Been doing a spot of reading :)

I don’t usually get a lot of time to read novels due to juggling lots of work, family & a stack of aviation magazines. That said, I still love reading Sci Fi & Fantasy as well as aviation related books. I’ve also recently signed up with LibraryThing as an “early reviewer” to get access to new books (typically in eBook format) so I can find new authors & works to follow when we’re buying books.

You can follow my book reading via my LibraryThing account which should give you an idea of the eclectic nature of my readings lately :) Two books I’ve recently received & finished thanks to LibraryThing’s “Early Reviewers” and “Member Giveaways” include:

San Joaquin Siren A great (auto)biography of Bill Behrns who flew P38s in the China/Burma/India theatre during WWII. For more detail on this one, check out the review I’ve posted on my flying blog.

Book cover imageBroods of Fenrir by Coral Moore. An enjoyable read that had me hooked from start to finish, travelling through the various plots that were unfolding, running together & merging towards the conclusion. With an interesting approach to the roles & rules of wolf packs and overtones of vampirism in their use of blood to bond & play, the book presents a new look at lycans that’s well worth considering.

There are others that I’ve got to read and another that I’ve read & reviewed but am waiting on Nykolai to read & comment on. Turns out it was a Young Adult novella which could explain why I found it an OK & easy read but a little light in some areas. If Nykolai thinks it’s good then I’ll update the review with an increased rating :) :)

So much to read, so little time. Oh well, at least I can have a beer or two while relaxing with a book :)

Nykolai’s back from camp

Nykolai went on a sort of Ukranian scout camp at the Sokil eco arts retreat in the hills behind Anglesea on the Great Ocean Road. He was invited to attend by friends and spent 8 days going on multi-day mountain bike riding expeditions, bush walking and sleeping in a tent.

He got back this evening and is currently blissed out in his bed following a hot shower and a good meal. He was also very happy to be back to a “civilised” toilet :)

We’ll be hearing all the stories for the next day or so as he returns to reality, all while making the most of his Christmas and birthday presents over the next few weeks of school holidays.

Yes, it’s great to have him back.

A New Year, a Birthday and a surprise Museum visit

Our New Years Eve was pretty quiet as Kitt wasn’t feeling too well, so we stayed at home and relaxed, watching some movies while eating cheeses, olives & crackers. Not a bad way to see in the new year.

Probably a good thing we didn’t go and push it too hard as January 1st is Nykolai’s birthday so once again we had a quiet day of gifts, family and relaxation. Given most of his mates are away on holiday, we save the real birthday party for February when school’s back.

Today found Nykolai and I out at Williamstown so we decided to go and check out the HMAS Castlemaine museum. The Castlemaine is an Australian Navy Corvette (minesweeper) from World War II that’s being preserved as a floating museum. It’s pretty cheap to get on board and check it out and worth it to check out some very old technology. The scariest part for me was that they used to have a crew of about 90 people on board a relatively small vessel. Talk about cramped quarters…

I ate what?

Wow – over a month since the last post and I’ve only logged one post since Oct 15th. Can you tell I’ve been flat out lately? So, what’s been happening – well, here we go:

  • I left EDS and started a new role as Service Delivery Manager for Evolve Information Services, a small company based in Melbourne CBD. We are a small, growing software development (primarily C# .NET) and business intelligence reporting bunch and I’m trying to keep it all ticking over while the boss grows the business (can’t run it & grow it at the same time). It’s keeping me absolutely flat out but I’m loving it – I’m being stretched and challenged by a great bunch of people which is exactly what I need to get my career up to the next level. Woo hoo.
  • Things are ticking over at as most of the projects are settling into the Christmas quiet time. Andrew’s over in Graz (Austria) with lots more travel likely in 2009, so I’ll be keeping things running as smoothly as I can from here.
  • Nykolai’s doing well and has just finished Grade 5 with good results – he still needs a bit of work on his maths, but otherwise he’s doing great.
  • We’ve managed to survive Christmas staying at home this year. Usually we’ll travel up to Kitt’s mom’s place in Tweed Heads but this year she’s coming down later so we decided to stay home. We’ve picked up a Christmas tree that is, admittedly, plastic but looks extremely realistic. Kitt did a lot of great work cooking & preparing some excellent food for us all to enjoy – check out the photos at the Christmas 2008 gallery.
  • Laura, a friend of ours from San Francisco, decided to come to Australia for a holiday and arrived on Christmas Day so she’s hanging out with us and then travelling around Oz checking the place out. It’s been great fun having her here – especially when trying to explain to her that wonderful game of Cricket – if we’re lucky we’ll get to take her to a test match before she goes and then she will discover that Baseball is not the most boring game on the planet.

There’s been other things happening but these few have been the big ones so far. With luck I’ll have more energy after Christmas (assuming I survive digesting the food and booze, that is) and will be more regular with my blogging.

No matter what your persuasion or alignment, I do hope you’re having a great holiday and enjoying yourselves. We certainly are.

What, MacBeth was a Comedy???

Last Friday night we took Nykolai to see “Just MacBeth”, Andy Griffiths’ version of The Scottish Play performed by members of the Bell Shakespeare Theatre Company. A bunch of kids and adults at the Arts Center to witness the impossible. Seems that MacBeth isn’t all about tragedy but is actually a comedy – who knew?

Andy Griffiths is an Australian author who’s a number kids books that Nykolai enjoys, so when we found out that he was working with Bell Shakespeare on a MacBeth variant, we just had to go. What a great way to introduce Nykolai to Shakespeare.

Mapping Andy’s main characters of Andy, Lisa and Duncan into MacBeth, Lady MacBeth and Banquo, the story takes us from current day 12 year olds back to the Scottish hills. With school level effects (mostly via rear projection and an overhead projector), lots of fart sounds, audience participation, a fair bit of original dialogue and some adlibbing, the play brings comedy and fast paced fun while still putting across the message of tragic loss.

If you ever wondered how marshmellows, whiz fizz, skateboards, karaoke, no undies, drag shows, garden gnomes and a food processor could be applied successfully to MacBeth, this is the show for you. With plenty of humour for the adults as well as the kids it is well worth going to. Hopefully they’ll do it again to another classic play.

Festival of the Boot

Yesterday was the “Kelly-Woodford Festival of the Boot” at Nykolai’s school. Basically, it’s a Parents & Teachers vs the kids game of Aussie Rules Football that happens every year around the time of the finals. This was the third time it’s been run and the past two events were won by the kids, so could the adults finally win one this year?

Those of you who know me probably know that these days I’m not much into sport and especially not AFL. I think I’ve seen 5 or 6 professional games in my life, and a few of those were when I was a kid. Going to a football match takes me into an alien environment which I normally stay well clear of. I do wind up in the middle of it every few years or so having scored a corporate seat for an AFL game some 6 or 8 years ago and going to the Argentina vs Australia soccer game a year ago. Given this, walking around the school grounds yesterday with all the team songs playing and watching adults & kids running around the place in their gear (players and supporters) was a rather surreal experience.

I have a rough idea of how the game is played but otherwise have no idea what to do out there. For those of you who don’t know it, it’s played on a large oval shaped field with players roaming all over the place, no concept of offside and no time-outs for injury (play goes on around the medics on the field – amazing). Between the running around like mad buggers and leaping in the air to get the ball (often by leveraging off the back of others) the real game is amazingly energetic with players typically being lean and bloody fit.

Having grown up in New Zealand playing Soccer or Rugby Union then spending a bit of time mucking about with American Football, my instinctive reaction when getting a non-round football lobbed at me is to throw it like a torpedo or flick pass it so handballing and bouncing it while running are not immediate reactions for me.

If this is the case, what the heck was I doing in the middle of a game of AFL? Was it because Nykolai was playing? Nope – he was more interested in catching up with friends and mucking around – I don’t think he even watched the game despite being near the field. Was it because I really really wanted to play? Heck no! Did I want to relive my childhood? Get real!

No, I was there because one of the fathers had hassled me to attend, telling me it was all a good time and a bit of a laugh. After having my arm twisted a bit, I said I’d join in and wound up standing with a bunch of adults in sports team jumpers wondering what the hell I was doing there. Once the captain was aware that I’d never played before and had less knowledge of the game than the ball itself, he managed to arrange things so I never had much more to do than try to keep an eye on some of the opposition and generally block. Yeah, that sorta worked.

A few of the organisers had a go at commentary that was somewhat like Roy & HG complete with fashion advice and references to some adults being wiped out in the warm up let alone in the game. The kids enjoyed themselves and the adults had a good go at it, getting to within 5 points of the kids in the end. Some of the kids did amazingly well with a some of the grade 5’s & 6’s showing they’ve been playing for a few years already.

All up it was a fun day despite having to spend more time looking down at the kids than up at the ball. Nykolai had fun with a few friends, I did my duty and I’ve (hopefully) done my sporting bit for the year.

Munchkins Engrossed

We’ve got one of Nykolai’s friends staying over with us tonight. We had talked about going to the movies but Kitt’s sick and I’m zonked after a long week. So, to make up for not going out to see Hancock and Zohan, I picked up a copy of Lego Indiana Jones for the Wii.

I got home about 7pm with the game and they started playing. It’s now gone 10:30pm, they’ve eaten dinner (go pizza!) and they’re still buried in the game. I went in before to see how they were doing:

“Hey munchkins, how’s it going?”
“You guys tired?”
“It’s 10:30, you know…”
“How’s the game?”

All this while totally focused on the screen and the game. Kitt went into the lounge before to get a couple of things and they were fully engrossed in the game, hardly even reacting when she climbed over the couch to get back out again.

Guess it’s not a bad game then…

Busy Day

Yesterday wound up being quite a busy day. I spent some time in the morning racing Nykolai in Burnout with smash competitions and trying to clock best time in a champ car. From there it was a walk down to Carlisle St to get food to make for dinner then lug it all home.

Once home I headed over to Reservoir so I could drop off AG’s extremely cool “oil can guitar” that he’d picked up in South Africa. An amazing piece of work where the body is literally an old oil can with wood neck, hand made pickups and controls. From there we drove over to Brunswick East to pick up AG’s car that had been sitting under a tree for months while he was overseas. Clearing off the collection of possum poo, cobwebs and leaves was the least of the problems. Battery was dead (jump started from my car) and brake fluid was very low, but we got it running and ready to go.

Not long after getting home I got a call from Carlo to see if I wanted to come down to his Flight Experience store and spend some time in their 737-800 simulator. How could I refuse that? So, after dinner it was off to the city and 3 hours in the cockpit flying into and out of airports around the world.

Another busy, happy Saturday but not much time for rest today either: I’m about to head off to Queen Victoria Markets to do the week’s shopping then we have lunch with Kitt’s brother. Maybe some down time will be possible this arvo? Maybe?

Best Foot Forward

It’s that time of the year once again and last night was Nykolai’s school performance. Usually these are rather cringe-worthy events that remind me all too much of the Addams Family movie so last night’s show was a very pleasant change. Directed by the school’s music teacher, the show was well put together and brought out the best in the kids, really stretching them with memorised lines, choreography and singing. It’s great to see someone bringing out the best in kids, respecting their abilities and not playing down to them. From the wild reactions of the kids when she was thanked for her efforts, it’s clear that they really love her for it.

The only downside to the night was the venue was in a hall, with flat seating and a relatively low stage. We wound up seated at the back and didn’t see a lot of the action, which was a shame.

House of Insanity

Yesterday was a “curriculum day” at Nykolai’s school (a “kid free” day where the teachers review curriculum issues, cross train, etc) so I worked from home for the day. Many of the other parents aren’t able to work from home so during school holidays or on curriculum days it’s not uncommon for our place to host a few kids for the day. Yesterday was no exception.

Nykolai and three of his mates took over the lounge (with the heater) while I moved a couple of laptops and the phone into the kitchen (no heater) and worked on the table there. We’ve got a Wii, PS2 and Xbox plus the kids all have their DSs. Throw in a few computers hooked to the ‘net and it’s Kiddy Paradise in the lounge (for all ages of kids).

So long as I limit their access to heavy sugar items (no candy, no sodas, etc) then we can get through the day without too much chaos. Trust me, the lesson has been learned from a previous event where cans of solo/lemonade/etc were served at lunch along with some Freddos (small chocolate bars). Huge mistake!

Fortunately the kids spent most of yesterday playing 4-player XBox games. Even though the Wii had 4 remotes, I don’t think they got to it. Beating the crud out of each other and various bots in a Star Wars based game seemed to be the preferred option for the day.

Aside from having to turn on the gas burners on the stove a couple of times so I didn’t get too cold, all went well. I managed to get work done, the kids had fun and the house wasn’t trashed. Throw in some happy parents who didn’t have to take a vacation or sick day, and everyone wins.