Saturday, January 17

The Water Diviner

I have been so busy over the last few weeks, and no movies that appealed were on at my favourite movie theatre on Bribie Island, but today I managed to get away to see The Water Diviner starring, and produced by Russell Crowe.

Apart from the fact that it was very hot and I could enjoy the air coditioning, I was so glad to be sitting in the theatre.  It was a very moving film.   The war (World War I) scenes were horrific - makes you want to do something to stop such violence - though of course I know I can't change the past but know that there currently are war zones around the world where horrific acts of violence are being committed against innocent people.  The story, albeit a little unbelievable, was well told.

The photography was great - and unlike some movies the Australian scenery was legit!

As was the scenery in Turkey, I would think.  Some of the old buildings were very beautiful and I suspect will encourage tourists to visit these places.

I would suggest that it is likely to get an Oscar nomination!  Awesome.

Friday, January 16

150th Anniversary of Queensland Rail Steam Train Trip

Last year when I was travelling on the famous Tilt Train, I learned of a steam train journey to celebrate 150 years of Queensland Rail - and arranged for a group of Volunteers from the Caboolture Historical Village where I "work" one or more days a week as a volunteer, to travel from Caboolture to Gympie on the steam train.

There were two parts to our celebrations yesterday - the group that travelled on the train, dressed appropriately ofcourse on an extrememly hot day.  The train was 'manned' by volunteers from the  Australian Railway Historical Society.  There was much excitement at Caboolture station when we arrived - not for us, as it was a surprise for everyone - but there were many folk, photographers etc waiting for the steam train.  The Caboolture Rail folk were impressed!!

There were photos at the front of the train, and then we went to find seats.  We were told we had to go to carriage C but there were no seats there, in fact few seats anywhere, and as the train pulled out, we were still standing on the area outside of the carriage - but in a good spot to see the re-enactment at the Caboolture Historical Village.  We had advised Queensland Rail, asking them to go slow passed the Village, but just at that time a train from the other direction passed at the "wrong" time for the celebrations, but we did manage to get some photos of the cannons etc.

Eventually, after walking the length of the train, we found seats, mostly, though some of us chose to stand between carriages and wave to the many folk along the tracks - so many with tripods and cameras, but others just standing to wave.  There were a couple of stops, briefly, and we arrived at Gympie North station 20 minutes early.

There were many photos taken - of us, and by us.  There was a re enactment at Gympie, but it was so hot (around 38 degrees), so in the end we hopped into the bus and headed back home.

Gympie Re-enactment Team

The Caboolture Historical Village Re-enactment

In the corridors of the train

The Dining Car

There are frequent steam train journeys around Queensland - just visit this website for more information.

Tuesday, January 13

A Passing Parrot

I live in a tiny (village) place called Beachmere.  "Beach" because it is near the beach and "mere"because it is a major swamp area - which is close to a river (which occasionally floods) and lots of trees - pine forests and plenty of mangrove trees on the swamp on along the edges of the many creeks and waterways.

My own home overlooks a park which is the home for many birds - I have in the past listed the bird varieties,  but strangely every now and then I find a new variety.  Also there are quite a few lakes around, including one less than 100 metres from my back door - where I catch wonderful mud crabs.

I love the birds, though not amused when kookaburras wake me at 4 am or silly crows caw when I am trying to sleep.  Some birds (butcher birds) come to me for a feed occasionally, and if I stand at my back fence I can see a whole range of birds including pigeons, plovers, minah birds, swallows and many more.  They fly into the tree tops, rest a while before heading off to one of the many other stands of trees in the area.

Occasionally an ibis or a pelican will fly overhead, and the pelicans rest in the lake sometimes.

Because of the proximity to the trees in the park, birds often fly into my windows - not open, mind you, but closed.  I hear a thud and if I look quickly in the direction of the thud I see a few feathers floating.  Sometimes the bird will off before I reach the window, other times the bird will sit stunned on the back lawn waiting to recover before flying off.

This afternoon there was a familiar thud, and I saw one lone grey feather float to the grass.  I went out (as I usually do in some vain hope of helping the injured bird - they usually fly off before I get close), and this one just stood a little stunned before hopping onto a pot plant for a few seconds and then sneaking behind my water tank where it sat on the bottom rail of the fence for some time.

It was there for about 10 minutes - time for me to go to my car and get my Canon Camera and take a couple of shots.

It was the size of a galah almost, with grey feathers, orange eyes and a bright red beak.  (It refused to pose when I had the camera, but once looked right at me.)

Now I am trying to find out what variety of parrot it is.

It flew away - hopefully not damaged by its adventure in my yard.

Saturday, January 10

Managing a Website

I do have two websites - with WordPress and am lucky that my son knows more about using WordPress for websites than I do.  I can update, post, edit, write, etc, but when they go bell-up, I am  at a loss.

Recently the only one of my websites that is "live" had a problem.  My home page was blank and it didn't matter what I did it remained blank.  My son was busy and suggested I go onto WordPress forums to see if there were any suggestions.  Seems I am not the only one who faced the "white page of death" - weird name, but that is what I have been told it is called. I tried all suggestions to no avail.

So, frustrated, I could do nothing.  One day my son phoned - he had time to look at it!  Hooray!

It didn't take long and I received a message from him.  All was well again.  And still is. The website is here.  It doesn't do much but I do blog there too - but as I am hoping to have one or two books published shortly, it is imporant to me.

My other website is "resting."

Meanwhile at the Caboolture Historical Village we have had challenges with our website.  Updates were challenging as there was an outside person who had the task, and often they were not done when we wanted.  So a decision was made to re create the website, edit out the many errors or information needing an update and so it was that eventually we found someone to do it.  It is a lot of work and like many not for profits who rely on volunteers to do the work, update etc. it has been a huge task and very challenging.

But changing hosts, and updating email addresses didn't work easily.  In fact our emails are still intermittent.  Some days, some hours, we can operate, but mostly it doesn't work and we have had a couple of  "specialists" trying to determine the problem.

What a pain!!!

My phone has run hot, so has the manager and the website guy all week.  As I write this I am not aware if it has been resolved.

It is something that not-for profits have to deal with as many rely on their websites for bookings, information etc.  Often though there are challenges - small budget, limited persons with skills, etc etc.

Not -for-profit  organisations and small businesses often find managing their websites difficult - time and lack of skilled personnel are big issues, and often they are competing with large well funded organisations.

I am just hoping that one day next week I will be celebrating that it has all come together.  So time consuming!

Just a Tip - keep good records of user names, passwords and log in details.  With many hosting/domain name sites they want the name of a person, but that presents challenges when  volunteers or different people deal with the situation.  Just keep good records and remember to update them frequently and even every 3 - 6 months review the information you have.

Another Tip - check that your data is correct.  Just check your pages every couple of months and make sure the material doesn't look "old".

Read my other blog here.

Monday, January 5

Smoking - Cigarettes and Drugs

A reformed smoker.  No one likes them - especially those who cannot give it up, or don't like being "preached" to by someone who did.  I don't want to "preach" - but I do wish to express my views about what I see in our community right now.

I will tell you my story initially.  My mother and father smoked - though they were not heavy smokers.  I was in my teens and they still smoked, and then it was pretty groovy in the 50's and 60's to smoke.  Almost anyone in the movies smoked, though I can't recall the cowboys did.  All movies had characters smoking - now thrilled the tobacco people would have been.  It was free advertising for them!!

I married a smoker - and even then we were learning that it was not good for health.  Information about the dire health risks was being filtered into our learning and living.  Many people tried to give it up but couldn't.  I smoked for about 6 or 7 years.  I can't recall exactly.  I had tried to give it  up but without success.  I lasted a few days and then gave in to my cravings.  It was an odd situation that forced me to give up.  I had a weird pain in my chest - upper right lung I guessed and fear took over me.  Cancer, I deduced, though had no cough or other symptoms.  I gave up smoking out of fear and never ever had one again!!  (I was lucky - there is no indication that I do have lung cancer - and that fearful time was over 50 years ago!)

My husband continued to smoke - though I eventually banned him from smoking in the house and a few years later he too gave up.  I know that our two children smoked - though not at home, knowing how I was so against it.  I know they also smoked marijuana.  Again not at home.  I believe neither of them participate in any smoking now.

I have never used any recreational drugs - though, as a psychiatric nurse way back in the 1980's I witnessed patients who were high on some, and I knew that many in that place were marijuana smokers.

Over the years everyone has been bombarded with messages from health professionals, governments and of course we "holier than thou" successful non smokers.  It doesn't seem to change.  The governments hike the cost of cigarettes, and warning messages on packets and still people waste their money and risk their health on it.  Oddly enough it seems to be that it is the people on lower incomes that have the highest use of cigarettes!!  Young people are learning to smoke in droves as if it is a smart thing to do.  Waste of money and risk to health and a good life!!

Television has a raft of programs - RBT, Customs etc, and I am gobsmacked at the number of people caught speeding who are smoking, and appalled at the number of attempts to smuggle into various countries (I watch UK, Australian and NZ Customs shows) large amounts of cigarettes to earn "easy" money.  How many end up in prison - completely stuffing up their lives.

This story amazed me - someone I know (no names, no packdrill) works in a bank.  One of the customers when checking that his "pay" had gone into the bank (on unemployment benefits - how dare they call it PAY?  I'd accept payMENT), also wanted a print out of previous months transactions.  He was excited!!  He was arranging a loan - $200 - to  buy cigarettes.  Clearly he is not a smart man - and it is a downward spiral from then.  How could any lending institution lend some one money for fags, though I guess the guy could have lied about what he needed it for.

The drug use in Australia is out of control - as is the level of drunkenness.  So many people get busted each week - driving (sometimes unregistered or unroadworthy vehicles, sometimes with little children inside) and drinking and then facing court, confiscation of their car, high fines, or prison.  None of this makes sense.  Where is it all going?

Downward spiral.  Young people especially are flouting the law - not all of course, but what is causing this self destruction?  How can it be stopped?

What does the future hold?

Rant over for the moment.

Sunday, January 4

More on Lanting - in China

I went to Lanting on two occasions.  The first time, with a student and we went to the main entrance and saw the main tourist area of this famous place which is a popular tourist spot.

The second time, in 2009, I was with another group - a class of students who had invited me to a BBQ on the Saturday.  I was given instructions to be at the West Gate by 7.30 am, and "not to bring a thing."  The day before was very wet and blustery and I was not surprised to receive a phone call on that Friday night, that the trip had been cancelled.  I did as usual wake early, and looking at the inclement weather outside was rather relieved that the function had been cancelled.  I lay in bed thinking and/or reading, as I had no need to hurry.  So I thought.

Not long after 7.40 am my phone rang.  "Diana, where are you?  We are waiting for you in the bus."
When the students phoned the bus company to tell them they were going to cancel, they were told that they would not get their money back.  So the bus trip was on - but they forgot to let ME know.  "We will wait for you."

I made a quick breakfast, had a fast shower, and dressed in quick time, grabbed a raincoat and umbrella and raced like a mad woman to the West Gate.  There waiting was the bus and the students. Along the way the students sang for me - I was especially taken with their rendition of "Click Go the Shears" in English and Chinese!

Off we set to Lanting - and to my surprise the bus stopped at another entrance. The rain was pelting down, but undaunted we proceeded on.  It was walking along the pathway with other students that I saw something that shocked me.  There to the left was a huge concrete penis reaching into the sky.  It must have been two or three stories high, poking up through the trees.  I stood gawping I think, and asked one of the students about it.  She - yes, it was a girl, but there were always more girls in classes than boys, and she paused briefly, shrugged her shoulders and said nothing.  Probably thought I was a dimwit, but it was something quite unexpected, but I was to learn later that this common in Chinese parks.  Apparently it was hollow - and men would stand within its dome to gain some sort of extra strength.  Mmmmm.

It was quite the strangest BBQ that I have ever attended.   Beside a dam, there were rough shelters and small tables with square holes in the centre, and some seats.  We had to choose our food - chicken, pork or dog.  Dog???!!  It was the first time I had been offered dog,   And of course I chose chicken.  When it arrived it nearly put me off chicken for good as it certainly didn't smell fresh.  Containers of other food arrived and soon a hot roasting contraption arrived, and was locked into the hole in the table.  Each student slid their chosen foods onto a skewer and held it in the coals.

It wasn't a meal that I remember with any pleasantness - especially as the students threw paper, food scraps and other debris on the floor which was amok with chickens picking up the pieces and pooing everywhere.  When I tried to explain to the students that throwing rubbish around like they did was not acceptable - I was politely told that it worked in China.  It fed the hens, and the staff got paid for cleaning it up - without the cleaning job they could not earn as much money.  True, but not what I was comfortable with.  The rain kept tumbling down.

After everyone had eaten enough, we set off for a walk around the park.  I saw many parts of it that I had not seen on my first visit and was pleased to have had the opportunity to see it all, and pleased to get away from the rubbish in the picnic area.

We were a wet and bedraggled group that returned and waited for the bus.  We walked back along the same route and this time I ventured away from the students and took a photo of the penis.  I can recall having many laughs when I showed the other foreign teachers.

Eventually our wet, tired and smelly group arrived at the West Gate.  As we were getting off the bus, one of the students told me the bus driver had a question for me.  She interpreted.  He wanted to know how old I was.

It was a common question - the Chinese folk always wanted to know where I was from, how old I was and how much I earned and I had a set patter for them.  I said I was 21.  The bus driver looked in shock momentarily and then burst our laughing as I exited the bus.

Read about my first visit to Lanting.

Read my other blog at my website here.

Alcohol Makes you More Creative

 This was in the Good Mail column in the Sunday Mail (Queensland Australia)

"As if we need an excuse to drink.
According to a new beer on the market called The Problem Solver, research shows that the average person is at their most creative when they have an alcohol level of exactly 0.075 per cent. The handcrafted ale comes with a handy indicator on the bottle so that drinkers can work out how much they need to drink to reach that level."

Something to think about. Would work for wine too I am sure.  It is not something I would actually think about - and I tend to drink a glass of wine (or two) at the end of the day when my writing/creativity is done for the day.

Still, I am sure many creative people do work with a bit of help from alcohol.  In fact I have heard many stories of this - though can't recall names etc.  Though the following story is something I do know about.

In 2008 I went to China for one term/semester of English teaching at Yuexiu University of Foreign Languages.  One day one of my students took me to place called Lanting, which is famous for the Orchid Pavilion story.

It was a park not far from the university - a short bus ride away in fact.  As one enters the first interesting spot is the Goose Pond, complete with white geese.

Further on, we learn more of the story - this piece from Wikipedia might help to explain what happened.

"The Orchid Pavilion Gathering of 353 CE was a cultural and poetic event during the Six Dynasties era, in China. This event itself has a certain inherent and poetic interest in regard to the development of landscape poetry and the philosophical ideas of Zhuangzi.[1] The gathering at the Orchid Pavilion is also famous for the excellent quality of the calligraphy of Wang Xizhi,[2]who was both one of the participants as well as the author and calligrapher of the Preface to the Poems Composed at the Orchid Pavilion, not to mention the literary quality of this introduction.
The Orchid Pavilion Gathering of 42 literati included Xie An and Sun Chuo[3] and Wang Pin-Chih at the Orchid Pavilion (Lanting) on Mount Kuaiji just south of Kuaiji (present-day Shaoxing in Zhejiang), during the Spring Purification Festival, on the third day of the third month, to compose poems and enjoy huangjiu. The gentlemen had engaged in a drinking contest: rice-wine cups were floated down a small winding creek as the men sat along its banks; whenever a cup stopped, the man closest to the cup was required to empty it and write a poem. This was known as "floating goblets" (流觴, liúshāng). In the end, twenty-six of the participants composed thirty-seven poems."  
Within the park the scene is recreated.  There is a small winding waterway - perhaps one would call it a brook or a stream - it was only about half a metre wide, and along the banks of this waterway were low cane seats. It was easy to picture the scene of all those years ago with these talented Chinese writers in the national dress of the time, picking up the goblets and drinking the rice wine.
Shaoxing is famous for its rice wine - which is a very strong brew.  I have tried it.  I can imagine the blokes sitting and drinking and getting drunk and writing.  Remember, writing was not as we know it - but calligraphy with long brushes.  Only 26 of the 42 "literati" managed to complete a poem - I am assuming that the others were too drunk to do so, but I might be wrong.
There is more information here - Lanting - and a copy of one of the works and English translation.
(I have been searching for any of my photos of my two visits there - but so far cannot find them.  Will have to schedule a BIG SEARCH!)

In any case it is a good (true) story.  I am sure there are many linking alcohol and creativity.  Perhaps my readers will know of others.
More on Lanting, Shaoxing, China the BBQ.

Friday, January 2

History in the Making

In 1953 the first Sunlander train left Brisbane for Cairns in North Queensland, Australia and has been a popular journey for many travellers since.  I regret that I will never travel on it, as it finished its final journey yesterday (January 1st, 2015).  Other trains will make the journey, but this old favourite will not be on the route.

We had beleived that it would pass Caboolture around midday on 31/12/14 so four of us arrived armed with camera and me in my convict outfit to wave to passengers.  We learned later that we were 24 hours too early.

So, despite the summer heat, all of us arrived yesterday (January 1st) and were not disappointed, except that it passed so quickly it was a challenge to get all the photos we would have liked.

I would have liked to have a photo through the wheels, but that was to be too challenging.

(My car)

We heard the dull sound of the diesel engine and swung into action.

It passed quickly!!!  On its last journey.  History.

Thursday, January 1

My Post for Ultimate Blog Challenge

(This post is on my site - where I have a problem, so posted here until it can be fixed.)

Happy New Year!!  I have done the Ultimate Blog Challenge before - so here goes again.  This time I will endeavour to use my Wordpress but already I am in need of an expert to help me.  Still I will persist with the post.
Writing is going to be my focus for 2015 - it is about time I published some of the pieces languishing in my computer - so hopefully I will get some done.  I have listed six items I want publish and will aim to have three done my mid year.  This is a big ask as I have a Marketing and Business Plan to do for an organisation - hopefully both will be done by the end of January.  Pushing hard I know.
Perhaps I shall call 2015 "The Year of Writing."
Travel?  Maybe.  I have an invitation to a wedding in China (no date set yet) and I would like to go to Europe but that depends of funds of course.  Perhaps one of my stories will be a big money spinner? I do have to go to Adelaide some time this year to scatter my mother's ashes as she wished.
Photography - I will keep on taking photos - these were taken at the beach yesterday.  So many jelly fish at the water's edge.  The water was very warm in the shallows - but with all those nasties in the water I was only doing a little paddle.Beachmere waterfrontIMG_5543
Volunteering - I will continue in 2015 with my volunteering at the Caboolture Historical Village. I will commit to another 12 months and then review.
Health and Fitness - I will endeavour to find a medical practitioner who can resolve the problem with my leg and foot in particular so that I can walk more often without pain.  I will continue to ride my wonderful bike - my next task is to ride around Bribie Island but I will wait until after the school holidays and for cooler weather.''