Sunday, September 25, 2011


For some reason my camera decided it was an iPhone when I took this, and gave it a kind of faux-nostalgic colour treatment. I took this to capture a very unusual sight - Michael (on the right) reading fiction. His usual reading position is squatting, with a big hardback nonfiction book on the floor in front of him. Full of facts. Today he somehow started reading The Incredible Journey and its really grabbed him, although it contains almost no volcanoes.

Thanks to the big occasion yesterday the house is looking quite tidy and stylish. In fact I might forward this to Unhappy Hipsters and see what they make of it.

Mum turns 70

Our adorable mother turned 70 on Friday. She doesn't seem anything like my imagined picture of a seventy-year-old, so I am now updating my imagined picture to match. Try to keep up, you other 70 year olds! [to be fair this pic was taken in 2007]

I have to thank Mum's brother Peter for alerting me to the fact that this birthday was a biggie. In fact when he called my first reaction was "Er... do you mean sixty?" Peter was stuck in Hong Kong on a business trip and couldn't be at the party we had yesterday, but we are looking forward to seeing him down here very soon. The last time he was in Tasmania, a black and white photo was taken of him holding me - I'm wearing a very fetching size 0 romper suit.

It's amazing to think that Mum was born during World War 2, while her dad was away in New Guinea fighting the Japanese. The world has changed so much in that time.

Here in Tasmania in 2011, we had a big lunch in Mum's honour yesterday. There was much too much food, but that is standard. We started with a walk - out the back gate and then up, up, up to the very top of the hill. Before Mum and Dad moved down south, Mum went on quite demanding walks every Monday with a group of ladies. Yesterday's was just a trundle compared to that, but still too much for the boys, who turned back threequarters of the way up, taking Elf and Winston with them.

Shortly after we got back, Sally and Matt and Arthur arrived and the serious eating began. I bought some massive king prawns and made a curry coconut dip to go with. Dad and I were struggling with the whole de-veining thing, and I had to get Mum to come to the rescue. She grew up in Sydney where a bucket of prawns was about as common as fish fingers today. I also made a blue cheese dip which was just right - not too bland, but also not belting you around the head with bitey-ness.

Then we had lemon and dill salmon with roasted vegies. I bought the fish already marinated, and cooked up the violently green marinade to serve as a sort of olive-green gravy. The boys did not like the salmon, which is a shame because they love it when it's not gussied up this way. The fillets were all different sizes and I didn't quite match up the rare and well-done ones with the right people - but complaints were muted and it was generally well-received.

One of Dad's duties was to bring some of Mum's favourite music. We started with Andrea Boccelli, an Italian tenor who unfortunately hangs out with some bad 80s-style session rock guitarists. I put up with this as I ran around because I know he is dear to Mum's heart. When it finished, Dad put on the greatest hits of Roger Miller. During Chug-A-Lug I asked Mum - do you actually like Roger Miller? Mum was non-committal.

Sally made an amazing baked lemon cheesecake, and Mum blew out the candles in one go. I forgot to mention that I'd decided to make mocktails - as none of us are big drinkers and it would a) include the kids and b)make us less likely to doze off mid-afternoon. It was while I was mixing the second round of pineapple/apricot/cream frothies that I reflected it had been a bad day for my cholesterol-lowering campaign.

As is the way of these things, eventually the footy on the TV went on, people fell asleep (despite mocktails), and events noodled to a conclusion. I was dog-tired, went for a short lie down at the boys' bedtime, and crashed hard. Organising things is outside my comfort zone, and I think I had probably been over-revving my brain a little bit for the occasion.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Chinese-ish alphabet by Michael

I can't ask Michael any details about this, as I found it in a folder labelled "My Top Secret Folder". It's nice though.

Talking to Americans about capital punishment

We used to execute people here in Australia too - but we don't anymore. Like slavery, race and sex discrimination, execution is an abhorrent leftover of a earlier time. I am an opponent of the death penalty in all forms, for all crimes. Not everyone shares this view.

Today's execution in Georgia of Troy Davis might be the wake-up call to some Americans to seek the repeal of the death penalty. I do not know if Davis was innocent or guilty, but having a read a bit about the case, can anyone say there was no doubt? The political nature of the appeal process is simply disgusting, and an embarrassment to a country that seeks to lead the world in its dedication to fairness, justice and equality.

In today's news, new DNA evidence casts doubt on the guilt of the last man executed when George W. Bush was governor of Texas. If none of the humanitarian arguments for repeal make a difference to you, at least consider this: governments make mistakes. Please remove from their control the capacity to mistakenly kill someone. Join the NOT IN MY NAME campaign to repeal the death penalty across America.

But what about someone who is 100% guilty of the most depraved murder? Such as Lawrence Russell Brewer, executed yesterday in Texas for the murder of James Byrd Jr, dragged behind a truck to his death just because he was black? The victim's son said "You can't fight murder with murder … Life in prison would have been fine. I know he can't hurt my daddy anymore. I wish the state would take in mind that this isn't what we want." If he can forgive his father's murderer, what gives you or Governor Rick Perry or anyone else the right to take the man's life?

Countries that still practice capital punishment: Belarus · China · Cuba · Egypt · India · Iran · Israel · Japan · Malaysia · Mongolia · North Korea · Pakistan · Saudi Arabia · Singapore · South Korea · Taiwan  · Tonga · United States · Vietnam

Remove your country from this list. Join the NOT IN MY NAME campaign to repeal the death penalty across America.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


We were all invited down to the country on Sunday, to the visit one of Michael's classmates. They were keen for us to take Winston too, as they are considering dog ownership.

They live at Mountain River - which sounds like a John Denver song but is a nice little valley near Huonville, south of Hobart. Fleur and Elf took Winston for a walk and introduced him to some cows who were fascinated by his lopey dopeyness.

Meanwhile Peter and I took the 4 kids down to the eponymous river, where they all got more or less saturated, rock-hopping. They've got a great swimming hole there, and lovely chestnut horses to look at.

We headed back to the house via the bottom paddock, home to 8 anglo-nubian goats - they of the long floppy ears. One, named Gilbert, is the pet-iest of them, and in fact lets the kids ride him. Marcus had a go, and rode him very comfortably for a couple of minutes. He has a very assured seat, considering he has had no riding training, and he was on a goat.

I didn't take my camera, but I did take that 21st century wonder the camera phone. I have a movie of the ride, but I have to edit out the hosts' kids before I show the world.

Before the other kids got their turn riding Gilbert, Fleur and Elf returned with Winston. It was decided to let him off the lead to wander free and befriend the goats. The goats did not like this idea, assumed a defensive formation and fled - no more goat rides. No harm done though - he came back when called. I am 98% sure he thought they were long-legged dogs.

I cook

I got it into my head to make an Asian stir-fry thing for dinner last night. This is not an area of my expertise, but I have been eating a lot of noodley lunches and I felt like inflicting something similar on the family.

I have only spent one day in south east Asia, and that was just a very long wait at Kuala Lumpur airport en route to India. But a meal I had there has stuck in my mind ever since - simple mound of rice with a few shreds of something green, served with chili sauce, fish sauce, a sprinkle of raw peanuts and a sprinkle of tiny dried fish - probably anchovies. It was magnificent airport food - which is not supposed to exist.

I went shopping in the Asian Section and got the tiny fish (tasty but heartbreaking), lime juice, coconut milk, and some palm sugar. I have seen this mentioned and had a clear idea of how it would taste - I was wrong. The stuff I tried had no real flavour and I will just use brown sugar in future.

Hmm. I started this several days ago and I'm not sure what I was going to go on to say. Probably that I cooked a kind of stir fry but with the wrong kind of noodles, too wet - then compounded the error by throwing in a small tin of coconut milk at the end. Recipe? Er - more of a vibe. It turned into a kind of part laksa, part hot 'n' spicy wallpaper paste.

If it was gymnastics, I would say it was a lovely routine spoiled by a fall near the end  - but I got back on that balance beam, soldiered on, and nailed the dismount perfectly (crunchy dried fish and cashews scattered over it were ace).

Crying windows

We were out on the hunt for a wood stove again on the weekend. The boys were bored out of their brains so I gave them my phone and told them to take some photos to pass the time. [A sentence that would make no sense to a person in 1990]. This is probably the best pic.

In other phone news; my predictive text dictionary is a bit eclectic. When I start typing PARSLEY its first guess is PAPPLEWICK. On the other hand when I start typing OCTOP it has no idea at all where I'm heading.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Nineteen seconds in the Southern Ocean

This is out by The Friars, off the south coast of Bruny Island. There are fur seals on the rocks but they are hard to see.

Monday, September 12, 2011

3 days on the island - 3.5

Saturday morning was a shocker. My wife managed to have us all up and dressed by 7.30. The rain sheeted down. It was too early to visit anyone. Um.

There was a slight break in the weather and we drove down to the concrete pontoon that seemed to be the best spot for catching something (colds). By the time we were out of the car - precipitation. Blustery wind. I had a sense that five minutes of "fishing" in this might at least put the subject to bed for a few months.

Marcus is actually pretty deft with the fishing rod, so I put it together and left him to it while I got Michael going with a handline. Waves washed over the pontoon behind us. It was eerily similar to the wet 'n' wild ride of the day before.

"Dad - what do you do when this happens?" Marcus's rod had a decorative but unhelpful snarl of line, great frothy loops of it everywhere. After about three-and-a-half minutes fishing was over. Again - back in the car, back home, drying by the fire.

We cleaned the shack, and at a more sociable hour drove over to visit Lorraine. She has a lovely spot with quite a bit of land - a big vege plot, chooks etc. Elf's boss Jude and her daughter were there - they had come over the day before to go to a play in Adventure Bay. We had thought of going too, but thankfully we were too knackered.

Jude's review was; it was very long, very deep, worked on lots of levels - not very good though. But the raspberry slice at intermission was just like her mum used to make! I looked at the program, and there was a character in it named Nurse Nicebottom.

And that was it. We drove back to Roberts Point to catch the ferry home. We just had time to buy some chocolate at the tiny shop there, and use the toilets out the back. The toilets are fantastic! There are potplants, and the line of urinals is decorated with a print of an old painting of the founding of Hobart, which hangs at eye level. There are various bits of ephemera tacked to the walls, including a couple of pages from a manual on ejaculation control.

Fifteen minutes on the ferry and twenty-five on the road later, we were home. Winston was pleased to see us, but after spending three days with three other dogs, he was just so tired from playing all day. Two days later he is practically back to normal.

3 days on the island - 3

The lads rugged up for cruising. Nicest pic I have taken of them in years!
The main action on Friday was our 3-hour "cruise" with Bruny Island Cruises. I put that in quotes because it was far from your relaxing Sunday lunch cruise on a big boat with a seafood buffet, lovely view out the windows and a stroll on the deck if you feel like it.

We went out on a 12.5m Naiad, a sort of semi-inflatable thing. The guides said "it will be roughest up front, a fair amount of bouncing over waves, so if you have any back or neck issues please move further back". The boys yelled "Up front! Up front!" We sat up front. We were all issued with raincoats that came down to our ankles. The smallest ones were vast on the boys.

Pics above and below from Bruny Island Cruises
It was really wonderful! The staff were very relaxed and considerate, and seemed to be enjoying themselves. The whole thing seems very professional, which is a great comfort when you are being thumped about by the Southern Ocean.

Once out of Adventure Bay the water got rougher, the boat sped up and we got our first spine-bashing. The boys were squealing with delight, although they were at the very front with nothing ahead of them to hang onto. The front few rows all have seatbelts, but I found I needed to do a lot of hanging on with my hands, forcing myself back down into my seat. It's when your bum leaves the seat as you go over the top of a wave, that you know you are going to be in big trouble at the bottom of the trough.
Seals never come out in these pictures, but there are about 40 of them. Also not visible: stink of dead squid.

Mighty sea cliffs on the south coast of Bruny. The water is intensely green thanks to phytoplankton. Scale hint: the tiny plants on top are in fact large trees.
I was relating all this to workmates today and I think the fairest description is that I enjoyed 90% of the boat trip, the boys about 75% and Elf about 50%. We would all happily do it again but preferably on a calmer day. There is one stretch where you go around a point and leave the Tasman Sea, entering the Southern Ocean. Here you get whacked by a swell that has come almost uninterrupted from Africa - and that was really nasty. Once we got to The Friars (the rocks pictured above strewn with fur seals) things calmed down a bit - nature's way of helping tourists take thousands of seal photos.

The ride home was rough as the crew were trying to find some whales, dolphins or at least an albatross for us to gawp at. This entailed some zigzagging, more spine-bashing and a great deal of spray in the face. By now all our feet were wet and Elf's pants were pretty much saturated, and Michael was huddled down inside an oversized coat, seething (as only he can) about the cold. The crew handed out Shapes and Tim Tams, and one stood between Michael and the worst of the weather.

Soon enough we were in sight of the dock, then onto dry land and cheering up. We had pre-ordered lunch like most of the passengers. Everyone was feeling similarly breathless, battered and wet I think. The rolls were nice and fresh but assembled in that inside-out way that assumes you want to see everything that's in it, and then poke it all in to place yourself. I call this the Pre-Zeps Campbell Town method of serving a salad roll - it has not died out.

Then we drove home, and I think the rest of the day was spent drying by the fire. My feet were solid purple and I treated myself to an old-fashioned footbath to warm up. The weather stayed bad, and we started to think that one more night might do us. However it was resolved that rain or hail notwithstanding, in the morning we would visit Lorraine, and go fishing, before we pulled the plug.

The AFL finals started that night, and I sat up to 11.00 listening to the radio by the fire, as Geelong 14.14 (98) d. Hawthorn 9.13 (67)

Soccer: great sport, disgusting administration

An advance rant I just posted elsewhere about tonight's 4 Corners program which reveals corruption in Australia's World Cup bid process.
If you are using the disgusting corruption at this level to denigrate the worth of soccer as a sport, you are a bonehead. If you have ever blathered about The World Game being so superior and the World Cup the finest event blah blah etc - you are also a bonehead.

I love soccer, loathe FIFA, and deeply regret that Australia got its hands dirty by participating in the bid for an event that is a byword for graft. The wasted money is just an extra kick in the teeth.

FIFA insisted that South Africa allow it to set up its own court system. How any democratic country could be interested in bidding for this is beyond me - except for the fact that particular vested interests can see it will bring them rivers of cash.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

3 Days on the Island - 2

Thursday. More rain. We decided to get on the road for the first half of the day and pick out some good wave-ski spots for when the sun appeared. We got down to Cape Bruny lighthouse, a handsome building designed by John Lee Archer (who also did Hobart's Parliament House among many others). In the 1830s it was lit by whale oil, and burned a pint of it per hour. It was manned for 158 years.

Around the lighthouse area are a few of those "no entry" signs showing the silhouette of a man with severe stomach cramps. Either that or he is making a beeline to give someone a good telling-off.

From there we took a side-road to have a look at Jetty Beach. So named because in the 1830s all the materials for building the lighthouse were landed there at a jetty and hauled overland about 10km to the cape. Apart from a small smelly dead shark, it was quite a beautiful spot.

There is a dirt (mud) road over Mt Mangana to Adventure Bay, so we took that in the hope of having a good view on the way over the top. The alternative is a much longer drive back through Alonnah. Unfortunately the road is pretty bad, it was raining harder and we never quite found the lookout. The road runs through dense tall trees and you really see nothing until you get back down to the coast.

Adventure Bay is really something though. On a better day it would have looked like this:
(Image stolen from Tasmania i-Drive)
Although it does not have a pub, it does have a general store, café, bowls club, caravan park, the Bligh Museum and Bruny Island Cruises. Until we drove past their sign we had forgotten all about those guys, which is surprising because they are a very high profile phenomenon. Elf ran in and booked us on a cruise for the next morning - it was pricey but very highly recommended to us by everyone who has done it.

We went into the Bligh Museum, which is an oddly masonic-looking stone building near Captain Cook Creek. It turns out this whole area of coastline hardly had five minutes peace between visits from Tasman, Cook, Bligh, Flinders, Furneaux and Bruni D'Entrecasteaux (who got the place named after him).

The museum is one of those classic enthusiast-run places with amazing journals and artifacts just sitting about, intermingled with bad photocopies of other documents and photos. Most of the explorers had some sort of South Pacific connection, which explains the startling rack of war clubs from Fiji, Tonga, the Solomons, Hawaii and New Zealand.

Something I thought was very interesting was a hand-coloured version of this map by Sir John Hayes.

I have never seen the old name for Tasmania, "Van Diemen's Land" applied to only part of the island. It is quite clear on the coloured version that Hayes considered this name as a Dutch claim to the part of the coast west of South East Cape. The other side of this point he considered to be his to name and claim, and he called the part south of the Derwent ‘New Cumberland’ and the rest ‘New Yorkshire’. He also called Mt Wellington ‘Skiddaw’. None of these names stuck.

So - forgive me if that seems really dull, it struck me as interesting. From the museum we ducked into the funny little general store for some general stores for lunch, then went into the Penguin Café next door for a pick-me-up. It is also a funny little place, crammed with crafts. The chunky knitted fish was a highlight. After coffee we drove back to Alonnah the saner but longer way.

After lunch, with the rain in recess, we got it in our heads to walk to the little Alonnah shop. It took about 20 minutes each way, along a narrow sometimes-dirt road, with occasional cars sending us lurching into the long grass. We got a few things and some lollies to keep up morale and struggled back again. At one point I could see along the beach to our neighbouring shack's boathouse, and I got everyone to follow me to try this great shortcut. Halfway there we realised we couldn't ford the creek without getting wet to the shins, so we retreated to the road.

Our shack had a great little woodfire, and we spent quite a bit of the holiday sitting around it, drying. That night we went to the pub (by car) for a counter meal. Today Tonight (junk current affairs for nongs) was on the TV. Exciting news, new university research has found an appetite suppressant that is helping people lose a kilo per week! It turned out to be a product already in the shops, made by Swisse, an incessant advertiser on this very channel. Sigh. Elf noticed a couple of days later that it was sold out in the biggest pharmacy here.

3 Days on the Island - 1

We came back today from a short, wet holiday on Bruny Island. We were supposed to stay an extra day but since home was just an hour's drive plus a ferry ride away, we gave in to frustration and came home. Plus we missed the dog. Elf teed up our accommodation through a workmate, Lorraine, who lives over there. A friend of hers has a small place at Alonnah, on South Bruny.

Wednesday. Elf and the boys picked me up at work in the afternoon. Winston had been dropped off with his buddy Mochi for a dog holiday. The wave ski was strapped to the car (where it would stay until we got home). We drove down to Kettering to the car ferry, about 40 minutes. (It's ridiculous how close to home Bruny is, and I have only been there twice in my life). The ferry has had a little trouble lately with the small engine that manoeuvers it into the jetty - so it is currently followed back and forth by its li'l buddy the tugboat, who does the nudging.

The ferry takes only about 15 minutes. We drove off it, onto the north end of the island and headed down the only significant road, to Alonnah. We stopped at the lookout on the isthmus that joins North Bruny to South Bruny, but the weather turned us back when we were halfway up the steep steps. Oh well, the joy of being on an isthmus outweighs the sadness of not seeing the view. All our isthmuses had come at once - chortle.

The view we didn't see. D'Entrecasteaux Channel on the right, Tasman Sea on the left.
Alonnah is a very small town but it has a school, PO, pub, online access centre and tiny shop. It is proud of being the "administrative centre" of the island. Our place was about 3 minutes drive from the action - a small concrete block 4-room shack, with a ferny swampy creek running behind it down to the beach. As soon as we arrived the boys dived into the ferny swamp and we didn't really see them until we called them out of the darkness for dinner. Evening: drawing and dominos by the fire.

Monday, September 05, 2011

A solo on my sports trumpet

I had a triumphant weekend in three extremely trivial sporting areas, and I feel like telling the world.
  1. On Friday night my soccer team won 8-2. I netted a lazy five in the first half. We are on top of the ladder, and are generally considered by the rest of the comp to be fat irritating old bastards.
  2. With the last roster round of the footy, I sealed victory in my work football tipping comp. I have had a couple of lengths' lead on everyone for several months, so it's been a bit of a slow burn, but I finished on 145. I came 11,051st nationally, which doesn't sound so good but I was in the top 2%. For all those dying to know, I am planning to spend the winnings on a light woollen jumper.
  3. Also in the realm of football, I have been competing in 3 Supercoach leagues this year. It's a fantasy competition, with 16 teams to a league, where you pick a squad from all the real AFL players and your team scores according to their minutely statisticised performances each weekend. Of the three leagues I was very focussed on the Friends one, fairly focussed on the Workmates one, and didn't really give two hoots about the other which I joined as a favour to try to fill it up. I thought of them as like the seniors, reserves and Under 19s. I made the last 4 of each league, but lost the reserves Preliminary Final last week, to leave me in two Grand Finals over this past weekend. I lost the Under 19s grannie, but triumphed in the big one. Having finished 7th on the ladder I had to do it the hard way, winning 4 knock-out finals to lift the (imaginary) trophy. It was very satisfying, as I have put a lot of work into managing my team along the way.

⌘C ⌘V from twitter - apologies

Coles suggest "for a vegetarian twist on lasagne try thinly sliced chargrilled zucchini to replace the pasta". The pasta?

Overheard from Saturday morning cartoons: "I give you my word, as a Smurf".

Just received my first ever email from my son. Just sent my first ever email signed "xx Dad".

Kelvedon Hatch Secret Nuclear Bunker

When I was a kid I had an idea that I would end up working in a room like this. From a beautiful set of photos here that I found via the Nerdy Day Trips collaborative Google map.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Lunchtime walk through Battery Point

View Larger Map

I had to wait 25 minutes for some files to compress and that was just enough time to walk from work to here and back. It's spring!