Where’s Russell when you need him?

We used to have a dirty big carpet snake living in our roof.  Which apparently is not at all uncommon if you happen to reside in south-eastQueensland-  approximately 50% of homes in this region have snakes in their roofs according to Geoff the SnakeCatcherGuy’s anecdotal evidence.  We only actually laid eyes on him a couple of times when he had come out of the roof and was clinging to the walls of the house, no doubt because he enjoyed sunning himself as much as he enjoyed making the dog go batshit crazy.

snake in the roof

On one of these rare outdoor adventures we saw him hanging about with a huge lump in his belly, about two thirds of the way down his not inconsiderable length.  Having ingested a tasty mystery meal the relatively large food bump was no doubt stopping him from re-entering the house through his secret snake door, where ever that was.  I vaguely recall we were temporarily concerned for a small black puppy we had seen next door around that time… but the puppy reappeared a few days later and all was well with the world.

Azerbaijan Resident Russell

For the most part, we didn’t mind our resident python – we didn’t bother him and he didn’t really bother us.  On the odd occasion that someone was going to enter the roof cavity to do some electrical work, service the AC unit or run some internet cables or something, we would duly warn the potential victim… err… tradesman that there was a 6 -7 foot long python in the roof somewhere but that we rarely saw him, he seemed harmless enough and from what we could tell, he didn’t eat much.  Occasionally someone would come out of the roof with an alarmingly long snakeskin they’d found up there which the Small Child always thought was kinda cool.  It was actually strangely comforting to hear him slithering about up there and we affectionately came to know him as Russell (for obvious reasons).

Well, for reasons unknown, Russell decided to leave Azerbaijan a little while back without even saying goodbye, which personally I feel was very rude after nearly a decade of free room and board!  The downside of Russell moving out is that his comforting slithering in the roof has been replaced with disconcerting scritchings.  Russell our resident tradesman taunter was also Russell our resident rodent catcher.  So Azerbaijan without Russell is now Azerbaijan with mice!  Donc, le chat est sur la chaise, le sange est sur la branche, et la souris est dans la roof!

Ooer! Young, handsome, perceptive AND socially adept?!?

I got stuck standing around outside Latin this afternoon engaged in a conversation that I tried to politely extricate myself from about four times!  Don’t you hate it when that happens?  You’ve got places to be and people to see and find yourself caught in a conversation with someone who just won’t take a hint.  Twice I tried, “Well, I’ve got to get going, I’ll see you next week…” and even that didn’t get me out of the goddamn conversation.

Anyway, there was a young (and I don’t mind saying, rather handsome) man standing nearby who must be more perceptive than your average bear, because he actually came to my rescue and saved me from this tedious conversation!  The young stranger walked up to me and said “I’ve been looking for you everywhere!”  I looked at him, and said “You have?” with slight disbelief and a momentarily confused expression.  He said “Yes, I need your help with the mumble mumble geo-science building blah blah something or other I didn’t quite catch”.  And I said “Oh, ok.”, “See you later, Ms Tedious”, and walked off with the extremely attractive and very welcome interloper!

Once we were out of earshot and I said to him, “Do I know you?” to which he confidently replied “Nope, but you totally looked like you needed out of there!”  I laughed and thanked him for his assistance.  But this impressively confident Brad ‘Test Fighter Pilot’ (ch-ching) type guy didn’t stop just there… he asked me to come out to have a drink with him and gave me ‘the look’!

Curious huh?  Either his mates put him up to it or I must have been having one helluva good hair day today.  Oh and for the record… in a most uncharacteristic fashion for someone of the male persuasion, he was even talking to my face!

student orientation at UQ

He looked like this guy… only much cheekier!

World Cinema – the Titanic sinks… again!

Since I was younger I’ve had a morbid fascination with the Titanic. That and lawn mower blades and Nadia Comăneci… (but, some other time).  The Titanic is one of those things I don’t actually remember learning about it – like Hitler, the Nazis and the Holocaust or Shakespeare and Romeo and Juliet.  Some things we just pick up by osmosis from a very young age and can’t quite pin point where we first learned of then.  You feel like you’ve always known about some stuff.  Same way the Small Child will probably never remember someone sitting him down and telling him about 911… he will grow up always having known something about it, and as he gets older more details will flesh out the story until he ends up with a more complete picture of that particular historical event.  Where as other things you remember quite clearly when you learned of them, like Mr Donovan in Year 4 Social Studies trying to teach us about Matthew Brady, Tasmania’s Gentleman Bushranger (how many years since I thought of that!).  But I digress…

The Titanic was a fascinatingly tragedy, it still is for many.  It always carried strong romantic notions, long before James Cameron got hold of it and turned it into a love story.  The anecdotes of the band playing on until the end, the very British notion of ‘women and children first’ into the life boats and the Captain going down with the ship.  Does anyone even think for a minute that that would ever happen now if one of those ‘If the Boat’s-A-Rockin’, Don’t Come-A-Knockin’ P&O cruise ships went down these days?  What a fucking nightmare that would be… compare Capt. Edward Smith of the Titanic with Capt. Francesco Schettino of the Costa Concordia who ‘tripped into a lifeboat’ before his passengers were safely off the boat last year off Italy.  Anyway, I digress… (again).

I went to see the 100th Anniversary re-release of Titanic in 3D (which I hate because it gives me a headache, but that’s another story) last night because I’m a bit sentimental like that… but not so much sentimental about the movie, or the story of the Titanic.  I wanted to go see it because I had originally seen the film when it was released in 1997 with my friend Scotty from Uni in London at the Odeon in Leicester Square.  We were in London working in photographic studios doing some work experience and generally larking about – going to museums, shopping, drinking and ‘doing’ London for a few months, then a bit of Paris and LA on the way home. For some reason all the hype surrounding the film caused us to want to go and see it… that and Kate Winslet is hot and we’d heard she gets naked.

It’s weird how going to a movie in a different country can be such a vastly different experience… at least until the lights go out, and then for the most part you could be anywhere.  In Munich, I saw Forrest Gump, or at least the long drawn out intro with the feather and the bit where he says (in a decidedly German and non-Gump-like voice) ‘Hallo, ich heiße Forest Gump’ and something about a box of pralines, before we bailed giggling like hyenas because the chick at the box office who assured us the film wasn’t dubbed into German obviously didn’t have a good grip of English after all.  In Amsterdam, I saw a dreadful Bruce Willis film in a cinema where people were smoking, alcohol was available at the candy bar and the movie was stopped in the middle of a spectacularly bad speedboat chase scene so people could go out and get more beers.  In Istanbul, patrons had to go through metal detectors to go to the cinema and this time the intermission was so people could go out for a smoke, but from memory they at least chose a reasonable place to pause the film.

But going to the cinema in London was a different experience again, we were caught off guard that we could buy our movie tickets weeks in advance (a trend that has caught on a bit Down Under now) and that there was allocated seating. But what really was the stand out strangeness moment of going to see Titanic on a 95 foot screen with balcony seats (?) in London, was the strange dude sitting where an orchestra pit would be, playing a really old fashioned organ that someone had tizzied up in the 80s with some neon lights to entertain the crowd until everyone was seated.  How bizarre? We sat there laughing at this dude, in our allocated seats of course, until the curtain finally went up and we were smashed in the face with the usual loud advertising and trailers for forthcoming movies.

Anyway, seeing Titanic on the big screen was fun, even if it was in 3D, and even if it was much longer than I remembered, and even if the chairs were so dreadful that my back pain ramped up something fierce.  Thanks Yale for coming with, I wouldn’t have blamed you if you had bailed half way through!

PS – I wonder if the Odeon still has an organist playing before movie showings…

Poor Wheel Driving.

School holidays are over so it’s back to the daily routine of circumnavigating the burbs to take the Small Child to school.  Over the last five years that he’s been going to school a mere 3kms from home, the drive to school seems to be getting longer and longer.  The traffic seems to be getting worse and worse, and my patience for the situation is getting shorter and shorter as my morning commute takes an average of 40 MINUTES to drive the 6 km round trip.  But worse than the daily morning routine of making sure we have everything we need… and worse than the rude drivers that go speeding past you in the left hand lane only to cut you off and cross three lanes in front of you to turn right… and worse than the sheer banality of morning radio… and worse than the five sets of unsynched traffic lights that I need to traverse on my daily rat run is the plethora of ever so shiny stonkin’ huge 4WDs that all the soccer mom’s insist on driving to the school every morning and afternoon!

That’s right, because they seem to feel that if you’re the biggest thing on the road, then you automatically have right of way in any given situation, making traversing normally quiet suburban streets a nightmare.  So even if you never intend on taking that thing off the bitumen you sure as hell better get yourself one of the biggest legal frickin’ monster trucks that money can buy, else you’re just being down right negligent with your family’s safety. Right?

I am sick of the long line up of 4WDs near the school.  If 90% or more of your driving requirements involves running around town and city driving, then I swear you have no business owning one of these damn things.  They are an absolute menace, especially near a school environment.  Not only has the increased ownership in large 4WD vehicles with their limited visibility seen children being run over in their OWN driveways by their OWN parents overtaking the previously staggering statistics on backyard swimming pool drowning fatalities in Queensland each year –  but if a child is struck, even at low speed, the bonnet of most 4WDs is at your average primary school aged child’s head height… so risk of death and/or serious injury is significantly increased compared to similar impact injuries with smaller vehicles.  Why do we allow people to unnecessarily endanger children by bringing them anywhere near schools?

Furthermore these safety conscious parents insist on parking them in the small side streets surrounding the schools on both sides of narrow roads leaving barely enough space for a compact car to squeeze between them.  And God help you should you come up against one coming in the other direction, because the drivers will just sit there waving their hands around ineffectually, silently indicting their total impotence at manoeuvring their vehicles… ie: their complete inability to reverse their vehicles with anything resembling competence.  No, they won’t even try to move, they will just wait for you in your smaller car to reverse, or pull into a driveway or just get away of their way somehow.  No shit.  Many of these people seriously can’t drive these huge off road vehicles.  They demonstrate laughable lack of skills in manoeuvring their cars, they are completely unable to reverse them, and don’t get me started on how poorly parked they are prepared to leave these suburban monsters creating further hazards!

Get rid of 4WD near schools.

I learned to drive in a Datsun 180B and an old 1975 G60 Nissan Patrol with a three speed gearbox, no handbrake and a top speed of 80kph downhill with the wind behind it (and for the record I’d estimate that vehicle did well over 80% of it’s eventual 300,000 kms out of the city and potentially between 30-40% of those clicks on unsealed roads).  When I think of all the modern technology and safety gear stuffed into late model 4WDs, for the life of me I can’t understand why these people can’t drive them better?  And I’m tired of hearing the excuses and rationalizations for owning them in the city.

No stuff it,  There should be a three block 4WD exclusion zone in every direction around primary schools, and if you still choose to own one of these stupid suburban menaces, then get out of your damn car 150m away and walk your kid into school.  If you can’t park it properly, and you can’t reverse down a regular suburban street and you can’t see little kids behind or near your vehicle then you have no business driving the damn thing at all let alone near primary schools filled with excitable and unpredictable small children!


Instant knowledge, instant gratification and instant action.

EVERYTHING is getting quicker.  Cars, trains, commuting and travel are getting quicker.  Communications, computers, and the internets are getting quicker.  Nearly everything in our increasingly busy days feels like they it’s getting quicker.  We are living in an age of instant knowledge, instant gratification and instant action.

This being the case, why does it seem those new fandangled fluorescent light bulbs we are all being encouraged to switch to didn’t get the memo stating the general public’s expectation of instant action?  For some reason those asinine fluoro light bulbs seem to be on a go slow.  I had one of those Smart house/electricity audits done at my house quite a while ago and they went through the place replacing tungsten light bulbs with fluorescent ones, ostensibly because they last longer and use less power.

incandescent bulbs redundant fluro bulbs slow

But no body mentioned that those fluorescent light bulbs suffer from shutter delay – you know, the lag between the time when you press the button on your digital camera to take a picture and the time the shutter actually activates and takes the damn picture?  How friggin’ annoying has that been for the last ten years or so on point and shoot happy snapper cameras?  Well, for some reason many of my fluorescent light bulbs seem to suffer the same malaise.  You flick the switch and there’s a ‘shutter’ delay before the light comes on.  And when it does come on, it takes its sweet time ‘warming up’ before it actually becomes bright enough to see.   So, if you have the stupid things in your bathroom, it’s just about bright enough to see your hand in front of your face by the time you’re finished peeing!

Now I ask you, if everything around is getting quicker and quicker… why on earth are light bulbs getting slower?   :S