Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Artichokes II

People have asked that if the normal fate of the artichokes pictured here had come to pass. It had...

And then there was:

Strawberries, also from the garden. As the Kiwis say, 'sweet as...'


Monday, December 12, 2011

Spiny Visitor

As we were getting ready to go out, Bev was more than slightly startled to see a huge lump stuffed up against the back of the fridge in our kitchen, looking like a rolled up jumper with a bunch of knitting needles through it.

"I'm quite happy here, thank you!" Echidna seen from the rear. [James]

It proved to be a somewhat lost echidna! Having checked the risks* we attempted to remove it, which quickly proved impossible. Even dressed with heavy gloves and in my coat, trying to lift an animal the size of a large, fat cat that didn't want to be lifted proved more tricky than you'd think - it seemed to be attached to the floor. Echidnas have very powerful digging claws, and are ideally adapted to grabbing onto carpet - as we found. When the spines started to dig into the wooden wall, we decided to call Wildlife Rescue. Apparently the way you get rid of an echidna is to block off** all but the preferred exit, and it will - when it's good and ready - toddle*** off into the sunset.

We propped the back door open, blocked off the sides of the route as recommended and left it to it, and when we returned some hours later, it had gone.

In the meantime, we'd had a crash course in the details of the echidna, and it is a easily overlooked and fascinating animal; unique or odd in so many ways. I'll just mention that a baby echidna is called a 'puggle' and that they seem to happily go through life for a very long time in a range of climates that we find challenging. If you'd like to know more (you'll be amazed, I'm sure) here's a link to this website that goes into more detail, and also this very amusing website (and more) by a chap that has hand-reared puggles. Well worth a read.


* Like the related platypus, it does have a pair of spurs, but the echidna's are not poisonous; the spikes are actually modified hairs and aren't ejected, and if non-Australians are wondering, in general it's easier to assume things are dangerous and work back from there - echidnas appear to be dangerous mainly if you fall on one or try and cuddle it...

** Suitcases and boxes are recommended; it will, like a wombat, go through anything like card and plastic if it wants to, by the way.

*** It has a cute as all gait that really is a 'toddle'.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Advent of Moomins

A parcel marked PRIORITY, came from beyond the Arctic circle,

Bearing a franked Santa and a Little My stamp, inside of which was the Advent of the Moomins, arriving just in time, all the way from Finland,

To go up on the picture wall and have door ONE opened on the right day,

While others were borne to Northcote and Kingston, and no doubt other places exotic.


[Thanks to Bev, Ottobre Magazine, and, critically, Tove Jansson. Pic 3 by Meghan.]

Thursday, December 1, 2011


An interesting article on the BBC website ranges far and wide, anchored on the concept of what makes sense for the pace of technological change, and what may actually be 'necessary' replacement rates for gadgets and tools. It's very thought provoking, I think.

If technological change feels like a blur now, what'll it be like in 20 years? Night lights, Vancouver. [James]

(Angela Saini's article includes thoughts on sewing machines, the creativity of making and repairing 'stuff' and the ownership of your technology. Unfortunately the dreadful picture selection was done in someone's smoko.)

Much of what the author's got to say makes a lot of sense, but one thing I'd like to have seen is what seems to me to be the benchmark requirement. Personally, I want tools that work, and stay working for a reasonable period of time, without fiddling or demands.

Using Macs, in the personal computing sphere, this has been our experience for getting on for a couple of decades now*. However I recognise that this slow change has been enabled by a remarkably aggressive development and replacement cycle that needs the 'early adapters' our author talks about. The iPad and iPhone and their developed versions may be crack-cocaine for tech-heads, but they are also useful tools and both Bev and I have found the i-tool we use worth having as a tool.

Missing the full command?

I'm happy to take things apart and see how they go; occasionally repairing them too, but I'm not kidding myself I'd ever be able to repair even a dial-telephone, nor am I in a society where me being able to repair one is necessary. On the other hand I'm not interested in the latest tool to impress others, but I appreciate that drive has accelerated technical solutions at affordable prices for many of us. Between the make-do-and menders and the tech-heads may be technonormal?

James - not iJames

*Bev and I both used 'tombstone' Macs for many years, Bev's mother having one before that even. In the late 1990s we had Duncan the iMac, joined by Penny the iBook in 1998 and 1999. Duncan was retired when we emigrated in 2004 and an unnamed flat screen iMac was bought in 2005, and an iBook in 2008 for an around the world trip to replace Penny which didn't have a CD burner etc. Adding to these this year are my iPhone and Bev's iPad 2, both of which have been invaluable and very flexible work and leisure tools. Penny still works, and only Duncan has died, in his case after we'd passed it on.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A couple of great things about the Commonwealth of Australia's coat of arms is that it features native flora and fauna (the former unofficial to the authorised design, the latter integral) and secondly that the kangaroo and emu are both edible. (Try finding a unicorn, and you really, really don't want to try lion or eagle...)

Australian passports. The left hand example, issued in 2001, has differently shaped arms than the 2011 example on the right. The logo below the word 'Passport' actually refers to the fact the document has an electronic chip, and isn't a monochrome version of the Aboriginal flag, although exactly the same layout. The smaller arms on the 2011 issued wallet at the top (back) is different again.

Again the contrasts between Canada and Australia are intriguing in this area, as Canada's arms are essentially a British design with some Canadian additions, while Australia's is so appropriate it actually doesn't use traditional heraldic beasts.

When the Australian arms were approved in 1912, in Parliament, MP William Kelly said:
"The emu and kangaroo are so built that they hardly fit into the heraldic atmosphere, and I think we make ourselves ridiculous when we endeavour to carry on the traditions of the Old World with some of the wild creations of our Australian fauna."
I doubt anyone in Australia would suggest more traditional (and therefore non-native) heraldic animals would be a better alternative nowadays. However, making a full size example of the arms smacks somewhat of the chimps' tea party, but didn't stop Museum Victoria:

In contrast of course, Australia's flag, so vehemently defended by certain conservatives is 25% someone else's anyway, while Canada opted for its own flag in 1965. The contrasts and similarities are worth, I think, noting. Australia's flag can be easily mistaken for any of about a dozen similar designs, and when folded or draped, for that of the United Kingdom. But no-one would mistake the coat of arms as belonging to any other country than Australia. Conversely Canada's coat of arms is distinctive only in its details (maple leaves etc.) while the Canadian flag gets 100% recognition in tests.

Heraldry, eh?


Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Like most of Australia, we have a very active Willy Wagtail (Rhipidura leucophrys) which regards our house and the surrounds as 'his' territory, and regularly poses in camera range as seen before here. No-one really seems to know why they waggle their tails as they do (when perched, or on the ground) but from observation I think the usually advanced explanation of it being a bug attracting trick is highly suspect.

A while ago we noticed that rather than the one Wagtail, there was a pair about, chattering at us and sweeping their tails just as their name is derived.

They were also VERY clear that the barn was out of bounds to us (as above) and anyone else, such as the magpies which were getting harassed (usually it's the magpies harassing everyone else). Wagtails are pretty fearless and didn't mind dive-bombing us if we got too close.

A couple of weeks ago, after all the activity, we were getting ready to go out for dinner at a friends when we noticed that there were two black and white fluffballs on the side and roof edge of the barn - the Wagtail chicks were out, and having a look at the wide world!

Our departure was delayed while I grabbed some images on a rather grey day. Above - chick on the left, watching parent on the right.

"Oo are you?"

A fw days later, after a bit of careful exploring while the barn was clearly not under guard, revealed the nest, on a beam, anchored by a a piece of abandoned wire.

The chicks have grown quickly, since, and it can be hard to tell the juveniles from the parents at a glance, but it's clear the little ones haven't developed the tail-feather muscles properly yet, and the waggle has a training-wheels feel about it.

There's also the fluffy baby feathers, with brown tips, as seen above, even though the Edward Heath eyebrows have receded to a more normal proportion. Mature Wagtails are fully black and white with a dash of yellow, and the sexes seem to be indistinguishable.

Sometimes mum or dad is around, and there's still quite a bit of learning going on. One of the juveniles flew into the house's lean-to and (confused by all the windows) was unable to get out, until I captured it in my hands and released it outside. It was like holding a mouse wrapped in a tiny umbrella, the feather's shaft feeling like the umbrella's ribs.

The Wagtail parental advice and home are wound-up as soon as the next clutch is laid, and the current kids are given the heave-ho.

Bev had one of the adults snatch a bug out of the air less than a couple of feet from her face. They are very aerobatic, and have a very varied flight pattern.

They are nice to have around, and make good companions in the garden.


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Wood Engraving Workshop

Sometimes it's nice having birthdays in the same month. We were discussing, one day way back in July or August, what we wanted for our birthdays and concluded that there was not a lot we wanted in terms of things, but that it would be lots of fun to take a class together. Something creative.

Not long after, we stumbled across workshops at the local studio and gallery, Lauriston Press. The wood engraving workshop was taught by David Frazer, an Australian artist working not just with wood engraving, but also in paint and other media.

We signed up and weeks passed...

The workshop was great! Just seven attendees, including us, in a little light-filled studio in central Kyneton -- so, good coffee, close to home. All of the people on the course were really lovely.

Without exception, I think by chance, everyone had come with an image in mind that was interesting, different, historical, thoughtful. That made the class more interesting as there was a lot of quiet working, with murmurings of discussion about why, and what, and what next.

It turned out to be really quite difficult!

But intensely fascinating...

Straight lines a challenge.

But the effect was stunning.

After a brief tussle with a nose (profile thereof inexplicably growing through lack of tool control!) ...

We ran them through the press.

And discovered that all the oops-es and some of the awkwardness drops away miraculously when it's on paper.

We were both quite happy with the result!

Wood engraving appeals to both of us because of all of the historical wood engraved book illustrations. We were both a wee bit confused as to the difference between wood block printing (carved into a block along the grain) and wood engraving (carved into a cross-cut piece of wood, therefore across the grain and much finer detail can be created).

Our hands hurt, it was a challenge -- but we would definitely try it again!


Friday, November 25, 2011

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Arty Chokes

Our artichokes that Bev's been nourishing are justaboutready...

These are their pre-prandial portraits.


Saturday, October 15, 2011


One birthday gift (thanks Jo & Paul!) inside a new acquisition - the big freezer.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Streamline Moderne house in Bendigo

One of the great things about Australia is the range of Art Deco building that are still around, and more importantly used and preserved.

One of our favorites is just on the road out of Bendigo towards Melbourne - a remarkably cohesive house still reflecting the original architect's intention with the building. Strictly speaking it's 'Streamline Moderne' rather than Art Deco, but either way you expect someone in impeccable thirties suiting to drive up in an equally fast open-top tourer. It's one of the houses supported by the Art Deco & Modernism Society.

As the National Trust entry says:
Roseview was designed by Godfrey Eathorne and constructed in 1939. It is one of the few Streamline Moderne houses in the Central Goldfields region, and was one of the earliest constructed in the Bendigo region. It is an outstanding example of this style of housing. It resembles an ocean liner, and reflects the emphasis on the streamlining of methods of transportation. It utilizes both flat and curved surfaces and has little external ornamentation. The use of materials such as rounded glass windows and metal window and door frames reflects an innovative approach to construction consistent with the style.

"A1" as they said then.

PS - in the highly unlikely event of anyone using this blog as a reference, I understand the house is a private dwelling, and thus not open for public viewing.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Some Wave...

...that left this boat on a local dam. We're a good 50 kilometres from Port Philip Bay and about double that to the coast.


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

6,000 Sticky notes

This Deadline film should make you smile.

One of those things that you'd think you could do yourself (if you'd have thought of it) but soon realise there's a lot more to it than the initial, simple impression. 6,000 sticky notes, 3 months planning, and a 4 day shoot.

The follow up of a sticky figure man traveling the world is even more fun, albeit an advert for a sticky note company. The making of Deadline and Deadline Two (Sticking Close To You) can be found here and here.

Just fun.


Saturday, October 1, 2011

Wrong Place

Nothing odd about this brand-marketing tourist tat array, except it's in Melbourne's Tullamarine airport.

Presumably there's now Manchester United gear available in Liverpool; CN Tower gift sets in Vancouver; leaning tower tat in Firenze, and so on. Wrong place, folks!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Sometimes you've just got to stretch and beat the wings...

On Days Like These - Two

This BBC advertorial ~ with a few problems* ~ has a classic mix - Alfa Romeos and Tuscan roads. The programme here. You get the feeling you could do better, which is probably the point... Enjoy.

Days like these - One.

* A reporter on a vintage car segment who drives automatic only?