Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Morning paddle

Photograph by Odille
Autumn is here. The beautiful warm days are persisting, and with each one I am sitting at my desk looking out, wondering if this will be the last chance to take out the wave ski.

This morning I made a quick plan, got the ski on the car and set off before I thought better of it. I haven't paddled at Cornelian Bay before - always been a bit put off by the sludgey sand - but I felt like paddling around to the fuel tanks at Selfs Point. That probably sounds weird but I have always found the huge white cylinders of different shapes and sizes clustered on the edge of the water to be very handsome. Mt Direction is a camel hump of bushy green behind. Its a nice scene, I just can't lay my hand on a drawing of it at the moment.

Google Street View
I braved the squishy sludge and pushed out into the glassy water. Its a fairly sheltered bay, sitting between the Domain and the cemetery. I wanted to paddle out of the shelter and around the point of the cemetery so I could admire the tanks from the water.

Once I got out there I could actually smell oil - I am sure it wasn't from the tanks but just the normal smell of a working river. Not that the Derwent is busy by any means. In the half hour I was paddling out, only once boat went downriver. The wake took so long to reach me it caught me by surprise a few minutes later. The oil smell took me back to being little, on Christmas trips to Sydney, and being out on the busy harbour on ferries. I wonder how many people actually work on the water in Sydney now compared to the 1980s?

Once I had ogled the tanks I kept pushing out into the river, aiming straight at Geilston Bay on the other side. I had half an idea to just keep going and surprise Mum and Dad for morning tea. But to arrive near their house would require fighting the current, and I didn't fancy a half hour walk in saturated shorts. I might one day try it, but I'll start from upstream, let someone know first, and probably ask for a lift back to the car afterwards.

After a while I realised that my next target, an orange buoy, wasn't getting any closer, and I had effectively got myself into an endless lap-pool situation. So I took the easy way out and turned around and headed back in.

I didn't fancy the squidge so I went over the rockier side of the bay where the boathouses are. A few of them had morning residents. You are not allowed to spend the night in them, but if I had one I would certainly be down there early on a day like this. I am considering this morning my anti-school holiday. Soon enough I will have kids on holiday on my hands while I try to work. For now they are all safely in school for a couple more days.

Matt Newton took this one years ago, i just had it lying around.
After I stickybeaked around the boathouses I pulled up on the crappy oyster-shell encrusted south side of the bay. Not really any better, but at least I know that now. Walked around the bay and fetched the car. Now I am back home and the day's work can commence.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Chess Club for grown ups

I supervised the Taroona High team at a chess tournament the other day. There are some terrific players at THS but many of the older ones have drifted away from chess, which leaves Marcus as the main hope of the team although he's only just turned 13. He carried South Hobart Primary team's hopes through his last 2 or 3 years playing chess there, too.

He did OK at the tournament, but as he often does he finished between 3rd and 10th. I feel like he puts so much time into working on getting better, and tries so hard in tournaments but isn't making inroads against those top 4 or 5 kids. He's certainly smart enough. So I asked him if he wanted to go and try out the Hobart Chess Club.

The lady who runs the school chess tournaments mentioned it years ago. The juniors run from 5 to 6.30 on Monday evenings and the adults follow; kids are welcome to stay and play against adults if they wish. I didn't push it as who wants a commitment on Monday nights when there other things all week, especially in soccer season?

But now I think Marcus, who loves playing and loves to do well, is ready to have regular games against strong players and meet the wider chess community. He seemed cautiously keen so we went along this evening to the Migrant Resource Centre in Molle St, which is not far from home.

There was a coaching session for the first hour, playing through a famous game; then the kids (all boys) were paired up. Marcus played a kid of similar ability and age to himself and had a long tight game that he ended up losing. By then it was 6.30 and the adults were shuffling in.

Elf and Michael and I had been reading books and generally sitting around the edges, and all four of us were getting pretty hungry, but Marcus was very keen to stay and play. The rest of us went off and got takeaways at the Tandoori House.

When we got back he was just starting his third game against his nominated adult opponent, and he was having a wonderful time. Marcus won all three. He loves it, thinks the people are very nice and the balance of coaching and playing is just right. He was concerned the opponents would be too hard (or too easy) but I think he is going to get heaps of good competition and heaps of variety too.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

The last school sports

Yesterday I went to the South Hobart primary sports day for probably the last time. With Michael in Grade 6 this year, we are experiencing quite a few lasts. We started our involvement with the school in 2006, (almost matching the life of this blog), so it's quite an era coming to an end. Given the fluidity of people's work lives now, and I expect in the future, most kids will probably never have an 8-year stint anywhere again after primary school.

Michael is developing his thoughtful and responsible side. He shys away from the kind of leadership roles that naturally appeal to Marcus, but in his low-key way I can see he is enjoying being "top of the school".

At the sports I found him sitting in the back row of the grandstand, not on his own but just in his own space, behind some friends. Where Marcus revelled in leading, and encouraging, it is rare to hear Michael express enthusiasm for others efforts, and we are really trying hard to work on that with him. It comes very naturally to me to babble encouraging generalities while watching kids sport or playing my own, but it will have to be a learned skill for our youngest.

Of course it's nice to be encouraging, but beyond that it is good for you yourself, I believe. Even if it's claptrap and the people nearest me dearly wish I would shut up, I am certain that some kind of soup of positivity infuses and nurtures my brain while I am being Mr Encouragement.

Back to Michael and the sports. Grade 6 kids are chivvied into participating in practically everything. Once I was there too to join in the persuading, Michael had no hope of receding into the grandstand as he wished.

He had won his 100m race before I arrived - he usually runs in the "not that fast" heat and has won it comfortably now two years in a row. I also missed seeing his long jump, but I understand he came fourth.

I came in exactly at the start of his speciality, the sack race. He has been unbackable favourite for this for some years. It's a shame the monkey race was phased out, he was seriously a world title chance in that one. It was like Walter Lindrum all over again.

His race approach in the sack was "give it the kitchen sink", which probably cost him the win. He is simply the fastest, so if he'd just gone boing boing he would have won comfortably. Instead he took off in a frenzy and fell, injuring his arm and scraping his knee. He got up and then just burned up the track with the most incredible (bagged) closing speed anyone had ever seen. But too late, he hit the front mere inches after the finish line.

After some cajoling he went in the 200m. He is actually quite fast when he applies his mind and legs. He ran in lane 2, starting staggered behind all but one of the others. And he caught them all but one, coming with a terrific finish and just failing to pass Oliver who had spent nearly all his petrol.

Michael's egg and spoon race was not his best, but I was pleased to see that at last SHPS has invested in some Sensible Standard Spoons after some less-than-fair variability in past years.

As ever our family house Derwent was the winner at the end of the day. Join me now in one last rendition of DER WENT (clap clap clap) DER WENT (clap clap clap).

Summit meeting in Richmond

I went to Melbourne for a footy bloggers summit meeting. Had a great time with my TTBB colleague Dugald, and meeting for the first time Craig from Footy Maths Institute, John from Holy Boot's Emporium, and Andy from TTBB and Reading Sideways.

We met at the London Tavern, and then had a stroll through the park around the MCG and a bit of kick to kick.  

Above and below, soaking up the Tigerish atmos of the London Tavern in Lennox St Richmond.


The Canoe Tree. "...an old eucalyptus scar tree which shows a big scar caused by harvesting of bark for a canoe by the original inhabitants of the Yarra River Valley, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation." -Wikipedia


The Lake Oval, former home of the South Melbourne Football Club. Now its been swanked up as a (locked up) soccer and athletics venue.
Abot 15 years ago before the Lake Oval was redeveloped. The echoes of Laurie Nash and Bobby Skilton that were here then were removed along with the asbestos. 

This next batch are from around Victoria Park, former home of Collingwood Football Club. It is now open to the community and its an object lesson for how this sort of heritage site ought to be retained.



Alistair Jellie fitting in with the frankly yellow-and-black vibe that now permeates Vic Park thanks to health and safety regs.




Magnificent scoreboard sculpture by Anderson Hunt


The sculptures around the MCG are very classy. Shane Warne with just a hint of tub.
DK Lillee photographed from exactly 22 yards away.

A quite moving memorial to Tom Wills, pioneering cricketer and co-inventor of Australian Rules.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Chan and Sukumaran

Amnesty International rang me this afternoon asking me to attend a vigil for Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, who are likely to be executed in Indonesia in the next couple of weeks. I am an Amnesty member and against the death penalty, so it should be a no-brainer. I probably will be there.

But I feel very conflicted about it. Here is why.

Indonesia's sovereignty. The Republic of Indonesia has always had the death penalty, and they have used it regularly since 1973. People inside and outside the country can pressure them to repeal it for all the excellent reasons that apply everywhere else too. And of course in this particular case we can appeal for clemency and so on. But we have done those things. Sometimes they may work but in this case the President of the country has considered it and declined.

The big picture. I want the death penalty repealed in Indonesia. Bashing Joko Widodo over the head with the specifics of this case – the involvement of the AFP, the rehabilitation efforts of the men, their distraught families – none of that will actually help push Indonesia to repeal.

Collateral damage.  In pushing Indonesia to repeal, we need to pick our battles. It’s like selecting a test case to take to court. You may be one of many victims of a criminal, but yours is not the clearest case. The police take another case to court knowing that they have a better chance for conviction. Your own case may never be heard, you are just collateral damage in a larger war. If people in Australia would like test the death penalty in Indonesia, maybe take a wider interest in Indonesian justice. We hear that its corrupt, patchy, painfully slow. Maybe more Australians could get behind an international organisation like Amnesty that tries to work within existing frameworks, applying leverage in the most effective way. You can bet that there are dozens of Indonesian citizens on death row whose convictions were not so cut and dried. I’d rather devote my efforts to having their cases re-examined, saving them and demonstrating the pitfalls of the death penalty, anywhere, for anyone. These Australians may just be collateral damage in a longer struggle.

Consistency. [Take away the death penalty for a second.] If you want to intervene to change their sentence, is it because they are Aussies? Because they are sorry? Because they were dudded by the AFP? Because they lead prayer groups and painting classes?  I don’t feel like I want to change someone’s sentence on that basis. They were guilty, they did a terrible thing and dragged seven others down with them. Rehab is great, good for them, but it was not a hard thing to choose. For me they can rot in jail. [OK, bring back the death penalty.] Now I have to act whether I like it or not. I argued against death for the Bali bombers. Even for Russell Brewer. But I am pretty sure Alan Jones wasn't on my side then.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Seven Mile Beach

We just spent our first of seven nights at a beach resort, courtesy of my mum and dad. It is very nice, has a tennis court and swimming pool, on-site restaurant, and we are in a very private self-contained unit. Of course I am missing the dog and cat, but I will see them shortly when I go home to do some work. We are only twenty minutes away from South Hobart, at Seven Mile Beach.

Mum and Dad have stayed at a couple of Wyndham resorts, and joined some kind of frequent fliers club where you accrue points. They gave us a brochure to choose which resort we would like to stay at, using some of their points. Due to a combination of work commitments and lack of liquidity, we found the only option that worked for us was just crossing the bridge and coming out here near the airport to Wyndham Vacation Resorts Asia Pacific Seven Mile Beach (to use its correct name).

I have bought a carton of books and articles to read, but we found last night that there is pay TV with it's dazzling menu of live sport. I will need to exercise some degree of will power to stick to Plan A rather than just soaking up all 90 minutes plus injury time of relegation battlers Everton v West Brom, for instance.

I have not made a general announcement to clients that I am clocking off for a week. I didn't think it would be necessary as last year work was quite slow to pick up after Christmas, but I have two clients who are already up and going and expecting me to be likewise. I think that a couple of hours today and possibly the same tomorrow should take care of the pressing things that can't wait for our return.

Approx. 3.5 miles of the seven.
The resort is handily located to Hobart Airport

Michael's birthday was on the 24th, so we took with us this turntable, his birthday present.

The units were cleverly designed to be quite private from one another although they are all cheek by jowl. Skilful landscaping.

A radar installation I guess.

The birthday boy, now 11.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Phillip Hughes 1988-2014

When Phillip Hughes was suddenly drafted into the Australian cricket team, they must have got him to pop in to Channel 9 so they could film his little video portrait. When they mention a player or when he comes in to bat, they play this clip of them slowly turning around, lifting their head and giving you a look, you know, like you have just asked to dance with their girlfriend.

Phillip however jerked around as though someone had just dropped a fully laden tea tray.

I am joking around because his death is too sad and incomprehensible for me to address any other way. There have been many beautiful, thoughtful and heartfelt pieces written and I will not even try to match them.

It is a small mercy that of all the world's cricket grounds he was at the SCG. For his family and friends it meant they could be with him and all together over the next two days and hold a vigil for him. If he had been in Mohali or even Perth it would have felt quite different. Michael Clarke has been outstanding and is an ever more impressive leader, who has some more challenging times ahead, maybe the most difficult of his career.

I was fickle in my support for Phillip Hughes. After thrilling to his brilliant start and then despairing of his chances to ever lock down a spot in the team, I was too easily convinced by those who said he was a Shield run machine that just didn't have the technique to make the next level.

His innings that has been warming the cockles of my heart was not a spectacular one. It was full of maturity, and a sense that time was not against him, time was in fact ripening up and rounding out his talents. He batted with Ashton Agar on debut, in that extraordinary partnership at Trent Bridge that dragged Australia back into the match. He talked the young bloke through it and it was so impressive in a low-key way. There is a beautiful recap of it by Anthony Sharwood here.

Rest in peace Phillip Hughes, 1988-2014.

 Pic: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images




Sunday, November 16, 2014

Meanwhile our other son...

... is back creating new alphabets. This one is heavily based on Gujarati (which I think is the most beautiful of the Indian alphabets).



Michael makes constant use of Google Translate - here he is translating colours into Gujarati for inspiration.



A big event in Brisbane - no, not that one


Last week Marcus and Elf spent a few days in Brisbane, so that Marcus could be presented with a gold medal from the Australian Mathematics Trust. From what we could establish, it was for his extremely high scores in the Australian Maths Competition this year. 34 medals were given out in Australia all together across grades 7 to 12, but Marcus was the only Tasmanian.

Taroona High were very proud, as this is their 3rd medallist in 4 years, but they had to admit that when a kid is part way through Grade 7 the credit really should go to their primary school.

Elf and Marcus flew up on Thursday, and stayed at a reasonably comfortable hotel in the city. There was a massive electrical storm in Brisbane when they arrived. They took the airport train to Central Station, and were staggered to see people walking through the Botanical Gardens with umbrellas despite the lightning. They had to wander about a little to find the hotel, but once there they settled in and had room service supply dinner, including a memorable bitter chocolate ganache tart thing.

They didn't sleep all that well, so they got up very early and walked around the Botanical Gardens, and were staggered (again) to see half-meter-long lizards just hanging around. They thought they had escaped from an enclosure, but no, this is just their place, man.




Later that morning they went to Government House where the Governor of Queensland, Paul de Jersey, presented the gongs. Then there was a bit of a reception with a lot of awkward standing around from the teenage maths genii, and then a buffet lunch at another hotel in the city about a block from where Elf and Marcus stayed. The Commonwealth Bank sponsor the maths competition and they put on the lunch.


That evening they went for a big walk along Southbank and saw the market, the man-made beach, beautiful gardens and the city buildings all lit up in colours for the impending G20 summit. They had a ride on the Wheel of Brisbane, and were generally very impressed. And of course it was lovely and warm.







On Saturday morning they had breakfast at the Pancake Parlour - a novelty for Hobartians as we have no good pancake outlets. Then they went back to the Botanical Gardens to say goodbye to the lizards, and caught the train back to the airport. Michael and I picked them up a few hours later and it was great to have them back.