66 shades of grey

66 shades of grey
66 shades of grey ... this pic of me was shot by Kim, of Kim Thomsen's Photography at Daly Waters in the Northern Territory. Kim just wandered over and asked whether it was OK to get some character shots.


The cross is in front of the church in Karumba and it seems TV antennas have a greater reach for the sky.


I went fishing out of Nhulunbuy on the Gulf of Carpentaria. We anchored in a bay about 10 hours from Nhulunbuy and went ashore. This poor fella had been snared in the locals' overnight net and then had a run-in with the resident 14-foot saltwater croc - named Nike by the local indigenous fellas - and came off second best.

the rock

the rock

oodnadatta track

oodnadatta track
What a tough place to live ... this is out on the Oodnadatta Track


My photo
G’day, I’m Michael and I have two fantastic grown-up kids. I’m a jeans and singlet/T-shirt, cowboy boot, tattoos sort of fella, who knows a bit about this and sometimes a lot about that. I'll have a crack at most things, although having a relationship? ... well that ship has sailed. I'm past my use-by date anyway, so I'm gonna make it all about me and surviving life as I know it ... or make it.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A byte to drink

It has certainly been a while between drinks ... OK, not really, that's been a bit of a constant and I'm having one as I write this ... but in terms of posting anything, it has certainly been a while between drinks. Not, mind, for any reason other than I haven't had a computer. That'll do it every time.
OK, that's not entirely true. Sure, I've had a computer, a laptop that has been my faithful servant for 3-4 years now, but unlike its owner, it wasn't too keen on a drink.
And it's not that it had a drink problem ... all it took was jut a splash, maybe a mouthful or so, that's all. Straight into the keyboard. I had just finished dinner (a bowl of homemade chicken laksa and opened a bottle of most excellent chardonnay ... Santa Carolina Chardonnay from Chile (22 bucks odd at Vintage Cellars, aka Randall's in Albert Park). What a wonderful drink it was, OK it is. (More of that later ... plenty more if you please.)
But just the one splash onto the keyboard and I stared in disbelief at the screen. It suddenly turned itself off, never to start again.
What a waste. Wine that is.
Oh well, I'd been planning for a while to get another laptop and networking the things so that I could pretend to know just what this computing caper is all about.
Just one splash and that got short shrift. I now have a network of one.
And just to prove that I'm not as technically inept as I like to sound, all the stuff that was on the old laptop is safely ensconced on my remote hard drive ... photos, videos, documents ... a task I managed a few weeks ago. Smart move that. The laptop had become a bit like its owner, you know, slowing a bit with age.
Luddite? Me? Not entirely apparently.
Oh well, it was the end of the financial year and there had to be some bargains out there. There were bargains ... at least that's what I reckon.
It was a task that was going to be helped because of a little naughtiness, OK, stupidity according to some. I had just finished work at lunchtime on a Friday and was heading home to do the domestics. I had no cash on me, so I popped into the casino food court area to hit the ATM, got out a couple of hundred to see me through the weekend and I thought, bugger it, I'll have a flutter on the pokies (that is where the stupidity normally comes in). It's not something that I do regularly.
I sat at a machine (apparently that's the best way to play them) and I pounded away until I had a collect of $110 (I put $50 in to start). That'll do me on this machine, I thought, and I headed to one against a wall. I slipped in another $50 and bang, bang and bang. Two $200+ collects, another of $100 and plenty and the collect was at $600. You couldn't print money this quickly.
It was time to pull stumps. I did.
Computer shopping time and after a quick look around at what was on offer, I headed to JB Hi-Fi, had a quick squiz at what was there ... surprise, surprise, there were people who wanted to help me, unlike some places I've been ... and decided to go with another Toshiba, a Satellite something or other with all the bells and whistles ... OK more than I'll probably ever use ... and it was listed at $998.
"What's the best you can do?" I asked the ever-helpful girl, who punched some stuff into the device (it could have been a GPS for all I know) she carried around. $900, she offered. OK, done.
"Now what about a printer?"
She showed me a few, suggesting something that was, believe it or not, a bit too cheap by my reckoning. To replace the cartridges in the one I had at home would cost more than the printer is worth.
"Nah, let's go with something that scans, faxes, prints, makes coffee, rolls a smoke and doesn't mind being around wine." OK, I made up the coffee, smoke and wine bits, but you get the drift.
She came up with a decent price on that, chucked in some extra, half-price ink cartridges, a cheap (OK, half price again) USB port hub (God I love sounding technically adequate) and with GST, plus a wine drinker's discount and the fact that she reckoned I was halfway decent and had saved plenty by not having haircuts, the whole kit came to not a heap more than the original computer price.
She was happy, I was happy ... the hardest part was carrying it all to the car.
So, I'm back in the game.
I have already set up my wireless thingo so I can use it anywhere in the house ... yeah, like that's gonna happen ... and the whole thing with my new internet set-up is, frankly, faster than shit off a shovel.
Gotta like that. I do.
I still haven't, almost two weeks on, plugged in the printer yet, but small steps is what it's all about.
I do, however, have to buy another stick USB thing. I bought one a couple of weeks ago and I found it on the weekend ... in the clothes dryer. Yep, it had been washed, rinsed and dried. I've now added fucked to that list.
What is it about me and computer-related things ... and liquid? Sheesh.
I've at least got the new printer in the room that is laughingly called my office. It would actually look like an office were it not for the stuff that almost prevents me from getting through the door.
There's my old printer, an old TV (it works perfectly but weighs more than I do ... my youngest son, Joel, gave me a flat-screen telly cos he bought a bigger one), various camping items, a telescope, a set of drawers into which I shall store some other stuff, an artist's stool and paints storage thing, a rebounder, a home gym (like that gets as much use as it should ... not), an exercise ball (ditto on the usage), a UHF radio and antenna that I was gonna install in my Landcruiser ute (which I'm now gonna sell), a camera case, 10 litres of water (anyone know anyone who drinks that stuff?), a large, wheel-around home cooling unit, a VCR, 107 remote controls, a set-top box, a secretaire that I'm part way through restoring, a filing cabinet, assorted framed things and, I assume, a partridge in a pear tree. For all I can tell, they may even be a small family living in there. And it may be 109 remotes.
Just as soon as I have a spare month or so, I'm gonna clean it up and actually work in there at the desk, which I assume is still there along with the five or six bookshelves. Oh, and there's an office chair. It has turned into an antique, given the length of time since I've seen it or sat on it for that matter. I will take before and after pictures of the room and post them just to prove that I'm not telling porkies.
Still, it's nice to have instant interweb stuff happening (shit off a shovel, remember), albeit at the dining room table.
And vale the old laptop from which, I'm assured, any of the stuff on the drive can be retrieved ... it gave me something to wine and whine about.

Inflation on the streets

I've got a decent policy when it comes to people down on their luck ... and there are plenty in my neighbourhood, good characters one and all. They all live in a very large halfway house around the corner from the main shopping drag and ply their trade with the shoppers.
The going rate for as long as I can remember comes with the line: "Have you got a dollar or two to spare." If I have, which is most times, I hand it over.
The one exception I've had to my rule is a bloke called Shane, with whom I became mates. Quite often I'd sit with him, shout him a coffee and a couple of smokes and give him whatever change I had in my pocket. There were times when I had no change but would go into a shop and buy for him whatever he needed ... smokes, a bottle of soft drink ... whatever.
He has since got himself organised and is living in a flat a few suburbs away and seems to have his life back on track. He's even taking guitar lessons when he can scrape together the necessary from his pension. I haven't seen him for a couple of months.
Anyway, back to the subject at hand. I was wandering up the street this morning and one of the regulars walked up to me and said: "Got a spare $5 note, mate?" I had to refuse, not because I wouldn't have given it to him, but I simply had no dosh on me.
But five bucks? Inflation, it seems, is alive and kicking on the streets.

On the move

The office at which I work in the afternoons has changed from Port Melbourne to South Melbourne, right near the market, which is a huge bonus.
It's a big, roomy place (and I've just got a new super-duper Mac on which to ply my trade. Bloody good it is too.
Typically, our editor (she's a love) delivered the edict: finish the magazine early tomorrow at 4pm because happy hour is starting then.
Like we'd need more incentive. And so it came to pass. The Weekly Review, by 4pm looked its usual beautiful self and was locked away in time to unleash the party pies, sausage rolls, olives, dips and whatever else (there was plenty) and a goodly representation of the fruit of the vine ... in fermented form.
Given that winter is what it is, I opted for shiraz by the small bucket ... and it worked a treat.
It set me up for the walk home (yep, the car was left at home), which is just two kilometres, although it seemed longer courtesy of the said buckets of shiraz.
It's an easy walk with the only real danger being that I have to pass my favourite watering hole ... Lina's in Albert Park. OK, I didn't have to pass it. OK, I didn't.
The shiraz bug had bitten so I opted for a few cracks at Mount Langi Ghiran Shiraz, which, at 10 bucks a glass, is sensational value. It was the start of a love affair.
The affair kicked on the folowing night when I caught up with an old Age mate (OK, he's not afflicted by it, he worked there with me) at Lina's for a bite and a glass or two, err 10 or so.
Again it was Mount Langi Ghiran Shiraz and bar nibbles including an excellent piadina, some salmon gravlax and other bits.
It's always good to see old mates and share some memories and some good extras.
We both had to make a move before it turned into a huge session (he was riding his bike), so nearing the end of the third bottle, we hit the road ... and just to show that I'm a toff, not, I necked the remainder of the shiraz as I wandered back to the home chateau.
The locals who saw me have seen it all before.

Doing it by the bottle

I've been having more than the odd gargle lately and they all seem to have been good.
The Mount Langi Ghiran Shiraz is still right up there, but there are new contenders.
Santa Carolina Chardonnay Barrica Reserva 2008, for me, is right, right up there. At 22 odd bucks a bottle it's great value. It's a pleasant gold colour, but has plenty of soft fruit and some vanilla on the nose and in the mouth it's a really buttery, maybe full-bodied sensation. It sat in French oak for eight months after coming from a cool, coastal area of Chile.
Chardonnay seems to rule the roost. I've had a crack at Ashbrook Chardonnay from Margaret River (has there ever been a lousy wine to come out of the area?) and it doesn't let the side down.
It's a robust 14.5% alcohol, is hand-harvested and majors in plenty of fruit. Good colour too. I drank it over two sittings (OK the next day) and it seemed even a tad better on the second day.
I also had a crack at another Margaret River chardonnay called Big Softy. It was a present from the friend with whom I had dinner at the weekend. She said that she saw it and the name immediately reminded her of me. "You're such a big softy," she said when she gave it to me.
Nice thought. So too was the Neil Perry Rockpool book present. Nice wine, nice woman.
Apart from sundry other drops that have gone beyond my lips lately ... Killkenny ale among them ... I try not to drink too much beer these days. It's a weight thing, something that at the moment is under control. Does 88 kilograms sound under control, I ask myself. Too bloody right it does, I answer. That's eight kilos down on this time last year, a small price to pay for staying away from the ale.
One of the best wine moments for me lately was a Friday night when there was nothing in the house that I felt like drinking. I was sitting at the dining room table doing something and I looked across to the recently cleaned up and tidied dresser that is my spice rack along with sundry other jars of stuff. There, under the dresser, is a pine display box that I bought about 18 months ago. It had four Italian wines in it, along with a decanter and a waiter's friend. It was on special at the local bottleshop and I snaffled it.
The time was right to trot out one of the wines ... a 2006 Toscolo Chianti from Tuscany. It was ballsy, dark, had a good nose and after the first glass (that's probably to do with smoking and how it ruins the taste buds) it drank beautifully.
One down, three to go, two of which are pinot grigio, the other being more chianti.
It was a good feeling, you know, buying something quite a while ago and forgetting all about it. Great surprise.
At dinner with my friend (she of the presents) on the weekend just past, we went to Eis (pronounced Ace as close as I could get it, courtesy the hugely polite, efficient and smiling Japanese waiter. He was just great.
So too the food. Again we had the degustation menu ... eight courses of contemporary Japanese food and five matching wines, including French bubbles to kick off, a shiraz, a pinot, a chardonnay and a sweet plum wine with dessert.
Don't reckon we've had a bad course there, let alone a bad meal. The oyster shot in mint vodka with chilli and corriander and beef tartare starters were just what the doctor ordered. The eel was great (unctuous, with steamed rice soaked in green tea), so too the miso-marinated lamb cutlets, the salmon, the aged beef, the sushi and sashimi ... it was a cracker meal although the crepe for dessert just about did me in. The highlight of the menu again was the rick, thick pumpkin soup with three fat prawns in it and truffle on the top.
$110 a head for eight courses and five wines. It doesn't get a lot better or if it does, I'm yet to find it.
A glass each of Mount Langi Ghiran Shiraz at Lina's rounded out a fine night ... well, we had a few chards when we got back to my place.
After snaffling the Italian wine under the dresser, I also thought about the huge cane basket that is overflowing with corks. The collection started out as keepsakes ... on every cork I wrote what food went with it and with whom I shared it. It was always good to wander through the corks and try to remember what the time/meal/occasion was about. A great memory lane thing.
These days I just throw the corks in the basket. Perhaps it's time to start recording the details again on the corks. I just know though that I'm gonna need a much bigger basket.
Finally on wine, Ben Thomas, The Weekly Review's excellent wine writer gave me a bottle (after he'd had a taste) of Seppetsfield 21-year-old para port. I haven't tasted it yet, but it's high on the agenda when the occasion is right. (I cheated after I wrote that and tried it. It's a wonderful drink.)

Steal resolve

I'm pretty pissed off right now. My youngest son rang me today to ask whether he can stay the night ... he finishes work at midnight ... no problem other than the spare bed is taken for a few days by a mate who's is working this week and next in town (he lives way down the coast).
"I'' grab a sleeping bag out of one of the toolboxes on the back of the ute. You can have the couch," I said. I grabbed the keys and went out the front of the house to the ute. Seems I didn't need the keys. Some bastard/s had wrenched the locks off and decided to help themselves to whatever was in there. In this case, a sleeping bag, a swag, a couple of blow-up mattresses and a few other camping bits and pieces. Not sure whether my bag of fishing reels is still there. The toolbox on the other side had one lock ripped open and the other had been started on ... perhaps they were interrupted. That's got tool of all kinds, a compressor, a beautiful axe and all the shit you need when you hit the bush in a four-wheel-drive. At least I reported it to the local cop shop ... they're great blokes there (I know cos I've had a bit to do with them over the years). I know there's bugger all they can do, but at least I'm on the record. And it is my second time. I also have a Subaru Forrester, which left me $1400 in the red after another ... maybe the same .. bastard broke into it and ripped off some stuff. I still don't understand ... and probably never will ... the need to steal someone else's stuff.
I keep a rather large hockey stick (my eldest used to play roller hockey) behind the front door and although I'm as much a pacifist as I can be, I rather fancy beating the puck out of these bastards if I ever find them hanging around my stuff.

Sleep-in is a welcome thing

By and large, it has just been a week of solid working. I'm acting editor of The Weekly Review this week while the editor does some well-earned R&R in Bali. Spose it's a good thing at least to get a sleep-in in the mornings ... I don't start until 10 (I'm usually at Crikey at 8.30).
No tram to and from the city, although I'm glad that I was on the tram one day last week, just to watch two youngies (early 20s maybe) enjoying their time together. He had his arm around her and they just stared at each other in a loving way. What made it special to see was when the tram approached their stop, he stood up, took the girl's coat and held out his hand to help his girlfriend up. For me it was a beautiful display of manners, of caring, of being a real gentleman. All power to
them. I hope their love lasts forever.

Kids in the kitchen

It's good to see that my kids have taken to the kitchen,
My eldest, Liam, sent me a message on Saturday morning (he lives in Vanuatu) asking for my laksa recipe. He was cooking a dinner party for 20. He'd already worked out that the starter would be grilled salmon on wasabi mash, then the laksa. From what he told me, he nailed it and finally managed to get to sleep at about 8.30 (alone and that's a rarity from what he tells me) on Sunday morning and slept until his alarm went off at six on Monday morning. He plays hard, the boy. Some might even say he's a chip off the old bloke.

For the record, it's Andrew McUtchen

I'm pleased that after a night of merriment at my place on the weekend that my CD collection is still in alphabetical order, no mean feat given my inability to keep them tidy. I've just added two discs to the collection, both by my mate Andrew McUtchen ... Down With Wanderlust and Songs To Get Us True. Do a Google search on him, find his website and have a listen. He's a major talent and a decent bloke.

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