Monday, March 29, 2010

TV spots, Outdoor Signage, Dinosaur Rights

Australian companies are sponsoring archaelogical digs, then getting the dinosaurs named after themselves. Dinosaur naming rights. I had no idea this was going on. Atlascopcosaurus was discovered in 1984, Qantassaurus in 1996. It's probably cheaper than making a TV spot, and more durable than a billboard. It could even be an alternative to taking a yellow pages ad.

David Attenborough: "What a sight it must have been - a mighty herd of TasmanianCarpetCleaning236689-osaurus browsing in the Cretaceous jungle, while chicken-sized scampered about their feet..."

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Marcus, fleet of foot with spoon or without

Marcus did really well at the school athletics last week. His team won the relay, and he finished 1st in 100m, 2nd in 200m, 1st in 400m, 2nd in 800m and to top it off he clinched the blue-ribbon event, the egg-and-spoon race.

Yesterday he represented the school at the inter-school athletics carnival. He brought home a couple more ribbons, for 2nd in the 200 metres and 4th in the 100 metres. South Hobart came 3rd in their first year in Division D, a great effort I think.

Marcus is getting taller all the time, his legs are long and he just looks like an athlete. I still think he has a lot of improvement to come in his running style, but he has only just turned 8. so there is plenty of time to work that out. I now officially declare the athletics season over. We have a couple of weekends breather, before soccer starts again.


You may have seen this story regarding George W. Bush and Bill Clinton shaking hands with crowds in Haiti. It is alleged that Bush wiped his hand on Clinton's back. The story is a beat up in my humble opinion. End of story. But I want to talk about the whole "...gate" cliche, which is based on the Watergate scandal from nearly 40 years ago.

I encountered the Haiti story on The Age website, which used the term "Handwipegate". If I ran a newspaper, any journalist who used "gate" would be put on lawn bowls duty immediately and permanently.

It occurs to me that many journalists now working are under the impression Watergate was actually a scandal about water.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Birthday - part B2 (the prequel): wayfinding

I just remembered a sign I saw at Melbourne Airport. Alex, who was picking me up, is an information designer, and very interested in wayfinding, which "…encompasses all of the ways in which people and animals orient themselves in physical space and navigate from place to place." - thanks Wikipedia. So I needed to go to the toilet, but was running late to be picked up by Alex out the front of the terminal. The toilets down the long, long concourse were all closed for cleaning anyway.

I was about to go down an escalator, and through one-way security barrier, when I saw a laser printed A4 sign taped to the escalator.

AT GATES 2, 6 AND 10.

And that's where I stopped reading, as my momentum was carrying me down the escalator and there were people behind me. At the bottom I turned right and there were the toilets, where they have always been. I wish I had stopped to read what the exception at the end was.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Birthday part B - bad coffee, Pixies, racism.

My last birthday duty was a quick trip to Melbourne on Saturday to see the Pixies play. I say duty as I'd been shouted a ticket by Alex, and although I wanted to see them it wasn't exactly my idea. Left to myself I would have had a quiet, low-cost Saturday night at home in Hobart, probably reading an encyclopedia and eating toast. I flew over still feeling like I'd rather be spending the time in beige seclusion.

Airport coffee. I know there are few original observations left to be made, but why are there so many cafes and the coffee is all bad? Is there a bylaw that the price of coffee goes up and the temperature down when you drive onto Federal property? It really seems like although airports are still 70% about moving people and stuff around the country, they are about 30% about bad coffee.

Alex picked me up. I whined about the coffee, and he humoured me. When we got to his place in Windsor, and walked in through its hip arid-zone backyard, I was amazed to see a toddler fence. Etta is walking! Etta is 19 months old now and just unbelievably supercute. She is very friendly and will just walk up and ask for a cuddle. Pretty winning. Suparna is a full-time mum now, and its very hard work. She has tried to blend traditional Indian and western child-raising techniques, and to my eyes it looks like Etta is a bit spoilt. She won't sit in a high chair and isn't happy in a stroller, so she eats on someone's lap, and is carried around the streets a lot, although now she can walk when it's safe to.

Michael Lean dropped in with a few beers and we had a very nice low-key catch-up. He also just walks up and asks for cuddles sometimes but it never does him any good. He is exercising a great deal and looking sleek, like an Eastern Suburbs seal. Alex is getting fit too, and he and Michael talked a lot about BMIs while we ate fatless snacks.

Then Alex and I caught a train to the city to stuff ourselves with cheap Chinese dumplings before the gig. The place we were headed to had a line out the door, so we found somewhere else, and it was excellent. I love having a bunch of condiments and being able to add hot chili, sweet chili or soy sauce and whatever else as the spirit moves me. On the wall of the laneway outside the dumpling place was an old sign saying COMMIT NO NUISANCE.

At the nearest pub to the gig we stopped to whet the whistle. Already there were signs this was going to be the biggest gathering of Indie-Rock Dads since Indie-Rock Dadfest 2000. Many grey-haired and/or balding men in casual shirts, all of them wondering what you are supposed to wear to a rock gig once you turn 40, nervously drinking expensive micro-brews. The Pixies, for anyone unfamiliar with their work, put out 3 magnificent albums of surf-punk country-thrash black-humorous sci-fi guitar rock, in 1988-89-90, then stuttered and broke up. They reformed 3 years ago and toured to wide acclaim. On this tour they had planned one gig in Melbourne, but after it sold out in 4 minutes they added another, and another, until they had 4 solid sold out nights in a row, at creaky old Festival Hall.

Our tickets said to enter through Door 14. We found it after a while - in fact the sign said it was Door 14 and 17. We were patted down - a big Maori fella asked, his nose about touching mine, "How you going, alright?" I had never been inside here before - in fact, I had never been to any indoor gig this big before. We were way off to one side and about 5 rows from the back, but we could see OK.

I had not really done any homework on this, but it turns out this is the Doolittle tour, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of that album. And after starting with a few B sides, they cranked into track 1 and worked their way through to track 15, in order. It was brilliant - I just enjoyed it so much. After a lot of stamping and yelling they came back on for a short encore, then went off again waving.

They were selling discs of the gig afterwards, so at this point we went down near to the stage and Alex paid, and was handed a coupon. There was still heaps of yelling and stamping but we were pretty sure it was all over. Then suddenly they were back, and started in on "Bone Machine", from my favourite album Surfer Rosa. To our amazement they just kept going through that album, skipping forwards and back, and throwing in just one song from the last album Trompe le Monde.

They really played the house down, and there was no sense at all that these were old guys saving something up for another show tomorrow night and the night after that as well. This is not a review exactly, but more an account of how my birthday got back on the rails. I felt totally magnificent afterwards and so happy to have been there.

Afterwards we waited in a queue for ages to pick up the CD, the walked back into town, with a lively little sprint at the end to get onto the train back to Windsor. On the same night in the same part of town the national league soccer grand final had been played. A sprinkling of Melbourne Victory fans walked past us in the opposite direction. Judging by their faces I said to Alex "Melbourne lost on penalties" - turned out I was right.

The next day not much happened! Alex, Suparna, Etta and I went down to St Kilda pier and got blown sideways. It had been cloyingly hot and humid the day before so I was pretty pleased to get big lungfuls of cold sea air. There is now a swan viewing platform there, and we viewed two swans who were sleeping standing up. They had uncomfortable-looking tags around their necks. These two were S45 and S76. Alex and I walked along swinging Etta and counting "Ek, Do, TIN!" We are both very proud of our small amount of Hindi.

There has been a lot in the news about anti-Indian violence in Australia in the last 12 months. I have always planned to ask Suparna about it, so I did. I wanted to know if the incidence was growing quickly because the Indian migrant population was growing quickly, in other words the percentage of Indians being bashed/stabbed was actually not changing. She thought more that the growing population was scaring xenophobic people with a propensity to violence, and they were lashing out more as a reaction to seeing more Indian faces. It's unfortunate that the State government, who are financially benefiting from the Indian student boom, are not in a position to give an unbiased answer to the question "is this racist violence?". This is possibly getting in the way of successfully dealing with the problem. While we were discussing all this Etta said very clearly "racism". Sigh.

Alex also told me about their honeymoon in Malaysia, which I hadn't heard about. As Suparna is brown and he is white, they were abused here and there by Muslim men, who assumed he had picked her up. Mostly people were very kind to them, particularly when they saw the henna wedding patterns on their hands.

Alex dropped me at the airport yesterday afternoon and I flew home down the back of a very bumpy plane, dozing between two people who I both knew very slightly. That's just what you get flying in and out of Hobart. It's great to be home.

Birthday part 1

I had my 42nd birthday last week. Ideally I like birthdays to just slide by without much fuss. I think it's because I don't like fuss generally, rather than any dislike of growing old. I actually find growing old quite interesting. Anyway, a small amount of fuss was made, and that was OK. My mum and dad drove down to spend a few days with us, and Elf cooked a nice curry dinner. On my actual birthday she had to organise a work event, so I cooked a nice salmon dinner for myself, Mum and Dad and the kids, and Sally and Matt came over too. I scored a couple of nice books as gifts, one on the history of Penguin book covers was particularly beaut [but I chose it so that is perhaps cheating].

Elf knew I wouldn't stand for a party, but she had a great idea instead. She sent stamped addressed envelopes and cheap 'n' cheerful blank birthday cards to all my friends she could find addresses for, and reminded them it was my birthday. The cards arrived en masse over a few days. It took me a while to twig that there was something afoot. The writing on the envelopes was suspiciously familiar, and the messages on some of the 30 cards betrayed bemusement and/or slight reluctance. They cracked me up.

Despite all this I was a bit of a sad sack for a lot of the week. Minor things kept going wrong (after the major thing, losing my glasses) and I had a continual feeling that if everything would just STOP ... ah, it would be so nice. But it didn't. Since New Years Day I have lost my wallet and glasses and my watch has stopped for good (ironically) - so in general I am not quite feeling myself.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Here are some pics from April 2004. Michael is about three months old, and that is my dad's mum Ibey holding him, her great-grandson. This was the last time I saw her - although she lived until November 2007. She was not recognising my Dad a lot of that time, and he thought if I went to visit it would only upset her.

I am just doing some genealogical research, spurred by a convict-heritage-y thing we are doing at work. Ibey's grandfather's grandfather Beni Griffiths was sentenced to death for murder, but that was commuted to transportation. Queen Victoria received a petition for clemency from all the jurors in his case, and hundreds of others, to the effect that nobody liked the victim much. He had informed on Benni and some of his mates for poaching, and they went to teach him a lesson. That was in deepest Wales, in about 1840.
  1. Beni Griffiths - labourer, murderer, transported to Van Diemens Land 1841 aboard HMS Tortoise
  2. David Griffiths - son of Benni, came to Van Diemens Land with wife, children and mother 1855 aboard Ocean Child
  3. John Griffiths - b. 1855 aboard Ocean Child. Later was Postmaster Chief Linesman at Queenstown, Tasmania
  4. ? John's daughter must have married a Stubbings around 1900-1908 [Ethel Emma Cordelia Griffiths married Daniel Herbert Stubbings on 17 Jun 1903. Their daughter Ivy Enid Stubbings married Elliot Elwick Rees on 17th Feb 1934 - thanks Ruth]
  5. Ivy Enid Rees - b. 1909, d. 2007 - drapery shop assistant, mother of 2
  6. John Rees - b. 1936 - teacher, footballer, father of 3
  7. Chris Rees - b. 1968 - graphic designer, father of 2
  8. Marcus Rees - b. 2002 and Michael Rees - born 2004

Synaptical analysis (1) - lawnmowers

Yesterday while walking back from the optometrists (I now have contact lenses) I walked past a Jim's Mowing ute, with all the mowing gear in the trailer. Fella inside had just finished a big mow. As I walked past I could smell the 2-stroke, the hot metal and the fresh grass clippings. Unbidden, a tape started playing in my head - the sounds of football on the radio. In my brain there is a strong synapse connecting those smells with the nasal twang of commentators and roar of the crowd as heard over a small AM radio. Interesting.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


This afternoon we all had a paddle at Nutgrove Beach, Sandy Bay. Marcus is getting around really confidently now. Michael has overcome his fears of paddling in more-than-knee-deep water - he really enjoyed it today. Everything went brilliantly until I was tipped out by an invisible wave, and lost my glasses is reasonably deep water. A pretty expensive wobble.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Number 4

A beautiful little house in South Hobart I walk past sometimes. I took these on my way back to work from Chess Club at the school today.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Michael's monster move

On Saturday nights we all watch Monster Moves, a great doco series about moving large buildings and other objects from place to place. The kids are just spellbound by it. Here is a sample clip.

This week it was about the relocation of a heap of old Egyptian temples, especially Abu Simbel, the one with the four massive statues of Rameses out front.

You know, this one

The next day Michael spent a couple of hours constructing a Monster Mover with an old toy truck, magnets and meccano bits. He balanced an encyclopedia on it as a platform and tried moving a castle made of mega blocks. Talking to himself the whole time in very professional terms about jacks and levels and angles.

Michael drew this the morning after the show. That's a vulture on top.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Breaking News: NZ accent is amusing

Dave at work has been listening to Australia's cricket tour of New Zealand streaming on the internet. The coverage has a terrific mix of clipped EnZed cricket pundits and gloriously bad local radio ads.

At the moment the Bleck Ceps have just broken the sheckles with a sex over mudwucket. "Just a fleck of the wrest and over she goes". Before the Australian atteck was "like a peck of wild dogs". The spunners are getting a lot of grup off the putch.

Meanwhile the new Mitsubish Triton truck has "up to six trucking airbags. And Triton has hardened the truck up with a bigger tray, and loads of trucking power". Also "you can demege yourself, end your blinds, wristling them un and out of their breckets."

Monday, March 08, 2010

Michael's study area

Michael reads while squatting. He leaves a trail behind him across the floor, of open books. This is an area near the bookcase that he frequents, and I thought I take the chance to document what he is reading these days by means of aerial photography.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Knackered 4 drew with Head 4

On Friday night we played a semi-final against Head. As usual, I was terribly nervous beforehand. Even on the afternoon of the previous day, I only had to think of the game and my stomach plunged two or three floors.

On the drive to the game Paul, our fearless leader, started sketching out his plan for a new system of subs - swapping two players at a time instead of one. I really hate tactical theorising - I am not a thinker when it comes to sport. Tell me my job and I'll do it. But it sounded to me like a complication we didn't need.

We dominated the first 10 minutes without scoring. I was in goals by then when the lanky bloke who usually plays in defence for Head took an early shot. I was just trying to narrow the angle at the time and was on the wrong foot, expecting I had another second to get set. It went into the bottom corner.

I was on the bench when Cam scored just before halftime, and the half finished 1-1. It was obviously going to be very tight.

Early in the 2nd half I put us ahead after Brett put me through with a well-timed ball. Very soon after I got another, can't remember how. 3-1. There was not long left and I thought we might have done enough to hang on. Just while I was thinking that, their nippy forward Always-Wears-Long-Pants-Guy, got round me very easily and scored, for 3-2.

Our new sub system was not going well. We almost conceded a goal when the game restarted after one of our substitutions. We were all daydreaming while their goalie simply rolled the ball to an unattended forward but he messed up the simple chance. Not long after Long-Pants scored again from a free kick. Adrian had hovered too close behind him and been pinged for a "tackle" from behind. 3-3. I was off again at that stage.

With 3 minutes left I went back on and scored again, 4-3. As usual I was trying to do too much, got caught and involved in a messy scramble. A gap opened up and I toe poked it in. One minute to go, and I thought we had done enough. We tried to hold possession but coughed it up. In trying to win it back one of our guys clouted the ball into Long-Pants' knee and it rebounded into the net. 4-4.

I don't know how many of the others on court knew what a draw would mean, but I didn't. I assumed we would have a short extra time or penalties. It wasn't until the hooter went and we were shaking hands that someone announced that Head would go through to next week's Grand Final because they were above us on the ladder. I really wish I had known how it worked.

I was disappointed about it, but I quickly realised that we hadn't played well enough to win so it was a fair result. We missed plenty of chances and mucked up some substitutions. Our defence and midfield was pretty good, so I guess I carry the can for too many shots straight at the keeper.

In the other semi one of the teams could only field three players. a) That puts in perspective the low, low level we are playing at, where a team all-but-forfeits a knockout final. And b) the team that won that semi are not world beaters. If we had gone through to play them next week i would have put the house on us to win. Sigh.

Great line from a documentary tonight

"They put Rameses' face on a truck..."

Photo by Hajor via Wikipedia {{cc-by-sa}}

Friday, March 05, 2010

South Hobart this morning

We have had a solo raven visiting our area a lot lately. He has some quite odd behaviour, and we think he might be injured. He sat on our front verandah for quite a while, guzzled water, and sat with his beak open facing into the wind. This morning he hopped onto Andrew and Sharyn's tin roof next door and trotted up and down - tink tank tink tank tink tank - for a while. The boys came out to look and I took the opportunity to snap them, as they haven't been in the blog for a while.

The magpie family have been regular visitors all summer. The baby is still cheeping maniacally, but is able to feed itself now.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Rectangular Stadium 2

Imagine a world where all the advertising and
marketing people had mild aspergers syndrome.


10 men in blue shirts and 10 men in red shirts will kick a spherical thing about.
Sometimes it will get caught in the two big nets. There are also two men
wearing orange and one man wearing black, who sometimes blows a whistle.
There are white lines painted on the green grass. Most of them are straight lines
but there is a circle in the middle. Although it will be night time you will still be able
to see what is happening because there are very big lights.

The men in orange also wear gloves.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Oh Boy

Rectangular Stadium

A new stadium is under construction in Melbourne, for soccer and rugby. All the other grounds in Melbourne are oval, to suit Aussie rules and cricket, so the current working title of the new venue is Rectangular Stadium. I am sure they are going to sell naming rights for squizillions, and it will end up being Consolidated Superannuation Stadium or something. The current name is so right, so soothing, so - sincere. In a sane world they would just keep it.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Wiki success

My first article in Wikipedia (on Maj. Gen. Cyril Clowes) has done really well. It was nominated to be a Do You Know on the home page, accepted by the Wikicommunity as sufficiently interesting, and appeared on 25th Feb as the lead item. I didn't manage to get a screenshot because it was up through the middle of the night here. I just got the statistics and it got 5300 hits during its moment in the (Greenwich Mean Time) sun. It has been edited by nine others since I launched it, all good minor improvements.

I am very happy that "Silent Cyril" Clowes has got a little more recognition for his efforts, but I'm not sure what I should write about next.

Jazz, man, jazz.

On Thursday night I went to the Clarence Jazz Festival with Mum and Dad, at the old Rosny Schoolhouse site. They've always been big jazz fans, and have been meaning to get to this annual groove-fest for years. They made sure of it this year because my sister Sally was featured as an artist-in-residence. She is a video artist, and had made two different pieces on show around the site.

When I arrived Mum and Dad were watching a fairly trad combo on the main stage. There is a unique crowd dynamic with trad jazz - the "clapping after the solo" phenomenon. When the trumpeter finishes his fancy bit, and the sax player starts his, there is a little time lag and then people give him a hand. A really good solo gets a big round that drowns out the first half of the next solo. "Trad" is probably not accurate - there was no banjo, straw boaters or suspenders. Perhaps "classic jazz" is a better description. The vocalist/alto sax was very Vince Jones-y.

When the trad guys finished we went to see the next act, inside an old stone barn, built in 1815. One of Sal's works was looping on a screen on the back wall. She filmed ten jazz standards, as "sung" by three different sign language practitioners. It worked very well - there was no sound, but Sal said she knew many of the audience would know the words very well anyway.

While it looped silently behind us we watched a tight jazz-rock-blues combo called King Cake - Randall Muir and Pete Cornelius on keys and guitars, and a drummer from Melbourne. They reminded me a lot of Directions In Groove who were a Triple-J radio staple in the nineties, although King Cake were purely instrumental.

At one point they did a very modified version of Cocaine by JJ Cale. At the end Randall called out "Can you pick it?" Sally was briefly thrilled to the core as she thought he had asked "Can you dig it?", and and of course everyone lives for the moment when a jazz man actually says that.

During a break between sets it was time to go out and see Sal's second piece, which was consisted of three films projected one after the other in different locations around the yard. Sal had filmed her mouth in extreme close up, miming along to three more standards - I forget the first, but the next were Ella Fitzgerald doing A Tisket A Tasket, and Fats Waller doing Seafood Dinner - I hope that's right. All you could see were the red lips, projected up into a tree, onto a pile of boulders, and on a screen behind some kind of historic 9-pane window. It was entertaining and very well done.

Snakes In The Rain

Today, Marcus turned eight. The boys slept in. At 7.30 we heard some action - although Marcus was still asleep, Michael was quietly doing "explosions" with his hands under the doona. Pretty soon they were both up and about. Elf tracked down some great presents for Marcus; plastic spherical transformer things called Bakugan Battle Brawlers. He just loves them, and so does Michael.

Elf lined up the Reptile Rescue people to put on a snakes and lizards show for Marcus, Michael and a dozen invited friends. The reptile guys were quite hard to get hold of and pin down - Elf's persistence and perspicacity came to the fore there. But they were well worth the trouble, they were fantastic.

We invited everyone to meet us at Cascade Gardens, just up the road from home. The weather outlook was mixed, so we had our fingers crossed. The snake guys, Justin and Chris, arrived early, shook hands with Marcus and showed the boys the lizards in their tubs. They had an impressive large plastic bucket marked DANGER Venomous Snakes.

As the kids and parents arrived they got out the lizards and handed them around. They had blue-tongues (two adults, two two-day-old babies) and some lovely little mountain dragons.
Clockwise from above left: Lana, Marcus, Caleb, Adrian, Cameron, Michael.

After everyone had had good fun with the cuddleable reptiles, Justin and Chris brought out the non-cuddleables. First they each extracted a tiger snake, holding their tail and keeping the head away, curled around a special snake stick. The tigers looked very different from one another - one very dark, and the other quite green with a yellowish belly. Next they brought out a copperhead. He was much slimmer, kind of khaki. I was wandering around taking photos at this stage and didn't get a close look at the copperhead, but there is apparently a metallic orange-pinkishness about the headular area.

These and the tigers are highly venomous - a good bite would kill an untreated adult in about 5 hours. The little white-lipped or whip snake is less venomous, although Chris said new research suggests that they are capable of laying you low, as their venom varies a lot in toxicity.
Next Chris and Justin demonstrated (with a large rubber red-bellied black snake) how they catch a snake, how they release it, and then how to bandage a snakebite on the arm. The kids asked lots of questions and were very interested. Someone asked how to bandage a bite on the stomach or the back. Justin's advice was "Er... just do your best".

It was raining solidly by this stage, so we just handed around barbecues sausages in bread and left out the tricky stuff like plates and salad. The snake men took a break while people ate, and joined us afterwards for cake and sour worm lollies. Elf excelled herself, with a vivid green chocolate snake cake.

Elf laboured over a perfect potato salad that came home untouched, but having just eaten some at dinner I can say - spot on.

Once everyone had eaten, Justin and Chris broke out the lizards again. Parents and siblings arrived to collect the guests, and they too had a go cuddling lizards. Of all the things in the animal kingdom called "blue", the blue-tongue's tongue is the most rewarding. Eventually the snake men said their farewells. Just when we were wondering when we would get rid of everyone else, the rain kicked up a notch to Reasonably Heavy, and we finally moved off home to get dry and get coffee.