Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Lately I've had a run of emails from most of the major banks in Australia, all wanting to improve my banking security and update my personal details. That's so nice of them, really, and surprisingly so: I don't even have have a bank account, I use a credit union.

Today's offering was helpful too, but had just a hint of the big stick about it (my emphasis added):
Please Note – if you choose to ignore our request, you leave us no choice but to temporally suspend your ------- online banking account.

Thank for your Co-operation
------- Bank Management Stuff
Temporally suspend? I'm not even sure what that means. But I do appreciate the fact that the stuff just want to help. It's kind. It's nice. And it's outsourced. The stuff are in Fez/Fes, Morocco. I checked the source of the email (View > Message Source) and then went to www.DNSstuff.com and put the IP address (the four-part number from the message source; appears in square brackets) into the IP Information box. I sometimes check my own address here too, just to see which town I'm near today. Not long ago it was Sydney, which - being hundreds of kilometres away - requires both a leap of imagination and a large movement of the earth. Fantastic!

But anyway. Unless today's email was also from hundreds or thousands of kilometres away and was in fact from an Indian call-centre after all, it came all the way from Fez/Fes, Morocco, not all that far from Casablanca and - what! Listen! Is it? Could it be? Yes!! The refrain of outsourcers everywhere!
RICK: If it's December 1941 in Casablanca, what time is it in New York?
SAM: My watch stopped.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Simpsonising your Monday

Homer joins the Naval Reserve and leaves for annual war games on board a nuclear submarine. With the rest of the crew of the USS Jebediah, he stands waiting for the captain to speak.
ANNOUNCER: Attention on deck! Captain Tenille wishes to address you!
TENILLE: I'm a man of few words. (Long pause) Any questions?
HOMER: Uh, is the poop deck really what I think it is?
TENILLE: (laughing) I like the cut of your jib!
HOMER: What's a jib?
TENILLE: (to ANNOUNCER) Promote that man!

- from Simpson Tide written by Joshua Sternin & Jeffrey Ventimila.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Get classified

So far I've spent most of the weekend peeking into the world of subject classification schemes or indexing systems. (Yeah, what a party animal.) I want to find a better way to label the posts on my quotes blog, because:

(a) it's a process I HATE!! and it's driving me CRAZY!!
(b) the previous method of listing keywords (probably an idiot's attempt at a controlled vocabulary? not sure), was becoming unworkable - the list was getting longer than the whole archive of posts;
(c) I've started the blog again, right from scratch, so it's a second chance to get the foundations right.

So. Classification and indexing and so on. I've never had to think about them before. They're essential processes that keep the world running, but they trundle along behind the scenes, unnoticed and unappreciated, like all those other foundations and infrastructures and important thingies we rely on without even realising:
People passing through the city often mention the trees. They never mention the pattern over which they pass.

- D. J. Waldie, "Suburban Stories," The Kenyon Review vol. XIV, no. 4 (Fall 1992): p. 135.
Boo for us people.

Anyway, one of the heroes of classification is a person with possibly the best name in the universe, Mr Melvil Dewey, who was responsible for the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) scheme, now one of the most commonly used systems worldwide. The DDC divides recorded knowledge into 10 main classes, 100 divisions and 1,000 sections. In fact, it trumpets:

All recorded knowledge has a place in the DDC

!!! Big claim. Maybe that's true, and maybe it isn't, but either way, schemes like the DDC are brilliant, and so were the people who invented them. I don't know how they did it. I can't even organise a small group of blog categories.

I downloaded a copy of the DDC Summaries (from that previous link), hoping to just run through the list and choose labels from it, but it's probably not going to work. And I'd go ahead and explain why I think it's not going to work, except that I've been stuffing around trying to write this blog post for two hours now, and I'm tired. Who the fuck cares why it's not going to work? It's just not going to.

So back to the plodding then.

Friday, October 27, 2006


Heard the end of a classical track on ABC Classic FM and Margaret Throsby announcing it as "music for vespers" - and for whole seconds I was thinking she said "music for Vespas":

That could have been so cool, damn it.

**Image from here.

It's a jungle out there

Cartoon by Dunn: Bus Shelter
Cartoon by [firstname? I know not] Dunn, The Australian magazine, 12-13 December 1998, p. 16.

Survive the day, eh? Happy Friday to you.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The hat (probably)

Well, I couldn't stand it. So I went back to looking for the hat (see the previous post). And there was still no sign of it until I watched a trailer at IMDb and caught sight (and snapped a dodgy photo) of this:

This is it. Probably. I remembered it being white and wider, and Ms Streep was walking along a row of coffee trees, not doing whatever she's doing in this frame. But anyway. I think this is the hat.

It must be.

It probably is.

That'd be it.


Monday, October 23, 2006

Out of Africa in a hat or two

Remember that hat from Out of Africa, the one I couldn't find an image for, the one I mentioned in the previous post?

I've been looking and looking and still can't find an image for it. Here follows a list of some of the several million other hats in the film, each and every one of which is not the one I'm looking for:

All of those images come from Simply Streep.com. There are other hats from other sites, too... but let's face it, reader: you've seen enough. Let's not get silly about this.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Sunday whingefest (with New Improved Koalas!)

I planned to watch a TV documentary this afternoon about Karen Blixen. I've always imagined I would have liked the woman, based on:
(a) the way she writes;
(b) Meryl Streep's portrayal in Out of Africa; and
(c) that hat**
And even though I didn't make it through to the end of the Paris Review article (disillusioned by the way she was talking), still I expected to like her anyway, and wanted to see this documentary.

First I got caught up here on the computer and lost track of time. Missed the first bit. Turned the TV on, and watched about five minutes (Denys the True Love was about to arrive) but then the dogs started barking frantically and I could hear a weird noise over in the koala area - a different sort of call (see the previous post), maybe the female variety, and in broad daylight, early afternoon: weird.

So I had to go over and investigate. And yes, I should have started taping the documentary before I left, but did I think of that?

First there was this:

A koala, high in the tree and not holding on to anything, just sitting there, its arms practically folded across its chest.

Very impressive, as far as senseless bravado goes, and I was amazed at its mighty powers of balance (it's quite breezy here today, and that branch would have been moving around a lot).

Then I turned to go - back to the TV, yes. But in turning I spied the base of the tree, which suddenly looked like this:

!!! Bloody hell! That's one close koala! (More photos in my Flickr account, starting with Koala1 and proceeding to Koala4)

I went closer. It didn't move. I went closer still. It still didn't move. I was about 3 metres away and talking out loud (saying really intelligent things, like "Hellooo!" and "Oh! Hello!!") Soon the poor animal climbed the tree, probably trying to get away from such fascinating conversation.

So I went back to the TV. But by this time Denys had already died, damn it, and anyway I was distracted, trying to transfer the koala photos from camera to computer, and blah blah de blah blah. Roll credits.

Bloody weekends. I also planned to do some gardening. Yeah, it's still not too late, but where's the torch?

**Yes, the hat I now can't find an image for. It was in the film - so wasn't actually Ms Blixen's hat at all - the scene where Meryl is striding through the coffee, wearing all white, I think, and this huge beautiful hat. Every time I stride through the coffee here, I imagine myself looking exactly the same way...

And then there were two...

This morning. Not far apart. Very snoozy.

No.2 looks to have a problem with its left eye, which leads me to conclude that it's the same creature who appeared in last Saturday's post - he/she had a similar difficulty.

I only spotted these two because one of them was responsible for a loud mating call at daybreak this morning. The call has a very strange sound: if you were in the bush at night and didn't know what it was, I think it could scare the life out of you. To hear an example, go to the Australian Koala Foundation and click on the photo.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Variations on a theme?

(1)Cartoon by Matt Groening: Life in Hell, Akbar and Jeff, Don't talk just listen, I crave you.
Copyright Matt Groening, "Life in Hell" series, Village Voice, 24 July 1990. (Click on the image for a larger version, then click on the hovering little-box-with-corner-arrows for the largest size.)

Poems of Passion Carefully Restrained So as to Offend Nobody: II

When you're away, I'm restless, lonely,
Wretched, bored, dejected; only
Here's the rub, my darling dear,
I feel the same when you are here.

- Samuel Hoffenstein, quoted from Poems in Praise of Practically Nothing

I've kept a copy of the cartoon in a folder for years, and a copy of the poem in my head for longer, but not until today has one brought to mind the other.

Anyway, point is: smile! It's Friday. People are weird and couples are painful, but that's all right.

24hr mornings

Since April this year I've been getting up early every day to take photos of the sunrise. I'm not entirely sure how or why this started, but now it's a habit, a reason to get out of bed each day, and I have a pact with myself to keep it going for one year.

The thing is, I've always been useless in the mornings, and that hasn't changed. I can stand upright and point my head in the direction of sunrise, but more complex human functioning doesn't kick in till hours later. And the sun is coming up earlier and earlier every day now (about 5:10am this morning), meaning that I'm getting tired and falling asleep earlier and earlier every night, which in turn means this: I've always been useless in the mornings but now I'm useless in the nights as well!

Bloody hell, reader. Damn, etc.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Lemon Fresh! Powerful Clean!

I just got some freshly-washed bath towels out of the washing machine and they smelled so good (thanks to Spree laundry powder), I felt compelled to sink my face into them and think, "Mmm!"

And then I remembered this:

Cartoon by Sempe: city, advertising, commercial, great melon
Click on the image for a larger readable version,** and I'm sorry the file is so big. I tried uploading a .gif, but it turned itself into a .png and just looked weird.

Cartoon by Sempe (? That's what the signature looks like, anyway), The New Yorker, 16 June 1986, p. 32.

**When the picture has loaded, you might need to then click on a little square orange thing with blue arrows at each corner (which you'll see if you hover your mouse over the picture).

Coffee harvest

Following last week's mechanical harvest, the coffee cherries were processed and duly went to the next stage in their journey between tree and cup - coffee parchment:

Photo by Deirdre: coffee harvest, coffee parchment, sundried, Australia, NSW
Next stage will be green bean coffee, after the parchment/skin has been removed:

Photo by Deirdre: coffee harvest, coffee parchment, green bean coffee, sundried, Australia, NSW
That's one green bean, and you'll notice it's not actually a green colour, more grey/blue. And that is my hand, and you'll notice it's not actually a skin colour, more extremely and weirdly pink. Eek.

The buyer for this coffee wanted it sundried for the first few days, believing it tastes better than that from a dryer. So over the weekend we spread the parchment out over concrete...

Photo by Deirdre: coffee harvest, coffee parchment, sundried, Australia, NSW
...(yes, I'm standing in it)...

Photo by Deirdre: coffee harvest, coffee parchment, sundried, Australia, NSW
...raked it periodically...

Photo by Deirdre: coffee harvest, coffee parchment, sundried, Australia, NSW
...the sun shone and a breeze blew...

Photo by Deirdre: coffee harvest, coffee parchment, sundried, Australia, NSW
...the coffee started to dry...

Photo by Deirdre: coffee harvest, coffee parchment, sundried, Australia, NSW
...and when showers moved in on Monday morning, we had time to shovel it all into boxes and get the whole kit and caboodle** undercover. Now (Wednesday) the parchment is rolling around in possibly the last available coffee dryer on the NSW North Coast, finishing off its drying process.

Time for a cup of tea, I think.

**A phrase which is both redundant and American, apparently. How annoying.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Boot bird

How cute is this little bird?!

It appeared out of nowhere as my father parked the tractor this morning and promptly sat on his boot! As luck would have it, I arrived a minute later and had time to grab the camera for some photos, aided by the fact the bird showed no inclination to move anyway, even when Dad propped his foot up in the open like that. In the end, the little visitor only flew away when I went to pick it up.

Based on a quick browse through the photos in my bird book, I'm guessing it's a type of thornbill, but can't be sure (because I have no idea).

Talking about birds though, this site is very handy: Bird Finder at Birds in Backyards, notable for its fact sheets and bird calls. Bravo.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Garden 5

It's now three weeks since I planted the vegie seeds, and - get this - not one seedling has appeared. Not one. I'm not joking. The grand total of seeds germinating has been zero. Nought! Not one! None!

It's just unbelievable. The seeds were only four years old and they were stored in their original packets, in a box, in the house, in the dark. What's going on? I have no idea.

My first reaction is to take the whole thing personally, like some sort of cosmic confirmation that anything I try will only fail anyway, so there's no point trying. That's a comforting thought for a while, of course, and obviously also quite constructive and fun, but - damn it - the thrill just doesn't last...

Logically/rationally/more-sensibly-speaking, the reproductive abilities of vegetable seeds probably don't have a hell of a lot to do with me personally, so I think the best explanation for non-appearance of seedlings must lie elsewhere. Maybe it's just one of those things. Those goddamn annoying things. Not a tragedy, just a setback.** It just means I'll have to buy new seeds and start again. Again. Grrr.

The tomatoes, meanwhile (springing up from a buried whole tomato, remember?) are powering along, safely protected from rabbits or cutworms in their little Norco Milk fort.

Photo by Deirdre: tomato seedlings, Norco Milk bottle
Photo by Deirdre: tomato seedlings, ten cent coin

**From a good idea in an interesting article in yesterday's Sydney Morning Herald:
Standing in my local supermarket recently - somewhere between rice that takes 90 seconds to revive and entire meals that can be served in less than five minutes - I found myself thinking somewhat wistfully about the great unsung virtue of patience and what a vast difference it makes to us and to everyone around us when we are prepared to value and cultivate it. Some lucky and lovely people are naturally patient. (And some cultures value patience and make it easier to learn by openly disapproving of any failures.) Those people are usually also good-humoured and tolerant, as well as being clear about the difference between a setback and a tragedy.
- Stephanie Dowrick, "The waiting game," Good Weekend magazine, Sydney Morning Herald, 14 October 2006, p. 51.

Saturday, October 14, 2006


A few scenes from my day here yesterday (click on images for larger views if you want them).

Photo by Deirdre: coffee trees, paddock, jacaranda
Looking across a coffee paddock towards a neighbour's jacaranda tree (the purple one in the middle). It's weird, I always initially call jacarandas frangipanis instead, which makes no sense at all because they've got nothing in common. The only way I can remember the correct name is to think "Jack on the verandah: jacaranda".**

Also to be seen in that shot is a mechanical coffee harvester (the blue thing appearing over the tops of the coffee trees). It went through the whole crop today, picking much much more than we could by hand.

Photo by Deirdre: coffee harvester
The harvester works a bit like an automatic carwash, except that instead of squishy washers it uses solid beaters, and they pummel the trees as the machine drives over the top. Coffee cherries get shaken from the branches onto a collection belt, and then they're transferred to collection bins:

Photo by Deirdre: coffee harvesting 1
Photo by Deirdre: coffee harvesting 2
Photo by Deirdre: coffee harvesting 3, coffee cherries
Next they'll be processed to remove the outer fruit and inner skins, excluding the green (unripe) cherries, leaves and sticks along the way, and producing in the end just the more familiar-looking coffee beans (two per cherry) ready for drying.

I wasn't involved in the harvesting yesterday though, I was supposed to be mowing. And driving the mower down the road, I came across my father's ute:

It was parked there beside that public road, a coffee paddock in the background, and my Dad nowhere to be seen. On closer inspection, I found the ute's windows open, the door unlocked, and... umm, what's that in the ignition?

Oh. The keys.
My Dad likes to trust people, I think.

And here's another friendly soul:

The little dog across the road from where I was mowing. He sat there in the shade for ages, just looking down the road, presumably waiting for his humans to come home. I waved to him a few times but it wasn't me he was waiting for, sadly, so I just wouldn't do at all :(

Finally: look!

Photo by Deirdre: koala
Photo by Deirdre: koala
Another koala! He/she was scrambling under the eucalypts about 6pm, and then climbed up a tree a short distance when the dogs and I appeared.

**What's even weirder is that when writing this post, I couldn't remember the name for frangipanis.

PS. I started writing this post at 10:31pm, and it's only just ready to publish now - 1am the next day. Boo, I say. What the hell is wrong with me? Why do these things take me so long? Hopeless!!