Saturday, 28 April 2007

Rounds one, two and three: Devil cat

Chenna is driving me crazy. For more than a week, she's been out of sorts. She's been to the vet. She's on a new diet (special bladder friendly food). She's been on antibiotics.

But none of that has stopped her from weeing on the floor (or on the scales, or on my runners, or on the carpet) every second day.

I'm tearing my hair out. I just wish she'd STOP.

Wednesday, 25 April 2007

Phoenix defeat Kestrals in physical season-opener

Yay, the netball season has started again! The ANZAC day clash between Phoenix and Kestrals has become something of a tradition over the years, and was this year held at Vodafone Arena.

It was a hard fought game with the Phoenix having a great start, going out to a 6-1 lead, but over the second and third quarters, Kestrals pegged them back to be even at 3/4 time. The final quarter was neck and neck for most of the quarter, usually with Phoenix having a 2-4 goal break. They won in the end by 5 goals: 46 to 41.

It was a pretty physical game, with quite a few time-outs. Kestrals would have panicked when after two minutes Caitlin Thwaits hobbled off with what was fortunately not a serious knee injury (she came back on in Q3). The defector, Julie Prendergast, went off with an ankle injury in the first quarter and did not return.

Phoenix appeared to have no injuries, which was great. They are, however, still trying to fill the void of Eloise Southby-Halbish's departure over a year ago. Cynna Kidd has gone to NZ, so Phoenix were scrambling pre-seaon for a replacement GS. They have recruited Abby Sargent (formerly Teare), who has been playing in England, and for England. We weren't too impressed with her. She didn't gel with Sharelle too well. The other recruit is Sarah Ashmore from the Darters, who played the final quarter. We thought she provided more movement in goals. For most of the game, there were flashes of brilliance, but otherwise they seemed to struggle getting the ball into the circle. It didn't much help that Sharelle went off the boil in the middle there for a while. (Probably because she was trying to compensate for Abby's lack of movement. Poor Sharelle was everywhere!)

Standout players for Phoenix were in our defence end: Joh Curren, Bianca Chatfield and Renae Hallinan all had fabulous games and turned the ball over heaps. Nat Chokljat was also good. In the attack end, I felt we threw away the ball far too much, but perhaps that's to be expected in the first game of the season.

Full match report.

words for the week - 940

I thought about cheating this week, because I'm not very happy with that effort. And I can't use the excuse that I haven't had time. I've planned heaps of writing time and not made use of it effectively. I have plenty of procrastination tools, and I believe they have included blogging (oh, the irony), ripping audio books to MP3, and watching the first season of Veronica Mars on DVD (I think I am addicted, and the sooner it's over, the better!).

I'm seriously struggling with momentum at the moment. Everything feels like a battle and it's not coming out easily.

So how could I cheat? Well, normally I count the words from Wednesday to Tuesday as one week. So the words I post on a Wednesday include up to the end of the previous Tuesday. This springs from when I had to report my weekly words on a Wednesday evening a couple of years ago.

Today is ANZAC day, so it's a public holiday. Once again, I planned to spend the whole afternoon writing (and managed about two effective hours and 526 mediocre words) before I went out at 5:30pm. So, I figured if I was to report the words in class, I would have counted the words to 5:30 today. That would have made it 1466, which is a little more respectable.

In the end, I didn't cheat here, mainly for the reason that my 'words' spreadsheet wouldn't accommodate it. So the words will hopefully inflate next week's tally to something beyond 2000!

Monday, 23 April 2007

Page Turners: Dolce

This is rather belated - sorry. It's been busy!

Our April book was Dolce, the second of two novels/novellas (?) by Irene Nemirovsky, grouped under the common title Suite Francaise. Meaning "sweet" in Italian, Dolce is the simple story of a French village occupied by Germans during WWII. It was originally intended to be the second of five "movements" in the classical music sense, but Irene was tragically incarcerated in a concentration camp during the war and died there. The first two stories, hand-scribbled in diaries, were found many years later and published fairly recently.

In any case, Dolce is certainly a sweet story in many ways. It opens with the Germans arriving in the village -- a hated and despised foe -- and focuses on everyday life. It dips in and out of many villagers's lives, exploring how some made the best of the Germans, how others kept them at a distance. It shows how the children treated them as a fascination. It also shows the petty politicking of the French among themselves. Over a few months, the general attitude changes and mellows.

In particular, Dolce concentrates on one young woman, Lucille, whose (despised) husband is a POW and whose mother in law is somewhat tyrannical. Forced to billet a German officer, Lucille and her m-i-l treat him in very different ways. Whereas the M-i-l refuses to even acknowledge his presence, Lucille and "the German" become friends, with the potential for more, until their fragile relationship is torn apart by a secret Lucille keeps from him (regarding a fugitive farmer).

I loved this book. Despite being translated from French, it was beautifully written, filled with lovely images of France in summer. And the characters were delightfully drawn and engaging. This view of wartime is not one often depicted, yet it came across as completely authentic. I also loved the way it maintained its objectivity. It portrayed both the French and the Germans with a certain warmth, making the transision of the latter from despised villains to petulant young men rather poignant.

As far as discussion goes, we talked about the authenticity, Irene's life, and especially the relationship between Lucille and the German. Did they really love each other? We'll never know. (Although apparently in Irene's notes for the next book, she has killed him off and given Lucille another love. This reinforced my impression of Lucille's fickleness!)

I'm pretty sure everyone in the group who read the book got something out of it, although unfortunately not all could make the meeting.

Thursday, 19 April 2007

Becoming Jane


This is a new movie about the life of Jane Austen. Well, to be more accurate, it's about a supposed romance young Jane had with a dashing yet poor Irishman.

The setting and style of the movie was very "Jane Austen", and quite reminiscent of the recent Pride & Prejudice movie with Keira Knightly. Anne Hathaway put on a creditable English accent to play Jane.

While it was an enjoyable enough movie, complete with frocks & bonnets, horses, officers (and even a waterhole scene that took things MUCH further than 'that scene' with Colin Firth in the other P&P), the movie didn't quite hit the mark with me. Basically, it wasn't written by Jane Austen! Rather ironic really.

It tried to be Jane Austen though, to the point where there were so many obvious parallels with all her books (supposedly placed there to furnish the budding young writer with ideas) that it was almost annoying. In fact, it was annoying. The movie made Jane out to have no imagination whatsoever.

The basic story goes as follows (SPOILERS): Jane comes from very poor family, refuses multiple eligible offers of marriage, then falls for the one man who challenges and confronts her. This is one Tom Lefroy, a friend of her brother's who is staying with neighbours. He is quite provacative, persuades her to read Tom Jones, engages in boxing, and generally has an eye for the ladies. I could see why Jane fell for him, because he was exciting and had a passion for life. However, his love for her was never really evident, and when he declared it, seemed out of the blue. Not that she wasn't lovable -- it just didn't really seem that he was in love with her. I don't think it showed his transition from libertine to SNAG very well.

Anyway, it turns out that Tom is so poor, that he's dependent on his uncle for his income and his uncle won't sanction his marriage to Jane, so he abandons her and Jane is heartbroken. After that, he changes his mind, persuades her to elope with him, but then she finds out that it's not only him that's dependent on his uncle, but his entire starving family, so Jane does the noble thing and refuses to go through with it. Blah blah blah.

If only they'd waited a short time, she would have been a best-selling novelist and all would have been fine!

On the whole I enjoyed it though, and it will probably improve upon second viewing. But I must say it is a shame that poor Jane Austen only ever wrote six novels. But thank god she did write those six!

Here's the review from Margaret & David. After reading some of the viewer comments, I will state that I much preferred the recent P&P with Keira. Some of the reviewers seem to believe that this movie is 100% true.

words for the week - 1759

I was planning to crack 2000, but spent Monday evening with my new portable hard drive (see previous post). However, after 3 weeks of nothing, once can only say it's a VAST IMPROVEMENT!

I finished a chapter and I estimate I have about three left to write. Maybe four. This will bring the novel into land at just over 100,000 words, which is not bad for the first draft.

If I hadn't needed to start a new chapter (switching to another viewpoint) I daresay I would have cracked 2000 easily this week. I fear my antics of Monday evening can be put down to procrastination. That is supposed to be a writing night. But so much more energy is required to start a completely new scene. And it truly is a good thing that I have now backed everything up securely!

In general, I am still not in a good writing habit at the moment. I'm being ruled by TV a bit too much -- at least on Wed, Thurs, and Sun nights. I need to start using the video recorder more.

PS - I would have posted this last night, if my internet connection had been behaving!

Tuesday, 17 April 2007

Of matters IT

This evening I backed up my computer hard disk onto a rather small portable hard drive. (Small in size, that is. It's 160GB!) It took quite a while to copy across all the music and audiobooks I've got on there, but at last it is done. (Note: only about 20GB consumed.) In theory, I should be able to 'synchronise' regularly, thereby ensuring I have all my important files duplicated somewhere else, should the computer fail (or, worse, get stolen).

I have yet to work out how to retrieve the data, but I think that's a task for another day.

Has anyone else ever noticed that three USB ports in a computer are simply not enough? I have a four-way hub in one of mine, which slows everything down considerably. Needless to say, this is NOT the ideal place to plug in devices that need to be synchronised, such as this new portable hard drive and my MP3 player. In reality, one needs about eight USB ports for the printer, mouse, keyboard, modem, camera, MP3, portable hard drive, PDA that I want to plug in!

However, I have noticed that the camera, PDA and portable hard drive all use the same cable connection, so maybe I could get away with just six ports, and they could cable share.

My computer looks like it's hitched up to a life support machine, so many cables etc are dangling from it.

Sunday, 15 April 2007

Try this for lunch

One bagel, lightly toasted & halved
Smear with basil pesto
Add mashed roasted pumpkin, sliced tomato, grated cheese (extra light tasty OK!)

Grill on low until heated through and cheese is melted.

Very yum

(This is what I had for lunch today.)

Thursday, 12 April 2007

The Amazing Race

This has got to be almost my favourite TV show. There's no stress or apprehension associated with watching. It's just excellent fun watching how all these zany Americans navigate their way around the world.

Season 11 The Amazing Race - Allstars commenced on TV here tonight. It features Rob & Amber (of course), along with various other less memorable teams. I'm amazed they couldn't get some of the more exciting teams to come back. I would have thought it would be easier than casting Survivor Allstars -- after all, you get a trip all around the world!

Anyway, for spoilers you can check out http://www.cbs.com/primetime/amazing_race11/. They are much further ahead in the US, and the season is almost over.

I always watch and wonder who I would like to partner up with to do the race. It's an interesting conundrum. Not that I'm ever likely to get the opportunity. One can only dream.

As an aside, this is interestingly my first post about TV on this blog. I find that quite amazing.

milestone - 100th post!

Well whadya know? 100 posts!

Wednesday, 11 April 2007

words for the week - 0

Oh No! Not again!

But this was inevitable, I'm afraid, with my Canberra jaunt for Easter. The plan is to get back into it tonight. I will first attempt a sentence, and then a paragraph, and take it from there!

Tuesday, 10 April 2007

Thwarted by security

Death to all hackers, virus creaters and trojan developers!

No, I have not suffered a catastrophic meltdown of my computer --- quite the reverse in fact. Sometime in the past few months, one of my automatic software upgrades has uprevved my security to the point that I can no longer seem to access information about the CDs I am trying to rip to WMA files.

This is all perfectly legit. I own the CDs and wish to play them on my MP3 player. But now, instead of inserting the CD and having all the song, artist and album information automatically appear, I have to manually type everything in. Aaaaaaagghh! It says I'm not connected to the Internet --- which I most obviously am!

If it were not for the above-mentioned fiends, software companies would not feel the need for the security measures they are now taking. The problem is I don't know how to "safely" get around this block. Aaaaaaggghh!

It brings to mind that wonderful ad for Apple computers, where they take the micky out of the new Windows Vista operating system for PCs. Those advertisements are thoroughly wonderful. Right at this moment, I feel like getting myself a Mackintosh. And I don't even have Vista!

Monday, 9 April 2007

National folk festival

I spent the long (Easter) weekend in Canberra, and visited the National folk festival for the first time. After a number of visits to the Port Fairy folkie, I wasn't sure what to expect of "the national", and I admit my initial impressions were unfavourable. It took us about a day to acclimatise, but we did, and had a great time.

In the end, the differences were relatively minor. I think "the national" was bigger, with more venues. There were definitely more food stalls and places where you could sit and eat it. We rather liked the Merry Muse venue, which had an array of picnic tables with umbrellas outside at the back. Remarkably, we seemed to have luck scoring seats here quite a few times, and it was fabulous to sit outside the venue, listening to the music, but having a good old chat as well.

On the food side, we found a new favourite. I'm not sure actually what they were called, but they were a Turkish version of something like roti bread, stuffed with spinach and feta. Oh yum.

Music wise, we found a few new artists and I bought four CDs -- from Kate Fagan, Nancy Kerr & James Fagan, Grada, and Jenny Fitzgibbon. I've just listened to Kate Fagan, and she sounds a little like Natalie Merchant. Very nice indeed.

One of the most significant differences compared with Port Fairy is the emphasis on dance at the national. There were at least two stages dedicated to dance demonstrations, and there were also several streams of dance workshops (as well as instrument workshops). I know there are workshops at Port Fairy, but not nearly as many as far as I can recall. I rather enjoyed watching the dance demonstrations; we watched Irish step dancing, Morris dancing, and a very interesting Flamenco demonstration. To add to this, we did an Irish step dancing workshop!! It's rather hard, but we learned a simple dance (which I have already forgotten).

In all, it was great, with crowds less oppressive in general, although I suspect more people attend overall. They are a lot more flexible with ticketing, with single day and single evening tickets available. There certainly seemed to be no problem getting hold of tickets, as they were available at the gate.

I think Port Fairy will remain the sentimental favourite, but the national is certainly a close second and a worthy alternative.

Thursday, 5 April 2007

words for the week - 0

AGAIN! This has turned out to be a very busy time. After Easter, I am going to refocus and get back into it. Perhaps a lone weekend at the island. Just me and Chenna . . .

Tuesday, 3 April 2007

Scoop

Lots to talk about recently!

I saw the latest Woody Allen movie, Scoop, over a week ago now. It starred Woody himself, along with Scarlett Johanson and Hugh Jackman. The basic premise was that a young journalism student, Sondra (Scarlett), is visited by the ghost of a recently deceased award-winning journalist while she is participating in a 'disappearing' magic trick, performed by a magician (Woody). The ghost tells Sondra that the identity of a current serial killer (the 'tarot card murderer') is one Lord Peter Lyman (Jackman). With Woody tagging along for the ride (posing as her eccentric oil billionaire father), Sondra proceeds to try to prove the ghost's claim . . . and completely falls for her quarry.

It was an easy to take movie, with some definite laughs. I particularly liked the line (from Woody): Yeah . . . I see the glass is half full . . . of poison. Scarlett was also good and I thought she played off Woody pretty well. Her character was pretty well written. I also rather liked the offbeat way in which the ferryman (of the dead) was depicted in the film. There were actually scenes with the dead seated on a barge as they were carted away . . . Cosmic.

However, I found the plot in the end lacked the complexity I was looking for. It seemed to be missing the final twist. Hugh Jackman's character was also fairly bland overall.

But I certainly don't regret having seen it. It was good Friday night fare. I just don't know that I'd rush out to borrow it on DVD!

Sunday, 1 April 2007

A stroll through the city

Today I did a 15.2km charity walk: 'Run for the kids'. The event was in support of Melbourne's Royal Children's Hospital.

I was apprehensive before starting, because the route took us through the Domain Tunnel and over the Bolte Bridge. Obviously this meant that sections of the CityLink freeway were closed to all traffic, and the cutoff times for reopening sounded as though they were going to be tight. If we missed the cutoff, we'd have to get in a bus to clear the freeway!

More daunting, the walk was supposed to start at 8:30, but owing to a late start and a long line-up for the typically scarce toilets, it was 9:12 when we crossed the starting line. Nevertheless, we latched on to the tail end off the 'red' walkers, kicked into gear, and all seemed good. I heard about 26,000 people did the walk/run.

I managed the walk in 2 hours and 20 mins, which surprised me. I calculate this to be a rate of 6.5 kph. I didn't expect to get near that speed, let alone for that distance, so I am feeling pretty happy with myself. (And amazed.)

I am also feeling absolutely stuffed. It's funny how your muscles seize up when you stop. I have spent most of the afternoon on the sofa reading -- such a wonderful excuse to do nothing -- and at other times I feel like an old woman hobbling around the house. I dread to think how I'm going to feel tomorrow!