Dramatis persona*

helenhead Helen Chick

I've always wanted a bumper sticker that said "I'm a female, LDS/Mormon, Scout leading, geocaching, piano-playing, bicycling, mathematics educator with a PhD in maths ... and I VOTE"!

I think this makes me a minority group of cardinality 1!

* Since there's only one of me and "personae" is plural (I think), I've gone with dramatis persona.
November 2019
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12 of 12, September 2019

There were some contrasts to be had in today’s 12 of 12, with the day beginning at work with a three-hour meeting, focusing on the new performance framework (yet another iteration of workplace management practices). It was about as riveting as the associated document cover.

In the afternoon I left work and headed north to Launceston, meeting Imogen and the rest of her rock band at one of the Scottish restaurants for a quick bite to eat prior to the evening’s activities.

While Imogen headed off with the band to get set up, I had time to check into our hotel,

take some random photos of the surrounds because I needed 12 photos for the day and it was getting dark,

and go for a quick walk up to the lower end of the Gorge

past the new memorial to Polish pioneers who moved to the area after World War 2,

as dusk settled over the river.

Imogen’s band (“The Method”) had won the southern Tasmanian heat of the Rock Challenge, and had travelled to Launceston to compete in the state finals. They played really well, performing two of their own songs, while I attempted to take photos with my camera cranked up to ISO3200 to cope with the low light conditions.

Imogen plays drums and plays them well … and also loudly (it’s that kind of band!). We are yet to figure out where the drum kit is going to go when it joins us at my place, but we may need to warn the neighbours!

The band didn’t win but I suspect they must have come second, as they got some really good feedback. I love the next photo of the drummer in action.

(The “12 of 12” project involves taking 12 photos on the 12th of the month, on whatever takes your fancy: documentary, arty, theme, etc. I started this 10 years ago exactly, and this is episode 121 (although, to be honest, one of those episodes has no photos since I forgot to take any).

Gilwell Reunion – 100 Years of the Wood Badge

As a Scout leader, we get to do some training to improve our practical and leadership skills, with the main leader requirement being to earn the Wood Badge (see these earlier posts, where my friends May and Matt earned their Wood Badges). Once you have earned a Wood Badge you are a member of the 1st Gilwell Scout Group and are entitled to attend Gilwell reunions, which are held annually as a social leader gathering. I have actually earned two Wood Badges in the course of my Scouting service: once as a Cub Scout Leader in 1983 in Tasmania and then as a Scout Leader in Victoria in 2002 (the photos of my fellow trainees on both those courses are included at the end of this post). I haven’t attended very many such events (I am shy and forgetful of names and faces), but this year marked the centenary of the first Wood Badge course at Gilwell in England, run by Baden-Powell, and I decided that I’d attend. It was an enjoyable evening, with a highlight being catching up with my old friend Dy Turner, who was the Akela (main Cub Leader) at 1st Burnie when I was involved with that pack in 1987 and 1988.

For historical completeness, here is my Cub Scout leaders’ Woodbadge course, held in May 1983, at The Lea in Tasmania.

I switched to Scout leading at the end of 1995, moved to Victoria at the beginning of 1999, and in January 2002 did my Scout leader Woodbadge training at Gilwell Park in Victoria.


12 of 12, August 2019

So, umm, apparently people having birthdays like to have cakes. I kind of knew this, but in a household of one this hadn’t been a pressing requirement of domestic life. However, with the household now larger, and with both youngsters having birthdays in early August, it was time for cake making … and, not just cake making, but cake decorating.

First we mix the cake.

Then we cool the cake (and admit that I cheated with a packet mix, because there were other time-consuming things to be done with the cake and I was too lazy/busy/unconfident to make it from scratch).

Then we get on with some things for work. Last year Coles ran a promotion giving away lots of little versions of shopping items, and it occurred to me that you could do a whole bunch of interesting maths activities associated with scale and ratio and proportion, so I bought the full size versions of the items for comparison (for example, the juice and the Vegemite jar do not appear to have been scaled at the same scale).

The thing about the birthdays is that there is now a second L-plater in the household. At the moment, the older L-plater gets to drive to school.

And then I continue to work, where I must have had to go for a walk somewhere for some reason which I can’t recall two months later when I am finally adding the text to this post!

When I got home, the birthday girl (whose birthday it wasn’t quite yet) was naming the collection of cactuses that she had been given.

I then set to turning a round cake into a cactus cake, which involved cutting and patching, lots of sickly green icing, and some little chocolate freckles.

I wanted to ice on some spikes, but the cake decorating kit I’d bought didn’t have a fine enough nozzle, so I improvised one using a plastic bag and a bottle lid with a hole punched in it.

It kind of worked. The birthday girl liked it well enough, which was the main thing.

(For completeness — and to mark the novelty of needing to do two decorated birthday cakes after doing such things only rarely in the past — here is a photo of the birthday boy’s toxic-sugar lolly cake from a few days earlier, which he shared with some of his friends at the sleepover birthday party he had (where, as is expected of these occasions, not much sleep was had).)

And at the end of the day, it was time to take the garbage out.

Oh, and I apologise for the confusing changes of tense in this entry. I’m not going to bother fixing this, even though I know it will probably annoy me into the future. It may annoy you too, but I’m not even sure that there is any “you” out there who reads this any more!

(The “12 of 12” project involves taking 12 photos on the 12th of the month (actually, it usually involves taking more). Some days the day is just an everyday day; some days things are a bit more adventurous. I have been doing this since 2009, and this is episode 120.)

A beachside farewell

A couple of days before what would have been Lisa’s 45th birthday* some of her family and friends gathered down at Carlton Beach for an informal farewell.

We chatted and had soup around a couple of fire drums in the late afternoon, glad that the weather was being kind to us at this time of year.

Around sunset, Lisa’s children and I braved the chilly water and scattered Lisa’s ashes along with some flowers. (The purple and lilac beanies were knitted by Lisa’s mother, in honour of Lisa’s favourite colour purple and her love of her father’s lilac tree.)

We then lit some sparklers as the last sunset colours faded to dusk.

We knew some of the things that Lisa had wanted at her funeral (she’d been quite specific about the music, wanting John Farnham’s You’re the Voice among other things), but she hadn’t told us very much apart from that, and so we can only hope that between the formal funeral and today’s informal gathering we did most of the things she would have liked.

*Lisa liked even numbers, so 44 is a better age for her. She joked about being 42 and 12 twelfths when she turned 43, and continued with the twelfths through the following months until, to her relief, she turned 44.

Moods of the Mountain #112

An early morning moon-set over a snow-covered mountain.

Going to the football

Lisa was an avid supporter of the Hawthorn Football Club, a Victorian-based AFL team which occasionally plays matches in Tasmania. We had the opportunity to go and see a game in Launceston today, with Lisa’s nephew joining us for the occasion. Josh and Imogen already had their own supporters’ gear, while I borrowed one of Lisa’s scarves. It wasn’t the highest standard game I’ve ever seen, but, fortunately, Hawthorn won.


12 of 12, July 2019

The second full day of our short holiday break began with a dramatic sunrise over distant Low Head, and then involved a bit of an exploration of the northern end of the Tamar River.

We visited Seahorse World, where we saw and got to hold seahorses (and we also saw the rare Spotted Handfish).

We then drove around to George Town and out to Low Head, where the blustery conditions made it very unpleasant outside, although they made for some spectacular waves.

When we got back to the holiday house it was to discover that the power was out (some power lines had been blown down). Fortunately we found some candles and there was enough charge held in everyone’s electronic devices to keep us amused/occupied until the power came back on.

We finished the evening with some games, which allowed us to have a bit of different fun together as well. The kids seemed to have a good time, and I know I did, so I’m really glad we were able to have this time away.

A holiday break

As you can imagine, the last few weeks have been challenging, as Lisa’s children and I have been navigating the changes and emotions that have been consequences of Lisa’s passing. The school holidays gave us an opportunity to have a bit of a break from all of that, with a friend offering us the use of a holiday house in the north of the state.

On our first full day we headed west and visited Gunns Plains Cave, where we had the tour to ourselves and the guide took a nice photo of the three of us.

We then continued south, and visited a couple of spectacular waterfalls. The first, Preston Falls, drops dramatically over a cliff, with a viewing platform providing a great perspective.

We also visited Silver Falls, where recent rains meant that the flow was very dramatic, although the light was a little on the dark side.

We then headed further west to Burnie, where we visited Guide Falls. The flow was thunderous and although I’m sure I’ve visited the falls before I don’t remember them being this exciting.

Imogen has a good eye for photography, and it was she who spotted this nice gap under a rock.

It was a good day together, and we finished it up by attending a theatre production in Burnie since a friend of ours and his son were doing the sound and lighting … and then we had the long dark drive back to Greens Beach.

Moods of the Mountain #111

A series of cold mornings have been characterised by the presence of the Derwent River’s (in)famous “Bridgewater Jerry”, a low fog-bank that flows down the valley.

Creative Prompt #4 – Burn it all

This week’s Lee Sargent “creative prompt” is “Burn It All”. I struggled to come up with a good idea for this, and I didn’t have the time to experiment with some of the artistic thoughts that passed through my mind which I knew would be challenging to implement. Instead, I ended up cheating a bit: this is a photo I took near Mt Kosciuszko in 2011 after bushfires had raged through the area. It has now had some post-processing (although it was pretty monochrome to begin with).

Fire, though devastating, can create some surprising beauty.

(Note: I’m afraid I haven’t really followed Lee’s prompt to the letter. To be accurate, this should be titled “Burnt Not Quite All Of It” … but this is nowhere near as poetic or dramatic a title as Lee’s prompt.)

[Production notes: Photo taken with a Canon350D, 28-105mm lens, and then processed by chucking it through a filter in Luminar and twiddling some sliders in a completely unsystematic way until it looked like I’d done something creative!]