Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Bravo Jim Cooper

Jim Cooper has just won the Portage Prize, the premier ceramics prize in New Zealand. Congratulations Jim!
Jim Cooper (photo from the Otago Daily Times)
I thought clay was boring until I had Jim Cooper as a teacher. He is not only a wonderful ceramic artist, he is an 'original';  a man who does things his way, who is more generous than anyone I have ever met and who taught me a lot about art while I was messing with clay. I learned to look at art differently in Jim's class. I realised that art can be whatever you want it to be.

USA super storm

Watching the East Coast of America with bated breath. So where are the US election voices talking about climate change?

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Tiny potatoes from the no-dig garden

In August shortly before leaving home for 5 weeks I created a no-dig garden (newspaper laid on the grass covered by some compost and blood and bone, then lots of mulch) behind my garage and planted some potatoes. Early in October when I got back home I was pleased and rather surprised to see that the potatoes had sprouted and were still alive despite the drought.
Tiny potatoes .. smaller than they look here
I had not had much compost so they were growing on whatever the worms could create for them under their mulch blanket. Some plants died early and today I gathered up the tiny baby potatoes that had formed under one of those plants so I could plant some lettuce seedlings. I cooked these tiny potatoes, some only a couple of cm long and as I peeled them I thought how only the very wealthy or the home gardener would get to eat such tiny-potato deliciousness.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Real flowers

What is it about fresh flowers that is so captivating? Some artificial flowers are so realistic nowadays that you have to touch them to see if they are real but if they are artificial there is always a sense of disappointment rather than admiration for the copy. Perhaps living things are especially attuned to other living thing?
Sunflowers in Cafe
You could tell at first glance that these sunflowers in a Hamburg cafe were real.That was probably part of the attraction of the cafe. Real flowers, real coffee.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Installing new door handles

The handle of the bedroom door fell off soon after I moved into this house nearly two years ago and I have been meaning to get new handles ever since. A couple of weeks ago the local Aldi store had door handles for sale, so I bought a pair thinking that I could take them back if they didn't fit or were too difficult for a novice to install. But a bit of puzzling, a little filing to make the screw-hole in the handle slightly bigger, lots of fiddling to get the long screw to fit into the cap on the other side of the door and hey presto, I have a new door handle.

I was so impressed by my prowess in fitting door handles that I bought a second pair for the other bedroom door. They are well secured and I am much more comfortable knowing I will not be inadvertently locked into one of the bedrooms with a handle in my hand. The new handles are slightly retro, just like the house.
Old door handle

New door handle

Monday, October 22, 2012

Technical wobbles

My computer died two months ago, not sudden death but in stages. The first warning that something was seriously wrong was the 'blue screen of death' and an instruction to use the recovery disk. It took time to locate the recovery disk amongst all the other accumulated techie clutter but I eventually got the computer working again, stored the disk back in its plastic wrapper and carried on working as if nothing had happened.

Resurrected computers don't live forever and it wasn't long before I had to get the recovery disk  out again. This time I could only manage to get the computer working in 'safe mode' so I decided to do what I should probably have done long before, I backed up everything on DVD. I made a second backup of important documents (a book manuscript) on USB. This was really overkill as I had an external hard drive which had been plugged in intermittently and which was mostly up to date As I backed up on DVD and USB I thought how ridiculous it is that we keep so many copies of things nowadays, even things we have in hard copy.  There are whole power stations that are dedicated to maintaining the server farms that store our documents in perpetuity and I decided that using DVDs was probably a better option than storage in 'the cloud'.

It wasn't long before my computer developed a terminal illness, a short circuit which sent me to the recovery disk and back in a perpetual loop and I was left to work on my small travel eeePC or a very old laptop, over ten years old. That's when I discovered the flaws in my strategy.

Unbeknownst to me the external hard-drive that was my 'fail-safe' back up was not fail safe. It had not backed up properly and had only old drafts of my manuscript.

"Whew, thank goodness for my multi-back ups," I thought.

Then I realised that the eePC doesn't have a DVD disk drive and the very old laptop doesn't read DVDs. That left me with the USB backup as the sole usable source. I loaded my manuscript onto the eePC from the USB with my fingers tightly crossed. Luckily it worked and I am now back out of the woods and don't have to wait until I get another computer to see if the DVD back ups were successful.

The moral of the story is that you can never have too many back ups. I hope the cloud-farm people have a back-up strategy that is more robust than mine. My own strategy of multi-backups was only successful due to good luck. I was given ample warning but technology is tricky, doesn't always work and is often incompatible or outdated. Nothing seems to beat plain old paper copies.

In the meantime I discover lots of things that I failed to back up properly, like online bookmarks.

The Beach on Saturday

Run, jump, chase the seagulls, splash. There is nothing quite like the beach.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Wagner at Christmas

On 11 November the NSW Wagner Society is having a Christmas party at the Mosman Art Gallery and their poster features a sketch of Lisa Harper-Brown that I did at a Wagner Society early in the year.  Come along if you are interested in hearing songs sung by two wonderful singers.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Coffee with a heart

In Umina at Ruby's Cafe and Books. Good coffee, lots of books (you can read them there or take them with you) and engaging staff. A good recipe for success.
Ruby's Cafe and Books
Lurv coffee

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

What we know

From the book I am currently reading:

"The older I get the less I know. When I was younger I thought my knowledge would increase with the years, that it was steadily enlarging like the universe. A constantly widening area of certainty that correspondingly displaced and diminished the extent of uncertainty..I was really very optimistic. With the passage of time I must admit I know roughly the same amount, perhaps even slightly less, and not all with the same certainty as then."
Silence in October by Jens Christian Grøndahl

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Folk music at Patonga Pub

On Sunday afternoon local folk musician met at Patonga Pub. Its a good venue to have a play-along.

Tom Flood plays
Folk musicians at Patonga Pub

Musician  at Patonga

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Music among the cabbages

Yesterday afternoon students of the Central Coast Conservatorium of Music played at Kariong Eco Garden. They played Vivaldi's Spring among other pieces, standing amongst beds of cabbages and fruiting strawberries. Very appropriate.
Central Coast Conservatorium musicians at Kariong

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Siegmund's cheek

When I left home late in August I left my large painting Siegmund (portrait of the wonderful New Zealand tenor Simon O'Neill) sitting on my easel so that when I came back in October it would be the first thing I saw and I could decide if I liked it.
Siegmund's cheek

Now I'm back and I like the painting so much I have hung it on the studio wall. What is it that I find so appealing? Perhaps the painterly quality and colour balance?
Studio wall

You can see a close up of the painting at artsmitten though unfortunately it doesn't look nearly as good in the photograph as it does in real life.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Go Gillard!

For so long now women in Australia have been watching the misogynist political discourse in the Australian Parliament with mortification. Now the Prime Minister Gillard has had her say and if you want to watch a Prime Minister with guts, have a look at this.  Brava! Great performance.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Marketing spin vs ethical frameworks

"In shopping-mall design, the Gruen transfer is the moment when consumers enter a shopping mall and, surrounded by an intentionally confusing layout, lose track of their original intentions" (and become impulse buyers). (Wikipedia.)

The TV show Gruen Planet investigates advertising spin and in the past I have sometimes found it  amusing. The other night though they talked about Alan Jones and his recent nasty, sexist and demeaning comments about the Prime Minister and her recently deceased father. I was amazed that the participants didn't seem to have the guts to come out and say such gutter-comments are unworthy of a civilised society. Instead they dissembled and skirted around the subject, commenting instead about how Jones's audience is reacting.  It was almost as if it is un-cool to have an ethical framework and stand up for it.

Perhaps I should not be surprised as they are marketing people after all but I wonder, has everyone in advertising been so indoctrinated that they have lost their moral fiber? I wont be watching the program again if I can avoid it. I guess I am not very interested in a world where everything is spin.

Monday, October 08, 2012

'Permeate Free' Milk

Australian Commerce: Some big milk producers start adding permeate (cheap waste product from cheese making) to milk to stretch it; then the word spreads that milk has been 'watered down' with permeate and those producers who don't use permeate start using the 'permeate free' nature of their milk to advertise it. Everyone is confused by now and the milk manufacturers add to the confusion by throwing brick-bats at each other. Another good reason to buy organic unadulterated products.

It is difficult to find unbiased coverage ... but here a good article about the milk industry.

Daylight saving

If you have jetlag and hour makes a difference. Luckily for me NSW changed to daylight savings last weekend so now I wake at 5:30 instead of 4:30 which seems much more acceptable.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Australia is expensive

It is nice to be back in a place that makes the strong bitter coffee that I prefer but I gulped when I had to pay nearly eight dollars for a coffee and friand at my local coffee shop yesterday. I had become used to the much lower European prices.
Coffee and Cake in a Hamburg Cafe

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Spring flowers in NSW

It is spring on this side of the globe.  It has been a dry September and the grass on  the road side verges is brown but all the trees are flowering. The red and yellow Bottle Brushes are particularly bright.

Yellow  Bottle Brush
Red Bottle Brush

Dry ground, red flowers

 But not only bottle brushes, a whole lot of other trees are in flower. These ones look like flowering cherry, but only from a distance.
Pink flowers blue sky

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

The road and the tree

There have been some changes here over the month I was gone. Some roads have been re-tar sealed, including the road under the large Eucalyptus tree outside my place.
The gum tree at my place
Gum tree and roof

Perhaps the council got tired of filling in the potholes that appeared every time it rained. They just scrape off the top though and put down another layer and I notice that there is already a hole forming where the old ones were. I suppose the tree has something to do with it, but I would rather have the tree and a bumpy road than no tree and a smooth one.

Back home with jet lag

One thing about jet lag is that you get to see places at unusual times. I was at Banksia Station by 5:30am, even before the Banksia Bakery opened, though the shop was alight. The Banksia Bakery sells very popular Lebanese pizzas (among other things) and people were busy preparing dough inside.Rain in the night had washed the streets clean and the air was cool as I waited for the train.
Banksia at 5:30am
Sunrise at Banksia station

By 6am I was at Central Station which was just as empty as Munich East Station had been a month ago when I arrived at 6am. In Munich the coffee shop had been open, so I had a place to wait for my train. In Sydney Central all the shops were still closed.
Sydney Central Station at 6am

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Shades of Grey

While we were taxiing for take off at Frankfurt Airport the middle aged Asian businessman sitting next to me fell sound asleep and snored loudly. He stayed asleep and snoring loudly for most of the 12 hour flight.  He woke for breakfast shortly before we landed in Singapore and turned out to be quite a charming fellow.
His other neighbour (from Croatia) asked him if he had taken a sleeping tablet, but he said he hadn't. The Croatian man laughed and told him we should have to pay him for the musical accompaniment.
I noticed he had a copy of Shades of Grey which I have been told is amusing by some and appalling rubbish by others, so I asked him how he was enjoying it.
"'Oh there are three parts and I bought them all because I travel a lot", he said. "Yes, it is good - you have to realise it is not reality, that it is quite outside normal mores and then you enjoy it."
With his talent for falling asleep I am surprised he has any need for travel books at all.

Monday, October 01, 2012

United against violence

Melbourne has been consumed by the horror of the rape and murder of Jill Meagher in Melbourne's Brunswick last week and Philip's reaction was to organise a march against violence. Thirty thousand people came.
From the Financial Review. Philip in foreground holding the placard

Autumn in Hamburg

Silver birch trees in Hamburg
Hamburg has been wet and cold and suddenly it is autumn. Just when I have adapted (well almost) to this season I am off again to the southern hemisphere.
Cloudy and wet with low light levels.