Sunday, March 30, 2008

The magic cupboard

Poor little Jack dreads what comes out of the magic cupboard. Sometimes it's doggie chocs (Yay!), sometimes worming medicine, sometimes itch tablets, and sometimes Puppy Milk - or liver sprinkles to put on his morning puppuccino.

This week, I've been pulling out my own treats from the same cupboard: contents of several showbags from the Royal Easter Show. Wicked! My resistance is low. No such thing as a half-empty packet!

Today, I headed into the city for a lunchtime meeting of Sydney's blogging community at Star Bar. Five of us turned up this time - improved from the last meeting, certainly, but still not very representational of the whole membership list.


Sunday's magic number: 91.3 - Yay! Doing okay. Not much progress, but still stable.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Earth Hour '08

Earth Hour

School libraries leading learning: Day 2

The alarm clock was again set to go off at 6:00 am and, of course, I was awake - wide awake - at 4:20 am. Ross Todd's advice from yesterday was still ringing through my brain.

Nothing to do except turn on my computer, dig through all my hand-scrawled notes from Circle Time evaluations of last year’s Kindergarten wiki fables project, and add them to the new wiki page I intended to use in my presentation today.

Of course, now that I'm home I realise exactly which bits of my material I should have used yesterday (my ten-minute segment of a 70-minute panel), when the captive audience was huge. I also should have started off the panel talk on the Saturday with a reading of my favourite student-written fable. But I'd been so focused on using it to kick off my tutorial today (a one-hour session), which was in a comparatively tiny room, and a much smaller group. Sigh...

Why is it always so clear the day after the event?

Friday, March 28, 2008

School libraries leading learning: Day 1

I set the alarm for 6.00am this morning, fully intending to swing past the school, on my way to the railway station to attend the first day of School Libraries Leading Learning, the NSW State Conference of ASLA and the Department of Education and Training.

To my horror, it was still pitch dark outside. Little Jack looked at me, quite bewildered, and wanted to refuse the only chance he’d have to relieve himself, and I eventually decided to phone in the last-minute instructions to my replacement in the school library. By sheer luck, it wasn’t a heavy teaching load day; much of her day was to be spent policing the preview browsing of the annual Book Fair, which starts in earnest next week.

Follow the link above to find out how the day went.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Dreamland arrives

I forgot to mention that my personalized, autographed copy of Dreamland, a new musical-for-CD by Brent Spiner and Maude Maggart, arrived last week. (Check the great Youtube clip in the above link.)

I'm playing the CD at the moment, and it's delightful! Lots of well-known songs, strung together with new, fun dialogue. Highly recommended! (I can't say too much about the plot without spoiling it.)

Perhaps the most exciting aspect of receiving this CD was when I noticed that the green US Customs Declaration sticker, affixed to the padded postbag, had also been signed... by Brent Spiner!

This CD may get played as often as "Ol' Yellow Eyes Is Back" did in 1991. Brent's first CD of show tunes has become quite a rarity (both publishers went defunct, leaving distribution very spotty) in Star Trek fandom, and it consistently fetches amazing prices on eBay. I've had my copy of that since its first week of release, when Richard Arnold brought a small batch of the very first copies to a Brisbane Star Trek convention.

Brent Spiner CDs

Monday, March 24, 2008

My Easter pilgrimage

Royal Easter Show logo

Not counting the religious significance of the holiday, somehow it never seems like Easter Down Under without a trip to Sydney's Royal Easter Show. Due to my ongoing dieting attempts, there has been a noticeable shortage of chocolate temptations around the house this year - although the supermarkets really seemed to go overboard this year. (I haven't checked, but I'm anticipating lots of cut-price chocolate Easter goodies to be offered this week. Resist, I must.)

Some years I've attended the Show with friends, and sometimes I've given it a miss altogether, but I often feel like I've missed out on something when I don't go at all, so I took myself today. It was a glorious day for it and, while the attendance seemed high, it never really felt claustrophobic, except for some of the bargain areas of the Showbag Pavilion.

Nothing much to report. I make a point of watching Shane St James, the hypnotist, when he's at the Show - always good for a laugh - and a brisk tour through all the commercial stalls and the arts, crafts and bakery displays is essential.

I didn't really pick up any bargains of note, although I did stock up on some packets of Bondi Chai Latte Tea, my current fascination in beverages. Yummo.

It's times like the Show, the Zoo, and toy stores at Christmas, that I get wistful that all four of Uncle Ian's nieces and nephews spent most of their childhoods in Queensland. Sigh...

The glorious weather held until my return train approached Penrith Station - and thus I got to trudge home in a raging thunderstorm.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter from Happy Tree Friends

I hadn't heard of these bizarre little guys until a few years ago when the action figures of the TV show started turning up in the comics & collectibles shops. I noticed this link to Youtube on Kelley's hilarious blog, Magneto Bold Too!

Meanwhile, my happy tree friends and I went off to Hog's Breath Cafe and the movies, to "see" the voices of Jim Carrey, Steve Carrell and Carol Burnett in the animated "Horton Hears a Who", based on the popular old picture book by Dr Seuss about the elephant who meets, and tries to save, the tiny population of a speck of dust. A lot of fun, probably funnier that "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (with live action Jim Carrey and lots of Whos), and heaps funnier than "The Cat in the Hat" (which, despite its talented cast was a big flopperoo storywise).

Sunday's magic number: 91.7 - Disappointingly higher than last week, but I guess I'm paying for the always-wonderful meal and wine at the Meat and Wine Co on Thursday night... I went for a big walk last night to equalize today's amazing Mars Bar Sundae, which was my Easter junk food treat.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Finally, I see The Lights

Week 10 Weekend II
Over on TrekBBS, someone asked "What are your missing, or lost, episodes of Star Trek"?

For the longest time, my elusive episode of the original series was "The Lights of Zetar". I'd heard it wasn't too good but written by Lamb Chop's puppeteer Mum, Shari Lewis(!). Finally, it was advertised as airing on a Sunday afternoon in the 80s, when a group of diehard "Star Trek" fans were committed to dressing in Starfleet uniform to sell food at a "Doctor Who" function that was being filmed for a TV news segment. (The British TV journalist, Janet Street-Porter, was very impressed that I'd gone to the trouble of Andorian makeup in addition to my red Starfleet shirt.)

I set up the VCR and we ventured off for the big event. We finished much earlier than expected and I arrived home, with me still dressed as an Andorian - but with just minutes to spare before the episode began its broadcast. Since I was now home to watch (and tape it), I had to switch tapes to my commercials-free version, and line up the new tape at its proper place. A frantic few moments, which my parents thought was quite hilarious and quite unnecessary. Breathlessly, I collapsed into a chair just as the episode started.

Suddenly, a carload of unexpected relatives arrived: my brother, his wife, her parents, I think, and perhaps even my sister-in-law's sister!

My mother let them all in, and was asking who wanted tea and coffee, just as the camera on TV was panning the dead researchers of Memory Alpha - and there were two dead Andorians lying on the floor! Now, I'd read the "Star Trek Concordance" many times, but Bjo Trimble had never mentioned there were Andorians in that episode! So I was getting quite excited and animated.

My relatives, who knew I was an avid fan, just stood there, shaking their heads sadly.

"We knew he liked 'Star Trek'," they said, "but we had no idea he got dressed up just to watch the episodes..."

Memory Alpha researchersMore Memory Alpha researchers
Dead Andorians and Tellarites at Memory Alpha

On the Warpath

I finally finished the David Mack's "Star Trek" novel, "Deep Space Nine: Warpath" yesterday. It was great!

I have a few regrets; try as I did to remain spoiler free for this novel (published April 2006), things kept bobbing up on the Internet message boards that led me to guess several major plot twists and resolutions, and I really wish I'd been able to read the whole thing before ever seeing the great "flip book" cover for the upcoming, twice-delayed, "DS9: Fearful Symmetry", because lots more events in "Warpath" may have taken me by surprise.

Also, I regret that I took so long to read such a fast-paced book. This would have been amazing to devour over the first weekend of its release, stopping only for meal breaks. But I so rarely get time to do that with a ST novel ("Star Trek: The Motion Picture" and "ST III: The Search for Spock" novelizations; "The Entropy Effect"; "Andor: Paradigm"; "Gateways: Cold Wars"; "New Frontier: Stone and Anvil", to name a few).

I very much enjoyed the Prynn/Vaughn stuff. Prynn Tenmei has really grown as a character through "Paradigm" and now "Warpath". She's one dynamic, resilient, loyal gal! Also, I really liked the storytelling possibilities that made the chapters I came to think of as "Dreams of a Jem'Hadar" so much fun. I also appreciated David Mack's addition of some Andorian cameos.

Hey, if they'd ever made a movie of this novel, poor Nana Visitor (Kira Nerys) would have been exhausted! And you'll have to read the book to find out why.

Great stuff, David!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

RIP (again?) Sydney Webloggers?

The Sydney Webloggers Meetup Group was supposed to be meeting last night, at the delightful ArtHouse Hotel's attic room in the CBD. Eight people had RSVPed "Yes" (plus one "Maybe") through the website, I'd sent out several reminders, and had several phone calls groveling with the ArtHouse staff to please, please, please find us a spare corner in their fully-booked Attic.

Yesterday afternoon, I had a 50 minute train trip into the city (cost $10), arrived 15 minutes early (as suggested by the Meetup site), and patiently waited half an hour before I actually found someone to talk to. (Thanks Neerav for turned up, especially since he'd actually changed his RSVP during the day when he realised he might well get caught up at work, and it was only a fluke he could make it after all.) Then a 60 minute trip home. If any Webloggers arrived after 8.20pm (for a 7pm meeting) then they missed us as, by then, Neerav and I were walking disappointedly to Central Station.

The last ArtHouse attic meeting, I told the staff I was expecting fifteen people and we got six. The last Bloggers coffee shop Meetup attracted only four people. Note that I scheduled yesterday's meeting for a Wednesday night, rather than Thursday, based on member suggestions; people had complained that Thursdays weren't good for them.

What does it say about my social life, that I actually keep a date free to meet with people I assumed were interested in meeting a fellow blogger? Maybe I'd have had more luck going home instead, to play on the Internet?

It's embarrassing when I sell my soul to the devil convincing the ArtHouse to sneak us into the only (busy) room they're allowed to take bookings for after 5pm - with me telling them I have confirmed RSVPs for at least eight people (which I did), and then the barman sees me taking up room for eight people and drinking alone. That's happened twice now. Each time I was so confident I had the meeting under control, but I end up looking like a dork. And a liar.

Most of my feedback told me that bloggers are highly unlikely to travel too far from the CBD if they've been at work all day, and a lot of the members seem to work in the CBD. They also tell me they have "family responsibilities" on weekends. I'm not sure I want to investigate suburban bars and restaurants on the off-chance that some bloggers might turn up when they're not playing weekend sport, or working overtime, or spending time with their kids. (I can just see me travelling off to some suburb I've never visited before, to sit in another strange bar or coffee shop... waiting for nobody again.) Please do think of me sitting by myself at the next meeting. I'll be easy to find; I'll be the one not at home writing my blog.

I'm getting very good at this, you know. I've recently had sketch group meetings for eight confirmed attendees - at which there were no models and only one artist, ie, me. And I've sat in restaurants at a table for 15 people, apologising to the waiters that we "seem to only have five people after all and yes, you can take away the other ten chairs because I can see that every other section of your restaurant is fully booked and we look like greedy, lying idiots".

I think I blame mobile phones. People seem to be way too spontaneous now that they can get distracted from keeping an appointment on their way to said appointment. Mind you, even if they do call me to cancel ten minutes before they're due to arrive, it still doesn't help me explaining the situation to the place that had kept my booking for me.

Will these Meetups survive? I think I'm beyond caring.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Happy Harmony Day

Happy Harmony Day

Harmony Day hat

'Tis the day to wear orange and consider... world harmony. Bill the Cat seemed fairly incongruous in today's hat parade at school but - hey! - at least he was orange!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Happy St Patrick's Day

Shamrock hat
To be sure, to be sure.

Even though she wasn't of Irish descent, my grandmother Jessie made a point of wearing green - and carrying her leprechaun charm - on St Patrick's Day, which was also her birthday.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

A blog entry in the hand is worth two elephant books online, or some such proverb

It's been a busy week, but I haven't been too motivated to blog (here). I think it's probably because I'm blogged out, spending a chunk of every work day jointly-constructing numerous blog entries with Stage 1 (Years 1 and 2 at primary school) on a blog format with our current book rap: on the picture book, Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox & Julie Vivas. And helping to moderate other entries. And designing wiki pages to go with them.

The quality of the students' answers has been very exciting! The blog format and the wiki pages, are working out very well, and the ability for the moderators to edit out errors in posts - never possible on a listserv - means that we can model better examples for the students.

Predicting what the next few years will bring for the so-called "Generation Web 2.0" is almost impossible. Tomorrow's school students will have such a different outlook on technology and its possibilities than their teachers, or even their older siblings. I'm guessing all homework will be completed (and marked) online, once every student is assumed to have home Internet access. Heaven help those who never get it...

This week, the Internet, Google, Wikipedia and online shopping all came in handy to help me track down an old classic Australian picture book, "Jessie the Elephant: Her Story" by WM Fleming (New Century Press, 1939), the true tale of one of Taronga Park Zoo's icons, who gave elephant rides from 1883 to 1938.

Actually, I managed to find two copies, in different online stores, on the same day. I had missed the first copy by a matter of days, I was informed, but there was a similarly priced one at another site. I shall explain later why I need it, but I'm rather excited about finding it, especially when I found a few on overseas sites for a lot more!


Sunday's magic number: 90.8 - Well, speaking of elephants, I've mastered the art of staying the same mass for a whole month. Obviously, I will be much happier to see a downward procession of numbers again, but I am going to have to change more things about my weekly routines to make that happen. If I go back to that fateful day when my mass was 104kg a few years ago, then I can grin and say, "Hey, I lost over 13 kg!" (In fact, I've now lost that amount twice in recent years, having let most of my loss creep back on in just a few months early last year.)

On the other hand, I can think back to the very first time I went on the "Fat Free Forever" diet in the mid 90s - when I started at 90.2 and got down to 75kg. Sigh. It was so much easier then.

Monday, March 10, 2008

I'm not messy, my cupboard just backed up!

So says the fridge magnet my mother sent me a few years ago. (She knows me too well. But she should talk. She turned my old bedroom into an ironing room when I left home in the 80s.)

I'm still swimming in unboxed junk since everything on the bedroom and lounge room floors got moved into the family room so that the floor coverings in the carpeted rooms could be steam cleaned recently, prior to the arrival of the new lounge suite. (Now quite some time ago.) It was the first time in seven years for the steam clean effect - the previous owner had them steam cleaned annually. Ooopsie.

The contractor had to go out to his van at least three times... to clear his hose of matted white Jack Russell terrier fur. He kept shaking his head; the dog's hairs are barely visible from eye level, but plenty numerous as they clogged up his equipment. He wrote in the "Comments" section of the invoice: "Many hairs from the Jack".

Onedayrealsoon I must fire up the courage to box up all this stuff and... hide it again. Before it gets covered in dog hair. Again.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Wicked pedia

Judy O'Connell's recent post about students and Wikipedia reminded me that there was a very funny post about Wikipedia a few months ago, on a teacher-librarians' listserv, whereby someone had found, incidentally, that some fool had sabotaged the entry on the Newcastle (NSW) Earthquake... to say that it was started by someone stamping their foot in anger.

Of course, before the first post to the listserv was barely in people's "In" boxes, someone else, a registered contributor to Wikipedia, had gone into the site to edit the entry back again. And then announced their restorative action on the listserv. Which caused more consternation because several teacher-librarians had already bookmarked (but not thought to "Save to file") a copy of the sabotaged entry to use as an example when doing explicit teaching about online research.

Slam it all you like; Wikipedia is invaluable as an orientation tool. A living, breathing, evolving encyclopedia of everything, written by people who fancy themselves as experts in areas of trivia. (Sounds like me!)

I've been know to use the wiki when I hit a topic I know nothing about, and it usually gives me at least a feel for the type of more authoritative information that is likely to be out there, beyond the Wikipedia entry. Or whether it's a more obscure topic. And when I've found topics that have rather lean (or totally wrong) information, and I know something about them, I've been known to add data myself: Number 96, The Magic Circle Club, Luna Park Sydney, Star Trek, Andorians... important stuff like that. ;) Even cataloguers keep a watch on it.

Of course school and university students will be drawn to Wikipedia - like moths to a flame! The key is how we all, as researchers, use that information to keep on investigating!

Sunday's magic number: 90.6. Okay! Until just now I actually thought it was the third week in a row with no change. But it's down by 0.3. I guess that's good?

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

My Mego "Star Trek" movie bridge playset

Some email pals asked me about this, so I figured it was easier to put it in a blog entry:

TMP Bridge

My cool vacu-formed white plastic Mego bridge set, from "Star Trek: The Motion Picture", was bought on eBay about 1999 or 2000. They were quite rare, and I'd always coveted them.

I plan to paint it eventually. It's populated with my Mego TMP action figures and customised alien ambassadors. Several of these were also eBay purchases. I love the way it looks like the ambassadors have just walked out of the framed lobbycard.

To think I once wrote to Heroes World and had the chance to buy the aliens at these prices, but didn't complete the order:

Mego TMP action figures ad


Sunday, March 02, 2008

Uhura's last song - for Janet

From Susan Casper, on SFF Net:
"Sorry to have to report the news that Janet Kagan died today [Saturday in US] of acute chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). She was on hospice care toward the end, but ending came fairly quickly. A small memorial service will be held at the Kagan home, next week. Please don't send flowers. I will let you know if and where charitable donations are in order."

I feel like I've lost a very good friend. I knew author Janet Kagan only through her 1985 "Star Trek" novel, "Uhura's Song", and a series of wonderfully warm and friendly emails (which I was only discussing earlier today on TrekBBS.) I know another Trek friend who'll be devastated. "Uhura's Song" was very special to many fans.

RIP, Janet.

Let's do the Time Warp again

Big day today. It was off into the city for lunch with 20 Star Trek fans at Star Bar, site of the former Planet Hollywood Sydney. A good roll up and a great venue, if kept a little too dark and moody. Maybe they keep the lights low so you can't notice that most of the showbiz memorabilia that used to be on display was dismantled years ago. Our table was underneath the huge, central, metal rotunda that was part of the staging of a naked Sylvester Stallone's resurrection from cryogenic freezing, a key scene from "Demolition Man".

Then it was off, on foot, to Pancakes at the Rocks (at Darling Harbour, confusingly) and then onwards to Star City Casino to see the latest revival of "The Rocky Horror Show".

Thoroughly enjoyable! I really enjoyed the performances, staging and costumes. Different enough to previous productions to be fresh and interesting, but plenty of nostalgia-stirring memories of previous renditions. Highly recommended. And yay iOTA, John Waters and Sharon Millerchip! Excellent work!

Sunday's magic number: 90.9 - level pegging with last week, meaning that yesterday's sausage roll for lunch, and last night's pizza restaurant meal, counted as a successful Junk Food Day treat.