Saturday, September 30, 2006

The latest threat to wildlife

A strange thing happened this morning. I woke up before sunrise and these cows (shown here after the event, looking like they're still in shock)...

...seemed to be fighting. Some were prancing around and pushing each other, and all were making a really loud noise, setting off answering bellows from other cows in neighbouring paddocks.

Then from the middle of the jostling herd appeared a small animal, close to the ground, furry, not moving much. The cows made way for it to depart, but then followed and nudged at it with their noses, and it looked like one of them even kicked it. I couldn't see what the little creature was, though - a dog? a cat? a very fat fox?

Just as I was preparing to run out and save it, it made a movement like that of a rabbit. Huh? There are lots of rabbits around here, but this one looked quite incredibly big, and slow, and I've never seen cows look twice at them, let alone congregate around one.

Then suddenly the "rabbit" found its feet and raced away in ungainly fashion - under the fence, across the lawn and... umm, what? ... straight up a tree!

Are you putting two and two together here? Rabbits do not climb trees. And they don't run in ungainly fashion, either. Here are the marks the climbing creature left on the bark as it clawed its way up the trunk of this camphor laurel tree:

And here is the thing seen from a distance - a great distance, because that tree is big. Look for a dark shape in the middle of the shot:

And now, finally, as close as I could get and it's still a crappy shot, sorry. Click on it for a larger version. I hope you can see a grey furry face looking to the left, its left ear seen at top-right of its head:

A koala! In a camphor laurel tree!** After it was practically mauled by a herd of cows!


If the poor thing was heading towards the eucalypts nearby (shown in the background of that vegie garden/rain photo the other day) it's nearly home free. There are no dangers between where it is and where it needs to go, so it can probably relax until sundown. I'm guessing it'll be relaxing there anyway, wherever it was headed (koalas sleep a lot) but let's hope it doesn't have to retrace its steps across the cows' paddock, which is what it will have to do if it's trying to get to eucalypts on other properties. Cross-country travel is probably always difficult for koalas, threatened by cars, dogs, cats, and foxes. But who knew they also have to worry about cows??

**As far as I know, koalas only live in and eat the leaves of eucalypts. A camphor laurel would be foreign territory.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Friday quiz 2

From the home of Is Your Cat More Intelligent Than Your Boyfriend? and Is Your Girlfriend More Neurotic Than Your Dog?...

What Zodiac Sign Should You Be?

Brought to you by a should-be Scorpio: "Brooding resentment, aggressive and sadistic brutality, total arrogance, morbid jealousy, extreme volatility of temperament, these are some of their vices."


Wednesday, September 27, 2006


Following on from those other seasonal firsts I've been mentioning (eg. jasmine flowers, camphor laurel leaves, nesting swallows**), this afternoon we had the first real Spring storm. It wasn't particularly noteworthy but was nice nonetheless, and gave us 31mm of rain.

It's always a challenge to show rain in a photo and I still haven't found a way to do this effectively yet, but here are two of today's attempts.

(1) Looking from the verandah - the vegie garden, with coffee trees and eucalypts in the background, and rain over all:

(2) Looking through a window into the backyard - white roses and a camphor laurel in the background, and a sudden waterfall coursing down from the roof (presumably created by blocked guttering).

**Maybe the swallows aren't nesting after all - I haven't seen any babies yet - but then what else would they be doing here? Holidaying?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


Years ago I used to read a lot, and made a record of interesting excerpts along the way - by hand, on paper. Now I've got several folders full of these quotations and they're all just sitting around, doing nothing. I'm thinking I should put the quotes online or at least get them onto the computer and organised, but haven't worked out a way to do this yet, mostly because the idea only occurred about an hour ago and I haven't actually tried to think about it yet.


Here's a dip into one of the folders, anyway:

In the course of this book I shall jump barriers, cross fences into other people's fields, trespass into areas I have no business to be in. But you cannot have a view of the world if you restrict yourself to one little valley; you cannot have a view of the universe if you turn your back on other people's planets. [...] Trespass, I'm afraid, is obligatory.
- Graham Dunstan Martin. Shadows in the cave: mapping the conscious universe. London: Arkana, 1990, p.2

There is something about us Australians that prefers to communicate in silences rather than words. Perhaps we are defeated by it all, tongue-tied in the presence of ultimate things. Perhaps we feel safer with the great things left unsaid, meaning them only in silence: we, the inarticulate, offering our homage to the ineffable.
- Tony Kelly. A new imagining: towards an Australian spirituality. Melbourne: Collins Dove, 1990, p.15

We are all on edge. Human beings feel safe and secure when they can stand confidently in the center of things, either in the center of an age or in the center of a class of people with a common world-view, but when they come to an edge, they feel nervous and unsettled.
As long as one operates in the middle of things, one can never really know the nature of the medium in which one moves.
- William Irwin Thompson. The time falling bodies take to light: mythology, sexuality, and the origins of culture. London: Hutchinson, 1981, pp.7,8.

If the Sun stopped producing energy today, we wouldn't know about it for ten million years. [...] the Sun is so big that heat and light from its centre take ten million years to filter up to the surface. Then it takes another eight minutes for the heat and light to travel across from the Sun to the Earth.
- Anthony Wilson. The Science Museum book of amazing facts: Space. London: Hodder Children's Books, 1996, p.82.

Until very recently the only method of communication was physical travel.
- Edward De Bono (ed.) Eureka! How and when the greatest inventions were made. London: Thames and Hudson, 1974, p.15.

The important frontiers of the future are spiritual, psychological and social, not technical and industrial. [...] Whereas the 'modern worldview' based on mechanistic science, technology and the Industrial Revolution is primarily about the development of things, the postmodern worldview is primarily about the development of people (Birch 1990).
Technology is not simply the use of tools. It is first a vision of reality. The use of tools follows.
- Charles Birch. Regaining compassion for humanity and nature. Kensington NSW: NSW University Press, 1993, pp.20,72.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Northern Exposure

Did you ever watch the American television series, Northern Exposure? I really wish it could get a rerun, particularly because I didn't see many of the later episodes and would like to. Some kind soul has published transcripts, and from them I've chosen the following gem about identity, truth, and other stuff.

To set the scene:

Alaska. Day. Chris is the local philosophising radio announcer. He had an eventful childhood crime-wise, and has just been arrested (years later) for violating parole conditions in West Virginia. He now has to appear at an extradition hearing, and if the judge can determine he is the person named in the warrant, he will be shipped off to gaol. His lawyer, Mike, decides to challenge the warrant on identity grounds: "[...] I hope to demonstrate, with the court's permission, that my client has undergone such a substantive change in the very nature of his character as to constitute a separate and unique identity from the individual named in the warrant. Simply stated, this man is not the same individual who skipped parole six years ago in West Virginia!"

Chris is called to the stand (such as it is... the court being held in the church).

BARBARA [Officer Semanski, acting as bailiff]: Raise your right hand. Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?

[Chris pauses (I'm guessing - I didn't see this episode).]

JUDGE: Mr. Stevens, is there a problem?

CHRIS: Well, Your Honor, I may have a conflict of interest here.

JUDGE: Would you care to elaborate?

CHRIS: I can't swear to tell the whole truth. I mean, when push comes to shove, I'd just as soon not go to jail, you know. I don't think I can keep that from influencing my testimony, if only at the subconscious level. You see, Mike and I, we've been over what I'm supposed to say and I got to tell you, it's pretty persuasive stuff. But is it the whole truth? It's a slice of truth, a morsel, a refraction. It's a piece of the pie, certainly not the whole enchilada, and now that I'm thinking about it, I don't think I could tell the whole truth about anything. That's a pretty heavy burden, because we all just see the world through this little, distorted piece of Coke bottle. Is there such a thing as objective truth? I wonder. Don't you?

JUDGE: It is a conundrum, Mr. Stevens, but it does not help us with the problem at hand.

CHRIS: Well, maybe I could just, you know, get up there and say the thing without the oath.

JUDGE: No, I'm afraid I can't do that.

CHRIS: Well, I guess I can't testify, then.

JUDGE: Mr. Stevens, in view of your extraordinary candor, I am going to break with tradition here and grant you the opportunity to make a brief statement in your own defense. It won't go on the official record, of course, but I think you've earned that much.

CHRIS: Well, I think Carl Jung put it best, Your Honor. We should not pretend to understand the world only by intellect. We apprehend it just as much by feeling. Therefore, the judgment of the intellect is at best only the half of truth and must, if it be honest, come to an understanding of its own inadequacy. Thank you.

JUDGE: Thank you, Mr. Stevens. The court will take a 20 minute recess to review the physical evidence.



The judge rules that Chris is the person named in the warrant, but orders him free on his own recognizance because his removal would place an undue burden upon the town.

Closing the episode, Chris is back on air.

CHRIS: Who is Chris Stevens? Who are any of us? Are we one person fixed at birth? Do we grow like a snowball coming down the mountainside of life, or can we change, shed our skin? The caterpillar becomes the butterfly, leaving the remains of his former self behind. I look at my yearbook photo, Wheeling Central Catholic High School, class of '81, and I wonder who that stranger is. Damned if I know. Maybe that's the point. Maybe we're not supposed to know. Maybe that's what this earthly joyride's all about. Like Robert Frost said: "We dance 'round in a ring and suppose, but the secret sits in the middle and knows."

From Crime and Punishment written by Jeff Melvoin; transcribed by Duvelle.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Garden 3

It's more than 4 weeks since I updated the garden report, and that's because it's more than 4 weeks since I had anything to tell you.

And speaking of you, just who do I think you are, anyway? It's one of those interesting bloggy questions. If anybody other than me is reading this... well, specifically you, obviously... you could be anyone, any time, anywhere. You might be reading this in 2010 for all I know. That's all quite strange, isn't it? I might do a blog post about it one day and consider the whys and wherefores.

But back to the garden. I finally got it planted. All the seeds are pretty old now, so it'll be interesting to see how many of them germinate. They're a mix of types: some patented ones from big commercial companies, and some non-hybrid traditionals from the marvellous Eden Seeds.

I still have very little motivation for gardening, hence the time it took to get the beds planted. It feels like I'm not getting very far, but looking back to the way things were before (Garden 1 & Garden 2) gives some evidence of progress, small as it is. It's something more than nothing, as I said last time, and something more than nothing is good. Small steps, baby steps, plod plod plod... I probably need to resign myself to the fact that this is the only way I ever achieve anything. Slowly. Painfully. Kicking and screaming the whole way.


Here are my boots (because I love them so). You can also see the pavers, the garden bed wall thing (what's it called?) and the seed markers made by cutting strips from an empty plastic bottle and writing on them with waterproof marker.

Nasturtiums. They're popping up like weeds. And I suppose if they're growing where they're not supposed to be, that probably means they are weeds. It seems disrespectful to call them that though. They have really beautiful flowers and leaves - and you can eat them too, did you know that? Little treasures, really.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Heidiness 3

The ongoing adventures of the characters in Heidi, because I like them (adventures and characters). And I can't find a better way to write that sentence, damn it all to hell. And I always wanted to be Heidi but it just didn't happen. So boo all round.

It was a bright sunny autumn month. The doctor came up to the hut every morning, and thence made excursions over the mountain. Alm-Uncle accompanied him on some of his higher ascents, when they climbed up to the ancient storm-beaten fir trees and often disturbed the great bird which rose startled from its nest, with the whirl of wings and croakings, very near their heads. The doctor found great pleasure in his companion's conversation, and was astonished at his knowledge of the plants that grew on the mountain: he knew the uses of them all, from the aromatic fir trees and the dark pines with their scented needles, to the curly moss that sprang up everywhere about the roots of the trees and the smallest plant and tiniest flower. He was as well versed also in the ways of the animals, great and small, and had many amusing anecdotes to tell of these dwellers in caves and holes and in the tops of the fir trees. And so the time passed pleasantly and quickly for the doctor, who seldom said good-bye to the old man at the end of the day without adding, "I never leave you, friend, without having learnt something new from you."

Johanna Spyri. Heidi. London UK: Cathay Books, 1986, copyright 1881, ISBN: 0861784081, p.211.

Project Gutenberg etext #1448

Friday, September 22, 2006

Friday quiz

From Quizilla: What obsolete skill are you?

You are Gregg shorthand. Originally designed to enable people to write faster, it is also very useful for writing things which one does not want other people to read, inasmuch as almost no one knows shorthand any more.You know how important it is to do things efficiently and on time. You also value your privacy, and (unlike some people) you do not pretend to be friends with just everyone; that would be ridiculous. When you do make friends, you take them seriously, and faithfully keep what they confide in you to yourself. Unfortunately, the work which you do (which is very important, of course) sometimes keeps you away from social activities, and you are often lonely. Your problem is that Gregg shorthand has been obsolete for a long time.

Take this quiz!


Please excuse the dodgy format. I think the Blogger line breaks are messing with the way the thing is set out, but I've run out of time to fiddle any more and it's still skewwhiff. Damnation, etc.

Very happy to align myself with Gregg shorthand, by the way. I like the way it looks: that sparse sort of squiggly motion is really nice. What a pity it disappeared (if it has).


I couldn't stand the mess and couldn't fix it either. Quizilla has a "plain code" option but I couldn't get it to work; maybe you have to be a member. So here we go with a plain post instead. But on the way here I found a list of this quiz's other possible results and some of them are quite amusing (and not all of them are so very obsolete, either):

- Growing one's own food: "Your puritanical work ethic makes makes people think that you are weird, and not much fun."
- French: "You have a certain appreciation for the finer things in life, which is a diplomatic way of saying that you are a disgusting hedonist."
- Latin: " have a certain fascination with the grotesque and the profane. Also, the modern world rejects you like a bad transplant."
- Juggling: "You are friendly and well-liked, particularly for your sense of humor, although you sometimes play with people's heads."
- Programming in QBASIC: "...your emotionally unstable friends may be put off by your devotion to logic; they may even accuse you of pedantry and insensitivity."
- Regularly metric verse: "You enjoy the company of other people, but they find you unexcitable and depressing."


Thursday, September 21, 2006


Dawn, International Day of Peace, eastern Australia, 21 September 2006
Today is September 21, the annual United Nations International Day of Peace, so if you're feeling warlike, stop it.

The meaning of "peace" is disputed (of course...) but Wikipedia does a short round-up of options and I like this one:
[...] in the Great Lakes region of Africa, the word for peace is kindoki, which refers to a harmonious balance between human beings, the rest of the natural world, and the cosmos.
This sort of "harmonious balance" takes effort, I think, which means that global peace is not always conducive to individual feelings of peacefulness. Typical hippy-trippy images of massed peace campaigners smiling at each other over candles suggest that peace means the absence of conflict, but I would argue (argue?! Hell, I'd fight you!) that peace isn't necessarily the way of individual "peacefulness", but instead requires hard work: self-discipline, sacrifice, effort. It's easier to be selfish than it is to be generous and co-operative. Peace takes effort.

I see an illustration of this notion in a true story told by Jane Goodall. Her speech to the National Press Club of Australia was broadcast on ABC TV yesterday but there's no transcript unless you pay for one (grrr). I'm guessing she's told the story hundreds of times before anyway, and there's a version of it in this article. I posted the relevant extract over here.

It's the story of a chimpanzee who was terribly wronged by humans, and of the man who intervened at a critical moment - at the potential cost of his own life - to help. I'm not entirely sure what I think this says about global peace, but it's in there somewhere, tangled up in notions of heroism, justice, co-operation, doing good, and respect for life.

Peace be with us, reader. Let's hope.


Cartoon by Patrick Cook - butcher's block, Thursday, sausage day
Patrick Cook, The Independent Monthly, November 1992, p.42.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Arrr!! A pirate treasure alert

I forgot that it was Talk Like a Pirate Day yesterday, damn it, but it's never too late to say Arrr!! and some parts of the world are still in yesterday anyway. So! Here we go, me hearties!

In honour of the fact that:
(a) most Australians are descendants of boat people, and
(b) all Australians inhabit a continent stolen by sailors,
here are the opening lines of the Australian Constitution translated into Pirate-speak (with a filter found here**):
WHEREAS the swabs o' New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, 'n' Tasmania, humbly relyin' on the blessin' o' Almighty God, ha' agreed ta unite in one indissoluble Federal Commonwealth under the Crown o' the United Kingdom o' Great Brit'n 'n' Ireland, and under the Constitution hereby established:

'n' whereas it be expedient ta provide fer the admission into the Commonwealth o' other Australasian Colonies 'n' possessions o' the Queen:

Be it therefore enacted by the Queen's most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice 'n' consent o' the Lords Spiritual 'n' Temporal, and Commons, in this here treasure Parrliament assembled, 'n' by the authority of the same, as follows: ...
Arrr!! and Yarrr!! et cetera.

**Thanks to this treasure: Those damn immigrants (Pirate version) by dr faustus at The Killfile ("Because sometimes ignoring people isn't enough...")

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

A Seinfeld moment for your Tuesday

Closing monologue from The Note:
What causes homophobia? What is it that makes a heterosexual man worry? I think it's because men know that deep down we have weak sales resistance. We're constantly buying shoes that hurt us, pants that don't fit right. Men think, "Obviously I can be talked into anything. What if I accidentally wander into some sort of homosexual store, thinking it's a shoe store, and the salesman goes, 'Just hold this guy's hand, walk around the store a little bit, see how you feel. No obligation, no pressure, just try it. Would you like to see him in a sandal?'"

Monday, September 18, 2006

Treasure alert

Any idea what an interrobang is, reader? No?! Well, Mister Trivia ("Elevating the Insignificant since 2006") can enlighten you.

Following one of his links and then wandering about at Wikipedia, I found there are punctuation marks to indicate irony and sarcasm. Who knew?! Bloody hell. Just what I need, except that I'm never quite sure whether my type of joking is ironic or sarcastic, so a punctuation mark to indicate "too damn stupid" would probably be far more useful.

I was particularly impressed that closed captioning indicates sarcasm with this:
or this:

So quick! So easy! Why isn't everybody using them?!

A Simpsons moment for your Monday

Lisa (home from school because she had a cold the day before) is playing one of Bart's video games.
LISA: No, no, yes, that's it! Bite, bite, bite!
MARGE: Lisa?
LISA gasps and ducks under the blanket.
MARGE: Aw, sweetie, you look so much better. Ready to go back to school?
LISA: Oh, I don't know. (Pretends to cough) I mean, I could risk it, but...
MARGE: No, no. You just stay put.
BART: Wow! You didn't even feel her forehead! How do I get that kind of credibility?
MARGE: With eight years of scrupulous honesty.
BART: Meh. Not worth it.

From Lisa Gets an "A" written by Ian Maxtone-Graham

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Treasure alert

Oh. Yeah. Right. Sorry. by Martin Magdalene in Newcastle, NSW.

The other day, his post Battlestar Galactica is the best drama on television was nearly enough to get this sleepy non-science-fiction-watching viewer to stay up and see the show for the first time. (Unfortunately tiredness intervened, but maybe next week.)

Anyway, it's worth taking a look at his blog just for the latest post, Multicultural Pizza, and his admirably patriotic way of cooking dinner:**
I made sure that all the ingredients swore to uphold Australian values before allowing them entry into the pizza - eg do you, sultana, swear to respect my kitchen and my cooking, accept the other ingredients and flavours, respect vitamins and nutrition. I told the ingredients that if they didn't swear to uphold this then I would put them in an envelope and send them to Nauru indefinitely.

**Reference to the latest all-singing, all-dancing production in The Great Australian Pre-Election Sideshow. See Clarke and Dawe (The 7.30 Report, ABC TV) for a review.

Heidiness 2

Heidi [...] continued her way up the mountain, her basket on her arm. All around her the steep green slopes shone bright in the evening sun, and soon the great gleaming snow-field up above came in sight. Heidi was obliged to keep on pausing to look behind her, for the higher peaks were behind her as she climbed. Suddenly a warm red glow fell on the grass at her feet; she looked back again - she had not remembered how splendid it was, nor seen anything to compare to it in her dreams - for there the two high mountain peaks rose into the air like two great flames, the whole snow-field had turned crimson, and rosy-coloured clouds floated in the sky above. The grass upon the mountain sides had turned to gold, the rocks were all aglow, and the whole valley was bathed in golden mist. And as Heidi stood gazing around her at all this splendour the tears ran down her cheeks for very delight and happiness, and impulsively she put her hands together, and lifting her eyes to heaven, thanked God aloud for having brought her home, thanked Him that everything was as beautiful as ever, more beautiful even than she had thought, and that it was all hers again once more. And she was so overflowing with joy and thankfulness that she could not find words to thank Him enough. Not until the glory** began to fade could she tear herself away. [...]

It was with a happy heart that Heidi lay down [...] that night, and her sleep was sounder than it had been for a whole year past. [...She] did not stir; she had no need now to wander about, for the great burning longing of her heart was satisfied; she had seen the high mountains and rocks alight in the evening glow, she had heard the wind in the fir trees, she was at home again on the mountain.

Johanna Spyri. Heidi. London UK: Cathay Books, 1986, copyright 1881, ISBN: 0861784081, pp.164-5, 168.

Project Gutenberg etext #1448

**I wish this scenic glory had prompted the name of this blog, Plodding along to glory, but alas, no, the actual prompt was less beautiful. The way I remember it, I was listening to a sporting show on the radio (weirdly, because I'm not interested in sport) and someone said of a footballer who was making a speedy advance down the field: "He's racing away to glory!" I was a bit down on myself at the time and thought, "If that was me, I wouldn't be racing away, I'd be plodding along."

Hence. So. Damn. A bit regrettable, really. Maybe I'll here-and-now rewrite history and take this Heidi scene for meaning instead.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Baby snaps

In a recent post (Semi-consciousness) I mentioned that a new calf had been born here. He's not the only one, in fact, but he's the newest and littlest, and I've been meaning to show you what he looks like. So here we go.

Reader, meet Baby-darl:

(a) with his mum:

(b) with his cousin (he's on the left; cousin is on the right):

(c) wandering about on his own:

He's a curious little chappie, and if it wasn't for the warning murmurs from his mother (apparently telling him to stay away), I think he would have come over closer to the dogs and I to investigate... and maybe say hello...

...and maybe kick us... No, not really. But sometimes - usually in the afternoons, and maybe it's always after they've had a feed and are feeling pleased with the world - little calves prance around like deer or foals, kicking into the air with their back feet, seemingly just for the joy of it. (I wish I could get a photo. You'd be very impressed, you know ;) )

Friday, September 15, 2006

Heidiness 1

The valley lay far below bathed in the morning sun. In front of her rose a broad snow-field, high against the dark-blue sky, while to the left was a huge pile of rocks on either side of which a bare lofty peak, that seemed to pierce the blue, looked frowningly down upon her. The child sat without moving, her eyes taking in the whole scene, and all around was a great stillness, only broken by soft, light puffs of wind that swayed the light bells of the blue flowers, and the shining gold heads of the cistus, and set them nodding merrily on their slender stems. Peter had fallen asleep after his fatigue and the goats were climbing about among the bushes overhead. Heidi had never felt so happy in her life before. She drank in the golden sunlight, the fresh air, the sweet smell of the flowers, and wished for nothing better than to remain there forever. So the time went on, while to Heidi, who had so often looked up from the valley at the mountains above, these seemed now to have faces, and to be looking down at her like old friends.

Johanna Spyri. Heidi. London UK: Cathay Books, 1986, copyright 1881, ISBN: 0861784081, p.37

Project Gutenberg etext #1448

Thursday, September 14, 2006


I was eating a piece of cheese today and suddenly thought of Johanna Spyri's Heidi, a story I loved as a kid and which fixed some permanent links into my brain: I see goats, I think of Heidi; I hear wind in the trees, I think of Heidi; I see European mountains, I think of Heidi; I hear "grandfather", I think of Heidi...

Point is: I was eating a piece of cheese,** thought of Heidi, and wanted to find the relevant passage in the story. There wasn't time to do more than put the book aside to read later though, but on the way to doing that, I opened it to a random page while mentally commanding, "Show me the cheese!"

Would you believe...

Johanna Spyri. Heidi. London UK: Cathay Books, 1986, copyright 1881, ISBN: 0861784081, p.40. (click for a larger view)

True. And the book didn't open there because the page was dog-eared; I only folded the corner down afterwards.

** Local cheese from a local company: Norco Nimbin Natural. It's nice.


Looking northwest at 7:15am. That'd be the moon, yes. I'm always surprised when it's visible during the day - it feels like something has gone wrong with the cosmos. It's the moon, after all, a night thing. What on earth is it doing up there, dawdling across the sky in broad daylight? No, that can't be right! Get back to the night!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


This afternoon.


This is the butcherbird who ate those willy wagtail eggs. Seen through a window and insect screen and looking far too complacent, damn it.

In other news, a load of vealers (calves) went off to the abattoir first thing this morning, soon to become breakfast, lunch or dinner for a few humans, who, unlike the butcherbird, will never have to face the parents of the creatures they eat.


Dramatic sky this morning. Also known as an ordinary sky, dramatically cropped. Click on it and you'll get a larger one.

Sunday, September 10, 2006


It's an overcast and occasionally rainy day here and I hereby declare myself to be "The Loneliest and Grumpiest Person in the Universe".

If you try to dispute that title, I will fight you.
To the death.
Don't cross me, motherfucker.


Yeah well. Maybe I'm exaggerating. And you can't dispute anything here anyway because commenting is still turned off. Every time I publish a new post I have to ask whether to turn comments back on again, and so far the answer continues to be No.

If this is annoying, I'm sorry. You could argue (if I let you) that I'm under some obligation to allow commenting, just because this is a blog and commenting is an accepted and expected part of the blogging process. And to that I'd say: Well, yes. Fair enough. There's some truth in that.

On the other hand, I could also say this: It's my blog and I'll be a bitch if I want to, baby. If you don't like it, you could always go away, couldn't you?

I used to love comment conversations. For a while it was my favourite part of blogging. But now the idea of having to respond - whoever comments, whatever they say - makes me feel sick, and one of my personal rules about blogging is that comments do require replies.

For a while I considered making this a private blog where only the people I already know could comment (a pleasant scenario, ideally). And this is an alternative made easy by the new Beta Blogger, by the way: I just tested it on a throwaway blog. You can restrict readership to invitees, and Blogger will even email the invitations for you. But the catch is that all such readers must have Google accounts or they will only be given temporary guest entry. (The Google account will soon be required of all Blogger account holders, did you know? The new Beta system - requiring a Google account for login - is voluntary at the moment but will become compulsory "after a couple of months".)

A private blog though? In the end I think there isn't much difference between that and emailing, so what would be the point? Plus the idea of restricting readership to a select few seems simultaneously rude and disappointing, like imposing a strict dress code on the door when you're really quite fond of the riff-raff:

[Image removed because it infringed upon the copyrights of others.]
Gary Larson. The PreHistory of The Far Side: a 10th Anniversary Exhibit. Kansas City, USA: Andrews and McMeel, 1989. ISBN: 0836218515, p.60.

So. Anyway.

Does this post have a point? Well... errr, no. Apparently not. Comments are still turned off, but you knew that already, didn't you...


Bird war

Some Willy Wagtails are nesting on the verandah:

(Seen at a distance through a window and an insect screen. Crappy photo, sorry. You might just have to imagine the details: most of the bird sticks out over the small roundish nest; its beak points left, its tail angles up to the right.)

They were there last year too, which is when bully-bird Australian Ravens stole all the eggs before they hatched. The same thing is happening again this year, except this time the enemy is a young Butcherbird. The damn thing seems to be fearless and certainly isn't distressed by the wagtails' fierce defence of their territory.

Whenever I hear their distress calls, I race out and join the fight, my contribution being to yell at the butcherbird, who then responds by ignoring me. This morning, infuriated by its blatant disregard for my power and authority ("Don't you know I'm a human??") I hit it with a stick. Yes, really.

It was so distressed by this abuse that five minutes later it was back, sitting overhead on the guttering, its head out of view. It was probably mooning me, the bastard.

Yesterday the nest held three eggs:

Today there is only one.


And now none.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Rwandan tools, the DRC, a Do-Nothing and regrets

The handmade Rwandan tools linked in the previous post reminded me of something. When I was about 12 years old and on holidays with my family, we were browsing through a souvenir shop one day and I nearly bought a Do-Nothing:

(pic found here)

It's a wooden toy. You turn the handle on the top to create a circling action (as depicted in this animation). It's a mesmerising thing to watch and the movement of smooth wood across smooth wood sounds and feels lovely.

The way I remember it, I stood there for ages, trying to work out how the thing worked and whether I could make one myself, or whether buying it would be worth the cost (including having to go without alternative purchases such as mixed lollies, ice blocks, postcards or comics).

I didn't buy it, and walked out of that shop alone.

(Well, not actually alone. Just lending a touch of drama ;) )

The thing is that now, if I had to list all the regrets of my life, the Not-Buying-Of-The-Do-Nothing would be right up there near the top. This is silly, I know, but maybe that's the point. The Do-Nothing was silly too, it didn't really do anything, and that's probably one of main reasons I didn't buy it. I let my head decide, and the rest of me has felt a bit sad about that ever since.

Getting back to Rwanda now, and if you visited that link, you'll have read that the makers of those beautiful tools were all murdered in the genocide of 1994. (Isn't it frightening the way you can summarise the end of the world in a sentence?)

I don't know what's happening in Rwanda now, but there's trouble across the border in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). According to a mailout from Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) Australia, the DRC is "the scene of perhaps the world's bloodiest conflict since World War II: the UN claims that nearly 4 million people have died as a result of violence there in the last seven years alone."

That'd be 4 million people. Four million people.

It goes on: "...with the breakdown of basic government services - health care, transport, water, sanitation - this conflict continues to claim over 1,200 lives across the country every day."

I wish there was some huge crashing wave of a way to say this, to highlight the injustice and horror, but there isn't. A country of 56 million people, just around the corner of the globe from all the rest of us, limps along in blood-stained terror while people like me shine starry eyes of longing and regret onto wooden toys.

Please help MSF if you can.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Treasure alert x 2

Alfred Stieglitz
The Glow of Night, New York

You might want to take a packed lunch for this, one of those great sites which leads on and on and on to more and more and more. Don't expect to rush. Peter Marquis-Kyle publishes a blog, Marking time, a collection of Special places sites, a collection of Queensland Cartes-de-visite (don't know what they are? Neither did I), a page about Tools from Rwanda, and more. See his site map.

And that led on to this:

The marvellous Luminous-Lint, the purpose of which is "To create the world's leading collaborative knowledge-base for the history of photography showing significant vintage and contemporary photography."

You can find great exhibitions there, including one dedicated to Alfred Stieglitz (source of the picture above) and Alvin Langdon Coburn (source of the picture below).

Bless the internet, I say (again). \(^o^)/

Alvin Langdon Coburn
The Tower Bridge


One more sign of seasonal change: the cicadas have arrived. This house was suddenly engulfed by New Cicada Surround-Sound as soon as the sun went down today. The damn things seem to be flinging their songs out from every tree in every direction, and there are thousands of trees here. The sound, I'm sorry to say, is much like that of a mosquito. Once you've noticed it, it will not leave your head!

It's a sound which is hard to describe... Imagine a mechanical thingamajig in which a belt should drive a spinning thing, but the spinning thing has disappeared, so the belt whirls too fast and loose, making a "thuckathuckathucka" noise so rapidly that you can hardly hear the difference between one "thucka" and the next. Now take that sound and make it high-pitched and give it the ability to vibrate your head if you're standing close to the source.

That was probably nothing like it whatsoever, but it was a damn good try, wouldn't you say? I was very impressed by the "thuckathuckathuckas" in particular.


It took me so long to write this, it started to rain, it stopped raining, and somewhere in there the cicadas all fell silent. The familiar old night noises have reasserted themselves and the old night, it seems, is back.


Right then.

Quiet, isn't it?



in 30 seconds, re-enacted by bunnies:

A Movie Parody in Bun-O-Vision

Happy Friday to you.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Winging it

It was really windy today. I was out in the paddock picking coffee for the first time this season when an unusual something appeared overhead:

A motorised glider (or so I presume).

When I say it was really windy today, I mean it was REALLY windy, and gusty as well, not smooth and constant. I was amazed a glider could fly in these conditions and kept expecting this one to get flipped over. It didn't, as far as I could see, and I just hope it made it back to ground in one piece.

Feral flowers

Some Busy Lizzies (Impatiens something-or-other) which leapt the boundary of somebody's garden and are now frolicking in the wild down the road.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


A calf was born here on Monday, and since then it's been wandering around, getting to know its mother and the other calves and cows. I was watching it yesterday and wondered: when did its consciousness start? Did it get pushed out into the world, hit the air and the ground and suddenly start thinking and feeling? "Oh, whoa! I'm alive! Here's the world!"

I don't know whether consciousness is part of the fabric of our bodies (and thus begins in the pre-birth body-building process) or a separate something that has an on/off switch, tripped at the appropriate time.

It seems like a pretty fundamental question for a conscious being to ask. Funny it took me 42 years to think of it.


Not joking, I just published this post, read it through and panicked: "Oh shit! Am I 42? Is it 42? Am I 42 or 43?" and had to count up from my birth year. On my fingers.

Oh Lord give me strength... ;)

Monday, September 04, 2006

I'm blogging this

I tend to be an anxious sort of biddy, and these days feel a sense of dread whenever I leave this farm. It's not to the level of a syndrome or disorder or what-have-you, or at least not as far as I can see or am admitting. I think I'm just out of practice in social situations, and for a shy person this is bad news.

Mum organised a family lunch for yesterday, to celebrate Father's Day. We were all going to a cafe at Brunswick Heads and later we'd stroll along the waterfront for what should have been a pleasant and sweet afternoon. But I didn't want to go. I knew I should, I knew it was probably selfish not to, I knew that it would probably end up being a fun day out and even I (old Eeyore-features) would enjoy it.

But I didn't want to go. At all. At all. On the phone I hemmed and hawed and screwed up my face but it was all just a variation of No.

Mum sounded disappointed but would have understood. Dad would have been fine about it too. Everybody else, ditto. We're not a touchy-feely let's-all-get-together kind of family, and it wouldn't have been the first time I'd missed something like this anyway.

So I was all set to stay home, feeling guilty about not doing something nice for Dad, but to an even greater extent feeling relieved about not having to go anywhere.

But then...

The other day when Mavis and I drove through to Brisbane, the river at Brunswick looked beautiful. I thought about being there to take photos for Flickr or this blog, and suddenly - click! - the balance of motivations tipped. Suddenly I wanted to go there, not stay here. And (no doubt you'll have guessed already) I did go. And it was good. We had a lovely lunch, we sat around and chatted, we wandered off towards the beach and battled our way through the vicious headwinds (the seabreeze was a mite enthusiastic yesterday afternoon) and it was all good. I think Dad had a nice time, and that, after all, was the point of the exercise.

But let's get back to me.

It was the thought of this blog and Flickr which pushed me out into the world yesterday. Maybe that's pitiful, and I really shouldn't need such a push, but I did, and it did, and all was well in the end.

In other words, reader: yay for you! Thanks for reading.

Brunswick Heads at Flickr.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Camphor Laurel

Well, the rain has gone... Take a look at the sky this morning:

Now, that's blue! And the green thing is the top of a Camphor Laurel tree, one of many which grow around here. All the leaves in their new Spring range have just been revealed and the hot colour for this season is...

(wait for it)

Fluoro Lime Green!

The Camphor Laurel (Cinnamomum camphora) is a noxious weed unfortunately, but I love it anyway. It's my favourite tree, and I can say that without agonising and dithering. (Usually I agonise, usually I dither: is this really my favourite?)

This leads me to wonder why online profiles have such a narrow range of "favourite" categories. At both Blogger and Flickr, you can list your favourite movies, music, and books. That's it. No favourite trees, no favourite birds, no favourite weather or places or foods or smells or... etc. I'd prefer a general "Favourite things" category. At least that way I'd have some small chance of being able to choose and list a few favourites. (Wasn't joking about the agonising and dithering. Do you realise the "branding" power of such lists? It's too scary. You're not just nominating the things you like, you're signing up to one tribe or another: the "classic movies" people, the "tired old rock" people, the "not-serious reader" people.)

Anyway, back to the Camphor Laurel, and I put a few photos up at Flickr - starting with this one.

Happy Sunday to you, reader, and Happy Father's Day as well, if that's appropriate.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Friday drive

My sister Mavis and I drove up to Brisbane yesterday to fetch our jet-setting niece, Surfergirl, who's back in Australia for a few weeks. Specifically, Mavis drove. I just sat there eating marshmallows, Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate, and some sort of jelly jungle animals, and taking photos out the window, including this self-portrait:**

The photos are up at Flickr in the Road to Brisbane set. I was a bit slow to get going, so the first ones were taken at Springvale Hill, which is between Clunes and Bangalow, then we continued up the Pacific Highway/Motorway and ended up in the streets of Brisbane.

And I missed taking any photos of Brisbane River, perhaps the most scenic and beautiful part of the city... Damn. It only struck me this morning that we Australians should be grateful for our seafaring/water transport beginnings. Many or most early towns were established on rivers (the highways of the time), so our cities had a headstart in being beautiful, relaxed places. Things might have been different if we'd all relied on llamas, say, or if motor vehicles or trains had been introduced earlier.

Talking about cultural differences, when Surfergirl left her island home the other day, the plane was delayed for a few hours. This is not unusual, and it's also not unusual for passengers to book in and then go home to wait for the plane to be ready to go. This is what happened the other night, but the problem was, when finally the plane was ready to go, an important passenger hadn't returned. She'd gone home and fallen asleep. And so the plane, and the passengers, and all the people farewelling the passengers, sat there and they waited. And they waited. And then the sleepy passenger woke up, got to the airport, the plane took off, and all was well.

Now, isn't that civil? (^_^) No doubt it'd be completely maddening for anybody trying to keep the airline to schedule, but still... I think it's cute and lovely. Go the islanders.

**Picture found here and then fiddled with.