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.