Archive for January, 2012

note to self

Things to do with the kids:

ETA (#1): The Physics Show! Saturday March 10 at 1pm.
Whale watching! Saturday March 17 at 12 noon.
Elephant seals! Sunday March 18 at 2.30pm.
Sundial Bridge in Redding! Annular eclipse, also in Redding! Sunday May 20 at 6.30pm.

ETA (#2):

ETA (#3):

  • Hearst Castle!
  • Yosemite! Yay!

where the heck have i been?

So glad you asked. Impulsively flew to Arizona for a work thing. Stunning resort, right up against Camelback Mountain, with bunny rabbits hopping adorably around the grounds. Flew home. Drove up to Elk Grove, outside Sacramento, for Magpie’s baby shower. Saw Tina and Pat and Noelle and talked about Jen and missed her very much. Where did the year go? (More to the point, where the hell did Jen go? And could we have her back now please?)

I am writing this on a plane over Utah, more or less. New York, here I come. On Tuesday night I will be home, and then I’ll stay still for a little while; at least until the trip to Florida in mid-February…

a thought that occurs while reading the bureau of labor statistics report

When you are young and in possession of a shiny new Arts degree, that single word of advice from the film The Graduate – “Plastics” – seems hilariously inapt. When you have children of your own, it seems in retrospect like reasonably sound advice.

jsgf said: “interesting”

Claire said: “If you take two numbers that are two apart, and multiply them, it’s the same as if you square the number in the middle and subtract one.”

Me: “Really?”

Claire: “Yeah, like nine elevens is 99, which is one less than ten tens.”

Me: “Huh. Four sixes are 24, which is one less than five fives. Five sevens are 35. Six eights are 48. You might be onto something.”

I find paper and scribble:

n(n+2) = (n+1)^2 – 1
n^2 + 2n = n^2 + 2n + 1 – 1

Me: “How about that.”


“Why isn’t this soup spoon design fashionable any more?”

“Don’t ask me. I was raised by wolves.”

“Seems like wolves would have rules about that kind of thing.”

“Oh we weren’t allowed to eat the liver before the alpha. There was a strict hierarchy. We weren’t ANIMALS.”

primarily updatey in nature

We’ve been back in Sydney for a week. I’ve been working and trying to get the kids to do their independent study, all while missing my family sorely. We had a few sunny days but lots of blustery windy ones and now, humidity and rain. Hi, Sydney.

Ugh! None of that. Good points of Sydney include the fantastic playground with the huge water feature in Centennial Park, with a cafe right next door; Nielsen Park, which is one of my favourite places in the world; and Rushcutter’s Bay Park, which also has a yummy cafe and a vast playground, and back from which we have just come.

Yesterday I got up early and flew to Melbourne for the inaugural AdaCamp, which was excellent and lots of fun. It’s a feminist unconference with the goal of promoting the participation of women in open tech and culture. The sessions were lively and the women were clever and funny and insightful. Best of all was getting to spend solid time with Skud.

Skud maintains that I am a larval Melburnian. Her argument is cogent. She’d chosen the venue for the conference, Ceres, which is basically Ecotopia and which pushed all my tech-hippie buttons. I want to go to there! Oh wait! I already did.

I flew back to Sydney twelve hours after I flew down. My Kindle was almost out of battery, so I ransacked the terminal’s sadly atrophied bookstore twice before finding, on the bottom shelf, the last copy of Mark Dapin’s new novel, The Spirit House. WIN. It is funnyangry and brilliant and you should all read it.

Today we scattered Ric’s ashes, and I don’t know what to say about that.

oh and i keep forgetting to tell you that

…it turns out half the things I think of as My Personality – my taste in sandals, the way I pile my hair on top of my head in a messy bun – turn out to be so generically Australian it is not even funny.

even brieflier

I drove from Barraba to Nana Glen and back, an 11-hour round trip with a sleepover with Jeremy’s Aunt Brenda and Uncle Richard. We had a rest day, then I drove to Sydney in 8 hours.

New South Wales is very, very large and also unbelievably beautiful. I am more tired than I can say.


A thunderstorm boiling up from the west. Ozone smell in the air and rain on the cool breeze. Tea and Christmas cake with Mum and Dad on their screened-in back deck.


Tuesday: Horton Falls. It was miles further on dirt road than I thought it would be. I had visions of crashing the car and Jeremy and the girls having to walk out of there with a single bottle of water in 40 degree Celsius heat. In the end, of course, it’s a ten minute stroll down to the creek, and one of the most beautiful places either of my girls have ever seen. No sign of humans whatsoever. A forested ravine with a wild river running through it, fearless enormous skinks, cicada song in the trees. “This is paradise,” said Claire. “I want to live here forever,” said Julia. We made it home alive, by the skin of our teeth. My country family find the whole thing hilarious and wonder aloud whether we were even out of cellphone range. “We would have sent someone to get you,” says my sister. “I think Arnie lives five minutes from there…”

Today was a rest day, meaning I spent the morning homeschooling the kids and catching up on work email, and the afternoon running errands. We did make it to the Clay Pan to see an exhibition of Rupert Richardson’s paintings. He was a childhood friend of Ric’s and you can see the same deep impulses in their work: the love of space and light.

a grand day out

Al left this morning, but I did get to follow him all the way out to Cobbadah, which made me feel a bit less like crying. Mum and Jeremy and I were on our way to Upper Horton and the last day of the big New Year’s campdraft.

I had no idea what the rules are, but a really nice lady named Jen explained that each competitor cuts out a head of cattle from a herd of seven or eight in a small corral called the “camp.” Then they ask for the gate to be opened, and they race the cow (sorry, “beast”) out into the big arena, where they chase it around a figure eight and through a gate marked with road cones. (Not actually cones; it’s the tall cylindrical ones that Google says are called traffic delineators, but Sarah says if I use the word delineator in my blog it makes me a major wanker. Such are the perils of blogging at my sister’s house.)

Campdrafting? Is awesome. The horses are all compact little stock horses, with big butts but built uphill, light in front and high head carriage. When you see them working cows, you see why. They sink back onto their hocks and pirouette left, pirouette right. They keep the beast in that big high eye of theirs. Then when the gate opens, they take off like a rocket after the sprinting cow. The riders sit them like centaurs, riding in plain snaffles, and the horses pull up short when the rider so much as thinks about stopping.

Did I mention that this is awesome? It’s really, really cool to watch. You lean on the fence, while ten feet away the horses lock intensely onto the cows, and the cows spin and run. Mum and Jeremy enjoyed it, and I could have watched it for hours, except that I got hungry. We had sausage sandwiches and cups of tea. We’d watched this one epic run early on, a big guy on a lovely chestnut with a baldy face, and I was beyond thrilled when they packed up during lunch and presented awards, and my favourite chestnut walked away with the grand prize. Then we drove home the back way, which was SPECTACULARLY BEAUTIFUL, like a huge park; like you imagine the grounds of Pemberley.

There was a dead fox on the road which because I am my father’s daughter I felt obliged to move. (He frets when carrion birds are killed on the roadkill carcases they are eating.) Poor little fox; it was quite fresh. Not fresh enough, as we discovered when I got back in the rental car with a boot reeking of decomposing fox. I washed it with water from a bottle, and also stopped at the next river to wade around. These are my favourite Frye boots! I guess at least they’ve been blooded. I offered Mum the brush, but she politely declined.

Got back to Sarah’s to find that the children had had three bowls of Cocoa Bombs and were watching cartoons. It’s the best day ever.

the new year

We didn’t watch the fireworks last night because Claire accidently gave Julia a nosebleed. Instead we washed everyone off and put them to bed. I chatted to Skud while Melbourne set fire to its spire and Jeremy worked on his LED Nyancat project.

Alain and Sarah and Ross joined us at breakfast. We had a long chat about many things, then we left Sarah playing Fluxx with Claire while Jeremy, Alain, Ross, Julia and I walked down to the Manilla River.

Today it looked like this. We took off our shoes and paddled in the cool water. Ross and Alain skipped stones across the water. Two months ago, after huge rains, the river was almost up to the roadway.

The flood exposed a new wall of rock – mixed serpentine and sandstone, I think. I climbed up to inspect it more closely and got a lot of scratches for my pains. Fifteen feet high, laid down over how many millions of years? Why do we have geologists but not geologians, theologians but not theologists? I think something ought to be done.

When I watch Alain with his nephew and nieces it hurts my heart. He’s brilliant with children and they flock to him like settlers. Saying goodbye is always a wrench. It’s that old should-I-have-moved-so-far-away thing. San Francisco is my delight. And this is my home and my family. I’ll never be all in one piece again. Are other people all in one piece? I don’t even know.

We had a long delicious lunch at the Playhouse, and then we swam at Barraba Station, and then we went to Sarah’s to cuddle the kittens and play mah jongg. Alain’s trip is nearly over. He will go back to Brisbane tomorrow, which is impossible. The years knock me over like a wall of water. Time is a river.