Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Fluffy Winston Book of Communication by MJR

It is suffering a little from chocolate cake stains, but this is Michael's latest unfinished project.

Giant mechanical person-operated robot, by MJR

Crane by MJR

Scoreboard Pressure

My earliest memories of football (around 1973-4) are of games broadcast on B & W television, from a single, high camera. This was a replay on Sunday, usually after we got home from church. The thing that grabbed me most was the scoreboard! Lovely big white numbers on a black background.

When there was a score – even a lowly behind – there would be a flurry of activity. The goal ump, in those days in a long white coat and hat, would dash across for his single flag, and give it a twirly wave. And the scoreboard would quickly slip from 5 behinds to 6, from 112 points to 113, but the camera would probably be on the fullback kicking out.

If it was a goal, the ump would dash the other way to his two flags and give them the full up, across, back, down, with a degree of flair that varied from 'plenty' to 'Robert Helpmann-esque excess'. In those days the crowd threw miles of streamers (or at Victoria Park, toilet paper), and waved giant pom-poms called floggers that you don't see so much now.

But the best thing about a goal, for 5-year-old me, was seeing the numbers on the scoreboard roll crazily around. [I felt the same thrill when Dad was filling the car up with 'super' at a petrol bowser.] Occasionally a small window would open in the scoreboard, and the mysterious dark world within would be vaguely seen. 'There are people in there!' I thought.

I still love scoreboards. And I am not alone. Recently The Age had an article about a blog called Scoreboard Pressure, documenting beautiful scoreboards across Australia and overseas. It is written by Les in Perth and Vin in Melbourne. I sent them some pics I took in 2008 of the rickety grandstand and tiny scoreboard at Derby in north east Tasmania, and they have published them. Between Vin, myself and one of the blog readers, we have put together a story. If anyone knows any more - please fill me in!

Myponga,SA. Ozzy Osbourne played there. Yep. © Scoreboard Pressure

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Quadruped chuckles

Having a dog and cat that hate each other would be pretty bad. Having a dog and cat that adore each other would be pretty cute, but after a while you would just take it for granted that they were always snugsy-wugsy. It may even be a little cloying.

Having a dog and cat who are quite fascinated with each other, but are still working out the power balance in their relationship - that's comedy gold. The double-take, the double-double-take, the slow burn, the fake insouciance, the completely-boneless posture betrayed by the darting eyes - it all leaves Ross and Rachel's travails in Friends for dead.

Movember winding down/up

As I mentioned the other day, I have grown a ludicrous moustache to raise money for charity. If you would like to sponsor me click this handy HTML link. Donations over $2 are tax deductible in Australia, the physical home of this blog.

So far I have raised $625 - about 4 times what I was expecting to get. Thanks very much to all my sponsors so far, with a special mention for Edwin Aplin and Claudia Banks who stumped up a big fifty apiece.

Why not step up to the plate and see if you can push me past $750?

Friday, November 25, 2011

A history of planes, by Michael

This is well worth a close-up look. It starts with "early planes" and comes right up to a prediction of "future planes" and even "exo-future planes" I had to ask what "exo-future" means. Apparently it's after the future.

The Shortest History of Europe by John Hirst

This is a great little book that I have just begun. It seems to have been written for first year Arts students. It is essentially 8 lectures - the first two cover the entire history of Europe, then the next six focus on particular aspects like Language, Kings and Popes, Invasions and Conquests, and so on. I particularly like his simple diagrams like this one.

It's an Australian book, published by Black Inc

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Noted triathalete Marcus, with one of his biggest fans

Marcus competed in the Schools Challenge triathalon today. Last year he was the runner in a team of three boys - this year he did it all as an individual competitor. We have all been a bit nervous about his bike - its pretty shabby compared to a lot of the other kids'. But I brushed off the cobwebs and most of the rust spots, and had it looking reasonably respectable.

We went over to Bellerive Beach to watch. The race starts on the beach, with a run into the water, then a swim (or wade) out and around a buoy, then along the beach for 50 metres, wade up onto shore and run into the Transition Zone to get on the bike. Marcus did a bit of practice of quickly towelling the feet dry and getting the shoes and socks on, but in the moment he decided just to pull them on over his wet feet. And it worked out fine.

The ride is 2.5km, on a slightly sloping out/back course. We didn't see any of the bike leg - there is a very large parent pack trying to follow the race, doing transitions of their own, and we were stuck in the middle of that. So we headed for a spot where we could see and encourage Marcus as he headed off for the run.

When he came by he was about 30th of around 50 kids, but looking very fresh. The run leg is only 500 metres, but up and back down a reasonable stiff gradient. He did very well and caught up quite a bit - he thinks he finished about 20th.

The organisers did a sterling job. There were apparently 1100 bikes there today - that is a lot to keep track of, quite apart from the kids themselves. Everything ran on time, and there was general air of relaxed but effective control of the whole thing. We thought the whole thing was terrific.

© PMC Photography

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Proud B+

I gave blood at Red Cross today. If you ask me I'll tell you off the top of my head I do it about every 6 months or so. In fact every time I actually get in there it turns out to have been 18 months at least.

I am always grumpy at the blood bank. Do these people realise I am not a person who comes into town? I do not "shop" - there is just no time, for one thing. Being downtown during the day, on a weekday no less, is a freaky alternate universe to me.

[I look around myself at the other people on the go, and think "too old for school, too young for a Seniors Card, too neat for Centrelink - what are you doing here?" It must be awful to have a business that relies on passing trade, when most of the passing trade has either a schoolbag, a walking stick or Fallout Boy hair and multiple facial piercings.] OK - now remember stereotypes are OK as long as they are within square brackets. Let's move on.

So anyway, here I am, convinced that my time is precious, and I have to wait to be given a form to fill out, then wait for someone to grill me about what I wrote in the form. Having visited my doctor once since my last blood donation, I have to try to remember why, and what was prescribed and when I  finished taking it. (Do people remember this stuff? I just can't.) So then sometimes we have to call the doctor's surgery in case the pharmaceuticals I took for a sore toe 12 months ago might be still making my blood fizzy, or green, or gelatinous - (or whatever).

So I am cranky as hell by the time I get plopped in a La-Z-Boy, and they start draining my vital fluids into a bag to give to strangers. By this point I have been asked my DOB and full name about 6 times. Have I convinced anyone out there to donate yet?

Anyway, the reason I was there today was that I saw a story in the paper that blood stocks were low. The whole country has 2 days' supply, and it should have 5. Usually the room where the donating happens is pretty quiet, but today it was flat out. And while I was sitting there, I had an attitude adjustment. This is a good organisation, and what they are doing is very important. The red tape that had been driving me up the wall made sense.

The people getting this blood aren't lucky people like everyone there giving - you can't donate unless you are healthy. Even if you develop a sniffle the next day you need to call the blood bank, and they could well discard your blood. This is because the people getting the blood are seriously ill, injured, weak - they really need your blood but they can't fight your germs. It's a big deal really. And of course if they are not very careful about identities, and they put your B+ blood in a B- person, I think that person explodes. Or something.

It's a great thing to be able to say "I'm a lucky person to be healthy, not recently tattooed and working in a job/living in a location where I can get to a blood bank when its open." And unlucky people, all kinds of unlucky people, get to take advantage of my luckiness. It's like a luck transfusion. And at the end, Red Cross Australia give you a muffin and a chocolate milkshake.

So I am now going to try very hard to give blood every 12 weeks, and I urge you to think about doing it too. Here is a quick quiz to establish if you are eligible to give blood in Australia. If it helps, focus on the milkshake.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Wallace's many faces

These are Wallace's equivalent of the faces Eleanor Rigby keeps "in a jar by the door". Rather than constantly squooshing his face into different shapes, they usually just swap out the bottom half for a semi-permanent unit that is giving them the right embouchure for that frame.

Images from Cracking Animation by Peter Lord & Brian Sibley, published by Thames & Hudson

Photos of Winston and self, by Marcus

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Mugshots by ©®

This is a bloke named Frank Soda, from a 1946 mug shot found online at Small Town Noir. I am redrawing some of them to pass the time while I listen to the cricket from South Africa.

Monday, November 14, 2011


Some people I have seen or met in the last week

On my way to work
  • Punk with red pants and yellow mohawk, limping
  • Young man riding little girls' Malvern Star bike
  • That Michael Veitch off the radio
  • That Charles Woolley off the telly
  • That antiques-loving Scotsman off that show that was cancelled after the host was arrested for downloading contraband
At Salamanca Market stall
  • Disenchanted Victorian biker with dyed blonde ponytail. How is he liking Tasmania? "It's disappointing - it's just like Victoria, innit?"
  • Malaysian couple, he 6'6", she 4'0"
  • 70-ish lady with tattoo on calf

Sunday, November 13, 2011

RIP Peter Roebuck

Just heard a minute ago - cricket broadcaster and writer Peter Roebuck passed away overnight in South Africa. I am almost in shock - the cricket season is just getting going, and over the years he has become my primary guide to what's going on. I have been listening to and reading him every day, every summer, for many years.

I just printed and read his latest article yesterday. It's on the table and Marcus has been drawing dogs and cats on it.

Poor Peter. He's been in the blog before - I think he had a difficult life in a lot of ways. I haven't heard the details of his death but circumstances lead me to think he took his own life.

It bears saying again: sometimes a person feels like life is in a downward spiral and it just cannot be borne. But for most people, things do slowly get better - make sure you live long enough to be around when they do. That's all.

If you have never read one of his articles here is a beauty. Cricket knowledge not essential.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


I am growing a mo for Movember again this year. You can sponsor me here if you would like. The money raised goes to research into improving men's health in Australia, specifically prostate cancer and depression.

Day 10. Working on a bit of a Merv Hughes look.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

A line of questioning

[The scene - dinner]

Michael: Dad ... can feathers... burn?
Me: Mmmh.
Michael: What about leather ... can leather burn?
Elf and I: Hmm guess so rhubarb rhubarb hmmm.
Marcus: Anything made of carbon can burn.

[time passes]

Michael: What about diamonds?
Elf and I: Hmm guess so rhubarb rhubarb hmmm.
Marcus: Yep. They can burn.
Michael: What do you get when you've burned a diamond?
Marcus: Diamond ash.

[time passes]

Michael: Dad ... have we got... a blender?

Monday, November 07, 2011

Pedestrian thoughts

I work in the moderately famous cafe strip of Salamanca Place in Hobart. Most days Elf drops me in town on her way to work, and I stroll down the length of Salamanca, crossing two streets on the way. One intersection is a roundabout and the other a regular Give Way.

I am extremely determined not be killed or maimed while walking, and it is only my determination that has helped me survive these 42 years since I first became ambulant (March 1969 - in fact my first steps on Earth were just a couple of months before Neil Armstrong's first steps on the Moon).

I simply do not trust drivers to indicate/not indicate correctly, particularly in this area where most likely scoping the footpath for a free cafe table/talking on the phone/drinking a takeaway/all three while driving one-handed. So I stayed on the traffic island while a car came off the roundabout without indicating, then forty seconds later stayed on the footpath while car indicating right just kept on a-coming straight ahead.

So yeah, I survived. And I have to say we rarely hear ambulance sirens nearby at work, so I guess everyone else survives too, somehow. But I dream of one day seeing a sign or an ad campaign that simply says


Vegfest 2011

Some may be thinking "what the hell has happened to the vegie patch?" Well, my inadequately occupied friends, it lives! I went to the local hardware/garden mega-shed and carefully chose whatever they had on sale out in the carpark. Came away with parsnips, fancy lettuce, spinach and tomatoes. I believe tomatoes are tricky so if I come up with a crop there I'll be delighted. I have been cooking roasts more this year than ever before, and that's where the parsnips come into their own. They are strangely expensive in the shops for something so basic and root-vegetabular. I don't really like fancy lettuce much, although you can can pick it progressively as it grows. Last year all my icebergs were ready at once and we didn't do them justice Elf didn't like them as they were sluggy.

 I also have some chives in that I don't remember planting, and some garlic dad planted for me which is cranking along nicely. Elf bought me some mulch today and I have just mulched for the first time in my life. Felt great.

Left to right: spinach, garlic, tomatoes. Behind: grass - my specialty.

Hi, blog

Hello everyone. I am slipping out of good blogging habits and I have to fight to get them back. The blogs might be dull but I am determined to keep them coming: Vegie Garden [bam!] Give Way Signs [paff!] Indoor Soccer [kapow!] - like that.

Now - I did foreshadow the indoor soccer final. We played on Friday night and were comprehensively thumped 11-2 by a team called Los Amigos de Craig Foster. Nice guys, excellent team, and a class above us. I was still disappointed by the magnitude of the loss, and that we were 4-0 down after only about 3 or 4 minutes. It was 7-1 at halftime, and we started the 2nd half really well. Pulled it back to 7-2 and for the next ten minutes no-one scored, and we poured on the pressure. Their goalie was man-of-the-match, he stopped almost everything. With not much time left we threw everything into attack (except me - I was left stuck in goal for the last 3 minutes, after which you can't change goalies). This gave them more space and they punished us with four goals in the last 2 or 3 minutes.

Now, like the Z-grade suburban league that it is, we start again this Friday. Our venerable leader Paul is taking a season or two off, and I am taking over running the team. As you know I have a shedload of excellent* team names ready to go, but I think I had better respect the tradition and keep the white shirts and the name Knackered, although I have never liked it much. Part of me would love to invest in a handsome new kit for everyone, maybe Celtic stripes or Blackburn Rovers quarters, and sally forth with a name like Turtle Albion or Spinach United.


Saturday, November 05, 2011

Steamboat by Michael

"Diagram of how to make a steam boat move around. Electric fans push air down through tube which spins the turbine of the boat engine. Hot air from the coal fire rises, which also turns turbine, then goes out funnel. Hot air also turns a turbine making electricity to drive the fans."

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

My proper soccer comeback

Last week I was approached to help out an oldies soccer team that were short a few players. The team is run by a lady named Mel who played in our indoor team some years back. As far as I can tell its a regular men's league, but Mel is such a strong player that she prefers to play in men's teams.

Anyway, she asked Cam and I to pull the boots on and give it a go, so we did. Elf was away for a few days on a work junket, so I had to take the kids with me. I packed a variety of amusements and a folding table and chairs - I thought they would have to sit out in the open for the duration. As it happens the ground where we play has been developed a little in the 14 years since I last played (!) and there is now a nice upstairs bar/function room where the kids were able to play, read, occasionally watch the game, and eat the dinner we grabbed at Maccas on the way.

I started on the bench, and came on after about 5 minutes to play in midfield. It was completely different to indoor soccer, but it gradually came back to me what to do. I am a bit of a shouter when I play, I can't help it, and after half an hour or so I was shouting a fair bit. I shout encouragement mostly, but also to let a team-mate know I want the ball, and to call someone back to mark a man - all that sort of stuff.

Our left-back was a vaguely familiar white-haired gent. At one point I asked him if he was marking a particular opponent. He said he wasn't sure, which was honest at least. I said I'd mark him, and sent the left-back to guard the sideline. I happened to see him again this evening at Little Athletics, when I finally realised that I had been shouting at our brand new Lord Mayor.

It was funny to be dealing with grass and wind and open space again. You have to kick the ball a lot harder, and the margin for error is so much greater. A few of my little indoor kicks and sneaky shuffles conspicuously failed last night.

I ran up to check on the boys at half-time. They had watched quite a bit of the match, and done some nice drawings etc. However Michael had tried to climb on the upstairs railing and had to be sternly spoken to by some of the old club stalwarts to get down. I was a little late running out for the 2nd half as I laid down the law.

I was a little crampy by the end but felt OK. The intensity of 11-a-side is way lower than 4-a-side indoor, and for the second half I played at centre-back, which is the most stationary position. I got in a few good tackles and some solid headers, made a few good passes and generally felt like I fit in OK. We lost 3-2. I'm looking forward to next Tuesday now.

Best of all, I didn't get hurt, as the indoor Grand Final is on Friday night.