Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Apparently Darwin has seen it's highest November rainfall in 15 years!
Everything has turned green again and life is sprouting from every nook and cranny.

canteloupe and watermellon
(Raised garden beds at a local school)

(Cantaloupe growing in a raised bed at local school)

I thought I'd end the month with some pictures of the green that is all around us now as we enjoy some lovely coolish days, amazing thunder heads, dark ominous skies proceeded by a rush of cool air and fairly regular thunder storms. (Power outages and blackouts too)
The gardens are enjoying a hefty splash of rain!

new planting
(New council planting along Mc Millans Service Rd)

There have been a series of community tree plantings over the past couple of weeks and more that I know of which have been planned for this coming weekend. Now must be the right time to plant wet season crops, but what's really great is that there are heaps of trees being put in the ground. Down at the Mulch Pit the holes have already been dug (with that cool hole digger tool) and a variety of fruit trees are waiting to be stuck in the ground. I've also heard that some friends of Rapid Creek are planning some re-vegetation work that will include tree planting.

The most surprising thing is that it looks like the council has gone bananas planting trees along McMillans Rd! (Or maybe it was the State Government's department of Roads Planning and Infrastructure)
I'd been cursing them all dry season for being heavy handed with their pruning and tree removal but now I am very pleased to see that they have planted heaps of trees. Some of them exotic but I have noticed quite a few Milkwoods going in which is great to see.

The frogs love this unusually wet weather! They seem to have been much more vocal this year than I have ever heard them... well at this time of year anyway! This afternoon we discovered frogs eggs in a bucket full of rainwater at our back door. The kids are so excited.

Life seems full of new beginnings at the moment.

It just looks different

I thought the blog was looking pretty crappy so I jazzed up the template a bit and threw an image into the Title header.

(Yes I know the word Dilettante is missing an e!)

After stuffing around with GIMP for way too long I decided to quit on that and went back to using the basic image editing software that came with the scanner I bought about 5 years ago! At least I can use that!

Now I've run out of time to post something really interesting...

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Where can we ride our bikes?

Recently I read a blog article about cycling culture in Darwin. The author of the blog, who was visiting from interstate, commented on a variety of aspects of Darwin culture that differs from that in other states. The most significant difference is the fact that we have exemptions from helmet laws requiring cyclists to wear helmets at all times. This has inspired me to try and post more on this subject in future. One of the features mentioned was what the author considdered an impressinve network of bicycle paths.

It is true Darwin does have some nice examples of shared cycle/foot paths but I don't believe we live in a cyclists Utopia. There is much wrong in Darwin when it comes to infrastructure and planning for bicycles. There also appears to be growing hostility between drivers and cyclists on our roads. 

I'm not too sure about the state of Bicycle Advocacy in Darwin at the moment, I am aware of a few bicycle clubs but there is only a small group actively involved in our bicycle advocacy network 'Bicycle NT', which must make it quite difficult to form an active or effective advocacy group that is able to influence decision makers in Government.

Lately I've noticed a few changes to some of our bicycle paths but they don't appear to be following any coordinated plan or design. I am sure bicycle path or lane planning in Darwin is an add hock opporation that doesn't refer to any standard of design and I would be very surprised if decisions have been made in cooperation with informed representatives from our cycling community.

Examples of recent works include the new path along Vanderlyn Drive which joins McMillans Rd to the Stuart Highway. Some sections of this path virtually merge the cycle path with the road when there are open fields of open space available on the other side of the path. 20kmh speed limits in areas where there are children's playgrounds and many pedestrians, bicycle paths merging onto main roads at busy intersections and the most pathetic attempt at widening Lee Point Rd after Vanderly. This particular piece of roadwork should be the case in point for bicycle advocacy in Darwin. This is a single lane road with a speed limit recently reduced from Open to 80kmh (People still treat it as if it has an open limit) The road leads to a boat ramp, a popular coastal reserve and a caravan park that houses 1,000s of tourists during the dry season. Many of theis used by fishermen with boatsspeed limit, where drA road leading twhich is relied on  the.

I am hoping to blog some of this stuff over the coming weeks, not to bring you down but just as a means of showing how things are here and maybe questioning the logic.

One of my favorite bicycle blogs 'A View from the cycle path' written by David Hembrow often discusses issues of design and planning with the objective of creating a much more bicycle friendly universe. David produces some great video documentaries.

The latest post David's blog contains a video tour along a Dutch cycle path with text added to indicate various virtues of a dedicated cycle path.
Reality-vs myth dangers of dutch cycle

Although this model would not be practable for a place like Darwin where we have a much smaller population and far greater distances it still offers some basic principals that can be applied with regard to right of way, distance from roads, merging traffic and dealing with intersections.

If we want to create a safe cycling environment in Darwin I believe planners need to give propper considderation to these basic design principals rather than consrtucting cycle paths that channel riders into hazardous situations.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Book of the week

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Pictures
(Amnesty International UK section 2008)

Yep... just as the title suggests, it is a pictorial presentation of the UN Declaration of Human Rights.
This is a Children's book which presents a 'Simplified Version' of Thirty Human Rights Articles, The book is full of great drawing paintings and various other forms of cool images produced by 22 esteemed illustrators and artists.

Human Rights are not complicated. They are basic... Fundamental expectations that we would hope could be applied to all people regardless of where they are from, regardless of ethnicity, religion etc... etc...

Having attended the Federal Government’s round table discussion on human rights last year I was dismayed to learn that the overwhelmingly supported recommendation for an Australian Bill of Rights has been completely sidestepped.

Here in the NT most people are acutely aware of the fact that the Federal Government suspended the Racial Discrimination Act in order to impose their “Northern Territory National Emergency Response” better known as “The Intervention”.

We have also witnessed the arbitrary axing of Bilingual Education for Indigenous children which, if the decision referred to any actual evidence at all, it was based on erroneous data and nonsense.

Article 26 (part of) ...Our parents have the right to choose how and what we learn...”

Of course if our country has such little regard for the rights of it’s own citizens it should be expected that we would have little concern for the welfare of Asylum seekers or refugees! For those unfortunate enough to have had to flee their own country they may find insult and contempt added to their list of injuries when seek refuge in this Country!

Although most asylum seekers will be granted refugee status and be allowed to stay once they have endured the interminable wait for processing. They’ll enjoy very few basic rights while they are waiting! Here in Darwin Children have been detained for months with very little opportunity or space for play. Although it had been intended for children under 16 to attend school, it has taken months for them to actually have the opportunity. Now we hear that children will be released from detention while awaiting acceptance, but they’ll likely be a year older before that happens... Apparently they may finally taste freedom in June next year!

Article 14 “If we are frightened of being badly treated in our own country, we all have the right to run away to another country to be safe”

A couple of months ago I drove by some Asylum seekers who'd jumped the razor wire fence of the detention center, just so they could stand by the road and hold signs begging for justice and compassion... They cried as drivers abused them for slowing the traffic and making them late for work... I heard that they were taken away soon after that... Who knows where they are now.

Additional Links related to this book


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Tool of the week

I know I already posted this morning but I'm a bit high on caffeine and that poison shit they put in soft drink to replace sugar...

OK so here we go again... No I don't write reviews on tools generally... But I had some fun with this one today and thought I'd post a picture of it. (I'll try to make this quick because I'm really tired!)

post hole digger
(Introducing The Post Hole Digger 9/10)
It's a 'Post Hole Digger', I got a bit carried away with this thing this morning. I've never used one before and I imagined it would be really hard work to try and gouge out earth by cutting it in a circular motion... I was wrong!
I thought the ground I used it on would be pretty hard, it generally is, but we've had a fair bit of rain lately. Once I got through the grass and the organic layer the thing just wanted to carve it's way straight through to China! (Or maybe Great Brittan or wherever is directly opposite us on the globe) It was awesome!

The holes are for some trees we'll be planting at the Mulch Pit. (The Mulch Pit is a kind of community garden I sometimes help out at, I can't recall if I've posted about it before, you can check the links if you're interested Here )

Mangos at the Pit
(Mangos, late in the season)

Grass hopper
Although production is not really high, it's still nice to wander around and see what's living in the garden.

The Pit started about a year or so ago when a bunch of people from a Church in Nightcliff decided they'd like to convert a barren piece of rock and dirt into a garden that can be utilized by the community. Most of us are novices at the gardening business and we're all kind of learning as we go. I don't do much gardening there because I usually have my hands full with other things but I try to help out when I can... Especially when there's something fun to play with.

I was asked to dig the holes about a foot deep but couldn't help digging at least two feet deep in some of the holes! I wish I'd taken some photos of the holes I'd dug... You'd probably find steam rising from the earth's core!

- Tool rating for manual orbital post hole digger: 9 out of 10.

It would have been 10 but I got a small blister in webbing of my thumb. I don't like blisters.

(Making furniture)

(Garden seat... complete)

At the Pit this morning Russel made some awesome garden chairs out of scrap wood,

We discovered that one of the chickens is actually a rooster!

A rooster

Book of the week

(Scan of book cover - with apologies)
OK I know the title of this post implies that I might actually review or at least comment on a book every week. Well actually I don't review or even rate books every week... but this one was so cool I thought I'd arbitrarily name it my 'Book of the Week'!

The book is called Bubblegum, Bubblegum by Lisa Wheeler, Laura Hliska-Beith (Illustrator)
and it Rocks!

It's a book aimed at kids 3-6 years old and it's funny! The words work so well, they lead me into singing the book out loud as I read to my kids, who were happy to listen to it over and over again!

It's a pretty simple story... It's about a variety of animals who stumble into some sticky bubblegum. Every time a new creature comes along it gets stuck too. Pretty soon the wad of gum has caught a whole mob of critters.

If you have kids give this book a go. It's fun to read!

The End.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Youth.... a future

Is there a future? What about the kids?
Toward the end of the film Napoleon Dynamite (which we watched last night on a VHS tape I got for $0.50!) there is a scene at a disco where they're playing the song Forever Young by Alphaville. I recall hearing it years and years ago; It was released back in 1984.

Not really being much into pop music I don't think I really bothered to listen to the lyrics back then. What a mistake that was!
While watching Napoleon Dynamite a sense of nostalgia for 1980s pop music created a portal of awareness that allowed the lyrics to sink through. Wham! The song hit that spot where the great ones live. Having realized I'd missed a real gem of a song I searched for it on Youtube today and found this cover by Youth Group which was release back in 2005. Being somewhat out of touch with fashion, popular music and culture I've only just re-discovered this song. It's obviously no secret to the rest of the world Youtube views are already touching on 5,000,000!

Forever Young - Youth Group (cover of a song by Alphaville)

Please watch on full screen Youtube! You will witness the magic and pure beauty of youth! "Like diamonds in the Sun!"

The lyrics are a haunting reminder of growing up during the Cold War and the music is even more pertinent to a time of youth and innocence as I listen to it now in 2010. In a post Iraq war, 9/11, abu ghraib and all the rest of the shit we've brought down on each other and the world since then, the 80s 'pop culture' was, in retrospect, a time of comparative innocence!

Growing up in suburban Melbourne during the 70s and 80s I think the video attached to this song by Youth Group is an absolute masterpiece! I wish I could describe how it made me feel to watch it!
Long hair, flannelet shirts, grazed knees and elbows! That was my youth! (I never actually had a skateboard but took turns on my mate's) The fresh faces of those kids reminded me so much of how life was back then... We played outside! Kids had resilience and were active.
(When I turned about 12 I remember the streets soon became deserted, video games and VCRS had arrived... it seemed like overnight the tanned healthy kids I used to play with became housebound and grey!

That's the raw, wild freedom of youth you're watching roll down that hill. Skateboards, a little bit of danger, some adrenalin and a whole bunch of FUN! They look so alive! All the hope and excitement of youth set to the abstractly optimistic modern tempo of 80s pop and the disturbing lyrics of a song that questions the possibility of there even being a future to look forward to!

The most haunting thing about the video is the fact that I have kids and watching it brought home to me just how much life for kids has changed! Already despite the plethora of new gadgets, games, toys and Plasma Screen TVs available for them to play with, the world of children seems so diminished from the days when I grew up.

It has been diminished, there is little reason to believe there is cause for optimism about the future. But who knows? Maybe even in this world of rapidly depleting wonders and beauty, it is in their youth where, wonder and beauty truly live?

Suppose the only thing that really exists is this very moment.