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Net Watch...choice selections on the 'net
"Net Watch" aims to report those sites that you, as a grower, propagator or appreciator of Australian plants, might find interesting. Most of them relate to Australian issues of a horticultural, botanical or conservation nature but a few are of more general interest. A couple of other sites are "thrown in" for no other reason than that they redefine the term "bizarre". If you know of a site that fits into these general categories, please let us know.
The Living World
Kings Park and Botanic Garden is the most important recreational parkland and urban bushland in Western Australia and a superb resource for the residents of Perth and environs. It is located close to the centre of Perth and features extensive remnant natural bushland and displays of many of Western Australia's unique native plants.
The web site features expected items such as the Park's location, coming events, photographs of views around the Park and related links. There is also a featured "Plant of the Week" which includes a photograph and short description of a Western Australian plant. The section on "Current Research Areas" covers plant propagation, plant diseases, endangered plants and bushland management among other topics. Two items that caught my attention were:
- Plant Diseases in the south-west of Western Australia - This provides an excellent summary of the devastating dieback disease which is infesting natural bushland areas.
- The Effects of Smoke on Germination - An introduction to experiments looking at the reasons for improved germination of seed of some species when smoke is applied.
Burkes Backyard Online
For the benefit of non-Australians, Don Burke is the king of the television gardeners. He successfully mixes a dose of humour with a sprig of irreverence and a backhoe of knowledge, mixes thoroughly and comes up with "Burke's Backyard", probably the country's most popular "lifestyle" programme. And he's been doing it for yonks! There probably isn't an Australian of any age who can't sing or hum along with the opening theme....
"Give me a home among the gum trees,
With lots of plum trees,
A dog or two and a bar-b-que............."
The web site is an extension of the TV show. For example, you can visit the "Burke's Backyard Shop" and buy speciality products. But the best feature is the range of "Fact Sheets" which cover items presented on the show. These cover Conservation and the Environment, In the Garden, People and Places, Food, Health and Nutrition, Pets and Native Animals and Road tests (which have nothing whatever to do with motor vehicles!) There is an archive of Fact Sheets so you can print out something that you may have seen on the programme last year.
Biology on the Net
There's not a lot of high tech HTML here. You won't find animation, style sheets, Java applets or any of the many other adornments that web pages seem to accumulate. This site is simply a source of general knowledge on biology and related topics for the public and school students. The site covers the following topics in easily understandable language which manages to avoid trivialising the material.
- Australian Flora And Fauna: Australian Birds, Australian Reptiles, Australian Mammals, Fire and the Australian Vegetation, Australia's Unique Flora, Australian Megafauna
- Plant Characteristics and Relations: The monocotyledons (grasses and palms), Dicotyledons (herbs, shrubs and trees), Primitive plants (gymnosperms and ferns), Variation within the plant order Ericales, Aquatic plants, Swamp plants, Cycads (fossil plants)
- Environmental Displays: Environmental Effects on Human Embryos, Feral organisms of Australia, Biodiversity, Aboriginal Bioresources, Australian Wetlands, The Breakup of Gondwana
- Zoology: Skeletal Adaptations to Locomotion, Arthropod Relationships, Molluscan Adaptations, Social Insects
The only down-side to the site is that the numerous internal links (used to explain the terminology used) are so extensive that it's fairly easy to lose the thread of the article being read. Not a serious problem and you never know where you might end up!
A La Carte!
Yes, yes, I know....mention carnivorous plants and people automatically visualise giant, burping, people-eaters of the "Little Shop of Horrors" fame. Of course, it's not like that at all, or so I'm informed by the people at the Australian Carnivorous Plant Society. And, as their membership is increasing (or, at least, is not being eaten), I suppose they should know.....
The Society was established in 1982 and now has a world-wide membership of more than 200 which includes people in the scientific, commercial and hobbyist areas. The Society offers a range of services to members including a quarterly journal, a seed bank and special prices on books about carnivorous plants.
This isn't an extensive site at this stage but it provides an excellent guide to growing and propagating carnivorous plants, with particular reference to Australian species. There is also a small gallery of photos, one of which is reproduced here with the permission of the Society.
Drosera stolonifera ssp. porrecta
Photo: Richard Tilbrooke
AgiWeb aims to improve communication between rural Australians and much of what it offers will be mainly of interest to the rural sector. But this shouldn't put off urban dwellers from taking a look because there's a lot of information that will be useful to the wider community.
Probably of most interest is the "AgriWeb Directory", a comprehensive listing of organisations and topics listed in 20 major categories including environment, crops & grain, livestock, wool and farm safety.
No Plants...But Worth Checking!
Australian Wine Guide
I have to admit that I'm partial to a drop of red....or maybe two, or three.... I'm firmly of the opinion that all wine would be red if it could! But I have been known to enjoy the odd drop of a cool, crisp Clare Valley Riesling on a hot summer's evening.
For the wine enthusiast the Wine of Australia site has it all....almost.
A simple drop-down list allows you to select one of 44 wine regions of Australia. Aiming to stay away from the major wine areas, I chose the small East Gippsland region in eastern Victoria. Here I was able to learn about the sub-regions of the district, the climate, the soils and landscape, the grapes grown (142 tonnes of red varieties and 75 tonnes of white varieties, with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon being predominant) and upcoming events such as wine and food fairs.
A second drop-down list led me to one of my favourite wineries, Nicholson River Winery, near Bairnsdale (and not just because it features a bottlebrush on the label). Here the information was fairly basic with simple details such as opening times and contact details. It would have been nice to learn a little about the winery and vineyard....wines produced, area under vine etc. Perhaps that sort of detail will come later.
The site also features a very detailed and well explained description of the winemaking process, including clearly labelled diagrams (which can be zoomed).
What doesn't the site have...well it's incomplete. There is no mention of the developing "Hilltop" region near Young in central NSW which is producing some great wines nor of the small but interesting wineries of the NSW south coast. However this is a minor quibble about a "must-bookmark" site for any wine lover.
How Do I??.........
Do you need to know how to:
- Change a flat tyre, or
- Cure hiccups, or
- Improvise a compass, or
- Burp a baby, or
- Capture a mouse, or
- Get by in Spanish, or
- Jumpstart a car, or
- Perform the Heimlich manoeuvre?
If so, of if you need help on virtually any other task you care to name, then Learn2.com - The ability utility, is for you.
This site oozes practicality with a capital "P" with step-by-step instructions for all sorts of tasks both simple and complex. You really won't believe the diversity here....for example, I have never been able to tie a decent knot in a tie. Yes, I know it's supposed to be simple but, when it comes to ties, I develop 10 thumbs. Thanks to Learn2.com, those days are gone forever and my new skill might just help at the next job interview!
You can also subscribe to "LearnLetters" a weekly mailing of useful bits and pieces or review the "Helpful Tidbits", contributions of helpful advice from readers.
Is anybody out there????
One of the most frustrating things about the internet is the lack of a directory of email addresses. You know the problem, don't you? A friend or colleague has email but you just don't know the actual address. Or one of you messages comes back "undeliverable" and you're sure you used the right address.
Well...."Who Where?" goes at least part of the way to address this problem (yes, that's a pun folks!). You can carry out a search based on a person's name and, if the email address is in the database, your problem is solved.
Of course, with millions of email addresses in existence, it's not going to succeed every time but it's a surprisingly efficient service. The ultimate test is to carry out a search on your own name to see if you are listed.
I did and I was!
Over the Top!
Sad but True....
This site aims to validate Darwin's theory of natural selection as it applies to the human race. To quote from the home page.....
"The Darwin Awards are given, usually posthumously, to the individual(s) who remove themselves from the gene pool in the most spectacular fashion."
And so here you will find stupidity raised to an art form as well as to an obituary. Of course it's in questionable taste! But most of these stories deserve to be told.
Like the 1995 winner.....
The 1995 Darwin Award was given to a man crushed to death by a Coke machine from which he was attempting to yank a free soda. So why is this so unique? Apparently, according to police and morgue reports, is that the gentlemen in question had about $3.00 in change and about $25.00 in bills in his pocket.
But in 1997 the award broke new ground by being given to someone who survived, on the basis that the event was so stupid that it deserved to be fatal. Read on and be amazed.....
One day, Larry, had a bright idea. He decided to fly. He went to the local Army-Navy surplus store and purchased 45 weather balloons and several tanks of helium. The weather balloons, when fully inflated, would measure more than four feet across.
Back home, Larry securely strapped the balloons to his sturdy lawn chair. He anchored the chair to the bumper of his jeep and inflated the balloons with the helium. He climbed on for a test while it was still only a few feet above the ground.
Satisfied it would work, Larry packed several sandwiches and a six-pack of Miller Lite, loaded his pellet gun - figuring he could pop a few balloons when it was time to descend - and went back to the floating lawn chair. He tied himself in along with his pellet gun and provisions. Larry's plan was to lazily float up to a height of about 30 feet above his back yard after severing the anchor and in a few hours come back down.
Things didn't quite work out that way. When he cut the cord anchoring the lawn chair to his jeep, he didn't float lazily up to 30 or so feet. Instead he streaked into the LA sky as if shot from a cannon. He didn't level of at 30 feet, nor did he level off at 100 feet. After climbing and climbing, he levelled off at 11,000 feet. At that height he couldn't risk shooting any of the balloons, lest he unbalance the load and really find himself in trouble. So he stayed there, drifting, cold and frightened, for more than 14 hours. Then he really got in trouble.
He found himself drifting into the primary approach corridor of Los Angeles International Airport.
A United pilot first spotted Larry. He radioed the tower and described passing a guy in a lawn chair with a gun. Radar confirmed the existence of an object floating 11,000 feet above the airport.
LAX emergency procedures swung into full alert and a helicopter was dispatched to investigate. LAX is right on the ocean. Night was falling and the offshore breeze began to flow. It carried Larry out to sea with the helicopter in hot pursuit. Several miles out, the helicopter caught up with Larry. Once the crew determined that Larry was not dangerous, they attempted to close in for a rescue but the draft from the blades would push Larry away whenever they neared. Finally, the helicopter ascended to a position several hundred feet above Larry and lowered a rescue line. Larry snagged the line and was hauled back to shore. The difficult manoeuvre was flawlessly executed by the helicopter crew. As soon as Larry was hauled to earth, he was arrested by waiting members of the LAPD for violating LAX airspace. As he was led away in handcuffs, a reporter dispatched to cover the daring rescue asked why he had done it.
Larry stopped, turned and replied nonchalantly, "A man can't just sit around."
The site also includes a wonderful section on urban legends....don't miss the JATO/Impala Story!
Is it a Bird....????
In the good old days (ie pre-Windows) screen savers had a useful purpose, or so I'm told. They prevented patterns being permanently "burned" into computer monitors due to images remaining on the screen for extended periods. Advances in monitor technology has now rendered screen savers unnecessary for their original purpose but there are more around now than ever before. They have obviously taken on lives of their own.
This particular piece of insanity is simple in concept but it becomes almost hypnotic. For reasons best known to the author, sheep bounce higher and higher until eventually they explode on hitting the ground. And, if you think it all sounds a bit mundane, you've really got to see these woolly detonators in action.
For the more blood thirsty among you....use the sheep.ini file to set "Build up of body parts" to "on".
The Sheep vs Gravity screen saver is a free download but is Windows 95 only.
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Australian Plants online - March 1998
The Society for Growing Australian Plants