Sunday, 30 December 2012

Annual Attempted Self-Improvement-Palooza

Yeesh, time flies!

I had actually forgotten that I'd made any resolutions for last year - thanks, sieve-for-a-brain! - but I managed to do OK, OK here defined as 'achieving my usual 2-out-of-3-ain't-bad success rate'.

I cocked up a few times but my punctuality is better - success!

I did not manage to detach myself from the internet to the degree I'd have liked - dang!

I did do a comic for every day of last year - extra success! - and have decided to keep it up because it's fun :-)

So the attempt to be less internet addicted rolls on as a non-resolution task and here I am, faced with a brand new year.


What to resolve...?
 OK, here we go.

  • Resolution The First: Start Getting Into Gardening Properly
    I have gotten excited about gardening before here, here, here and here but despite my noble intentions I've mostly been doing maintenance fiddling rather than planting anything new or learning anything particularly advanced in the gardening skill set.
    So this year I'm going to buy some plants and then do my level best to keep them alive.
    As I'm doing this resolving in summer this means that there's some things I won't be able to plant until winter/spring but if I manage to plant anything at all I'm going to count that as a success.
    Even if it's a collection of herbs and a tomato plant in a pot grown on my balcony at the flat.
  • Resolution The Second: Read A Book A Week
    I started recording what I was reading in 2009 and depending on what I was up to that year I got through a varying number of books.
    28 in 2009 (I started keeping the journal in June).
    73 in 2010 (By far the most successful year).
    34 in 2011 (Hey, woah, what happened there...?)
    21 in 2012 (WHAT!?)
    So yes, this year I want to ratchet the reading back up again.
    New stories, new knowledge, new writers to admire, more inspiration.
    I'm going to aim for 52 books, with the loose goal of a book a week and if I manage more than that then I'll just get to be smug about it.
  • Resolution The Third: Start Sewing
    Remember The Very Hungry Caterpillar fabric I bought?
    This year it is becoming quilts.
    It is becoming at least three quilts and then depending on how obsessed I am with quilting by that stage I'll either make the rest of the material* up into quilts for later** or put the material aside to make the quilts when the time is right.
    I want to try making clothes as well. I've put myself off in the past by imagining getting the measurements wrong and making clothes that don't fit or just cocking up and ruining the material.
    I look at lovely material and hate the idea of screwing it up by cutting it out wrong or ruining it somehow but I'll never learn if I don't squash that aversion down and just let myself make some mistakes.

* I bought so much material. 2 m of each of the... maybe 7 patterns?

** Later = when people have babies

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Nepal - Week Three

Day Fifteen to Day Sixteen

Our last two days of trekking were amazing in that we covered what felt like a ridiculous amount of distance in a much shorter time than it had taken coming the other way.

Of course they had been easing us into things at the start of the trip and there is a significant 'up' portion that you climb up to Namche that is a lot less strenuous when it is a 'down' from Namche, though your legs get a good work out keeping you braced safely as you go down the slope.

We had known we weren't here in the busy season but this was even more apparent at this point.
Coming up there had been constant foot traffic and numerous jopkyo and donkey trains every hour.
Coming down we only saw a handful and most of the foot traffic was incoming hikers who didn't realise how chilly it was going to get.
We'd had to carefully cross patches of ice that hadn't been there when we'd come up, caused by little streams that run down the mountain trickling across the paths, and that was more than a bit nerve-wracking next to the long drop at the edge of the path.

Arriving back in Lukla it felt like we'd been away for much longer than the two weeks we'd been walking.

Day Seventeen

We woke up bright and early for a quick breakfast and hustled down to the tiny airport to wait for our plane back to Kathmandu.

The thing about the plane back to Kathmandu, of course, is that the weather has to be good for the small planes to be able to fly.

The weather has to be good at Kathmandu, at Lukla and at a particular pass in between before the plane can leave Kathmandu and arrive at Lukla to pick us up.

No dice.

There was a bit of cloud in Kathmandu and the wind never really settled down.

We waited at the airport until about 11:00am and then went to wait in a little restaurant next to the terminal, staring morosely at the sky.

This put us in a suddenly tenuous position as our international flight back to Melbourne via Bangkok left at 1:30pm the next day and if we missed it, given the time of year, there was no guarantee we'd be able to get another flight in time to get back for Christmas.

Flights weren't officially cancelled until 12:00pm and until then we wouldn't be able to get the travel insurance pay for the only other way to get back to Kathmandu - a helicopter - so until then we twiddled our thumbs and hoped.

Once the official word came through our guide got on the phone to arrange two helicopters to come pick us up.

Unfortunately a lot of other people had had the same idea and many of them weren't fussed about travel insurance or didn't have any to fuss about.

For the rest of the day we watched helicopters come in and leave and knew we were moving up the queue but we didn't get to the front of it until 4:00pm which is when the helicopters stop flying because visibility isn't high enough.

So after getting up at 5:00am we wandered back to the lodge we had stayed at the night before, to stay another night and to try keep from being too nervous about the idea of missing flights.

Day Eighteen

We were up earlier than we needed to be, made sure that we were as organised as we could be and that we were wearing the cleanest clothes we had left as we were now going to be getting onto an international flight after two weeks of trekking.

Two weeks of trekking with minimal showers outside of camp showers (ie, a cloth and a bowl of warm water) and most of us not having washed our hair for the full two weeks because we didn't want to catch a chill on the trek.

The night at the hotel would have been nice, especially the shower part, but at this point we were just hoping that the helicopters would turn up and get us to the airport in time.

The helicopters landed at about 8:00am, had to refuel, de-ice their windscreens, and load our bags up before we could look at leaving.

The helicopter flight was a hell of a thing. Not much turbulence but you were a lot closer again to the treetops and mountains than even the small aircraft flight had been.

I got to sit up front and watching the countryside with its small towns go by, the terraced hills and mountains slowly giving way to flatter ground and larger communities until we reached Kathmandu was almost worth the hurry and bother of having missed out on the scheduled flight the day before.

When we landed someone from the hotel met us with the luggage we'd left in storage and there was a flurry of activity as we hurriedly packed our kit bag contents into our regular bags, made sure we hadn't left anything pointy or inappropriate in our carry on luggage, shed layers we didn't need any more and tried to ensure we were as un-stinky as possible.

Once we'd managed to get ourselves sorted it was time to head straight into the airport to go through about six levels of security checks, check-in for our flight and board the plane.

And in that sudden hurry, without a chance for a last look around or much in the way of reflecting, we were leaving Nepal.

It was definitely the most demanding trip I've been on in my life.

Having the usual comforts unavailable doesn't usually faze me but when one of those comforts is the comforting idea that if something goes wrong you can quickly access medical care, you get a bit nervous.

If someone had been seriously sick or injured their only real option would have been being airlifted to Kathmandu hospital by a rescue helicopter.
Nepal is still a developing country with very little in the way of medical care available, especially in the rural regions.

You usually saw at least one rescue helicopter passing overhead a day and while it was reassuring to see that they were operating dependably, it also drove home the fact that you needed to be careful, that what you were doing really was dangerous.

It's also remarkable how taxing you can find the cold if you're not used to it, especially when you're tired and constantly on watch for something that could constitute an altitude sickness symptom.

One of the tricky things about this trip has been successfully explaining it to people now that it's done.

It was amazing, one of the most rewarding things I've done but the tricky or difficult bits are a lot easier to explain or imagine so some of my friends seem convinced that I had a terrible time.
It's a lot harder explaining a moment of wonder or the constant 'holy shit, look at where I am!' jolts your brain got every time you looked around.

I am so glad that I went and if anyone else is considering such a trip and would like to hit me up for advice, feel free.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Nepal - Week Two

Day Eight and Day Nine

These two days get their own description because of my brother.

He woke up Day Eight feeling terrible having - despite precautions - caught some kind of tummy bug.

He didn't feel too bad at the start of the day but he didn't feel well enough to eat his breakfast.

He managed to walk for about two or three hours before his body decided to take matters into its own hands and eject whatever was bothering it out of his mouth over the edge of a cliff.

And then he felt magnificent!

Until he tried to continue walking.

Because he hadn't had breakfast and his body had just emptied out whatever else it had in reserve and an amount of liquid and left him low on fuel and a bit dehydrated.

He gamely tottered on for another half hour, stopping to rest every couple of minutes as our guide monitored him, before announcing that he was definitely not going to make it to the camp under his own power and asking if he could stay the night at one of the local hostels and catch up with us at the camp the next day as it was to be a rest day.

I did NOT like this idea.

I was NOT leaving my baby brother alone in a strange town by himself while he was sick in a third world country.

Our guide was explaining to him that this wouldn't be a fantastic option anyway as he'd still have to make it to where we were stopping for lunch because the porters had his luggage and he'd have to keep a porter and a guide with him and pay for their lodging and meals.

Blah blah blah, time to take matters into my own hands.

I hired him a horse.

A shaggy little mountain pony that they saddled up and popped him on.

My father and I were sent ahead with one of the sherpas leading the way as our guide waited with my brother and the guy readying the pony. Within about half an hour my brother had caught up to and overtaken us, looking quite cheerful now that he wasn't trying to walk.

At the camp we found he'd tucked himself in for a restorative sleep with some rehydration fluids close by for sipping and was feeling much better.

At this stage it was still uncertain whether the bug had completely worked itself out of his system and left him in a state where he'd be able to carry on walking with us on Day Ten.

We stopped by every now and then to check on him and bug him about drinking water if he happened to be awake.

The next morning he stirred himself out of bed to come join us at breakfast.

He ate a small amount of plain foods for breakfast, kept sipping at rehydration fluids and had some small walks around camp after sitting in and chatting with those of us who didn't go on the optional walk for that day.

Then he went off for more naps before re-emerging at lunch and then dinner for more plain food and liquids.

Day Ten

Thankfully a day and a half of taking it easy and getting plenty of fluids saw him come good and when we set off on our climb to Lobuche my brother was able to keep up comfortably as we all took it easy up the ridge to the yak pastures.

The yak pastures were on a large plateau, higher up than we'd been before and were quite a sight before a bank of fog rolled in and obscured them.
As we donned our windproof gear for the first time a light snow started to fall, hardly more than a dusting but it was an amazing thing to walk through in the mist.

Before lunch we had to cross a small patch of ice, our first for the trip which made us glad we weren't on one of the icy mountain pass treks, and then it was time to climb climb climb.

Lobuche was the second highest place we would spend the night and by this point we were all carefully watching ourselves and each other for signs of altitude sickness but aside from people experiencing a lowered appetite we were all doing quite well.

Day Eleven

The walk to Gorak Shep alongside the Khumbu Glacier was reasonably smooth if not completely flat going but was one of the tougher days of walking we'd had.
I'm not sure if it was just the altitude and lack of oxygen tiring you out more quickly or the fact that walking along on a flat surface able to see where you're going is a bit mentally wearing but by the time we got to Gorak Shep we were a bit achey and puffed.

There wasn't to be much rest yet though because after lunch it was time to trek to Everest Base Camp and back.
We got to leave our daypacks behind which was great and wear our puffy down jackets which was extra great.

The walk to Base Camp was incredible.

We saw Nepali guinea pigs, snow fowl and other birds that seemed to be doing quite well despite the lack of oxygen.
There was a bit of up and down, not too much but it was made more challenging by operating on 50% of our normal concentration of oxygen.
The trek there was estimated to take about two hours.
It did for some members of the group but for my Dad and I, who are short of leg and a little bit low on puff, it took three hours.
My brother had waited a half hour at the Base Camp for us and he was there when we arrived so we could take photos together and feel smug as a family.

Standing at Base Camp was a bit of a moment for me.

A few times during the trip I'd thought 'What the hell have I gotten myself into?' and had wondered if there was a point where I'd realise I wasn't going to make it all the way.

Each day was manageable, we were never pushed to go faster than we felt comfotable with, we were taken care of and fed well and got an adequate amount of sleep for the most part but the physical exertion along with the cold at night and the constant awareness of hygiene and altitude made for a bit of stress at times.

Standing there I got to think 'Shit, I actually did it! I trekked to Everest Base Camp! I am standing here with my father and my brother in a place where a large percentage of the human race will never come! This is incredible!' closely followed by 'Man I can't wait until we have a sit down!'

Heading back we had to hurry slowly because it was going to be a very close thing for us to get off the rocky and perilous part of the trail before we lost sunlight - the consequence of walking slowly.

We made it, just, reaching the flat approach to the town as the light faded, and leaving boot marks in the light dusting of snow that still covered the ground.
We collapsed into chairs around the fire at the lodge and sipped cups of hot tang - one of the stranger things we came to look forward to while trekking - and recovered.
Dad had been especially knocked about by the rush back and almost fell asleep in his chair.
We had to help him out of his boots and a few of his layers so we could dry them out for the next day.
He woke back up for dinner and then we all turned in for a good sleep before it was time to start heading down.

Day Twelve to Day Fourteen

On Day Twelve the Canadian son, my brother and my godfather's son were the only ones who opted to get up at 5:00am to climb Kala Pattar. The rest of us were still a bit tired, not wanting to brave the temperatures they'd encounter and felt we'd probably gone high enough.
They managed to climb Kala Pattar and get back down in time to join us for breakfast where they explained that it had gotten so cold that they hadn't been able to operate or indeed feel their hands at all for a time.
The views sounded amazing but I am not built for that kind of cold and felt satisfied with my decision to leave that part of the adventure delegated to my brother.

The next three days were a steady retracing of our steps down the mountain. Marvelling at things we'd been too tired or tunnel vision-y to notice on the way up, feeling a bounce in the step as we descended to slightly more oxygen-rich levels and high on success at having achieved the goal of our trip.

As thoughts of home started to pop more frequently into our heads we entered the 'fantasising about various foods and not having to use hand sanitiser before eating every single morsel' part of the trip.
The fact that we were returning home just in time for Christmas didn't help this at all.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Nepal - Week One

Nepal blew my mind.
Straight up blew my mind.

I've travelled a bit but it's been a long while since I went to anywhere so out of my normal range of experience and it makes you pay a degree of attention you mightn't if you were somewhere more familiar.

When my father asked me back in May if I wanted to go on a trek to Everest Base Camp I was excited but nervous.
And then December rolled around quicker than I thought it would and found my father, my brother, my godfather, his son, a woman my father and I have both worked with, and a woman she knows through another friend sitting at the airport waiting to fly to Nepal.

Day One

We flew from Melbourne to Bangkok, got the plane from Bangkok to Kathmandu, and the moment we landed at Kathmandu the eyes were wide open.

Bangkok airport is a HUGE, modern structure.
Kathmandu airport is a single storey brick building that looks like it was built in the 1960s or there about.
Outside the taxis are all cars that look like they were built in the Soviet Union and may very well be fitted with their original tyres which have fossilised on the rim.

Being driven through the city to the hotel we quickly realised there weren't any road rules per se.
People just nudged in and were moving at a speed that there didn't seem to be any collisions.
Lanes were invented and abandoned at a whim.
There were no road markings.
We were told that they do have a few traffic lights in Kathmandu but due to daily power outages they don't actually use them as traffic lights that only work some of the time would cause more confusion than calm.

The edges of the streets were torn up as the government was in the process of having the front room of most buildings knocked down to widen the road. These rooms were mostly built without permission by the building's owners/residents as there wasn't really a planning permission system in place when they wanted to do so.

The power poles that lined the streets were hung with thick ropes of wires as it seemed that whenever someone wanted to hook into the power they just added another line.

Our group got together to meet our guide and the two other group members who we didn't know, a Canadian father and son who were my father's age and about my age respectively.

For dinner we went to a restaurant called Nepali Chulo where we sat on the floor on cushions at a low table and were served a variety of dishes - curried meats, steamed vegetables, rice, soups and breads.
As we ate, people in traditional dress from various regions took turns performing the corresponding traditional dances.
At the end of the evening a man inside an elaborate peacock puppet costume moved through the diners, bowing the head at the end of the puppet's long neck and operating its mouth in some ingenious fashion to accept tips.

Day Two

We were taken to see the Pashupatinath Hindu temple complex and Boudhanath Buddhist Stupa.

Pashupatinath was incredible.
The street leading up to the temple was lined with stalls of people selling religious icons and strings of flowers for pilgrims to buy before entering the temple.
There was an old people's community home for Hindu elders who have no family to care for them. One old gentleman waved at us quite cheerily when he saw us peeking through the gate.
Down by the river were flat pedestal-like protrusions where some people were building funeral pyres for their loved ones.
We saw one person being prepared for the pyre, family or friends taking their shrouded body down to the water to ritually wash their feet to purify them before the funeral proceeded.
It felt a bit intrusive to watch something so important but we didn't linger there long as there was the rest of the temple complex to observe - from the outside as non-Hindus couldn't enter - and many small shrines to walk amongst.
People hawking goods and gifts wandered about, trying their luck with various tourists.
Monkeys were running around on the roofs of the temple and freely in the forest behind the shrines.
The scent of ash, incense and the river emphasised the fact that this was somewhere unlike I'd ever seen before.

Boudhanath by comparison was quite calm.
There were still plenty of people around but it was in town and the stupa itself was ringed by shops that formed a perfect two or three storey circle around the stupa.
The size of the stupa was quite impressive as were the many lines of flags that ran from its tip to its corners.
While we watched men with ladders climbed in a precarious fashion to throw buckets of yellow wash over the dome.
You could see where dry materials were being ground and mixed to make paint or washes for the upkeep of the stupa.
There were also piles of powdered incense which people could buy in little packets to burn during their observances.
Prayer wheels were everywhere and every now and then you would catch the sound of chanting, either from monks or pilgrims in small temples amongst the shops or from recordings floating out of the shops.

Day Three

This morning we got up nice and early, got our kit bags ready and headed back to the airport to fly to the tiny airport at Lukla.
We waited for about an hour before being taken by bus out to the part of the airfield where the small planes depart, we drove past members of the Nepali military being put through their paces jogging around the airfield.
Even though the plane only seated about 20 people it had a flight attendant who squeezed her way up the aisle to offer us wads of cotton to put in our ears and mints to chew or suck on during the flight.
The flight through the valleys and past the mountains was amazing, especially as they were so close and every movement of the plane and touch of the wind was very evident in such a small craft.
The landing strip at Lukla was tiny. I mean tiny. We all spontaneously applauded as we touched down and wheeled around to stop by the small terminal building.

At a little field behind a house in the town we organised our kit bags and day packs - watched by locals who were tending crops and leading chickens about on strings - and then set off for our first bit of trekking, a short walk from Lukla to Ghat.
It was our first experience of the dusty winding paths and the lusher part of the track and having to step out of the way for strings of jopkyo (half yak, half cow hybrids) and donkeys being used as pack animals.
It was also our first experience with the nature of the weather in the mountains.
It was quite warm and mild during the day but the moment the sun dropped behind the mountains at about 4pm, the temperature drops somewhere between 10 and 15 degrees Celsius.

We slept in large sturdy tents in lovely warm sleeping bags.

Day Four to Day Seven

We spent these days discovering the joys of 'Nepali flat' - a term meaning that if the amount of up encountered is roughly the same as the down encountered they consider that flat - and the various considerations of the trail.
Every day you'd wake early, be given a cup of tea, organise your kit bag for the porters to carry away, organise your daypack for yourself, have a hearty breakfast, fill up your water bottles with boiled water and start walking.

The water had to be boiled because the local water isn't good for non-locals and for a similar reason we had to use hand sanitiser before every meal as the local dust and dirt we'd picked up while walking wasn't something you wanted to accidentally ingest.

We'd stop for lunch along the way, another huge meal of multiple dishes, and we'd catch our breath and look around a bit more.

The ever present mountains were almost too big to be accepted as real. You'd stare at them, you'd know they were mountains but your brain kept insisting they must be a movie backdrop or something because mountains just don't get that big.

The towns we passed through were well populated with wayhouses for hikers and little shops that obviously did quite well during the busy seasons, a time when anywhere up to 200 or more hikers could enter the national park each day.

After lunch we'd scoot on to get to our camp where we could relax, catch up with journal writing, play cards, go for smaller walks and just hang around chatting before dinner.
At dinner time they would light the yak-dung stove and we'd have a few hours of comfortable warmth in the dining building before the fuel ran out, the puffy jackets went on and it was time to go tuck ourselves into our sleeping bags again.
We rarely stayed up past about 8:00pm or 8:30pm due to lack of heating and generally feeling a bit tired after walking and being at altitude.

The higher we went the colder it got at night and the more you'd try to convince yourself that you didn't really need to go to the toilet in the middle of the night. You always lost that argument but you'd have it for a while because climbing out of your nice warm sleeping bag to trot across the campsite to the freezing toilet was not appealing.
And when I say freezing I'm not being hyperbolic, at night it was 0 °C or less even at this lower altitude and at one campsite the water in the toilet cistern actually froze solid.

By this point we'd been through the big town of Namche Bazaar and seen the local market where villages from kilometres around bought their supplies, had a rest day there to help the acclimatisation process, visited Thyangboche Monastery - arriving just in time to hear the monks going through their daily service and for me to accidentally sit at the parping end of a long mountain trumpet.

Simply amazing.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Brain Go Poop

Yep, can't think of anything to write.

All obsessed with getting my last bits and shits packed for Nepal.

Once I get back I'll do a couple of big posts about it and then I will probably be able to shut up about it.

To a certain extent...

This is going to be my theme song for the trek.

Sunday, 25 November 2012


This time next week I'll be sitting at the airport, waiting to go to Nepal.

I'm remarkably calm about this.

Calm for me I mean.

I used to get unbearably jittery the closer I got to leaving on a trip but at the moment I'm feeling good.

Part of that will be because I'm a bit older and a bit more confident.

Part of it will be down to the fact that I've been preparing physically and wrapping my mind around this trip for a while now, and have finished the bulk of my equipment shopping.

The rest of it... I've no idea.

I keep prodding at myself, like someone with a tooth they think might be sore, trying different angles, waiting for the pain.

If I'm not worried maybe it's because I haven't thought of this or this or this?

I've had to stop myself from doing that because it is not a particularly helpful thing to do.

I've had plenty of people wanting to tell me the stories they've heard about things happening to people in Nepal specifically or at altitude in general.

A few months ago this would have sent me into a tizzy.



This is going to be a completely new experience, I don't know exactly how it will go and I like that.

We're going with a good company, I'm going with people who care about me and I'm going to be sensible.

I don't want to be worried.

I'm enjoying being excited! :-D

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Just In Case You Haven't Seen It Yet

Public safety campaigns usually go the 'ominous music, harsh photographic filters' angle to scare you with the idea of what could happen if you are cavalier with your person or short of attention.
These tend to be shocking the first time and then either annoying or - for some people - traumatising after that.

Metro Trains in Melbourne decided to go in completely the other direction and I don't know about you but this message is sticking with me a lot more successfully than the 'OMG YOU'RE DOOMED!' style campaigns.

Plus the animation is adorable and I've had the song stuck in my head for days now :-P

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Glossy Habit

I never thought this was a sentence I would type but...

I can't stop buying magazines.

I don't mean fashion mags or gossip mags or entertainment mags.

I mean house design.


Interior decorating.

I haven't even read all the way through the last one before I'm buying the next.

I don't know where this has come from.

I guess my frustrated 'must... build... lovely... home...' desires are bubbling over into an uncontrollable acquisition of house porn to gaze at covetously.

Some of it I look at and know that I would rather walk face-first into a cement pylon without flinching rather than have it in my home but it gives me ideas.

Even if it's ideas on things I never want in my own house.

Those ideas are just as, if not more, useful than ideas of things that I do want in my own house.

Ruling things out makes your vision clearer.

It's a bit of a bugger because the mags themselves aren't what you'd call super cheap and the seeds that they're planting in my mind will probably fruit into an incredibly expensive crop if I go through with some of these design ideas.

But I can't stop.

They're just so pretty.

Thursday, 15 November 2012


When you came into the house, I scratched you.

I screamed.

I pushed you as hard as I could.

I ran around in that confined space, desperate and scared.

I bit you.

But you brushed me aside.

You swore at me.

You were sarcastic.

You asked what the fuck was wrong with me this time.

But I couldn't answer.

And you didn't see him.

And I couldn't stop him.

Just as I couldn't tell you that he was there.

Because I'm just a cat.

And now you're dead.

And I'm sorry.

And I miss your warmth.

And your touch.

And the food.

And it's been days now.

And no-one has come.

And I'm hungry.

I need the meat.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Causality Not Fate

I've never been one of those people who believe that 'everything happens for a reason' or that '[insert name of your deity of choice here] has a plan' because of what that would mean.

If it's true for us, we people who are well off enough to have access to the internet which argues that we're probably doing OK on a couple of levels, then it would have to be true for everyone and that just does not work.

It's OK to try and be positive as you consider the challenges in your life and to to try see the opportunities for growth and change that they can offer you but saying God has a plan for everyone would mean telling a child that God wanted them to be molested because it's part of His 'plan'.

Anyone who genuinely believes that, ugh.

Johnny Citizen can lose his job and have a crisis and have to work out what his strengths and priorities are, almost lose his house, get a better job and feel that 'Wow, that hardship happened for a reason'.

But if you tell me that someone planting subsistence crops standing on a landmine and losing a leg is going to teach them to be a better person, I will fistfight you.

If you try to say that people suffering from malnutrition in third world countries are learning important lessons, I will put my foot to your genitals.

What would be even worse is if the 'reason' these things are happening is so that some sanctimonious jerk in a suburban house can tell their fretful, sulking children 'There are kids in Africa who would be very grateful for that food!'.

Yes. There are.

Anyway before I start ranting in earnest, back to my point.

I don't believe that things happen for a reason but once they have happened, they change what happens afterward.

That's simple cause and effect in linear time.

Nothing mystical about that*.

If I hadn't got sick, I wouldn't have started walking every day in an attempt to feel less powerless and to help improve my health and increase my chances of recovery.

If I hadn't kept walking every day, I wouldn't be in what is probably the best physical condition that I've been in for years.

If I hadn't been so mad keen for walking and feeling pretty good about my physical fitness, I would never have even considered saying yes to the Nepal trip.
I wouldn't have had any confidence in my ability to train up for it, let alone attempt it.

It didn't happen for a reason but because it happened my life has taken a different path that it would have and who knows how far those two paths will diverge from each other over time.

Disclaimer: Yes, I am aware that I am still super privileged in being able to consider my situation in this light after receiving adequate medical attention, support from my family and being in a financial position to go on a trip overseas.
But at least I'm not saying that I deserve it or that a divine being changed the course of history so that I would get to go on a trip because it is my destiny!!!

*Unless you think linear time is an amazing construct/mass hallucination.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Going Wild

For the last year or so, my brain has obviously been developing some new neural pathways or mutating for maximum efficiency of getting really excited about random stuff because every couple of weeks it seems to bail me up in the corner like a cheerful drunk at a party and go 'HEY, YOU REMEMBER WHEN-' and just won't shut up about whatever it is into at the moment.

One of the things it's been yammering about recently is camping.

My family hasn't been camping for years.

The last time I remember was... 2004, just before I had my wisdom teeth out and was consigned to the scrap heap with the rest of the unwise.

And I haven't got any friends who go camping regularly - if at all - so I haven't gone on any exciting non-family camping trips since then either.

But at the moment it is all I can think about.

I want to go camping.

I want to put a tent, an air mattress, a sleeping bag, a handful of clothes and a bucketful of bug spray into my car and piss off somewhere camping.

I know that there is a nostalgia factor.

That there are things about camping that are extra annoying in any setting and things that are extra annoying in specific settings*.

I like the simplicity of only having what you brought with you.

No paralysis of choice on what to do because you've only got what you brought with you and the location you're in as options.

I like waking up going 'Jesus Christ, it must be like 10am! I must have slept in like crazy because it is BAKING in here!' and getting out of your tent to find that it's actually 7:30am and pleasantly mild once you're not inside a synthetic chamber of temperature amplification.

I like not having electricity because you have to REALLY want to finish that chapter in the book to sit there holding a book in one hand and a torch in the other.
Or with a torch clamped between chin and neck.
Or with the torch stuck in your mouth like the world's most unsuccessful pacifier.

I like being able to sit around in a folding chair or flop around in a hammock and not having to think 'I should get up and do that housework/shopping/organising/mending' because you've left all that bullshit at home.

I like the food, even when you cock it up.

It's handy that this trek in Nepal is going to have a camping component so I can calm my jonesing body down and get it to focus on other things that its sudden resurgent camping addiction**.

And when I get back and it's all summer and lovely, I might somehow manage to fit in some camping.

Though I'll be fighting the rest of Australia to find room anywhere decent at that time of year...

*In specific settings this will either relate to the terrain, the weather, or your fellow campers (e.g. drunks staggering home loudly late at night or tiny children running about screaming ridiculously early in the morning. Though if the kids run screaming around the tents of those shitty drunks while they're getting over their hangovers... Heh heh.)

**In Nepal I'll probably be distracted from my camping addiction by how tired I am and how my feet don't love me no more.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Needlessly Philosophical

I've been thinking a little bit about the nature of internet friendships and relationships recently.

Of all the people I've 'met' since I started putting things into the internet instead of just taking things out.

Those I'm still in touch with and those who drifted away.

Those who died out in the real world and left a quiet space in the virtual world where I knew them.

Of the communities I've been a part of.

And they really are like nothing else.

All human relationships start with a small amount of information and build their way up from there.

You bump into someone on the street and you're both wearing the same band t-shirt and you might end up a part of that person's life for 10 years based on that one thing that caught your eye and that just happened to be one aspect of a person who had enough in common with you and enough diversity from you to be an awesome friend.

You bump into someone on the internet and there's some of that same initial information gathering but it happens on a slightly different scale and under different conditions.

Whether you roam the internet under a pseudonym or under your real name, with a photo avatar or a screen cap of your favourite character, you are only putting small slices of your personality online at a time.

Whether it is on Twitter, on a blog, as part of a forum community or anywhere else on the internet, it is offering parts of yourself in bite-sized chunks.

If you read something someone has written and it resonates with you, you want to read more.

If it keeps resonating with you and you don't hit a sample that reveals that they believe something that you very much definitely do not, you start to feel a connection with them even before you've exchanged any kind of communication.

Communicating with people you know exclusively online allows you to slowly build a better picture of them, though there's always some things that you'll have trouble getting a feel for without ye olde body language or facial expressions, and there's the fact that when we're presenting ourselves there are always things we push to the fore or shove to the back or simply forget about.

This doesn't mean that internet friendships are any less valid, on the contrary a lot of the internet friendships I've had have been very deep and supportive and I've said things to internet friends that I've not shared with real life meat-space friends just because our dynamic is different.

With text-based communications there are opportunities for miscommunications or personal-bias interpretations but there is also the potential for really deep exchanges.
You get the chance to think things out and lay those thoughts down in a way that they wouldn't come out if spoken.
You get to show a different side to yourself and the see the different sides of many other people.

You can learn a lot about yourself by talking with people online.
You notice habits you have, turns of phrase or tendencies that with reflection reveal things about you that you weren't even aware of.
You can become aware of biases or presumptions that you weren't even aware you held.
You can find the courage to be your online self in the real world or to share your real self in the online world.

Or you can just dick around having a good time without getting so introspective.

Losing touch with someone you only known online can be quite jarring.
If you have no way of contacting them you have no idea if they've stopped updating their website/visiting your community/commenting on photos because they're busy/have lost interest/got a romantic partner and are too busy having crazy sex all the time/forgot their password or if they might be sick or even dead.

When someone drops out of contact you keep checking back, hoping that they're OK, wondering what's up and depending on the situation you may one day find out or you may just have to accept that they're gone and move on.

Sometimes, like regular meat-space friendships, you lose contact with someone because something specific happens - like a conflict - or you finally find that bit of information that makes you realise that the two of you aren't quite as similar as you thought and things gently drift apart.

The perceptions we bring to the internet are pretty much the same ones we bring to real life.

We build a picture of a person based on the information we have and then fill in the gaps.

Depending on the person we may idealise them a bit and then have to revise as we take into account their human flaws and foibles, the same way you do in real life.

It's just easier to hang onto the you-built-version of a person for longer online and that can either facilitate the start of something else, maintain a great friendship or lead to disappointment further down the track when you realise you were wrong.

Getting to know people online is amazing.

Even when it goes wrong it can show you other parts of life and the world that you may not have seen before.

Some of it may be stuff you would rather not have seen but for most people the stuff you treasure makes all that other bullshit worth wading through.

Sunday, 21 October 2012


With a little bit over a month until my friend's wedding we were all running about getting the last important big ticket items locked in.

Making sure we'd had our bridesmaid dresses altered, hair and make up had been scheduled, flowers had been arranged, the menu had been planned, the celebrant and photographer booked, accommodation confirmed, the usual.

Last Sunday I got a phone call which I assumed was going to be about buying our shoes or arrangements for the hen's night or something.

Turns out the wedding is off...




I was shocked.

And then I thought about it and I wasn't.

And then I was shocked that I wasn't shocked.

So I guess my original shock was just surprise rather than having trouble wrapping my head around the fact.

They've been together for 6 years and have been fairly solid for that time but they had their problems and had never really given off that 'soul mate' vibe.
Going into a marriage you'd assume you'd want that 'I want to be with this person forever' vibe to be pretty strong or you'd wonder if it was really a good fit.

My friend seems to be taking things surprisingly well - probably another indicator that she's done the right thing - and so my main concern will be being there for her when she needs me.

Even if she's done the right thing you have to assume there will be some 'I've just come out of a 6 year relationship' emotional turbulence somewhere down the track.

Now if only I could get my brain to fully absorb this new reality and stop thinking stupid things like this:

  • "I'm forgetting something... Oh, right! I still haven't picked a song to request for the receptio- Oh..."
  • "Man, I had better buy my shoes pretty quickly or- Oh..."
  • "I haven't got my outfit organised for the hen's ni- Right..."
  • "Better remember to ask my boss for time off so I can help organise the- No, wait..."
  • "I wonder if they've got all the RSVPaaahwaitasecond..."
Get this straight, brain, before you say something really inappropriate at a really stupid time.

No, not like usual, I mean really bad.

The other inappropriate stuff you say is friggin' hilarious, you keep that up.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Elusive Architecture

Architecture is a bastard.

There's a type of room I've wanted to include in my dream house floor plan for ages. I’ve known about this room since I’ve been to a couple of houses that featured it but I had to do a bunch of weird and sort of randomly worded searching to actually find out what it was called.

A mud room.

I’m sure there are other names for it but all the ones suggested by helpful folk were a bit too general for internet image searches.

When I plugged in ‘vestibule’, ‘lobby’, ‘antechamber’ and other entrance way type names, I got an array of pictures or descriptions which didn’t match what I was envisioning.

I finally hit upon the term ‘mud room’ and all the images that turned up for that term are exactly what I meant.

And I didn’t know how much I wanted one until I saw that bundle of images pop up.

They satisfy my organisation, tidiness and keeping-muck-out-of-my-house urges.
And my no-i-am-not-going-to-have-jackets-hanging-on-the-back-of-every-single-door determination.

These things here…

…very useful sure but once you’ve bought one you’ll end up with a whole collection of the damn things.

Put your coat in the wardrobe or have a special coat wardrobe if you’re into clothing segregation.
Don’t have them taking space up on the back of every bedroom, laundry and whatever-else door.
They make the room look all cluttered and you can’t open your doors all the way.

A mud room.

Added to the ‘must have’ list for my notional ‘one day’ house.

Disclaimer: My house will never at any time contain that many baseball caps.

Monday, 8 October 2012

The Sunnies Saga

I admit I get a bit attached to things.

Not in a deep emotional way, for the most part, but I don’t like throwing things out while they still work and I don’t like losing things when I’m still using them.

So when I couldn’t find my sunglasses on Saturday when taking the family dogs for a walk, I assumed I’d left them at my flat.

When I got back to my flat and remembered to look around for them, they weren’t there either.

In the car?



This meant one of two things.

I hadn’t searched around at my parents’ house thoroughly enough or I’d lost them somewhere.

This was bound to drive me crazy.

I hate losing things.

I did some more searching.

I texted people I’d spent time with at the end of the week.

I did some extra searching in some slightly outlandish places where I might have put sunglasses down but would have been highly unlikely to.
Example: the freezer.

I admitted that they were gone and that as they were only a $10 pair of sunnies that my brother had bought from a petrol station once and given to me when I needed a pair, I should just let it go.

I didn’t let it go.

The last place I remembered having them was in my friend’s car on the way out for dinner and a movie with mates.

I definitely had them in the car on the way there.

I didn’t remember having them on the way home and didn’t have them after that.


This meant I’d either left them at the restaurant or I’d dropped them in the cinema.

If I’d left them in the restaurant they might still be around but by now it’s Monday night and there’s a chance they might have been tossed or mislaid or accidentally tidied away.

If I’d left them in the cinema they were almost certainly gone.
Either kicked under a seat, trodden on, thrown out, picked up.
Much less of a likelihood that they would have ended up in a lost property box.

So, fingers crossed, I called up the restaurant.

They were there.

They had my sunnies.

The girl who answered the phone just happened to be the girl who had served us that night.


Of course… The thing about this restaurant is that it is an hour away from my flat…

What a sane person would do – especially a sane person who is soon going to buy a higher quality pair of sunglasses for her trip to Nepal – would be forget the sunglasses.
Tell the nice lady on the phone that it was OK to either keep them or toss them, whatever she felt like.

That’s what a sane person would do.

Guuuuuuueeeeeeeeeeeeess who just took a two hour round trip to pick up her sunglasses!?

Guuuuuuueeeeeeeeeeeeess who is super stoked about having her sunglasses back!?

Everything is right with the world again!

Really, I’m very very easily pleased.

The other amusing thing is that when bereft of sunglasses, my mother loaned me a pair that she assumed my sister had left at the family home.

I asked my sister about them.
Not hers.

I asked my brother’s girlfriend.
Not hers.

I cannot think of anybody else who has stopped by recently who could have left them here.

Mystery bonus sunglasses.

It’d be nice if they had a button or switch on them that give them infrared or x-ray filters but I expect they just keep the sun out of your eyes which is a handy feature that the human eye doesn’t offer as standard.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Daylight Savings

I freaking love daylight savings.

It’s a complicated love because every time it rolls around I manage to spend a week or two after the change reeling with daylight savings jetlag*, but it’s a true love nonetheless.

The sudden extra hour of sunlight is wonderful and despite knowing that it’s due to the already lengthening days and a flick of the clock settings, it feels almost magical.

And it makes a HUGE difference!

I don’t know about you but when I get home after work in winter and it’s already dark, a part of my brain goes ‘oh well, it’ll be bedtime soon, no use getting stuck into anything much’ and I have to fight an uphill battle to achieve anything substantial.

During the lighter months I will keep powering along until I run out of sunlight and then have to usher myself along to bed.

Sunlight in the afternoon and evening just makes everything better.

If you’re already a bit whimsical it can have you frolicking through the garden at 8pm, grinning stupidly at sunbeams and scrubbing strange almost inaccessible parts of your house for no particular reason.

The dark months are for snuggling up on the couch under a warm blanket and a pile of cats and reading a book.

The light months are for frenetic activity and feeling productive.

A friend has nursed a long misguided grudge against farmers because she thought that daylight savings was somehow their fault**.
A little cursory research suggests that it was brought in to give us more time to support productivity during World War I and some of the posters I found are frankly adorable.

Here’s one from 1918…

… and another from 2001…


Propaganda posters have often been used to encourage unfortunate attitudes or the dehumanisation of other cultures but sometimes they’re just overly dramatic or a chance for graphic artists to get really excited.

And I always hear them in the President Truman voice from the ‘Roswell That Ends Well’ episode of Futurama, which doesn’t hurt the entertainment value.

We’re so used to daylight savings being on the schedule that it’s kind of hard to imagine life without it.

I mean obviously it would just mean an hour more or less of sunlight here or there but if we’ve instituted it because it makes what you’d assume is a tangible difference, what was life like before daylight savings?

Would it be easier to just have summer and winter trading/business/schooling hours?

Such a little difference that it’s hard to believe it could have that much of an effect but it’s hard to believe we’d do it if it didn’t.

What I do know is that it means it is BBQ weather which means sundresses, sunscreen and cool drinks in good company and we can never have too much of that.

*An affliction that strikes either those who are resentful of losing an hour of sleep and refuse to face reality every year or those who have trouble putting down their books/laptops/TV remote controls at a reasonable hour and find themselves short a very needed hour of sleep.

**What do farmers care about what the clock says? Daylight savings often annoys them as it changes when deliveries have to be made without taking into account the fact that cows aren't going to get with the program and produce their milk an hour earlier etc.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Sucked In

There are some books that just absorb you totally. You pick them up, fall into them and you can’t put them down.

Sometimes it’s the subject matter, sometimes it’s how they’ve been written, sometimes it’s the mood you’re in.

It can be a convergence of these elements.

Maybe a character or an event resonates with you.

This is a particular danger for me if I tear through a book in one sitting.

It can cause some very disorientating cognitive dissonance.

When I was a teenager, I curled up in an armchair one afternoon, my legs folded beneath me and read my way all the way through Wendy Orr’s Peeling The Onion.
Just as I was closing the book, the phone rang and I automatically leapt to my feet to go and answer it.
After wrapping myself so completely in a tale of serious injuries and a difficult rehabilitation, I was so amazed that I could actually walk that I almost forgot how and only just saved myself from face-planting.

There are a few books that have grabbed me like this.

At the end of each of the Lord of the Rings books I had to remind myself I wasn’t a hobbit.

At the end of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods I was relieved to find the fate of the world didn’t actually rest on my shoulders.

After Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns I was the most grateful I have ever been to find myself in a life where I am neither endangered or limited in my options by my gender.

As I finished up Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, I once again emerged with surprise into my own life.

I couldn’t identify with the challenges and the self-destructive behaviour that put her on her hike on the Pacific Crest Trail but once she was on it, I was sucked right in.

The exhaustion and fear and doubt and anger and wonder and moments of joy had me.

Even the moments of shocking honesty covering experiences that I didn’t connect with at all weren’t enough to shake me loose, they just drew me deeper into her story.
So when I turned that last page and found myself back in my home, I was surprised and pleased to find my feet were in good nick and I still had all of my toenails.

Like with some other absorbing books, I was also a little... not disappointed... but there's a sort of moment of sadness as you finish the book and step back.

While I don’t ever want to be in a car accident, have to oppose great evil, have to navigate a moral minefield, experience domestic violence and social repression, or lose a loved one or my sense of self so totally, I often envy the key characters the strength they’ve found and the challenges they’ve overcome.

Those victories weren’t without their suffering and loss but they are valuable.

With Wild, I envied Cheryl the sense of self-confidence and self-reliance she built over the course of her journey.
I know that following her trip she had plenty of other issues to work through, plenty of other things she had to achieve before she got to the place she is in now, the place she had to be in to write this book, but she’d already achieved so much.
She had somewhere to begin.

Books like these don’t just capture you for the duration of your reading experience, they also inspire you to look at your life, to try new things and sometimes just open your eyes to certain truths or possibilities.
They don’t come along at regular intervals but when these books turn up, they remind you what the real power of reading is and what it can do for you.

I hope everyone has the chance to experience this, to have their attention so thoroughly caught that disengaging at the end actually feels like a kind of surfacing.

If you have and feel like sharing, please let me know.
I’d love to see if your books can catch me up in the same way.
Even if they don't, just knowing that they've done that for someone else gives them a weight and power.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Naked Ambition

Before I get into the meat of this one, I'm just going to take a line to say Holy Crab-sprinkles! This is my 300th post!

OK, now that I'm done being stunned by the amount of time that has passed and the fact that I haven't been distracted by something shiny and wandered away, back to it!

I've been trying my hand at the arts and crafts over the last few years.

My most ambitious project so far was that I made a Deddy-Bear* for one of my friends for her 30th Birthday.
And of course it was my first project. I went from 'nothing' to 'super ambitious project made out of difficult to sew fabric'.
Luckily I have an incredibly crafty aunt who took me step by step through the process.
I - of course - forgot to take any pictures of it before I gave it to my friend but I've got another one 90% done that I've made for myself so I'll post a picture sometime this year hopefully**.

It looks a bit like this lovely bear by moonwing-pamela on deviantART but different as we put together the pattern ourselves and used shaggier fur.

I've started knitting, successfully produced a big-ass scarf...

...I cast on too many stitches because I didn't know how wide it would make it and then I had to make it long to balance it out... But look, if you wear it like this it is normal sized and extra cosy warm...

 ...and am now making lots of little squares for a snuggly rug.

I've learned how to crochet and have a tentative little learner's scarf on the go and probably some more little squares for a different kind of rug coming up sometime soon.

My new thing that I'm planning to throw myself into is trying to make a quilt.

And I've decided that the first one will be for my friend Awesome's baby - who is now somehow two months old! - who I'm sure will dribble and widdle all over it.

And this is the material I've chosen.

So friggin' excited!

And I am totally making one of these for myself!

And I have bought enough material to make probably a tonne of these because I didn't know how much I needed and erred on the side of super caution.

As you might be able to make out I have seven prints so some of them will go into the quilt design and some of them will probably become bags, maybe for holding quilts.

Very Hungry Caterpillar quilts for everyone!

Of course I haven't started yet, have no idea how long the process will take me and how often I'll be able to spend time with my crafty aunt and how much I'll be able to manage without her guidance but man am I excited.

*Toki's teddy bear from the TV series Metalocalypse

**It depends on getting time with my aunt and her heavy-duty sewing machine.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Kickstarter Swag

When done right Kickstarter seems to be a fantastic idea.

Creators get to pitch ideas directly to the public, the public gets to throw money at an idea that they support that might not have gotten funding from suspicious and short-sighted financial peoples, and the project can get done right.

The failsafes in place - the project has to be deemed viable and the person running it non-scammy before it is put on the site, and if the project isn't fully funded no-one gets charged - helps you feel that if you fork out dollars you should get something back.

I've only started paying attention to kickstarter recently because Amanda Palmer was suddenly all over my internets explaining that she was making a new album.
I knew I'd missed a kickstarter she'd done with Neil Gaiman and had been bummed out about that so I decided to get in on this one at ground floor.

So I signed up for Kickstarter, chipped in, and seeing as Amanda Palmer's project got super-funded in a short amount of time I knew that was a lock, I started looking around at other things.

These are the projects I've flung happy wads of cash at so far.

Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra's Theatre Is Evil CD and Art Book

This is the one that finally got me to sign up. If you watch the video you'll see why.
Unless you don't like Amanda Palmer, which is OK, she's a divisive artist.
I like her passion and her nutso vocals.
And the great thing about it is that with how the funding turned out they've managed to produce the album for public sale as well.
So those who contributed get lovely extras and we got to make it available to other fans who might not have had the money at the time.

So far the digital download has been made available for backers and by all reports has been rocking socks all across the internet.
The live shows have been going off and the physical packages are arriving all around the world for people who are waiting by their mailboxes like this is Christmas.

This track that they've released - Want It Back - shows you what sort of stuff you can expect from the album and the inspiring music videos that it has already produced.


Smut Peddler

Smut Peddler is a collection of sex-positive, queer-positive indie comics with some incredibly sweet love stories mixed in with all the lovely smut.
There are a variety of different stories for people of different tastes (in art, in story style, in smut) and there is a very accepting feel to the whole thing. Not everything will fit everyone's personal inclinations but it's very much a case of 'your kink is not my kink and that's OK' and even if you aren't engaged by a particular story, the art is still lovely.

They did a wonderful job of presenting different sexual identities, relationships and dynamics of varying configurations in a very natural and respectful manner, making all the pairings or groupings seem very casual and natural and fun.
Some of the stories are also funny as hell which is nice.

My backer PDF turned up recently and phew is it steamy in places. Very very nicely done.
I can't wait for the physical copy.

All of the contributors turned out excellent work.
I'd already heard of and seen work by Jess Fink, Erika Moen and Leia Weathington before but I was really really impressed by the technical art skills of other new-to-me contributors like Betty Jean Doe, E.K. Weaver, Nechama Frier, Lee Blauersouth, Theo Lorenz, Dechanique and their writing partners like Alice Hunt and Abby Lark.

The Smut Peddler PDF is now available for sale to non-backers.



Tome is probably the biggest and most ambitious of the projects I've backed.
A hardcover anthology of art in what is shaping up to be a glorious annual series. This particular volume will be about vampirism and will feature the art of Ben Templesmith, Becky Cloonan, Dave McKean, Francesco Francavilla, menton3, Molly Crabapple and many others. Those listed here are just the ones I recognise instantly, I expect to fall in love with the art and music of the other new-to-me artists when it comes along.
Yep, that's right, it has a music component.
From what I've seen of the work in progress and what I know of the quality of work the contributors are known for, Tome is going to be a eye meltingly beautiful.
I cannot wait to have this ginormous book of art in my arms. And it will literally be my arms. It'll be too big to just hold in my hands.

The very best part about the projects I've backed so far is that there is a gap between funding being successful and the product being produced and mailed out so by the time it finds its way to me I will have completely forgotten it's on its way!
Thanks past-me! You're a gem!

If you've been looking at Kickstarter but haven't been sure I guess the advice I'd give to you is to pick projects you're excited about, hopefully by people who are known for their passion for their work and their joy in creating and give it a shot if you're in a position to.
It feels really good to be part of the process, knowing that you helped something amazing be made.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

The Near Miss

OK that wasn't stressful at all.

Mum and I were out walking the dogs and were half a block from home when we noticed a little dog across the road.
It started yip yip yipping at us and was joined by another tiny little dog.
And with their powers combined they decided to run across the road in an attempt to join us and the Labrador of Doom and Apocalypse Pup.

So they ran right into the middle of the road.

Right in front of a car.

Hare Heavyweight Champion Of The World Krishna*!

Luckily the car stopped in time, I grabbed our two dogs and Mum ran out and scooped up the two tiny dogs.
The two tiny dogs which are puppies that can't be more than a few weeks old.

So while I restrained two incredibly excited Labradors that wanted to lick the puppies until they dissolved, Mum juggled them and knocked on the door of the house of the yard they were hanging out in**.

The guy who answered the door said "Oh yeah, they've been hanging out there for hours but I think they belong to the folks two doors down."




To his credit he did take Mum to the right house and help her put the dogs back into the yard with their litter-mates but it's too late, his loins are barren now.

The people who live in the puppy house - who only moved in a few weeks ago - were out and had apparently been out all day so there was no-one to tell about the near miss.

We hurried home to put our overexcited dogs in the yard and Mum decided to write a note about what happened and leave it at the puppy-house's front door so that they'll know to fix the fence up.

About five minutes later I got a call on my mobile phone.

From Mum.

"Uh, hi. There's about four tiny puppies out here trying to follow me home... So..."

Grab bucket of dry dog food, grab big sheet of cardboard, hustle out the door into the night.

When I get there the first thing I had to do was a Dr Zoidberg shuffle past the two cars parked in the driveway, then I had to use my phone to illuminate the fence and spot the hole.

The fence is a little bit bunged together, with one huge and very respectable chain-link fence section that has been recently installed but not secured between the house and the side-fence and as such it has a gap down one side that the new tenants have attempted to block up.

They'd done an OK job but there is one hole.

A hole I couldn't block up again yet because the wooden sheet that was supposed to be blocking it had fallen backwards and a whole parcel of unescaped puppies were wiggling excitedly on top of it while excited escaped puppies gleefully wiggled on my feet.

I tried to put the loose puppies back into the yard but they kept immediately popping out through the hole again and rolling about on my feet.

A couple of scoops of dog food flung over the fence and all of a sudden they were willing to leave the fence alone and those I gently plopped back over the fence ran food-wise to join the fun instead of heading back for Round 3 with my shoelaces.

Grab wooden board, grab big sheet of cardboard that I brought.

Grab pipe to wedge between board and adjoining fence.

Grab knocked over paint tins and pile them up in front of the hole just in case the little escape artists manage to get around the board again.

Check fence.

Double-check fence.

Scan the area for any missed puppies.

Throw a few more scoops of food into the happy scrum.

This whole time we've been able to hear Mumma Dog barking a few metres away, moving about but not getting closer and she hasn't showed up so our guess is that when they went out for the day they put her on a line and thought the puppies would stick close to her.

But the puppies got curious and/or hungry and went questing and she was unable to go drag them back.

After making sure the fence was double-extra completely secure and there were zero ninja puppies skulking about the place, Mum and I finally tucked the note into the door and wandered home.

So yeah, that was a little nerve-wracking almost seeing a couple of adorable puppies get minced and thinking that more of them could have met the same fate.

But hey, it worked out, all safe and sound and tucked away!

Good news for everyone!

Except that guy with the barren loins.

Sucks to be you dude.

But seriously?

For hours?

You're lucky you get to keep your barren useless loins.

*Why should Jesus get all the middle names?

**Does that sentence make sense? Yeah, it makes sense. You get it right?

Saturday, 25 August 2012

The Sentinels

I don't know about you but when I see something I'm not familiar with, I try and guess from context what it is or what it might be used for.

For instance, there is some construction going on near my office building and just the other day when out on my walk I noticed these strange dealies sitting ready to be included in the process somehow.

The logical part of my brain suggested that they looked like something that might be used in the foundations.
This was a pretty safe bet as they're just finishing up preparing the ground and are getting ready to lay the foundations.

The part of my brain that gets most of the votes on what to think about concurred on the foundations part but decided that they looked like dog kennels and that if someone was going to place dog kennels in the foundations of a building they would probably be placed at four points in the foundations and contain guardians, an act of sympathetic magic to protect the building being constructed.

Now these guardians could be of several natures:
  • Artificial. Made out of stone or other such materials and placed symbolically like Terracotta warriors to arise when needed.
  • Supernatural. Immortal creatures that can endure without sustenance or sunshine and whose presence provides a real occult protection which moves from passive to active if the property is under attack. Hopefully being confined underground, possibly for decades or centuries, wouldn't drive them insane otherwise demolition work would require superhuman effort and bravery.
  • Sacrificial. My least favourite, real dogs are placed within the kennels and entombed when they are inserted into the foundations of the building. The sacrifice of the living creatures  is a compact with the gods and is supposed to ensure that their spirits are bound to the building which they then vigorously defend.

 And these are the things I think about when out for a walk.

Makes sense to me.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Unhelpful Uncle

At a family gathering yesterday a few different people seemed to have things to say about our upcoming trip to Nepal.

One aunt was chatting away about a story she'd read in a weekend paper supplement about a guy who had spent a few months trekking around in the mountains of Nepal and who then had to spend 6 weeks in hospital recovering after he got home.

That was OK, we're not planning to be as high for as long or to push it like that fellow.

Then my uncle decided to chime in.
"I have to tell you that a woman I used to work with went and did this trek with a Canadian girl and the Canadian girl never made it back.
She died of Mountain Sickness.
They got her back to the Kathmandu hospital whilst she was still alive but she didn't pull through."

'I didn't need to hear that' I thought.

"Of course, she'd been having breathing difficulties for a while. Sounding all bubbly and wheezy.
But she kept saying 'it was only a little bit further' and refused to turn back.
And she was drinking alcohol the whole time.
And this was 20 years ago."

Thanks, unhelpful uncle.
So not only did she get Mountain Sickness (which I will forever hear in a 'Tales of Interest!' from Futurama voice) because she went against specific medical advice after experiencing symptoms of difficulty, she was drinking and not getting adequate rest or hydration etc.
And as it was 20 years ago they probably knew less about altitude sickness and if she was even part of a guided tour they probably weren't as rigorous about safety and First Aid Training and their guides (assuming they had any) won't have been trained in monitoring and treating the symptoms of altitude sickness and definitely won't have been carrying an inflatable decompression chamber.

So thanks for amping up the idea that I might die of 'Mountain Sickness!' for no reason :-/

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Alien Concepts

It feels like we're in a unique point in history and it's both intriguing and a little bit melancholy.

We've watched huge leaps in technological advancement being built on the achievements of the previous generations, each leap a little closer in time to the last and yet taking us further in concept each time.

This means that we're a generation more used to large changes to our lifestyle and our ways of thinking.

We've seen more of the elements of our science fiction favourites being brought into everyday life and have a better ability to predict what may be possible and to strive for what is on the edge of that possibility.

And all this means that we are able to look at our lives and experiences and predict what things are going to fall by the wayside and how quickly.

I might be incorrect but I get the feeling that even though our parents and grandparents knew that change was inevitable they still were taken a bit by surprise when things that they'd grown up with or used their entire adult lives were rendered completely obsolete within a matter of months or a year by a new development.

I know even for people my age it was a bit startling at first watching VHS getting superseded by DVD (with a brief bit of competition from HD DVD format), but as DVD is nudged in the back by Blu-Ray there's more of a 'ho hum, another one bites the dust' feeling.

Even as something new comes out now we know that it has a finite lifespan and that the new thing will be not far behind.
Whether the new thing will last or not is unknown but we know it's coming.


So in honour of that, here is a brief list of little memories that the next generation won't get to experience.

  • Doing Presentations Using Overhead Projectors. I don't know about you but I used to love doing these. When you were younger you were set loose with some special textas that wrong on the plastic projector sheets and had to very carefully try to write or draw as much of your presentation as possible onto your sheet so that you didn't look like that one weenie whose last sentence had to turn sideways down the side of the page.
    In university I got to have one last play with an overhead projector and printed a colour photocopy of an Italian Renaissance painting onto a sheet of clear plastic for an Italian Art and History class presentation. I spent an embarrassing amount of time holding it up to the light and just gazing through it from either side. It was like having my own very detailed stained glass window.
Overhead Projectors: They Are Cool
  • Get To Play With Cassette Tapes And All The Fiddling That Entailed. I mean really, think about all the experiences associated with cassettes.
    -Rewinding them and listening to that clunky 'click!' as they got to the end of the tape.
    -Winding them up with a pencil when they unspooled or if you were fiddling around.
    -Learning to listen to that moment of emptiness that signalled that it had got past the blank bit of tape at the start and you should start recording from this point onwards so that you didn't cut the start off your favourite songs.
    -Physically turning a cassette over unless you had a 'fancy' deck/walkman that did it for you.

    (I know these all sound like the things that old people go on about much to their grandchildren's chagrin but this is the point! We're getting to the nostalgia part of life about 30 or 40 years ahead of schedule!)
  • Going To The Video Store To Rent Movies. If video stores last another 5 to 10 years I will actually be a bit surprised. What with downloadable movie/TV series rental services already up and running, purchasing your own movies and so forth cheaper than it used to be and the high incidence of movie piracy that goes on amongst the social bracket that used to do all the renting because they couldn't afford to buy*, the profit margins must be getting pretty slim these days.
    But not having that experience of being given a time limit for picking movies, a SET number of movies that was NOT up for negotiation due to the deals the store was offering, and all the bargaining and arguing that went on with your siblings... Well where is the drama and the excitement with doing that from home?
    If you're sitting in front of the family computer with your Mum saying 'I'm only clicking one more item, which one is it going to be?', where's the fun in that?
  • Being Excited About Songs On The Radio. You can still get excited about your favourite songs coming on the radio but now that you can just go straight to Youtube or another online service and listen to any song you like on demand at any time, it just isn't the same thing.
    Waiting by your radio with your finger hovering over the record button to catch a song on cassette helped you develop lightning fast reflexes.

There are tonnes of other examples but these are the ones that have popped into my head which I felt met the criteria without straying too far into 'They won't remember telephones with cords' which is a different kind of deal.

It makes you wonder whether as we become more used to change going into the future whether our growing adaptability will be our biggest asset or whether it will lead us to be so flighty in our attentions and loyalties that we're going to shoot ourselves in the foot as a species.

I guess we'll see.

*This is definitely a big generalisation but the more bogan-y a person is the more likely it is that they're pirating movies.