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Showing posts from June, 2011

The tyranny of choice: a tale of two time machines.

You can only have so many cars, unless you’re Lindsay Fox or a bureaucracy. In my case, I once could fit two cars in the double garage, one on the front lawn and two more in the driveway. But that was years ago. Then we moved, and there was no garage. Plus we had two more children, and children cost more than cars unless you run Alfa Romeos. So I was back to two cars. The Tangerine Dream for me, and the Volvo (English: “I roll”) 940 for Tracy. But you can still window-shop. My favourite lunchtime reading became the online car classifieds, after giving up on online newspapers full of Z-grade celebrities and stories about overweight dogs or horses drinking in bars. Read enough car ads and you develop a kind of sixth sense about the condition of a vehicle. ‘A couple of supermarket scratches’ means major bodywork; ‘long reg.’ mean two months; ‘recent full Selespeed service’ means the gearbox is rubbish; ‘near new Pirellis’ means ‘quite old Pirellis’; ‘quick sale’ means the vehicle

Always buy a good umbrella.

Lunchtime yesterday. I was at the top end of Collins Street trying to walk south and the rain was horizontal, propelled by a gale that was howling straight up the middle like a 1970s Western Oval southerly. It had been raining before the wind came, and the street had been a sea of umbrellas. Suddenly, the wind got up and all the $10 umbrellas blew inside out and snapped their ribs, and someone’s quality one flew up into the plane trees and hung there like a paratrooper landing in a forest. It should be fine if the owner manages to retrieve it. The rain was so intense people had to take refuge in shops. I was outside Harrold’s Gentlemen’s Outfitters and, at the height of the storm, I and four or five others huddled in the entrance set back from Collins Street, and that made the electric doors open, so we stood inside instead, far enough back to let the doors close, and waited for the storm to pass. I amused myself by inspecting the display case nearest the door. Paul Smith driving glo

Now We Are Six.

On Sunday afternoon, a garden tea party attended by friends and relations was held for William to mark his sixth birthday. The guest of honour wore an argyle-patterned wool vest knitted by his maternal grandmother with a white linen shirt and his favourite red tie, and fawn corduroy trousers. The weather report for Sunday had changed every day last week, variously predicting sun, rain, cool, warmer and dry. Contingency rooms inside had been prepared, but the afternoon turned out merely cloudy, and the sun appeared mid-afternoon, and warmed the gathering. Guests were welcomed at the front gate by Thomas while a gaily-coloured bunting banner flapped in the breeze. The bunting, made by Tracy from neat triangles of vintage fabrics sewn onto white cotton webbing, festooned the front garden all the way from the front right stay of the carport to the trunk of the ornamental pear in front of the lounge room window. The guests included William’s current school friends and kindergarten f

Flayed with puns: export cattle crisis latest.

The West Australian reports : Senator Ludwig is meeting MLA (Meat and Livestock Australia) representatives today, but the organisation faces more grilling at a Senate inquiry. Bumbling Minister Ludwig, who would be as popular on a cattle station right now as Small Business Minister Sherry in a bookshop, won't wear the blame : He said the buck stopped with the MLA.

The Long Good Morning.

I used to be able to wake myself at any time during the small hours, such as three in the morning. I taught myself to do it when I was a kid and had a paper round. (Paper round? Kids delivering newspapers on bicycles. They used to slide them neatly into the round hole over the letterbox or, if there was no round hole, between two pickets in the fence near the gate. These days they wrap the paper in unpeelable plastic and fling it at the property from a moving car that doesn’t stop, like a drive-by shooting, and the newspaper might land on the property or it might not. I spent five minutes looking for the paper recently. It was on the roof. I am not making this up. ) I tried waking myself up this morning at 4.23 to see the eclipse. I woke at three. I tried again. It worked. 4.20 a.m. William woke up, co-incidentally. We went outside. The moonlight was still bright and cut a frosty white slant across the lawn and up the fence. The eclipse had just begun. A small stain like spilled

Invisible link.

Despite being a few shades of grey apart, links in my posts were virtually indistinguishable from surrounding text, rendering some posts even more obscure than usual. Now links are coloured and you can actually see them. I just dragged some crimson out of that sunrise.

Romantic poetry redux, with adverbs.

I bring fresh showers for the thirsting flowers, From the seas and the streams; I bear light shade for the leaves when laid In their noonday dreams. - The Cloud by Percy Bysshe Shelley iCloud stores your content and wirelessly pushes it to all your devices. And because it seamlessly integrates with your apps, everything happens automatically - iCloud by Apple Corporation

They're racing in Hurstbridge. And a recipe involving scotch ale and pork.

Hurstbridge was cold. It’s always cold in Hurstbridge, except in summer when it’s as hot as hell. Maybe I’ve just never visited in spring or autumn. It was the monthly Sunday farmers’ market. I don’t usually like markets when they’re full of trinkets and junk and strawberry soap, but this one is different. The market rambles across open space on the river flat below the main street, just north of where the train line ends in a pile of junk in the old rail yards. The children were queuing for pony rides at the edge of the market grounds where Diamond Creek meanders through the eucalypts, so I went over to the Grand Ridge Brewery stall just to admire the labels on the bottles. No cutting edge minimalism here. Each label has the magnificent Grand Ridge Brewery lyrebird logo over different background colours to indicate which beer variant it is. Handy, because you don’t want to be reading small type late at night when you reach into the fridge for your seventh beer, especially when the

How fast is 3.1 million mph, anyway?

It's not every day a reporter gets to pull up a drama, within two sentences, like Clancy hauling in a runaway horse at the edge of a cliff: The coronal mass ejection is directed at Earth and moving at about 3.1 million mph (5 million kph), SDO mission scientists said in a statement. Reaction to this kind of statement is frequently expressed in one short word. But the reporter, after only the briefest pause, possibly to inhale, hit return and rattled out the following: "Due to its angle, however, effects on Earth should be fairly small. Nevertheless, it may generate space weather effects here on Earth in a few days," they added. Hard to do police rounds after that. Today is the coldest day in Melbourne for years. Any 'weather effects' around your way?

Four-year-old dons flippers; teaches himself to dive.

Filmed at the diving pool, Coburg Olympic swimming pool, March 2011. Starring Thomas, 4 years and 5 months.


One of more hair-raising stories from the book I worked on (on and off) for six years until the thing finally appeared last year: I am uncertain of the year I started at St Bernard’s - being 1942 or 1943 - but I have clear recollections of the reason. While in Grade Four at St Monica’s, we did regular air raid practice, and helped dig air raid shelters in the large dusty wasteland that was the schoolyard. During these exercises there were various boyish discussions about the war, and to where we would be evacuated if the war were to get any closer. I remember in particular becoming friendly with a group of boys - in particular, two brothers whose father was at the war; and as I recall, missing in action. These were Ted and Jack Harris. They lived above Williams shoe shop in Sydney Road, Moreland. Ted was in my class and Jack in my brother Leo's class. One day they came to school with a fistful of money, how much I am not sure. Nor am I sure I knew at the time how they had come b