Thursday, June 30, 2011

Model T

This picture of the Apollo moon landing is such an obvious fake.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Yes that's right - that's a lion in a sidecar

I think The Selvedge Yard has claims to be the world's finest website. I will make the case.

1. It contains this photo of a wall-of-death stunt that has taken things up a notch, viz. there is a lion in the sidecar. A lion.

2. It contains another photo which I will not reproduce here, but which has the caption Tornado Smith posts a letter while riding penny farthing bicycle.

3.  It has the above photo above a heading JACK NICHOLSON | REBEL ROUSERS which I read very clearly as REBEL TROUSERS. My mistake - and yes that does dent my case slightly but pressing on to

4. Gobsmacking pic of Schwarzenegger, Hefner and basketball legend Wilt Chamberlain. Just hangin'. Hef has the all-denim suit. Wilt has the 18 inch thongs.

Alright, yes it is mostly motorbike-related and there is some cheesy 70s pinup stuff but - you know the lion is pretty awesome.

Breakfast argument

This discussion happened at the breakfast table, with no reference works to hand, apropos of nothing.

Michael: Dad, the Coptic capital letter hori looks just like a backwards S. And so does the little hori. Actually, they don't have capitals.
Marcus: [scathingly] None of the hieroglyphics have capitals.
Michael: Coptic isn't heiroglyphics. There is, uh, ... demodit ...
Me: Demotic?
Michael: Yeah, demotic and hieratic.
Marcus: Demotic was the one that everyone had to know.
Michael: No - it was just scribes and stuff.
[After a break to get dressed and argue a bit about other things]
Michael: Look - it says here that demotic was used for legal texts and mummy inscriptions.
Marcus: Yeah, but you smell.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Say it with lawn bowls

I don't have much to say lately, hence the many photos.

I think lawn bowls are very beautiful objects. They are so black and heavy, and feature a very idiosyncratic range of logos and devices engraved on them. As far as I can tell the Henselite factory did them to order, and you could have pretty much whatever design you wanted.
My new set (from Ben's dad) - featuring the old His Master's Voice logo.
My original set (from my dad) featuring the double-barred Cross of Lorraine.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Squawky visitors

These guys have become regulars. It's clear they have a plan to take apart the rainbow spinny thing.

Moons of Jupiter by Michael

Ganymede was murder, but he got it eventually.

Chicken gun

I was watching one of those Richard Hammond engineering shows last night, and they tested some aircraft materials with a chicken gun. Unlike the elephant gun, goose gun and fowling piece, the chicken gun is named for its ammunition rather than its target. It is a large tube that takes whole dead chickens, and fires them, at aircraft flight velocity, to simulate bird collisions.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Advancing years 3, joints 0

We had a strange game of indoor soccer last night. No goals at all in the first half (the average would be about 10). In the second half we got out to 3-0 and felt like we might be safe, then they rattled on 3 of their own in no time at all. A draw.

Last time we were in the top division we lost every week. This time we have had 3 draws and one precious win. Despite the good results, I have never felt so old out on the court. (I have never been so old, let's face it), but I really feel I am not running out the games so well these days.

As a testament to my advancing years, the other day at work I found I had to move my lawn bowls to reach my hot water bottle. My work colleague Ben gave me a beautiful set of lawn bowls (my second) I had plonked them by desk. My feet have been persistently frozen of late so I bought a hot water bottle to rest them on - it works like a charm. It was when I was shifting the bowls to reach the hottie that I realised I am now "that old guy" to my workmates.

Today Marcus had his first soccer match for 3 weeks, against the Ken Morton Soccer Academy. Our boys were expecting a very tough test, and it was too. They did a great job though, worked hard for each other and were level 2-2 at half time. In the second half, Felix in goals was peppered with shots and kept them all out. Marcus was defending marvellously, holding up the very quick and skillful academy kids, and generating moves forward for his team. At one point he was caught with the ball deep in defence, and I thought their resistance was about to crumble. He just worked so hard, got it back, fed it to David up front, and David went on an incredible run that ended with him and the KMSA keeper charging at a 50/50 ball. The keeper kicked it into David and it rebounded off some part of his head/face area, into the net. Amazing. A few minutes later it was all over and our lads were delirious. It was probably their best game of the year and certainly the most outstanding result.

I missed about 10 minutes of the game giving Michael a dressing down. I had seen him whipping a long willow branch around, whacking poles and fences. Next thing I knew he was flailing at another boy with it, and hit him across the face. The boy was not happy and went to tell his Dad. I seized the willow off Michael and sent him over to say sorry. He seems to me to be incapable of sincerely saying sorry, but the Dad seemed satisfied. Michael and I then spent another little while yelling at each other.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The 4 Georges

George I: "I was the sad one" "
George II: "And I was the bad one."
George III: "I was the mad one" "
George IV: "And I was the fat one."

I saw this on telly yesterday with the kids - thought it was pretty funny. I suggest you skip the first 21 seconds. Pedantic correction: George III was George II's grandson, actually.

Ash cloud descends on the blog

Sorry to those of you who are regular blog readers - it's been pretty quiet lately. No good excuse comes to mind - just some weeks are more bloggy than others. Blame that guy Ash McLeod - he seems to be responsible for everything else going wrong in the southern hemisphere lately.

Let's just say all my interesting blog content is buried under this somewhere.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


Some gumnuts from my imagination.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Glass skeleton

This is the skeleton of a venus' flower basket sponge (Euplectella aspergillum), that I bought in Stanley on our recent trip up north. These are amazing creatures, in various ways. Wikipedia says:
... the sponge symbiotically houses two small shrimp, a male and a female, who live out their lives inside the sponge. They breed, and when their offspring are tiny, the offspring escape to find a Venus Flower Basket of their own. The shrimp inside of the basket clean it, and in return, the basket provides food for the shrimp by trapping it in its fiberglass-like strands, and then releasing it into the body of the sponge for the shrimp. It is also speculated that the bioluminescent light of bacteria harnessed by the sponge may attract other small organisms which the shrimp eat.
I first heard of these things on Theodore Gray's fabulous website the Wooden Periodic Table Table. Among his roughly 150 samples representing silicon, is one of these. He has a simply beautiful QTVR of it - if you give it a little while to load, you can rotate it with the mouse. Go on - I'll wait here while you give it a try.

Gray writes of the skeletal structure;
This is a sea creature, a sponge of sorts, that grows a glass skeleton. That's right, the skeleton is made of what amounts to fiberglass. Isn't that the most amazing thing you've ever heard of? I suppose it shouldn't be any more amazing than us growing a calcium phosphate (actually calcium phosphate foam) skeleton, but it is to me. Not only is the skeleton glass, the fibers it's made of are said to be superior in some ways to man-made fiber optics, and of course they are grown at low temperatures, something people, as of this writing, have no idea how to do.
If that isn't enough amazement for you, consider the engineering properties of the skeleton. According to these boffins at Bell Labs,
Each of the structural levels corresponds to a fundamental construction principle commonly used in civil engineering and sometimes product design, but on a scale 1,000 times smaller than a building. For example, the fibers that comprise the sponge’s skeleton are arranged in a lattice, or open criss-cross pattern, reinforced by fibers that run diagonally in both directions inside alternate squares in the lattice. This construction technique is often found in high-rise buildings and free-standing bookshelves to counteract shear stress, which can easily collapse a non-reinforced square structure. The team also discovered that when the diameter of the sponge’s skeleton increases beyond a certain point the outer structure is reinforced by ridges in a spiral pattern. The ridges counteract an effect known as “ovalization,” which makes cylindrical structures more prone to collapse, as demonstrated by the fact that it’s fairly easy to twist or flatten an empty aluminum can. By stabilizing its skeleton with external ridges, the sponge makes itself difficult to crush. Other hierarchical levels include highly stable laminated glass beams, fiber-reinforced cements, and bundled structural elements, to name a few.
 So - pretty great eh? A bit better than a blurry photo of Winston's nose, anyway.

I try some macro nature photography

Ladies and gentlemen: I give you, the soft rubbery nose of a large dog (Canis lupus familiaris).

Monday, June 13, 2011


It's school holidays at the moment, but I am working through them, as I have no leave left. If I was easily distracted I would now start talking about Nick Drake's lovely album Five Leaves Left, but I have an iron-willed determination to stick to the subject which is: unisex toilets.

As I have mentioned often, I work in a rambling complex of old stone warehouses joined together with ramps, metal stairs and mysterious fire doors. We have been there nearly a year now. Last week a sliding fire door opened behind me in the wall - a door that has been closed all that time, and we treat as if it was a bit of wall. A man no-one had seen before (looked a bit like John Hodgman) said "Hell-o!" and strolled into our office to check the fire extinguishers.

But – the toilets. There are two, and in a sane workplace there would be one for boys and one for girls. Instead they are both unisex. The nearest one also has the baby change table. There is a chair as well as the change table in the disabled cubicle, and that can only be for feeding, I guess. On occasions I have made the long trudge down from our office to the nearest toilet, turned the corner, and realised someone is on their way in for a nappy change and maybe a spot of breastfeeding. So I have backtracked and gone upstairs so we can both have some privacy.

On Tuesdays every week, a group of lovely older ladies convenes in the Arts Centre meeting room, all day. I'm not sure what they are there for, but of course they are another obstacle to quiet enjoyment of uncomplicated ablutions. Regularly on Tuesdays a workmate will come back into the office with that look of shame and anger on his face that says "I just unavoidably disgusted an old lady".

At least the Tuesday Ladies know what they are dealing with. As the centre is open to the public, arguably half the people using the toilets are visitors. Based on observations, I would say that of those, 90% have done a lot of tentative searching for some kind of "mens" or "womens" indicators, and then have seen someone coming out, and either thought "ah - unisex" or just "ah - there is a person of my gender - I am going in there no questions asked before I burst".

In some hair-raising cases, ladies have only been acquainted with the unisex aspect when they have opened the outer sliding door suddenly, just as I have been about to open it from the other side. Or they are applying some lippy in the mirror when I flush and step out behind them. (I want to stress that I have been just as surprised as they.) No-one has screamed, yet.

The acme of awkward situations crops up in the school holidays. The Faerie Shop Pty Ltd runs Faerie School for little girls, aged about 5 - 8, in the same meeting room. They are all gussied up with lacy dresses in pink, mauve and purple, and wings of course. They do Faerie Crafts and watch Faerie Films and god knows what else all day, guided by adult Faeries with bigger wings.

Sometimes the adult Faeries take groups of girls to the toilet. Do they mention in advance that, through no fault of his own, they might meet a large unshaven man in there? It seems not. Do they suggest that if this happens to not stare at him in horror, as though he is a repugnant troll? It seems not.

Do they mention the possibility that the large man might say "hello girls!" to them brightly, in an attempt to defuse the situation? And that maybe the best thing would be for everyone to just act normal and say "hello" back, including the grown-up Faerie?

It seems not.

Collective freak-out in Christchurch

My heart goes out to everyone in Christchurch, after the new aftershocks inflicted more damage on their lovely city. Another landmark that I recall from my visits has fallen down - the Timeball Station tower in Lyttleton.

In the reports on, people interviewed commented as one that the shocks were "freaky".
One Pak 'n Save Wainoni worker said items had been thrown from the shelves and the floor was littered with food and broken glass. "It was pretty freaky. It felt like it was right under the supermarket," she said.

Christchurch east MP Aaron Gilmore said he was just getting out of his car when the quake hit and couldn't work out what was going on. "I could see the ground rise on the road, it was a bit freaky."
Greymouth pair Matt Adams and Crystal Graham-Hayes were shopping in Amazon when the magnitude-5.5 quake hit at 1pm. ''All the lights started shaking to the ground. I freaked out a little bit,'' Adams said.
Fire Service spokesman Dan Coward said there had been countless callouts to burst pipes, especially in the Sumner area where many locals were "freaked out".
So I would rate that at about 8.5 on the freak scale.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Dance, Turkish Dads, Dance!

Never in human history have there been so many funny videos kicking around. And yet, there is something in this one that puts it right up there in the top 5. I even like the crazy flute-musik.

Cousins waltzing

Cousin Marcus and Cousin Arthur, at Mum and Dad's new house. Photo by Sally.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

One of my favourite places in the world

View Larger Map
This is in the grounds of Marist College, about a 1 minute walk from the house I lived in from 0-17. I spent quite a bit of time roaming the grounds, either kicking a soccer ball, riding a bike, chipping golf balls around (and losing them by the dozen), or just walking. This was a favourite place to sit, look out to sea, and mope, in that classic teenage-boy way.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Scrapbook of 2010-11 bits

Nooget, Dog, Human - by Michael

Comic by Marcus, starring Stickman.

An unfinished directory of dragons, by Marcus

Design for a circular house, by Marcus

The Great Period of Joy, a happy time in the history of Michael's imaginary country, Noogetswan

Michael's class tried out a website called Storybird Collaborative.
He was moved to copy the name down in Greek and Arabic.

New numerals invented by Michael. Things got crazy around 9.

Some kind of alien skull.

A steamship called the Neptune by Michael

A proud freighter being loaded with goods and services(!) Also by Michael.

Michael's drawing of himself and Winston

By Marcus

Monsters by Marcus

Michael takes up a collection for his imaginary country.

Another Michael boat.


This one is self-explanatory


Marcus was having one of those mornings that makes you fear for the rest of his day - swinging from unhinged hilarity to doomy gloom. One minute he would be singing into Winston's face and the next, stomping down the stairs.

In the middle of all this he remarked to us that the phone bill he'd seen sitting on the computer desk was due today. That one bit of sensible, helpful and organised clarity made up for all the other stuff. After we said "thanks, well spotted" - he seemed to be generally more balanced for the rest of the morning.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Flat drinks with His Excellency

So just as I was falling sick on Tuesday evening, I was obliged to attend a reception at Government House in honour of the 50th birthday of Amnesty International. I changed into my suit at work, and went over to the taxi rank. The first vehicle was a van. I went and hopped into the normal cab behind, which wasn't easy as the metal railing along the rank seems designed to prevent this. I asked the cabbie if it was OK - I felt it would be weird to hire a van for just myself. I didn't even have a bag I could consider as "freight". He indicated that I should get in the van. So, I arrived at Government House looking like I had come to clean the pool.

Nevertheless, I joined a knot of shivering strangers outside the castellated clock tower, assuming they must be other Amnesty members. The word had gone around that at six o'clock we would be admitted to the tower, where a Braided Functionary would tell us what was required of us. On the Governor's turf, it's Governor's Rules. You queue up holding your invitation upside down so Braided Functionary 2 can read it and announce you, as you step in and shake hands with His Excellency and the Mrs.

A few years ago when we needed a new governor, the premier appointed Richard Butler, the international diplomat, who had spent hardly any time in Tasmania. He was an unmitigated disaster who offended everyone, and was essentially paid $650,000 to resign. He was replaced by the then Chief Justice, William Cox (shout out to his niece Anna!) When he retired the next Chief Justice, Peter Underwood, was bumped along to be Governor. You get the feeling that since the Butler Fiasco, only eminent local wiggy types are to be trusted with the keys to the big house.

So we filed in and shook hands with the gubernatorial couple, and filed into a large reception room. There were probably 100 Amnesty people there - lots of rank and file people like myself. The consensus was that they had just invited everybody. There were drinks - OJ, G&T or small glasses of flat-looking beer. For some reason I took the beer. The nibbles were just OK. His Excellency made a nice speech about human rights. At seven, a clock went 'bong', the fresh drinks were whisked away, and the food platters quietly disappeared. After a while functionaries began circulating, just quietly mentioning to selected influential groups that it was time to go, and let His Excellency and Mrs Underwood have dinner and watch Winners and Losers.

The rest of us got the message and joined the tide of human-rights-loving volunteers, who flowed out into the night, debating what to have for dinner and negotiating lifts home.

Sick, 2011

I am not often sick, so when I am, I consider it news. I had yesterday off work, and after noodling around getting things done, I just zonked out for 4 hours. Not having the car, I then walked down to school and back to pick up the boys. I managed to sit upright and listen to their merry crashes and bangs for four hours, then as soon as dinner was over I just went back to bed and zonked out once more.

Today I have stayed home again but at least felt well enough to sit in the sun and read. I have no science to back this up, but I feel like if you have the sun on your face it helps clear up your sinuses. I would rather not be sick, but I'm telling you now - there's nothing wrong with sitting on your front deck in the sun reading an undemanding book.

I've had a few pretty bad night's sleeps, with all sorts of feverish delusions. I would like to apologise to anyone who's following me on Twitter, as I have tweeted a few times when I should best have not. Just because a Clown Car Wash seems like a good idea to me, in a fever, at 4am, doesn't mean I need to share that.