Sunday, 18 March 2018

Dust Storm

Growing up in the UK I used to read stories about dust storms in deserts in Boys Own type comics.  It all seemed rather romantic.  When I emigrated I was doing some field interviewing near Port Pirie in South Australia and the sky was full of murky crud: I was very disappointed to discover that was an Australian dust storm - not all romantic.

About 35 years later I was touristising in Dubai and the strong winds kicked up the sand from the offshore building sites.  It did at least get the temperature down to about 38oC, but not romantic.

Today we have (so far) 32oC and 50+kph winds.  Its been very dry so not surprising that we're back into dust storm territory.  Here are couple of images taken from our deck: I might go out and get some more - putting a lot of 20c pieces in my pockets to keep me on the ground!).

I walked up to Whiskers Creek Rd - quite far enough (300m each way) in this rubbish , thank you.  Here is looking West towards Taliesin.
 And this is East towards Balcombe Hill.
The foliage is bending more than somewhat: even my badly sited Weather Station has recorded a gust of 43kph.  A friend with a better exposed WS (about 3.3km away) has recorded a gust of 72 96kph!
Its still not romantic: perhaps we need a few camels?

Another participant in a weather forum has opined that what we had today was dust haze.  He reckons this is a dust storm (Melbourne 1983).  His point has some substance to it - like the cloud!

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Art not Apart

We went back in to Canberra in the afternoon.  Rather than battle with Constitution Avenue we went along Limestone Ave and then weaved our way through Ainslie and Braddon.  Of course we then had the delights of the Light Rail project down Northbourne Avenue.  From my looking over the barriers it seemed that the main reason for blocking off a lane in each direction seems to be to allow the workers to dump stuff on the road, rather than applying a bit of thought and using the grassed area .

Whatever: we got to the New Acton area, where it all seemed to be happening.  This was the first of the market areas in a lane leading off Marcus Clarke St.

In a small open space at the end of the lane tripods had been set up up with ketchup jars full of paint so the youngsters were able to express their inner Pollock!
Within the Nishi gallery a number of artists had set up their works.  This peepshow intrigued me.
When you peered through the camera lens there was a miniature display, which seemed as though you were looking at the image inside the camera.  Very clever.
Back out in the laneway folk were posing in fairy costumes.
The person in the white dress was obviously male by birth, judging by his beard.  No idea where he fits, on which spectrum, now.  But they were having fun themselves and amusing the punters.
I don't this this small person was part of any display.  Just an innocent bystander.
The boards and corrugated iron were part of the kit for Tap Kix who did a good tap dance routine for about 15 minutes.

We moved on the Nishi building where folk were sitting on the stairs under a rather odd installation.
Despite what you might think, the show is not yet over.
In a bar within the building an artist - Jodie Cunningham I think is on the card - had some interesting ceramics -
- while another, whose name I didn't register, had some fabric persons and shapes stuck on the outside of the building.
The main reason we had gone in was that Frances had come across a young artist - Dan Power - at M16 Artspace.  He was showing here with two large works of Great Birds of Paradise.  This is the male.
Nearby Amy Campbell was also doing a large work.
More markets along Edinburgh Avenue.
I describe these glistening items as woolen Xanthorrheas - they caught the sun very nicely.
More street performers.
Of course because it went over Edinburgh Avenue a traffic management plan was needed.  The most hazardous thing was the tape between the fallen bollards!
All in all this was a very good show.  The force behind it seems to be Dionysus who deserve a large brownie point!

Why visit the ACT?

Today is the second last day of the annual Balloon Festival.  As the weather forecast for tomorrow features rather brisk winds we decided today was our last chance.

Because we live about 45 minutes drive from Civic we have a difficult decision if the weather is at all iffy.  The balloons start inflating at 0615 and have all launched by about 0700.  Unfortunately they don't make the decision whether to go or whoa until about 06:14:59.  So if we wait until the decision has been made the balloons will all have gone by the time we get to town.

The winds were calm and there seemed to be no fog so I did try ringing the ACCESS Canberra line at 0610 and after an appalling list of blather about which button to push (that took over a minute) I spoke to someone who said that the decision hadn't been made.  GRRRR! We set off anyway and found it to be drizzling.

Getting to Duntroon, on the edge of Canberra we found that the only road that crosses Canberra was shut with a diversion through the middle of the Department of Defence and ASIO offices.  Go figure: the most sensitive part of the Government and it used as a detour!  GRRR.  The route then took us along Constitution Avenue on which the ACT Government has spent millions of dollars over about 4 years "improving".  Still one lane each way and lots of traffic lights - hopeless.  We got to Civic eventually and parked.

There didn't seem to be a lot of action.  As the members of CFMEU have moved off Constitution Avenue they have started another legacy project - work to be continued by their children and (most likely) grandchildren.  This is building a small walkway on the shore of the Lake.  That has meant this scene ...
 .. has applied for about 8 months.  They reckon the walkway will be open in "early 2018".  IMHO "early 2018 has already gone so they blown that one!

So it was up to Commonwealth Avenue where lanes were closed off in both directions with some lollipop galahs on duty.
 Actually the lollippers weren't too bad.  They told me the reason the lanes were closed was because of VIP access to Skyfire.  Now, the image below was taken at about 0655 this morning.  Skyfire is a fireworks display and noise fest starting at dark this evening - say 2000.  So 2 lanes on  the major North-South link in Canberra is closed for at least 12 hours before the VIPs - whoever the heck they might be - want to park.  GGGGRRRRRRR.

On getting into Commonwealth Park a whole lot of inactivity was not visible.  So on the phone again.  The balloons have been cancelled: it was raining.  Not now it wasn't - see clear blue sky.
Presumably the organisers (malapropism of the year to date) of this event are not technically savvy enough to look at a radar image and see the drizzle would be finished in 10 minutes.  Or possibly the lovely people who run the ACT (the family who own Canberra Airstrip) won't allow the lift off time to vary by 10 minutes.  (Their task is to get people into the airport and not bother what happens once they have, like Elvis,  "left the building".)  GRRRRRRRRRRRRR!

So we wandered on and found the stage set up for blasting out crap tenny bopper pap to accompany the fireworks this evening.  The purple sign says "We'll always support the events you love".  Presumably this is directed at the Chief Minister - I certainly don't love Skyfire. 
We then swing uphill to check out the bats.  The moisture in the air certainly allowed their piquancy to be pervasive but their chittering was considerably more melodic than what will be emanting from the stage in about 13 hours time.
 A close up of a couple of bats.
As we drove home we noted that both directions of Parkes Way will be closed from 1 pm.  Do we want to chance our arm going in to the ArtnotApart event at Acton later in the day?  Watch this space for an update.   We did and there were too many pix to add here so go to this post.

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Scott's travels in books and ice

I have commented somewhere - possibly Facebook - on the excellent book "The Worst Journey in the World" by Appsley Cherry-Garrard.  It is about the expedition by Robert Falcon Scott to the Antarctic.  I believe it proves the title to be largely correct, and is well deserved of the wide praise it has received.

I am currently reading "Great Expeditions 50 journeys that have changed the World".  This includes coverage of Scott's expedition, and I shall return to that below. 

The most unusual thing about this book is that it has no author!  The text was created by Mark Steward but his name is far from dominant on the cover.  The most prominent name is Levison Wood who wrote the foreword.  He has done an expedition - walking the length of the Nile - but it isn't covered in the book.  In the foreword he refers to the perils of expeditions including a reference to his own trip (see here for detail).  It is very interesting and if I spot a copy at the right price (Lifeline seems a possibility) I shall grab it.

Where these come together is a comment in the article about Scott's expedition.  It concludes with describing (briefly) the bodies of Scott and his companions and then goes on:
"Today, after a century of snowstorms, the cairn,tent and cross now lie under 23 m (75 ft) of ice.  They have become part of the ice shelf and have already moved 48 km (30 miles) from wheer they died. In 300 years or so the explorers will once again reach the ocean, before taking to the water and drifting away inside an iceberg."

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

A large gang of Gang-gangs

This morning I went to Foxlow roto see if the Avocets and Stilts were still there.  They were - but really too far away to photograph.

However en route I came across a flock of Gang-gang Cockatoos feeding, as is often the case at this time of year, on hawthorn (Crategus sp.) berries.  Here are some photos of individuals that were kind enough to use a bush close to the road.

For those readers not in Australia, the first four images are a male and the second group females.

Although hawthorn is an invasive weed, and thus despicable, a number of bird species use it for various purposes since the foliage is pretty dense and there are a LOT of berries.  So it isn't all bad.

Monday, 12 March 2018

Wildlife drawn

Frances has been going to a wildlife drawing class at the M16 Artspace recently.  Their classes are graced with some live specimens.  This began with a Long-necked tortoise and then progressed to a Diamond Python.  The last two classes have been visited by sugar gliders and small wombats.  Note: in each case - except the python, see below - the stock were brought in by their Wildcare carers so there is no doubt that they were well looked after.

As well as drawing in the class Frances took photographs for later work.  While this is a bit like snapping animals in a zoo it has produced some interesting shots of the various beasties!

Long-necked Tortoise

Its much easier to get a photo of these in a drawing class than when trying to get them off a road!

Diamond Python

This one was a good bit smaller than the wild specimen we saw at Topi topi.  I was not allowed to get close to that one!  The students here got very close to this one, presumably it's known to be docile as it is a fully licensed pet.

Sugar gliders

 On the topic of Sugar Gliders, judging by the calls we have heard there are some visiting our house at present.  Possibly checking out the crab-apple tree.


At this age and size they are very cute.  Perhaps less so when full grown - although I still find them amusing and am happy to see them (more so when I'm not driving)..