Friday, 30 November 2007

Yer actual monotreme

On 30 November I was called out of the shower as an echidna (aka spiny ant-eater) was exploring under our deck. A few photos were taken.

This is the long view to give an idea of where it was at the start of the episode (just to the right of the steps).

Close up 1 - it looks to be 3/4 asleep to me!

Close-up 2 - getting ready for movement.

For reasons that escape me, Frances thought it worth taking this image of me assessing the beast's progress under the deck. It was aware of my presence so had done the usual "ostrich act" and dug itself in against the foundations. When we checked again 30 minutes later it had taken itself off.

Thursday, 29 November 2007

Recent changes (since Nov 28)

This page will be a log of what's been did - nothin' will be hid - since 28 November. It will hopefully assist the reader to follow what is going on! Needless to say folk are welcome to go back through the older stuff as well (where an entry continues an old posting a backwards link is usually provided).

New pages

This one!!! an echidna visits us An arguable title. Disaster just avoided.

Major updates additional product commentary later news and a couple of explanatory comments inserted. the first addition has been to give Google a mention and some traditional abuse for XXXXsoft. I am sure there will be more by the end of the month! An explanation of the bushfire.

Deleted pages

There isn't really much point in putting in links to pages that aren't there any more is there (if in fact it is possible)? However, the post of "updates since October 30" has gone, replaced by this.

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Election 2007

As those with a biological approach will know the photo to the left is of a weasel.

Lets start the narrative off with a quote from "The Australian" at 16:14 on election day.
"PUNTERS have rallied to back Prime Minister John Howard to win his seat, but Labor is still a raging favourite with bookmakers to win the election.
"Centrebet's Neil Evans said Mr Howard's price closed at $1.50 today after two punters helped themselves to $1.72 overnight with two separate bets of $10,000 on the big boss. Mr Howard, however, was a drifter overall after opening at $1.18.
"Labor's star candidate in Bennelong Maxine McKew on the other hand was firmer after after being backed in from $4.25 to close at $2.40, he said.
"Head-to-head, Labor finished at a miserly $1.28 with Centrebet to win the election, after opening at $2.75 when Kevin Rudd took over as opposition leader in December last year.
"By contrast, the Coalition blew like a gale over the same period to close today at a juicy $3.70 after being a $1.40 favourite when Mr Rudd took the reins. "

The Australian (or The Ocker as I refer to it) has been all over the place in the election, and Iam sure some of their writers (especally Denis Shanahan) have hated having to write articles with a positive view of the ALP. I like the article quoted above because:
1 it plays nicely to Australian's love of gambling;
2 the language is very Australian; and
3 it ends with the right answer (I hope)!

My involvement with this election began some time ago when I discovered that our next door neighbours were the local bwanas for The Greens. Of course, I was immedately around their to offer to help.

My first bit of work was delivering leaflets to the 504 letterboxes in the area covered by the Stony Creek Gazette. In so doing I tried to minimise my carbon footprint and did approximately 150km on my mountain bike; 30km on the hoof and 30km in our car. A great incentive for some exercise!

Part II was handing out How to Vote Cards at the pre-poll venue in Queanbeyan for three hours on the day before the election. This was quite good fun: not only were those handing out cards for the othe parties quite good fun (to quote the Electoral Commision Officer in Charge "Everyone plays very well together.") but the ALP candidate - second preference for the Greens - turned up for a fair bit of the time. He was a Colonel in the Army and had done quite a spell in Iraq, so is basically quite a cluey guy. Also very pleasant - as one would expect a politician to be (apart from those representing: the Liberal Party; the National Party; Family First; One Nation; the Pauline Hanson Group; the Christian Democrats/Fred Nile Party; the Democratic Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats).

Please note this post is about Australian politics and as a result makes no comment about political parties in other countries. However, if pressed I could probably find room for: the US Republic Party (aka GOP - presumably an acronym for God Orful Party); New Zealand First (home of Winnie the Poo); the Conservative Party of Canada; and any political party I have heard of in the UK in the parentheitical list which closes the previous paragraph.

Getting back to work, as opposed to vitriol, I opened up a How to Vote station at a booth in the suburb of Letchworth in Quenbeyan at 7:45. I found that as yesterday I was joined by some folk from the Liberal Party - their workers aren't always bad, it is just the elected Members that are a pain in the freckle - the Australian Labour Party and a group called "Your Rights at Work" who are basically Union aparatchiks boosting the ALP. As with the previous day everyone played well together with some amusing badinage, especially when a punter refused every leaflet except one: this was always followed by a comment that "we'll count that one for you". It was good that The Greens scored a few under that system.

The best comment was when a fairly horny-handed son of toil took me aside after he'd voted and opined that "You'd better make sure that bloody Bob Brown (for the benefit of OS readers, the Leader of The Greens) kicks some butt in the future. Especially about that fxxking pulp mill." I said that Bob was doing his best. My colleague then went on to discuss a member of the Shadow cabinet - who used to front Midnight Oil and the Australian Conservation Foundation. He seemed to have some trouble finding the right words so I contributed the ones in [ ]. "Now that fxxking bald basterd .... [ Peter Garrett ]. Yeah that'sim. He's a fxxkin' ..... [ sell out? ]. Yeah thasright."

Right on brother. [Moving forward, Bob Brown proceeded to make some VERY vigorous comments about the pulp mill when interviewed about 9:45. I think he will kick butt OK.]

For the few days preceding the election I had been using "Hi hi! Hi ho! Little Johnny's Gotta go!" as the sign-off line on my emails. This had generally been well received (about 6 compliments and no complaints). However one must recognise that I, and the bookies, might have got it wrong. Thus in a spirit of preparing for the best, and worst, of all possible worlds I have drafted three signature blocks for use as from 25 November.

  1. If the ALP win a majority in the House of Reps: "Calloooo, Callayyyy. Little Johnny's; Gone awayyyyy!"
  2. If the Howard Coalition of the Weasels somehow get a majority in the Reps and maintain a majority in the Senate: "Oh Woe is me; and lack-a-day; Johnny Weasel's; here to stay; Unless he's later beat; by Costello (that is, Pete)."
  3. If the Howard Coalition of the Weasels somehow get a majority in the Reps but the Greens hold the balance of power majority in the Senate: "Oh Woe is me; and lack-a-day; Johnny Weasel's; here to stay; But it might still be fine; if Kerrie Tucker holds the line."

OK, it ain't great poetry but the emotion should be OK. There are now 9 minutes to go until the booths close , so I must go and get ready for a night in front ot the Toob. Some folks reckon that a broad punt at whether scenario 1 will get a run should be available within 30 minutes after the polls close. If that is so, it gives many hours of boozing before either:

  • Rudd would be game to claim; or
  • Howard is fit to quit

(perhaps I am a poet?)

We now move on to Stage III: the count. By 8pm it seems that pundits are beginning to suggest that Rudd is over the line. One of the questions is whether Mr Howard is going to hold his seat. Certainly the reaction of the folk in the Tally Room is very positive that he is going to get his butt kicked outtathere! Yahoo!!

By 9pm everyone was saying the ALP had done enough to win. I was getting mightily ticked off by the poor sound quality of the ABC telecast, due to the interference from the cheering of the crowd in the Tally Room. The main anchor kept blaming this on the activities of The Chaser team (possibly because of the crap they deal on him in their program) rather than recognise that one of the Chasers got it dead right when he talked about the intense hatred most people felt for Howard. (From talking to one of Frances' friends who was in the Tally Room, it seems that the problem was that people moved through the room as the night progressed and every time they put up a Bennelong result it was seen by people who hadn't been aware of the news. So they cheered: loudly!) The media also for some reason seemed unable to recognise a correlation between the Government's loss of seats in Queensland and their policy of intervention in indigenous communities - perhaps I am imagining it, but the patterns looked very similar.

At about 10pm I gave up waiting for the Squire of Kirribilli to produce a sword and do a ritual and went to bed. This is being written at 6:34 the following morning when it appears that there are now two Australian Prime Ministers who have left public office by losing their seat. It is in some ways a pity since I'd like to see him on the Opposition benches being malicious and wriggling. Who will take over as Leader of the Liberals will be VERY interesting. With even more good news, Mike Kelly has won Eden-Monaro so we have a Labour Member. I look forward to seeing Gary Nairn's billboards get ripped down and burnt.

During the following week the Deputy Prime Minister (Leader of the National Party) and Deputy Leader of the Liberals (Peter Costello, aka Captain Smirk) also chucked in the towel.

Summarising the event, the big picture is generally very satisfactory. No more Coalition Government; no more turning off the sound of the TV as Mr Howard whines; the Greens probably holding the balance of power in the Senate. It is a pity that The Green candidate didn't get up in the ACT: they had a chance to get their votes to do some heavy lifting and failed. Also, in NSW the Greens candidate failed to get re-elected continuing my string as being the kiss of death to candidates I work for.

Finally here is another, very appropriate, photo of a weasel.

Thursday, 22 November 2007

On the radar

When we first came back from New York there was quite a lot of conversation about the drought in Australia. That tended to die down as a result of a lot of storms in January - March although a few Hanrahans started muttering about floods. Then it went dry again until a deluge in June (followed by dry in July to October).

November has decided to make up for things a bit: by the 22nd we were up to 71mm for the month and it started raining in the afternoon. At 17:20 this is what the Met Bureau radar looked like - the system is basically moving down the screen (ie South) and X marks our house!

We ended up getting 22mm of rain out of this storm, which nicely topped up the rainwater tank, and removed the need to use the bore for lawn watering!

This was the radar image at noon on 7 December. I think the December total is going to get a bit of a boost this afternoon.

Saturday, 17 November 2007

'Tis the season ..

.. to be jolly HOT!

This post is written about events while Frances was in Adelaide visiting her family, so she will not feature greatly in it!

After a couple of days birding in Western NSW, with the temperature over 37 degrees Centigrade it was nice to be back in canberra, where it was still well over 30C. This led me to spend a couple of hours sitting on our verandah with a cooling glass or 3 of honey wheat home brew. This was totally peaceful, with only birdsong and the rumbling of thunderstorms (see below) to disturb me.

{A parenthesis: While so relaxing I was reading "Dark Victory" by David Marr and Marian Wilkinson about the immigration crisis of 2001. We missed most of this as we were in Tanzania at the time, but it should be compulsory reading for anyone who wants to understand Australia and why Little Johnny Weasel (our current, but hopefully only for another week as I write, Prime Minister) is the foulest bum on the face of the planet - possibly excluding Dubya, but after reading this book it is no longer a clear decision. The book continues a line of excellent tom,es by good journalists - probably a topic for a separate post, but it would add another level of parenthesis to do so now!}

A side effect of heat is bushfires. As I drove down to visit Ingrid and Alex I was following Engine 1 from the Stony Creek Bush fire Brigade.

This is what they were heading towards.

Here are some of the firies from Captains Flat mopping up. Note the house - apparently unscathed - in the background. An article in the Bungendore Mirror explained that the owners of the house
were lighting up a pile of trash (with a permit to do so) and it got away from them. We wondered why anyone would be daft enough to light a fire in this weather until a week later when Frances twigged the melted "For sale" sign meant that they were tidying up to sell the place. They can now add "wide fire-break to road" to the list of outstanding features.

As well as fires we get thunderstorms. This is a shot of one building up just North of the fire scene: as well as the storm it gives a nice feeling of the Molonglo Valley with cattle and a bush covered hill (Sugarloaf if I have it right) in the background.

On getting home I thought these Callistemon flowers, in our back yard, made a nice contrast to the storm gathering in the background. Since the 2 hours has passed there has been some flashing, much crashing but very little actual rain. Hopefully later.

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

November Gardening

This could possibly be part of a series, with the first being an October entry In fact with two related posts it is already a mini-series!

This could well be contrasted with the pre-weeding of the onions and garlic photo in the earlier posting. As is usually the case Frances is doing the weeding.

The aim of the exercise. The garlic was pulled because it looked a bit over the hill; we have more peas than a diabetic dachshund; and the best crop of strawberries we have ever grown. I have decided there are only two seasons: Winter and when we don't buy vegies!

Monday, 5 November 2007


On 5 November I was roused from my computer by Frances yelling for me to go to where she was. As she wanted me to hurry I guessed this was not another fallen tree (since they, traditionally, don't move too much once they're recumbent).

In fact it was the photographed mini-lobster walking down the concrete path in the vegetable garden. It was not a happy camper due to the attention of a large number of ants. After lobbing it into a bucket and thence into our dam it was much happier. I don't think the ants were so jovial: they seemed to make a strategic error in heading for the centre of the water rather than the side.

It could be noted that after getting 51mm of rain in the last few days the dam is now full. It could also be noted that the presence of yabbies may explain why the dam leaks a little bit!