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Monday, April 21, 2014

Easter 2014

Wrote this over two days. The Monday post was started around lunch time and continued throughout the course of the afternoon.

Easter Sunday.

Pretty much like any other Sunday. I'm at the comic book store in Tuggerah, rattling off this post. Unusually inspired this morning, I was awake around 8.30am, figured I wasn't getting back to sleep so I got up and had breakfast. My satchel was packed in thirty seconds, and I was out the door, on a bus, then a train, and at the store by 10am. I couldn't have timed my connections any better.

Have already typed up and posted my Blood Bowl blog (of a rather uninspiring match I played in Sydney during the week), lunched on left-over pizza from last night (I felt like celebrating, seeing the Mariners won), uploaded a video taken last night (of a rather chaotic end to the match) and had a few games on the old arcade machine in the store.

So, what's new? No football to report on, apart from the tense, and occasionally heated 1-0 win by the Mariners over Adelaide last night, which I'll comment on a little later. The 4-3 win on April 5 has been our only league game to date this season. Our scheduled match on April 12 was washed out, with it first being re-scheduled to April 23, with a 7.30pm kick-off. However, turns out the ground that we were to play on was double-booked, so our game was postponed again. We have our third round match at 3pm on April 26 (3.5 hours before the Mariners play the Wanderers at Parramatta Stadium), and possibly our postponed second round match on April 30, which would make it a busy week indeed.

Actually, the game being cancelled on April 12 made things easier for me. I had a ticket to see John Cleese at the Chatswood Civic Theatre. The show started at 8.30pm. We would've been playing at 1.15pm that day, which would've left five hours to get from the game to Chatswood. (I would've loved to freshen up beforehand, but I don't think that that was going to be an option.) However, with the game cancelled, it was just a matter of travelling from Gosford. I got there too early. Had a drink (a rookie bartender didn't know what 'dry' was... ) and had a brief moment to say hello to my aunt and her boyfriend who were attending the show as well. (Only found out that they were a few days beforehand.)

As for John Cleese, well, he was as I expected. Though he was mostly working from a prepared script (which was on three different screens around the room), it was still punctuated with much humour, and some spontaneous wit, including one memorable moment when a late-comer entered to take up his third row seat. Cleese, as quick as a flash, welcomed the gent trying to sit down and politely said 'I'm sorry, you've missed a bit' then promptly walked off the stage, re-entered and started the whole show again. Naturally, he didn't do the whole lot to that point, just the intro.

There were plenty of things that I didn't know. Like that his father was in the first world war, was an insurance salesman, changed the family surname from 'Cheese' to 'Cleese' when he enlisted, and that he was born at Weston Super-Mare in September 1939, not long after the second world war started. He told a story about the seaside town being bombed during the war. One theory as to why it happened was reported to having proved that 'the Germans had a sense of humour' seeing the place had no military value whatsoever.

The monologue went from his start in the business, how he was given a break by legendary British TV host David Frost, to the birth and rise of Monty Python. There was a hilarious clip of his eulogy at Graham Chapman's funeral, and some rare black and white footage of him doing a sketch with Marty Feldman. The people he worked with before Python was up and running was like a who's who of British comedy. Two of the Goodies (Tim Brooke-Taylor and Bill Oddie), the two Ronnies (Baker and Corbett), Mel Smith, Griff Rhys-Jones...

Then there was the tale of Fawlty Towers, and how the inspiration for it came from a stay at a hotel with Connie Booth. He didn't talk about all of his various movie roles (and when you think about it there are quite a few, and not just the python films, but his appearances in some James Bond films as Q, the English sheriff in Silverado, the doctor that inspires Frankenstein in the Kenneth Brannagh version of the story, Erik the Viking, Yellowbeard, Fierce Creatures... ) but he did say a few things about A Fish Called Wanda, which started from a discussion with a veteran film director who said he wanted to see someone run over by a steamroller. He used the film to illustrate a point he was making about black humour. The three things that people loved in the film (Otto being run over by the steamroller, Otto eating Wanda, and Ken trying to kill the old woman) were also the three things that people most objected to, according to test screening surveys. He left the stage to the strains of Sousa's Liberty Bell March, even re-appearing briefly to do a silly walk before exiting for good.

It was a good evening. Must say that the trip down and back also gave me plenty of reading time. I'm currently just over half-way through book two of the Song of Ice and Fire series, A Clash of Kings, seeing there was a trip to Sydney for a game of Blood Bowl last Thursday. Was interested to read of another variation from book to 'live action', that being it wasn't Sam who found the stash of obsidian arrow heads and spear tips, but Jon and Ghost. Tyrion also has Shae hidden from court, in a villa which he accesses via a secret entrance in a brothel. In the show, the only place she 'hides' in is his quarters. Sansa is also subjected to some additional public humiliation, where her clothes get ripped off at Joffrey's whim, in punishment for when news reaches King's Landing that another Lannister has died in battle at the hands of King Robb. Who calls a halt to it – Tyrion.

Easter Monday.

A good day to get out, and by the looks at the amount of traffic on the road, people are. You wouldn't think that it was a public holiday – certainly doesn't feel like one, feels like another Saturday.

I actually got sleep this morning. Doesn't happen too often. After being awoken by the occupant in number four at 8am, who had a visitor, one of the unit's owners I think, I managed to doze back off, waking around 11.30, feeling rather refreshed and pleased with myself. So pleased, I went for a walk, got the paper, bread, and returned home for lunch and another session of Civ 5.

Well, I read the paper first. I know I shouldn't be playing Civ 5, seeing it has a tendency of taking away large chunks of the day. I even have a notice staring at me telling me 'No more Civ 5!', a reminder as to how this game can just make whole days just fly by without even noticing it. At least I have it set up in a window, and have Open Office running in another, so between turns, I can continue with this post, and try and take over the world, well, at the very least, dominate it.

I have been playing it on a regular basis. Having mastered difficulty level three, winning most my games scientifically by building the spaceship, but once managing a cultural victory as well with researching five entire policy trees (I almost had a sixth done by the end of the game) and building the utopia project, which had me finishing the game in the 1980's. However, it wasn't a good score. I played the Indians, and refrained from going into battle against opposing civilizations, but did build a rather large defence force to deter them from going against me. No conflict (apart from skirmishes with barbarians) but a rather peaceful empire, withdrawn from the world, yet a dominant player all the same.

So, with regular victories at that level, I stepped up to four, and found the going somewhat tougher. At times, I thought I had gone up to five by mistake, with wars being fought on two fronts from two opponents on occasions, my economy faltering, and generally just finding it tough to get anywhere in the game.

So I altered the game maps, to see if that would help. A random map invariably has me starting on a large land mass of some description, with an opposing civilization not that far away, so I changed it to an archipelago, where there are a lot of islands, and chose a civilization that benefits greatly from that – Carthage. They get a free harbour in every coastal city. With an island map, pretty much every city is going to be coastal. Harbours mean trade, and you can connect with the capital as soon as your new city is founded, no need to build roads (but hey, you still need to move units around). The quinquireme also comes in handy – it's tougher than the trireme, and a few of them are good for assaulting coastal cities early in the game.

So far, so good. The current game sees me with a sprawling empire, having started on a considerably large island, where I can spread out. There are more islands nearby, and Carthage was spawning settlers as often as possible to utilize the space. I had eight cities settled before the switch from BC to AD, but soon came into contact with the Russians, and I'm now at war with them. We both wanted the same island, and, well, she fired the first shot.

And just flicking briefly back to the game, for some reason the Celts have declared war on me as well. I have no idea as to why. I'm not too fussed, they're on a neighbouring island and I have my friends the Polynesians patrolling the nearby waterways...

Right, change of subject. I'm currently listening to a rather delightful re-make of the Beatles' Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band album. This version, recorded by the Easy Star All-Stars, is all reggae/dub covers of the tracks, and I must say, it's rather cool, and relaxing, even when one is trying to take over the world (lol). This is not the only album that they have covered, but have done versions of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon and Radiohead's self-titled album, which was renamed Radiodread. Normally, I'm not too much into cover versions, but if the track is done in a different style, then I can appreciate it. Johnny Cash's version of Nine Inch Nails' Hurt is exactly what I'm talking about, along with New Zealand band's Headless Chickens turning Abba's Super Trouper into something completely unusual that just has to be heard to be believed.

But reggae versions of very definitive albums peaks my interest. I took an assortment of tracks from the three albums (as well as one or two tracks from another EP) and put it on my MP3 player. Whilst waiting for the Mariners vs Adelaide elimination play-off match last Saturday, I listened to the entire assortment, starting with A day in the life, and finishing with Within you, Without you. In-between, Karma Police, Time, Money, Us and Them... combine them with a Strongbow, and a rather sunny autumn afternoon, and I was in a rather happy place!

I was in an even happier place after the game, with a 1-0 win over the visitors, an Aussie pizza, an and episode of Death in Paradise on the ABC. Even better when I discovered that some of the pictures that I had taken that afternoon turned out rather good, thanks to where I was sitting, though the camera that I have really does struggle with movement and the artificial light of an evening match.

I was in a great position to see the build-up, and the strike that secured the side's win. Adelaide had had the better of the match in the first half, but couldn't take advantage of it. The home side created a few more opportunities in the second, and the goal from Bernie Ibini was superb. He has a knack in recent weeks of being able to come up with the winner. It certainly made up for the disappointing loss last Wednesday against the visiting FC Seoul side, where an own goal in injury time cost us the match.

But the main disappointing thing from Saturday wasn't the near all-in brawl at the end of the game (well, most cynics would've used the phrase 'handbags at ten paces' to describe it, seeing there was a lot of pushing and shoving, a few harsh words, but no punches thrown – even the coaches appeared to be involved in one way or another) but the poor turn-out from the Central Coast. When the game kicked off, I mused that the stadium wasn't even half full. I was right. The crowd figure given was 9,045 (the Manly vs North Queensland NRL match that was held at the stadium the night before was listed at 10,013, which was surprising as well) which, for an elimination play-off match in the A-League, was very unsatisfactory, and I said so to a friend of mine I was chatting to on the phone as I walked home. 10,000 people were missing. Where were they?

As you can see from the shots of the stands, plenty of empty seats...

No excuses should be made. Trust me, I've heard them all. The weather was good, it was a 4.30pm kick-off, finishing early enough to get the kids home to dinner and bed, or to have a really good night out, or even finishing in time so that you could watch the live NRL match on Fox Sports. It was an important game, the most important one for the season so far, yet, just over 9,000 could be bothered to turn up. I put it down to just one thing – laziness. A 'can't be bothered' attitude which is quite pathetic at times.

I walk to the home games, even though by the time I get to the stadium my ankles are killing me. I have General and Social Anxiety, I really dislike big crowds, yet, because I love this game and the team (they inspired me a great deal to get me playing again in the over 35's) I am willing to put up with it, go to the games, and cheer them on, even if I'm hiding behind a camera and/or have the volume turned right up on my MP3 player to block out the idiotic remarks from rules ignorant and sometimes racist/prejudiced spectators. I'm there when it's cold, I'm there when it's hot, and I'm even there when it's raining. I'm there so often in summer and spring I could even have my mail forwarded to the stadium. Only in the last two years I've had the money to buy season passes, but I've been attending Mariners matches since May 7th 2005, when they first took to the field against Newcastle for the FIFA Club World Championship play-off. At last count, I've seen the boys go round 102 times, from pre-season matches to grand finals. When the Y-League and W-League sides were playing before A-League games, I was there early to see them as well. I don't consider myself as a 'fanatic' - I see myself as a 'dedicated' supporter.

Back in 2008, when the Mariners were fighting their way towards a grand final match-up with Newcastle, crowds of 20,000 plus were turning up to games on a regular basis. I couldn't even get a ticket to the home play-off match prior to the grand final, but had no problems getting one to the grand final ironically enough. Now, if the Mariners actually get a crowd greater than 10,000 to a match, then they can consider themselves lucky. The stadium and the club are actually going to great efforts to put on promotional events to try and draw more people to the games, but nothing appears to be working, which is disappointing for a club that desperately needs more people through the turnstiles in order to pay the bills. But one would think what more do you need to get crowds back at the games, with the side winning the grand final last season?

The thing is, Mariners crowd figures are being noticed, and not just by myself, dedicated local fans and those connected to the A-League. Guaranteed, the NRL are also taking note. When the call again comes for an NRL team on the coast, the powers that be will say 'well, you can't even support the football team that you have' and that'll be the end of it. Even if you don't really like the game, you should be at the game. Your kids are most likely playing it, why can't you go and watch it?

Let's look at the maths. Apparently, there are 400,000 people living on the Central Coast, 180,000 of which live in the greater Gosford area (which I'm assuming takes in Woy Woy and Umina as well). If just 10% of the Gosford population turns up for a Mariners home game, that's a crowd of 18,000. Currently, it's a struggle to get 5% there on a regular basis. The team, with the lowest supporter base in the competition, with probably the smallest budget to boot as well, are currently the A-League champions, and have contested the title on four occasions, and could well make it a fifth time this year despite all the problems we've had throughout the season, from Graham Arnold leaving for Japan, to Marcos Flores' season ending injury. (Which was a shame, for he's a very talented player, and such a nice guy as well.) Considering this is only the ninth season of the A-League, to make the play-offs on seven occasions, and to go on to represent the nation in the lucrative Asian Cup League competition, against sides with budgets twenty times (or more) greater than ours, on four occasions, is a remarkable achievement. This side deserves a lot more support than what it is currently getting from the locals, because it delivers on the pitch. All well and good to turn up in your thousands and for a ticker-tape parade when they won the grand final in April 2013, but where were you when they needed your support in October 2013 when this season kicked off? Or November 2013?, or December 2013?, etc..

Or more importantly, where are you now?

This is a great team. I look forward to going to their home matches every round, and to when each new season kicks off. What I would really like to see though, is five-figured crowds every week, and, of course, the Mariners winning another championship.

Man, I haven't done a rant like that for some time. Might just post it on my FB page as well. A change from a blog entry taking the time away from my Civ 5 game, rather than the other way around!

And on that note, I'll finish up. Ciao!

P.S: Sad to note the death of the former premier of NSW Neville Wran yesterday. Apart from being the 35th premier of NSW (from May 1976 to July 1986), he was also once the national president of the Australian Labor Party, Chairman of the CSIRO, and, as I have just found out, the patron of the Central Coast Mariners. He will be missed.   

Tuesday, April 08, 2014



I should know better than to have an afternoon nap, but, well, I had one anyway. I think I was asleep for ninety minutes, but I woke up feeling terrible and tired, thinking I need another nap to recover from the previous nap.

But just so tired. And so unmotivated today. I have hardly had the inclination to do anything, other than turn on the PC. Even getting out of the chair to have lunch felt like a chore. I'm looking outside and I see my washing on the line. I'm wondering how did I get the urge to hand wash my soccer gear? I also see, for some reason, a small pair of mismatched socks. I think they've been hanging there since Friday. The there's the large pile of wood chips that's been sitting there since Saturday afternoon. And I do mean large. You could bury small kids in it. Worst still, with all the rain we've been having over the last three days, it's a large pile of wet wood chips. I can't imagine why they're sitting there, unless the gent in number four has another one of his gardening ideas again.

Yesterday, different story. I actually forced myself out of the house, despite the inclement weather, and headed up to my mate's comic book store in Tuggerah. I actually felt alive yesterday, wanting to do something. Tomorrow, well, depends on the weather. I had wanted to go for a long walk, but, if it's grey and overcast again I won't be going too far. Come to think of it, three out of the last five days I've wanted nothing more than to stay at home, curl up on the couch and watch DVDs, or, just switch on the PC and forget that there's a real world out there.

Last Saturday though, different story. I played football. First (competitive) game of the new season. After three trial games, we felt ready, though it was a different case when we took to the pitch. Scored in the opening minute, then another not long after that, and twenty minutes into the game we were 3-0 up. I had only had to make one save during that time, a dive to my left were I got both hands to a low drive that was going in.

Next twenty, different story. I was rather busy. There was a lapse in the defence, I was covering the left post where the ball was, it was fired across to an unmarked player who just toed it in. Another occasion has me coming out this time, seeing they've come straight through again, and I've had to clear it, then race back into my goals. Then there's a penalty for handball inside the box, ironically caused by the other keeper who's now playing in defence. I initially thought 'right', but as the gent came in, I knew he was going left. I dived, got a hand to it, but couldn't keep it out. After that there was an indirect free-kick, nothing came of it. At half-time it was only 3-2.

Second half, well, similar to the first, except there was no trio of goals. Again, I hardly see the ball for the first twenty, then we score from a neat little header, and then I'm quite busy for the last twenty. Corners, free-kicks, they're coming down the right flank, occasionally the left, they score close to full-time. Again, not much I can do about it. I'm on the left post watching the ball, and on the angle, it was fired into the top corner of the right. We got away with the match 4-3. I think I touched the ball maybe ten times in the match, stopped (thwarted) five goal scoring opportunities. Elected to throw the ball out most of the time, more accurate that way. It may not sound like I was too busy, but trust me, for half the match I was. That's just the keeper's lot sometimes. Hardly see the ball at all, and you're wanting it to come your way so you can do something. Then when it's down your end, you can't wait for it to go away.

Still have one concern though. My left thumb was struck during the warm-up prior to the first trial game about a month ago, and still hasn't come right. It's still sore, though, if I strap it up prior to the game, I have no problems with it. I'm reluctant to go see a doctor about it, but, at the same time, I'm wondering if I have done something relatively serious to it, like my foot last year.

Haven't got much else to say about anything really at the moment. Prior to the opening match of the season, there was a trip to Sydney for a couple of games of Blood Bowl, where I won one and lost one. I managed to finish A Game of Thrones on the way back on the train, and have now progressed to the second book in the series, A Clash of Kings.

Still noticing differences between the books and the “live action”. For example, in the TV show, when Tyrion goes into battle (what turns out to be Robb's diversion, as he accompanies his main force to break Jaime Lannister's siege at Riverrun), he's knocked out by an errant warhammer and misses the entire thing. In the book, he's in the thick of, leading his tribesmen on the left side of the van, with The Mountain on the right. He even takes a knight captive and is wounded. It also transpires that prior to this, at Riverrun, Edmure Tully, Catlyn's brother, is taken prisoner, and is freed when Robb turns up and routs Jaime's forces, then takes him prisoner. Edmure is also portrayed to be clean-shaven with brown hair on the screen, whereas in the book his hair and beard are quite orange. Robb is 15 when he becomes King of the North. He looks a lot older on the screen.

But that's it though. The books are one reality, the screen is another altogether. It's like that when I'm watching The Walking Dead, or Neon Genesis Evangelion, or any number of movies based on books...

Was rather pleased with myself that I finished another chapter in the Feudball 2 project last week. Again, I'm doing the chapters out of order, with this one part of three near the end of the book that I have completed. I think it's eighteen chapters completed, with another four having been started, and the word count just broke the six-figure mark. Don't know when (or if) I'll work on it this week, especially if I'm going to remain unmotivated.

But then, tomorrow is another day. Who knows, I might get a decent night's rest tonight, sleep for eight hours and be up in the morning full of beans and ready to take on the world.

We'll see. Ciao.

P.S: Just running this through a spell check, was rather amused when the suggested word for “Tuggerah” was “Thuggery”. 

P.P.S: I do have something else to look forward to this weekend, other than another game of soccer. I'm going to see John Cleese in one of his evening chat shows at Chatswood. Should be good. Saturday is sure going to be a busy day, and a long one.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Keeping busy

Gees, Thursday already. Amazing how quickly this week passes when one finds something to do.

So, the transition back to not working after working. How has it been? Well, the trick has been to try and substitute what I used to do with something else. So, Wednesday where I used to tromp around Gosford giving newspapers to people who didn't really want them, I decided to go for a more enjoyable walk, this time only taking my camera and a few essentials in a backpack. The walk started at my place, went down to the waterfront, past the football stadium, through the sporting fields of West Gosford, and then followed the walking trail all the way to Point Clare. I had originally intended to go all the way to Woy Woy, which is about 12 kilometres (or maybe a little more) from my front door. However, a sporting injury from last year started playing up, and I pulled up at the train station and headed back home, having done around 7.5km, and taking over 400 shots along the way. I think next Wednesday, I'll take a train to PC, and finish the walk off – weather permitting of course.

The Point Clare side of Fagans Bay.

I could've done it yesterday, but decided to go to the other side of the suburb, walking around a fenced off reserve, and to the cemetery. I found a memorial to a 1948 maritime tragedy at the cemetery, which, I later discovered, had a little story attached to it as well. Was interested to discover a website dedicated to Australian memorials, and decided to submit the picture for use on the website. After a quick look at the site, realised that they didn't have pictures of yet another monument that I'm familiar with – the Boer War memorial near the police station in Mann Street, so I sent them a couple of old pictures that I had of it. I have since bookmarked the page, seeing that I may have more.

The "Joyce" memorial at Point Clare Cemetery.

The better pictures though were of the wildlife. It was a good day to take pictures of birds, and I got plenty. A group of dusky moor hens living in a stream near the sports fields in West Gosford, at least three types of ducks around the edge of Fagans Bay, a pair of little pied cormorants on a tree next to a stalking great eastern egret looking for food, even a white-faced heron which just plopped itself into a stream as I was walking past. 

 I had been scratching my head trying to figure out what birds these were. 
Turns out that they're juvenile Dusky Moorhens.

It was a good day for it. Both days I covered roughly the same distance. I even went out last Monday (17th) to Ettalong, for a very quick lunch, a few photographs of the beach, and a movie, The Monument's Men, which featured George Clooney, Matt Damon, John Goodman, Bill Murray and Cate Blanchett. (And, strangely enough, it was parodied in the opening of last night's episode of Mad as Hell.) To be honest, one could hardly call it a movie. I felt it was more like a documentary, that the characters lacked any great depth, and the movie very disjointed. Two things that I did appreciate, was that Clooney's character did highlight the fact the Nazis weren't the only one going around destroying artefacts, mentioning the dreadful bombing of the monastery at Monte Cassino in early 1944, and Blanchett's character very suspicious of the intentions of the US wanting to get stolen works of art back off the Nazis. Still, it was something different, and the film only cost $8 to see, though one had to put up with retirees talking through it. One pair came in three-quarters of the way through it, the old lady making a fuss trying to find her way to a pair of women seated in the first row, then starting up a conversation with her! Sheesh!

As for work, well, don't miss it. Miss hanging out with a co-worker, who has visited me twice since I quit, but not the work. As it turns out, the boss didn't even see my resignation e-mail until the Monday (Feb 24) morning, four days after I sent it. (He had often complained that we weren't reading his e-mails... ) Turns out, according to the co-worker, the boss took no notice of the e-mail (which were straight replies to his), seeing it was 'irrelevant', that he had sent his work orders/complaints and they didn't need to be followed up. Come that Monday morning, the co-worker turns up and asks him who was going to be partnering him that day. The boss had no idea what he was talking about. Gees...

Then, to really confuse/infuriate me, he said to my former co-worker that he felt that I had been doing a great job. So, why the e-mail telling me the opposite?

And I thought I had problems.

Well, I still do. I must admit, I have been moody of late, hence the need to get out of the house and just try and walk it off. Even appreciative that the winter football season is starting up soon. I have a second trial match on Sunday. The first one was on March 9. We lost, going down 0-3, and yes, I was in goals. Yours truly turned in another man-of-the-match effort, despite the scoreline, my presence, as one opponent summed it up as we came off the field, being worth at least five goals. I felt I had an excellent game. I was seeing the ball well, the ball was landing softly in my hands, my clearance kicks were good, and I defused at least 13 scoring attempts on goal, including three one-on-one situations where I had to go out to stop the attack. (Unfortunately, one of the four got through. The only two goals came from a goal mouth scramble, where I had already stopped two shots, but a defender turned it in, and the other one from me guarding the near post, and the shot going wide and into the far corner. All three came in the first half.) For my efforts I copped a ball to the face, another to the chest (both at point-blank range) and my left thumb still hurts from where a ball struck it during warm-up. It bounced awkwardly, straight at the tip of my thumb, jarring it. I had to strap it to get on the field, then ice it when I got home. Strange thing though, bruises started appearing over the last week, which makes me wonder how badly was it damaged.

Thankfully, for my thumb, our starting keeper is back from his 'holiday' for this match, so I'll be back in defence for the next game. I don't expect a full match, seeing we have more than enough players. We have also been allocated our division, which is 35/6, the same division we won back in 2012, albeit with quite a different side.

From playing to spectating, I must say last week was a good week of watching the Mariners go round. I did try to take plenty of shots, but the camera that I have isn't cut out for taking close-up shots of sport in progress, under lights, and at night. (Day time, stills, no problem.) Sometimes though, one does get lucky. Anyway, against J-League champions Sanfrecce Hiroshima (March 11), the side went behind relatively early (looking at the footage, one sees it was clearly a defensive error that allowed the goal), but fought back well, with retiring striker Mile Sterjovski netting two goals, the second a screamer from 30 metres that took an ever so slight deflection from a defender. The side then withstood a determined second half counter-attack to pick up their first ever win over a Japanese club in the AFC.

Then, last Saturday, a fine 3-1 win over neighbours Newcastle. The home side getting off to a fantastic start, netting twice within the first six minutes. The game being finally sealed with a third late in the match, after Newcastle responded with a well taken shot of their own. On both nights, keeper Liam Reddy was extremely busy. The first goal of the match was scored by veteran Eddie Bosnar, who, from about 48 metres out, drove a low free-kick straight at the goals. A wicked bounce saw the ball go straight through the keepers' legs, and barely 90 seconds had passed before the visitors had to kick-off again.

One types in "bosnar free kick" into the Google search bar to discover quite a few posts, but not necessarily about this particular goal. The man has form!

However, last night, they couldn't keep the momentum going, losing 1-2 to their Chinese opponents, Beijing Guoan. Their hosts scored practically on half-time, which has been a problem for the side after being competitive for the half. When they went two up around the hour mark, the game was over, though a late penalty did restore some pride. The Mariners do not have a good away from home record in this competition. From twelve matches, just one one win. However, one really does need to bear in mind that this was the third game for the side in just eight days, with another game, against Heart, this Sunday.

So, what else have I been up to? Yes, I have done a bit of writing. I finished a rather long chapter for Feudball 2, where the team has a rare encounter with a 'stunty' side. (Think LOTR... ) At this moment, 17 of the planned 34 chapters have a first draft completed, with 5 other chapters having some work done on them. I must say that I haven't started at the beginning and kept going through to the end. I find that if I have an idea for a chapter later in the book, write it down and keep going on it until I run out of steam. The first 15 chapters have been completed, and so has the last one, with another somewhere near the end. I should also mention that I have written a draft of the first chapter for book three...

I have also been watching DVDs. This time, Series 4 of Sons of Anarchy. In fact, I've watched it twice, the second time with the directors commentaries. I've now gone back to just watching Series 3 episodes of Game of Thrones that have commentaries. One episode I noticed (I think it's episode three) has two sets of commentaries. I can't wait to hear the episode that has Peter Dinklage's (Tyrion) thoughts...

And whilst we're on GoT, I've been powering my way through the first book, reading whenever I have a moment or two. I've not long finished the chapter where Bronn kills Lyra's champion, and Tyrion goes free. This lead me to make a few notes between the differences (in certain scenes) between the book and the series.

TV Series: The story of how The Hound became so hideously scarred is told to Sansa and Arya by Lord Baelish at the Hand's tournament.

Book: Sansa is told how he became so hideously scarred by The Hound himself, as he escorted her back to the Red Keep on the night of the tournament banquet.

TV Series: Ned Stark is speared in the leg by a Lannister guard as he fought Jaime.

Book: Ned's leg is broken by his horse falling on it during the fight.

TV Series: Bronn kills Lyra's champion and pushes him through a sky gate, at the conclusion of Tyrion's 'trial'. The fight was indoors. The trial happens pretty much at once after the Imp has 'confessed' to his crimes.

Book: The fight was in a garden, which takes place the day after Tyrion confessed his crimes. (No mention about him adding the extra 'ingredient' to some soup his family once ate... ) Bronn, after running the champion around for a bit, pushes a statue on top of him, then finishes him off whilst he's indisposed.

TV Series: Bran is accosted by a very small group of bandits who try to steal his horse, and are all killed, except Osha, who's taken as a slave.

Book: The group was considerably larger (nine I think), which had two women (including Osha) and two Night's Watch deserters. The outcome of the fight was still the same, with Theon skewering the last of them with an arrow, which Robb criticises him for.

Naturally, there are others. There are also conversations that haven't been used (like, for example, the crow actually talking to Bran in his dreams), characters being in scenes in the book, but not there on the screen (like Blackfish, Catelyn's uncle, being at the Eyrie when she turns up with Tyrion) and so on. I find though that the first series is actually quite faithful to the book, unlike some things that I have read. The Walking Dead comes to mind...

Anyway, I think that's enough for the time being. The laundry has been done, just have to pack it away now. Need to run the vacuum cleaner around the house for a bit, then tidy up. Rental inspection tomorrow. Gees, has it really been six months since the last one?

Until next time. 

P.S: If you follow the above link to the Monument Australia site, you'll find that my image is already up. :)
All images in this post by Geoff G Turner (c) 2014.

Monday, March 03, 2014

What an annoying week that was...

I had planned to be at a coffee shop to start this entry, but I was on the phone to Telstra for nearly 1.5 hours, sorting out the NBN, most of it, as one would imagine, was waiting on the line whilst listening to Tommy Emmanuel or Kenny G or whomever it was who created the on-hold music. I got transferred through a number of departments, finally ending with a very helpful lass who informed me that the NBN order for this block of units was 80% completed. (I didn't even know that.)

I hate ringing call-centres. I really do. I will put it off for as long as would possibly have to, before finally working up the nerve. The ones that irritate me the most, are the banking ones. I've only had to call mine twice in the last five years, and it felt like I was being interrogated, especially when I couldn't remember the secret password I had given them when I first set it up. Next on the list would be C-Link.

Anyway, that's all been sorted. I have the dates as to when the NBN people shall be here. My 'to do' list is now 100% completed. But, seeing it's around 11.30am when I'm typing this, it's overcast and miserable outside, I'm not really in the mood to go outside until I have to, and that's for the laundry later today.

It's been doing that a lot lately. Raining. It's made me just want to stay indoors and watch DVDs. I did brave the weather and go out for a game of Blood Bowl last Thursday (27/2) evening, then pay day Friday I just upped and went out for the day and thought 'screw the rain' and on Saturday it was the Mariners vs Sydney match in Gosford. Yesterday, during a break in the rain, I went for a walk through the reserve near my place, and got stung repeatedly by mosquitoes. Did get some nice pictures of magpies, ducks and a mushroom though. (Yes, I take pictures of quite a lot of things.)

And whilst I'm (briefly) on the topic of photography, I mailed off entries to the Bendemeer 'Colours of Autumn' exhibition. Last year I mailed off six, all of some rather artistic shots of decrepit boats (that I gave funny names to), but this year, decided I'd go for sunsets. (I've actually taken quite a few. I could do a book just of the ones I've taken down at the reserve around Caroline Bay.) I've even included one that I took on my Tamworth Xmas trip, taken from the backyard of my brother's place. Even the colours in the picture make it look very autumn.

It also has me thinking that I really should get my act together, and get some photo books done. When I first started getting back into photography, I had the notion of doing them through, do a small, limited edition run and just sell them though the net. I was even going to try combine photography and writing, perhaps do a book where I could write a short story to go with the picture.

I could do that now. I sure do have the extra time up my sleeve. For, as per usual, I seem to find myself in all sorts of trouble without actually having to do much. Let's start with the work incident.

Last Thursday morning, after having done a rather exhaustive walk around the Gosford CBD the previous day, I discovered a rather, well, obnoxious (for want of a better word) e-mail from the boss. Regular readers will know by now that this is not the first time I have received unusual communiques from the office, generally about what I'm not doing correctly, or what I should be doing, or why I should be doing it, from the boss. There were the e-mails about delivering extra bundles to a certain supermarket in Umina so that 'tourists would know where to get them', and for us to deliver to all libraries in the Wyong council area regardless of the fact that people rarely touch the newspaper at all (let alone read it) and that we may not get to certain libraries before they closed, which was of no concern to the boss and ordered them delivered anyway.

This e-mail, however, was different in the fact that it was rather abusive. The undertone being that the people who deliver the newspapers (the Central Coast News edition) were not doing their job properly, with the point being directed at yours truly, seeing most of it was about news deliveries in the Gosford area. He was critical of the fact that he regularly go top up the newspaper racks across the road, and that I had not bothered to inform him that the racks needed refilling, a job that I should be doing as well, on top of the nine kilometre hike I was doing.

To say that I was pissed off, was an understatement. My response, written rather heatedly, and trying to refrain from putting too many swear words in it, told him that I was 'terribly bloody sorry' that I hadn't informed him about the racks needing refilling (with newspapers that were nearly two weeks old???) but at that time, I was doing the rest of the Gosford CBD and was, well, kind of busy. (The office, I should add, is roughly 20 metres from the shopping centre. Anyone from the office could go across the road and take a bundle over.) I went on to inform him that the newspaper rack in question, near a certain supermarket upstairs, could only hold four bundles on each row because there was a loose wheel, and that any more newspapers piled up on it may cause it to tip over. I also reminded him that I drop 13 bundles (of a total of 31 allocated to my walks) of newspapers up there every second Wednesday. (I put eight downstairs, four upstairs, and share the other one between three coffee shops and a newsagent in the shopping centre.)

Then I proceeded to tell him, that if he wasn't happy with the way I did it, perhaps he should get someone else to do it. A minute or so later, I sent him another e-mail, saying 'come to think of it, do find someone else to do it, and the Wyong and Peninsula deliveries as well'.

For crying out loud, it was 2.5 days a fortnight. It wasn't worth putting up with this shite. Today, I would normally be on the Peninsula run, but I'm not. I've missed two calls from work so far today, and have no intentions of returning any of them. I would've like to have heard an excuse as to why he treats people like school-kids, why he feels the need to lecture people all the time, like he has cancer, or in the early stages of alzheimers, but there isn't one. He is just a pompous newspaper owner, who thinks he's out to change the world, and everything has to be done his way and woe be unto those who criticise him in any way. He's only nice when he wants something done.

Seriously though, how can a free fortnightly newspaper, which copies (word for word) press releases and e-mails, compete against a (three times) weekly free newspaper (which is owned by Rupert Murdoch) that has a horde of reporters and is well established (decades), in a digital age, where the preferred delivery of news is the internet? In Wyong shire, he's competing against three – Rupert's Advocate, a monthly one called the Village Grapevine, plus at the northern end, The Lakes Mail.

The sad thing is, I quite liked the gent whom I used to work with on the runs. We would talk about anything from world history, to why the mariners are going crap at the moment. He came around last Thursday to see how I was, and to ask me not to quit. I told him it was too late, I already had. I was actually quite touched by the fact that he came over, but I wasn't going to change my mind.

Thursday didn't get any better either. I got absolutely thrashed in my game of BB in Sydney. The worst defeat that I have had so far this year. The only consolation I took out of the day, was that I got seventy pages through Game of Thrones whilst on the train.

But the fun doesn't stop there. To really cap off a rather crappy week, I had a date on Saturday. For a couple of weeks I had been swapping messages with a Sydney lady (let's call her Linda) on one of the many dating sites. She was interested in yours truly because I still played football, and she thought I was rather handsome, even 'cute' in my goalkeeper's outfit. On Saturday, after swapping dozens of SMS, she called me. We talked for over two hours. Long story short, I invited her up to the Mariners vs Sydney match. She had never been to an A-League match before, and quite enjoyed it, getting right into barracking for the locals and I was impressed with her knowledge of football terminology. She knew more than I did. We even went out for a quick bite to eat before she went back to Sydney.

I walked her back to her car, and got a kiss goodnight. I felt sparks. I was in a very happy place despite the rain. Promises of further dates were made, including a home cooked meal when she had settled in to her new place. (Most of her belongings was still in the back of her car.) She was concerned about my well-being, asking me to SMS her when I got home. That was at 8.30pm. Around 11.30pm, her mood had changed considerably. She now wanted to get out of Sydney as fast as possible, and she was apologetic for 'wasting my time'. I replied that she hadn't. She didn't respond. (She was quite open about her troubles during the night and her past. I wonder how much of it was actually true... )

Yesterday, I discovered that I had been deleted from her contacts list on the site. In the space of several hours, I went from a delightful flirt that she was going to 'bang me very slowly' to I never want to hear from you again. WTF?

Naturally, all this has put me off dating again. Just when I thought I had found a rather entertaining, delightful lass the same age as me, there's the metaphorical kick in the nuts, and I'm back where I started from, with $60 less in my bank account. At least she didn't cost me as much as the previous football lady I went out with. (And once again, I'm glad I didn't sleep with her, or take her back to my place.) I believe, that yet again, I broke one of my dating rules – never go out with someone who's crazier than you.

But I live on the Central Coast. Like I'm going to find a sane girlfriend around here?

The highlight of a rather miserable week, was that the Mariners beat Sydney FC, for the third time this season. That, and I was able to have a couple of drinks with a pair of team-mates from football before the game. With the rather weird results from the weekend (second last Melbourne Heart beat their local top four rivals Victory 4-0, whilst a rather unpredictable Newcastle travelled to play the Wanderers, and beat them 2-0), three teams are now locked in third place, breathing down the Wanderers neck, whilst the Roar have opened up a sizeable gap on top of the ladder – again. It was a good result for the Mariners, who, after having capitulated rather badly against Victory and Wellington in previous weeks, and being one of three teams who had played midweek in the Asian Champions League, fought hard to win the game 2-1 in the wet at Gosford. The Mariners were the only one of the three Australian ACL participants who actually registered a win this round. The most memorable highlight, for myself (and no doubt for a number of Mariners supporters) was to see new recruit Kim Seong-yong bend a free-kick up and around the Sydney FC wall to open the scoring. Liam Reddy's spectacular save in stopping a del Piero free-kick was a close second, whilst Mitch Duke's winner was also right up there, though seeing DP get a yellow card for a challenge on Storm Roux was quite amusing!

White ball, top right-hand corner pocket...

Finally, I have been viewing a number of DVDs over the last couple of weeks. I had picked up Firefly on sale last Friday, and was quite enjoying the series yet again. I am still working my way through the growing collection of old-school martial arts films, including some classics produced by the legendary Shaw brothers. It's not hard to see who has influenced modern movie creators like Quentin Tarantino for example (especially Kill Bill). However, after watching a couple of Shaw brother films (The 5 Deadly Venoms and Duel of the Iron Fist) they immediately made me think of Stephen Chow's Kung Fu Hustle.

In Duel... (which was part of an English dubbed 10 martial arts movie box), most gang members were using an axe as their weapon of choice, though the main fighters were using knives. (At one stage, you could see a gangster wielding a pick-axe in a fight scene.) In Kung Fu... the big gang in the movie was The Axe Gang. In The 5..., one of the five senior fighters was a master of toad style. Again, in Kung Fu..., the big villain was indeed a master of toad style.

But briefly back to Tarantino. In Kill Bill, the leader of O-Ren Ishi's bodyguard is played by Gordon Liu (he also plays the old master in the second movie). Gordon starred in a Shaw brother masterpiece – The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, a DVD I was very pleased to pick up for just $6.98. I look forward to watching it – again.

And on that note, I need some lunch, and to grab my washing before I post this. I'm hoping that this week turns out much better than last week...

P.S: Just finished watching two episodes of an 80's TV show that was on one of the disks in the movie box. The show was called The Master, and starred Lee Van Cleef, of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly fame, and featured, for about ten minutes, a young Demi Moore. All I can say is, Lee must've really needed the money...

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Back in training

Well, outlived another doomsday prophecy.

This time it's the Vikings. Those of you who aren't familiar with the end of the world scenarios, Ragnarok, the battle to end all battles between Odin, Loki and hordes of the dead who did (or didn't) get into Valhalla, was apparently meant to be yesterday.

But rather than sitting at home all day waiting for it to happen, I went to Westmead yesterday for some football training, then came home and continued to watch Game of Thrones series three for the second time. (More on that later.)

So, here I am, Sunday morning, rather tired having not slept too well the previous night (meh, nothing new there), pondering which doomsday event is going to (not) happen next. I can recall being at high school twenty-five (or so) years ago wondering if Nostradamus' prediction was going to come true. More recently, it was the Mayans with that rather apocalyptic Hollywood visualisation of it as well. Did it happen? Nope. So let's move on.

Yes, back in training. Having missed the first session (which was scheduled on Feb 1, the same day my sister's 40th and niece's 18th birthday parties were held on), I promptly rocked up to the second one, which was held in Parramatta Park, a rather big park which one can enter in down-town Parramatta, then exit it a hundred metres from Westmead station. We trained at the Westmead end in our usual spot, not far from a group of volley-ballers (who are usually there every time we are). Most of the regular team was there, plus some new recruits and a couple of players that I knew from the first season that I played in the open division.

I wasn't out to over extend myself, mindful of the fact that I was using a new (well, new to me) set of boots, the surface we were playing on was mostly hard and uneven (I even saw some old pipes that had become partially uncovered at one end) and last season's foot and ankle injuries still fresh in my mind. Apart from running out of puff once or twice, taking a couple of tumbles whilst bringing the ball up, I got through the session okay and felt better for it. It appears that I will be primarily playing at the back again this year, either that or in goals, depending on what happens to our regular keeper. (I learned that he had moved to Queensland and was actually flying down for matches last year, so it remains to be seen as to how many games he'll play in.)

Returning home though, the gent whom I get a lift with, did something rather strange. Annoyed with the motorcyclist in front of him that was going too slow on the thoroughfare, he decided to overtake him (her?) just before a set of traffic lights, at a major traffic intersection I should add, which had already turned red. (This puzzled me, seeing he wasn't going to advance that much further.) The cyclist then proceeded to come up beside him (in the lane that's for turning onto the motorway), tapped on the window and asked what was he doing, to which my driver replied that he was going too slow. The lights then changed, and off we went.

Then the cyclist got ahead of us, and at every chance he got, then proceeded to stop and have a whinge to a driver in another car beside him, twice, when traffic had slowed to a stop. Then, to prove a point, the cyclist then slowed down once again. At the intersection for the Newcastle turn-off, he then came up on our left, where I just looked at him, shrugged my shoulders, and promptly proceeded to chew my nails. Once on the free-way, he was promptly left behind.

I'm thinking, my driver was in the wrong to begin with, obviously, but then the cyclist was in the wrong by proceeding to act rather childish afterwards, stopping in traffic to complain to random people, deliberately slowing down, etc. But then, how often do you see it happen? Somebody cuts you off, somebody drives to slow in front of you, somebody tail-gates you... every day of the week I would imagine.

And people wonder why I don't drive. My answer, too many idiots on the road. My anxiety levels are bad enough just being a passenger. Some days I wish I could find another way to get to training and/or games, but this method is more convenient for all involved.

Mind you, I should add that the gent who gives me the lifts down for the games, once called me on my mobile because, by his watch, I was late, by about fifteen seconds. I was literally just around the corner from where he was ringing from. (And, I should point out, was on time according to my watch... )

And I'm the one who spent two years visiting a psychologist and was on medication for several more. Sheesh.

Whilst I'm on the subject of football, I was at the Mariners' game last Friday night, and, well, was rather disappointed with the outcome. After leading 1-0 at half-time, the side capitulated rather quickly, and went down 1-4 to Wellington, who, I should point out, lost 0-5 the previous week, at home, to the side running last in the competition (Heart). (I should add, Wellington in the second half played rather well, and really looked like play-off contenders.)

I don't get it. It's one thing to be outplayed by a side, but to just give up, after your opponent equalizes, within ninety seconds of the second half starting, it was downright embarrassing. Sure, it's not the first time I've seen the side get hammered at home, but it's probably the first time I've seen them give up. You could see it. It was a physical change that just swept over the team. They had chances to get back into the game. A penalty for hand-ball. It's taken way too casually and the keeper gets a hand to it and knocks it away. Then there's a clear shot on goal, keeper gets a hand to it, it hits the inside of the post and bounces away. By that time you know it isn't going to be their night.

Not a total loss for the night. The 20,000th image captured by my current camera. 

Then there's the crowd. They applaud the side off the field at half-time. At full-time, they're booed off. First time that I have ever heard the side being booed off the pitch. (I wasn't surprised though.) I stayed until the bitter end, then left as soon as the full-time whistle sounded. I wasn't staying there a moment longer than I had to. Of course, no matter where I sit, I always seem to hear spectator's idiotic remarks. 'What game are you watching ref?' Me – he's watching this one. Remember, he gave us a penalty two minutes ago. 'What about the offisde?' Me – does it really matter? (We were down 1-4 at that stage.) 'Stupid linesman.' Me – it's not the linesman's fault we're losing 4-1 at the moment.'

So, what did I do when I got home? I cracked open a can of cider, and proceeded to re-watch Game of Thrones series three. I've almost gotten through it a second time. The next episode to re-watch is the 'red wedding'. I must say that when I first watched it, I was rather surprised when I figured out that it was the Starks going to be massacred. (I had expected it was going to be a rather big fight at Joffrey's wedding.) But of course, keeping in line with what had already happened, Robb and his mother being slain, along with other members of their retinue, was par for the course. Naturally they were going to go. Robb had reneged on his earlier pledge to marry one of the Frey's daughters, and the Lannisters had paid the old bugger off. (Earlier in the series, when Tyrion is sitting at his father's desk, you could see the elder Lannister writing the order. I could swear that I saw the words 'successful hunt' on the paper. Might go back to that moment and freeze frame it to see if I was right.)

Sansa being married to Tyrion though I didn't see coming. (You'd think the poor girl had been through enough by now.) Of course, it does create the rather amusing situation that Sansa is now a Lannister, and Joffrey's aunt. Of course, the family tree will get further complicated when (if) Joffrey marries Margaery, and his mother marries Margaery's brother. (My mind is having a meltdown trying to figure it out. Margaery and Cersei would then be sisters-in-law, with Cersei at the same time being her mother-in-law. But then, Sansa would also become Cersei's sister-in-law...)

Nice one George R R Martin. But, well, that's what it was like, eh? (And still is.)

There's only two things that are for certain in the series. One, winter is coming, and so is a ruddy large army of the undead. Two, Daenerys Targaryen is going to come home with a rather large army, and she'll have three fully grown dragons. The Lannisters, Baratheons, Starks, etc. are going to be caught in-between both of them.

Me thinks I'll probably have to start reading the books.

Right, that's my morning pretty much gone. I think I'll post this, finish watching the series again, then get back into working on Feudball 2. I have actually made some progress during the past week, writing new material rather than just re-writing old stuff. Still not working on it in chronological order though. Cheers!