. Maybe a lifetime of swimming has made me less sensitized to ozone’s more fragrant charms. Or perhaps there’s something familiar and comforting being triggered in my brain. In any case, it was one more conundrum solved and led me to ponder whether more storms would help to fix the hole in the ozone layer.

The drunken monkey hypothesis

Flipboard is a great app that allows you to choose what types of articles you’d like to receive and I love dipping in and out during my commute. This week I found my way to a piece in Esquire that delved into the origins of alcohol consumption. It appears that this goes well beyond the human condition and was critical for our predecessors’ survival.

You see, while modern life finds us all looking for ways to reduce our caloric intake, our primate ancestors found feasting on over-ripe (and therefore fermenting) fruit an excellent way to get the energy needed to swing from tree to tree all day long. Add to that the need to survive by hunting and gathering enough to eat and you’ve got yourself the perfect excuse to booze all day, every day.

I wonder how much booze my fortnightly online grocery shopping would permit me. Not much I suspect.

The pyramid inside the mountain

Flipboard also led me to BBC Future piece on the ancient pyramid beneath a mountain – well, actually underneath a tiny hilltop church in Chohula in the Mexican highlands. The article reports that the pyramid is four times the size of the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt. I’ve been to Giza so I can only imagine how huge this one must be. Chohula was described by Cortez as “the most beautiful city outside Spain” and the BBC article reports that there are over 500 tunnels to be explored.

Mexico has been on my travel bucket list for some time but fell away as I started to read more about China and the Silk Roads cultures. However, an archaeologically-inspired visit would be an amazing thing to do. So much to do, so little time (and money).

*Sigh*

And last but not least…

The car that gives back

There’s been a lot in the press about self-driving cars and I had my first Tesla close up a couple of weeks ago at their showroom in a local shopping centre. While there was no test drive (or test no-drive as the case may be), I did think that the Model S was very nice indeed.

But Tesla are not just applying their energy breakthroughs in the automotive industry. Via this week’s Springwise newsletter, I learned that my very own hometown of Melbourne may have their first sustainable suburb in new development, YarraBend. Applying Tesla’s technology may mean energy reductions of up to 34% with the developers also suggesting significant decreases in water usage (43%) and landfill (80%).

Before I moved to London in 2004, I read about an initiative to place solar panels on the roof of Melbourne’s Victoria Market in an effort to power the surrounding suburbs. I felt a little swell of Aussie pride that Melbourne continues to champion ways to address some of our critical climactic challenges.

So there you have it – my top four commuting gems from this week. It’s certainly been a rich vein so I hope you found something here to pique your curiosity.

Making life interesting

If you are a regular Gidday-er you’ll know that I’m the curious sort and love to explore. Lucky for me, this also spills into my career (I work in marketing and innovation for a global packaging company) where I have the remit to seek out, to question and to fill the virtual bucket in my head with new ideas. This can appear quite convoluted to those who have a more linear approach to information gathering and problem solving but I’m known for being able to let all of the stuff in my head ‘percolate’ to come up with new proposals and approaches…and sometimes even new problems!

My colleagues tease me for my [over?] use of the word interesting but I love it. And I’m always on the lookout for the new, the unusual, the fun and the fascinating so I thought I’d share three things with you that got me a bit excited this week.

Making life fun

A partnership between Hungarian Telecom, Isobar and the Budapest Festival Orchestra has brought music to the street – literally. Find one of their interactive posters and with a wave of your smartphone, you too can become the maestro and conduct the orchestra. Did I hear you say, ‘Wow’? Then click here to find out more.

Now wouldn’t that make getting from A to B a whole lot more fun? You could be like a flash mob…of one.

Making life safe(r)

Every day my commute to the office takes me beneath the towering clock face of Big Ben and past the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey. In the morning, we are all commuters, moving as one across the busy streets with smartphones in hand. In the afternoon, London’s many tourists have well and truly emerged to saunter all over the pavement, their heads swiveling and their eyes skywards, posing for selfie after selfie. As they absorb all of the magnificence around them, they are completely oblivious to anything else…including the traffic. Let me tell you I’ve seen a few near misses standing on the corner of Bridge Street and Parliament Square waiting to cross the road.

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Waiting to cross Bridge Street to Westminster Underground Station

This week Springwise.com reported that a new approach to pedestrian protection is being pioneered by Augsburg in Germany – traffic lights embedded into the road at tram stops. This means that all of the digital natives and the millennials – as well as those of us who are trying to keep up with the young, hip and cool – can monitor the red-green-amber of the situation without glancing away from the screen. ‘How interesting’, I hear you say – you can read more here.

Making life interesting

And finally, you might remember that in my February round-up, I mentioned attending a live stream of the opening session of this year’s TED conference. My favourite talk of the night was by Riccardo Sabatini about his passion for understanding the human genome and the power for personalised medicine that this represents. I was absolutely transfixed and since then, I have been waxing lyrical (or boring people senseless with my excited wittering) about this talk to pretty much anyone who’ll listen.

Well this week I am delighted to say that this talk has been made available on the TEDtalks website…just step this way peeps. If you want to be fascinated by what it really is that makes us human, you must click here.

So there you have it – my wows from the week just gone and I’d love to hear whether you’ve found a little spark of interesting in your week.

After all, I am the curious sort…

The Art Of Giving…


That’s right peeps. Just 4 days to go. And I’ll bet there are a few of you who are feeling a little stressed by your unfinished Christmas shopping. 

Having to post mine overseas means that I cannot rely on a Christmas week dash around the shops but I admit that things did get a bit ‘skinny’ this year. The most difficult part is to find interesting yet post-friendly gifts – and I get so delighted when I find the perfect thing – so each year there’s a bit of hunting around and inspired choosing to avoid sending yet more scarves, jewellery or gadgets. And in my shopping sorties this year, I’ve seen some corkers.

For the green thumb…

 


Edens Paper‘s plant-able wrapping paper has seeds embedded into the paper. Rip off your carrots, stick ‘them’ in the soil, water and watch them grow. In onion, tomato, chilli, broccoli and of course carrot, one sheet will set you back $9.95 or buy a mixed pack containing one of each for $39.95.

For the geographically challenged…


This fabulous 120 piece jigsaw puzzle from Ding Studio features all of London’s postcode districts. If you fancy yourself a true local and think you know your way about, set yourself a challenge by completing it without looking at the picture. It’s available from The National Gallery shop for £15.

For the young…


I’m led to believe that one of the many frustrations of having healthy, growing kids is just that – they grow out of everything! Go Plae has come up with a way of letting you customise shoes for your little ones to allow for their growing feet. There’s even a variety pack of decorative bands so that young fashionistas can style for every outfit. Only available in stores stateside but you can order on-line at http://www.goplae.com/

For the young at heart…


Remember pinball machines? In my teens I could make a dollar’s worth of 20 cent pieces last a really long time waiting for Mum to finish work at our local tenpin bowling centre. Then ‘pinnies’ got complex and expensive, I got interested in other things and now when I venture back, it’s all over in an instant. But with this Duo Pinball Controller I might be able to get in a bit of practice and see off all those young things. Available for £11.99 at 
http://www.iwantoneofthose.com.

For the nostalgic just plain weird…


This one fascinates and disturbs me in turns. To keep those who’ve passed on close by, this service from And Vinyly will press their ashes into a vinyl record. You get to choose the soundtrack (24mins – 12mins each side) and then share your revolutionary memorial with up to 30 recipients. The basic package (for 30 discs) will cost you £3,000. *gulp* I am tempted to say something tacky about turning in their grave…

And speaking of corkers, for the aspiring sommelier…

…oh hang on, that’s my Naked Wines delivery. Happy Christmas to me!

Remember there’s only 4 sleeps to go but there’s still plenty of time…just.

If you get your skates on…

Turning Japanese…

As things settle back into a normal rhythm here at Gidday HQ, I’m finding some head space to register the curiosities that I come across in my going about in the world each day. This week has seen me ooh-ing at 3D printed food and aah-ing at spray on clothes but the one that really got me going was an injection of fun in the place where I least expected it.

With the amount of travelling I do, one of the biggest bugbears is the wait for luggage (alongside the wait in the immigration queue). Luckily I can get away with carry-on for most trips but when I think of the number of times I have strained to see – amid the proliferation of black – my trusty grey and green suitcase emerge onto the carousel, my delight upon spotting it trundling towards me is often too long coming.

It would seem that the Japanese have understood such a plight and have decided to make the wait more enjoyable by introducing some local character to the baggage hall – literally. 

In Tottori Airport, Medama no Ovaji – the ‘eyeball’ father from famous manga series Kitaro (of the) Graveyard – rides around and around the carousel, welcoming waiting travellers with open arms. 

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Image source: http://en.rocketnews24.com

Now this would really jerk me out of my post-travel stupor. And after wondering whether jetlag had finally done a huge number on me, I imagine I would rub my eyes, search frantically for my phone and upload a quick disbelieving pic to my Facebook circle.

But what’s really great about this scheme is that each airport gets to choose its own theme and so is able to promote its own particular city or region.

Toyama’s Kitokito Airport promotes the area’s fresh seafood…

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Image source: http://en.rocketnews24.com

Okayama takes its inspiration from the local tale of Momotaro who’s said to be born from a peach…

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Image source: http://en.rocketnews24.com

And the loquats (or mikan oranges) at Nagasaki airport stand testament to the region’s proud claim as Japan’s #1 producer.

Image source: http://en.rocketnews24.com

And it’s not just at the airport where the Japanese apply their quirky brand of fun. 

In an effort to inspire children’s interest in the big wide world out there, you can buy a tour through Unagi Travel for your child’s toy(s). Said teddies are sent off for 2-3 weeks to tour a region of Japan, keeping those ‘at home’ updated with Facebook posts, photos and even a postcard before returning home with a bunch of photos on CD and even a video of their grand tour. 


What a great idea. I wonder whether Alfie Bear would be up for a tour? 



Huh? What do you mean it’s only for children…

ps…and in being reminded of Alfie Bear’s first festive foray, I was then reminded to let you know that yes peeps, I counted today and there are 38 sleeps to go until Christmas (37 if you are about to wake up Down Under). Gulp…

Hello? I’m All Ears…

With the Australian Labour Party electing yet another leader this week (they’re a fickle bunch), it would appear that the powers that be are still trying to get the measure of public opinion Down Under.

But perhaps they could learn a thing or two from the South Korean city of Seoul.

In an effort to encourage communication between the elected and the electorate, Seoul City Council has installed Yobosayo, a giant ear, outside City Hall.

Photo credit: www.lifethings.in

Passers-by can bend this particular ear simply by leaning in and airing their views…

Photo credit: www.lifethings.in

…which are transmitted by microphones inside the ear and broadcast through loudspeakers inside City Hall for all and sundry to hear.


Yobosayo means hello? in Korean and it rather tickled my fancy to think that as each person leant into the ‘trumpet’, they would utter this self-conscious salutation before embarking on their particular litany. Think about how often this is our ‘greeting’: to the unknown caller, a potentially unoccupied room and even an obscure fact.

Anyway it rather amused me to think of all of those important councillors being ear-bashed by hundreds of hellos each day.


And speaking of hellos, there’s a rather big hello in the offing here with only two sleeps to go until Lil Chicky gets her big gidday hug in the Arrivals Hall at Heathrow Airport from yours truly.

I’m so excited – I do love Arrivals

A Spring In Your Step…

I spent a couple of happy hours on the back patio at Gidday HQ today catching up on a whole lot of reading while enjoying the gentle bursts of afternoon sunshine. These are often the days when I am inspired to post about a particular item I’ve read or a germ of an idea that’s been running around in my head for a while forms itself into a narrative and ends up here. I enjoy trawling through it all, a journey through different minds and viewpoints from mine.

Today several themes captured my attention but they have all been washed aside by a rather inspiring idea I’ve found on Springwise.com. Atlas may have held the world on his shoulders but Ministry of Supply’s ATLAS socks may just lay the world at your feet.

Ministry of Supply (MOS) has developed a rather awesome technology that they embed into their clothing to help manage body heat and the latest addition to their range is ATLAS, socks that are designed to banish foot odour for good. Using a start-up crowd-sourced funding website called Kickstarter, MOS raised over USD200,000 to fund the project by rewarding investors who paid in USD28 with a couple of pairs of the product itself. Nothing like building your fan base as you finance I say.

But it’s not just a clever combination of ventilation and moisture wicking that has one’s feet smelling of roses but an everyday boost of another kind.

Coffee.



Image source: www.springwise com


You know how putting a bowl of coffee beans in the fridge will dispense with all of those ‘funky’ odours? Well the same principle is applied here. MOS infuses carbonised coffee – salvaged from restaurants and cafes – into the sock fibres and voila! Fresh feet are all yours…all day.

Talk about putting a spring in your step!

London Lullaby…

This week has been an absolute treasure trove of fascinating finds.

It started out with my foray into John Lanchester’s Big Fat London Novel, Capital on Monday night.

Friday night I went off to The Lost Lectures, an evening of enchanting topics for enquiring minds in a ‘secret’ London location.

And mid-week I was checking out my daily fix of clever clogs-ness on Springwise when I came across a rather beautiful and inspiring idea.

Great Ormand Street Hospital (GOSH) is a children’s hopsital in London which is famous for its innovative research and forward-thinking practices in child healthcare. As part of a redevelopment project, it has had the exterior pipework on a section of their building repurposed to create a Lullaby Factory, a series of horns and tubes which play sounds to soothe the young patients recovering from illness.

Image Source: www.studioweave.com

StudioWeave created the intricate piece by adorning the existing pipework with horns of all shapes and sizes which can only be seen from inside the hospital. The ‘music’ was composed by sound engineer Jessica Curry and can be listened to on the Lullaby Factory radio station or through special listening tubes. Between them they have fashioned a kind of industrial lullaby.

In 1929 Great Ormand Street Hospital received the rights to J. M. Barrie’s work Peter Pan – the royalties from this continue to help fund the work of this amazing hospital. So it seems fitting that they continue to create a little Neverland-style magic for the children of London.

Smooth….

Jeans have long been deemed a modern nod to corsetry. Many a girl has pummelled, poured and squeezed herself into denim for the sake of a flat tum and a pert bum and aside from ‘magic underwear’, jeans have continued to shape our fashion sense since their first appearance in 1873.

And just when I thought jeans could not give any more, Wrangler has come up with a beauty.

Denimspa is a range of moisturising jeans that can also help in the battle against cellulite.

The cloth fibres in each pair are impregnated with microcapsules which burst as the wearer slides them on. The moisturiser lasts five days before the jeans need to be topped up with a spray. There are three versions available: Aloe Vera, Olive Extract and my favourite, Smooth Legs which contain caffeine, retinol and algae extract to help fight cellulite.

Unfortunately they only come in Skinny Fit…and pear-shaped girls plus skinny jeans do not a match in Heaven make.

For those of you Skinnies afficionados, you can buy your Denimspa strides here.

And for those of you who do not aspire can’t be bothered with ‘skinny’ stuff, this piece of cute and gastronomic inspiration appeared on my Facebook feed this week…

Mmmmmm….now that’s my kind of smooth…

Commuting Gems…Word Play

I am a great advocate of anything that encourages people to read. I believe that the ‘written’ word has an extraordinary ability to create new worlds and bring imaginations to life. And I think life (and my commute) has a little less magic and colour without them.

This week I found two inspired ideas that are putting a new and modern spin on word play.

The first is BiblioTech, a bookless public library system. Conceived by a County Court Judge and book lover who saw ‘the writing on the wall’ for his papery passions, the library was inspired by the Apple Store experience and will be for visitors to loan e-books and, if needed, an e-reader. The aim is to have at least 10,000 titles available upon opening.

Image source: www.springwise.com

Me ‘n’ Audrey would be in our element!

The second is WonderbooksTM, a clever combination of wordsmithery and game play which encourages gamers to interact with the world of books, and more specifically, Miranda Goshawk’s Book of SpellsTM. Using augmented reality technology, ‘readers’ can experience thousands of different tales as they zoom through the halls of Hogwarts, words leaping from the page as they create their very own individual journeys.

Image source www.zavvi.com

I may never get off the train!

Speaking of journeys, I’m currently reading a fantastic book about the London Underground, delving into the origins of each of the 268 stations on the network (which incidentally took Andi James and Steve Wilson 16 hours 29 minutes and 13 seconds to visit – yes all of them – in 2011’s Tube Challenge).

Quite frankly, I’d rather read the book – did I mention it’s fabulous?

Tis The Season…O Christmas Tree

I’ll be away over Christmas/New Year so there is a notable absence of Christmas regalia at Gidday HQ this year.

No festive Christmas wreath at the door, no flickering Christmas candles and no Christmas tree.

That’s right. Gidday HQ is tree-free.

Which means I’ve had to find my foilage fun elsewhere. And in my kicking up the leaves, I’ve found something both inspired and eco-friendly.

Eco landscaping company, Green Rabbit, have come up with a scheme which offers the Viennese a Nordmann fir (sustainably grown of course) for free. They then collect your Living Christmas Tree after the big day and replant it elsewhere but if you want to keep this tree and plant it yourself, you pay and Green Rabbit will supply a booklet to help you care for your tree.

What a great idea…what a shame that it’s only available in Austria.

I’ll just have to stick with the version the Pelangi Beach Resort, Langkawi has provided.

O Christmas tree O Christmas tree, only 9 sleeps to go…