Friday, 29 February 2008

The Night of a Songbird

We were not going, but then I won two tickets to hear the debut concert. What a night.

Yothu Yindi are world renowned for their music, and their performance at the Sydney Olympics. This young man was part of that, and now has his own band - Saltwater Band, based at Galiwink'u on Elcho Island. But this was not THEIR type of music. This was a solo effort by Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu , who is a close relative of Mandawuy Yunupingu of Yothu Yindi.

This music is one of the most hauntingly beautiful, incredibly melodic, evocative and just VERY good sets of music to hit the airwaves in a long time. Reminds me a little of the style of Norah Jones and the impact she made with a very different approach to music.

Blind from birth, Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu is a powerhouse of musical creativity. Geoffrey, or Gudjuk as he is also called, is from the Gumatj nation, his mother from the Galpu nation both First Nations peoples from North East Arnhemland.

A former member of Yothu Yindi, this solo excursion highlights his amazing talent as a singer/songwriter/musician, and his beautiful voice singing the songs of his Gumatj country will never leave you.

His solo performances are a rare treat and should not be missed. Geoffrey's own band the Saltwater Band all hail from Galiwin'ku on Elcho Island, NE Arnhem Land are a much loved and most popularly noted Indigenous band, partly because of Gurrumul's influence and guidance. Their music is not this music.

With the release of this his first solo album, Geoffrey highlights the tremendous talent he has to offer Indigenous music. Skinny Fish music who have been involved with this new CD have said they are excited and proud to be associated with this magical project. It is magical.

He sang of the land and his country with colour and vision, all from the mind. He described the jungle fowl and its antics with great clarity, and these animals are regular visitors to Darwin suburbia, so their antics are well known. He opened his heart and conveyed the love of the land.

Yes, most of the songs are in language - his language. A screen was used to provide the words and a translation, but the soul of the music did not need it.

Songs, language and the guitar and double bass said enough. He also played one song accompanying himself on the Steinway piano.

And was ironic that John Williams and John Etheridge were also playing in the main auditorium of the Entertainment Centre, just metres away, two world class classic guitarists. Gurrumul plays the guitar too........left handed and upside down, eg a normally strung right hand guitar, played left handed. Who could learn from who??

Listen to the tracks on my space, and if you get a chance to see him - GO! And remember, he is blind......blind from birth!

He is a new star.......listen to the three tracks free on his myspace site!

Thursday, 28 February 2008

Durian – the Smell of Asia

Not everyone enjoys them, those of Asian extraction or ethnicity generally like them, and hotels ban them. Almost all hotels in Asia have a VERY conspicuous sign, usually near the main door “NO DURIANS”. The fruit is intricately enmeshed with tropical monsoonal and equatorial Asia, with many Asians paying very high prices for favoured varieties, with a few Thai types especially favoured.

It’s the smell they say. And it is strong and very distinct.

There are a few local growers in our area, and one is a client. So I was given one yesterday. Lucky me.

While durian IS an acquired taste, it is very good. My favourite option is to have durian icecream, a good easy option in Malaysia, but not so easy here unless you make your own.

The smell is very obvious to any visitor entering the carport………it is banned from the house!

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

The “me” Generation and Personal Food

The new must have for the “me” generation is …………..wait for it – Personal Watermelons.

Small enough to fit in the palm of your hand and easier to store in the fridge, Personal Melons are wrapped up in their own highly distinctive striped skin. They are sweeter and crisper than an average watermelon, while remaining highly nutritious and a perfect way to quench your thirst and create healthy and delicious recipes.

Or so say the soothsayers of the advertising industry, trying to separate you and your money.

Coming soon to a supermarket near you.

I remember the joy of a surreptitious sortie into a growers paddock on a hot summer night to acquire a decent sized watermelon to slice for the car load of young things to enjoy. One can hardly do that for a personal melon. Or the occasional food fight with a decent sized watermelon, after a few slices. Even one memorable one at home with four teenage children on the [thankfully] fully tiled terrace, with a hose wash down to follow.

Yields of the personal melons are down and production, handling, advertising and packaging costs are up.

The only winner with small watermelons seems to be the supermarkets.

Monday, 25 February 2008

Bloody Monsoon

The monsoon comes in bursts to northern Australia, usually about 7-10 days at a time followed by intermonsoonal drier periods of 30 -45 days. I WILL not explain the intricacies of this process but it is all related to the MJO, atmospheric pressure waves, push and pull monsoons, high pressure periods in Beijing and other seemingly unrelated issues - all available on for you sticky beaks.

BUT it is now over two weeks since this monsoonal burst and it is getting wetter. Have had about 450mm of rain over the past 10 days, and the ground is saturated. And the monsoon is expected to last at least another week or more. brings life, but we need a break.........soon.

Clothes cannot be easily dried, especially those larger items such as bed sheets. The mould on all surfaces is chronic, crutch rash is endemic, the lawn grows and grows and grows, green tree frogs are getting sore throats from all the singing and it still RAINS.

We need a dash of sunshine and a vitamin D fix to improve the mood, and I need to repair a small roof crack, but it is not dry enough for long enough to even do that.

And guess what, today it is raining.

Sunday, 24 February 2008

Doing the Amazon

Two intrepid Australians have just become the 4th ever crew to traverse the Amazon from headwaters to the mouth at the Atlantic Ocean, completing the journey a few days ago.

Great story and amazing photos and well worth checking out. Takes the mundane to the extraordinary. see

Friday, 22 February 2008

Out the Kitchen Window

There is a theme running on the view out of your kitchen window. Original theme attributed to and now many others to check out listed on this blog. Add your view too!

This is mine........a great view over tropical orchids [nearly always one or more in flower] around a spa pool, with a great zoysia lawn leading to a shed. Every man needs his shed! A great tropical backyard.

Thursday, 14 February 2008

If the Weather is Wet Then Go Swimming!

It's wet. Very wet! So what do you do when it is raining cats and dogs? Of course, go to swimming training!

This week has seen a "perfect storm" of monsoonal weather. About 25- 50mm of rain each day, with some areas getting more, in several short sharp bursts both during daylight hours but especially at night, or late afternoon. Plus a strong westerly wind, of maybe 25kms/hr or more.

Ideal conditions for a good solid outdoors swim training session each afternoon.

The local pool [ 25m one this time] has had extra water that has not been pumped out so it is like swimming in a rough open water swim, with a good surface choppy sea. Good practice for the coming open water swims.

Have increased the regular daily swim sessions to about 2km, or just under, using a series of intervals after a warm up. Typically 2 x 400m freestyle [or an 800m freestyle] at around 80% pace, then a serious interval session of about 8-12 x 50m freestyle at 1.10 or 1.15 intervals holding around 45 secs repeats over the set. Sometimes a set of 100m intervals is used too. Plus a few sets of kick, drill and a longer set of several 200m freestyle swims concentrating on smoothness and style round out the session. I use an older guide book for Masters swimmers, but have a reasonable idea of trainng sessions, based on my own swim coaching experience. Group sessions are fine, but my job does not allow that to happen so a plan built around "doing my own thing" has worked for a long time. It is hard to cheat on the pace clock!

This along with cycling the 6km each way to and from the pool plus a few gym sessions each week and the regular 5 times per week dog walk of 30 - 40 mins covers the training.

Gym sessions do make a difference in the strength area and especially in developing a strong underwater pull through in freestyle. That elongated pull into a push does add a bit of zip and the strength training helps.

Especially for us slightly older swimmers. We do have some sharp older swimmers in Darwin, with a few world record holders in Masters events, but mostly women. There are some excellent men swimmers too, but not quite in that class!

I am determined to improve performances in the coming open water swims.

There is a certain lure of chasing a black line each day. Unwinds the brain, improves the mood as the endorphins kick in. I am a more pleasant person after my swim! Even if a bit knackered when the effort goes up.

Saturday, 9 February 2008

The Monsoon is Back

It's raining.........occasionally, light, slow, drizzle, the odd sharp shower, a bit of sun, more light rain, some westerly wind........yes! The monsoon is BACK to north Australia.

Lots more rain thought to be coming, and flood warnings are out.

But the monson is life to the northern tropics. It fills the creeks and rivers, billabongs and back billabongs, provides mud islands for the crocodile nests and well........renews life in the north.

The past week has been really crappy weather. Hot, humid and sweat [ not perspire] just standing still in the shade! At least there is a light breeze blowing now and while humid, at still around 30C, at least it feels better.

AND.......last night, the green tree frogs were singing big time. Even had to recover one from the upstairs bathroom, just a modest sized one, enjoying the weather. The photo though was in the back yard.

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Will Broadband REALLY Get Faster?

Ah, the rumblings of the behomoth Testra, exerting market power in Australia's telecommunications industry.

Yesterday they announced installation of ADSL2+ in 900 new exchanges around Australia. Enquiries today locally with Telstra countrywide indicate that this system will be up and going in our local exchange at Nightcliff, in 48 hours. For over 2 years Telstra has steadfastly said - NO to ADSL2+ except for the Darwin central business area exchange [already installed], despite many protests by small business.

It is not the change of policy, but the speed it will be deployed.........

This seems to have left competitors floundering, nay near drowning. Most are not likely to meet this demand rapidly and may well lose market share to Telstra.

So much for " a level playing field" and the squishing of competition by the giant Telstra.

I am cranky.......we have a great ISP provider consistently ranked in the top two around Australia, but it does not have the market power of Telstra.

As the Toyota ads say "bugger"!!!!

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

The Monsoon Frog will be back soon

It is coming back........soon! The pundits are saying the monsoon will be back next week.

And with it the hordes of green tree frogs that live in our tropical garden, nestled in the mulch. Once it rains, the chorus starts, and then continues almost every night.

So much for the advance of the dreaded Cane Toad. Yes, they are coming, but are not into much of suburban Darwin....YET. One or two found nearby in the past year, and promptly dispatched to the freezer, and into the mulch bin once frozen. And nary one seen at night while walking the dog. If they are dense, you should see cane toads under the street lights or path lights catching insects, but they are just not there.

Of more concern is the supposed sighting of a crocodile in the nearby Water Gardens parklands at Jingili. Now dogs are banned while the crocodile is found! How many readers have a crocodile in the local park?? Or maybe just a big lizard or water monitor.

And there is concern too about the extinction of a pygmy crocodile population due to the advance across the Northern Territory of the diabolical cane toad. And yes, saving them by relocation is an excellent concept. Read the story here: