Stranded In Kapunda, South Australia

28th & 29th April, 2009

Not content with dropping out of the lime light my frog van continues to find new ways to play a staring role in my blog posts about Rose and I (supposedly) and our South Australian adventures. This time a dead battery left us stranded in the mining town of Kapunda for the night.

I've written about Kapunda on Rose's last trip in 2007, specifically about the annual Celtic Festival and a few other local sites. I thought I'd covered the town pretty well and wasn't going to write another post since we only managed to browse through the town's extensive history and mining museums. However as things transpired the van decided we weren't going home just as the sun was setting and most things were closing for the night.

Rose and I were taking a final look at Sir Sidney Kidman's old residence, now the main building for Kapunda's high school. Sir Sidney is a rather famous land owner in Australia - at one time owning probably more land across the country than most other land holders. It was starting to get dark, we got back in the Van, I turned the key and nothing. Well the dash lights came on but that's about it. A few more attempts at turning the key later and even the dash lights stopped working. I checked all the fuses but they were fine.

I've never had a battery just go dead (especially not after a really good long drive at speed) so I was sure it couldn't be a battery issue and thought maybe the ignition switch was broken. You'd understand my logic more if you have seen the key I use to start the van, otherwise it sounds a bit silly. Anyway I pulled apart the steering column casing to get at the ignition switch but it was a fruitless exercise and I ended up putting it back together with no progress made on the problem.

We were too far from home to get my partner, Enigma, out to pick us up and too far to get the van towed home. Rose and I decided to find some accommodation in Kapunda for the night then deal with the van in the morning when we might be able to get a mechanic to have a look.

As luck would have it the nearest accommodation was a bed and breakfast called Ford House. When I say 'luck' I really mean that. The B&B owners, Liz and Chris, were better than the RAA (our local automobile break down service - of which I'm not a member). Not only did Liz welcome us straight in after Rose explained our situation but she volunteered her partner, Chris, to drive out with me and have a look at the van when he got home from work. We'd just been hoping to get a room for the night!

Chris was immediately thinking 'flat battery' based on what I told him so we drove to the high school in his ute armed with a set of jumper leads. Sure enough the van started. Unfortunately as soon as you turned the headlights on (it was dark by this time) it stalled and was completely dead.

It was possible to keep the van going with just parking lights on so Chris suggested I drive it like that back to their B&B a few minutes away and he would follow behind. As soon as we got back I turned the motor off then tried to start it again. The power lasted for all of a second before going completely dead.

Chris seemed to think the alternator was probably fine and all that was needed was a new battery. He drove me about a minute further up the road to show me where we could buy a new battery from in the morning. How many B&B owners would do all that I wonder!

Our overnight stay at Ford House was extremely pleasant. Complimentary tea, coffee and port is provided to all rooms and breakfast is included in the price. You also have access to television and the owners DVD and CD collections. For dinner Rose and I went to the Pub across the road known as the Sir John Franklin Hotel where I had a very nice meal of fish, salad and chips.

The next morning at Ford House Liz made us breakfast. Well she made Rose Scrambled eggs and she tried to tempt me with a hot breakfast (or at least more than just the cereals, biscuit and cup of tea that I had). I'm just not a big breakfast person. I find large breakfasts make me want to go back to sleep instead of getting on with my day. However if you are a big breakfast kind of person then you'll love Ford House at breakfast time.

After thanking Liz and leaving glowing comments in Ford House's guest book we set about getting a new battery. I won't bore you with the details suffice to say the new battery did the trick and got us going again. I'm crossing my fingers and hoping the alternator is fine!

Since we were still in Kapunda we decided to use the day to see a few more of the things the town had to offer.

First up we did the 1.5km walk around the old Kapunda Copper mine for which the town is famous for - apparently the copper find here was the purest find anywhere in the world at 63 percent pure.

There's actually not a lot of the mine's buildings left to see other than a single chimney that was installed as an air vent and a couple of other fallen down structures. However there is plenty of information boards to fill in the blanks and you can walk down into the mine pit and see various shafts where the miners hand dug for copper.

From there we went to the newly established Salon Rouge Gallery and saw paintings by Sophie Gralton and Jacqueline Coates. Sophie paints autobiographical self portrait works of children that feature wonderful textures not only from paint but also lace work and other collaged items. Jacqueline is a master of painting flowers in sizes that make their structure seem quite awesome (literally).

Moving on we visited the studio gallery of Roger Murcott. Roger paints mainly birds in an almost photo realistic style, something he told us he's been doing for over 30 years. I found his sketches with their colour descriptions to be quite interesting to look at as well. I can't imagine doing anywhere near as much planning and studying for a painting as he seems to do.

From there we stopped in at the Kapunda Bakery for lunch (which features a downstairs bakery museum that I wrote about in my previous visit to the town) and then went for a look at the Little Glory Art Studio (note: web site may or may not work. At the time of writing it was still a 'work in progres') where artists B. J. Moore and Carmine Lake exhibit their work and run a Succulent Nursery (the subject of Carmine's paintings).

By about this time we felt we'd seen as much of Kapunda as we wanted to see for the moment so Rose and I decided to head for home. Fortunately the frog van was on the same page this time and we departed for Gawler with no further hiccups and glad to be getting home.

The Frog Van - Old Boiler No More

In the continuing saga that is my frog van we left off in my post Getting to Know More About Cars with the van parked in my studio minus one driver seat and radiator.

As mentioned previously I took the radiator in to have it cleaned.

The verdict was, according to the radiator mechanic, that the internal pipes were 95 percent blocked. Overheating problem solved, I guess. Whilst this before and after photo on the right is rather meaningless it does show how painting the thing black can make all the difference. I'm sure that'll help. I wonder if we paid extra for that?

I put the radiator and the engine panel and driver seat back in (thinking I wouldn't need to get down that side of the engine any more), filled the radiator up and gave the van a good run around a few local hills at 80kmph. The good news being that the engine temperature remained constant at its proper level the whole time. Yippee! Old boiler no more!

Next I decided to see what I could do about the fuel problem with the van constantly running on, backfiring (sometimes) and I did notice it was struggling a little again going up hills.

All my online researching suggested starting with the fuel pump and fuel filter. I knew the fuel pump was fine but have no idea when the fuel filter was last changed so put a new one of those on my shopping list. At the same time I checked all the rubber hoses that make up the fuel system and discovered a suspect one right at the base of the carburetor attached to the fuel inlet manifold (I think that's what you call it). Rubber hose added to my shopping list.

I thought I'd remove the old fuel filter easily but it wasn't to be. It was located on the drivers side of the engine so once again I had to pull out the drivers seat and the engine cover panel.

Pulling out the old filter was a little tricky but putting in the new one was easy enough. I bought enough rubber hose to put new hoses on each side of the filter which I cut then let my partner, Enigma, handle attaching them to the filter whilst I went off and made a real mess of replacing the other hose near the carburetor.

The old hose had a definite split. Since this was a vacuum pressure hose it was clear to me that this could be the reason for the van once again struggling with hills. You'd think replacing a pipe would be simple but, since this is me we're talking about, I managed to break the metal connection point right off, putting on the new hose.

After fitting the new fuel filter my partner and I rushed down to the car shop with the broken part for advice. The man there suggested we could either fit a new similar (but not the same part) brass part for AU$42.00 or we could try gluing the old part back together with a product called 'permaweld' for AU$9.95. No prizes for which we chose.

The Permaweld glue needed to be left overnight for maximum strength so I glued the part and then tidied everything up for the day. If you look at the photo on the right you can see the part I'm talking about. The curved bit on the top, angling to the right, is what broke off.

Permaweld is designed for use in engines and is meant to be able to stand extreme heat, oil and fuel and more. When I got back the next day the bond seemed pretty strong though I was very careful not to put too much pressure on it when I refitted the new pipe.

In the photo on the right you can see the grey, Permaweld glue holding the curved metal pipe in place. All the pipes are attached and the part is back in position.

Enigma once again helped, putting back the engine panel and drivers seat. All that was left to do was give the frog van a really good run to see if our work had made any difference.

That afternoon Rose and I took the van for a really long run to visit Gomersal Wines out at the small town of Lyndoch. The Winery had an exhibition of art we hoped to see. The van drove there beautifully maintaining normal temperature at 100kmph and even faring well on corrugated, puddle filled dirt roads.

The winery had a different exhibition on to the one we were expecting (apparently Rose had got hold of a really old flyer with no dates). Still the exhibition we saw was interesting featuring macro photography of flowers, beach themed oil paintings and some Japanese and European themed scenes too.

On the way back we stopped in at The Yaldara Estate (pictured), where you can sample wines and cheeses. Rose is something of a cheese gourmet and bought three different varieties along with some crackers.

By the time we got home the frog van had done remarkably well. It didn't overheat at all and the engine seemed to be running better. Unfortunately I didn't solve the running on problem but I did seem to improve it. That is to say it only runs on slightly now. I'll have to look more into it but I'll save that for another day.

Adelaide Pigs, an Echidna and an Urban Cow

22nd April 2009

Since the Frog van was out of action Rose and I decided not to let this week go totally to waste and boarded the train for Adelaide's Central Business and Shopping District (i.e. the city of Adelaide).

Rose specifically wanted to see the Adelaide Pigs of Rundle Mall that she hadn't had time to see last time. I can't tell you much (* see footnote) about these four bronze pig sculptures (see photo) other than each one was named by different people in 1999 and their names are Horatio (pictured with Rose), Truffles, Oliver (looking in the bin behind rose) and Augusta. The two pigs not pictured, more or less, look like they're walking around, as pigs do.

The four are very popular photo opportunities though I suspect Horatio is probably the star given that he is strategically placed to look like he's interacting with whoever sits on the bench in front of him.

Rundle Mall is essentially the main pedestrian shopping strip in the city of Adelaide. Anyone who comes into Adelaide to shop will usually gravitate towards this part of the city at some point. It's also where any kind of events happen, such as concerts, fashion parades and kids school holiday activities.

Currently most schools are on a two week break so on our visit to the mall we spotted this giant inflatable echidna (see photo right) and a giant inflatable platypus further down the mall.

Both were part of something called the 'Nylon Zoo' a story telling experience created by artist, Evlyn Roth. Kids are invited to dress up in their favorite animal or plant costumes as part of a parade then they can actually go inside the inflatable animals and enjoy a story.

Later that afternoon Rose and I took off to find a gallery called the Urban Cow Studio which, after visiting, I can highly recommend. Especially if you're into contemporary arts by local South Australian artists.

For the most part Urban Cow is a shop stocking hand made arts and crafts by, as I said, local artists. There is much to see and the shop display is spectacular for its range of different art, craft and ideas.

Upstairs they have a smallish room that features changing exhibitions. On our visit Rose and I viewed a combined exhibition of photography called The Elephant in the Room by photographers John Goodridge, Janine Matheson, Harvey Schiller, Paul Tait and Mandi Whitten.

Personally I'm not a big fan of photography as an art medium so I didn't get much from the exhibition. Don't get me wrong. Photography is art and I can be greatly impressed by exceptional photography. I've done my fair share of taking photos (had several years photography training too) and I'm just not that impressed by it as a means of expression.

Moving along we continued our visit to Adelaide with a walk around the South Australian State Art Gallery and the South Australian State Museum.

Both places are worth a visit if you've never been but I'm not going to talk too much about them here. In both cases you're going to be seeing the permanent collections of two very impressive institutions (which will cost you nothing) then you can opt to pay and see whatever touring exhibition/display is currently being featured.

The State Galleries permanent collection of art is well worth looking around. You will not be disappointed. It caters for all tastes in art and features some very famous artists from Australia and around the world. You could easily spend a day here if you really wanted to look at all the art. For an even better experience there are guided tours that will help give even more meaning to the art you're viewing.

In contrast the State Museum whilst equally interesting I did find very hard going to stay interested in. Mostly because they have so much stuff to look at. For example they have an entire floor dedicated to Oceanic tribes which has so many examples of spears, masks, tools, tribal dress and more that you just can't look at it all - even if you wanted to.

It's a similar problem with the Australian Aboriginal display. There's just so much of it that it becomes hard to find things to single out and enjoy. It becomes a bit of a blur.

That said, if you have the time, I'd certainly recommend browsing the museum. Some of the displays are easier to follow and there are plenty of video screens to inform you better about the things you're looking at.

* Footnote (28th April 2009): I just happened to be looking at some of my photos of the pigs and noticed on this photo (right) of Oliver that there is a plaque on the side of the bin crediting the artist.

Turns out the pigs are the creation of artist, Marguerite Derricourt. They were commissioned by the City of Adelaide in 1999 and they are collectively titled 'A Day Out'.

Getting to Know More About Cars

I've written before on everything I know about cars which is a lot more than some but no trained mechanics will be shaking in their boots any time soon. In fact quite a few backyard mechanics kick sand in my face too (metaphorically speaking of course).

My vehicle, known as the frog van, recently renamed the old boiler in this Barossa Festival post, has finally succumbed to its overheating problems to the point where I had to do something about it.

I tried to fix it the day before we went to see the Vintage Festival Parade at the town of Nuriootpa. I was thinking it may be a thermostat issue. After much research and consideration about where the thermostat actually was on my van I pulled things apart and did the 'boiling water' test to see if the thermostat would open. It did. Crap!

Essentially that meant I'd wasted a bottle of coolant (which had only been in the engine less than a week), had to replace a perfectly fine thermostat gasket and not found the overheating problem. Still, I now know more about car thermostats and how they work.

That was my last best guess at the problem because the cooling system wasn't leaking or losing water (except to evaporation and the overflow pipe as a result of it overheating). After that I figured it might be a water pump issue but I'm definitely not up for pulling that out. As well I couldn't help feeling that if the water is boiling in the radiator then the water pump must be working because the radiator removes heat from the engine it doesn't actually heat anything up its self.

So I bit the bullet and went in to see a proper mechanic. Described the problem - van overheats at 60kmph or greater but the temperature remains relatively stable at lower speeds during shorter drives.

The mechanic said it sounds like a blocked radiator. Of course! Well I believed him anyway because that sounds cheaper and easier to fix than a water pump. It seems mechanics in my home town are all backed up with work no matter where you go. This guy was no different but suggested I take the van to a specialist radiator mechanic on the other side of town (not that far when you live in a small country town).

When I got to the radiator guy he seemed to concur with the mechanic after I told him the van wasn't leaking. Seemed promising. I asked him when he could take a look at it - he said Thursday (3 days time). Then he asked "Are you able to take the radiator out?"

"Err... well no because I have to drive it here."

"Well we can't look at it unless you take the radiator out yourself because we don't like working on vans. Too fiddly and you have to crawl all around and underneath them - plus it'll save you some money."

You know I might have gone somewhere else if he hadn't of said "plus it'll save you some money".

You might think his attitude to vans is a crock but if you've ever worked on a van engine... I don't blame him.

The frog van's engine is right under the passenger seat. To get the radiator out you have to pull out the drivers seat, remove a panel so you can see more of the engine then crawl under the front to remove the four bolts that hold the radiator in place. See the photo of the van parked in my studio - drivers seat and radiator removed.

It is pretty tricky and I've never taken out a radiator before so I know how to do that now.

Visually, you can't really tell if a radiator is blocked. You can look in from where the radiator cap goes at the top to see a few of the pipes but that doesn't really tell you much. Externally it's got a bit of mud caked into the core but it's all old mud that was there long before the van started overheating (we're talking previous owner old because I've not really driven on anything except sealed roads).

At the moment the frog van is out of action. At the time of writing this there's still two days to go before I can take the radiator in to get it fixed, cleaned and unblocked (or re-cored even). I just hope this will solve the problem.

Over the next few days I suspect I'm going to be learning even more about cars. The van has a fairly serious 'running on' problem. For the uninitiated that's where you turn the engine off via the key and the car keeps running until it runs out of fuel in the cylinder heads.

It's not so bad most of the time but again, after a long drive, it can run on for quite some time requiring me to put the car in gear to 'stall' the engine.

Should you be reading this and you know how to fix that kind of problem please let me know in the comments. You'll be doing me a great favor and who knows, I may just write about you in this continuing saga of the frog van.

The Barossa Festival 2009 - Part 4

Vintage Festival Parade, Nuriootpa Town Day (Barossa Brunch) and Tanunda Town Day
April 18th, 2009

Eight days into the Barossa Festival finds Rose and I at the Nuriootpa Town Day. Obviously Nuriootpa is another Town of the Barossa Valley and serves as a commercial/shopping centre for many of the smaller surrounding towns (such as Greenock).

We arrived in town just in time to see the start of the Barossa Vintage Festival Parade that showcases local wineries, businesses, community groups and more. Apparently it's the longest parade in the southern hemisphere given that it runs the distance between Nuriootpa and the town of Tanunda. It includes over 100 floats and 1200 participants and has been a Barossa tradition since 1949 (can you tell I'm just rattling off figures from the brochure now?).

Anyhow, for a parade that isn't a Christmas Pageant (with all the story book and Christmas themes to base floats on) this one was still a lot of fun had a good variety of floats, bands, cars and people to see.

It's hard to pick out just a few highlights from my photographs but I'll try. (Don't forget, you can click on the images if you'd like to see bigger versions of each photo).

The car covered in turf certainly made me do a double take because at first glance the turf looked real.

There was the wood carver from Angaston's Town Day, carving his toy rocking horses on the back of his truck.

An entire crowd of what looked like people dressed as yellow rockets but I'm guessing were actually cheese sticks as their float was advertising a Cheese Shop.

One float had a science fiction theme and featured Star Wars characters, a rocket and a Doctor Who Tardis. I've no idea what it was about but it was certainly different.

Even more different was a little red car that depicted the George Bush 'shoe throwing incident'. How that got into the parade I'll never know but it was quirky none the less.

Finally I thought some of the really old tractors bringing up the rear of the parade were, perhaps not the most exciting, but still interesting to see.

There was far more to see in this parade than I can show including custom made cars, trucks, singers, and quite a few over-sized wine bottles waving the flag for the various wineries.

Once the parade was over we wandered around the rest of the main street to see the various stalls and displays.

You had to get up pretty early to see everything because Nuriootpa's Town day was really only two thirds of a day, beginning at 8:30am and finishing at 2pm. Unusual I know but no doubt timed to correspond with Tanunda's Town day at the finishing line of the parade. Their day started at 1:30pm with the parade finishing there at about 2pm.

We'd arrived at 11am so we missed a few things but if you had kids they could catch a traditional Punch and Judy show or play a game of Snakes 'n' Ladders using themselves as place holders on an over-sized floor mat game board. There were the obligatory fair ground rides and plenty of live music too.

To sum up Nuriootpa's Town day (which officially was actually called the Barossa Brunch) really lived up to expectations. The parade was a real bonus but once it had left town for Tanunda there was still plenty to wander around and look at. We also stopped for lunch at a fairly nice cafe too who's name escapes me (Fisherman's Wharf Cafe I think - something to do with fish anyway).

Rose and I stayed until the end of Nuriootpa's Town Day then we moved on to Tanunda's. I didn't take a lot of photos here, not because there wasn't anything happening but because Tanunda was jam packed with people. It seemed like everyone who had been watching the parade or been at Nuriootpa in the morning had descended on Tununda. The overall effect was a lot of people sampling the wine, standing around talking or gathered around various events turning the whole thing into one massive street party.

We did get to view a few art galleries including the Barossa Regional Gallery that always has some very interesting, contemporary art - definitely worth checking out if you're in town (but it often costs money to get in).

Both of us stopped to watch the German Dancers (that we'd first seen at Lyndoch's family fun day and then again at Angaston's Town Day) and we caught another heat of the grape stomping competition (though we missed the Grand Finals which were also held shortly after).

Things really turned into a street party when Chad Romero and his band, Cabaret Cabernet hit the main stage singing classic rock and pop covers. Rose and I caught the bands last set of about five songs. Whilst the photo doesn't really show it, by about the second song Chad had the crowd dancing and hyped. He really was a fantastic showman and sung the event to its close at 5:30pm.

I'm not altogether sure about Tanunda's Town Day. It's highlights were good but it seemed like you had to pay an entry fee to get into nearly every second display. Fair enough many of the displays were to raise funds for the community groups putting them on but in my opinion, on a day like this, a gold coin donation is a better way to go.

There were a number of displays we would have looked at even though we didn't have a lot of interest in them but didn't because of the entry fees.

The only other aspect I'd criticize worked for and against it. The number of people standing around drinking wine and talking was incredible. It did add to the street party atmosphere but it sure made it hard to get around and very difficult to see things. As I said though, once Chad and his band got on the stage it really lifted the atmosphere and it was good to have a crowd.

If you like crowds, wine, food and a party atmosphere, Tanunda's Town day is a must for you. It's definitely a bit of a party town.

The Barossa Festival 2009 - Part 3

Angaston Town Day
April 15th, 2009

If there is one event of the festival that I could highly recommend thus far it is Angaston's Town Day. Angaston is a smallish South Australian country town that, in my opinion, is one of the most scenic and attractive. Located, seemingly part way up a hill, it has a good cross section of history, historic architecture and Shady trees/spots (a real asset to any spectator event).

Importantly, the Angaston community knows how to put on a town day that is what it should be - jam packed with plenty to do and/or see.

The main street was blocked off for the event and was filled with demonstrations and stalls including Yarn Spinning, a man making wooden rocking horses, stone crushing, wine barrel making, local produce stalls, main stage and more.

The highlight of the day were three heats of the Barossa grape stomping competition held right in the middle of the main street where you couldn't miss it (see photo, top right).

Further up the street the local blacksmith (which you can visit any time and is home to The Upsetting Machine) was in full swing with demonstrations.

Rose and I visited Angaston several times back when she came over in 2007 so, for us, no trip is complete without lunch at our favorite spot, The Roaring 40's Cafe. Since our last visit the cafe was acknowledged with an award for making the best home made pizza's in Australia (2008). We didn't have pizza but I had a very yummy Turkey Burger in Damper bread.

Along one side of the main street we came across this rather interesting, fake bronze, sculpture of a man with a cart horse (see photo). Neither of us were sure why it was there but it was doing a great job of blocking the driveway and several people felt a need to have their photo taken with it.

To finish off our day we browsed a community art exhibition in the Church Hall followed by a wander around the Angaston Town Hall where there were more local art and craft displays - including one man's giant collection of toy fire trucks.

Although the two of us spent most of the day at Angaston we didn't get chance to see everything. With several tourist attractions (Such as the Angas Park Sweet shop and a Gourmet Cheese Shop - and don't forget The Lego Man) that you can visit almost any time, Rose and I will almost certainly visit Angaston again before she heads back to Western Australia.

Herbig Family Tree, Springton

April 14th, 2009

Rose and I didn't stay that long at the Mengler Lookout. There was still a good part of the afternoon left so Rose suggested we go look at a tree.

Not just any tree but the Herbig Family Tree at the small country town of Springton, South Australia. I looked at the map and noticed the drive would be quite significant for my heat challenged boiler, the frog van. I said to Rose, "This better be one really impressive tree!"

The first part of the drive was the rest of the way up the fairly steep Menglar Hill. I knew this would be the most challenging for the van. Fortunately it made it and fortunately the rest of the drive was largely down hill, following the sealed back roads without too much traffic. In some spots the van's engine temperature actually went down for a bit.

Whilst I had been very skeptical of traveling so far to see a tree I must admit once I saw the Herbig Family Tree it was worth the trip. If only because the tree is so photogenic.

I can't tell you much about the tree other than the Herbig family (who were among the first pioneers to settle in the region) made the huge hollowed out tree trunk into their first home. Apparently the hollow nature of the trunk was caused by lightening strikes - though I'm not sure - that's just what I gleaned from Rose who told me a little bit of the history while I was busy taking photographs.

I do know that the tree is well over one hundred years old and used to be much taller. At some point the top part of the tree collapsed but has since grown back to the slightly bonsai-ed look you see today.

Although it is quite a drive to see the Herbig Family tree, you can make your trip even more worthwhile by traveling to Springton via the road that leads from Williamstown (perhaps after a visit to the Whispering Wall). The scenery is just superb with many hills that I swear would be just perfect for a fairy castle on the summit.

Mengler Hill: Barossa Sculpture Park Revisited

April 14th, 2009

After the some-what disappointing Step Back in Time, Rose and I decided to head up the road (and up the hill) to the Mengler Hill Lookout, home of the Barossa Sculpture Symposium. I wrote about these sculptures when Rose visited me back in 2007 and at the time was unimpressed with what I saw.

However, sometime during the year 2008 a new Symposium was held with a few more international sculptors being invited to contribute new works to the existing park. Hence, since we were so close, we thought we would have a look.

As near as we could tell about eight (possibly nine) new sculptures have been added to the park. Unusually we couldn't find any information about who made them or what each new sculpture was called (other than some pretty rough signature inscriptions into the sculptures themselves - one even had the artist's web address carved into the base).

All but one of the new sculptures were fairly simplistic abstract shapes much like the existing sculptures. The odd one out was only different because it had a simplistic female figure carved into the rock (see photo, right - Rose is the figure not made out of rock!).

In my opinion the new sculptures simply give visitors more to look at and do very little to enhance the park's experience overall. If abstract shapes and symbolism are your thing when it comes to art then put this on your MUST SEE list. Personally I'm not into it.

I know carving anything out of rock is a difficult ask but I can't help thinking many of the original masters (such as Michelangelo) did sculpture so much better with far more primitive tools than what is available to artists today. It's not like I want to see classical sculpture with realistic figures depicting bible stories, myths and legends but please, give me something with depth and detail that makes me marvel at the skill required to achieve such artistic excellence.

If you can't do that at least arrange the sculptures closer together so their combined presence makes some kind of statement as a whole. In this park the sculptures are just too far apart and don't really have any visual cohesiveness to each other beyond being sculptures carved from the same type of rock.

All of the sculptures in this park I feel I could create with a six week crash course in rock carving. It's a terrible generalisation akin to saying my kid could make that. Like the kid I probably couldn't make these sculptures, or if I could, would I think to make them? Probably not.

Perhaps the Barossa Council would like a giant stone carving of one of my cats?

The Barossa Festival 2009 - Part 2

Bethany: A Step Back In Time
April 14th, 2009

Rose wanted to visit the Bethany, Step Back in Time family day. Bethany is a small, South Australian, rural town just before you get to the larger town of Tanunda. It's main attraction is the German 'village' which these days consists of a church, tea rooms and school house art gallery as well as a few smaller surrounding structures.

Rose and I decided to head through the School house art gallery first where the Barossa Art Society had a display of paintings. The exhibition wasn't particularly large and there were certainly a number of nice landscapes and animal pictures however nothing particularly stuck out in my mind to single it out here.

The brochure for this event said there would be demonstrations of traditional bread making, butter churning, noodle making, rope making and more. When we got there the bread making stall was vacant, I heard someone ask the rope making person if he'd be demonstrating (he said "no"), and nothing was happening at the butter churning stall.

There were a couple of men hollowing out a log with axes to make a trough and the noodle lady was kind of making noodles.

At about this point it was time for lunch and, to the organizers credit, the tea rooms made some very nice sandwiches along side a serving of German Cake. The pleasant environment and friendly staff were a welcome contrast to the rest of the stalls and demonstrations.

I don't like to knock events like this because I do realize they take considerable time to organize and many of the people operating the displays are often volunteers however, everyone in period dress seemed to be on an extended tea break. After we had finished our lunch we went back out to see if any of the other demonstrations were under way only to see a tray full of cups of tea and coffee being brought out to the demonstrators. I guess it's pretty tiring standing around and talking to each other.

With not much else to see or do (beyond listening to the historical church organ play) Rose and I left for Mengler Hill, the site of the Barossa Sculpture park, which was just up the road. I'll write about that next post.

The Barossa Festival 2009 - Part 1

Lyndoch Family Fun Day and Greenock Town day.

My sister, The Blonde Rose, is visiting again from Western Australia for a few weeks. As part of her visit we're stopping by a few of the 2009 Barossa Festival events. Neither of us are big wine drinkers so we tend to stay away from the Winery events preferring the family events that focus on the places and history of the Valley.

The festival runs for nine days from April 11, 2009 however our first event was the Lyndoch Family Fun Day, on the 13th, held primarily at the Lyndoch Oval.

Unique to this event is the short helicopter rides (which can't be much more than five minutes) but offer some spectacular aerial views. At AU$25.00 per person neither Rose or I were prepared to part with that kind of cash for such a short trip but with two helicopters going, seemingly non stop all the time we were there, these flights were popular.

Town days (which is really all this 'Family Fun Day' was) in any country town in the Barossa are all fairly similar. Get together as many food vans as you can book, intersperse them with a few local product stalls and surround everything around a central stage with ongoing free, local entertainment. The bigger ones, like Lyndoch, even include a few carnival rides, pony rides and camel rides for the kids.

If there is one criticism I could level at Lyndoch's Family Fun day it's that there seemed to be more food stalls than anything else. Not locally produced food stalls either (although there were a few of those) but mostly your average food and drink stall selling fast food of the variety you can get at any fairground in the world.

Rose and I stayed to listen to a local band play and watched some dancers but really there wasn't that much to hold our attention. We stopped in at a local art gallery that featured a variety of artists before moving on to Greenock's Town day.

Our transport for touring around the Barossa is my Frog Van that I think I may have to rename the old boiler on account of an ongoing overheating problem that I'm having to manage. I'm not entirely sure why it's overheating but if I take it easy I can keep the engine at a constant, though still high, temperature. So we've been cruising around the Valley at a leisurely 60-70km per hour - much to the annoyance of a few drivers behind us.

Greenock's Town Day was much like Lyndoch only a lot less spread out and filling up the town centre and square entirely. On the plus side it had a lot more stalls featuring local products but, being so compact, it didn't take us long to look around. Still a plethora of food stalls but seemed like a few more were actually featuring locally produced foods.

Both of us wandered into the Greenock Institute Hall, expecting it to be filled with craft and food stalls like it was back in 2007, but instead discovered it was now an activity centre for kids. Rose didn't want to stop and try any of the activities so we hastily made our way out again.

We didn't stop to listen to too much of the entertainment on the main stage. We caught the end of a bag pipe band and stayed around to watch some Irish Dancing but that's about it.

We finished the day by driving back to my home town of Gawler and buying dinner at Cafe Nova, a local restaurant that really does serve up some great value food.

Is Michelle Obama the New Princess Diana?

Marc Malkin from E!Online recently wrote an article, Another Michelle Obama Fashion Stimulus Package, that talked about how Michelle Obama's taste in clothes is creating a noticeable boost in fashion sales (specifically on clothes she is actually seen wearing as evidenced by this Essence magazine cover - see photo - that is featured alongside Marc's article).

Marc's article prompted me to notice that there are obvious similarities with the late Princess of Wales, Princess Diana, who only had to stick a toe outside her front door for the media to go wild with anticipation to see what she was wearing.

The two are also in the same league when it comes to their fashion choices. Unlike many celebrity women (movie stars and singers etc.) Michelle and Diana have/had to show some conservatism in their wardrobe whilst still highlighting their ability to wear clothes that others want to wear because they make the clothes look so good.

I can't think of any other women, beyond Princess Diana, in recent history or in my time that has had as much world interest in their clothes as Michelle Obama. Hence I wonder if Michelle, in her unique position as America's First Lady, is now filling a void that was left when the Princess of Wales tragically left us?

If HRP-4C Had a Child Could it be CB2?

My previous blog post about the fashion robot, HRP-4C, talked about the idea of proof of concept and I think this child robot, CB2, also from Japan, almost takes the idea one step further.

At the moment CB2 mimics the behaviors of children roughly around the age of a toddler but where it differs from HRP-4C is that this robot can 'feel', 'see' and 'hear' as well as respond to its environment and the people who are interacting with it - learning as it goes.

It's a little bit creepy to look at just yet but according to this article from Breitbart, Japan child robot mimics infant learning, it, for the most part, can mimic the mother baby relationship (obviously it handles the baby side whilst a human plays the 'mother').

This quote directly from the article sounds more ominous than revolutionary (or is that evolutionary):

A bald, child-like creature dangles its legs from a chair as its shoulders rise and fall with rythmic breathing and its black eyes follow movements across the room.

It's not human -- but it is paying attention.

Sounds like it might just leap up and attack when you're least expecting it.

That aside this video explains just how complex this robot is, demonstrating its Biomimetic Body very clearly. It makes me wonder if combining some of the technology in this robot into something like HRP-4C would bring us even closer to a truly autonomous humanoid robot.
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