Friday, July 30, 2010

We're in trouble - get me Churchill's teeth!

A set of Winston Churchill's false teeth have just been sold for £15,200. Says Jane Hughes, head of learning at the Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons in London: "These are the teeth that saved the world."

NOTE: Teeth above not actually Churchill's. In fact these are Stalin's.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Double safe

The metal stairs here at work are super-slippery when it rains. There are yellow signs on each level saying "slippery when wet", with the classic bobble-head man going "whooooooaaaa!" Steve, my boss, decided that wasn't enough, and asked the centre maanagement to do something to fix the problem. I think he had in mind some kind of non-slip coating, some GritStrips* perhaps - something involving a guy in overalls putting in a few hours.

The Arts Centre people had a brilliant labour-saving idea - just tape another sign to the first one. I guess that's why they get the big bucks. Stairs are still super-slippery, but.

*I just thought up that brand name - what do you reckon?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Academic niceties

I had an old dummy book from a printer, which is just bound blank paper with no covers. I gave it to Michael, and he started a book about Egypt. So far it has a cover, a map of Egypt (with grid lines) locating Thebes (D5 in case you were wondering), and an elevation of the Sphinx (66' 8" high, 240' long - Michael can quote that on demand). This barely-started book has been lying around for ages, and yesterday Marcus found it.

Marcus: Can I fill in a chapter of your Egypt book?
Michael: NO! That's all my research.

Winston and the Dragon's Treasure

Michael sat down yesterday and wrote this story out, as he thought of it. It stars Winston, in the role of a cunning jewel thief.

Winston and the Dragon's Treasure

Okay. Winston the Dog (from the S.N.J.T.s [Secret Network of Jewel Thieves]) is on a mission to steal the Dragon' Treasure for his company. It's worth 1000$.

To get to the cave, Winston will have to take the ferry to America. Then he'll have to take the path to the cave at 20:04PM.

So, off he goes on the ferry to America. When it stops he gets off. Then he took the path to the cave. On the way he meets Barney. Barney is another theif from the S.N.J.T. He once stole the Pegasus Sapphire from Clare Sparkies. It was worth 200P [pounds]. Winston went back to work.

He gets in the cave after the Dragon leaves. He saw 5 Treasure chests, 1,010,500 coins, 25 skulls, & 20 jewels and gems. He stared.

Then he pulled out his sack and stuffed all the treasure into it. Then he ran out to a ship heading for Launceston. When he got to Launceston, he took a taxi back to the S.N.J.T.
Michael also did these two fantastic drawings of Winston yesterday, but they aren't illustrations of the story. He said that when he was out walking Winston with Elf, he walked along looking at Winston's head and planning how to draw it. After we went crazy over his first drawing he did another one.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A big catchup - Robots to Lizards

I have a big Sunshine Harvester deadline today, so I have a been a bit flat out with getting my head around the winnower, the riddles, the "bush eccentric for adjusting long rack stay" and so on. You know how it is.

The weekend was very busy with visitors, actual events and a fair amount of just kind of pointless bustle. Here is a handy guide you can cut out and keep.

ROBOTS: Marcus and I went along to session 2, in which Mindstorm NX1-C Nº 10 was programmed to walk if he is put down on something black, but stop if he reaches something red. The next step was to get him to speed up if he reached something silver, but he never quite mastered that. This time Marcus did most of the programming, while Nicholas concentrated on fabricating a part that will be needed for session 5. Nicholas's dad and I tried hard to say glued to our seats and let it all just unfold, but I have to admit to a tiny bit of helping/interfering/project managing.

SOCCER: My team, champions of the hack division, have been promoted to the fit-and-skillful division, where we will be found out. We have a couple of new players, both dads from school, who look like they can do the business - so maybe we'll be able to take it up a notch.

Marcus's team are still unbeaten.This week they had another titanic struggle against a team they had never met before, West Hobart Red. They are well coached, and play like a proper soccer team even more than our lads. I actually saw someone in possession run into trouble, and turn and pass back to someone who called for the ball - that's unheard of in under 8s.

It was a very tense struggle. We were up 2-1 for a long time, then with not long to go, their star player Antonio make a big run right through and belted a goal from long distance. I thought 2-2 would be a fair result for such a tough and well-balaanced game. Antonio was subbed off. Suddenly Marcus scored, and suddenly Antonio was wheeled back on again. Bizarrely, his team seemed to have completely used up their energy, and in the last two minutes of the game South Hobart scored again, and again, and again. A very even game unfortunately ended up 6-2, but I don't think their kids were too disappointed. They had a number of girls in the team who played extremely well, and slide-tackled ferociously. Marcus was upended by one of them on a few occasions.

FULLAGARS: During the game, when the tension was at its peak, Elf's brother Fred arrived, visiting from Melbourne. Sport is not the Fullagars' thing, so I had to try to be warmly welcoming and also explain the situation on the field while not missing any of the gripping action. Elf's parents Bill and Felicity arrived later that evening, and are still with us now. There is always a certain amount of shuttling back and forth to Imp and Ed's place at Kingston - there are 4 grandchildren to dote on and most activity while they are here is based around that. Also crochet, sudoku, crosswords and usually eating a lot of chocolate.

CHESS: South Hobart's chess team did very well at a Southern schools tournament yesterday. I spent the morning out there at Sacred Heart College, encouraging and coaching in my actually-not-that-good-at-chess way. At the point I left, Marcus and two others had won three out of five games, and the others were all doing OK. It's very common with kids, for a strong winning position to suddenly become a draw with one false move, and I saw that happen with our players a number of times. Sometimes they were the lucky one snatching a draw from an impossible situation, but a few times the boot was on the other foot. If you trap your opponent so there is nowhere they can move, but they are not actually in check, that's a stalemate, and a draw.

One of the rules in tournaments is that if both players repeat a move three times, that's also a a draw. I saw a very funny scene where two kids who presumably had lost all their prior games, were playing each other. They went back, and forth, and back, and forth, about fifteen times - while their hands were flying about, one looked up at me and said "is this a draw?" I said yes, definitely. They were both jubilant. "YESSSSSSS!!!!!!" Their first half-point each. Elf took over from me and was there at the end. South Hobart finished equal third, and Marcus got a credit certificate, but he was a bit overwrought and crazy by that stage.

LIZARDS: In the car on the way to chess, Marcus was showing the other kids his Ripley's Bizarre! book, in particular the two-headed lizard. Bradley blurted "I've got three one-headed lizards!"

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Some drawings

Recent work by Marcus (beach items, top) and Michael (Pegasus, above)

An old drawing of the Mt Nelson sempahore station that I just found.
Full disclosure: it was wonky and I straightened it in Photoshop which had not been invented yet when I drew it.

A very quick walk in Battery Point

I walked up and took these while my monitors were warming up this morning. When I get to work it takes about 3-4 minutes for my computer screens to wake up. usually  I spend that time making coffee - this morning I went for a 4-and-a-half minute historic walk. The first pic - the cream-coloured house with the barge boards, is 35 Kelly St - the attic room was mine, in about 1991.

We get to our office via the alley, the courtyard and the jail-like metal stairs. Inside we have this interesting foil-lined barn-style ceiling. It will be interesting in summer - a bit like being in a solar cooker.

Winston at 8 weeks

He is now three times the height and four times the length. And no longer just weeing wherever.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Twelve robots and a chicken

This morning I took Marcus to the first session of a Lego robotics course, put on by TAG. We often see flyers and ads for these things but they are usually "age 12+". This one said "age 8+", so I signed him up for it. We have mixed feelings about TAG and about the whole world of "gifted children" and their care and handling. But if they are putting on something fun that gets a bunch of these particular types together, where they can share their particular-ness and feel normal for a while - we're all for that. 

The first challenge was pairing-up with a robo-building-buddy. There were 24 kids, and some had arrived already paired-up. The co-ordinator just twinned everyone else on an alphabetical basis. Marcus got a boy called Nicholas, and they got on fine.

In no time they had assembled a recognisable robot out of small parts and cables. These are pretty sophisticated little units - they are called Lego Mindstorm NX-1s or something like that, and they have audio detectors, colour detectors and probably even smell detectors for all I know. You connect them to a laptop by USB cable, and can then program them. I believe they retail for something like A$500.

By the end of the day all the groups had their robots together, and doing a few basic robo-things. Next week they will start programming and modifying. I am keen for Marcus to mix it up a bit during the week, by making a nice hat for the robot out of our ordinary Lego. I don't know if that is allowed.

In fact I shouldn't even suggest it. Parents are there purely as observers - we are not allowed to help, as it's well known that we'll just take over - particularly dads. I noted today that some of the dads were observing very closely indeed. I sat (on a tiny primary school chair) and chatted to Nicholas's mum and one of the other dads I knew slightly. They didn't need our help to build the robot, but even better than that - they didn't need us to tell them to calm down, or share, or not be bossy, or anything. They were just absorbed in the task and the teamwork happened naturally.

As we were driving through South Hobart to the course, we passed a chicken scratching on the footpath in Macquarie St. It's a well known chicken that sometimes visits the boys' school nearby, but I have never seen it out on the main road before.  When we returned a couple of hours later, it was still there, apparently finding whatever it needed in life to be in good supply just there.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Battery Point

I have a few pics taken around the new office and the surrounding Battery Point neighbourhood. I explored a bit more today, in the course of finding a parking spot. There is 2 hour non-resident parking (stick with me, this will get less boring) which means we have to keep coming out, running 3 floors down the fire escape, then the same height up Kelly Steps and then however far to the car, move it enough to convince the council parking guys, then return. I get more exercise when I walk rather than take the car, but only just.

I only take the car on Fridays so I can nip up to the school for Chess Club. Today I had to move the car at 11.30, and scored pole position, right at the top of the steps. I had to abandon this at 12.30 to go to chess. When I got back, Kelly Street was full, and due to the amusing one-way system it took me another fifteen minutes to get a park in parallel South Street, some way off from work. But, as I was grumpily stalking down the incredibly narrow street, I looked around and thought - actually, this is pretty nice. Heritagey. (I will StreetView it and throw in some pics next week). As I walked down Kelly Street pole position was suddenly free again. Sigh. Urban angst.

Did I mention I lived in Kelly Street nearly twenty years ago? I worked nearby, and at knockoff time on Fridays I jogged home, grabbed some stuff, jogged down the steps and across the docks to Franklin Wharf, and there caught a tiny ferry to my then girlfriend's house in Bellerive. She flatted with a guy whose girlfriend also spent all weekend there. After some months of this, the no-nonsense landlady, who lived next door, said enough is enough: one of you couples is going to live here and the other one will have to go. She chose K and I more or less at random. I felt pretty bad for the guy who was suddenly kicked out, but ... not that bad. Anyway - my share house in Kelly St was so poky, you could fry an egg in the kitchen while turning on and off the shower.

Just around the corner is Arthur's Circus (a small circular residential street with a park in the middle, not some kind of tent-based amusement). Apparently in colonial times Governor Arthur granted himself this tasty bit of land, and came up with a novel way of  getting the maximum number of house lots out of it. Each lot is a wedge with a tiny frontage on the Circus. I drove around the Circus twice while hunting for a parking spot - it does start to lose its charm after a while.

I once designed a CD-ROM for some kind of Education Department history program about Battery Point. The point is named after the Prince of Wales Battery - an array of cannons erected in the 1890s to repel the Russians. The CD-ROM had little captions such as "Each Sunday the Queens Own Worcestershire Rifles fired the cannons at the Prince of Wales Battery for practice". One of the questions to be answered was "What would have happened if they had hit it?" The Caption Division and the Question Division of the D of E must have been in different buildings.

Opposite our office is the berth of the Aurora Australis, a bright orange icebreaker. My boss moans that it blocks the water views, but I like it - surely a large boat is a water view. Of sorts.

Pupdate 2

It's safe to say Winston is now house-trained. We still shut him in the downstairs bathroom at night, but things have moved along nicely. Up until a week ago I was carrying his increasing bulk down the stairs to the bathroom, as he was reluctant to go. That was obviously a terrible habit to get into, so I changed to coaxing, cajoling and just slightly shoving him with Elf's help. He is now trotting down the stairs happily, right into the bathroom. He seems to be happy to know that that's his place for the night. We still put down newspapers in there, but we have had 5 or 6 dry nights in a row. I think soon we might start to leave the bathroom door open at night so we can go in and use it during the night. I think he will just stay on his bed, hopefully until at least 6am.

He and Hattie mill around together in the kitchen at feeding time and basically ignore each other. Winston actually touched Hattie the other day while he was transfixed by his food bowl being carried past - she turned on him to hiss, then realised that he didn't even know she was there. They regularly get close enough that you can slip between them and pat their furry heads at the same time. A little electrical current runs through you, its kind of special.

Dominating the Bandicoot League

Today our friend BJ came to spend the day with us. She used to work with Elf years ago and and they have kept in touch - she gets on well with the boys and we love to have her around. She arrived in time to walk down to soccer at the school with the boys and I. Elf was down there already, supplying sausages and coffee to the populace.

BJ had never watched live soccer, let alone an under 8 game, but she was keen to give it a go. I told her she would be seeing a good show. Marcus's team are still unbeaten this year, and could be said to be the giants of the Under 8 Bandicoot league. The visitors Taroona have been their toughest opposition historically, and would ensure South Hobart had to produce their best to win.

After a tense opening, our boys scored first, and again shortly after. Taroona answered and it was 2-1 to us at half time. Aden had a great game in goals, and made a point blank save. With a few minutes left it was 3-3, and I thought that would be a fair result. The boys kept going right to the end though, and Corey and Marcus together scored in a goalmouth scramble to put them in front.

Taroona threw everything at them, but lost the ball, and South Hobart moved it downfield, with passes, like a soccer team, and it ended up with Marcus who rounded a defender and shot from a wide angle. Goal! And it finished 5-3, with the boys still unbeaten. BJ was impressed with the whole thing. It was a lovely sunny day, all the parents were polite and friendly and (apart from me) not yelling, there was instant coffee and sausages - what's not to like?

Elf had an early pass to leave the sausage stall, so we packed up BJ and the boys and came home for an expansive lunch, then took a long walk with Winston while the sun was still out. And then, BJ bought my big drawing of Cascade Brewery. What a top day.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

Teapot hat

From an old work sketchbook, circa 1995. I had a beard then, and, in this picture at least, a functional teapot hat. Nice.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Brown Material Rd

Somewhere in California is Brown Material Road. Is it made of brown material? Is it the main route between Brown and Material? I just do not get it. Now Tank Destroyer Boulevard in Texas - that I get.

I sneak into and out of the Art School

Today Marcus' and Michael's classes both went on an excursion to the Art School, where the Young Archies exhibition was hanging. (There is an annual portrait prize for grown-up artists called the Archibald Prize, hence the name). Michael's portrait of his teacher Mrs Parker was chosen to hang in the show, but didn't win any prizes. Here would be a good place to have a photo of him proudly standing next to it, but I don't have one. As I work down near the Art School now, I nipped across to be there with the school group, and have a look myself. They walked down from the primary school. That's a great thing about the modest size of Hobart: weather permitting, the school always walks the kids to excursions unless they are way out of town.

There was some really great stuff, as there always is when you have a bunch of work by motivated kids. The grown-ups were thrown by some of the work that was chosen for prizes but - I guess it's just like grown-up art prizes: unless you know the criteria they are using to judge, you can't say if you agree or not. Should "good" kids art look like grown-up art? Should it be naive? Should we be giving out prizes at all? When I was at school I remember being praised for painting all the way to the edge of the paper. Anyway. Michael was proud and the other kids were proud of him too.

It was weird for me to be back where I studied for three years, over twenty years ago. I said to Marcus and Michael "I went to school here after grade 12 and before I started working" - they looked at me like I was mad. When I said "before that it was a jam factory" they actually backed away from me a little.

I gave Marcus a mini tour - I pointed out where the Graphic Design studio was, but it's part of Photography now I think. I have actually avoided the place almost totally since I finished there in 1989. Sometime in the 90s they went security-crazy, and as a casual visitor you really felt you weren't wanted. You are supposed to report to the uniformed guard at the entrance, state your business and sign in. The big welcoming glass doors are always shut now, and you creep in apologetically through a small revolving door to the side.

The schoolkids were looking at another exhibition on the ground floor when my lunchtime was up, so I excused myself and tried to walk out into Hunter Street. You can't even get out without a swipe card. I waited for someone to come along and they believed me when I said I wasn't smuggling out anything.

The mulch economy

Elf had a load of mulch delivered down the front of the house on Friday. Her masterplan to get it up to the backyard was to pay 25¢ per bucketload to the boys and any other kids we could press-gang on the weekend. On Sunday morning Marcus, Cameron and Lana got into the task eagerly, in fact so eagerly that Elf soon decreed a $10 cap on what she would pay any one urchin. I acted as foreman/tally clerk. I was also preventing Winston running out the open gate, and reading news off the internet, cumbersomely copied from the net-connected computer downstairs onto this offline laptop.

I think all three kids got up to $10 in the end. Michael participated occasionally, but kept swapping his bucket for smaller and odder containers, culminating with a medium-size jam jar.

I am also paying Marcus 10¢ a time to blow his nose at the moment. Before I "monetized" the situation, every time I would ask him to blow rather than snort disgustingly (he was usually reading or playing games on his i-pod at the time) he would complain that blowing his nose hurt. Apparently it hurts a lot less when it gets you 1/30th of the way to a pack of football cards.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Imp and Ed buy a house

Elf's sister Imp and her family have just bought a house, and today they are moving out of the venerable sandstone pile that is Firthfield and into Nameless House, at the top of Boronia Hill in Kingston.

After coming to my soccer match, the girls stayed the night with us last night. Today we took them to their soccer, and now we are all back here. When Imp and Ed have worn out their first set of helpers, they will come for the girls, and we'll convoy down there to help them with the next batch of moving. 

Although I am often a grumpy and remote uncle, I do like the girls and I like the fact that our families lean on each other, help each other out and spend so much time together.

We are really pleased that Imp and Ed have made the leap to buy a property here - they came from Canberra two years ago and have been renting Firthfield since. There is a good chance they will go back there in the not too distant future, and rent out the new place. In any case, our boys and the girls have established a bond that hopefully will be renewed regularly and last their whole lives.

Knackered 8 d DotWS 5 - Indoor Soccer Grand Final

Last night we won our first championship for a couple of years, with a very good performance against Defenders of the Wooden Spoon, who were missing a couple of good players. We were up 5-2 at half time, and running along nicely. One of our first-half goals was a lovely bit of patient passing. It was something like Brett to Paul to Cam to me to Paul to me to Cam to me, and into the net.

DotWS kicked off in the second half and scored inside 10 seconds. Their gun player Andrew was just too slippery for any of us to track him. Unfortunately he couldn't do it all himself. From 5-3 we went goal for goal for ten minutes - we just couldn't shake them off. After scoring a few in the first half, I was just muffing every opportunity in the second half - taking one touch too many and getting too close to the keeper. The other guys stepped up though, and Ed, Paul and Brett kept the scoreboard ticking. With 90 seconds left we were still only two in front, when I finally found my touch again and scooped one into the net, for 8-5, and we had it in the bag.

All wives and kids were there, so we won in front of a large crowd of supporters, which made it even better.

We really like the DotWs guys, and they always give us a good game. They have stronger and weaker players, but everyone gets equal time, no matter how important the game. They enjoy playing together and that's more important to them than results, in the end. Having said that, they beat us only a few weeks ago, and they weren't far away last night.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Netherlands 3 d Uruguay 2, World Cup Semi Final

Well, rather than a serious recount and analysis, I'm just going to rework a cheap Caster Semenya joke I heard [to recap - she is the controversial South African athlete breaking all sorts of women's athletic records]

Now that the last South American team has been knocked out, and their supporters are leaving South Africa, it must be a relief to Caster Semenya not to have people all over her country chanting "Uruguay, Uruguay".

But how about that first goal from van Bronckhorst? Woof!

Monday, July 05, 2010


I have just sat down to watch TV but forgotten that we only have 4 channels again, for the time being. A week ago our set-top box remote control broke. We can change channels with the buttons on the front of the box, but at present there is an alert filling the screen - to dismiss it we need an OK or EXIT button. Nnnnnng.

To be honest, i have just about lost the art of watching any TV, except sport. Without a scoreboard in the corner to make things crystal-clear, I find I just lack the will to follow any plot or argument. I hear Julia Gillard's first speech as PM was outstanding, but I haven't seen it. If it had been a debate v Kevin Rudd, perhaps held in a stadium in South Africa at 4am, I would have tuned in with alacrity. (Note to self - look up alacrity - might it do instead of a set-top box?) Especially if there were some statistics in the corner to remove any ambiguity about who was winning.

So, here I am at the time when I usually watch my one non-sport show, Important Things with Dmitri Martin, and as that's on ABC2, I think I am only left with a) a heartwarming yet challenging documentary, b) a cook-off, c) a dance-off or d) Mythbusters.

I would like to see the Mythbusters bust some really heavy duty myths, like the existence of an all-powerful loving God. Let's set up some explosives, some roller skates and a shop dummy, then see how you explain childhood leukaemia. Anyone? No, that's not fair, you're right. A half-hour show that will appeal to Gen X is no place for that sort of thing. How about something like "the sun is towed across the sky every day by Apollo in his chariot" - some blue-ribbon, card carrying myth myths? Too easy I suppose.

Anyway - now Bear Grylls is parachuting into a swamp. Next, he will eat it. Can you tell this is a rest day in the World Cup?

Sunshine harvester parts are a hoot

I have just been sent a copy of the parts catalogue, 1911. As you'd expect, it's a laff riot!

Each part has a code word, to make it easier to order by telegraph. The code words all start with S, and include (strangely) a lot of seemingly French, Italian and Spanish terms, as well as … well, I'll just list some.

SOOTHFAST (Shaker crank, front)
SOPBROOD (Pulley for headings elevator, top; 1 and one-eighth inch bore)
SPODESTO (Arm for seven-eights inch square riddle adjuster bar)
SPAINO (Trace eye for one horse swingle tree)
SPOELWORM (Collar between 148 & H156)
SPALTBAR (Trace hook on one horse swingle tree, Argentine only)
SPASTICUS (T Head bolt, 6 x five-eights inch, for plummer block 83a)
SPASMATIS (Bolt to fasten fan bracket to winnower frame, one-a-half x three-eights inch hex, with lock nut)

Just to confirm, I did not make up any of that. Oh, and SPASTIC is there too (1 shilling), as is SPONGELET(6 shillings) and SPLITGAT ( 2 shillings and sixpence).

You can well imagine the irate telegrams coming in to HQ at Sunshine from Ouyen, Manangatang, Warracknabeal and beyond, when the goods train arrives with the urgent part, and it's the SPONDE (off side bracket for broad elevator bearing, bottom) rather than the SPONDEBAS (near side bracket for broad elevator bearing, bottom). Those were the days.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

8% "special time"

About 2.30am I was thinking about the ridiculous hours I have been keeping through this World Cup. Of course you console yourself that its' only every 4 years. But then I did the sums - it's one month every 4 years. That's 1/48th of the time. A bit more than 2% of my life has consisted of World Cups. Similarly, the summer Olympics take about a month, every 4 years - another 2% (too many of the winter Olympic events fall into the categories of "sports where you score points for costumes" and "sports that are simply sliding downhill"). The AFL finals take 4 weeks every year, but they are only on weekends - say 8 days of the year. That's another 2%. Then there are Ashes tests played in England. That's 5 tests of 5 days each, every four years. Throw in the occasional one-day match and you might as well call that another 2%.

So that's about 8% of my life so far that I have treated as a special case, when you can bend the rules, sleep in, be obsessive, draw up little tables in the back of notebooks, and never be short of conversation with complete strangers. Hey mate - did you see that bloke from Equatorial Guinea in the 1500m freestyle - wasn't he something?

Netherlands 2 d Brazil 1, World Cup Quarter Final

Brazil took a few minutes to get into their front half, but for the next forty they looked so dominant, their odds to take the Cup would have shortened even further. When Robinho netted twice in two minutes (the first was disallowed for offside) you would have been forgiven for popping down to the all-night TAB and putting your house on them to win the whole shebang. As it was they were only 1-0 up at half-time, but looked certainties. Maicon was running the show on the right, Robinho on the left and nothing was working for the Netherlands in the middle. Their only target up front was Robben, and each time he got it he looked like he wanted to beat five men rather than even consider a pass. Just before half time the Dutch keeper Stekelenberg made a miracle save, floating through the air to bat away a delightful curler from Kaka which was homing in on the top corner.

After half time things were turned on their head when Julio Cesar the Brazil keeper came out for a high ball, didn't get it, and it came off his defender Juan and into the net. That made things much more lively. Brazil were still looking pretty silky, and Netherlands were still looking shaky, but at least we were promised a game. Then the unthinkable - Robben took a corner, Dirk Kuyt flicked it on, and Wes Sneijder got enough scalp on it to put it in the net, then ran around slapping it (his scalp) for some minutes.

Cue mad scramble, desperate lunging, confusion and mayhem. I think from memory a Brazilian was straight red-carded for a tackle? Hell, it was 2am, I don't know, I seem to remember Brazil trying to throw men forward and almost giving up another goal as they were one man down. The Netherlands actually looked really impotent up front to me, and their semi opponents, (if you don't want to know yet look away now ... OK?) Uruguay, will have been heartened by what they saw.

Final whistle, 2-1. Favourites out.

Uruguay 1 d Ghana 1 (4-2 on penalties, after no score in extra time)

I tuned into this one at 1-1, early in the second half. The teams seemed pretty evenly matched - Suarez and Forlan were creating chances for Uruguay, and Gyan was looking very impressive for Ghana.

Kevin Prince Boateng apparently was a hero for Ghana against USA in a game I didn't see. But each time I have watched Ghana, I have been amazed by his uselessness. He has the physique of a someone who's been in jail for ten years, and who is not a big reader. Perhaps most of all I hate the tatts  - why would anyone get large dice tattooed on their neck? He is famous for taking one of the worst penalties in history in this year's FA Cup . In the part of the match I saw he did nothing of value.

The last five minutes of extra time were pulsating, with both teams throwing on attacking substitutes and really going for it. Incredibly, Ghana's best attack of the 2nd half came in the last seconds. Suarez saved off the goal-line with his shins, but it was turned back in, and he had no choice but to flail at it with his arms, as did the Uruguayan beside him. Suarez connected, batted the ball out deliberately, and was sent off.

The final act of extra time was the resulting penalty, taken by Gyan for Ghana. If he could put it away, Ghana would be the first ever Africans into the World Cup semi finals. He had all of Africa sitting on his shoulders, and he hit the crossbar. The referee whistled and that was full-time. Suarez, on his way to the showers, was like a condemned man who gets a reprieve. Uruguay were not through yet, but at least they wouldn't go home on his account.

So to the penalty shoot-out. Uruguay had got out of jail, and must have gone into it with a mental advantage. To his credit, Gyan stepped up to take the first for Ghana, and put it away confidently. Uruguay equalised. Ghana scored. Uruguay equalised. Ghana's next penalty from Mensah went too close to the keeper Muslera, who guessed the right way and saved. Uruguay scored again - all theirs had been well taken conventional cannons into the top corner. Under tons of pressure, the Adiyiah did the same as Mensah, and Muslera saved again. Notably no-one asked Boateng to take one.

Now Uruguay led the shootout 2-3 with a penalty in hand, so their next kick could clinch a place in the semis.

Sebastian Abreu took the deftest, cheekiest and most confident penalty I have ever seen. He patiently waited for the keeper to commit, then dinked it over his diving body. Uruguay, twice winners in the early days of the World Cup, are into the semis. I think if they and the Netherlands bring their quarter-final form to the semi, Uruguay will find themselves in the World Cup final for the first time for sixty years.