Monday, 28 February 2011

Bertie's stammer. Emma's harping.

Had a fine if tiring day yesterday. It was seven hours in the saddle there and back again (Oh, allright, driving listening to CDs and tapes - my horse can do both).

At the Myer Centre off Rundle Mall I used a voucher from my Qantas Frequent Flier points and bought clothing items, an activity I do about every ten years judging from the state of my wardrobe. On the way into the city I'd called at Officeworks for printer ink refills - now a life-necessity, it would seem. In Unley I visited Robert and Bill who are midway in one of their expeditions to assorted state capitals from the Apple Isle.

Rundle Mall was full of brilliant buskers, including the chap who cracks his flaming whip while he stands perched on the saucer-sized top of a twelve-foot pole. He had a large and appreciative audience. Part of the act is the recruiting of volunteers to hold guy-lines supporting the pole, and the performer's climbing to (stand on!) the top. Comes into the category of "Don't try this at home"

I saw the movie The King's Speech, which was fantastic. Helena Bonham Carter was a nice young Elizabeth Windsor nee Bowes-Lyon, the late Queen Mum who of course had many admirers. I wasn't one. Let's not go there. Fresh from Golden Globe win Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush are quite simply bloody marvellous as the stammering Bertie/King George VI and the Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue, although the film is far more than a theatrical two-hander. I liked (Aussie) Guy Pearce's dashing but failing-when-it-matters elder bro David, the abdicating Edward VIII to you. He and the former Mrs Wallis Simpson (by now married three times) go off into the sunset. Lionel's wife Mabel gets to meet the king and queen and offer them a cup of tea: Bertie had been coming for his anti-stammer lessons incog as Mister Johnston.

Yeah, great film, working on many levels (as they say). A social document; a wry take on real-life history; sharp script; super performances (plenty more big-name cast members. Classy direction by Tom Hooper.

I rocked up to the well-hidden Radford Auditorium tucked at the back of the Art Gallery of SA, too early, but I came back after a bemused look at the new building works going on in what used to be the Hughes Plaza of Adelaide University. It was a full house for Emma Horwood's delightful 75-minute solo performance, soprano and harp, with the title Songs of Middle Earth, featuring no fewer than sixteen lyrics either directly from or inspired by JRR Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings.

As an encore she sang Enya's haunting May It Be, which will be familiar to modern audiences from the end-credit soundtrack of Peter Jackson's film of the first part of the trilogy (which, incidentally, JRRT didn't write as a trilogy: the publishers insisted that the giant opus be broken up - or should that be down?)

My day in town was not over. Nearest I could get parked was in Kent Town, so as I walked eastwards, I called at the now regular Fringe fixture, The Garden of Unearthly Delights mostly only enjoying the late-evening ambiance, but I lashed out and bought a Mallee Honey icecream from the people who offered a big range of bush-tucker flavours, and relaxed for ten minutes vertically circling in the friendly Ferris Wheel which gave good views of the city lights. The London Eye it's not, but engineer Mr Ferris had been in my thoughts after seeing a doco recently about the 19th century Chicago Exhibition which introduced his Ferris Wheel concept to the world. He did other stuff - but that's what he is remembered for.

Got home at 12.40am this morning. Perfect excuse for doing not much today!

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Earthquake and volcano events

The earthquake disaster in New Zealand's South Island raises many questions about the fragility of human settlements in places which seem idyllic but, every so often, remind everyone that THIS place or THAT place is liable to big shifts of condition (inundation, fire, 'quake) every generation or so. And at times the intervals are shorter, bearing in mind that Christchurch  - sitting on the Pacific Ring of Fire - was badly shaken six months ago. I am without answer, just pointing to a circumstance.

Until a few years ago I owned a house in Stratford, Taranaki, on the North Island, on the slopes of Mt Taranaki itself. It was worth a pause for reflection that Mount Taranaki (Mt Egmont if you grew up with older atlases) is a nicely conical,  geologically recent, volcano. It last blew its top at the end of the seventeenth century - and is reckoned well overdue for its next big event. If it does, and in our lifetimes, nobody should act surprised.

This Sunday I have my ticket for the evening concert in the performance space of the Art Gallery of South Australia. It is part of the Festival Fringe. Adelaide soprano and harpist Emma Horwood will sing her program entitled Songs of Middle Earth, drawing on compositions (by Donald Swan and others) inspired by Tolkien's imagined world. The earlier performances received the rave reviews we hear about and which, no doubt, the artists like to hear.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Christchurch Earthquake

It is just one hour since I heard and saw reports coming in of today's devastating earthquake in New Zealand's lovely Christchurch, which was starting to recover from the lesser event six months ago. We are seeing scenes of the near-complete wrecking of the city centre and much loss of life - the number inevitably about to climb greatly as more bodies are found under dangerously unstable rubble. Many people in Australia have family and friends in Christchurch and its surrounds. An indication of the scale of this event is that the city's airport and all flights are currently closed down, except for emergency medical evacuation.

Everyone's thoughts tonight will be with our trans-Tasman neighbours.

Two kinds of mice. Sam and singing.

Today I have bought a wireless mouse and keyboard kit from Rick Boston of the local RB Electronics shop. Yep, the RB is for his name. The boxed kit is sitting nearby, unopened, and sort of looking at me, daring me to open it.

At our weekly singing rehearsal Don said he caught four mice of the squeaking kind in three days, or maybe it was three in four days. Gwenda said recently that she caught several, a symptom of the odd spell of cold weather (in summer) and mice coming indoors when they should be outside getting healthy exercise. Two days ago I was the cause of another mouse's demise, after setting three traps overnight when the mouse ran out of the bathroom just as I was about to step into a hot tub/bath. It looked suspiciously wet, and, had I not disturbed it, might have been impertinent enough to dry itself on one of my towels. I felt some regret for setting the traps, but the mouse had every opportunity to leave the house harmlessly, and I was even prepared to overlook the bath-and-towel incident. I wish they didn't look at you with those big brown eyes.

The singing today was stimulating and fun. One modest concert will occur next week, and another two weeks later. Sam the dog attended but failed to join in the singing. I wonder if he is feeling unwell.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Walk, clown, martial wobbles 'n' webs

Had a refreshing seabreeze walk this morning between Coobowie and Edithburgh with Jacqui - some rain and conversation during which it emerged that I knew her brother, oh, nearly thirty years ago, and if I remember a-right (always a problematic matter) he was a working clown at the time. I know it was the right guy, because he played a memorable if small role in the locally famous movie Sunday Too Far Away, made in this state at a time of resurgence of Australian film-making. Alas, much of that momentum was later lost.

The saga of the martial arts mayhem of last week looks to be laid to rest. The exponent whose actions damaged  an audience member turned out to be from a code of the sport which is NOT that of National Judge, David Rigby, of the Australian Karate Federation.

He speaks with wisdom of  "...accidents with untrained people assisting enthusiastic practitioners. (It) is very dangerous and I do not condone it.  ...everyone should be aware of the risks involved and the possible outcomes."

I repeat that the incident I mentioned did not involve an AKF member. Whether or not the person's own club or sporting association takes action, now remains to be seen. I am not going to report on this further in this blog.

Also this week a whole heap of on-line editing jobs, of material which is for creating a major website of a customer, hit me in one go, against several days of dearth. What we now need is a magical filter so that each day produces the perfect  balance. Who can suggest a formula?

It is a bit like life, really :)

Friday, 18 February 2011

The no kidding zone. It's a clue, guys.

A nearly very bad injury happened to a friend yesterday. She struck her head on the corner of a piece of furniture, was briefly stunned, bruised an arm, hurt a shoulder. A simple fall? No! According to her - at this stage I only have her version of events - she was THROWN by an individual who was supposedly giving a demonstration of a martial art, and a volunteer was called upon.

I am told that the demo-giver made some claim to be a practitioner, with perhaps an advanced grade in the sport, but the facts remain to be determined. I'm told, with no reason to doubt the teller, that there were no safety mats in place, and (obvious from the fact itself of injury) there was inadequate space for any "throwing", let alone that my friend is a lady of a certain age and has not confided to me that she has ever had training in safe falling, which is the number one requirement before anybody starts getting thrown around in martial arts practice.

There were many witnesses, since this particular piece of stupidity was performed to a group who meet regularly and who have no connection with the martial arts code which has been mentioned to me. This was meant to be, or should have been, simply a talk to some interested souls about another person's recreational sport. This morning I have made the initial moves which may see yesterday's event further investigated and referred to the national federation which governs the sport mentioned, which may be entirely innocent if the person in question is claiming wrongfully to be associated with it. We shall see.

At the very least, genuine practitioners deserve to be reminded of their code of ethics, their Federation's rules, and warned of possible severe consequences. For now, fact-finding is the name of the game.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Laptop limits, ladders, riots

At our group's musical practice today - a full house! - the astute Denis confirmed that his household's computer does indeed weigh under 1.5 tons (see yesterday's blog), and this is a satisfactory state of affairs.

At lunch we all enjoyed Gwenda's nectarines, relieved to hear that she had used a long fruit-picking pole and not climbed a precarious ladder, which she threatened to do.

We consider these pieces of news rather more important than various reported riots from middle east countries. Gotta get a sense of perspective.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

1949 and Csirac

My ever reliable informants from Tasmania blog about their present visit to "the mainland" and tell of the exhibition in the Melbourne Museum, where, among so much else, they went all the way to the basement which houses .... Australia's own CSIRAC computer, built in 1949. It was only the fourth in the world (all experimenting with different technical design). For my friend it had special meaning, since one of the machine's team from those days was later Bill's professor in computing studies.

But why do I tell you this? Well, the blog sent me to the Wikipedia entry, online, for CSIRAC .... lots of good stuff for tech folk ... but what caught my eye was the parting shot. It was this quotation from a 1949 Popular Mechanics magazine, forecasting "the relentless march of science" as the museum says cheekily:

"Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons"

Saturday, 12 February 2011

The Kazakh Connection

Quiet week, warm then cooler since yesterday and substantial rain overnight (best time for it). The plums are getting steadily eaten. That's their job. I am happy to see a nice crop of them - on the sole tree - because last year in drought-like conditions the same tree shed all its fruit in protest.

I was going to buy a wireless mouse this morning but have put it off until Tuesday.

The most interesting thing, given the large number of uninteresting things around, was a modest editing job from Kazakhstan, technically a bit challenging, to render adequate the letters of support from a university's engineering department for a whiz engineer heading to Britain to undertake post-grad studies. No names, no pack drill. Another client wanted an explanation of some pompous bureaucratese; others typically are after re-writes of their copy - not editing at all, really.

Yet another was peeved because his returned document did not contain comments of what had been changed and why: he just received back a standard corrected text. If a "tracked changes" document was required, the client needed to say so and use a different format. It is all a lot for a bear of little brain. Not helped by "head office" going to bed in Copenhagen as I'm having breakfast in SA, while some eager client is submitting work in Chicago. This is called having different time zones. Fortunately most of the electronic exchanges happen without human actions.

And how many of you knew that Kazakh is where we get the word Cossack? A member of our song group mentioned that word this week in relation to a Russian song which the male voices are gearing up for. But of course the "Cossacks" from Tsarist times were about as 'Russian' as the British army's Nepalese Gurkha regiments are ... English.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Runes, Prunes and Mulberries

The stewed mulberries are doing well --- halfway through the week and they are holding out. I remembered to buy prunes with the shopping this morning, after a famous disaster of finding dates when I reached in the pantry cupboard expecting prunes, or was it vice versa? It's all a bit hazy.

Truth to tell I have been distracted by some online edit jobs arriving at weird times. Several from Abu Dhabi the other day. Mind you, these mini-assignments tend to reach me via Denmark. Don't ask. Last week a couple were from Hawaii, but they were from a Dutchman, and I had supposed him to be in Canada. The interesting thing is that it seems not to matter.

Now, this afternoon I have just uploaded my latest, eighth, book, produced and published through, and hopefully to be on sale at in due course - a process which will take at least a month, since I need to receive a proof copy by snail mail from the States and only then can approve it for release, if I do. (If not, more delay etc). But it is speed itself compared with the old days of copy submission and letter-press printing technology. Yes, I myself do go back that far. In fact, somewhere, I have if I could find them, the old quill pens and monastic robes.

At Amazon, you can find my previous title (January 2011) Quiz Questions, by Will Smyth, and who knows, you may care to buy it if you fancy running a quiz/trivia fundraiser event. Or just want to kick back and be amused by some 50 pages of Q&A. I hate it when you have to look up cryptic answers at the back of books. These ones are right opposite; questions on the left-side page, their answers on the right. So you can cheat if you like. Check it out

The new book, that is, as of one hour ago, is called Runes and Rune Reading: An Introduction to the Runic Symbols of Northern Europe. Like I said, it will be weeks before it can be seen or ordered at Amazon, and because it has colour illustrations and because they charge heaps to ship overseas, I can't afford to buy it but perhaps you and your rich rellies can, at US$19.95.

Back in early January, Jenny Oldland of the YP Country Times (Thank you, Jenny) did a nice piece about the first six books that were available online, successively, between August and December 2010. It has been a little surprising. A tad experimental on my part - the more so since all eight titles have been in different areas. Only two, one on health food and one the pre-Christmas recipe book (Festive Favorites), could be said to be on related themes. Might list the titles here later, for the sake of completeness. I will wait until number 8 is approved.
P.S. Just had an  email to say the proof copy of Runes and Rune Reading has been sent on its way. Will it reach the Great South Land safely? And when?  Record to date is 12 days, longest 20.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

More on Mulberries

They told me mulberries make a mess. I believed. Clad in mulberry-matching old  togs, I spent a productive hour this arvo with Gwenda at the Tree of Nola; not the tree of knowledge, although I came away with the knowledge that the tales (about the mess) are true. Washing the unforbidden fruit was essential, and apologies to all the small green caterpillers, plus the one ladybird which was escorted off the premises. This was unfair to the caterpillers but it was too inconvenient by then to return them to the tree - at the other end of  town. The berries (and any missed creepy crawlies) were stewed and delicious. Plenty left, in fridge, on the stove, and on the tree. Thank you, Nola.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Mulberries and Maui

I am eating mulberries for lunch. Thanks. The kind donor knows who it is!

Yesterday, thank goodness, the weather turned cooler after the two-day heatblast brought by the northerlies out of the continent's hot heartland. Fortunate, too, (but bad enough) the folk on Australia's north-east coast have suffered less devastation than was feared from Cyclone Yasi. Those meteorology charts showed lurid swirls the size of whole countries.

Our singers group performed its first concert for 2011 at one of the regular venues; appreciative audience. We enjoy it at least as much as they do. Once more, rumours of a pay rise. It's one of the huge benefits for all volunteer groups - a pay rise can be announced at any time, by anyone... doubling, even tripling, the usual rate, with frequent bonuses etc.

Did one edit job this morning which was amusing in one respect. The client - after some technical issues were straightened out in recent days by the source company in one European country, while the client was from a different European country - turned out to be based in Vancouver. And for some reason I had formed an opinion that he and his people were French Canadians in Quebec. (Good place to find lots of French Canadians, just in case you didn't know!) Oh well. None of that is a problem. I exchanged emails with the client directly (not typical in this sort of work as we don't normally have a clue who, or where, the other is!): "based in Vancouver" he'd said, only to hear back that he was currently kicking back in Maui, Hawaii.

It certainly opens a window on a different way of perceiving the "global cloud" e-world.

OK, back to the mulberries. They've gone! Aargh, I ate 'em somewhere in paragraph three.