Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Burt's Buoy and Knipper explained

You may have read this morning's book report and thought - what the hell is a Knipper? Thanks to diligent word-hound Michael Lean of Surrey Hills, Victoria we now know this is a Knipper. I don't know where the K went.

Figure 55. Burt's nipper, invented by Peter Burt, a British ship builder, in 1818. It was used to keep the sounding line vertical in spite of the motion of the ship. It was used by the British Admiralty along with a device of the same type designed by Massey. Credit: Sailing for Science - the NOAA Fleet Then and Now.

Hope for the swede

I'm quoting someone else's news website here.

Oasis Juice Bar manager Anthony Trattos said Cyclone Larry hadn’t affected the business at all.
He said they would continue to use the same quantities of apples and bananas in their products for the same prices as before the cyclone. Mr Tomasel said in the long run Larry might increase demand for apples. 'But there will be a whole lot of other beneficiaries,' he said. 'Mandarins should do well when the season starts and it will influence the whole fruit and vegetable market.'

I hope the swede gets a much-needed boost from Larry too. Don't forget the swede is the offcial root vegetable of the 2006 FIFA World Cup©.

Icy walk

I nearly broke my neck slipping on the ice, on my way down the rivulet past the Female Factory this morning. It's been about 1° overnight. As I got to the top of the zigzag track I could see the river. What was interesting was that I couldn't see the other side at all. There is often a huge solid bank of river fog, with definite edges (called the Bridgewater Jerry). This morning it was thick enough to block out the Eastern Shore, but in such a way that if you had never seen the view before, you might think you were looking out to the open sea.

Book report: Barrow's Boys by Fergus Fleming

I read this book a couple of years ago and have just been noodling through it again. It is about the successes, failures and general lunacy of British exploration in Africa and particularly the Arctic in the nineteenth century. John Barrow was the Second Secretary of the Admiralty. He had a lot of firmly held (but wrong) ideas about geography, and he sent expeditions off to confirm his views. Some of the expeditions were successful. Some limped back in tatters, the missing members buried at sea or on lonely African riverbanks, eaten by lions or left adrift with no food on an ice floe and never seen again.

It's a rattling good non-fiction read. Here is a little exerpt - this is a some of the equipment packed on board Capt. John Ross's vessel the Isabella as it set off for a polar expedition in 1818.

"Henry Kater's pendulum for measuring the ellipticity of the earth, Mr Plentty's Cork Life Boat, Enflefield's Mountain Barometer and Companion, Burt's Buoy and Knipper, Trengrouse's Apparatus for Saving Lives, and Troughton's Whirling Horizon".

Monday, May 29, 2006

Family update

This blog has swerved into being really sporty of late, due to the Tigers winning games and the impending World Cup. You are probably wondering - what' in tarnation is going on with the family? Here is a quick run down.

I am throwing out stuff as fast as I can. And looking for a house to rent when our present abode is demolished.

Elf has thrown out a box of her dire confident-but-wistful novels. She has an enduring cold but is looking forward to making a leadlight window with Susan in Susan's shed.

Marcus has discovered the pocket calculator.

Michael is snatching, grabbing, squealing, and saying "I don't want that silly THING!" whenever offered something.

Gizmo had a bad few days with leg trouble, strange behaviour, and a brief disappearance. He still has a slight limp but otherwise seems very cheerful and back to normal.

Hattie's condition is the same. Bulky, dim but friendly.

Likes/Dislikes for Monday


Bays that aren't really bays
Trying to merge two maps with different projections
The whole northern coast of Siberia, because it is SO busy and there are all these big BIG offshore islands, but you know that whether you draw it really accurately or not, no-one will notice or care.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Stills from a short movie

Soccer fatwa

In June Saudi Arabia will be appearing at their third World Cup in a row. I have just come across thisfatwa or religious edict issued by the Saudi Arabian government in August last year to control soccer in their country. It's amusing but also scary, like most extreme fundamentalist rule-making. I am pretty sure it is genuine, but parts are almost too good to be true, Here are the highlights.

In the name of God the merciful and benevolent:
International terminology that heretics use, such as "foul," "penalty", "corner," "goal", "out" and others, should be abandoned and not said. Whoever says them should be punished and ejected from the game.

Do not call "foul" and stop the game if someone falls and sprains a hand or foot or the ball touches his hand, and do not give a yellow or red card to whoever was responsible for the injury or tackle. Instead, it should be adjudicated according to Sharia rulings concerning broken bones and injuries.

Do not follow the heretics, the Jews, the Christians and especially evil America regarding the number of players. Do not play with 11 people. Add to this number or decrease it.

If you have fulfilled these conditions and intend to play soccer, play to strengthen the body in order better to struggle in the way of God on high and to prepare the body for when it is called to jihad. Soccer is not for passing time or the thrill of so-called victory.

Do not play in two halves. Rather, play in one or three parts in order to completely differentiate yourselves from the heretics, the corrupted and the disobedient.

If neither of you beats the other, or "wins", as it is called, and neither puts the leather between the posts, do not add extra time or penalties. Instead leave the field, because winning with extra time and penalty kicks is the pinnacle of imitating heretics and international rules.

You should spit in the face of whoever puts the ball between the posts or uprights and then runs in order to get his friends to follow him and hug him like players in America or France do, and you should punish him, for what is the relationship between celebrating, hugging and kissing and the sports that you are practising?

You should use two posts instead of three pieces of wood or steel that you erect in order to put the ball between them, meaning that you should remove the crossbar in order not to imitate the heretics and in order to be entirely distinct from the soccer system's despotic international rules.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Clash of Traditional Rivals

The World Cup is nearly upon us, and the match we've all been waiting for is just around the corner. 19 Jun, 10:30pm (AEST), Togo v Switzerland. The long history of Togolese/Swiss sporting enmity is well known. In table tennis, synchronised swimming, badminton, luge, it's well known that the pace will be frenetic and the stakes high when these two nations are matched against one another.

Some say it goes back to the late 19th century when Togolese cocoa exporters and Swiss chocolate makers waged a fierce trade war that was settled with a game of tip'n'run cricket. Disagreement about a close run-out festered, such that today it is one of the world's pre-eminent sporting rivalries, as intense as England/Australia and Namibia/Rumania.

The people of Togo have always found the square flag of Switzerland annoying. They feel it demonstrates that the Swiss think they are special, above everyone else. For their part, the Swiss mock Togo for being a "funny-shaped" country, for their lack of interest in cheese and inability to make decent clocks.

The stage is set for a humdinger. Only 26 sleeps to go.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Football matters - May edition

Richmond won their 4th game from eight on the weekend, a remarkable performance against Adelaide. They were given no chance by anyone, but got three goals in front and then played very disciplined keepings-off for the rest of the afternoon. Their coach is now being demonised, accused of killing football. A lot of the people doing the accusing will be employing the same tactics any time they think it suits the situation and the players at their disposal.

However - I am a bit worried. I've just been doing some statistical analysis. We have won four games without ever winning very comfortably. We have been beaten four times and two were record-breaking floggings. Our percentage now is 70.7 - its a wooden spoon percentage. In fact, it is bad enough to be worse than 7 of the last 10 wooden spoons, even though we are just outside the top eight.

So, we have to win every close game. We are going to climb slowly and fall quickly this season, so we'd better keep climbing, or we might get splinters on our way down the ladder.

Frank outburst from Michael

As we tried to get Michael to eat something at dinner time last night, we must have pushed him a bit too far. "Mumble mumble mutter mutter DISGUSTING!!" I don't know if he meant the food, or our conduct in plonking him in his chair against his will.

Brant and Todd

Last night we watched the million-dollar interview with the surviving miners from the Beaconsfield rockfall. They spoke very well and came across as very genuine, intelligent men. Obviously they are both pretty tough guys or they would not have survived, but there was no false bravado about them. They were very open about the hard times they went through, when they were writing goodbye message to their families, and when Brant started to crack up and Todd threatened to kiss him if he didn't settle down.

I hope they have long happy lives above ground, and that we never hear from them again. They don't seem like guys whose idea of happiness is being on Dancing With The Stars five years from now. It's possible their $1.3m each commits them to popping up on various Channel Nine shows that need a ratings boost.

I thought Tracey Grimshaw did generally very well. Some kind of illustration of their situation in the cage (apart from the one Brant scribbled on a serviette for us) would have been helpful. They showed one briefly from about two weeks ago which turns out to have been incorrect - they had nowhere near as much space as everyone thought. We got very tired of the helicopter footage of the mine head they used to pad the whole thing to two hours. I think in the trade its called helicopter pad.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Grooving with viruses

I love a list, and fortunately, I know you love a list too. Here are some of my favourite viruses, with thanks to Wikispecies, the new complete directory of all known life forms. Keep your eye out for the fetching but deadly Potato Mop-Top and the sneaky but ingenious Tomato Bushy Stunt.

Potato yellow dwarf virus
Infectious salmon anemia virus
Tomato spotted wilt virus
Cricket paralysis virus
Parsnip yellow fleck virus
Rice tungro spherical virus
Cowpea mosaic virus
Tobacco ringspot virus
Barley yellow mosaic virus
Sweet potato mild mottle virus
Wheat streak mosaic virus
Swine vesicular exanthema virus
Striped jack nervous necrosis virus
Tomato bushy stunt virus
Tobacco streak virus
Cucumber mosaic virus
Lettuce infectious yellows virus
Potato leafroll virus
Tobacco ratte virus
Potato mop-top virus
Peanut clump virus
Raspberry bushy dwarf virus
Southern bean mosaic virus
Indian citrus ringspot virus
Apple stem grooving virus

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Mt Ossa - equal time for believers

In the spirit of fairness, I am obliged to report that Meredith Newton, of Summer Hill, NSW, claims to have climbed Mt Ossa. (See previous post)

I offer no comment on this except to observe that Ms Newton has been known to iron clothes while wearing them.

Beetroot is a kind of food

We were talking about bushfires. Marcus remembered hearing me talk to James about the last bushfires on Mt Wellington, probably in summer 2004-5 I think.

Marcus: You were talking to someone about Mt Wellington when we were at Thomas and Beetroot's house.
Me:[Snort out my nose]...ah, her name is Beatrice.
Marcus: Oh. That's right, beetroot is a kind of FOOOOOOOOD.

Kinder visit takes me back to 1974

Elf and I went along to kinder yesterday for a sort of open half-day. It was good to have a better look around than I had before. I was amazed how many distant primary school memories started seeping into my consciousness.

About a dozen tables were set up with different activities for kids to do with their parents. One of them was stacking little square connecting blocks on each other. They are very simple blocks, and all you can do is build a tower with them. The thing makes them so engaging especially with boys, is that the blocks come in all the footy club colours. I was transported back to Burnie Primary circa 1974, when I would make black and yellow (Burnie Tigers) dark blue and light blue (Penguin Blues) and green and yellow (Cooee Bulldogs) towers.

Marcus had to wash his hands at one stage and took me out to show me the bathroom. I have seen the bathrooms at Friends modern daycare centre, but this one was a genuine state school bathroom with concrete floor and very basic tiny sinks and toilets. It was all startlingly familiar to me in every detail.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Mt Ossa - an elaborate hoax?

Supposedly the highest mountain in Tasmania (at a piddly 5305 feet), I am beginning to suspect Mt Ossa doesn't exist. Does anyone out there know anyone who has climbed it? Has anyone even seen it? Does its majestic outline feature on any souvenir teatowels?

I say no, no and no. Because, ladies and gentlemen, Mt Ossa is a massive hoax, perpetrated by the well-known Spanish motorcycle and film projector manufacturers as a publicity stunt. This was a well-deserved failure, as apart from many Tasmanian high schools buying the hopeless projectors, sales failed to ensue.

Mothers Day

We had a visit from my old mate Cam, his wife Sarah and their daughter Jasmine on Sunday. Cam and I were soccer team-mates for a long time, a long time ago. We talked about the possibility of getting a new indoor soccer team together - I need something to keep fit in the lawn bowls off-season. [Joke].

Jas is in the same room as Marcus at daycare, and they get on pretty well. There is another Jasmine there who is OK, but not quite in the best friends category. Of course I put the invitation in the wrong Jasmine's pigeonhole, but luckily I saw Sarah on the way out, mentioned it to her and she tracked it down.

Jas plays very well with Michael too. he loves getting a chance to run around in the big kids room. I always fetch him first at Friends, then we go along to get Marcus. All of the kids respond to Michael - some want to hug him and some want to herd him into the corner and pelt him with cushions. I get the impression he is quite popular with the older kids because he can talk so well. He is also reading things, which is alarming.

We went to Citrus Moon for Mothers Day, but I think we will do something nice at home in future. Too crowded, slow service etc. We do love CM but maybe not for special occasions. And they have mysteriously shrunk their kids room by putting a partition across it. The boys both made purple mothers day cards, which were well received.

I have a backlog of Marcus' excellent drawings which I have meant to scan and put here. Stay tuned.

FA Cup

I watched West Ham, the team I have followed since I was seven, play in one of the greatest FA Cup Finals on Saturday night. Liverpool were overwhelming favourites but in 15 minutes of madness early in the first half West Ham were leading them 2-0. Liverpool came back into it solely through the genius of Steven Gerrard, who made and scored three goals, the last in injury time to level the scores 3-3. Extra time was excruciating, but not for the usual reason of pointlessly extending a boring 0-0 match. All subs had been used and both teams had hobbling injured players, some hardly moving at all. Marlon Harewood had a gilt-edged chance to win it for West Ham from two metres out, but could only wave his gammy leg at the ball.

It went to penalties. Pepe Reina had played a dog of a game in goals for Liverpool, but redeemed himself magnificently by saving 3 of West Ham's penalties and winning the game for Liverpool.

Although my team lost, it was a completely exhilarating game and I did not sleep for hours afterwards.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Marcus says...

How does God drive around?

If someone's leg comes off and they get a new one, how do they know how to walk?

What if someone's head comes off and they get a new head?

What would you like to do after kinder on Wednesday?
Maybe if the sun doesn't warm our planet we might be able to go up and play in the snow.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Merchant Navy Ranks

Here are some of the Australian Merchant Navy ranks I found listed. I am keen to know what the hell some of these folks actually DID. Donkeyman Greaser? Come on!

As some ranks are patently made up to embarrass those who were saddled with them, I thought I'd join in. I have added one that I made up myself. Please email me if you think you know which one.

Deck Attendant
Deck Boy
Deck Man
Donkey Man
Donkeyman Greaser
Donkey Boy
Extra Purser
Fireman Greaser
Fireman Trimmer
Fireman Wiper
Foam Steward
Galley Boy
Linen Keeper
Night Watch
Oil Burner
Pantry Man
Room Boy 
Saloon Boy
Section Man

As I would no longer qualify as a Youngman I think I would probably settle for being a Scullion. I believe that involves polishing the figurehead's nose.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Team sports

On Saturday we had a run in the park next to the soccer ground. There was a game on, and we decided to walk back to the car the long way and have a look at it. We ended up sitting in the grandstand and watching the next game for a little while too. Marcus was really getting into it, so we took Elf and Michael home and returned to watch most of the rest. He asked good questions and maintained his interest for most of the game. One of the teams was Kingborough, where I played for three years before Marcus was born. He was excited that it was my team, and took their ups and downs to heart accordingly.

I hope he'll play some kind of team sport when he's a bit older. I played soccer for many years so at least I'll be able to teach him something if that's the way he wants to go, but something else might take his fancy.

I actually regret not having a go at Aussie Rules at some stage when I was young. I love watching it and follow it more closely now than I ever have, but if I had played even one season, I think I would understand it more deeply. I always enjoyed the team environment a lot, and I think it taught me all sorts of good things.

Moon Street, Moolap

I bought Marcus a book about a ladybird who falls out of her tree, and has to use the Tree Directory in her apron pocket to find her way home. Each page has a map and a little story, she meets characters who give her hints, and after each page you have to look up a branch, twig or stem in the directory at the back, eg Fruity Way - Map 5 E4, or Termite Tunnel - Map 2 G1, or Blossom Drive - Map 11 A3. Marcus loved it, but had a bit of trouble understanding the grid reference part. The maps were fairly simple and not too big, and he could usually find the street without needing to grasp the reference bit.

Since he is interested in maps, I thought I’d push it a little further, and I got out the Melbourne UBD and showed him how to find my old street in Elwood, May Street. On a UBD page there is about a thousand streets, so he understood the need to use the reference to concentrate on a square.

Anyway - I ended up looking up streets with funny names for him to find, and I have decided to call this new game Moon Street, Moolap, which was one of the first ones.

Here is a sample (you may want to look these up to verify).
Marcus St 7 A1
Michael St 11 K10
Catjump St 48 G1
Dog Lane 66 D9
Moon St 68 A9
Lion St 45 A9 ... that's about where we ran out of puff.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Leftover from Easter

My friend Mike's kids had this conversation just before Easter

Cooper: Jesus got deaded but then God magiced him back to life.
Mackenzie: I didn't know about the magiced bit.
Cooper: Yeah, yeah but it was after they put him behind the big Easter egg but he pushed it out of the way.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Correspondence Courses, 1955

Once again I have been indulging in time travel by reading old magazines. The ever-reliable September 1955 Sporting Life issue has an advert for Stott's Correspondence Courses. The names of the courses are very evocative of the times. Its obvious that there were still lots of jobs in agriculture. Among their offerings in 1955 were;

Backward Adults
Buttermakers' Exam.
Boiler Attendants
Dairy Supervisors
Dynamo Attendants
Expressive English
Herd Testers' Exam.
Police Entrance Exam.
Radio [For Amateurs]
Shire Engineers' Exam.
Shire Clerks' Exam.
Steam Engineering
Window Dressing

Wednesday, May 03, 2006


We have started listening to/watching the news again since the Beaconsfield mine disaster happened. The survival of the two guys was astonishing luck. It is tragic for the family of Larry Knight, but all the locals up there seem to be walking the fine line of celebrating survival while mourning his death pretty respectfully.

There was a great story this morning that Todd Russell has asked for Saturday's paper to be sent down so he could look for a new job. Its a bit odd that there are heaps of photos and stories about him floating around, but not much abour Brant Webb who is trapped there with him. Either the family are very private, or some public relations firm got in quick and tied up an exclusive to keep all the best pics and details locked away for a New Idea or Current Affair story.

Bus Adventure

Marcus and I went off on a bus adventure on Saturday morning, while Elf took Michael to a birthday party. We caught the bus across the road that goes into town. Then we just wandered about the bus mall until we found a bendy bus - one of the long articulated ones with the accordion on the middle. It was going to Seven Mile Beach via Eastlands. We would have got into trouble with Elf if we'd gone all the way to the beach so we got off at Eastlands, wandered around and then had a babycino. After a while we wandered back to the bus stop, where all the buses go to the city. We had to wait a long time - it appears the timetable is only a rough indication of what to expect, and the drivers improvise on the theme like jazz saxophonists. Marcus is loving his adding-and-subtracting book so much, I set him some maths problems to pass the time.

Once back in town we realised we had missed our bus home by 3 and a half minutes, so we entertained ourselves in Franklin Square for nearly an hour and caught the next one. With meagre ingredients like seagulls, leaves, statues and a giant chessboard with no chessmen, we managed to eke out the time without resorting to mathematics. We both enjoyed the bus adventure very much. It was a novelty to sit next to each other (instead of me in front and him behind) and be able to point out things to him. If you've never sat in the middle of a bendy bus when it goes around a tight bend, you should try it. Its a reasonably cheap thrill.

Gizmo's Ears

Gizmo's ears have been looking very ratty lately. He had a cut on one that seemed infected and he was very touchy about it. Elf took him to the vet today, and it's much worse than I thought. He has squamous-cell carcinomas on both ears, and will have to have them almost completely taken off to prevent the cancer spreading. He'll be left with "teddy bear ears" - little flaps to protect his sensitive inner ears somewhat. The op might be tomorrow or the next day, so the poor fella is going to be sleeping at the vet's for two or maybe three nights. On the upside his general health is good and his heart particularly seems strong, so his chances of surviving the general anaesthetic are very good, for a cat his age. He is very old.

I was given Giz by a friend in about 1992 or 93, and he was already 2 or 3 years old. which would make him something like 16. I feel quite guilty about my general neglect of Gizmo since we have had kids. He has been a devoted mate to me for all this time, and now I find it so hard to spend much time with him. I am beating myself up about his ears, as I'm sure if I had checked them sooner he might not need to have the operation. I know he is in his autumn years, and have tried to prepare myself and the kids for the day when he's not around.

Our vet is Mary Bennett, who I have known since we were about 5 in Burnie. We seemed to be in the same class every year from that age to when we went to Uni, and even then we spent our first year at the same residential college. We haven't always seen eye to eye, but as we've matured we've rubbed along a lot better. Our kids get on well too, and her husband Simon is a terrific bloke. As it happened we went to their daughter Miranda's pirate party on Sunday. They love organising parties, and they do it very well. They hired a 20m long hall, and had an actual pirate ship in there. It was great. They both talked like pirates for several hours without slipping out of character.

Marcus was hopeless for the first half an hour. He would not join in, and mooched about with his shoulders pushed up around his ears. We just don't know what to do with him at times. I was a fairly shy kid myself, so I understand how he feels, but I wish he would give things a chance a bit more readily. He eventually got into it to the extent that when it was over, and people started drifting away, we had ANOTHER scene because he wanted it to keep going. I would have happily sold him to any passing gypises (or pirates) at that moment. Michael had a great time from go to whoa, in his bouncy-puppy kind of way. I wonder if he too will go through a serious young insect stage like Marcus is.

Football matters

I have to mention the Richmond Tigers. I was struck by a warm wave of optimism watching them play Carlton the other night. Although they were behind, all their young players were firing and suddenly the future for Richmond seemed brighter to me than for many years. They went on to win their second game on the trot, and suddenly the two losses before that don't seem so bad in retrospect. I'd better stick the new bumper sticker on the car while the streak lasts.

Some entries in this blog are meant to serve as general diary notes for me to look back on. I want to make a note about the York Park fiasco on Sunday, when the umpires didnt hear the final siren and let St Kilda score a point to draw with Fremantle.

1) St Kilda were absolutely terrible and this fills me with joy
2) The umpires have fudged it. Obviously SOME of them DID hear it but they have got their story straight since and now claim to have ALL been unaware it had gone.
3) The AFL are going to have a hearing tomorrow to decide if Freo should actually get the 4 premiership points and St Kilda none. It will be interesting to see if the principle of fairness (give it to Freo who earned it) over-rides the practical difficulties (footy tipping, betting, counter-protests and court actions etc). I think Freo have no chance in hell.

A Late Footy Time Capsule.
Final 8 - West Coast, Sydney, Collingwood, Adelaide, Western Bulldogs, St Kilda, Hawthorn, Richmond
GF - West Coast d Collingwood
Coleman Medal - Barry Hall, Sydney
Brownlow Medal - Dean Cox, WC
Norm Smith Medal - Chris Judd, WC