Feb Photo, Meme, Our World, Rant

Feb Photo 29 – Something I Am Listening To

Feb Photo 29 – Something I Am Listening To

Sometimes, when I wish to simply get away and clear my head, I head down to the Jawbone Marine Sanctuary in Williamstown, sit on the sand, and enjoy the serene and tranquil silence. Most of the time there is no mobile phone reception, no background noise of traffic, or even passing pedestrians. To be able to escape the ongoing stresses of everyday hustle and bustle, remove yourself from the digital world, and to simply be alone with ones thoughts can often do wonders for a person’s thinking capacity, not to mention the simple act of rejuvenating the mind, and perhaps thinking through some things that have been pestering or lingering for some time with a fresh mind.

Whenever I sit down at Jawbone, I often have the simple sounds of the wind in the grass to keep me company, perhaps the gentle sound of the water lapping against the rocks or sand. Occasionally I take my iPod, however I rarely have it on when I am there. It sort of defeats the purpose of being there in the first place.

Sometimes I take along a writing book or even a sketch pad, just to see what will flow when my mind is clear of other clutter. I have written a few songs down there, although none are recorded yet, and I have done a few drawings of various things. More often, however, I go down to simply think. Either to work through a problem that has arisen recently, think my way through some problems that have come up, or perhaps just to re-centre myself and de-stress before a long week at work, or an upcoming struggling time.

Different people have different ways to de-stress and centre themselves before or after a stressful or mentally trying period of their lives. Some choose to drink, some choose to go out clubbing or to a concert, some choose to go for a jog or do something fitness related, and there are always people who choose to do partake in yoga, meditation or some form of mental relaxation. Even simply sitting under a tree, or lying in bed with a good book can help the mind relax and focus itself on the challenges ahead.

The human mind is a complex and mystical place, and for different people, different things work in helping it relax. Sometimes, multiple things together work, other times a single avenue of approach is required, but this could also change. nothing is in concrete when the mind is involved.

Sometimes, I prefer to sit alone at the beach and ponder. Other times, playing my guitar loudly and almost scaring the neighbours into thinking that the North Koreans are attacking. Other times, I have simply got on my bike and rode. iPod in, music up loud and simply powering down a bike track, with no destination in mind other than ‘forward’. The only way to truly clear my mind is to stop thinking, and simply do something repetitive and simplistic (for me!) that allows my brain to switch into auto-pilot and not allow any new thoughts to enter. This allows my mind to simply work through the backlog of thoughts that are floating about in there, process and file them away, allowing my mind to reset and centre itself.

I feel rather lucky to have such a wonderful and quiet place so close to my house, within walking distance, and yet it might as well be a world away. A nature reserve, bird & marine sanctuary. It is the kind of place that is not too common, especially inland (the marine part should explain why!) and to have access to this little section of pristine native land is simply amazing in today’s day and age. Australia is really a blessed country to be able to have these little sections of nature so close to the cities, housing areas and public beaches, yet have them remain relatively untouched and preserved for generations to come.

Boring, Feb Photo, Meme, Rant

Feb Photo 28 – Money

Feb Photo 28 – Money

Money is a great thing. If you have it.

For some people, living from paycheck to paycheck is a way of life. Many of these people don’t even care; they are just happy to be living in the moment. However some are struggling. Some people go without, simply because they cannot afford something that many people take for granted. Perhaps they go without a meal, or a night out with a loved one. Perhaps they go without a bed for the night, choosing to sleep on the streets, just so that they can have a meal for themselves, or perhaps a child.

There are people out there who, for one reason or another, enjoy flashing their money around, acting like they are bigger than they really are. These people, often do not have very high self-confidence, although they act as if they do. Often, these people will be seen at bars and clubs, buying drinks for many beautiful women, trying to see which ones will perhaps bother to speak with him, or perhaps even sleep with him. It is a sign of insecurity; trying to buy affection, approval and love, in exchange for money or gifts.

Money in itself has lost all value that it once carried. For example, money used to be made from precious metals, usually stamped with the likeness of the Leader of the City or Country, or the royal coat of arms. This is because only the royal family of the area would have money, often gifted to the noblemen of the areas for deeds done. Earlier still, currency would consist of precious stones; gems and other shiny objects.

Later, money became pieces of paper. They would consist of either words, stating that the bearer of this piece of paper was owed $100.00 worth of gold for example, and the holder could trade this paper with someone (usually a bank) for gold. After a while, specifically in the USA, the gold reserves were full, yet the people claimed they needed more money. The government decided to do away with “paper Vs. gold reserves” and simply printed more paper money, effectively devaluing all currency of America. The American money is now simply a piece of paper, stating its worth of X dollars. All of their paper currency is the same size, same colour and to a blind person, has no obvious differences from each other. Completely worthless, in my opinion, and literally, not worth the paper it is printed on!

Australian money, however, holds value. Although I still have no idea how a small piece of plastic can be worth $100, at least our gold reserves match with the physical money printed.

Out money is different sizes for different denominations, brightly coloured, has many security features, from micro-printing, clear windows, watermarks, magnetic strips and a few others. It is amongst the hardest in the world to counterfeit, The level or printing on these notes are amazing… looking under a macro lens, it is fairly easy to see how hard these would be to counterfeit, and have them still look legitimate. One more thing about our money, and I feel that this is best of all; its waterproof! I can go swimming or snorkelling with cash in my pocket, and still spend it when I get out of the water. I wouldn’t want to do that with a bank card, and certainly not with paper money.

As Australia is a country surrounded by water, full of people who love the ocean, swimming at the local pool, creek, river, or any other body of clean water that is located inland, I find it fitting that we have waterproof money.

Earlier in Australia’s history, around the early 1966, Australia first switched to decimal currency. This was a huge step for us, moving away from Pounds, Shillings, Pence and all of that, and into an age that was divisible by 10. One of the first changes to be made after the conversion however, was to our 50 cent coin. Originally it was round, as you can see in the picture below, and also made of 80% silver and 20% copper. The Mint decided firstly, to change the metal composition, as the value of Silver had changed dramatically, causing the coin to be more valuable in melted form than on its face value. It was changed to a tin/lead composite and value for money was restored, as well as a change of shape to a 12-sided dodecagon design, due to some vision impaired people complaining that it was too hard to differentiate between a 20 cent and a 50 cent piece.

The photos I have attached to this post are as follows:

Above is a photo, showing an example of the microprinting on a $20 note. The words “TWENTY DOLLARS” are repeated in the background, and are almost illegible by the naked eye.
A closeup of a ‘ONE CROWN’ coin from 1937, a semi-rare coin to commemorate the assention of King George VIII, worth 5 shillings, and made from 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper.
A cluster of round 1966 50 cent coins that I have in my possession.

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Catherine, Feb Photo, Meme, Memories, Personal

Feb Photo 27 – Something I Ate

Feb Photo 27 – Something I Ate

For our last night in Hiroshima, and also Japan, we decided to go out for a banquet meal at a small local restaurant. Finding the restaurant was not an easy task, as all of the signage is in Japanese (funny about that, huh?) but after about 15 minutes of walking around the back streets, we found this lovely place that partly resembled a house, but luckily was a restaurant. We found a waitress who was able to work out through the language barrier that we wanted a meal for two, and took us to a quaint little table for two.

We were shown a menu, all in Japanese, and she proceeded to describe each dish in a mixture of English, Japanese, charades and even a drawing or two. There were 5 courses, plus dessert and drinks.

The courses were as follows (using my photographs of the evening as a guide).
Course #1: A small salad with raw beef (sashimi) that was simply delicious; almost melting on my tongue.
Course #2: A green salad / omelette, cooked at our table on a small stone-based flame.
Course #3: As shown above, a raw fish (sashimi) served whole on a bec of green salad. The middle of the fish is cut, prepared and served on the plate with the fish remains, showing how fresh it all is.
Course #4: Stuffed eggplant with tofu.
Course #5: Deep-fried eel, served whole, head included, with middle section sliced and prepared for eating.
Course #6: A vegetable soup, possibly Miso, veeery hot!
Course #7: Kiwifruit and Mango served fresh
And of course, a whole bottle of Sake to wash it all down with…

We both crossed many culinary limits that we had currently had, including eating raw beef, eel in any form, and this was my first experience with drinking Sake. I am glad that we did try these foods though, as they were simply amazing, and definitely not what I had expected them to be.

Our waitress was one of the nicest, loveliest and most polite waitresses I have ever come across, taking the time to explain what each dish was when I asked (by pointing to the menu) and again when each dish was brought to the table. I can assure you, the charades of “omelette” is not an easy task to undertake, especially when describing it to someone who has little/no clue of the language being spoken. Always serving with a big smile on her face, often laughing politely at times, like when we first saw the eel staring at us from the plate… but never laughing in a rude manner.

The best part, the 7-courses and bottle of Sake came to a grand total of $3,000Y, which translated at the time, to around $38AU. I challenge you to find a better deal in any restaurant here in Australia.

This level of politeness was almost the norm when we were travelling throughout Japan, striking up conversations with various people on trains, streetcars or simply at landmarks. Most were fascinated by Australians, almost as much as we were fascinated with just being in Japan. We had a group of people who had overheard us talking to each other on a ferry to Miyajima, and, although barely able to speak any English, managed to ask “Australia? You Australia?” I replied “Yes, we are from Australia”. They spoke excitedly amongst themselves for a while, then they caught my attention again, saying “Sid-en-ey? You Sid-en-ey?” I replied with “No, we are from Melbourne”, but they already had their camera and phone out, showing us photos of the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. I think I had one photo of Melbourne on my camera, so showed them that, and they were amazed at that too… then they asked “Honeymoon? You on Honeymoon?” We laughed, and said no, simply enjoying a holiday to Japan. They giggled, but seemed content with the response.

There were many instances of people simply talking to us on transport or in the streets, which is a rarity in Melbourne, and unheard of the week before in New York City. Everyone we encountered in Japan was always so eager to please, always completely professional and courteous, and always gave 100% of their skill set to us, as if we were the only customers that they had all week, even when in a crowded store.

The banquet we had on our last night in Hiroshima will be remembered as one of our last in Japan, and also for being such a wonderful meal for so many different reasons. We have tried to match the meal at various Japanese restaurants here in Melbourne, but nothing comes close to the original.

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Oh, and if any of you are thinking of dropping past Hiroshima and want a good feed, here is the google map info for this lovely Restaurant!

{ Click here to load map in a new window }

Boring, Feb Photo, Memories, Our World, Personal, Rant, Work

Feb Photo 26 – Night

Feb Photo 26 – Night

To some people, night-time is a time best experienced inside, rugged up in front of the heater or open fire, and definitely not to venture outside for photos. However, I see night-time as an amazing time to go and get photos, or simply to be outside and observing. Once night has fallen, it can be a completely different world out there. Lights, atmosphere, the lack of office workers. Amazing things happen after nightfall.

I see a few people out each evening, watching the sunset at the beach or from another good vantage point, only to leave as soon as the sun has gone below the horizon; night-time has almost set in, so they feel they need to be indoors. So many beautiful natural experiences are missed even in the first hour of the evening.

People go about their daily business, working for “the man”, and doing all of the things that people do during the day. Pay the bills, dress in a suit for work, crunching numbers, pushing papers, shopping, banking etc. At night, however, these things take a back seat, and people tend to let their hair down and relax a bit. People enjoy the evenings more, as its generally when they can see their loved ones, their friends and simply be themselves.

As some people enjoy simply being at home on the couch, staying warm, or in the case of Summer, eating ice-cream like a crazy ice-cream-eating person, others enjoy getting out, socialising, going to a bar, a restaurant, or even simply a walk with a friend.

To some, night-time is a cold, boring time, consisting of fog, cold toes and silence, to others it means lights, people, excitement, action and even glamour.

Some cities tend not to quiet down or even sleep until the small hours of the morning, only to start-up again a mere three hours later for the next days business. Melbourne only has a few hours of sleep in the CBD core, and even then, there are some restless corners that operate throughout the night, however NYC is renowned as “The City That Never Sleeps”. I can vouch for this, from my time there.

In New York, we could have a hot meal cooked in a restaurant at 1am, McDonald’s at 4am, One night I couldn’t sleep, I left the hotel on my own, walked to Times Square (only one block away) and bought a Slurpee at 7-11, and watched a live concert. at 3am. with other people all around me. I really liked that aspect of New York; the ability to do whatever, whenever, and not seem ‘weird’. If I wanted to walk the streets at 3am, I was not considered ‘strange’ or ‘threatening’, and not only that, the city would put on a concert for people just like myself.

This nightlife activity does not only exist in the human species, of course. There are many nocturnal animals that live most of their waking lives under the cover of night. Australia has its Possums, friendly to anyone bearing food, but will potentially eat your finger if you tease them… I prefer the insect world. 90% of the small critters in our neck of the woods are nocturnal. So much happens at night, and most people do not even realise it.

Recently, we had a Garden Orb-Weaving Spider (Eriophora biapicata) that set up home near our front door. It wasn’t hurting anyone, it’s web didn’t block the way, so I allowed it to stay there; observing and photographing it on a few separate occasions. During the day, she was usually found curled up, sleeping, but seeming almost dead. Nothing would move her from her little nook in the eaves of the house. At night, however, she would be hard at work, repairing the web from the day’s assault, caused by small insects, moths, mosquitos, and even the occasional bee. Every night, hard at work, working the night-shift of the arachnid world. This is when I would photograph her, getting incredibly close, as you can see in the photos. I was perhaps only 1-2cm from her, and yet she remained still, allowing me to photograph her underbody.

I tend to get more work done during the evening, and well into the night. My design work is often completed post-midnight, as are my sketches, paintings, writing, photography, web design and music recordings. It is the hour when there are no disturbances. My phone is usually silent, no one is knocking on my door to sell me cheap electricity, there is nothing on TV, and there is no outside disturbances from traffic, people, or even birds. The world sleeps, so a few people stand guard, and usually get things done.

Night time is my productive time.

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Boring, Feb Photo, Holidays, Memories, Personal, Rant

Feb Photo 25 – Green

Feb Photo 25 – Green

We are very lucky in Australia. We have cities, houses, low unemployment, a dollar that is trading very well, we don’t have any wars, widespread famine, dictatorships, or much of what we see each night on the news.

What we do have are wide open plains, bushland, forests, rainforests, deserts, beaches and many species of flora, fauna and animals that cannot be found anywhere else in the entire world. Australia is unique in this respect, as it discovered later in the grand scheme of things, and therefore it was able to preserve much of what many other countries took for granted for food, or simply to clear land for vegetation. Of course, we have done our fair share of land clearing, and we have caused devastation to many areas of our land, however compared to other countries, we are rather sensible.

I was reading today that an Amazonian tribe are being forced to move from their land; land where they have lived and their ancestors have lived for thousands of years. They are being moved to make way for a controversial dam, that will cause flooding to large areas of the Amazon, and completely destroy the way of life for many tribes, and of course the silent victims; the animals.

Read Article Here and Video Here

To do something like this on the same scale in Australia would be virtually unheard of these days, although in the past, the Snowy River Hydroelectric Project did ruin a lot of vegetation and who knows what else.

I am glad that in today’s day and age, in Australia at least, we have learnt from our mistakes, and tend not to do anything like this anymore. Our unique flora and fauna remain for future generations to enjoy, our animals remain in the wild, where they belong, and we can possibly learn from them all.

Recently I was reading that the venom of a Funnel Web Spider (I think?) was being extracted and used to fight certain forms of heart disease, and potentially Alzheimer’s. The venom, when administered in a diluted form, was able to kill of the sick cells, and leave the healthy cells virtually unharmed. Nature holds many secrets, most of which we still have not even began to imagine. Many can benefit the human race in one form or another, and I don’t mean solely in the medical field.

A bullet-proof vest, for example, is made of Kevlar. Kevlar is made from spider silk; spun from a spider, and collected for manufacturing. Spider’s webs can withstand a beating, when the size and scale of objects that are trapped by it, versus the size of the individual strand of silk are considered. Scientists have said that if scaled up, a spider’s web could stop a jetliner in mid-flight, and support its entire weight. The faster an object is travelling, the better it can stop the object. After much thinking, someone decided to test this theory, and constructed a vest out of silk, and fired a gun. It stopped the bullet, and we now have bullet-proof vests that save the lives of police and army personnel on a daily basis. However, these vests cannot prevent a knife, as the blade is travelling much slower than a bullet.

The above photo was taken in the Cape Otway National Park, in Victoria, Australia. Pay attention to the Eucalypt trees growing in harmony with the rainforest ferns in the foreground. This particular area is only about a 15 minute walk to the beach, where the Pacific Ocean laps at the sand. A 20 minute drive will find you in a bustling little country town called Lorne, and another 30 minutes, a fairly major city called Geelong. Australia has many of these forests, national parks and bushlands right on our doorstep, and I think the best part is, not many people bother to visit and appreciate them.

The less people who bother to visit, the longer they will remain untouched, and available for future generations.


Boring, Feb Photo, Meme, Personal, Rant

Feb Photo 24 – Inside My Bathroom Cabinet

Feb Photo 24 – Inside My Bathroom Cabinet

For a number of years now, I have suffered from Psoriasis. I have posted about it many times here and here. At times, it can be under control, but other times, it becomes almost an embarrassment to leave the house. I tend to get it on my face, scalp and occasionally my feet. Having Psoriasis on the face is simply horrible; it is the first impression someone gets of you when meeting you, it’s the one part of you that strangers will see if you are buying a coffee or a meal at a cafe, and its the part of you that best shows people what you are thinking and feeling. Having Psoriasis on the face causes self-confidence issues to come in, meaning I might not smile as much as I would normally (the Psoriasis can come and go, so it’s not something that is permanent, and I end up ‘getting used to it’ like a scar or something.) This might give off the signals that I am unimpressed, or even in a bitchy mood.

Some of the worst experiences of my facial psoriasis have been when either sitting through an interview, or temping at a new site. I can see the person opposite me staring at it, which makes me nervous and insecure, yet I won’t mention it, as it’s not the time or place. Of course, if it is mentioned, I am happy to explain it all to them. A few people have openly asked me either “How were you burnt?” or “What happened to your face?” which, although slightly rude, addresses the elephant in the room, so to speak.

Another classic comment I get a lot is “Oh, I had dandruff once, I used ‘Product-X’ and it cleared right up”. Let me explain something on the record. Psoriasis is NOT dandruff. Dandruff is a dry scalp, usually caused by increased oil production, oily skin, increased skin secretions, and increased numbers of normal skin yeasts. Occasionally it can also be caused by poor hygiene and infrequent shampooing and washing.

Psoriasis is caused by the over-production of skin cells by my body. Basically my body creates skin quicker than ‘normal’ people, meaning that it cannot shed it quickly enough, so it flakes off, or in some cases, peels off. The Psoriasis actually gets worse and flares up after I wash it with fresh water. Salt water is great for it though, so it can be a great excuse to go to the beach… This can be good if I cut myself on something, as it heals rather quickly, however that seems to be the only perk I know of.

For those of you who don’t know, Psoriasis is a dermatological (skin) condition that would usually fall under the eczema tag. If left for a few days to air out (honestly, one of the best treatments to do is often to do nothing) it can resemble a burn. I usually get it on my forehead, chin and around my nose. It can be very prominent, and at times, it flares up rather quickly, sometimes only giving me 20-30 minutes notice, before my skin starts peeling. (gross, I know!)

My bathroom cabinet shows almost everything I use to battle my psoriasis.

Coal Tar Soap (Black) – although this doesn’t prevent psoriasis, it is better than the standard perfumed soaps on offer at most supermarkets, and so I use it simply so it doesn’t inflame any existing outbreaks.

Olive Oil Soap (Large square block) – given to me by a friend who runs a soap store, this is claimed to clean the skin up completely naturally and leave it baby smooth. This particular range comes from the Middle East, handmade by a gentleman whose family have been making the soap in the same manner for 3,500 years. I figure he knows what he is doing!

Tea Tree Oil Shampoo (Green) – I switched to this after I had a serious run-in with the Coal Tar shampoo from the same company (which doesn’t actually contain coal-tar!!). I was told that Tea Tree Oil was actually really good for my skin and the psoriasis, so I gave it a go. This clears my scalp psoriasis, which is rather hard to treat, due to my hair.

Not pictured, there is also a product called “Moo Goo” which I have posted about in the second link above.

A guy’s bathroom cabinet is usually a lot less cluttered than this. But for the sake of self-confidence, and smoother skin, I am willing to take a few snide comments, funny looks and even slightly rude questioning of my skin condition.

So that you can see what I am talking about, regarding the ups and downs of Psoriasis, here are two bonus photos, showing you a ‘before’ treatment, and an ‘after’ treatment.

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