Friday, October 30, 2009


Oh, fantastic.

So Natalie's minor back troubles have flared to full-on pinched/swollen disc issues. She's pretty much horizontal, and that's that. Apparently they took one look at her yesterday at work, and sent her to the physio.

That really ices the cake on this weekend.

I can't duck out of the grading. Already did half of it, and it's an expensive sort of thing to quit on. Plus I don't want to have to go through all this goddam preparation again. And of course, the bossman of the style is coming out from Adelaide for this. So I go.

And I can't duck out on Dion's going-away. That happens only the once, and it'll be a long time between drinks afterwards.

So we've organised aides and babysitters and emergency inlookers. Natalie and the kids should be okay for the day. Tomorrow? Well, the second half the sword seminar would be really really nice to attend, but I'm damned if I'm leaving Natalie flat on her back with three kids again. Either she's significantly better tomorrow, or I miss that second half.

Naturally, since I have to wear a heavy jacket today, the weather's closing in. Huge humidity, possible thunderstorms later. Sweaty, sweaty, sweaty stuff. And by now, my wrists, shoulders and forearms are starting to feel the effects of a week of reasonably intensive practice on the grading techniques.

On top of that, my water supply has a goddam platypus in it.

I like platypussies. I admit it. They're really cool. I love how completely wrong they are: aquatic, duck-billed, egg-laying mammals with a poisonous spur on the hind leg in the males. And on the mainland, they're increasingly rare. But they're not particularly rare down here. Most decent-sized waterholes (and there are a lot) have a platypus or two. Most stretches of river have one or two.

We've got two ponds on the property. The big one, about 25 m across, has a spring under it somewhere -- but it doesn't flow fast enough in the hot season to keep the water flowing. Just fast enough to keep it turbid. That pond is our swimming pool in the still, humid, hot days of summer, and last year I spotted a platypus in it a couple times: nice.

The other pond is only about 4m across, and it's sheltered by a screen of brush and trees. The water in it is clearer than finest crystal, and the little spring that fills it never stops flowing. I keep a careful eye on that little pond, monitoring the various forms of life in it, because that's our water supply. I pump water from there to a holding tank on the hill above the house, where it gravity-feeds to the sinks, showers, toilets, etc.

Also nice. Except that yesterday afternoon, there was a goddam platypus swimming happily about on the surface of the water-supply pond.

Is platypus pee bad for you?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Flat Out

Uhhh... where was I?

Monday was sword training. I did the written part of the grading. The practical part comes Saturday. I've been practicing whenever I get the chance -- but since practice for this grading involves waving around about a metre of extremely sharp steel, I have to be pretty much kid-free. That's difficult. I tend to practice at night.

Tuesday: Elder Son was home. Some math was done, and some socio-cultural/historical stuff. And a Get Well card for his friend who fell out of a tree. But Tuesday night I zipped into Launceston (again) and watched movies with the Cool Shiters. Saw a very odd Jackie Chan flick, in which Jackie played it straight. The film is called "The Shinjuku Incident", and it's banned in China, apparently. It's an earnest film, and Jackie does okay in his role - but I didn't find a whole lot to be excited by. It's the story of an illegal Chinese migrant to Japan, who falls in with the Chinese illegals there and gradually gets sucked into organized crime, then duly chewed up and spat out. No surprises. Many others have made this film before, and lacking anything really new to bring to it, the only reason to see it is for the novelty of Jackie Chan in a non-martial, non-entertaining role.

Wednesday: there's a gastro doing the rounds down here. Apparently it's quite nasty. It's knocked quite a few people down, and a while back there was an entire ward of the LGH locked into isolation for it. So, Tuesday night Younger Son got carried into the house after falling ill at his first visit to Cubs. And Natalie's been a bit off her feed, yep. (Oh. I see I didn't mention Cubs. Yeah. First time and all. I had to drive out into the boonies north of Scottsdale to find the hall... and of course, Natalie told me 1530 hours but the boys weren't actually due there until 1630. Useful. But they enjoyed it. At least, they enjoyed it until Younger Son came over all chunderrific.) So -- Wednesday, I made it all the way through the afternoon of Spanish with the lads, but an ill-chosen afternoon snack (I had some chips with the boys. They were fine chips. My stomach wasn't fine. That is all.) I had to call off the evening martial arts class. Nobody likes to see vomit all over the mat, no.

Thursday: uhhhh... yep. More efforts at sword training, and an attempt to get into the domestic stuff. Natalie's done something horrible to her back. She's walking around the place like a cripple, and even rolling over in bed is a production. So there's about twice as much crap to do around the place as usual, but I've got half the time I'm supposed to. And of course, there was the primary school intro ju-jitsu class to occupy the afternoon. I can only be thankful for Kindly Neighbour Lady A, who looked after the Mau-Mau while I was teaching kids the joy of nerve point techniques -- and who remembered to bring along to the school some important paperwork I'd forgotten when she came down with the Mau-Mau to collect her own offspring.

And today?

Today after I dropped the boys off and did the general shopping, I grabbed Neighbour Lady A's little daughter Microblonde, who is the Mau-Mau's Very Best Friend In All The World. And so my morning consisted of two four-year-old girls tearing the place up, down and sideways. No sword training yet. But hopefully, Natalie will take the Mau-Mau with the boys to orchestra... although I suspect I may have to take over that task, because the whole spine thing was looking worse than ever this morning.

I'm taking ten minutes out to put all this down. And to say that the rhododendrons were actually camellias after all. Now I've got to get back to it.

Sword grading tomorrow. Going-away party for Dion after that. Sword seminar on Sunday. And spring has turned my property into an overgrown mass...

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A Floral Tour of Chez Flinthart

This was a bastard of a post to manage. My surly satellite connection dropped out twice, and I could only load two images at a time or the whole system overloaded and fucked up on me.

Okay: first, to everybody in Briz I didn't manage to contact over the weekend -- all I had was a flying visit. I tried to call a friend about lunch in town, but in the end, even that didn't happen. I had time to do wedding-related stuff, and bugger-all else.

The time is definitely coming when I have to bring the family north for a proper meet-and-greet Briz holiday, I think.

Second: I took a slow walk around the property this morning, by way of resting a bit. And I carried the camera. I don't plant much by way of showy flowers, except for bulbs -- Natalie liked daffodils and jonquils and irises and tulips. Much of what flowers here is edible. And yet the place is still alive...

Bay laurel. Yes, the kind you cook with. The tree is about 8m high. The flowers look like shit, but they smell great and the bees love 'em.







Blood plum

A daffodil

Bugger. I've doubled up. This was meant to be the Snow Pear. They look similar.

I have no idea. I think it's a weed.



Russian comfrey, I think


Wee little daisies

Purple magnolias

White magnolia

Dunno this one. A native of some sort, and a real bee magnet.


JOnquils. You can't tell, but they're smaller than the daffy earlier.



Oh! There's my snow pear


Dandelion with afro


Quince, I think



Slightly Tired

Friday: organised the kids outta bed and off to school and daycare. Swapped cars with Natalie. Made it home, grabbed my bag, zoomed off to the airport in time for a DeathStar flight to Briz. Why? Simple -- the wedding of my old drinking/smoking/moviemaking companion Daryl Sparkes, and the marvellous Deb Marshall. What with having been in and out of trouble with and around Daryl for more years than I can legitimately lay claim to recall, once the wedding invite arrived, it was a no-brainer. I went.

Landed in Briz, and failed to catch up with the Valkyrie of Snark - you know who you are! I do believe she opted to flee to some kind of secure rural retreat once she heard the wheels of the Party Machine being oiled up. Fear not, o Valkyrie: the fallout was limited to Tarragindi, Coorparoo, and certain areas of the inner city.

I caught an unbelievably expensive train from the airport to the city -- $14.50 one way, folks. Brisbane's public transport is just as screwed up as it was when the Lord Mayor abused me for saying it was screwed up back in 1995 -- and noodled around the Valley for a while, purely to take a look at the Old Town. I sent a few postcards to the kids, then gave up on trying to work out which bus might get me to Tarragindi, where my friend and crash-supplier Julie lives, and just ponied up for cabfare.

Question: what happened to all the fat, sleazy, balding white guys who used to drive Brisbane's cab fleet? I caught three cabs over the weekend, and every one of them was driven by a friendly, polite younger gentleman of Asian subcontinental origin. Not that I'm complaining, mind. I'm just wondering what happened to the thousands of sweaty fat balding white guys that used to squeeze their beer guts behind the wheel? Is there some kind of Epically Horrible Retirement Home for the Terminally White-Trash Racist that I don't know about?

I know: I'm generalising. But don't forget -- I drove cabs in Briz for about five years, and I met those guys everywhere. It was like there was some sort of special Fat Horrible Bastard farm designed to churn out creepy cabbies.

Times change, I suppose. Some things really do get better. Not one of the three drivers tried to tell me any gross, racist or sexist jokes by way of 'passing the time'. I count that as a huge improvement.

Anyway. I found Julie's place, and the key she'd left, and let myself in. It was hot, as Brisbane is wont to be in late October, but Julie's found a decent spot with a forested gully behind her. If I was actually capable of nostalgia, I might even have spent a few moments recalling endless summer days, cicadas singing, gum leaves rattling in fitful breezes, the iron band of summer heat clenched around your chest as the sweat trickled down the backs of your knees... nahhh. Hell with that!

When Julie got back, we ducked out for supplies. The official pre-wedding "Buck's party" was at her place, so we had a few things to get in order. I made a smoked salmon pasta salad, a melon and ginger salad, and a large guacaomole. The rest of the watermelon went into a vodka punch, which was more like a Mike Tyson left hook, to be honest. Tasted great, but it was wayyyy too easy to drink on a hot Brisbane night.

And then I caught up with a few old friends. Hello Simone! Hi, Caitlin! Thomas, yes, you too. Pat Stewart, you eternal goddam hippie! Mick, you useless bastard! Yvette, yes, sorry ma'amselle, but you joined this menagerie of your own accord. Lawrie Mullins, looking like a streamlined hood-ornament version of himself. And Daryl... yep. Check. All present and accounted for.

Missing in action? Oh, there were a lot of faces I'd have liked to have seen. But you take what comes, and it was a good night. Good enough that I managed only three hours of sleep after walking Simone back to her residence through the danger-bestrewn Mean Streets of Tarragindi...

Sunday, therefore, was not my finest hour. But I managed. Got into my specially-chosen wedding garb in plenty of time, with the aid of ibuprofen and watermelon and paracetamol and Brisbane's God-beshitted so-called "water supply". (Anybody like a little water with their industrial chemistry?)

The official dress code for the wedding was "cocktail lounge". For some reason, most of my male friends took that to mean "funereal". I haven't seen so many black suits outside a mortuary. Points to Brian, who was actually wearing a natty grey charcoal grey pinstripe job which he admitted he'd inherited from an expired relative... dead man's suit! Cool!

The wedding went off more or less okay. Tom handed me a groovy camera, so I drifted around, looking for good photos. Got one or two that I liked -- a particularly nice one of one of the bridesmaids, who happens to be Daryl's 18-year-old daughter from a previous relationship. I hadn't seen young Emily in many a year, so it was nice to meet her as a real, live, adult-type person. She did a good job in her role - must be kinda challenging to do bridesmaid for your father when he's marrying someone other than your mother, but I get the impression that Emily and the bride get along very, very well, which speaks well of all concerned.

The wedding was a bit Godly though. Lotta Catholic stuff with responses involved. And singing. I didn't know the goddam words or the music, though, so I beat-boxed instead. Personally, I felt that the whole "alleluia" business was far, far better off with a bit of ghetto rhythm behind it, but apparently the people around me weren't quite so sure.

Oh! And then there was this bit where the priest was blessing the couple, holding his hand up like a sort of half-arsed Hitler salute, and encouraging the congregation (we were a congregation? Who knew?) to do likewise. I have to admit, I felt that a Godly blessing from me would be complete bullshit, so I curved my hand into a claw, aimed it at Daryl, and intoned "I find your lack of faith disturbing" instead.

Didn't work, though.

So we finished the wedding, and ducked into the city for the reception. Had to hang around an hour or so, sipping drinkies, before it kicked off, but that was okay. I caught up with more old friends, and made a couple of new ones. (Hi, Sue!)

The reception was very fine. Everybody was in a good mood, and the food was mucking farvellous. Seriously good cuisine. And there was wine, and booze, and lots more conversations, and possibly a bit of bread-roll hurling...

... but I had an 0700 flight to catch, so I pulled the plug a bit shy of midnight, and caught another cab to a pointless little hotel near the airport. I managed about five hours of fitful sleep before it was time to jump up and grab the final cab to the airport proper to board the plane for Launceston and home. I grabbed a copy of Terry Pratchett's latest Discworld book to keep me company - having slashed my way through Paul Haines' "Slice of Life" and Deborah Biancotti's "Book of Endings" on the previous flight. Discworld is good aeroplane fodder, and Natalie likes the series too, so it seemed a good idea.

Got in, grabbed my bag -- oh, and here's a big thanks to Brown Banana Lady, who tried to smuggle an elderly and rather unappetising banana past the Quarantine Beagle. Couple-hundred people trying to get off that damned flight, and we're all standing there, jammed shoulder to shoulder while you and the dog-handler went grubbing about in your onboard baggage in pursuit of a banana which frankly, any self-respecting chimpanzee with rabies would have violently rejected... jeez, lady. If you're going to piss off that many people, couldn't you at least have done it for a halfway decent piece of fruit?

But the weekend wasn't done with me. Not yet. Nope.

I made it home. Natalie reminded me I had to go and visit Historian Mike. And then she got me to wipe down the high bathroom walls with bleach. Shortly after that, I loaded the kids up, and went to Mike's place.

Mike particularly wanted me to meet some academic chap from the university's English department. Tired though I was, I felt it politic to agree. And lo! In one of those unbelievable Brisbane/Tasmania coincidences, the academic in question turned out to be the director of a comedy revue I'd been part of in UQ about twenty years ago. So instead of a meeting, it was a friendly reunion, and what had been a vague plan of some kind of project on my part has now swung firmly towards the near-certainty end of the scale.

But I was dead on my feet. I had a couple of desultory arguments with passing philosophers... and I'm afraid I was tired enough to laugh hysterically when one of them (Jamie) spoke firmly of "getting the truth out of" the other (Graeme.) I couldn't help it: it just seemed too much like a set-up for a Monty Python sketch - one philosopher interrogating the other in order to "get to the truth". Do philosophers use waterboards? Or do they simply subject one another to Existentialist poetry?

Still not over, though. Because Natalie wanted to go into town for her weekly music session, so I had the reins for the evening. No sleeping permitted! I fired up the chargorilla, cooked sausages, hamburgers, and a truly wonderful roast chicken stuffed with many good things. Then I threw the kids in the bathtub and washed their hair. We retired after that to watch Pinky and The Brain for a while... and honestly, I don't remember a whole lot after that.

I do know that it was damned hard to drag myself out of bed at 0700 this morning, though.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Must Be Springtime For Sure

Everything is green. In the greenest possible way. There are shades of green down here in Tasmania that could make Ireland sit up and take notice -- and I'm not even taking into account the weird shit down the back of my fridge, where the kids put their leftovers.

In between all the green, there's the rainbow of flowers. The cherries. The apples and pears. The late bulbs -- daffodils, jonquils, irises, tulips, and a shitload I don't know. Then there's all the other stuff. Rhododendrons - I know them, sure. But what about those orange things? And that mass of white? And all those purple things? Does ANYBODY actually know what all those flowers are?

But the surest possible indication of Springtime is my relentless need to Cook With Charcoal.

I love charcoal. I have done so ever since I did a high-school trip to Indonesia, and ate my first goat satay from a street vendor somewhere in Jogjakarta. Oooooh, yes please. Charcoal is, so far as I'm concerned, the finest food technology ever created. A handful of chips from a hickory tree (or a sassafras, if you're down here in Taz) and you've got pure goddam foody bliss.

The absolute, final indication of springtime is this:

That would be the shiny new Weber barbecue thing my good wife purchased yesterday, in Launceston, after her weekly yoga outing. She knows when she's onto a good thing, that woman. Because, of course, this would be the first chunks of meat in the Weber...

A couple of nice, locally-raised, organic bits of lamb, dressed out with garlic and rosemary from the front garden, lemons from the tree at the front of the house, sea salt and black pepper.

Toss in a couple Small Blue Things*, and I'm set.

*Small Blue Thing: Shot of decent gin, shot of blue curacao, splash of lime juice, tonic water to taste -- over ice.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Whoa. That Was Spooky. Seriously.

Just a quick note today.

I went to the mostly regular movie session with the Cool Shite team last night. When it came time for the main event, Bruce suggested something about the Baader-Meinhof group, but I felt it sounded too damned thoughtful and serious. Wasn't up for it. Dion wasn't too fussed about it either, so we turned to plan B -- a pile of what Bruce said were probably silly slasher/horror flicks.

I went through the small pile, reading ratings-tags like "strong violence" "strong horror" "supernatural themes" "extreme violence"... you get the picture. Eventually I came across a Finnish flick called 'Sauna', and noticed that the ratings tag included a bit about 'occasional nudity'.

Well, fair enough, I figured. A Finnish movie called 'Sauna' incorporating occasional nudit would probably at least be entertaining to watch. So it got my vote. And Dion lackadaisically joined in.

First note: the nudity was all male. (Ba-bow! FAIL!).

Second note: holy shit, what an amazing film.

Look, I don't much care for horror flicks. Mostly, I find them manipulative, repetitive, and irritating. The characters rarely interest me, since they're inevitably bland, white-bread 'everyday folks' to maximise the so-called 'horror' of their situation. And the storylines are usually banal. And I don't really respond to most people's idea of horror. The world is a horrific place already. Tossing in bad fantasy about demons or immortal murderers... meh. Doesn't faze me.

But 'Sauna'? Holy fucking sheepshit.

First off, it's a remarkably well-made film. Camerawork: excellent to remarkable. Cinematography: excellent to remarkable. Acting: very good. Writing: very good. Production values: excellent. Soundtrack: restrained, orchestral, excellent. If you got this kind of quality in a typical Hollywood flick, you'd be surprised. Finland isn't widely known for its cinema, so this is a real surprise.

Second: this film is fucking creepy as all hell. There's very little gore and/or violence. It's mostly implied. But the implication is ugly, and nasty, and pervasive. There's an atmosphere about this film from virtually the opening onwards. It feels paranoiac and threatening. There's a constant sense of dread, and the film-makers successfully build it up to end with some of the most skin-crawling footage I've seen outside the best of the Japanese horror films.

Most importantly, the characters, the setting, and the actual story are interesting. It's set in the late 16th century, at the end of a protracted war between Russia and Sweden. Two teams of mappers, one from each country, are establishing the new border between the countries as set down by treaty. The men are tired -- tired of war, tired of travel, tired of suspicious locals, desperately tired of each other. They want nothing more than to finish the job and go home, but first, they have to run the border through the middle of a cold, desolate swamp.

And that's where things really start to go bad.

I'm truly amazed. By pure chance, I've just seen a film that's gone straight into my top five for the year -- and it was a horror flick! Not only that, but it genuinely gave me the creeps: full-on gooseflesh at least four times during the movie. That's a record.

You like horror at all? Do yourself a huge favour: rent or buy 'Sauna'. Hell, even if you simply like really good film-making, 'Sauna' is a treat.

Just... don't see it at night, on your own. And if you do -- well, don't say I didn't warn you.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Ha. Things Got Away From Me There...

Been busy, yep.

I've just read and written a review of Roadkill/Siren Beat from Twelfth Planet Press. The review should be up in a day or two at Cool Shite On The Tube, so you can check it out there -- but the short version is: good reading, well worth the money. You get yourself two decent-length stories from two very different, but very interesting authors, all in the one book with two nifty covers.

Meanwhile, I also read and reviewed William Gibson's "Pattern Recognition", and I 'spect that review will find its way up to Cool Shite sooner or later. The book was very interesting. Gibson has slowly but very steadily moved away from his science fiction writing, in a progression you can trace from his seminal trilogy starting with 'Neuromancer', down through the 'Virtual Light' books which were much closer to present-day in their tech -- and here we are with 'Pattern Recognition' and its sort of sequel (well, it shares a few peripheral characters) 'Spook Country' which I am presently reading with great eagerness. Set in what is very much the present day, near-enough-real world. But it's still Gibson, with that lovely prose, asking all those interesting questions about humanity and technology, and I'm still loving it.

Rather less enjoyable was the task of reading Dan Brown's "The Lost Symbol". The Shiteheads sent me a free review copy. Now, I failed to finish Brown's "The Da Vinci Code" for the simple reason that it was amateurishly written crap, so I wasn't expecting much this time around. And I got it. I did manage to finish the book, but honestly, it wasn't worth the effort. I'll link to the review when it goes up because I suspect anyone who reads this blog regularly would probably enjoy my... frank and open thoughts on Mr Brown's latest opus.

Aside from catching up on some reading, I've had the usual set of duties, plus a few extras. Today, for example: a couple of my ju-jitsu students are in line for one bar of the three-bar Brown Belt grading, junior status. They've worked and trained hard for quite a while, but since there have been a few newcomers and a few time constraints on classes lately, I haven't been able to put them through their paces. So, since I knew Natalie would be on call today, I arranged to have both lads turn up here.

I put a movie on for the offspring, and then the students and I repaired to The Shed Dojo, where I put them through two hours of reasonably fierce testing. They did pretty well, too. They still have to work through the multiple-attacker scenarios -- we'll need some of the other students to get involved for that! -- but if they carry those off with the same degree of surety, I'll be very pleased.

Meanwhile, the weather's been all over the place again. I'm behind on laundry, and damned if I know whether to put the dryer on 'overkill' to catch up, or just hope that the three lines worth out there in the back yard right now will get enough sun tomorrow to become clothing once more.

Other news? The Mau-Mau discovered bull ants at Day Care. Big red lumps along one shin, but she was only cranky for a while. Those bastards hurt like hell, mind you.

And elsewise? Plenty, but minor. So, it's on to a recipe, I think.

This one involves charcoal-grilling, and I've posted it before. But since I've only recently got myself a functioning char-gorilla once again, I made this the other day -- and holy fuck, it's good.

Smoky Char-Grill Vegetables

Grab a bunch of chunky, juicy vegetables that can stand grilling, and cut them into slabs about a centimetre or so thick. I like to use a mix of ripe tomatoes, zucchini, portobello mushrooms, brown onions, red and green capsicums, and maybe some baby fennel. Put all the slabs of veg into a big bowl, and liberally souse them with good olive oil. Sprinkle a decent helping of sea salt, and grind a shitload of fresh black pepper on them.

Now, fire up your gorilla. When the coals are ready, spread your vegies on the grill. Nice if you can put a big steel bowl or something similar over them to help keep the smoke in place. Then toss a handful of damp, non-toxic wood shavings onto the coals, and step back.

You should get a nice, thick column of fragrant smoke that gets trapped under the bowl (or lid of your grill if you have that kind). One handful of shavings will do. Don't over do it.

Cook the vegies until they're softened, and maybe a little charred here and there. Put them back in their bowl. Add a little more seasoning if you like, and then toss a bit of decent balsamic vinegar at them.

Results: hot, smoky, sweet/salt/sour juicy vegetables. These are so damned good I can easily eat a plateload on their own... but with a little marinated grilled chicken, or a good rare steak they are the most outrageously delectable things going. Perfect with a robust red wine.

Monday, October 12, 2009


Okay... fans of Science On The Edge will appreciate exactly why this represents a "woohoo"! moment. Those of you who aren't such fans -- jeez, you don't know what you're missing. A superconducting material that works at -19C? That's totally bloody amazing. Your goddam home deep freeze gets down to that level!

Of course, it still requires Thallium, which isn't exactly the most common element on the planet - but it's not super-rare, either. And of course, -19C is still pretty cold. But... shit! They could just about wire up the Antarctic facilities with this stuff as is!

And the fact that they're still climbing the temperature scale with these new superconducting substances is even more fantastic. If the day comes when we get decent room-temperature superconduction.... hot damn!

I'd like to see further tests from other labs to confirm this one, but they seem pretty sure of themselves, and it fits with the pattern of the other complex superconductors they've been discovering. Fantastic!

Right. Okay. Enough geeking out. On the home front:

Weekend was pretty good. Natalie took the kids to Launceston on Saturday, leaving me a day on my own. Unfortunately, it takes me a good half-day to decompress these days, so I didn't write nearly as much as I should. But I watched some Robot Chicken, and I ate lazily, and I read a bunch of stuff I've been meaning to read.

And I did sword training. And some archery. And a good session with the kickbag. So that was all good. Got the sword grading coming up in a few very short weeks - still got plenty of work to do there.

Come Sunday, John E flew back in from Queensland, where he's been propping up his indigent brothers for the last five or six weeks. I zipped into Launceston and met Nat and the kids. Then we all took off to the Evandale markets, not too far from the airport. I found a nifty secondhand recurve bow for Younger Son, and Natalie got a great pair of boots for the daughter, and there were all kinds of interesting movies to buy... and I found an orange seedling, and a nice-looking apple seedling, so by the time I went to collect John E from the airport, I had to use Natalie's car 'cos mine was full of Stuff.

John didn't seem to think that hanging around Launceston with the Flinthart Family was the Key to Happiness, so I took him back to Scottsdale and dumped him... the ungrateful swine! What kind of chap DOESN'T leap at the opportunity to spend an afternoon with three noisy children just because he had to get up at sparrowfart to take a two-hour flight on DeathStar Airways? Ha! The man's got no stamina.

Anyway, I turned around and went back into Launceston, and hung out at the new Aquatic Centre with Nat and the kids for an hour or two. The Aquatic Centre is pretty cool. There's a humongous splash-pool complete with water playground -- slides, hoses, showers, climbing tower, and giant bucket that periodically dumps a metric shitload of water from about five metres up -- plus a range of kid-friendly pools, plus two whacking great lap pools for training proper. I did a quick kilometre, and decided I definitely need to factor more swimming in this summer, even if it is a bastard of a thing to timetable.

After the splashy afternoon, the kids were properly tired, so I took 'em home while Natalie stayed in Launceston for her weekly dose of the folky stuff. The Younger Son and I tried out his new recurve... bit of tech-talk for archery types here: the new recurve is a simple fibreglass job, but it's a little shorter than the cheap-ass springy red beginner's bow he's been using, and it's also a good deal stiffer. This means that Younger Son can actually get a decent flight by drawing to his chin. With the red bow, his arms were just that bit too short... the bow required too much draw to really put any power behind the arrows. This new one is just what the doctor ordered.

So, yeah -- then we had toasty sandwiches and salads, and watched an interesting and rather clever "Batman Reunion" sort of movie, with Adam West and Burt Ward not quite reprising their famous roles. Actually... for any fans of the old 60s Batman, the movie is well worth the effort. It's kind of a weird retrospective on the series, with West and Ward playing their modern selves but camping it up in the fashion of their iconic roles as they try to track a stolen Batmobile... while at the same time, an ensemble of very decent actors tells the story of the Making Of The Series as a sequence of flashbacks.

It's quite clever, and actually succeeds in being deliberately funny in a lot of places. And of course, some of the stories from the original series are pretty cool. Who knew that poor old Burt Ward had so much trouble controlling his wedding tackle as "Robin"?

Monday: I planted my orange and my apple, and the heavens obliged with rain. I did a lot of editing and reading, and a little writing. I tried out my nifty new charcoal gorilla around dinner time, and then took off for an evening of sword training. Long day.

And today will be just as long.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Northern Territory: It's A Special Kind Of Place

For those of you in far-off countries who occasionally look in on this blog for a bit of amusement, I offer this rather funny article.

It's funny on several levels. First, I think it's marvellous that the news-outlet should give so much space to a woman making a denial that she was committing oral sex on the driver of the ute she was in when it crashed. Seriously: they quote this woman at length, and apart from reducing "offensive" words to mere f***s and s****s and so forth, they let her speak in what appears to be the authentic vernacular.

And that's the second reason it's funny: her command of the good old Australian language. It's gorgeous. It's not laden with cliched Australianism. It's just blunt, and clear, and remarkably effective at conveying her feelings on the matter.

And those feelings are the final level of humour, for me. In her forthright approach and her choice of priorities here, her absolute candour is endearingly funny. This isn't a woman permitting herself to become any kind of victim, nor bewailing her situation. Nope. Read for yourself. She'd definitely want you to do so!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Dinnertable History With The Boys

"So what would a hundred be scared of? A trillion!" And that would be Younger Son, expounding over his chicken and sweet corn soup and green salad. He was busily explaining what he thought it might take to frighten a hundred... errr... somethings. I figured it was time to weigh in.

"Depends on the hundred," I said. "I mean -- what if they were a hundred Spartans?"

Well, I got puzzled looks from both boys, so I launched into a thumbnail version of Thermopylae: three hundred Spartans (backed up by a lazy few thousand Athenians, admittedly) parking their arses in a narrow pass, holding off a hundred thousand or so Persians.

"So did they win?" said Elder Son. As if that was the point, given that we were discussing "scared".

"Depends on what you mean by 'win'," I told him. And I explained that even though the Spartans were slaughtered, it took the Persians several days to manage it, and they took drastic losses, and in the meantime, the Athenians evacuated their city, and set up for the decisive sea battle at Salamis. "So the Spartans all got killed, but they held the pass long enough to make sure the Persians couldn't achieve their victory."

There's a pause as both boys digest this. And then Younger Son lifts his chin, and nods gravely. "So -- basically, the Germans won," he says, with the absolute confidence of an oracle.

Once I picked myself up off the floor and managed to get my breathing back under control, I tried to do the rational thing. I explained that there weren't any Germans as such for two thousand-odd years afterwards. And, questioned by Elder Son, I explain a bit about the Persian Empire, and Xerxes, and imperial ambitions, and the first invasion of the Greek states by the Persians.... and somewhere in the middle, Elder Son wants to know about the Big Wooden Horse.


I change tracks, and deliver a thumbnail sketch of Homer's account of the ten year siege, and then outline Oddyseus' Cunning Plan. And I mention that they've found the remains of a big, walled city in the place where Troy was supposed to be, and that it was burned at roughly the right time (and other times!), so perhaps there was something to Homer's account after all.

"Did they find the remains of a Big Wooden Horse?" asked Natalie... of all people.

"Not after three thousand years and all that arson," I said.

"Why didn't they just rebuild the horse?" asked Younger Son.

I thought about it. "Who? And why would they rebuild it?"

Immediately, an all-too-familiar expression of fiendish glee swept over his face. I knew I shouldn't have asked. "Because it was big!" he said, and after that, dinner-table history was dead.

That's the Younger Son all over. Why would you rebuild the famed Wooden Horse? Because it was big.

Maybe he's right. Maybe the Germans did win after all, and I just didn't notice. That would probably explain a lot.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Two Bloglinks In A Row? Yeah... But You Really Need To See This.

A talking piano. No, really. It's a piano. It can only make the range of noises a piano makes. Except that some SuperNerd has done a frequency analysis on the voice of a child, and then rigged a mechanical device to play the keys of the piano so it returns those proper frequencies.

The freakin' piano talks. And it is deeply, deeply bloody unnerving.

Is It Still Schadenfreude If The Idiot Deserved It?

You want a decent chuckle? Check out this link. Yeah, sure, it hooks to "The Sun" in England, which is almost as reliable as a Swiss Cheese condom... but the article in question includes some very telling, very entertaining CCTV footage.

Seems a couple of lads went out on a tear in Swansea. They got pissed, and started harassing passers-by. Eventually, they ran across a pair of very dodgy-looking transvestites, and decided that the "girls" would make good targets.

Bad move. The "transvestites" were professional cage fighters, out for a bucks' night.



Monday, October 5, 2009

Slogging Along

No, I don't have much to report. Frankly, I'm not even up to date with the news. It feels like I'm wading through knee-deep mud -- something I did for fun as a kid, as I recall.

Everybody in the house saving yours truly has been sick of late. Even the Iron Immune System himself, Elder Son. Admittedly, for him it was two days of sore throat and one day of general tiredness and cough... whereas it knocked his brother and sister down for a week apiece. And of course, his mother has now been a sack of fertilizer for a couple days.

I hate times like that. I'd almost rather be sick myself.

Last night, as I sat up trying to work, the coughing started from Younger Son. Okay, he's not sick any more, but we suspect him of asthma. Once he gets any kind of cough, it lingers like... no, I'm in a bad mood. The simile I was considering would only get me smacked. So I'll just say this: Younger Son gets a cough, it sticks around like something deeply unwanted that simply refuses to go away.

Right. I got up, got my torch, and started the medications. A puff of this. A puff of that. Half an hour later - no effect. So it's up again, and this time he gets a dose of cough suppressant.

About the time the cough suppressant starts to work on Younger Son, the Mau-Mau starts to cry in her bedroom. Fucking great. I get up, and I start the interrogation process. The Mau-Mau is only four, and she sleeps like a brick would, if brick's weren't such goddam tetchy and irritable things. Even when she's crying, she's still asleep. But she can cry loudly, and if I don't do something she'll wake up Natalie, who is exhausted after delivering babies over the weekend and coming down with this stupid fucking cold.

After a while, the Mau-Mau reveals that she has 'aches'. Yeah, fine. Ever heard of 'growing pains'? Well, the research is long since in: they're real. I'm not interested in arguing with anyone on it, because I grew up with 'em myself, and I recall the sleepless nights. Elder Son used to get 'em something fierce, and now, apparently, the Mau-Mau is in the same boat.

I'm too tired to fuck around with placebos. She gets a dose of painkillers.

About the time the drugs start to work on the Mau-Mau, the fucking dog starts barking. Why? He never barks at night! What's up his goddam arse?

So I grab the torch and head out the back door. Oh... it's started to rain. And the goddam kids have left the poor bastard chained to the back deck for the last four hours. Better let him off the hook.

Let's see: that's Younger Son, the Mau-Mau, and the dog. Elder Son? Quiet. Natalie? Ahhh, yes.... better fetch the cough meds upstairs for her.

Plod, plod, plod.

This morning, Natalie wasn't up to much so the breakfast bullshit fell to me. Okay, fine. But of course, I'll be back down the hill to Scottsdale before eleven to collect Elder Son... we've got a day of home learning to do. And meanwhile, the Mau-Mau is stretched out on the couch, coughing wetly.

Plod, plod, plod.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Canadians: So Much Weirder Than We Give Them Credit

In Australia, it would be too embarrassing to mention -- and almost certainly illegal.

...but in Canada, they advertise it on the side of bus stops. O, Canada!