Wednesday, 28 March 2007

Words for the week - 0

I'm swinging like a pendulum.

No time on the weekend to do anything -- not even household chores! Pure social indulgence. I'm still catching up on the housework.

Couple that with the switch out of daylight saving, which has really wiped me out, plus the afore-mentioned catching up on housework, and you have not a spare twitch of the finger at keyboard! (OK, so I have had found the time to post here, but that's the total sum of it!)

I am afraid the next couple of weeks will see little improvement.

Tuesday, 27 March 2007

2006 Triple J Hottest 100

My brother recently gave me a CD of tracks from the 2006 Triple J Hottest 100. To my delight, this turned out to be 101 MP3 files, not the double audio CD I had come to expect. I don't know where all the tracks came from, but it's fantastically cool to take a snapshot of 2006 music and listen to it.

(Hayley, I am listening to Placebo as I write and thinking of you . . . now it's Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol, which makes me think of Grey's Anatomy . . .)

I suspect my brother gave me this gift because I recently drove him down to the island and he was quite disgusted by the CDs I had in the car. "These are all old!" he said. "Old" turned out to be some classic 90s Seattle Sound . . . OK, I see his point.

Music-wise, I seem to be living in the 90s still. That was my glory era of CD purchasing: Stone Temple Pilots, Space Hog, Pearl Jam, The Tea Party, Smashing Pumpkins, Live . . . Some bands from this era are still around, but not many.

I marginally redeemed myself on the drive by producing some current Damien Rice CDs (phew). However, my current music collection is extremely limited. I only found Damien Rice by watching the movie Closer and being entranced by the song "The Blower's Daughter" that features prominantly in that movie. (This led me to JB Hi-Fi where I encountered a lady looking for the same CD for the same reason.)

I am hoping now that by listening to the 2006 Hottest 100 that I might hear some music that I like enough to buy. So far it all sounds good (although I have no idea what track I am listening to now!).

Monday, 26 March 2007

Cheese

Since I am currently on a healthy eating campaign (yes, OK, it could be a weight loss campaign) there are certain foods I am not eating.

Or, at least, I am only eating low fat varieties. But it's a sorry and sad state of affairs when it comes to cheese.

Low fat cream cheese has become a staple. I eat it on bagels. I eat it on rice and corn cakes. I probably eat it on toast as well.

But there come times when one wants tasty cheese. (Cheese & pickled onions, grilled cheese on tomato & mushroom bagel . . .) So I investigated the supermarket reduced-fat tasty cheese varieties. I was surpised by the options available.

There are at least four tiers of reduced fat cheese, possibly more. I can't remember all the details, but comparing the nutritional values for 100g, there are, for example, the very extensive Bega range of low fat cheeses:
1) Bega So Light Tasty (Coon Light & Tasty is similar) - 1400kJ and 15g saturated fat (25% less fat)
2) Bega So Light 50% Tasty (Coon Extra Light is similar) - 1100kJ and 10g saturated fat (50% less fat)
3) Bega Super Slim (processed cheese) - 850 kJ and 6g saturated fat
4) Bega Super Light (processed cheese) - 690 kJ and 2g saturated fat

Then there are the Kraft Singles varieties, including Light, Extra Light, and Free (which is 97% fat free).

But the question becomes: at what stage in all this does the cheese cease to be worth eating? What is the point of getting the ultra low fat cheese if it tastes like nothing? Where does one draw the line?

Which light cheese has the optimal balance of taste and reduced fat, so that one actually feels it's worth sacrificing the 'points' to eat it?

It's a dilemma!

For the record, I went out on a limb and purchased the Coon Extra Light variety and it's barely worth eating. Even in the tiny quantities I allow myself!

It's a sad life without cheese.

Thursday, 22 March 2007

My name is Julia, no Jonathon - wait, it's Mark!

I bought a fantasy novel by Julia Gray recently. It's called The Dark Moon. It's OK. I liked the sound of the premise (royal twins, separated at birth, one of which is destined to be the hero of the prophecy - but which one? . . . yeah, OK, it's not particularly new, but it sounded easy to take . . .).

Anyway, I googled Julia Gray yesterday and discovered that this "spellbinding new storyteller", Julia Gray, "one of the best new authors on the block", is in fact Jonathon Wylie - a UK author I was reading 10 years ago.

There is a reason I stopped reading Jonathon Wylie (who, incidentally, is actually husband and wife team, Julia and Mark Smith). You can imagine I am NOT HAPPY to have been duped into purchasing another of her/his/their books. I think this is false advertising/marketing etc. Did they feel that good old JW was a bit tired and they'd vamp up their image with a new pseudonym?

I feel totally ripped off.

words for the week - 2233

In reality it's still Wednesday, despite the fact the clock's slipped into Thursday. For two weeks in a row I've cracked 2000 words! Woo hoo!

Monday, 19 March 2007

The truth about cats and dogs

What follows is currently doing the rounds on e-mail. I must say I love it because it is so true! The cat's entry reminds me so much of Chenna. (In fact, she might have even written it but not told me!)

Excerpts from a Dog's Diary
8:00am - Dog food! My favourite thing!
9:30am - A car ride! My favourite thing!
9:40am - A walk in the park! My favourite thing!
10:30am - Got rubbed and petted! My favourite thing!
12:00pm - Lunch! My favourite thing!
1:00pm - Played in the yard! My favourite thing!
3:00pm - Wagged my tail! My favourite thing!
5:00pm - Milk bones! My favourite thing!
7:00pm - Got to play ball! My favourite thing!
8:00pm - Wow! Watched TV with the people! My favourite thing!
11:00pm - Sleeping on the bed! My favourite thing!

Excerpts from a Cat's Diary
Day 983 of my captivity. My captors continue to taunt me with bizarre little dangling objects. They dine lavishly on fresh meat while the other inmates and I are fed hash or some sort of dry nuggets. Although I make my contempt for the rations perfectly clear, I nevertheless must eat something in order to keep up my strength. The only thing that keeps me going is my dream of escape. In an attempt to disgust them, I once again vomit on the carpet.

Today I decapitated a mouse and dropped its headless body at their feet. I had hoped this would strike fear into their hearts, since it clearly demonstrates what I am capable of. However, they merely made condescending comments about what a "good little hunter" I am. Bastards!

There was some sort of assembly of their accomplices tonight. I was placed in solitary confinement for the duration of the event. However, I could hear the noises and smell the food. I overheard that my confinement was due to the power of "allergies". I must learn what this means, and how to use it to my advantage.

Today I was almost successful in an attempt to assassinate one of my tormentors by weaving around his feet as he was walking. I must try this again tomorrow - but at the top of the stairs.

I am convinced that the other prisoners here are flunkies and snitches. The dog receives special privileges. He is regularly released - and seems to be more than willing to return. He is obviously retarded.

The bird has got to be an informant. I observe him communicate with the guards regularly. I am certain that he reports my every move. My captors have arranged protective custody for him in an elevated cell, so he is safe. For now.....

Wednesday, 14 March 2007

words for the week - 2072

Already the island has proved its worth as a writing retreat - and the public holiday on Monday helped as well. I felt all twitchy and edgy as I wrote a scene where 'revelation' occurred. How much to say? How much to leave unsaid? How much of this should I have hinted at earlier? (lots) Push on, push on, and get to the END!

Tuesday, 13 March 2007

Chenna on holiday

I don't think I've mentioned here yet that my parents have bought a holiday house at Phillip Island. This was a very sudden acquisition, much to the delight of myself and my siblings. We all have different dreams for it -- mine include writing retreats, holidays with friends, family weekends etc.

It has now been in the family for just under two weeks, and I have already been down there twice. The first weekend, the entire family congregated for a family BBQ to 'christen' the joint. Some were day trippers, too busy with prior engagements to stay the weekend, but some of us spent a night or two (or three) down there and it was lovely.

This past weekend I went down again with my parents. Another idyllic weekend, spent writing, walking, exploring the next tiny segment of the island. (I made it to the main street of Cowes for a coffee this time.)

As an added bonus, I took Chenna (the devil cat). She is writing her own account of it (see her blog), but I thought I'd mention it here, because it added some spice to the weekend! Mum and dad naturally had their dog, Jeddah, which probably meant Chenna didn't settle as well as she might, but although I had some royal battles (resulting in new scars) to ensure she used her litter tray, she actually did pretty well.

So I hope this is the first of many occasions when I take Chenna on holiday. Certainly it's hard asking people to mind or feed her all the time, so it's good to be able to take her away with me! I'm sure she'd rather be home, enjoying the 'status quo', but it's good to know that she can travel. And I look forward to many weekends and weeks at the island :-)

Friday, 9 March 2007

Grey water workout


Desperate times call for desperate measures. Gee, what a cliche. But it's true!

We are in the middle of a drought and my garden is, well not dying, but vulnerable. My lawn (my rather expensive lawn) IS dying.

If someone had told me five years ago that I would even CARE about gardens, I would have said they were crazy. But the truth is now that I do care, particularly since I paid money to have someone make it all look nice. And I don't want it to die. I'm actually rather enjoying watching plants grow, flower, fade etc . . . and I'm learning how to prune things.

So I have naturally been concerned by the impact of the drought and the fact that we're approaching stage 4 water restrictions, which forbid any form of garden watering. We are already prohibited from using such reticulation as I have in my garden (unless I was to replace all the spray heads with drippers).

We are allowed to stand around with a hose during a rather limited time-window two days a week. But I got sick to death ages ago of this. Besides, it's reached the point where I feel really bad 'wasting' water in such fashion. And I have better things to do. I installed a drought-tolerant garden on purpose, so why not just let it do its thing?

What we can do, however, is use grey water, and it is now a primary conversation topic to find out just how everyone is doing it. Some people have installed elaborate systems that pump it around out of the washing machine, others just attach a hose that can be moved around the garden, others still bucket it out of the laundry trough or the bath. Just about everyone I know has buckets in the shower and the kitchen to catch any stray droplets. Everyone has become very industrious and GREEN!

So I have the obligatory bucket in the shower to catch the warm-up water, and another in the kitchen for the same, plus any 'vegetable washing' water as well. I was astounded by how much water I can accumulate in this fashion.

But the real eye-opener was the washing machine. I waited until I finished my laundry powder, then found some 'environmentally friendly' detergent. This is from Planet Ark, which is (according to the box) OK for using both the wash and rinse water on gardens. Exactly what I was looking for!

The first time I tried to catch the water out of the washing machine, I wish I could have been a fly on the wall, because it must have looked hillarious. I gathered all my buckets (5) and rotated them around as the machine started emptying - straight from the hose into each bucket. But, of course, 5 buckets wasn't enough, so there came a time when I was doing a mad dash out to the garden to try to empty buckets while the next was filling. Too slow of course. I got water everywhere!

Then someone had the bright idea that I could actually stop the drain cycle midway through, empty my buckets like a civilised person. Soooo much more effective!

So now I have a routine going, cycling buckets of grey water around the various plants in the garden. It seems to be only the flax that don't like it. Everything else actually appears to be thriving! I get around 17 buckets per full load of washing (combined wash and rinse), which is enough to go around the entire garden once (minus the flax). After two loads, I've had a real workout!

The best part is, that I barely have to do any conventional watering. I reckon the grey water once a week is enough for most of my plants. It's only the few remaining vegetables that get fresh water, and I'm starting to care less and less for them. Soon they'll be gone completely, and that'll be it. I'll just have my weekly grey water workout to keep everything going.

PS The lawn is still dying. I'm still trying to decide whether it should get some grey water as well.

Monday, 5 March 2007

Page Turners: Batavia's Graveyard

This is an interesting book by British historian, Mike Dash, which tells the story of the Dutch East Indies ship, Batavia, which was shipwrecked on a reef about 50km off the coast of Geraldton in WA in 1629.

The ship carried over 300 people, including crew, soldiers, Dutch East Indies officials and passengers. These all had to fend for themselves, while living on tiny windswept and barren islands in the reef. Primarily, they had to fend off a psychotic individual who assumed authority and embarked upon an orgy of killing via the services of henchmen.

I confess I only got about halfway through this book, owing to a mad mad month, during which I was too tired to read. The bits I did read dealt with events leading up to the shipwreck (which itself was covered in the prologue). It was interesting to learn something of the history of the Netherlands (hitherto unknown) and the culture of the early trading empires. However, I regret I didn't skip all this and jump forward to the killing spree -- although it did sound rather gross. The murders were not pretty and the women were used harshly.

We had a lively discussion about various aspects of the times, in particular the morality and values of the people of the day, for they must have been desperate to journey on such a ship in the first place. But what kind of person would acceed to the demand that if they didn't want to have their head bashed in, they had to go bash someone else's head in? We talked about what we would do if faced with that situation. Was the ability to murder the product of a harsher life on the land? Was it a gradual degeneration as the result of their hand-to-mouth existance on these barren islands?

We also talked about the place of Batavia in Australian history, as the wreck pre-dated the country's official discovery. The ship's carcass and some of the cargo has been retrieved and now sits in the Maritime Museum at Fremantle. We looked at pictures of it -- and also of the reef islands (Houtman Abrolhos, now known as the Wallabi Reef) which had been visited by one of the members some years previously.

Here's a link to an account on Wikipedia.