Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween


I found this old pic (from 1975) in an album. The tall figure behind me was one of those "Seven Foot Monsters" posters promoted in the back of comic books in the 60s and 70s. He had glow in the dark eyes, which were actually just little round stickers, packed separately.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

A sojourn to Shellharbour


I'm back - from a bizarre and wonderful holiday experience in the middle of a busy working week.

On Wednesday afternoon, I caught the train to Wollongong, was met by committee members of ISLA, an enthusiastic and active south coast teacher-librarians' group, who took me to dinner and booked me into the lovely motel (pictured above), and then next morning I was able to stroll across the road to the school which was hosting the district's day of professional development activities.

My two presentations went very well, or at least I feel that they did as I intended, and I had a thoroughly enjoyable time. Too bad there wasn't time to see the tide coming in in the daylight hours, but it sounded pretty at about 11.30pm on Wednesday night.

Tomorrow, it's back to work, as if nothing unusual happened, except that (hopefully) the 120 or so attendees have plenty of new teaching ideas to try out.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Looming half-century

I understand that Michael Jackson, Madonna - and the Smurfs (yes, those annoyingly cute little blue guys without antennae) - are all 50 years old this year. That landmark is approaching for me, too, in just a few weeks. Now, I know the "National Enquirer" often reports bits dropping off Michael, but I wonder if Madonna or the Smurfs have suffered from niggly health problems this year?

Nothing one needs to see a doctor about, necessarily, but those annoying twinges, extra kilos, leaky tear ducts, creaky joints, that teeny, tiny print of serial numbers on new elerctrical equipment, and other things representative of a human body entering another new decade. Things that make you say... "Ouch... Sigh".

Sunday's magic number: 93.1 - just as well!

Friday, October 24, 2008

All that glitters...

I sit before you covered in sparkly glitter. No, I'm not off to see "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert".

Bloody stupid "Lush" bath bombs with secret surprise centres...

I do recall a warning on the one I used earlier in the week. I told the woman behind the counter that I mainly buy them to perfume the bathroom, but a few had started to crumble, and were obviously past their "use by" date. Most of their perfume was gone, too. Earlier in the week, one unleashed gold glitter into my bath water - it's still over the floor, the towel, my bathrobe....

My leg muscles have been aching quite a bit this week, so I wanted to spoil myself a bit. Tonight's bath bomb should have been safe, but out popped a tiny paper Santa Claus - and tons of silver glitter!

Merry Christmas, I guess.

(I just know he's saying, "Ho! Ho! Ho!")

Monday, October 20, 2008

Jack: 0; Mozzie Zapper: 3


For those of you keeping score, my Jack Russell put on another Logie Award-winning performance last night during an extended walk, via the kebab/pide takeaway shops in High Street, Penrith.

We placed our order at the first shop (the one that has the really nice chunky lamb shish - big chunks of lamb in the Turkish bread) and, while it was being prepared, we wandered further down the road and happened to pass the other kebab shop (which does the mixed slices of chicken and beef kebabs on Lebanese bread). Now, Jack had already put on his demonstration of feigned cowardice, even though the first shop doesn't actually have an ultra violet mozzie zapper light for the insect pests. But several years ago, Jack learned to associate the smell of kebab meat with the noise of a mosquito getting fried in the metal grill of a mozzie zapper. The staff and customers were bewildered by the sight of this crazy dog fretting outside the shop for no obvious reason.

But his bravura performance was saved for the second shop. The owner was standing out on the street, and he immediately recognised Jack from previous visits. By the time were were almost at the shopfront, Jack was practically crawling along the asphalt footpath, and trembling all over. He was excited to smell the man agan - yum yum, meat! - but he was also anticipating the... there it goes: "ZAP!!!!"


Not so hilarious was our walk home. About halfway, we met a loose bulldog/pitbull cross - with a full set of testicles! (I guess that's better than a cross bulldog/pitbull?) He wasn't too aggressive, but Jack objected to the dog's nose going where it didn't belong, and Jack was atypically barky. Sometimes he doesn't know when to pull his head in.

We thought we'd lost the stray in someone's front yard, and managed to get quite a bit of distance between us. Suddenly, a car tooted us. "There's a dog coming, mate!" the guy warned. Sure enough, that squat, furry dynamo who was determined to know my dog intimately had switched to warp speed - and was sweeping towards us like the Tasmanian Devil from "The Bugs Bunny Show".

And THEN the heavens opened. With no umbrella, and carrying Jack to keep him out of reach of the bulldog/pitbull cross, who followed us almost all the way home, we got drenched.

Lovely. What was worse, the kebab wasn't even for me.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Working for scale? Chipping away?

I'm bored. I want more chips.

Damn that Hamish & Andy and their two-for-a-better-price Gravy-flavoured potato crisps.

Sunday's magic number: 93.9 - maybe the scales really are broken?

Friday, October 17, 2008

First crew shots!: JJ's Star Trek

Turn your head, close your eyes, if you don't wish to see...

Quinto as SpockCast of Star Trek

Lots more pics and information here and here!

I'm loving what I'm seeing!

Captain's Log: Supplemental.

I do recall one of the interviews discussing the filming of an iconic final scene with whole main cast, finally all in their TOS-inspired uniforms, and an assurance that, by the end of the movie, even the look of the bridge may be even more familiar to older fans. (Or did I dream that?)

One of the complaints about that cast shot we've seen, that seems to be driving people crazy, is that Kirk isn't wearing the gold part of his uniform, and/or that Spock is not even in that scene. A very deliberate tease by the publicity department. Well done! It's got people talking, asking questions, worrying about "the canon", yearning for a more complete picture.

I'm expecting that maybe, just maybe, some of the stark white on the bridge set portion we've recently glimpsed might end up with a more iconic black/silver colour scheme, with maybe bright orange/red bridge rails, etc., at the movie's conclusion. But I'm not expecting it will suddenly attempt to replicate the 60s exactly.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Imagination has a "Use by" date


Well, this is bizarre.

I bought the above turquentine bracelet in 2008 at Dreamworld, in Queensland - in fact from the storeroom of the Big Brother house - almost exactly two years ago. And even blogged about it. I've worn it every day (and night) since, hoping it some symbolic inspiration for writing.

At the time, I worried that they resembled worry beads too much. This morning, I awoke to the sound of my dog snacking on little blue lollies - eek! My imagination had broken during the night, and was now being consumed by a Jack Russell !

Counting up the beads, which had ended up all through the sheets and onto the floor, I suddenly remembered that I had photographic evidence of how many Jack had managed to consume. Luckily, all the beads are still accounted for. And none went down the hatch.

The timing is again quite ironic. I awoke with a very clear idea in my mind for an old picture book story idea I'd been mulling over anew, on my way home from work yesterday - and I think I finally have enough inspiration to start writing something down.

Hopefully my imagination hasn't deserted me.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Journey to the centre of the blog

I've just been watching tonight's episode of "Rove". Rove McManus finished the show with his "Things I love" segment, claiming to love blogging. For two reasons: he gets to be opinionated, and he can do it while wearing no pants.

Sounds good to me.

Over on the "Star Trek" bulletin boards, the avid Trek fans are still sweating over whether they are going to like, love or detest JJ Abrams' new "Star Trek" movie. One of the more reasonable fans said today, "If I can sit down for two hours and be entertained, then that movie is a success in my book."

Sounds good to me.

In fact, I just got back from seeing the remake/rejig of "Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D", starring the prolific and versatile Brendan Fraser. Hard on the heels of "The Mummy 3", it was just as silly, it had some great SPFX, some likable characters, typically breath-taking action sequences and some funny one-liners. And it was eye-popping 3D! The movie also paid respectful homage to the Jules Verne novel and the old 1959 movie version with James Mason and Pat Boone.

I'm sure "Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D" will sell plenty of licensed tie-in books, T-shirts and stickers, theme ride tickets, and it will probably even inspire some people to track down some Verne books from their local library.

I can imagine it has also polarized fans of Verne, Henry Levin (director of the first filmed version) and James Mason. But I had fun, so who cares?

If JJ does the same for "Star Trek XI", or better, with its source material, as Eric Brevig did for "Journey...", well, it sounds good to me.

Sunday's magic number: 94.0 - Sigh...

Friday, October 10, 2008

The customer is always... annoyingly right!

I was so angry, but I stood my ground and I won!

Maybe I had something to prove after Wednesday's frustrating photo ID defeat, but I've always said that everyone should devote some time towards serving the general public at some time in their lives. I'm giving the Target checkout guy the full benefit of my doubt: maybe he's new and he didn't know about "the customer is always right" adage, or maybe he was on a toilet break when that bit got mentioned during training.

I left for the city yesterday in short sleeves. It was a gorgeous, sunny, spring day - but, in the concrete and steel canyons of our CBD, it was a little breezy, and I began to realise I was going to need to buy myself something light, yet long-sleeved, for returning home.

Finding everything else I'd been looking for (I had one purchase which had taken me to Dymocks' Broadway Centre shopping centre, on the site of the old Grace Bros department store. It was quite a nostalgic walk, past buildings that were removed (no more Tooth & Co brewery), or being removed (no more St Barnabus's church), since my days at teachers' college in Ultimo in the late 70s).

I found a light jacket I wanted to buy. It was a great price, $29.88, marked down to $19.88. But a sign said, "Buy any second item and get the second one for a further 50% off." The second jacket I found had a $29.86 price tag, with a markdown sticker of $15.86. Being of average size, I rarely find "el cheapo" clothing bargains in my size!

My problem was that that the first item rang up at its original price, and I had to prompt the guy to check the price, and then the second jacket would only scan at its high price.

"This isn't part of the sale," he said.

Huh? Even if the price tag was wrong, every item in the store was part of the sale; the sign said so. And then he elaborated, "A customer has changed the sticker from another item."

Again, and louder?: "Huh?"

Was he saying that I changed the ticket? Isn't there some rule about wrongly priced items, and similiarly, about sales signs that are incorrect?

The checkout guy was not budging so I told him he could keep the lot, including the $35 DVD I had on the counter, too. Then I had a second thought. There was another identical jacket, although of smaller size, back on the rack - and would he believe me if it had the same prices marked on it? Off I stormed, returning with a victorious grin.

Suddenly, it was no problem for him to adjust manually the price tags at the computerised cash register. I got 50% off the second jacket's reduced price, and a further 50% of the remaining amount as an apology.

Now that's bargain shopping! I'm glad I didn't have to stick by my guns and walk out jacketless (and DVDless). It was getting chilly out there on Broadway.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

A Star Trek Adventure

Digging through some frame grabs to illustrate the last blog post, I realised I never did anything with this set after taking them off a TV screen with a borrowed video camera.

Universal Studios' "A Star Trek Adventure" (1992) was a main attraction at the Los Angeles theme park, and was used to demonstrate how movies are made in Hollywood. It replaced a previous, similar attraction based on Vaudeville type comedy. The action was filmed on videotape, not necessarily in order, and automatically cut together with existing stock footage from Star Treks II and III, to create a mini-movie - available to buy on VHS after the show.

Traditionally, the cast for each session of "A Star Trek Adventure" was selected from attendees to the Studios' tour, who rolled up early to stand on line, but four Klingons were selected each session from the "studio audience". A Klingon growl-off decided who would be Captain, ie. on the day I went, I won!

Auditioning KlingonswhiteRehearsing "No way, dude!"
The director rehearses the Klingons.

Opening titlewhiteTitle screen
Opening titles

Klingons rockwhite"No way, dude!"
Klingons rock! and Me to Kirk: "You have robbed us of our honour!
I demand that you execute us IMMEDIATELY!"

Them to me: "No way, dude!"

"Our honor etc..."whiteKirk onscreen
Me: No plie nie blimbo jah! (A running gag; it means whatever it needs to mean.)
Christopher Lloyd (far right) was my stand-in for the Klingon Captain's
scene opposite William Shatner as James T Kirk!

Ready for my close-upwhite"Until we meet again..."

Me: No plie nie blimbo jah! And again: No plie nie blimbo jah!

Closing credits

Pretty cool, eh? I really must learn how to upload to Youtube...

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Identity crisis

Okay, I'm mad, and it's only a little bit my fault.

I can't prove who I am. Since the infamous events of 9/11 in the USA, I have been unable to send a package overseas through Australia Post. I always have to wait inside the foyer area of licensed clubs, hoping someone will be allowed to "sign me in" to attend teacher-librarian committee meetings or Teachers Federation strike meetings. I must take bills in my name (or, once, my expired passport) to travel interstate by e-ticket.

And I cannot buy an iPhone from the Apple Retail Store in the CBD, where they already had me booked in a week ago for an appointment to do a "personal shop" tomorrow.


Because I don't have valid photo ID.

I was told last week, when making the booking, that I should bring 100 points worth of ID (birth certificate, credit cards, bills with my home address on them - after a mild panic on finding the birth certificate, which I hadn't seen buying my first mobile phone two years ago, I easily had 100 points worth, but... because I do not drive a car, I can never prove who I am.

One day, I must to get my new passport. I didn't think, when it expired in about 2002, that I'd need a passport again until I was ready to travel overseas again. But... in this day and age, a grown adult who is not a licenced driver, a university student, or sight impaired, can't easily prove who they are. (Hey, don't laugh, I know someone who travelled to New Zealand once with a picture of himself, in a Klingon uniform and goatee, on his international driver's licence! Mmmmm, now there's an idea...)

Klingon captain
Have blaster, will travel?

A few years ago, I caused much hilarity when I had to take my passport to Brisbane so I could identify myself at the then-standby counter at the airport. A passport to travel across an Australian border?

A few years later, I tried to buy my first e-ticket to Perth online, but my first choice, Qantas, insisted I needed photo ID to actually have my ticket processed at the check-in. I quickly switched to Virgin's site instead, and its fine print simply said "valid ID"... so I proceeded with the purchase.

Imagine my horror when the invoice printed out and mentioned "photo identification". With only two weeks until I was to travel, I raced off to the post office. Someone had reassured me they did a "proof of ID" card. I joined a long queue, and made my inquiry. No, they laughed and sent me to the DMR (Department of Main Roads).

But I didn't want a driver's license, nor even a learner's permit. The woman at the post office assured me I simply needed a "proof of age" card, such as used by young people in their early 20s who might pass as underage drinkers in a pub. Mmmmm. Well, at age 45 or so, it had been a long time since I could have been accused of underage drinking.

At the DMR, I filled out my form and waited forever on another long queue. Then they laughed hysterically. A proof of age card could only be made for people between the ages of 18 and 26. I had to take my birth certificate into the city, instead, to the office of Births, Deaths and Marriages, and get a birth card.

This was getting ridiculous. I went in on the train the next day, filled out my forms, joined another long queue, and waited for someone to take my photograph. I could even see the camera set up. This was going to be easy, especially when I noticed a sign saying that, for an extra small fee, my finished card could be mailed within 72 hours. Which was good, because I now had less than two weeks till I had to travel and prove ID with a photo, and there was definitely no time left to go the original passport option.

Ah, you knew there was another road block coming, didn't you?

This birth card, unlike all the other services offered by the Births, Deaths and Marriages office, had to be sent the slow way: to the address marked on my other examples of ID, and would take ten working days. Since this card was also going to cost almost as much as a passport, I wondered aloud why people even bothered with a "birth card". It was for people who had to prove ID but had no intention of ever travelling overseas, the woman explained. What was the point, even? If I couldn't get the card before I travelled, why buy one of these cards if I still needed a passport next time I wanted to travel outside Australia?

Eventually, I rang Virgin and explained my plight. I did have Department of Education and Training professional journals with my captioned photographs and editorials in them? There! A new use for Scan! (No, Scan was not "valid photo ID" either, I was told.) virgin explained they'd happily accept two credit cards with my signature on them. Ha! (And the joke ended up being on them; I'd accidentally cut up my new card the night before, and thus picked up my e-ticket boarding pass to Perth on an expired credit card.)

Of course, since that comedy of endless errors, the DMR has changed their rules, and I now can go and apply for a new proof of ID card, which would have a photo on it. (I'm sure I'd need photo ID to apply for one, so I didn't bother.) And then, this morning, I learned I could not buy my iPhone from Apple after all - because I again couldn't prove who I was. 100 points might be 100 points, but one of the items from the prescribed list still has to have a photo on it.

Did I have a shooter's licence?, the woman asked over the phone. For a second there, I thought she was inferring that I'd gotten too frustrated with her, and was planning some kind of ultimate retribution. No, she just meant that shooters' licences had photos on them. Or, for just $23, I could "drop in" to my local DMR and get a learner's permit. Easy!

Here we go again. You know what's really frustrating? The Penrith DMR is so out of the way, you need a car to get there!

You know what else is frustrating? You now have to sit a computer test about road rules to even get a driving permit with a photo on it! Like I'm going to do a crash course in the rules of the road just to get an iPhone tomorrow?

Anyway, to make a long story as long as it ended up being, my existing phone service provider let me have an iPhone today using only my birth certificate. Thus, all the homework I'd done studying various plans, carriers, best deals, etc, was misguided because I still can't really prove who I am. I should have, instead, spent the time applying for a passport. Several months ago. (I won't mention the length of the queue today in Telstra's phone shop. The only reason I was served as early as I was: three people in front of me stormed off in frustration.)

I hadn't bothered doing anything with the passport application yet because my plans to travel to Las Vegas, to see the "Star Trek Experience", ended when they closed that attraction at the end of August. How was I to know that my mobile phone contract would run out at the same time as I was ready to upgrade the iMac into a MacBook Pro?

I'm really going to have to track down that old, expired passport and get the new application form sent off. Dammit. Then I need to use the passport to do some travelling, and give me my money's worth. (What's the name of this blog again?)

Ah sweet irony.

I can see the excuses now: I'd have the money to travel if I didn't have this iPhone bill to pay.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Hump Day of a long weekend

Sometimes the universe is just having a big belly laugh at our expense.

No one in Sydney wanted to believe the weather forecasts that predicted rain for the long weekend, but here we are, two days into it and very soggy underfoot. Mind you, after years of drought conditions and water restrictions in Sydney, our gardens aren't complaining.

A friend from Perth happened to mention she was going to be in Sydney over this weekend, for her husband's family reunion activities. Yay! Egged on by a mutual friend in the USA - the wonders of Facebook Friends and three-way texting on our virtual Walls, I started to make serious plans to rendezvous with her. But... she is spending most of the time on New South Wales' central coast, so I had to be up for two long train journeys to get to her.

No problem, I'm reading a good book at the moment ("Star Trek: Enterprise: Kobayashi Maru" - but you already knew it would be a Star Trek novel).

By the time I factored in that my friend's "free" part of the weekend was narrowing down to a small percentage of the whole trip, and that she'd have no transport of her own, and that she was staying in a town that doesn't even have trains stopping at it - add in a bus ride to my two long train rides - plus Daylight Saving, which started today and therefore we've all lost an hour already - plus inevitable train delays due to the heavy rain...

... it will be much simpler, and faster, to visit her in Perth.

I hope her in-laws' reunion festivities aren't too dire, but methinks I'm not going after all.

It's the thought that counts. No?

I can hear the universe chuckling to itself. Or is that thunder?

Sunday's magic number: 93.9 - no, maybe it was my own stomach...

Failure: DVD rewinder

Saturday, October 04, 2008

ICT learning curves

I feel like the whole day has been totally consumed by setting up my new tech devices. Thanks to the telephone helpfulness of my iiNet Internet provider, I was able to get the Time Capsule Wi-Fi thingie working properly with the new MacBook Pro. Now I just have to get the new printer talking to it properly, and I must master the art of using a mouse-less keyboard.

I went out walking this morning, on a break between the rain showers, and I took Jack with me for a separate walk this afternoon, again slipping it in between showers. While I was out on my own, I picked up a magazine about iPhones, so I can do some homework before next week, when I go back to collect whatever I end up with next Thursday.

Oh well, I'm off to set all the timepieces forward an hour; Eastern Summer Time - daylight savings - starts at 2am tomorrow!

Friday, October 03, 2008


I was just fielding a phone call from "Super Poo", who sell racing horse poo for the garden. It's wonderful stuff - the planrs love it - but I told her, "Cork those horses' bottoms! I still have plenty of poo here!"

I hasten to add that "Super Poo" is an excellent product. The garden is about seven years old now and - due to racing horses not eating any weeds in their superior brand of hay - the garden has never needed serious weeding in all those years. Perhaps a few sprouting weeds from seeds dropped by passing birds.

The plants love "Super Poo".



Thursday, October 02, 2008

Shopping for Apples

I'm just home from the Apple Retail Store in the CBD with my new laptop (and next week, I collect my iPhone!).

Apple Retail Store, Sydney

Well, the bank account wasn't looking too bad and, since I've spent a number of recent days uploading photos to Facebook, I'm hitting the "rolling beachball of death" way too often on my now-antiquated, lampshade-base iMac. I was told it'll be tricky (plus over $500) to get the memory upgraded sufficiently to take the latest operating system upgrade. And even then, no promises.

So... a laptop was becoming an essential requirement. It'll be able to handle all the new capabilities, and the iMac can take up the slack on simpler things. I may even take the even older PowerMac dinosaur into school/work and stick a few games on it for the students - we are a PC-only school. (Ick.)

Simultaneously, my first mobile phone is on its last legs; my original phone plan ran out last month, so I went for a double act today; I have a few days to master the laptop, before I collect the iPhone next week.

I also got a new scanner/printer, and the new-fangled "Time Capsule", which allows care-free full back-ups. Yippee.

When you enter the big Apple Store (in the CBD) intending to buy, they sign you up for "personal shopping" experience. I was booked in for two appointments: the laptop purchase, which I could do immediately, and the iPhone purchase, and I elected to make the iPhone appointment for next Thursday. It would be too bamboozling to buy too much hardware at once!

Now I have time, theoretically, to investigate the various plans available, and to find out how many ID points I'll need, since I don't drive and my passport has expired, and I can never prove who I am - even to post a parcel overseas - these days.

I'll probably buy the iPhone outright, but at the Apple Store they have an upstairs area where all the providers (Telstra, Optus, etc) are available to help you switch into a new plan when you buy the phone.