JustClik News and Blogs

Views, news and features about the Goulburn Valley. Showcasing a variety of local writers and their views.

From Wartime Cairo to Mainstream Cool

THE CLARK SHOE COMPANY BOARD THOUGHT "DESERT BOOTS" WOULD NEVER SELL AND RIDICULED THE SHOE CONCEPT AS "BROTHEL CREEPERS."

While stationed in Burma in 1949, British Army officer Nathan Clark noticed many off-duty officers wearing simple suede boots with plantation rubber crepe soles.

This was his inspiration for the "Desert Boot". Clark learned the boots had come from a bazaar in Cairo. The officers, looking for a comfortable option that could survive the harsh desert conditions had them specially made by locals.

Clark began cutting prototype patterns out of newspapers. He sent the clipping along with drawings back home to the village of Street, in Somerset. He was convinced a version of this boot could be a new signature model for his family's shoe business.

Ironically, the shoemaker's board had  determined the shoe "Would never sell."  (in those days, men's suede shoes were commonly ridiculed as ''brothel creepers''). Undeterred Clark persevered.

On his return to England, Clark sourced the finest materials and shoemakers to transform his idea into reality. Using an existing last from a popular Clarks sandal, he began to experiment. He incorporated the stitch-down construction used in other Clarks styles but used an orange thread to further distinguish the boot. Additionally, at a time when most men’s shoes were made from stiff, formal leather, Nathan opted for beige suede from the nearby tannery, Charles F. Stead. The colour of the suede closely resembled sand – subtly referencing the boot’s desert origins.

One year, 1949, after its debut at the Chicago shoe fair, the Clark's Desert Boot, designed by Nathan Clark went on sale.

It took another 15 years for the boots to make it to Europe. Clark recalled with satisfaction seeing television footage of Paris student unrest in 1968 ''where the students manning the barricades were all wearing Desert Boots''.

The simple design of the Clarks Desert Boot - with plantation rubber crepe soles and just two eyelets for laces - has remained virtually unchanged. Since the 1960s, when they became mainstream fashion wear, they have been a perennial favourite. More than 12 million pairs have been sold worldwide.

The spread of the shoe was dramatic. In coming years, it became a cornerstone of everything from teddy boy pomp and Euro-chic to 60s flamboyance (Mods), Cool Britannia and 21st-century swagger.

Across the world, revolutionaries, artists and original thinkers adopted the Desert Boot as part of their style uniform. The simple silhouette became legend.

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Hendrix once lived (next to) the Spirit of a Classical Genius

During a sojourn in the streets of London, I discovered that Jimi Hendrix once lived next door to the former home of classical genius Handel.

Hendrix was so taken by the story that he started listening to Handel's music.

After discovering his long departed musical neighbour, Jimi went out to buy the full set of Handel’s work on vinyl (his favourite record shops being the One Stop Music Shop on South Molton Street, and Oxford Street’s HMV) and according to some musical experts, it is possible to spot Handel-like influences in Hendrix’s work…

One story I heard was that Hendrix's girlfriend had opened to door to knocking and was asked by the visitors "Is this the home of the famous musician." Of course, she said "Yes!" What they were really seeking was the former home of Handel.

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A Voice in the Wilderness

A Voice in the Wilderness

In the tradition of the great Charles Dickens, I present to you a tale of two television shows.
 
I'm watching The Voice Australia season 5, and although I am well versed in the ways of modern television vis-a-vis self promotion and cross promotion, I still find it irritating to have to endure the 'coming up after the break' previews, and the 'before the break' reviews. At the beginning of the show, there's a recap and a preview and then a review and a preview at the end of the show. It's hugely repetitive, and for people like me who watch it all rather than dipping in and out, it's maddening. In my opinion, it minimizes a lot of the potential drama, and diminishes interest and excitement.
 
Classic case this week. All the advertising for the upcoming blind auditions on The Voice featured a dramatic moment when a singer collapsed on stage. Every single promo, both during the program and between episodes, showed her falling down. I had seen her fall down 47 times before I actually saw her full audition. There was no shock or surprise, no drama at all really. Had I seen it not knowing what was coming I would have been stunned, as were the coaches and the live audience, but I was only relieved that I would not have to see it anymore. Not for a while anyway.
 
I was reminded of a time I was watching The Footy Show (NRL). They held an arm wrestling competition which featured some current and ex players. Ben Ross and Wendell Sailor met in the final, and during the struggle, on live television, Sailor broke Ross's arm. The audience fell silent, horrified, as were the show's hosts and the television audience. Producers quickly cut to a break. I could not believe my eyes.
 
No one knew that was going to happen. It was an incredible and horrific moment. I've seen the accident a number of times since, and each time it has less impact, as was the situation with the Iranian singer who collapsed. I was ready for it, and she was perfectly fine not long after her fall, which I knew was the case as well because if she wasn't, we would have heard about it. The event was pre-recorded and as I said, I had seen her crumple on to the stage 47 times already.
 
I think the way shows like The Voice is produced and presented to us as viewers, as consumers, says something quite poignant about us as people. What do you think?

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It's Just Not Cricket Old Bean

It's Just Not Cricket Old Bean

A Scottish friend recently reminded me of a time and a place I enjoyed while playing tourist.  In my company was Joomla founder Johan Janssens and Rochen founder Christopher Adams.

Our group had ventured to Saltaire, a World Heritage site, famous for its socialistic roots created by Sir Titus Salt.  Salt had built a massive linen business with two huge knitting mills.  He built a town around the enterprise.  Workers were all given a house in which to live, schools were built, and sporting facilities added.

A tea-totaller, no pubs were built.  The nearest pub was high up on the vale of the valley.  The owner of that pub built an inclinator to make the trip comfortable for Saltaire types, much to Sir Titus' chagrin.  At it's peak it was the busiest cable car in Europe.

In town, there are two lions made of sandstone.  The story goes that they had been the original blanks made out of sandstone and meant to be bronzed for Picadilly Circus.  But the lions were rejected because they had all their "tackle" in place.  Not the kind of thing that was considered appropriate in Victorian times.  Salt bought them from the London designers at a bargain price.

We took Johan and Chris to see the locals playing cricket.  The "funny" rules of cricket were explained:

You have two sides, one out in the field and one in.

Each man that’s in the side that’s in goes out, and when he’s out he comes in and the next man goes in until he’s out.

When they are all out, the side that’s out comes in, and the side that’s been in goes out and tries to get those coming in, out.

Sometimes you get men still in and not out.

When a man goes out to go in, the men who are out trying to get him out, and when he is out he goes in and the next man in goes out and goes in.

There are two men called umpires who stay out all the time and they decide when the men who are in are out.

When both sides have been in, and all the men have out, and both sides have been out twice after all the men have been in, including those who are not out, that is the end of the game!

Something Johan will never forget.  The look on his face — priceless!

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Ruffy Produce Store — Yum!

Ruffy Produce Store — Yum!

The produce store is primarily a laid back eatery. Pretty plain vanilla but a hoot. The menu is simple but the food good. Wait staff are also a hoot, especially the visiting Italian. A little on the chaotic side (the bill included three glasses of wine instead of three bottles) but a fun evening. Next day we returned and had a light lunch under the trees outside.

A great day trip from Shepparton, taking a little over 1 hour to drive.  The most direct route is via Longwood and the easiest is through Euroa and down the freeway.

Definitely a tour worth taking. Don't foget to book.

More information: JustClik here.

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How Bitterness Can Haunt!

How Bitterness Can Haunt!

“Walking to the kitchen, I see Angus lurking in the darkness, floating, hovering like a ghost. I feel cold. I open the fridge and stare into the bright light without seeing anything. I’m not hungry. My appetite has been AWOL since Angus left.

I occasionally eat, albeit absently and in mouthfuls rather than meals. Now and then I become ravenous and eat greedily, but it makes me feel sick, and I have often had to vomit up the meal soon after consuming it. I know I’m shedding weight rapidly, but I am afraid to jump on the scales to measure my decline. I don’t need hard evidence.
 
Angus is a wraith who will haunt me to my grave.”
 
Lovesick chapter 32
 
Forgiveness can be difficult, but it is possible. It happens. People let go and free themselves of the burden of bitterness. However, forgetting is virtually impossible. Certain memories of people, places and events do not fade with time, no matter how much we wish they would. Sometimes, we are haunted because we cannot, perhaps do not want to, let go.

On other occasions, we may be victims of those who do not wish to let us go.
 
The word haunt is also used to refer to a lingering regret which follows us through life. I wish I had have done this or that. I wish I had not done that. If only…
 
In most cases we cannot change what we have done: the past inscribed in stone, bears witness to history and its offspring. We have to find some way to make peace with ourselves about the wrong things we have done, and the bad choices we have made. For some people this is easy; for others perhaps not so. The latter may be doomed to a stained, spoiled future.
 
Let go, my friends. Let go, and your ghosts will vanish into the ethereal mist form which they emerged.
 
Have you ever been haunted? Are you haunted?

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A Proper Kid!

A Proper Kid!

This is my mature me self-reflecting on the how things must be difficult for children and teens today — to be proper kids.

Maybe it's peer pressure? Certainly some of the challenges kids face are directly related to media focus on fame. What does Johnny want to be? These days it is common to hear a response such as I want to be famous. The traditional doctor, soldier, fireman, teacher, even astronaut answers can be lacking.

Rewind 40 years. I was playing footy in the streets in the Winter until dusk. When it was dark, it was time for dinner. In the Summer, we played cricket in the streets. And when we weren't playing sports we'd adventure into the local orchards and channels. Yabbying, swimming and just enjoying each other's company.

We kept safe; we looked after each other. Sure we were testing limits at times, but that is part of growing up.

We even built a clubhouse with a skull and crossbones flag, marked with letters G.R.O.G (Get Rid of Girls). Think "The Goonies" and you have the picture of my childhood.

These days it's a rarity to see kids playing in the streets. Digital screens seem to soak up a lot of their time. Smartphones, iPads, computers are all useful things — but seriously; some moderation, please.

Then there's the consumerism. A lot of kids, particularly teens, get sucked into the fairy floss of brands. I know teens who will not be seen dead in something from Target or Woolworths. It has to be a brand like Nike or Adidas.

No hand-me-downs, no St Vincent de Paul seconds and definitely no High street brands.

In my time, a pair of new Levis jeans, complete with zippered fob pocket was worthy of "show and tell."

Sadly, I'm beginning to paint a picture of "plastic" kids whose connection to the outdoor world is limited. This disconnect I believe is a dangerous thing. Yes I'm generalising and there are still the exceptions but most of the today's generation are soft.

My teen years were pretty straightforward too. Going to the record shop or the movie theatre was a real treat. Sport still kept me entertained when I wasn't studying. The structure and its simplicity to this day holds me in good stead.

Geelong Grammar has long had a school policy of encouraging some old-fashioned discipline in Year 9. Arriving at Timbertop, in the wilds near Mansfield, the teens are stripped of all technology and find themselves in a "sink or swim" environment. Chop their wood, cook their meals, clean up after themselves. Loads of extracurricular activities like bushcraft and survival skills. In a way, like a para-military style of training of our youth.

Talk to any ex-grammar student and they will say "Timbertop" was the best year. Kids need discipline and structure, they often just don't understand it's good for them.

Not every family can afford an "outward bound" style experience, but there are ways to encourage kids and teens to get outdoors. Sports and recreation in the fresh air are affordable ways to supplement their modern inclinations.

Volunteering is a good way for young people to learn from adults. I was fortunate enough to be in the company of a proper kid and his mum on the weekend. Without complaint, he spent the day helping his mum in a fundraising activity. He was like a sponge, soaking up as much as he could from the events and people around him.

A proper kid who is lucky enough to have a strong, good mum.

 

 


A

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That's Amore

That's Amore

“I am in love and there is nothing in all the world which produces as much suffering as love. Hate or even indifference do not inflict as much damage to the heart as love. For to love is to expose one’s soul to penetration by the fiery arrows of betrayal, of deceit, of disappointment. To love is to make oneself vulnerable. Love can weaken and diminish a man as readily as it can strengthen him. The stampeding herd of my emotions which has left me crumpled and useless on the ground is of infinite number, and cannot end its rampage until I close my heart. I refuse to concede.”
-          from the prologue to Lovesick
 
One of my fondest memories of the wonderful Dean Martin/Jerry Lewis partnership is them singing That’s Amore. When the world seems to shine like you’ve had too much wine…that’s amore. Amore is the Italian word for love, but what is love? Surely it is more than the feeling you have when the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie. Love has been the subject of more songs, poems and stories than any other, and is impossible to define simply. There are different kinds of love, and they usually operate together to varying degrees; sometimes seemingly inextricable from one another.


 
What Martin was singing about was the rush of warm fuzziness which characterises being in love. This intensely nice feeling overwhelms those who are in love, and colours their world in happy, hopeful shades. In Lovesick, Angus is afflicted with lovesickness, an obsession which drives him to extreme misbehaviour.
 
Have you ever been in love? What was the major symptom of your lovesickness?

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Writing Content for Search Engines (Part 1)

Writing Content for Search Engines (Part 1)

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is as important today as ever. Perhaps even more so when writing your website content. Best practices haven't changed that much, but content marketing has changed dramatically.

Today, though, link building via content is a tactic for most SEOs and understanding the relationship between content and linking and how content can impact your search presence, are the first steps in incorporating SEO best practices into your content marketing.

Five Tips for good content marketing SEO

1.   Choose the right keywords

Once upon a time, choosing a single keyword and shoehorning it into a single page multiple times was an acceptable optimisation strategy (so long as you didn’t ask Google, anyway). Hopefully you don’t need me to tell you that things have changed.

Attaching a single keyword to a single page does not work, primarily because search engines don’t assign a single keyword to a single page – and they haven’t for a long time. Ever since search engines introduced latent semantic indexing – a process which assesses the frequency of a term and its relation to other words on the page – they’ve been pretty smart about establishing the overriding themes of a page, and consequently, the keywords for which a page should rank.

This means that in a page about Corvettes, search engines might also expect to see words like “Chevrolet”, “General Motors”, “convertible” and “Sting Ray”. It also enables search engines to distinguish between distinct topics with the same name (i.e. “apple” a fruit, and “Apple” the technology company). The concept is much simpler than its name implies.

Consequently, when performing keyword research (for content marketing purposes), you shouldn’t be looking to pinpoint just one or two top-tier phrases – you should try to identify a wealth of terms and phrases that relate to the key theme or themes of your content.

You might argue that this will come naturally when writing the content and, to an extent, you’d be right. However, you can (and probably will) uncover phrases and terms you would never have thought to include by taking the time to research what people are searching for and what phrases competing pages are using. This can make an enormous difference to the relevancy of the finished product and the search visibility it enjoys.

As with all keyword research, Google’s Keyword Planner is a pretty solid place to start. However, tools like KeywordDiscovery.com (paid), Answer The Public (free), and SEO Compare (also free) can help to guide your content by providing further, invaluable insights into search behavior.

Tools:
https://adwords.google.com/KeywordPlanner
http://answerthepublic.com/
http://www.internetmarketingninjas.com/seo-tools/seo-compare/


2.   Go mobile

In April last year, Google began to roll out its mobile-friendly update. This update was designed to give a boost to mobile-friendly pages in Google’s search results (and consequently, cause pages that are not mobile-friendly to drop).

The impact of “mobilegeddon” has been variable. This is no surprise – its effect will be largely determined by the competition. If for instance, your site isn’t mobile-friendly, but neither are any of your competitors’ pages, it makes sense that you’d see very little change in rankings or traffic (as a result of the update).

That said, even if you’ve seen no real change in rankings or traffic to date, don’t assume your site is future proof. If you don’t already have a mobile-friendly site (and if you’re not sure whether your site is mobile-friendly you can find out here), start developing one ASAP.

Don’t forget about your blog when designing a mobile-friendly site either; you’re unlikely to see an ROI on your content marketing if people aren’t finding and consuming your content – something increasingly few people will do if your mobile UX sucks.

Tools:
https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/

3.   Remember the on-page basics

As mentioned above, on-page SEO is (at least) as important today as it’s ever been. However it’s not just something you need to consider when crafting category or product pages – it’s a fundamental factor in content optimisation too.

Thankfully, if you know how to optimise a product or category page, you know how to optimise the content you use for marketing.

Title tags – Title tags form part of the

section of your HTML. They can help increase click-through-rates and are also used by search engines to establish the themes and content of a page.

If possible, your title tags should include a keyword or two – but only if it makes sense (never force it).

Standard practice for title tags for content marketing is to include the title of the content, followed by your brand name.

If you’ve followed SEO best practices and considered keywords and search user intent while crafting your content titles, including a keyword here should happen naturally.

Meta descriptions – – Another element of the <head> section, meta descriptions aren’t (we’re told) a ranking factor, which means that optimising them is not, in the strictest sense, an SEO tactic. However, when we talk about on page optimisation, meta descriptions will almost always come up.

While they won’t (again, we’re told) have a direct affect on your search presence, they do affect your click-through-rates. You can help to draw attention to your site (and content) in the search results by crafting the perfect meta description.

H1 tag: Unsurprisingly, the H1 also sits inside the <head> of the page. In most cases, your H1 will simply be the title of your content (or if we were talking about a product or category page, the name of the category or product).

Further reading:
https://searchenginewatch.com/sew/how-to/2154469/write-title-tags-search-engine-optimization
http://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/how-to-write-meta-description-ht

4.   Optimise your images

As smart as Google is (pretty smart), its algorithms aren’t psychic. Google can’t understand the content of a picture unless you explain it to them. Unfortunately, optimising your images probably won’t help your content to rank better in the organic search results. It will, however, affect where your images appear in image search.

This means that correctly optimising your images can help drive traffic to your site (and your content), making image optimization a critical element of SEO for content marketing. The essential elements of optimising your images for SEO are…

Image/file name: Use descriptive names for your image files. So, for an image of a red bull can, instead of something like 567314.jpg, name the image red-bull-can.jpg.

Alt tag: Most people know that alt tags are a crucial component of image optimisation, yet a lot of people still use them incorrectly. Alt tags should not be the same as their file name, nor should they be a list of keywords.

The easiest way to envision how to write an alt tag is to think how you would describe the image to someone who couldn’t see it. For example, the alt tag for this image…

…might be “Joe Blogs looks happy and scared, shortly after jumping out of a plane” (FYI it’s 10% fear, 90% happiness!).

Title: The image title is what appears when someone hovers over an image. How much (if any) SEO benefit it has is up for debate, however, for the time it takes to assign an image a title; I’d encourage you to use it.

Read more: https://moz.com/blog/the-broken-link-building-bible

5.   Promote your content for links

If anyone’s ever told you that links don’t matter anymore, please, for the love of SEO, ignore them (and any SEO “advice” they try to offer you in future).

Here’s the long and short of it: links do matter. Maybe not as much as they did ten years ago – as search algorithms advance, they gain more ways to ascertain the value and relevancy of a page. This tends to mean that search algorithms need to rely less on a site’s backlink profile. It doesn’t mean they ignore it entirely.

Sites with large, diverse backlink profiles, formed primarily of links from high-quality websites will be given more weight in the search results than sites that are lacking in the links department. This means that a strategy of building a backlink profile should form the backbone of any ongoing SEO campaign, and one way to do this is with content.

How you use content to gain links depends on the nature of the material in question.

Imagery, such as infographics, or a series of pictures or illustrations, lend themselves naturally to outreach. This means pitching your content to bloggers or journalists that share similar interests to your own, and that you believe would have an interest in reproducing your content. You can read more about the perfect pitch here.

However, while text-based content doesn’t usually lend itself to reproduction on other sites (especially if you can’t guarantee those other sites will use a cross-domain canonical to credit you properly as the original author), there are other ways you can use it to gain links.

“Resource link-building” for example. This tends to entail adopting the same outreach strategy as above, but instead of trying to get your content reproduced, you’re trying to get it added to a “resources” page.

Another excellent way to gain links to text articles is with broken link-building, where you identify sites that have linked to content that’s very similar to yours, but that’s no longer live (resulting in a broken link). You then contact each site and offer your content as a replacement link.

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Ultimate Frisbee Fiasco

Ultimate Frisbee Fiasco

A work colleague has an unusual sporting interest.  He plays Ultimate Frisbee in the evenings at the Shepparton Lake precinct.  You can see him and his mates leaping, catching and throwing their high-tech plastic discs in a designated field.

I guess you could say it's a bit like rugby without the contact.  Loads of fun played enthusiastically by Shepp locals on a Monday evening.

The aim of the sport is to get the frisbee from the "end-zone" to the opponents "end-zone."  Teams number how many people turn up. It's unisex. Points are scored by passing the disc to a teammate in the opposing end zone. Other basic rules are that players must not take steps while holding the disc, and interceptions, incomplete passes, and passes out of bounds are turnovers. Rain, the wind, or occasionally other adversities can make for a testing match with rapid turnovers, heightening the pressure of play.

Today, my work mate turned up sporting a leg injury — a pulled muscle or something similar. He didn't complain much, but the limp is obvious.  Reminded me of seeing AFL's Chris Judd limping off the field. Ultimate frisbee is not supposed to be a contact sport, but I suspect the injured party didn't warm up properly.

Throwing a frisbee with an amount of accuracy is quite a skill.  Advanced players can bend it with precision.  Others like to use little tricks like the skip throw, where the frisbee bounces around the legs of an opposing player.  A nutmeg (where the frisbee splits through the legs of an opponent) is highly-regarded.

Players call their fouls and dispute a foul only when they genuinely believe it did not occur. Playing without referees is the norm for league play, but has been supplanted in club competition by the use of "observers"/"advisers" to help in disputes, and the first professional leagues even employ empowered referees.

In 2012, there were 5.1 million ultimate players in the United States. The most recent World Ultimate Club Championship was in Lecco, Italy in July 2014 where US teams took Gold in all three divisions. In 2016, the World Ultimate & Guts Championships will be held in London where teams will be composed of their nation's best players.

"I just remember one time running for a pass and leaping up in the air and just feeling the Frisbee making it into my hand and feeling the perfect synchrony and the joy of the moment, and as I landed, I said to myself, 'This is the ultimate game. This is the ultimate game.'" said Ultimate inventor Jared Kass.

More information JustClik here

 

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Accidental Queue-Jumping

Accidental Queue-Jumping

Good social skills are essential. The understatement meter in my pocket just exploded, but seriously, good interpersonal communication skills are primarily the oil which lubricates relationships.
 
When the giant standing next to me at the counter of the local takeaway place delivered his order over the top of mine and then said he was next, I realised two things immediately. One: the man had poor interpersonal skills and two; I had inadvertently jumped the queue. I apologised and made a quip about how I had never seen a line at this particular fast food venue. (In fact, people typically stand parallel to the counter and take note of who was already there when they arrived.)

The man's response to my apology was delivered in a gruff and aggrieved tone. "Just don't jump the queue mate. I don't want to argue about it."

"I don't want to argue about it" is in the same category as statements beginning with "to tell the truth" and "I don't want to say I told you so...". Like the positive onset with an obvious inflection broadcasting, a big "but' will follow.

Whether the big man with serious indignation at the take way joint was naturally rude and ungracious, or whether he had merely exhausted his reserves of bonhomie at the end of a bad day, I do not know. I've been unjustifiably short with people too on occasion, but I reckon a sincere apology ought to extinguish the flames of ire. Most people have varying degrees of serious drama and affliction in their lives. Why bother straining at gnats?

It's pretty easy to be nice, even to people who aren't kind to you. It is not difficult to back down and walk away. The offended behemoth and I left the car park of the takeaway shop at the same time: I was on foot, and he was safe in his world on wheels. He might have looked at me, or he might have simply been checking for oncoming traffic, but, in any case, I threw him another smile. His stony face was the epitome of recalcitrance. As he drove away, I wondered if he was a blogger like me.

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A Bunny, a Bilby — a Chocolate Tradition

A Bunny, a Bilby — a Chocolate Tradition

I have a friend who just loves this time of year.  For her it's all about the chocolate — supposedly it tastes better than plain chocolate.  In truth, it's probably more about the texture and the crunch of snapped off pieces of dairy milk but who am I to say.

We all know that Easter is a significant time on the Christian calendar.  But what about this bunny?

The Easter Bunny (also called the Easter Rabbit or Easter Hare) is a folk figure and symbol of Easter, depicted as a rabbit bringing Easter eggs. This symbol originated among the German Lutherans — whereby the bunny played a role of a judge, evaluating whether children were good or disobedient in behaviour at the start of the season of Eastertide.

The Easter Bunny is occasionally depicted with clothes.  In legend, the creature carries coloured eggs in his basket, candy and sometimes also toys to the homes of children, and as such show similarities to Santa Claus or the Christkind, as they both bring gifts to children on the night before their respective holidays.  The custom was first mentioned in Georg Franck von Franckenau's De ovis Paschal ibis (About Easter Eggs) in 1682 referring to a German tradition of an Easter Hare bringing Easter eggs for the children.

An Australian twist on the tradition is the Easter Bilby.  

The idea of the chocolate bilby came from a story written by a nine-year-old girl, in March 1968. "Billy The Aussie Easter Bilby," was published as a book 11 years later. The story helped catalyse the public's interest in saving the bilby. In 1991 Nicholas Newland from the 'Foundation for Rabbit-Free Australia' also developed the idea of the Easter Bilby to raise awareness about the environmental damage that feral rabbits cause and to replace the Easter bunny with true native wildlife.

The first Chocolate Easter Bilbies were sold at the Warrawong Sanctuary when it was owned by John Wamsley. Chocolate manufacturers that donate towards Bilby conservation include Pink Lady and Haigh's Chocolates.

In 2014, Pink Lady donated 30 cents from every large bilby sale and $1 from every ten pack. Parent company Fyna Foods manufactures chocolate bilbies as well as other iconic Australian fauna in their Australian Bush Friends Easter chocolate. 20 cent from every Bush Friends collection is donated to the Save the Bilby Fund. 2015 saw these chocolates raise over $33,000 for the fund.

Cadbury's also produce Chocolate Bilbies, although they do not donate or support any bilby conservation projects. This had led to a backlash against Cadbury with many Australians derogatorily referring to their Bilby products as Easter Bludgers. Before their store closures in 2012, Darrell Lea donated approximately $60,000 per year to the Save the Bilby Fund from the sales of the Darrell Lea chocolate bilbies.

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The Ten Gallon Black Hat

The Ten Gallon Black Hat

Don't we all secretly love an anti-hero? — the tall figure in the Western movies who is bad, possibly dangerous, but you can't help but like the character.

I started thinking about this after watching a complicated, evil, twisted but charming character in a Marvel Daredevil episode.  The Punisher, a brutal combat-hardened soldier, takes revenge to a whole new level.

What makes us love the bad boys? Sometimes you catch yourself hoping the baddie will escape or will live on to fight another day. Is it their charm?  Think of McEnroe having a hissy-fit on the court.  We loved that!  It was alarming but still we loved it.  Wiley Coyote, despite his desperate attempts to catch and eat the Road Runner, is quite endearing.  He's not bad; he's just misunderstood!!!

Some of the not-so-obvious anti-heroes are often thought of as heroes.  James Bond for one. Holden Caulfield from "Catcher in the Rye," Prince Hamlet from "Hamlet," Harry Callaghan in "Dirty Harry," Michael Corleone in "The Godfather."  It's a massive list, just Google anti-heroes for more.

When you think of the Ten Gallon Black Hat types, you start to ponder what makes them so appealing.  There seems to be some truth to the "good girls love bad boys" concept.  But I believe this is true for actors seeking fulfilling roles.  Some of the best characters are the baddies.

Leonardo DeCaprio in "D'Jango Unchained" is charmingly evil.  De Niro in "Heat" is another example of a charming bad guy who meets a sticky end.

Throughout history, there have been monsters, men of pure evil who have been depicted on modern celluloid because we are fascinated by the dark side.  Vlad the Impaler, Ghengis Khan, Caesar, Hitler, Black Beard, Jesse James, Ned Kelly have collectively been depicted in film multiple times.  We seem to have a fascination with what motivates people who reside in the darkness.

The original Batman too must be the all-time most complex, tormented soul fighting for apparently the right reasons yet dispatching justice with extreme malice.

Hollywood loves the bad boys and girls. There's something more fascinating and endearing with Zorro compared to the Lone Ranger.  The man in black is infinitely more mysterious and often more complex. And without the baddies, wouldn't the storytelling be boring?

 

 

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I'd Call it "Bugsy"

I'd Call it "Bugsy"

Every so often I get an email that I actually enjoy.  Rare but fun when it happens.  I was doing some research about screencasts and their effectiveness and came across "Bugsy."

Our brains process visuals 60,000x faster than text? With that fact in mind, it’s no surprise that videos have become one of the primary ways new and existing businesses educate consumers on their products and services.

Thanks to video hosting sites like YouTube, Vimeo, and the plethora of video creation software tools that now exist, it’s never been easier for businesses to create and share high-quality videos with people online.  Watch the video at the end of this story, you'll get what I mean.

Bugsy, actually a SKEYE Nano Drone, in the video below it is shown off like a dragonfly on steroidsThe drone weighs less than 12 grams and comes in at just 4 centimeters across so it can take off right from the palm of your hand. Like a bug!!!

It can be flown with incredible precision. Thanks to the low weight and high thrust capability, this drone is small enough to fly under the radar yet powerful enough to slip forward and backwards, handle banked turns, and even barrel roll.

All of these skills and tricks can be easily mastered over time using the easy to use handheld controller which is powered by two AAA batteries. As soon as you switch on the SKEYE Nano Drone it begins to calibrate itself and prepare for flight. Select your gyro sensitivity; adjustable between beginner, mid-level, and expert; and watch as the 6-axis flight control system keeps steady during all stunts and tricks.

You can enjoy flights up to eight minutes and go as far as 50 meters with the built in LEDs lighting the way.

Included with the SKEYE Nano Drone is the 4-channel 2.4Ghz controller, a USB charging cable, four replacement rotor blades, a protection guard, and user guide to get you off the ground.

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Prog Rock Pioneer Keith Emerson Suspected Suicide

Prog Rock Pioneer Keith Emerson Suspected Suicide

Keith Emerson, one of the founding members of progressive rock group Emerson, Lake and Palmer, has died in what police are treating as a suspected suicide.

The keyboardist died at the age of 71 at his home in Santa Monica, Los Angeles on Thursday night, the band confirmed.

Sergeant Erika Aklufi said an investigation was looking in whether he died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Bandmate Carl Palmer said he is "deeply saddened" and paid tribute to his "brother-in-music".

"Keith was a gentle soul whose love for music and passion for his performance as a keyboard player will remain unmatched for many years to come," he said in a statement online.

Deep Purple bass player Glenn Hughes said he was in shock, losing "my brother of over 40 years.  This has left me numb."

Rock circles has recently seen the deaths of David Bowie, Lemmy (Motorhead), Jimmy Bain (Rainbow), Stevie Wright (Easybeats), Jon English, Chris Squire (Yes), George Martin (Beatles producer) and now Keith Emerson (ELP).  The past six month has been sad for the close-knit music industry.

"He was a pioneer and an innovator whose musical genius touched all of us in the worlds of rock, classical and jazz. "I will always remember his warm smile, good sense of humor, compelling showmanship, and dedication to his musical craft," Palmer said.

The group, consisting of keyboardist Emerson, producer Greg Lake, and drummer Carl Palmer, formed in London in the 1970s and released seven albums together.

They parted ways in 1979 before reforming in 1991 and releasing two more albums.

Emerson is best known in popular music for his playing on the band's interpretation of "Fanfare for Common Man" which was used as the theme for theme for the 1974 Montreal Olympics.

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Facebook can Revitalise Your Business

Facebook can Revitalise Your Business

The days of newspapers dominating the local advertising landscape are over.  With generation Next being so smart mobile device savvy, social media platforms perform amazingly well compared to print.

A new media strategy, using Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and others can get your business in front of targetted punters who are ready to buy your product or service.

Scenario One:  A business trying to source franchisees in a regional area spent thousands of dollars on newspaper and trade magazine advertisements.  The effort product a handful on inquiries.  Using Facebook to target by region, age, sex and profession cost about $400 over a month and produced about 50 inquiries.  The cost compared to benefit gap is huge.

Scenario Two:  An event promoted on Facebook in Shepparton reached 60,000 locals and generated a 20 per cent increase in sales over the Christmas period compared to the previous year — only using print.

These examples demonstrate how some clever use of the Facebook and other platforms can generate business leads and fuel a buzz for your products, services or events.

Top Gun has been implementing new media strategies since it opened and we generate a lot of our leads through these platforms.  People get brand recognition because many of the "stories" are evergreens (they hang around and are not tomorrow's fish and chips wrapper).

If you have a business large or small, consider having a chat to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. McPherson about your new media strategy.  Plus Top Gun owns the big digital sign on the corner of Wyndham Street and High Street (on the old Shepp Hotel).  The sign has incredible reach and has produced many sales for advertisers.

These days you have options as to how you spend your hard-earned profits on advertising.

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Jon English RIP, aged 66

Jon English RIP, aged 66

One of Australia's favourite sons died yesterday. Jon English died in hospital during a medical procedure.

English was well known for his work in music, television and on the stage, most notably his roles as Judas Iscariot in Jesus Christ Superstar in the 1970s and later as Pirate King in The Pirates of Penzance.

A statement from his talent representatives, Ambition Entertainment, said at the time of his passing he was surrounded by family members, including his four children, wife Carmen, sister Janet and brother Jeremy, as well as other close family members.

He was one of Australia's most enduring and popular stars. During the past decade he has focussed on developing the musical talent of young musicians through his touring "Rock Show".

Jon was known as one of the "good guys" of Australian music and performing. Ever popular with fans and theatre-goers.  He also wrote a rock musical called "Paris" which had never been funded to its potential. 

Shepparton last saw him performing his "Rock Show" with an amazing array of young talent from the Central Coast area.  It was a stunning show, showcasing rock from the 60s and 70s, with Jon performing many of his hits from the 70s and early 80s.  Included in his band that performed at EastBank, was his son and the likes of Emma Beau. "I'm sending you tones of love and well wishes Jon!," Emma had written on her Facebook page the day before surgery. 

A tragic loss and sad day for all.

 

 

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GasBuddy Saves You Money

GasBuddy Saves You Money

Ever wondered where the cheapest petrol or diesel or LPG is around your house or near your work? GasBuddy, a fuel-finding app which has over 15 million active users in the US, is launching today in Australia.

The concept behind GasBuddy is simple, but it requires a critical mass of users to be effective. Individual GasBuddy users, using their apps on iOS and Android, check prices for the different grades of unleaded, diesel and LPG fuel at petrol stations and submit them to the GasBuddy database, which is updated in real time. Other users confirm those prices after seeing them, or submit updates if prices change.

GasBuddy incentivises users with a daily $100 fuel card giveaway in the US, and will do the same within Australia, especially during launch as it tries to get new users onboard quickly. Challenges — which might include users reporting prices for specific fuels, or within specific regions or on certain underperforming days of the week — and regular reporting build points, which users can use to enter the daily giveaway draws. It’s a simple system, but it’s effective when teamed with the community-minded nature of the app and the inherent advantage of finding cheaper fuel.

In the US, GasBuddy already gets 60 million price reports per month, with a core of power users submitting dozens of different prices per day. Even a passive user that doesn’t submit any prices gets the advantage of GasBuddy’s crowdsourcing finding the cheapest prices, though, and it also services as a repository for extra service station information including utilities like bathrooms and ATMs. In our early use, it’s possible to find significant price variance between different nearby stations — and navigating to the cheaper one is easy.

GasBuddy’s Australian country manager, Nic Moulis, has years of experience in the fuel industry both as a petrol station operator and on the supply side of the chain; he’s confident the service will help motorists find better deals in the 5 to 8 kilometre radius that statistics say they usually buy fuel within. “Petrol prices vary greatly even within a small distance, and that has long been a pain point for Aussies.” Australia is the first country outside of the US and Canada that GasBuddy has launched in in its 15 years of service.

He said the average Australian user should save between $200 and $300 a year by following the pricing trends posted on the app.

In Shepparton the leading poster is Neil Collins.  Looks like Neil has been busy recording the prices of Shepparton servos.

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Commodore? Smaller and without V8 Option

Commodore? Smaller and without V8 Option

"It's very soon coming," said Dr Neumann of the new Opel Insignia, suggesting it would be revealed within months.

Wheels magazine has already snapped pictures of the new Insignia testing and has reported the car will replace the Commodore.

When asked about how many would be sold in Australia, Dr Neumann said: "I don't know, as many as possible.

"I think the Australians will like this car a lot."

The next-generation Insignia (pictured above, cold-weather testing in Europe last month ) will be slightly larger than the current one (a car also sold here by Holden).

But it will be smaller than the current VF Series II Commodore; it will be the first time since the original Commodore in 1978 that the large Holden family car has shrunk in size.

It will also arrive without a V8 engine, making it the first Commodore to miss out on the high-performance option.

Instead, Opel will use a twin-turbocharged V6 to complement the four-cylinder engines that will also be available in the first-ever imported Commodore.

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Technology Shift — Paradigm Shift

Technology Shift — Paradigm Shift

My adulthood has been full of technology shifts.  The ebb and flow of constat technology updates bulletpoints my years.  Some for the better, some not so.

This topic came to mind when some kids I know asked about record players and vinyl records.  "What are those black things ... and how do they work?"

So let's rewind to the 1970s, when I was first getting into technology.  Concorde was zooming about the world during its first proving exercises.  But on a smaller level I had just replaced my grandfather's valve radio with a transistor radio.

The radio had become smaller but it was less sensitive than it's analogue cousin.  No longer could I drag in the Sydney station that i used to tune in to on the Radiola.

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Whitby — a Gem in Yorkshire's North

Whitby — a Gem in Yorkshire's North

If wanderlust takes you to the United Kingdom, here's on place that you should not miss.  Whitby, in North Yorkshire, is a historical jewel in the crown of places to visit.

It is the home of Captain James Cook's museum, where you can see where he worked and slept as a maritime apprentice.  It is also the inspiration for much of Bram Stoker's "Dracula".

The harbour boasts loads of period architecture, dominated by the Abbey ruins atop the Southern cliffs.

Harbourside also has the Magpie fish and chip shop, famously known for producing "the best fish and chips in the UK."

It is also a place that Charles Dickens spent a considerable amount of time while at the height of his authoring.

Ghosts and ghost stories abound.  Haunted pubs, worm holes, the Bargest Black Dog and many other mysteries are revealed by guided ghost tours.  Some of them are excellent.

It is also the site of many scenes shot in the long-running TV series, "Heartbeat".

On weekends you might get to take a ride on a surviving Stanley Steamer.

There's plenty of accommodation and for those on a budget the Youth Hostel is just 28 pounds a night for members.  The hostel is in the old abbey stables, accesible by road or for those fit enough at the end of the 100 steps from the harbour.

 

 

 

 

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