29 December 2006


I've noticed a disturbing trend lately, a new fashion, a sign of bad taste. I'm talking about those huge sunglasses that a lot of young women have started wearing.

Now, I'm all for wearing sunglasses, especially here in the skin cancer capital of the world. I nearly always wear sunnies myself, especially when I'm driving, but mine are small. I don't even wear aviators anymore.

Imagine spending too long in the sun in a pair like that, then going inside and taking them off. A big red nose, too much lipstick and a bright curly wig would be all you'd need to transform you from the fly, to a clown.

I blame Paris Hilton.


This entry was posted via e-mail. I'm testing it to see how it works so I can blog while we're in Vietnam next month.

25 December 2006


I saw Santa the other day.

Actually, I've seen him a few times in the last couple of weeks, usually he's driving a heavily decorated bus, with Merry Christmas on the destination board. I also saw him walking up the street, but I think that one was an impostor. When he got closer you could tell the beard was fake.

Anyway, that day has arrived so, in the words of Robbie Williams, "Merry Christmas, and if I don't see you before then, happy new year."

23 December 2006

33 cents richer

I mentioned recently that I'd registered with some photo libraries, there are links to a couple of them in my sidebar.

Well I've just sold my first photo. You can view a small version of the picture here.

Because of the way these libraries work, you don't make much money per sale (only 33 cents US for this one, about 50 cents Australian), but the pictures can be sold over and over and after a while it starts to add up. The more pictures you have available for sale, the better your chances of making money from them.

It's amazing how good 50 cents can make you feel though. I've had an article published in a magazine before, with accompanying photos, but this is the first time anyone that I didn't know personally has ever paid for one of my photos.


I got tagged by Caramaena recently. That means I'm supposed to tell you my five favourite Christmas songs, then pick five people to tag.

I've been thinking about it, and the only Christmas songs I like are the ones that Bing Crosby used to sing, "White Christmas", "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas", you know the ones. My favourite is probably the Hawaiian one "Mele Kalikimaka" (boy that frightened the spell checker).

As far as picking five people to tag, I'm going to cheat like Caramaena did with her fifth choice and pick you, you, you, you and you over the back there that's trying to avoid eye contact in case I pick you. In other words, you can all let me know your five favourite Christmas songs, but you don't have to if you don't want to.

19 December 2006

Unexpected visitors

I mentioned the other day that Kate DeAraugo had laid an egg.

Well, one of the Young Divas' many fans did a Google search for Kate DeAraugo, found my blog and posted the URL to a Young Divas forum. You weren't far off with your comment Caramaena.

Since then I've been getting heaps of visits from them. The thing that I find really funny, is that they're only seeing that particular entry, so they think I'm a farmer that's just happened to name one of the chooks after Kate. They haven't read the other entries about the chooks.

I had a quick look at the forum and all the comments are pretty complimentary, which is good because Kate is my favourite of the Divas and she's also our best layer. Actually, I think she's our only layer at the moment.

Someone even e-mailed the real Kate the URL for her to have a look. So if you're reading this Kate, feel free to leave a comment. Celebrity endorsements are always appreciated.

If you're a Divas fan visiting from the forum feel free to leave a comment too, just to let me know you were here. And if you're a Divas fan that hasn't found the forum yet, why not go and visit them here. Tell 'em Farmer Steve sent ya.

17 December 2006

Kate DeAraugo lays an egg

One of the chooks that we got last week has started laying.

Actually there may be more than one laying, but we're only getting one egg a day at the moment. I checked on them on Thursday morning and one of them was in the nest, picking up bits of straw and dropping them on her back. That's always a sure sign that they're about to lay.

When I got yesterday's egg out of the nest I decided to weigh it. Remember a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned one of our previous chooks layed a 100g egg. This one was 30g.

At least she's trying though, and they will get bigger.

We've also started letting them out of the pen for a little while each evening, so they can have a scratch around in the yard. We're going to have to clip their wings soon, as it won't be long before they start going over the fence.

If you only clip one side, every time they try to fly, and you'd be surprised how far a chook can fly, they end up going in circles. Once they get older they'll get used to staying in the yard and won't be as much of a problem. At the moment we're still having to round them up when they go to bed, but soon they'll just put themselves to bed when it starts to get dark.

Edit: 19/12/06
If you're visiting from the Young Divas forum, welcome.
You might like to check out a couple of other entries, here and here, that will put the above into more perspective.

14 December 2006

We beat Sydney... again

According to the news, there were fifty thousand people at each of the Robbie Williams concerts in Sydney. According to the man himself, there were fifty five thousand at Suncorp Stadium last night, and Donna and I were part of that number.

Suncorp Stadium is a football ground, mainly rugby league. Because they don't want people throwing full bottles at players on the field, you can't take a bottle of water in there unless you remove and throw away the cap. Obviously the mob in charge of security can't tell the difference between a football match and a concert, because they were making everybody take their lids off.

I thought I was being clever by taking a water bottle that had its own pouch on a belt, that way I wouldn't have to hold onto the bottle for the whole show. Because I couldn't remove the lid completely I had to leave my bottle and pouch in the cloakroom at a cost of $5.

Donna later bought a bottle of water inside, with the lid left on.

That little whinge aside, it was a great concert. The fireworks started, the music built up, and everyone was wondering where he was and where he was going to appear, then all of a sudden he popped up through a hole in the stage.

Apart from the visual spectacle of the whole thing, one of the highlights for me was the songs he did with his best mate Jonathon Wilkes. If you're as old as me, you'll remember Morecambe and Wise and the little dance they used to do when they sang "Bring me Sunshine". They did a bit of that plus a little dance that, I think, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore used to do.

Seeing twenty to thirty thousand people down in front of the stage waving their arms in the air as he sang "Monsoon" was really surreal.

One thing that amazed Donna and I was how much the stadium was bouncing. You could literally feel it bouncing under your feet as people stood up and danced to the music. It made us both glad we were in the upper part of the stadium and not underneath. If you've ever stood on a bridge while a lot of heavy traffic passes over it, it was like that. In the stadium though, it wasn't a rumble, it was to the beat.

Anyway, I had a camera with me, but it's a... shock, horror... film camera, so I don't know how the photos came out yet. If they're okay I'll put some on here.

It's funny, I resisted going digital for so long. Now the thought of having to get a film developed seems strange. Why didn't I take my digital? Because it's a big dSLR and security wouldn't have let me take it in.

10 December 2006

Birthday presents

I was going to write about American Idol today and how unbelievably bad it was this year, but about half way through the show last night, the guys started singing. Some of them were actually quite good. Although, the eventual winner (it finished in May) certainly wasn't the best one last night.

No, I'm going to write about birthday presents.

Because Donna and I have our birthdays only a week apart, Jess, my oldest step-daughter, and her fiancee Brett decided they'd get us a combined present this year. They turned up this morning with it in a large cardboard box. Donna thought it was Joe Satriani coming round the corner when she saw Brett. He's just had his head shaved and was wearing wraparound sunnies.

Anyway, the box was clucking, or rather the contents were. It contained four young weed scratching, kitchen scrap devouring, egg laying machines

We said we weren't going to name this lot, but I'm sure we will in the end. I was thinking maybe, Ricky-Lee, Kate, Emily and Paulini. If you don't live in Australia you won't get that. They are the "Young Divas", a group formed from four ex Australian Idol contestants.

Jeremy Clarkson of Top Gear fame gave his hens male names. If you've read "The World According to Clarkson" you'll know that he shot David Beckham (the chook) by accident one night, thinking it was a fox trying to kill his chooks.

Hopefully by the end of next week we won't be buying any eggs from the supermarket again. I've been down to their pen with an empty egg carton and an axe to let them know their options. I think they got the point, it still has a bit of Wanda's blood on it.


An update on the photo library.

So far I've had seven photos accepted by Fotalia, there's a banner for their website in my sidebar. Now I've just got to sit back and watch the money roll in. Not really, I need to keep taking photos and build up the number of images I have on their site. I also need to prepare another submission for Shutterstock, now I have better idea of what's acceptable.

If you think you'd like to sell some of your images, or you're a web designer looking for images, why not click on the Shutterstock link or the Fotalia banner and check them out. I get a percentage if you do.


Oh, I almost forgot to mention, this blog reached one thousand hits the other day. The lucky thousandth visitor was someone from Wellington, New Zealand that uses dialup with an ISP called Clear, or something similar.

I suspect it may be Matt whose blog is listed in my sidebar. If not then I have another regular reader that I don't know about. If so, leave me a comment to let me know who you are.

07 December 2006

If only the test was today

I had another driving lesson today.

The difference between today and two weeks ago was incredible. I crunched the gears a few times, but nowhere near as much as I have before. I had a different truck today and a different instructor, Alan, but I think it was more a case of me just being more in tune with the truck.

It certainly increased my confidence a heap. If I'd gone for the test today, I would have gone in there confident that I could pass, whereas last time I fully expected to fail.

I've had a lot of hits on the blog lately searching for information on driving with the Roadranger gearbox, so I'm going to try to make this as helpful as possible.

The main problem I was having was not getting the revs right when I was changing down. There's about 400 RPM difference between each gear. If you rev the engine so that it goes up by 400 RPM when you change gear you'll get it in every time. It's not really a case of watching the tacho everytime you change gears though, like I was doing before. You have to listen for it, after a while you'll know when it's right and when it isn't.

I'm also starting to treat it more like a truck than a car, in that I'm giving myself a lot more time to slow down coming up to turns and such. I still think coming almost to a complete stop in fifth gear without touching the clutch, then pulling away smoothly is pretty cool. There's no way you'd be able to do that in any car I've ever driven.

Anyway, my test is booked for the 11th of January, in the morning and I've got a two hour lesson on the Saturday before that. We're getting air conditioning installed on the Thursday before, so I hope it's not too hard to get out of bed on the Saturday.


I mentioned the other day that I'd submitted some photos to Shutterstock, with a view to selling them. Most of them were rejected because of noise or grain. I can't make another submission for 30 days, so I've cleaned up the grain on some of them and submitted them to Fotalia, another library.

I think the idea of making me wait 30 days is quite a good one actually. That way I'm not going to rush out and take a load of rubbish photos and have another failure. It forces me to take my time. I've already got some good ideas for my next submission.

05 December 2006

The answer to the question about life, the universe and everything

Ok, I was wrong about the questions I'd get asked when I got back to work.

Most people just said, "You're back".
To which I usually mumbled the reply, "I don't wanna talk about it".

I had 216 e-mails in my inbox, most of which I could delete straight away without reading them. One of them mentioned the Christmas lunch at Gilhoolie's Pub, which was last Friday and no-one thought to let me know. So I missed out on a free feed and, looking at the menu, it was a good one too.

Nothing's changed while I've been away. The work is exactly the same, the view is the same (I hardly even look out the window now), the frustrations are the same. Our database seems to be crashing a lot more than before so the frustrations, even though they're the same, are more numerous.

I think the only highlight of the day was see a woman abseil past my window. I managed to get a photo, but she was outside the second floor by then, so it's not as good as it could have been.

Oh, and if you're wondering about the title of today's post, that's how old I am today. I used to say, you're only as old as the woman you feel, but I don't since I met Donna. She's older than me.

03 December 2006

Back to work tomorrow

My four weeks off has come to an end.

It's a bit depressing really. I know for a fact I'll spend the first couple of hours cleaning the crap out of my e-mail inbox, that's assuming I can even log on. Usually when I get back from leave there's something wrong with my computer and I have to ring up IT support to get it fixed.

Then it'll be back to the same boring old shit that I was doing before I went on leave.

There'll be the usual questions like, "how was your holiday?"

To which I'll give the standard reply, "not long enough".

Then they'll say something like, "Shit! You had four weeks off. How much time do you want?"

Wait till I tell them I've got an RDO on Thursday, and next week I'm taking three days off. We're going to the Robbie Williams concert on the Wednesday night, so we thought we'd take some time off spend a couple of nights in the city, within walking distance of the concert.

It's Donna's birthday on the Tuesday too, so we'll be eating out a bit. She really likes the food at the Pancake Manor, so that's probably where we'll go for dinner. I haven't been to Yum Cha Lau for a long time so we might have lunch there.


I've been getting a bit creative this weekend.

I submitted some photos to Shutterstock the other day. They're a photo library that sells stock photos online. They pay you twenty-five US cents every time someone downloads one of your photos. That doesn't sound like much, but it all adds up and it's better than leaving them sitting on my hard-drive where no-one else can see them.

There are other libraries that pay more, but they tend to be more for full on professionals. While I think I can take professional quality photos, I don't have a business name behind me.

Anyway, Shutterstock require an initial ten images so that they can evaluate your work. If you don't get at least seven out of ten acceptances you have to go back and try again in thirty days. So I've been taking more photos to fill in the gaps if I don't get enough acceptances. Plus, if I do get enough, I'll have some more images to upload straight away.

It's amazing how a photo that you think looks really good turns out to be really bad when you blow it up for a closer look, which is what Shutterstock will do when they evaluate the images. Just finding ten images that I thought were both technically good, and saleable was a lot harder than I though.

30 November 2006

Vale Wanda

A warning is in order here. The contents of this post may upset some people so you may want to go get a cuppa until I've finished, or you may want to just skip it and go to the previous post about the G3 concert.

If you grew up on a farm you'll be okay.

The Wanda in the title of this post is (or was) a chook. She was the last of a flock of four that we got about three years ago. While they were all laying we were getting so may eggs we didn't know what to do with them. They were all very good layers.

If you've ever owned chickens before, you'll know that they all have their own personalities. Because of that, they all had names; Helga, Agatha (Aggie), Bertha and Wanda.

Helga was by far the best layer, once laying a 100 gram double yolker. Unfortunately, I don't think that double yolker did her any good as she ended up with a prolapse that was too big to poke back in and I had to, how can I put this, put her out of her misery with the axe.

Last summer we came home from work and found Aggie and Bertha both dead in the nest. We think they just got in there together, got stuck, and suffocated in the heat. By then, we were only getting two eggs a day, sometimes only one. We soon found out which one wasn't laying at all.

Anyway, Wanda stayed in the land of the living pretty much as a pet. She was eating the food we gave her, but she wasn't producing. She wasn't even scratching up the weeds like she used to, just crapping everywhere. For the last six months we didn't even bother to lock her up at night. She'd put herself to bed and in the morning she'd wander around the yard and up the back stairs, following Xena the fat beagle around when she felt like it.

Part of the reason we didn't just finish her off was that I felt Donna should do this one as it was her turn. I wasn't going to do it unless it was for a very good reason.

By last weekend we'd noticed she was deteriorating. She'd come up the back stairs and sit on the verandah with us and end up having to lie down and have a wheeze.

So, this afternoon I sharpened up the axe and this weekend we'll have four more chooks. Start saving up your egg cartons Eddie, you're my best customer.


I know there's two questions you want to ask.

Who did the deed? I did. I think Donna would have if pushed, but she would have taken too long about it. As it turned out, Wanda put up a bit of a struggle.

What did Wanda taste like? With all that wheezing she's been doing lately, I don't think anyone would want to eat her. There's no telling if it was just age, or something worse. The body was disposed of. I won't tell you how, but there's a reason we waited until a Thursday.

By the way, the next lot won't have names. Not to start off with anyway.


The G3 concert was on last night.

It's been a while since I last went to something like that and I'd forgotten just how loud it could be. By the time we got home just after midnight my ears were just about back to normal. There was still a bit of a rushing sound, but that was the strong winds we've had for the last couple of days.

John Petrucci came on for the first forty minute set. I'd never actually heard his music before, so I didn't really know what to expect. He's a great guitarist, but not as entertaining as the other two. The highlight for me during Petrucci's set was when his drummer had to replace a stick and didn't have one handy. He threw the damaged stick off to one side of the stage, then waved to someone to get their attention, all the while continuing to play with one stick. Five seconds later another stick flew through the air, straight into his hand, to a cheer from the audience.

Having to wait for him to replace a broken string for the last number of his set was a bit of a disappointment. Vai and Satriani both had spare guitars and changed after every couple of songs. He would have been better off forgetting about it and letting his drummer play the drum solo that the audience were screaming for.

After a break while the equipment was changed and tested, Steve Vai came on. Even where we were sitting you could see the facial expressions when he played. He was a lot more entertaining than Petrucci. He actually reminded me a little of the latest Doctor Who. A good indication of how hard he worked that guitar was that he was replacing it after almost every song at the beginning of his set.

Another break and on came Joe Satriani, the man I'd really gone to see. Seeing him play songs that I recognised was great, especially "Always with me, always with you" and "Crowd Chant".

"Crowd Chant" really showed who the Satriani fans were as it involved a bit of audience participation. He'd play a riff, then the audience would sing it back. "Always with you, always with me" was the song that first brought Satriani to my attention years ago, so it was great to hear that played. That was the end of Satriani's solo set as first Vai, then Petrucci came back on or a bit of a jam session to end the show.

An article in the Courier Mail recently said that Satriani came up with the idea of G3 after imagining what it would be like to be the guy in the middle of row twenty at such and event. Well I was the guy in the middle of row twenty-one and I can tell you, it was a great night.

27 November 2006

Still on Leave

I'm now into my fourth and final week of long service leave and I'm still not bored. Not that I've been doing much, but that's what holidays are supposed to be about.

We've got the G3 concert on Wednesday night, that's Satriani, Vai and Petrucci. We didn't win the passes to the aftershow party that were up for grabs, but then I don't think that would have really been our scene anyway.

I was kind of hoping Stu Hamm would be Satriani's bass player for the tour, but it doesn't look like he will be. If you click here you'll see why. I think that video is taken from the "Satriani: Live in San Francisco" DVD. Every time I watch it I have a mental image of Doctor Evil and Samwise Gamgee up there on the stage. The audience aren't booing him by the way, they're calling his name.

If anyone out there can lip read, I'd love to know what he says to the audience half way through.


Back when I first created this blog, one of the first things I wrote about was helping my brother, Laurie, to install an antenna on his roof. Well, the house is now on the market, so yesterday I was up on the roof with him again taking it down.

It's funny how everytime we visit family members to help them do something, it always turns out to be the hottest it's been for a while. It wasn't hot compared to what it will be once summer hits, but it was still 30 degrees Celsius when we left at about 4 o'clock.

At least the antenna was a lot easier to get down than it was to get up.

22 November 2006

Don't Call Me a Sissy

The training continued today.

We started off at the industrial estate again as a bit of a warm up and pretty much right from the start I was doing alright. I was crunching the gears occasionally, but coming up to turns I was getting my speed right, getting the revs right and getting it into gear. So off we went into the traffic.

As it was such a nice day, we headed out to Canungra. Canungra is a nice, quiet little town in the Gold Coast hinterland. Now that word hinterland might give you an idea what the area is like, it's hilly.

We drove from there, back toward the coast to Nerang. By the time we got to there I was starting to feel pretty confident. I still wasn't driving perfectly, but I'd managed some pretty tricky gear changes going up steep hills and the twisty roads didn't bother me.

Onto some more traffic around Beenleigh and Yatala and I was still handling things OK, all the time getting more confident.

Around ten we stopped at a truck stop just off the highway and grabbed some lunch to take back to the driving school.

Back into it after the early lunch for a couple of hours more practice before the test at one.

That was when the wheels started to fall off.

I don't mean literally, I mean my driving just got worse and worse. I was crunching gears, missing gears; the more I stuffed up, the more I got frustrated and the more I got frustrated, the more I stuffed up.

Eventually Keith decided that any more practice was going to be counterproductive and I couldn't agree more with him, so we headed to the test centre at Beenleigh.

After sitting around for a while because we were early, the tester, Colin, came out. We checked the truck out, I signed some paperwork, and we were off.

Putting it into gear to pull away could have been a little quieter, but it wasn't really that bad. We pulled away, turned left at the lights, headed down hill to another left and my gear changes were all good. It was early, but my confidence was coming back.

A few more intersections and roundabouts and I was still going OK. I hadn't hit anything, I hadn't exceeded the speed limit, I was checking my mirrors and generally starting to feel like a real truck driver.

Then we came to a roundabout where I had to slow down and I missed a gear change and had to come to a full stop to get it into gear.

Now normally that would be an instant fail as you're deemed to not have full control of the vehicle. Luckily Col was a nice guy and told me he'd let me have that one, big relief.

We continued on and, even though there were the occasional slight grinding sounds from the gearbox, I wasn't going too bad.

Then I did it again and almost had to come to a complete stop.

When we drove up a street in Beenleigh and I realised the test centre was right in front of us, I knew what the verdict was. The test should have take about an hour and we were back in about twenty minutes.

At least I wasn't the only person to fail today and for the same reason. The fact the other person was female is irrelevant. It was interesting though, that the other student lives in the same suburb as me, when you consider the driving school is a good forty kilometre drive from here and there are other schools we could have gone to. It says a lot for the quality of Major Operator and Driver Training Services. I'd recommend them anytime.

Anyway, I'm going to take some more lessons, probably an hour or two a week, to get up to the right standard, then I'll redo the test.

So don't start calling me a sissy just yet.

One of the upsides of my failing today is that I'll be able to blog about it for a little longer.

21 November 2006

Synchro is for Sissies

Now I know why they call it a crash box.

As you can see from the picture, I started my training today for a truck licence.

Now, you'd think the main difference between driving a truck and driving a car would be the size. If not that, the extra weight when you brake and pull away.

There is a difference, but you get used to that after a while. Well, sort of, but more about that later.

The biggest problem is the Roadranger gearbox. It doesn't have synchromesh so you have to double clutch every time you change gear. Every time.

This involves the following:
1) Push the clutch in.
2) Take the truck out of gear.
3) Let the clutch out.
4) Push the clutch back in again.
5) Put the truck into the next gear.
6) Let the clutch out again.

Sounds easy, I hear you say.

That's just when you're going up through the gears. If you're changing down, then there's step 3a. Step 3a is:

Rev the engine a bit (around 400 RPM over what you were doing before step 1).

Now, if you got all that right, without mixing the order up, or getting your revs wrong, it'll go into gear as easy as anything. Just like the synchro gearbox in your car. If you get it wrong, you soon learn why they call it a crash box.

Oh, and there's also a little lever on the front of the gear stick. This lever changes the gearbox between low and high range. This means you have the same position for third gear as you do for seventh, fourth is in the same position as eighth and so on. Pulling away in third, you'd pull the stick back to go to fourth, flick the switch up, push the stick across to the left and forward (as though you're going to first) to get into fifth. Just to add a little more confusion.

It's actually not that hard and there's that satisfying little hiss as you flick the lever up.

I won't tell you about the other, smaller lever on the side of the gear stick that gives you a sort of a half gear as I'll just confuse you. I didn't use that one much anyway.

But you don't want to learn about crash boxes. You want to know how I got on.

As you know, I've been on long service leave for the past two weeks, that means lots of sleeping in. I was up at five this morning as I had to be at the driving school in Yatala by seven. What a shock to the system.

I was actually a few minutes late which turned out to be handy. My phone rang as I was getting out of the car. It was Rachael from the school checking to see if I was on my way and she gave me directions to the office. The school also trains people on other heavy machinery, so they have quite a big area in which to get lost.

Anyway, I was introduced to Keith, my instructor, handed over the necessary paperwork and money and then, after a quick chat we walked out to the truck.

Keith showed me around the truck, how to check the oil and other fluids and how to bleed the moisture from the air tanks. Then in we got.

Keith drove first as the engine was cold and if you've never used that kind of gearbox you aren't going to get far. We stopped at an industrial estate and changed over.

I can honestly say that at this point, I wasn't nervous. I thought I would have been, but I guess after sailing yachts, riding motorbikes and flying planes, a truck is easy.

We pulled away from the curb, no worries. By the time we got to the first left turn, which would have been no more than two hundred metres down the road, I would have crunched that gearbox at least half a dozen times. And that was only two gear changes. If I'd known what it was going to be like I might have been nervous to start with.

Hands up if you rest your left foot on the clutch pedal before you change gear.

That loud purring sound you hear when a truck slows down is the engine brake. When you're driving something that heavy you need all the help you can get to slow it down. The trouble is, there's a sensor on the clutch. You only have to touch it lightly and the engine brake disengages. If you miss the gear, and I did that more times than I can count, you get yourself really confused.

Over and over I would come up to a turn and I'd start to brake for it. Then I'd do steps 1 to 4, but because I had my foot on the brake, I'd miss step 3a and couldn't get it into gear. I might mention here that most corners are taken in fifth gear, yes fifth.

There would follow heaps of revving trying to get it into gear, while at the same time trying not to hit anything.

Anyway, I kinda, sorta, got the hang of it after a while and we headed out into a bit of traffic. I think I was only crunching the box every second or third gear change. In fact, some of my upchanges were almost as smooth as in a car.

I'm pretty sure I got the weight thing sorted out pretty well right from the start, but every now and then Keith would duck and I'd wonder what that knocking sound was. Then Keith would tell me to look out for the trees. A little later we'd repeat this, or Keith would tell me to give the parked cars a little more room.

I think I only got up the curb going round a corner twice. Unfortunately, it was the same corner both times, although about two hours apart. Hill starts weren't a problem and I could even reverse it around a corner reasonably well on the second attempt.

After a couple of hours of driving around and gradually getting the hang of that gearbox, we stopped to stretch our legs. Once we got back in the truck and started again, I felt like I'd gone back to the start again. I was having all kinds of problems getting the gear changes right. The more I tried, it seemed like the harder it got.

Eventually, Keith suggested we go back to the industrial estate, back to my comfort zone.

He's a clever man is Keith, because that seemed to work. I was still crashing the gears sometimes after that, but I'm sure I wasn't doing it anywhere near as much as I had been. More importantly, I think I was feeling more confident. I was getting it to the right speed before changing down the gears and as a result not having to worry so much about the brakes. Also, I was giving the engine brake a chance to do its job.

After a bit more driving around I was starting to feel a bit tired. I also had the beginnings of a need to pee. You know the feeling, you know you can hold on for probably another hour at least, but you really don't want to. I'd passed up the chance for a pee at one of our rest stops where Keith had taken the opportunity.

I guess that's one of the three rules of growing old, never pass up the opportunity to pee. The other two are never waste a hard on, even if you're alone, and never trust a fart.

Not that I'm saying Keith is old by the way, just better prepared for old age than me.

Anyway, I digress, I was getting a bit tired and we'd been on the road all morning, so we headed back to the school.

Coming down the road before turning in the gate, I was in sixth gear and thought, I've got to get this gear change right, I'm right out the front of the school...Crunch!!!

Oh well, there's always tomorrow. That's the day of my test.
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20 November 2006

Blogger Beta

I've decided I don't like Blogger Beta much.

It's okay, it makes somethings a bit easier to do, but since transferring over to it last week I'm having a lot of trouble leaving comments on other people's blogs. I use my new logon and it says, "username not found", or something similar. So I use my old logon and it tells me that's been transferred to the new beta blogger and to logon using my ID for that. Then when I do that and I get back to where I was leaving the comments in the first place, the comments I'd typed in aren't there anymore.

I was going to leave an absolutely hilarious comment on someone's blog five minutes ago. Now I've forgotten what it was I wrote.

Okay, maybe not that hilarious, but it might have made people titter a bit.

Maybe a guffaw.

Would you believe... a smirk?


I've just realised that I had the comments set so that people couldn't comment anonymously. That meant only fellow bloggers could leave comments.

I've fixed it up now.

18 November 2006

Food, glorious food

I blogged yesterday about, eggs, bacon, chips and beans.

It's been a bit of a religious experience, looking at the pictures on Russell's blog. I've been thinking a lot about it now that my exams are out of the way. Now, I know it's not good for me. I have the paper work somewhere that my doctor gave me a couple of months ago, to get my cholesterol checked, and I still haven't had it done.

But, I can't help it. I love a good fry up.

I cooked kangaroo steaks for dinner tonight. Now, those of you that don't live in Australia might think we eat kangaroo here all the time. We don't, but we should. Imagine the best beef steak you've ever had, then make it more tender, take away the cholesterol and add heaps of protein and you've got kangaroo meat. Seriously, you could eat it with a butter knife, it's that tender.

Xena, the fat beagle and Dizzy, the evil cat, sat and watched every mouthful and didn't get a single morsel.

But, as good as Skippy tasted, it can't compare to a good old fry up. I don't know if it's my English heritage, but there's just something about egg and bacon (not bacon and eggs as the Yanks seem to like to call it).

I've seen menus with an Aussie breakfast listed on it, meaning an egg and bacon fry up. Sorry, but it's certainly not something unique to Australia. I bet every other country with a British background has a similar thing.

I had a pizza a few years ago from Pancho's Pizza in Bulimba, where I used to work (I worked in Bulimba, not Pancho's). They called it the Aussie Pizza. It had lots of bacon on it and on top was a fried egg. Best, pizza I've ever eaten, but calling it an Aussie pizza was a bit of a misnomer. Best pizza you'll ever eat, maybe, but I'm sure if it was sold in Britain it would be called something like the "all day breakfast pizza".

It's a bit like the Aussie meat pie. We like to think the meat pie is a traditionally Aussie delicacy (?), but you can get decent meat pies in other countries too and I'm not talking about the good old English pork pie either. Just ask Doddery about meat pies in New Zealand.

Don't get me wrong, I've got nothing against Aussie meat pies, I love meat pies, we've recently bought shares in a meat pie manufacturing company that just listed on the stock market, but uniquely Australian, no way.

Anyway, getting back to the original point of this post, eggs, bacon, chips and beans...
I've forgotten what the point was now. It had something to do with breakfast at Wimpy's in Hertford, but I can't remember why.

Are Wimpy's still around?

For some reason I've got the taste for a bit of spotted dick now. Anyone know where I can get a bit in Brisbane?

17 November 2006

Mouth Watering Stuff

I've just found the best blog ever.

If, like me, you love a good fry up, you have to check out Russell Davies' "Eggs, Bacon, Chips and Beans blog". Even if you only go there for the pictures.

Ooh, I can feel my arteries thickening already.

New Job, take 2

It seems job changes are the fad in the Porter family at the moment.

My dad has just changed jobs, he was cleaning at a brick works in Darra until recently. He's now doing the same thing, but at the Inala Community Centre.

He shouldn't really be working at all. He had a heart bypass operation a couple of years ago and he's only one year away from retirement age where he can get a pension. Now you'd think he'd be able to get a disability pension wouldn't you. No, the morons at Centrelink wouldn't give him one, even after recommendations from doctors. Instead they tried sending him for interviews for jobs where there was a lot of heavy lifting involved.

Dad doesn't mind working, but he'd much prefer it if he didn't have to anymore. On the days when he doesn't work, he and Mum do volunteer work in the St Vincent de Paul shop near where they live.

My brother Laurie has been working for customs at the airport for the past couple of years, since he got out of the navy. He's now transferring to another area at the Port of Brisbane, searching ships. This means he gets to wear the sexy paramilitary style uniform instead of the ugly blue one he wears at the airport. It also means he has to carry a gun and do 'use of force' training. A concequence of that is, he has to get back into shape. Like me he's developed a bit of a paunch in the last couple of years.

My sister Sam is moving to another law firm as senior secretary. She always wanted to be a legal secretary years ago, but thought she'd have to do a course first. This will be the third firm she's worked for, each one a step up for her.

Speaking of Sam, she's the only one in the family that doesn't have her own blog yet. I might have to work on her there, because I think hers would be quite entertaining if she did one.

Incidentally, it's her birthday today. If you like, you can send her a happy birthday e-mail to sami71tulip@yahoo.com.au Just tell her you're a friend of Steve's.

16 November 2006

New Job

I've just been offered a new job on more than twice the money that I'm earning with my present employer.

They'll pay all my university fees and give me time off to study, plus it's only a four day week. There's heaps of overseas travel involved and I even get my own car.

Nah, not really. It's just that one of the guys at work reads this blog occassionally and I thought I'd give him a surprise.

He never leaves comments, when he visits.

Get back to work Eddie.

14 November 2006

...and you thought I was good looking now...

My Mum and Dad have just created their own blog as a way to keep in touch with the family back in England.

Have a look at this. That's me in the middle, back in 1973. The picture actually appeared in the local paper, The Hertfordshire Mercury, back then.

Now you know what I look like without a beard.

12 November 2006

New Stuff

I've put a couple of new things in my sidebar.

The weather shows... the weather, naturally. It's showing about 25 degrees celsius as I write this. It feels much hotter.

The Amazon thing I'm curious about. It's supposed to automatically suggest titles relevant to what's in my blog. I'll be keeping an eye on it to see if it actually does that, or whether it just shows random titles. If it just keeps showing rubbish, then I'll get rid of it.

The idea of it is that, if I write about something that interests you and you decide you want to learn more about it, you can click on the Amazon suggested title and order the book from them. If you do, I get points toward a gift certificate as the refer.

I've had a few hits on the blog as a result of my post a while ago about Iridium flares. Maybe someone will come looking and find a book that's handy for them.

I wonder if they have any books on turkey slapping.

Planning for the Future, part deux

I did a bit of research after writing yesterday's blog.

There's a mob in Perth (the one in Western Australia, not the one it was named after in Scotland) called Mining Training Services that will train you to drive one of those big tip trucks for $2970. Now, considering it's costing me about $1300 next week to get my Heavy Rigid licence, which will allow me to drive normal trucks, I think that's pretty good value.

To top it off, if you have a look at their website, they also do recruiting.

I have to admit, I'm really tempted. I'm not saying I'm going to jump straight in and go for it, but it's a distinct possibility in about six months time when I've sorted a few other things out.


I've pretty much picked what subjects I'm doing next year and most of them will be the first year subjects that I need to get out of the way and should have done ages ago, like Chemistry, Maths and Statistics.

September will be great, only four days for the Chemisty res, as the other subjects either don't have res schools, or they aren't compulsory. April is a different matter as I'll need to take off at least eighteen days. That means I'll almost certainly have to use some more of my long service leave.

It's not all bad though. The April trip means we'll be spending four days sightseeing around Armidale between subjects, which means plenty of time to take photos of the Autumn leaves (or fall leaves if you prefer). I might have to take the Toyo with me again.

Also, the Geology res includes four days out at Lake Keepit doing field mapping. The last time I had a residential like that was first semester last year when I did Invertebrate Zoology. We spent four days at Arrawarra Field Station on the coast just north of Coffs Harbour. That meant getting up in the morning, wading across the creek, then walking about a kilometre up the beach to class. At lunch time we'd all walk back to our cabins at the caravan park for lunch, then repeat again for the afternoon. From the deck on our cabin we were looking straight out to sea, all for about forty bucks a night.

Hard to take? Not at all.

11 November 2006

Planning for the Future

I'm taking a bit of a break from studying today, well sort of, I'm still looking at Geology books and going through my rock samples.

I've also been going through the subjects I have to do, trying to decide which ones to do next year. This isn't as easy as just making sure I have the necessary prerequisites.

As I'm an external student, I have to do residential classes for some subjects. That means a trip down to Armidale each semester. As I have a full time job, I only have a limited amount of leave each year (my employer won't pay for me to study or give me study leave as it's not relevant to my job). So I have to try and work it so that, if I have more than one residential in a semester, I don't have too much of a break in between, otherwise I'm wasting my leave sightseeing around Armidale.

Not that sightseeing around Armidale is a bad thing.

The minimum number of subjects I can do over the course of the degree is about twenty four, that gives me the 144 credit points I need to graduate. Because I'm majoring in Geology and Aquatic Ecology I need to do a total of thirty three subjects to cover everything. That means, if I do three subjects each semester I have another four years to go (I will have done eight subjects by the end of this year). If I do two subjects per semester, that's six years till graduation.

Most of the subjects I'll be doing next year are Geology subjects and one of them has neither a res school or a final exam, which I'm pleased about. I have to do Maths and Statistics at some time and they don't have res schools, just lots of assignments and not really good teachers (at least not as good as the other subjects). I'd like to do Botany in the first semester, but unfortunately its res school is at the beginning of the semester instead of the middle, which would mean an extra trip down. I could do Chemistry, but that overlaps with one of the Geology subjects.

Exams and assignments are easy, it's picking the subjects that's the hard bit when you do a degree, especially when you're working full time.


A couple of months ago a friend of ours was visiting. He has a commercial pilot's licence, which means he can fly small aircraft for money. He mentioned how poorly paid some airline pilots are and I commented that bus drivers can earn more than that. It just so happened that Brisbane Transport were advertising for casual drivers at the time and we still had the paper with the advertisement.

Anyway, our friend said that was something he'd always wanted to do. Well one thing lead to another and he passed his driving test during the week. He still has some other training to do, very much like Jimmy's training, but so far he's loving it.

He said I should try it as well and Donna agreed with him.

Now I'm not totally averse to the idea, in fact I'd love to do that instead of what I'm doing at the moment. Working as a casual would allow me the time off for studies and other holidays. Four years of driving buses until I get my degree would be great.

So why don't you do it? I hear you ask.

Because driving buses would mean I'd be earning about two thirds of what I'm getting now and we can't afford that. I've been in dire financial straits before when a restaurant I was part owner of went bust. I don't want to be struggling to make ends meet (I nearly wrote meat then) for the next four years.

Of course, if my employer were to make me redundant, like a lot of the techs in the company, I'd be straight down the bus depot before my manager finished saying, "Steve, we've got to let you go." Actually, that's not completely true, I'd wait around to hear the rest of what he had to say, in case he was just sacking me. Then I'd be straight down the depot.

The other option, and this is quite an attractive one too, is to get a job in the mines driving those big tip trucks. I'd be on double what I'm earning now, then Donna wouldn't have to work.

Gargoyle's planning a career change from the police force to the mining industry. I'd love to hear what he has planned.

04 November 2006

Holiday and an Exhibition

I'm now officially on leave for the next four weeks and it feels great.

No getting up at five thirty in the morning to go and sit at a desk all day and be bored out of my mind. Not that I'll be sleeping in too much, Donna won't let me. She's actually still working over the four weeks, but she'll make sure she wakes me up before she goes to work.

I've got a Geology exam on the 14th, so I'll be studying for that most of the time until then. On the 21st and 22nd I'll be going for that truck licence that I mentioned previously. Apart from that I'll probably do stuff around the house.

The desk I'm sitting in at the moment, which incidentally is in the corner, is in a small room at the back of the garage. Eventually I'll get it moved upstairs to the spare room and this room will become a darkroom. I have a heap of black and white wedding photos that I haven't got around to printing yet for my neice because there's too much stuff in the way in here at the moment.


Today we're going to a photographic exhibition at the powerhouse in Newfarm. "South by 8" it's called. It features eight photographers including famous Vietnam war photographer, Tim Page and Errol Flynn's son Sean, who was a close friend of Page's during the war until he went MIA.

Tim Page originally became a photographer when he found himself in South East Asia at the beginning of the conflict. He was doing the hippy overland trip to Australia and got caught up in the middle of a gunfight. A journalist that he was taking cover with, Martin Stuart-Fox, handed him a camera, showed him how to use it and that was the beginning of a great career.

Page and Flynn had a reputation for getting right into the thick of things, often going on combat missions with the troops, as did Neil Davis, an Australian cameraman who filmed his own death during a military coup in Bangkok a few years ago. As a result Page was seriously injured several times during the war, once by a grenade, once by "friendly" fire and once by a mine that left him clinically dead for a short time.

As a keen photographer I found the story of Page's life quite inspirational after reading his autobiography, "Page after Page", many years ago. More recently I've read "Derailed in Uncle Ho's Victory Garden". It tells of some of his later trips to Vietnam and Cambodia to find Flynn's body and to set up a memorial for the journalists and photographers that were killed during the Vietnam war.

I'm looking forward to seeing the exhibition as is Donna as she hasn't been to a photo-exhibition for a long time.

I just hope we don't get wet, it's pouring down here.

29 October 2006

A new look

As you can see I've changed the look of the blog slightly.

I'm no expert on HTML so it involved a lot of trial and error getting it to look right. The hardest part was finding somewhere to store the picture of the desk so that Blogger could find it.

I just hope it's still there tomorrow.


If anyone is interested, the photo on top of the computer is of Donna, standing in front of a Beechcraft Bonanza after a weekend away (yes, I was the pilot). The cup says, I'd rather be sailing and the picture on the monitors was taken from the caravan park at Glendhu Bay on Lake Wanaka, New Zealand.

Oh, and that's a container of peanuts sitting in one of the trays to the left of the monitors. I like my nuts.

Fools Gold

It didn't fool me, but I can see how it would fool someone and I did have to test it just to make sure.

I was putting some more rocks around our pond this morning. Remember the ones we moved at my in-law's place yesterday? Well we brought some of them back to fill a few spaces.

Anyway, while re-arranging some of the rocks that were already there, I noticed one that was literally sparkling in the sunlight.

Out came the geologist's hammer, the hand lense, the pocket knife and a couple of geology books.

My first thought was that it was Mica, but looking at it through the lense it wasn't that. It scratched the side of the pocket knife, so it was too hard for either Mica or Gold. That left Pyrite, or Fools Gold, and a fine example of it too.

The picture here is a small part of the original rock that I broke off with the hammer. The original was about the size of my hand. The picture doesn't really do it justice, in the full sun it really sparkles. There are small seams of Quartz through it as well. Gold is usually found with Quartz, so that added to the thought that it might have been Gold. Posted by Picasa

28 October 2006

I've been working on the chain gang

Okay, it wasn't that bad, but Donna and I drove up to Redcliffe today to help her dad shift some rocks.

He's putting in a rainwater tank at the back of their house and all the old pavers and pebbles had to be moved. Now I don't mind a bit of physical labour like that every now and then, but today just happened to be the hottest day we've had since last summer, 30 degrees celsius.

Incidentally, with the lack of rain we've been having here lately, if you order a rainwater tank these days you can expect to wait at least two months for it to turn up, there's such a big backlog. Everyone is installing them because the dams are getting so low.

Ours holds about 2500 litres, or 560 imperial gallons (670 if you like your gallons US), and gets used mainly in the vege garden. When it does rain we always wish we had another one because it overflows and all that lovely rainwater gets wasted down the drain.

I just know I'm going to be really stiff tomorrow (stop sniggering, I don't mean that kind of stiff).

21 October 2006

Puppy Dog Eyes

We had a little visitor the other night

I would have felt guilty if I didn't share this with you.

This is Homer.

I hope he grows into his face when he gets older, it doesn't seem to fit too well at the moment.

Bridge testing

The Riverside Expressway is still closed to traffic.

They tested parts of it yesterday to see what happened to the crack as a heavy weight was placed on it. They did this by driving a full water truck, weighing 22 tonnes over it. If you're not sure how much 22 tonnes is, the papers reckon it's one and a half times the weight of a fully laden bus.

Picture the scene.

Doddery turns up with his truck full of water.

"Where do you want this water spread Bro?"*

An important looking chap with a clipboard says, "We don't want it spread, we want you to drive backwards and forwards over the crack to see what happens".

There's a pause, a very long one.

"You, want me, to drive over the crack and see what happens???" replies Doddery, wondering if it's April first.

"It's okay," says Clipboard, "It's perfectly safe. We just want to take some measurements."

Doddery looks around at the empty road. Empty, because the bridge might collapse if they let traffic onto it.

"You drive the truck and I'll take the measurements for you."

Well, they did their tests. I don't know what brave soul did the driving, but I hope he got paid extra for the job, even if it was only in meat pies.


* I'm not sure if Doddery actually says Bro, but over here we all assume that Kiwis all say Bro, and Fush 'n Chups. I had some choice fush and chups at Akaroa when I was there in May this year.

20 October 2006

Tune Wedgie

Damn!! I've got a tune wedgie.

My employer is running a staff competion at the moment in parallel with the Street Idol competition. It's called Office Idol and contestants have to send in a video of themselves singing along to one of eight songs.

A couple of people on my floor have sent in an entry and I saw the video this morning. They did a duet of Britney Spears' "Baby one more time".

The song has been stuck in my head all day.

19 October 2006

No Gridlock

I think I like it when they close roads around here.

With the Riverside Expressway still closed my bus is only stopping at two stops in the city and one of them just happens to be my stop anyway. With less stops and a different route out of the city I'm getting home ten minutes earlier than normal.

It's actually a little quieter in town too. Most people are doing the right thing and not driving into town unless they really need to, so there's less traffic.

They don't know yet how long it's going to take to get the expressway repaired, or even if they are going to have to replace it.


A couple of years ago I used to spend most of my spare time at Hempels Aviation at Archerfield Airport. I got my pilot's licence there and became a bit of a hangar rat, helping out around the school and occassionally getting a free ride in the back if someone was going flying.

Hempels used to do banner towing. If you lived in Brisbane then you would have been familiar with the big red biplane towing banners down the river or over the bay. I often used to help put the banners together and therefore ended up in the passenger seat for what was pretty much a free joyflight in an open cockpit. We used to fly at about 500 feet which was actually below the top of most of the buildings in the city.

After 9/11 the government decided they didn't want planes flying down the river close to the highrises so they pulled the authority for it. Barry Hempel, the owner decided there wasn't enough money in it if he couldn't do the river run so he sold the plane to someone in Victoria along with all the banner stuff.

It occurred to me this morning what a great advertising opportunity it would be if Hempels were still doing the banner tows down the river, past the expressway.

I can see the banner now.

"Bunnings Hardware, for all your repair needs"

17 October 2006


Politicians and the news media misuse the term gridlock a lot. They use it to describe heavy traffic. Anyone that's read Ben Elton's novel, appropriately called, "Gridlock" will know what the term means.

Anyone trying to get out of Brisbane city this afternoon will also know what it means if they didn't before.

They closed off the Riverside Expressway because engineers found a crack and were worried it might collapse. The news story is here.

Those empty roads you can see in the picture are usually full of traffic in the afternoon rush hour.

See that row of buses on the bridge? You can only see about a third of that bridge and it's buses all the way across. You could have walked across on bus roofs and not had to touch the ground once. I would have taken my own photo of them, but unfortunately I didn't have a clear shot.

At the intersection where those buses actually get into the city we sat and waited for a few changes of lights before my bus driver decided we'd be there all night if he didn't get creative.

The look on the faces of passengers on another bus when they saw us pull up at the next set of lights was classic. We were on the wrong side of the road. I'm sure that's something Dave and Jimmy would dearly love to do sometimes. I have a friend that's just got a job driving buses for Brisbane Transport, I bet that's not something they'll teach him.

I hate to think what time I would have got home if we'd stayed at that intersection much longer, but Donna was waiting on the front steps for me and Sarah, my youngest stepdaughter, actually started walking up to the bus stop to see where I was.

Apparently the expressway is going to be closed for a few days, so traffic is going to be a tad heavier for the rest of the week. They're going to let cars use some of the bus and transit lanes for a while. Great! Those of us smart enough to use public transport to get to work will have to put up with idiots using the bus lanes to jump the queue and cause bottlenecks further up the road.

I'll keep my camera handy and hopefully get a few pics.

16 October 2006

Fifteen minutes of fame

I got published in a real magazine!

Okay, I didn't get paid for it, but it's still a buzz seeing my name in print, and my photo.

One of my hobbies is amateur radio (or ham radio if you prefer), my callsign is VK4VSP. It's a hobby I share with my younger brother Laurie, callsign VK4VCC.

I haven't been licenced all that long. After I did the licence exam and I was wating for the results I was at a bit of a loose end. I had some radios and all the other gear needed to get on the air, but I couldn't use them until I got the licence.

It was Australia day, I didn't have any uni study to do as the semester hadn't started yet, the lawn didn't need mowing and the vege garden was all planted out and I hadn't started blogging back then. I felt like doing some radio type stuff, so I built a mast out of old curtain rods that we had in the shed.

As I mentioned above, Laurie has an amateur radio licence as well. He was lucky enough to get one of his photos on the cover of Amateur Radio magazine late last year. The photo was of the very first Foundation licencee in this country Amanda VK4FRST (hams don't have surnames, they have callsigns instead).

Anyway, as someone who studied journalism at uni just long enough to know I didn't want to be a journalist, I thought I should be able to get something puplished if I tried hard enough. So, I wrote an article about how I built this mast out of curtain rods.

I got an e-mail from Laurie late last week asking if I'd got my copy of AR magazine and that I should have a look at pages 10 and 11. Well, it was in the post today and just about the whole family knows about it already. My sister-in-law is going out to buy a copy tomorrow.

As I said, it's quite a buzz, seeing your name in print like that. I'm going to bore the tits* off my workmates tomorrow with the article. If you're interested and I'm sure my regular readers are (sorry fame's going to my head) Amateur Radio Magazine, pages ten and eleven in your newsagent's. You don't have to buy it, just have a quick browse. There's even a picture of me in it.

Ok, my next blog will be something a bit more humble, I promise.

Next challenge; to get a cover shot like my little brother, or to get paid for an article.


* I wonder if that word will get me more hits on my blog a la turkey slaps

14 October 2006


Donna took a photo of me the other day while I was getting dressed. Not with a digital camera I might add, but a film camera. That means someone at the minilab would have seen the pic.

It wasn't anything rude, I mean, it wasn't the kind of thing that Donna felt the need to hide from my nineteen year old step-daughter, even if it is more than she's ever seen of me before.

But, it's left me in a quandary.

I weigh about seventy-two kilograms, that puts me right slap-bang in the middle of my ideal weight for height. To look at the photo you wouldn't think that though. I'm bending over in the photo, pulling on a pair of shorts and as a result my belly is really noticeable.

So here's the quandary. Should I try to slim down and get rid of the gut, or should I pork up a pit more and go for the jolly look. I've already got more grey in my beard than any other colour, and Christmas is on its way.

After all, why settle for a six-pack when you can have a keg?


Oh, before anyone asks, no you can't have a copy of the photo. Not unless a considerable sum of money changes hands.

07 October 2006


I don't know about the rest of the world, but here in Brisbane the button to change the pedestrian lights is huge. It would be about the same diameter as a tennis ball and when you press it, it makes a loud satisfying clunk. I've even seen people use their foot to press it when they've been carrying something.

I got off the bus the other day and walked to the corner of Queen Street on the way to work. Someone in front of me hit the button for the lights. I heard the clunk, not once but three times, because everyone knows that the more times you hit a button and the more violently you do it, the quicker it works.

The button pusher then looked both ways, decided she wasn't going to get run over and crossed against the lights. Nothing wrong with that I suppose, some people are in a hurry at that time of day. I wasn't, I was on my way to work and could literally see the monitors* on my desk from where I was standing, so it wasn't like I was going to be late.

So I stood there waiting for the little red man to disappear and his little green mate to take his place and someone else walked up and hit the button, you guessed it, three times. At the same time, another person did the same thing on the other side of the road.

That's nine times the button has been pushed so far.

The little man was still red and by now there were a few people waiting to cross and someone else walked up and hit the button three times.

Okay, I can sort of understand the hitting it three times thing, there's that satisfying clunk and all. But wouldn't you think that if you walked up to a crowd of people waiting at the lights that at least one of them would have already thought to press the button.

Later on during my lunch break I walked up to Ted's camera store to buy a pouch to keep my camera in. In spends a most of its time in my work bag and, since it cost me a lot of money, I was worried that with it banging against my lunch box and everything else in there that it'd get damaged.

Walking back into our building with my new purchase I bumped into Lenny who works on my floor and we both got into the lift together. Lenny hit the button for our floor and we both stood there waited for the doors to close... and waited.

The doors have a longer delay when they're on the ground floor, because more people get on there. We both knew we could hit the button to close them, but we both waited... and waited.

Eventually, Lenny weakened and leaned forward to hit the button and before he could hit it the doors closed.

It happens every time. It's like they're waiting for you to weaken, then they close.

Now if that button had had a satisfying clunk it wouldn't have been a problem. We would've both hit it... three times.


*Yes I did say monitors, plural. We have so many applications running on our computers at work that we need two monitors. My boss has four on his, but I think he's just showing off.

02 October 2006

What's that floating in my beer?

I spent most of last week drawing fossils, colouring in maps and travelling around New England (the Australian one, not the Yank one) in a minibus.

As I've mentioned before, I like to sit up the front of the bus. It's not that I get travel sick or anything, I just like to be able to see where we're going and with that big window you get a better view than the rest of the passengers.

Let me tell you, riding up front at a hundred kilometres an hour, on a twisty dirt road, in cattle country is quite an adrenaline rush. Especially when you come around a corner and there's a huge cloud of dust coming toward you with a big truck at the front of it.

Anyway, one of the places we visited was a kitty litter mine. Yes, a kitty litter mine. They dig this stuff up, crush it, dry it, stick it in bags, then cats crap in it.

That's not all they do with it though. This stuff is also used as a filtering agent when they make beer.

Think about that next time you're sitting out in the back yard having a nice cold one in the sun.

Personally, Donna and I are wine drinkers. They use fish products or eggs to filter wine. I tend to drink home-brew if I drink beer.


If you don't believe me about the kitty litter, try googling diatomaceous earth.

Oh, it's used as an abrasive in toothpaste as well.

23 September 2006

A week off

No, I don't mean I haven't written for a week, although I haven't for a while.

I mean I don't have to go back to work for a week. I've got a few days down in Armidale doing a geology residential. Okay, it's not really a holiday, but it sure beats going to work. I can even sleep in till seven in the morning before going to class.

I've got a map interpretation assignment to hand in on Wednesday, the first day of the residential. So I've had the coloured pencils out all morning, colouring in a map. That's in between multiple trips to the toilet. I'm not sure if it's something I've eaten or something going around, but my wife, Donna, has been a few times as well.


As I mentioned in a previous post, I'm planning to get a truck licence. I booked some lessons and the test the other day. I'll be spending a day and a half driving a Volvo dump truck around on the 21st and 22nd of November and I'll do the test on the afternoon of the 22nd.

If I pass I'll be qualified to drive any size truck as long as it's rigid (not a semi) and I'll be able to tow a trailer with it as long as it's less than nine tonnes. I'll also be able to drive buses on that licence, including the articulated ones, but that would obviously involve extra training with any company that might employ me in the future.

That will make four licences, as I'm also licenced to ride a motorbike and fly aeroplanes. I don't do much of either of those these days though.

I fell off the bike early last year and slid for about fifteen or twenty metres down the road before hitting the car I was trying to avoid. That tends to put a dent in your enjoyment of riding a little bit. You suddenly realise just how vulnerable you are and it hurts even with all the protective gear on.

With the flying, the government is intent on making it harder and harder for private pilots to fly, especially since 9/11. The nearest airport is about forty minutes drive from home and it's just too much trouble.


On the topic of driving, I saw an old Holden station wagon (estate for the British readers) on my way home from work yesterday. It was like this one but not in as good condition.

It had bench seats, column shift and those useless quarter pane windows that never let enough air in. The thing that I noticed the most though, was the handle on the tailgate. It was one of those that you had to flip out and then turn to wind down the back window before you could open the tailgate.

Boy it brought back some memories. Dad used to have the model after this one, in fact it was the first car we got when we emmigrated from England back in 1973. That was the year before our house went under water in the '74 floods, but that's another story.

Both my stepdaughters have latish model cars with electric windows, airconditioning, power steering and other mod cons. I think they're missing out in something by not getting to drive something like the old Holdens.

I guess that's the same as those of us learning to drive buses or trucks that don't have a crash box, or even manual transmission, or those of us that learnt to fly in Cessnas rather than an old Tiger Moth that had to be hand started.

17 September 2006

Makin' hunny

The grevillias are in flower at the moment and the birds and bees are loving it.

If only they'd hover in one spot just a little bit longer, photographing them would be so much easier.  Posted by Picasa

16 September 2006

A luvly crop'a taties

We had a bit of a harvest today.

Those potatoes I'm holding were all grown in a couple of styrofoam containers like the one you can see behind me. That one has strawberries growing in it.

There's another two rows of potatoes behind those two black pots you can see.

The books tell you to harvest about a month after they flower, but these haven't flowered at all. My experience with pontiacs in the past is that if the leaves start to look like the plant is dying, as these did, then it's time to dig 'em up.

You probably can't tell from the picture, but that potato at the top is about the size of a grapefruit.

You might be curious about what else is in the vege garden. You might not be either, but I'm going to tell you anyway. Behind the styrofoam container is about a dozen sweetcorn plants interplanted with sunflowers. Behind that is silverbeet, or chard, or spinach, whatever your favourite name for it is. There's a capsicum plant behind the silverbeet that I moved from one of the black pots.

Behind to potatoes are three rows of carrots and next to them are some marigolds that grow like weeds, but they're good for the carrots and add some nice colour to the garden.

To the right of the picture you can just see the shiraz grapevine and right at the back, in amongst the lemongrass is a passionfruit vine.

Oh and I just planted some cabbage seeds where I moved the potatoes from, hopefully they'll do alright.

And in case you're wondering, I am smiling in the photo. It's just that my beard needs a trim and it's hiding my lips.


About ten minutes after my wife took the photo it bucketed down rain again.
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14 September 2006


We've both got RDOs today, so we've been taking it easy, sort of.

We went to a travel agent to book a hotel and organise our visas for the Vietnam trip in January. Then we had a look in a couple of bag shops for a small back pack for my uni residential. I'm looking for something that'll hold by books, my camera, my lunch and my jacket on the inside and a water bottle and rock hammer on the outside.

If you're wondering why a rock hammer, I'm majoring in geology.

We then wandered around Sanity looking at CDs. I think it was around then that my wife accused me of wasting time to get out of doing house work when we got home.

I'm now sitting here finishing off a cup of tea and listening to the new Joe Satriani CD, Super Colossal. We've got tickets to see him in November at the Convention Centre on his G3 Downunder tour with Steve Vai and John Petrucci.

That's my birthday present for this year as it's about a week before my birthday. We've also got tickets to see Robbie Williams at Suncorp Stadium as it's the day after my wife's birthday.

Gee, I wish I didn't have to go to work tomorrow.

13 September 2006

Wave to the bus everyone

Every afternoon while I wait for my bus there's a nice orderly queue forms for the 142 to Browns Plains.

Today the queue was a bit longer than usual, there must have been at least 50 people waiting. It started in the middle of the block and went pretty much all the way to the corner of Queen Street.

A bus came through the lights with 142 on the front and, as usual, there was a big Mexican wave as 50 odd people moved from one side of the footpath to the other.

Then 50 odd people stood there looking like fairground clowns (the ones you put the ping pong balls in) with their mouths open as the bus drove straight past without stopping. This was accompanied by giggles from people waiting for other buses.

The last time I heard that much laughter at that stop was when someone in a four wheel drive drove past in the wrong direction (Creek Street is one way).

I don't know what the story was, but another 142 pulled up a couple of minutes later. Brisbane buses aren't like London buses where four or five buses on the same route all turn up at the same time. There's usually about half an hour between them. The first 142 certainly had no intention of stopping.

Anyway, I can't complain about public transport being boring. Our own driver had to blow his horn at us to let us know he was pulling up further down the road, because there was no room for him at the actual stop.

It comes in handy being a regular passenger sometimes.

07 September 2006

Iridium Flare

What's an Iridium flare and why is it so exciting? I hear you ask.

The white line you see in the picture is an Iridium flare.

But what's an Iridium flare and why is it so exciting? you ask again.

Well, up in the sky (about 700 kilometres up) are a number of satellites that form the Iridium network. These satellites are used for telephone communications and there are about ninety-two of them up there circling the globe.

An Iridium flare happens only at certain times of the day, or night, when the sun is reflecting off one of its three antennae. This one passed overhead at about 7:20 this evening and was followed very closely by another, less bright one about thirty seconds later.

Still not excited?

Well this thing is only about the size of a desk and it's over 700 kilometres away... and you can see it.

So how did you manage to photograph it? you ask.

I used a program called Orbitron that I got from here. It's cardware, which means if you like it, Sebastian Stoff, its writer asks that you send him a postcard to let him know where in the world it's being used.

Orbitron will tell you exactly where in the sky to look for, not only Iridium flares but also, the International Space Station, the Hubble Space Telescope and various other satellites. I've even used it to tell me what time sunset would be at Hokitika in New Zealand, so my wife and I could go and watch it set over the ocean back in May.

Still not excited? That's okay, neither was my nineteen year old stepdaughter (Home and Away was on).

I was excited just by the fact that I actually managed to photograph it. Maybe next time I'll focus the camera a bit better though.


Those frog's eggs I rescued from the goldfish the other day are now swimming around their container. They'll be going back into the pond in a day or two, now that they can at least escape from the fish, something the other eggs didn't manage to do unfortunately.

Some would say I should have just left them in the pond and let nature take its course. If they were native fish in the pond I'd agree, but goldfish will even eat their own eggs and they certainly aren't natives. I just thought I'd just even up the odds for a few of them, that's all.

I'll post a few more pics of them in a couple of days. Posted by Picasa

04 September 2006


Isn't it funny, despite all the things we used to see him do with dangerous snakes and crocs, or maybe because of, it came as a shock to hear this afternoon of the death of Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter.

I guess we had an image of him as being indestructable, maybe it was the trademark khaki clothes he always wore that protected him. Khakis he wouldn't have been wearing while diving, although I wouldn't put it past him.

Someone at work said it'll be like 9/11, you'll always remember what you were doing the day Steve Irwin died.

I think the comments on news.com.au say it all regarding how people felt about him. As I write this there are about 2240 entries and it's still climbing. Mine went in at about 560.

Condolences to his family and I hope they carry on his environmental work. They may not have his larger-than-life image, but I'm sure they all have his drive.

02 September 2006

Spring and a young man's thoughts turn to...

With all the rain we've had this week our pond is full to the brim. Last night all you could hear was the popping sound of frogs. They sounded like a full on table tennis tournament.

Below is the result. No it's not a new laundry detergent with blue bits to get your wash extra clean. That's frog spawn and hopefully most of it will grow up to be loads of little Striped Marsh frogs (Limnodynastes peronii).

As we have fish in the pond, I've taken a few of the eggs out to give them a bit of a head start. Once the tadpoles start to swim around I'll put them back in the pond.

The last time I found eggs in the pond we could actually see the ebryos wriggling inside. The fish got that lot though.

These will probably be tadpoles in a couple of days and I'll take some more photos then.

This is our grapevine.

I've always wanted to have a big enough block of land that we could plant a few rows of wine grapes and make our own wine every year. Unfortunately, we only have a suburban block so we have to make do with one vine growing over the fence of the vege garden for now.

For those that know their grapevines, this one is a Shiraz. I don't think it'll ever give us enough fruit to make any wine, but it should look nice when it grows up a bit.

Incidentally, we do occasionally make our own wine from a kit and it's not a bad drop, if I do say so myself.

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31 August 2006

Spring is about to sprung

Today is officially the last day of winter here in the land down under and just to mark the end of the season it's been raining all day.

Not that I'm complaining mind you. The vege garden is loving it. I was down in the backyard earlier and I'm sure there was giggling coming from the potatoes. I could be wrong though, it might have been the grape vine.

Anyway, today is my RDO. That's right, two days off this week. I wish I could do this every week and still get paid the same.

Speaking of work, the mob I work for have recently made a lot of staff redundant (while at the same time sending a lot of the marketing people on a trip to Thailand, you might have seen the story on TV last week).

I had to go down to Cleveland to transfer the registration on my step-daughter's car over to my other step-daughter. While I was there I decided to do the knowledge test so I can go for a heavy rigid licence. That way I can learn to drive a truck or bus.

That way, if my employer decides I'm no longer required and makes me redundant, I can go and drive trucks or buses for a couple of years until I finish my degree. I'm sure it's only a matter of time before they get rid of us anyway, I just wish they'd hurry up about it.

I could get a job doing what I'm doing now, but I really don't want to work at a desk anymore, even if it is in the corner and has a view. I could get a job doing what I'm qualified for, but no-one does electronic repairs these days. They just pull the old board out and throw it away.

So this may turn into a learning-to-drive-a-truck blog for a little while, we'll see.

29 August 2006

Rain, beautiful rain

At last we've had some rain here in Brisbane.

Not only has it refilled our rainwater tank back to the top and the pond is almost full again, but I'm sure the corn seedlings I planted last week have grown an inch overnight. Best of all, some of it even fell in the catchment area this time, so there's a little tiny bit more water in the dams.

The downside of this rain is that I get wet walking to and from the bus stop. So, when my alarm went off this morning and it was pouring down outside, I decided I'd stay home today.

I think I'll sit around and catch up on some of my studies. I've got a university residential coming up in Armidale next month.

I might do a bit of juggling practice too. That's coming along gradually, but I've got a long way to go yet.

26 August 2006

Get down and twitch

I've come to the conclusion that being able to hear someone else's iPod isn't such a bad thing after all.

The reason for this revelation is that I had someone sitting next to me on the bus the other morning and I could hear the noise from her iPod even over the noise from mine. If it hadn't been for that fact I would've assumed that either a) she was suffering from Parkinson's disease, or b) she was having an epilectic fit.

I've seen people dancing to the music that only they can hear. I even do it myself sometimes, but only at home. I've never before seen someone twitch to the music though.

I'm glad she was sitting next to me so I couldn't see her properly, if I'd been able to see her properly I probably would have cracked up.


Winter has just about finished in this part of the world, not that we've really had one this year. The only time I've really seen it cold this year was when I was in Twizel, New Zealand back in May and it got down to freezing.

Officially, winter ends next Thursday, but I took this picture yesterday as I was waiting for the bus. Quite a nice view don't you think?

I can think of worse places to have a bus stop.

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23 August 2006

The little red man means it's the traffic's turn

You know I'm convinced that a high percentage of people that visit the city each day either have a death wish, or they're just really, incredibly stupid.

I don't know about you, but the thought of getting hit by a bus, or any type of vehicle for that matter, doesn't really appeal to me. It conjures up thoughts of crunching sounds coming from my body and the loss of certain fluids that are necessary for continued life. Not to mention the excrutiating pain involved when several tonnes of Volvo B10 smacks into you.

The idiot that overtook our bus this morning, then pulled in and stopped to let a passenger off obviously hasn't considered these kind of issues. He certainly didn't seem to understand why our driver blew his horn as we went past.

I guess he thought he was safe in that metal cage of his, something I can't say for the dozens of pedestrians that dice with death not fifty metres from my office window every day.

There's a taxi rank across the road. It's not unusal to see pedestrians standing right in front of the taxis waiting to cross the road (the pedestrians want to cross that is, not the taxis) while the lights are green (for the taxis and cars and buses, etc, not the pedestrians). there's always a look of surprise when they realise that a taxi is starting to pull away and they're standing in front of it.

A couple of weeks ago we were going down Ann Street in the afternoon and a pedestrian waiting to cross was standing right on the corner with his toes right up to the edge of the kerb (or is that curb). He was holding a book in front of him and reading while he waited for the lights to change. As Ann Street is very busy with traffic at that time of day and the lanes aren't particularly wide, his book was in the way of the bus. I like to sit at the front of the bus so I had a good view of what was happening and he was right in front of me.

Anyway, the driver slowed down because he knew he couldn't get past with all the traffic in the next lane. It wasn't until another, smarter, pedestrian pointed out his imminent demise that he took a step back.

This isn't an isolated incident on that road either. A lot of people seem to be in such a hurry that they'll step out into the bus lane in front of us, just to overtake other pedestrians. Then there's the people that will cross a street to the other side where there isn't actually a footpath, so they have to walk ten or twenty metres in front of the traffic before they're safe. To the lady I saw do that down by the river a few weeks ago with her kids, you're a bigger idiot than the guy with the book or the BMW driver this morning.


An update on my comments about politicians waving at traffic the other day. It seems it's not just the conservative candidates doing it. Our local Labor candidate is doing it too.

19 August 2006

I wanna be elected

Apologies to Alice Cooper for the title, but we have a state election coming up.

Why is it that the conservative candidates in my area, and probably other areas too, seem to think that the best way to get the vote is to stand by the side of the road waving at people driving to work?

I saw two of them yesterday morning as we went past in the bus, within five minutes of each other. One of them wasn't even in his own electorate.

Do they think that voters are going to be so impressed that they got up early just to wave at us?

I can't help thinking that any politician that has a picture of themselves on the side of their car is more about themselves than their constituents. That's something that I've seen a lot of recently.

I half expected to see our local federal member standing somewhere waving as well. He seems to have it down pat. I'm not sure if he actually does anything else, other than insult unemployed people in parliament.

Anyway, roll on the 9th of September when it'll all be over until the next one. And lets hope that people vote for the right reasons, not just because the only candidate they know is the one that waved to them every morning on their way to work.

17 August 2006

Fun for the whole family

Well, my ball arrived late last week and I've been practising with it a bit. My wife's initial reaction was, "You paid $40 for a ball!?!"

After having a bit of a play herself over the weekend and seeing a video online of someone juggling, she asked if I could get her one as well so we could practise together.

Hopefully it'll arrive tomorrow so we can spend the weekend playing with our balls.

05 August 2006


I mentioned contact juggling in my last post.

For those that don't know what contact juggling is, go to your local video store and get out a copy of Labyrinth. Basically it's juggling with one shiny ball that never quite loses contact with your hand... or arm... or shoulder, any part of your body really.

Unlike normal juggling, where you can pretty much learn to do it with anything, you need the right kind of ball for it. If the ball is too light it will bounce off your hand too easily (stop sniggering). The balls in the picture below are ideal for normal juggling (if you drop them they don't bounce or roll away, and you drop them a lot), but they're no good for contact juggling as they don't roll.

The usual ball to use is about two and a half to three inches in diameter and made of acrylic. This looks like a crystal ball and when it's rolling around on your hand you don't really have any perception of it rolling. As a result, it looks like it's floating instead.

Anyway, I've always wanted to learn to contact juggle, ever since I saw the abovementioned movie starring David Bowie (it wasn't actually Bowie doing the juggling, the real juggler was standing behind him, hidden from view). So, in order that I can tick contact juggling off my 'to do' list, I've ordered a ball from here.

I'll keep you posted on my progress, or lack thereof.

By the way, I don't actually have a physical 'to do' list yet. One day I'll get around to doing that too.