Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Genial, Polite & Sensible (GPS)

I had a road trip down to Sydney last week, in a mad last minute to rush to collect a credit card (but I won't delve into that) and I got to use one of these GPS map display things that more and more cars are turning up with. These things are good.

This model - a Toyota one - comes with a nice, well mannered, lovely accented, female voice that gives directions like "In 800 metres turn right", or "Next intersection go straight" and "You have now reached your destination, would you like to come up for a cup of tea?".

The best thing though about these babies, is the thing never gets mad if you miss a turn. Instead, unlike your travel partner holding a street directory, it will seamlessly reroute itself to get you back on track without missing a beat - without the "What the hell did you do that for? We now have to turn around!".

I am sold .. now for that tea.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

My Toys Are Bigger Than Yours

How many people do you know own a 1950's CAT D8 bulldozer, a Belorussian articulated tractor, two veteran 1910 era Cadillac cars and two 30 metre high wind turbines? For me it adds up to one. My old man.

I have been catching up with him over the last week and catching up with his eccentric buying habits. He is a man of independent financial means and ends up spending it on some big boy toys. Admittedly they mostly have a function .. apart from the Cadillacs which are just big toys .. but the others are either for his farm or a new business venture for wind generated electricity.

The turbines are impressive. I had been told they were big, but it is not until you get up close to one that you grasp that these things are big bits of equipment. Unfortunately they are still in bits, waiting for approval to be erected and working. Still it gives me the opportunity to suss them out up close.

Not a ballistic missile, just a 30 metre wind turbine tower

The car sized bit that sits on top

Dad checking out the guts

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Hello Popular Culture, I Am Back

Back in the world of mass entertainment, and what is the first thing I choose .. King Kong.

Good .. but predictable .. poor Kong, you definately feel sorry for him at the end. Not so much for her though, what was she thinking? And how can you be at the top of the Empire State Building in a flimsy dress in the middle of winter and not shiver once. Tough Aussie bird.

I have also knocked off another thing on the list that I was hanging out for .. heading off to my favourite pub to sample the more than one beer on tap which is on selection

But there was certainly one thing that I didn't miss up north .. the cost. Movies, coke and popcorn = $24. One schooner of beer in Sydney = $5. My savings are going to go in no time at this rate .. and I still need to finish off the dreaded Chrissie shopping. Methinks work will be required in the new year.

Friday, December 16, 2005

For the guys in Lae ...

I am sure a few records were broken over the last month.

Thursday, August 04, 2005


Going through my photo collection and I have rediscovered some nice landscape pics that I have taken while travelling. Here they are to share.

Three gorges and cruise boats. Dusk on the Yangtze river, China.

Enjoying the view from Hitlers mountain retreat. Eagles Nest, Germany.

Dawn calm. A lake in northern Sweden.

Friday, June 24, 2005


I am a bit of a science nerd, well ok I am a bit of a knowledge nerd - I like to, umm, know things. So that is partially why I like getting National Geographic magazine - and for the purty pictures too.

After recently reading Bill Bryson's book, The short history of nearly everything (which is not nearly everything at all as it only looks at the history of science) it got me interested in knowing about the movement of the human race. So I was pleasantly surprised when the last edition of the National Geographic informed me about their Genographic project.

Here you can view an atlas of the movement of humans which they have researched using DNA technology. You can even buy a kit and send in some of your DNA to get processed and they will show where your ancestors moved around and came from.

I don't really need a kit I think, I know my blood is mostly Scottish, although it would be good to find something weird.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Music Meme

For the first time I have been handed a blogosphere baton. It comes from Nicole and I figure I had better make sure I run with it. So here are my answers ...

Total volume of music files on my computer: 3359 songs / 6 days, 1 hour, 14 minutes and 58 seconds / 10.15Gb (the total on my iPod which is a different selection from the laptop is 7915 songs or 23 days, 14 hours, 38 minutes and 18 seconds or 37.2Gb)

Song playing right now: none, I am work. Although I just heard 'Forever Young' on a radio somewhere.

The last CD I bought: 'Sit down and listen to Hooverphonic' by Hooverphonic

Five songs or tunes I listen to a lot, or that mean a lot to me:

This is a hard list to come up with. The ones I listen a lot to change quite often, so I will side with the ones that have some sort of sentimental value.

  1. Lamb - 'Goreki' - The sentimental reasons for this I won't divulge too much about, it does involve a long-term relationship. I have seen these guys twice, once in Kentish Town, London and once at the Metro in Sydney.

  2. Foo Fighters - 'Everlong' - A brilliant song which reminds me of when I was share flatting in Newcastle.

  3. Beth Orton - 'Pass in time' - Just a really beautiful song. Seen Beth twice too, again in London and Sydney.

  4. Radiohead - 'Karma Police' - I think most would agree this is one that means a lot to them, not sure exactly why for me though. Maybe because it was that stage of my life, early twentys and free.

  5. Powderfinger - 'How far have we really come?' - Reminds me of when I marched in the anti-war rallys before the Iraq war.

What music have you been listening to recently that is rocking your world?: See the previous post

I'm passing the baton to: No one. I don't have enough blogosphere friends :(

Monday, June 06, 2005

Tune to Dig

I have been getting into funk trip hop at the moment and stuff that I am 'rediscovering'* on my iPod. So here first up are 3 CD's that I think (and others - judging from reactions to playing them recently) you should wrap your ears around.

Red Snapper - Making Bones. Sweet sounds and lush vocals. "Image of You" is one of the most underated tracks of the 90's - like Massive Attack, love this.

Mr Scruff - Trouser Jazz. Jazz for the new age.

White Rabbit - White Rabbit. Funk, Funk, Funk.

* ahem ... stuff I have got from friends but not taken the time to listen to.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Parking Rage

This story was originally posted on PNG Life but I feel it is better suited to this blog. The chief characters are inner city Sydney, one car park, two cars, a few frayed temperaments and one crazy guy

Back on New Years day, I was in ol' Sydney town, staying at my oldies house in the inner city. This area is pretty yuppified these days and with that comes a problem with on street parking. On crazy days, like New Years day, you get the occasional case of Parking Rage - an offshoot of road rage, part of the same family.

Anyway there were quite a few of us staying at the house, as a whole heap of us were doing the annual pilgrimage to the SCG for the cricket the next day. So parking spots for the casual tenants - let alone the rest of the city - was on the scarce side.

On this particular care-free evening, we were all out the front chatting and on alert for a park. With the lack of parks around we had one of our cars illegally parked across the back gate. Even though it is our gate, we can still get booked by the Brown Bombers, when they're hovering around, which seems to be all the time. Just three days earlier I had parked a car out the back and got a $75 ticket.

After a while a park becomes vacant almost in front of the house - prime location. So my sisters long-term boyfriend, Al, races out the back to get the car and his crazy mate Brian is asked to run over and stand in the park, warding off any would be intruders.

By the time Al gets the car round the front, which would have been less than 30 seconds, a Mazda Somethingorrather comes along and sticks it's blinker on. Brian being the absolute nutter that he is, lies down in the spot and plays innocent. For a moment there is a stand off, Mazda guy waiting, Al behind waiting for him to go and Brian just lying down relaxing.

The crowd of us, on the front steps watching, go into the 'too embarrassed to watch mode' and take shelter inside, peeping through the window.

At this stage the driver of the Mazda, an Indian guys, gets out of his car, walks up to Brian and politely asks him what he is doing and if he could move. He trots out the story that he has been driving around for half an hour on the look out for a spot. Brian politely explains that we are bagging the park, for the car behind his, as we had been waiting for an hour for one to come along. Polite exchanges continue, with neither side budging. Brian gazing up at the guy and the Indian waving his arms around.

From the front steps I decide that it is time to head over and explain that we are locals and that we have been waiting for this park for an hour and that even though we are locals we will still get booked by having our car parked across the back gate as it was. From the polite conversation that it was, my entrance into the debate takes it up a notch in the tension.

My explanation did not work for the bloke. With a continuation of his previous theme, he does not give up and keeps arguing his point that he was here first so therefore the park is his. With this he jumps in his car and creeps it forward almost willing to see if Brian will budge. It was a bluff though and he soon stops and gets back out.

With this, Al has decided to jump out and enter the fray. The Indian is now ringed by one crazy guy lying on the tarmac, one semi-reasonable guy in me and Al who immediately takes it up a notch and tells the guy to fuck off and go and find his own spot and with that turns and jumps back in the car to wait for him to leave.

The stalemate is going nowhere. A crowd has gathered in the windows of the pub across the road, bystanders are forming, one Indian guy is back in his car and two cars are waiting for the one spot.

I decide enough is enough and indicate to Al to just drive round the freak and reverse park in - which in hindsight is what he should have done much earlier.

Al does this and reverses in, Brian jumps out of the way and the prick jumps out of his Mazda Jap-crap, waves his arms and yells at me for telling him to do that. He then proceeds to inform me that he now knows where we live and that we better watch out. My retort was "And do what!?" to which no reply came. The park was filled, the bastard drove off in a huff and we were all worried that he was going to come back later and 'key' the car.

Luckily nothing was done to car, the car hardly ever goes down there so he would be doing well to find it there next time he is in the neighbourhood. But it just goes to show what a tension filled society that the western world has now become. Arguments breaking out over a bloody car park. A week early the pub two doors down was the scene of the owner being killed by some pissed off customers who threw a bar stool. A few days before that there was a bashing from a road rage incident in Glebe. Tensions, tensions everywhere, and they say PNG is a dangerous place.

Brian asking me "when the hell is Al going to park the car"

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Smuggling on the Mongolian Express

The midnight border crossing between Mongolia and China suddenly became tense when the black plastic wrapped bundles started to thud onto our train compartment floor. The Mongolian customs officer's arms delved and riffled behind the roof panel and pulled one pillow sized bundle after another from their concealment. Thud, thud, and thud they dropped at my feet and before too long I was standing on the verge of mini black mountain. I weakly smiled up at him and gave an "I didn’t put them there" look.

We were travelling from Ulaan Baator to Beijing and the mood had been festive in the carriage. Quite a few other backpackers were doing the same overnight trip and after boarding the train in the morning we had had the whole day to make new friends. Once at the border we had been ordered back into our compartments while Immigration came and stamped our passports.

Customs followed, coming down the corridor and stopping first at our door. They ordered the four of us - my girlfriend, two new friends and myself - out and we were lined up against the windows. While standing on the bunks with his panel-removing key, the officer started the thudding and dread.

Immediate thoughts flash through your mind. These initially seemed to be concentrated on a dark dank cell. Sitting on one side of a solitary table, a bright light shinning in your eyes and endless questions.

I tried to blank my mind and be calm, knowing that I was innocent, but my nerves were in no way helped when a call came down the corridor from a mate, yelling "I told you shouldn’t have tried to smuggle those drugs". If I could have shrunk out of sight, I would have.

I focussed my attention on the bundles and wondered what they were. Were they drugs? It looked like it initially. Then I noticed the ripped in half US hundred dollar bills tapped to the outside. They must be bundles of counterfeit notes I thought. This was reinforced by all the stuff I had read a lot about the counterfeiting operations that go on in this country.

My thoughts and spirits changed when the customs officer got down and gave me a wink. We were off the hook. He had finished riffling and was moving to the next compartment where more were discovered. The whole carriage ended up being riddled with the bundles, obviously a frequent occurrence.

As to what the packages contained? It wasn't until the next morning in China, when a smiling smuggler returned to collect packages that had not been discovered, we discovered that they were, bizarrely, Marmot skins.


This story was entered into the Lonely Planet Comet Stranger Than Fiction competition. It is a game where you enter a story and have it reviewed by other contestants. Here is a direct link to the story.

Monday, April 25, 2005


It is three years ago today that I stayed up all night at a very cold ANZAC cove on the Galipoli peninsula in Turkey.

When I think back about that day I will remember amongst other things, the old people sitting in front from Perth - blocking our view in their chairs, the curious Turkish onlookers who were treated like brothers, the service starting well before dawn at 4:27 exactly, the time that the diggers stormed the beach, walking along the stony beach where so many died, going to the Australian service at Lone Pine and never before feeling so patriotic with so many other Aussies, seeing the girls in VB shirts having their photo taken with Turkish soldiers, watching the game of two-up being played by Aussie soldiers and backpackers and of course reading those immortal words said by Ataturk.
Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives....
You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country therefore rest in peace.
There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours....
You, the mothers
Who sent their sons from far away countries wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace after having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Outdoor Exhibitions

I was thinking about other great photo exhibitions that I have been to after I wrote about the World Press Photo one and I remembered the few brilliant outdoor exhibitions that have been to around the world.

Earth From Above
The best would have had to have been Yann Arthus-Bertrand's Earth From Above. I was lucky enough to see this twice on my travels - during the same trip in August 2002 - once in Oslo and then again in Stockholm.

If you haven't seen the books and postcards it is a collection of his fantastic photos taken from helicopters from around the world all in large prints. Yann certainly has travelled around - lucky bastard - there are shots from every corner of the globe.

Earth From Above in Stockholm

Saw this twice as well, once in Sydney in Feb 2003 and then again down in Melbourne a month later. It wasn't intentional to see it twice, but like the Earth From Above one, it was just the way it worked out.

I love these photos because they are all beautifully taken by normal people and full of emotion and sensitivity. If someone can tell me web address for MILK it would muchly appreciated.

The Millenium Family
I can't remember exactly the name of this exhibition but it was a collection that heralded the arrival of the new millenium with family portraits from across the globe.

I saw this on Hohenzollern bridge in Cologne, Germany way back in October 2000 as I was travelling through Europe and was transfixed as we crossed the Rhein to go to the Dom (seen in the photo below). The entire length on the long railway bridge was impressively covered.

On the Hohenzollern bridge in Cologne

Been to any good outdoor photo exhibitions?

Thursday, April 07, 2005

I sent this email to an American friend of mine.
You might enjoy this site. This guy has had some fun with romance novel covers. A classic example is below.

Check them out here http://www.worldoflongmire.com/features/romance_novels/

He replied with the following ...
I'll get into the link later on, but have to say I don't get the joke/point/whatever of the one you've included here. What's the tweak? Am I supposed to recognize those characters or names? I don't get it.

My question is ... was it really that hard to get. My mate is a little bit on the older side, but has been around. I thought it was pretty obvious and very funny.

Maybe it is just my sense of humour ... or wording. Is it?

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

World Press Photo

I do love photography and in 2003 I went to one of the best exhibitions I have ever been to, and it was free. It was the World Press Photo Award exhibition at the State Library of NSW. Last year I missed out, as I was in PNG and this year it will be the same.

So for those lucky enough to be in a place where the exhibition will be travelling to I really recommend you to trot on over. The Australian exhibition will be again on at the State Library of New South Wales, Sydney between 24th of June and 17th of July.

You will get to see quality and topical photos like last years winner.

Woman mourns relative killed in tsunami, Cuddalore, India, Tamil Nadu, 28 December | © Arko Datta

Or 1st prize in the Spot News: Stories section, won by an freelance Australian photographer.

Tsunami aftermath, Aceh, Indonesia | © Dean Sewell

Previous years winners include images that surely everyone must know.



Monday, April 04, 2005

Well the Pope is dead and the press and news agencies have really gone to town. Even the Post Courier here in PNG here has devoted three pages to it.

There is no doubt that the old guy was an important figure - he is afterall the spiritual head of 1.2 billion people - but do they have to devote so much time to it. I like the comments made on Radar by Jack Marx, this guy is voicing my opinions exactly.
That he "redrew the physical map of Europe" or "changed the world" is nonsense - if it's not, someone should tell us exactly how he did these things, rather than simply alluding to the fact that he did.
The other thing that really irked me about the whole situation is how the faithful were praying and holding vigil in the hope that he made it through. Let the old guy go for God's sake! Clearly he was not in the best of health and would have been better off shuffling off the mortal coil, but no, the faithful were too selfish to just let him pass on.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

The Tzar's Photographer

Here is a brilliant link that I was sent quite a long time ago. Seeing as I have been through Russia, I thought that I would share it here.

The Empire That Was Russia

It is of a collection of Tzar Nicolas II official photographer, Prokudin-Gorskii, who had a free pass to travel the Russian empire and photographically record it before world War I. The amazing thing about these photos is that they are all in colour, 40 years before colour film was invented. He did it by using three plates, one for Red, Green and Blue.

Below are some of my favourite shots.

Russian Settlers in the Borderlands

Portrait of Pinkhus Karlinsky, 84 Years Old - he would be 180 if alive today

Fabric merchant in Samarkand

Monday, March 21, 2005

Lapping Iceland in a Week - Part I

We had our little Fiat two-door rental speeding along one of the final straight stretches of road that occurs in the south of the land of fire and ice. Suddenly a black drift of volcanic sand loomed up before us, viciously camouflaged with the bitumen, it was on us before we had realised. With no time to react or take evasive action we mounted and flew over the obstacle. For reasons unbeknownst to us the Nordic gods kept our little vehicle from harm and we rode out the trap unscathed with all but a small fishtail.

In a country where the population of Smallsville America would be close to be beating the entire nations population this was just one of the hazards in trying to circumnavigate the island. Two thirds of the 280,000 inhabitants live in the capital, Reyjavik. The rest are scattered around the 2000km circumference along the national number 1 road - our chosen route, our only route.

We had arrived a week earlier Keflavik International airport, at the seemingly ungodly hour of 11pm. Instead the hour proved to be quite active, with people buzzing about, pulling their bags behind them on those little wheels. We moved through the brand new and starkly lit airport and emerged into the twilight outside. A shuttle bus was grabbed and it deposited us at the pre-arranged hostel. Surprisingly the hostel manager was wide awake even though it was after midnight and after he showed us to our room I pulled the heavy curtains shut, shutting out the twilight and then I shut my own eyes.

Reykjavik is a weird capital city because it doesn't feel like a capital city, it feels like a large town. It is small and provincial. Corrugated iron roofs of sorts of wonderful colour, spread around the city centre. The highest building is perhaps three stories high. The streets are small and narrow without any major traffic. What it felt like was my largest hometown of Newcastle in Australia. Even Newcastle though has higher buildings.

The similarity extended towards the harbour, waterfront and docks. The gritty look around that area. Then the hill with Cathedral on top. Streets radiating out from it, lined with small detached houses. All with those corrugated iron roofs. If the weather had not been so overcast, gloomy and cold, I would could have easily transported myself back to the steel city.

Another aspect which drew my attention and comparison to Newcastle was the spruced up 4WD's that cruised up and down the only main street in town. The young guys behind the wheel were obviously proud of the way the their Jeep was raised up on ridiculously high suspension, and their gleaming chrome bull bars. The comparison was that instead of 4WD the exact same scenario would have been played out along the harbour-side sixteen and half thousand kilometres away except instead of 4WD's, small Japanese two-doors would have been the ones preened.

The prices are astronomically high in Iceland. Just about everything is imported in from elsewhere with little local industry. Ordering a few beers in a bar, even though they are locally made, could also mean starting up a new loan account. A pint in an Irish bar would end up setting you back around 6 pounds sterling. Not an easy place to get drunk in unless you did like we did and stocked up on duty-free vodka.

A trip to the blue lagoon was organised through out hostel. Before visions of Brooke Shields and desert islands appear this blue-lagoon is man made lagoon from the discarded water from a thermal power plant. It is called the blue lagoon because funnily enough it is a blue coloured lagoon, in fact an eerily fluorescent blue. It is that way due to the unusual mix of silica, algae and sea-water. The boffins that be say it is therapeutic for the skin and they actually bottle the stuff. You will also see the bathers scoop up handfuls of the stuff and cake it on themselves. When I decided to try this though my handful of blue goo was woven with distinctly curly hairs from a certain never region.

Which probably explains why they make such a fuss of making sure you are clean before you enter the lagoon. A process is followed of splitting off into male and female change-rooms, getting starkers with your nordic cousins and then having a shower with explicit signs stating in Icelandic to wash your arm pits and pubic area. Well I guess this is what the sign said because it was accompanied by a figure of a man with these regions soapily highlighted.

After a few days of wandering around Reykjavik, seeing the small amount of sights (a cathedral, a museum, the waterfront and the blue lagoon), buying a small amount of gifts (mostly including woolen scarfs) we went and collected out pre-arranged rental. Being budgeters that we were we decided to go for the smallest available and essentially cheapest option. Fiat 1.2l two-door Punto. Would this take us around the whole of Iceland? That was a question we were going to answer.

With the paper work filled in, we hit the road out of town. Which was initially a two lane dual carriage-way but quickly changed into a two lane single carriage-way once we left the suburbs. First stop we headed for was the famous Geysir region. Famous because all the geysers in the world owe their name to this place. Old Stokkur awaited. The 20 metre spouter.

One of the beauties of Iceland we were to find out was an almost complete lack of tourists. The high cost of travel here could have been a reason, but we didn't care, we had paid our big bucks and were pleasantly surprised to be almost tourist free at attractions that elsewhere would have tourist overload. Geysir would have fitted this category. Another flipside is that you can get up and close to attractions that elsewhere would have been off limits. So it is that old Stokkur was metronomically spurting into the air every five minutes and you could have easily, if you wanted, boil yourself by jumping over the little off limits rope. It was as if you had free rein to take in the awesome forces of nature and not be nannied at the same time.

Rapid fire photography. Stukkur in action

The nearby Gullfoss waterfall was the same. Millions of litres of water pounding into a chasm and no rope to hold you back. Þingvellir - with that cool Icelandic character at the beginning of the name which roughly translates to a th sound - in the same region was the same as well. There you can clamber all over the top of where the earth splits in two - the great transatlantic fault - and marvel at the mossy nature of it all. All the attractions were like this. Brilliant.

Getting up close to Gulfosss

Our first night with the car was at a scheduled hostel on the north coast. Quite a few hundred kilometres away. We needed to get cracking if we wanted to stay there. So the spurting, pounding and clambering was left behind and the road trip began. Driving through Iceland was an eye opener. The first thing you notice are where are the trees? There are none. It seems somebody had forgotten to plant any when they landscaped this place.

to be continued ...

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Mongolian Wrestler

Photo curtesy of Roy Wilson

Just before we left our host family in Mongolia, we all got dressed up in the traditional Mongolian dress of a Khovontei Dööl, a heavy felt coat. A sash was tied around our middle and we all had our photo taken. Very touristy. The husband of the family we stayed with decided that he would have a Mongolian style wrestle with me, maybe he thought I had been hanging out with his wife too much. Anyway the above pic is taken at that moment.

I should also state that the wrestle was a draw and neither of us managed to get the other on their back. Which I thought was a good effort on my behalf as the day before the husband had been involved in a local wrestling competition.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

A Better Campsite Would Be Where?

I was sent this brilliant pic. Thought I would share it.

photo curtesy of Kymba

Features Nanga Parbat (the naked mountain) in Northern Pakistan.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Country Map Wank

I have discovered this website called World 66, where you can generate a map of all the countries that you have been to. Of course it doesn't tell how long you might have actually been in a particular country.

For example I have been to Luxemburg, for a day. Or I have been to Northern Ireland, for 2 days. Of the bigger European countries, Portugal I went for 3 days, Netherlands 4 days, Slovenia 3 days but I still get to include them on my map.

A better map would be to show the cities you have been to. To travel anywhere to any country in the world you need to go to a big city at some point. Maybe they could create a list of countries and then cities with populations over 500,000 that you could tick off.

The problem with this though would be that Iceland would miss out all together as Reykjavik only has a population of 170,000. Maybe it should be big cities and capitals.