Monday, December 29, 2008

Under 10s may now flop

From the Little Athletics newsletter. Breaking News...

Amendment to High-Jump By Law
At the 2008 State Conference, a motion was moved to amend the age groups which undertake the scissor jump.

The previous By-Law stated that it was compulsory for Under 8, 9 and 10 athletes to perform the scissor jump. This has been amended to Under 8 and Under 9 only.

Therefore - Under 10–15 athletes have the option to either scissor or flop.

Assemble and eat

Elf's Mum, Dad and brother Fred are staying down at Firthfield with Imp, Ed, Karri and Miah. My Mum and Dad are staying with us. So far, every day since and including Christmas we have assembled all in one place, the 13 of us, to eat. All we really do is eat, make cups of tea, moving through to beers and whisky and soda as the day goes on, keeping an eye on the cricket on TV, keeping an ear on the cricket on the radio, or playing cricket out the back. Playing christmas-new games and constructing christmas-new constructo-gifts. Fruitcake. Let's learn mah-jongg. Wake up Dad! Can we watch the cricket again please? Slightly different fruitcake. Who would like a cup of tea? Let's have a hit of cricket! More fruitcake. Anyone else keen for a beer? Anyone know the score in the cricket? Etcetera and so forth. It is very pleasant, quite soporific, and I don't quite know what day it is.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Merry Christmas everyone

There will be a short blog break. All the best for 2009.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Wikipedia fundraising drive

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

Wikipedia is one of the few things on the internet I find completely indispensable. They are fundraising at present. Good luck to you, Sum Of All Human Knowledge. I edited their article on weasels once.

Neighbours and Pals v Antipasto and Champagne

We had a Christmas party of sorts on Sunday afternoon at our place. We had about thirty five people, lots of kids, and we really had a nice time.

I went off to get the platters, and foolishly decided I could squeeze in a bit of Christmas shopping on the way, and still get home with them in time for Elf and I to have showers and iron something. When I got back at about 10 minutes-to-liftoff, Elf was in the shower and the boys informed me she was not happy.

Eggnog and time are marvellous healers however, and she has withdrawn the divorce papers and I believe she still has full confidence in me as her Deputy, going forward.

We had a couple of visits - inside the house - from the bolder of the two magpies. Both times there were quite a few people around. The first time: hop hop, a bit of a look at the shiny stuff on the Christmas tree, and hop hop out again. The second time was a major incursion. He had a good look at the toys, especially interested in the dinosaurs, got up on my chair to have a look at work in progress on my desk, pooped next to the christmas tree, and then flew about a bit looking for the exit. There was relief from him and us when he found it.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Things cyclists shout to each other while riding at speed past our house

Someone is shouting. What's the matter? Why are they shouting? Oh, its cyclists riding two abreast. As they pass into and out of earshot I hear;







...3 OR 4 OR 5. BUT NOT 8! NO WAY....



Monday, December 15, 2008

Civic Fire!

Michael hadn't done any floor typography for a while, but he's just popped up with this one. Nice.

More of Keith Loutit's tiny genius

Helpless from Keith Loutit on Vimeo. The monks! Oh, the monks (4:09)! Their hats! Sweet.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

We all gave Boonie a hug

I took the boys to the one-day cricket at Bellerive this afternoon. I have never been vaguely tempted to do this before, but I heard on the radio yesterday that it was a fund raising game for drought-affected farmers. There would be a baby animal petting area, bouncy castle, and various other exciting kid-baits. I thought I could probably keep the boys interested long enough for it to be worth the price of admission. As it turned out we were waved in for free.

We arrived about ten minutes before the end of the first innings, Queensland batting. We saw a six hit almost straight away, that just eluded a magnificent diving attempt to catch it - think John Dyson SCG 1982. (Sorry Belgium, you just had to be there). An identical shot off the next ball was miscued and caught by the same fellow.

During the break we wandered off around the concourse in search of rural fun. Four unattended sheep were penned in a tight triangle, on the old practice wicket. No one was around (I should mention the crowd was tiny). We approached. The sheep all tried to climb up each others bottoms. They were not happy to be there.

The bouncy castle man said "I know how they feel". He is actually there every week, not just for the fundraiser, but normally he is inside the ground where he can watch the cricket. He has a 5 year contract with the TCA to be there with his special cricket-themed bouncy castle for every game, and the kids bounce for free. The graphics (designed by bouncy castle man himself) feature lifesize pictures of Ben Hilfenhaus bowling and Michael Dighton batting, but with their faces blurred in an alarming way that I associate with child-porn busts on the TV news. He doesn't want to have to redo the graphics if Hilfy or Dights are enticed to leave by another state.

No other farm animals, farmers or farm fun was to be had. A lass was selling Country Womens Association calendars for $15, but was not prepared to accept donations. There had been tin-rattlers, but they'd all gone home, she said.

So, the boys and I climbed on Boonie for fun. There is a life-size bronze statue of David Boon, executing an off drive. He played 107 Tests for Australia in the 1980s and 1990s and was fond of a drink. He is now a national selector, and is available in spooky-talking-doll form with cartons of VB beer. He is the only person I have seen both a) at the supermarket and also b) immortalised in bronze.

Tasmania came out to bat and made their intentions clear early, slumping to 4-40. The boys were quite enjoying it all, and the extremely light crowds made it easy to keep an eye on Michael as he roamed far, introducing himself to nonplussed teens, grannies and the Queensland fielders on the boundary. Every ten seconds he would turn around and wave and call 'Hi Dad!' , and it was otherwise so quiet that most of the people in the stands turned and looked at me. Every now and then a "Baaaaaaaaa" from the triangular pen would waft across the pristine international-standard outfield.

After a while I suggested we go home when Tasmania made it to 100 (chasing 239). Marcus wanted to stay to the end, Michael wanted to go. We had worn our welcome at the bouncy castle after a wrestling incident. With the score on about 98, Marcus heaved a heavy sigh and said "Let's go home now". Cricket, for all its charms, can be deeply wearying.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

40 acres of air

A magnificent property ad found by my wife, in the North West Coast property guide. It doesn't mention it here, but this is probably only ten minutes drive from Kenny the Giant Kennebec. First To See Will Buy!

Comments stuck in the series of tubes

Sorry to Wendy, Elf and Sally. I have been tweaking the blog settings, and set Comments to "always approve before publishing". Then I never actually checked if there was something I needed to approve. Your lively and thought provoking comments are now up. I have set it back to allow unmediated, public access, open slather, open-mike night, poetry slam style commenting. Continue to "throw down", "peeps"!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Golden glow of progress

Yesterday morning I was panting after Marcus, as he scooted down Degraves Street on his bike. He waited for me at the tricky blind corner, we crossed together, then he took off down the Rivulet track, and disappeared around a bend. He rides to the footbridge, then turns around and rides back to me - by then I am within sight of the footbridge and he stays in my sight the rest of the way to school.

As I watched him I was thinking how much progess he's made, so quickly. I am mentally patting myself on the back for shepherding him through this process so effectively, in such a fatherly manner. Then I got a big idea.

One of the super-rewarding things about parenting, is seeing the progress. Your kid crawls! Then he walks! He eats solid food! He reads aloud! He reads silently! He reads silently for an hour and won't come out of his room! Etc.

When we as grown ups want to get better at something, we practice. And maybe we get better. Maybe we don't. Maybe we're just not cut out for it. Maybe its our job and we just, feh, aren't that driven to get better at it. We've found our level. We aren't particularly striding ahead constantly at every new thing we try. (Unless we are one of those people who write inspirational self-help books as sold at airport bookshops.)

But our children - they start out soft, pink, helpless. There is a right and wrong way to hold them so they don't die! Do you know what I mean? Six months later they are a different proposition entirely. To progress that much, I would need to be, by 12th June 2009, a) super fit and flexible like a world class rock-climber, b) able to recognise and name 95% of all Earth's plants and animals and c) 9 feet tall.

I propose that one of the reasons we keep at this occasionally difficult job, is the purely addictive golden glow anyone gets from watching progress, improvement, problems solved and unfinished things completed. "My how you've grown" is the biggest cliche, but perhaps on a deeper level it reflects our adult fascination with, and envy of, these little people who REALLY ARE remaking themselves every day, growing physically and in every other way.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Duck plague continues

Muscovy duck. Took up a position behind our fence on Monday afternoon. Still there at nightfall, indefatigable. Mysteriously gone (back to Moscow?) next morning.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Artists journals as art

My blog pal Wendy has just written a post about art journals. She's a big fan - as am I. Kinda.

I always feel wierd about other people's art journals/visual diaries/workbooks. They are often great to look at, but if they are made for looking at, it puts them more in the realm of scrapbooking, to me. And I am snobby about scrapbooking (in the sense of using stuff from a Scrapbooking Shop) - that is NOT art.

If an artist is working in their journal and thinking "how will this look in my blog?" or "how will this look in an exhibition of artists journals?" then it just doesn't seem like my idea of art practice. There should be hard graft, invisible and unrewarded. There should be other opportunities spurned, dogs unwalked, phones unanswered, stretching not done, TV shows missed and lost forever, while you work, and work and work. Eventually you have The Piece, which you present to the world, (the phrase 'begotten not made' has sprung to mind).

I always look enviously at other people's journals, and I guess maybe this is the voice of jealousy. Why isn't my journal so funky and scrappy and cool? Why don't I do little watercolour portraits of the people on the train on the way to work? Oh, I walk to work, that would be why. And I can't stand having anyone watch me draw.

There are two artists I can think of just in my own family who will probably scoff at my preciousness.

Monday, December 08, 2008

The Atlas of True Names

The Atlas of True Names reveals the etymological roots, or original meanings, of the familiar terms on today's maps of the World and Europe. For instance, where you would normally expect to see the Sahara indicated,the Atlas gives you "Sea of Sand", derived from Arab. es-sahra "desert, sea of sand".

This is very interesting. Most reviewers have mentioned how it makes the real world seem quite Tolkien-esque. My favourite: The Atlantic Ocean apparently means "World Stream of the Mountain of Mountains".

Find out more here. Thanks to Strange Maps for the link.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

1000 posts

That last bit of business about the advent calendar was my 1000th Diary of Dadness blog entry! That makes me a lance-corporal in the massive army of blogging. Until I got the flag thingy I had no idea that my blog was at least viewed (if not actually read) in places so widely distributed. My latest arrival logged on in Turkey - hello sir or madam! Thanks for reading, everyone.

Advent calendar risks

Marcus has been getting up terribly early since the Advent Calendar went up on the wall. This version has pockets instead of little windows, so the children get more of a surprise than "ooh - a picure of shepherds!". Elf has cunningly alternated nativity figures with Jaffas© (rock hard orange-coated chocolate balls - I'm not sure if you have them in the Ukraine and Peru). Today she made a beautiful cardboard stable to house the cow and one wise man who have emerged so far.

The other morning Marcus was bustling around at about 5.30, then came and woke us up with a garbled message. We said something like "Yeah, yeah, go back to bed". He had no prior experience of Jaffas and did not realise they were food - he was trying to ask us what they were all about. Later there was commotion, and Michael appeared with some wet and sticky Jaffas in his hand, asking "What are these? I was eating them and Marcus told me not to".

Marcus had seen Michael put these dangerous small balls INTO HIS MOUTH and had leapt into action, extracted them and given him a stern warning. Dear boy - we were very touched that he had sensed danger and saved Michael from possible choking. I like to think he fell into an alert crouch at some point.

The silverbeet ends

When I stuck the letters on the fence I never realised what a nice backdrop they would make for the silverbeet, as it started going to seed. More pics here, for fans of chenopods and typography.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

The gifted eat sausages and salad

Last week we took the plunge and went to a Tasmanian Association for the Gifted barbecue get-together. The boys are both super-smart, have been tested for early entry at kinder and so on.

Elf and I are not sure quite where we stand on "giftedness". Are gifted people special and need to be streamed with like minds to some degree? Is everyone gifted in one way or another and no-one should be singled out? We have an open mind and wish to hear what TAG have to say. If the boys make some good friends among the other kids we will certainly view it more positively.

Interestingly it is a purely state-school-focussed group, and it's function is largely to exert leverage on government education policy and on school principals to devote specific resources to gifted kids. Presumably private school parents have the leverage of their huge fees to achieve what they want for their children.

Anyway. The barby was pleasant. The people were nice. Everyone was nametagged. One of the mums was named Hermione and many of the kids had names that proclaimed loudly "Mum and Dad read a lot of books". A lot of the kids spoke in a very correct way that Marcus sometimes does (other times he's a terrible mumbler). I was expecting the kids would be divided into teams and asked to build suspension bridges arcoss the creek, or something - but there were no organised activities.

I was drawn into a game of hide and seek with our boys and a tiny girl named Kariah. When it was her turn she needed a little coaching. "Cover your eyes and count to ten while we hide", I advised her. "Um, I'll count to a mill... a thous... um, eleven".

Plangent quoins

Actually, this will just be a meandering diary of the last week, and I couldn't think of a snappy title.

Marcus won all five chess matches and finished on top of the ladder in the Spring Cup at school. He played against the computer here today on the toughest setting and completely flogged it. (I have a feeling the software is a little wonky though).

He is riding to school now very proficiently and confidently. I lumber after him, with my manly courier bag in my hand like a giant camo-pattern clutch purse.

On Thursday we had a visit from the Premier at work. He had been through to announce something once before, and this time he burbled on about us being his good friends. We are good PR for him - the government give us seed money and we use it to earn export dollars in the "knowledge economy". He brought a wide range of public servants with him. One of his major people is the sister of our next door neighbour Sharon - that's the size of Hobart right there.

We were not particularly asked to drop everything and mingle, so most of us kept plugging away at our work. A functionary in a beautiful dark suit picked up a box of breath mints off Dave's desk and popped out a couple, saying "Thanks mate" as he headed back over to the heavy hitters.

We lost at soccer last night. Cam copped a punch in the guts at one stage, and the culprit was sin-binned for about five minutes. This made it 4 v 3, and we should have been able to capitalise, but we didn't. When the guilty party was allowed back on, he went up to Cam, apologised and shook hands, and said he'd thought Cam was someone else. Nice excuse in a 4-a-side game!

Today I took Marcus to athletics which has been off for a few weeks due to the regular rain. He did very well, getting a couple of personal bests in a row. I sewed on his badges last night, and it was nice to see him looking like he belonged with all the right insignia.

This afternoon we spent in desirable West Hobart, visiting Nick and Anna and the girls, then Matt and Mem and the girls. Matt is just back from 2 weeks in New York and Washington. I was staggered to realise that is his first trip outside Australia, as he is such a knowledgeable, interesting and "been overseas" type guy. Mem has never been overseas, so I am taking up a collection starting RIGHT NOW to send her to New Zealand. Matt and Mem have two of my drawings AND a Patrick Grieve, so I am thinking of making some little cards for my exhibition that say "people who bought this also bought..."

Nick's job every December is to take our family photo for the Christmas newsletter. Unfortunately Michael was in a strop, so we will be trying again tomorrow with the timer function taking the place of Nick.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Torsten Frings!

I would like see this to take off as a cry of frustration, not to replace "Gordon Bennett!" but to augment it.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

The School Duck

A recent arrival at the kids' school is the School Duck. There are quite a few wild brown ducks around, who wander up silently from the rivulet that runs past the sports ground. This new duck is black and white, very noisy, and works the canteen/lunch benches area like an expert panhandler. I'm pretty sure its a sign of the credit crunch/squeeze/freeze/meltdown - I believe he used to be a stockbroker.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

I'm just going down the Post Office for a telescope

Elf reports that the latest Australia Post catalogue has 2 pages of stationery, and 14 pages of;

Onix Docking Station Speaker System [Comes with 7 iPod cradles], Skull Candy (ear plugs), Navman F15 GPS, dartboards, remote controlled cars, golf putting sets, massagers, picnic kits, bbq tool kits, TELESCOPES, soft toys...

Here is my theory. The long term plan when the Postmaster General's Department (as it then was) was founded in 1898, was to get a large slice of postal market share, then gradually shift sideways into their real core strength, battery-powered novelties.