Sunday, November 28, 2004

Impact Comics website

The eagerly awaited Impact Comics website has arrived! No more excuses for those who don't live in Canberra - mail order is available. Check out the 'events' page for some early photos (it looks even better now).

Thursday, November 25, 2004

But wait, there's much more!

So, I've been to Perth and back. And it was grand. But let me tell you a bit more about my trip to England, first. Just pretend you're reading this a few weeks ago.

Naturally, I had to visit the mammoth British Museum. After some contemplation I decided to stick to more recent periods. Because it was school holidays, there were hordes of kids swarming over the Egyptian and other ancient exhibits. I saw the 18th century Enlightenment exhibition in the King's Library, which was presented in lovely mahogany and glass cabinets.

I also went to the Prints and Drawings section to see the Alexander Walker Bequest. Alexander Walker was a well known film critic for London's Evening Standard. Walker was also an avid collector of modern art, especially prints and drawings post-1960. There were also some earlier artists represented including Picasso and Matisse. The exhibition booklet includes several photos of Walker's tidy flat with the walls completely covered with art - he lived with it all around him, even filling all the walls of the bathroom.

A lot of different printing techniques were represented. The one that caught my attention was 'Marta/Fingerprint' by Chuck Close, a portrait by fingerprint etching. The picture was formed of inked thumb prints on translucent sheet of plastic, which is then photographically transferred. Grown up fingerpainting. I was also fascinated by Philip Guston's hooded, creepy 'Little Bastards', with which he shocked the art world in his switch from abstract to figurative painting. He said the reaction was 'as though I had left the church'.

I also took a brief look at an exhibition of Japanese swords, and was amused but not surprised to see that the people in there were almost all men. I do have some appreciation for the craftsmanship and beauty of these swords, but unfortunately I don't know enough about the subject to really have appreciated the display. But, there were an awful lot of them.

I also paid a visit to the Natural History Museum. I wasn't actually planning to go in, I was just walking past and was drawn into the grounds by the building itself. Up high on the corners where you might see gargoyles on some buildings, there were animal statues instead. I wanted a closer look - and some pictures - but my ancient camera doesn't have a zoom lens (or any other features for that matter). So I actually only went inside in the hope of finding a postcard with a closeup of the building. There were several shops inside, which took a lot of wandering to find, and in the end, no such postcard. I did wander through quite a few of the exhibits, though the place is massive and I only saw a small percentage. A lot of the stuffed animals look a bit musty and old, probably because they are. It’s all part of the charm. The fish were fascinating, especially the truly weird ones found very deep in the ocean. I sucked up the courage to walk through the birds exhibit – I did this in Adelaide a couple of years ago too – they are kind of interesting in a scary, beaks and feathers kind of way. The scariest was an ostrich that was in a bundle on the floor, waiting to be wired up into position. I also went into a truly huge room full of minerals: fossils and gemstones, including some jewellery and other items. And of course I couldn't miss the dinosaur skeletons and giant fossils.

Hands down, the tackiest thing I saw in London was the Diana and Dodi memorial in the Egyptian hall in Harrods. The unwashed wine glass from their hotel room that fateful night – a symbol of true love?

Thursday, November 04, 2004

*Insert cheesy 'back home again' type song lyric here*

I had an enthusiastic welcome from the dogs. I've eaten some vegemite. I've made a coffee using my beloved espresso machine. (Not for me, for Demelza. I'm off to bed).

The journey home was ok, it was never going to be fabulous. Leaving on Tuesday to arrive on Thursday just feels wrong. Major hiccup at Singapore, where British Airways had some difficulty refuelling the plane. This was announced after we had had the scheduled 40 minutes leg stretching/shopping in the terminal and the crew had changed over, and we had returned to the plane. I gather they would normally have kept us all on the plane, but it was unbearably hot down the back in cattle class (does anyone know why the airconditioning never seems to work until you're in the air?) and after giving out some water to drink, they finally arranged for access to the terminal again. Thank goodness, because the eventual delay was three hours! I discovered that the food outlets will take a variety of currency, but for everything other than Singapore dollars, they round everything up to whole dollars (or pounds, etc).

I had an amazing view of Sydney harbour from my window seat, and it was a beautiful, clear sunny morning. This went some way to making up for the lack of access to the toilet for most of the previous 6 hours, when the two people in my row took sleeping tablets and zonked right out. I prefer to share with people who get up for a bit of leg stretching every couple of hours, like the couple who sat there on the London to Singapore leg.

Catching my non-refundable flight back to Canberra turned out to be a very near thing. We landed at 9:20, took at least 15 minutes just to get off the plane. By the time my enormous overweight purple suitcase came out almost last, and I cleared customs, raced down to the train station, waited 11 minutes for the next train, got to Domestic, and sprinted up to the Rex counter, it was 10:24 for a 10:35 flight. There was only one person in the queue, who smartly got out of the way of me and my purple monstrosity as he remarked 'hey, are you in a hurry?' Helpfully the Rex plane was running ten minutes late, or I might have been on a bus right now.

Anyway, enough of this boring stuff. There's still a lot more to tell from the my last week in the UK, which I'll catch up on ASAP.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

If there's a bustle in your hedgerow, don't be alarmed now.

We got back last night from several days in Cornwall. I proceeded to stay up way too late, after lots of motorway driving and coffee, to write a job application… it's done, but really not my best work. I hope the inevitable stupid mistakes are forgivable ones.

The extra long weekend started with a heartfelt warm welcome from second- (or is it third?) cousins-twice-removed and later, much drawing of family trees. This site has a map of the Lizard Peninsula which shows Gillan, where we stayed with Aud.

Tubby the West Highland terrier was sweet company in the absence of Elvis and Mia-belle. We went for walks along the coastal path, which Tubby tended to lead from well behind for the first 20 minutes or so, when he would suddenly build up to explosive, joyous speed. In literally every direction it is a postcard view: sailing boats in harbour or stranded well up on dry land at low tide, and picture book farms with patchwork fields and black & white cows, autumn colours in the trees. Actually it's nice to enjoy an Autumn without the Winter hanging over me! I fell in love with the Scots pines - will try to find a suitable picture to show you what I mean. My favourite activity was sloshing around in Gillan Creek at low tide in Aud's knee high gumboots.

Western Cornwall was just as incredibly beautiful and quaint as last time, and I saw a bit more of it, including a tour of the Lizard Peninsula on Sunday, stopping at Kynance cove and Cadgwith, one of several tiny little fishing villages perched on the edge of the sea. This was in the afternoon, following a huge feast at the golf club with the cousins (two different vegetarian options, both delicious. Yes I tried them both. And steamed chocolate pudding).

I was fascinated with the hedges and the beautiful gnarled windblown trees growing out of them. Many of the roads are very narrow winding lanes walled by thick hedges, room for one car only, with foot hovering over the brake at all times.

Another trip on Monday, further west, first to Penlee House Gallery in Penzance – a nicely sized gallery of various Cornish art, just the right number of paintings to take in in one go – going on to Land's End, great views if you avoid the tacky tourist centre/amusement park, and then the charming town of St Ives for a Cornish pasty and to rub shoulders with many tourists from the north of England down for half-term break.

A quiet day on Tuesday with another walk and some reading of Daphne du Maurier (Cornish of couse!).

Yesterday we drove home in rain and howling wind. The weather settled down a bit outside Cornwall but it was still raining and windy at times. We drove through Bristol so I could see the area where Dad was born, and check out the impressive Clifton Suspension Bridge. (but I didn't see as much water under it as in that picture) A drive through the city centre and then on to Bath for a couple of hours of wandering around the town. I didn't go into the Roman Baths, for £9 I would have wanted to spend a long time in there! Next time maybe. I did peek into the Assembly Rooms where Austen set her society balls. Although it was rainy and late afternoon, I thought the town centre of Bath was beautiful. Higlights included the abbey and the Pulteney Bridge with buildings along it, reminding me a little of old town Edinburgh. The 'Bath stone' from which most of the buildings are constructed is a warm creamy colour and even after dark, it glowed in the streetlights. A short but very memorable visit.

Friday, October 22, 2004

West End Girl

I have discovered the joy of cheap standby theatre tickets. Yesterday We Will Rock You was sold out – I suspect I'll have the chance to see it in Australia anyway - so I grabbed a ticket to Les Miserables instead. My seat was pretty good, in the Dress Gallery (one level above the stage) and a little to the side. I already knew most of the songs and the basic storyline, but I think I was expecting to find more storyline in it, upon finally seeing the whole musical. In the way that musicals sometimes do, it seemed a bit disjointed, and some parts were a bit slow. That said, I did enjoy it, especially the big numbers like Do you hear the people sing, and Master of the house. The cast were excellent, and the costumes and set design were fantastic.

When I saw Phantom of the Opera in Melbourne (wow, I just realised that was twelve years ago), we were in the top tier of seats, waaaaay above the stage, and in the foyer we hired opera glasses so that we could see the costumes and facial expressions. West End theatres go one better, or at least the two that I've now been inside, with the opera glasses available attached to the backs of the seats, released by coin like an airport trolley. I didn't need them but I liked the idea that you don't have to decide before you go in, if you think you will want them.

But today….today was the day. Christian Slater in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest!!! I only found out yesterday that it was on, because I walked right past the theatre, the Gielgud, on my way to Queen's Theatre for Les Miserables. They told me there would always be standby tickets for the matinee, and how right they were. Fantastic seat (also half price), almost in the middle, 14 rows from the front, in the stalls, down at stage level. Spitting distance, for a particularly good spitter. Boy did I enjoy this show. Wow. I believe the appropriate word might be… (could it be?) Wahoo! You can keep your hobbitses and your elves, and your Michael Crawfords too. Go on, comment, tell me how jealous you are!

Oh yeah, and the play was excellent. Nurse Ratched (Frances Barber) was fantastically evil, and Billy Bibbitt was played wonderfully by Mackenzie Crook from The Office and Pirates of the Carribean. Actually a lot of the cast was made up of stand-up comedians rather than established stage actors, and there were lots of laughs, at least until the latter parts where it moves more towards tragedy.

What else have I done lately?

I've seen the deer in Richmond Park. I've visited my uncle and aunt in Guildford, and seen the main sights there including new bits (university) and old bits (ruined castle, old churches and town buildings). The town has a charming main street, and a terrible traffic problem. But I gather that's not uncommon.

I've been to the Tate Modern, which I really warmed to, after a slow start. For some types of modern works, such as Andy Warhol's Brillo Box, and Dali's lobster phone, nothing much is added when you see them in a gallery, having already seen them as photos in a book. But others, such as Picasso's drawings, prints and paintings are absolutely worth seeing 'in the flesh'.

I've seen the giant computer shop construction where I think Kensington Market used to be. This was where the coolest threads could once be bought, from Roger Taylor and Freddie Mercury at their clothes stall.

Da Vinci Code sightings are way down. One being read in the Eurostar terminal in Paris – could have been another English person. Copies for sale in Schipol airport in the Netherlands but no actual sightings of people reading it.

I've been shopping, and discovered the Halloween seems to be a bigger thing here, or at least, so the shops would have you believe.

I'm less of a supermarket geek than I used to be, but I've still taken some supermarket geek notes, for those who care. Range of types of trolleys, including one for use with wheelchairs. Optional self service checkouts. Checkout operators generally sit on stools. You pack your own bags. Beer is cheaper in the supermarket than orange juice. (this could make breakfast more interesting). Alcohol is sold in the supermarket, not in a separate section. There's a huge range of pre-prepared meals.

There's more to say, but time's up for now. Off to beautiful Cornwall tomorrow. Sayonara sugars.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Ah, Paris!

Honestly I didn't think about it that much. I knew I wanted to see Paris like I want to see all the great cities. I like cities, I like old buildings. I love galleries and museums. But Paris is something else. I could probably explain it away as the combined effect of movies, literature and art all portraying it as the city of romance and beauty, but I don't really want to. I just really loved the feeling of the city.

Tim did a great job organising a wonderful weekend and we managed to do a lot in two days.

The Eurostar fast train under the Channel was very pleasant and smooth and quick.

We had tickets for the open top buses which are a great way to cover a lot of ground and get off and on where you want.

We stayed in a charming little old hotel on the Rue d'Universite near the Latin Quarter. My room was up the narrow stairs to the fifth floor - probably once the servants' quarters.

Ordering vegetarian meals in French restaurants required some creativity - 'can I have this baked potato with that side dish?'

I was suprised to see apparently French people actually wearing berets (maybe they were tourists after all). I tried to buy a beret but they looked silly. I ended up with a Kangol hat from a dicount place - so I can be as cool as Samuel L Jackson...maybe. It actually has kangaroos on it.. and yes it's an English brand. But it is kind of beret-ish.

Parisians have the littlest, cutest dogs.

I loved the bookstalls along the Seine, which pack away into neat little boxes. Apparently these used to be the place to get your dirty books, now it's mostly well known French literature. A few were devoted to comics and others sold books on particular topics such as military history. Quite a few were given over to tacky souvenirs, but also nice prints and postcards.

I went to the top of the Eiffel Tower! I took the lifts - probably should have earned that view by using the stairs. At the top level there are signs indicating the direction of capital cities, so I took a photo in the direction of Canberra. You can see a long way, though maybe not that far. When I got back to the ground my head was still in the clouds.

The Arc de Triomphe, had, like many of the signinficant buildings and monuments I've seen in London (St Paul's for example), the inevitable scaffolding on part of it. It is pretty impressive up close.

The Moulin Rouge is nestled in a street of porn shops and XXX theatres. The Lido is not (it's on the more genteel Champs-Elysées).

Paris, compared to London, is quite planned and set out with wide boulevards (of course they knocked down a lot of buildings at some stage to create that effect).

And, I added another form of transport to my list by riding the funicular up to Sacre Coeur. There is a lot more I could say but my time is up, so, Au Revoir and Bonsoir (or Bonjour to everyone in Australia right now).

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Quick Netherlands report

I'm back in London after the better part of a week in the Netherlands (or should that be 'The Netherlands'? – Holland is just so much quicker to say, especially when you're getting over a cold!)

The country is very wet, and usually very rainy. I managed to find possibly the only stretch of several almost rain free days in Autumn, or possibly any time of year. I was incredibly lucky and saw quite a lot of sun, and only a few spits of rain. It was, however, pretty cold, and noticably colder on the clear sunny days. I would not choose to go there in winter.

The public transport is very efficient and reliable and runs precisely on time. Except for yesterday when I needed to get to the airport and there was an all day strike. Not like those nice convenient Action Buses strikes that go from 10am to 3pm. We were warned of traffic jams and chaos, but nothing like that eventuated. We think maybe everyone stayed home as advised.

I had a lovely time with Louise and Pete, in fact I extended my stay. I filled my head up with Van Gogh, maybe a couple of hundred paintings in two different museums. I discovered that you can live happily and reasonably dryly, 6 metres below sea level. I saw more bicycles than I've ever seen before, though Mum & Dad probably saw more in China… I rode a bike around a national park, where there are supposed to be wild boar though I didn't see any. We took a boat tour of the Rotterdam port, which is the largest in Europe and claims to be the largest in the world. It certainly is big. We got up close to some really big ships, saw endless fields of containers, found out how dry docks work, and listened to the commentary in four or five different languages, one of which, luckily, was English. I also did a canal tour in Amsterdam. I tried souvenir shopping but couldn't quite bring myself to buy overpriced clogs. Most of my souvenirs are postcards and other items from the museums. Amsterdam's airport, Schipol, has some really classy shops, including an outlet of one of the museum shops (The Rijksmuseum).

Friday, October 15, 2004

Impact Comics grand opening!

If you are in Canberra, get yourself down to Impact Comics above Revolution CD in the Civic bus interchange this Saturday (16 October) for the grand opening celebration!

There will be signings by Jon Somariva, Ben Hutchings and Ben Guy. Face painting for the kids, by my talented sister Demelza. I'm really sad that I'll miss it all. I hope everyone has a great time.

Monday, October 11, 2004

They love their dogs here

If I lived in the Netherlands, (or much of Europe, it seems), Elvis and Mia could come on the bus, the train, or the tram with me. Mind you they would have to be a bit better behaved and calmer! As Lou said, how else do you get your dogs to the restaurant?

Friday, October 08, 2004

The New Harry Potter?

Everywhere I go, plane, train, bus or Underground, someone is reading The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. Everywhere! Being so contrary about things like that, I will have to wait at least five years to read it. I did eventually enjoy Harry Potter that way.

Off to the Netherlands tomorrow until Tuesday. Will see if they are reading it there too, and faithfully report back here.

Went to another museum today, the Maritime Museum at Greenwich. Even got to look in the library, which is not exactly public (I had to fill in a form for a pass). Very nice, veeerrrry quiet. As we were leaving, someone got in trouble for photographing books! Cheeky.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

London has fun with soft furnishings.

Yesterday (Wednesday) was my first full day in London. I checked out the Barbican Centre, where I saw a very interesting Daniel Libeskind exhibition. I didn't mean to sneak in, I really just wandered in, and didn't realise you were supposed to pay £5 until I was wandering out again!

I also spend a few delicious hours in the nearby London Museum, I won't bore you with the details but I loved it. Having been kicked out at closing time, I decided to have a look at the outside of St Paul's cathdral. On the way there I was passed by two young men with pillowcases slung over their shoulders. I thought this was a little bit odd, maybe they were headed to some outdoor event such as a concert, but the weather wasn't ideal. Then I saw someone with a handful of fluff in his hands. Curiouser and curiouser.

When I reached the front steps of the cathedral, there was a tight crowd of people, the ones around the outside just standing and laughing, and I could see pillows flying around in the middle. Two policement stood at the edge, watching. I had almost walked right into a huge pillow fight. I stood up on the steps to get a better view, and took a couple of photos. I had heard of flash mobs before, I think there was a recent one in Sydney involving people shooting each other with bananas, but this was the first time I'd seen it happening. I thought they were usually supposed to be over quickly... obviously people were having way too much fun hitting each other with pillows. The ground was covered in feathers and fluff, and it had obviously started quite a while before I got there. After 15 minutes or so of this (I got bored and started consulting bus maps) a huge cheer went up. Someone had been declared the winner. His pillow must have had the strongest stitching.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Big trip

Dear friends,

Wahoo! I'm off to England, with trips to the Netherlands and France, for the next four weeks. I'll be updating as often as I can while I'm away.

If you'd like me to send you an email each time I update, just let me know.


Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Stop or I'll shoot you with my twinkly lead pencil rays

The other night at dinner with my basketball team, we were discussing the things people tell kids to make them behave. Someone remembered being told that if you piddled in the swimming pool, a bright red ring would form around you and everyone would know what you had done. No one likes swimming in a pool populated by little kids, and this seemed like a brilliant and effective ploy.

One day in grade one I was sitting at my desk, staring at the twinkly effect of sunlight reflecting on the tip of my lead pencil. The teacher told me to stop doing that because I could damage my eyes. Of course I stopped! I imagined that some kind of beam of light could suddenly zap into my eye (like a laser! I don’t think I knew what lasers were back then).

I idly pondered this for years, wondering what she could possibly have meant. I even wondered if it was actually a danger associated with real LEAD pencils, not the graphite ones we now call lead pencils.

It really wasn’t all that long ago that it finally dawned on me, I must have been holding the pencil pretty close to my face, and she thought if I was bumped, the pencil might poke me in the eye. How mundane, compared to those dangerous beams of twinkly light.

When you’re a kid, people tell you things and you only remember part of it, or they tell you things that don’t make sense. Even though you don’t have a great understanding of the world and how things work, you do have an active imagination and some sort of logic system going on… and that can lead to funny results.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Other people's craft projects!

If that sounds like torture to you, you'd better stop reading now. Next in this ongoing exposé of my inspirations - knitting blogs! Like WendyKnits, and berrystained, and QueerJoe. Most tend to link to each other (just check out the right hand side of Carrieoke's blog for a huge list) and I've been wandering around them for hours at a time. I love being able to see the projects coming together. I've also picked up a few tips, and its reassuring to see that so many other people have many projects going that take ages, or don't get finished. The best blogs are not just about showing off perfect finished work, but also reveal the process, including mistakes and failures.

And on the topic of having too much to do, including self induced pressure to get projects started/worked on/finished, check out Loobylu's recent posts. I can relate to the sentiments, and I have to applaud the spirit, thought I am clearly a good deal lazier. You go, girl!

Saturday, September 18, 2004

The Beautiful South

I could go on all day listing bands and musicians and singers I like and find inspiring. Right now I have The Beautiful South in mind, because:
a. I love their quirky, biting, not-quite-what you're expecting lyrics.
b. They do many songs with both male and female voices trading back-and-forth and/or duetting, which I like, and which you don't heard enough in pop. This is what first attracted me, when I first saw them on TV playing one of those huge English festivals (possibly Reading, I can't remember).
c. They know their way around a catchy tune.
d. They've just announced a UK tour for this November and December. I will be in the UK most of October. Guh.

If you clicked on the link above you would have found that their official site is one of those nasty slick ones with too many moving parts and menus that hover. Makes me feel dizzy. Why do bands do that?

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

beautiful books

Continuing on the theme of things I find inspiring:

Books! But in particular, beautifully made books for people who love books. Recent examples include the Dark Horse Book of Hauntings and its companion volume, the Dark Horse Book of Witchcraft. They're comics collections featuring a great lineup of authors and artists. Everything about these books is delicious: the covers feel nice, the paper is heavy and smells good, the colours are rich, the paper is not too shiny, the size is easy to hold in your hand. The covers are spectacular, old-school detailed line art. Inside is a varied but coherant collection of different stories and art, all of which I enjoyed. Check them out at Impact Comics... or if you're nice to me I might lend you mine.

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Tell your friends

Kam and Mal, Canberra’s own comic supremos, who once worked and lived in a legendary shop that shall remain nameless, now welcome you to…IMPACT COMICS! They’ll be selling you all the latest comics direct from the USA, and of course all the other goodies you’ve come to expect: graphic novels, action figures, toys and all that highly-prized cross-promotional spin-off stuff that’s sure to look just right on your mantelpiece! With that same great service and that weird sense of humour, IMPACT COMICS offers collectors a brand new place to shop – and mail orders are welcome!

Promo spiel written by the talented Ron Schroer.

Impact Comics will be open from Monday 6 September. They'll be trading seven days a week, including late night shopping on both Thursdays and Fridays.
Located at 43-45 East Row, Sydney Building - upstairs above/inside Revolution CD. Ph / fax 6248 7335

No website yet (coming soon) but you can email Kam and Mal.

Oh yeah, if you have Monday's Canberra Times you can see a funky photo of the boys and the door (featuring Spidey) accompanying a small article in the 'Times 2' section. I also posted the news to Riotact.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Impact Comics, coming soon

As ber-T pointed out in his comments on my recent post, yep, Impact Comics will be opening soon! I'll post the exact date as soon as I know it. The shop is upstairs above Revolution CD in Civic, and should provide, at least in my opinion, a much better way to spend your money than the Church of Scientology, who have just vacated the space. Email Kam and Mal for more info or to place your order.

Circulating lately in my thoughts, in a not-entirely-organised manner, have been concepts like creativity, and inspiration, (related of course to the elusive wahoo). So I thought I might try having a blog theme for a while, of things that inspire me. First up: an example of Wil Wheaton's enjoyable, natural writing. Some of his best pieces are when he writes about his relationship with his stepsons. It's too late at night, I've just tried and deleted about five different descriptions of what I like about Wil's writing. Obviously I need to work on my critical descriptive skills. Just go and read it!

Friday, August 06, 2004

When's the last time YOU went wahoo?

Has anyone seen my wahoo?

I don't know what happened to it. It's always been there waiting for me when I get to the skifields. This time, I didn’t really find it at all.

That's not to say that I had a bad time. I had a very enjoyable week off work. I stayed in beautiful Thredbo village in the lovely Bernti's Mountain Inn, instead of driving back and forth from Jindabyne every day as in previous years. (Except last year when I was the lucky guest of the Brindabella ski club at one of their lodges in Guthega, where I could literally ski in the door at the end of the day.)

I ate some gourmet meals, as well as a couple of very nice pizzas. I had time to read, and knit; I watched Big Brother while pretending not to, I drank good coffee, I found out not all schnapps is horrible, and I breathed mountain air. I spent time with good friends and made some new ones. I woke up in a heated room every morning, something I sorely missed on Saturday morning in the freezing air of my bedroom at home!

I thought I might have started to find a bit of the magic on Wednesday morning. Tuesday had been a pretty good day. We did a lot of skiing and really worked hard. We had booked a private, 'early bird' lesson for an hour at 8:30am, and it was exhilarating to be one of the first on the lift and to get some 'first tracks'. And it's easier to concentrate on drills and technique when there aren't many people around, and your legs are still fresh.

So on Wedesday morning I was feeling lighthearted and skiing with friends. Then I unexpectedly fell over. On what was not even much of a slope, I crossed my tips, then righted them, slid my butt right down to the snow while still 'skiing', an oh-so-classy move which is sometimes recoverable, thought I was going to recover, then suddenly found myself sliding on my side towards a tree. Amazingly I didn’t hit the tree, stopping with my head a short distance from the trunk, and branches just above me. I had felt my knee twist a bit but it wasn't too painful. After getting my breath back and starting to laugh at myself, I got up and kept skiing, although a bit more cautiously. My knee seemed to be ok. But the hint of wahoo had gone into hiding.

That afternoon, we were sitting down, right at the bottom of Friday Flat, and I got a phone call from my friends. It turned out they were within sight, near the bottom of the lift, so I stood up to wave to them. Then I found myself flat on my back on the ground. I had dropped the phone and it turned itself off. I was laughing so hard I couldn't get up, and desperately tried to signal to Jane to wave to the others. I think that might have been my newly tricky knee.

That evening I discovered that my knee didn't feel so good walking. Or, bending at all really. I kept skiing the rest of the week though, because it actually didn't hurt to ski. I did try to be even more cautious than usual, though, to avoid another fall. I also tried to remind myself to look around, enjoy the view, and just enjoy the feel of being in the mountains, as I always have before. But I couldn't really get past a frustrated feeling.

I think I concentrated too hard on what's wrong with my technique, and most likely expected too much improvement for five days. After joining a group lesson on Monday and being very impressed with the instructor (thanks Kate!), we booked a series of private lessons for four mornings, and we went to the group lesson from 11:30 to 1:30 each day as well. I tried really hard to improve my skiing, but I don’t think I had enough time to make so many changes and really consolidate them. A week is not a long time to teach your muscles several new tricks. By Thursday I was just feeling really disheartened about my skiing and how far it is from what I want it to be. My legs were getting tired pretty quickly because I wasn’t moving efficiently, and then the tiredness made me lose technique even more.

Ever year I say I should take some notes. Here is my list of things to remember for next time I go skiing:

- angulation: bending at the ankles, knees and hips, progressively curving uphill; and
- inclination (‘tipping’): top half of body tipping downhill in response. (Dragging the uphill pole is a good drill to try to get into this posture).
- don't swing shoulders around. Imagine legs and feet turning independently under the body.
- get early edge - start edging before actually turning – the turn starts in the flat part of the ‘S’
- most or all weight should be on the downhill ski. (I’ve forgotten the name of the drill for this, which is to make turns with uphill foot raised in the air a bit, and slightly crossed above the other.
- starting for the day: get into a balanced position by jumping a little.
- good stance: rounded upper back (like a string pulling from between tops of shoulder blades), hands pole width apart, legs wide.

I don’t know if these are really expressed correctly or would be good advice for anyone else. They’re really just reminders for me of the things I learned, or re-learned. It’s quite likely that some are things I’ll have to do differently once I progress further, and that’s partly what’s so frustrating: knowing there’s such a long way to go.

So what happens now? Over the years I have been skiing, I’ve had many more WAHOO! days of skiing than mediocre ones. Really, that’s why this is suddenly an issue, because skiing’s never left me feeling blue before! But I’m still bitten by the bug, well and truly, and I still want to be a good skier. I’d love to be able to go heli-skiing one day. I guess I’ll just keep plugging away every opportunity I get, and think about creating a few bigger opportunities. Like this one.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Goodbye Impact records

Better late than never, I draw your attention to this by Kam, and this by Mr Bertie Mabootoo, regarding the end of the Impact Records era.

It's a real shame, and Canberra will be poorer for the loss of a very rare thing: a large, successful, independent music shop. And of course, Impact didn't just sell music and DVDs, as anyone who ventured in to check out the chaotic feeding frenzy that was the 'closing down sale' would have discovered. There are several profitable bits of the business, like comics, books and T-shirts, that JB have no interest in, and have basically chucked down the drain. I guess there's a plus side to that, which is a few extra opportunities floating around town.

Of course I know that business is business, and life goes on. But it's been amazing to see the level of reaction around town, even from people who never or rarely actually shop there. Impact is an institution. Right now it's a very tough time for everyone associated with Impact, especially the staff who loved working there and (to put it mildly) don't know if working for JB is likely to be fulfilling in the same way.

Newcastle is so cool, Part 1.

Mum can see whales from her office window!

Wednesday, July 14, 2004


I just realised that I have one toasty warm foot and one cold foot, though I'm wearing the same socks and ugg boots on each. It's a very disconcerting feeling.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

It's good to be The King

While we were out walking on Sunday morning, Elvis, Mia and I met a beautiful female golden retriever. She was on the other side of the road from us, exploring her front yard while some people congregated around a car in the driveway. She didn't see us for a while and I was hoping we could just get past without meeting. I actually like Mia and Elvis to meet other dogs, but not without a person to control the other dog. Elvis doesn't really seem to know how small he is and more often than not he’ll launch into aggressive barking at a much bigger dog. Then I have to drag him away, or if the other dog reacts, pick him up before he gets chomped. It's just not very dignified.

Anyway, this dog did see us, and the people there knew that and called her to them, but she bounded across the road to us anyway. I turned around to let the dogs meet her, but got ready to grab them if necessary.

The retriever approached Elvis, straightaway got down to the ground in a crouch, and then rolled over onto her back. I was amused and amazed. I have seen a dog do this before, but only while playing with a bigger and more aggressive dog and only after being forced into it. This retriever did it before Elvis even had a chance to bark.

Elvis sniffed around her a bit but didn't seem to know what to make of it all. Finally he rapped out a few sharp barks, and so I started to pull him away. Just then one of the people came across the road. “She'd cross a four-lane highway just to meet someone”, he said with a laugh. I wasn’t sure if this would be an animal someone or a human someone, or maybe she’s not too fussy.

Elvis was pretty puffed up after that. Instead of being his usual compliant self and bounding along from one interesting smell to the next, he became very decisive for the rest of the walk. I’d be planning to go one way, Mia would be pulling me in another and Elvis would suddenly sit firmly on the kerb, ready for my command to cross the road in a different direction altogether. Ah, well, he’s a funny little dog and he deserves the odd King interlude.

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Viewfinder I & II

Demelza has some of her work in an exhibition opening tonight. Including some amazing letters/envelopes she sent to me and Kam from Poland earlier this year...the posting is part of the process. She had some (distressing at the time, hilarious when she told me later) run-ins with Polish post office staff who baulked at posting her unusual packages.

Viewfinder I is at the Watson Arts Centre, 1 Aspinall St, til 11 July and features the work of later year print media and drawing students from the ANU Art School. All are welcome to the opening tonight at 6:30pm. Fairy bread has been promised.

Viewfinder II will open on 28 September at the ANU School of Art Foyer Gallery and will run til 3 October. This second part of the exhibition features a selection of current student work from several countries including Indonesia, Canada and Australia.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Giggle at Bennifer

This article
refers to a US cable network promoting The-Former-Couple-Formerly-Known-as-Bennifer's movie Gigli as, essentially, so bad that you've just gotta see it. This amused me greatly when I saw it yesterday (the article, not the movie). Because when there was talk some time ago of releasing Gigli in Australia under a different name, to distance it from all the bad press it got in the States, I remember saying they should do something like this instead. Sadly, Kam can't remember me saying it. But anyway, 'I told you so'.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

The real War on Terror

Immediately after 11 September 2001, the talk of a ‘war on terrorism’ started. It didn’t take long for this to be abbreviated by both politicians and the media to a “war on terror”. And I started loudly whinging about it. Maybe it is just semantics, but to me, terror is an emotion. How can you have a war on terror? I even have a bit of a problem with a war on ‘terrorism’, since terrorism is not a movement or even an ideology which you might be able to fight in an organised way. Strictly speaking it is a method, employed by desperate or despicable people in service of many different ideologies. (Dictionary definiton: the use of terrorising methods, especially the use of violence to achieve political ends.) Of course I know that it is being used as shorthand to represent groups associated with the Taliban and Al-Quaeda. Heh. I reckon I would make a really grouchy journalist.

In response to my whinging, Kam came up with this gem:

War On Terror
In the latest event of the United States of America’s “War On Terror”, President George W. Bush has moved his campaign to its next rational step. Satisfied with the bombardment and general obliteration of Afghanistan plus the vaporisation of the Taliban in light of the September 11 disaster, his attentions have turned to the famed Master of Terror; Stephen King.

King’s last whereabouts was his mountain home in Bangor, Maine. A small armada of U.S. troops and weaponry is currently in place a mere four hundred miles away in the State of New York, prepared to strike. “The choice was so obvious for a base of terrorist operations, really we should have pounced on it before.” President Bush declared with arms flailing from his side like a muppet, “Damn it we should’ve just been prepared. Today we correct that mistake and pay the Axis Hotel of Mr King a little visit.”

Critics of the whole War On Terror campaign feel that maybe the next logical step is to go from Al Qaeda to Iraq and then maybe Northern Ireland, rather than this massive leap of the illogical. Doctor Professor Mabootoo believes that with Maine right on the Canadian border there is a very different agenda, “With Quebec less than a hundred miles away from Maine, then it’s just a little down the road to Ottawa. What we have here is the first steps to a full scale invasion.”

Bush has answered denigration with casual disregard, “I have suffered the slings and arrows of many supporters of evil. I will not be deterred. I have promised the people of this great nation, nay – the world – that we, the greatest nation under the REAL God’s graces, shall eradicate terror and its upholders.” The President raved on, “It has come to me that Doctor Professor has flat out accused me of being a terrorist myself. While it is true that we have lived in mortal fear of our Northern neighbours for hundreds of years with their beady eyes, flapping flip top heads and rampant homosexuality… but in no way would we ever consider joining the Taliban.”

In a further address President Bush revealed conclusive proof that after the U.S. government gave Afghanistan 62.5 million dollars to help eradicate their drug problem so they could build up their military movement with little to no distractions, Osama bin Laden suddenly had the money to travel. Travel he did coming to America in search of one of his favourite authors, Mr Stephen King. Armed with only his first edition copies of Cujo and Christine for signing, he apparently had a little tea party with one Saddam Hussein at the King residence. “We have the facts. Anyone who wants to believe Mabootoo’s shenanigans and lies about me might as well be playing quarterback for team Satan!”

So the hunt is now on for Mr King. Already a combined effort by the CIA and FBI is underway to decode and decipher his 60 plus books. “Who knows what other devious plots this repugnant, evil mastermind has in store for us?” Bush declared, waving his copy of Rose Madder, “I’m doing my part and I expect every God/Arab/box-cutter fearing American to do the same.”

Stephen King offered only a brief statement from whereabouts unknown. “At least the sales of my books have gone through the roof… Take that Koontz, ya bastard!”

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Greg! The Stop Sign!!

There's a spelling mistake that I've been seeing all over the place lately. It's bothering me almost as much as the rampant apostrophe abuse EVERYWHERE.

Every second person seems to be using 'breaks' instead of 'brakes' for the things that slow down and stop your car or bike. I guess I can see how it might seem appropriate - they 'break' your speed maybe?

The internet is a very efficient vehicle for spreading incorrect spellings. (And, come to think of it, all sorts of incorrect things.) It allows anyone to publish material very easily, without any editing. A great deal of internet content is the equivalent of someone scribbling down a few thoughts, without even checking it over themselves. (Like this blog sometimes) But the result can still look like a reasonably authoritative published document. (Maybe not so much this blog!) So common mistakes look plausible and people who don't have the most confident or consistent spelling learn from reading incorrect examples.

Just one of those necessary evils, I guess. I am the last person you'll hear wanting to get rid of the internet - what would I do when I want to know something but don't want to get off my butt, or make a phone call (ew!), and certainly don't want to get the answer less than instantly?

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Top of the world, ma!

Finally! After leaving you all hanging for so long, here is the rest of the story. The first part is here

Once fully kitted out and briefly trained, the first thing we had to do was brave an array of curious glances to walk along the road to get to the bridge, wondering if we looked kind of cool and intrepid, or just ridiculous. We stopped and entered a doorway, seeming to go back into the same building we had just come out of, a bit further down the street.

It was good to be back inside, away from prying eyes. We climbed some stairs and quickly emerged onto the catwalks running under the roadway, before the bridge actually reaches the water. I suddenly realised we were already quite high above the ground. Then came what turned out to be the trickiest part of the whole climb, a series of four ladders (almost vertical) of 20-ish rather closely placed steps each. We had all been paying attention back in the preparation phase, so only one person climbed a single ladder at a time. I was second last in line and Dad was last, and since we were all ‘clipped on’ the group was forced to keep the same order for the whole climb. So the whole time we felt like the ones everyone was waiting for!

As I started on the first ladder, I couldn’t help asking "Is this a good time to mention my fear of the ocean?" which got a nervous laugh from Dad. Somewhere on the second ladder a feeling washed over me that this actually might be quite scary. I wondered why the forms that we signed earlier hadn’t asked: “do you have occasional nightmares of enormous tidal waves?” The wind seemed strong even though we were partially sheltered, and I assumed it would be worse up at the top. But I stomped heavily on my fear, and lightly on the steps. By the time I got onto the third ladder I was feeling fine, though still wondering what else was to come.

As it turned out, the rest of it was pretty easy. There were a couple of very brief tight and/or low spaces, nothing that posed any of the group much difficulty, and there was nice foam padding on all the bits that heads (for the most part, taller than mine) might bump into. There were also some narrow catwalks where you could see the road or the water below. At all times there were railings on both sides of the path, and the cable that we were all tethered to continued around the whole route.

Without a doubt, the main event was climbing over the arch itself. This was not at all physically demanding, especially since we stopped at several points for a bit of commentary while taking in the views, and also for several group and individual photos. You can't take your own camera, and this is for genuine safety reasons, but I'm sure it also doesn't hurt the company's profits when it comes to selling their photos. We got one group photo each as part of the climb price. Unfortunately Dad and I both looked a bit dodgey in that one so we bought two others on CD for about $25.

The gentle pace couldn’t really be varied, because there were always several groups behind and ahead of us. I would very much have preferred to be up there with a few less people around everywhere you looked. The process of climbing the arch was just a series of steps at a gentle angle, forming a generous wide path, with railings on both sides. Since it wasn't very windy after all, it was quite easy to climb this without even holding on, though I did mostly keep one hand on the railing. I suppose you could maybe lose your balance and trip, but you you'd have to work pretty hard at it to actually fall off the bridge.

The Bridgeclimb route doesn’t go all the way over the bridge: it only goes to halfway, then crosses over at the middle, where the NSW and Australian flags are, and heads back on the other side. The distance travelled is equivalent to fully crossing the bridge and coming down the other side.

At the end we were told we had climbed a total of fourteen-hundred-and-something steps in all (yes, we were told the exact number but I forgot). The guide made a big deal of waiting to tell us this after we had finished all the steps, including the normal inside-the-building ones, and after a group that went past us on their way up were out of earshot. The highest point we reached was 134 metres above sea level. And it almost goes without saying that the view from up there was spectacular. You can see quite a long way, including a bit of Manly, and the big stadium at Homebush. Definitely a unique way to see Sydney.

It’s something I always thought would be fun to do, but I might never have gotten around to it if it wasn’t for Dad getting a voucher as a birthday present. And it was a lovely way to spend some time with Dad, we felt like we had achieved something really cool. We rewarded ourselves with beer and pizza. Who am I kidding, I would have had beer and pizza anyway, but it felt particularly deserved.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

A bleeding failure!

Late last year an email came around at work, saying that the Red Cross were looking for more blood donors, and that one of the regularly scheduled minibuses would be taking a group from the Department soon. I decided it was time to give it a go.

I'm usually ok with needles so I wasn't too worried. I marked 'no' to most of the questions on the enormous questionnaire, and everyone female in the room got a giggle out of 'In the last 12 months have you had male-to-male sex?' Uh, no. The next step was an interview, including blood pressure and haemoglobin tests.

They had no trouble getting the needle into a vein on my arm, and the blood started flowing. I sat there squeezing the little rubber ball and trying not to move. I tried to read a novel at the same time but that required too much coordination. The nurse kept coming over and frowning at the machine. It was placed so I couldn't see the display, but it emerged that the blood wasn't flowing fast enough.

According to the red cross website “The donation process generally takes between 7 and 10 minutes and you usually donate 470 ml of blood.”

The maximum time you're allowed to keep going is 15 minutes, and it soon became apparent that despite various attempts to jiggle the needle or change the angle of my arm, my donation was going nowhere near 470ml.

When the nurse took the needle out she said that a clot had formed and that was probably why the flow had all but stopped. She also said my veins might be small; I might just be a "slow bleeder". I was a bit disappointed with this because they didn't get enough for an actual donation, but was reassured that they had enough for the tests they have to do to register me as a donor. I was told to drink a lot of water next time.

A few months later I tried again. I drank an extreme amount of water that morning, and did not have any caffeine. During the interview I was given a keyring to 'celebrate' my second donation. It has my blood type on the back, A+. Which makes me fairly common but not the most common.

Unfortunately, the second donation didn't go an awful lot better than the first. Again the blood flowed a bit slowly, so about one third of the way through, I was given a heat pack for my arm. That seemed to speed up the flow a bit, but it was still not enough. I was quite despondent about it so they reassured me that my puny donation could still be used for some blood products. They suggested that next time I should ask for the heat pack as soon as I get there.

I missed the next bus trip from work, but on Monday some one from the blood bank called me to ask if I could come in soon, so I made an appointment for today.

Well. I avoided coffee and tea. Once again I drank a lot of juice and water. I told the nurse of my previous problems and she checked both of my arms for the best looking vein. I sat with a heat pack on my arm for some time before she put the needle in, and when she did, blood spurted everywhere!

This seemed to be a good sign, But, by about nine minutes, they only had 200ml. The initially slow flow had become sluggish-to-none. Apparently, once the flow slows down, clotting tends to occur and then it’s all over.

As before, the nurse was very kind, and did not make me feel like I had wasted her time. She suggested that perhaps I should stop trying to donate. I had already concluded that it was to be third time lucky or not at all. She did say I should consider trying again in a couple of years, because “things can change, veins can change”, but I think she was just trying to soften the blow. She put a note on the file so that they wouldn’t call and hassle me to donate again. Afterwards I was having a drink before leaving and one of the staff asked me to fill in a form to join the 'frequent donor's club' - you get a travel clock, red of course, if you donate three times in a year. I miserably had to explain that I wouldn't be coming back.

I am really disappointed. It’s such an amazing thing that you can give half a litre of blood with little or no ill-effects, and provide something that is essential to modern medicine. The best I can do is say to anyone reading this that it's worth a try. It is not painful, and doesn’t take very long. All the staff members I encountered at the blood bank (at The Canberra Hospital) were truly very kind and encouraging, and they go to some effort to make donors feel genuinely appreciated. And although I didn’t try them, I’m told they make great milkshakes for after your donation.

Friday, May 07, 2004

A few thoughts on the Passion of the Christ

Kam and I went to see the Passion a few weeks ago. When we were deciding which movie to see I discovered that even though when it first came out I had said I wanted to see it, I sort of didn't want to see it any more, feeling like it wouldn't really be a 'movie'. But in fact I ended up being glad that I saw it. I don't think it would be much use to people who don't already know the story in some detail, though. I thought it was fascinating in parts, I was very interested (with my historian hat on) in the power
relationships between the Romans and the Jews, not so straightforward;
though the way Herod was shown was a bit of a joke. I was mystified by some
of the appearances of the devil - in particular the appearance during the scourging may have been more at home in a David Lynch film! I would accuse Mel of trying to grab attention with the tried and tested combo of gore and a bit of the supernatural; but to be honest I think he was just reflecting his medieval conception of his religion... I suspect he did not make it with an Oscar in mind, nor box office. I could be totally wrong though.

The flashback with Jesus making the table really didn't work - we thought maybe if they had left out Mary's punchline 'it'll never catch on' they might just have gotten away with it. But the time could have been used better to show Jesus' character - this scene was trying to show some character, (or maybe light relief) but it was not based on the bible, and more importantly, also not consistent with all
the preachy flashbacks, where he was very dull.

Essentially the movie was the 'stations of the cross' come to life, and should be enormously useful for churches and christians as a tool to appreciate and focus on the suffering of Christ for all our sins. It will not be so useful as an evangelistic tool, however! I would think it would be fairly impenetrable for non-Christians.

Charity close to home

My friend Michelle has a four year old son called Aaron. In November he amazingly survived an attack of meningococcal disease, but ended up having his feet and some fingertips amputated due to damage from the disease. They are not a wealthy family, and there will be enormous expenses, including new prosthetics and wheelchairs as he grows, sports equipment, etc, for a long time to come. A trust fund has been set up for donations and fundraising. More details of Aaron's story can be found on his website.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

"My ex-boyfriend was Fabio"

Ok Kam, you were so right. This show is so heavily manipulated it is probably scripted. But they're obviously not paying real scriptwriters...maybe it was the work experience person who came up with 'Fabio'.

This was the big twist at the end, after she chose the hunk over the average Joe, clearly touched by the geek's over-keenness and desperate willingness to almost say "I love you", but unwilling/unable to match his 'emotional level'. All the while noting that the hunk guy she chose was holding back (quite) a bit. She went away for a holiday with her chosen hunk and then felt she had to reveal her big, deep, dark secret. That's right, her ex boyfriend was Fabio. How old is Fabio anyway? Isn't "Larissa" supposed to be about 19?

Hunk Guy's reaction was something along the lines of a hissy fit followed by ditching her mid-holiday. Maybe he thought her past 'bad' boyfriend choice reflected poorly on him. This is supposed to show that she should have chosen an average Joe, who would be so honoured to be chosen that he would cope with any number of truly weird or bad skeletons in her closet. Now that I think about it, this would have been an okay, semi entertaining storyline, if only the skeleton actually in her closet hadn't been so completely laughable!

Disclaimer: I was not 'watching' Average Joe: Hawaii. It just happened to be on while I was waiting to start the video to tape this week's Angel episode so that I could go to bed. I may have caught some little bits of previous weeks' episodes while channel surfing. Uh-huh.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

One just ain't enough

I have another blog. I started this back in December, just on a whim. I wanted to be able to dribble on about movies, books, tv, etc, and liked the idea of it being a separate area to this one. I think what I really need is a website to contain one or more blogs, and then some photos too. That's on the list.

So many movies! So little time!

Mum, Dad, Emma and Luke got me a fantastic birthday present - '1001 movies you must see before you die'. This was Dad's idea and he deserves a bucketload of kudos for it.

It is a beautiful book just to flick through, with lovely thick glossy paper that smells good, and photos for almost every movie. It is organised chronologically which is great for browsing, and has alphabetical indexes by title, director, and genre. I love it. I especially like that it doesn't claim to be the definitive 'best movies'. I already knew that there are a lot of movies I want to see. Now I have a much bigger list! I think I should try to have some sort of system - one movie a week? (including cinema and dvd).

Today's CDs:
1. Eagles of Death Metal, Peace Love Death Metal
2. Pixies, Doolittle
3. Nirvana, Unplugged in New York

I've enjoyed them all so much I think I'll let them run through the CD player again.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

no spam thank you ma'am

Would you like to receive email every time this blog is updated? If you've been checking every day since Saturday to see if I've posted Part 2 of the Bridgeclimb story (the bit where we actually climb), this could be what you need. Send me an email saying you would like to be notified. Each time I post, you'll get an email with the text of the new post in it. Which you can read or delete as you please.

Saturday, April 17, 2004

Queen of the Castle

Last Tuesday I drove through north Sydney on my way from Newcastle. We had to queue for quite a while to pay the toll before entering the tunnel. As we were waiting, I looked up ahead and could see the Bridge, amongst the skyscrapers. I couldn’t believe how high it looked against those buildings, and that a few weeks ago I stood right at the top.

I’m standing 134 metres above the waters of Sydney Harbour, more than a tenth of a kilometre above all the dirty rascals. It doesn't quite feel real. I don’t quite realise how high I am until a cargo ship passes under the bridge. Hmmm, yeah, that’s quite a big ship, we say to each other. Then I experience a huge perspective shift as the guide points out that there are two people standing right at the front of the ship. They look like matchsticks.

We walked into the Bridgeclimb offices just before 4pm and found LOTS of people, all either lining up to make bookings or waiting for their turn to climb the bridge. Every ten minutes a group of twelve heads up onto the Bridge. All day and into the night.

After a bit of nervous waiting we were called in to sign indemity forms, then colour in a page of those circles that I haven’t seen since competing in Maths and Science competitions at high school, and count into a breathalyser. The circle-colouring-in was to get our names printed on the official certificates. I was the slowest to finish this because I actually tried to read the indemnity form, and at the same time a Bridgeclimb employee was talking about things that might have important. However I am happy to report that both Dad and I passed the counting and colouring-in tests comfortably.

Next we were hustled into an adjoining room, and greeted by another employee, who inspected our shoes, told us what jewellery we were allowed to leave on (rings and small earrings were about all), and performed the impressive feat of handing each of us exactly the right size jumpsuit without asking anyone for their size, but not before he apologised for looking each of us up and down. We went into little cubicles to change into the jumpsuits, after yet another employee came in with a weather report (temp low 20s, humidity high) and recommended "just underwear or very light layers" under the jumpsuit. This was very helpful as I hadn't wanted to ask, but had been wondering if you're supposed to wear your clothes underneath. The jumpsuits were not highly fashionable, though at least the colours were muted and inoffensive in two or three shades of grey. I heard later that the grey was chosen to avoid distracting motorists driving across the Bridge, but I don’t know if that’s true. It was somehow comforting that everyone wore the same, even the staff, and even including those who just work in the preparation areas and don't actually lead the climbs. I did feel for them, knowing how I would feel about wearing a jumpsuit on a daily basis, let alone one with firm elastic wrists, ankles and waist.

Once jumpsuited, they checked us over with a metal-detecting wand. I’m not sure if they were looking for guns, knives or excessive bling bling, but in any case we all passed.

Finally we met our guide and collected an array of gear. First, the padded belt and harness to be attached to the continuous static line (cable) that follows the entire route taken on the bridge. Next, a raincoat (zipped into a smallish package) that clipped onto the back of the belt. If it had been colder we would have had a similarly packaged fleecy jacket clipped on the other side. I was most amused by the blue man-size hanky with an elastic loop on one corner. This was worn on the wrist and wrapped around, bandanna style. I don’t remember anyone using it, but I guess a sudden runny-ness of the nose could be a bit of a disaster. Even if you did have pants with pockets on underneath the jumpsuit, it would be very tricky to get to your snot-rag. We were allowed to take sunglasses, and if we did there was an official BridgeclimbTM cord to hold them, which not only went around the neck but also clipped on to the jumpsuit. Dad was very relieved to discover this option because he had been debating whether to take sunnies, being worried about the wind drying out his contact lenses. There were also BridgeclimbTM hats, which, inevitably, clip onto the jumpsuit. I decided not to mess up my totally stylin’ pigtails. They even had official BridgeclimbTM scrunchies for those who hadn’t thought ahead like me.

We did a short practice climb on a series of ladders set up in the preparation area, mainly just getting used to being ‘clipped on’ to the static line, and learning how to free the clip when it snags. Oh yes, and learning the ‘one-at-a-time’ method of ladder climbing. And finally, just near the exit, we got the last piece of equipment: a radio which went in a holder on the belt, and a headset with ear pieces that went on your face in front of the ears (face-pieces?) and worked by bone conduction. I guess this might be so that you can still hear other things properly while listening to the running commentary from the guide.

We stepped outside onto the street, feeling about as odd as we looked. Not to mention a little apprehensive.

Stay tuned for part 2.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

quick rants

Are newsreaders the only ones who say "harassment" with the emphasis on the first syllable? "Harassment" seems to be good enough for the rest of us.

And, on another (unrelated) matter: Girls! Just because your sports team plays in a lower division and you don't have a coach or train regularly, you are still allowed to want to win! It's ok to be competitive! I'm a bit over the concept of "social" sport - this term often seems to be bandied about by people who are afraid of being competitive. You can have fun and seek to win too. You can still be friendly with the opposition, though keep the chatting and jokes for off the court. A while ago I grimaced through a friendly ref telling us with pride how he likes to have a bit of a joke on the court and get the players laughing, because 'it's a social grade'. Inside I was yelling at him 'take me seriously you bastard!'

OK they're my issues and I'll deal with them.

Yeah I still owe y'all a proper post.

Monday, March 01, 2004

Yay for biology, Part II

I was doing the washing up on the weekend and overheard something on the tv about 'peeling sheep', which, unsurprisingly, caught my attention. The show was Landline and the product: 'Bioclip', which has been under development for many years and is just becoming commercially viable. Over thousands of years of domestication, the tendency for sheep to shed their wool has been bred out of most breeds. The bioclip process involves injecting a naturally occurring protein, covering the sheep in a net 'boob tube', and hey presto, a couple of months later, the wool can be peeled off instead of shearing. It's better for the sheep (no cuts from shearing) and better for the wool (more even length and no contaminating bits of skin. I think this is pretty nifty.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

validate me!

Is there anybody in there?
Just nod if you can hear me.
Is there anyone home?

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I know there are a few of you reading. Just hit the comments button. I don't care if you do it anonymously.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Word Nerd: Segue

A few months ago I sauntered into the bar one night after work, to meet a few friends. Almost as soon as I sat down, the question was asked. How do you spell 'segue'?

Well, S-E-G-U-E was my best guess, but I couldn't shake the feeling that it needed an accent or something. I tried every other possible spelling I could think of - there aren' t many - and they all looked pretty silly. Most people at the table felt they - sort of - knew what it meant, but no one was that confident about it. We decided it was some kind of transition, often used in the context of a conversation, as in "Hey, nice segue!" when someone smoothly changes the topic.

After we had debated the spelling for a while, I had a brainwave. "I'll call Mum, she'll know about it for sure!" I declared to the whole group, thus setting up my mother as a spelling guru. I whipped out my mobile and dialed my parents' number. Dad answered, listened to my question, had no idea what I was talking about, and went to get Mum, who was vacuuming at the time. Sadly, Mum didn't seem to know what I was talking about either. I put this down to a combination of things. a) She was in the middle of cleaning when I interrupted her with a question about an obcsure word, so maybe she was a bit distracted. b) I was convinced that if she saw the word written down in some sort of context, she would have been able to correct the spelling, no worries. c) I had a nagging feeling that I had mostly seen the word on US websites and I thought maybe it was uncommon here. Don't worry Mum, I still consider you the guru.

My initial dictionary search led me to think I had been right about the US English suspicion. Merriam-Webster (online) had it:

Etymology: Italian, there follows, from seguire to follow, from Latin sequi

Date: circa 1740
1. proceed to what follows without pause -- used as a direction in music
2. perform the music that follows like that which has preceded -- used as a direction in music

Date: circa 1913
1. to proceed without pause from one musical number or theme to another
2. to make a transition without interruption from one activity, topic, scene or part to another

And when I checked the Macquarie and Australian Oxford, I couldn't find it. It was a couple of weeks before I thought to check in the BIG Macquarie, and sure enough, my assumptions about it being mostly used by Americans had led me astray. There was a very similar definition there, and in the big Oxford.

So, there you go, an Italian music term, adopted for everyday English use. I'm surprised I don't hear it used more often, it seems pretty useful. I can't think of any direct synonyms, at least at the moment. (And I haven't got a big enough thesaurus) Let me know if you think of any.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Yay for biology

In the most interesting and heartwarming news I've heard in days, a plant has been developed that will change its colour when it comes into contact with landmines, by sensing certain chemicals.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Begging ettiquette?

I was a bit late leaving work, so I was jogging as a approached the bus interchange. Not flat out sprinting, but obviously running and (I thought) obviously in a hurry. I could see a few buses waiting and didn't know if mine was one of them. Out of the corner of my eye I saw someone on a bike, and heard "excuse me?". I hoped he was talking to someone else and kept going. A young guy rode up beside me as I ran and said "excuse me, do you have a spare $1.20..." I think he finished with "for the bus" (though thinking about it later, that doesn't make total sense as he was riding a bike) but I replied barely before he had finished speaking, more with surprise than anger, "no, I'm in a hurry!". It was only a few more steps till I could see that my bus wasn't there yet, and after I stopped, I felt a bit foolish just standing there. But I think he had ridden off.

I don't quite know how I feel about begging in this town. I'm sure there are genuine cases but I also feel that there really should be enough avenues for people to get help if they need it. If you're not willing to obey anyone's rules in order to get your handout or your bed for the night, too bad. (Yes, I realise that often mental illness is a factor in homelessness and that can complicate things significantly). Sometimes I hand over some change, and mostly I don't. But that's not even really the point here. It made me feel similar to a few times when I've said no (and sometimes I really haven't had anything, or nothing I could give at the time) and the person gives you The Look of Death. My feeling is if you're throwing yourself on people's mercy by asking for something for nothing, you can't go acting like they owe you! Riding after someone who is clearly RUNNING for a bus to ask them for money is just rude, and I can't see how it would be a very successful strategy. I'm not going to choose to maybe miss a bus for you, before I've even heard your sad story. It's not like he even looked slightly desperate or hurried. Maybe he was just making sure he asked every single person around.

Share your funny / sad / annoying beggar stories by clicking on 'Comments'.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Pathetic geek stories!

A long time feature of the Onion AV Club, Maria Schneider's Pathetic Geek Stories has moved to its own site. Maria draws embarassing stories sent in to her by readers. An excellent place to go when you think you're having a bad day!

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Irony update

I wasn't really satisfied with my previous post about irony. This is the article I wish I'd written.

Saturday, January 03, 2004

Married priests

I'm a little behind in posting this but I still think it's worth mentioning: a story about a married-with-children Anglican priest who recently converted to Catholicism. Apparently, "the Pope allows married priests who convert to Catholicism an exemption from the vow of celibacy." Has this always been the case?

When I mentioned this, a couple of people responded that there are several married Catholic priests here in Australia who have converted from the Anglican church in recent times.

The article notes that this particular priest stated that his move is "not associated with simplistic one-off issues" (read: gay and women priests). But still, I find it an interesting idea that Anglican priests fleeing a variety of changes in their church might end up contributing to quite a radical change in the Catholic church. To me, the idea of the Catholic church having married priests is quite surprising, even if it is just a few isolated cases. Surely it must have some effect on the views of at least the people in those parishes. And surely the Vatican would see this as a dangerous precedent? Then again I can see the potential for a certain amount of pride in winning attracting converts, not just from the Anglican church, but from the clergy itself.