Friday, October 24, 2008

Appropriate font for 'Dear John' letter

We were discussing the font Comic Sans at work. Dave has a friend, whose girlfriend left him a note announcing she was leaving, printed in Comic Sans. This is so awful that we all just shook our heads and returned to work.

A dagwood dog, a diving pig

Today we plunged in to the Royal Hobart Show. We got in early, got out at about 1pm, had a good time and didn't overspend, so we feel a bit like we've pulled off an Oceans Eleven style caper. Here are a few impressions.

7° at 9am - boys had $5 pony rides with ponies guided by stroppy preteen girls. The pierced face is popular with carny women of all ages.

Big dairy farm kids lolling around in the stalls with their stock. Boys up one end playing country music CD loudly - girls down the other, lying in straw using hereford cows as backrests, texting. In a small shed down the end, 3 garbage bins of creamy, creamy milk.

My first dagwood dog in many years. Hot American dougnuts - I did indeed see them being made. I saw some Belgian Shepherds - black and fluffy and not quite as agressive looking as German Shephards.

The racing pigs were a free attraction. It was all over pretty quick, they are sprint pigs. There were two heats - I was hoping for a final, or perhaps a middle distance steeplechase with some tactics and racecraft involved, but they didnt eventuate. Then there was a lot of buildup for a diving pig, who was going to attempt a new world record for a distance jump. I was going to film it but was too slow. Pig shot up a ramp, and splashed down at about 3 metres - not enough to extend the record.

Tatts and cigs were everywhere. After a nippy start the sun got some sting in it, so everyone was baring their skin and their tatts to it. There was no smoking allowed in closed public areas, which meant that just about everyone in the open public areas had one going or were just stubbing one out. A muscly carnie with a mohawk, and a Winnie Blue in one corner of the mouth, swaggered about slamming the cages open and closed for his ride. I saw him as a deluded loser - but the eleven year old bogan girls were in love. I could be totally wrong - he may be a pastoral poet of note.

That excellently-named Hobart motorbike retailer BRAAAAP! had a stall. A sign the size of a cricket pitch said FINANCE NOW!! TAKE IT HOME NOW!!

We visited Imp in the State Government's shed. Various stalls within asked us to grow vegies, go solar, save water, walk to work, report foxes, and trust the government to decide where to put the new hospital. The shed was full of people like us - tertiary educated Suby drivers who grow vegies, have solar, walk to work, etc etc. Basically the message from this shed was so diametrically opposed to what people come to the show for (diving pigs, dagwood dogs, sugar, dirtbike daredevils and inflatable pink plastic crap) that I'm surprised the Show Society let the government in at all. Imp showed us an ingenious model that demonstrated aspects of groundwater management. I know - sounds dull, but it was nifty.

The boys loved it all. We took them through the very crowded animal nursery, but then also took them through the almost deserted livestock shed to see the serious sheep, goats and cattle. We saw a sheep shorn. In the Show Society office I got talking to a wool judge. He was excited to be talking to a city person about wool. He handled the winning fleeces freely, and I did the same, appreciating the different texture of the superfine wool, looking at the crimp, the staple, feeling the different amounts of lanolin in the various wools etc. Elf came over after he had gone - I was still pawing the extremely valuable exhibits as she pointed out a quite large sign said "DO NOT TOUCH".

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Marcus rides to school

Months ago Marcus had a fairly unsuccessful attempt at riding to school,. The bike was too big, the training wheels didnt fit, etc etc. He was lucky to not end up in the rivulet.

This morning, on a better bike and after a bit of practice, he happily rode the whole way. Karri and I trotted after him on foot. He won't be going solo for a long time yet, or even jettisoning the training wheels, but it was a good start.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Michael bending fire

This was a repeat of an earlier performance. I snuck off to get the camera and subtly prodded him into going again. Little did I realise I was in for twenty-six seconds of genius. I particularly like the end - "I'm feeling a little shy now so I'll pretend to be interested in the sticky tape".

Friday, October 17, 2008

More Orthodox Jewish laws

I find all this stuff fascinating, from the outside. It seems quite obsessive and extreme to me. At times the anachronisms, inherent in applying ancient laws to modern times, crack me right up. I acknowledge these laws are very important to observant Jews and I don't want to seem to be making fun of them. It is only my ignorance that makes it seem funny. Yet, I invite you to share my simple ignorant amusement. If you would like to read the full article, it is here.

Laws pertaining to the “Three Weeks” period of mourning commemorating the tragedies that befell Klal Yisrael throughout history, commences on the 17th of Tammuz. (20th July)

• Fresh towels may be used during the entire 9 days. A fresh tablecloth may only be used on Shabbos. Major home improvements should not be done.

• Sneakers, etc. should be brought to Shul on Friday, before Shabbos. No classic Seudah Hamafseskes is partaken of, and Seudah Shlishis may consist of meat, wine and any cooked dishes one has prepared before Shabbos. As usual though, one may eat only until sunset (5:40 PM), so minchah (4:00 PM) is davened at an earlier time. Birchas Hamazon may be recited b’zimun (3 or more men).

• Maariv: The Chazzan recites “Baruch Hamavdil” and puts on his sneakers before Borchu. All others change their shoes after “Borchu” People joining the minyan after Maariv for Eicha, should recite baruch hamavdil bein kodesh l’chol at home and then change their footwear. If one necessarily touches one’s shoes in this exchange, one should recite Baruch hamavdil, change shoes, and wash one’s hands up to one’s knuckles, before Maariv starts.

• Sitting: If possible (excluding people with back problems), one should not sit higher than 12 inches above the ground until chatzos, Halachic mid-day, which this year is on Sunday at 12:26 PM. One’s manner of sleep should be altered on Tisha B’Av night (using fewer pillows, etc) to manifest the discomfort felt over the loss of the Bais Hamikdosh.

• Sunbathing is forbidden.

• The Tallis Katan (tzitzis) is put on in the morning with a Brachah. One should not kiss the tzitzis during the Sh’ma.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Peeling tips

Scene - the kitchen. I am standing at the bench peeling vegies.

Michael: What are you doing dad?
Me: I'm peeling.
Michael: I've got some peeling tips for ya!
Me: Really? I'd like to hear them.
Michael: OK. Tip One - hold the peeler by the plastic - not by the sharp bit!!!!
Me: OK.
Michael: Tip Two ... .... ... be careful!!!!
Me: OK.
Michael: OK. Tip Three ... [thinking hard, looking around desperately] ... don't let children use the peeler!!!!
Me: Great. Is that all?
Michael: No! Tip FOUR ... .... ... be very VERY careful!!!

Little athletics debut

I took Marcus to his first Little Athletics meet on Saturday. The local group meet at Sandown Park near Sandy Bay beach - which is a lovely spot. It was a superb morning and really pleasant to be there, exchanging chit chat with the other parents. He had four events - long jump, 100m race, 150m race and discus. He did pretty well in all. They keep detailed records of everyone's times and distancs, and the emphasis is heavily on improving your own performances.

Katherine from Marcus's grade at school was there, sporting five or six badges she had earned. When Marcus got the idea that badges were for improving, not winning, he very quickly hatched the idea of deliberately doing badly at his first try. That way - next week, badges aplenty! I commended his ingenuity but asked him to please perform on his merits lest we provoke some kind of stewards enquiry.

It was all pretty relaxed and fun. In some cases a bit too relaxed. Discuses (which I really want to call discii) were flying in all directions, whizzing past heads. I thought (but didn't say) that giving discuses to the six year olds was like giving whisky to the Indians.

I can see if Marcus got involved on a weekly basis, I would find myself becoming a steward, then perhaps a marshall and perhaps, eventually, a delegate. Somewhere there is a blazer with my name on it.

At the mercy of the elements

Michael is doing a lot of earth, fire, air, water stuff at present. Mostly inspired by a cartoon called Avatar, where shaven-headed mystic oriental types do a lot of "fire bending", "air bending" and whooshy martial arts hand movements. There might be four tribes who are represented by the four elements, or something. Anyway - his performances of "air bending" (throwing dirt with an inscrutable expression) and "fire bending" (waving arms like human eggbeater with extremely wide stance) are amusing us. The elements thing is also a theme in his drawings. This one has beautiful overlapping colours. The white circle at bottom left is air, the other three are water, fire and earth from left to right.'

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Cundall on Denton

I am not a huge Peter Cundall fan. For starters I'm not a gardener so much of his wisdom is wasted on me. His mannerisms have got so extreme in recent years he is a bit of a self-parody. So I didn't see the Andrew Denton interview, but yesterday I had to look up the transcript (for work!) and I found this bit very interesting.

ANDREW DENTON: Let's go back to when you were a young man and you first were conscripted into the British Army, as you said, to fight Hitler. As a paratrooper your first actual posting was to Austria, at the end of the war, to help with the liberation of the concentration camps?

PETER CUNDALL: That's right, yes.

ANDREW DENTON: Your job was to guard the...


ANDREW DENTON: ...the SS guards who had run these camps... [...] Did you see these SS guards, these men, as monsters or as men?

PETER CUNDALL: No. They could have been you or me. [...] Hitler, don't forget, almost his last days, when he was in the bunker, he was saying at one time that, "The SS have betrayed me," because they retreated, and he had all his commanders executed. And almost his last words was, "The German people have betrayed me," you know. I mean - and this is an example of a supreme form of pathological narcissism and you do get it. You get it in politics. They're the people who can't admit that they have made a mistake.

ANDREW DENTON: Do you get it in gardening?

PETER CUNDALL: Absolutely. You get it in gardens and in gardening, right. You get somebody - mainly with blokes. Blokes and women are totally different gardeners. Blokes are single-minded, right. So you get these dahlia men, right - really, it's true - and they compete with each other, or the cactus men and they compete, right, and the chrysanthemum men.

ANDREW DENTON: They're the worst.

PETER CUNDALL: They're deadly.


PETER CUNDALL: And they kind of loathe each other. If ever you see them at the shows, there you see a beautiful chrysanthemum or a dahlia and you say to one of them, "That's not bad, he says, "Just a minute," he whips out this bloody instrument and starts measuring the petals. That's true.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Mt Wellington history

From Wiki: Mount Wellington was originally referred to as 'Unghbanyahletta' (or 'Ungyhaletta'), 'Poorawetter' (or ‘Pooranetere’, also 'Pooranetteri'), or 'Kunanyi' to the indigenous people of Tasmania. The Palawa, the surviving descendants of the original indigenous Tasmanians, tend to prefer the latter name. The indigenous population are believed to have arrived in Tasmania approximately 30-40,000 years ago. Their beliefs and traditions, coupled with modern archaeological research, suggest that they may have occupied and utilised the mountain and its surrounding areas for much of the occupation of the island.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Michael's mammals

There is something about these I really like. The lines across the faces make them look a bit like grown-up "how to draw" diagrams.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Dribbling and swinging

I played indoor cricket again the other night - I actually came off the court after a soccer match, soggy with sweat and wearing 3rd degree carpet burns - and went straight in to bat. I did OK considering. I hit a 6 at one stage and only got out once, with a wild swing off my last ball. I bowled alright too, presiding over a hat trick (third one run out).

Unfortunately I had a dud soccer game. I scored early but then found every time I got the ball I was holding it too long, trying to dribble out of trouble and just missing good chances to pass to Ed or Brett in beter positions. We were 4-3 down at half time but faded to lose 9-5. Our fitness is the big issue.

Dave Graney at the Alley Cat Bar, North Hobart

Last night I went along with Anna and a few of her art teacher pals, to see the great man play solo, supported by a hairy young fellow named Henry Wagons. David Hawley was there, who now teaches art at St Marys with Anna. He was in my year at Hellyer College, and I use to see him around quite a bit when I lived in Melbourne and shared a flat with Alex Tyers.

Henry was playing when I arrived. He's got a great voice, accompanied himself deftly [on a guitar that looked like it was made of tas oak floorboards] and played his own songs about touring, drinking and jail. He didn't take himself seriously and I enjoyed him a lot. Sample lyric (about jail, where he has never been, and informed entirely by other people's songs about jail);

I'm tired of your handlebar moustache
And tired of taking it up the ass

This was the last date of a 25-show tour of the eastern seaboard. [Note to people in Perth who may never have seen it - the seaboard is a lot like a giant surfboard but with grass instead of wax, and cities instead of fins.] I have been following their progress on Dave's blog, so I had a good idea of how the night would progress. Dave joined Henry for a couple of songs. I know its important to get these technical details right - Dave was playing a Sunbeam P-3000 with a recessed whammy and bevelled volume knob - Henry's acoustic was actually a Gibson Klepto 10, finished with tung oil.

Henry finished with an Elvis cover - his gloriously dumb song I've Never Been to Spain. Sample lyric;

I have never been to England
But I kind of like the Beatles

Dave was in a black leather jumpsuit and see-through bodyshirt combo. Again, no surprises, when you have been listening to the jungle drums as I have. He opened with I Came From the Clouds. My ears were probably waggling, I was listening so hard. A lot of people seemed to be talking over him loudly. I know with these pub gigs a lot of people have come in for a drink or a meal or a game of pool and haven't invested hard-earned in the performer, but still. People talked drunkly and loudly throughout his performance. (No Anna - I'm not talking about you). The crowd was a bit older than I (and allowing for the fact that we all think of ourselves as about 22) they were cramping my space and getting in my face, maaaan! Grey haired people with leather jackets in front and behind me, talking too loud since they'd been on the sauce since lunchtime.

Dave was playing an acoustic Les Paul Presto-6 by this stage. The first album of his I heard was Night of the Wolverine in 1994, I think. I went out and bought it immediately and still play it at least weekly. To the embarrassment of everyone but myself I put it up with Abbey Road as a fully realised popular music record, certainly the great Australian record of my lifetime. It was also the start of his commercially successful era, which lasted about 3 albums.

To my pure joy, he didn't wait long to play some songs from Wolverine, starting with a beautiful version of the title track. He also played You're Just Too Hip Baby, The Stars, Rock n Roll is Where I Hide, Feelin' Kind of Sporty, Lets Kill God Again off his new album, covers of songs by Love and The Replacements, and as an encore Lowdown by Boz Scaggs. What a great song that is.

I loved every minute of it. Dave was relaxed, yet powerful, not dropping too much science on the poor, aged audience. He introduced himself a few times for the benefit of the pool players and diners, gave us some background to his country town upbringing, but generally let the music sell itself. He made himself available to the people after the show, and the people approached to give him their love. I was planning to just say 'thanks for coming to Hobart' and keep moving, but he was comfortably settled with friends by the time we got on our feet so I will email instead.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Our colourful innards

The boys look a bit alarmed at the amount of squashy organs they apparently have inside them.

Some months ago Michael seized a book of dog anatomy at the library, brought it home and was fascinated by it for some weeks. Now he has moved on to humans. He has started a terrific drawing based on this unfortunate semi-dissected woman. His attention to detail is amazing - look at the reflections in the eye!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Hands off our Aussie anti-semitic ratbag!!!

I was quite shocked by a story in The Age this morning. A retired Australian teacher was arrested on a plane at Heathrow. His name is Gerald Frederick Toben, and he runs something called the Adelaide Institute - it sounds quite anodyne but is in fact a mouthpiece for his virulently anti-Semitic views. Toben spent seven months in jail in Germany in 1994 for inciting racism.

When arrested yesterday, he was in transit on his way from the United States to Dubai. He is now being held for extradition to Germany to face fresh charges. He has breached various Australian court orders to remove his website and cease his activities. From what I can tell he is a reprehensible person, and his website runs the gamut from ratbag to plain vile.

What made me sit up straight was the fact he was arrested in London, on a European warrant, to be tried in Germany for crimes committed in Australia. His website allows him to broadcast his extremist views into any country in the world (unless that country takes the China approach and filters the web on behalf of its citizens). Now it appears the breadth of his reach is being turned against him.

In his case I won't miss him if he spends 5 years in jail in Germany. But the principle is interesting. Presumably ignorance of the laws of other countries is no excuse. How about you and I? Are we sure we aren't breaking the libel, obscenity or privacy laws of Saudi Arabia, Iran or China on our websites?

A country yottametre

Some useful distances. Please note that from Sydney to Perth is about 4.1 megametres.

A yottametre (Ym) is a septillion metres
A zettametre Zm) is a sextillion metres
A exametre (Em) is a quintillion metres
A petametre (Pm) is a quadrillion metres
A terametre (Tm) is a trillion metres
A gigametre (Gm) is a billion metres
A megametre (Mm) is a million metres
A kilometre (km) is a thousand metres

Nappies no more

After six and a half years, Elf and I are finished with nappies. Michael has been wearing one to bed but we have now done away with it. We have also finished with the morning 360° wipe, which is a great relief to us and Michael too.