Sunday, April 22, 2012

The blog is all about soccer now so get used to it...

...because nothing else is happening in my life. Except dogs.

We minded Sophie the golden retriever for a few days - while she was here our friends Steve and Meredith came over with their three hounds. It was a classic five-dog situation.

Meanwhile Marcus's Under 11s had their first game of the year, with me wielding the clipboard and doling out the oranges as coach. At this age they play 9-a-side. I have a squad of 18 players, which is ludicrous, and 16 of them actually fronted up on Saturday. We have 5 more games this term, and I will have a rotating group of 5 or 6 who will be "rested" each weekend just so I have a more manageable sized team.

The parents were very supportive and helpful, and the boys responded pretty well to what I asked them to do. I just asked them to focus on teamwork and encouragement - code for "please pass to, and refrain from abusing one another". I was relentlessly positive and that seemed to pay off - despite getting a pasting on the scoreboard, the kids didn't take it too hard. The opposition, Kingborough Lions, were very impressive.

In other round-ball news, my Friday night indoor team had a lively 9-9 draw, and my Saturday Over 35s outdoor team also drew 3-3. I played better with the oldies than I have before - I made less mistakes and helped set up a goal. There's a much bigger gulf between indoor and outdoor than I ever imagined, but I am getting my confidence on the ball back gradually, and starting to learn all over again about wind and grass and potholes and big open spaces.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Imaginary cars - the golden years of motoring

The first post-war Creighton model was the 800cc Crumpet - based on an anti-aircraft gun chassis. Most parts were military-surplus. Headlights were reworked Home Guard bicycle clips, while the gearbox was an essentially unaltered NAAFI tea urn. A cream 2-stroke Crumpet Standard was Princess Elizabeth's first car.
In 1969 Hugh Fisk designed a box-kite capable of carrying a human aloft in light winds. In 1972, after a nearly-fatal crash in which the kite sheared in half, he added wheels to what was left and named his creation the Dreadnought. The marque was named Ruskin Fisk in honour of W.E.H. Ruskin, a pioneer of British male nursing.
We all recall the hit 70s TV series Spunky and Jed, about unconventional cop Jed Jenkins and his talking car Spunky, which was played by a '72 Tungsten Tourniquet. The much rarer Quagmire was only manufactured for six months. Inspired by the Harley Davidson's approach to engineering, it came with a megaphone in place of muffler as standard.
The Gumbleton range of motor cars needs no introduction. Throughout the 30s and early 40s it won every long distance rally going, from the Hawaii-Houston to the Java-Alaska-Chile Ring Of Fire Classic. The Thorax-5 was their first attempt to translate this success into a teardrop-shaped family sedan that could cope with the shopping and a Sunday drive to church, but if need be could continue on over a cliff and into the sea. Sales were poor.

The flagship of the booming Cypriot car and washing-machine industry in the 50s, The Makarios III company seemed to be incapable of putting a foot wrong. This purple patch came to an end with the Weasel. Available in four levels of luxury (Handsome Goatherd, Sinister Boatman, Proud Plutocrat and Romantic Duchess Plus, pictured here) it came in one colour only - Panflute Green. All four shared the same basic chassis which was unfortunately 4" too wide for any road in Cyprus.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Research on older people giving up driving - "not all bad"

According to RACT's Journeys magazine, research has been conducted at ANU by PhD student Sarah Walker.
"Other studies have shown that giving up driving can lead to increased risk of mortality, depressive symptoms and emotional distress" she says. "Most people don't think there will be anything positive about giving up driving. However my study shows there are some positives".
Her positives are "relief at no longer having to drive", monetary savings, personal growth through adversity and learning acceptance.

I might do a similar study on leg amputations. I guess with a large enough sample I can find someone, somewhere who is happy to no longer have to walk, and is saving money on shoes. "Personal growth through adversity" and "learning acceptance" are terrific positives you can always count on, whether you are losing your license or your legs, dropping your keys down a drain or just being accidentally poked in the eye.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Soccer and anxiety

What I didn't say in my last blog is how anxious I get about soccer sometimes. As a player that is pretty much limited to pre-match nerves, and that's only out of control when I am playing in a final.

Any time I have added responsibilities, like collecting the money, organising substitutions, or negotiating for fill-in players, my brains get scrambled. I can't add up, I put things down then can't find them, etc. Driving half the team to the game the other day, I got in the wrong lane and took us onto the expressway out of town. Sometimes while trying to get the money sorted, my hands actually shake.

I have always found that when I am actually playing my anxiety goes and I am a different person - I am decisive, outgoing, quite talkative and very positive.

After a game I am a bit like The Hulk turning back into Bruce Banner -  a regular guy inexplicably wearing shredded shorts and no shirt. The process of turning back into regular socially-awkward me is difficult and confusing, not just for me but for everyone else. Team-mates naturally assume the guy who has been yakking at them throughout the game will keep it up afterwards - when in fact my first impulse is to quietly get changed and sneak out unheeded.

My soccer training can be OK, depending on how much like a game it is. If its gamey, then game-me is quite comfortable yelling and encouraging. If it's some technical thing where there is a lot of standing around, then I am regular-me stuck with a bunch of people I know slightly. Awkward.

The scariest of all is when I am the coach. This has only happened once before, years ago when I was at a club with a lot of junior teams, and I was given match-day responsibility for the Under 13s. They played all their games about 30 mins drive out of town, and to this day when I drive down that road the tension and nerves come back to me like it was yesterday. I always worried - will the kids listen? When I am firm with the kids will the parents take my side or theirs? Will I be able to time the subs right so everyone gets a fair go, or will the maths part of my brain just refuse to function?

So far I have taken two training sessions for Marcus's team. I am trying to get myself used to the idea that in about 10 days it will be my first Saturday morning in charge of the team. This year they will play away from the school every week. Apart from the logistics of getting there and away and then getting to my own game (Elf will be still running the sausage stall back at the school) there are so many other pitfalls! I will have to referee. One of my kids may be injured - how do I look after them while keeping the rest of the balls in the air?

Fortunately I can look at it objectively, think about the worst things that could happen, and plan a few responses to minimise the amount of thinking-on-my-feet required at a time when my brain semi-useless. I guess this week I should go whistle-shopping.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Soccer, soccer, soccer

It's official now - there is too much soccer in my life. I am playing in two teams (indoor & outdoor), and for one of these I am also captain/co-ordinator/selector/cheerleader. Now I am also coaching Marcus's under 11 team. Last year's coach has moved away, and as they train on Wednesday this year (my pick-up-from-school day) I had nowhere to hide - I felt I had to volunteer, or spend every Wednesday watching on guiltily.

I took my first soccer practice last week - it went OK. An old gent named Tony oversees all the teams, and he was there to set up and generally look over my shoulder. He warned me there would be a few troublemakers, and when they made trouble I sorted them out the way I would my boys at home - just shouted at them. Seemed to work. I asked Marcus afterwards how my practice compared to what he done in previous years - he said it was exactly the same. Which was all I was aiming for. Innovation can come later.

I will handing back the indoor soccer captain's role to my predecessor as soon as I can, because there is just a limit to how much time I can justify spending thinking about soccer in one week.

Catch up blog

Hi everyone. Not blogging so well at the moment - the bloggable events have just been sailing by unremarked-upon. In brief:
  • The Swiss came to town accompanied by Fred
  • I had a birthday
  • my Uncle Peter just made his first visit to his sister (my mum) since 1969
  • Michael came down with whooping cough
Chonk and Irma brought their kids over from Switzerland for a visit, primarily to see Bill and Felicity in Canberra. It was only about a year since their previous visit. Bill (85 this year) is reported to be more sprightly than he has been for some time. They made their side excursion to Tasmania at the start of the trip this time, and were fresh and energetic. We all went to the Bream Creek show one day, getting stuck on the way in possibly Bream Creek's first ever traffic jam.

Bea and Eric have delightful Euro/Texan accents. They are lovely bright, smart kids. They and all the visitors were entranced by the snake display at the Show, put on by the people who did Marcus's snake party a few years back. We are now hard to impress with snakes, but we were very blown away by the tree-felling race. This is a woodchopping event where;
the object of the event in the modern day arena is to climb the tree pole by cutting “board holes” and placing special tree boards in the notches to ascend up the tree in a spiral fashion. Whilst balancing on the top board … the axeman cuts the block half-way through … and then descends bringing the same boards back down. The axeman repeats the process up the reverse side of the tree concluding by severing the block in half … [while standing] on a board at a height of approximately 3.1m above the ground.
Pic and description from
 While the Swiss and Fred were here I had a family barby at the good old Cascade Gardens for my birthday. My Dad wrote me a beautiful haiku as a birthday present, recollecting my birth in the small hours one night in 1968.
One blessed morning
Christopher arrived safely
Dad slept peacefully
I also received a 2 terabyte hard drive which I am filling as I write. Boxes of old backup CDs and DVDs are being systematically tipped into it. Then I will sift, sort and  consolidate. Whenever I think about my bazillion bytes of storage I want to do an evil laugh. Who can hold me back from world domination when I have so much storage?

Today Uncle Peter and Auntie Chrissie flew back to Sydney after a whirlwind week driving about Tasmania like scalded cats. We have been applying increasing leverage to get them down here over the last few years. Chrissie had never been, and the only evidence I have that Peter was once here is a black and white photo of him holding me - I look like I weigh about 10 pounds. I heard a rumour that while he was here he saw an ad on TV for sheep dip, and it affected his views on the general sophistication of Tasmania.

Mum and Peter grew up in Sydney, and although he and Chrissie have travelled the world extensively (he was a gun computer salesman and still moves in rarefied business circles), he never could be persuaded to come south to see her until this week, even missing Mum's 70th birthday last year. But all is forgiven now.

I think they had a good time - but the strength of the sun took them by surprise. They said the roads were better than in NSW which is the opposite of what you usually hear. They covered a lot of territory - I get the impression Peter does everything at full tilt. We had everyone here for dinner on Saturday night, then got together again last night at Mum and Dad's.

It was good to see them, and just good to know they now had some picture in their heads of our lives. But now they've gone I can get on with dipping the sheep.

There is a whooping cough epidemic all over the country at present. Peter said that shortly after their latest grandchild arrived, when he mentioned the happy event, his doctor didn't even ask his permission but just sidled up and gave him a whooping cough jab. Michael had a regular cold about 3 weeks ago, got over it quickly but never quite lost the cough. The mum of one of his classmates rang last week to say that her daughter had been confirmed to have WC. Elf took Michael for a swab and he did too. The rest of us have not been tested as yet, but we have temporarily shelved the kiss-hello.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Pumpkin Scissors

This is part of the the plot of a manga comic named Pumpkin Scissors, explaining how the name came about. This might make sense in Japanese, but I doubt it. From Wikipedia.
To aid the people of the Empire in the war relief effort, the Imperial Army State Section III, also known as the Pumpkin Scissors unit, is established. The name for the group was an idea from one of its officers, the 2nd Lieutenant Alice L. Malvin. According to her, in their war relief effort, they must "face the threat of corrupt people who protect themselves behind lies, power, and money like the rind of a pumpkin", and Section III must act like a pair of scissors cutting through those layers and delivering justice for the people.