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.
April 2020
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Moods of the Mountain #118

We are living in strange times*, but this post-apocalyptic sunset is due to a number of small fuel-reduction burns that have been taking place while the weather has been cool and calm.

I loved the smoky cloud formations so much that I had to take a close-up …

And then I noticed the newly emerging sliver of the 3-day-old new moon.

* The COVID-19 pandemic is in its early stages in Australia and drastic measures are being put into place to attempt to combat it. And one of the actions is that kunanyi/Mt Wellington is now closed, which means that I have to make the most of the long-distance views.

12 of 12, March 2020

This is a 12 of 12 in two parts: the first from my class for future maths teachers this morning, and the second from tonight’s TSO Chorus rehearsal.

So, to my class. One focus for this semester’s unit is to look at different types of activity that get school maths students reasoning about conceptual ideas, instead of just doing routine procedural tasks that don’t get at deep understanding. I set the scene by providing my future teachers with four sets of numbers, and asked them which data set was different from the others (in fact it was possible to find reasons for each one to be judged different from the other three (for example, three of the data sets had the same mean/average, while the fourth didn’t; and then one of the other sets had its mode different from the remaining three, and so on*)).

I then took the teachers to our maths equipment storeroom, and allowed them to grab whatever they liked, and challenged them to come up with their own “one of these things is not like the others” collections. Here’s what they came up with (in many of the cases we could find reasons to make each one of the items the odd one out, but not always (or only by saying “it’s the odd one out because it’s the only one we can’t find a reason for it being the odd one out!” … but perhaps you can come up with reasons)).

1. Set of cubes (small, no hole, exception-because-it-isn’t-an-exception, different colour (assuming the first three are the same colour).

2. Mostly rectangular-shaped objects (not rectangular, no plastic involved, exception-because-it-isn’t-an-exception, multicoloured)

3. Sets of square tiles (not even, not a square number, exception-because-it-isn’t-an-exception, not a power of 2). (We tried hard to find a reason to exclude 4, but couldn’t come up with something that wasn’t too contrived).

4. Triangles (different colour, different size, exception-because-it-isn’t-an-exception, decomposed into smaller shapes)

5. Representations of 10 (different colour/shows 10 as a single unit; 10 as both single unit but with individual ones visible, 10 as 10 individual ones, 10 written symbolically)

6. Some prisms (triangular rather than quadrilateral, exception-because-it-isn’t-an-exception, decomposable prism, red not blue)

7. More prisms (exception-because-it-isn’t-an-exception, quadrilateral not triangular, not an RGB colour (!), large in comparison to others)

8. Random number generators where I had to do drawings because I didn’t have some of the objects I wanted (spinner not dice, has dot markings instead of numerals, has 12 equally likely outcomes instead of 6 (the bottom left picture was meant to be a standard dodecahedral die), there are two ways that each of the 6 outcomes can occur)


So, to part two: tonight’s TSO Chorus rehearsal. Mostly we rehearse on Tuesday nights but in performance week we have additional rehearsals, and tonight it was time to get together with the orchestra for a run through of Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem (A German Requiem), which we are performing on Saturday night.** I was nurturing my voice this week: I limited my encouraging cheers of “Go La Per-oooouse” at regatta to two per race (and admit that even that probably overdid things!) and have been dosing up on butter menthols.

We gathered together for a warm up before going on stage.

Here is a couple of pages of the score. We’re getting better at singing in German, but sometimes it is really hard work getting the consonants out at the required force, especially when the tenor range already demands so much energy from me on the low notes.

Here’s the stage starting to fill up with musicians and choristers.

Finally, here is Maestro Eivind Aadland in action (the chorus wasn’t singing at this point, so I could sneak a photo).


* Well, that was what was supposed to happen, but I’d had to construct the sets in a screaming hurry, and didn’t get them quite as well designed as I’d intended. Fortunately my students got the idea.

** In fact the public performance was cancelled, due to coronavirus/COVID-19 precautions, but we still performed on Saturday night to an empty hall and a set of cameras and microphones, so that it can be broadcast at a later date. It was rather weird having no audience, and we missed some of the adrenaline that is generated by having spectators, but we managed to focus and generate a bit of atmosphere for ourselves.

[This is  “12 of 12” post number 127; are we bored yet?!]

2020 Scout Guide Regatta

The annual March long-weekend Regatta tradition continued this year. We had fewer numbers and smaller-sized people this year, and so our patrol boat rowing teams weren’t quite as strong as they have been, but we managed a win in the under 13 500m and very credible placings in the other races.

On Saturday, Tahlia (one of our leaders) took a crew out for a sail, with some of the kids helming.

Being in the water wasn’t greeted with as much enthusiasm this year as in past years, with the weather dull and occasionally drizzly, but there were still a few Scouts game to build a raft and compete in the raft race

And there were the usual dinghy races, with “Bob” and “Griffin” doing their usual sterling work (these events are among the Scouts’ favourites, and the kids get quite handy quite quickly at manoeuvring due to the number of events that they can go in).

There were a couple of surprising breaks with tradition. The tide was the lowest I’ve ever seen at Snug, making the beach quite wide … although the associated overnight high tide meant that we had to clear the beach of kayaks at the end of each day.

The other break with tradition came about because of a change of caterers. This was the Scouts’ reaction when they learned that the evening meal would not involve the traditional cardboard chicken schnitzel. They were most put out!

The female leader/parent rowing crew — a combined team from Clarence and Blackmans Bay — repeated last year’s winning efforts and ended up with the big pink oar. The mixed leader/parent race — always a hotly contested affair — was one of the closest and hardest fought in recent memory; and although we didn’t place we put up an almighty challenge, especially considering we did a lot of the distance with only five oars (the sixth popped out, and I have a bruise on my back to testify to the fact that getting it back in while still rowing was difficult for the person concerned!).

Finally, here’s the traditional end-of-Regatta Troop shot.

12 of 12, February 2020

I know I thought last month’s 12 of 12 was pretty lame, but this probably tops it. I had a work deadline, and so couldn’t get outside much and, when it came time for the one thing that might have generated a few fun photographs, I forgot that it was the 12th entirely.

Feel free to skip this month. Seriously.

If you don’t believe me, look how pathetic the first image is: it’s a screen shot of one of my spreadsheets which — “too much information” alert — I am using to determine whether or not (and how, if yes) my hot flushes are cyclic.

Just remember that I warned you. Here’s proof about the work deadline: some colleagues and I are applying for a grant. Riveting stuff. (Actually it is very important, but whether we’ve “sold” it well enough is another matter entirely.)

Oh, there is one bit of excitement. I am in the process of moving into a bigger office. There is long way to go and a lot of organising to do, but hopefully it will be better than my old one (although history’s evidence says that it will soon be as messy as I’ve ever been).

Something convinced ants that they needed to infest the building right up to the fifth floor via the fourth, with an exploratory raid into my office.

I tracked them down (I was sick of being in the office anyway!).

And now I have counter-measures.

In the evening Scouts started up again with a night of rowing. It was wet and cold, but we had a good evening, but I took no photos. I didn’t even think about it until I got home and realised I still needed some more to get the 12. So, you get this riveting photo of my wetsuit boots and will just have to imagine two boatloads of Scouts rowing around Kangaroo Bay in the mizzle.

And then I got distracted because someone had posted a stupid meme about how the numerical values associated with the letters A-T-T-I-T-U-D-E add up to 100, and isn’t that awesome instead of just being a complete fluke … so, after trying to come up with some more negative 100-total words by hand, I programmed a spreadsheet to let me try more possibilities faster. T-O-T-A-L C-O-N adds up to 100 as well.

(Now you know why Lisa got me T-shirt that says “I have a spreadsheet for that”!)

I did this while watching Hard Quiz on the television.

Rowing’s exertions — well, actually an awkward head angle — saw me putting a heat pack to good use late in the evening.

And I think the fresh air made me hungry for a snack before bed.

[This is  “12 of 12” post number 126; if you don’t know what it’s all about by now there are 125 previous posts on the 12th of every month to give you some idea.]

Last day of the school holidays

It was the last day of the school holidays and, having managed to sort out most of the back-to-school errands, we decided to indulge in a little recreation. I had hoped to do more activities over the summer with Imogen and Josh but I’ve also been working on getting their old home ready for sale … oh, and there’s been work as well to squeeze in somewhere … and so we haven’t had the time to do quite as much as I wanted. So, today was a welcome opportunity.

Our plans were relatively simple; in fact, there was, initially, only one thing on the plan, and that was to go for a jet boat ride on the Huon River. On arrival it was to discover that we were the only ones on that particular trip (I love it when this happens).

We did get to see some peaceful bits of the Huon River,

but mostly we made lots of noise racing up it and doing mad spins

which we all thoroughly enjoyed.

With that little bit of fun crossed off the list, we took advantage of the surrounding countryside to allow the L-platers to clock up some more kilometres, and eventually we ended up at the top of the mountain (kunanyi/Mt Wellington).

To our surprise there were a few little patches of snow, which inevitably resulted in a brief snowball fight (despite the mild weather, one of the key things that characterises the survival of snow is that it is very cold, and so certain people got slightly chilly fingers).

And if you have snow, not only must you throw snow balls, you must also make a snowman. We present the world’s largest miniature snowman.

I’m not sure any of us want to go back to school/work tomorrow. 🙂

Champagne Falls and Bridal Veil Falls

After completing my circuit of Dove Lake, I started heading back towards Launceston, but with a plan to take a detour to find a couple of waterfalls I’d heard about. A 4WD track departs from Lemonthyme Lodge, tucked away in the Moina bush, and heads up a ridge for a kilometre or so before dropping steeply into Bull Creek. The recent rain meant that there was a good flow over Champagne Falls, breaking up and recombining as it tumbled over the drop.

From Champagne Falls the walking track meanders along first one side and then the other of the creek, through lovely rainforest.

It arrives at Bridal Veil Falls, which is about 750m upstream from Champagne Falls. This is taller and more vertical, but has some interesting features as well.

You can actually walk halfway up one side and get partway behind it and look out through the mist (and, yes, the bridge uses the large boulder as a structural support).

As I came back down I noticed a Tasmanian land snail (?).

Both waterfalls, and the area in general, were lovely … and the added bonus was that I had the entire place to myself. (The only down side was that I didn’t take my serious camera.)

A walk around Dove Lake

I’d really only come to Cradle Mountain to do the canyoning trip, and didn’t have time to stay for very long, so this morning I got up early, broke camp, and took the shuttle bus to Dove Lake to do a quick circuit. The weather was overcast, which reduced the spectacularity of the views, but it wasn’t raining, and the scenery is still amazing even when clouded in.

Given the number of clear days that Cradle Mountain experiences and the number of overcast days that it experiences, this is probably a pretty average shot of it.

I took the eastern side first, giving me views of the iconic boathouse on the far side, and an approach to the Glacier Rock vantage point.

It was nice to see some of my favourite plants; the alpine and temperate rainforest environments are favourites of mine. I’d forgotten that I’d find celery top pines here (and this one is tangled with a snow gum, right on the shore of the lake)

And if I’d known (as I suspect now) that this was a lemon-scented boronia I might have sneakily crushed one of its leaves (already fallen, of course);

And there were magnificent pandanis, viewable from a distance and close up

And normal myrtles as well as the more famous fagus (in its non-autumnal green).

The mosses of the ballroom forest

contrasted with the open fields of button grass with scattered trigger plants and tea-tree.

The recent rains meant that the waterfall from up on the plateau was in full force.

The track around the lake has had a major upgrade since I was last here (in fact, I haven’t been here for over 20 years, I think), making it an easy walk that will protect the environment now that tourist numbers have increased so much (I’m glad I’d made the early start and avoided the crowds later in the day).

But you can see why they come: it is amazing countryside.


The currawong, on the other hand, appears rather less impressed.

Wet and wild canyoning

As a thank you gift for services rendered, one of my now-graduated PhD students very kindly gave me a voucher to go canyoning in the Cradle Mountain area. The original plan was to do Dove Canyon, but heavy rainfall in the day or so preceding the planned trip meant that the location was changed to Machinery Canyon near Lake Cethana. I didn’t know anything about this area, and was amazed at the shape of the landscape, its geology, and the history of tin and silver mining (indeed, the creek/canyon’s name was changed to reflect the fact that machinery from the mines had been hurled into it). [A note about the photos: some of the photos were taken by the tour guides and some by me, and although my camera was waterproof we were so wet that it was hard to dry the drops off the lens, so there is some blurriness at times.]

The first part of the expedition was to walk down the creek into the canyon proper, scrambling over rocks, taking care with our footing, and being reassured that our wetsuits were actually going to keep us warm in the chilly water.

Prior to the first of six abseils, we launched into a plunge pool (supposedly impersonating Superman).

We had a choice of going down a dry route or a wet route for the first drop, and, because I’d abseiled a few times before, I thought I’d go down the wet way. I was a little nervous about how well the wetsuit boots would grip the wet rocky surface, but they felt quite secure, and I arrived at the bottom quite safely.

Between abseils there were some smaller falls and boulders to negotiate.

The second abseil involved an overhang, which was a bit of fun, and this was followed by a break for lunch.

The third and fourth abseils occurred in quick succession in a bit of the gorge characterised by the precariously positioned boulder suspended between the walls. The first drop was quite wet, while the second went over a large rock that created a tunnel for the creek.

Fortunately the suspended boulder stayed in position.

Just before the fifth abseil there was a nice deep plunge pool with a rocky ledge off to the side about 5m above the surface. I couldn’t quite summon the courage to jump when I first stepped up (I took too long and overthought it), but I came back and took the leap (although I think the photo tells that I am not totally relaxed about the whole idea!).

The fifth abseil was a fairly straightforward ramp but wet, and then we made our way to the sixth and final abseil.

There were some nice little pools above our final drop, as we waited our turn to go over the 30m Petrifying Falls (so named, because the surveyor Henry Hellyer claimed that logs that fell over it turned into stone).

It was a very satisfying end to the journey (although we still had another half-hour walk along the creek to get back to civilisation). Definitely worth doing and a great adrenaline rush (and I might go back and do Dove Canyon another time).

Biggest serve?

Maths question for the week:

My mother made an egg and bacon pie without tomato for Josh, and an egg and bacon pie (the bigger one) with tomato for Imogen and I to share. Did Josh end up with the biggest serve?!

Moods of the Mountain #117

With bushfires in the northern part of Tasmania, and massive fires on the mainland, the mountain was hit with a rather unpleasant smoke haze this week.