Saturday, December 23, 2006

Will we be in our minds when the dawn breaks?

I used to overeat as a kid. Not all the time, but certainly when nice things were on offer, things that weren't everyday foods. So birthday parties, with their neverending bowls of chips and lollies, would almost always lead to me getting home feeling not just full but totally green. I blamed the fact that they always brought out the really sickly sweet things, the chocolate crackles (made from coco pops rice bubbles) and evil lamingtons, towards the end, when you were already full of chips and fairy bread. Sweet things still really tip me over the edge quickly. These days I hate chocolate crackles (but do they even get made any more?), and I approach lamingtons with extreme caution.

Some part of me knew, even as I was planning all the presents I might make or have a go at before Christmas, that my eyes were way bigger than my stomach. A few things didn't go quite as planned, but the real problem is that I am simply in denial about how time works. You can really only do one thing at a time. (Athough you CAN knit on the bus and also while waiting for pages to load when the internet is running really slow). Everything takes longer than you think it will. You need time to think, and look, and feel how the item is turning out and what the next step should be.

That said, I need a certain amount of pressure to work at optimum efficiency and creativity. So I'm ok with continuing to bite off a bit more than I can chew, as long as there are back-up options. (Like, maybe, not knitting gift bags to put presents in). This week I had to come up with some back-up options. But everything on the plan will get made, eventually.

Friday, December 15, 2006

No I've never felt this way before

The magic of felting is back. I've had some projects in the pipeline for a while, but I think I might have been putting off the actual felting part - it's time-consuming and seemed like so much work. It always takes two sessions (over several hours) to get it done. I do several pieces at once though.

This time I tried an amendment to my hand-felting technique. Basically it's a bucket of very hot water with lots of sudsy woolwash, and lots of agitation, assisted by a ridged wooden soapdish (imagine a mini washboard) and rubber gloves. I used to stop every now and then to rinse the piece under cold tap water, as I suspected the shocks of hot then cold temperatures would help the felting along. The difference this time is I have gotten serious about the cold rinses, using a second bucket with cold water and ICE CUBES, and switching much more often. It really seems to have speeded up the process considerably.

And oh, the resulting felted fabric is soooo lovely and squishy I just wanted to keep making more of it. More projects than I can keep up with are now popping into my head.

There was a slight setback when I realised, after ignoring many hints of the ugly truth, and unfortunately way too much stockpiling, that the new Lincraft 'Cosy Wool' really does not felt. The old version was marvellous. I was kidding myself that it was just some colours that didn't work...but Taph, you were right.

Luckily, the new Big W in Civic, while it stocks hardly any wool at the moment, does have many colours of Panda Carnival, which felts like a dream. Seems like every other day I pop in for another colour. I am loving those self-service checkouts.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Foot in mouth and heart in hand

Last week I was forwarded, three separate times, a video called "Government employees" (You can view it here.) A man and a woman, both in business attire and carrying briefcases, ride a fews steps apart on a moving escalator in the atrium of a large building. The escalator stops. The government employees remain standing still, look annoyed, look at their watches, comment on the fact that they're already late and 'don't need this', and finally start calling for help as if they are trapped in a stalled lift.

It might have been my mood when I watched the video, but I felt it wasn't quite funny, and needed something extra to work as a punchline, rather than just the title.

I usually get overly irritated when I'm forced to stand still on an escalator. I hate it when people stand side-by side so you can't walk past. Yet I will often stand there glowering rather than asking them to move aside. In the London Tube stations they have signs telling you to stand to the left, or maybe it's the right, either way it was great, because there is always a path to walk through.

I like to walk fast, especially when shopping, and an escalator is a way to go faster.

But sometimes I'll find myself on a tired or just very relaxed day, simply gliding along on the escalator, watching the world go by. When I realise I'm just standing there, then I feel like I'm a hypocrite (even just in my own head).

If there is one thing I hate, it's being caught out in hypocrisy. I think that's behind my indecisive nature to some extent - if I don't pick a side I won't risk becoming a hypocrite when I later find out more information and have to change my mind.

So, I guess what I'm getting at is....ummm.....

....the other night I found myself gliding again. Gliding rather fast actually, though a roadworks zone (60 km/h) at the normal speed limit of 80. Oops.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Honk if you think I'm a pain in the @rse

The other day I drove past as a police officer was writing out a speeding ticket for some poor fool. It was in a short 60km/h roadworks segment of Gininderra Drive, an 80km/h road. I was thrilled to see this and did a happy dance in my seat... while sedately driving past.

I felt that I deserved it. A few nights before I had been driving home along this road and a car roared out of nowhere, doing at least 100 km/h, past me doing 60. Needless to say this gave me a scare. Part of the reason for the lower limit is that there is no proper shoulder to the road at present, and traffic cones lined up along the edge make it feel narrower than usual.

I was infuriated, and by the time I came home I had formulated an ideal plan.

Arms waving and spittle flying, I announced it to K and the dogs: "there should be speed cameras everywhere! Absolutely. Everywhere. (evil laugh) It wouldn't take long for most people to lose their licenses. Then the roads would be left for people like me. Wouldn't that be lovely?"

Most drivers seem to find it very difficult to actually slow right down to the reduced limits for roadworks. (Well, let's face it, around here a lot of people speed everywhere anyway). This is one of the few areas where I am happy to be a complete nuisance. I take great pleasure in slowing down to the exact speed limit and forcing those behind me to do so too.

They should be thanking me.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

But I can walk much faster than this

I don't think I'll have the luxury of taking a week off before Christmas like I did last year. But today was a marvellous day, a day spent much like that week was. Basically, watching/listening to DVDs all day while knitting. This time the TV-on-DVD accompanying the creative frenzy is... wait for it... Beverly Hills 90210. Awesome. So addictive. There is a lot of stuff I want to make before Christmas and time is inevitably going to move so fast.

Here's an old-school brown paper parcel I received the other day. Oh yes, it contained wool. I had a funny visit to Wondoflex in Melbourne, where before I was even half way around the huge shop I stumbled into some kind of rack protruding on the floor and cut my toe. It was no big deal, I returned after going outside to apply bandaids, and bought a couple of miscellaneous balls of wool. But it really coloured my memory of that store. When I recently decided I needed some more of that wool, preferably in the same dyelot, and I found that they had an online store, it made sense to order from them.

Look at that cute crumpled package! How can I hold onto that funny/bad feeling? Toe's all better now! Better yet, they enclosed $1.20 in change, as the postage was only $3.80 and the site had automatically charged me $5 for postage. They could easily have kept that as a handling charge (though I guess I might then have expected a postpack of some sort). There was something very touching about the two coins stickytaped to the receipt.

Thursday, November 23, 2006


I was tidying up a bit tonight and rediscovered a treasure from my sort of recent Melbourne trip: the last gap in my run of Wonder Woman (current series) comics.

It used to be that whenever we left town, K and I would be armed with our comic lists, pages of numbers gradually crossed out, with the gaps showing which issues were missing in our collections. We've both fallen out of that habit: I still buy comics but haven't searched for back issues in a long time. However, certain numbers were burned in my brain from years of searching: Wonder Woman 88, 90, 91, 92. I knew I had secured 90-92 at least in trade paperback format, but 88 had always been elusive.

We visited 3 or 4 comics shops while we were in Melbourne. Out of habit, I always have to look in the 'W' section of any back-issue bin. And finally it paid off!

I pulled out the long-awaited 88. The cover is by the usually wonderful Brian Bolland, but what's this? Surely this has to be THE ugliest Superman ever to grace the cover of a comic?

Weren't mullets out of date by 1994?

Sadly, some of the interior panels have Diana not looking much better. It's really not a great issue (though I'll have to go back and read it again in context), but it will always be a trophy to me, since it took so long to find.

Sunday, November 19, 2006


The other day a colleague was telling us about a frustrating drive he'd had with his L-plater teenager. Not necessarily stopping at intersections, a little bit of roundabout impairment maybe, nothing too unusal or surprising. (Though terrifying? Yes.) But what was bothering him most was her habit of saying 'I know' straightaway whenever he tells her anything.

This was all too familiar to me.

I still feel a twinge of the old shame whenever I use that phrase....and I still use it very sparingly.

In my early teens I developed that obnoxious habit of always saying 'I know' in that irritated tone, even when I totally didn't. Mum could only put up with so much of this, and told me frankly that it was obnoxious and that I had to stop it. Forced to think about it, I quickly realised it was pretty stupid, felt embarassed, and cleaned up my act.

My mate at work was pondering this teenage habit as a serious concern, perhaps even a symptom of the education system 'these days'. He was worried that his daughter really felt she knew enough and had no desire to learn more.

I delved into my shameful teenage past to give him my interpretation. I reckon it simply means 'I'm irritated and a bit embarassed that you have to tell me that. I hate the fact that something I did or said indicated that I didn't know it already'. It doesn't mean she's not actually taking in the offered bit of wisdom.

Gee I hope I was right and that next time she stops at the intersection.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Ain't nothing in the world like a green skinned girl

Yesterday I caught the bus home with K. This is an occasional pleasure, as usually we travel at different times and he often rides his bike anyway. I enjoyed the time together....and I was also suprised at my level of annoyance at having my bus rituals disturbed.

Firstly, I never join the queue that forms when the bus pulls up at the interchange.

I accept that it wouldn't work if everyone milled about, waiting for everyone else to get on the bus. Like that would ever happen. Everyone is keen to get on, and I really think I just do this to be contrary. I usually sit and read my book with one eye on the queue, and only stand up when there are only a couple of people left. At the times I go home, the bus is (almost) never packed so I can generally still get a seat. Oh, I did go through a phase of standing with my book right near where the bus will pull up, so I can get on first then sit down and bury myself in my book. That works too, and is more relaxing. It's just the unnecessary standing in the queue that bothers me.

I'm actually generally very patient with queues, especially if other people in the line are whinging a lot and I am feeling very contrary. Then I am the picture of calm. However, I especially dislike lining up for movies, particularly when everyone in the line is there for one stupid blockbuster (and me too). Then I feel like an idiotic sheep. Exceptions were made for cool blockbusters like the Lord of the Rings movies each Boxing Day when they opened.

Anyway, K made me join the bus queue and I got annoyed. Even while realising how obnoxious I was being. And I quickly surmised that even if the bus isn't completely full, it's not sensible to wait 'til last if you want to get two seats together.

At the other end, I like to get up as soon as I ring the bell so I can be first off the bus. This saves having to overtake people going in my direction from the bus stop, when I want to get home fast. Even worse is the awkwardness when your pace is much the same as someone else and you end up side-by-side or stalking them closely trying to overtake. Of course, it turns out that none of this is of the slightest importance when I am with someone else.

There you go. More, I'm sure, than you could ever have wanted to know about my anti-social bus habits.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Putting the 'mental' in sentimental

You've seen this before, right?
Actually, not quite. This time around I added a "Tree of Life" cabled motif to the back, just to try something new.

I actually agonised about this for a while. Because the first little orange vest was the first garment I made for my nephew, I wondered - probably irrationally - if making another orange one from the same pattern and then (maybe) improving on it, would take away from the specialness of that gift. Edited to clarify: this one is for a different baby, due soon, not for my nephew. Sheesh. And to think that I sometimes accuse a friend of looking for things to worry about. I almost discussed it with my sister, then realised there was no way she would be able to say anything other than 'go for it, and by the way you are a nut-case', so I went for it. I consoled myself with the knowledge that I have many more (and more innovative, I hope) knits planned for the nephew and any little sisters or brothers he is eventually blessed with.

The tree chart came from a free Lion Brand pattern, the "Tree of Life Sweater" (no direct link because you have to register to access free patterns).

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Just kicking down the cobble stones

While I digest all the comments on the Arts and Crafts post, here are a couple more Melbourne photos. Above, a Chapel St, Prahran shop window. And the one below was taken in the CBD.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Happy little bubble head

I often find myself feeling trapped when asked about "what I've been up to", when the things that are most exciting to me, most voluptuously inhabiting my brain, are the things I'm making or thinking about making. I often feel I am bursting with unrealised and partially realised creative ideas. I just don't know how to share this with others, that I'm not doing these things only to kill time or occupy "idle hands".

When I tell people I do various craft things - knitting, making jewellery, cross stitch - as the words come out, a certain sort of picture paints itself. How do you tell people, especially those who don't haunt Craftster (its motto: no tea cosies without irony) or hundreds of modern brilliant creative blogs? That you like to make things... but not teddy bears or doileys, particularly.

So there is a problem with "craft".

But I definitely can't get comfortable with "art" either. In my immediate family, those who have studied at Art School outnumber those who haven't (and I haven't). When I think about art I tend to focus on the conceptual end of the spectrum. An artist has something to say, and the medium may even be secondary to the message. Innovation is critical. A lot of the time I am making stuff from a pattern or instructions, and the level of originality varies - with knitting I'm not good enough yet to be inventing much. With jewellery I don't follow a pattern, but I'm hardly inventing new forms, just making things I like to wear or that suit others for gifts. I can see potential for some of my crafty pursuits to move in the direction of "art". But that's not explicitly my aim anyway, and what do you call that middle ground?

I would love to hear your thoughts on the meanings and uses of "art" and "craft". I know the distinctions are not black and white. To me craft suggests more of a focus on materials and processes and possibly functionality as well. Whereas art is more about self-expression. I believe many people make works that do all of this at once.

Please join in with a comment or an email if you prefer.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Where the palm trees have it hard

Luna Park Scenic Railway, the only rollercoaster operating from this period - 1912.

St Kilda's Mr Moon is a bit more menacing than the Sydney one.

Sunday morning markets.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

St Kilda cake shops

Acland Street cake shops with gorgeous display windows.

(as always, click on the photo to see it bigger)

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

You're drinkin' whiskey when it should be wine

This was just one of a series of marvellous melbourne meals. And oddly, the only one I managed to photograph. I seriously did not have an even slightly sub-par meal while I was there. Oh, we decided not to count that one ill-advised food court foray... there were extenuating circumstances.

Basically this is a corn fritter with avocado and a poached egg on top, garnished with rocket (but no pushy evidence of a bulk rocket buy) and a pesto dressing. It might have had a slightly fancier name and description, which I don't remember. Normally I like my poached eggs pretty well done but I was convinced to take this one as designed. The yolk soaks into the corn fritter and tastes fabbo.

We ate in a variety of cafes and restaurants that we happened across, or that E chose based on Entertainment Book discounts. So it's not like we were using some kind of good food guide. I think standards are just really high there.

I feel like I might be a little bit late to the foodie party, saying this. I tend to order an item in which I like all the ingredients, and it tastes ok all together. But with a really good meal (read: all my Melbourne meals) the ingredients combine to make more than just the sum of their parts. Even something seemingly 'modular' like a salad or a foccacia, still tasted like something special. I almost didn't want to stay in that town too much longer, for fear of becoming more fussy when eating out back in Canberra.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


We're back, we didn't get lost, and the toilets were all of adequate quality. My main impression of Melbourne? One amazing meal after another. More soon.

Friday, October 06, 2006

ROooooooad Triiip!

As we're about to drive to Melbourne for a few days, we dug out the old map from the last time (something like eight or nine years ago). Click to see bigger versions.

That's about 67 cents a litre

Also, some handy notes to remember.

I'm left wondering: are those toilets at Lake's Entrance still great? Will the navigator heed his own advice to take 'care reading street signs' at Rosedale?

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Aaargh! Don't do that!

Don't, as we race past each other in the hallway, say "Hi! How are you?". I won't have time to answer, much less ask you politely back how you are, but I WILL FEEL BAD ABOUT IT.

In these situations, just a quick "Hi" or even a nod is better for my mental health, and better all round.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Now I want my share

Last weekend I had a fantastic lunch at Grazing at Gundaroo. The surroundings, the service, and the food were all lovely. They even have a very impressive vegetarian menu. Highly recommended. The only small blight on our experience was 'the wine line'.

Yes, they use wine glasses with a line printed on them to indicate the proper serving size. It wouldn't bother me to see this in a pub or not-too-fancy bar. I'm not sure I have actually come across this before, not being much of a wine drinker, but one of my companions had. However this was really quite a nice restaurant, and we thought the line on the wine glass failed to match the tone of the place.

It was suggested that the line is not merely a cheap gesture on the proprieter's part (avoiding being too generous with the wine) but also aids the winer-diner in determining with some certainty how many standard drinks they have consumed.

In a much odder turn of events, the previous night I ate with a friend at a Turkish restaurant. Neither of us finished our meal so we asked if we could take them away. Given that this is a place that serves pide (Turkish pizza) and does a lot of takeaway, this was a pretty usual request. It seemed strange that the waiter did not immediately take the plates away in order to package the food. Instead he went over to the counter, grabbed two empty boxes, and dumped them on our table. "There you go!" And off he went.

We just stared at each other for a while before awkardly putting the food into the boxes ourselves.

On relating this story later, some people mentioned that many places now make you sign for your doggie bag, to remove any possible liability for later food poisoning if you don't cool and heat the leftovers appropriately. Some won't allow doggie bags at all. I can't quite see how making us put the food in the boxes would help get them off the hook, but maybe it was some bizarre interpretation.....

Monday, September 18, 2006

And are you just waving or drowning? It's so hard to tell when you're so far away

When I pick up the home phone, and after my greeting there is a small delay, I always hang up. There was one Wednesday when a computer phoned my house about every two hours. I stopped picking up the phone at all, and unfortunately this meant that I ignored calls from a friend and my sister. But they have my mobile number.

Last Wednesday I messed up. I hit the button to cut the call as I heard the delay and realised it was a telemarketer, but I obviously didn't hold the button down long enough, so the call wasn't cancelled. I ended up talking to an AAPT representative. Once I had ascertained what it was about, having been asked who my home phone provider is, I said "Sorry I am not interested in comparing plans or making a change". I think this clearly indicates that I'm not going to consider the offer and I don't want to listen to the spiel. I'm not accusing the INDIVIDUAL of anything, I'm simply indicating that I do not want to continue the call. Some of my friends say that after they say no thanks, they also hang up straight away. I don't think that should be necessary.

There is a new breed of telemarketers who are very defensive. I suspect that they are not located in Australia. Usually, if I said what I said to an Australian caller, they might reveal a bit of annoyance but they would still at least give lip service to politeness. I expect them to end the call quickly after I indicate that I'm not going to take an interest. They might offer to call at a different time or give me a number to call if I change my mind later. Sometimes I ask if I can check out their offer on a website instead - I hate trying to take in that sort of information aurally.

But these telemarketers are rude and pushy. I've had repeated run-ins with a very rude, bossy and openly irritated Optus lady, and today's AAPT man was just the same. His opening had been to ask me who my current phone provider is. His response to my statement that I was not interesting in comparing plans was a very defensive, almost hectoring "Ma'am, there is no obligation, will you please tell me who your current phone account is with so I can make a comparison." His tone was as if I had been very rude and offensive and he was just trying to do his job. He repeated this, talking over me as I reiterated that I did not want to consider any offers and please DO NOT CALL THIS NUMBER AGAIN (yeah I might have sounded slightly miffed by this point).

The frustration and barely concealed anger both of these individuals showed would be more expected if, say, I had called them for some kind of assistance, and then I had been uncooperative. But they are calling me, unsolicited! If they can't even be vaguely polite in their interactions, who is going to be willing to sit through the spiel?

The first few times this happened I was just amazed at the rudeness and continued the interaction much longer than I really needed to, just because I was so amazed that my message was so rudely ignored! Now I've wised up. It still surprises me though. Either they have very little training and quality control, or they are under pressure to make quotas, perhaps to even just keep people on the phone for a certain amount of time. Or both.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Nothing more, nothing less

I handed him the block of Snack chocolate and went off to bed. Well aware that he might put away the whole package in one sitting, I asked if he could just leave me at least a square of orange - the best flavour. The next day I found the wrapper folded over a neat collection of ALL the orange squares.

It's now how we eat Snack in this house.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Some boys think they're sweet enough to eat

As I walked with the dogs this morning I passed a house which is for sale. The huge sign out the front has been there for over a month and I've passed it many times. It has the date of the auction (next weekend) and also features colour photos of the interior.

The main photo shows the spacious living room: a modern closed fireplace on a tiled surround, a pair of tasteful blue two seater lounges, and an expanse of polished blonde wood floor stretching endlessly back towards the camera. It's obviously an old house done up quite nicely. And you know, in a room like that you could do a neat job of swinging a couple of cats tied together, without knocking over any knick-nacks.

But something was different on this nice sunny morning. The curtains were wide open and the real thing was clearly visible. My view of the room was from an angle only a little bit different from the one the photo had been shot from. The reality was so much smaller than what was implied by the photographer's skill with a wide angle lens. A maximum of two paces from the window would put me right inside that little fireplace.

It must be the same kind of lens they used to shoot the indoor swimming pool at a Sydney hotel I once booked online.

The real thing turned out to be about one third the size it appears in this picture. I think those plants must have been brought in just for the photo, and it all looked much more ordinary. I found the whole thing very amusing.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

There's a better home a-waiting

So, on Wednesday there was a new project idea eating my brain, and I was weak. I started knitting a large piece which is to become a cylindrical felted bag. No I don't have any pressing need for another bag. Also I have many other projects started or on the list. But sometimes I just have to admit that it would be impractical to do anything other than go with the most brain-consuming item first. And just another X-Files episode or two.

It didn't take long before I ran out of the 2-3 colours of wool that I wanted to use. No problem, I was going into town anyway to pick up my sister, I'll just run into my local major craft and sewing chain store and stock up on those.

But. None of those colours were on the shelf. And none of the other colours there would possibly work.


Oh, and the crappy circular knitting needle that I bought? It broke straight away. I went and got my money back today.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Just look outside it's a lovely day

It's warming up. Today was the First Footloose Day of Spring. Yes, I went out without socks on.

Yesterday I took a jacket to work but it was just a formality. I thought it might cool down by the time I was going home, but I just ended up carrying it. At lunch time I had to announce to my fellow cubicle dwellers, "I'm going out and I'm not putting on a coat". A parasol against the strong sun was suggested instead.

This year I am unambiguously happy about the start of Spring, since the ski season was not worth lamenting. There is something automatic about the thrill of warmer weather coming. It seems unrelated to any logical arguments about being more comfortable, letting fresh air into living spaces, wearing less layers of clothing. It's just a mood that hits, and you just have to enjoy it for the brief time before you acclimatise and things are normal again.

Of course I am well aware that there is sure to be another cold snap. Canberra almost always has one wacky September day when it will snow (except when it happens in October instead - this is a city with regular sub-zero nights in winter, but no snow).

The icing on the cake is that the holy wireless waves of Inter-net are once again flowing at proper speed in this house. I don't have to bring some knitting or a book to sit by the computer while I wait for each page to load.

And the cherry on the top? An unexpected find of an early Kirsty MacColl compilation on CD, one I thought was only ever on vinyl. It has a few songs that don't exist anywhere else in my collection, and a couple of alternate versions of beloved songs too. I thought that when From Croydon to Cuba was delivered into my hot little hands last year, that was going to be the last New Kirsty Day, so this was a super pleasant surprise. For $6!

Monday, August 28, 2006

They'd never match my sweet imagination

Actually this is very close to how I imagined it. I finished my Kiri over a week ago and still can't stop admiring it, draping it into different positions and wafting around the house with it floating from my shoulders. Such a pretty shawl and an easier-than-it-looks pattern.

I only wish I had forced myself to knit from the charts rather than the instructions. I've since aquired a book of beautiful lace patterns, all of which rely on charts. Oh well. I'm pretty sure I will be able to do it, when push comes to shove. I actually had to pull out my first Kiri attempt, amounting to quite a lot of rows (and hours) because I made a crucial mistake in reading the pattern, and what was coming off the needles was not at all symmetrical. A mistake that probably wouldn't have happened if I had been knitting from the chart.

I did wonder if I would actually find a triangle shawl wearable. This is how I am most likely to wear it (and have, over my coat). It feels very flamboyant - a bright red frill-neck - but I love wearing it anyway.

It was washing day so I used the bed to block it. I used wire (tiger tail) for the straight edge and pins for all the scallops. If you try this manoeuvre, I can't stress enough the importance of keeping track of ALL the pins. I thought a final sweep with a large magnet might have come in handy.... but I haven't come across any pins in the bed since then so I guess I did ok.

Think I'll go and eat worms

The boring stuff:

You may have noticed I've been messing around with my template (the format of the blog). I've had a very kind offer of assistance to design my very own, and I'm planning to do that asap. So for now I've restored something similar to what I had before.

For those who have had difficulties leaving comments in the past, now would be a good time to try again. I have finally changed over to Blogger's own comments system. I hope you'll find it easier to use, even though I do have that annoying word verification turned on, to avoid comment spam.

I used to use Enetation, because when I first started Dreaming all the Time, Blogger did not offer comments. In blog terms we are not quite a senior citizen, but maybe getting towards middle-aged.

In the midst of all this template-y tomfoolery, we went waaaaay over our monthly download limit and had our internet connection SEVERELY shaped - slowed to a very slow crawl. Although we've gone over the limit in past months, the slowdown hasn't seemed that bad. This time they appear to mean business. I guess I should think about paying a little more per month for this wireless service.

Let's not even talk about the fact that the part of Canberra where we live is completely in ADSL territory, except for our house/street/some mysterious segment of our suburb. Every few months we get a personalised letter from Telstra offering us a great deal on a broadband connection. The first few times, I went through the charade of calling them up to find out that no, ADSL still wasn't actually available to our phone number. Even though they sent us a letter . More recently I have simply taken a pair of scissors to the letter while it is still in the envelope. Strangely satisfying.

Tonight I have travelled just a few streets away to my sister's place, to partake of the wonderful broadband feast. Yum.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

something fishy goin' on

So, Bertie is now a vegetarian. It's a good thing that he doesn't tend to frequent ski resorts. I had another hilarious Thredbo vegetarian experience.

This time around, we had a similar deal with the accomodation, breakfast included every day as well as three dinners. The restaurant had a Thai menu, though they also had a small western menu, for variety. They had helpfully marked the vegetarian items: one entree, one soup, and two mains. Poor compared to your average Thai restaurant, but not too bad for Thredbo. However, one of the mains with a 'V' next to it contained oyster sauce. I asked if oyster sauce indeed contained fish or oyster, and if so, could soy or some other sauce be substituted? The message back from the chef was: yes, a little bit; and yes, but (hmph) it wouldn't taste as good.

Call me paranoid but I feared an attack of chef-rage. That sort of chef might be the sort of chef who will spit in my plate in retaliation for my show of disrespect. This is exactly what I don't like about fancy restaurants. You're supposed to sit down, shut up, and eat the food exactly the way the chef decides to prepare it. Maybe I'm not much of a gourmet, I just prefer somewhere a bit more flexible. It's not like I was mucking around with the dishes just for fun. I was only suggesting that a vegetarian meal be made actually vegetarian.

So I ploughed through Pad Thai on three different nights. I do quite like Pad Thai, though I won't be ordering one for a while now.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Whassa matta you, hey?

This afternoon at work I came back to my desk to find a tangello with a post-it note stuck to it.

'You need more Vitamin C'

I think perhaps some one of my colleagues had not been able to help but notice the all-consuming bad mood this week. The rage and fury earned a special name. I coined it myself. PVG - Post-Viral-Grouchiness. I was tempted to put up a sign: Just don't talk to me. It's better for everyone.

After-hours this PVG week I've been trying - with no success - to prepare a little secret craft project with a kind of urgent deadline. This project required use of a power drill. I'm sure I can manage that. Only problem was I couldn't even get the case open. The plastic case. It has flaps that flap up, only they just wouldn't. Finally with a bit of advice over the phone I managed to get only one side open, breaking a nail in the process. One flap up was essentially as good as none. Worse than useless, I felt like such a wimp. A very angry wimp. If only my anger had a bit of a hulk effect.

Anyway I've never tried a tangello before and I was quite tickled. And I have nice things planned for both days this weekend. The rage has finally cooled.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

(Don't) wanna be sedated

Once upon a time I was going to do good things. I had no illusions about being GREAT, or famous, but I was going to spend some time (not necessarily the whole rest of my life) doing a meaningful, helping-those-less-fortunate kind of work.

Somewhere along the way I became less idealistic. Actually I don't know if that's true, I think what has happened is that two sides of myself coexist uneasily. I pride myself on being realistic and practical. Sometimes I go too far and call myself cyncial; this isn't really true, but I find it hard to respect people who don't take a realistic view of how things really work. The workplace, with its small 'p' and big 'P' politics, and seeing some of the workings of government, has had a strong influence on me. Still, as always, I try to be balanced. Most politicians' hearts are in the right places, or at least start out that way, but the system requires distortion to keep it fed and to keep them in the places they need/want to be.

I still have the desire to do something, just... good. Something that helps people and makes the world a better place. I don't mean in a big way. I guess I am very attached to working in road safety because I can see the meaning in it and the good that can come of it. But I don't feel like I am contributing anything unique in the field, and I always remain well in the shadow of my mentors.

I meet with a friend who is newly fired up to change the world. For some reason I was compelled to provide reality checks about politics, compromise and realism. But inside, all the while, I was jumping up and down with excitement and glee, imagining my way to join this bandwagon.

I suspect I'll have to find my own bloody bandwagon.

I never like to put my hand up for a challenge. (It might be hard! I might have to talk to strangers! Think on my feet!) I wonder what it will take to push me to the next step.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Let me hear your balalaikas ringing out

Hoo boy. I have skiied at Thredbo in late July almost every year since 1999 and this is the least snow I've seen. The natural snow line is up very high, and it's only because of extensive snowmaking (a whole lot added just this year, luckily) that you can actually ski to the bottom.

Okay, the photos above are not representative; we found the worst part. But this was part of an actual, open run. J and I were falling over ourselves with the hilarity of it all. The sound of a board or boards scraping into that mud and just coming to a stop is ... special. No one else seemed to find it funny! Hey, if life gives you lemons, laugh at a snowboarder.

Oh, come on, those of you who know me know I wouldn't do that in a mean way, and we were also very kindly trying to warn people to stay high where there was a little bit of 'barely-there' snow to slide on through.

See? Pretty snow right at the top.
So some of the weekend was a bit of a trial: slushy snow, out-of-condition legs, areas of rocks and mud to ski through. And some was completely entertaining, including J racing after a toboggan thief with the rightful owners! Gradually starting to get my ski legs back, but it still feels a bit like hard work. I do have a sweet pair of demo skis, 2007 model, never touched the snow before. (It's so nice to have a friend who knows a guy.) Oops, they have some scratches now.

Today it all got so much better, with just one magical ingredient: frozen flakes of water. It started snowing in the late morning and just came down heavier and fluffier for hours. It didn't take much at all to improve some of the runs, and get that feel of what snow is supposed to feel like. Beautiful.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

ain't got nothin' in the world these days

At my Grandma's birthday party, she and I were telling one of her friends about our trip to Poland together five years ago. How I went along with Grandma as her travel companion to help her out. The friend looked at me quizzically through this exchange, and finally said, with some surprise on her face, 'so, you would only have been about 16 then?'. I laughed and explained that since I am 31 now, that was unlikely. She thought I looked about 21, which is flattering, but also disturbing.

I'm not quite old enough yet to be glad that people often think I'm younger. It doesn't matter much at a family party, but it's a different matter when it comes to work. I recently was sent interstate to attend a symposium. Heh, I have so much trouble writing the word 'symposium' without inverted commas, and have been pronouncing it so whenever I talk about it. I wasn't going to be speaking formally, but was aware that I was representing my organisation and ought to make some attempt to circulate and schmooze talk to at least three other people in the room during the breaks. This sort of thing is really not my strong suit.

When I got to the venue in the morning - Parliament House, no less - I went first to put my hair up. It had still been damp when I left the hotel, and I wanted to look a bit more professional and less student/hippy. But as soon as I pulled my hair back from my face, I resembled a walking corpse. The shadows beneath my eyes leapt out to become deep dark hollows. No, I hadn't slept too well the night before. I stood there before the mirror deliberating (painfully slowly, with my usual pre-9am speed of thought) and finally came out on the side of looking a bit young and unkempt, rather than undead.

Then I was too honest at lunch. I admitted to my nearby table mates, who were all a bit on the quiet side (I really picked the wrong table for my networking ability level) as I headed off before everyone else left, that I was going shopping, not racing back to the airport or to another meeting. Such a go-getter.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

He's got all the things you need and some that you will never

Recently (ish) finished: a scarf for E who was leaving town for a somewhat less sunny place. I started with this gorgeous skein of 4ply handpainted New Zealand merino. These photos don't capture the colour very well: it was actually quite dark, with black, and various dark to light purple shades. E actually visited while I had it out on the table, winding it into balls, and confirmed that she liked the colours (I knew she would), without knowing I intended to make something for her.

I kind of learned the hard way how not to handle a skein when winding it into balls for knitting. I ended up with a large tangle of wool for quite a while, but I persisted and got it tamed. I concluded that you really need to wrap the opened-out skein around something and not just sit it loosely on a table as you pull from it to wind a ball. To be honest, I kind of knew this was a bad idea, but it was the kind of bad idea you just have to try to be sure.

I used the Clapotis pattern for the third time, this time on a much smaller scale and with the kind of self-striping yarn that it was intended for. I loved watching the stripes come out and especially watched for when the a section of one colour would land on top of the same colour in the previous row. A mini- kind of pooling, I guess. I guess my brain really likes patterns - hence the satisfaction from knitting even pretty simple boring things - and watching for such little variations is
an extra kick.
When it came off the needles it was quite narrowly twisted in on itself. Luckily, as I had hoped, simply washing it and gently pulling it into shape while drying was enough - I didn't want to have to block or steam it, as I didn't want it totally flattened. What I love about Clapotis is the lovely texture, and the contrast between the 'right' and 'wrong' sides, both of which look great.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

It ain't that in their hearts they're bad

An Australian man has been arrested in Italy for an assault on a local man following the football match between Australia and Italy.

Witnesses say the Australian man was 20m away when the incident

The victim suffered a fractured skull, cardiac arrest, and has
developed diabetes as a result of the incident. He is expected to
recover in a few minutes.

(From my inbox last week)

When kids start to play competitive sport they are taught to respect the referee or umpire. To shake hands with their opposition after the game. Maybe even to thank the ref. Aren't they? Professional and representative players are expected to be acutely aware that they are role models for younger players. When they stuff up (especially off the field) this is meant to be the source of their shame.

In broader terms, 'sport' is often connected with honour and fairness. Think about the terms 'a good sport' and 'a sporting chance'. Sportsmanship. We consider the organised, rule-bound, fair-go systems of sport to represent and important part of our civilised, evolved life.

I find myself complaining about certain of my opponents in soccer, the ones who seem able to run at least as fast as me, but still like to use a heavy hand on my shoulder or a strategic grab of my arm to get ahead if it looks like I might beat them to the ball. Anything goes if you want to score a goal. When I complain about this it sounds so lame... considering there are much worse hacks and dirty tricks that can go on. I wonder if I'm the foolish one, striving to beat them with speed and position alone, using only my legs, and maybe some bodyweight but within the rules. A striker is usually a faster sprinter than me and I think what really offends me is: why wouldn't she take pride in outrunning me cleanly?

In the course of the Australia vs Italy World Cup match, each side received one yellow card for diving. My (biased) (also sleep deprived, so make of it what you will) view was that the Italian instance was much more obvious, as the replay revealed he fell over with absolutely no contact from anyone else, in fact he had quite an air cushion around him.

It has always been one of the big criticisms of soccer among people I know, that the players are wusses and are always looking for a penalty to be called. Even when there is genuine contact, most everyone has observed that the player often seems to clutch the wrong body part. Most of the times I have seen someone injured in the sports I've played, they don't tend to grab the injured part anyway. They are too busy wincing and trying not to increase the pain. It must be a strategy to influence the ref, and it must work to some extent.

The presence of pain or injury really shouldn't correlate completely with the decision that illegal contact was made. It is possible to foul someone without bothering them much at all, and it is also possible to come out of an perfectly legal clash with one person in a lot of pain. But the ref only has one brief chance to see what happens and I guess they can't help but take some cues from the condition of the player on the ground.

So I can understand why it happens. But where is the honour?

I'm sure I'm not alone in preferring to watch the kind of players who get knocked down and jump up as quick as possible to fight for the ball again, rather than the ones who stay on the ground and clutch a random body part in hopes of a call.

What I really can't get my head around is the totally fabricated dive. Do some top-level coaches actually condone or encourage a bit of this? I know that the teams watch the video of their games later. Could there be anything that looks lamer than an obvious dive in slow motion replay? How can they sit there and watch that? Is this considered a good attempt at getting a penalty - do they get a pat on the back? Or maybe it's a snigger but not outright disapproval. Is anything worth it for a win?

Where is the honour?

Here is my (naive?) view: it's sport, not war. You should take pride in winning or losing based on your honest strengths. These international players are full of talk about pride, honour, and examples for young players. But their actions don't back this up.

I intended to write this right after watching the Australia-Italy game. Now I've let quite a bit of time pass, probably too much time to think about it and for cynicism to creep in. I almost concluded that I was being too naive, and let it go. Am I?

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Wintry buds

Bleak, last week.
(Much sunnier today)

Friday, June 23, 2006

The stuff superstitions are made of

I got up this morning just before 5am kickoff for Australia vs Croatia, but forgot to grab my hat as I stumbled from the bedroom. Thinking, well it doesn't really matter, I'm watching it alone anyway, I just grabbed a different beanie from the hall cupboard. K got up for a quick update not long after Croatia's second goal, and boy were things were looking grim. It wasn't long before I gave in to the primitive side of my brain and went to retrieve the proper coloured headwear from the bedroom. From there it only took a few minutes for the goal to come, resulting in a draw that feels like a win (for those who aren't following along at home, that's because it gets us through to the next round).

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

You better chow down or it's gonna get cold

So here we were eating pizza again. But this was quite a different proposition. I knew K was planning something out of the ordinary when we did the grocery shopping on Sunday evening. He kept disappearing to hunt down odd items or simply to seek inspiration. And he indicated that what he was planning was for Monday night because there wouldn't be the proper amount of time that night for whatever extravaganza he was planning.

I am not usually one to make 'best-of' statements. But I think this really was the best pizza I ever ate. The base was thick but light, kind of like a light sourdough. Secret ingredient: a small quantity of potato. The toppings included all my favourite things: including - but not limited to - olives, artichoke hearts, pine nuts, tomato, a little more potato. And, FOUR kinds of cheese, including wasabi cheese which we've only just discovered.

For a while I've been taking photos of lovely meals people cook for me. I don't really like spending much time cooking so I really appreciate a good meal cooked by someone else. I even appreciate a merely edible meal cooked by someone else. I quickly discovered that it's really hard to take good food photos. It's usually at night so the lack of natural light makes it tricky. But it's not just that, it also seems to me that a non-professional food photo can look really good if you have the memory to go with it of how the food tasted and smelled, but otherwise might lack a certain something. I think it's not just the photogaphy skills (though I could do with more of those) but also the food styling - perfect plate, no crumbs or spills around the edge, and probably some other arcane stuff I don't know about. I'm usually in too much of a hurry to get on with eating to spend a long time getting the photo right.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The delicious dinner option that dare not speak its name

K and I had pizza for dinner. This is often a delicate negotiation process. The problem is that once the word 'pizza' has been said aloud, even just as part of a question, there is no going back. So it goes along the lines of: I don't want to cook tonight. Do you think you might feel like cooking? If not, I could give you a call just before I head home, to see what you want to do.

This at least leaves the appearance of the option of one of us being virtuous by cooking something.

And no, I don't think it would work if we spelled it out, like some people do with dogs and the exciting word that starts with 'w'. We never bother to spell it with Mia and Elvis because that would be a waste of good entertainment. They don't even need the actual word, just something that sounds similar-ish, as long as it is in the right kind of sentence. They can always be relied upon to go nuts in response to: Mia, do you want to have a little talk? And my favourite: Elvis.... are you ready to ROCK?!

Monday, June 12, 2006

You've got the power to know you're indestructible

The hat is done (since last Wednesday, actually). The stage is set. Don't suck, Socceroos! I mean that in the nicest possible way.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Life is very short, and there's no time for fussing and fighting, my friends

Despite several much lovelier projects calling, after watching the Socceroos not losing on Sunday night, I suddenly had to go into Lincraft for an assortment of tacky acrylic in patriotic colours, to make a Don't-Suck-Socceroos hat. I had to hurry because I'm a realist and their World Cup campaign might not last that long. (Isn't it good to be there, though!) How often will I wear a green and gold beanie that surely doesn't suit me? Oh well, maybe it will be called into service again for the definitely don't-suck-Opals or Matildas.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

The higher you fly the deeper you go

Yesterday afternoon I suddenly realised it was the last day to see 65 Roses, an exhibition at the School of Art Foyer Gallery, seeking to raise awareness of Cystic Fibrosis and raise money for the Australian Cystic Fibrosis Research Trust. The name comes from a bittersweet story about a little boy who was told his sister had cystic fibrosis but heard it as, you guessed it, '65 Roses'. So the rose was the theme of the show. The main reason I made the effort was to see Demelza's sweet Dolly before she went off to her new owner.

Some of the rose-themed work was a bit cute or obvious for my liking but there was also a lot of good stuff. It was nice to see such a range of artists' work all at once.

I bought this one. Untitled, by Paloma Ramos. Couldn't resist that green monkey and all the green roses. I love the way it looks like a little shrine, sort of like the Catholic ones that fasinated me in Poland. I would like to find out the story behind it.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

And you feel real guilty about the coat on your back

Hello, and welcome to sacred Wednesday. The hot water is out, so I can't shower or wash my hair. Well, some of us are braver than that with the cold water but not me. What I can do it knit a hat.

Forget baby knitting, this hat for Kam is the quickest and most satisfying knit ever. That's assuming that when he comes home and tries it on, it fits. (But I did some measuring and the maths so I'm optimistic). Isn't it funny how these crafts like sewing and knitting used to be basic essential skills for getting through life. Now machine-made and/or imported hand-made stuff is so cheap that hand-making clothes or household goods is a leisure activity. It's partly because the labour of people in third-world countries is 'worth' so much less than mine, that it is a luxury for me to take the time to knit things. Even this hat which was only a few hours' work, could be bought for a lot less than what I get paid in three hours. Although, it might not be exactly what I wanted, and that's one good reason for making things yourself.

Of course, my knitting labour time probably can't be considered to be worth as much per hour as my real-world work time. Still, I always think of my "day off" - though I don't like to call it that - as a luxury. It is a luxury that I can earn enough in four days to give myself more time to do the things I want to do. Of course plenty of people in my situation wouldn't think that was enough money. But for now, I certainly do.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Write your letters in the sand

Behold, my first knitted garments. It still spins me out that you can do all this with just sticks and string. The pattern for the vest came from one of Little Sister's op shop finds, 'Make your own Handicraft Gifts' by Sheila Richardson and Eve Harlow, published 1975.

I loved the soft orange (Patons Dreamtime 4ply baby wool) but was worried that it might not work with much else in Nephew's wardrobe, so I picked out this stripey shirt to go with it. Turns out it looks fine with many of his baby boy blue clothes and it fits too.

There was no guarantee of that, not like there ever would be, but especially so since the pattern was sized only for a newborn. I threw caution to the winds and threw in some extra width and length to approximate a 6-month size. The cream one doesn't look all that much smaller, though I made it to the original size in the book, for a friend's baby due right about now.

I also wanted to (finally) learn how to knit in the round on double pointed needles, so I cast on some leftover in the cream. The first time it came out about tennis ball sized. I didn't really know what size I was going for, but I suspected that if baby's heads came out tennis-ball-sized, childbirth just wouldn't be such a big deal. So I pulled it out early and cast on again with a few more stitches. It's surprisingly hard to estimate from a straight line of stitches, or even a square once they're on the dpns, what size circle you're going to end up with. This is an example of why knitting almost always ends up involving maths.

Also yet another example of the magic of blocking and finishing techniques. When the hat came off the needles I was not at all sure I had something that could actually be given to someone. My stitches were uneven, especially sloppy at the turning points between the needles, and the decreases made a pointy, puckering effect. I spent a while poking a needle into various spots to redistribute the yarn to hide the loosey goosey stitches, then threw it in a bucket of warm soapy water to soak for a while. It looked a bit better after drying, but it was a heavy dose of steam from the iron that really smoothed it all out.

I have no idea at what age it will fit, and it's still gappy so may be more of an indoor than an outdoor hat, but I sent it off with the cream vest anyway. I can see why people like knitting little, finishable baby clothes so much. Very satisfying.