Sunday, March 30, 2008

Gear Changes

The racing guide gear change list is one of those strange, arcane things you come across sometimes. It is very meaningful to punters, and to the rest of us, its just a bunch of funny words. The point of it is to tell you what accessories your horse is going to gallop around in. I guess if they have been racing with concussion plates (whatever they are) and today they are racing without, it makes a difference to the punter. So next time you are plunging your hard-earned on a hot tip, check to see if your neddie is wearing any of the following;

Bar plates
Concussion plates
Cross over noseband
Hot pants
Hoof pads
Lugging bit
Race plates
Standard bit
Tongue tie

(I was joking about the hot pants)

Knackered 10 d Stormed 8

I strained my left calf somehow over Easter. It was not quite better by Friday night, so being male I went along to play anyway. I got through the game OK, but realised on the drive home that I could barely push in the clutch. You don't really need most of your gears anyway.

Stormed are a new team, and lucky for us they had a few problems getting to grips with some of the rules. They gave away a penalty and had a goal disallowed because of two of the more arcane laws of indoor soccer. Cam, Adrian and Paul scored two each and I got three. Cam's were both with his left foot, and I suspect he has been living a lie all these years and kicking with the wrong boot.

When I finally got home it took me a couple of minutes to tack and gybe my way up the slope to the front door.

Bowling Shanes cruise on without me

I went along to support The Bowling Shanes today, in their grand final clash with the New Individuals. The Shanes actually had a relatively poor season, and fell in to the Final Four thanks to the Shanes A forfeiting their last game. Then this morning their semi final opponents failed to show. So I supported them through a long and not very intense practice session. The finals are played over 15 ends, so they and I waited an eternity for NI to finish their semi. The Shanes then took the field, exhibiting unusual nerves. I could only stay to see them take the first end, but Dave texted later to confirm they had spanked the foe 27-7. So the avalanche of tinny medallions continues. Hurrah!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Richmond 17.7 (109) d Carlton 11.13 (79)

Footy has returned, thank goodness. It was adventurous of the AFL to kick off the season with a game between last years last and second last sides, but they turned on a pretty good game. Particularly good from a Richmond point of view, as they ended up comfortably accounting for Carlton by 30 points, and sat on top of the ladder for two days! Richo nearly had his head taken off, running back with the flight of the ball just before half time. He got nothing for it, and I think the Tiges ran out the game fuelled by righteous indignation. Richo slotted five.

Marcus, Michael and I went up to Rob, Mel and Olivia's house to watch. Rob took the loss pretty well on the outside, but I think deep down he was gutted. Even with the Juddernaut added to their side, the Blues were still 5 goals behind last year's worst team. Maybe they didn't tank all those games in 2007 - maybe they genuinely are that bad.

Space out that spinach

I mentioned Collective Farm Woman honeydew a few weeks ago. The seed company slipped my mind - in fact it was The Lost Seed, who are a good bunch, although I do like taking the mickey.

We have a packet of their Bloomsdale Longstanding spinach seeds. The spiel on the packet warns helpfully that it will "cross easily with other spinach varieties; to ensure purity, grow varieties at least 3km apart."

So that explains those spinach-eradication ninjas who I have seen creeping about the suburbs at night. Just maintaining the "purity" of their precious Bloomsdale Longstanding spinaches.

Aboriginal history of North West Tasmania

I am reading Beyond Awakening - The Aboriginal Tribes of North West Tasmania: A History, by Ian McFarlane, which Mum and Dad gave me. Dad has read it - Mum said it left him feeling ashamed. I am half way through, and I can feel the same heat burning me too.

Over thousands of years, the first Tasmanians set fire to sections of forest, creating grasslands to attract kangaroos. In the 1820s, they attracted a white grazing company, the Van Diemens Land Company, based in London. The climate and the grasslands were ideal for raising merino and saxon sheep, to meet the booming demand in Britain for wool. The Brits needed to find woolgrowing country in the new colonies, as the demand in Britain for mutton was even higher than for wool. They had, in fact eaten all their sheep.

All the VDL Co. had to do was push the blacks off their hunting grounds. Edward Curr was chosen as the man to run the enterprise out here. The company directors recommended that the aboriginals be treated well, and shown that if they walk off the hunting grounds, they will be better off than before. Instead Curr issued an edict the Company staff were to have no contact at all with the aboriginals. Unfortunately, white sealers (who were not under Curr's control) and company shepherds and surveyors (who were) kidnapped black women and children, then casually shot black men who tried to intervene.

The Company was a law unto itself, as its lands were at the northwest tip of the island, and the colonial administration only knew what Curr chose to tell them about what went on there. Clashes escalated, and a company shepherd named Thomas John was speared in the thigh, (a traditional punishment for adultery), after trying to abduct some aboriginal women.

The short, sad story is that a large group of aborigines muttonbirding were ambushed, around 30 aboriginal men shot dead in cold blood, and their bodies thrown off a 200 foot cliff at Cape Grim. The colonial government knew nothing at all about the massacre until nearly two years later. Governor Arthur sent the famous "Conciliator" George Augustus Robinson, to investigate. The men involved freely admitted the details. As far as I know there was never a trial.

That's where I am up to in the book. Obviously there are many versions of history, your Keith Windschuttles would say not so many died at Cape Grim, and anyway the aboriginal men were complicit in trading women from their own tribe to the whites for dogs and flour. It doesn't wash, for me.

What have we got to gain by taking that angle? A big sigh of relief - phew! We didn't wipe them out - they wiped themselves out! Hooray! Great-great-great grandad walked onto some vacant land, worked hard to get a return from it and founded our glorious dynasty. We deserve everything we've got!

McFarlane doesn't offer any such happy fable. It has made me think about the land I grew up on, went to school on, places we went on holiday when I was a kid, growing up on part of the VDL company's 350,000 acre land grant. At a time when in England you could hang for stealing a pocketwatch, in Tasmania a whole country was stolen, a whole people was displaced and harried into oblivion.

We fair-skinned people are living in this beautiful place, speaking English, eating lamb and wearing wool to this day. Elf and I bought some land from our neighbours last year, and the paperwork was incredible. I'll get back to you when I have finished the book.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

School sports day

Marcus did very well this year. He came 3rd in the sprint, 1st in the egg and spoon race, and his team came 2nd in a relay. He was pretty pleased with his complete set of ribbons.

In a blanket finish I was awarded 2nd in the Dad's race (heat 3). Parents swarmed out of the woodwork to take part this year, with 6 Mum and Dad's races all together. (Only 2 last year).

Michael did not want to take the field in the kinder races. If Tuesday had been a kinder day for him I'm sure he would have just gone along with everyone else. Elf brought him down to watch, and I think he got the strong idea that it was optional, and he opted out. Here is practising his starts, for next year perhaps. Thanks to Grandma Ruth for the photos.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

My speech

"Then, in 1977 I got my first pair of soccer boots. They were a moulded sole Adidas low cut boot with green stripes. My teacher that year was Mrs Gudauskas..."

Its 20 years since my 20th birthday!

Now that's a weird thought. I am turning 40 tomorrow, so as I type I am still in my mid-to-late 30s. Its the lunchtime of my life.

I had my party yesterday (Sunday) to take advantage of the pre-easter availability of interstate friends. Alex and Suparna from Melbourne stayed with us for a couple of days, en route to Alex's brother's wedding next weekend. They are very excited as Suparna is expecting a baby in five months time. They have been in IVF for a couple of years, so its a very big deal.

Friend of the Blog, Michael Lean also blew into town for the party. I was conscious that I couldn't compete with his deluxe salmon n' Grange Hermitage penthouse-style 40th wingding, so I concentrated on just not running out of beer. Michael L. gave me (among other things) a teabag squeezer. I have just about scalded my fingerprints off doing this manually, so its about time I had a utensil.

A big surprise was when John and Carmen McGlasson (also blog veterans, also from Melbourne) walked in. Over dinner the night before I had been cursing their names for not responding to the invite. Of course I didn't expect them to come, they have three sub-driving age girls who have a social round that makes Paris Hilton look like a hermit. Yet there they were in my house!

Halfway through the night it struck me how fantastic it was to be able to take something into the kitchen and show Michael and John in person, rather than scanning/photographing it and writing something about it on the blog.

Also in attendance [which makes me feel I should write what they were all wearing, so let say they were all wearing salmon-pink chiffon] were Matt and Mem, Nick and Anna, Elf's sister Imp who is still a houseguest, Mum and Dad, Lindy and Sam, Rob and Mel, and their respective anklebiters Edie and Callie, Lily and Katherine, Ellen and Tristan and Olivia. The kids all seemed to have a great time, with minimal need for correctional barking.

I asked that people bring no gifts [or wolves]. Nevertheless I scored a beautiful bunch of books, many bottles of wine and also a rotary cheese grater that I am planning to convert for use as a super-8 camera. I will make a sensitive nuanced documentary about... lets say the Devonport singles scene of the 1970s... then I will visit my parents-in-law, show them the film on a DVD and then reveal that I made the film with their cheese grater. Talk about a wow factor.

We had a bit of wasp problem all day yesterday. It was humid and about 28° and the charred kebabs seemed to turn them on. While I was trying to open Alex's present I had to interrupt myself 2 or 3 times to shoo out wasps. One settled on my foot. I checked with Alex that the (still wrapped) present wasn't breakable, then brought it down on my foot - killed the wasp, and bruised my middle toe grievously. The present was a branding iron. I had been holding it by its handle, and hadn't really grasped the weight of the other end. Its the letter 'C', by the way.

Most of the guests had departed, full of light beer and trifle, when we wound down the afternoon with a kick of the footy. I went for a walk around Salamanca and the docks with Alex and Suparna, which was very nice. I haven't been for a nice stroll with grown-ups for a very long time. Pizza for dinner. Then off to bed, still 39.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Kinder drop-off success

We have had one or two horror drop-offs with Michael in recent weeks. I felt like I had made a breakthrough yesterday, after I reminded him that no matter how much noise and drama he creates, it never stops mum or dad from doing what they have to do, and going off to work. I think that sunk in. I kissed him on the head and he focussed on making a word (Ratatouille actually) with the magnetic letters. If there was sadness it didn't happen until I was out of earshot.

This morning Michael actually asked for a hug, for the first time ever. Marcus is extremely hug-dependent, and I think this has just made an impression on Michael. He gave me a manly little hug and said goodbye. He had been telling me everyone's names. As I went out the door, feeling very good, I heard him calling me, not in an upset way, so I poked my nose back in the door. He was pointing to another kid who had just come in. "Dad - this is Ben!" I said thanks and bye and he scamped off around the corner.


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Marsupial trespass

I was chatting to our neighbour Mark in his front yard last night when he pointed behind me. A wallaby hopped at top speed across the road toward our house, then up along our fence past the boys' bedroom window. Later as I backed the car out to go to the shops, I could see him noodling about in the back yard. Apart from the tomatoes he has eaten lately, I guess he is attracted by the gaping hole in our back fence that gives him access to a large patch of bush.

The Knowledge

If you love soccer and trivia, then The Knowledge is the site for you. People write in with the most abstruse and obscure questions. And then people write in with the answers. The obsessive nature of some people is incredible. The time they have on their hands is also incredible. A sample query:

"While watching Wales take on Russia, I noticed that the score in the top left corner of the screen was WAL 0 1 RUS," wrote Peter Scarborough, back in December 2003. "Remove the numbers and you've got a WALRUS. Can any other teams (international or otherwise) make up the name of an aquatic mammal?"

Readers wrote in with Belgium v Uganda (BELUGA), Finland versus China (FINCH) and Martinique versus Monserrat (MARMOT). That was it for animals, but...

Wayne from Frankfurt rounds us off nicely with this tale: "I recall with pleasure seeing a satellite transmission of a game between Arsenal de Sarandi and Newell's Old Boys a couple of months ago," he titters. "The match status in the corner of the screen was amusingly rendered as ARS v NOB."

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

In: Imp

Meanwhile Elf's sister Imp has come to stay for a couple of weeks while she gets going in her new job. Yes, she has started work for DPIWE or whatever they are called now - Dept of Primary Industry, Water and Eggplant I think. She is a water management boffin.

It will be terrific to have Imp and Ed and their girls Karri and Miah here - they will be moving down from Canberra as soon as Imp has found somewhere for them to live. The boys have not seen their cousins for years, and now they'll be just down the street. Perhaps even at the same school, if SHPS can squeeze the girls in. Ed should be able to find a job without too much trouble, being a senior IT personage. They are always in demand.

Out: Sal

Ah, spring in Quebec. Sally and Matt are in Montréal now, hooking up with their contemporary art pals Lena and Jean Yves. Together they are D Group. "D Group collectively produces work in performance, video, web media, audio composition, installation and photography." They are clever, crafty, a bit mad and a bit scary. Look out, they might perform BUG near you one day.

BUG utilises sound, vision and movement to explore phobic concepts, in particular, molysomophobia, the fear of infection. This responds to a very contemporary global fear of both the pandemic (such as Asian bird flu) and biological warfare as well as the control of the general public that is enabled by allowing these fears to run unchecked.

A translucent plastic enclosure is constructed within the darkened installation space containing a variety of ephemera of an industrial/medical extraction. Ladders, test-tubes, rubber gloves and plastic tubing can all almost be identified througth the not-quite transparent walls. In its passive mode, the space is enlivened by curious projections of performed scenarios that seem to blur the medicinal with the torturous.

I have seen the DVD and its all very unsettling. I had to go and leaf through a book of Constable landscapes to calm down.

Fish - they think they are so smart

Are you sick of fish? Give them an inch and they take a mile? Cut you off in the carpark? You know, I'm pretty sure I saw some fish talking to your girlfriend.

Well, I've had it up to here with fish, and I'm sick of just talking about it. Nick, and I and our good friend Michael Kerschbaum got in his boat and went and made a statement, gave those fish something to think about.

I TRICKED three salmon into getting into our boat with a shiny silver lure. Not so smart now, eh fish? Then I took them home and ATE them. That's right. Grilled them with butter. I might be CRAZY, but I'm CRAZY like a FOX.

So - things are pretty quiet around here now. I haven't heard one smarty-alec comment from a fish today. I think I have sent a message, not just to salmonids but to ALL fish, that we have had enough nonsense.

Wheel a Bike to School Day

Poor little sausage. We got him a bike for his birthday, well we were given a bike and we got training wheels for it. I have mentioned this, and my disastrous attempts to get a bit tooly with it.

It's too big for him, and its going to be a longish term project for him to learn to balance on it. I had never really thought about this, but training wheels only come into play when you are turning and banking, as when you are bolt upright they don't contact the ground.

Marcus wobbled left (minor crash into the fence) then wobbled right (almost onto the road). So I trotted along hanging onto a handlebar. Of course it was bin night last night, so that made it even more interesting.

Once we reached the rivulet track i thought he would be fine to ride freely. Once again he veered all over the place, and finally was heading straight into the water when he managed to crash land in the grass.

So that was it. I wasn't prepared to walk it all the way down Macquarie St dodging bins, so I pushed it up the steep hill of the track, then rode it down with Marcus trotting behind me nervously. He was a bit embarrassed I think, so I told him that I didn't start riding my friends' bikes until I was about 8, and then finally got a bike at 9.

I am sure he'll be flying around on it before long.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Don Music

Its No Headphones Friday at work, and someone just played a whole depressing Ryan Adams album, which ends with a bit of a drone as though he is pressing his head in frustration on the keyboard.

Which reminded me of... Don Music from Sesame Street. God bless the internet, here he is, on the Muppet Wiki. If you remember, he usually was trying to "write" a song that happened to already be well know, eg Mary Had a Little Lamb, and would always get stuck on the last line, and then punish his piano with his forehead.

There is a Don Music sketch listed there that I never saw, where he playing the part of Thomas Jefferson, trying to finish the Declaration of Independence. He needs a replacement quill - Grover tries to help but brings him a drill, then a chicken named Phil.

Pope of the Week: Leo XIII 1878-1903

Reigning until the age of 93, Leo XII was the oldest pope, and had the third longest pontificate, behind John Paul II. He is known as the "Pope of the Working Man", "The Social Pope". His parties were legendary.

Leo XIII was the first Pope of the 20th century. He was the first Pope of whom a sound recording was made. He was also the first Pope to be filmed on the motion picture camera. He was filmed by its inventor, W. K. Dickson, and blessed the camera afterward.

While known for his cheerful personality, Leo also had a gentle sense of humor as well. During one of his audiences, a man claimed to have had the opportunity to see Pius IX at one of his last audiences before his death in 1878. Leo replied, "If I had known that you were so dangerous to popes, I would have postponed this audience further". He then reeled off a string of mother-in-law gags.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Soccer reunion

Cam and I used to play soccer for University, then one year we deserted and went to play at Kingborough. So did Sonny Foster and three or four others. Cam, Sonny and I would car pool down there to train and play, and all became good mates over this period. Sonny left Tasmania years ago, and has been living in Sydney for a while with his wife Karen. Now they have a two year old daughter, Maiya.

They came back to Tasmania this week for Sonny's brother's wedding, and they were able to get down to Hobart to have dinner with us last night. Cam and Sarah and Jas and Tommy came as well, and we had a really relaxing, fun night. The kids scamped off and looked after themselves largely, and we were able to have a few drinks and tell outrageous lies.

I cooked greek lamb in filo, which used to be my dinner-party staple. Its so fiddly though, and luckily the younger kids held it together well as the night wore on and the filo stubbornly refuse to brown in the oven.

Sonny remembers all kinds of things that I had forgotten. "You know that poster of Ian Turpie that was on your front door?" - No, I don't, actually. I hope we'll get together again before another ten years pass. Sonny is keen to come home to Tasmania, but I think Karen needs to be convinced that he's got realistic expectations.

Kidarama '08

We had a big party on Sunday for Marcus and Michael's birthdays. Michael's was way back on Jan 24, when we were camping, and Marcus' was Feb 28. Michael was dead against having any kind of party (whereas Marcus started planning it about 363 days before). We pressed him to name someone he would like to invite. The only person he would name was Sienna, who used to be in his room at daycare. We tracked her down and she was available. We also had a few family buddies with kids, the neighbours, my Mum and Dad, and kids from school that Marcus invited. Something like 15 kids all together. Elf worked very hard on the food, and I made the birthday cake (same choc cake as I made Elf, deeee-licious).

We had a treasure hunt, which always take a lot of organising. Every kid had three clues that ended by sending them up the back to the reserve, to find a bag with their name on it next to one of my giant metal letters.

We had a game which basically was throwing water-balloons at me as I ran about in a stupid hat (they mostly bounced off me and broke on the grass). We had a colouring-in wall which Elf set up. Four thicknesses of newsprint, five feet deep and about 20 feet long. I drew outlines of a monkey, snake, giraffe, some trees, elephant, dinosaurs, er, bees, a aeroplane (I was getting desperate). It was pretty well patronised, and there was some very creative colouring in. Then we had pin-the-tail-on-the-giraffe.

Everyone had a pretty good time and there were no dramas. Sienna and Michael really enjoyed being back together - they go to Friends on different days now. She is very verbal like him, and I can see that they would have gravitated to each other. Sienna's mum Nina says that Sienna came home sounding out letters, and reported that Michael was teaching her how to read.

Marcus's main present from us was the bike I mentioned the other day. The day before the party we took it up to the Domain, and he rode it around on the smooth concrete top of the big water tanks. Next week coming up is Ride to School Day, and we are hoping that with another practice session this weekend Marcus will be feeling confident enough to join in with that.

Michael hosts

Michael's playmate Nelson came to visit us last Sunday, with his mum and dad Tania and Gary and his sister Bailey. Last year Michael's first ever party invitation came from Nelson, but neither of us were able to take him as it was the same day as Marcus's birthday party. The same thing happened this year, so we seized the day and got them to come up for a plain old visit. They are very nice people, and delighted as we are to see our youngest children finding their feet in the tricky new business of making friends.

Knackered 11 d Some Fit Fast Youngsters 8

This was our last roster match, and we went in with a slim chance of making the finals. These lads whupped us 28-7 at our last meeting so we did not expect a great result. They started with only three, and had to borrow a guy who had already played.

They actually scored first while outnumbered and things looked ominous. We actually played better once it was four v four. We managed to stay with them up to half time, when we were 3-4 down. With no Andy, we were rotating in goals, which was a plus for me as it meant I got a few breathers I would not have had otherwise. I did give away two penalties stupidly, but I saved both.

We came out very hard in the 2nd half, made some crunching tackles and I think surprised them with our intensity. I had my scoring boots on and managed to find the net a few times. Cam says I have a way of walking through the defence at no particular speed, into a scoring position. I certainly feel sometimes like I have a forcefield - I don't have fancy feet or particular strength to trick or barge my way through.

With the score at 6-7 I realised we were holding onto them and there was no reason we couldn't win. Next time I checked the score was 8-9, or 9-8: I wasn't sure. I scored again and it was 10-8, so that explained it.

The youngsters were running out of ideas, and taking long shots as they were getting too tired to carry the ball. We stymied them for the last 2 or 3 minutes, and even poked in another goal for good measure. I got 7, and the whistle went just as another one was going through the keepers legs on its way into the net.

It was one of our very best wins, but unfortunately not enough to sneak us into the finals. So, two weeks off and then the next season begins.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon

I haven't actually finished this, in fact I am up about a quarter of a way through the 656 pages, but it's a ripper. It won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2001, so its not the latest thing. But I only found out about Michael Chabon a few weeks ago, so I'm catching up as fast as I can.

I started with his novella called The Final Solution, set in a village in wartime England. A Jewish schoolboy refugee has a parrot who sings in German, with a hauntingly beautiful voice. Apart from that the parrot only recites very long strings of German numbers. A man is murdered and the parrot disappears. In the village happens to live a retired detective, who is unnamed but is obviously Sherlock Holmes. He undertakes to find the parrot, and offers to pass on anything he may find out about the murder along the way. The ending, which promised to chill me to the bone, left me feeling like I had missed something, but I loved the writing style.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay is set (in the beginning) in 1939 in New York, in the fledgling world of comic books, and Jewish emigrés. The writing is marvellous, the characters are wonderful, and the situations are ingenious. I am moved to quote one part where we meet a minor character, Sheldon Anapol, for the first time. He is Sammy's boss, the owner of Empire Novelty Company, manufacturers of x-ray specs, joke wigs and wind-up teeth.

'So talk,' said Anapol. He was wearing, as usual at this early hour, only socks, garters, and a pair of brightly patterned boxer shorts wide enough to qualify, Sammy thought, as a mural. He was bent over a tiny sink at the back of his office, shaving his face. He had been up, as very morning, since before dawn, settling on a move in one of the chess games he played by mail with men in Cincinatti, Fresno, and Zagreb; writing to other solitary lovers of Syzmanowski whom he had organized into an international appreciation society; penning ill-concealed threats to particularly recalcitrant debtors in his creaky, vivid, half-grammatical prose in which there were hints of Jehovah and George Raft; and composing his daily letter to Maura Zell, his mistress, who was a chorine in the road company of Pearls of Broadway. He always waited until eight o'clock to begin his toilet, and seemed to set great store in the effect his half-naked imperial person had on his employees as they filed in for work. 'What's this idea of yours?'