Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Scott twins lose

Sometimes its tough being twins. Chris and Brad Scott are now both coaching AFL footy teams. Both teams wear blue and white. Occasionally they both lose on the same day.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Miller's Thump

I was browsing (as you do) through a tattered old Italian/English dictionary we have. I don't speak Italian but I like to silently mouth the words to myself on quiet Saturday mornings.

Ghiozzo is translated as meaning "miller's thump". Intriguing. What is a miller's thump? Something like a baker's dozen? Well, there are only 9 google hits for the term. According to the University of Washington it’s this:

Scientific name Uranidea tenuis
Google suggests that maybe I mean "miller's thumb". It has 224,000 of those, including this one at Barbel Fishing World.

Looks like the babel fish from Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.
 Wikipedia has a not-so-good photo but adds the information;
The bullhead (Cottus gobio) is a freshwater fish that is widely distributed in Europe, mainly in rivers. It is a member of the Cottidae family, a type of sculpin. It is also known as the miller's thumb, freshwater sculpin, common bullhead or European bullhead.
 So - different fish perhaps. But I prefer miller's thump. You know - it's a type of sculpin.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

57 noses

As part of this convict history thing we are doing at work, we are making a sophisticated Facemaker type tool. It will work a lot like this one but with sensible faces instead of silly ones, and a lot more features to choose from, skin complexions, hair and eye colour, and optional freckles, pockmarks and so on. At the moment I am lending a hand abstracting facial features from photos of about 60 people that we took a few weeks ago. Today I did 30 eyes (just the left ones) and 57 noses. My late afternoon was largely concerned with nostril definition.

This guy below caught my attention. He seems to have no eyebrow, then on closer inspection he has a tiny vestigial patch, with one big hair sprouting as if to compensate. I have quietly marked him down as Possible Alien. That's all really, just felt like sharing.

Pruning/Relationship Guidelines

We have a pruning saw that resides in a cardboard sleeve. Printed on this is a screed that begins;
Pruning Is One Of The Most Misunderstood Techniques In Gardening. 
 Right away, it's got me. It goes on to say;
By Understanding A Few Basic Rules You Can Be On Your Way To Being The Director Of Your Garden Growth.
The Director?  Wow, this pruning saw really knows which buttons to push. The whole thing is written in this way – every word has a capital letter. It resembles a 19th century Nonconformist religious tract.

What I like is that if you read between the lines, you can see that what the pruning saw really offers is relationship advice. Such as these tactful pointers;
  • Always Cut Just Before A Bud
  • Be Careful, Too Much Summer Pruning May Cause Damage, and;
  • Avoid Making Wounds Any Larger Than Necessary, This Will Promote The Healing Process

Bus driver heartbreak

The time: 6pm this evening.
The scene: The bottom end of Elizabeth St in front of the Hydro building. Only half a block from the rush hour traffic but strangely quiet. Buses are double parked.

Driver of legally parked bus, through his window:
"Look mate, I'll talk to you about it tomorrow".

Driver of double parked bus through his open door at which he is standing:  
"But I thought she liked me."

The subject of cricket arises on an American pop-culture podcast

The hosts, Jesse and Jordan, have been blatting on about computer games and baseball trivia. The guest is comedian and gaming expert Kumail Nanjiani.

Kumail Nanjiani: If you know of a podcast that specialises in cricket trivia from 1982 to 1997, let me know.
Jesse: Because you're a Pakistani American, and Pakistan is the nation of cricket, the world's premiere cricket country.
KN: We're one of the best, yeah.
Jesse: Not even England can claim to be more passionate about cricket right?
KN: No, Pakistan and India are the two most.
Jordan: Is there, like, a rivalry there?
KN: [Stunned moment of silence] What do you think? We do have nuclear weapons pointed at each other.

Monday, August 22, 2011


We were in the car on Sunday morning, and Michael was expounding one of his ropey theories. I don't recall what it was, or what his justification was, but in summing up he used the word "hence". I feel we have crossed some major threshold and there is no going back.

I HAVE JUST REMEMBERED: It wasn't anything impressive about the nature of the core of the earth, or the structure of space time - his theory was that Winston (who was in the car with us) had farted. "Hence the smell" he concluded.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Dream goal

I still play indoor soccer every Friday night. When I am trying to get to sleep, I often think back to my last game and try to remember the goals I kicked in every detail. In our game last night I scored five, so during the night each time I woke up I ran through them in my mind.

At some stage, around 2am, I had the thought; "No - there was six! That one where I was riding a horse in a race and I came off it, but then got on a motorbike and zoomed past all the other horses, and my riderless horse, and won the race. So that's six!"

Around 5am I was doing it again and I realised that I can't possibly count that, and also that I probably dreamed it.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

At home with the classical scholar

Michael was feeling a bit second-rate yesterday, so I stayed home with him today. I also have what gastroenterologists call a "funny tummy", so I was happy to be here.

Michael is very interested in foreign alphabets. As Elf's parents are both lovers of Ancient Greek we have tried to steer him in that direction, and it seems to be taking off. Bill recently sent him a couple of books on learning Greek, and they have been well received.

Michael sometimes sits with a book for an hour or more, and just absorbs knowledge through his face. He has done this with Scorpions, Flags, Egypt, Space, Disasters, Maps and Basic Science and now it seems he is doing it with Bill's books.

This morning when we got home from dropping off Elf and Marcus, the TV went on. SBS shows various foreign newses in the morning, and we struck the news in Greek, just as they were going into the sports rundown. Michael called me over - "Dad - there is soccer on TV and everything is in Greek!" So while I enjoyed the soccer highlights, Michael enjoyed the graphics.

"That word ends in kos! Something-iakos! Thessa-something! Dad, Dad, did you know what was different about an ancient lambda to what it looks like now? It had a little hangy bit."

This evening I told him the names of some Greek soccer teams and cities I know of, spelled out in our Roman alphabet. He sat there, talking to himself, and transliterated them into Greek letters. "Olympiakos - is that a short O or a long O?" And do you know what? I checked his Thessaloniki against a bilingual map I've got, and he got it right apart from the last letter, which I am putting down to an Ancient Greek/Modern Greek difference.

So. Next I will give him Genesis and we'll work our way through the Old Testament.

Monday, August 15, 2011

A quiet Saturday at Bellerive

It's been a soggy two weeks or so. Soccer has been repeatedly cancelled, so Marcus has been going a little stir-crazy. We had an early warning that due to the state of grounds, last weekend's games would be off regardless of weather, so I decided to take advantage of a free Saturday and take Marcus to the football with my Dad. As it happened it was reasonably mild and sunny, a pleasant day for sitting out in the open and watching a fairly unimportant football game.

We went to Bellerive to see mighty Clarence play lowly Hobart. The football grounds are generally all mudbaths too at the moment, but thanks to the bazillions of dollars spent on it, Bellerive drains beautifully. It merits the money because it is actually an international Test cricket ground. The fact you can go along with about 300 other people and watch 36 blokes run all over it in studded boots seems pretty amazing, but the same happens at most Australian cricket grounds in winter.

You can even go out on the famous turf in the breaks between quarters and kick the footy around yourself - one of the things that local footy has over the AFL. (The others are affordable food, easy parking and ... well that's about it really). Local ABC TV were covering the game with two cameras, so while Marcus and I capered about on field I sucked in my gut and tried to look as sporty as possible.

Hobart are the Tigers and wear the Richmond guernsey, so of course Marcus and I were determined to support them, but they are a bit of a hapless outfit. (Even more so than Richmond). They started fairly brightly but by half time they were about five goals adrift of Clarence (who are the Roos but wear the white/red Sydney guernsey). The second half was worse - with about five minutes left Clarence had kicked another 10 goals to one. Hobart squeezed in one more before full time mercifully came. Final score 20.15 (135) to 7.8 (50).

The crowd was so tiny that the fella with the winning raffle ticket numbers just carried them around on a little board and showed it to the spectators one by one. The sprinkling of Tiger diehards would have probably added up to about 80 if clumped together. For the Clarence faithful it was about as exciting as watching a training run. As we filed out of the ground, past the statue of Boonie, there was a distinct lack of buzz. Even the bloke who won the raffle didn't look too thrilled at having to carry home his new, cheap, vacuum cleaner. But the three of us enjoyed our day out.

We went back over to Mum and Dad's new place for a cup of tea and some post-game analysis. Mum gave Marcus half a bottle of fizzy drink, and sent the rest home with us for Michael, along with a little choccie each. Ensuring kids get a regular top-up of sugar is such a classic Grandma thing isn't it?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Return of the cockies

We haven't seen our magpies for quite a while now, but we seem to have been adopted by this pair of sulphur-crested cockatoos. Winston would like to be friends, but is a little bit scared of them. Which is his attitude to many things, ranging from Hattie to my father's trombone.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Nooget exploration and conquest

\mathbb{N} \mathbb{O} \mathbb{O} \mathbb{G} \mathbb{E} \mathbb{T}    \mathbb{E} \mathbb{X} \mathbb{P} \mathbb{A} \mathbb{N} \mathbb{S} \mathbb{I} \mathbb{O} \mathbb{N}

Michael makes the most adorably chubby maps of the world. On this one he has finally located for us his homeland he is always talking about, Noogetswan (the whale-shape in Siberia). Unfortunately the lines Michael has drawn show "Noogetswan conquering Tasmania, Iceland and part of Greenland". I asked him what the Noogets would do with these territories once they were in their thrall. Would they be kind to the Tasmanians, Icelanders and Inuit? "No".

Saturday, August 06, 2011

School Quiz Night

Some weeks back when it was announced we would be having a fund-raising quiz night, we were immediately snaffled by our friend The Fewst to be on her team. She even paid for us, as a gesture to say thanks to Elf for shuttling her son from school to her work once a week. We suspect she also thought we would shore up the team in some vital knowledge areas.

Mum and Dad were roped in to look after Marcus, Michael, Miah and Karri, as Imp and Ed were also quiz-bound, although in a different team. The kids were fed, pyjama'd and toothbrushed before we left. As Elf, Imp and Ed went out the door Michael said "Where are they going?" I said "We're going to the quiz night". Michael said "Great!" and scooted out the door. I put him straight quick smart, pointing out that he was wearing pyjamas for a reason.

We arrived at the school gym, and split off into our teams. I was expecting to be cold but there were about 170 people crammed in, and we were soon peeling off layers. We had to name our team, which task fell to me. Fewst's Flamingos. Harmless enough. By the time The Fewst heard the name it was in the hands of the scorers. "Oh NO, how embarrassing!!!" she wailed.

Off we went. We had a variety of people in the team, no-one that we knew very well. Everyone was very pleasant and mostly played nice. But we had to do that swap-answers-for-marking thing, and The Fewst seemed determined to mark hard. We had to keep chivvying her to be fair. Not only that, the very first tough question saw her fish out her iPhone. "Fewst, you can't do that!!!" "Why not?"

An early question was "How would you cut a circular cake into 8 equal pieces with 3 straight cuts?" I have heard this before, so I explained you cut down the middle, then right angles to that (4 pieces) then horizontally through the whole cake parallel to the table (8 pieces). Our captain tried to draw this, and didn't quite get it. Her 2nd attempt was going down the same track, so I offered to draw it. No big deal, took a few seconds, and the other less artistically inclined team members all said "ooh, look at that, lovely". The Fewst sulked for quite some time about me "criticising her drawing". When the time came to swap answers with the next table, she proposed marking theirs wrong when they had drawn something exactly the same as hers. Sheesh.

Anyway. The whole thing was terrifically well organised. Parents from the school had donated an amazing array of things, including this beautiful framed print by Maddy Goodwolf, worth over $1000. There was a silent auction for a wide range of stuff, and a proper auctioneer (hup 400 400 400 400 hup 450 450 do I have 5, do I have 5 thankyousir 500 hup etc) taking live bids (and even phone bids) for the big ticket items like the print (shown below). The whole thing appeared to be a roaring success in terms of raising funds for the school.

We were in front in the scoring about threequarters of the way through. We were getting good answers from all quarters, The Fewst coming through very nicely with the correct term for the white bumpy bits on southern right whales (callosities).

We were asked: what was the name of the actual dog who first played Lassie? I happened to have looked it up 3 days ago, and stunned the team by getting it right (Pal). All going well.

Then came the Trash and Treasure round. A list of things had to be found and presented to the scorers, including a bra, a tampon, a condom, a high-heeled shoe, a band-aid, lip balm, etc etc. We did very badly here, and we all agreed that it lowered the tone somewhat. Then again, we had already been given a list of place-names and had to find the one that was fake. The list included Middelfart, Fucking*, Anus, Bollocksberg, Crapstone, Wetwang and Penistone. So, yeah, the tone was low already. *It's real, and can be found in Austria.

In the end we came second, and won a motley swag of musk sticks, tiny Easter eggs, and bizarrely a large jar of satay sauce. As I was stressing about how late up we were keeping Mum and Dad, Imp approached with a large man she wanted me to meet. Turns out he is a more-or-less professional quizzer, who wants to add me to his roster of reliable team members. He even carries around a spreadsheet with his recent results to show prospective draftees.

I said he could give me a call - but I am starting to go off the idea a bit. The idea of a grim team of hand-picked specialists going around cleaning up at the expense of teams of actual fun-loving friends - it's not really cricket is it?

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Culture in your DNA

“Dad, when people change cultures, does that affect their DNA? Like when the aborigines moved to NZ and became Maoris?” - Michael.

We were on our way home from an appointment with the visiting cardiologist at the Royal Hobart. (All good as far as they can tell). I said “That's a great question, but the aborigines didn't go to New Zealand”. Michael claimed he had read it in a book. I said as far as I knew the Maoris came from the Pacific to New Zealand in around 1000AD, and they called their home island Hawaiki. This (although a bit shaky) had enough detail to convince him I knew what I was talking about.

I told him that the aborigines did have a big cultural change when white people came this country with guns, smallpox and sheep. Very few aboriginals still live a traditional life, mostly they have embraced or been forced into a western way of life. But no, it would have no effect on their DNA as far I know.

Michael was very patient while we waited for the doctor - we had a 2.20 appointment and went in at about 3.30, which always happens. He was unfazed by the chest ultrasound and spoke to the doctor very confidently about a few odd pains he's had - which we think are just normal stitch from running and so on. I was very proud of him.

And then on the way home he came out with his super question. What a kid.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Letting her swimming do the talking, eh?

Another scene

For some reason I found myself in another emotional scene today. Well, I was emotional. My friend that I was kicking out of the house took it pretty well.

I have a friend with kids at the school, who likes to drop in with them on their way home on Wednesdays. Wednesday is my only pick-up-from-school day, when I finish early at work, stride up to there as fast as I can, and bring the boys home in the car I cunningly leave there in the morning. An afternoon at home is a great opportunity to get things done around the house, spend some time with the boys, walk the dog, or even just let the kids do their thing while I have a coffee and sit in the sun doing nothing. None of which will happen if we have visitors.

My friend's little girl who is Michael's age loves to see Winston. They don't have much space or sunlight at their small place up the valley from us. My friend doesn't work, and doesn't get to spend all that much time with other adults. I understand all that, and I have only twice knocked back requests to visit (with the reason that Marcus has important homework to concentrate on).

Once, they had just arrived, when my friend asked would it be OK to leave the kids with me while he went downtown on the bus to do something (doesn't drive). I think I was open-mouthed for a while but then said yes. Today he asked at school if I would take them up to our place while he walked in the other direction to return some DVDs. I said yes, but decided on the way home (driving slowly so I wouldn't have a collision causing the airbag to decapitate Marcus) that this would be the last time.

After a while he turned up. Usually I make coffee but today I was determined to hold him to his suggestion that they wouldn't stay long. I did the dishes while he hung around. Outside, Michael and the visiting kids were stabbing a cardboard box with pencils. I was just working up to saying "no more Wednesday visits" when the boy, who is Grade 6 and should know better, pretended to stab Michael in the head with his sharp pencil.

I went ballistic. I have got quite used to parenting my friend's kids in front of him, as he doesn't seem to care how they cross a road, or eat a piece of drippy fruit. In this case I gave his son a dressing down while both father and son looked at me blankly.

With my dander up, I told my friend that we needed a break from visits, that daylight time at home is precious in winter and there's no way I can do anything that needs doing etc and so forth. He said that was fine, and didn't seem to take offence, but continued to hang around for another fifteen minutes.

I don't know. Was I being unfair?