Monday, May 31, 2010

Bionic Boy

He is sizing you up. He may explode you. Be warned.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The tricycle-broom

We have got a lot closer to achieving toilet training with Winston. It has been our main occupation at home over the last two weeks. It's pretty tiring, especially on wet and cold days when you can't have the fallback of an open door. A few times it has started getting to me and I have just given up doing anything in the evening but lying on the couch, watching the dog. My ray of sunshine came in the form of football on TV - I could sit and watch with the dog on his bed under my feet.

It's a sad fact that I just can't sustain interest in anything much on TV these days unless there is a scoreboard in the corner. And although we have digital channels now including an all-day sports channel, I find I am still just watching the football. Baseball, basketball, paintball and monster truck racing just don't cut it.

I am quite looking forward to the World Cup, although as many people have commented it is not the fascinating surprise packet it once was. All the best players in the world, whether from Chile, Chad or Czech Republic, are now playing in the Champions League for a handful of big clubs. In the old days you would discover new players, new styles, new ball tricks, watching the World Cup.

It has rained a few times in the last few days - not all that heavy, but continuous over several days. Everything is wet through now for the first time in a very long time. I had actually forgotten all about the practical aspects of a wet autumn - wiping feet, dead wet leaves stuck to everything, kids stuck inside for hours.

Shortly Winston and I are going off to puppy school for the first time, at the Hobart Obedience Club. I might even pick up a thing or two myself. I imagine the carpark there will be full of KEEP LEFT and STAFF PARKING ONLY signs, and the club hierarchy will watch us arrive from some kind of hide, marking us on our ability to follow instructions.

I think of us as a six-mammal household now. Mammal Five, also known as Hattie, has been bravely coming into the same room as Mammal Six, but keeping a very wary eye on him. She only comes upstairs to eat, as we are insisting if she wants food, this is where she needs to be. We keep a hand on Winston's collar or put him on the lead so he doesn't blow the whole gaff by lunging at her.

Our back lawn is lined on the downhill side with puffy poa grasses that Elf planted as soon as we moved in. They are there to make a visual barrier and discourage kids from climbing down the terraced garden beds. Winston is intrigued by them, and loves to snudge in amongst them. He is the right height at the moment to burst through them dramatically. But he's never sure what to do next.

We are needing to regularly scrub the deck lately, thanks to Winston taking himself outside-but-not-very-far to go to the toilet. To help us out, Michael has invented the tricycle-broom.

Romantic Foil

I am fascinated by the term 'romantic foil'. It sounds like the sort of stuff from which you would make a robot for your wife, for Valentine's Day. If she really, really loved robots.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb

Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb has at last been given Protected Designation of Origin status, like champagne. Hooray!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Pope is fine and mild

Elf's exercise bike has a built-in digital thermometer. It sits in a sunny position, so sometimes it gets things a bit wrong. I was at home sick on Thursday, and although it was a mild enough autumn day, it was not 33°C as claimed by the bike. Our other way of telling the temperature is a Pope John Paul II souvenir thermometer, which claimed it was 20°C. Although the Pope is infallible, this does not apply to the thermometer for three reasons.
  1. Infallibility only applies to ex cathedra matters, eg religious doctrine
  2. Infallibility only holds for the current pope. Late popes are not infallible.
  3. It's just a really crappy thermometer.

News Flash: Puppies Are Adorable

Elf has been heard to say it would have been easier to have a third child than get a puppy - "at least you can put a nappy on them". There has been a great deal of wee on the floor. Just when we think Winston has got the idea, he goes and wees on his bed. Or goes outside, comes back in and then wees on the floor.

It would be fair to say we have fallen out of love with him at times. This weekend has generally been good though. Winston is closed in the downstairs bathroom overnight, and he wees indiscriminately on the floor in there, but chooses to poo on the newspaper. Apart from early-morning slip-ups, (before everyone is quite on their mettle), today and yesterday have passed with no moppage required upstairs. It has been cold but not windy, so we have been able to leave the back door open, and the kids have been playing with him outside a lot of the time. Constant surveillance is required, and that is pretty tiring, but at least the weeing-puppy phase should be a lot quicker than the choking-infant or drowning-toddler phase.

Relations with Hattie continue to be frosty on her part, and merely floppy on his. I have tried carrying her under one arm and a bowl of cat meat under the other, and marching her up the stairs into his presence. Even when he is confined in the borrowed playpen, she is not prepared to stay and eat.

Today he was introduced to Larson, his neighbour. Larson is a black lab of mature years, greying about the whiskers. I missed most of the meeting, but Winston apparently jumped about too much for Larson's liking. His attitude to Winston was probably something like my attitude to pre-teens doing incompetent kick-flips in a supermarket carpark. I would sum it up as "Just... don't".

This afternoon was originally going to be our first trip to puppy school, but we had a kids party this morning, and it was just too hard to up and go at the point I should have. So Elf decided we should all go for a walk on the beach instead. Once we had everyone assembled and ready to go, we turned to Winston - he was a boneless black heap on the floor.

Winston was pretty good in the car, riding in the back of the wagon with his front paws up on the back seat, looking over the boy's heads. He trotted happily along the beach, seemingly unfazed by all the new things - sand, sea, other dogs coming up and sniffing his bot. He was keen to be friends with everyone and even the slightly barky dogs didn't make him cower or anything. Other dog people were complimentary, but predicted that he would be the the size of a chest freezer when fully grown. Back home after the walk he was so tired he looked even more boneless than before - like he was actually painted on the floor.

He is now exploring the yard more fully. I unintentionally set up an experiment yesterday by leaving Marcus's ugg boots outside the front door. When we returned from soccer 2 hours later, one had been carefully moved up to the back deck, but not molested. This is pretty much what zoologists do with radio transmittters when they are studying dolphins or bats or whatever. The ugg boot system, although less scientific, is cheaper to set up.

Tomorrow he will have his longest day yet alone. I would love to set up a webcam so I can see what scampyness he gets up to. We know that he will sleep for most of it anyway.

Saturday night situation report

It is half time. I am wrapped in a rug watching the Richmond v Essendon night footy game. I am drinking a long neck bottle of Dad's home brew. A ten kilo puppy sleeps by my feet. My wife cycles 12 kilometres silently beside me, reading a murder mystery as she goes. On the table in front of me, all my 1970s footy cards have been sorted into teams by the boys, working together civilly. But best of all, we have not had to mop up any puppy urine since about 8 o'clock this morning. Hallelujah.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Light yelping

I took the morning off today, to ease Winston into life as an unaccompanied daytime dog. I left him at lunchtime and he had to amuse himself in the back yard until Elf and the boys got home at 3. Caron next door reported some light yelping but he seems to have generally got on OK.

We spent most of the morning lounging in the sun up in the backyard. Winston loves a good sleep, so I caught up on some reading. I went off for a couple of short walks on my own, to get him used to the idea that I was not planning to hold his paw all day. Then before I left I took him for the same walk as yesterday. I decided I would not be carrying him home this time. When he flopped down I just waited for a while, coaxed him up and towed him a little. At one stage he realised he had just walked over the top of something interesting, put his nose down and back to inspect it while his big back feet kept a-floppin', and executed a forward roll.

Apart from that, I just sat and enjoyed the sun. I watched a tractor churning up the chicken farm hill over the way. Our three magpies flew overhead teaming up to chase off a goshawk.

And to top things off in the slice-of-real-life-going-on-while-I-am-usually-at-work stakes, as I strolled past the pub on my way to work at lunchtime, a couple of alkies came out manhandling a carton of Tooheys Red and congratulating each other on cracking a trifecta - before nearly wandering under the wheels of a small truck.

Realistic volcano design by Michael

This seems to be a design for a very realistic model volcano. Ingredients include not just detergent, baking soda and vinegar, but also dust and cinders.

I've met the new neph Arthur

I went to see him on Sunday and had a little cuddle. What a lovely fella. Very calm and alert.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


Winston the labrador cross has joined our family, and so far its all going swimmingly. He is going to be a very big dog judging by his paws, but he has a lovely temperament so we will just have to take him as he is. As I type on the laptop he is lying by my feet on his bed, (in fact partly on and partly off it), and he's just done a puppy fart. Life is very different.

Yesterday was pickup day. The boys and I were going to drive out to the country after Marcus' soccer match, but Melissa the breeder needed to come into town, so we actually picked up Winston at Salamanca Market.

I felt very strange walking off with a big puppy on a lead, through the crowds at Salamanca, with him tripping me up every third step. We actually had to take him in a lift to get back to where I'd left the car, so his introduction to city life was not exactly gentle. We've been lent a harness thing, but with the wriggly boy in hand I couldn't work it all out, so I popped him in the cat carrier instead, squeezed between the boys.

We brought him straight home, shut the gate and let him out. He was a little slow to emerge from his crate but he eventually snudged out. I had him on the lead for the first few hours so that if Hattie showed up I would be in control of the situation. She duly met us at the front door, sized up the situation, arched her back a bit then left at a dignified trot. Winston didn't seem particularly interested in her, and hasn't since either.

Imp and Ed and the girls, the neighbour kids and other kids we don't even know have all been traipsing through to admire the pup. He's been very good with everyone, except for a slight tendency to gnaw people's shoes. He loves his bed and is very keen to head for it whenever he's inside. He has not yet gone looking for trouble, which is terrific.

Last night we put his bed in the bathroom and shut him in. He whimpered and yowled for about fifteen minutes then just fell asleep. He woke up to poo and wee on the floor, near where we put the the special puppy training pad. That was OK though, its the easiest room to clean, and the same will likely happen tonight. If we get practically a full night's sleep again we'll be happy. Yesterday we had a bit of a messy time indoors but today after a wee on the floor this morning he has been taking himself outside. Luckily the weather has been superb all weekend so we have been able to leave a door open and spend lots of time trotting him about the garden.

He is sleeping a lot. We took him for a little walk this morning, just up to the park, then off the lead for a flip-flop around. He looks so funny when he runs, like he's about to trip over his ears any moment. The feet are terribly, terribly big. Anyway, it was the first walk of his life, and I had to carry him home, then he slept in the sun on the lawn for an hour or so, occasionally prodded by slightly disappointed neighbour children.

Our kids have been enjoying him a lot. In his energetic periods he happily chases Michael around and around the trampoline. Marcus is extremely keen to train him, totally, now.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Blog Filler from the internets

I have not had that happy knack of converting actual real life into blog nuggets, of late. Sorry about that. As a sort of blog polyfilla, here is a list of successive Wendy's slogans down the years. To clarify - this is the enormous US burger chain, not the Australian nauseatingly-pink ice cream franchise.

Have you noticed that "Where's the Beef?" is the punchline of about 10% of all American sitcom and buddy-movie jokes? Well that's a Wendy's slogan from about 1984. As I listen to a few US pop culture podcasts, but am not well-travelled, every now and then I am curious to find out what the hell an Arby's or a Quiznos or a Wendy's is.

Anyway, here is the history of Wendy's slogans. In Wikipedia there were dates but they all overlapped so I have left them out.

* Quality is our recipe
* Juicy hamburgers
* Hot-n-juicy
* Wendy's has the taste you crave
* Ain't no reason to go anyplace else
* You're Wendy's kind of people
* Parts is parts [I have no idea what that means]
* Where's the beef?
* Choose fresh, choose Wendy's
* Give a little nibble
* The best burgers in the business.
* The best burgers and a whole lot more
* You can eat great, even late
* It's hamburger bliss.
* It's better here
* It's always great, even late. (Canada)
* Do what tastes right.
* It's good to be square. [their burgers are square]
* That's right.
* Uh huh.
* Hot juicy burgers
* It's waaay better than fast food... It's Wendy's
* It's waaaaaaaaaay delicious. It's Wendy's. (Canada)
* Carrément bon. C'est Wendy's. (Québec, Canada)
* You know when it's real.
 and finally
* Es Muuuuucho Más Qué Comída Rapida, Es Wendy's (El Salvador)

Pup prep

The boys and I will be going to get Winston on Saturday morning. Suddenly our life-changing moment is not very far away, and the floor is still covered with stuff that Winston will chew and ruin/choke on and die. Gaaaaah!

Elf and Mum found a hefty home-made kennel at the tip shop, full of spiders and dry rot. Dad and I managed to haul it up to the back lawn this afternoon without it or either of us snapping in half.

We have borrowed a toddler gate to keep pup and Hattie separate during the crucial getting-to-know-you period. Which is more likely to be the OK-I'm-leaving-for-three-days period, when Hattie flees out the cat door.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Freddo or Hairspray?

Happy Mothers Day everyone, especially Sally. We walked in the 4km Mothers Day Classic this morning, to raise funds and awareness for breast cancer. South Hobart Primary again won the trophy for largest school group, and also this time the largest group over all. I think there were about 40 of us.

We always moan a bit about the organisation of this event, although I suppose its like any large event really. There are always one or two wierd things where you wonder "who thought that was a good idea?"

This time it was the extremely slim showbags that were being handed out, containing a cornucopia of 4 small things. There seemed to be a fun random feature where some people got a chocolate Freddo and some got a 40g aerosol can of Cedel "Extra Firm" hairspray in a pink can. We scored 1 Freddo and 3 cans. The bags all looked identical and were merrily handed out to ladies, gentlemen and children alike. Which seems strange, considering how dangerous aerosol cans are. To quote my can (it's in caps to convey the sense of danger and peril);

And of course deliberate misuse by concentrating and inhaling can be fatal. How many people still use bloody hairspray anyway? Isn't a random group of 4000 people likely to throw away about 3000 of these dangerous things? Was it smart to hand them to children as prizes?

EDIT:The school team appeared on the front page of the local paper this morning. Michael is at far left, but Marcus is lost at the back somewhere.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Hello Arthur

I have just heard that Sally and Matt's first child, Arthur David Warren, arrived early this morning. It sounds like everyone is well, and I'm looking forward to meeting the little fella soon. We are delighted to have another boy cousin for Marcus and Michael - we are on comfortable ground with boy babies.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Pup news

Saw an 8 week old labrador pup way out in the country today. Put some money down. Thinking of a name. Face exceedingly stripey. Considering "Stripey". Will pick up in about 3 weeks. Mild panic setting in. PUPPPPPPPPPEEEEEEEEEEEE.

New tabletop

A couple of days after our new table was delivered, before Christmas, it developed a big crack right down the middle. We were fairly distraught - it was a bit of a big investment for us. David, the maker, was very good about taking it back and making us a new tabletop. It had been too high, and he fixed that as well. Last week it was returned to us and we are really delighted with the result. The kids have already started the process of personalising it - apparent it is "too hard" to remember to put something under the paper when you are drawing. Sigh.

Well done, us.

Yesterday we attended a barbecue for South Hobart participants in the Solar Panel scheme. A very well-organised and active community group got up and running to take advantage of government subsidies, and assisted 150 installations of solar panels, and 70 solar hot water systems.

I thought "OK, this is going to be a self-congratulation society". And it kind of was, but they had about a dozen different kinds of cake, so that was OK. They had plaques on offer that said "This is a climate-friendly home" or something like that, but to get one you had to sign a pledge to reduce your carbon footprint by a set amount per year.

If I had a good calculator for measuring my footprint, I would be prepared to try reducing it by 5% over 12 months. It might be hard to find another 5%, and another 5%, year after year. The time might come when you would have to hand in your plaque and admit failure. But also I think the solar panels stuck on the roof are enough of a smug middle-class advertisement of your climate awareness anyway, without going for a plaque. After all, thanks to subsidies we are out of pocket less than $2000 for our panels, and now we have tiny power bills. We are not exactly sacrificing ourselves for the greater good.

Anyway, Elf was against the pledge, I was against the plaque, so we walked away still middlingly-committed, like most people. I am going to look up a good footprint calculator though. Also I just want to say that our solar inverter is the Sunny Boy 1100.

At the barbecue we were handed a flyer for another plaque-related scheme, the Gardens for Wildlife scheme. Their plaque is nicer, and the idea of encouraging wildlife in city and suburban gardens is excellent. I had a look over the form to see if having a cat would disqualify us. One set of boxes to tick asks if you are  a) Urban  b) Sub-urban  c) Peri-urban or d) Rural.  "Peri-urban"? They left out pseudo-urban, quasi-urban and "miles from anywhere but built like a MacMansion anyway".

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Michael expounds

These are all from today.
  • [In the dark at 6am] I am finding you by feeling my surroundings...
  • I think the Egyptians were wrong when they said that the heart is the seat of all knowledge...
  • If you wanted to make a giant model of a uterus you could...

Cat education campaign

Tansy The Rainbow Cat lives next door to us. Despite her hippie name, she is quite aggressive and spends more time in our yard than we would like. She has even tried to get in our cat door. Hattie is not very good at defending the homestead, and usually comes off second best in fights. About a week ago Elf noticed she had a sore flank, and she was acting quite strangely. It turned out she had a bite that had become an abcess, and it meant an expensive trip to the vet.

The boys responded with some supportive yet instructive cards for Hattie.