Wednesday, November 14, 2007


On Monday this week, Lucky Mark, the Dude and I started walking in the mornings before work and school. The first day we were out, I noticed that the single most common type of rubbish on the footpaths was empty cigarette packets. The second day, we counted 47 cigarette packets on our three-quarters of an hour walk. Today, armed with rubber gloves and a plastic bag (and joined by the Messa), we collected 64 cigarette packets.
Most of these were found around the side doors of small businesses, which begs the question: why cannot a cigarette smoker, who carries a packet outside with a cigarette in it, carry the empty packet back inside to put it in a garbage bin?
The obvious conclusion is that smokers, who care so little for the state of their lungs, care even less about the lungs of the planet.
Tomorrow, I am going to count the second most prevalent form of rubbish: breath mint packets. Could the same culprits be responsible?

Monday, October 29, 2007

Singapore swings

Just to prove that we've been there, done that. I drank a Singapore Sling in the Long Bar at the Raffles, so now I can come home.
I also astounded the people in the Raffles shop by buying ten packets of Raffles Iced Tea -- well, you never know when the Master will be back to get some more. We've eaten chilli crab (and various other delicacies), shopped at the markets in Chinatown and caught the MRT everywhere. Went shopping on Orchard Road (waste of time -- the markets were much better) but did get a jar of my favourite face cream from Marks & Spencer. Also discovered that you can't buy bath salts in Singapore.
Yesterday we ate [roast chicken and rice] in a food court off Orchard Road. It was so crowded, people were grabbing the corner of a table wherever they could. At our table, the two girls opposite got up to leave and a fellow who wanted to sit down immediately signalled for the trays to be cleared. A grumpy little old lady was in charge, and she came and sullenly cleared the trays while complaining bitterly to me in Chinese and gesturing towards one of the food stalls with sharp, angry hands. Then she wiped down the table top with a damp cloth, made somewhat damper by the fact that she ladelled some of the leftover chicken broth from the bowls on the tray onto the rag -- so much for hygeine! I never did work out what she was so cross about.
Today we make the Aussie pilgrimage to Changi Memorial, then perhaps drop in at Little India on the way to the Night Zoo at Sentosa Island.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

First Pavarotti, now Teresa Brewer

As children, my cousins and sisters and I would beg our grandmother for a chance to play the old 78s in the cabinet of the stereogram in the living room. One of my uncles had been a big Teresa Brewer fan in his (and her) heyday, so "Ricochet Romance" was on high rotation (along with its flipside, "Too Young to Tango").

Sing along:
I knew the day I met you, you had a rovin' eye
I thought that I could hold you, what a fool I was to try
You buzzed around the other girls, just like a busy bee
And when you'd finished buzzin', cousin, you buzzed right back to me.
But baby...
I don't want a ricochet romance, I don't want a ricochet love
If you're careless with your kisses, find another turtle dove
I can't live on ricochet romance, no, no, not me
So if you're gonna ricochet baby, I'm gonna set you free.
Oh, Teresa, how you spoke to my prepubescent heart! RIP.

Just what I have been saying for years...

Sydney Morning Herald, October 24, 2007

Friday, October 12, 2007

Hail the Master

Lucky Mark graduated today with his MBT. Best guess at what that stands for gets a prize (or at least a big sloppy kiss next time I see you).

Saturday, October 06, 2007


I was complaining of feeling tired despite having a reasonably early night and a reasonably good sleep, and Lucky Mark asked me if I had been taking my iron supplement.

"No," I replied, "because I haven't had the strength to get the child-proof cap off the bottle."

Friday, October 05, 2007

Walk to work Friday

Ten steps down the hallway, up the attic ladder and I've walked to work. I was out (driving, unfortunately, because the distance was a good 10 kilometres) taking the Dude to his friend the Dealer's place to spend the day, when I noticed the streets were buzzing with 20- and 30-something pedestrians, lugging their laptop satchels and streaming steadily city-ward.

An article in yesterday's newspaper pointed out the trend for members of this younger generation to live an inner city lifestyle, rather than subscribing to the suburban tradition of large house and yard that seems to have been the ideal for the previous two generations (Baby Boomers and Generation X). Of course, there are those of us Gen-Xers who live in poky little inner city terraces despite the trend...

But I liked seeing Generation Y out en masse, walking to work and thinking about the effects on the environment and their own health of our city's great reliance on fossil-fuel-fed transport. The only shame is that the demographic was so narrow: where were all the older people on Walk to Work Friday?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Verbing nouns

Lucky Mark was reading me an email he was writing so that I could act as his portable thesaurus. The email was full of such phrases as 'in order to progress this application' and 'we will action the document'.

"Why don't you use plain English?" I complained. "'Progress' and 'action' are nouns, not verbs."

"Everybody else does it," he pouted.

"That doesn't make it right," I echoed my mother's favourite admonishment. "What's wrong with saying, 'in order to take the application to the next stage'?"

"That takes too many words," he whinged. "'Progress' is faster to type and say."

"You can't use that excuse for 'action'," I countered. "'Act on' has one less letter!"

"But it has a space, so it's still the same number of keystrokes."

I give up.

There's no other word for it

Yes, she is.

Monday, September 24, 2007


I went with my friend the Neuroscientist to an exhibition of artworks based on microscopic slides created by researchers at the Queensland Brain Institute. The Neuroscientist makes beautiful images of rat neurons and I have talked to him in the past about my desire of making some of them into embroideries, so we were both interested to see how another artist had tackled the job.
I was glad I persuaded the Neuroscientist to come because he was able to recognise and explain what the artworks represented. We had a great conversation with the gallery manager about her son's schizophrenia and the brain's role in addiction in general, then we admired the artworks: three dimensional representations of cells and cellular structures created using beads, sequins, fabric and paint (even bubble wrap).
The structure on the right of the catalogue cover above, a blue and green spiral, was described by the gallery manager as perhaps being representative of DNA. After she had left us, I indicated my scepticism to the Neuroscientist, saying that it didn't look like a double helix at all. He, of course, immediately recognised it as an opiate receptor -- which, apparently, comes out of the cell wall, makes exactly seven turns (he called them something else, like "involutions" or something similar - I'm afraid I've forgotten the term he used) then reenters the cell through the cell wall.
The talk of DNA served to remind me of this website and its pattern for knitted DNA. One of these days...

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Pavarotti vale

"One of the very nicest things about life is that we must regularly stop what we are doing and devote our attention to eating." Luciano Pavarotti

I once embroidered this motto on a tablecloth, which I was coincidentally using the day I heard of the big Pav's death.

Other sayings on the same tablecloth are:

"He was a very valiant man who first adventured on eating of oysters." James I
"One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well." Virginia Woolf
"In order to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe." Carl Sagan
"There's no sauce in the world like hunger." Don Quixote
"A cucumber should be well sliced, dressed with pepper and vinegar, and then thrown out, as good for nothing." Samuel Johnson (a man after my own heart.)
"A crust eaten in peace is better than a banquet partaken in anxiety." Aesop
"Since Eve ate the apple, much depends on dinner." Lord Byron
"Dis-moi ce que tu manges, je te dirai ce que tu es." Anthelme Brillat-Savarin ("Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are." Cheese, mostly, I think.)
"Talk of joy: there may be things better than beef stew and baked potatoes and home made bread -- there may be." David Grayson
"A good cook is like a sorceress who dispenses happiness." Elsa Schiaparelli
"I drink when I have occasion, and sometimes when I have no occasion." Don Quixote

Monday, September 03, 2007

The APEC effect

I ventured into the city this morning to go to the art gallery. Lucky Mark drove me in in the Big Red Car, and we were pleased to see that the threatened traffic chaos caused by road closures and the fencing off of a large swathe of public land did not really affect our route.
After a leisurely browse of the beautiful Translucent World exhibition of Chinese jade, I strolled back through the Domain and across Hyde Park to catch a bus home. In the Domain, I spotted a patrol of police officers (is that the correct collective noun?) comprised of six on foot and two leaning on the bonnet of a paddywagon. Seated dejectedly in the gutter was an immaculately dressed transvestite in a gorgeous pink miniskirt and matching jacket, with coordinating pink four-inch stilettos and handbag, her long, spray-tanned legs folded elegantly beneath her. It seemed rather a case of overkill -- the fresh-faced probationary constables who thought they would be protecting visiting dignitaries from feral protesters seemed rather bemused by their perfectly coiffed and not-at-all protesting quarry.
I saw another two patrols of police as I continued my walk through the park, as well as a fire engine with an Australian Federal Police car escort driving around the precinct in a sedate manner, and one of the converted bus/holding cells turning out of Macquarie Street. In all, about half of the vehicles I saw were related to law enforcement and security.
On the bus, the usual suspects hopped on and off. A young woman carried on an inane mobile phone conversation with a friend while fishing through her handbag with the other hand looking for correct change to pay the bus driver. I think I must be getting old, because I just wanted to say to her, "Look, I'm sure your friend will understand if you stop chatting about what you're going to wear tomorrow long enough to organise your bus fare, so we can all get home sooner." A man carrying a baby got on and paid the fare for himself and his female companion, who struggled to wrangle an empty pram onto the bus without folding it up. A woman with a comb-over sat in front of me: I am not sure what misfortune or illness had resulted in her hair loss, but somehow the hair around the back and sides of her head was still long and she had pulled it up into a knot on top of her head to cover the fluffy, thin growth that I could see through the sparse strands. I thought it was very clever of her to come up with that solution, although I think if it were me I would just shave it off and wear a scarf or hat. She was talking on her mobile phone about a job interview she was going to and what she was planning to say to convince them that she was the right candidate for the job. I hope she gets it.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Lunar eclipse 28/8/07


Friday, August 17, 2007

NOT trying too hard

Several months ago, I wrote a post about a luxury car advertisement that tried to appear hip and inner-city trendy but, by getting the nickname of the suburb wrong, only appeared to be stupid.
Who's really hip and local? I ordered a fantastic new book -- a compilation of zine writings by a young Sydney woman -- that's really worth a read. The publisher, Local Consumption Publications, is based in Erskineville and here's the return address they put on the package when they sent me the book:

I knew I had a book in me

I told His Dagginess that I would get a tattoo to cover the scar on my arm. I think I've found the perfect one.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

It's been a while...

I don't suppose there is anyone still checking this blog regularly since I have not written anything for over two months, but I will tell you why (just in case).
Four days after my last post in May, I went into hospital for day surgery to remove a mole on my right forearm that was growing and changing. I had a mole in this location all my life. It was large and I had had it removed once and tested (results were clear) and, when it grew back, I had it checked out on two separate occasions by skin cancer specialists and dermatologists (they said it was a "navy blue keratosis"). It kept growing -- the last specialist I had seen knew it was still growing -- and was getting so large that people I hardly knew would comment on it. I decided to have it removed, mostly for cosmetic reasons, and the surgeon sent it off to the pathology lab.
The results were scary: sometime since the last time I had it checked out it had turned into a melanoma, and (because I had been told so often there was nothing wrong with it and therefore not done anything with it) it had already grown to intermediate stage -- that is, it had grown down into the subdermal layer where tiny capillaries could have picked up the cancer cells and spread them around my body.
I had to immediately schedule more surgery to remove more skin from around the area, plus scans on my lymph glands to ensure that the cancer cells had not already spread. They removed as much skin as they could without having to do a skin graft, so I've got an impressive scar! The prognosis is reasonable: at the time of diagnosis, I had an 80 per cent chance of still being alive in five years' time. Since then, I've had the extra surgery -- including the removal of lymph glands from my elbow and armpit for testing -- and the pathology on the extra skin and the lymph glands was clear of signs of cancer, so my chances of still being alive in five years are now even better than 80 per cent.
I was invited to join a randomised medical trial that the Sydney Melanoma Unit are running with the John Wayne Cancer Institute, and I am still waiting for the results of an extra test on my lymph glands that is part of that trial.
It's been six weeks since the surgery and I am only just regaining full use of my right arm -- you can imagine it has been pretty trying for a right-handed person to be so restricted! But thanks to the Dude, His Dagginess and Ms Nominative Determinism we managed to keep the household running and I even got some work done, typing one-handed and mousing with my left hand. So that's where I've been. Did you miss me?


Thursday, May 24, 2007

Fall Out Boy

Today the Dude (now known as Fall Out Boy, for reasons that will become obvious later on in the song) had a bone scan on his feet to determine the exact location of the problem that is causing him pain. This meant heading in to the nuclear medicine department where he was injected with radioactive isotopes. Images were taken of his feet immediately as the radioactivity coursed through his veins, then we had to go away for two hours to allow the radioactivity time to get into his bones.
It was Art Festival day at his school, and the theme was "black & white" so I took Fall Out Boy to school for the interim, and we painted his face to look like Paul Stanley from KISS, as part of the theme. When we got back to the hospital, the nuclear med technician who had supervised his injection took one look at his face and said, "Whoa, that's the worst reaction to an injection I've ever seen!"

The bone scan itself was fascinating. Fall Out Boy slid into a huge doughnut with detectors above and below his feet, and they took several images from several angles over a period of an hour. In between, we played around with the machine. Speckly images of FOB's feet showed on a monitor, and moved when he moved. When he put his hand under the detectors, we could see a speckly hand on the monitor. But when I put my (non-radioactive) hand under the detector, nothing appeared on the screen at all -- it was as though I was invisible.
Next week, we go back to the orthopedic clinic to discuss the results of the scan with the specialist and make a date for the cortisone injection and casting. FOB is keen to wait until the end of the football season, just in case his team makes the grand final this year, but the surgeon might not be so keen. We'll just have to wait and see.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

For Ailsa

Elias in Oz

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Acts of dagginess

The Sydney Swans opened their 25th anniversary walk, and Lucky Mark celebrated his act of dagginess by having his photograph taken with the offending cement block.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Sad child 3

This morning as we drove down Wattle Street, Ultimo, Ms Nominative Determinism spotted another member of the family of sad graffiti children that I have blogged about before (here and here).

At last we know why they're so sad. Obviously, they're Bill Posters' kids, and they're worried about their dad being prosecuted!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Selling the Dude for medical experiments

Yesterday the Dude underwent a minor bombardment of radiation: x-rays and computed tomography on both feet. Today the orthopedic specialist looked at the results and declared that there is no sign of the "coalition" of the subtalar joint (hooray!) but that there are signs of arthritis in the talo-navicular joint (boo!) and that surgery will still be advisable (boo!) but an orthotic heel support might do the job for a couple of years (hooray! Wait, did you say $500 for a plastic shoe insert he'll grow out of in less than 12 months? Boo!).

However, before we make a final decision either to proceed with surgery now or to go for the orthotics first and surgery later, Dr Ortho offered us the opportunity to get a second, third, fourth and seventeenth opinion all in one go by asking whether we would allow the Dude to be sold for medical experiments -- or at least put on display at a meeting of the orthopedic staff of the hospital so they can all have a look at him and give their opinions. I'm guessing this is a kind of Grand Rounds for outpatients. The idea of several specialists brainstorming the best treatment for the Dude appeals to me, and Dr Ortho said that quite often someone will ask an innocent question that leads to a whole new perspective on the case. The least that can happen is that they will simply confirm Dr Ortho's own preference.

Surprisingly, when I discussed the idea of selling the Dude off for medical experiments with the Dude himself, he was quite keen on the idea... until he figured out that he wouldn't actually get any cash.

Auction day is May 18th. Updates to follow.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Dude news

Last week we went to the orthopedic clinic at Sydney Children's Hospital for the Dude's two-year check-up. (For those who don't know, he was born with severe talipes equinovarus or club feet, just like such sex symbols as Lord Byron and Dudley Moore. He's already had two lots of reconstructive surgery.)
Scrawny Dude, five days old: with flippers

He has recently been complaining that his right ankle hurts when he walks, even after just a little bit of walking.
The orthopedic specialist thinks that there may be a "coalition in the subtaler joint" or, in plain English, a bridge of bone or cartilage forming between the bones of the heel joint just below the ankle. Alternatively, it might simply be wear and tear on the joint as a result of his earlier surgeries. The prognosis is that he will probably need surgery to fuse the joint, removing the small amount of movement that he has, but also removing the pain.
Tomorrow we return to Sydney Kids for x-rays and a CT scan, then back to the clinic to see what the scan shows and get the diagnosis from the doctor. He may prescribe orthotics in the short term, saving the surgery for when the Dude is a bit older, but we are steeling ourselves for the worst-case scenario.
On the plus side, it's probably only the right foot that will need the surgery, so if he does have it he can use crutches while he convalesces, rather than a wheelchair. I couldn't imagine lifting him in and out of a wheelchair at this age!
It was interesting going to the orthopedic clinic last week because it is school holidays. Usually when we go there are just a few kids, mostly like the Dude coming for routine check-ups on existing conditions, and the odd broken limb. Last Thursday there were five children with broken arms and one with a broken leg, fresh from the emergency ward, all lined up in one examination room -- and that was at 8.30am! I'll never doubt those ambulance officers and pediatric ER nurses who dread the school holidays again.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Hair today

This picture of the Dude represents nearly 18 months of growth from when we shaved off his Christmas 2005 mohawk. The gorgeous mane of red, wavy hair had, unfortunately, earned some unwanted attention. Lucky Mark took him to the local chicken shop, where the server insulted them both in the space of one sentence by asking, "Is this your granddaughter?"

Sigh. I loved those curls. I hated sweeping them up after the haircut, which took place in the kitchen at home.

Temporarily short. This was one of the first cutting and styling efforts by Ms Nominative Determinism.
Next, the clippers (pics to come).

Monday, March 26, 2007


First, let me note that His Dagginess finally has a new pseudonym and will henceforth be known as Lucky Mark. I can't begin to explain how this came about; suffice it to say that the label was first applied during dinner with several friends on Saturday night, while imbibing sufficient quantities of alcohol to console ourselves that the democratic process is still worth pursuing. Never was the saying so true: "It doesn't matter who you vote for, you always end up with a politician."

Anyway, on the subject of neology, Lucky Mark has a new word he uses when he wants to describe a vast quantity of something, and that word is "shedloads". It's along the same lines as calling someone an "armpit" or an "icehole" when they cut you off in traffic, if ya know what I mean.
But imagine my shock when the absolutely proper Ramona Koval, on a recent episode of Radio National's Book Show, used the term to describe the incomes of certain British authors.

For more neologisms see my earlier entry.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Super Model

15 minutes of fame? Hey, this poster's been up for a week now!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


A couple of weeks ago I had a discussion with His Dagginess about whether he is an agnostic or an atheist. Strangely enough, I had always assumed he was an atheist but he sees himself as agnostic: that is, he believes that it is not possible to know whether there is a metaphysical being/force because our knowledge is limited to the physical universe.
Then, a couple of days ago I was listening to an ABC radio podcast of the Philosopher's Zone in which Pascal's Wager was briefly discussed. In brief (and perhaps not completely accurate) summary, the wager says that, logically, if you believe there is a small chance that there is a god -- no matter how infinitesimally small that chance is -- you really have no choice but to believe in God, because you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. I rushed home to tell Ms Nominative Determinism about it, so she could add it to her arsenal of weapons to try to convert her father. Naturally, she immediately tried to use it on me, but I told her there was no point, because I have decided that the probability of god existing is zero.
We both turned the new weapon on His Dagginess that evening, each hoping to convert him to our own side: Ms ND to her beliefs and me to my unbeliefs. Unfortunately, the Dagster also had a good argument. "I concede your point," he said, "but I think there is an equal probability of all forms of god existing, so now you have to convince me which one I should choose."
Sigh. Back to the drawing board. And I thought I had him there....

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Lives of Others

The image above is a new piece of graffiti in Regent Street, Redfern. I like to think of it as the brother of the sad girl I featured a couple of weeks ago, who has since been painted over. I am not sure why I think the first one is a girl and this one is a boy, just as I am not sure why these sad graffiti children appeal to me so much (although this one looks more pensive than sad, I think). I'll be on the lookout for other members of the family.

On to the subject of today's blog. Ms Nominative Determinism and I went to see The Lives of Others last night. A German movie set in the early 80s, before glasnost and the fall of the Berlin Wall, it was very bleak and confronting in parts, but a beautiful and hopeful story nonetheless about the struggle of artists to express the truth in ths face of the repressive regime and under the watchful eye of the Stasi.
It reminded me of the story that some friends of ours tell of their escape from East Germany around that time: two elite ballet dancers, with a small son, they had applied to emigrate to Australia. After months of waiting for visas, they were finally given permission to leave, on the proviso that they left within 48 hours, with only a certain amount of cash (I think it was around $1000) and one suitcase each. Manuela tells how they packed one suitcase with clothes for herself, Till and baby Felix and one full of pointe shoes because they knew that teaching ballet was the only way they could make a living in Australia. Then they opened their home to all their friends and family, telling everyone to take anything they wanted as it would all be gone if they left it behind. They never expected to see many of their friends and family again. More than 20 years later -- post glasnost -- Manuela returned to visit her mother and was pleased to recover some family photographs she had thought never to see again.
I'm not sure whether the movie meant more to me because I could relate it to someone I know who lived through that era, but I think it is a well-told story with very evocative cinematography and great acting. See it if you get a chance -- it's opening at the Dendy soon.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Happy Mardi Gras!

His Dagginess and the Aforementioned Engineer in the NSW Fire Brigade contingent at Mardi Gras. Yes, that is a fluffy halo he is wearing. More evidence of dagginess...
He went to ten different female parade officials and tried to swap a fire brigade hat for a halo, with no success. Then the lightbulb came on, and he approached a male parade official: bingo! When will he learn that girls at Mardi Gras just aren't interested in him?
Another funny halo story...
Ms Nominative Determinism to new acquaintance watching the parade: My dad is in the fire brigade float.
New Acquaintance: Really? When did he come out?
Ms ND: Oh no, he's not gay, he's just marching to show support for the community.
NA: Which one is your dad?
Ms ND (sheepishly): The one wearing the fluffy halo and body glitter...
More mardi gras photos at my flickr site.

Friday, March 02, 2007

What not to wear

Today's newspaper includes a Call to stay alert after iPod assault. Police investigating an attempted sexual assault in the city have warned women of yet another thing they must not do if they don't want to be raped.
So now we have to add "listening to an iPod while walking to work" to the list of things we can't do, along with wearing short skirts, not hiding the fact that we have breasts, sending out mixed signals (because no men do that, ever), drinking socially, going out alone after dark, going to a house with a friend that may or may not have a person in it you don't know, etcetera.
The thing that annoys me about this story is that, once again, it is implied that it is the responsibility of the victim to avoid the situation. The attacker is hardly mentioned at all, and neither are the hundreds or thousands of people who witnessed the guy following her from Town Hall station to Castlereagh Street. I mean, if I was walking along a Sydney street in peak hour, iPodless, I would be unlikely to notice a man following me. It's hardly fair to blame the victim for listening to an iPod -- unless you blame everyone else on the street at the time who were too busy listening to their own iPods or minding their own business to spot the fact that she was being followed and alert her to the danger.
Can't we get the message? It's never the victim's fault, no matter what she was doing, saying or wearing at the time. Rape is a crime, committed by a criminal and it is ALWAYS the assailant's choice to commit the crime and NEVER the victim's choice to be assaulted.
In defiance, I will listen to my iPod whenever I like.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Oh no, not a woman!

Front page story of today's Sydney Morning Herald: a Liberal party candidate is sacked for sending his friends dirty jokes by SMS.
I draw your attention to the second paragraph of the story, which is repeated at the end.
Brenton Pavier, a Liberal councillor and the candidate for Wyong, was disendorsed by the party last night amid revelations he had forwarded an "inappropriate" SMS around Christmas to several people, including a woman.

I'm sure I don't have to spell out what incenses me about this statement, so I'll just let you fill in the gaps for yourselves.
Rant, rant, rant.
And as for sacking someone who sends dirty SMS messages to his mates, let him who is without sin, etc...

Trying too hard

Yesterday's daily newspaper contained the monthly glossy mag known as the (sydney) magazine, which in turn contained the following advertisement for a well-known German car company:

It's just one of those things: if you're trying to sound like a local, make sure you get it right, or you just sound like a prat. For non-inner-city-ites, if you drive your beemer through Erskineville you can stop at the Erko Bowling Club for a drink and a meal; you can watch the Newtown Jets play rugby league at Erko Oval; you can see the kids in the playground at Erko Public School or stop at one of the trendy cafes near Erko town hall. But if you do happen to go to any of these places and ask people if they've heard of a suburb called "Ersko" they will give you one of those looks, and quickly turn away...

Also, if the advertisers are trying to imply that people who live in Erskineville might drive their luxury cars, they ought to think again. The vehicle of choice in Erko these days is often a gigantic 4WD: there are always at least three of the beasts double-parked on the street outside my favourite cafe (even though there are plenty of parking spots just tens of metres down the road). As His Dagginess points out, these urban assault vehicles are eminently suitedto the road conditions in the suburb. After all, Erskineville was the suburb where a firefighter was almost charged with neg. driving for wiping out some wing mirrors with a fire engine on its way to a house fire -- when he realised the truck wasn't going to fit down the narrow street, his Station Officer gave the order to proceed anyway, fortunately for the people trapped in the burning house. It was only when someone pointed out to the police and insurance assessors that, if they were trapped in a burning house, they would probably be glad that a few wing mirrors were sacrificed in the interests of their safety -- rather than having the fire engine park at the end of the street and the firefighters running back and forth with buckets -- that the charges were dropped.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Poetry in motion

I'll just jump on the anti-Valentine's day bandwagon that Ms Nominative Determinism complains has struck almost the whole of Gen-Y this year. I tried to skip right past the page in this morning's newspaper but the bright pink and red type jumped out at me and I couldn't help but read some of the poetry that people have written for their loved ones, who apparently have unfortunate monikers like Schmoopy or Wubbsy.
I was pleased to see that Hemlock has the same problem in the Big Lychee, but at least there the peddlers of such inane tripe have the excuse that English is probably not their first language.
No-one ever said it better than e.e. cummings:
i like my body when it is with your
body. It is so quite new a thing.
Muscles better and nerves more.
i like your body. i like what it does,
i like its hows. i like to feel the spine
of your body and its bones, and the trembling
-firm-smooth ness and which i will
again and again and again
kiss, i like kissing this and that of you,
i like, slowly stroking the, shocking fuzz
of your electric fur, and what-is-it comes
over parting flesh ... And eyes big love-crumbs,

and possibly i like the thrill

of under me you so quite new

Hmmm.... maybe I should go back and read some of the Valentine's day poems after all: the next e.e. cummings might be lurking among them.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Dyeing for it

Last week I went to a workshop on Ozecraft fabric dyes, and came home with a beginners' kit that included several pieces of rayon guipure lace and three bottles of dye. The colours I chose are Wisteria, Olive green and Cream. These images are of my first attempts at applying the dye using various techniques:I used a fine brush to handpaint the dye onto this lace motif, so there is very little bleeding of the colours (I won't say there's none, but it was my first attempt so I've forgiven myself). I used 1:4 solutions of the wisteria and green dyes but I used the cream dye undiluted to get a pale yellow colour. After the dye was applied, I zapped the piece in the microwave to heat-set the colour.
This length of fringing was first dyed with diluted cream dye, using the boiling method in the microwave. I used a solution of about 1:10 as the colour is a little stronger when you boil it. After dyeing the whole piece cream, I used a large paint brush to apply wisteria and green dye 1:4 solution to selected parts of the lace, but I just dabbed it on -- I didn't try to "stay in the lines" when colouring in the flowers, for example. After I'd finished, I realised I'd worked on the back of the lace, but when I turned it over I quite liked the broken-up effect of the dye that had seeped through to the front.
I cut this length of lace into five lengths and applied colours in various ways. The top layer had the various dye colours applied in random blobs using a large paint brush; the second layer was the last I did, and it was dyed by immersion in a mixture of the cream dye left over from the microwave method above and the green dye solution I had used for painting -- it came out a nice pale green. The remaining three layers all had the colours applied with a paint brush, all over the piece, then they were heat set in the microwave. Because they were only small pieces, it was possible to get pretty even coverage with the paintbrush and I didn't need to dilute the colours more than 1:4 so the final result is nice, strong colour.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Spun out

Every day after I drop the Dude at school, I drive down the hill towards this piece of public art (some would call it graffiti) on a fence outside the Eveleigh Workshops. This morose individual tugs at a cord in my heart so I thought I would share her with you. She's kind of an appropriate, mournful image for what follows here.

What I really wanted to blog about today is the whole David Hicks/Guantanamo Bay mess. A week ago, the Prime Minister finally declared (after five years of Hicks' imprisonment without charge or trial) that he would give the US government three weeks to lay charges or... else. As His Dagginess said at the time (in Voice of Reason guise), "He must know that they are about to lay charges or he wouldn't put himself out on a limb like that." Lo and behold, charges are announced a week or so after Little Johnny stamped his foot.
Yet, even the 12-year-old Dude -- who has been slightly indoctrinated on the subject by my breakfast table rantings -- could see that the charges were trumped up, thoughtcrime accusations. What is David Hicks accused of? The basic translation (WARNING: gross oversimplification ahead) is:
a) being in the wrong place at the wrong time; and
b) thinking that people who died in the US were no less casualties of war than people who died in Afghanistan.
Don't think that I believe David Hicks is innocent of any wrongdoing (or guilty for that matter). Obviously, none of us here in Australia has enough information to determine that. But I do think he deserves a fair trial, and these pathetic excuses for charges against him do little to convince me that he is going to get one in Guantanamo Bay.
Meanwhile, LJ is strutting around with a smug grin on his face, happy that it appears that the US government bowed to his petulant foot-stamping (even though, as a letter in the Sydney Morning Herald pointed out this morning, Hicks still has not actually been charged, but only notified of the charges that will be laid once they are ratified by the military commission). It's insufferable! And five years too late.

As a side note to this rant, if you are interested at all in the campaign to have David Hicks treated fairly and humanely, pop over to GetUp and sign up. They are trying to get to 200,000 members this year, to lobby the Australian government on a range of issues including climate change, education, David Hicks and other topics that neither of the major parties seem prepared to make a stand about.

Sunday, January 28, 2007


Having only recently discovered the pleasures of a "nanna nap", I chuckled when a friend suggested we get together for a "nanna dinner", meaning eating out at the civilised hour of 6.30pm.

WTF? That's the time I always eat...

Friday, January 26, 2007

White water

Here's how we celebrated the Dude's 12th birthday. In this case, a picture really is worth a thousand words. Above, left to right: Beche-la-mer, the Dude, the ATM, Ms Take, His Dagginess and Ms Nominative Determinism.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Lost and found orchestra

Last week we went to see the Stomp Company's Lost and Found Orchestra at the Opera House. Having seen Stomp when it first came to Australia many years ago, we were looking forward to a really great, energetic performance. The newspaper reviewer, however, had expressed disappointment, stating that they had lost their edge and tried too hard to reproduce traditional music with instruments that were, although made from found objects, far too "constructed" for the reviewer's liking.
The Dude, Ms Nominative Determinism, His Dagginess and I all came to the conclusion that the reviewer was just trying to reproduce the feeling of the first Stomp experience, when it was raw and new and hadn't been used to advertise everything from office stationery to food. Ten or more years on, the Stomp Company should have moved on from its starting point, and it has. The reviewer in the SMH obviously missed the word "Orchestra" in the show's title. It was a true orchestra, with kettle drums made of metal barrels and a xylophone made of beer bottles. The music was haunting and ethereal and the tunes were recognisable, if slightly twisted by the use of saws and bedsprings instead of violins and harps.
One other interesting thing about the performance was the audience (or "crowd", in His Dagginess' terminology, which might actually have been a more accurate description in some ways) that it brought to the Opera House. Despite the signs in the foyer, at the doors and the warnings on the back of the tickets themselves that "photographic and audiovisual recording equipment are not permitted", while we were waiting for the show to start, a single camera flash went off. It was followed within a few seconds by several more, until the entire auditorium was lit up with what seemed like hundreds of camera flashes -- looking like the Harbour Bridge on New Year's Eve. It was like a chain reaction. The poor ushers, trying to inspect tickets at the door, would occasionally make forays to the nearest camera flash with instructions to desist, but they couldn't keep up.
My first thought was quite snobbish: "This would never happen at the opera"! But it also made me realise that I was almost taking my privileges for granted -- the fact that I do attend performances at the Opera House on a regular basis means that a) I am well aware that taking photographs is not permitted and b) it's such a regular occurrence for me that it's not even something I'd think of wanting to record for posterity in a photograph. Obviously, there were a lot of people in the audience that night for whom a performance at the Opera House was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that needed to be memorialised.
The other thought I had, that always bugs me about people using flash photography in large arenas, is that in this day of instantaneous results through digital photography, people still don't get it that a flash photograph in a dark space is only going to illuminate the back of the heads of the people in the next few rows!
Anyway, fortunately only two or three dimwits tried to take photos after the performers came out on stage, and the ushers, now relieved of their ticket-checking duties, pounced on them quick-smart. And a good time was had by all.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Comet McNaught, of a sort

Tonight there were fewer clouds but unfortunately lots of haze down near the horizon, where the comet was to be found. So, by the time it was dark enough to see the comet well, it dipped down into the haze and disappeared from view.
Many people were gathered on top of the hill at Sydney Park, a few with telescopes. I was the first to spot the comet, as a pale dot when the sky was still quite bright. The Dude was the first to spot Venus which, being higher in the sky, was a lovely sight.
The photograph above was the best I could achieve tonight. I've put a square around the comet (although you can hardly see it at all in this lo-res version of the image) and the inset is the square enlarged and with the contrast increased. You can't see the tail -- I couldn't see it with my naked eyes either, but those with binoculars and telescopes got a better view.
If the clouds stay away tomorrow I hope to get a better view and a better shot, as the comet will be slightly higher in the sky at sunset.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Comet McNaught, Not

7.45pm Drove to Sydney Park to try to spot Comet McNaught
7.55pm Set up camera, despite looming clouds. Why do the clouds always gather on the Western horizon at sunset, when the sky has been clear all day? Is it something to do with Sydney's geography?
8.09pm Sunset. Cloudy. Bummer
8.50pm Gave up. Went home, published pretty sunset photograph on blog.
Try again tomorrow night.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Just kitten around

Those who know me well will understand my fascination with eggcorns -- those strange slips of the tongue that people make when they've heard a phrase many times but never seen it written down. Lately my home town has had the dubious pleasure of hosting the woman who is most famous for being famous, Paris Hilton. She has been passing the time not eating lunch in trendy cafes and not paying for the drinks she consumes in the same nosheries, not paying for fashion items, etc.
A newspaper report said that Ms Hilton's minder explained that, because she'd partied a little too hard on New Year's Eve, she needed to be treated with "kitten gloves". So what I'm wondering is, are those "kid" gloves that are made out of the skins of tiny cats, or are they special protective gear to be used when touching sex kittens?
Or maybe...