Thursday, December 27, 2012

Pin cushions and planter boxes

The kids and I have come to Melbourne to spend Christmas with the family (more fossil fuels guzzled to get here). We left Sam at home with Kuta the dog... who, while we're away, is allowed to live inside the house. I'm not sure how long that arrangement will last since she has been farting constantly and the smell is noxious!

It's the first time we've traveled without Sam and the kids are missing her terribly... well intermittently, presents seem to be a suitable distraction and temporary replacement for mothers love. ;)

Mum and Dad's veggie boxes are producing food now, yesterday we picked cucumbers for our Christmas lunch, there are tomatoes, not ripe yet, pumpkins, zukini, carrots and the beetroot looks like it's ready to pick! Also the apple and apricot trees are covered in leaves and have grown heaps since we planted the dormant plants back in April.

raised beds
Raised Bed veggie garden a couple of months later

raised beds
Beetroot! (and the edge of a carrot)
Since we were last here mum has been on a Quilting tour of the USA. Her trip of a lifetime with a bunch of other quilters from her Knotties group. The primary reason for their trip was to attend a quilting convention in Texas but to get there they criss-crossed the country visiting quilting shows, shops, displays and museums. I thought I'd post a couple of the photos she took which I found most interesting.

This quilting mob are a funny bunch, they buy expensive materials and spend a fortune trying to replicate an art form which was born from necessity, scraps of old material, respect for the value of fabric, innovation and resourcefulness.

horse and cart field
Amish farmer riding cart past a plowed field

6.11.2012 America Quilt Tour 262
Amish kick scooter

Textile Mill

One of the places they visited was an old textile mill, apparently the ladies all thought it was a wonderful magical place... When she was young my mum worked as a seamstress in a sewing factory, she has worked in the mills and remembers just how magical it was. Noisy, smelly, dangerous! No proper ventilation, no heating no air-conditioning... In summer it was hot and noisy in winter their fingers froze and fumbled with the unforgiving machinery which would not discriminate between several layers of fabric and the thin fingers of a poorly paid factory worker. Many fingers pierced mercilessly on the factory floor. She was finished with that business by the time I came on the scene but I remember she always had a sewing machine at home and most of my early clothes were either hand made or heavily patched up hand-me-downs. You would think she'd be well and truly over sewing after working in those sewing factories but once we'd all grown up and left home mum took up quilting and has become more productive than ever! She's made quilts for everyone in our family... and extended family... all the grandchildren and great nieces and nephews and even the people living with my brother in supported accommodation. Everyone loves mum's quilts! 

Monday, December 17, 2012


Bleary eyes aren't great lenses for reading but after a full 7 hours sleep I was awake, the house was quiet and I had a great book. After a coffee and a wander around the garden I fell into a comfy lounge chair and picked up that big fat book by Paul Kelly 'How to make gravy'!

HAPPY Drawing by the boy

A chapter for every song in his A - Z kit, every story a slightly different angle, and I'm connecting with every word! The writing is pure! Clear.... A thousand lies couldn't be more true. When I reached a really interesting chapter, Emotional, I heard the bedroom door creak and eldest child came out of her room. Also bleary eyed but keen to chat... It often happens like this, just when I think I've got some time to myself... This chapter surprised me. Paul Kelly's writing can do that. Shifting from amazing introspection to compassionate empathy.

As I read Emotional' I realized that I had misunderstood the lyrics of his song. It was not about what I thought it was. Kelly recounted the intense experience of visiting people in the Baxter detention Centre and the disgraceful treatment of those stuck in the Woomera hell hole! The scenarios are quite familiar to me since they started converting Darwin into a giant emigration detention centre! The sad and horrific stories are not uncommon among people I've met who have been transferred from Christmas Island or those who dread being sent out to Nauru. Living in limbo, having their hopes and spirits crushed at the whim of the Immigration Department who consider punishing them as parto fo some master plan to deter others from seeking safety in Australia. 

As I tried to read this unexpected chapter, which I found particularly interesting, on account of there being at least four detention centres within half an hour drive. my daughter decided it was time for a meaningful conversation about the nature of dragons and unicorns.... I persisted with the book and tried to answer her questions along the way, luckily the chapter was quite short, Kelly got his message across loud and clear, didn't waste any words and told it like it is!

I am so glad he has taken the time to tell this story and that he felt it was worth including in his book. So many Australians couldn't give a flying f-ck about the way Refugees are treated! It seems all the country is now against these people but here's one of our national heros openly declaring his compassion for them, he even wrote a song about it!

My head is swimming with emotion! Love for my kids, connection to the legendary song writer and mostly thoughts of the people I've been meeting at the DAL just down the road from where I live. The latest arrivals are from Iran. They shared their stories with me about the terrible journey across the sea from Indonesia. They all have hopes to see their children grow up in a peaceful place and to learn English and to be happy. It's nearly Christmas and a group of local people I'm involved with are trying to get Christmas presents for the kids.... nearly 180 of them (kids)! We've only got $10 to spend per kid and there's just 9 sleeps until Christmas so the next few days will be busy.

When I'd finished the chapter I put the book down, my was swimming with ideas and emotions. Thinking about the gifts I've got to find with a very limited budget I jumped up to grab the discount store brochure from the dining table... maybe something there. As I strode forward I kicked over my coffe cup! "NOoooooooo!"

Coffee cup with a crack

My favorite coffee cup! I smashed it! The cup I got from the Op Shop two years ago. That one I love with the romantic 1950s Hawaiian scene, with the girls dancing and the colonial American tourists and the flying boat.... Oh... Bleary eyes and foggy mind! Why do you mock me!

I'll try to fix it, no big deal really. What's a broken cup? I heard a fella got charged for smashing up some plates and shit in one of the detention centres! If you fuck up in detention and smash something they can charge you with destruction of property. I reckon if I was in there I'd break every frigging cup I had. What good is a favorite cup!

CROSS Drawing by the boy

Monday, December 03, 2012



It was my birthday recently and Sam gave me this fantastic card. I love it and I have to share it!

 Hand Made card from Kenya

This is by far the best 'thing' I've been given for ages! It's like a fusion of stuff that I really get a kick out of!

  • Hand made paper
  • Bicycle theme
  • Recycled materials
  • Fair trade
When I opened my card I was besotted with it! The texture of the paper, the delightful image of a couple of figures riding on a tandem bicycle, copper wire (I don't know why I just like copper... it's a beautiful metal)
Stuff like this just sends me off into some kind of romantic ecstasy! Why? I dunno. I guess I suffer from a kind of phobia of being surrounded by 'Fake plastic trees'! (like in the Radio Head song)
If you've seen the film Soilent Green and you remember the scene where  detective Robert Thorn (Charlton Heston) tastes  a tea spoon of 'real' strawberry jam then you can imagine the experience.

Handmade paper - When I worked at the University Library I often felt like I was wasting away, stuck inside, ordering stock, doing library stuff which I'd half trained for but was never really interested in. It got pretty tedious! But once a quarter, I think, a copy of the Hand Papermaking journal would  arrive. It had fascinating stories from around the world about people who make paper. It's an art! The thing I liked best though was that the journal always came with samples of the paper. They were all unique. All had different qualities, some made from rice husks, some from elephant poo, seriously you can make paper from all kinds of plant fibre and the results can be awesome! I would really like to make my own paper. I've had a few goes at it with mediocre results but one day I will have the time and I will learn.

Bicycles - No need to explain this one! The other gifts I got for my birthday were a copy of the Save the Children book titled The Bicycle and a Bike Side T-Shirt from New Internationalis magazine... Here's a quote from the book:
One of the most important days of my life was when I learned to ride a bicycle   - Michael Palin
 Recycled materials -  This is just one of those things that I've grown up with. I don't know how but it goes beyond not wanting to waste anything. I actually get a kick out of reusing or recycling stuff. I love to see things turned from scrap into something useful and if I can do it myself I feel like the king of the world. Some possible reasons for this obsession might be:
  • Watching the 'Wombles' on TV as a kid
  • Wearing mostly hand-me-down clothes for most of my youth. Most of my jeans had been patched so many times the legs were too stiff to bend properly.
  • Not having a bunch of money to by new things whenever I want them
  • Being a little treasure hunter who'd rather find what I need than buy it
  • Being too tight to actually buy new stuff even if I had the money
Fair Trade - Because I hate bullies and greedy bastards. And I foolishly grew up believing that as an Ausie it was my duty to demand that everyone should get a fair go... I think that little myth was a bit like Australia's National Anthem... If you look more deeply into it you'll discover that it wasn't meant to apply to everyone.     ;) Check it out!

Anyway back to the card. It was produced by a group called Kick Trading from Kenya and she ordered it from the New Internationalist Magazine HERE.
I have always hated greetings cards. They seem to be a huge waste of money, but according to cultural protocol a necessary purchase if you want to keep your friends and relatives happy, well at least my mum is always happy if I can say "Yes I bought them a card!". These cards cost not much more than your average piece of cliche junk from the newsagent. I might even willingly buy a batch.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Sun behind the moon

I had planned to drive with friends out to Ramingining for the Gurruwiling Eclipse Festival...
It seemed like a good idea to drive 900 km (the long way round... bottom Rd via Katherine to Ramo) to join them for a week of bungul. The  event looked like it would be a crazy combination of Dhuwa and Yirritja ceremony in the Yolngu system of moiety the Sun is Dhuwa and Moon Yirritja, an eclipse would be like some kind of union between the two, which must have some significance in Yolngu World view. The event would also be a combination of traditional and contemporary Yolngu culture and a blending of Yolngu with Ngapaki (Balanda.. Non indigenous) expressions of.... Party, bungul (dance) and celebration! They must be having a wild time right now, the eclipse has only just passed but the event has been going since the weekend and is planned to conclude today.

Of course I didn't go... I had mixed feelings about what would happen there, and too many responsibilities at home to justify going but the main reason was lack of money! It costs a lot of money to drive into Arnhemland!

So This morning at a quarter to six I roused up kid one who'd woken at 4 am and had since fallen asleep in front of a cartoon dvd... We jumped in the car and headed for Buffalo creek. Running late we decided to stop at the side of the road near the new subdivision where developers had buldozed the beautiful woodlands and we could get a clear view of the horizon.

Here's some snap shots I got of the event. Unfortunately I didn't have a tripod but, shooting into the sun means high shutter speeds so no chance of too much movement blurr.

Solar Elipse Darwin 14.11.12
Solar Eclipse Darwin 14.11.12

Solar Elcipse Darwin 14.11.12
Solar Eclipse Darwin 14.11.12

Solar Eclipse Darwin 14.11.12
Solar Eclipse Darwin 14.11.12 (6:15am)

As always we were unprepared. Nothing to look through, nothing to bounce the image off so we could look safely. So we glanced, peaked, and blinked at the rising sun and the moon. It was cool.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A thong aint no flip flop!

I walk, feet bare to the sun, dust clinging to my cracked scaly heels. Thong clad feet, rubber soles, click clacking, gripping, rarely tripping. A thin buffer between foot and street, rugged path, bitumen, stones, wet grass and concrete. Feet protected from bubble gum and smokers phlegm, sputum, piss and dog shit on city streets. Course earth in the scrub. Still sensing, not immune thorns may protrude right through if you’re slack, softly feathered... low impact... treading lightly. 
I used to always go barefoot... (Except for during work hours or when riding a motorbike). I admit I thought that thongs were ugly and clumsy. However after moving to the tropics and discovering all the nasty things that can enter the blood stream through those cracks in my heels I decided it was time to start taking precautions, so I bought a pair of thongs. I discovered the are the perfect footwear for the tropics. Allowing airflow and protection and they don’t hold water.
My old thongs battered and worn; and torn and ripped by the grip of metallic bike peddles. They have lasted a while, walked a few miles and clung devotedly to my dusty feet. Scuffed and ground thin at the heel, lifted lightly by my toes and placed firmly and deliberately along varied paths by a rough combination of sinew and synapse.  A dreamers mind as it sometimes glides but often stumbles through hopes of adventure but dragged back always to the mundane ritual of the daily commute. Always the sureness of the ball of my foot directs the rubber sole, senses never disengaged.
I walk in thongs not ‘flip flops’ like some staggering surfer! Not shuffling like a Chinese student attending ablutions dragging her dainty heels, incapable of bounding forward silently. More like the Lombok porter who carried my gear to the top of a mountain... sure footed and strong! I watched that guy glide up a mountain with food for three days! 4 eggs in a plastic bag not a crack! He wore only a singlet, shorts and a pair of thongs, slept that way through the freezing night then carried our gear back down! His thong strap snapped and he kicked it to the side of the track and continued on barefoot until another appeared on the path and he stepped straight into it without breaking his pace! Like it was a second skin! That’s how to travel in thongs!
 These old thongs have become attuned to my step. A decent thong is not just a combination of good materials or manufacture, actually a thong by definition rarely even possesses either of these qualities. A thong is usually constructed of the cheapest least reliable materials not sure where or how maybe a machine just spits them out. A good thong is a matter of fine tuning the senses and curing the substance. The thong and it’s wearer must meld to each other… bend and be changed until a symbiosis is established. To walk in thongs is more like walking in bare feet you have to read the ground, perceive the path before you lay your foot upon it. Know where the glass or prickles are that will easily pass through the flimsy foam surface supporting you.  It is possible that the thongs durability is refined by the amount of compression it endures before you expose it to really rough or sharp surfaces.
A good thong is sturdy enough for the average bush track and will carry me across scorching concrete or bitumen but becomes imperceptible to the senses in most other ways. Allows me to feel the surface I am walking on but dulls the harsher aspects.
Sometimes I scuff the heels of my thongs when I drag my feet… Sometimes my step is lazy and I bend the toe when I’m weary and don’t bother to raise the foot…  Sometimes a thong can trip me when I’m lazy... Don’t wear them when you’re driving and don’t walk across wet tiles.
The old thongs fit to me like a skin, my feet and the rubber sliding perfectly from one step to the next. Rising and falling as one… gripping any surface. Delicately balanced each step, every turn, the toe grips in sync with the ball of my foot, heel catches the rubber as they glide gracefully to the ground in union and the next step rises to find it’s place along the path.
My old thongs would stay sure. They rest neatly on the smooth peddles of my bike, they have been firmed by walking and resist the friction that causes a new thong to rip...  But they need a smooth peddle. No thong seems to last on hard peddles. And so I have destroyed my old pair of thongs and replaced them with a new pair which I have to break in…
New thongs are stiff but tear easily.

I ripped my latest pair on the rough peddles of my bike. Even worse caught my foot and pulled the toe strap from the base... Cheep Crap! Disaster! I only had them a week and aren’t about to go out and spend another $4 for another pair so I had a chat with a mate who lives rough on the street and he gave me a solution. The strap can be prevented from passing through the base of the thong by widening the surface of the base plug (technical term I made up!). We discussed various means of securing it but by far the simplest and most effective was the humble bread bag clip... You know that bit of brittle plastic that holds the bag your bread comes in closed! I tried it and it fit perfectly! (Oh and a bit of gaffa tape) Back to the cottage craft of grass roots cobbling! 3 cheers for the long grass cobblers! 

Shoe repair when you got no dough!

Sunday, November 04, 2012 unflinching gaze on the world...

The book Sam is currently reading 'We all fall down' by Peter Barry has an interesting blurb on the front cover.
'A novel that speaks to the heart of our culture, and a gripping account of one man's fight for his soul. Both honest and compassionate it turns an unflinching gaze on the world in which we try to find meaning, at work and in love.' This post is not about the book... or even the blurb really. It's just a bit of a rant about an idea and nothing much came of it. (Oh and she said the book is pretty good if you're interested)

When Sam read the blurb to me my first response was to dismiss it as cliche' New-agey rubbish. Overloading a statement about work and love with overly heavy focus of finding meaning in the world... (I think I cringed most because sometimes when I think I've written something OK I read it and it sounds like that)
I thought about it a bit more and the first part played on my mind. Then I started to wonder...
The bit that caught my imagination was this. 'An unflinching gaze...', '...on the world in which we try to find meaning...'

I just started thinking about sight, seeing, vision, perception, reality, truth and illusions, beliefs, religion and lies.

Delirious from lack of sleep, yet again, my mind tripped across what it might mean to have an 'unflinching gaze' at anything... Recently most of my interactions with people I know regarding matters of spirituality, community, truth and the abundance of flimsy facades in their likeness etc... have lead me to consider that most people, nearly all that I have spoken with, are incapable of seeing the world in any other way than through the filters they have chosen to view it. I suppose there's nothing wrong with that, actually I think that's how reality is created.
Stupidly I recently made the enormous social error of holding people to account for the ideals they espouse. What a stupid thing to do! (A bad idea considering I may be the worlds greatest hypocrite!) Of course I have discovered that there is a big difference between seeking truth and claiming to know it. I should have known that challenging the position of people who believe themselves to be right would only anger them. Rule ONE... Don't ruin people's illusions! After all reality is subjective but nobody wants to have their reality deconstructed in the vain and useless search for Truth, which may only be someone elses illusion anyway! 

If we are expected to live our lives grounded in reality, and reality hinges entirely on our perception, then it only makes sense that regardless of the falseness of our beliefs we would defend these illusions with all our might! So it's no wonder my dear righteous friends would rather I left their company without explanation than have their virtuous philosophy questioned. (And I did)

Seeing is believing.
When it comes to human vision I've heard there is a phenomenon of the human mind which prioritizes and sorts the information received from the eye in terms of relevance to the needs of the viewer. Gestalt theory explains how our minds are programed to sort visual information. The kind of programing that allows us to spot friends out of a crowd or identify potential dangers at a glance, while the mind sees, assesses and then ignores other information that it deems insignificant or predictable. Another trick I've heard our minds tend to do is fill in the blanks... i.e. at a glance we may build a mental image based only on glancing part of an object like the front of a car protruding from a corner. Peripheral vision is fairly limited but I've heard that the brain fills in the edges. Cool eh.

"The hand is quicker than the eye". Magicians have learned how to exploit our selective vision and have created many tricks that still baffle their audiences, even tricks that have been used for many years continue to confound. Even though we are able to admit that a magician got one over us, most of us would prefer to believe that what we perceive is the world as it is, rather than as we choose to see it. I know I do. I can't help it! When I studied to be a Park Ranger I had to learn scientific names of a book full of local plants. Pretty soon I was seeing the world through the eyes of a botanist (I've since forgotten most of them). I exchanged my naive romantic concepts of trees shrubs and flowers for a more scientific view... But was that Truth? I like to ride my bicycle to and from work. I travel along the same roads as 100s of drivers every morning and afternoon but my experience of the journey is very different to theirs. I see the road differently and I view other cyclists differently. When I read the abusive comments made about cyclists in the newspaper I read them from my perspective as a cyclist. People will often claim to know what is real and I guess they are all correct, at least until they change their mind.

I've always liked Bruce Springsteen's twist on an Edgar Alan Poe quote. In his song Magic Springsteen wrote the lyrics:   "...Trust none of what you hear
                            And less of what you see..."
(Now that's Magic!)

What is so interesting about this 'unflinching gaze'?  Well as I thought about just the two layers of interference between the eye and the consciousness it's likely we rarely see the vaguest outline of Truth in our lives. We are so convinced by what our brain has conjured, filling in the gaps and selectively ignoring what our own eyes see that we are unable to recognize Truth when it stares us in the face! It's possible that we simply just can't do it! So as I pondered this inability to perceive without judgement or prejudice I wondered what it would be like to 'Gaze Unflinching' at the world without trying to 'find meaning'. Then it sunk in. HOLY SHIT!

Who would willingly have their heart burned out through their eye balls for the sake of finding the Truth? Better to live comfortably in our reality, complete with doubt and confusion, fed on flimsy constructions of false promises and half arsed rationalizations; clinging to the barest bones of hope and trusting our superior intellect than to face Truth. Sorry guys I should never have questioned you. Please go back to cut and pasting all the meaning you can stick together and float peacefully over the horizon into paradise... There's nothing wrong with that after all.

But I have to say as far as honesty, truth, love, beauty go I'd rather spend a week looking at a 4 year old's finger painting than listen to 5 minutes of your rationalization.


Saturday, November 03, 2012

Blog post 445

Once again there's so much to blog about and so little time or energy to actually type!
This is my 445th blog post. There's nothing significant about Post 445 except that I just noticed in my stats that my last post was No. 444. Nothing significant about that either I guess. Actually considering the fact that I've been attempting to write something here since 2006 I'd say it's just another example of mediocrity! I'm barely able to write here once or twice a month and am struggling even with that.

They say that having one's train of thought constantly interrupted is a form of torture... But where are you going to find anyone who's so committed to interrupting you 24 hours a day? Who is going to sit around and wait for you to try and do something just so they can disrupt you or distract you, interrupt your conversations or just simply create so much white noise that your brain can't physically process anything? Throw things at you, wreck all your stuff, steal your last $2 and stick their grubby fingers between your guitar strings when you think you've finally found a quiet moment to recommence the lessons you started 8 years ago when a hard day simply meant you had to do some work between the hours of 9am and 5pm? Surely such a person could not exist! Well if you don't have kids you'll always wonder if it could ever be possible for someone to dedicate so much time to such unrelenting harassment. God Love Em!

If you've ever wondered what is the most hideous product ever devised for consumption by human beings let me introduce you to... Smiley Face!

Smiley Face :(

Smiley Face is some kind of over processed meat (and probably soy) product kind of like Devon (I've never tasted that either but it looks kind of the same). Besides being offensive to look at Smiley Face also smells like the refuse pit of a toxic chemical plant! It stinks! It smells so bad that when it's in the fridge it spreads it's stink over everything that is not sealed! It is an abomination and I wonder how it was ever classified as a food!
As with most things in my universe I have absolutely no say in what my kids get to eat! Around here I am the bad guy who is constantly grumbling about all the crap their mother provides them to play with and to eat. My concerns are duly disregarded and I am reminded to stop bringing everyone down and so my kids continue to eat what can generously be called Shit!

I'm bitching about this now because I spent the whole night on spew watch after my boy proceeded to eat 'Smiley Face' after having actually eaten a reasonable dinner... He spent the rest of the night spewing his dinner which was laced with the chemical stench of his favorite snack!

There I go again getting distracted with rambling meaningless nonsense... It was easier to maintain a clear train of thought back when I could get a decent night's sleep and my brain hadn't been turned to moosh by the torture I've just mentioned... supplemented by endless replays of children's videos with the volume on full!

What really drives me crazy about the kids though is just when you think they've been sent by the Devil to destroy your spirit and turn you into a blubbering zombie they come out with the most amazing stuff! In a flash they can switch from a state of absolute self interest to a being that is completely compassionate and loving! Within on short hour I have watched my two kids attack each other with fists and claws, burst into tears, play cooperatively and then fall asleep in each others' arms.

Poem about the Earth that child one whipped out yesterday

What's been happening? OK.

Long bike In Dry Rapid Creek Bed

Rapid Creek: Riding past the stables at Rapid Creek last week I found a Potty calf had escaped so I joined a lady who was walking her dog and we wrangled it back into it's paddock. (quite fun actually)
Taking the long bike for a spin out into the wetlands behind the airport I followed it down to the salt water and found that the fresh water had completely dried up in many areas so I explored along the river bed for a while. The seasons correspond quite nicely here in the Top End, we always seem to get a bit of rain just as the very end of the previous wet season's rain has finished draining from the wetlands. While down there I got a great view of a Pacific Bazar at head level just a few metres away.

Basil babies...

Garden: The basil seeds I planted with the kids have really sprung up and now I'm thinking about mass producing them for friends. The seeds all came from a single plant in our yard that has shriveled to a stick every dry season but miraculously resurrects itself when the humidity returns. (Besides smiley face the boy actually likes to pick the leaves and eat them straight from the bush)

Quilting: My Mum, who's on a quilting tour of the USA, had to spend 3 days in a motel in Boston M.A. as Hurricane Sandy destroyed a huge chunk of New York. There was a chance they would be affected but I don't think anyone was truly worried about their safety up there. Very sad for those who have lost family in the US and Caribbean. It was very unlikely her group would make it to Houston for the show but amazingly they did. I think they still have another week of their tour to go. Visiting quilters and exhibitions from San Francisco to Philadelphia, Chicago, Boston, Houston and onward! Who'd have thought making quilt would be so exciting? We've received a post card from an Amish village somewhere (Postcard just said Amish Village), where, she said everything smells like horse dung. Actually I've always thought horse shit smells kind of sweet. I asked if they have bicycles but apparently they ride them kind of like scooters, without peddles or chains... I hope she got some photos... Actually how weird... A tour bus full of 70 year old Australian quilters who buy their material new, custom printed arrive in an Amish village with cameras and probably Iphone's snapping away, come to steel their homely secrets. LOL what a circus that must be. Maybe they have to leave their technology at the gate...? That would make for a very quick visit.

Cruelty to the stranger: There's a bunch of other stuff I'd like to chat about like the fascist stunt pulled by the Australian Government to send all Asylum seekers who arrive by boat to inhumane camps in Nauru and Manus Island even if they have actually managed to arrive on our shore. Now that's an amazing act of bureaucratic brutality! Imagine you've successfully fled torture, murder, starvation, drowning and general fleacing by every opportunist from Burma to Australia, you hop on a boat, statistically doomed to sink and use all your resources to get to a country that you hope and pray will treat you like a human being. Get off the boat walk up to the house of parliament, knock on the door and declare yourself as a person seeking asylum from the worst of humanity. They look at you, smirk and have you taken away, lock you up and fly you off to a place where you're shoved into a crowded tent in 45 degree heat and told to wait until... (you're forgotten about!) If I had time I'd say something about that, with all due disrespect to our Elected fascist leaders!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Lazy rider

pretty tree

The Long bike is back on the road again and rolling better than ever!
I thought I'd do a super quick post to say that I've finally got her back on the road.
I wasn't sure if I'd keep using the same bike frame since I haven't been able to find a suitable bottom bracket, but I decided to persist with the old Raleigh frame. It's been reliable and the other frame I've got, which has a decent bottom bracket, has got rust poking through the paint and it's bubbling all over the place.

Long bike break down

Last week I stripped the long bike down to basics to see what could be done. Most of the parts were totally worn. Although I'd only recently refurbished the drive train I tried to avoid replacing too many parts and the result was a pretty inferior ride! Besides the exploding chain, which I've used again except this time I've joined it with an appropriate link, I've realized that the bottom bracket had worn out prematurely, there was quite a bit of lateral movement which was wasting energy and causing extra wear on all the other bits. The 'Biopace' chain ring set had worn out sooner than should because I used it for too long with a worn chain and a wonky bottom bracket so I decided to ditch that too!

I knew the bracket I'd recently installed was not so great but I didn't realize how bad it had become. When I went to turn the axle by hand it would barely move! I'd seen a decent one at the tip shop a couple of days before so went back to get it but discovered some other womble had already taken it! Eventually I found one that seemed OK so I pulled it out hoping it would be worth the trouble. Having installed the bearings and packed the lot with some pretty old marine grease I found it much better than the last set but it still has more give in it than I'm happy with. I reckon a decent bottom bracket must be the rarest bike part to find at the tip and too expensive to buy new! I'll keep tightening this one and hope I can find something to replace it with soon. 

Long bike re-fit

Finally, with a few days to play I managed to clean out my bike cupboard/shed and re-discover all the bike parts I'd been hoarding for the past 10 years. Amongst the mess was a decent set of handle bars with gear shifters, brake levers and some nice hand grips so I decided to rip out the old bars, replace the cables and install a whole new handlebar unit... Yeee Haa!

Long bike re-fit

I ended up keeping my simple 6 speed shifter since I'd managed to find a couple of decent rear wheels with 6 speed cogs which meant I didn't need to replace my chain or anything else... besides less gears less worries I reckon! After attaching a brand new, from the shops, gear cable and reconnecting the chain, bottom bracket etc... I took the bike for a bit of a test ride and was in a state of bliss as it shifted gears effortlessly! (Of course this time I made sure the chain was attached properly and the derailleur was tuned perfectly!)

It seemed to take no time at all to attach the other cables and have everything tuned nicely and ready to roll. I was so glad to get the panniers back on and to actually start riding again. For a final touch I cut the pink hand grips off the kids bars and put on a $5 set of blue foam ones. The blue matches other bits of colour on the bike... Not that I've ever cared about the way it looks but now that I'm so happy with it I'm starting to think about adding some more blue. ;) Its the colour of our school team Gudbilling ( the snake) so the kids are keen to turn the bike into a mascot!

Long bike overhaul... again

 All this fiddling with decrepit bikes might seem like a waste of time to some people but who cares what they think! I know there's plenty of people who could easily have told me about all my mistakes before I made them but, how would I really know? (well there's some mistakes I'm happy to learn about from others). I have been on the edge of tossing this old bike out so many times, but once again I have played around with it for a while and learned a bunch of new stuff about how it all goes together. Maybe next time I'll chuck it out but right now I'm in love with my old heap of junk bike again!

Ready to roll

On Wednesday I took the bike for a ride and discovered to my disgust that I've already become unfit and out of shape. Sweat pouring off me. It seems more effort to peddle now than it did when the bike broke down, even though the rear wheel and bottom bracket are smoother than ever and the old bearings had virtually seized! Too bad so sad. At least I'm back in the saddle.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Talking to a brick wall - Political Stuff

Blogging politics...
It's funny this blog hasn't really been a platform for making political comment... at least I don't think it has. But a lot of my life seems engulfed by political issues that I can't escape from. My work and personal interests have made political issues an inevitable and unavoidable part of my life. The people I work with and for are directly affected by an enforced occupation of their land by a government that has never legitimized their presence in the form of any treaty or legally acknowledged process of acquisition. Their laws and customs have been interfered with at virtually every level. Traditional systems of governance that once maintained social harmony and balance are continually interfered with and they are blamed for the resulting dysfunction and accused of being unable to adapt!

The Federal Intervention into Indigenous Communities in the NT which even suspended the racial discrimination Act just so the government could completely take over Aboriginal communities was recenly perpetuated by legislation known as the Stronger Futures Bill. The Australian People barely batted an eyelid why should they care, since the laws only apply to Indigenous people. The average Ausie probably doesn't think their lives could possibly be affected by such discriminatory laws.

About a year ago A group of prominent Yolngu leaders from East, West and Central Arnhem Land got jack of being screwed around and so they formed theYolngu Nations Assembly known in Yolngu matha as (Yolnguw Makarr-Dhuni).
Last week in Maningrida the Makarr Dhuni gathered for a second annual meeting and have made a media statement which can be read HERE on the Blog Cultural Worlds, It's not likely they will get the media attention they deserve.

Last weekend representatives of Makarr-Dhuni met with the NT Chief Minister Terry Mills:

They made a formal statement on the following subjects:


Here's what they had to say about STRONGER FUTURES:

"We want self-determination. We want democracy. We want the power of the people in Arnhem Land and in all Aboriginal communities to be recognised and our rights respected.
We want the Intervention to be thrown out, and we want the Northern Territory Government to lobby the Federal Government on our behalf. The Federal Government must start to listen to the voices on the ground. No more deception, no more lies, we want the Intervention out now and self-determination to be taken seriously.

We never consented to this law, and we were never asked if we wanted the continuation and extension of these laws under the deceptively named “Stronger Futures” Act. We will not tolerate this bullying and it is no way to treat human beings. We are being led around like dogs on a lead with the Basics Card, compulsory acquisition of our land, police coming into our houses without a warrant, and having our law disqualified from recognition or consideration in court.
All this was done and continues to be done under the lie that we are hiding pedophiles and that child abuse comes from our culture. This is disrespectful, slanderous and fundamentally untrue. It is undermining our law, our culture and our whole identity. All this so Government can get legitimacy to take over our communities.
We demand an apology from the Federal Government.
We have our own system of law to prevent disagreements from escalating. We keep peace and order through good governance and we have very serious and consistent ways of teaching respect and discipline to all our young people. We have ways of dealing with people who have broken the law that means they are not a threat to the community while they are taught responsibility and maturity. These processes are being eroded through community disempowerment and Government attacks on our legitimacy as leaders and our society as a whole."

Yolŋuw Makarr Dhuni (Yolŋu Nations Assembly)
Maningrida: October 11th – 13th, 2012.
Yolŋuw Makarr Dhuni represents the people of eight nations in the Western, Central and East Arnhem Land areas of the Northern Territory:
Miwatj, Laynha, Raminy, Marthakal, Garriny, Gumurr-Rawarraŋ, Gatjirrik and Miiyirrk

With thanks to Cultural Worlds

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Is it getting hot in here?

Darwin is on the cusp of becoming an industrialized Gas processing 'hub' and is already swarming with opportunists and mercenaries in fluro green and orange shirts. Hoards of blokes getting paid too much to aid the last hoorah... despite the warnings of global warming our Government is overjoyed at the prospect of converting what remains of the planet's safely stored carbon into CO2 for our pleasure and comfort and their profit. Profits will overflow from the booming Fossil Fool industry which, apparently is good for the economy but for those who live where the money is being made the prices are going up up up... With so much money around we've all gotta pay! An escalated price of living at the centre of the next boom means if you're not riding the gravy train you'd better get off their tracks!

Darwin changes all the time! Who are we who came so recently to demand that it remains the way we liked it? ...I've only been here 16 years! When I got here people would say "The Town's not what she used to be..." Well... In another five years will anyone even remember any of those old places we used to know? They knocked the Darwin Hotel down in the middle of the night and within a couple of weeks it may as well never have existed at all. One by one the elevated fibro houses on stilts with louvered walls and cypress floors were carted away, another 50 soulless sarcophagus slivers take their place... more military, more cashed up construction workers, gas workers, no families no homes.
Will any of them stay long enough to feel the goose bumps rise on their skin when the Mills family stand together one more time and sing Arafura Pearl? Has that time already passed? No more black fellas on Mitchel Street... Just franchised replicas of English bars, police dressed like SWAT thugs in intimidating blue, bars open all hours down at the Broken Jaw, drunken white tourists, shaved heads and muscles, half empty schooners, abusive losers, two pot screamers no room for dreamers! Takers, wasters, demanding more beer and one last shot it's time for Hunnypot! Oh dear I think I've lost the Plot...

Yacht (that got away)

Now I forgotten what I was posting about...
Oh yeh. So the rent is going up and the domestic lifestyle has had me against the ropes so for the past few months (well since last year actually) I've been looking for an alternative way to live. The romantic fantasy that's been following me around since... Well I can't remember how long actually,  has reared it's head again. I went out last week in search of a boat. There was an unreserved auction to be held on Saturday so I made arrangements to check out the boat. A 40 ft Steel hulled yacht. It was pretty close to what I thought I was looking for but I had no idea what I should actually be 'looking for' when it comes to sea worthiness. I had a rough idea of what it would be worth (if in reasonable condition) but I couldn't tell if it was actually any good below the waterline and what do you do with a diesel engine that won't start? After a lot of deliberating I decided I'd have to be mad to just go out and blow all our savings on such a whim so I baulked. I went along to the auction and it sold for a bit more than I thought it would. When it had sold I felt relieved but then I felt a deep regret. Ha! Well I'll just have to suffer and keep on looking!

As I was leaving the marina I had a chat with the Lochmaster who reminded me that marinas are places full of broken dreams. Every yacht has got a story and every owner will have paid a pretty high price for the privilege. At the time I was comforted but as I consider the life I am living ashore, more and more something is gnawing at me and demanding that I persist with this crazy idea! Besides, pretty soon ashore will no longer be an option!

Bean garden
Failing to completely drop out I decided I would at least take this week off. I mean compared to committing my life to the sea, a week of gardening and fixing my bikes is pretty tame isn't it! So On the weekend I climbed to the top of a ladder and cut the top off a carpentaria palm with a machete and a hatchet... The tree fell without the usual warning signs and I had to leap off the ladder and run for my life!  I've strung up some bamboo to use as a trellis between the stump and the tree next to it and will hopefully grow some snake beans and winged beans.

Transport wise I've gone to the dogs! With my best bikes off the road for the past couple of weeks and and excess vehicles just sitting around at work I've weakened and have been driving a dirty big stinking gas guzzling car to and from work every day! This really pisses me off because it's so easy to do! Jump in the car, there's aircon, I can play my CD's and just sit in a comfortable capsule, insulated from the world while I drive to work, or work related places like that... There are many things I hate about it and I'm not being a martyr! Consumption of fosill fuels costs money! There are also hidden costs like the speeding fines I've received! (How can I be righteous behind the wheel of a large automobile?) I am also getting fat.

Derailleur and wheel

So now that I'm off work for a while I've decided to try and fix the long bike one last time before ditching the old bike it's attached to. I managed to grab a pretty decent steel rim and a very nice derailleur from the tip shop for under $10. If I can get a long gear cable tomorrow I could actually have the bike back on the road ready to use for the rest of the week. Hallelujah!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Garden State.... a shiny happy post

Last week I defied my ethical position on air travel and somewhat bleak economic position. I boarded a plane and deserted my crumbling husk of a failed and miserable excuse for a life, I defected to Melbourne for a few days to visit family and spend some time with my Dad on his 70th birthday. HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAD and MUM! (I missed my mum's birthday so I felt much better having seen them both.

I had intended to take a bike on the plane but didn't want to spend a cent on luggage so settled for a car ride from the airport. It was 3 decrees C when I landed. Chilly but lovely! Back in Melbourne again! The traffic the people the dry barren fields water restrictions etc... I have to admit I haven't kept track of the weather down there. Apparently they've had heaps of rain. The fields were all green and lush!  Actually greener than anything I can remember! 

When we got home to my parents house, I was blown away by all the flowers! The whole yard was in bloom it was beautiful! The old granny flat my brother had lived in was gone there is now a great big space in the yard for growing food. My brother has finally moved out into supported accommodation (and loving it!) One of his house mates, David, loves those old beach huts you see down at Brighton. He creates art out of every kind of material you can imaging, I thought his work was excellent so I was wrapped when he sent this wonderful piece home for me.

Art by David W. All rights reserved!
I wondered down and kicked the dirt around the back yard. It was thick and dark! Unbelievable! Stuff just grows in it! Anything you can think of! Oh I miss soil so much! Deep rich black soil! You can push a shovel into it and it will just sink down deep into the wholesome earth! When they first moved in it was mostly clay but they built it up. Of course we can build our soil up here in Darwin too but it'll be bloody gone by the end of the wet season!

Back when I was a kid we grew everything. Corn, tomatoes, mint. If we didn't pick the zukini quick enough it would grow to massive proportions! Tamarillos (nobody even knew what they were back then!), Feijoas (what the hell are they? Right?) Pumpkins, peas and beans! Oh yeh and the sacred lemon tree! The obligatory piss stop for little boys. I remember the neighbors had one and they used to piss on theirs too... there were four males in that family... they had plenty of good lemons! The old veggie garden gradually disappeared as the years went by. Mum and Dad always had something edible growing in the yard but it became only a token. Although the lemons trees seemed to produce a prolific amount of fruit.

folks gardening

 I am so glad the yard is now changing back into a productive food garden!  Check it out!

wicking planter boxes

They've put in these wicking garden beds and are already growing some rhubarb. I wish I could have stayed longer to help them set it all up. I dug a couple of holes and we planted an Apricot and a Granny Smith apple both just reviving out of their winter torpor. 

It was great to get back down there again.I didn't do too much riding but did make a couple of trips along the plenty river. As I rode to Greensborough via Partingtons Flats I tool the long way past the old Diamond Valley swimming pool. (A deep pool at a bend in the river Not many people have any idea it even existed) There was a Chineese guy down there fishing. He'd actually caught one! I thought the river was dead but apparently they're discovering platypus along the Yarra and its tributaries. That is such great news. Life persists despite the odds!


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Get me a bike!

This month has been a doozy for bike repairs!

I've already mentioned the Avanti with the broken spokes and the badly adjusted rear derailleur. 

On the weekend Sam called from the Uni, the folding bike with the new Tyres got a puncture... 'What do you mean you got a puncture!". I went out and picked her up and there it was. A punctured rear tyre. With a great long piece of brazing rod running through it! No wonder. The bike is resting in the back yard now.

Deep puncture
Tire Piercing Brazing Rod

Now my trusty Long bike has bit the dust!
A couple of weeks ago I decided it was time to replace the chain and sprockets on the long bike. The bike still had it's original chain plus the extension provided with the Xtracycle kit, the rear sprockets came with the bike but I put them on a decent wheel I bought from the old bike shop in Darwin about ten years ago. After nearly 20,000 km of cycling the chain and sprockets had become worn out! The chain kept slipping and the teeth on the sprockets were worn to a sharp point! By now I've re-packed the wheel with grease at least twice... Basically the whole kit has had it's day.
Two chain pins bottom one is newish the top link is from my worn chain having done nearly 20,000 km (It appears that the new pin is slightly longer than the old one... they should be the same length)

Some left over chain... (After pulling them apart I got to appreciate the quality of the steel and the various components)

Long Bike all messed up!

With stuff all money to spend I had to improvise and unfortunately compromised a little too much. Having an Xtracycle means that my chain is longer than the usual bike. I needed two. The tip shop is usually pretty good for parts and I managed to find a couple of decent chains and a barely used 6 speed sprocket. I took them home, replaced the sprocket and was reinserting the final pin of the chain when I snapped the chain breaker! I got the pin in but was not happy with the job and was worried it would not stay... It didn't!

Mashing the chain
Messing up the gears! (The shiny chain is the result of no oil and rubbing on the disconnected front derailleur...)

Last night on my way home from work the faulty connection came away and the chain broke and got caught in the rear wheel. Luckily I had some tools to fix it and a joining link (The part I should never have compromised on!) I fixed the chain bent the derailleur back into what I thought was a suitable position and proceeded to ride on. No problem. Clicked her into a lower gear, OK... clicked her down again into first and WHAM! Chain came off and tore through the spokes on the rear wheel, seized the wheel and bent the derailleur all the way! One look and I could see it was terminal. The Long bike will be off the road for a long time this time! Now I'm wondering if I should resurrect her or start again and just attach the Xtracycle to a whole new bike!

Oh yeh one more rear wheel casualty. A couple of weeks ago I spent a few days wandering around Darwin on the old Shogun road bike. I did a lot of miles and traveled across some fairly uneven ground with a panier bag full of my gear... (Don't ask why!) As I was riding I noticed a creaking sound coming from the rear wheel. I Stopped and had a look and discovered that the wheel was starting to buckle under the load and a couple of the spokes had become loose. Not a good sign if you want a wheel to hold together. Wouldn't it be funny if I ran out of bikes to ride! Actually I'm a bit sad about that. The Shogun has been with me for years and the rear wheel has stood up to several trips around the harbor.

Actually I'm kind of happy about all of this. Through trial and error I have learned first hand several things.
  1. Fine tuning the low gear of a rear derailleur is worth it.
  2. When joining chains they should be very very similar in width and match the sprocket set you are using. (I probably should have found out more about this before I replaced the old chain)
  3. There's nothing wrong with using a chain joiner. (Don't be a hero and think you've got to get all the pins back in!)
  4. Chain breakers break if you apply them on an angle... particularly when trying to replace a pin rather than extract one!
  5. A good quality chain breaker is much better than a crappy one! (short handles mean poor leverage, long handles are good!)
  6. There are actually times when not having oil on your chain is an advantage
So there you have it. Another inventory of stuff that's gone wrong. ;)  I suppose I'll have to post a happy story next.