See-saw Physics for Kids

I think I was fourteen before the physics of levers and fulcrums was presented to me at school. At the time I was puzzled that everyone didn’t know this stuff already. After all, which kid did not have extensive experience of seesaws, often shared with people of a different size?

I decided to try this out with Grace. She got all of the following questions right, first time, without assistance.

Seesaw Questions for a Ten-Year Old

Grace (50kg) and Dan (100kg) are playing on a seesaw that is 4m long. Dan is standing at 1.0m on his side. Grace is at 2m on her side. The seesaw is balanced.  (I supplied an illustration of this).

To keep the seesaw balanced:

  1. If Dan moves to 0.5m, where will Gracie have to stand?
  2. If Dan stands at 0.5m and Annie (50kg) stands on Gracie’s side at 0.5m, where will Gracie have to stand?
  3. If Annie stands with Dan at 0.5m, where will Gracie have to stand?
  4. If Dan stands at 1.0 and Annie stands on Gracie’s side at 0.5m, where will Gracie have to stand?

 

Gene Banyard in Prometheus Bound

PB Poster DraftI much enjoyed the UoC Classics Department’s production of Prometheus Bound last night. Gene Banyard’s performance in the lead part was fantastic. It’s on tonight (11 Dec) and tomorrow (12 Dec), so if you haven’t seen it yet, I recommend that you do. It’s $10 or $15, 8:00pm at the Old Queens Theatre near the SW corner of Hereford and Colombo streets, Christchurch.

I am no classics scholar, but I found Robin Bond’s translation lyrical and dynamic. The venue is urban and gritty. The austere set, lighting and music evoke the stark horror of Prometheus’ predicament. The supporting cast are somewhat variable, but mostly with convincing and fluent delivery. Tracy Scarrett stands out with a forceful and expressive performance as Io. The chorus provide an elegant physical and narrative presence.

Of the hour and a half that this performance runs for, I’d guess an hour is the lead part of Prometheus. Gene Banyard’s slight physique and ragged costume create the impression of pitiful vulnerability. Despite this, he fills the auditorium with his presence. Prometheus, as Hermes points out, is all but relishing his plight. He is wronged but he is not beaten. He regales his guests with heroic and gory tales and prophecies. He rails in defiance of Zeus. He receives and dispenses both honour and contempt with equal facility. He is prepared to suffer for an eternity before his redemption.

Gene Banyard delivers a formidable performance as Prometheus. As you return from the Old Queens to ordinary life, it is hard to imagine that he is not still holding forth from his icy peak.

Awesome Barbecued Sausages in Beer

As you know, there is only one way to cook sausages: in beer. The variation occurs in what or where you cook the sausages with beer in, and what you cook with them. This is a recipe for sausages cooked with onoins and garlic in beer, on a barbecue plate. The plate in question is my wannabe teppenkayi bbq plate.

Cut your onions and garlic chink. Then get your plate clean and hot and stick your sausages, onions and garlic on it. You can use a small amount of oil. Give ‘em a bit of a zizz, then add beer and stick a lid on.

zizz in a lid

You can lift the lid after a while. You know what they’re gonna look like.

bbq

Give ‘em a jiggle and a push into the middle. Lid back on.

More beer.

more beer

Wait a while. Heat a bowl. Stick in bowl.

Done.

yum

Turns Out I Like Brooke Fraser

Last night, as part of our “let’s do more fun stuff” initiative, Deb and I went to an outdoor concert with Anika Moa, Goldenhorse and Brooke Fraser. We were a little surprised that Brooke Fraser was in the lineup, having somehow gained the impression that it was to be Bic Runga. I was even more surprised that, out of the three acts, I liked Brooke Fraser the best.

Deb and Dan at outdoor gig

The setting was salubrious provincial; a paddock at the Mudhouse winery, with 5,000-dd MoreFM listeners on blankets and picnic chairs. The weather was warm, with sun and watercolour clouds. The only mild irritation was dust raised by the odd gust, or people walking past.

Anika Moa played the Hornby Girl, confessing at the outset that she was both hung over and pissed. At times, she carried off her anti-rock star persona, but the crowd was too large, and easily distracted by their own Merlot. Her songs are great, and her voice is lovely, but her presence needed to be a lot sharper, and the music a lot more polished to hold an audience of that size.

Annoyingly, a throng of fangirls dominated the apron of the stage, interrupting the performers in voices that were clearly audible through the PA.

In a pally moment, Anika invited Kirsten Morell from Goldenhorse to accompany her. Kirsten teetered on, wine glass raised, and obliged with her attention in the crucial moments. By the time they came on for their own bracket, Kirsten and her band were the scrappy and awkward side of relaxed. “A round of applause for the sunset!” Silence. “Yay!”. The band played well, their distinctive style came through in an enjoyable set. Kirsten walked her wobbly line between rock chick and public school girl gracing us with her presence. Using a thin conceit, she invited Anika to accompany her in a song, and they brought the crowd right with them in a couple of their radio songs. Anika’s harmony to Kirsten’s lead was warm and satisfying. I was starting to really enjoy the show.

Then Brooke Fraser came on. From the moment she took up the mic, she engaged the audience clearly and directly. Her voice was strong and rich, and she was friendly and relaxed but conspicuously sober, and knew exactly what she was doing. She immediately captured my attention. Her band sounded cleaner, tighter and livelier than the others. Her guitarist and keyboardist/vioal player/backing and singer were particularly excellent. Brooke Fraser’s voice was rich and smooth, with strength and lightness. I’d been anticipating something a little wet, and was surprised that I was spellbound. Was it God? We were treated to a brief sermon about Hosea, and a couple of those jokes where mentioning riskée subjects like alcohol or bottoms is so daring that you don’t actually have to say anything funny. Maybe it was the fact that Brooke is to marry in three weeks. She seemed pretty happy with herself, and what she has to share. Perhaps she could have finished before the second encore, when things were starting to get slightly sickly.

I love Anika Moa. I think In Swings the Tide is a beautiful and accomplished album. I can take or leave Goldenhorse but I respect what they do. It was the second to last night on a long tour, they were tired, they wanted to party. They wanted to be relaxed and pally with each other, and the audience. I’ve seen this work brilliantly for Anika in a small venue. With a large crowd like this, I wanted to see more assurance, more command, more slickness and professionalism. Brooke Fraser and her group managed all this, and did so with warmth and humanity. I was impressed and entertained. I even played her album today.

True Meaning of “Mountain Bike”

Annoyingly, my much-loved Peugeot single-speed bike got nicked the other day. I am still nursing hopes of its return, but in the meantime, I need a bike. Well, i have Deb’s bike, actually on loan from Alistair. But it’s a bit granny for me. Thin tyres. I decided to have a go at restoring my 1980s mountain bike.

It’s a World Rider, made in Timaru, I believe. I bought it from Lawrence Blackburn in about 1990, and he’d got it well-second-hand. It’s made of steel, with alloy castings. An early example. I always thought you could drive a truck over it. Ed rode it into a parked car and bent the forks, but he turned them backwards and bent them back by slamming the front wheel into a wall. Amazingly a couple of years ago, the handlebar snapped without provocation. You could still ride it, and Ron did. Unfortunately, it got vandalised and both gear changers got smashed off, but the tyres were still really good and the wheels were only slightly buckled.

I was ready to take it to the “super shed”, in the hope that someone would take pity on it. I had a bike that was ideal for my requirements. But then I didn’t. My old bike was a former multi-gear mountain bike, stripped down to a single speed, which is all you need for around town in Christchurch.

By removing the front gearshift mechanism, I got the chain to stay quite happily on whatever front sprocket you put it. The back one was more problematic. The springs kept shifting it back to the outer sprocket in the cluster, which had lost its grip on the axle and just turned without turning the wheel. The rear gear cable was fortunately still fixed to the wreck of the gear-shifter, however, so with some non-stretch cord, I manged to contrive a string gear shift. You can change gear by untying a knot and tightening or loosening an adjustable hitch. It works just fine for getting the chain in the right place on the right gear.

That left the problem of the broken handlebar, and the general rustiness. I took it to the mower and bike place around the corner. They were dead helpful and found a $30 handlebar that didn’t quite fit. Its main problem was that it was worth six times what the bike is. They wouldn’t weld it, which is understandable, I suppose, but the handlebar actually still kind of worked because the stay piece was intact. I’d ridden the thing to their shop hadn’t I? It was pretty wobbly.

So on the scrounge for a second hand handlebar, when in one of those quiet or distracted moments that invite flashes of inspiration (perhaps I was planning the camping trip we’re taking next week), I realised that manuka would be ideal. It’s a little irregular, but then so is the bike. It could hardly make it more out of balance when, if you let go the handlebars for a second, it skews strongly to the left. Manuka is particularly hard and strong. I have made many walking sticks, a shovel handle, a hammer handle and a mallet out of it, as well as tent poles (a whole set of internal ones, once – another story), and components of several urban washing line systems. With a manuka handlebar, the rust would look totally in-keeping. And, I happened to still have, carefully dried, two fine straight stems of young manuka, that I harvested en route to one of the major camping missions of the nineties.

I selected a suitable section, by looking at it longways and fitting it to the head-clamp (whatever you call that bit). I sawed it off, and clamped it in and could ride the bike straight away (holding onto the old broken handlebar with the brakes on it). The brake levers and even the hand-grips came off the old bar quite easily. Getting the brake levers onto the manuka was a bit tricky. They have cast grips with not much flex in them. Holding on the the tip with a rag, I used my Opinel knife as a spokeshave and thinned down both ends of the bar. Then I got slightly impatient and whacked the casting on with a mallet, using a 20mm ring-spanner to transmit the blows once it went down over the end of the stick.

Amazingly, the first one didn’t break. It didn’t even need its screw done up. The second one was on the thin end but was still a bit tight, or perhaps had a manufacturing flaw. Anyway, there was still the screw, so it clamped on quite well, even in two pieces. The two original yellow hand grips (a nice touch, I think) fitted on easily, and the job was done.

A quick tweak of the brakes, adjust of the seat, and pump of the tyres, and I’m away!

Not the Post After the Silence

The silence still is the post.

But here’s what I’m into tonight.

The nice song Kerffle by Ladyfuzz. Sweet poppy sounds with knowing and abandon. Alt-or punk-pop. Was Nina Haagen here?

Elsie’s latest video on YouTube. A low fi, everyday teen bedroom scene (not what you’re looking for, if you googled this).
.

And here is a lovely equine moment from Lyford Treks and my dear friends Walter and Kate. Actually, this is the top of the track down to my favourite camping spot, where I have two trips planned this summer.

.

Walter made this from my lubricated fumblings with his camera on the night of the launch of his beautiful Thousand Sketches project.

By the way, if you haven’t watched it, I recommend this rendition of The Cremation of Sam McGee.

And to real, local life, weather permitting, tomorrow I’m off to the Canterbury A & P show with Debra and a bunch of kids.

www.flickr.com

Brush with Love #2

I’ve got the muse now.

I’m angry. I’m angry that I can’t write about my search for love here. I’m angry that my search for love is so hard. I’m angry that I’m sad. Another disappointment. Well, I’m going to write about it here. What is this damn blog about, if it isn’t my way of making sense of the world. The weird public private diary that can be read by the people referred to in it, if they have Internet access, and they’re not dead.

I thought I’d have to write fiction. I thought I’d be able to, as a way of expressing some of the things in me. And I’m doing that, slowly. But this is first. It’s my outlet. My way of expressing myself when there is too much to hold in, or when I don’t know what the hell it is and need to make sense out of it.

I always come to some sort of resolution and I know I’ll do that here but let’s not jump ahead.

Did I say that people have asked me if I’ve had therapy since Jane died? Well they have and I haven’t. I nearly did but she died. My therapist, that is. Jenny Rockel. She was a wise and hearted woman.

And so this, you, me, blogging is my therapy now. You don’t like it, you don’t read it. You probably don’t anyway. But I do and that’s why I write it. Straight out of me into me just like this. Heh, heh.

But can I blog my search for love? I’ll start with why not.

1. I am grieving my loss of Jane. It is too early for me to be looking for love. Either I’m not nearly ready for it, or worse, I’ve prematurely expunged Jane from my consciousness. And even if neither of those are true, it’s insensitive towards Jane’s family for me to change the subject here from my loss of her to my subsequent exploits. I can find a new lover, a new partner or love of my life even. They can not find a new daughter, sister, cousin, or niece.

2. The love interest in question may be reading, or may read this in advance of becoming one and think ‘not if I’m gonna be his next blog post subject’. I have been asked not to blog particular particulars.

3. You might think I’m pathetic or bad. The future’s a long time and stuff sticks on the internet. You could be a prospective employer, lover, business partner or customer. You could be a PI, the police or a dirt-digging publicist for some competitor of mine. You could be me reading and cringing. You could be any one of my exes reassuring yourself as to the virtue of being over me.

Well, nah to all three of you.

I can keep this confidential. Some people will know who is being referred to but that’s probably because they know anyway. I’m not going to put things here that are excessively pathetic. They’re there but the whole point of doing this is that they’re not as pathetic as they seem. They get made into some process of discovery, some cycle of decay and renewal. And Jane, and Jane’s family, you are real to me and here with me at each step in my process of saying goodbye, and of having you, Jane in me somewhere to stay. So far, each brush with love that I’ve had has pushed me a step further in my grieving process. Maybe this can do something like that for you.

So that’s the blogging. Now for the love. The love glimpsed, grasped and shimmeringly lost. That’s how it seems anyway. If you’d asked me three days ago, I would have said found. Ask me tomorrow and I don’t know what you’ll hear. Two weeks this time. Better than the one, last time. Maybe it will be four and then eight the next times. Maybe it would be better that I don’t do love at all so that I can focus on my business and get the garage tidied. I don’t know and that is the whole thing about all this, the unknown.

The good news is that I have not fallen apart. In fact, I’ve felt good almost the whole time with this one. I’ve had moments of sadness, and short moments of fear, but on the whole I’ve enjoyed a good time being in the moment with this new, old, lovely woman. That was the thing, the first thing that attracted me to her: being attracted to her. It’s not so often that I’ve had the experience of attraction to a woman and actually ended up with her. Very rare, actually. Of course, there’s no great sample size. Four in the last twenty years.

The surprise was that ***** quickly turned out to be able to meet me, emotionally, even to challenge me to stretch in some ways that I liked a lot. And when Jane came, which she did, ***** was right with herself and with me. I had my own moments, of course. It has been the week of the putting up of Jane’s headstone in Cromwell Cemetery. There was the moment when I imagined that ***** had died in the next room. And the moment when the two of us lay in the bed in which Jane did die and I told the story and cried some tears and ***** cried some tears, too. Like I would have wished her to and I said so, that I was moved that she did and she said that was no big deal, the minimum I should expect from a close person. Maybe I was projecting an idealised empathetic companion or rolling in the expectation of abandonment. I don’t think so. I like that.

And I like that I am ok with doing this, being with a new lover and enjoying that. Jane, you were there, but you let me do it. I think we are getting on in a new way around this just now.

She is a great playmate, *****. We did some very nice going out and stopping in together. And then there is the *****ness of *****. I just like her.

All that yumminess has come to a stop now. I don’t know if it will start again. I would like to but at the same time I know that ***** is looking for someone who I really don’t think I am. And a bit vice versa. For me, I’d keep going and enjoying saying “yes” and being in the moment, without thinking too much about the future. Be in there for the loving, learning and fun. I know that that is only sustainable while it has two willing participants. We are not twenty anything any more and what may be doesn’t come as easily. I met someone recently who said that men in their fifties tended not to prefer serial monogamy to committed relationships. Am I there already? I think not. I know that committed relationship is right for me but I am in no hurry. I know that it is right for me to be in the moment, to enjoy love and to say yes. To learn about reality and how it isn’t dreams. And to keep what is valuable, what I believe in, close to me.

It’s all a bit unresolved at the moment. I’m writing this at least partly because of a conversation that I want to be having with ***** but am not having. I’ve left the messages that I’m going to, for now. ****licious, I wish you’d call me.

Visibly Bursting

As spring bursts around us, my dear friend Walter appears to have found his voice, and it is in Thousand Sketches. It’s a project to put a thousand sketches on the Web in one year. I love the sketches that are there already, and I love the blog where Walter is making his process as visible as the sketches, and where sketches of that process are born, too.

This project is of the Internet. Most of the works are sketched on a tablet PC using simple software. Many are of everyday things, flowers, people and animals. But they are also sketches of sketching, of sketching a thousand sketches. Every click that lands on a sketch will appear in a sketch somewhere. Every comment about the sketches, either on Walter’s blog or somewhere else on the Web will end up in a sketch. Every purchase of a “sponsored link” will change the project. The Internet is creating this project, as it affects and emerges from Walter.

Walter, I love seeing you burst like this into something so simple and beautiful that is flowing so freely. It seems right.

Vinyl Girls

People said they liked my writing. I noticed that I liked writing. I got a little motivated to write, but what? This blog is easy, with my muse, the dead Jane Spears. What else could I write? How could I enter that void of creating something from nothing? It has always fascinated me how writers do it. How they create a compelling story, characters, texture, all from nothing. So I decided to give it a go. I signed up for the writing team on Blood Lovers and that was easy! We had constraints. I had my sister to fight with! We wrote our hearts out for three hours and then saw our work taken and transformed by a team into the movie. I got the bug.

I teamed up with Ron, booked the loan of a camera from Bede and started to think what the hell are we going to do? People were all in the media about MySpace and Bebo and their daughters looking like Manchester Street or being preyed on in their innocence. Danah Boyd came to NZ talking sense and Russell Brown published it in the Listener. I intervewed my kids and they said ‘get over it’, ‘it doesn’t happen’ and ‘if it does, we’re more than capable of handling it’. So Ron and I had a lunch over how we’d handle this. Worked up and rejected a coupla dozen ideas then booked to meet and write on the Friday nite. It ended up starting at about ten, with me phoning the vinyl idea through about half an hour earlier.

By the next afternoon, when the cast, Elsie and her friend Kayla became available for their brief window, we had a rough script, basic props, shooting schedule, lights, camera and action. We shot, directed, stalled Kayla’s mum and got what you see today. Some quick pickups the next day and editing with the most basic shit, Windows Movie Maker. Did the job.

So here it is, my first video, Vinyl Girls (view on YouTube). Enjoy: