Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Chicken for dinner

Marcus: What's for dinner?
Dad: Chicken.
Marcus: YUK!
Michael: Don't you like chicken?
Marcus: No.
Michael: What about meat?
Marcus: No.
Michael: If you don't like chicken or meat, you are doomed.
Dad: [splutter, cough] What does 'doomed' mean Michael?
Marcus: It's like being fired.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Best Selling Belgian Of All Time

From the Weekend Australian yesterday;

Its time for Australian music lovers to discover why Helmut Lotti is "the most successful Belgian artist ever" and "the best selling Belgian singer of his time". To win one of 10 DVDs tell us in 10 words or less what is your favourite Helmut Lotti song and why.

There is nothing about this competition that is not funny.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Mrs Rees, gun archer

We had our last visit to the range yesterday. From 10m Elf shot 6/6 in the bull, along with a lot fives. I started with 4 and then struggled. We moved back to 15m and Elf was still excelling. Emerson announced we were to start scoring. I was thrilled to get 10 with my first scoring shot, but things went badly after that. (The centre of the bull is 10, the outer bull is 9, inner red 8, outer red 7 etc). Elf scored 233 out of a possible 300, really very good shooting. I got 131 or something. On one "end" of 6 shots I got 2, 2, 0 (in the non scoring corner of the target butt) 0 (embedded in the wooden frame), and two more I had to retrieve from the paddock beyond. Turned out my sight had shifted itself, and I went on trusting it long after I should have checked. The wife is a dab hand with the old recurve bow and says she's considering taking it further. Don't think it hasn't occured to me that she also excelled at fencing and perhaps this proficiency with weapons should be setting off warning bells.

South Hobart 3 drew with Waimea Heights 3 (u/6 soccer)

A couple of new boys turned out for South yesterday, Oliver and Corey. They joined established players Marcus, Noah and David. Oliver will be a thoughtful midfield general at some point in his career. Every time the ball came to him he put his foot on it, in the manner of one who is in acres of space, and waiting for a teammate to make a run. Unfortunately he was never in acres of space, and his teammates were mostly running towards him, not away. Corey had tons of determination but wasn't weighed down by knowledge of the rules. At one point when Waimea were about to take a free kick, Corey saw the ball just sitting there unattended, ran around three people and swooped on it, picking it up. He ran off towards the South Hobart goal and did a bit of a dropkick in the general direction. Everyone called to him to bring it back, and he bustled off after it, presumably to do as asked. When he got there, he again swooped, picked it up, ran over to the goalmouth and booted it into the net. He crowned his performance by turning back to face the crowd and pumping his arms in the air with elation. Everyone cracked up and there was a smattering of applause.

Footy Saturation

I am feeling like a bit of a football obsessive. Having extra people around I find I am thinking more about how I spend my time. This weekend I have watched a bit of football on TV, taken Marcus to the VFL match at Bellerive (and kicked a ball around on the oval during the breaks), kicked the football out the back with Marcus four or five times, spent an hour or so looking at old football cards with the kids, checked my footytips five or six times, read a book about football for an hour or so, fallen asleep three times listening to football on the radio, and this evening (after striving to stay aloof) hung around in the kitchen, pretending to wash up, listening to the last quarter as Richmond went down gallantly to Hawthorn. Have I got a problem? I worry a bit that I am a bad influence on Marcus, who has participated in much of that list above, also pored over his football cards, an old footy Record, and the same book on football. His comprehension of what he reads is quite impressive, I suppose that's a plus.

This afternoon, we looked through my football cards (1969-1985) and found as many dads as we could of the players in Marcus' football cards (2007-8). Is this healthy?

Friday, April 25, 2008

Uncle Tungsten - Memories of a Chemical Boyhood by Oliver Sacks (2001)

Sacks is a very well known neurologist and the author of The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat and Awakenings. Sally asked for this book for her birthday a few years ago when she was in Vancouver, and I amazoned it over to her, so I never had a chance to read it. I have just taken advantage of her absence (in Canada again) to pillage her bookshelves and have finally read Uncle Tungsten .

In his childhood in London, Sacks was fascinated by chemistry, and was lucky to have a wide range of scientific uncles and aunts. His Uncle Dave had a lightbulb factory, and was obsessed with heavy metals like osmium, tantalum and particularly tungsten.

I was fascinated by this book, because it brought to life a subject I have always found fairly dull. Sacks had a home lab from the age of about 8, and could get his hands on any substance he wanted, either through his uncles or simply by going down to the chemist shop. He would read the lives of the great chemists such as Lavoisier and Davy, and repeat their experiments. He tossed chunks of sodium and potassium into tanks of water and watched them catch fire and spit globules everywhere. With his uncle Abe he mucked about with radium. These were the early days of knowledge about radiation. Everyone found the way radium made things glow in the dark utterly charming.

Among a staggering sweep of other things I learnt that four of the 118 elements are named after the village of Ytterby in Sweden; Ytterbium[Yb], Terbium[Tb], Erbium[Er] and Yttrium[Y]. (According to Wikipedia "Three other elements also trace their origin to the Ytterby quarry: Gadolinium [Gd]... Holmium [Ho]...and Thulium [Tm]")

Sacks has credited a huge reading list of books, ranging from the 18th century to the 1990s, with opening his eyes to the wonders of chemistry. I would like to follow up some of these now, and try to experience some of the enlightenment first-hand. I have heard of Humphry Davy and the Curies, their lives sound fascinating, and I am going to track down also Chemistry Imagined by Roald Hoffman.

The book end with Sacks (who now lives in New York) recounting his favourite dream of "going to the opera (I am Hafnium), sharing a box at the Met with the other heavy transition metals – my old and trusted friends – Tantalum, Rhenium, Osmium, iridium, Platinum, Gold and Tungsten."

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The olympic torch relay has always been political

In years gone by the torch relay has reminded me of Carols by Candlelight - a lot of flummery is talked about sport (or Christmas) and then a cavalcade of slightly famous people, sometimes but not always with a connection to sport (or Christmas), have a bit of a jog (or sing). Dipper, Daryl Somers, Kevan Gosper's relatives etc.

This year the flying squad of Chinese soldiers has upped the ante a bit. It got me wondering - why are they here? Australia is not on the way from Greece to China. Can't they leave us out of it?

An Australian security officer pulled one of the Chinese torch attendants away from Choir of Hard Knocks conductor and Local Hero Australian of the Year Jonathon Welch after he was handed the flame.

Jonathan Welch! Lovely man, love his choir. What on earth is he doing running through Canberra at all, let alone carrying a 72cm long propane-burning torch through chanting (and fighting) crowds of Tibetans and Chinese and curious Australians, to commemorate "the theft of fire from the Greek god Zeus by Prometheus"?

Does it bother anyone that this whole palaver owes more to the Nazis circa 1936 than to anything the ancient Greeks were into?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Richmond 20.10.130 drew with Western Bulldogs 19.16.130

Marcus and I watched the second half of this match on Sunday. Richmond had a stirring win the week before, and I was wary of a letdown. The Bulldogs were undefeated in four matches. when we switched on I was heartened that the Tiges were only 12 points down, and even more that they started closing the gap immediately. By three quarter time they were three goals in front! Then four goals! Wahey!!

Then reality intervened. The Dogs won it out of the centre about six times in a row. Richmond have never learned to "ice" a game, and it was honestly excruciating to watch them try. Particularly with Marcus piping up things like "never mind Dad, the Bulldogs are my second favourite team". I had a dull leaden feeling of impending defeat. In the end Richmond escaped with a draw, against a quite superior team, but it took me until late Sunday night to start to see the bright side.

Knackered 20 d Black Pigs 2

There were only 3 of us this week, so we borrowed 2 players. There were only 3 on the other side too, but they borrowed 5 players. Fat lot of good it did them though. We were about 10-0 up after only 6 minutes. Brett scored an own goal somehow while I was 'keeping, and their other goal was also due to some mistake on our part. We were all a little tentative as they had two smallish girls on their team. At no stage did we feel like giving less than 100% was going to cost us the game, and that can breed a bit of laziness.

Archery progress

"I don't want to be disparaging, but you are doing everything wrong" said the instructor, not long into our second Archery for Beginners session. My feet, hips, forearm, elbows, shoulders, shoulder blades, neck, nose and chin were in the wrong place. I had my arrow above the nocking point, not below. I was using my wrong eye. It's really a wonder I hadn't shot somebody. He kept telling me to get my elbow up, up, UP, and I had to retort after a while that to my mind he had his elbow too high, compared to the diagrams in our Archery Australia Come N Try handbook. He grudgingly conceded the point.

After this free and frank exchange of views, my shooting did improve, but I am still not as consistent as Elf. We have been shooting from only 10 metres, which sounds ridiculously close, and looks it too, until you give it a try. My best result from 6 arrows was 5 in the gold bull. Elf only got 4 out of 6 but she got it again, and again, and again. It was great to see how everyone improved. To begin with we were tracking down arrows all over the paddock behind the targets. By midway through Saturday every arrow was densely packed into the gold, red and blue. Apparently the vast majority of injuries in archery are caused by the feathery end of the arrow, when people are crowding around a target pulling them out over-excitedly.

For the last half hour we retreated to 15 metres. Suddenly the arrows were all over the place again. Gravity come in to play at that distance, so we had to lower our sights. Something that seems counter-intuitive is that to adjust your sights you "follow your arrow". if your arrow is low and to the left, you move your sight down and left.

I finished the day with 2 out of 6 in the bull, from 15 metres. I am a million miles away from mastering archery, but the progress is heartwarming. And I am particularly happy with my elbow elevation.

South Hobart v Lenah Valley u/6 wallabies

I couldn't make it to Marcus' soccer match this week, but Grandma Ruth was there with her trusty camera. She is experimenting with its video capabilities, which is great, as I (and you) now get to see the young sausage's skills. The goals were shared around a bit more this week. These two little films show Marcus dribbling from the backline, to score one goal and set up another (via the post). In thefirst video note the lad in blue who, after Marcus scores (and runs out of shot to celebrate), is either celebrating too (misguidedly) or maybe appealing for offside. As always in the under sixes, the winner was soccer.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Cousin-ing around

The four kids are all getting on really well. The girls have fit in at school with no problems at all. Its a small shock to the system to suddenly be responsible for two extra walking talking squawking school-age kids. Each of us (Elf, Imp and I) have looked after the lot at one time or another. I walked them all to school this morning, and it was actually simpler than supervising at home with an infinite variety of mischief and squabble opportunities.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Bunking up

Imp flew off to Sydney on Saturday to meet up with Ed and the girls, who drove up from Canberra. They spent the weekend there with relatives, and this evening Imp is flying back to Hobart with Karri and Miah. Ed will drive back to Canberra and continue to pack up their life there. He will join the rest of the family here in a couple of weeks I think.

As they are all staying with us until a decent home is found, we have had to re-configure the house a bit this weekend. Actually Elf has done the bulk of it, and when I came home today downstairs was looking completely different, and in fact looking really great.

We have put the boys' beds up into bunks, which has caused great excitement and romping (illustrated above). Karri and Miah will have the back bedroom and Imp and Ed will be in the piano room/front room/rumpus call it what you will. Elf put up some Tasmanian curtains (sheets) in there today, it looks quite homely and inviting.

Stay tuned for news of extended family communal living. It's all terribly South Hobart, if you know what I mean.

Knackered 8 d Undercover Brothers 4

We haven't beaten these guys before, so this was a good effort. We were 3-2 down at half time, but totally dominated the 2nd half. Cam scored 2 on his lucky left. My calf got through a brief run in the outfield pretty well. This week I'll be back to full duties. Unfortunately Finn sustained a nasty foot injury due to his crappy streetwear-style shoes. Finn's son Ollie told me at school today it wasn't broken. [Knackered is largely made up of South Hobart Primary School dads - now school soccer season has started there is going to be a certain amount of soccer saturation in the blog].

Marcus takes the field

After a long wait Marcus made his school soccer debut on Saturday. Although this is 3rd year at SHPS he didn't turn 6 until February this year, so he hasn't been eligible to play until now.

He is turning out for the Arsenal-shirted under-6 team in the 4-a-side Wallaby league. Here he is with his teammates David, Arky, Noah and Aden. Elf and I both work on soccer training day, and there is zero in the way of written communications from the coach, so we were not aware parents were supplying socks and shorts. We will do better this week.

The boys all did very well, and each of them learned as they went and made progress over the 30 minutes. Marcus ran himself ragged and was very pink-cheeked by the end. I refereed the 2nd half so I was panting a bit myself. Marcus scored all but one of his team's 8 goals, but the highlight for me was his pinpoint pass to Noah when Noah called for the ball from a better position. The other team had a boy who kicked about seven for his team too.

At under 6 level there is no scoreboard, no ladder, and no winners and losers. This is laudable, but during the three cheers etc at the end there was spirited debate between the kids as to who actually had won. As the man with the whistle I just had to say the real winner is soccer, boys and girls.

Michael kinder update

This morning I spent twenty minutes with Michael's kinder teacher Mrs McLeod for a routine teacher/parent meeting. She is very happy with how he is going, and we are delighted with how he has taken to it. He was admitted early, and so gets a bit of extra scrutiny as to whether its working out or not. He is very confident socially, and he is bringing home a lot of stories about what the other kids are doing, and he knows all their names. He's finally taking a bigger interest in crafty things now, which will delight those who have spent a lot of fairly fruitless time with Michael, string, beads and glue in the past.

Mrs McLeod said she's delighted that Michael's fascination with reading and letters is not impeding his social life - sometime bright kids are so involved in their own world they get a bit isolated. She did observe that he is very strong - he'll get hold of an idea and it will be hard to budge him. His concentration and focus is an asset but occasionally for us and for Mrs McLeod we have to oppose his strongly held views.

So in summary, it's big ticks all round and we're very glad he has started kinder this year, he's just lapping it up.

Slotting in the nock, fletching etc

Elf and I enrolled in an adult ed course to get away and spend some time doing something together. Our criteria were it had to involve a) hours standing in a field, b) weapons and c) fletching. This narrowed it down to Organic Farming for Ninjas or Archery, so we chose Archery.

We both had a great time at the first class on Saturday. We were shooting with recurve bows like this one, from about 10 metres. It looked ridiculously close before we started shooting, when all of us sent arrows flying over, under and past the target, with a few thudding into the white low scoring bits.

An hour or so later we were getting our whole round of arrows (6) in the blue, red and gold. Elf and I probably shot about 10 or 12 bulls each out of about 60 shots.

While we were getting our safety briefing an unprepossessing person wandered past. One of the course lecturers asked if he was late for the adult ed course. The other lecturer said - "No - that's Clint!" Clint Freeman was 2003 World Target Champion, and in fact the first person in the world to beat 1400 points in competition - the 4 minute mile of archery.

Friday, April 11, 2008


Michael made the "rainbow I" yesterday and this morning built a word around it. I asked if I could email this one to Auntie Sal in Canada. He said that was OK, but he actually made it for Grandma and Grandad.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Paper People by Ruth Rees and Pam Thorne

On the subject of boasting of family creative prowess, Mum and Pam Thorne have just bumped out their last exhibition of papier-mache people. They have been making them together for about ten years. They are life size figures made of handmade paper over a wire armature. I don't think their exhibition got a mention here in February, as it was overlooked in the flurry of the camping trip.

Their work is delicate, beautifully crafted and quite moving. The final show consisted of about ten figures and groups of figures, and twenty or thirty lifesize pairs of shoes, hats and handbags. These pieces are titled In Friendly Contention, Made for Each Other and Mother & Child


Michael made this beautiful word out of Lego a week ago, in a few separate pieces. He tweaked it over successive days until he had managed to make it one connected piece. It was interesting to see how he balanced legibility with engineering concerns along the way. When it was finished he told me it was for Tom and Isobel in Launceston, but I don't think he would mind me putting it up here for general consumption.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Witches fingernails

We call them witches fingernails but I must find out what the bush is actually called.

E. forrestiana

I am drawing native plants either a) as a displacement activity to avoid landscapes or b) as a stunning new alternative macro approach to landscape that even I don't realise I am doing. I am working through in my head some half-baked ideas about the inalienable aboriginality of the land we are on. Makes it hard for me to draw the admiring views of buildings, quarries and hedgerows that I have always loved so much.

Sisters Beach

View from Mum and Dad's block. A tiny sketch from a tiny sketchbook, December 1997 - scanned and digitally painted up this week.

The block is for sale now. This was going to be their dream house for their retirement but things just conspired against it happening. Now they are looking for a place around Hobart, after living on the northwest coast since 1967.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Frank opinion at 6.45am

Me[brightly]: School today Michael!
Michael[Exact mimic of Elf]: Oh, bloody hell!

Mr White Boots

Marcus now has white soccer boots. They were chosen by he and I jointly. It might sound like I'm setting him up as a show pony who might be taken down a peg, but that's not it at all. In fact if you look in your neighbourhood sporting goods shop, you'll see boots are now generally white, red, fluoro green, silver or gold. When I was a kid you might have "gold" stripes on your black boots, and "gold" meant a nice egg-yolk yellow. Now "gold" actually means "shiny, metallic, apparently cast from actual gold". Even the non-metallic boots are so lustrous they look like they have been finished in automotive 2-pak spraypaint.

Tomorrow he will take them for a run around, at his second soccer practice. They are his first lace-up footwear, and he has a way to go in mastering tying them up. Each week at soccer practice someone else will be cursing my name as they tie Marcus's laces.