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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