The Singing Ship

The Singing Ship


The Singing Ship

Emu Park is a small town south of Yeppoon on the Central Queensland coast.

In May 1770, Captain James Cook sailed into the bay off the coast of this area, and named it Keppel Bay. It’s a stunning area dotted with coral reefs, idyllic tropical islands, and long wide beaches to the south.

“The Singing Ship” was erected in 1970 to honour the bicentenary of Cook’s voyage.

It is a magnificent sculpture which captures the essence of a sailing ship, with a small difference.

It sings.

Cleverly constructed tubes descend from “sail” to the “deck” of the structure. The prevailing winds pass through strategically placed holes in those tubes, causing them to resonate like a huge pipe organ. Or perhaps like the wind in the shrouds of a sailing ship.

The result is a gentle pleasant musical chord that rings out over the water.

I think this is wonderful work of art which aptly honours the memory of the great navigator, James Cook. It’s large and bright, with huge sweeping sail shape that gives an impression of motion. The musical tones add to that feeling. As you stand at its base, its not difficult to imagine that you’re on the deck of fantastic sailing ship, ploughing the waters of Keppel Bay.

This is public art as it should be – creatively capturing people’s imagination, engaging the senses, and reminding us of the great lives that have preceded us.

Save a man’s life

I think drug trafficking is a terrible crime. Offenders should be dealt with severely.

But I strongly oppose the death penalty, and especially “Mandatory Execution” where a government stipulates that someone found guilty of a crime MUST be executed, without reference to any mitigating circumstances.

This is the case in Singapore today.

Van Nguyen is a convicted drug trafficker who will be hanged on 2 December 2005 unless by some miracle, the Singapore government changes its mind.

So far they have been unmoved by legal appeals, or by appeals for Clemency on moral or ethical grounds. So I fully support the efforts of Rights Australia to urge companies and people that hold significant investments with the Singapore government to lobby them.

Do you have an Optus phone, or internet account? Optus is 63% owned by the Singapore government. Other large Singapore concerns include SP Ausnet (Victorian Power Company) and Singapore Airlines. Click here for information about how you can ask these companies to support the campaign for clemency for Van Nguyen.

In Dublin's Fair City

In Dublin’s Fair City

Each of these pictures offers a live view of a different part of Dublin – Ireland’s wonderful capital city. To get a more up to date view, just press the REFRESH button on your browser. The pictures update every 60 seconds.

If you want to know what you’re looking at, hold your mouse over the picture, or click on the picture to go to the webcam site and get a larger picture, or more information.

Dublin is on the same time-zone as London. the times are on the top right of each photo, but you’ll need to click on the photo and get the larger version of the picture to see the time.

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Corner of Talbot & Gardner Street, Dublin

Camera in a Tree Stump

Camera in a Tree Stump

A year ago I hid a disposable camera in screw-top container in a tree stump in a local park, and left instructions on the internet for people to find the camera, take a picture of themselves, and put the camera back.

Yesterday I retrieved the camera and had the pictures developed. You can see the result here.

What an enjoyable experiment! A montage of people (and dogs) – most of whom I have never met, all having fun.

If you’ve never tried it, I’d heartily recommend geocaching (http://www.geocaching.com) – probably the most fun you can have with a GPS receiver. There are thousands of hidden “caches” like this all over the world – probably just down the road from where you live.

I’ve put another disposable camera at the same location, so if you feel like getting outdoors and having some fun, try finding my geocache called “Only the Lawnleis”. You’ll need to discover a little bit about the local history of the area before you can track down the final location. It’s all on the site here.

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Utopia

Utopia

Utopia

Farewell to Utopia… for now.

I’ve spent the last six months in a strange place called Utopia.

People will tell you it’s an online game where almost 1,500 teams (kingdoms) of up to 25 members (provinces) pit their warring skills against each other.

But it’s much, much more than that.

There are plenty of articles already available on the internet about Utopia ( http://games.swirve.com/utopia), so I won’t duplicate that here.

I found Utopia very addicitive because I was commited to a group of people who were also commited to me. I spent hours researching, planning, watching, fighting, because I didn’t want to let my team down. I know they probably did the same as well.

I created a character called “The Wise Lady Sohpie” – an attacking woman who rose through the ranks to become a first a Baroness, then a Viscountess in July this year. I came to love Sophie (whose name means “Wisdom”) because she reminded me of my wife Liz. Smart, strong and commited to friends. It felt a bit weird playing the part of a woman when I was a man, but I figured that this was a fantasy world, and my team mates didn’t really care what I looked like in real life. I told any of them who asked. Apart from that, I just let Sophie do her thing.

The luckiest thing was that Sophie ended up in a kingdom called “Haven’t Decided Yet”. Don’t let the name fool you – these guys are tough. Led by Wise King Roger, we won three wars this age, and three wars last age. Legend has it that in ancient days King Roger led his kingdom through a golden age where they never lost a war, and had other kingdoms fleeing in terror.

Our kingdom was blessed with some strange but fearsome creatures. I can’t mention all of them here, and I know they’ll forgive me for mentioning just a few of them. These are real people who I interacted with on an almost daily basis.

Baroness Tekeelya is a magical elf who has specialized in a life of crime. If you annoy her she can call down a storm of meteors from the sky to wreak havoc on your lands. But she can also kidnap your peasants, or rob you blind. She often gazes into her crystal ball to see things that many of her friends can not. On our Island of Mortov, there is none more honorable than she is. Honor in utopia is something that is fought hard for, and prized more highly than power or expansive lands.

The Great General Belgarion is an awesome attacking Orc who can capture land from armies much bigger than his. Many the time I’ve seen him return from battle having captured hundreds of acres. I’ve never seen him fail in an attack. Ever.

Lord Icron is a Halfling who recently decided to be a rogue. Don’t let his size fool you. Icron’s thieves are terrible. Many times they have snuck into an enemies lands at night to wipe out thousands of troops. In times of war, he spreads propaganda throughout an opposing army, demoralizing them and bringing them to their knees. He told me of his life in a previous age as an attacking Avian, and how he missed his “birdies”, but I think he made an excellent Halfling.

And Wise King Roger… Of all the people in our land, his libraries are the biggest. His armies were busy most of the age, pillaging, looting, taking land, even stealing books for his libraries. He doesn’t say much, but he knows how and when to pick a fight. Sophie was a sage like Roger, and I learned a lot from watching how Roger did things.

As a rule, I never play computer games. I spend enough time online doing my job. So this has been quite an experience for me.

But it has taken up so much of my time that I need a break from it for now.

I can’t just spend less time on it per day, because Sophie’s province wouldn’t be as strong as it deserves to be. So the Wise Noble Lady Sophie is taking a vaction for a few months.

To the wonderful people of “Haven’t Died Yet”, I love you all. Thank you for letting me be part of your kingdom. You’ve taught me a lot, and I hope that I can join you again in future.

A short visit to the Isle of Skye

A short visit to the Isle of Skye

A short visit to the Isle of Skye

Slainte!
Talisker is one of the best single malt whiskys in the world, and is made in a small village on the southwest coast of the Isle of Skye, which is off the west coast of Scotland.

Every time I taste its smoky peaty flavour, in my mind I take a short trip to that little distillery on the windswept, rain-soaked, mystical coast of Skye.

If you ever feel like visiting, but can’t afford it, buy a bottle of Talisker, close your eyes, take a sip, and you’re there already.

A short visit to the Isle of Skye

Thank you, Harrison!

Eclipse – a spiritual non-religious experience

For a mind-blowing spiritual experience without any of the religious add-ons, why not try a total eclipse of the sun?

In December 2002, I indulged a lifelong dream and took my daughter Laura to a remote place on the Stuart Highway west of Woomera to observe a Total Eclipse of the Sun.

I am eternally grateful to Liz, who was very supportive of her “planet head”dreamer of a husband, and encouraged me to fly off to South Australia and leave her at home to look after two small kids.

We were originally going to Ceduna, but the forecast of cloudy weather caused us to change our plans and drive north from Adelaide into the desert rather than west to the Great Australian Bight.

7 hours north of Adelaide, there’s no such things as clouds, rain, trees or even hills. It’s just flat stony desert with lots of salt-plains thrown in for good measure. I took a video camera with me to film it, but didn’t really do the event justice as I’d never attempted solar photography before.

Nevertheless, I managed to salvage a few meaningful pictures from the tape, which I’ve posted below.

Please bear in mind that the images were extracted from a video camera, so they’re not as “professional” looking as those you’d get from a still camera. You can probably find much better pictures on the net, but these pictures mean a lot to me because I was there!

It was a very emotional experience.

I’ve read all the books about total eclipses, and thought I knew what to expect… but when it happened, it was still a wonderful shock.

The next total eclipse is in Libya and Turkey in March 2006. It will last over 4 minutes. I would love to experience it…. but it’s a long way away!

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About 30 minutes after “first contact”. It took me that long to figure out how to use the camera properly.
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About 40 minutes after “first contact”
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Approx. 50 minutes after “first contact”
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This is the unfiltered view of the sun just before totality. As you can see it’s still bright enough to dazzle the eyes.
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A couple of minutes before totality, and the shadows cast by the sun have lost their crispness and have taken on a wierd crescent shape.
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The landscape just before totality.
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A strange twilight decends…
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Totality. Only the corona is visible. I can hardly keep my hands steady.
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Note the strange pillar of shadow that seems to descend from the sky.
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Try to keep the camera still, Neil!
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The “diamond ring” starts to appear as totality nears the end.
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The “diamond ring” effect is quit prominent here.
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Time to put the eclipse glasses on again!

Wow!
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The partially eclipsed sun set over a flat, cloudless horizon. A perfect end to a day perfect for eclipse viewing.

Thank you, Harrison!

Thank you, Harrison!

Thank you, Harrison!

Harrison was at pre-school earlier this week, when his teacher commented about the beat-up old toy wheelbarrow whose front wheel had fallen off.

“My Dad can fix it”, he said. “My Dad can fix anything”.

I’m a hopeless handyman. The first guinnea pig cage I ever build ended up as a pile of wood and wire. So did the second one. The only time in my life I ever gave my car a grease and oil change was when my 18 year-old step son helped me. (He did all of the work, and I watched on and gave encouraging words when I thought it was appropriate.)

This little challenge from Harrison was quite a big one for me, but inside I was overjoyed the confidence that my 5 year old son had placed in me.

So I agreed, and did what I could to fix up the wheelbarrow. I gave it a fresh coat of paint, some new washers, some oil, and had a great time while Harrison watched on.

“That looks awesome, Dad!”

Wow – what a vote of confidence! What a privilage to be a father, and for a few precious, short years to be a little boy’s hero. All it took was a couple of hours on my Saturday morning, and a few dollars, but the memory for me will last a lifetime.

Soon he will think that he knows better than me, and I’ll just be an “oldie”. But for now, I can do awesome things with wheelbarrows, I get to be a hero for a day, and Harrison will tell all his friends that his Dad fixed the wheelbarrow up.

Thanks a million, son!