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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Just what have I been up to so far this year...

Well, here I am.                   

Having a couple of days away from home, at the moment, at a mate’s place in Sydney. It’s been good. Yesterday, picked up from Hornsby, a drive over to Castle Hill, lunch, then home in time to watch the replay of Australia’s win over Oman on Tuesday night. After that, another drive over to Baulkham Hills, where my mate’s boy does community radio, and I get to wander around the park for half-an-hour and take photos. (I remember the area seeing it was so close to where my aunt used to live, and had taken pictures there on a couple of occasions, that and I played a soccer match there back in 2013.) We return home after that, order Chinese, and we proceed to watch two more AFC matches.

Today, not much. An hour drive over to Carramar, for lunch at Sizzlers. (Man, I’m surprised they still have restaurants open. Must’ve been twenty-something years since I last ate in one of those.) Along the way we pass other grounds that we’ve played at. Then we call back in at a neighbouring shopping centre, where I compare prices on the camera that I’ve had my eye on, and a slide/negative scanner. In the end, I discover that the cheapest place to buy it was online, and that the scanner I’ll leave until later.

Now, just rattling off this, seeing there’s an hour or so to spare. We don’t have much planned for the rest of the day, except watch a couple more AFC matches. On our drives over the last couple of days we actually talked quite a bit about it. Last Saturday (Jan 10), I decided that I was going to see a game, so I just picked one in Sydney and bought a ticket for it. I ended up seeing Uzbekistan vs North Korea. With a concession, I ended up paying a measly $21 for it, this included the booking fee and a small donation to a charity.

My thoughts? It wasn’t the best game of football that I have seen. Mind you, it wasn’t the worst either. I was surprised to see a crowd of just over 12,000 there for a neutral match, with most of the crowd indeed being neutrals. I noticed Wanderers and Sydney FC supporters in attendance, and of course, I was sporting my Mariners colours as well. What saved the game, believe it or not, was the torrential rain that enveloped the arena around half-time. The game opened up in the second half, both sides started passing it about more, and the only goal of the match was scored. The game could’ve ended in a draw, with the Koreans denied an injury time equalizer from a corner by the hand of the Uzbek keeper.

This game though, raised a question. Not the actual game itself (although, after watching Nth Korea go round twice, one wonders how they managed to qualify in the first place – their passing, at times, is atrocious – what you would expect from a pub side on a Sunday afternoon after they’ve had a few, though they did start well in the first half hour in against Saudi Arabia in their second match), but as to why was this game played at Stadium Australia in the first place.

Let’s look at the venues being used for the tournament. (Interesting to note, because of AFC sponsorship rights, all the stadiums revert back to their non-corporate names.)

Sydney’s Stadium Australia – 84,000
Newcastle Stadium – 33,000
Brisbane Stadium - 52,500
Canberra Stadium -25,011
Melbourne Rectangular Stadium – 30,050

Apparently, when the stadiums were selected to host matches, they were meant to have a MINIMUM of 30,000 capacity, which is why Central Coast Stadium didn’t get a match, seeing its capacity is 20,059. (Much as I’ve tried, I can’t find a document to support this. However, I did find a 2007 FIFA document, Football Stadiums: Technical Recommendations and Requirements, which should be found easily enough with a Google search, on page 26, section 1.1 Pre-construction Decisions “…but if developers hope that the stadium will be used occasionally for major international football events, minimum capacities of 30,000 will need to be provided.”)

To counter that, in 2003, CC Stadium played host to three Rugby Union World Cup matches, including the rather enjoyable USA vs Japan match which drew a crowd of 19,653. In 2008, it hosted the Fiji vs Scotland match in the Rugby League World Cup, a game won by the Scots in the last couple of minutes. (I attended both of these matches.) So, CC Stadium, good enough to host top flight League and Union matches, but not soccer it seems.

So, looking at that, why wasn’t Subiaco (Perth – 42,922 capacity) and Adelaide Oval (33,597) given games? (One must think it’s purely logistics.) If the minimum of 30,000 is correct, why was Canberra given games and not Carrara (Gold Coast – 25,000)?

And if Football Australia was out to make money off the home team (and one should assume that they are), why hold their first match vs Kuwait at the Rectangular Stadium, and not at Docklands in Melbourne (53,359) or the MCG (100,024)? Or did they somehow know that they were only going to get 25,231 to the match?

Ticket prices may have something to do with this. The cheapest tickets for the opening match ($34.50) was more expensive than any other ticket for non-Australian group matches. And you could’ve only got a concession for the cheap seats. This was the “inspiration” for me to go see a random group stage match.

I also ask, why are matches like Uzbekistan vs Nth Korea being played at Stadium Australia? The Uzbekistan fans, though noisy, could not make up for the fact that the stadium was about 80% empty (Crowd – 12,078). At the Sydney Football Stadium, with a capacity of 42,500, it would’ve been a much better atmosphere, much closer to central station, and decidedly more central, which could’ve attracted more fans.

Anyway, bitching aside, I’ve enjoyed the AFC so far. The games that I have watched, either on the telly or at the ground, have been good to watch. (I would’ve attended a second game, Palestine vs Japan at Newcastle, but was invited to go to Sydney for the day so I didn’t make. More on that later.) Australia, with two solid wins under their belts, can still improve, but it’s good to see different players scoring goals, and not having to rely on Tim Cahill for them. I still think Japan will win it the event, but gees, I really do want to be proved wrong! J

I should add, interesting to see the commercials of the tournament’s sponsors aired at the match that I attended. The Family Mart one (that for a chain of supermarkets across south-east Asia) featured floating supermarkets. I couldn’t find that particular ad on-line, but I did find the one for Saison Card. Even in Japanese it’s still good to watch, though you might need to find an English translation for it.

So, what else have I been doing? The camera has been out with me for a few walks. The biggest one being a 8.5km new year’s day stroll through the neighbouring Rumbalara Reserve, made longer (and tougher) by going the back way through Springfield (mostly uphill) to get to the Mouat Walk, which features a statue of Edward John Eyre, an Australian explorer, the fourth such statue in the reserve and the only one that I hadn’t already photographed. The walk saw me exit out the back of North Gosford, which I subsequently walked through to get back into Gosford, before taking a bus home. Over 500 shots taken on that day, with the highlights being able to capture a series of shots of male and female cuckoo doves, and getting a reasonable shot of a juvenile firetail.

I must say, it made up for a rather dull Xmas and New Year’s Eve, Xmas up at my sister’s especially. Sitting around watching everybody else accessing their Facebook pages, playing the X-Box, Skyping, or watching TV isn’t my idea of a good time. Just as well I took a book with me. I wish I had taken my laptop. (The slide-show, by the way, after all that effort on my behalf, fell through, thanks to the light-bulb in the forty year old slide projector blowing.) I did make up for it by getting some nice shots of Crangan Bay on Xmas day.

On Monday (12 Jan), I was invited to go into Sydney by one of the comic book store gents. The trip had us visiting a discount book shop, a rather good toy shop in the QVB (Queen Victoria Building), the State Library, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and Martin Place. I had been wanting to do a little trip down there to get some shots of the site that dominated the news just before Xmas. (And still is getting some news, including this item about retailers around there awaiting a government decision about insurance and that one of those killed during the siege was struck by a police bullet. Even religious politician Fred Nile is adding his five cents worth about those escaping the siege not being worthy of a bravery award.
I arrived too late to see the sea of floral tributes, but I did get pictures of the surrounding area. One doesn’t realize the significance of the location until you see all the other prominent buildings nearby, like NSW State Parliament, the State Library, the Reserve Bank of Australia, Martin Place train station, Sydney Hospital, the law courts…

Photography aside, I have been managing to get some work done on Feudball 2, but not as much as I’d like. I’m soldiering on through chapter twenty, and I really want to get it finished before I head off to Can Con next week. I have also been doing some reading as well, getting through a few graphic novels, such as the first volume of Sin City, the first volume of the Sons of Anarchy comic (reasonably good I should say), and the first four volumes of the US comic version of Judge Dredd. Must say, some of the stories are okay, even the artwork has been passable (though not as good as the 2000AD stuff I used to read), there has already been appearances of villains The Angel Gang, Judge Cal and Judge Death plus the ever delightful Judge Anderson has turned up. I’m trying to figure out when in the JD time-line the stories are actually set however, seeing Judge Cal is currently working in the SJS. I didn’t think Death turned up until much later, with Anderson a veteran and not a newb. Perhaps I should put it down as an alternative universe.

What I really did enjoy though, was a hardback edition of JD up against Predator and Aliens in separate stories. The Predator story I had read before, in the JD Megazine I believe, but the Aliens one was new to me.

Well, I must say it’s getting late. This post has taken a considerable amount of time, but it has been interrupted by a stroll around Kellyville, dinner, and two more AFC matches. Tomorrow, I have to head back home, where I’ll be kick-starting my Blood Bowl season, getting some league matches out of the way before heading off to Canberra for the nationals.

So, on that note, ciao!

P.S: I've even found the time to retrieve my entries from last year's Small Art Prize competition last Sunday. (Jan 11) With nothing else better to do that day, I even went on a stroll through Gosford in the rain, and took a few more shots before having lunch at the club. The beef lasagne I had was worth getting a little damp for!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

One final post before Xmas

Well, it's Sunday, four days until Xmas, I'm bored, Civ 5 has just crashed, so what do I do?

Yep. Another post.

Nice to see that the weather has changed for the good. A couple of weeks ago, it really did feel like that winter had returned, but today, from my bedroom window, it looks absolutely divine. I might even be tempted to step outside and go for a walk. I did last Monday, going for a long, leisurely stroll around The Entrance, and North The Entrance whilst all the drama developed at Martin Plaza in Sydney. I caught the start of it, then hopped on a bus and headed north, walked around for a bit, stopped off for lunch at a cafe and saw a bit more of it, then continued my walk.

The walk was good. My primary objective was hunting down some monuments for the Monument Australia website that they didn't have pictures of. I found a series of plaques commemorating lifesavers down near the surf life-saving club, then, when I ventured north over the bridge, found a park that I had been looking for, the Lions' Sensory Park, and found a couple more war memorials. The park itself, right on the bank of Tuggerah Lake, was rather nice, and well maintained. It was also well populated by birds, and, much to my delight, a very docile blue-tongue lizard. The walk continued past this park up to a nearby caravan park, where I felt that that was far enough, so I turned around and headed back.

One of the monuments I discovered at the Sensory Park, dedicated to all national servicemen and women.

Must say the foreshore reserve are populated by a variety of wildlife, some which I don't see in other places. For example, you may think that the starling is a common enough bird, but the only place that I've seen them on my walks around the coast, is in this reserve. Blackbirds are there as well, and again I only see them there. Currently, the lake has a large population of black swans, who were quite happy to drift languidly around the lake.

So, five hours later, I have over 650 shots to sift through. It was a nice assortment of beach shots, monuments, parks, flowers, birds, even some shots of junk (which I'll do from time to time). I deleted about eighty, and last Friday I journeyed out to Officeworks at West Gosford and printed 42 of them up. Made the mistake of using the instant kiosk, which added 20 cents per shot to the cost. Yes, I got them quicker, but it cost me an extra $8.

Last Friday was also a day of running about. My sister had the idea that for entertainment over Xmas, was to find the family slides and have a slide show, believing that she had a machine to show them. I corrected her – the device she had was a previewer. So we have to find a projector. I located one on-line, but I figured that before we bought it, I'd see if I could find one down my end of the coast. I didn't, trying three charity and a pawn shop. It was worth a try I felt, so we'll go for the on-line one. I also decided to find a device that can allow one to convert slides (and negatives) to jpeg. Needless to say the plan that I had to buy myself a new camera for Xmas will have to wait until the new year, possibly even February if I still intend to go to Can Con in Canberra next January.

The day ended well though. Finished at the comic book store, where I spent the rest of day (and evening) with the owners and some regulars, chatting, drinking, and eating pizza. I also spent a bit, taking advantage of the 20% off midnight sale. For myself, I bought a hardback edition of Predator vs Judge Dredd vs Alien, and volume one of the Snowpiercer graphic novel, which I've already read and quite enjoyed. A very interesting concept that the remains of humanity, after a nuclear war, has to live on a self-sufficient moving train. The train itself being worshipped like a god.

Also on Friday, I was much surprised to get a book in the mail. It was from the Schizophrenia Fellowship of NSW, which published all the entries in their poetry and photography competition earlier this year. My poetry entry was on page 10, my picture was on page 41. It was very good to see them both in there, and in print. During my walk around the various suburbs of Gosford, I ventured over to the gallery that was displaying the entries to the Small Works Art Prize. Due to the amount of entries, those that entered multiple images, had only one item on display in the main room. They chose my favourite one, the one I labelled The Mariners' Brass Band (entry #57).

The Mariners' Brass Band is on the left.

[Late lunch break]

Hardly a lunch break goes by these days without watching an episode of something. I've been re-watching the X-Files over the last couple of months. I'm currently up to series nine, the final series, having watched the episode where Cary Elwes and Lucy Lawless make an appearance, and Scully discovers that there is something wrong with her son.

So, an opinion on the Sydney siege. I've had a bit of time to reflect on this, read a few on-line posts, dissect the news, even talk to people about it. Sure, many questions have been raised about it. From why didn't the NSW Police end the siege within the first hour, to why on earth the perpetrator wasn't on a terrorist watch list. He chose his target well (unfortunately), directly opposite of Channel 7's HQ at Martin Place. I wonder if he planned it that way to possibly catch a media executive as well?

Whatever the case, the coverage was, well, predictable, continuous and very repetitive. Watching it for twenty minute periods before I stepped out last Monday, during lunch, and when I got home, one could practically predict what type of expert they were going to trot out next, from terrorism experts (Clive Williams seems to get asked to appear a lot when TV stations need an expert on matters such as this – I even have one of his books) to psychologists and the prime minister. I remember watching it after 5pm and seeing the same footage of some of the hostages escaping at least seven times in five minutes. When it was resolved early Tuesday morning, I cringed every time a news reporter referred to the victims dying yesterday, instead of this morning. (And he didn't do it just once, he did it repeatedly.) I know it's nitpicking, but considering my various ailments I considered it downright annoying at the time.

So, the culprit shows a black flag, and it's a terrorist incident. The bottom line was, as more details were known, it was a desperate man who knew he was facing prison, so he decided to go with a bang rather than to disappear into anonymity. It's just unfortunate that 17 people had to take part in it, and that two people paid the ultimate price for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

And the media, of course, seemed to forget this wasn't the first political/religious inspired terrorist incident that Sydney has experienced. History seems to be forgotten in the sensationalism at the time of the incident. Not far from Martin Place another incident took place, which was rather big at the time. I am, of course, referring to the Hilton Bombing of 1978. I can even go further back to the era of the 1930's, where Sydney was a battleground for political extremists from the left and right. (There was an exhibition on it at the Justice & Police Museum a few years ago, that was well worth taking in.) Then there's terror incidents (rather than terrorist incidents) such as the Milperra Massacre, and the Strathfield Plaza Massacre.

And, the very next day, it all gets put in perspective when the Taliban rampage through a school and kill over a 130 school kids in Pakistan. Even more so when on Friday news comes out of a multiple stabbing in North Queensland that sees eight children dead, the eldest being just 15. Sure, in Sydney a family has had their wife and mother cruelly taken away from them, and a man grieves for his partner, but there's dozens of dead kids in Pakistan that hadn't had much of a chance to experience life, and eight kids in Cairns that were no doubt looking forward to Xmas, rather than an early grave.

In the end, the siege in Sydney could've ended far worse. The NSW Police reacted quickly, and did a good job in difficult circumstances. Let's just hope that this event doesn't become the inspiration for another series of political/religious riots and terror incidents.

During the week, I did something a little different. I was asked by the boys at the comic book store to run the shop whilst they were away at a funeral last Thursday. It's not the first time that I have done it, having minded the shop for them when they were over here in East Gosford. The only hiccup for the three hours that I was in charge of the place, was slightly damaging a figurine whilst trying to get it into the box. In the end, I offered the purchaser a discount and he still bought it. I did my bit, adding over $100 to their total sales for the day, and felt better for it.

I've also been doing more work on Feudball 2. I finished chapter 19, started on chapter 20, and have increased the word tally to just over 126,500 words. It was kind of tough writing those pages, seeing I had to talk about the death of one of the characters. (I'm not saying which one.) Still, I think it worked out okay, though I may have to tweak it at some point.

I'm also trying out internet dating again, but without much luck. I have profiles up on six sites, though two of them I haven't visited for months, and of the remaining four I am seriously sceptical about my chances of finding somebody, or, at the very least, at least having a date on any of them.

On one site that has the initials of POF, I reactivated my profile after a long hiatus, and got some interest straight away. I have been swapping messages with one woman on the site, that lives relatively close by at Berkeley Vale, but the exchanges have been brief, and, well, I don't think that she even reads my posts correctly. I asked her out for coffee, if she had time before Xmas, and even offered to “travel up her way” to make things easier for her. The response I got was “I though you were on da coast”. (That was the way it appeared in my inbox.)

Um, yes I am, I replied. Where you live is north of me, so I would have to travel up. (Duh!) Then I had to ask her again if she still wanted coffee. I don't even know if I want to meet her or not. I also have a distinct feeling that I have, at the very least, messaged her before on another dating site.

Then there's this other dating site that starts with Z. It's a strange site. Setting up a profile on it requires you to answer a series of personality questions, like, “Would you date someone who smokes?” and then you're asked “How important is this to you?” and you have to grade your answer. On this site, I think I was asked about thirty of them. (There's at least two other sites I had set up profiles on that had personality profile question such as these. On one site, the more of these questions you answer, the more features you unlock and the “higher” percentage chance of a match you would get. I think I answered over 70 such questions on that one.)

But this one isn't like others where you conduct simple searches looking for someone you like. There are “features”. One's called Carousel where you get a random person that may be compatible with you turn up on your screen. People leave you messages as well, but it cost a certain amount of Coins to read these messages, and you even have to upgrade your membership to be able to reply to them. The bare minimum of coins, which I think was 180, cost me $20. Upgrading the membership cost $30 PLUS a $25 one-off transaction fee. (That was quite rude. It wasn't mentioned on the membership page.) So, in order to respond to one lady who messaged me from Sydney, it cost me $75. Sigh. Apart from this one woman in Sydney that I've heard from, the only other person who has made contact with me lives in Iran...

I'm pretty certain that I'm getting ripped off, again. This time I've only upgraded my membership on one site, rather than multiple ones. Even on the free sites they encourage you to upgrade, to unlock the better features. But then, what other choices do I have? It's not as if the social circles that I'm in are teeming with eligible females.

Oh well. I'll give this one a month, see how it goes. Must remember to cancel the automatic renewal of membership before the end of the month, least I be stung with another $30 debit.

Well, that's about it from me. Best wishes to you all for this festive Hallmark period. Ciao!

All pictures by Geoff G Turner (c) 2014.

All links correct at time of posting. 

Monday 22/12

P.S: Pleased to hear that Sean Abbott, the gent that bowled the delivery that ultimately killed Phil Hughes, has not only retaken to the pitch, but has turned in a couple of match winning efforts, including a blistering 6 for 14 against Queensland in the Sheffield Shield match several days ago. Keep it up Sean!

P.P.S: The running around looking for a slide projector ended today, when I picked one up for $40 in Tuggerah after answering an advert placed in Gumtree. Too easy!

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Phillip Hughes amongst other things

Vale Phillip Hughes.

I don't want to sound disrespectful, considering the circumstances of his demise, but I do want to try and put things in perspective, even if it is just for my benefit. I seem to hear a lot about the tragedy that is his death, how he was struck on the head by a rising delivery which brought about his untimely death during a first class match. There seems to be no end of tributes for the sportsman, with audiences at every A-League match applauding at the 63rd minute of games (the number of runs Hughes was on when he was struck), to footballers dedicating goals and walking onto the pitch with cricket bats, to even the little memorial which I snapped at the greyhound race meeting at Wentworth Park on Saturday evening (29/11). (I should add, I was there for a Blood Bowl tournament that was being played in the offices at the back of the main stand, but that's another story for another blog.) I even read that his one day shirt number is being retired, that his final innings reads "not out" in the scoresheet rather than "retired hurt", and that the Brisbane test, scheduled for this week, has been moved to accommodate players attending the funeral, and the first test against India will be the Adelaide match next week.  

But there are plenty of things that I really want to put into perspective, which I feel have been neglected by the Australian media. The last time I saw such an avalanche of media coverage, was for the death of former prime minister Gough Whitlam a few months ago. Gough, it could be argued, was Australia's finest prime minister, and did a lot in his time in office. Hughes wasn't even in the Australian side, but was pressing for re-selection. Anyway...
  • Phil Hughes isn't the only cricketer who has died as a result at being struck by a cricket ball. A quick google search using the phrase “cricketers that died during games” should result in the first link (when I started writing this on Nov 30) to an item with a poorly worded bi-line (and written in bad English as well) that lists a few other cricketers that have died after being struck by a ball, with possibly the earliest instance being recorded in 1870, which, by the way, was an English gent by the name of George Summers. Just a couple of days ago, an umpire died in a cricket match in Israel (which adds testimony to the universal appeal of the game) after being struck by a ball. (I should point out, yesterday's edition of the SMH had four pages dedicated to Phil Hughes. The Israeli umpire got a paragraph. So, was his death less tragic? Was he getting similar coverage in the Middle Eastern media?) The above list gets expanded on in an English article which includes players dying of heart-attacks as well. I even went further to find a really bizarre cricket death back which was reported on in November 1933, where a young wicket-keeper in India was impaled by a spinning cricket stump and died of his injury. And then there's this instance of a cricketer being struck by lightning during a game in Australia and dying.
  • Phil Hughes isn't the only sports-person to have died as a result of participating in sport. Two big sporting names instantly spring to mind - Ayrton Senna and Peter Brock, and it isn't that hard to find others from different sporting codes. That link just leads to the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Jockeys have died falling from horses in races in this country this year. Yachtsmen participating in the annual Sydney to Hobart race have drowned in past events. True, one would expect more fatalities in sports like motor racing or boxing, but the truth of the matter is, all sport has a degree of risk to one's health, you play it at your own risk, and that risk can be, well, fatal. Players can die from a variety of things on the pitch, indoors, in the air, in the sky, or even at the hands of the spectators themselves. These things can happen. Yes, the last thing that Phil Hughes was probably thinking of when he was batting was being mortally wounded by a bouncer, but I can also say the last thing George Summers, the Israeli umpire, the young Indian player, etc. were thinking of before they died as well was that they would be slain as a direct result of playing in or officiating a cricket match.
  • Phil Hughes death isn't the most tragic thing to ever happen in sport. There was a comment made on a sports show I was watching on Sunday night that prompted me to do this little bit of searching. A little brainstorming and I can easily come up with a few sporting stories which are a lot more tragic than Phil Hughes' death.

    1. Andres Escobar. In the 1994 World Cup, the Colombian footballer inexplicably put the ball into the wrong net during a match against hosts USA, who went on to win the match 2-1. A few days after Colombia's elimination from the tournament (they finished last in their group), Andres and a few mates decide to go out for a few drinks. The end result being that the footballer gets shot six times at a nightclub and dies. Naturally, all this is linked to the drug cartels.
    2. The Death Match. Escape to Victory eat your heart out. In August 1942, a football match between a local side in Kiev, and a German military side, was played, with the locals humiliating the occupiers with a 5-3 victory. Rumours abound to what actually happened to the players after the match, with members of the team allegedly being shot by the SS, imprisoned in concentration camps, or even being arrested after the war for collaborating with the Germans.
    3. Disaster in Munich. In February 1958, Manchester United, on their way home after playing a match against Red Star Belgrade, landed in Munich to refuel. In poor weather, their plane crashed on their third attempt at taking off, with 21 people dying, including eight players of the squad at the time and three members of the coaching staff. 
    4. Phar Lap. Need I say more about the champion racehorse that dies in mysterious circumstances in the United States after a race?
  • Weren't there more important things happening in the world on November 27? Renowned author P D James died, there were heavy floods on the Gaza strip, a suicide bomber killed 5 in Kabul, a roadside bomb killed 40 in Nigeria, the Hong Kong protests continued with police and demonstrators clashing and 11 more arrests, the Greek labour unions declared a general strike, France hit a record high for unemployment figures, the European Union passed a (symbolic) motion for the break-up of Google, fighting in the Sudan claimed at least 133 lives, Kim Jong-Un appointed his sister Kim Yo Jong to a ministerial position, Australian surfer Stephanie Gilmour won her 6th women's world surfing title and of course, there was also the on-going Ebola crisis as well.
  • And finally, what about the player who bowled the lethal delivery? I look through the Monday edition of the SMH and see no mention of Sean Abbott, the player who is going to have to live with this for the rest of his life. I look on the ABC on-line news page and see just one link to an article about how he is faring. In my FB feeds, I have seen just one post dedicated to the bowler. One wonders if he'll ever set foot on a cricket pitch ever again.
An article in Monday's SMH suggested that anyone who questions “the appropriateness of the immense public outcry” is missing the point, that Hughes' death was “an awful public awakening” knocking “the innocence out of cricket”. WTF? I suggest to the author, that perhaps he should look at the front page of that edition of the newspaper, where the lead story is about two children who found the decomposed remains of an infant at Maroubra Beach on Sunday. That, to me, is a hell of a bigger public awakening, is undoubtedly more awful and has wider implications. As for innocence being knocked out of cricket, I suggest to same author that he should google “Bodyline”. If anything, cricketing innocence died in that test series of 1932/33, not on the pitch in November 2014...

Yes, it's tragic when a young life, and one with such potential, is terminated way too early. Please do not get me wrong on this matter. I just question why there is/was so much media attention placed upon it. Young people die every day on this planet, probably quite a few in more tragic circumstances, and a lot of them will barely rate a mention (if at all) in a newspaper, blog or a post on FB/twitter. Phil Hughes was fatally injured on live TV, with possibly thousands of people watching, and his demise has been felt by a nation that takes a lot of pride in it's sporting heroes.

Hmm, I think I have just answered my own question. It makes sense, but I don't agree with it. I'm going to leave it at that.

So, whilst all this was happening, last week, what did I get up? Last Monday (24/11) I took a chance with the weather and decided to go for a long walk. The walk went for roughly 6 kms, with the starting point in Kincumber and the finish in Davistown. It was an enjoyable walk, and I took around 460 shots, though ended up having to delete 80 of them for one reason or another. It was a warm day, and yes, I did take pre-cautions, wearing a long sleeved top, a hat and putting on sunscreen as well. I also drank plenty of water. I hadn't done the full walk before, generally stopping at some point along the way as the walking trail meandered around the Kincumber Broadwater before turning back. This time, I continued until I reached the Illoura Reserve at Davistown, where I stayed for forty minutes or so before catching a bus back to Erina Fair for a late lunch and some grocery shopping.

Kincumber Broadwater, along with one of the memorials I photographed for the Monument Australia website, a dedication to local Central Coast shipbuilders.

It was worth it. The walk wasn't that demanding (very flat for the entire journey) but I sweated all the same, and I didn't over exert my ankles and calves. Along the way, I managed to capture a few shots of some memorials for the Monument Australia website (Kincumber and Davistown, and the previous Monday, 17/11, I added one for Ettalong as well) and get some good ones of the area as well as some wildlife. The highlight being a series of shots I took of a family of wood swallows that had taken up residence in a mooring post in the channel.

Unfortunately, couldn't get all four of them together.
I also came to the conclusion that I really need to get a new camera, as I missed some good shots of a pair of juvenile butcher birds in a bush regeneration area, as well as not being able to capture a juvenile brush turkey that I spotted along the way, and missing some landscape shots as well. I've looked into this, finding one that I feel will suit my needs, and it isn't going to cost me an absolute fortune either. Shopping around pays off. Even with a discount for being a Mariners' member, one company's website couldn't match a discount site that was offering it for $200 less.

Even though I've only had my current camera for roughly two years, I've gotten over 45,000 shots with it. Probably the best $120 I've spent in a long time.

Whilst I'm on the subject, I took in some entries for the Gosford Small Art Prize on Nov 22. The theme for this exhibition/contest is “The Spirit of the Central Coast”, and I feel I entered the right three pictures. One was of the Mariners' Brass Band, and two were shots of recognisable spots, Avoca Beach and Nora Head. The pictures themselves couldn't be that big, with the entire project, including frame, being a maximum of 20 cm x 20 cm. The exhibition starts this week and runs for three weeks.

I've also done some work on Feudball 2. It had been two months since I last sat down to do any sort of work on it, and I was able to tidy up some chapters and advance the current one (19) a few more pages. The first eighteen have been completed, chapters 30 and 31 have as well as the epilogue, whilst 27 – 29 and 33 have got material written for it. Word count? 118,235. In comparison, the second draft of Feudball 1 had 174,507. I really do need to get back to it, but I had another idea for a game which took up the best part of a week whilst I worked on it until I ran out of steam. (Needless to say, this has happened a lot over the years, but I felt it was such a good idea that I really should put as much down on paper before I forgot all about it.)

Well, I feel I've probably said all that I wanted to say in this post. Thursday will be my Mental Health Support Group's annual Xmas get-together. I hope it'll be a lot cooler on the day than it is today. Ciao!

All images by Geoff G Turner (c) 2014.

All links correct as of time of post - 2 Dec 2014. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Queensland excursion

To think, this time last week I was in bed asleep, recovering some lost snooze time after having completed a marathon train/bus trip from Brisbane. I can, without hesitation, say that if you pay for the cheap seats, don't expect quality. The seats were hard, and it was bloody hard to get comfy and doze off (though due to the nature of the seats parts of my body managed to do so, which, mindful of past experiences, prompted me to re-position myself on a few occasions). I had even brought a pillow, ear plugs and some Valerian pills to help me nod off, but sleep was hard to come by on the trip up, and even harder on the trip back. In comparison, the bus seats were comfier, and I actually fell asleep without too much effort, but only for an hour or so. There were varying reasons to keep me awake. On the way up, some inconsiderate sod across the aisle, who kept on talking, drinking then snoring into the wee hours of the night. On the way back, having just managed to doze off, another inconsiderate sod who decided to sit on the arm rest, where my hand was, during the wee small hours of the morning, then make himself comfortable for an hour or so at my expense. It wasn't even his seat. An hour after that I gave up trying to get back to sleep, and listened to my MP3 player whilst looking at the shadows outside pass by in the night. (When the train reached Wyong, around the time dawn was breaking, I was quite relieved and got myself ready to get off at Gosford.) Of course, every time the train stopped, every time somebody got aboard (especially an entire family on the trip up, who proceeded to talk amongst themselves at 1am in the morning), every time a crew member walked down the aisle, I was awake, despite the earplugs and the Valerian. If I got any sleep whatsoever, I don't remember it. (What I do remember was crashing on a bed for four hours after I arrived at my uncle's place, and an hour or so after I got back home to Gosford.)

For the trip to Queensland and back, I paid a grand total of $48.49 in fares, and that's including the bus trip to and from Gosford station, and $24.79 of it was for the XPT service to and from Brisbane, though the return journey was broken up into two parts – bus from Brisbane to Casino, then XPT from Casino to Gosford. The pensioner travel vouchers came in very handy indeed, saving me just over $100. Very conveniently, the day that I commenced my travel back, public transport fares in Qld were reduced in price, something I hadn't experienced living in NSW. (There's more, but I'll go into that later.)

But then, I don't/won't fly mainly for reasons psychological, that and there's also an opportunity to see some of this great big island of mine. Sure, a plane's quicker you'd say, but I'd rather see things from the ground, seeing it's rare that I actually get the nerve to venture out from my comfort zone of my suburb and my little monk's cell. Some of it I had seen before, on trips north to see people in Taree and Port Macquarie, but a lot of it I hadn't. The break in the trip on the way back allowed me to have a short stroll in the NSW town of Casino and take a couple of snapshots. (There's no casino in Casino I should add, but in the 300 metre walk from the train station to the nearest fast food joint, I passed five churches and four assisted living facilities for the elderly. The immediate impression that I got of the place was that it was planned.) It was a pity most of the trips were made at night-time, but that was the only way it could've been done, for the sake of connections. I must admit, the countryside between Gloucester and Wingham was beautiful to observe, so green and lush. I recall making a list in my diary of all the bird-life I could see from the carriage – including low-flying birds of prey. Unfortunate that I couldn't take pictures (or video) because of the reflections from the glass, the fading light and, of course, the movement of the train. The bus ride at 7am in the morning from Rosewood station (the end of the electric line from Brisbane) to Gatton was also quite good because it went through a number of smaller townships and a university campus before depositing me at the station. Same again – couldn't take pictures because of the reflections.

Gatton from the train station.

But I took pictures whilst I was there. In and around Gatton, at my uncle's place at Lake Clarendon, and in Brisbane whilst I had time to kill (and there was a bit in-between trains and buses). On my stroll around the Qld capital, and site of the upcoming G20 summit, I discovered quite a few things, the highlight being the botanical gardens which had a lot of fauna in amongst the flora, and not just birds. There were quite a few water dragons, and in one of the ponds, I spotted a turtle. That was another thing – Brisbane was actually quite green. Plenty of trees, little parks here and there, definitely more pleasant to be in than Sydney. Some areas had been targeted by “Yarn Bombers”, or as I like to refer to them as, “Commando Knitters”, which was quite nice, and there were outdoor sculptures as well at various spots. But the police presence, both on the ground and in the air, was noticeable. Uniformed officers walked around in groups of three or four. 

A little color didn't hurt this old cannon.
Photography aside, was it worth it? Yes. 28 hours (give or take an hour) on trains and buses to get there and back, to put up with all the inconveniences , was well and truly worth it. I was able to keep my anxiety demons at bay for most of the trip (but nearly lost control thanks to a random charity worker in down-town Brisbane on the Monday morning when I was heading back) and for the most part had a good time. After all, it's not very often someone in my family turns 90, and not very often I'd get a chance to actually get there for the festivities. It's also not very often that I get to see relatives on my mother's side of the family, and there were many there that I had not met before. One even lives just up the road at Doyalson, not far from my sister. A cousin (or was she an aunt – I can't remember), widowed, with two grown-up daughters, one of which owns and runs racehorses and the other in the west of Sydney. There were two female cousins that I hadn't seen in at least ten years. One I didn't recognise initially until people started calling her by name.

So, comparisons between Brisbane and Sydney public transport? Arriving at Roma Street early in the AM on Friday Oct 31, I couldn't get over how clean the place was. Not hospital grade clean, but far cleaner than your average City Rail station. Travelling along the rail line showed that it wasn't just the only station that was kept tidy. Some had murals on their walls, others some greenery. Stations and trains hadn't been hit too bad with graffiti, though the windows on the carriages were scratched to pieces with carvings. Staff were pleasant. The train driver on one service (Ipswich to Rosewood) gave a commentary on what the locations were noted for.

The trains were single layered, unlike the double-decker ones I'm used to. You couldn't eat or drink on them (fines applied – but like people who have a drink tucked inside a brown paper bag on City Rail services it didn't seem to worry them) but they did have quiet carriages (again, some people, especially on the 5am service going to Rosewood, just didn't respect them) and some even had Wi-Fi. A shame that I didn't get a carriage that was prepared in such a fashion.

The biggest thing though – trains ran on time. I'm not used to that at all! Every day one takes a City Rail train they expect to be delayed for one reason or another. If the train is meant to turn up at 5am, it's there. No delays. If you miss it, tough. It made connections far easier, as the buses I caught were on time as well. No excursion ticket for pensioners (well, if there is one, I wasn't aware of it) and the ticket machines weren't that hard to use – touch screens instead of push buttons. (But then, ticketing machines ain't that hard to use in the first place. People just make it out that way.)

Would I go back? Sure. There was a lot of Brisbane I didn't see. Had I turned right instead of left at the exit of the Roma Street transit hub (and there was a food court of sorts upstairs – very convenient that) I would've walked straight down to Suncorp Stadium. I honestly didn't realise it was that close to the CBD until I was on the train coming in. I didn't even get across the river to have a look at South Bank, where the World Expo was in 1988, the last time that I had actually set foot in the city. Come to think of it, the last time that I actually set foot in the state.

There was one thing though I didn't get used to. No daylight savings. I felt for the entire time that I was there my body clock was out of synch. Thankfully the mobile phone updated automatically. I didn't bother changing the time on the laptop.

So, I got back early in the AM on Tuesday Nov 4, and after broadcasting to the world on FB that I was safe and sound back home (and catching up with the news and other things), I promptly fell asleep. When I woke around lunch time, I started to watch all the stuff I had recorded off the TV whilst I was away. Promptly fell asleep again during Alarm for Cobra 11, but was woken back up by the mobile phone. I had forgotten that I had tried to call one of my mates over the weekend. I even managed to get him to come up for the Mariners match on Sunday against Perth, which was quite hard to watch because the home side was not playing too well. In fact, we were quite happy to get out of the stadium once the match was over. Not very often you hear the home side booed off the field here. (A 0-1 defeat, the only goal coming from a superbly taken free-kick. As usual, the home side didn't take their opportunities and were lucky that they weren't beaten by a greater margin.) I didn't even bother about the Melbourne Cup, fell asleep again, then got woken up by another call. The dental clinic at Ourimbah. Can I come in tomorrow at 11.30am? Sure. (I had missed the previous appointment a couple of weeks prior because I dawdled getting out of the house, then realised that I had left the mobile phone behind. It's something that I really hate doing. If I make an appointment like that I feel very inclined to keep them. The fact that I didn't keep the last one made me quite angry with myself and very frustrated.)

So, impromptu dental appointment. Teeth get a thorough cleaning – 90 minutes worth. Then I hopped back on the train, and headed up to Tuggerah to see the guys at the comic book store. They were in a bad mood. They had major problems with a regular who was utilising the workshop area out back to store vending machines. Despite assurances that it was a temporary thing, more started turning up, to the point where one could hardly even move in the workshop let alone work in it, as I found out. (Practically all of them did go on Sunday though, which made the boys quite happy.)

Thursday, Mental Health Support Group meeting. Wasn't a bad one, though I did over indulge on the mini chocolate muffins and the mud cake during the afternoon tea break, which made me feel quilt guilty, seeing I'm trying to cut down on sugar not increase the intake. (The previous weekend didn't help, as I over indulged on sweets, soft drinks and alcohol. But that's another story altogether, seeing it went on late into the night and a lot of things were talked about.) Decided that I'd do my shopping after it, which was a good idea seeing my fridge and cupboard was bare.

Friday, pay day. Everything done online early, including a chat with my American Skype friend. I decided it was a good day to do the laundry, go have lunch, and get some pictures printed up. I also bought DVDs. I shouldn't of, but series two of Vikings and Ripper Street were out and I couldn't resist. I've finished the latter, and up to the last disk of the former.

Saturday turned out to be a day of rest. I sorted pictures in-between sessions of Civ 5. (In fact, I was writing this whilst finishing the game off. I didn't win, as my research had suffered whilst I was at war for the better part of three hundred years.) Most of Sunday was too, until it was time to go to the football. Monday, well, a lunch-time excursion up to The Entrance, but the weather wasn't that good to take too many pictures. Come to think of it, the weather hasn't gotten any better today, nor was it any better last Sunday. It rained some time this afternoon, probably whilst I napped, and it feels more like winter than spring currently. Of course, the poor weather plays havoc with the digital TV reception so I can't listen to the news.

A grey old day at The Entrance.

I came back home to discover (eventually) that the units had indeed sold. I don't know what the owners got for them, but I'm pretty certain it wasn't what they were originally asking for them. (What they were asking for them could've gotten someone a rather nice place further up the coast with four bedrooms and a swimming pool.)

As for the troublesome neighbour in number two, well, he's still here, but he's a lot quieter now. In the week before I went away there was some serious drama, which resulted in the real estate coming around. He had informed everybody that he was going to have a party, with a tent, a pig on a spit, and at least forty people turning up. (Those that know where I live, will no doubt know it's kinda hard to fit ten people anywhere here let alone forty.)

That wasn't the worst of it. A couple of days prior to the scheduled party on Oct 25, he had a few “guests” over. I use the term “guests” lightly, as they sounded and looked like people he had just met at the pub. Two of them, a pair of teenage girls, turned out to be the main source of trouble as it later conspired they were indeed runaways, and they were being looked for by the police. I doubt that they were even sixteen. They made themselves right at home, to the point of coming back the next day, letting themselves into the house (how one can only guess), having a shower and doing their laundry as well. The gent was a little surprised to find them inside the unit when he got home, presumedly from work. (He works for one of the disabled factories around here.) Later that night he informs me, whilst I was enjoying a PC game in my bedroom, that he had been to the police and to call them if they turn back up. I believe it was the police who did turn back up around 10.30pm that night. (That irritated me. My bedroom, it's after 9pm, and he stops by the open window to talk to me like he's a mate? Sheesh.)

So, the day before the scheduled party, the real estate turn up, wanting an explanation, seeing they can't track him down because his phone's been disconnected. (I wonder why? He muses.) So I tell them everything, right up to his little Sunday morning personal conversations on the phone where everybody in that half of the street could've heard him. Needless to say, the party was cancelled. The real estate called his case managers, and that was the end of that.

Since then, no problems. He seems quite docile now, almost pleasant.

Anyway, next thing on the agenda is to pick some pictures for another art competition. Entries are due on Nov 23rd. It's a local competition, with a summer theme, which will be displayed on shop windows throughout Gosford and at a gallery in North Gosford. Can submit up to three entries, but the size of the piece is limited to 20cm by 20cm. There's another one as well, which closes in March next year, which is purely about bird photography, which I really have to enter as well.

Speaking of competitions, no such luck with any of my photographic entries in the competitions. I was actually quite disappointed that my crab shot didn't sell. I guess that people don't like them as much as they like birds and forest scenes. However, a poem that I entered in one competition did get a commendation, and a cheque arrived in the mail. It was enough to cover the XPT train fare to Brisbane and back.

Anything else? No, I think this entry has gone on for long enough. I could offer a paragraph on Australia's woeful test series against Pakistan in the UAE, or the Wanderers historic victory in the Asian club competition, or even how an anti-halal campaign on social media is affecting dairy producers in Australia, but dinner is cooking, and I would really like to post this and watch the rest of Vikings series two. My eyes are also telling me that I have been looking at this screen for way too long today and I really need to turn it off and look at something else.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Much ado about something

Well, what can I say? It's a miserable day outside. In fact, it's been a miserable week. I've hardly left the house over the last three days. The rain started coming down Monday night, continued on and off yesterday and whilst I can currently see a patch of blue sky outside, it's been mostly grey, with a few damp spells. Hardly enticing me to do anything except park my backside on the comfy chair, put on some music (Jethro Tull seems to be good for a day like today) and rattle off another blog entry in an effort to at least do something constructive today.

Tomorrow, well, different story. I have a ticket to see Bill Bailey at the Opera House, as part of the Just for Laughs festival. I bought it way back in July and have been looking forward to it for a couple of reasons – a) Because it's Bill Bailey, and b) I haven't ever been to a show at the Opera House. I have been to the Opera House before, but that was possibly thirty years ago. I don't recall much of the visit – a vague recollection of a display in the foyer, but that's about it.

I might also have a date as well, but that's a different story altogether. I don't think I'll go on too much about that until (if) it actually happens.

No plans for Friday, which may mean a trip up the road to the comic book shop, and take the laptop with me in an effort to do something else constructive. I dawdled on Monday and Tuesday to type up my Blood Bowl blog, interrupting the process with meal breaks, X-Files, and X-Com: Enemy Within, a game which has easily hooked me. (Big fan of the earlier games, and eventually got around to downloading Enemy Unknown and Enemy Within earlier this year. Have already completed it, and the X-Files just inspired me to up the difficulty level and play again.)

Saturday, well, Mariners are playing Wellington at home, so no guesses where I'll be. I caught their first match of the season last week, a tough encounter with Newcastle, which resulted in a 1-0 victory, with the winning goal scored in injury time by Mitchell Duke. The more impressive win came last night, when they thrashed their FFA Cup opponents the Palm Beach Sharks 5-0, four of those goals coming in the last twenty minutes of the game, and all four of them being scored by substitute Matt Sim, who come off the bench after 71 minutes, and scored with his first touch of the ball. Of the goals, the last of them was probably the best, where he had to get past two defenders, then put it past the goalkeeper to finish off the game. Not having Pay TV, I was able to listen to the match on radio, thanks to the local community radio station.

And I upgraded my membership from Blue to Gold, and now have a seat about three metres away from the player's entrance, just to the left of halfway. A great spot to view the match. The only problems being the a) lateness of getting my membership, and b) not getting all of the contents of my membership pack. I was annoyed (and by overhearing people in the queues and in the stands, I wasn't the only one), by the fact that the membership only turned up on the Friday before the first match last Saturday. (The envelope the ticket arrived in, along with the two free passes, was also ripped, and it's a wonder I got my membership at all.) However, hundreds of people didn't get their passes at all, and had to queue at two locations to have tickets issued to them, and get their seat allocations. 

My new vantage point at Central Coast Stadium.

Worst still was trying to get the rest of the membership pack. I walked in when gates opened at 4pm to find the queue for the missing parts (and the extras people ordered) almost snaking back to the front gate. So I decided to go to my seat instead, and grab a cider along the way. I went back at half-time, but again the queue was lengthy, and gave up, hoping that I can pick it up next match.

The criticism I overheard in the stands was agreeable to me. I think I ordered my membership way back in June, three, possibly four months before the season kicks off. They've had all this time to fix up the memberships and get them out, yet left them right up until the week of the first match, and sent them out with parts missing (namely the season fixture card). Not very professional, is it?

Continuing with soccer, my team had a bowls day on the same day as the Mariners' opening match. I decided to do both, getting up around 7am, getting on the 8.11am train to Sydney, then changing at Strathfield like I have done so many times before to get picked up at Westmead. It was a warm day, and the cider went down nicely with the BBQ lunch at Rosehill Bowls Club. The bowls, well, my efforts were erratic, but it was good fun, and a nice way to end the season. At 2pm, I got a lift back to Westmead, got back to Strathfield just in time to grab the next train back to the coast, and walked to Central Coast Stadium with fifteen minutes to spare.

We discovered on the day that bowls was harder than it looks.
 That, and there was a lot of drinking involved.

Sunday I went for a stroll down to the art gallery to a) see my entry and b) watch a couple of documentaries which were being shown as part of the Art Works! Exhibition. The first of the pair was The Anonymous People, which was about the 23.5 million Americans in long-term recovery from alcohol, drugs and other addictions. The second was Beyond the Medical Model, which highlighted how much the medical model had been written into law, exploring it through a number of individual's personal recovery stories. The mini film festival, I should add, also raised funds for my local MH support group, through a gold coin collection at the door.

As for my entry, last time I checked it was hanging proudly on the wall, entry number 112 out of 140. I went and viewed it on the opening day of the exhibition (along with all the other entries), and checked out the entrants in the Gosford Art Prize as well. Needless to say, I didn't win a prize, but fingers crossed that my entry sells before the exhibition ends this Sunday (Oct 19).

 There's my entry! Doesn't it look nice! :)

Then there was the Blood Bowl tournament I went to over the long weekend. But I don't need to go about that, seeing there are two detailed blog entries about it on my RPG and BB blog. In short, I finished fourth, and could've won the event in the last round, but was beaten by the winner.

Finally, I have a new neighbour. He moved in a couple of weeks ago, and, well, it didn't take long to find out that he has a mental disability (five minutes I think). My only problem with him, which I think is the same problem the gent in number four has with him, is that he seems to spend a hell of a lot of time on the phone. You may think that's nobody else's business but his, but when he's standing out the front of his unit, talking for hours at a time, and non-stop, for everybody else in the block (and anybody who just happened to be walking by) to hear, well, then it does become our business, especially when on Sunday morning it became bloody obvious that he was calling up an adult chat line. (I heard the recorded menu message.) We don't need to hear the sordid details, and what he says to try and impress the ladies, telling one of them that he owned a nightclub in Gosford and has millions in the bank. (Not bad for a gent who has the mental capacity of a someone half his age, whose parents moved him in, and who still gets visits from whom I assume are his case managers.) It was funny to listen to, but rather pathetic at the same time. He was standing so close to my open front door I not only heard him, but the lass at the other end replying as well. He was prepared to buy her an air ticket, pick her up at the airport, and take her out for dinner, etc. I'm thinking if the girl on the other end could just see what he looks like and where he lives... He even gave out his mobile number, and the exact length of his appendage! At that point, I think I had heard enough, and slammed the door, hoping that he would take the hint and take his phone somewhere else, preferably to the rear of his unit so I couldn't hear him. He didn't. (My American Skype buddy later joked that he needs to get a computer so that he could do it all online.) To drown him out, I turned on the radio and had lunch, before wandering down to the mini film festival.

Oh, and the units haven't sold. The deal fell through, and the owners have been rather unimpressed with the gent that was tasked to sell the property, so they sacked him. Turns out the owners had found a buyer, but the agent harassed him just a bit too much, which resulted in the dismissal.

Which makes me wonder if they're ever going to sell these units. Whatever the case, I'll be here for a while longer it seems. Ciao!