Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Sunday, February 22, 2009

SCREAMING

I've done a lot of that lately. Not AT anyone in particular - I leave that hobby to the woman down the street. Rather, I've been screaming at the universe. If your ears have been open, I'm sure you have heard me.

Monday night I woke up myself and Kevin and probably most of the southern hemisphere screaming...a scream that continued for at least 37 minutes - or maybe 10 seconds. Leg cramp. Bad. I was sore for the next two days.

This afternoon I did the unthinkable. I walked head first into a spider web. I still feel like something is in my hair though since the initial outburst I have managed to keep my tormented cries to a whimper.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Stormy weather

From photo a day


From photo a day


From photo a day

Sickness and snakes

Gee. The title sounds like I might be interested in reptilian medicine. That is hardly the case. I've been sick (I blame Kevin) and the snakes have been dead. I am, in that sense, doing much better than the snakes.

First the snakes. In one day last week clients brought in two injured snakes. Dog attacks. One wasn't dead yet - but it is now. The other was dead on arrival. For some reason, I wasn't part of that discussion, they wanted to know what kind of snake it was. I was handed the plastic, lidded pail.

I know nothing...

except how to make a phone call. I called someone for whom we had a card filed under wildlife.

"Can you describe the snake?" she asked.

I put on my plastic gloves, popped the lid, and pulled the snake out.

"It is a grey-green color with a yellow belly with red spots."

"How big is it?"

Quick! conversion!! "It is about a meter long." (Internal dialog. "Ewwww.")

"We'll send someone over to pick it up."

"OK." Internal comment - "Why did I have to describe it, let alone pick it up, for that?"

The next day there was a message to call back.

"It was an Eastern Brown Snake. Those are very toxic snakes." What kind of dog killed it? he wanted to know. How is the dog?

It was a little terrier. Twelve years old. As far as I knew the dog was fine.

"These snakes have very short fangs so if the dog has a lot of hair that is often enough to protect it."

I called the dog's owner. I told her it was an eastern brown snake. She thought that was interesting since the snake wasn't brown. As it turns out, although they live IN TOWN this dog had killed 3 brown snakes last year!! Yesterday she had looked out and seen the dog shaking something she had found under the mango tree in the back yard.

WE HAVE A MANGO TREE IN THE BACK YARD.

There is nothing much to say about my cold. It is day 8 and I have had enough.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Sunday Philosphy Club: An Isabel Dalhousie Mystery

From Singles 2009


Isabel was amused by the idea that gestures should accompany verbal references. She was intrigued to see devout Catholics cross themselves at the mentions of the BVM - and she liked the acronym BVM itself, which made Mary sound so reassuringly modern and competent, like a CEO or an ICBM, or even a BMW.

Well. I do like that acronym! It was new to me... and since I've found a deficit in Catholicism in Australia I'll help y'all out: Blessed Virgin Mary. (Now, you should cross yourself.)

Isabel Dalhousie is a very wealthy Scottish woman. She attended university, studied philosophy, fell in love with a cad. Now, she putters around doing the crossword puzzle, editing "The Review of Applied Ethics", entertaining her niece Cat, Cat's former boyfriend Jamie (though not together, much to her disappointment), and taking in cultural events around Edinburgh. It is at a concert that she witnesses a young man fall from the upper balcony to his death. Her curiosity and unwavering commitment to living an ethical life (along with a push from the deceased's roommate) lead her to investigate - convinced foul play is afoot.

Maybe if I had studied philosophy I might have appreciated her thoughts, comments, and conflicts. But, I didn't.

In addition, Isabel comes across as a bit of a doddering old lady - well, maybe doddering is extreme. (I'd find a passage as an example but I really want to be finished with this book.) So, if not quite doddering, then worn out, inconsequential, way past her use by date - and SHE'S YOUNGER THAN I AM. Two things: this is no way to endear a character to me and, secondly, who is this man (the author) hanging around with? He is either decades older than I am and only associating with his peers OR he would only consider women in their 20's - maybe 30 - to be bright, vital, and useful in the world.

So, you see I had a bit of a chip on my shoulder about the book to start with. My appreciation for it, however, NOSEDIVED (as hard as that may be to believe) when I read the "climax". This is how you solve a mystery??? ARGHHH.

Finally, I need to say that this book was a gift to me and I do appreciate the thought and feel conflicted about expressing such a negative opinion. I was also given another from this series and I'm actually looking forward to reading it. A quick check on Amazon (to get the photo, actually) supported my thoughts and comments (the book averaged only 3 stars there), but also suggested that other books were better (4 stars). We shall see.

Romantic Advice from Charles Darwin

I heard on NPR this morning (13 Feb) that when Charles Darwin was a young man and trying to decide whether or not to marry he made a list. A pro and con list. And, from the Pro list we have

A wife is better than a dog.

Neither Zelda nor I are sure what to make of this. If, however, you are contemplating matrimony (or the purchase of a dog) we hope it helps.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Bundaberg photos

Photographs from the Mon Repos turtle rookery (green turtles - loggerhead babies in the sand. You'll have to look carefully - there are two) and the Bundaberg Botanic Garden.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Meditation




Zelda is the Cocker Zen Master of Meditation.

I've alluded to her meditating before, I'm sure. You probably thought I was just being absurd. I do that.

But, so does Zelda.

Om.

ETA: It strikes me as very funny seeing a dog with a green button that reads play on her side!

I may be from/on a different planet

I think that now and then. Most recently it occurred during a conversation between Z, S, and R. Me. I was just observing and probably making funny alien faces.

As you might guess around here there are a lot of conversations about the terrible fires that are burning in Victoria. It is very sad and this surreal exchange/blog post is not meant to reflect upon those fires or any fires in any way. It is, however, where the story begins.

Z (not my Z) was in and telling us how her uncle, a firefighter, is in Victoria as a volunteer and how hard that is on him psychologically. This conversation continues as you'd expect reflecting sympathy and sorrow and outrage. Then, Z left.

S then brings up "Ash Wednesday" and "how many were lost then?" and "when I was in school we used to get ashes on our foreheads on Ash Wednesday". And, R is continuing the conversation about fires and "Ash Wednesday". And, I am trying to figure out whether my head will explode.

"Um." I begin. "Um. The ashes on your forehead on Ash Wednesday doesn't have anything to do with fires. Um. Ash Wednesday is a Catholic holiday...it is the first day of lent."

And, much to my surprise - NOBODY knew that.

I guess it shouldn't have surprised me given the way this country plays fast and loose with Mardi Gras. ([French : mardi, Tuesday + gras, fat (from the feasting on Mardi Gras before Lenten fasting).]

(Of course, in all fairness I didn't know what the fire(s) they remember as Ash Wednesday was/were either. I am the alien here.)

By the way, Ash Wednesday is Feb 25th this year. (It moves each year to be 40 days before Easter.) The Australian fire anniversary, I assume, is always on the same day each year: 16 Feb.

Kevin. Ned Kelly. Separated at Birth?

From Singles 2009


It is a disappointment to both of us that we can't point with pride to any felonious forebears. I have a great grandfather who was a philanderer, but that doesn't seem to count here. Like any good Australian, Kevin has embarked on his own legacy of crime, crime, crime. Kevin has specialized (specialised) in vehicular infringements: cruising with nonchalance through once yellow lights (now red) and cavalierly traveling at the speed of sound through the urban landscape. (He has drawn the line at parking in handicap spots. Still holding onto some of that American puritanism. Oh, and he hasn't got the hang of doing all this while under the influence of the Aussie god of Alcohol.) Just before he left for OTB, he spotted a pulse of bright light while preparing to cross the Story Bridge. Could it be? Was this going to mark the moment when he filled his dance card with his final demerit??

As you recall, I stayed home during most of the time Kevin was in NSW. Stayed home, brought the mail in, and STILL didn't recognize the award coming from the State of Queensland. I was looking for something in a nice big, cardboard envelope which would contain the citation - suitable for framing.

But, it was just a little, unremarkable, flimsy white envelope. (Australia has the most unimpressive envelopes in the civilized world, I'm convinced. Not an extra fiber is wasted to create the paper and anything I send to the US needs to have sticky tape applied to all the edges or else they invariably are sliced open in transit.)

So, Kevin's choices:
1. "Do Over" - Take 3 months off from driving (license suspended) at which time the slate would be wiped clean and he'd be free to accrue driving demerits with only $$ at stake, once again.
2. "Good Behavior" - Drive like a deacon (not demon) for the next 12 months adding, at most, one more demerit point during that time. More than one = automatic license suspension for 6 months.
3. "Ned Kelly" -
a. Take the license suspension but continue to drive.
b. Choose the good behavior option but continue to drive like, um, Ned Kelly.
c. Rip the notice into shreds and commission a suit of armor!

I hate to tell you, but Kevin is NO Ned Kelly. He'll be good. I'll be driving for the next 3 months.

From Singles 2009


P.S. By the way, these are/were our really cool Halloween costumes this year- that nobody got to see.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Just one reason to be glad you aren't married to me

From photo a day


Did you know there's a right way the silverware goes into the drawer?

You did? Hm. I just learned this, though it is unclear whether I'll remember it.

You see, I've learned one more way my brain is wired totally differently than Kevin's - or perhaps the rest of the human race. I guess when y'all (I try to use that conjunction often here. I think it marks me as American rather than Canadian) put the silverware away you put the spoons in the spoon slot and the knives in the knife slot and the forks... well, you know. On the other hand, I match implements. I put the clean spoon in the slot with the rest of the spoons. Usually, we end up with the same result. But, then there are the times, and they may happen more often in our house where we have the bare minimum number of just about everything, where there are no spoons and no knives left in the drawer. So, there are two or occasionally three empty slots. I just start filling the slots. Each get only one kind of utensil but the spoons may have just leaped from their usual slot on the far left to the center or right. This disturbs Kevin's world view. I'm slowly making him crazy. Well, maybe not slowly.

I think I'm just saving brain space. I still don't know the color of each denomination of Australian currency. It isn't necessary. I can read the numbers. (Wait! Is that two reasons?)

Monday, February 09, 2009

Bunda-two

In the morning, after finding that Hungry Jacks does do breakfast in Australia (not that we're recommending that!), we set off for the Botanic Garden. Very lovely garden with several large ponds, lots of big water birds (both black AND white ones), a peaceful Japanese garden, several historic buildings/museums (we skipped every one - they weren't open yet) and a cute little train (ditto.)

Very nice.

This was followed by a drive out of town to the Hummock. This is the highest point and only real hill around Bundaberg and is an inactive volcano. This volcano, we were told, is responsible for the predominance of black rocky beaches in the area and the black rocky land that had to be cleared to create fields for sugar cane. (These rocks were piled into stone walls called Kanaka walls after the "indentured servants" (read slaves) from Melanesia who were induced to clear the fields and build the walls and tend the sugar cane. Yes. Slaves in Australia until 1904 when they were largely deported thanks, not to an emancipation proclamation, but to the "White Australia policy".

Hummock. Funny word.

By ten o'clock our Bundaberg adventure was finished (we opted not to do either of the Bundaberg Rum tours) and we headed south...with a short detour to see the Buderim Ginger Factory in Yandina.

Once again, any phots were shot on film. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Bund-tastic! Wonder-berg!

turtle under water

Can you tell we had a good time this weekend in Bundaberg? Saturday we drove north (about 4.5 hours) to Bundaberg. We had a date that evening with some as yet unhatched baby turtles!

Mon Repos turtle rookery. One of the largest research facilities studying sea turtles and one of only two rookeries in Australia, the second being in Western Australia. We bought our tickets ($9 - a real bargain!) a week ahead and that meant we were in group 4 of 5. (Lesson here: Call early. Weeks early.) Everyone is told to arrive at the site at 7 PM (Bring rain gear. Bring bug spray. Bring camera. Bring torches (flashlights). Bring a pillow to sit on. (I added the last.)) and as the evening unfolds one group (of 60) at a time is escorted onto the beach. The first group was called right at 7, the second group soon after and I thought we'd have an early night. Then, there was a big pause.

I think I need to back up. Anytime something happens on the beach - a mama turtle comes in from the ocean to lay eggs or a nest of babies begins erupting from the sand - the next group of viewers is called out to observe. It used to be really informal. People would just show up at the beach and follow the scientists around. Then, about 8 years ago the crowd sized topped 2,500 and the majority of turtle-mamas were scared back into the surf without laying their eggs. While I'm sure there was a big voice for just cutting the public out of the picture, the idea of crowd control and public education won out. Now, a limited number of tickets are sold (it must be about 350) and smallish groups are led down one by one to view an event. At this time of year most of the females have stopped laying eggs: only one or two a night show up and that seems to happen after 3 AM. Instead, the babies that have been incubating for about 8 weeks emerge from their buried nests and rush off to begin their lives in the sea.

Turtle facts:
a. Nesting at Mon Repos: the Australian Flatback Turtle (only found in Australia), the Green Turtle, and the Loggerhead Turtle.
b. Turtle gender is determined by incubation temperature with the critical point being 28.75C (I believe.) Warmer temperatures produce female turtles. Cooler temps, males. (I learned this in grad school. Obviously a worthwhile way to spend 4 years!) The darker sand at Mon Repos is warmer and mostly females are hatching. Eggs laid on the white beaches of the islands off the coast remain cooler thus producing male turtles.
c. Each female loggerhead lays about 200 eggs at each visit and she will lay 5 to 6 clutches at 3 week intervals: about 1,000 eggs/season. She doesn't lay eggs every year or even every other year. It seems to be pretty random with gaps of up to 10 years between egg production years.
d. Number of turtles reaching adulthood per egg hatched: about 1 in 1,000!
e. Lifespan of a sea turtle - excluding the 999 that never reach adulthood - not known though estimated to be 400 to 500 years!

After busting our buts on concrete seats in the amphitheater for more than 3 hours, we were called out to the beach! No lights. No camera flash. No phones. No games. While I would never say it was "bright" on the beach, the moon was mostly full and the sky was clear. (Kevin had already found Orion and, maybe, the Southern Cross during our wait.) We were going to get to observe the release of green turtles that had hatched earlier and had been taken back to the lab for measuring and cataloging. (Green turtles and Flatback turtles are special and all their nests get studied. Only a portion of the loggerhead nests get studied.) There they were in a green plastic bucket trying their best to swim or climb out!

Three guides/researchers pulled out a couple of turtles each and walked among the crowd so we could photograph and touch the babies. I KNEW my digital camera would NEVER produce anything like a reasonable image - flash = whiteout - so I brought my 35 mm camera. Unfortunately, it is getting a bit cranky. Just because you push the shutter-release button doesn't mean that an exposure will be made. Also, I haven't actually tried to take a photo of something small and close with the flash. I have no idea how it will work. This is the problem with film. (I did refrain from looking at the back of my camera after each photograph. I am getting somewhat smarter.) If there is anything to share, I will. Later.

Once we'd all been introduced to the turtlettes, then everyone who had a light lined up one behind the next with their legs spread. They each shined their flashlight at the ground between the legs of the person in front of them creating a tunnel of light leading from the nest site to the ocean. Then, the bucket was tipped

and a hundred baby turtles went flapping at full speed down the beach

and into the surf.

WOW.

Too cool.

And, way too dark for a photo.

Photo: Turtle photographed when we were snorkling in Hawaii. One of our trip highlights!

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Animation entertainment

I've had a bit of a "drawn" week - if you exclude my regular hits of "Battlestar Galactica" - but that's more like having a virus. Anyway, this week we finished Season 2 of "Frisky Dingo" and last night, while Kevin was out, I watched "Bolt".

Hmmmm.... not only animated, but sort of doggy. Sort of. Though,there really are no dogs in "Frisky Dingo" - just a big, white cloven footed alien supervillan, Killface. Very funny albeit heavy on violence. And, easy to watch. Each episode - produced for Comedy Central's Adult Swim - is only about 10 min long. "Frisky Dingo" was one of Kevin's Christmas presents, because I learned about the program in someone's best of 2008 lists. Thus spawned our interest and devotion.

"Bolt". So far, I've enjoyed "Bolt" more than any other (of the two) films I've seen this year ("Slum Dog Millionaire" and "The Wrestler"). I'm a sucker for a dog story and despite the title, "Slum Dog Millionaire" has NO dog. (It's better that I tell you now. In fact, despite what you'll read in every description, I say it is NOT a rags to riches story.) Like other Disney animation, "Bolt" is contrived to pull heartstrings and despite being a grumpy old woman these days and expecting the film to be manipulative in this way, it succeeded. And, that's why it gets my number one vote. Neither of the other two films succeeded in emotionally engaging me. I was repelled by the horrors and abuse suffered in "SDM" but not much warmed by the love story. My interest in and attachment to Mickey Rourke's character was more intellectual than deeply emotional. (Mickey's performance was superb.) All three movies followed predictable paths but only one made me laugh out loud and get misty eyed.

"Bolt" also impressed by the attention to detail displayed by the creators. The pigeons moved like pigeons....and I've watched a lot of pigeons very carefully. Like the vultures in "The Jungle Book" they provide a nice bit of comic relief. I'm not sure why they seem to travel in threes - though the Hollywood pigeons were only SUPPOSED to be a pair, but the assistant, well, you'll find out. Back to detail. I about stood up and applauded when Bolt and Mittens tumble from the train (I think it was) into an Ohio field amongst Queen Anne's lace. One of my favorite wild flowers and so, so typical of ditches and fallow land in the midsummer in Ohio. (I had to turn to google to find a photo. How lame.)

Friday, February 06, 2009

Beyond Bad: The Life and Crimes of Katherine Knight, Australia's Hannibal

What more can be said?

This book was jarring. Not so much because of the nature of the crime: it wasn't enough for Kat to stab her man (37 times) - nor stab him then skin him - but stab, skin, decapitate, and cook parts of him. What bothered me more was the way the author combined an air of excessive sophistication (who calls the door frame of a working class home an architrave? Every Australian?? John???) with the down-home informality of Australian speech (I reckon; he reckons; she reckons; we ALL reckon) and a liberal (read this as insufficiently edited) dosing of direct quotes from friends, neighbors, family. (Ala "I said to him, I said ...") I was not impressed.

Will I ever be happy with anyone not James Lee Burke?

Meeting the train

I got home late from work last night. It was after 6:30. Kevin, managed to be even later - catching the 6:37 train and arriving in Carseldine at 7:02. Since I had no ambition with regard to cooking supper, I called for Chinese take away and met Kevin at the train.

As I have embarked on a "photo a day" project (which is harder than it sounds!) and Kevin has grown tired of photos of the sky (which I tell him is always there and I'm enjoying the enormous clouds we've had lately), I took my camera with me. It was growing dark. (Yes. Only half way to the equinox and it is already dark in summer at 7 PM.) My camera doesn't perform well with less than perfect illumination. Still, with the help of Photoshop I think I came up with some interesting images.

I actually did not manipulate the first one: walking up the steps to the train station.

From Meeting the train


Someone waits for the Brisbane Train on Platform One.

From Meeting the train


Kevin's train!

From Meeting the train

Monday, February 02, 2009

Happy Birthday to Z!

From photo a day


February 2, 1997.

That makes 12 years. Pretty funny since I've been saying she's 12 since last February. So, overall, I feel like my favorite girl is younger today.

Year of the Ox

From Singles 2009


Sunday Kevin and I trained down to Fortitude Valley for the last day of the Chinese New Year celebration. It was a comfortable day - overcast and cool-ish - great if you didn't mind a sprinkle. I looked at the weather forecast, the hourly forecast, before we left and was assured there was a zero percent chance of precipitation. Therefore, we did not take an umbrella. I was highly amused to find that we had to walk to the train station through the rain. Lets see, that would have been about 5 minutes later.
From Singles 2009


The entertainment was good. A kung-fu school brought out all their pupils for a performance followed by a lion dance. (They might look like dragons, but they are not. Dragons look more like snakes. See last year.) I'm not sure who or what the man and woman figures are. The disadvantage of going to the end of the festivities is that there is no narration. The advantage is there is no introduction of dignitaries and we could get a lot closer to the action. That might also have been a weather related phenomenon.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

More wisdom from Dave and Batist

Batist:

"It don't do no good to be rich in the graveyard, no."

Dave: A response to an officer telling him he thinks he's made a mistake.

"Maybe we blew this one."

"It's a big club. Thanks for your time, sir."


I need to remember both of these. How about you?