Friday, February 29, 2008

The tail end of the tale

I've only just discovered the wonderful (just ended) blog of Mike the human and Bondi the Alaskan Malamute, el Loco & el Lobo, who have just returned from an epic journey of 2.5 years roaming Europe and UK together.

While I'm disappointed to have found their adventures only once it was all over, I've barely scratched the surface of reading about their shared experiences. I've travelled with my Jack Russell to Queensland, Victoria and many parts of New South Wales, but it hadn't crossed my mind that international travel with a dog was even possible, let along viable. With planning, Bondi only needed to spend one month in quarantine when they returned!

What really topped the week was meeting Mike last night! I was invited to my third Thursday night bloggers' meeting in three weeks - and Mike was there, relating tales of Bondi in person! (Poor ol' Bondi wasn't allowed into the beer garden.) It kinda felt like meeting a celebrity. I'd known of Mike and Bondi's blog for less than 24 hours but I felt an immediate sense of camaraderie, and it was great fun to listen to his stories firsthand.

Jack would love to meet Bondi, being very familiar with two local malamutes who flop above the rim of their fence to watch Jack and me walking by their yard every day.

Thanks Andrew for the invitation. It was a great night with some fascinating blogging personalities!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The modern slideshow

Ever gone to one of those awful "slide nights" when you were a kid? Some neighbour would invite your whole family over to see slides of their family holiday to... wherever. And the slide projector always developed a fault, or blew a globe. Or someone would spill the box of slides, or the screen would be blank and someone would make those tired old jokes about the white screen representing a snowman in a blizzard.

May I present the modern slideshow, which I'm using as a teaching tool in my job as a teacher-librarian. I Photoshop and upload the photos to the Internet from home, select them as a group for a slideshow, and design lessons around the use of the images (that have no copyright problems).

My first three Flickr slideshows have proven to be very useful. But I learned something very exciting yesterday: when the mouse is dragged across the middle of the frame, a large "i" icon appears. I assumed this meant "information" but I never thought to test it. Children don't seem to have that lack of impulse to click a button; thus I discovered that my photo titles and description, in white text, superimpose the photos at the click of a mouse! Simple, but effective. Technology makes adults feel dumb sometimes!

Chinese New Year K-2
Bridges - Stage Two (Years 3 & 4)
Antarctica - Stage Three (Years 5 & 6)

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Catching up with Aunty Pat

Today's plan (for several weeks now) was a sketch group gathering in Sydney's Botanical Gardens. Even if there'd been a shortage of live human models (and there threatened to be), the Gardens are filled with plenty of life-size statues. It turned out to be a glorious day for it, but unfortunately coincided with the arrival of two huge ocean liners, Queen Victoria and the QE II, in Sydney Harbour - and the media encouraging everyone to go and check 'em out, again. Ick! So much for the usual tranquility of the Gardens on a Sunday.

Yesterday, my aunt suggested I meet her in Bondi Junction instead, so I piked out on sketching (only three others of about eighteen people had RSVPed anyway, much to my disappointment) and had a great day catching up on family gossip. I scored a late Christmas present, too; a great polo shirt with white sides that will have a wonderful optical illusion slimming effect!

Speaking of which:

Sunday's magic number: 90.9 - slightly up on last week, but one of the students' parents from school presented the staff with a record-breaking, huge Black Forest cake on Monday. So all my diet promises for last Monday lasted from 8.00 am till exactly 11.20am. Sigh.

However, it was about this time last year that I began a six-month stint of denial, ie. refusing to check the scales each week, resulting in me putting back on about eleven kilograms and ruining about a years work of dieting. So I'm sorta excited I'm holding steady.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

"Tell us about the rabbits, George"

You know, I don't think I've ever properly listened to the words of "White Rabbit" by Jefferson Airplane...

Makes me all nostalgic to see this again:


Friday, February 22, 2008


The Other Andrew wondered aloud in his blog today what was up with the blogosphere that it was so quiet this week?

Well, I've been a little lax here this week only because I'm trying to split allegiances by devoting more time to my new professional learning blog, Booked Inn: heroic adventures in teacher-librarianship over at

Also a brand new blog format for the NSW Dept of Education & Training's book rap on the picture book, Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge at - meaning lots of emails back and forth helping brand new educator blogger virgins to blog for the first time.

Sydney Webloggers' Meetup (ending the hiatus from last July) reconvened last night and, although I was expecting about 15 people, only six of us showed up at the wonderfully atmospheric attic of the ArtHouse Hotel in the CBD. So there must be some other distractions out there. No matter, the six of us had a great time!

But otherwise the blogosphere - especially yesterday and today - seems [E.Fudd] "vewwy, vewwy qwiet, hehehehehehe..." [/E.Fudd]

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Bonus bottles

Free wine

Louise, a work colleague, passed on some photos of last Sunday's wine tasting cruise. I look so... greedy. These are my freebie bottles - four of 'em - just for turning up.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Stamp of approval: superheroes have crime licked!!!

Superhero stamps

A work colleague recently received a real letter, in a real envelope, with real stamps on it, from overseas - email has replaced so much of it these days - and when she saw the US postage stamps her friend had chosen/been sold, she immediately thought of me!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Wild wines afloat

Pieroth wines

Put several work colleagues, assorted spouses and some fine Pieroth wines onto a Sydney Harbour showboat - shaken, not stirred - and hilarity will ensue.

It was the six-monthly Pieroth wine-tasting cruise today - and I did kinda feel sorry for Stewart, my wine rep. I already had an inkling of the way the session would proceed: trying to get my guests out of the Woolworths' gourmet food hall in time to catch the ferry. But there was poor Stewart on the boat, having to commence his wine talk while trying to make eye contact through piles of cheese, crackers, dips, grapes, blueberries, cabanossi, avocado, chocolate, and Portuguese tarts, etc - and diligently handing out the score sheets (with suggested ratings between 1 and 4), only to see that one of my teaching colleagues had scored her first drink as "Lovely".

"She's a kindergarten teacher," I warned. "Be grateful she's not writing in thick yellow crayon!"

About half way through the tastings, we were suddenly aware that we were the only table this year without a "slops bucket". Every taste test went down the hatch.

The day was certainly enlightening for James, a new friend from Canada, who (only six months into his stay Down Under) got to taste some Australian culture and humour along with the wines.

Retiring to the Cockle Bay Cargo Bar afterwards, for "steak fries" (they no longer make their iconic potato wedges with sour cream and sweet chili sauce), we suddenly had one of our gathering remember she'd left her handbag on the ferry. She was back a few minutes later, but seemingly much too late to have retrieved the handbag. And yet, she was holding it aloft.

It seems the ropes had already been released, the boat pulling out from the wharf - but the wayward handbag had made it into our wayward Kindergarten teacher's arms - but only by the kindness, and very true aim, of one of the showboat's cabin crew.

Perhaps it's a good thing that we didn't remember the cheese knife, left behind at our table, until much, much later...

Sunday's magic number: 90.6 - A great result for a week of great restraint, despite the Thursday morning tea, and today's wine tasting, of course. Let's hope the downward trend continues.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Visiting for the weekend!


"V" creator, Kenneth Johnson, has revisited his epic TV mini-series of the 80s with a hardcover sequel novel called "V: The Second Generation". First scheduled for release in October 2007, it's been delayed a few times but is finally here!

I have had the book on pre-order at Galaxy, and thankfully they saved me a hardcover edition (it has a simultaneous trade paperback release), and I'm glad I pre-ordered since there was only one copy sitting on the shelves just a few days after the first airfreighted stock arrived.

Now I must rush through the rest of a DS9 novel, "Warpath" (not difficult because David Mack writes a fast-paced book), and delve into "V". I understand Johnson will ignore elements of the latter "V" projects, made without his involvement, but there is no foreword explaining the set-up, so it'll be an interesting ride.

It's been way too long between mousies!


Also on the shelves at Galaxy last night was "Captain Kirk's Guide to Women" by John "Bones" Rodriguez, a slim "factual" book published by Pocket Books, which caused much hilarity when I tried to purchase it. Poor Sofia was trying to serve me in her usual friendly and jovial manner - and trying not to raise her eyebrows over the title of the book, and all the cheesy Kirk/female embraces depicted on its cover - and I was reassuring her that, although I now had all the secrets I ever needed to wield romantic power over Earth and alien females alike, I hadn't actually read it yet.

Valentine's Day. How appropriate for such a purchase! I warned Sofia that there might be a regular cluster of lonely Star Trek fans, desperate for the ultimate solution to the Great Mystery of the Universe, down by the Star Trek "New Releases" stand... at least until the last three copies were sold.

Still attempting to convey nonchalance, Sofia then asked, quite innocently, if I wanted my paper bag sealed.

"Why?" I smirked. "Are you trying to prevent me from reading it on the train home?"

Then I noticed that my purchase was now in a plain brown wrapper. Maybe that's the only safe way to carry home the secrets of Kirk's mojo?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Preparing for "Sorry"...

It certainly snuck up on us... Former Prime Minister, John Howard, stubbornly resisted any attempt - for many, many years - for the nation to say "Sorry" to Australia's Aboriginal population for the Stolen Generations. Actor John Howard (currrently appearing in television's All Saints), did once say "Sorry" in the very funny TV mockumentary, The Games, but that one doesn't count! However... in just a few more hours, our new Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, will say "Sorry" - and a nation (and much of the world, thanks to the immediacy of the Internet) will down tools and listen. Then the next stages of Reconciliation might be able to proceed.

Australian schools have been encouraged to organise for students to witness the event live, which will no doubt cause a bit of a scramble in some schools. We do have Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags on hand - and use them often - but my school doesn't have a working TV antennae on the roof. Traditional broadcast options (at least, those in use since the first Moon Landing in 1969, I reckon) will be impossible for us. Taping the speech at a teacher's home, then watching it all together the next day, just won't cut it. (That might work for the average episode of BTN, but not this event.)

Therefore, the Principal, my library clerical and I did a tech dress rehearsal yesterday, with: a laptop computer, recommended software, data projector, standard projector screen and the spare Internet hub (located in a sports storeroom within in the assembly hall). I'm glad we didn't leave the preparation until the morning of the apology; if the tech fails us, it will be a disaster perhaps equivalent to the communications breakdown that threatened Apollo 11's historic moonwalk in the Aussie motion picture, The Dish.

This significant day in Australia's history will undoubtedly become one of those "Where you you when that happened?" events, and we've all crossed our fingers that the fickle finger of fate won't bring down a tech disaster of epic proportions. (Although we'd been informed that schools could gain access to today's live streaming, from Parliament House in Canberra, via the Internet, the Department's intranet and TaLe, we couldn't find a hyperlink which seemed to be awaiting The Big Day.)

I ended up doing a simple Google search (essentially, my total contribution to the rehearsal), to find the website for Parliament House (haven't been there in ages!), and I was pleased to see a very obvious link, along the top of the frame, for Live Broadcasting. We bookmarked the site, and did our trial run on yesterday afternoon's Opening of Parliament 2008, and were able to identify exactly what needed to be done to maximise sound and picture quality. The extended "test pattern" gave us a moment of panic, but when the session finally started our trial run seemed to indicate that "doing our homework" would ensure success.

I hope the speech brings everyone the hope and acknowledgment that many have pinned to this long-awaited, historic gesture.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Natural Treasures of NSW

My brother, Brian - commonly known around the traps as "Furry" - lives at Mt Warning near the NSW/Queensland border, and recently featured on an Australian Geographic television documentary, "The Natural Treasures of NSW", with presenter/writer/adventurer, Sorrel Wilby:

Australian Geographic presents...whiteTeaser sequence

Sorrel and BrianwhiteA film by Sorrel Wilby

The Natural Treasures of NSWwhitePython

Brian and SorrelwhiteBrian

Lizards and adders and pythons, oh my. Crikey!

(Airdate: 4/01/08, Nine Network.)

Monday, February 11, 2008

I saw Sharon Millerchip on a tram!

Sharon Millerchip on a tram

Mmmmm, yeah - as Columbia, from the upcoming "Rocky Horror Show" theatre experience - but, literally, she was on a tram...

Rocky Horror Show tram

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Year of the Small, Nocturnal, Domestic Rodent

Year of the Rat 2008

This weekend marked the commencement of the Chinese New Year. The Pig (2007) officially handed over to... the Rat (2008). Or, indeed, the Mouse - if you believe my local coin shop which is distributing special "Year of the Mouse" collectible coins for the Australian Mint. Maybe mice are more socially acceptable to coin collectors? (You dirty rats!)

I was in the city for a Star Trek Meetup in the Royal Botanical Gardens but, on the way through the CBD, I passed all the marchers and floats preparing to start their huge Chinese New Year Parade. Perfect timing, and I couldn't resist firing off a few digital snaps for my Flickr account. Or as a slideshow!

Photographing colourful, waiting, assembled marchers proved to be quite effective - with all the outfits pressed against each other instead of stretched apart during the parade proper - although the dragon and lion dancers came alive with a magic that only moving footage would have been able to preserve.

The most amazing group was wearing grey, faceless costumes of the Terracotta Warriors. Very impressive.


Green marchers



Terracotta warriors

Sunday's magic number: 92.1. Tempted by food - all around me! But resisting anew. I hope.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Bloodstains in the dark


The fourth season of JJ Abrams' "Lost" returned to Australian television this week, and I watched back the first episode on my DVD recorder this morning. I'd quite forgotten some of the ongoing threads over the show's hiatus but, in the opening moments, the director, editor and writers quickly got me up to speed.

Knowing that JJ Abrams is currently working on the new Star Trek film, it was exciting to see, anew, how well "Lost" is put together. I had a thoroughly enjoyable time catching up - and I still have no idea what's going to happen next.

My only eyebrow-raising moments: the camp of survivors split up into two search parties, both groups following what they believed to be a legitimate path of bloodstains.

At night time? By the light of flaming torches?

Mmmm. Okay.

Speaking of mysterious bloodstains in the dark: I managed to create my own wayward trail of blood spots last night, after cutting my finger with the newish kitchen scissors. I was harvesting what might turn out to be my last two gardenia blooms for the season. What a time to discover that the last dregs of Dettol antiseptic was used for whatever was the last local medical emergency...

And speaking of mysteries in the dark: last night, my house security system was insisting I had a window open. The main wooden doors were fine; the code was claiming it was a window. Or a glass door. I ran around the house, checking every window and glass door. The control panel was still insisting a window was open.

Then, Jack started barking at the front wooden door. I opened it, but he was still barking. Not out into the street, but at the door! I closed the door again and I realised the infamous ghostly fishy smell was back! Now, Jack was freaking out, and ran off to bed.

As the smell slowly dissipated, I glanced at the security control panel again. The ghost was gone, and lo! - the control panel had reset itself! No windows were open.

Next stop, "The Twilight Zone".

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The fog lifts

The fog lifts

The fog lifts

Inspired by Sunday's blog entry, here's an eerie attempt by my niece, Beckie, to restore the Three Sisters through the impenetrable fog.

Thanks Beck!

Sunday, February 03, 2008

The foggiest notion

It seemed like a great idea at the time. Leave the dog at home and take a quick trip to Katoomba (via breakfast at Glenbrook again - yummo! Mash coffee shop can be habit-forming) for a bush walk.

We arrived in Katoomba only to hear that the fog had "rolled in" twice already and suddenly, "Here it comes again!"

Undaunted, we headed off to Echo Point to see what remained visible of the Three Sisters tourist attraction. The Japanese tourists were quite perplexed...

If I used Photoshop, I could drop in a postcard of the Three Sisters behind me.

To make me feel even guiltier for leaving Jack at home, we met a Jack Russell terrier in the fog. Well, I think it might have been a Jack Russell. It certainly felt a bit like a Jack Russell.

Dog in fogwhiteWhere
This tourist dog (above left) was exactly the same colour
as the fog. He looked like a little disembodied head strolling
around the lookout. Ian (above right) desperately seeks the
Three Sisters at Queen Elizabeth's Lookout.
(Click on the photos to see larger versions.)

Wong Sisters
I didn't have the heart to tell the Japanese tourists
that they were heading in the wrong direction...

One Sister in the fog
One reluctant Sister finally makes an appearance. Her siblings remain shy.

IanwhiteLeura Cascades
A few nice photos: Ian (above left) at the one visible Sister;
and Leura Cascades Track in the rain (above right).
Click on the photos to see larger versions.

Sunday's magic number: 92.6 - Oh well... Too many distractions last week, including my housemate's midweek homemade bolognaise pizza, and a work colleague's 60th birthday party on Friday night. But I don't feel like I really put on two kgs! Damn that Home Ice Cream truck which drove by last Monday, the public holiday.

Time to get serious again. (Sigh. Didn't I say that last week?)

Bush tucker fit for an Andorian. I assume these are a variety
of quandongs, growing wild at Leura.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Raiders of the lost anecdote

You know, in the old days, in the typical hurly burly of the working week, the data collected in yesterday's blog post at Booked Inn would be lost, probably forever.

I retold the (otherwise quickly forgotten) anecdote to a table of work colleague guests last night, at another colleague’s 60th birthday celebrations - and that’s the way it would have happened pre-blog, too. However, because of the blog, that little story - an insightful snapshot as to how and what students learn - is still there to share with everyone, for as long as... well, who knows?

In the previous post to that one, I'd listed some emailed-in comments. It seems my fledgling educational blog is already inspiring others to start doing heroic things in their schools. I’m feeling very chuffed.

Friday, February 01, 2008

See you in Dreamland

Youtube has a peek into the making of Brent Spiner's new "Dreamland" CD - a unique combination of old time radio, musical theatre and film noir. A sort of "audio film".
You can buy it at

Pre-order: $US 19.95
Autographed version: $US 24.95
Personalized version: $US 29.95

This looks great! I've just pre-ordered my copy. It's been a long, long time since "Old Yellow Eyes is Back".

Brent Spiner, of course, played Data on "Star Trek: The Next Generation". And various members of the Soong family of scientists and androids in guest roles across the Star Trek franchise.