OLPC Enters the Mythical World of Tablet Computing

One of the most exciting areas of make believe computing is the mythical tablet PC. Apple has been rumored to be developing a tablet PC whilst Microsoft is supposedly developing a Tablet/booklet PC.

Now OLPC, the project that designs low cost computers for kids in developing companies, has stepped into the arena not once but twice. First with a Booklet style, dual screen, tablet PC and now, after canning that idea, an ultra thin tablet screen with thumb/finger ring grip that supposedly will retail for around US$75.00 (pictured). The device is also rumored to include a digital camera on the back

What caught my eye about this device is the image on the right. Nothing particularly revolutionary here but for some reason I'd never considered a touch screen, full size, keyboard before. It's not a new idea by any means and I have seen it on other touch screen devices (like mobile phones) - just never linked the idea to tablet PC computing.

The concept gives me some confidence that maybe tablet PC's will catch on since, those who like their keyboards, can still have that interface option without having to attach an actual keyboard to the device. That is, assuming anyone other than Amazon and their Kindle device, actually releases something that looks like a tablet PC.

The only other thing that struck me about OLPC's concept images is that their device looks way too thin. It's described as being about the thickness of an Apple iPhone but I'm not convinced it would stand up to daily mobile use.

This is all moot though. It seems anyone can create a few concept images and announce a proposed tablet PC for release err... some time in the future.

Hopefully someone will go to the next level soon and actually release something. In the meantime why not enjoy a few more concept images of OLPC's device below.

Retail Hostages

Ever been in one of those discount variety stores, found nothing you want to buy, then discovered you can't get out? Well, you can get out but the only way is to queue at the checkouts until a gap opens up and you can squeeze past.

This situation recently happened to me. It occurred because the store in question has an automatic barrier across the entrance. You can only get in that way, not out.

The store has multiple checkout lanes but they're so narrow all it takes is one small woman with a hand bag to block them. Thus, during busy times, like Christmas, all the checkouts backup with queues of people carrying whatever it is they want to buy.

I just want to get out of the store but I can't. I'm a retail hostage, forced to queue because the store is too cheap to hire a door attendant to monitor customers, not making a purchase, as they leave.

I tend to avoid stores like this but sometimes their discounts are just too enticing. Before I know it I'm in the store again, they've sold out of what I came to buy and all the checkouts are clogged with people - half of them just trying to get out.

*sigh*

Blogging from my Mobile

Maybe this isn't new to some people but I came to the whole Internet on your mobile phone thing quite late, thanks to my old phone company.

Now I'm playing 'ketchup' (that's 'catch up' in plain speak). This post has been written entirely on my mobile phone - including taking the photo on my phone's camera. Just a snap shot of some items on my fridge.

I'm contemplating using my phone more to blog when I'm out and about. To fill in unpreductive gaps - like when you're standing in a slow moving queue. Not that I do a lot of standing in queues but you get the idea.

My phone has a full keyboard but it's still only two thumb typing at best. Probably won't be writing any essays this way any time soon.

For the moment I'm just hoping this post works. If you're reading this then thankfully it did. I may just be blogging from my phone again some time soon.

TET Now on your Mobile Phone

Ever since I got one of those flash new phones with internet access I've been thinking I should make a 'mobile friendly' version of my own site i.e. one that's a little less graphics heavy and taxing on your mobile download limit.

Thanks to Mippin, a free service that can convert your RSS Feed into a mobile site, you can now get my Master RSS feed as web site for your mobile phone.

By simply bookmarking my mobile site at http://mippin.com/etourist on your mobile phone you can view all my latest content wherever you are including; my latest ebay auctions, blog posts, animation blog posts, flickr images, videos and more.

You can see a sample of my site and how it looks on a mobile phone in the image above.

If you have a blog and want to make your site even easier to access by your visitors wherever they are then give Mippin a try. It's almost as simple as supplying Mippin with your RSS or Atom Feed URL and then getting your new mobile site URL.

There are a few other steps but nothing that requires real technical knowledge. If you set up your blog yourself then Mippin is easier than that. It's a free service and you can even monetize it with ads that you receive 100% revenue from if you choose.

The Time Traveler's Wife - Movie Opinion

When I first saw the preview for The Time Traveler's Wife I thought 'chick flick' however, the movie has a time travel component (one of my favorite sci-fi subjects) so I was interested to know more.

If you're a time travel fan too then this film will not only not disappoint but it also breaks all the 'rules' of time travel. However, having said that, it's also a great chick flick too (especially for Eric Bana fans).

As with all my movie opinions, this isn't a review as such, it's more of a commentary on what I found interesting. I'm assuming you've seen the film but if not I'll try not to write anything that will spoil it for you. If you don't know what the film is about then you may like to click the link in the first paragraph which will take you to the movies page on the Internet Movie Data Base.

Quickly, on the plot, Eric Bana plays Henry DeTamble, a man born with a genetic condition that causes him to involuntarily travel both forwards and backwards through time. He has some subconscious control over where he travels to (usually places he knows or at least within range of places he knows) but it not an exact science.

In one of his time travels he meets his future wife, Claire, as a very young girl and develops a friendship over time that eventually leads up to her, as a grown woman, meeting him before he has traveled back in time to meet her. Confused yet?

People who enjoy the pseudo-science of time travel will have a field day analyzing the time travel aspects of this movie to death. The rest of you - be well advised not to try and rationalize the logic of time travel in this film and take it at face value for what it is. All you need to keep track of is which Henry are you currently watching, Henry from the past, present or future?

I liked that Henry's ability to time travel is a genetic condition. It's not a new idea but as something he can't control it does present some interesting challenges for him and those who know of his ability to overcome.

It's also interesting that he appears to be the only known person in the world with this condition. I did like that the film did not spend too much time explaining what caused his condition (initially) nor did they go into too much detail when Henry finally seeks outside help to try and control what he has. The research of his condition seems plausible but doesn't actually explain anything.

What makes this film a real discussion point for time travel enthusiasts is that it breaks the one common rule amongst many time travel films and TV shows - meeting your future or past self. It's often thought that this could be a catastrophic event (think Doc Emmett Brown in the Back to the Future films explaining what could happen if Marty's Girl Friend met her future self). In The Time Traveler's Wife this is something of a casual event, happening multiple times.

Further to that, as in the Back to the Future films, meeting your past self could be catastrophic because you could change your future to the point where the future as you know it ceases to exist in a major way for your life.

What's problematic in The Time Traveler's Wife is that Henry claims that he is unable to change the future for major events (such as the death of his mother at the beginning of the film) yet he spends much of the film influencing the future and even using it to change his present financial circumstances.

There are also a number of paradoxes in the film such as when Henry and Claire are looking for a house to buy. The house they choose is based on a house that Henry has already seen in the future. If his experience of the house they choose is based on his visit to the house in the future then how did they come to be living in that house before Henry had seen it in his time travels?

The film makes no apologies for these paradoxes and, in fact, embraces them by pointing them out on occasion and simply accepting them without question.

As I said, if you're not a time travel buff, analyzing the technicalities of time travel in this film will only tear open major inconsistencies using a science that isn't real, only speculative.

For fans of time travel then, if you can get over all the so called 'rule breaking' and try to make sense of the time line, there's a lot of interesting discussion to be had. You may even find yourself buying the best selling novel this is based upon to find out more.

How to Market and Sell Your Art Online

The Unconventional Guide to Art + Money ebook
by Chris Guillebeau and Zoë Westhof

E-Book Review by TET

Less than two percent of Bachelor of Arts Graduates in Australia will actually go on to become established artists. At least that's the figure according to an article I recently read in The Adelaide Review by Peter Drew titled, Poor Odds for Arts.

That article is very relevant to this review as it highlights the emergence of Artist Run Initiatives (ARIs). Particularly the idea of young artists not waiting for their big break with a major mainstream gallery but instead, actually getting out there, finding their own audience and making their own success.

Many artists are turning to new media, such as the Internet, to promote and sell their work directly to collectors. Unfortunately this process can be trial and error to find what works.

This is where The Unconventional Guide to Art + Money ebook by Chris Guillebeau and Zoë Westhof steps in by delving into the real world experience of several successful artists, marketing their work online. Showing you what is working for them and giving you some practical advice for how you can get started marketing and selling your own work in similar fashion.

It is NOT a get rich quick by selling your art online product. This ebook is clearly targeted at serious artists who understand that success takes a lot of hard work plus time.

When I bought this product I found the ebook clearly set out and easy to read. With 55 pages and 54 headings (on the contents page) it attempts to cover a lot of ground - some more successfully than others. The whole book is broken into four parts.

The Introduction sets the frame work for why you might take the new media approach with a compelling story about the Twin Myths of Art i.e. the starving artist and the discovered artist who is instantly shot to fame and fortune overnight.

It then goes on to make the case for marketing your art online using the experiences of real artists who were interviewed as part of the research for this book. All of the artists are very credible sources of information who are succeeding with their online endeavors including; Hazel Dooney (Australia), Michael Nobbs (Wales), Leah Piken Kolidas (USA), Sandra Miller (USA), Joseph Szymanski (USA), Dan Duhrkoop (USA) as well as a few others.

Their experiences are referred back to in all sections of the book through quotes from each artist serving to reinforce the books ideas with real world experience.

The second section of the book talks about Strategy and how to envision your online 'studio'. This covers things such as planning your goals, finding your market (or 'people' as it refers to them), creating an action plan, pricing your art and more.

It also describes an 'anti-marketing' approach that is pretty much Chris' own signature marketing strategy and, interestingly enough, one that many of the interviewed artists use as well (though as something they just naturally gravitated and evolved towards rather than a learned technique).

The third section, Tactics, gets down to the nuts and bolts of actually putting yourself and your work on line. It includes a very useful chart that will let you quickly compare a number of popular art related web sites to see which may be right for you. It then goes on to look at each site in just a little more detail explaining the pros and cons of each and suggesting an action plan for how to get started if that site sounds a good match for you.

There's a more detailed look at pricing your art as well as starting your own web site, blog and the benefits of social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook.

Finally in the last section called, Putting it All Together, helps you develop a schedule for your work, looks at approaches to getting your work seen and discusses the importance of maintaining an email list.

It also touches on Product launches, Payment gateways and how you could expand you practice once you start seeing some success.

One of the bonus features of Art + Money is that several of the interviews conducted were recorded and are included as MP3 Downloads. There are two versions of the product with the difference being the number of MP3 downloads.

The Starving Artist version will give you the ebook with three interviews whilst the Picasso Version will give you all the interviews as well as a discussion between Chris and Zoë focusing on the eight most important things they learnt.

Personally I went straight for the Picasso version because hearing real, successful artists talk about the business side of their art practice is not only invaluable but inspiring too.

The Unconventional Guide to Art + Money is like a crash course in online art marketing. The ebook is short enough to read in an afternoon which may leave you feeling a little cheated (considering the price) but if online arts marketing is new to you then you'll probably find yourself re-reading much of it again and again.

If this stuff isn't new to you and you've been attempting to market your work online for a while with limited success then you may find more value in the interviews than the ebook - though there is still plenty in the ebook that you may find of interest.

As a product I'd say it does deliver the information you need to make some informed decisions about marketing your art online. Fast tracking your research so you can get on with the actual business of selling your art.

In some areas I felt it could have been more in depth (such as how to maintain your relationships with your 'people' once you've found them) whilst in others it seemed to be a little repetitive (Action Plans for the various web sites).

Like any product of this kind the real value will ultimately be in whether you make use of the information or you store it on your computer somewhere and forget about it.

Personally I've listened to the interviews several times because that's the main reason I bought the product but, since I'm familiar with just about every site mentioned in the ebook and have a presence on many of them, I'm still deciding on how valuable the ebook has been to me.

One thing I do know is that new media has been relatively successful for me already. I've been selling my work online for longer than new media pioneer, Hazel Dooney (I'm just not as driven as she is or as knowledgeable about the art world). In fact I started selling online accidentally, through message board forums. I'd post my work just to show and people would ask if the work was for sale!

Since then the landscape has changed with sites like Myspace, Facebook and Twitter. It's a whole new way of marketing and The Unconventional Guide to Art + Money shows you how.

Read more information and purchase
The Unconventional Guide to Art + Money


Other Unconventional Guides:

* Disclaimer: Please note that I am an affiliate seller of all the Unconventional Guides. Whilst I have tried to remain objective I did become an affiliate because I was impressed with the Art + Money Guide as a product that doesn't overstate its claims.

Wrong Way Already and Cat Sampler Books

For anyone who has ever done any kind of writing you'll know that you never really feel quite like a writer until you have a book of your own writing in print. Yes, old style ink on paper, professionally printed and bound.

So it was quite a buzz today to finally get my hands on a small stack of two books (pictured right) I've self published, one of which represents my first properly published work as a writer.

Wrong Way Already, A Road Trip Across Southern Australia, is half travel guide and half travel journal of a Road Trip my Sister and I embarked upon mid way through 2007.

We traveled from Gawler, South Australia to Broken Hill, New South Wales and then back across the continent to Perth Western Australia. Each day I wrote about my experiences in this very blog you're reading now. Hence the book brings together all the posts and photos from this blog into one handy sized guide that you can either take with you on your own Southern Australia travels or curl up with if you just like to adventure from the comfort of your lounge room.

TET's Cats Sampler comes as a set of three identical photo books (one for you and two you can give as gifts) that feature a selection of my cat paintings completed over the last few years for you or your friends to enjoy.

Printed in full colour it really is a stunning little book of some of your favorite cats and a fantastic way to share the art you love with the people you love.

Both books are available from my LuLu Book Shop whilst you can also purchase a Cafepress edition of Wrong Way Already from my Cafepress Shop.

Microsoft Courier Booklet, An Artist's View

There's been a lot of buzz lately in tech circles about tablet computing, in particular the Apple Tablet which is either a soon to be released product or a whole lot of geeks speculating on a fantasy.

Possibly the most exciting thing I've seen in this space is the Microsoft Courier booklet, which, like the Apple Tablet, is a potentially soon to be released product or just some one leaking ideas that may never come to pass. For the purpose of this article let's suppose this product is really in development.

The Microsoft Courier Book (illustrated in the picture from Gizmodo top right) is a tablet computer with two screens that folds in half like a book. It's about the size of your average journal or diary and is operated with a combination of touch screen motions and a pen/stylus.

Gizmodo has also discovered a video of how we'll actually use the Courier (follow the link to see the video).

From an artist's perspective I'd have to say it all looks very intuitive and very much in line with the way many visual artists would interact with their traditional Visual Diaries (for non-artists that's the A4 or A5 size ring bounded sketch books you sometimes see us carting around and scribbling in).

Based on what I know here are some thoughts I have on this device:

  • The two screens, fold in half like a book concept is genius. Devices like this will need to be robust and what better way to protect the screens than to fold it in half so the outer cover gets all the scratches. Does it really annoy you when your mobile phone screen gets scratched? Me too.

  • This device has a built in camera and presumably Wi-fi connectivity as it is internet capable. One hopes it will also have a built in microphone and that the camera will also be capable of filming video. With that combination artist types like myself can use this device to record the things we see in images (moving and stationary) and sound. Given that this device is also intuitive enough to allow sketching with the stylus pen you've pretty much got me hooked.

  • Beef up the RAM and make sure it has some kind of removable storage medium (such as SD cards for example) and this will be on my Christmas list. Heck I'd even consider spending all the money I was going to spend on Christmas gifts for everyone else on getting me one of these!!

  • The proposed user interface (i.e. the software) looks well thought out. I particularly like the use of the hinge/spine to 'tuck' items that you want to hold and move to other pages of the book (wonder how that works for text?).

  • There's nothing particularly ground breaking about the software - you could easily use the same software on a single screen device divided into two regions (which they demonstrate in the video by downloading your Courier Book to a laptop computer). Oh and that 'tuck' feature - you could do the same thing just with a standard 'cut' and 'paste' feature and an infinite 'clip board'. However visually it looks fun to use and more like how people work rather than how computers work.

  • It's more like using an actual book than a computer.

  • If they manage to eliminate the use of a keyboard altogether the art of 'hand writing' may just see a resurgence. I just hope they don't over do the hand writing recognition to the point where everything you write turns into a nice, clean, readable font like 'Times'.

So that's just a few of my thoughts on a product that's supposed to be in development but who knows for sure if the Microsoft Courier Booklet will ever see the light of day (or the inside of my back pack).

Not Quite Power Walking

Since I discovered jogging wasn't for me I've been kind of all over the place with my daily exercise routine. In fact for a little while I stopped my daily walks altogether.

Not walking meant I could do an extra 50 minutes of work a day which was great for getting things done but not so great for my health. Since I haven't yet been able to get myself a bike to replace jogging it's back to walking, however, this time it's different.

When I was jogging my daily walking route I'd managed to cut my time down to 35 minutes, noting that I only actually jogged about two thirds of the way. The rest of the time I spent gasping down water and walking until I felt ready to jog again.

It occurred to me that if I simply walked consistently at a fairly quick pace the whole distance I could probably cut my time dramatically and increase the benefit of walking as a daily exercise routine. Yeah I know, totally obvious, right?

So I gave it a try.

Now we're not quite talking 'power walking' here. You won't see me walking like they do in the walking event at the Olympics, rubber band legs twanging away and butt cheeks screaming "Come On, break into a run already!!" No that isn't what I'm doing.

Simply put I'm being conscious about the need to walk quickly. In the way you might if you had to catch a train or a bus and you knew you had time to get there if you pick up the pace without actually breaking into a run.

The first time I tried my regular walking route at this faster pace I completed it in 36 minutes. What the?? I expected to do better than my previous walking times of 50 minutes but to do it in about the same time as when I was jogging? Clearly a much better result than I expected.

I've been doing this faster paced walk all week trying to better my time but so far 36 minutes seems to be about the peak. I'm determined to cut it down to 30 minutes though because it's early days yet and I've been walking in cold and some what windy weather. This time challenge is keeping me motivated.

Best of all is that, after about five sessions of jogging my route my joints were really starting to ache, so far my joints feel fine.

I guess the moral here really is walk before you run. Walking quickly and consistently over my entire route is getting my heart rate up and I'm cutting down my time spent exercising with greater benefit. Importantly though, my body can handle the pace.

If you're like me and not quite fit enough for jogging then maybe not quite power walking is for you.

The Frog Van goes to a Garage Sale

I've written about my Frog Van on several occasions so I thought it only fitting to mark it's first real use as a cargo mover on my blog too.

Granted this isn't the first time I've used it to transport stuff (I used it to move my recent art exhibition back home from the gallery) however it is the first time it has had anything close to a load that would require a van.

My partner, Enigma, and I decided it was time to clean out some of our crap from my studio and the house. What better way to do that than to haul out all the excess stuff to a local 'Mega Car and Garage Sale' and try and get a few dollars for it. I don't think it was actually called that but it was pretty big. Easily more than a hundred stalls at a guess (maybe even close to two hundred).

You can see our stall in the photo, taken at about the half way point of the sale. By this time we'd sold most of what we managed to sell so almost all of the rest you can see came home again.

If you've ever been to a garage sale as a seller you'll know they start early - just before the sun comes up. The frog van doesn't really like starting up that early so it took quite a bit to wake it up. Well it's hard to get started when you still have a backfiring problem (that's the van not me).

Unfortunately I didn't make enough money to even contemplate getting the van's problem fixed. I think I broke even after buying a sandwich for brunch. Enigma did better with a tidy profit that made the effort worth while. Enigma had better and more crap than I did.

I was mainly trying to offload a bar fridge. Plenty of people looked at it and said they'd be back. Unfortunately the rush of people coming back never happened so I still have my fridge.

Since the Garage Sale was run by a car club, its main focus was actually cars and car parts.

If I'd had the money I would have bought a sun roof and a spoiler for the van. It would do nothing for the engine problems but I'm sure it would make it look cooler.

It may sound silly to put a spoiler on the frog van but hey, if the A-Team's van can have a spoiler I reckon I can too!

How to Lose a Mobile Phone Customer

I recently upgraded my mobile phone to this very modern Nokia E63 (pictured right). At the same time I changed my phone carrier to Virgin Mobile. It cost me nothing up front and the new plan I'm on is far better than the plan my previous mobile carrier imposed upon me as part of 'upgrading their billing system'.

This article is actually a sequel to an article I wrote just over two years ago titled Forgotten by my Phone Company. In that article from April 2007 I described how my phone company *cough* AAPT *cough* failed to upgrade my very old mobile phone (a Nokia 2100, pictured left) when my contract ran out - like they had the previous contract.

How to Lose a Mobile Phone Customer

Step 1: Double your monthly service access fee.

Fast forward to November of 2008 and I get a letter from my phone company explaining that they will be upgrading their billing system over the next few months and as part of that I'll be switched over to a new monthly plan called '$15 Access'.

I thought very little of it, though I did notice that the new plan more than doubles my monthly service access fee from AU$8.95 to AU$19.50. Which is about what I used to pay when I was paying off the handset in my first contract. Hence, I'm too lazy to change plans and assume my bill will be AU$19.50 each month instead of AU$8.95 as it previously had been for most of the last two years - except for months where I actually made a call.

I'm not a big phone user but I do use SMS text messaging quite a bit. My original plan included AU$20.00 of call credit which I rarely exceeded except, as I said, if I actually made a call.

Step 2: Offer no new services and fail to upgrade the customer's phone.

For a long time I've wanted one of those flash new phones with tons of features that have little to do with making a phone call but lots to do with communication and productivity. Why? Because I'm the kind of person who uses all those features. Digital camera, Digital Video Camera, MP3 players, Mobile Internet access, MMS messaging etc. etc. You can't do any of that on a Nokia 2100 handset.

Mid way through 2008 I got my hands on my partner's old Samsung SGH-E370 mobile phone (pictured right) which is capable of all of the things I listed above but, since my phone company didn't offer me any new services or a new phone, none of this was available to me. It's like having legs that work but you're not allowed to use them.

The Samsung phone wasn't that great. The video was small and too slow and the photos weren't that high a quality either. Great for music but because it had a non standard head phone jack I couldn't get a head set to fit unless I wanted to splash out for a specific set from Samsung (nope). So I couldn't really use it as a personal MP3 player.

3. Raise your call fees and lower your customer's monthly credit.

Like I said earlier I text message a lot. Mostly to my partner. Despite this I rarely, if ever went above my $20/month credit from text messages alone. However my phone company raised the cost of a text message from AU$0.23 cents to AU$0.25 cents and lowered my monthly credit to AU$15/month (hence the plan name $15 Access). Suddenly I'm exceeding my credit limit by a lot, every month.

4. Change your billing period so that unbilled charges from previous months constantly appear on the current months bill.

I literally don't understand how upgrading your billing system and changing to a six week billing period can cause this much problem but it did. In June of this year I received a bill that included new charges totalling more than AU$72.00 - WTF!! That's quite a jump from $19.50 per month.

That particular bill contained a whole list of charges not available at the time of my previous bill. What's worse is that these charges come with the statement:

"These calls were not included on your last bill. You made these calls in the last 90 days and we've just been told about them. Sorry we didn't know about them in time for your last bill"

Oh. That's okay then? NOT!! I'm not disputing I made the calls but come on. You're not helping my cash flow at all by lumping all these charges together and expecting payment within 14 days.

My next bill they give me a $20 credit for reasons I still don't know why and the total bill is only $5.00. Nice but then they follow up with a $49.00 bill that contains a bunch of calls from the previous month with the same apology... you get the picture. My cash flow is not looking healthy at all.


I did end up paying the $72 bill but it was at about that point that my phone company lost me. See that shiny new phone at the top of this article. I got that for AU$20.00 per month with $50 call credit including 5MB of internet data downloads per month, free text messaging and calls from Virgin to Virgin phones (which my partner has) and I get all the features of the phone I've wanted for ages. I used it to film my first solo exhibition with (see video below).



Being a heavy internet user I decided to pay an extra $5.00 to get 50MB of internet data downloads per month.

To add a few more nails to the coffin here's how you lose a customer forever...

5. Let your customer service people tell the customer they have no outstanding balance then send a bill for $49 that includes charges not owed by the customer.

Yes that's right. This company billed me for a charge that I didn't owe on a final bill that I didn't know I'd be getting (and neither did they apparently) because, you guessed it... it contains charges they didn't know about before my previous bill.

In the process of transferring my number to my new service I rang my old phone company and specifically asked two questions. The first was would it cost me anything to transfer my number? Answer: 'No'. The second was would I be getting another bill? Answer: 'No because my account had a zero balance'.

You can imagine my surprise at receiving a $49.00 bill that included a $13.00 'unbundling' fee because I transferred my mobile service to another provider.

When I queried this with their customer service people they said the fee is usually applied to people who have more than one service on their bill. You know, those deals where you 'bundle' your home phone, internet and mobile service into the one bill.

I've only ever had one service on my bill in five years of being with this company. My mobile phone service. To the customer service person's credit they did remove this off my bill saying it was a fault with their new billing structure but if I hadn't contacted them?


This has been a very long venting article for me. However, let this serve as feedback for any phone company that chooses to listen. It actually takes a lot to lose some customers. If you're like me, you don't want to be bothered with who's got the best deal from month to month. You just want a phone that works and doesn't cost the earth to maintain.

Some of us like to have all the latest features but we're not going to chase you to get them. If you want to keep us as a customer then learn that communication is a two way street. Make us feel like we matter to you and offer your existing customers the new deals and plans you've put together.

Jogging - What Was I Thinking?

A few weeks back I started jogging on a daily basis. For those of you in my age group that are unfamiliar with the idea, jogging is like walking only much quicker - or so I thought.

Turns out jogging is more like systematically bruising your muscles and joints until just standing upright becomes a challenge in the face of pain. Let's back track a little.

I've been walking about 1.2 kilometres on a daily basis for the best part of the last two years. Taking the same circle route every day as part of my exercise routine - which also includes about an hour of daily weight lifting. The walk usually takes me about 50 minutes - clearly I'm not walking all that quickly.

Recently I've become bored with walking and I don't actually think it's doing me a great deal of good. I started my walks to get my high cholesterol levels down but discovered it was having only marginal benefit. However some benefit is better than none so I kept walking long after the doctor had prescribed pills for my problem (which I never followed up with).

Now I'm fairly fit and have something of a reputation in that regard. I've often thought I should give jogging of my regular walking route a try - just to see if I can. It didn't seem that daunting an idea since I've been known to walk non stop for hours at a time.

About three or four weeks ago I bit the bullet and went for it. Had my new shoes on which I thought had more than enough padding, grabbed a bottle of water to keep me hydrated and took off.

When you've never so much as broken out into a run in more than ten years, yet you've got fairly toned muscles from weight training, jogging isn't quite as easy as you might think. I made it about 50 metres from my house by which time I was gasping for a drink and thinking maybe this wasn't such a good idea.

You see I can actually run quite fast. Nothing to win any sprint races with but much faster than I used to be able to before I started exercising. My problem being, running feels quite easy - to begin with - so I tend to run faster than I should. Certainly too fast to call what I started out with 'jogging'.

To cut a long story short I managed to jog around about two thirds of my 1.2 kilometre walk interspersed with periods of walking and err... rehydrating (sucking down water actually). Cut my time to about 35 minutes.

That seemed fine. I knew if I kept at it things would get easier and I'd learn to slow my pace to a jog. It wasn't to be.

After about seven days of jogging my joints were all bruising up, particularly at my hips and left knee. My ankles were even starting to hurt. You'd expect some pain with a new exercise regime but even after a couple of days rest my joints weren't recovering.

I had to pull the plug on jogging (and walking for that matter). It's not that I'm not fit enough it's just that I needed better shoes. My entire route - except for one short section - followed a concrete surface. My shoes just weren't up to the job of absorbing the impact.

A couple of weeks after I gave up jogging and walking my joints and muscles are pretty much back to normal. Though there were times where the pain was so great I was sure I must have shattered some bones.

I won't be taking up jogging again any time soon but I am seriously thinking of buying a bicycle. One of those mountain bikes. Long distance bike riding has got to be better for me than walking without all the joint impact of jogging.

The moral... if your at that age where you know you're not as damage proof as you used to be (in my case 39) be sure to have really good shoes before you take up any high impact sport like jogging, running and, if you're really insane, marathon running.

JK Wedding Dance and Music Royalties

You don't even have to be on the Internet to know about the JK Wedding Dance Video. The unique wedding where everyone danced down the aisle to Chris Brown's song 'Forever' spread so widely that it even made it to the evening TV news.

What's interesting is that the video seems to have resurrected the failing career of Chris Brown who is currently facing charges for assaulting his former girlfriend, singer, Rihanna as reported in this E! News article, Could Viral Wedding Dance Video Save Chris Brown's Career?

Bearing in mind that the original wedding video was posted on Youtube for the happy couple's family and friends to view but then went viral, there was no licensing agreement with the copyright owners of the song.

In this Mashable article, JK Wedding Dance Also a Boon to YouTube’s Click-to-Buy Ads, It appears that Google and Youtube moved quickly to monetize the video with their click-to-buy program, which places overlay ads for iTunes and Amazon download links on music videos. In this case Chris Brown's song.

Reportedly this has been a success and contributed to the rise in sales of Chris's song to the point where the year-old Brown track is currently positioned in the Top 5 on iTunes and Amazon's MP3 store.

In the broader view, something like this should make many musical artists sit up and take notice when it comes to amateur video creators using their songs for non-commercial purposes. You never know what is likely to go viral in online video but if your song's attached to it that surely can be a good thing with Google and Youtube's click-to-buy program.

It seems to me everybody wins. The video creator gets to share their video with some really great music. The artist/copyright owners of the song are able to indirectly benefit with sales from the videos rise in popularity and I'm sure Google and Youtube also get a cut too.

All round it seems a much better solution than the usual 'take down notice' that is more the norm when an amateur video creator posts a video that uses copyright music.

I'll Paint What They're Painting.

Have you ever seen the movie When Harry Met Sally staring Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan? If not you may at least know the classic scene where Sally demonstrates to Harry how she can fake an orgasm right there in the diner they've chosen to eat a meal. The scene ends with the classic line from an onlooking lady, "I'll have what she's having". Keep that in mind for a moment.

I'm subscribed to the newsletter of respected Art Advice writer, Sylvia White, who recently published an article called the 12 Step Recovery Program for Artists.

What struck me about the article was the very first step reproduced below:
1. Admit that you are powerless over your ARTmaking, and it is the only thing that makes your life manageable.

Many artists describe the feelings they get from making art as an almost spiritual or sexual experience, feeling a complete and total sense of happiness and being at one with the world. Much like the feeling an athlete gets from hitting the ball in the sweet spot. But, instead of it being a fleeting moment, it is a lasting sense satisfaction and contentment. It is what keeps them the sane, wonderful people we love.

Did you spot the line in there; Many artists describe the feelings they get from making art as an almost spiritual or sexual experience, feeling a complete and total sense of happiness and being at one with the world.

I would describe creating my art as many things but none of them would come close to it being a 'sexual experience'.

If you are one of those artists who do then let me know what you're painting because, dammit, I want to give it a try!!

Home Made Crutch, MacGyver Style

My partner, Enigma, recently had a bad fall and did her ankle in. Nothing broken thankfully but painful enough to make walking nearly impossible.

Initially Enigma was using an old student office chair (with coaster wheels) to get around on which was proving to be awkward, impractical and still quite painful on her ankle. Me, being the creative person that I am, went out to the shed, MacGyver style, to see what we had to make some kind of crutch.

After some searching I brought together our mop handle, the handle off the end of a spade, a rubber stopper, a towel and some tape (couldn't find a use for a paperclip) to fashion the very effective temporary crutch you can see in the photo.

Whilst, ultimately, it didn't get a lot of use after about day two of Enigma's ordeal it did come in handy for a trip down to the chemist to fill a script for pain killers. The Women at the chemist was very impressed with my makeshift crutch too.

Enigma said on the day she twisted her ankle she had planned to vacuum and mop the floors the following day. I should have left the mop head on the end of the handle!

NavMan: Telling YOU Where To Go!

Traveling to Port Broughton and Moonta with the aid of a NavMan was something of a new experience for me. My partner, Enigma, was doing the driving so I had plenty of time to observe this little technological marvel from the passenger seat.

If you're like me, able to get yourself from A to B (most of the time) using old fashioned maps and street directories, then you might appreciate the following explanation; A NavMan or, I presume, Navigational Manager, is a little electronic device with an LCD display that attaches to the windscreen (usually) of your car and tells you how to get where you're going through the use of real time animated maps, voice instructions and GPS (global positioning system) data. (See my photo above).

Before this invention the term Navigational Manager and Passenger were interchangeable as many of us drivers relied on our memory and the map reading skills (or lack there of) of our passengers to direct us to where we were going.

A NavMan completely eliminates the need to even read a map. Simply enter the data of where your trip starts and where you want to go and let your NavMan direct you, as you're driving, with a smug, yet still, somehow, emotionless voice of a person who knows better than you. It'll tell you where to go.

I learnt that you shouldn't argue with a NavMan and that NavMans should have an I told you so mode because, if anyone is going to make a mistake in getting there, it'll be you. The Human Error in the system.

For example, on our way to the Cornish Festival in the town of Moonta, we passed through the town of Kadina. For some strange reason NavMan directed us through the town on one side of the town centre, on some big back street loop, that took several minutes, and got us to a point at the other end of the town centre that both Enigma and I could clearly see we could have got to in seconds simply by driving through the town centre its self. Both of us thought the NavMan was just being stupid.

On the way home we passed back through Kadina and this time the NavMan directed us straight through the town centre where we discovered the main street was two lanes of one way traffic only. It was at this point I concluded the NavMan needed an I told you so mode.

Don't argue with the NavMan - it knows what it's doing. Even if you think it doesn't it'll still, politely, tell you where to go!

Public Toilet Tourism: Art Where You Go

There seems to be a growing trend in Australian Public Amenities (i.e. public toilet blocks) where councils cover them in art, thus turning them into a tourist attraction.

Far from the usual graffiti attacks that often befall Public Toilet Blocks (as well as the occasional, more artistic but still unwanted graffiti 'pieces') I'm talking about a council taking a considered approach to decorating their public facilities then adding the artwork to the local tourist trail.

I first encountered this in the almost a ghost town of Iron Knob, South Australia, where our tour guide directed Rose and I to what he called 'the most photographed toilet block in Australia'. A big call at the time but I did take a photo so one can assume just about everyone he showed it to does.

The toilet block in question couldn't be more Australian with the word 'Dunny' emblazoned across it as part of a mural created by the town's former local artist.

Recently, on our trip to Port Broughton, Enigma and I came across this impressive mural on the toilet block along side the historic jetty. I don't know if it has been made a local tourist attraction but if not it should be. I thought it was worth taking a photo of so no doubt other people do too.

Clearly this mural is a considered work that had to have been commissioned by council in order to achieve such a complete painting of the whole block.

To continue this possible trend I noticed when Enigma and I were in the town of Bute, South Australia, their public toilet block had a mural of the main street painted across one entire wall.

Whilst I didn't take a photo I did notice that the town's tourist brochure of 'things to do and see in Bute' included a photo of the toilet block mural as part of its heritage trail walk.

A few years back I also heard of an Australian town (possibly South Australian but I'm not sure) that rallied together with much fund raising activities in order to turn their entire public toilet block into a work of art - specifically to turn it into a tourist attraction. Way to go - literally!

I'm sure there must be book documenting this phenomenon somewhere? If not there should be.

If you know of, or live in a town where the public toilet facilities have been deliberately made into a tourist attraction please leave a comment and a link to a picture in my comment section. It could be interesting to see what else is out there.

Gunner Bill's Gallery - Bute, South Australia


May 17, 2009

I was all ready to bag the town of Bute as not being worth the visit but then Enigma and I had a look around Gunner Bill's Gallery in Bute and I changed my mind. First though, let's back up a bit.

After spending our Saturday at the Cornish Festival in Moonta, Enigma and I were wondering how to spend our Sunday, the final day of our holiday? We knew there was a fair on at Kadina for the final day of the Cornish Festival but we had a sneaking suspicion we'd see pretty much all the same food vans we saw at the fair at Moonta so decided not to go.

I read in a tourist magazine a single paragraph about the town of Bute which mentioned that the town had an award winning fauna park and a Gallery/museum/craft shop. Thinking the fauna park might be a good animal photo opportunity and the Gallery could be interesting we decided to go. Bute was on the way home anyway (we passed through it on the trip to Port Broughton but it was dark then).

Bute is small so the fauna park was easy to find. Like any kind of park you usually find a gate to go in. This park didn't have one. You simply walk around the fenced off perimeter and view the animals within. A sign behind the fence informed us that this was Bob Brokate Park.

How it became an 'award winning' fauna park I'll never know? It's not that the animals don't look well kept or that the caged areas aren't appropriate for each animal, it's just that there is nothing special about it. As a park it's functional but that's about all.

Enigma and I deduced that it probably won an award for the best fauna park in Bute because it's no Gorge Wildlife park. However it's free and we did get one or two good photos of emus, wallabies and birds.

Bute is a very small town and you've got to love a town where some local has enhanced its entry statement with a spray painted shout out to the local football team (I'm assuming) across the middle of the road.

The statement you can see on the road in this photo on the right proclaims; "BCC A GRADE PREMIERS 5 IN A ROW". That's five in a row!

It's at this point I was thinking Bute wasn't really a town I'd go out of my way to see but after killing enough time waiting for Gunner Bill's Gallery and Craft to open at 11am Enigma and I finally got to go in and have a look around.

The Gallery and Craft aspect of Gunner Bill's is high quality with more craft than art but you could see this stuff in almost any rural, South Australian town. What changed my mind was the museum which, unlike most museums I've seen around South Australia focuses, in part, on the Australian Swag man. In particular one swag man known as Gunner Bill.

I didn't take in much about Gunner Bill but I did notice one photo of him receiving a food package as late as 1956 when he was still living the swag man's life style. I don't know a lot about the history of swag men but, at a guess, I would've thought the traditional Australian Swag man were few and far between by 1956. I could be wrong but I always thought they were from a much earlier era in Australian history.

The Gallery has a self published book featuring Swag man stories that I would've liked to have bought but unfortunately my budget wouldn't allow it.

Anyhow, if you have a particular interest in the history of the swag man then Bute is a good place to start your research or at least to learn about one, some what, famous local 'swaggie'. That aspect of Bute's history gives it a point of difference from other towns in the region.

Unfortunately my camera batteries were low by the time we got to the gallery so I was being very selective about taking photos however if you do happen visit Bute you'll find Gunner Bill's Gallery in the old Police Station just across the road from Bute Railway station.

Port Broughton, Moonta Mining and a Cornish Festival

May 15 & 16 2009

After traveling everywhere with Rose for the last five weeks, my partner, Enigma, and I decided we were well overdue for some 'us' time. Enigma heard that there was a Cornish Festival happening in the town of Moonta, South Australia so she booked some accommodation over the coming weekend for us in the, kind of, near by town of Port Broughton (closer, affordable accommodation was booked out due to the festival).

We didn't see a lot of Port Broughton as our specific purpose was to see the Cornish festival. In fact we didn't arrive in town until after dark on the Friday. However we did enjoy some fish and chips for tea at a local cafe and, on the Saturday evening, we snapped a few pictures of the Port Broughton historic jetty and surrounding beach front at sunset (see photo above).

According to one passer by the sunset we snapped was nothing compared to some he had seen there. I can only imagine as the sun seems to set almost in line with the end of the jetty. Given the right cloud conditions you could get some stunning pictures on a 'great' sunset day.

The Cornish Festival we were going to see is billed as The World's Largest Cornish Festival according to our souvenir guide. Its actual title is the Kenewek Lowender and is a Festival that lasts a full week and has events which span across three South Australian towns, Moonta, Kadina and Wallaroo. Enigma and I were here to catch the second last day of the event which was focussed on the town of Moonta.

We knew there was going to be a parade through the streets of Moonta but weren't sure if we could get there in time to see it since the drive from Port Broughton was about 30 minutes. However we managed to get going early and arrived in town just in time to find a vantage point for the start of the parade.

The weather up to this point had been dodgy to say the least, with stretches of blue sky followed by a passing, shower delivering cloud. I was surprised that the town was seemingly packed with visitors despite this and, incredibly, the rain held off long enough for the entire parade to pass us by.

Not that it was a long parade but it did have a good variety of brass bands, Cornish costumes, vintage cars (a monster truck?) and floats relating to Moonta's mining history and the Flintstones (what the?).

The selection of photos shown here are just a sample of the many Enigma and I took (thanks to Enigma for the Flintstones float photo which I didn't manage to get a good photo of). Be sure to click on them to see larger versions of each image.

After the parade Enigma and I did what probably most people who are hungry do at a Cornish festival - headed off to purchase a Cornish Pasty. Enigma had heard that the Cornish Kitchen Cafe on Ellen street made the best Cornish Pasties so we went straight there. Apparently word had got out because the cafe had set up a table on the shops front footpath to meet up with the demand. We joined the queue and it wasn't long before we were sitting on the footpath a little further up from the cafe enjoying our pasties.

As with all town festivals they're always a good time to put on an art exhibition and Moonta had no shortage of them. Enigma and I were amazed by an exhibition of photography by local artist William Godward whose images of the mines in the region are like none we'd ever seen.

A festival isn't a festival without a fair and Saturday was Moonta's turn. We made our way to the show grounds and paid a ridiculous entry fee to see a bunch of food wagons, food tents and amusement rides with a few Cornish themed stalls and entertainment thrown in to match the festivals theme.

If I hadn't been to so many town fairs over the course of the Barossa Festival I would've said this was a pretty good fair but it could've been a fair anywhere with a few Cornish events rather than a Cornish Fair. I know these things are not easy to organise but if you are someone who organises a town fair please make sure the food stalls/tents and amusement rides don't dominate and overshadow the whole reason for the fair in the first place.

Considering the entry cost for each adult person there just wasn't enough for the adults to do to justify it. The couple in the photo above probably had the right idea by setting up their fold up chairs next to the entertainment arena to watch some Irish dancing (or was that Cornish Dancing? It looked more Irish to me?). I didn't notice too much happening of interest in that arena after the dancing though?

By about this time Enigma and I were all festivaled out having seen the main attractions for the day. Country towns being country towns we of course bumped into someone we knew who lived no where in the immediate region. Enigma's Sister and her family had driven over from the town of Burra for the day and quite by chance we crossed paths.

I reckon Enigma's had a baby homing device secretly installed to seek out her sister's newly born daughter, whom she has to hold every time the two get together. (This isn't the first time we've 'accidentally' crossed paths with her sister since her daughter was born - it's not like we live next door either - Burra is over an hours drive away from where we live).

From then on we kept crossing paths as we managed to choose almost the same things to do with the rest of our day. Enigma and I went back to the Cornish Kitchen for a drinks break before heading over to the town's Visitor Information Centre at the Historic Railway Station.

There we learned about the Mining History Museum housed at the old school around the corner and down the road a bit. So we decided to head over there where we crossed paths again with Enigma's sister and family, browsing the museum whilst they waited for the Museum's train tour to get back in for the next trip.

The Museum its self has a wealth of information about not just the mining history but the history of life in general when mining was starting to take off in the region. Everything from school history to men's clubs (such as the Freemasons) is covered.

I found this museum even more interesting as it features many cartoons by a local Cornish newspaper cartoonist of the day (who's name escapes me) highlighting many humorous moments of the time in that sort of stiff wordy style of the old time gag cartoons. Though the cartoon drawings were far from 'stiff'.

One thing that did stick in my mind was that the original discovery of copper in the region was made by chance when copper deposits were dug up by a wombat. Apparently on the surface in this region there were no obvious signs that the area was rich in copper.

Enigma and I finished off our day with a visit to the Moonta Mine Sweet Shop just across the road from the Museum. This is quite possibly one of the smallest sweet shops I've ever been in (housed in the former post office) but still worth a look if you like traditional style candy.

Then we waited around for the tourist train to return for a photo opportunity (of the train) and one last chance to path cross with Enigma's Sister. Whilst we were waiting at the train station we wandered around the grounds looking at the old machinery on display. I wandered into the Black Smith's display and discovered another 'Upsetting Machine' just like the one in Angaston (see photo below).

There is actually quite a lot to see and do in Moonta if you have the money to pay all the admission fees. One unique experience is the chance to tour a modern day copper mine that was worked during the 1980s. Known as the Wheal Hughes Copper Mine you can book tours at Moonta's Visitor information centre. Enigma and I didn't do the tour but I thought it worth mentioning as seeing a copper mine isn't something you can do just anywhere.

That was pretty much our day in Moonta. As I mentioned at the start Enigma and I headed back to Port Broughton where we enjoyed a Sunset and turned in for the night.

As Fast as a Speeding Frog(van)

Since I haven't mentioned my frog van since Rose and I's trip to Mannum I know you're wondering how it's doing and whether I drove it the 90 minutes each way to and from Burra?

As you can see from the photo on the right, this is my van parked outside the old Burra historical railway station. No, really, I didn't photoshop the van in, it's really there!

The van traveled to Burra in 100 minutes (give or take a minute or two) reaching speeds of up to 110kmph (that about 68mph in old 'money') without so much as raising a sweat i.e. the engine stayed at normal temperature the whole way.

At about 110kmph the vans roof begins to vibrate in the wind. Nothing serious, it's a commercial style van, it doesn't have roof upholstery like your people movers just the thin sheet metal that is the roof. Since the speed limit in most places was 110kmph the vibrations are quite handy for letting you know you're going too fast.

As well whenever an oncoming eighteen wheeler went past we'd suddenly be driving in the fields along the road side (not really but it was hairy all the same). I learnt to give myself as much space as possible when a truck was coming in the other direction to reduce the wind blast on the van.

Burra was Rose's last tourist stop in South Austalia. She'll be returning to Perth in a couple of days time. I know the van will be happy for the rest.

It's still not one hundred percent right as a mechanic friend of my partner's looked at it and immediately noticed it had an exhaust manifold leak 'somewhere'. I'll have to look into it more to see what I can find.

The Van still occasionally 'runs on' a bit and backfires too, though not as much as it did. I'm hoping a professional tune up at some point will fix that.

In the meantime it's back to normal posting of whatever happens to be interesting to me at the time. I hope you've enjoyed these travel diaries and no doubt you'll be hearing more about the Frog van in the future.


The Frog Van - it's not easy being green!

Two Afternoons in Burra, South Australia

9th and 11th May 2009

This is my third trip to the town centre of Burra, South Australia, approximately 90 minutes drive north(ish) from Gawler. Fourth, if you include the second trip two days later on the 11th of May.

The first time Rose and I were here, during our 2007 Road Trip, I briefly wrote about our visit in two posts titled Miranda's Bedroom and Searching for C. J. Dennis and Gunning for Broken Hill.

At the time I was disappointed that the towns Community Art Gallery had an exhibition of quilts (not really my thing but I do appreciate the work involved). On the first day of this trip to Burra we visited the same gallery and... an exhibition of quilts (sigh). Must be an annual exhibition that occurs during the month of May?

The town of Burra is actually famous in these parts for its copper mining history and in particular the open cut 'Monster Mine' which is now used as a venue for Jazz concerts and can be seen in the background of this photo of Rose (above) taken on the balcony of Morphett's Engine House Museum.

Just to give you an idea of where Rose is standing in the first photo here is a photo of the Engine House Museum from ground level. See that balcony at the top? She was standing on the balcony, in the corner closest to the camera.

The engine house is one of three local history museums you can visit in Burra for a reasonable cost - though you have to time things just right if you want to catch all three on the same day. They have limited opening hours but are worth the visit because each one is staffed by a guide who will provide you with additional information on Burra's history as well as answer any questions.

In case you were wondering the Engine house used to contain a massive Cornish beam engine that would pump water out of the mine. The gap between the two balconies used to support the massive pumping arm (known as 'Bob') that was pushed and pulled by a giant piston up and down 24/7 during the mine's working days.

All three museums are part of a historic, 11km Heritage driving trail that you can follow as an essential part of the Burra experience. The trail is free to follow and takes in 49 different historical sites of interest. For an extra fee you can purchase a pass key from the Burra Visitor Information Centre which will give you additional access to eight of the 49 sites.

To do the tour properly and at a leisurely pace I'd recommend three days in Burra. You could do it in two but you'd have to skip a lot of information. Rose and I tried to do all three museums and the Heritage Trail in two afternoons and failed. Though we did manage to see all the various key access sites - albeit the Old Police Station we saw after sunset and virtually in the dark with only natural light.

One highlight of the tour for movie buffs is the old gaol which was used in the Australian, Bruce Beresford film, Breaker Morant (1980). (Note that the historic railway station in my home town of Gawler also appeared in this film). The gaol is a key access site if you want to look around inside.

One thing that I have learned about heritage trails in general is that the phrase interpretive walking trail translates to everything has been reduced to its foundations or rubble and you have to imagine what buildings looked like based on the detailed information boards along the way.

One or two of the key entry sites on Burra's trail are interpretive walking trails (much like Kapunda's mine site). Whilst the sites are probably very interesting to walk around, when you're in a hurry to see as much as you can, spending time imagining how things looked isn't something you really want to do. Especially if you're running out of daylight and are in danger of missing seeing other sites that are still standing.

After two afternoons in Burra we finally had to give up and be glad we saw as much as we did. There is a lot here that I haven't written about, such as the Town Hall museum (which is free) and the very interesting display and guided tour of the Bon Accord Mine Museum (which includes a detailed model of the Burra mine before it was converted to an open cut mine).

If you have an interest in Australia's mining history or you have Cornish, Welsh or Irish descendants who emigrated to Australia to seek their fortune in the mines then Burra, South Australia, may be of interest to you. It's recognized as one of the most complete historical mining townships in Australia and a nice town to visit too.

Back Into Central Adelaide

6th May 2009

Rose and I specifically planned another trip into central Adelaide to see a free exhibition called Picturing Words at the Adelaide Festival Centre, Artspace Gallery.

Prior to visiting the exhibition we made a stop into the Festival Centre's Cafe where I snapped this photo (on the right) of an almost deserted table area. We were having a fairly late lunch so had to go with pretty much what was readily available. I had a piece of Quiche, that looked more like a slice of cake it was so big, along with a bit of cucumber and lettuce salad topped with some kind of savory sauce dressing that I couldn't quite determine the flavor of.

The Picturing Words exhibition was described on the festival centre's web site as follows (because I'm too lazy to write this up and you'll understand more why I was a little disappointed later on):

Picturing Words

Artist's Perspectives on writing and illustrating picture books

Program developed with the DECS education officer based at the Adelaide Festival Centre

A visual exhibition of original children’s picture book illustrations showing creative stages that lead to the finished works of art now enjoyed in print. The exhibition of preliminary artworks, reference materials and storyboards are largely drawn from the Dromkeen Children's Literature Collection, with additional, original sketches and final illustrations supplied by the artists.

Picturing Words will feature self-guided storytelling 'stages' for featured books. The illustration processes for ten well-known children's books are from:

Ali the Bold Heart by Jane Jolly, Illustrator: Elise Hurst

The Boy, The Bear, The Baron, The Bard; Midsummer Knight, Illustrator: Gregory Rogers

Home, Written and illustrated by Narelle Oliver

Kestrel by Mark Svendsen, Illustrators: Steven Woolman & Laura Peterson

Maise Moo and Invisible Lucy, Written and illustrated by Chris McKimmie

The Man from Snowy River by A B Paterson, Illustrator: Freya Blackwood

A Pet for Mrs Arbuckle by Gwenda Smyth, Illustrator: Ann James

A True Person, Written and illustrated by Jacqui Grantford

The Wolf by Margaret Barbalet, Illustrator: Jane Tanner


Sounds really interesting doesn't it? Especially if you're someone like me who is constantly told that you should illustrate children's books, or someone like Rose who has written a children's book that she's hoping I'll illustrate some day.

When we entered the gallery we were greeted by the attendant who told us that the exhibition was really targeted at children, to help them learn about how children's books are made, but we were welcome to look around. Right away I knew this wasn't going to be as good as I had hoped.

Looking around at the various sample pages of work in progress to finished artwork displays you did get some insight into each artist's process but not anywhere near as much as I would have liked. Just little snippets of explanation from the artist but nothing too in depth.

No doubt, if you were a child on a school excursion to this exhibition you'd have a much more interactive time participating in the range of activities that were available. All designed to encourage learning and to get kids more involved with the creative process. As an adult and a professional artist it was a little 'light' for me but then it wasn't an exhibition aimed at people of my age or experience.

Still, it was an interesting exhibition and any time I get to see the work behind the finished art is always a joy to see. Sometimes people seem to think us artists just create all our pictures straight from our heads with no preliminary thought, sketches, roughs or mistakes along the way. Sometimes we do but most of the time not.

For the rest of our time in Adelaide Rose and I didn't have any specific plans so we just kind of wandered around the shopping precinct.

Knowing that Rose is interested in art I remembered this rather large garden themed sculpture that you can find on King William Street just north of the west end of Rundle Mall. The photos don't show you all of it - there is a giant peg, beach ball, bone and fish skeleton as well - but to give you some sense of scale the tap you can see in the background (with the garden hose attached) is easily eight to nine feet tall (at a guess).

The thong (that's flip flop to my American readers) in the second photo is big enough for a couple of people to sit in and still have room.

Despite this sculpture having many plaques with little garden friendly messages on them I couldn't find one that gave me any information about the artist or the title of the artwork as a whole. All I could find was a plaque that said This Playspace was commissioned in 2006 by the Adelaide City Council and that it was officially opened in December of 2007.

We finished up our second Adelaide trip with a wander through Adelaide Arcade shopping mall. This is one of those shopping malls that every city has that you really must take some time to visit. It combines a real sense of history with a selection of specialty shops ideal for those who like to shop somewhere other than their local variety superstore. Rose and I browsed through the Arcade's stairwell history museum before heading back to the railway station and making our way home.

Mannum House Boats and the 1956 Flood

May 2 and 4, 2009

Mannum, South Australia is situated on the Murray River about an hour and twenty minutes drive from my home town of Gawler. If you've been following recent posts on this blog then you may be wondering if my frog van was up to this distance.

Fortunately the day before Rose and I spent a very damp afternoon at The Gorge Wildlife Park located in the Adelaide hills about forty minutes south of Gawler. The van had not only got us there without any real problem but had also negotiated some pretty steep hills (one of which had me right down to second gear to make the steepest sections). After that a drive to Mannum should be easy.

Before I get back to Mannum, I didn't write about The Gorge Wildlife park because I've already covered it in 2007 with my post, Gorge Wildlife Park, Cuddle a Koala. That previous trip we had a much better time and weren't rained out. Back then I took 137 photos, this time I took only one and it was a bad photo of a dingo.

Right, that out of the way, Mannum. The town of Mannum held an 'Open Weekend' for their houseboat hire industry where you could go along and inspect a considerable number of houseboats for hire. Rose and I went along on the Saturday.

The Murray River in Australia has received plenty of media coverage of late due to the droughts we've been experiencing. Often regarded as the life blood of Australia (well at least three states anyway) the water levels have dropped considerably in recent years making water for irrigation extremely scarce.

In the media the river is often depicted as dried up however this isn't the case. There is still more than enough water to enjoy a houseboat holiday. In fact if it wasn't for the markers and jetties indicating where the water level used to be you'd probably never even realize that the Murray river was far lower than it used to be.

For example in the photo above of the Murray Princess (which is a luxury paddle steamer and local tourist attraction that you can book cruises on) if you look at the shore in the foreground you can see the water level should be nearly up to the green grass of the park lands.

On our first day at Mannum Rose probably looked through every houseboat, whilst I managed about half before I decided they were all starting to look a bit 'samey' just with different decor. That's not to say it wasn't fascinating to begin with. Some of these boats were bigger and had better kitchen's, lounges, bathrooms and bedrooms than just about every house I've ever lived in on land. Not only that but most had room for two to three bathrooms all of equal size!

Granted many of the house boats were considered five star accommodation, with virtually all of them having a full size spa on the upper deck, but still, for house boats - I'd consider living in one full time!

One particular highlight was this three level houseboat you can see in the photo on the right. The interior on this was stunning. I swear I wouldn't know what to do with all the rooms and space. I'd also have trouble finding ten to twelve friends that I could take a holiday with to fill it.

The very first houseboat we looked at was also both Rose and I's favorite. Unlike all the others it utilized half the lower decks floor space (from front to back) as open plan shared living space. The other half was filled with two bedrooms and two bathrooms. The effect was a much more spacious boat than most of the other boats which seem to use the front of the boat for shared living space and the middle to back for bedrooms and bathrooms. The upper sun deck simply had a full size spa and room for an out door table setting from which to enjoy the scenery.

Rose found out this boat was for sale and did some serious talking with the boat manager's step daughter, who was looking after that particular vessel during the open day. I think she nearly talked Rose into actually investing in a houseboat (but not quite).

By the time we'd finished looking at all the houseboats we were running out of light so decided to head home for the day. The trip back was a real drama in its self because I got lost twice, extending out trip by at least another thirty minutes. Damn maps, a lack of good road signs combined with darkness all conspired against me.

After a frustrating time getting home we took a break on Sunday to just relax then headed back to Mannum on the Monday. I figured that since we'd worked out how I'd managed to get lost we may as well go back whilst all the road routes were still fresh in my mind.

Mannum does have more to offer than just houseboats. Rose wanted to walk through the Visitor Information Centre's history Museum and hoped to get a tour of the Marion - a completely restored and working paddle steamer originally built early last century.

Unfortunately we didn't get to look through the Marion due to a school group having taken over the boat for the afternoon however the Museum was extremely interesting though largely focussed on one significant event. The 1956 Floods.

Rose and I learnt that in 1956 all the lower wetlands across three states - which include the Murray River flooded to record levels. If you look at the photo on the right you'll see a tree stump monument dedicated to the floods that includes a measuring stick. The mark right at the top... that's the level of the 1956 floods in Mannum.

If you look behind the tree stump in the photo you'll see the back end of the three storey paddle boat, the Murray Princess. If the boat stayed at its present level and the water rose to the height of the floods, you might be able to stand on its roof without getting your feet wet.

One particular story the museum's video on the floods relates is how the local pub managed to stay trading even though it's entire ground floor filled with water nearly to the ceiling. They simply knocked out a section of railing on the upper floor so people could pull up in their boats and climb onto the balcony.

Apparently things worked really well until the water levels started backing up the sewerage system and the toilets in many of the buildings simply exploded with raw sewage coming back up the pipes. Yummy!

After the museum we decided to seek out some water falls that Mannum is known for. We hadn't been able to find any brochure that actually contained detailed information about where they were located. However Rose did find a photocopied, hand drawn map that looked fairly straight forward and easy to follow. How wrong we were.

Here's a hint to anyone drawing a street map - try writing on the name of the roads. You may be able to find things by distance traveled and their relationship to one site specific landmark but the rest of us are used to street directories and maps with the actual names of roads.

We looked everywhere for these waterfalls, back tracking and more but had to give up as we started to run out of light (I didn't want to be driving home in the dark this time). I swear we followed the map but along the way could not find one single street sign that said 'Mannum Falls'.

If it wasn't for a single photo of them in one of our extremely unhelpful color brochures I'd say Mannum Falls don't exist. If you've been there and taken a photo place a link to it in the comments below. I'd love to see what I missed.

With that our trip to Mannum was over. The drive home was uneventful and only notable for the fact that I didn't get lost and the Frog van didn't break down at all.

Mannum is a very picturesque, historical town, great for a day out or as a stop on your next houseboat holiday... you won't get sea sick or anything. Rose and I actually rode on one of the houseboats whilst there and we barely noticed any rocking motion at all - even when it was moving along.
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