Sunday, 31 May 2015

Rain in the afternoon

Hi everyone,

Writing this with an element of cabin fever. It's 5pm on Sunday afternoon and its raining outside. Michael came up this morning; he and the old boy just came in out of the rain.  He just gave the old boy a glass of wine; I'm hoping it won't lead to a second glass as it tends to make him believe he's hugely funny and clever, which is tiresome.

Annoyingly I haven't been able to get out for a run or a ride due to the rain, and that leaves me feeling overheated and 'pent-up'.  Despite all of which I'm feeling reasonably good about starting work tomorrow.  One of the worst feelings about being unemployed is the sense of being trapped: that you struggle to find things to be keen or excited about, that every day is like the day before, and that you're just killing time and unable to plan anything for your future.  Now, I can start getting my future back on track.  It's a liberating feeling.  I'm not going to lie: I do feel almost as out of place as I used to, although SES makes a big difference. Having a job lets me build to a future of my design, rather than taking whatever comes to me.

On another note, I wanted to share a painting I'm loving at the moment.  One of my favourite pictures is Piet Mondrian's Broadway Boogie-Woogie (1943).

Looking through an old issue of The Spectator I saw another, much earlier Mondrian picture that I like: Devotion (1908). I love the way the image isn't 'outlined' but instead 'emerges' from the background. Despite this fluidity, the woman looks as calm and permanent as if she had been carved from marble. It's a beautiful picture.

That's everything I can think of for the moment. I hope you're all doing well. Looking forward to updating you about the new job tomorrow!

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Setting things up.

Hi everyone,

It's been another odds and ends day here.  I started the day by wading through some backlogged emails from the last few days, and then started setting up the tablet Telstra has sold me as part of a new phone plan.

I took a break from this to attend to a few of the animals - topping up the heifers' molasses, and giving the bull his rations of hay, triticale and cornmeal.  Usefully, it turns out the dog is partial to cornmeal too!

Worked with the old boy in the afternoon trying to assess whether one of the older wells on the place can still be pumped effectively.  How old is the well?  As it's brick-lined, I'm guessing reasonably old.

Part of the problem was with the pump, which has run dry a few times and the bowl of which is likely to have become distorted somewhat.  Happily we had another to replace it with.

Annoyingly, the old boy still assumes anyone working with him is an idiot.  After being told for 20 years never to let PVC pipe get kinked, it's exasperating to be reminded yet again as if you're an idiot.  Gripe over.

Took the dog for a moderate walk in the late afternoon in the surprisingly golden light.  The sky was a little red, although the weather bureau says there could be rain tomorrow.

Not much else to note.  Will need to do some prep work for Monday tomorrow.  It must say something about me as a runner that since I knew I'd landed this job, I've been thinking about races to enter.  The Wonderland trail run in the Grampians looks good!

More tomorrow.

Baked hush puppies

Hi everyone,

A culinary experiment from my end this evening.  I'd had a box of hush puppy mix on the shelf for ages. I'd been wrestling between the impetuses (grammar?) of wanting to make them and not wanting to deep-fry anything for health reasons.  I decided to have a go at baking them instead.

The recipe called for combining the packet mix, plus half a cup of milk and an egg. No problem there, and I mixed them while the oven warmed up.

I set the oven for 400°F - the recipe called for oil of 350°F and it seemed to me to crank it up a bit to allow for the cooking medium being air.

I pressed two cupcake trays into use for baking and got 17 hush puppies from the mix.

I set them to bake for about 15 minutes (rather than frying for about 4 minutes) for the same reason as I upped the heat.  They came out golden and smelling good!

Breaking one open, it was pleasantly crumbly and cooked right through, and (being unfried) not at all oily or greasy.

The drawback with not frying them is they did come out a bit dry, where frying would have left them moist.  To offset this I squeezed some tomato sauce into a saucer and also made a basic dip from tomato sauce and hot sauce.

A better thought out dip is needed with them - perhaps mayonnaise with cajun seasoning, or a bacon-and-white-sauce concoction.  Be that as it may: there were no complaints from the tribe here, and certainly none left.

Hope you feel like giving this a try next time you're thinking about appetisers!

Friday, 29 May 2015


Hi everyone,

Wonderful news: I have a job!!!

I got a call from the local irrigation water authority this afternoon asking me to send them a copy of my birth certificate, academic record and drivers licence.  I asked why.  They said you got the job and we need to draw up your contract!  I was amazed: I hadn't heard anything and had assumed I hadn't been selected.  The role is that of a legal officer with them.  I'd better spend some quality time getting on top of the Water Act 2009!  Very thrilled by this: I feel like I can get my life back on track again!

Otherwise, it was an orderly day: fed the cattle some more large bales of straw hay and topped up their molasses.

Also topped up the bull's feeder with oaten hay ...

... and a mix of triticale and cornmeal.  He seems to like cornmeal, which is good as we have a lot if it.

To the Rushworth property in the afternoon to retrieve some batteries and cables that are needed here.  Depressing how much crap is building up over there. The wheel of development always seems to trend towards redneck.

SES training in the evening (maintenance night).  Tired tonight - have some work for Daryl the Gardener arranged for tomorrow. 

Me and a rototiller...

Hi everyone,

I got to sleep a bit late last night and slept a bit late this morning.  Happily, though, I was still able to get to Daryl the Gardener's by 9am for work.

He'd arranged to hire a rotortiller to turn the soil in anticipation of laying turf in Monday.

Once at the job, it took a little messing around to get the blades down far enough to turn the actual soil. This was how things looked while I was doing the actual tilling:

We got finished and took the tiller back to near the hiring depot, where there's a car wash with a high pressure hose.

Here endeth my career as a gardener's labourer!

I had a few errands to run in town which I went and attended to, before picking up lunch at the supermarket in the firm of an avocado, some cherry tomatoes and dried figs.  While I was getting around I had to take a photo of the postmodern spire of Christ the King church!

The remains of the day were a bit quiet.  A long walk with the dog was the most notable part.  I had to share, though.this picture my friend Stephanie put up on Facebook (ultimately it belongs to AmEx).  It says it all about being a runner! 

Hope all is well for you. More tomorrow.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Artsy odds and ends

Hi everyone,

I've finally cleared out my email backlog and found I'd emailed to myself a couple of arts-themed news stories.  This is a short piece patching them together.  How much should society fund the arts?  I'm not sure of the answer and wondering what readers make of it.

On one hand, public taste, left to its own devices, seems to go to simple, unchallenging and, well, pretty basic, at least the way John Moore tells it.  Faced with that, it's hard not to be appealed to by the Arts Party's urging that more public money could be given to the arts without a significant budgetary impact: after all, more arts ideas should lead to more interesting ideas.  As well as the desire for ideas, there's an "eat your greens" benefits to arts events that the State of Mississippi is aware of and finds beneficial.  Despite all of this, It's hard not to be repulsed on the other hand by the implied snobbishness as to public taste of Margaret Pomeranz -
Would you really rather go see the latest Hollywood offering with its minimal challenges, just because it offers you everything you would expect, allowing you to go home feeling vaguely satisfied for a nanosecond but never requiring you to think again about what you have just seen? Sure, Felony and Predestination are challenging and thought-provoking films, but for goodness sake, they are also nourishing in a way that Spiderman, whatever its number or incarnation, could never hope to be.

What do you think?  How much ought the community spend funding arts and culture?

Rake and dig

Hi everyone,

It's been another real odds-and-ends day.

I met Daryl the Gardener for work at 9am.  It was another short day - clearing and weeding the patches to be turfed.  In Friday we turn the soil and on Monday lay the turf.

I was digging and raking vigorously when Daryl got a call re a family crisis. He went off to deal with it and in the meantime I finished off the work at hand.  Did reasonably well I thought!

Work was done by midday so I picked up a cucumber, some cherry tomatoes and dried figs for lunch.

A few chores on the farm when I got back.  Took the dog in a long walk and noticed the strong list one poor tree has developed.  

Not much more to note. Very tired tonight. More tomorrow.

What I'm reading Wednesday - A LinkUp!

Hi everyone,

It's time for a "What I'm Reading Wednesday" LinkUp (a.k.a. doing "Tuesday Bookday" a day late!

Regular readers will remember the long list of things I'm actively reading at present that I posted the other week.  Since then I've finished a few things and started a few others.  By way of review of the finished items -

The Young Lawyer (2015), vol. 15(2) - Worth flipping through, although because my legal career is slowly slipping beneath the waves I didn't trouble to read the professional skills section.  There were a couple of genuinely interesting columns on legal history: One noted Abraham Lincoln's acceptance that slavery was (pre-Civil War) legal, although also evil and barbaric.  The other noted the career of Nazi jurist Hans Frank; seeing what Frank was actually convicted of at Nuremberg is now on my to-do list.

Ken Blackwell and Ken Klukowski, The Blueprint (2010) - I read this just after finishing Sean Hannity's Conservative Victory and I think it benefited from the comparison.  It has more rigour and intellectual honesty than Hannity's book - for one thing, it concedes that parts of President Obama's program have been entirely constitutional and legal, even if they represent bad policy.  For another, it avoids using the terms "socialist" and "Marxist" interchangeably (the two concepts are rather different) and as general terms of disapproval.  Its flaw, I think, lies in the tendency to see large parts of the Obama program as part of a plan (or even a conspiracy): a fairer reading, I think, would be to see the present administration as a somewhat ramshackle group of political operators pursuing a complex agenda, under the aegis of a president who is clearly intelligent but somewhat naive as to how much can be achieved by dialogue alone. 

Perspectives on History (2015) vol. 53(3) - Always worth reading even if it's a little depressing to read (as here) about the politicisation of funding for study of the humanities.  I think one of the big problems facing the humanities at present is that conservative polemicists are calcifying into a canonical history of the United States.  This history will be very fragile and open to being problematised by offering (inherently liberal?) perspectives from class, race and gender.  In the long run, what this means is that conservatives retreat into an intellectual fortress and cease engaging with the historical conversation.  Far from challenging the left's long march through the intellectual institutions, this winds up guaranteeing its success.

Kevin Gutzman, The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Constitution (2007) - I got up to page 122 and gave up.  This book is unutterably bad: essentially it comes down to a series of "gotcha" moments where where Founding Father x said such and such in 1783 and the something different in 1810, without considering why they may have changed their position.  Particularly exasperating is the insistence that the subjective understanding that certain members of the Founding generation had as to the US constitution is relevant to its interpretation: a competent historian could use "original understanding" to argue for virtually any interpretation of a constitution (or any statute) once one departs from a purely textualist approach.

Law Institute Journal (2015) vol. 89(4) - Increasingly irrelevant to me but worth skimming over nonetheless.  A couple of articles about the Victorian legal profession's opposition to the execution of Chan and Sukumaran in Indonesia (which, accidentally, tended to underscore the lawyers' impotence on the issue).  Interesting article on the new Fences Amendment Act which will be useful for volunteering at the Legal Centre.


PJ O'Rourke, The CEO of the Sofa (2001) - A collection of P.J. O'Rourke's columns from 2000-2001.  Some of the more political and 'new economy' columns are dated and I've been skipping over them.  In a way, reading these columns underscores just how much our culture has been changed by a decade-and-a-half of the Internet, September 11 and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.


Commercial Transport Litigation Committee, Damages (2014) - I'm working through this one or two states a night (currently up to Delaware).  It's as exciting as you'd expect a legal reference book to be but it's a good way to add to my store of knowledge.

Rebecca Fraser, The Story of Britain (2003) - I've only glanced at the first couple of pages.  Interestingly Fraser starts with the Roman occupation.

Mark Levin, Men in Black (2005) - I've only read a few pages of this so far, but to this point it seems to be a polemicist's defence of the 'originalism' school of legal thought.  Whether I bother finishing it will probably be controlled by how well it addresses the arguments of originalism's opponents.

What are you reading now, and why?  Are you enjoying it,
or feel that it's been a wrong turn?

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Paging Dr Dumb Donald F.R.A.C.O.G.

Hi everyone,

A surprisingly packed day here. It started slowly: another bitterly cold morning that had me moving the pillow of my bed down by a food so to be able to pull the blankets over my head. Yeah, that cold!

I had some time spare and the ex and I had needed to delay skyping with the girls for an hour and a half. So, I was working on a draft of a book-Tuesday blogpost when the old boy got back from down the paddock and said that heifer #67 was having trouble calving.  He, Michael and I duly got into the yards and got to work with the pulling tackle.

She was a good patient apart from her legs giving way when the calf was halfway out. Not good.  Some heaving from Michael and me had the little fellow in the open air.

I'm delighted to say that momma found her feet with a little help and began cleaning the calf, which is essentially how cows and calves bond.

I was able to get back in enough time to Skype with Grace and Rachel, which was awesome: I got to watch them playing with Sleeping Beauty Lego and tell them about the new calf. Grace said if it was a heifer it should be called Georgia, and Rachel said if it was a bull-calf it should be called Thailand (I can only wonder why she thought of this!).  They got to Skype with the parental units as well which was good.  Grace especially wanted to know what sorts of animals she'd see if she was camping out here and we talked about kangaroos and koalas and wallabies and cockatoos and kookaburras.  I told her that wallabies are like huge rabbits (she wants to take a ride on one!) and that kookaburras love to laugh.  I love that they love me even though I'm so far away and not exactly kicking goals in the Dad-stakes.  I guess I feel that being a dad is something where trying your best isn't good enough. You must get it right and be a good father, or else it's better you don't do it at all.

I forgot to say that while we were messing around getting the calf born my woolen cap kept falling down over my eyes: in short order I started feeling like Dumb Donald from the Fat Albert cartoons: 

See what I mean?!?

After lunch I set out some more salt, minavit and molasses for the cows.  We also mustered up two troughs to give Bluechip the Bull some better rations of oaten hay, grain and water.  He gave me a suspicion look as he was brought up to them: bulls clearly don't believe in there being a free lunch.

I was rostered on at the Legal Centre this evening.  I have to say I was feeling fairly jaded as I drove up, asking myself what is the good of being a lawyer if the only people who want your skills are those who get them for free. The evening was at least a bit motivating: a product liability issue and three wills/probate matters, all of whom I could more-or-less help.  I still haven't decided whether to bother renewing my practising certificate for next year though. It seems so pointless.

Work with Daryl the gardener tomorrow. Hopefully the rain will hold off.

More tomorrow.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

How I didn't lay turf today...

Hi everyone,

Today has been kind of a misfire.  As mentioned yesterday, I had work with Daryl the Gardener lined up and duly lobbed up at his place at 9am.  We needed to buy a few tools at Bunnings and the headed to the job site in northern Shepparton.

The site is a rented house in a newish housing development where the landlord wants the tenant to weed the front and back yards after which we're to lay turf down.  Apparently she'll save a couple of dollars by not having us do the weeding, although this seems like an epic false economy to me since we'll be stripping the topsoil back anyway; still, it's her work to give.

In the event, the tenant had not done the weeding and Daryl declared that we could go no further that day.  I pegged out the areas for turfing and as of midday clocked off.

I have to say I was a bit annoyed by knocking off after doing little more than hammer in a few pegs and putting out builder's string, but what can you do? I'm labour, not management.

Since I was in town I went to the library to check the job ads in the local papers without seeing anything.  I borrowed a couple of books and headed back to the farm.

The old boy and Michael had gone to Violet Town by the time j got back, so I attended to a few other things and took the dog on a good long walk.

I noticed (which I hadn't before) how one of the strainers and stay-rails have been cut from trees on the place, which seemed rather cool.

Having some time around sunset I squeezed in a short ride and then warmed up by the fire. Michael and the old boy were back around dark.

Not for the first time, I'm missing my old life tonight - when I'd work late at the office, sometimes even make dinner there (I did this a lot at Hall & Wilcox) hen get the late train or tram back to wherever I was living.  On Friday evenings, a night time walk along the esplanade at Elwood Beach and then get a pizza and a bottle of wine from Anabella's at Glenhuntly.  Life, even though narrow, still seemed to contain a lot of possibilities. Well, I guess now I still need to keep looking for The Next Thing. Whatever if is, it'll be good.

Enough philosophising!  Hope all is well with you good people wherever you are.

More tomorrow.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

From a chilly grain field

Hi everyone,

Typing this in the paddock that's been ploughed for grain. The old boy is going around with the tractor and seeder.  Every so often Michael and I top it up with grain. Exciting it is not.

Today got off to a slow start: it was freezing (as in, 0°C) overnight and every time I poked my head out from under the covers there was a powerful incentive to poke it right back again!

In addition to getting the seeder underway this morning we changed the feed-molasses drum.

I put a bucketful out to the cattle with the salt and Minavit from last week.  They e been loving up on it all day since!



Sorry for the delay finishing this: battery died.  We finished with sowing grain just after the sun went below the horizon and headed in as the air temperature began to fall.

Quiet evening: a warm fire and dinner were both welcome. I finally saw The Third Man tonight, on DVD. I think maybe I missed the point. All these years I've heard it described as one of the greatest films ever made, but to me it seemed like a fairly unremarkable thriller - competently enough made, to be sure, but not really memorable. Maybe I was put off by the zither music, which I found so overused as to be downright annoying.

Have some work lined up for tomorrow with The Gardener.  Thank heavens for a chance to feel like a proper working man again!

More tomorrow.

How not to be Southern...

Hi everyone,

Today I learned a food-related lesson.

It was a beautiful morning and I decided to whip up a quick loaf of cornbread before lunch.  Somehow I just felt a passion for a Southern-style dish.

I had a few very old packets of corn muffin mix in the cupboard. All of them were some years past their best-before date, but I figured that absent weevils they should be fine.

I mixed the batter up with an egg and milk as per the packet and put it in a baking dish.

The oven was already on and set to 350F for a casserole.  I figured this would be close enough to the required 400F the packet recommended.

Wrong!  After half an hour it was cooked through and nothing clinged to a skewer jabbed into it.  However, it didn't look quite right in the pan:

On getting it out it was as flat and dense as a roof tile! (Pepper pot included for sake of scale)

Most disappointingly: it tasted faintly like  chalk and chlorine!  I guess the only lesson is: don't let packets get too old, and take temperature recommendations seriously.  Pretty sure it'll go to the dog I'm afraid.

So there you have it: my wannabe-Southern heart has a new skill to master!