Saturday, December 12, 2009

Fun with noise

Guess what I made? A Doomsday Device from Get LoFi mounted in a cigar box.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Animation - Yonder

While I'm thinking of stuff...

Yonder from Emilia on Vimeo.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Nick Sagan and the (occasional) joys of Stumbleupon.

I Stumble from time to time. I used to enjoy it, but recently I mostly get the latest meme and vast fields of shit. Weird architecture, tech rubbish, Russian photos, the occasional lolcat, computer mods and lots of atheist jokes all turn up, which probably says more about me than I'd happily reveal in one go. For most nights that involve staring at the glowing rectangle, the first press of the Stumbleupon button signals the point at which I should have gone to bed. It usually happens at least an hour before I go to bed, sometimes more.

Sometimes, just sometimes, I discover something that makes me feel something. It happened tonight, with Nick Sagan's blog. "Sagan", as in son of Carl. And in particular, a beautiful post about his memories of his father.

I saw "Cosmos*" when it was first aired by Auntie and I was fourteen or fifteen and my dream was to be an astrophysicist. Yes, I remember the polo-neck and amusing pronunciation, but most of all I remember the sheer enthusiasm at the wonders the universe offered. To me, it was the only way anyone could feel about stars, the universe, physics and the future... Bursting with enthusiasm and joy was the only rational response, yet of all the people on telly, only Carl Sagan seemed to share that same bursting feeling.

So thanks, Carl. And thanks Nick. And even thank you to a bit of browser-plug-in-software-meets-advertising-meets-social-networking in Stumbleupon for reconnecting me with the Sagans. Oh, and thanks to Youtube for something stupid...

*Until reading the Wikipedia article on Cosmos, I didn't realise that Carl Sagan had modeled the show on "The Ascent of Man" by Jacob Bronowski - another show that introduced me to jaw-dropping, intelligent television. I now have torrented recordings of both and both still move me, unlike, say, "I Clavdivs" (he jests) of the same time, which looks ridiculous....

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


I am not a replicant. The Nexus-6 t-shirt is nerdy, silly, obsessive and typical of me, but there is no way anyone would go to all the trouble and expense of genetically engineering a human to be the lounge lizard I am.

If I was designing a replicant, she/he'd be able to talk about prog rock for anything up to two minutes; would make the perfect cup of tea; would love films by Terry Gilliam and the Coen Brothers; and would never shoot Harrison Ford. They'd make a brilliant vinaigrette; roll a neat joint and just *know* exactly what to do when setting up a tent.

But I'm not a replicant, and no one else is either. Bummer.

It's been a long Cup weekend over four days. I've done bugger all... Lots of short, functional trips (to the dry cleaners, printers, work to hang some pictures etc). I cooked tonight, visited Mark and Bianca last night, helped Mark set up a blog, smoked and slept in this morning. I paid no attention to the Melbourne Cup and now I'm ready to go to bed.

Snatch Wars

OK, I think I'm getting re-enthused by the concept of blogging. A modest start in sharing...

Warning: Contains unequivocal language.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Marketing Disasters

Is it just me, or is there something cruel about the banner/flag I saw flying in Sydney today (day trip) that said:
"Remember Dementia Awareness Week"?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Nudge this!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Going to leave this blog along for a bit...

While I was away I realised how much time I either was, or needed, to spend on the intertubes to do justice to this blog, the other blog, flickr and now youtube. Flickr is still my first priority (it's the photos, stupid), and vids will be uploaded from time to time.

I'm going to give this blog a rest for a while. Writing will be limited to comments on flickr and food. So there you go.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


I got home a few hours ago. Little to put into words at this point (even compared to the little of the last few weeks), but at least I have some video.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Whatever happened to...

No postings for a while. Net access has not been great and I haven't been able to upload photos.

More importantly, I've been focussing on photo and video and haven't really wanted to write for fear of devoting too much of my holiday to recording that holiday...

Photos are here and videos will be uploaded when I get home.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Darwin by Hybrid - Day Six

Monday (20 July) started with a trip to Reptile Centre so Will could see the thorny devils, his favourite reptile. While the Reptile Centre screams "Pissweak World - Come and See the Amazing Bungalow!" from the outside, inside the reptiles are plentiful and fascinating. Will got to see thorny devils, Lis, Emmy and I got to handle an Olive Python and we all fondled lizards. Lots of fun.

In the afternoon, Em, Will, Lis and I drove down the Ross River Highway, stopping at Emily Gap, Jessie Gap and finally Trephina Gorge to see the eastern part of the Macdonnell Ranges. I almost ran over a bearded dragon, which let me pass over it and then ran off, and did hit some sort of pigeon-like bird which exploded into a mess of feathers. Oh dear.

Darwin by Hybrid - Day Five

Sunday (19 July) was the drive from Coober Pedy to Alice Springs. It was a swift, efficient drive, with little to see except the barren, beautiful emptiness of the landscape. After six or so hours the space between my ears was as empty as the scenery. I had expected the desert to become more intense, more empty as we headed north but the opposite was true. The land around Coober Pedy (and the Breakaways in particular) is the nadir of life in the desert, and as we drove towards Alice Springs the vegetation slowly returned as the red of the soil and sand became more intense.

Lovely to see everyone again, and we spent the evening on Anzac Hill overlooking the town. Alice Springs is nestled behind the Macdonnell Ranges, raw layers of stone pushed up from one of the angrier circles of Hell.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Darwin by Hybrid - Day Four

OK, so obviously a whole lot of catching up to do....

Saturday (18 July) was spent in Coober Pedy. Coober Pedy and its surrounds are well and truly where dead things go to die some more. It's hard not to use the phrase "post apocalyptic" once you've seen it, or the Mad Max films shot in the region, so I won't use it. Emily and I spent the morning visiting an underground mine, some underground churches, the underground everything else before returning to our underground hotel.

Our hotel at Coober Pedy

Coober Pedy is The Land That Town Planning Forgot, which actually contributes in a major way to its charm. Some blocks are houses, mines, industrial sites and tourist locations all rolled into one. Large scale mining equipment is everywhere, as are piles of industrial refuse. It's a boys town.

After some faffing about, we jumped in the car and drove through the Breakaways, about 50kms to the East of Coober Pedy. And now is the time to whip out that "post apocalyptic" phrase I spurned earlier. Some of the country here not only looks post-apocalyptic, it looks like its been through several apocalypses, a handful of deathly visitations, a whole handcart of hells and has passed through end times at least twice. Eerie white and ochre sandstone rises from the plain which is devoid of vegetation and covered in sharp, broken rocks. And in the middle, a dingo fence. I thought of my father fencing in King Lake, where a team of four can do 200 metres a day, and look at a small section of over 4000kms of fence.

Dingo Fence


Saturday night we went to Coober Pedy's best Greek restaraunt (I know, that's far too obvious a set up). It was good.

Darwin by Hybrid - Day Three

Day Three starts with the laughable pomposity of North Adelaide and finishes among the utes and four wheel drives of Coober Pedy. North Adelaide reminds us that Adelaide is the town that gave us Alexander Downer, the man whose ambition was surely fulfilled as head prefect.

Friday started early, and we did well to get off to an early start. Out of Adelaide before 9.00am and well on the road northwards. The country is a lush verdant green near Adelaide, but becomes more and more scrubby until there is just saltbush and the occasional mulga tree growing from the dry, red soil.
The transition from pasture to scrub was gradual, a point emphasised by the orderly saltbush farm, where clipped saltbush was grown in neat rows. Who can tell? Trees coming and going, always red dust-like soil, occasionally a smattering of dead grass.

Wildlife highlight was seeing a Wedge Tailed Eagle eating a road kill kangaroo

Port Pirie an interesting port town and I'm disapointed I didn't get too close to the port. Port Augusta, on the other hand, must have been hidden in a ditch.

There was much laughter in the car - enjoying just doing stuff together.

We got into Coober Pedy in the dark. The hotel, like much of the town, is dug out. The woman at front desk was wonderful, helpful suggestions - Emily points out all the good places to go that she’s been to here before…

We had dinner in Cobber Pedy's pizza place - Friday night is busy. Miners, locals, tourists… staff harried. Decided against the "Coat of Arms" pizza with both emu and kangaroo sausage.

Over dinner more joking, merriment. Emily hadn't realised the shed at our house used to be stables, and thought there must have been a small door hidden behind the washing machine - it would only be big enough for an evil, mini pony… Discussed turning the backyard into a bog, because Emily wanted a pony, a bog and scooter. I didn't understand either.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Darwin by Hybrid - Day Two

Emmy and I had an early start this morning and were out of the hotel by 8.00am, which is unheard of for us, especially any combination involving Em. We walked up to the market, wandered around, had coffee, bought some things for lunch with a plan to eat them at the zoo.

I really like Adelaide market, in part because it reflects my broader perceptions of the city. It's an extremely neat, compact and well-ordered market with an obvious German influence. Pork can be found in many of its forms, mostly smoked and often fatty. We bought some double-smoked kassler to have as part of lunch and it was glorious. Charcuterie (or whatever the Germanic equivalent is) is also frequently blessed with humorous double-entendre names - Bung Fritz, Smoked Knobs - just fantastic.

Like many atheists, the only really convincing argument I've heard for the possibility of divine intervention is bacon. Surely, the logic goes, something SO perfect is proof that divine perfection is not only plausible, it is necessary to explain bacon, kassler, the German pork tradition and any number of glorious Vietnamese dishes that use every part of the pig except the squeal.

In any event, much pig was on display, and lo, I almost prayed.
After a longer-than-intended walk around the park around the Adelaide CBD, we went to the zoo at Emily's suggestion. We took our booty of kassler, a baguette, a soft cheese and a sheep's milk cheese rubbed in rosemary, some olives and muscatels. Yeah, life on holiday is real tough....
Adelaide reminds me a lot of Canberra, or rather that should be the other way around. In retrospect (after almost ten years in the ACT), Canberra looks in many ways like it was modelled on Adelaide. Adelaide's a pretty, low-rise city that's kept much of its late nineteenth century architecture, albeit on a smaller scale than the lavish, almost pompous gold-rush funded edifices of Melbourne, Ballarat and Bendigo, for example. Ordered without being sterile, pretty without being quaint, but also spread out that means there isn't a lot of concentrated activity.

A few hours lounging around the hotel reading, writing this and editing today's video, and soon we'll walk further up Gouger St to have dinner. And tomorrow we drive to Coober Pedy....

A link to today's video is here.

Darwin by Hybrid - Day One (Continued...)

So Day One was the drive from Melbourne to Adelaide. Mostly uneventful, but longer than I'd anticipated with a detour to Halls Gap, a walk to Silverband Falls and noodles for lunch in Ararat.

The drive was generally ok, but it did start raining pretty heavily between Bordertown and Adelaide, and the truck traffic was pretty manic.

The day looked a lot like this.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Darwin by Hybrid - Day One

Today we leave for the top end. More to come.

Friday, July 10, 2009


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Please don’t blame us if your monitor explodes.

Monday, July 6, 2009


From a commercial I saw the other day for furniture:
"Turn obsessions into possessions."
In other words, "we'll help establish a desire within you for something you don't need, and then let you buy it. Aren't you lucky?"

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Nothing to see here

I've got a cold and I'm tired blah blah blah. Everyone around me seems to be sick as well, so I've run out of concerned faces.

I've had dinner. I've also been to the park. But not much else worth reporting. I'm seriously looking forward to a break.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Tetris - more video

If it looks like I'm not making the effort to post, I'm not. Motivation is a struggle and work is almost all-consuming. I long for some long leave, and in a few weeks I'll have some. Right now though, this amuses me.

TETRIS CF #1 from WooDUS on Vimeo.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Toolboxes and arsenals

Two days of solid meetings, but generally I'm strangely happy with work at the moment - a few accidental moments of joy have conspired to put a strange spring in my step.

I was asked to write a philosophical piece on why we do what we do, and why government gets involved in what we do at all. That was two months ago, and I've agonised, strained; written and rewritten; read and re-read the same 2,000 words again and again. Finally yesterday I gave up and gave my boss a draft. He's played with it a bit, improved it a lot (he's a wordsmith) and I've stopped worrying. The real question is why I worried so much and why I waited so long. "Personality" is the short answer: it's in my nature to fret about my work.

Wonderfully and joyfully, F today told me they had a presentation at her work (a department of great learnings and infancy*...) about leadership and leadership education. They had a tedious presentation about "how leaders influenced". As part of the presentation, the speaker talked about the "leadership toolbox" or "leadership arsenal".

I asked whether that made her leaders tools and/or arses?

She said "yes".

*F's idea to point out the "infancy" or at least "infantile" aspect

Monday, June 15, 2009

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Monday, June 8, 2009

Happy birthday, queen.

It's been the Queen's birthday weekend. Not a weekend, alas, where we dress up in satin, build guitars out of fireplaces, or even run the international drug trade. No, instead it's rained the whole weekend and we've made do with a scant spattering of indoor fun. Three wet days for which our gasping dams are grateful.

Saturday's highlight was going to Preston Market. Sunday was a drive in the country up through St Andrews and King Lake. This is a part of the world I love; a part of the world I feel at home in, despite my urban predilection.

Sunday was tired and sleepy. Headache for much of the day. It continued to rain. We ate.

Today was relaxed. I was eager to do so much in the garden and did little. Al had Kate here, and with Emmy and Will spent much of a rainy afternoon watching Get Smart. Maybe watching too much telly as a child is bad. I take heart in two things: (1) it didn't seem to harm me much, and if it did I'm too televisually stupid to tell; and (b) to quote Fry and Laurie, "of course 'too much is bad for you'; that's what 'too much' means".

Today's only novel experience was cooking a rib roast slowly (for more than 3 and a half hours at just under a 100 degrees). Bugger all Maillard reacting, except for the pre-roast browning, but amazingly, wonderfully tender... Juicy and soft, the meat was medium rare (as the recipe promised) and pulled apart with a butter knife, but it needed salt, pepper and mustard (and horseradish; if only we'd had it - bugger!).

I'd write some more, but its one of those nights where I'm not sure how much of myself I want to commit to blog. If this was a diary, perhaps I'd write more, but having started down this path I'm committed. I could always keep a diary I suppose, but who would I be writing for then?

Sunday, June 7, 2009


I just don't have much to say.

And if the rest of the world needs to be subjected to me getting the hang of video recording, then so be it.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Monday, June 1, 2009

Richard Fenynman plays the bongos

Found this on boingboing. Had to link it. A hero.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Beatrix Potter is a fucking loony

Tonight, upon request, I read W a couple of Beatrix Potter books; The Tale of Ginger and Pickles and The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies.

Whenever I've read Beatrix Potter I remember a story my mother tells. She did her BA at the same 1970's-student-politics-branch-stacking-socialism-good-place-to-buy-an-ounce- university that I did mine a few years later. In a Eng Lit tutorial, one of her fellow students railed against Jane Austen, lambasting the poor gal and asking that important question, "where are the workers??"

In the last 25 years I've poured Guinness, beer, cider and sold wine by the glass, bottle and flagon; I've worked in a foundry, a factory, and a warehouse; washed supermarket floors; poured cocktails; argued environmentalism, planning, transport and the role of government, and never, ever once wondered where the workers are. They are us. We are them. All of us. (Oh except you mate, and you know who you are.)

But nothing brings out my junior radicalism quite like Beatrix Potter. What a fucking loony.
"..."but it would never do to eat our customers; they would leave us and go to Tabitha Twitchit's."

"On the contrary, they would go nowhere," replied Ginger gloomily. (Tabatha Twitchit kept the only other shop in the village. She did not give credit)...
"But there is no money in what is called the "till"."
Is this the death of capitalism or just the Darwinian nature of mercantilism? Hmmm.... let me try and summarise the plot:

Cat (Ginger) and dog (Pickles) have a shop. They give unlimited credit. No one pays; they have to eat their own stock. Pickles can't afford his own dog licence and has paranoid delusions about the police. They get a rates notice from the Council and decide to call it a day.

Ginger now lives in a rabbit warren and looks suspiciously stout. Pickles is a gamekeeper. Tabatha Twitchit jacks up her prices. The Dormouse family enter the candle market but fail to make an impression. Henny-penny opens a shop and does quite well. She is an idiot.

"Sally Henny-penny gets rather flustered when she tries to count out change, and she insists on being paid cash; but she is quite harmless."
Meanwhile in The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies;
"When Benjamin Bunny grew up, he married his Cousin Flopsy. They had a large family, and they were very improvident and cheerful."
Milord, the prosecution rests.

Putting aside failed shopkeepers and enough inbreeding for a volume of royal family jokes, the stories go nowhere. The plots make even less sense than real life. I mean, I never expect real life to follow a convenient narrative with a clear lesson to be learned (other than with experience, regret and occasionally some pain) but Beatrix Potter has even less narrative than real life. What is the point of these stories? What is the fucking point?? Surrealism with bunnies, perhaps? It seems unlikely.

It's funny, in the last few years I've often been annoyed at the ham-fisted attempts by children's books to teach important lessons (like sustainability) in a flurry of PC goodness. I'm pretty sure you can't teach science with fables; indeed, there's something not only hypocritical about it, it's a contradiction in terms. So when Captain Fucking Planet and the Green Gabled Warriors save the ozone layer using nothing but the love of trees and recycled toilet paper, they can go fuck themselves as far as I'm concerned.

I don't know what Beatrix Potter is trying to say; I honestly don't. But that doesn't stop Will from asking for me to read it. And I shall smile and read it some more. And then when he's old enough, we'll read PG Wodehouse. Then he'll learn who the real workers are...

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

More cheese

Told you I'd post about cheese again, albeit in other place.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


I posted in the other place about cheese, and will probably do so again.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

I'm gunna complain now

Let's just look skyward for a moment and thank the pointless, vainglorious forces of the universe for this particular weekend.

It started on Friday afternoon when I rolled my ankle from taking the front step carelessly. Of course, that meant I woke up on Saturday raring to go with a sudden, desperate enthusiasm for gardening and jogging and no way of channeling it. Thankfully I'm not a big Morris dancer, a sentiment that holds on so many levels. Still, plants got trimmed, leaves were moved and turds got relocated - that's pretty much gardening, isn't it?

On Saturday we had dinner at Cafe Bedda in High Street. Lovely, perfect etc, but then at two-ish, W coughed, crouped and argued about Cartesian dualism (well, almost) until the ambulance arrived and ferried us both off to the Children's Hospital. The ambulance lads were charming, although junior ambulance lad wasn't quite sure about taking directions....

As we were driving through Queens Parade, I heard over their radio that someone was needed to collect a thirty-something stabbing victimin Brunswick. On the news this morning I heard that he not only died, but that he'd tried to intervene in a fight to protect a stranger. I'm not sure I could cope with being an ambo.

Some steroids for Will and several hours later we cabbed it home. Spending the early hours of a Saturday night in a hospital and then a cab might be normal for the Younger Person, but it was all a bit much for moi and I'm struggling to readjust to civilian life.

Today, Sunday, I visited my grandmother, shopped, cooked shakshouka.

I did everything but get the work (ie the paid work) done I wanted to. That'll do.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Friday, May 22, 2009

Senate Transcript

The Senate has now put up the transcripts from 30 March. It was probably more fun than it reads...

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Rubbish, radio, food, electrician, drugs

The last week or so has been rubbish.

It kicked off on Friday night (a week ago) with a pair of unpleasant texts from a work colleague and improved shortly after with a request from a friend to forgive our mutual comrade. Forgiven, but the week has been draining.

I was on the radio again, or at least recorded a podcast.

This weekend has been busy, if not all of happy face. W and I swept up all the leaves under the fig tree, mulched the Japanese maple, fed the citrus, pruned both the fig and the lavender and fed curry to the chickens.

I also cooked like a demon, at least like a relaxed wine-glass-in-hand-cooking kind of demon, taking the long, slow road to:
  • lamb shanks with root vegetables;
  • cassoulet (the spell check is suggesting "cassowary"); and
  • the filling for a chicken, bacon and mushroom pie to have during the week.
This afternoon we went for a walk along Darebin Creek. Nothing like a marathon length, except in the mind of the dog, who clearly wondered whether it would ever end and whether we'd have to eat the wounded. Al and I installed a new bathroom light/heater/fan on a whim and had to race to get it done before darkness. Note to self: never do anything that requires turning the power off late on winter's afternoon.

It did make me realise that replacing a light fitting without an electrician is the closest I get to setting out to break the law these days. My wild-and-crazy credentials have been lost in the mail; my anarchist epaulets stripped and replaced with an honourary cable-knit cardigan (and bar). The last time buying drugs gave me a thrill was when the pharmacist gave me cold and flu tabs with real pseudoephedrine (as opposed to fake pseudoephedrine, which I suppose is ephedrine). All this conspires to make me feel that I am both older and well into my anecdotage. Did I tell you about the time that Binky, Fluffer, Fatty Narwhinkle-Smith and I set fire to time?

But, as the magistrate said to the lads he was sending to the cells following joint-and-several acts of public indecent affection, "you should take this time to pull yourselves together." So I'll try and pull myself together. In a mental health kind of way, he hastened to add.

Farewell to an old... friend?

This ... ah... amusing toy once belonged to E and was passed on to W some years ago. W's decided it's not really part of his vision for the future so has suggested retirement.

When it was new, F and E took it to church. Bill, the priest, apparently said to the assembled, "Oh, look - it says "press" on it's foot, so I should", and so it sang it's little song. In retrospect the Anglican hierarchy may not have been firing on all cylinders when they put Bill in at a white-bread, middle class, above-middle-aged Anglican church. Apart from being a decent bloke first and priest second, and he didn't have nearly enough interest in tennis for the locals.

It was Bill and his young son who helped me put in the ceiling insulation at Chez Thorn. After reminding his son a few times only to stand on the joists, he fell through the ceiling above a shocked A, then 7yo. He didn't fall all the way through, and was left with his arse hanging through the ceiling, joists under his knees.

I remember thinking at the time, "who shall rid me of this meddlesome priest", but only briefly. Poor Bill was mortified...

Anyway, this noxious toy is going the way of the dodo. Here it is giving what I can only hope is a coda of saccharine; a last hurrah of insulin-requiring nausea. This video is not to celebrate a toy, but to remember how lucky we are now that it's gone.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Pretty Flowers

Pretty flowers, courtesy of Auntie Holga.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Reflection on red meat

In the absence of a post here, confirmation (at least to myself) that I haven't stopped writing for pleasure here.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Al's birthday

*kneels in confession*

Well, it's been more than a week since my last posting. I haven't reflected on anyone else's blog or flickr posting and I've barely thought for myself.

Last week was dull. The weekend was almost entirely indoors, with rain sometimes drizzling; and the last two days have not been astounding. I'm also recovering from a cold (which is not, repeat NOT, a Mexican flu). Tomorrow night I was going to see the Choir of Hard Knocks but instead I'm going to Footscray instead, to explain a Very Big Plan with my two Ministers. I'll let you know how that goes.

Tonight, at least, is Number One Son's birthday, and we celebrate with a number of quasi-goth-metal-Pixies-punk-alt-Velvet-Underground-Kinks-Skyhooks-loves-the seventies(?)-clash-styled gifts. At Mr 14's request, dinner was a celebratory paella and a jug of sangria.

Other than that, I don't have much worthy of putting into written words, with one possible exception. Number three child was reporting on his child care experience, explaining his views about his new carer Niaz (who is a Muslim):
"Well .... she has green eyes. And she's got brown skin. She also wears a sheet on her head. But she wears a sheet on her head because she likes it; not because she's a ghost."
By the way, I can confirm Niaz is not a ghost - she is one of the wonderful and many suffering carers ("Gumnutters") to whom we owe our sanity. Thank you Niaz, Jess, Michelle, Max et al. You are not paid enough. You are not thanked enough. Even if we tried really hard; even to a sycophantic and weird degree; even to the point where you'd feel uncomfortable enough to call the police, we still could never thank you enough. So thank you.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Holga visits the Merri Creek

Still love me Holga, I do.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

History Men Meet Twitter

I feel your pain, history men...

Friday, April 17, 2009

An evening of discovery and Tour de Frank

Thursday night we went out straight after work. Several discoveries were made that advanced the sum of human knowledge. Or mine, at least.

Discovery Number One

The Orange Martini at the Gin Palace is fragrant, bitter, pungent and, well, orange. If we'd had time I would have had a second. Good thing we didn't have time - all that sugar can't be good for you.

Discovery Number Two

The Duck and Beer Hotpot at Post Deng is unbelievable.

Dinner was had at Post Deng on Little Bourke St and it was fantastic. I've been there a couple of times and it's always been pretty good, and the chili oil dumplings were as good as they usually are. The dumplings themselves were ok, but the oil/sauce mix is what makes the dish - rich and with an instant heat. The salt and pepper squid was good but wasn't particularly light or extraordinary. So far, so ordinary.

The duck in beer hotpot, on the other hand, was extraordinary. Small pieces of duck on the bone and fresh cucumber with lots of chili, but with a creeping heat rather than a fresh chili slap-in-the-face. Add a mix of fragrant spices including black pepper and star anise and it was just perfect; add tea and Tsingtao and it was perfecter (or maybe even perfectest...).

Discovery Number Three

After years of scorn and upwards-nose turning, F has discovered that Frank Zappa's music may not be so bad after all. I saw Dweezil Zappa at 2007's "Zappa plays Zappa" tour, and at this year's "Tour de Frank" tour, Dweezil played at the Palais Theatre in St Kilda.

The first set included "Echidna's Arf (Of You)"; "Illinois Enema Bandit"; "Village of the Sun"; and the highlight for me, "Don't You Ever Wash That Thing?" The latter pushed hard up against the limits of the band's cohesion, and there were a few moments that weren't as tight as they needed to be for what is, to be fair, a madly complex piece.

The second set was a bit more self-indulgent, with everyone getting at least a couple of solos, which is a struggle even in full health, but I could feel myself slipping into the first day of a full cold. So, feeling feverish and listening to the second bass solo for the night, we didn't stay for the encore.

I may need to expand my "Relativistic Drum Solo Theory" to incorporate bass. The Theory postulates that, any observer subjected to a drum solo of more than 8 bars will noticeably feel time slow to the point where they can imagine all eternity stretched out in front of them, and will wish that drum machines had been invented before jazz.

The Artist Formerly Known As Johnny Diesel, And Then Just Diesel, But Who Was Born Mark Lizotte (TAFKAJDATJDBWWBML) came out and sang "Bamboozled by Love" with the band. When TAFKAJDATJDBWWBML was introduced, I wasn't particularly thrilled, but he's got a surpisingly big blues voice and the song choice worked. So while I'd been disappointed that Ray White hadn't made it to Australia, (DZ announced it was more likely we'd see this Ray White) the Dweezil and Diesel Show worked really well.

The Palais is still beautiful, by the way. Even if the ceiling looks like a cheap extra from Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Relaxed weekend

Relaxed Easter weekend. Much housework (in a casual kind of manner); Saturday breakfast out; and a number of walks around the Merri Creek, which will be documented in future Holga-related postings (ie, when the films come back from the processing folks at Heidelberg).

Relaxed day at work, catching up on backlogs and working my way through old emails. Returned home to find a replacement Diana and Holga arrived. Having spent Friday booking the mid-year central-Australia trip (for which they were purchased), now I can't wait to get them out and take them for a whirl.

There's a possibility that Master 13yo isn't talking to me, but it's only a possibility - it's too hard to distinguish from the everyday silence for me to be really sure.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Bike lessons along Merri Creek

Of course, if you want the high-def version, you'll need to go here.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Electric Car

This morning I had to get up at the breaking of Sparrow's wind so I could be at Albert Park Lake by 8.00am. Winter seems to have been dumped swiftly upon us, which although means wonderful rain also means reluctant mornings and damp sullenness.

Albert Park Lake

Two tram rides and a confused walk later, (stopping at MSAC to ask directions) I arrived just in time for a pair of powerpoint presentations and a scrambled-egg-in-a-bowl-with-salsa-and-toast-sticks(?) breakfast. Sitting through a third presentation, saved 'till last because it was the interesting one, I finally got tapped on the shoulder for my turn to drive the electronic contrivance.


I then did a comfortable lap around part of the Grand Pricks track (no, that's not a typo) as it was being disassembled. I'm of the, "they can stick motor racing up their arses" philosophy, so trucks moving Grand Stands for Small Penises were a hindrance rather than a source of excitement.

The contrivance was designed to be as dull, car-like and unthreatening as possible. It drove normally, albeit quietly and with a modest sense of suppressed power (which is called "torque", I'm told). I got a go, as did Fiona, Tom and Justin. Then a taxi-ride to the office and back to the world of dreams. Or from the world of dreams - it's hard to tell sometimes.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Frank's Cough Drops

Cough lozenges advert, with a soundtrack by Frank Zappa. And this, dear reader, is why I love the interwebs...

Saturday, April 4, 2009

...Basically About Two Things...

On Friday I had to go and speak at our Integrated Transport Planning division's planning day (because planners need to plan). My task was to explain what my group (Policy and Communications) do. I started with an anecdote:
I know at a planning day you're usually supposed to look to the future with a positive, healthy glow, but I want to start by telling you about a recurring nightmare that I have.

In the nightmare I'm back at university in an English Lit. tutorial. Everyone else is passionately discussing Jane Austin when I'm suddenly put on the spot and asked, "what do you think about Pride and Prejudice". I hear myself stammer and splutter, and eventually say:

"Well, Pride and Prejudice is... ummmm... basically about two things. Ahhh... Pride.... and..."

So, with that in mind.... Policy and Communications Division is basically about two things....
This got a gratifying response, which was especially welcomed as we were in a marquee (at the zoo) and I was shouting above the sound of rain on the tent roof... At one point the noise was so loud I tried to give my presentation by semaphore... Claire (representing the land-use planners) spoke after me and was again interrupted by rain; this time with the added bonus of both LOUD thunder and lightening and a spare rat seen running across the floor.

Added bonus for the day - Claire came back into the CBD in my car and decided that her next car would be a hybrid too. That's one more....

Saturday Night Sparklers

As Blackberried... Testing the new facility.

Really, at some point I have to say "enough sparklers are enough".

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Mozart, as the 40th Symphony was meant to be played...

A wonderful Stumbleupon...

Cycling - Bottling the Goodness

As posted, the Cycling Strategy was released to great fanfare and only as a result of a lot of hard work by a few. How to celebrate? By bottling the efforts...

Yup; blood, sweat and tears.... Kaye in the Design Studio at work designed the labels, although the photo was part of the design brief. It was taken in Footscray, and shows a smiling Vietnamese-born man on his bike. Although a lot of us really liked the photo, it was cut out at the last moment from the Cycling Strategy for no real good reason.

A week or so later, Kaye was telling me the photographer had told her about his connection to this photogenic man and his bike. The photographer had been shooting random people on bikes in the CBD and in Footscray when he saw this chap. The man agreed to be photographed and was charming about the whole thing; lots of smiles etc. When the photographer got home, he downloaded the photos onto his PC. His wife, walking past, said, "oh, that's XXXX". "Who?" "You remember, they used to be our next door neighbours..." Ooops...

I bought the wine from Chris, the cleanskin guy at Fairfield. "Blood" is a 2002 Coonawarra Cab Sauv; "Sweat" is a Yarra Valley fizz; and "Tears" is a Pinot Grigio from somewhere.

In 2004 we had some pretty hard rains and much of Fairfield, including the shops, were waist deep in water. Our favourite wine shop owner has a photo of the shop, a meter deep in water, with what looks like a giant transparent fingernail poking out of the waters. I once asked, "what's that?" Wry smile, "that's my Vespa's windscreen"... Ooops...

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

All the Kidlets, in one photo

...sort of...

Podcast... Oh.. um, ummmm ahh...

My appearance on 3RRR in December turns out to have been podcast for posterity. God help posterity.

All my .....umms, ahhs and stuff ups...

...and coming to terms with the fact that I sound (a) adenoidal, and (b) unbelievably defensive....

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

From The Age, post hearing

(extracted from here)

  • Clay Lucas
  • March 31, 2009

"USING a train, tram or a bus should attract the same tax concessions as driving a car, both Connex and the State Government have told a Senate inquiry into federal funding of the nation's public transport.

"Public transport fares attract no tax concession," Connex's head of corporate affairs, Mark Paterson, yesterday told the inquiry, which is conducting hearings throughout Australia.

"Tax concessions to private motorists should either be removed or similar concessions be afforded to public transport users," Mr Paterson said.

The more kilometres Australian motorists clock up in their company car, the more they are rewarded by the fringe benefits tax system. Less generous tax concessions apply to public transport use. The Brumby Government's Department of Transport also made a presentation to the inquiry, and the department's head of policy, Michael Hopkins, agreed public transport should attract tax concessions, although he said tax incentives for drivers should stay.

"Fringe benefit tax currently treats motor vehicle use and public transport differently," Mr Hopkins said. "We would be seeking more equitable treatment of public transport."

It was also vital the Rudd Government began funding big public transport projects to deal with the huge influx of passengers on to trains, trams and buses, he said.

"We are in uncharted territory in terms of patronage (growth)," Mr Hopkins said, pointing to an 11 per cent rise in use of Melbourne's public transport system last year alone.

Last year, 480 million trips were made on the city's public transport network — 48 million more than in 2007. This has left the train and tram system, in particular, struggling to cope.

Arguments that more services could be run, using the existing train system in particular — as espoused by RMIT transport academic Paul Mees for years — were wrong, Mr Hopkins said.

Small efficiencies were possible, he said, but a huge efficiency increase — one that the existing public transport system could not deliver — was needed.

"As much as we would love there to be huge amounts of untapped capacity just waiting for us to flick the switch, it is just not true, unfortunately."

Australia is one of the few developed countries in which the federal government does not fund public transport but funds roads. The Hawke government was the last to directly fund public transport. Prime Minster Kevin Rudd last year announced his intention to fund urban public transport.

Greens senator Scott Ludlam, who initiated the inquiry, said a common theme had emerged at hearings throughout the country: a lack of co-ordination of public transport.

"We have train, tram and bus services around the country cannibalising and competing with each other," he said."

Man, this is getting weird. Two consecutive Tuesdays; two positive articles. I'm beginning to wonder if I woke up in the wrong universe again (which is sometimes embarrassing). "Which way is clockwise here?" is my usual test. Of course, some universes don't have clocks (which is always frustrating). Relax; I'll work it out.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Senate Committee

At a week's notice I was asked to present to a Senate Committee Inquiry into public transport on the state of PT in Victoria, which was nice.

The presentation was duly given this afternoon. I was then subjected to a modest and gentle toasting from Senators (with the emphasis on the "modest"), rather than a grilling. The Chairman started the questions by saying he thought "Melbourne had the best public transport in the country", which was a fantastic way to make me feel this was not, as I had geed myself up to believe, the Spanish Inquisition.

I thought it all went well, but who has any idea what the tissues will say? We'll find out in the morning...

As Senate Committees post transcripts of proceedings, I'll link to my bits when they appear on the interwebs.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Hitler's Car Pool

Accessed here. Special thanks to Justin for reminding me of it's existence, at a time when I have found myself responsible for increasing vehicle occupancy...

Sustainable Madness

This week at work we were the inadvertent hosts to an event in the Theatrette. It purported to be about sustainability and transport, which, at least for me, are two great tastes that go together, and plenty of people from my group signed up. They were all disappointed.

For a whole series of reasons the event had the potential to be a huge reputation risk, but ultimately it happened and no-one was any the wiser, or indeed seemed to care.

Highlights, according to the guys who manage the corporate centre, were:
  • An attendee was disappointed that the theatrette did not have any space allocated for her fold-out bed. Space was duly found and she watched the proceedings from bed.
  • There was a complaint regarding the amount of lighting in the building and in particular the Theatrette: 'especially concerning during a sustainability lecture'.
  • Request to "turn the heating down" in the Theatrette. Person told there was no heating, but we could turn the AC up. Pursed lips, "no thank you".
  • Attendee said to CC staff it would be good to work for our organisation, quote, "but they wouldn't hire wogs". Our EEO policy was explained. He returned later to ask one of the women at the front desk out.
Never, ever again....

A walk around Thornbury

This is Thornbury, the suburb where I live. Most of Thornbury dates from about the end of WW1 - our house was built in 1917, hence it's need for a coat of paint. Plenty of other houses need a coat of paint as well...

Because of the changes to retail habits since the 1950's, we have plenty of former corner shops now converted into houses.

A few still remain as shops. This is what corner shops looked like when I was growing up.

Plenty of redevelopment happening. I'm not particularly fussed about that - there's enough history to go around (and we'll be hanging on to our bit), although I was miffed about the house next door being demolished in the way that it was.

In fact, I'm fairly happy about the changes in Thornbury, recognising that we're probably only passing through "cool and creative" (or what passes for it) on our way to "hip and commercial". Then it will be shit and I'll probably complain about it. Of course, by that stage I might have become one of those men who wears their pastel jumpers knotted around their neck and insists on drinking coffee only where there is stainless steel and racket. In the real world, it's more likely he'll wonder why I'm so badly dressed.

The next major redevelopment site is likely to be the old Northcote Pottery site.

I'm still really happy with what the Holga's doing. I might need a spare in case I wear this one out...

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Cycling Strategy

Yesterday was a great day at work - a happy Minister and a happy Premier launched the Cycling Strategy we've been working on for about six months.

The Cycling Strategy was one of the first things this particular Minister asked of me when I started in this job, and to be honest it was not as easy as I thought it would be. But to be fair, when I say "we", I mean the few; the wonderful few who nailed this fucker down and turned it into a Strategy. And they are heroes. Evelyn, Chloe, Melissa, Mel and the guys were %$#@ing fantastic - I am so lucky...

While the team's talent is of no surprise at all, most surprisingly our favourite conspiratorial journalist (whom, I fraudulently suspect, believes in the Jewish/Masonic/Catholic/Scientologist/Rosicrucian conspiracy to take over the Earth using the mystical powers of cheese, bullshit and the Orgone Energy Accumulator) declared our Strategy a huge success.

The Age thought thus and thus. Good on them, I say. Lackeys.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Punjabai Wadi

Guru Nanak Groceries is one of two local Indian/Pakistani spice shops within walking distance from home. Last week I was wandering the aisles looking for cumin and came across Punjabi Wadi, mysterious lumps of lentils and spices dried into unappealing pats.

I'll give most things a go, and anything with that many spices must be pretty good. A hop, step and a Google later I had a recipe. Lots of garlic, lots of ginger, broccoli and cauliflower and these strange pats.

They're not easy to describe. The dish turned out spicier than I expected, and the wadis give it this mysterious smell that's a bit like walking into a spice shop. There's a smell in the deli section at Vic Market that must be the sum total of all of the pungent and enticing aromas - cheeses, cured meats, sausages and so on. The Punjabi Wadis are a bit like that - either they are the strongest smell in the shop (unlikely) or they have a mix of spices not unlike the balance of what's on the shelves.

They were chewier than I expected and with an appetite for liquid that dried out the curry pretty well. Almost all of the base was absorbed into the wadis, and yet they stayed fairly intact - I thought they'd fall apart once wet but they kept a distinct shape and a resistance to assault. In retrospect, the wadi-to-vegetable ratio was probably too high, meaning it should probably have been wetter than it turned out.

They probably won't appeal to the kinder, but I'll be making this again.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

I am a process

This isn't a Douglas Hofstadter-esque post about a recursive, self-similar, strange loop definition of consciousness.

I was copied into an email today that was circulating some words I would ultimately have to approve. It said "...this is our proposed response, subject to internal processes."

That's when I realised I was that internal process.

At first I felt like some kind of intestinal parasite, but luckily I quickly settled on a general dehumanised feeling. Sigh. This has not been an easy week at work. I am a process. I am a gear in a great wheel. Cogito ergo sum: I think therefore I am a cog.

It's been a week dominated by the last minute entweakments to a strategy document that is constantly 'almost' finished; a week of sleepless nights and unexplained inner tension; a five day week after a two day week - an unsettling week, in short. Maybe Friday will be better. I need a weekend of gardening and lazing; of exercise and fruit.

Ecce homo, ergo elk.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Forgotten texts...

My phone's been crazed with animal spirits this week, or at least is refusing to charge without heating to just below the boiling point of lead. While it's over the pits having a grease and oil change, I've been given a loan phone by the IT guys at work. Today I discovered some pre-existing texts from previous owners/users. Without any context they are perfect:
  • "As previously requested we have noticed that you haven't completed the online bullying and harassment training, therefore we require you to attend a face to face training session on (date redacted)..."
  • "Hey mart came second :-) get our money back"
  • "What? I cant send it now"
  • "Not Rostered - Date (redacted)"
  • "HA Role - CC - please respond with 'Yes' or 'No' "
  • "Will get kaye to send again from work tomorrow keep eyes peeled"
  • "Lanas there tonight :-) look out for her"
  • "Tina is on her way! Thanks amanda"

Sound Relief

Yesterday was Sound Relief, a benefit concert at the MCG for the Victorian Bushfire Appeal. It rained heavily throughout the day (proving conclusively how ironic irony can be), and we'd assumed that the start would be delayed. We dropped Emily and William at Viewbank, raced to get there and discovered we'd just missing Paul Kelly... Damn. We were just in time to see Augie March (Urbane Scrumping rating: pleasant), which is a bit like discovering you've missed the cheese course but you're in time "for some lovely boiled rice."

Actually, that's a bit unfair. More in the "wouldn't buy the album, but would be happy if someone else played it in the car" category.

A rap contrivance emerged. A short walk to the bar.

Liam Finn is a bearded ball of energy, and I instinctively feel for the man with a boyish face trying to look older by growing a beard... At least mine's got some grey in it. Oh, and I'm beginning to look old as well. But he had a mad, unbridled passion and an infectious energy. The leaps from guitar to drums were wonderfully chaotic, but ultimately it was All About Liam. Which is ok, as long as you can carry it off, and he could. Urbane Srumping rating: I need to sit down - I'm feeling old now.

Crowded House the crowd pleaser. Four songs, and once they'd appeared on stage, no real need to play them. 80,000 people singing "Weather With You" and "Better Be Home Soon" means the band are not much more than conductors and eye candy, but 80,000 folks weren't going to sing without them... Urbane Srumping rating: these songs didn't write themselves.

I've wanted to see Jack Johnson since "Brushfire Fairytales", and he was as good as I'd hoped. I wasn't expecting to be blown off my feet, but I was expecting to check my pockets for a stray joint that I might have tucked away for just such an occasion. I did check. I didn't find one. Bud or muso; the Hawain option is a mellow one. Urbane Srumping rating: "Your turn to roll. I'm too stoned."

Wolfmother were exactly (I mean *exactly*) as anticipated... One part Zep; three parts Black Sabbath; one part pastiche; two part worship and just a dash of Hawkwind and Tull with a T-Rex chaser. Thanks, mine's a pint. And a Jameson's. Urbane Srumping rating: The Chicken Kiev of rock. Lots of flavour and instant appeal, but I was ten years old when this was the height of fashion and it'll always look like faded and jaded to me.

Before we got the business end of the day, Our Kylie popped off her perch to sing "I still call Australia home". Questions should be asked in Parliament, but won't. So it'll have to be me. Urbane Srumping rating: Why? Why the fuck did you sing that song, of all the possible songs in the universe?

It did crystallise the jingoistic theme that made me feel uncomfortable all day. I'm happy to celebrate heroes, but a lot of speeches offered the simple "we're great because we're Australians, therefore being Australian is great" view. Please folks, let's just try and do Good Things and shut the fuck up about it. That's the kind of Australian I aspire to being.

And then we got to the business end of the day. Hunters and Collectors. Urbane Scumping rating: All grunt; all heart. I've seen Mark Seymour twice, both times in a more acoustic mood, but never the Hunners. If they'd ever played at the Seaview Ballroom in St Kilda in the 1980's, I bet it didn't sound this gutsy...

The last time I saw Split Enz was at the Venue in St Kilda in 1984. It was with a girl I went out with, maybe twice, whose name and face I can't remember. I think we were at school together. I do remember (a) I got a voucher entitling me to discount entry, which I remembered too late to use for Motorhead, some months later, and (b) Split Enz wore white suits that had day-glo patterns that only revealed themselves when the UV lights were turned on late in the night.

At the MCG they were just brilliant, and it's easy to see the genesis of Crowded House in Split Enz. Better at chipper pop than Crowded House, perhaps, but fewer arm-waving ballads. Urban Scrumping rating: History never repeats, but just sometimes, it should.

Not to mention, "I see red"...

And then the Oils. Somethings haven't changed. The Prime Minister's favourite Oils song might be "Wedding Cake Island" (Peter Garrett is silent), but they weren't playing for him. I saw them for the first time in 1984 at the South Melbourne Cricket Ground (supported by the Divinyls), and a few years later at the old Olympic swimming pool and both times it was like being flattened by a fast-moving flattening thing. Urban Scrumping rating: More Head Injuries would have been better, but I know I'm in the minority there.

Fantastic, but exhausting. I'm pretty happy about the photos too, considering we were sitting about as far back as we could. All with a 300mm lens and no tripod, too.