Thursday, December 5, 2019

Pecha Kucha Night - 51° 05' 23" N 115° 21' 46"

Storytelling is an artform I've always wished I was better at. 

We have just returned from Pecha Kucha Night at Artspace and I have been dazzled by the stories I've just heard.  Pecha Kucha is a form of storytelling where you have twenty photos (or slides) that you use as visual aids.  Each slide is presented for twenty seconds, one after the other, and you have to speak to the group as they appear.  You can't pause the forward march of the pictures, nor can you jump ahead to the next one if you can't speak to one for the full twenty seconds.  At a Pecha Kucha event, there are usually six to eight presenters and they have all been given a theme to present on.

Tonight's theme was "What If ...".  One of the tales was from a woman in her mid-twenties who had been abruptly dumped out of a relationship in which her partner had convinced her to move to Canmore with him, even though she knew no one in the town or what she was going to do for employment.  When the relationship ended, she decided that she was still going to move there.  What If she hadn't?  

Another presentation was entitled, "What If Olive Could Talk?" and was given by a burly, gruff-looking bearded man.  Olive was his dog, whom he credits with rescueing him from depression and the talk documents how Olive watched him struggle with mental illness and eventually helped him bring it under control ... to the point where the two of them are now happy members of the Canmore community.

Another tale was of a woman who lost a child to kidney disease and found she could help others (and herself) in the grieving process by using her skills as a photographer to document the time spent in pallative care by capturing images of the family while there.  These were all very personal stories and quite touching.

I hope someday to have the skills (and the courage) to present at one of these events myself. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Quarry Lake - 51° 04' 49" N 115° 22' 30" W

Well that was chilly!  What a great cure for jetlag - run 5km in -12°C!

Jumping straight back into it with a Monday night Run Club run.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Out West - Drought and blowies - 32° 24' 17"S 148° 25' 38" E

Winter in these parts is the season when the rain falls and the crops grow.  Spring is when the crops are harvested, hay is cut and the livestock is chubby.  Except when the region is in drought. And this is what drought looks like...
Topsoil blowing in the wind turning the clouds pink

This drought in NSW started in 2017. This year is the third growing season in drought conditions.  This does not just affect the farmers but also the business owners in the towns, the price of grains and meat in the supermarkets and even Australia's trade balance.

This crop should be long and green and almost ready to harvest

Australia is no stranger to drought, it is dealt with in our folklore and our most famous poem (My Country by Dorothea Mackellar - see bottom of post) but it is always devastating to witness.

Pasture?  How can a sheep get fat on that?

The other joy of being in the drought-affected West are the blowies.  Don't fall over in horror - the blowie in Australia is the blowfly.  Australia has over 10,000 species of flies and they just love to socialize with humans. A favourite gathering place is on your back but they also love those moist patches in the corner of your eyes, your nostrils, the side of you mouth... In short, they can drive you insane.

Dry and waterless


Enter one of CSIRO's greatest inventions - Aerogard. Aerogard was initially developed to prevent fly blow in sheep.  With the advent of WWII, it was used to protect allied troops from mosquitos.  When The Queen visited Australia in 1963 and we used it on her to allow a blowie-free round of golf.  Following this, it went into commercial production and Aussies continue to "avagoodweekend and don't forget the Aerogard"! We were both very grateful to the CSIRO for creating the potion and to Craig for having the wisdom to carry it in his car! 

My Country by Dorothea Mackellar 

The love of field and coppice
Of green and shaded lanes,
Of ordered woods and gardens
Is running in your veins.
Strong love of grey-blue distance,
Brown streams and soft, dim skies
I know, but cannot share it,
My love is otherwise.

I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror
The wide brown land for me!

The stark white ring-barked forests,
All tragic to the moon,
The sapphire-misted mountains,
The hot gold hush of noon,
Green tangle of the brushes
Where lithe lianas coil,
And orchids deck the tree-tops,
And ferns the warm dark soil.

Core of my heart, my country!
Her pitiless blue sky,
When, sick at heart, around us
We see the cattle die
But then the grey clouds gather,
And we can bless again
The drumming of an army,
The steady soaking rain.

Core of my heart, my country!
Land of the rainbow gold,
For flood and fire and famine
She pays us back threefold.
Over the thirsty paddocks,
Watch, after many days,
The filmy veil of greenness
That thickens as we gaze …

An opal-hearted country,
A wilful, lavish land
All you who have not loved her,
You will not understand
though Earth holds many splendours,
Wherever I may die,
I know to what brown country
My homing thoughts will fly.

How is that for some imagery?

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Parkes - 33° 08' 27" S 148° 10' 17" E

Since watching the movie 'The Dish", Sean has wanted to visit so with some time on our hands and the use of Craig's fully tricked-out Hilux, we headed west almost 400km to Parkes.

The Dish is more correctly known as CSIRO's (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) Parkes radio telescope. It is a 64m diameter parabolic dish used for radio astronomy. Basically it detects radio waves from objects in space and with some rather clever processing, turns these into images of the objects.

CSIRO"S Parkes radio telescope
At times, it is also contracted to NASA and ESA to receive signals from their space craft - Mariner II, IV, Apollo 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 17, Voyager II, Galileo, Giotto, Huygens...  It was the 1969 Apollo 11 mission with Parkes the prime receiving station, that is the subject of the movie. Although it did deviate from reality just a wee little bit.

It moved to its 'stowed' position when we were there as the winds
 were forecast to exceed its maximum operating winds speed
 of 35km/hr.  Watching it move was very cool!
Parkes is a working telescope, actually it is one of the world's leading radio telescopes, and tours started to interfere with the research.  Therefore tourists are no longer able to tour the actual dish but are compensated with an excellent visitors centre. This includes the sets from the movie which are deemed extraordinarily accurate.

The Dish has been significantly upgraded since it was built in 1961.  The basic structure had remained unchanged but it is now 10,000 times more sensitive than when it built.

Even the strongest signal from the cosmos can be very faint.
Mobile phones and even the microwave in the lunchroom can
cause nuisance when used during observations!

And a bit about the CSIRO - Australia's national science research agency.  Their website state we solve the greatest challenges using innovative science and technology. At the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), we shape the future.  We do this by using science to solve real issues to unlock a better future for our community, our economy, our planet. 

A few of the cool things the CSIRO have invented are:
  • WiFi
  • Plastic bank notes
  • Extended wear contact lenses
  • Aerogard

The gardens contain a variety of fabulous interpretive displays
and a direct descendant of Isaac Newton's famous apple tree!

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Southport - 27° 58' 25" S 153° 25' 36" E

Eulogy to a Yellow Dinghy

After 10,000 nautical miles together and many grand adventures, we bid farewell to The Yellow Dinghy.  Her time had come.  Her slow leaks that required re-inflating each day had developed into terminal perforations, requiring a re-inflate every hour.  We took her to the dinghy repair place and the prognosis was not good.  Her glue is failing, her seams are no longer airtight; she is simply too unsafe.

Oh faithful yellow rubber run-about, you took us to the shore through calm and storm.  Onshore, left unattended, you entertained gaggles of squealing children of many nationalities ... some who had never seen a boat made of anything but wood.

Hours of fun for Indonesian Children!

You helped us cart hundreds of litres of diesel and diesel-like fluid (measured in Indo-litres) back to Popeye to help us carry on through the tropics.  You bounced along happily behind Popeye across the tropics and the equator (!!!), waiting to serve.  You faithfully held OnePull, our beloved outboard, and allowed him to push you through the tropical brine (and occasionally rasp you over rock, sand and coral).  You far exceeded the duties you were designed for ... the whole time being super, SUPER photogenic.  It was only near the end of your long life that your flaccidness failed to impress.  Still, you held a precious place in our hearts.

Farewell Yellow Dinghy, thanks for all the great service and fun times.

 Belitung - South Sumatra, Indonesia
Phang Nga Bay - Thailand
A grocery run - Ao Chalong - Phuket, Thailand
Her last trip - The dinghy dock, Southport, Australia

Ko Lanta - Thailand
Hole in The Wall - Langkawi, Malaysia
Ao Nang - Krabi, Thailand
Offloading cruising gear - Ao Kata -Phuket, Thailand
Ko Similan, Thailand
Hiding in the shadows in Bawean, Indonesia
How about hauling 220 litres of diesel?
Lembata, Indonesia
Cid Harbour - The Whitsunday Islands, Australia
 Seagull perch - Stonehaven - The Whitsunday Islands, Australia

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Tongue Bay – 20° 14’ 19” S 149° 00’ 55” E

This is not The Whitsundays at their sparkling best!  As predicted, the wind has swung around to the southeast and in true trade wind style, is blowing 20+ knots.  The wind has brought with it smoke from the bush fires further south and we are blanketed in a pinky-hued smog.

We are so pleased to be snug on a mooring and not bashing into it!  We are having a recovery day - stowing the race gear to turn Popeye back into a cruising boat, cleaning, cooking and reading while the wind whistles and the boat bounces on the mooring.  We are chasing down all the noises, squeaks and rattles that disturb the ambiance by tightening halyards, lashing lines and liberally spraying WD40.

And…  Sean has mastered the art of sourdough á la Popeye!

Friday, September 6, 2019

The Coral Sea – somewhere off Cape Bowling Green – 19° 16.974’S 147° 24.286’E

Last time we headed south through these waters, we were bashing into 20-30kn Trade Winds that kicked up the seas to a sporty 2.5m.  Popeye fell off waves, her flat bottom slapping and jarring our bodies and souls.  Our progress was a slow 4kn, it was night and our journey seemed endless.

Today we are skipping along on a flat, sparkling, turquoise sea under a cloudless blue sky.  We have 1-2 knots of wind gusting to a mighty 4 knots.  There are whales spouting and breaching in the distance and flying fish skimming across the water.   Other than having to motor, it is idyllic.

Oh may the winds always be fair – and in the right direction!

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Magnetic Island – 19° 09’ 45” S 146° 50” 43” E

Off the coast of Townsville in Far North Queensland, Magnetic Island is so called because of a magnetic anomaly in his compass as Captain Cook sailed by.  It has quaintness, charm and retains that backpacker feel that is lacking in some of the more southerly islands where tourism is sleek and shiny.

The island is a rugged continental island of weathered granite.  Wildlife is abundant with wallabies, koalas, kookaburras, curlew and all our favourite colourful parrots.  Hoop pine and xxx grown up between the rocks.  The beaches are yellow sand and the water sparkling turquoise. During WWII, Magnetic was fortified and was home to several gun displacements. The remains of these can be hiked to and clambered around. 

We rented a house that was an oasis.  A swimming pool tucked away in a gorgeous tropical setting.  Big sliding doors, open decks and even an open bathroom looking over rainforest and the pool.

Great sailing in glorious conditions (and look at all those kites in our wake!!)

Race Week is a big deal on the island with 75 yachts competing, many having come from as far away as Melbourne. Despite the light winds, it is a beautiful place to sail.  Popeye, with all her 13 tonnes of French furniture, came second in our division and picked up four of five line honour guns.  The usual regatta parties went on each night and a picnic on the beach on lay day. 

Great racing but much more laid back than Hamo.  We will be back!

Fun racing

The oasis we rented

Controlled burn on the ridge above the yachtclub

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Mt. Assiniboine - 50° 54' 27" N 115° 37' 08" W

Kate and I have a reputation as social aggregators and after this week, it would be harder to deny.

The Australian relatives have arrived - Gabby and Graham for another, longer summer visit and sister Wendy and her husband, Graeme, who have come for their first summer experience in Canada.  Part of the premium tour package of the Canadian Rockies that we include is a favourite hideaway called the Naiset Huts at the foot of Mt. Assiniboine.  We've been there before and for those jaded by throngs of summer tourists, it is a perfect panacea.  

Considering that we had a few injured at the start of the three day visit to Naiset Huts, we decided to 'chopper in, rather than hike the 26 kilometres.  The rellies were suitably impressed by both the ride in and the afternoon hike we did after arriving.  The weather cooperated on the first day, presenting a few fluffy clouds to punctuate the blue sky and rugged peaks we were surrounded by.  We lunched atop the Niblet, looking down at Sunburst and Magog Lakes.

Catching the chopper is the easy way to do it
Graeme is going to have to fold himself a bit to fit in the door!
A wood stove for heating - that's it!
First day - Off to tackle The Nublet.
View from Assinaboine Lodge
Western Anemones with Sunburst Peak in the background

Part of the charm of staying at the huts is that the cooking space is shared in a large common log structure.  With us occupying just one of the eight huts, there were many other hiker/travellers to swap stories with.  The first evening, we shared a table with a group of five young hikers that had come from Pennsylvania and were visiting Canada for a week.  They had hiked in that day and planned to leave the same day we were.

Due to an illness in the group, two fo them ended up choppering out with us and then staying at our Canmore abode for three days.

We met these five from Pennsylvania - David, Abigail, her friend Abby,
David's brother Dan and Dan's wife Joanna.

It was wonderful to meet and get to know them. They came to see Canada and ended up hanging out with us. We hope to cross paths with them again.

Evening Sing-a-Long
Full House for the Sing-a-Long