Friday, 28 February 2014

Friday 28/2/14 - Snake Spotting (or Not), Cycling Mishaps, Sooo Much Spam & This Week's Wristwatch.

Friday 10:43pm AEST

Saturday night's "Lolly Nite" movie was "White House Down". 

Sure, it was a little Die Hardy in places, but I much preferred it to the similarly themed "Olympus Has Fallen", which was released at around the same time. This happens every now and then where two films with similar stories are produced at the same time. Remember "Volcano" and "Dante's Peak" back in '97? Yeah, not many people do, either.

I had a meeting to go to on Monday afternoon. A Lamy Logo ballpoint pen, a Field Notes notebook (in my back pocket, hence the curve) and the Omega Speedmaster. I was all set.

Wednesday felt like a really long day, for some reason. A pony of Dewar's Scotch (blended) almost took the edge off.

Today was a busy day. Wore the Speedy to the gym, but switched over to the modded Seiko 7002 when I painted. Did about an hour or so.  I've been keeping track of how much spam comments I've been getting lately. Since February 3rd, I've clocked up 757 spams! Definitely an increase. I wonder if it has anything to do with unwittingly signing up to Google+ about a month ago?

Didn't know which of these two watches to wear this afternoon. 

So I wore them both! H. Norman Schwarzkopf-style.

I hope those of you who type had a great ITAM. Thanks for reading and have a great weekend, all!

Friday, 21 February 2014

Friday 21/2/14 - Snakes (for f#%*¥ sake!), Continued Camera Headaches, Facebook Avoidance & This Week's Wristwatches.

Friday  7:11pm AEST

Ohh, what a week. 

Woke up to find that the phone lines were down in our area. This meant no internet also. And so, I figured it was a good time to have a shot at repairing the Olympus Trip 35 with the dodgy focus issues. I spent an hour or so with it, making minor adjustments to the lens with the help of a couple of jeweller's screwdrivers and a watchmaker's loupe. My daughter was a big help too, since it was a job that required three hands. By the time we were done, the lens was in sharp focus. However, after loading some film, taking a dozen snaps, and then getting them developed, I saw that most of the photos were showing some flare of light in the corners and along some edges. It seems that there could be some light getting in from somewhere. I'll write about the whole procedure in greater detail soon.

I've got a theory as to why it's not working properly, but I'll write it up once I've had another look at it.
The phones came back on at around 4:00pm and all was fine till around five o'clock that afternoon when a neighbour came around to tell us that he saw a snake in his backyard and it may have slithered into ours.
And sure enough, it had.
I grabbed a shovel (probably to dig my own grave with, now that I think about it) and sat on a ladder in the back-yard for a few minutes before I saw this mudder slither into view. It moved around a little, saw me and froze. 'Ahh, good, he's scared of me', I thought to myself. I didn't really think that, but it plays better for a gag in this tale
It circled the base of a tree in the corner of our yard before sliding down under a concrete slab that leads into an old drainage tunnel and disappeared from view.

The neighbour, who first came 'round to alert us, lives in the next street in a property that backs onto ours, and he returned shortly afterwards with his brother-in-law, who, as luck would have it,  is a snake handler. I introduced myself to this neighbour of mine (whom I hadn't previously met) and thanked him for going to so much trouble. For the purposes of this story, I'll call him Dave. His brother-in-law explained that the snake was probably gone for good if it slipped down the drainage tunnel. This was good to know, but I still preferred to be absolutely certain. Still, there was nothing that we could do about this except to stay alert for any further sightings.

The three of us then lifted up the concrete slab to take a look. Nothing. The snake was gone.
"Well, it's probably gone for good, but just keep an eye out for it. If you see it, don't go near it, just call the council and they'll get in touch with someone who'll come to get it. But they charge for the service, and it's not cheap", he said.
I felt like asking him; "Why's that, do they make me a belt out of it after they catch it?"

We then popped over to my next-door neighbour's house.  For reasons unknown to my wife and I, our next-door neighbours stopped talking to us about a year ago. I have to say that I'm extremely disappointed and ticked-off that he didn't knock on our door to tell us that he'd spotted the snake in his front yard. He knows we have two young children and it would have been the right thing to do, regardless of what he thinks of us.
Anyway, he explained that he saw it on his front porch and shoo'ed it away with a broom. It then must have slithered down his driveway into his yard and through his back fence into Dave's backyard before finding the gap in the adjoining fence that leads into our yard.

Anyhow, Dave and his brother-in-law left shortly afterwards. However, Dave was back an hour later with this young dude who looked like Channing Tatum with a shaved head. He was another snake-handler and so we lifted the concrete slab again and he took a look down there.
'Ahh, no, he won't be back this way. No way he'll be able to climb back up. It's too steep. It's probably long-gone, but it might find another way to come back up."
And I began thinking of that dreadful "Snakes On A Plane" scene with the snake coming up through the toilet. Man, suburbia's a jungle!
I got the snake-dude's number, just in case.

And throughout this little saga, I was wearing the Sinn 103 chronograph.

It was a sunny morning. I worked a little on one of my assignments. It was nearing one o'clock and I was getting hungry, but, for some reason, I went into the laundry and opened the back door. Standing out on the back step, I heard a faint rustling of leaves as a gentle breeze blew along the side passageway.
However, the rustling leaves began to sound like a crackling sound. Turning my head to the left, I caught a glimpse of the snake's tail as it disappeared behind a tin box against the wall fifteen feet away from where I stood. 
'Oh, no, no, no, no, no', I thought as I went back inside and grabbed my phone. I flipped rapidly through my diary to Sunday's page where I had written the Channing Tatum snake dude's name and number.
"Hi, you've called *******. I can't take your call right now, but please leave your name and number-", etc, etc.
I hung up, flicked on the internet connection and grabbed the iPad. After an insufferably long 60 seconds, I was on Google searching for a site called 'Snakebusters'. Who you gonna call?
I called the mobile number listed on the website. The guy asked me to go look for the snake. I went out the back door again (very cautiously) and looked up and down the side passageway. It was nowhere to be seen. I headed out the front door and around to the side gate which leads into the back yard. The snake was moving just near the little door that leads under the house.
'Oh, man, not under the house!', I thought to myself as my hands began to shake. 
The snake guy said he could be at my house in about 40 minutes. He told me to keep an eye on it.
I told him that would be fine. When I looked towards the snake again, it was nowhere to be seen. 

He arrived just under an hour later. His name was Raymond. We went into the backyard and he poked around in some of the garden and bushes, giving me some facts along the way. He said it would definitely be a Copperhead. Brownish colouring on top with a much lighter underbelly. Yes, that was it.
These snakes like to hang around in shaded areas where there's a little bit of dappled sunlight coming through. They don't usually go under houses because it can be too cold for them and they don't normally go into garages either. 
They like to be near water and usually drink every three or four days. Normally, they eat frogs and other snakes.
They don't tend to bite, but prefer to escape instead. 
That was all good to know, but my main concern was if we got too close to it without realising. Would it dart out from where it was?
Would it lunge and bite?
What if we accidentally stepped on it?
The Australian Copperhead's venom is considered only moderately toxic, but they apparently inject a lot of it into a bite. Nice to know. You'd basically have about an hour before symptoms begin to show. Left untreated, it'll kill you.

We spent over an hour looking for this animal. Raymond looked over into my next-door neighbour's yard and said that this was why the snake appeared in the first place. There's a fish pond in the corner and a wooden decked verandah. Plenty to eat and drink, and a nice sun-heated wooden deck with a canopy above it. 
However, he did say that this snake is only passing through. In about five or six weeks, the weather will change and this snake will move on. 
Raymond told me to call him if I saw it again. Next time, though, I'll have to sit there watching the snake while I make the phone call. 
Now I know that some of you live in areas where snakes are plentiful and perhaps nothing to worry about. I understand that they're fine as long as you don't disturb them. No, I have no desire to bother a snake if I see one. I just don't want to see one at the last minute.
I taped a sign to the laundry door. It reads;

                                 - BE ALERT -

I don't want the kids getting complacent. I've told everyone to go outside in pairs until further notice. There are shovels just outside the laundry door. They're for banging against the ground to let Pringles (my daughter just had to name it, didn't she?) know that we are coming.  Hopefully, we'll get to the end of March without any further sightings. I'm still going to tidy up the yard a little to give Pringles less places to get comfy in. 

Had classes today. Our new assignment requires that we take a screencap of our real name, along with a photo of ourselves, visible on two forms of social media. This is to show that we have used these forms of social media. 
In a classroom of 24 students, I and one other student (a mother of two) do not have Facebook accounts. And we both stated that we have no desire to set one up. Sure, you can set up a Facebook account and provide the very minimum of information, and yes, you can not add to it or check it and just let it sit on the internet forever, and yep, you can deactivate the account if you no longer want it. can't fully shut it down and remove it completely, from what I'm told.
So, I'm still thinking about whether or not to set up a Facebook page. Yes, I'm sure it's the way of the future, but I'm not really headed in the direction of that future. If I can help it. 
I e-mailed my lecturer to ask if I could create a blog post with my name in the title and a photo of myself in the main body of it. He said that would be fine. 
Okay, one down, one to go. 
Might be Facebook.

Oh well, at least I was wearing a nice wristwatch. The Omega AquaTerra Co-Axial. (Old photo)

My wife and I headed out to a Salvation Army Thrift Shop. She had told me about a Remington typewriter that they had on display. It was a standard with a wide carriage. And a plastic body. A quick check on the ever-reliable Machines of Loving Grace site tells me that I was looking at a mid Sixties Remington 24. It was in good condition, however. 
As my wife told the lady behind the counter that "he's already got too many of them", the lady remarked that they had a few more machines out the back that hadn't been checked out yet or priced. I told her I'd be happy to take a quick look and give her an indication of condition, faults, etc. 
She headed out the back and returned with a teal green plastic case. I was thinking Olivetti.
She placed it down on a nice old desk and I flipped the latches and lifted the lid to find a very nice condition Studio 45. The keytops were spotless and it typed nicely. Reminded me of my Lettera 32, but with a heavier and more solid feel to it.
I briefly thought about buying it, but this typewriter is not part of my game-plan and, if anything, I should probably get rid of one or two that I have before buying any more. So, I passed it up and told the lady to give me a call when the other machines are ready for sale and I might be able to check them out before they put them on display.

Haven't spotted Pringles, the venomous Copperhead snake, since Monday. I'm inclined to think that he or she has moved on. I hope so. Of course, there's somebody in our household who doesn't appear fazed by this new intruder;

And that's this week, folks. Eventful, to say the least. My only real worry with getting bitten by a snake would be that I might panic and go into shock. Mr. Bond would not approve.
Anyway, I can't really worry about this. I have to be cautious, but I can't let it dictate my every move. As long as we keep our wits about us, we should be fine. The weather's been cooler over the last few days and hopefully, Pringles has gone. 

There's much to be done here at Teeritz Central and life does indeed go on. I hope you all have had a good week. Okay, Friday night is pizza night. See ya's!

Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Fri 14/2/14 - The Homework's Started, Camera Mishaps & This Week's Wristwatches.

Friday, 2:24pm  AEST

Still wore the Omega planet Ocean throughout last weekend;

Classes are now getting a little more serious. There's quite a bit of work coming up. For example, I'll have to take a close look at-

-and the list goes on with half-a-dozen more sites. I got no problem with the major players, such as Twitter and Blogger, for example, but I have a real aversion to setting up a Facebook page. The lecturer stated that it's not necessary to set one up, but it would appear that it'll make things a little easier if I do.  I just wait and see. It should be doable without having to set it up. 

Meanwhile, I took the Olympus Trip 35 film camera to school with me. I had planned  to perhaps take some pictures with it to see how it ran. I didn't end up taking any snaps and, when I got home and took it out of my bag, I noticed that the entire lens element felt a little loose and wobbly. A quick net search revealed that this is a common occurrence with these cameras. I quick tutorial and I was able to remove the front lens element to expose three brass screws which were pretty loose. I tightened those and put it all back together. Only one problem; I didn't re-calibrate the lens. There was film in the camera so I measured a distance of three feet and took six or seven photos. 
I got them developed and found that the last six photos were indeed completely out of focus. I had left out one crucial step when I took the lens apart. I had forgotten to mark where the lens was set. 
And so, I'll be setting up a photo shoot and, turning the lens element a few millimetres at a time, I'll take a series of photos and get them developed to determine which ones show the best focus. And then I'll re-calibrate the lens and tighten some screws. That should do it. I called a camera repairer and he quoted me $150 for a full strip-down of the camera. Seemed a little excessive, so I think I'll take a crack at fixing it myself first.

I switched over to the Omega Speedmaster Professional, since I'd been wearing the Planet Ocean for two weeks. 


However, wristwatches became pretty insignificant to me on Thursday morning when I read the news story about an eleven year-old boy named Luke Batty, who had been murdered by his estranged father after a cricket practice session in a nearby suburb called Tyabb. I don't want to go into the details of it, since it can be found on the web, but I just found it an absolutely heartbreaking, callous and cowardly crime. I couldn't help but wonder what terror the boy must have felt and thought at the time. I just do not understand how a father can do something like this to their child. It turned out that the Dad had mental issues. I say 'had' because when the police arrived, he lunged at them with a knife. The officers used pepper spray, to no effect, and, as he threatened them again, he was shot once in the upper body and died later in hospital.
There have been a few crimes of this nature that have occurred in Victoria over the past decade. Robert Farquharson was given a life sentence (with a 33 year minimum) for murdering his three sons by driving his car into a dam in 2005, claiming that he lost control of the wheel after suffering 'a coughing fit' while driving. 
Arthur Phillip Freeman was convicted of murder for throwing his four year-old daughter, Darcey, off the West Gate Bridge in 2009 during morning peak-hour traffic on what would have been her first day at pre-school.
Fifteen or twenty years ago, I would have read something like this and thought; "Oh, that's awful." And I probably wouldn't have thought much more beyond that. 
However, I became a father on Christmas Day, 2000, and my wife and I welcomed our beautiful daughter into the world in September 2002. My perceptions of crimes like those above certainly changed since I had children of my own. 
We don't bring children into this world in order to treat them this way.

As an aspiring writer, I sometimes tell myself that I can put myself in the shoes of my characters in order to understand their motivations within the story. However, I cannot, for the life of me, fathom how or why a man could do something like these crimes. Mental instability, in the cases of the Tyabb father and Arthur Freeman, can explain some of it, but not all of it, in my opinion. As for Farquharson, he was shown to be of sound mind, which merely tells me that he was operating from a dark corner of pure malevolence.
If there is any good to come from the murder of Luke Batty, I hope it takes the form of stronger laws and restrictions towards divorced parents who become embroiled in complicated custody battles. I hope it brings about better methods of safeguarding children from the possibility of harm such as this. I'm in no way well-informed enough in the machinations of The Family Court or Child Protection Services here in Australia to be able to provide a solution to prevent situations like these. I just hope that the powers-that-be can come up with strategies to ensure that these kinds of crimes don't happen again.
RIP, Luke.

Literature and Hollywood can throw all manner of created horrors our way, but it is the real horror that occurs all too often which shows a level of evil far beyond our understanding. And the victims of these horrors are often those who are the most innocent, the most pure, and the most defenceless.
I made an iced chocolate for my son when he got home from school later that day. 
A few hours later, he walked into the lounge room and gave me a hug, as he sometimes does. 
I held onto him a little tighter. A little longer.
And felt my eyes well up again that day.

I began this post about three hours ago and, to be honest, I don't really feel like continuing. I hadn't set out to write so much about this crime, but perhaps I just had to get this out of my system somehow, even though I never set up this blog to use as a soap-box. My apologies if I've spoiled your day, folks. As I wrote earlier, I hope that there is some good to be found from all this and my heart goes out to Luke's Mother. I hope she will reach a point where she can make sense of it all. Tyabb is a small, tight-knit community, from what I've read, and this crime has had a deep and far-reaching effect. My thoughts are with all those affected by this senseless tragedy.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, 7 February 2014

Friday 7/2/14 - Job Hunting, Back To School & This Week's Wristwatch

Had the watch on a modified NATO strap. I removed the standard tang-type buckle and replaced it with a folding clasp made by Oris. It works like an aeroplane seatbelt clasp. Makes it faster to put on and take off.

I think the only drawback to this arrangement is that the strap loosens a little throughout the day. Or maybe I'm just imagining things. At any rate, I swapped this strap over to a standard NATO on Wednesday night.

Thursday afternoon
While waiting for my daughter to finish school, temperatures got a little high in my car. When we got home, I peeled the seat-belt away from my chest.

Yep, the Omega Planet Ocean served me well this week.

Thanks for reading!