Monday, May 14, 2018

Teletubbies theory

Theory: The Teletubbies is an elaborate treatise on advanced chemistry. Po is obviously Potassium, La-La is Lanthanum [and the rare earths generally], and I think Tinky-Winky is a new alloy of Titanium and Tungsten.

 This alloy combines the lightness of titanium with the, er, heaviness of tungsten. We don't yet know what for.

 My theory is hampered or possibly helped by the fact I don't know the name of the other Tellytubby. But I am applying for funding to find out.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018


This is a memento of a happy moment. I sat here with Winston looking over the brewery while a flock of homing pigeons circled, flying over us every 20 seconds or so. It was very quiet, apart from the periodic flapfest.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Is it OK to be angry about more than one thing?

Yesterday Australia exploded in uproar and disappointment at the news our Test cricket captain had confessed to pre-meditated cheating in the 3rd test in South Africa. Later in the day a backlash developed as human rights advocates contrasted our national response to ball tampering with our national response to our mandatory detention of asylum seekers – which has resulted in untold misery, many deaths and life-changing injury and mental illness.

I am gutted about the gap between expectations and reality with the cricket team. Pre-meditated cheating, pushing young Bancroft out to do it, the shitty attempt at cover up after. The first I or most Australians knew about this was Steve Smith fronting a press conference, admitting the offence.

On the other hand, our government is carrying out an established policy (with tacit ALP support) that is grinding asylum seekers into the dirt every day. Every fucking day. And like millions of other Australians I have tried to hold our government to account.

I have written to ministers, to newspapers, signed petitions, attended vigils. I have volunteered for many many hours on an Amnesty International stall at the market where we try to convey the importance of these issues to people passing by. I was even pressed into taking part in a bit of street theatre in Refugee Week once [if you know me you will know this is waaay outside my comfort zone].  There are people like Ian Rintoul and Kon Karapanagiotidis who make fighting this fight their life's work. I have given time and money to help them but I cannot do what they do.

Occasionally particular events leap out of the continuum of officially sanctioned human rights abuse. The deaths of Reza Bharati, Omid Masoumali, and Hamid Khazaei and many more. And now the attempt by the government to stop a suicidal ten-year-old coming here for treatment. These are the headline events, when every fair-minded Australian agrees - hang on, this is not right. But then it slips from the front page but those innocent people are still in mandatory detention.

Yes, there are Australians who are blind to the injustice, and in fact say they support offshore detention, tow-backs and even more punitive action against asylum seekers who have committed no crime. But 45% of Australians want asylum seekers on Manus and Nauru brought here. Undoubtedly there are cricket-lovers and proud Australians on both sides.

Freeing people from offshore detention is an every-day fight. Concern about cricket or the environment or corruption or the possums getting into your carrots; none of this means you have stopped caring about and acting on behalf of asylum seekers.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Letter to the Mercury

Charles Woolley's column about Barnaby Joyce amounts to a whitewash. Most of the media focus has been on his private life and Woolley says, fairly, they need to get over it. 

But to say "He not a mass murderer, a terrorist … or even a crooked politician” is quite a stretch and amounts to a Joyce public relations manoeuvre. 

So, we can construe Woolley is OK with two taxpayer-funded jobs created out of thin air for Vicki Campion? 

Woolley is OK with the taxpayers millions spent on a ‘security upgrade’ of Joyce’s mate’s place in Armidale that he was staying in rent free? 

Woolley is OK with Joyce’s water buybacks at twice the market rate as Agriculture Minister? 

I agree, it’s time to lay off his private life and time to take a good hard look at his conduct as minister, and hold him accountable.

Sunday, February 04, 2018


I’ve just finished Longitude by Dava Sobell. Great story with some amazing characters like Admiral Sir Cloudisely Shovell

Admiral of the Fleet Sir Cloudisely Shovell died along with 2000 sailors in the mass shipwreck of 1707 in the Scilly Isles. 7 years later Parliament passed the Longitude Act offering £20,000 to anyone who could develop a method for ships to accurately calculate their longitude. 

Sobell says one sailor on Shovell’s flagship, who was a native of the Isles, spoke up to warn him they were off course. Shovell had him hanged for insubordination. Shortly after the ship HMS Association foundered on rocks, and three other ships followed; Eagle, Romney and Firebrand.

Shovell’s body washed ashore in Porthellick Cove. Sobell says 30 years later a woman confessed on her deathbed that she had found him on the beach alive, and finished him off so she could take his emerald ring.

North Hobart's tiny house district

I have worked out that in hour I can walk from Red Jelly up here to North Hobart and back. Or I can catch the bus up that way then walk around and have a really good look THEN walk back. I have found a big blackberry bush that I'd quite like to revisit, in a little thru-way between houses.

This is around Smith, George and Wellington Streets, between Argyle St and Letitia St. Some tiny tiny houses around here. (Photos from Google Streetview)


Friday, January 26, 2018

A wander around Rosny Point

I went for a paddle here this morning - Kangaroo Bay. There is a wonderful collection of mid century weatherboards around this area. Once back on land I went for a drive around Rosny Point. Below are some Streetview screen grabs.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

To the ACT (Australian Christmas Territory) - Part 3, Festival of Bleak

Canberra is an unusual place. I try to accept it for what it is; a large decentralised city plonked in the bush, mostly built during the 1970s and marked indelibly with style choices of that era. The population quadrupled from 1960 to 1975, then a recession hit and building stopped dead.

But even by it's own standards, it is looking extremely bleak. There are some water restrictions – but they aren't draconian. Canberrans often have big flat blocks, and native trees predominate; often grey/green, with loads of dry bark piled up under them. Maybe the local flora is naturally bleak. But I have noticed in many places residents have essentially drawn a line across their property and just ignored everything past that point.

Some shopping centres are under a moratorium with no new building allowed and heaps of vacancies. A 5 minute-walk from Felicity's house are the Weetangera Shops. All over Canberra, this model of little clusters of shops was implemented. Here there is a Pakistani restaurant, a bodybuilding centre, a patisserie and a bakery, a dentist and Brazilian Queen hair removal service. There is zero traffic.

The tooth is headed next door for an eyebrow waxing.

You would never know you are less than 10 metres from a sindhi biryani
Further away but a larger are the Hawker Shops.

On my first visit I was overwhelmed by the abundant parking.
I returned to document the bleakness in full. It's not conventional suburban dystopia – there is very little graffiti. Things are just closed, or empty, or both. To be fair it is between Christmas and New Year, and everyone goes to the coast. But… a lot of these places are closed for good. I heard that Girlalang shops were a lot worse, but I didnt get a chance to ghoulishly cruise over there.

This changed to something else at some point but now its essential 'unisex hairdresser-ness' is reasserting.

The play area wasn't ALWAYS deserted but it wasn't hard to get this picture.
It is surrounded by blank brick walls, the back entrances of vacant shops.
Another factor is the Mr Fluffy asbestos scandal. Mr Fluffy was a local insulation business run by Dirk Jansen, that installed asbestos-based insulation in over 1000 homes. The Federal Govt is now buying and demolishing these homes, many in Weetangera. The three below are within a short walk of Felicity's. It is really sad to stand in front of a vacant block with nothing left but a letterbox, and perhaps a garage. Jansen stored the stuff under his own house. He kept installing it despite evidence of its health effects, until 1978.

You can just imagine the pall that this sort of thing could cast over a community. Neighbourhood friendships gone, possibly property values affected, and that nagging worry if your own health might be affected from living next door.

Below is a typical street in Weetangera. The first question this raises for me is; where do you walk? And in practice the answer is – on the road. Footpaths do exist in places but in many areas they have been omitted in favour of green nature-strips on both sides. Residents' approaches to managing nature-strips vary; it may be gravelled over for car-parking, maintained as tidy lawn, allowed to go feral or in many cases, planted with large trees and shrubs making it impassable to foot traffic.

And lastly here is a true Canberra icon – the cyclindrical concrete bus-stop. These date back to (and loudly scream) 1974!! They were designed by Clem Cummings. 

The bleakness is strangely entertaining, but for the good of all Canberrans I hope things turn around and freshen up soon.