Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Yellowstone National Park, your location for sulphur, steam and unpunished crimes

Turns out there's a chunk of Idaho within Yellowstone National Park where you *might* commit crimes & get off free.
This article argues that there is a 50-square-mile swath of Idaho in which one can commit felonies with impunity. This is because of the intersection of a poorly drafted statute with a clear but neglected constitutional provision: the Sixth Amendment's Vicinage Clause. Although lesser criminal charges and civil liability still loom, the remaining possibility of criminals going free over a needless technical failure by Congress is difficult to stomach. No criminal defendant has ever broached the subject, let alone faced the numerous (though unconvincing) counterarguments. This shows that vicinage is not taken seriously by lawyers or judges. Still, Congress should close the Idaho loophole, not pretend it does not exist.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Psychic powers over the mundane

Yesterday a couple of odd things happened.

- o O o -

I was walking to work listening to a 2-guys-chatting podcast. They talk about all sorts of things, often slipping from one subject to another. They were talking about companion animals and specifically dwarf donkeys. Conversation moved on to science fiction's strike rate at predicting the future. As I listened I was also thinking about where I could get a boater hat; the key ingredient of my costume for an upcoming "1930s garden party". Maybe my dad might have one.

Suddenly one of the podcasters said "I saw a straw boater for sale the other day and I was sorely tempted". (it happens at 36:20 in this episode if you would like to verify) At first I thought had imagined it, daydreaming that I was part of their conversation. But no, it really happened. Obviously the podcast was recorded some weeks before I listened to it, so I somehow psychically affected the minds of the podcasters before I even knew the theme of the partyFrom Florence.

A boater

- o O o -

In the afternoon at work Dire Straits were on the stereo; a song I have heard many times before called Tunnel of Love.

And girl it looks so pretty to me just like it always did
Like the Spanish city to me when we were kids

I even have sung along many times, but I have never wondered before; which Spanish city? Was Mark Knopfler thinking of Madrid? Barcelona? Valencia? I was just wondering this to myself silently when I heard my workmate Chris who was born in Yorkshire say "The Spanish City was a funfair at Whitley Bay near Newcastle". Which it is.

I didn't ask the question, and I didn't hear anyone else ask the question. Chris just announced it. I was really gobsmacked and said "Uh, weird, I was just wondering that very thing". I had earlier told everyone about the boater thing so I didn't make a fuss about this one because I don't want to be burned as a witch.

Spanish City, Whitley Bay, UK

Note 1: Chris and I work in a room with ten other people and two of them are also called Chris. Yesterday morning first thing (just after the boater incident) I and one of the other Chrises appeared in our then-empty room from opposite doors simultaneously as a third Chris emerged from the toilet. We just have to get used to these things happening.

Note 2: Chris from Yorkshire's mum used to know Mark and David Knopfler's mum.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Rees family trip to Europe - part 2: Scotland

If I had been blogging more regularly, then I would have told you about this trip already, but I don't think I have mentioned it here at all. About a year ago we started planning this swing through Europe, based around a visit to Elf's brother Chonk and his family in Switzerland - wife Irma, and kids Bea and Eric. We just got home on Sunday after seven weeks living in each other's pockets in amazing places like Venice, Florence, York and Inverness, finishing with ten days at their house in Winterthur near Zürich.

Here I'd like to send a special shout out to Irma, an incredibly loyal follower of this blog. At last there is a new post! I hope this makes your day!

You are probably wondering where Part 1 is. I am doing this post at work and I have access only to our photos from the UK, so I will double back later for a brief Part 1 about our first few days in Switzerland.

Our itinerary was: 
  • fly to Switzerland
  • 3 days later fly to Inverness
  • 2 weeks travelling through the UK stopping in Edinburgh, Alnwick, York, Cambridge and London
  • back to Switzerland for a few days
  • to Italy via the Bernina Express train over (and under) the Alps
  • 2 weeks travelling through Italy staying in Milan, Monterosso (Cinque Terre), Florence, Sorrento, and Venice
  • back again to Switzerland for another 10 days, then home
So here are some pics in rough chronological order

We did the UK from the top down, starting at Inverness. It was surprisingly lovely weather when we arrived and held up throughout. We stayed in an Airbnb near the centre of town; just across the street was an old church which was built on a pre-Christian mound. This is the spot where Christianity came to Scotland. I think the spire on the right is the one. 

Our two planned Inverness activities were a) visiting the Culloden battlefield and b) taking a day tour to the Isle of Skye. 

We took a local bus out to the edge of town near the battlefield and walked from there, on a gorgeous morning, past horsey paddocks and a lovely field of dougals.

By long family tradition we call these round haybales dougals.

This was one of the days when Michael took a long time to get into the right holiday spirit.
I found a suitable role for him at the visitors centre as 'unfortunate corpse'.
The battlefield is a vast flat grassy plain. It is very peaceful today.
The highlanders of Bonnie Prince Charlie were routed by the redcoats.
Our day trip to Skye with WOW Scotland Tours was fantastic. The bus left Inverness around 8.30am and returned after dark about 12 hours later. The guide Gordon and driver Karen were both really great at their jobs. Marcus left our camera on the bus and Gordon very kindly posted it on for us.

Lobster traps at Kyle of Lochalsh, our first port of call on Skye. 

Portree, the very pretty major town.

We stopped at a fascinating place called Fairy Glen, where mysterious conical mounds rise from the plain.

This place is called The Quiraing, and it is also mysterious and beautiful.
Various films I have never seen (Prometheus and Stardust) were filmed here.

This spot is called Sligachan. The water was 2 metres higher just a week earlier.
On our last day in Inverness we were catching a train at lunchtime for Edinburgh. The night before we were chatting to a man in a souvenir shop who told us about the prehistoric Clava Cairns just near Culloden. So we decided to go back out there and have a look in the morning. Here we are on our way back, carrying ALL our bags because I hadn't worked out that there were lockers at the train station. Later our train went over that beautiful bridge.

This rock at Clava Cairns was worked like this about 4000 years ago.
The train to Edinburgh was very interesting. We went through some very forbidding moorland, delightful little towns, and past beaches with people walking dogs in the sun. Kirkcaldy, just over the water from Edinburgh in Fife, looked particularly nice.

Our 2nd Airbnb in Edinburgh was on the major road in the suburb of Corstorphine (pron. cuh STOR fin) and we agree now it was our least favourite of the six we stayed in.

Edinburgh has a very stern air. There are a lot of jagged steeples and countless chimneys. Everything is stone, and stained dark with centuries of smoke, although now wood and coal heaters are banned.

The slice of the old town viewed from the parade ground in front of Edinburgh castle.

Inside the castle walls.

We went in search of Scotland Street, famous from the serialised stories of Alexander McCall Smith.
We found it, and this basement cafe that could well be Big Lou's. Needed more books though.
We climbed the Scott Monument to get this view of Edinburgh. 287 steps.
Before the trip we were visiting Michael's buddy Jono one day when his parents Shona and Mike suggested we should see a couple of things at Falkirk while we were in Scotland. It was a little bit out of our way but well worth it.

This is the Falkirk Wheel - devised to connect two moribund canals
and now a tourist attraction in its own right.

This shows how it works.

Nearby are The Kelpies, largest equestrian sculptures in the world.
They represent the Celtic legend of horrible monsters who live in a loch,
but turn themselves into beautiful horses to lure men to their deaths.

Jonathan Jones doesn't like them.
From Falkirk we were headed to Alnwick in Northumberland, England. We had picked up a hire car in Edinburgh with that modern infestation, a GPS. They don't give you a map any more. We had a miserable day on the road and Elf insisted first thing the next morning that we buy a map before doing anything else. We tried in vain to get south from Falkirk without being dragged back into Edinburgh but the GPS would not have a bar of it. At one point it directed us into a dodgy -looking council housing estate carpark in Airdrie.

We loved Scotland and would very happily return to spend longer. The weather down south wasn't quite up to what it had been in Inverness but no-one would quite believe us.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Time capsule on the wall

The function room here at Red Jelly was once a bunch of small offices. Back in the 1940s people pasted newspaper clippings on their walls. They are mostly sports photos; cricket, horse racing, football. There are a couple of bits of war news, and some movie star chit chat. One photo shows the elaborate double staircase that was made by staff at the Hobart Technical College asa demonstration of skills and presented to the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery. It was used for over 60 years but is now suspended from the ceiling as an exhibit. When things are quiet here at work I like to go and look at the wall and let my mind slip back to Hobart in the 1940s.

Monday, July 25, 2016


I am now trying to cover as much ground as I can in my lunch hour each day. One good walk is up to the Huon Valley Butchery on the edge of West Hobart. It’s pretty fancy, I won't be buying meat there a lot, but they are friendly and I know they have their own abbatoir at Cradoc and take animal welfare very seriously.

This corner is just nearby. It's a beautiful group of three houses on the corner. 

The other day after dropping Marcus at soccer (he has to be there 45 minutes before kick off) I went for a wander through New Town, where I hadn't walked for years. I saw this amazing bus stop.

You can hear the bzzzzt bzzz bzz bzzzzt just looking at the pic can’t you?

Friday, July 22, 2016


Being downtown for an extended time, I am walking past this facade a lot. I haven't been in a position to take a photo myself, so I have scooped this pic from here, thank you to whoever is responsible.

Fitzgeralds was a statewide department store chain that was just ubiquitous in my life growing up. The Burnie Fitzies took up half a block of town, and I bought most of my clothes and records there.

Later after I moved to Hobart I worked at the ad agency who did all of Fitzies TV, press and catalogues; where I made my notorious typo in a cosmetics ad; “come in and talk to one of our beauty conslutants” which was 100% accidental.

Fun fact; for a time there was a Fitzgeralds at Forest Hills in Melbourne! But shortly after that the parent company based in Adelaide rebranded the whole lot as Harris Scarfe and the whole chain fell into a bit of a snooze. The Hobart store is a poorly-patronised rump of what was once there.

If you have any great memories of Fitzies I'd love to hear them. I liked how you could buy a leg of lamb, a Soundgarden CD and a six pack of Rio underdaks not just under one roof, in fact inside a 10m radius.

Back to the sign; the shape of these characters are fascinating. That's a G in the middle below. Talk about minimal.

And look at this R below. Its common to build an R from the P but this is brutal!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

New job

I am writing this at my new job, at a place called Red Jelly. It's a big ad agency in Hobart but its kind of a secret - not many people know it's here and what it does. There's about 50 staff, 4 of whom are named Chris. Half the place is dedicated to the national liquor chain Dan Murphy's. Dan's generates a hell of a lot of press ads, outdoor ads, point of sale and odds and sods, and it is owned by Woolworths (as is another liquor chain BWS but that's another story). There are dozens of other clients but the big ones seem to all be Woolworths subsidiaries, including Countdown which is the name Woolworths uses in New Zealand.

Before starting here about two months ago, I had been working from home for about three years, long enough to get right into a groove. The days flew by every day, punctuated by meeting the kids after school, walking the dog, meeting clients, and doing the work. Although business varied between quiet-ish and brisk-ish, I never found that I was sitting around with nothing to do. If it was sunny I did washing, and if I felt like cleaning toilets I could do that too. Or take the wave ski out.

For my first 6 weeks here I was working on the Tourism Tasmania spring campaign at a manic rate, with no downtime at all. Once that was finished I was shifted into the Dan's room, where all around me Whisky Guides and outdoor ads for Far North Queensland are being created. There is a rhythm to the week in here and lots of flat spots.

It feels different to browse the net when you should be doing something, versus doing it to fill in time. One is a guilty pleasure and the other is just ... not something I usually do. Feels weird.

So, I am going to give myself a range of things I can do while I wait for the ping of email or the approach of the account manager. Such as – blogging.