Sunday, November 30, 2008

Soccer in Sun and Shadow by Eduardo Galeano

I have a terrific book I bought before the last World Cup, called the Thinking Fan's Guide to the World Cup. It is a collection of 32 essays, one for each country going to Germany 2008. Some of them are only about football, some barely touch on it at all.

The editor recommends some other sources of good writing on football, including Soccer in Sun and Shadow. It is translated from Spanish, and shares a certain dreamy quality I associate with South American writing translated into English. Eduardo Galeano was to be included in the Thinking Fan's Guide, but had to be dropped from the list when his country, Uruguay, were eliminated at the last hurdle by Australia.

Uruguayan football has a glorious history. They won the Olympic gold medal in 1924 and again in 1928, then hosted and won the first World Cup in 1930. In 1950 it was held next door in Brazil. The Brazilians were unbackable favourites, and cruised through the tournament winning effortlesly with beautiful, playful football. They met Uruguay in the final. Before the match the Brazilians were given gold watches with "For the World Champions" inscribed on them. Uruguay won.
After the final whistle, Brazilian commentators called the defeat "the worst tragedy in Brazil's history". Jules Rimet [FIFA President] wandered about the field like a lost soul, hugging the cup that bore his name. "I found myself alone with the cup in my arms and not knowing what to do. I finally found Uruguay's captain, Obdulio Varela, and I gave it to him practically without letting anyone else see. I held out my hand without saying a word".

In his pocket Rimet had a speech he had written to congratulate the victorious Brazilians.

Australia and Uruguay have a recent but fierce rivalry on the soccer field. Uruguay were the last of a long line of strange distant countries to knock Australia out at the last stage of World Cup qualifying, in Montevideo in 2001 - (previously Argentina, Scotland, Iran, Israel - just off the top of my head). Four years later, it was fate dictated it would be Australia who knocked Uruguay out.

One notable feature is the blurbs on the back. Have you ever seen two blurbs so different from one another on a book cover?

To show the foolishness of the first blurb, here is another excerpt.
In the middle of 1969, a large hall for weddings, baptisms and conventions opened in Spain's Guadarrama mountains. While the grand opening banquet was in full swing, the floor collapsed and the guests were buried in rubble. Fifty-two people died. The hall had been built with public funds, but without permits, licenses or an architect in charge.

The owner and builder of the ephemeral edifice, Jesus Gil y Gil, went to jail. He spent two years and three months behind bars – two weeks for each death – until he was pardoned by Generalissimo Franco. As soon as he set foot out of prison, Jesus was back to serve the progress of the fatherland once again in the construction industry.

Some time later, this businessman became the owner of a soccer team, Atlético of Madrid. Thanks to soccer, which turned him into a popular television personality, Jesus was able to launch a political career. In 1991 he was elected mayor of Marbella, winning more votes than anyone else in the country. [...]

Atlético of Madrid remains the base of his power and prestige, even though the team frequently loses. Coaches don't last more than a few weeks. Jesus Gil y Gil seeks advice from his horse Imperioso, a snow-white and very sentimental stallion.

"Imperioso, we lost."
"I know Gil."
"Whose fault is it?"
"I don't know Gil."
"Yes you do Imperioso. It's the coach's fault."
"So, fire him"

So American fans, I hope that quick snapshot of a very popular international sport cleared a few things up for you!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Knackered 13 drew with Mickey's Boys 13

I went to a podiatrist during the week, which was a new thing. I think it was the drummer out of Jet - or possibly the bass player from The Drones. The hair, you know. Very confident and proficient young guy. In his opinion my right big toe is "on the blink". I bought some new soccer shoes today from a proper sports gear shop, with proper advice and a proper fittitng - I can't remember the last time I did that. The pod man is making orthotics for me (in Richmond club colours). I am finally taking my feet seriously. I always believed you got a new pair when you turn 50, but apparently that's a furphy.

So the new shoes went OK. I had a couple of weeks off after the final we lost, and I was huffing and puffing right from the word go tonight. We got out to 7-2 in front, their goalie was very leaky. They had a bit of a run on, we froze up and next thing it was 7-7. They had one very strong player, the eponympos Mickey. He had a hell of a boot, and probably scored 10 or 11.

I think we were one up with one minute to go when they scored. I took the ball from the kickoff, beat two blokes and was just winding up to shoot when the hooter went. Probably a fair resut on balance.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Little flags piling up

OK, I am blogging about the blog now, which is sad. But - I am fascinated to watch the flags accumulating in the visitor records panel there. There's been a burst of activity in the Baltic on Wednesday when I suddenly saw Poland, Latvia and Lithuania clock on. Is it one person driving around with a laptop? And where is Estonia?

I know that's Ben in Thailand and Charles in Germany. Wendy is contributing a lot of the US figures from Arkansas. But who is dropping in from Mexico? Canada? Romania and Slovakia for goodness sake?

If you are somewhere interesting reading this, pop in a comment, I'd love to know.


Do you listen to podcasts? I'm always on the lookout for good ones. Don't be scared off by the "pod" thing, I know not everyone has an i-pod, in fact I listen to them on my desktop computer while I work. I used to listen to just Australian Radio National shows, but gradually migrated to American podcasts. I still listen to This Sporting Life from Triple J, and I think that's about it for regular Australian material. Here is my current listening list.

Dan Carlin's Hardcore History (Punic Wars to WW2 and everything else) and Common Sense (current affairs). This is like a one hour ride with an affable but passionate and very well informed taxi driver, who wants to convince you that while Alexander would have outwitted Caesar in battle, Caesar actually set stuff up in peacetime, which Alexander never bothered with. And my understanding of and interest in US politics has leaped ahead since I also subscribed to Common Sense. Today I listened to an interview with a conservative history professor, talking about the benefits of the now-lost classical education. I can feel my opinions being taken out and beaten soundly like a rug, and they don't always go back to the original shape.

You Look Nice Today, "a journal of emotional hygiene". Three guys who skype to each other over the net. Witty, sharp, erudite. Recommended by the cast of...

Jordan Jesse Go. 2 manchilds. Jesse Thorn, America's Radio Sweetheart, and Jordan Morris, Boy Detective.

This Sporting Life. An Australian radio institution. HG Nelson is the commentator par excellence. Roy Slaven, the retired star who pulled on the green and gold in tennis, rugby league, surfing, golf... Also owner and trainer of two of the turf's finest conveyances, Rooting King and Princess Underpant. Sprinkled with ads for the products of their business the Slaven Nelson Group, such as Blue Light Twitching Love Logs, and The King Tide Sleepmaker (a water bed full of fish). To quote Wikipedia "Other memorable Slaven recollections have included the assistance he gave to music star Cher during her bout with chronic fatigue syndrome - which included a daily regimen in which Slaven tied Cher to the back of a car and dragged her behind it for several kilometres.

Football Weekly. Men and women talk UK and European soccer. I never actually get to see the games they talk about, and a lot of it washes over me, but the banter is so lively and the digressions quite funny that I still listen anyway.

This American Life. National Public Radio from the USA. A groundbreaking radio show that I now realise is the stylistic template for a lot of Australian Radio National programmes.

They Might Be GiantsThe band. Rare music and interviews. They also have a kids video podcast that is educational and great.

OK. Let me know if you have any recommendations.

What colour is a chainsaw Dad?

I just found this in the activity book we got at the magic show, about a year ago.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

I am on a mission to find out more about this...

Bathtub III from Keith Loutit on Vimeo.

Brooklyn Superhero Supply Store

Sam Potts is a genius. Note the sign that warns "Rivalries and archrivalries must be left outside the store".

Brewery source photos

In case anyone is interested, this is Cascade Brewery in South Hobart, subject of that drawing I posted a week ago.

More bird news

A sparrow or somesuch flew across my path this morning with about a metre of straw hanging from its beak. Up into the eaves of Le Provençal restaurant, there to extend/repair his nest I guess. Organic gardening must be such a boon to the nest-building bird-about-town.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Bird Hand Book

Photos of live birds, in the hands of ornithologists. Very, very beautiful and rather startling. © Victor Schrager.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Cricket on the television

While in Turners Beach, Marcus, Dad and I watched a bit of the first test against New Zealand. I rarely watch cricket on TV but it seemed like a pleasant way to while away a wet weekend afternoon. My timing was poor - the cricketers were off for the tea break. On Channel Nine to fill the time Mark Nicholas was gently probing elderly co-commentator Richie Benaud about his early years. I have seen less deferential interviews with HM the Queen.

Richie's mother recently passed away. [Photos of his dear old Mum]. She had lived to be over 100. [Photo of her birthday cake]. She got a telegram and certificate from HM the Queen. [Photo of the certificate]. "I took the train down to Parramatta and had a hit with third grade - of course they were called Central Cumberland in those days". He bought a three piece suit for a shilling and had enough left over to go to the talkies, etc etc.

So eventually the cricket resumed. Stuart Clark bowling for the baggy green. Tearing in, a bit of late swing, looking lively. Between balls Mark Nicholas said, without no hint of tongue in cheek: "They usually have the TV on with the sound down in the Australian rooms during the breaks. But you can bet Stuart Clark had his feet up, probably with a sports drink or a piece of fruit, and turned up the sound to enjoy those magnificent recollections from a great man. There'll be more from Richie at tea tomorrow..."

Marcus's new trick

Marcus heard about square roots, that they were tricky and hard. He wanted in. So I taught him a trick - if you know that a number is a square (16, 121, 5041), then it is not impossible to work out the square root in your head. Squares only end in 1, 4, 5, 6, 9, or 0. If it ends in 1, the square root ends in 1 or 9. If it ends in 4, the square root ends in 2 or 8. If it ends in 5, the square root ends in 5. If it ends in 6, the square root ends in 4 or 6. If it ends in 9, the square root ends in 3. And if it ends in 0, the square root ends in 0. He memorised this list more or less instantly.

So, if I say to him 5041, he knows it ends in 1 or 9. He can do 60 x 60, 70 x 70, 80 x 80 pretty easily, so he can find a range to look in. 5041 is between 4900 and 6400, so the root must be between 70 and 80. Its pretty close to 4900, so chances are that out of 71 or 79, the answer will be 71.

It takes me about five minutes (while driving) to work out a question for him. It takes him about 25 seconds to work out the answer. It only works with perfect squares, so it is not a particularly useful formula in daily life, but its a neat number trick.

A long drive through the pounding rain

We drove up to Mum and Dad's at Turners Beach on Friday evening. We did it in about 4 hours, although we had to slow down to 80 at times due to the rain. It really thumped down. I am always nervous about someone ploughing into us from the other direction when they decide to drive through a small lake and lose control.

Mum and Dad were in good form and looking very well. The garden at TB is actually bigger than the quite big garden I grew up with in Burnie, so they have given themselves a lot to do. Mum likes to plant things and nurture them to find out what they are, and then decide whether to keep them or not.

Everything was looking great. The colours are so refreshing up on the north west coast. You want to open your eyes wider and wider and save it all up in your mind for when yoiu are back in the dull brown of the drier parts of the state. The pyrethrum fields are creamy pale yellow-green, poppies pale pink, spuds vibrant green, the soil looks like anything would grow in it. In honour of the NW coast I think I can pop in a few Patrick Grieve paintings can't I?

We had two outings. We went to Imaginarium in Devonport, a kind of mini-Questacon in a large shed. (Science discovery thing for kids, for those who don't know Questacon). The current display has a road safety focus. Most of the displays were good but the interactive computer stuff was no better than we put together at work. There was an up-to-date map of the world on one wall with the flags of all nations - a few had changed since our flag book at home was printed. Michael gave it the once over - and said "Georgia - that's not the flag of Georgia!" He's memorised our book pretty thoroughly.

Our other outing was a long walk to the pick-your-own strawberry farm yesterday morning. The sun came out and it was quite intense. After toiling long and hard in the fields (about ten minutes if that) - I made for the shade. As usual we picked enough fruit for a family of twelve who really like strawberries.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

A new feature

At top right you can see a record of where visitors to the site have come from. I assume these are mostly search engines just dropping in and logging my latest thoughts. Hi, web-bots! (I just want to pump up the low hit-rate of a few of mny fave words in Google, so bear with me while I say asparagus, prevaricate, clement, obstreperous, blimp, quoin and snib).

Good to see we have someone dropping in from St Kilda. What? Oh.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Obama Buttons

Brewery progress

Is it finished? No, but it's getting there. I am having all sorts of trouble with the tree on the left. Bloody gum trees, I have just never got the knack of them.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Some recent Rees headlines

Since Nathan Rees became NSW Premier, the amount of Rees news has increased exponentially. And now, its not all about life-size papier machê people. Some recent headlines from the SMH

Rees 'absolutely' in charge.

Illegal brothel operates above Rees's office.

Rees unconcerned by brothel above office.

Brothel above office the least of Rees's worries.

Rees unfazed by nearby brothel claim.

Rees rules out early NSW election.

The puppeteers pulling Rees's strings.

spicy italian sausage acronym madness

We saw a kids DVD recently called The Robinsons. It was pretty good, pretty weird for Disney. There was one fantastically well done scene, a family dinner that turns into a mock kung-fu movie fight, complete with bad lip-syncs. One character says "spicy italian sausage" and fires same out of a small cannon at his sister, who catches it between her chopsticks. Michael has taken this term to heart, and has been inspired.

Above is Michael's recipe for Spicy Italian Sausage - he researched this by asking Elf a lot of questions.
Kill A Cow. Then Get Meat From The Cow. Mince The Meat. Put The Meat In To The Sausage Skin. Then Twist Skin Of The Size You Want. Cook The Sausage. You're Done. That Makes A Spicy Italian Sausage.
Here is a diagram of an italian spicy sausage with some sauce, on a plate. Michael has helpfully labelled;

ABOT - A Bit Of Taste.
SIS - Spicy Italian Sausage.
TM - The Middle
S- Sauce
hail - is an Italian Word (IW)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Mister Fezziwig, and other pedigree bulldogs

The combination of luvvy-wuvvyness and Falklands War style British swaggering is amazing.

Lamerit Cornflower of Wyngrove
Luvabull Milly Molly Mandy
Lynmans Living Legend
MacCracken Golden Rain in Kofyn
Maid Available at Kelloe
Marleroy Mr Chips of Denbrough
Medbull Barbie Girl
Medbull Gold Dust Over Kelloe
Merriveen Happy Memories
Merriveen Hells Bells
Merriveen McClean of Bullzaye
Merriveen Son of Satan
Moselian Gay Camilla
Mr. Fezziwig
Muffin Man at Ocobo
Noways Chuckles
O'Busy Buggins of Petworth
Ocobo Innocent Love
Ocobo Royal Heritage of Britishpride
Ocobo Slightly Noble
Outdoors Boozer
Outdoors Repeat of Britishpride
Outdoor Sitting Bull of Stoke

Scam text 2

You have won for your self a total sum of £1,200,000 POUNDS STERLING.

[...] Please you are adviced to complete the form and send it immediately to our Promotion manager through email or fax for prompt collection of your fund from the designated bank.

Fill the below information’s and send to the fiduciary agent for your
Claims verification: [...] Name: Mr. Anord Scott

Monday, November 17, 2008

Various beautiful things

I think we will be using this for our Christmas card. Michael spontaneously did some christmas drawings. "Good luck!" should be an essential part of all Christmas wishes.

Our front yard is a cornucopia of weeds. I chop them back regularly - they are mulching the soil and also holding it in place until Elf's actual deliberate plantings get going. Elf spotted this beauty before I chopped it.

Marcus is wearing the rubik's cube down gradually.

Another of Michael's educational diagrams of human circulation which he produces for his classmates at after-school care.

Our relaxed leaders

The Premier [David Bartlett], Opposition Leader [Will Hodgman] and leader of the Greens [Nick McKim] are all about my age. They are stylish groovers with thumb rings and sailboards. They seem to all get on reasonably well.

This morning they were each in turn interviewed by Tim Cox on the radio, for their thoughts on the issue of the day. Nick McKim started by saying "I have just jotted some notes here Tim while I was listening to David and Wilbert..."

While on politics, I have noticed John Howard's media exile coming to an end. For starters there is the massive ABC documentary on his reign, and a Children Overboard doco on SBS. But also the man himself is popping up in real-time sound bites giving his opinion on this and that. And whenever I hear his voice I have a visceral reaction of gut-clenching distaste. Elf has pointed out that she has a similar reaction to Keating.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

General news

Marcus had his first ride on two wheels this afternoon. He has been riding to school regularly with the training wheels. He will have to go back to square one now, but I think he's ready. This afternoon we practised on a gentle grassy slope, where the bike would start rolling as soon as he picked up his feet. I thought this would ease him into the tricky balancing part. Next he has to learn to do it on the flat, where HE will be providing the motion himself. That might be interesting.

Marcus has been joining a Grade 3 maths class once a week to be stretched a bit. Today the Grade 3 teacher was away, so Marcus was invited into the Grade 5/6 class. From his report he was pretty comfortable there socially and had no trouble with the work. He has an amazing appetite for maths problems, and also chess problems. I may never beat him again.

A stream of consciousness from Michael, flicking through a book of flags:

Mexico has a flag like, um, Italy doesn't it? But Italy doesn't have this thing [coat of arms]. Also like Iceland. No, silly me, not Iceland, Ireland. Manatees live in Mexico. In the sea, around Mexico. Does Mexico look like this? [Draws recognisable shape of Mexico]. Manatees live ALL AROUND Mexico.

Brilliant, exhausting boys. We try very hard to live up to them and influence them in good ways but I feel a lot like we have just dug up two gold nuggets in the backyard.

- + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - +

Seen this evening in Cascade Road: Beneath a huge oak tree next to St Johns Hospital, someone has arranged twigs along a low brick fence to read HAVE A HAPPY DAY.

Scam text 1

"When my late husband was alive he deposited the sum of $4.5 Million (FOUR MILLION FIVE HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS ) in the BANK here in COTE D IVOIRE.

I can not handle the transaction due to i am very sick and the doctors advise that i need to have enough rest."

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Mr Phillip Vaughan of Perth - he's going for a Henry Lawson.

I am not actually growing this year, but am supporting, so let me know if you are in Movember and I will drop some internet-money in your internet-rattle-tin.
Movember - Sponsor Me

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Yes, they can

I felt mostly relief when Barack Obama won on Tuesday. His real battle was with the Clintons - having won that, he was never likely to lose to John McCain, especially as the financial news got steadily worse. I'll write some thoughts on Obama later. The first half of his speech was magnificent - I have heard that he sustained it to the end. To be fair McCain's concession speech was extremely gracious.

I heard that McCain chose Sarah Palin largely on the basis of the donations that were promised to flow in as a result, from the Christian right. Palin is associated with a very flaky brand of financial-fraud-based Christianity, called the Spiritual Warfare Network.
Mounting evidence suggests John McCain's running mate Sarah Palin is deeply involved with a global religious movement bent on imposing theocracies around the world and whose top leader, C. Peter Wagner, has decreed to his followers it is God's will that a forcible, massive transfer of wealth, from the 'godless' to members of his movement, take place.
Katherine Harris was a member of SWN in 2000. Who is Katherine Harris?
Katherine Harris became notorious for her role in the U.S. 2000 presidential election when Harris, then Florida's Secretary of State, ordered the Florida election vote recount shut down amidst numerous charges of election fraud and irregularity and with Al Gore trailing George W. Bush by only several hundred votes in the contest for Florida's electoral votes which ultimately went to George W. Bush and so determined the outcome of the 2000 presidential election.
So in many ways Palin was a terrible choice. All the finger-pointing from McCain aides since Tuesday is really futile - the more they rat on Palin for her ignorance, clothes spending and lack of social graces, the more they confirm that McCain's judgement was very wonky when he picked her.

The latest from Nagpur

The cricket has been back on the radio, and I love it. Australia are getting tonked, but that doesn't really matter. Everyone is pretty sick of them winning everything aren't they?

This series is coming from India. The broadcasts kick off about 3pm and run through to about 10 in the evening, which means you can keep up with developments and not miss anything major, without having to stay up all night as you do for England or South Africa. This game is being played at Nagpur, bang in the centre of India. It a brand new ground constructed in the middle of farmland about 20km from the centre of Nagpur. Tickets are only sold for the full five days, and the small crowd present are all there on corporate hospitality junkets. The view out the back of the ABC commentary box is of paddies being worked by oxen. The ABC say that the match is not being broadcast on the radio in India, such is the limited interest in Test cricket compared to the shorter game. So the man with the oxen not only can't afford to attend the game in his bottom paddock, he possibly isn't even aware who's playing.

The power goes off regularly, but the valiant ABC team have a UPS (uninterruptible power source). What they can't guarantee is the radio connection - every now and then they have to resort to the mobile phone. The main commentator calls the action then hands the phone to the special comments man for some sage words.

I was listening at the Eureka! moment, when expert Peter Roebuck said "hang on - can't we just hold the mobile out in front of us and the mike on it will pick up all us? We can just talk normally. Why has this taken us seven years to work out?" They were relying on the phone for about 6 hours of the day yesterday, so it was a good day to make the discovery.

The Indian special comments man is named Duleep. He speaks very well and is deeply knowledgeable, but he sounds like he is lying in bed, extremely weak or possibly on the verge of death. The irascible Jim Maxwell heads the coverage. He is a chain-smoking straight-talking no-nonsense man who likes a punt.

He said to Duleep this afternoon "OK, you'd better head off to get an early go at the big lunch they put on here." Duleep replied "J u s t b i s c u i t s"

Friday, November 07, 2008

Work in progress

Details of a drawing of the brewery - I am finally getting somewhere with it.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Latest mouse news

The programmers are trying to crack a tough problem again. They've tried mouse listeners. They've googled the problem. They've looked through the online problem database.

"Aha!" One of them cries. "Of course! Its the mouse children!" Phew - another crisis averted. All we had to do was temporarily disable those mouse children. Yay!

Spoon factory &c.

Here is Michael's latest.

SPOON FACTORY. Where the spoons come from. Remove spoons into the city and release into the wild. As far as we can establish this scenario just popped into his head.

Some of the lad's favourite flags. See how many you can identify, flag buffs!

JUNGLE DRUMS - each letter made very creatively out of a torn a4 sheet.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Injury list.

Sprained right index finger.
Arthritis in both big toes.
Fallen arch in left foot.
Ankles very stiff.
Left knee still large haematoma.
Small muscle tear in right calf.
Sole of right big toe burning.

The Tub

Elf, Imp, Ed and Fred put in a bid to build a small boat in the Community Boat Building event at the Wooden Boat Festival in February. There were 14 slots available for teams to build either a 10' Feather or a Peace Canoe. Their entry was good enough for them to be given a slot. They have already started with the briefing and training - the actual building will happen on site at the Festival. They are building a Feather, using plywood and stitch-n-glue techniques.

I am of course invaluable in a logistics and support role, looking after the kids. I took a sharp step backwards when boatbuilding volunteers were called for. I would not like to have any drownings on my conscience. The working title of the little boat is The Tub.

Eyeball and spike - strange bedfellows

When we had inlaws staying with us, one of them [who will remain unnamed] broke the power button on the coffee grinder. By sheer mind-twisting coincidence, the SAME day I happened to find on the footpath a stainless steel spike about 3 cm long, that does the job perfectly. If you twist the old broken button out of the way you can press the spike down on the real recessed button hidden below.

The spike lives in a sterling silver christening cup on the bench near the grinder. Also resident in this cup is an old toy of Marcus's, the rolling eyeball. When you drop it back in the cup it lights up, and flashes for a few moments. The spike and the flashing rolling eyeball are now an intrinsic part of the coffee process - and who can say that's not a good thing?