Lazy Luddite Log

26.9.06

Starship Dimensions

There is nothing much I can think of to post just now so here is a link to something that will interest all my fellow starship design geeks out there: Starship Dimensions

Marvel at all the cool spaceships you have come to know and love as you look at them compared to one another and to scale. Sometimes the relative sizes are a bit disconcerting and challenge assumptions formed from watching movies and programs. Sometimes they are just cool to look at. Have fun.

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18.9.06

Cajun Kangaroo

The content of this weblog has been pretty heavy lately what with funerals and philosophy and crushes on long-departed writers. I think it's time to do something more relaxed and down-home so here is my recipe for Cajun Kangaroo with Macadamia. This is a satisfying dish but is very different from the stodgy Nasta recipe I posted here several months ago...

Ingredients: Kangaroo, Macadamia Nuts, Onion, Celery, Capsicum, Corn Kernels, Mixed Cajun Spice, Risone Pasta.

There are only two things that make the dish in anyway authentic 'Cajun' fare. One is 'The Trinity' which is a mix of finely diced onion with celery and capsicum. Apparently this three-veg combo is the basis of any Cajun dish. The other is a jar of mixed Cajun spice from the spice shelves at your local supermarket (which incidentally includes the Trinity in powdered form in most contents lists). The Cajuns (ethnic French living in the U.S. state of Louisiana) will also use maize (e.g. in the form of corn bread used to wipe the bowl clean) but I simply throw in a small can of corn kernels for added interest. They will use rice (abundant in swampy Louisiana) while I prefer to use the pasta 'Risone' which is shaped like rice grains. They will traditionally use whatever meat they can hunt but I somehow think that kangaroo has never lived in the swamps of Louisiana. They may use 'Gator but I use 'Roo.

I also throw Macadamia into this dish because I think it's fun to cook this native Australian plant product with a native Australian animal product. The kangaroo makes the shopping list for this dish cheaper than for other dishes, but the macadamia makes it more expensive, so it averages as the same as another dish using more conventional ingredients.

Preparation and Cooking

There are a small number of kangaroo products one can get in most supermarkets in Melbourne now (look for the 'Macro Meats' brand). As there are only ever a small number of products on shelf, you can never be sure if what you want will be there. Technically the simplest thing to get for this dish is the pre-cut kangaroo for stir fry, however the last few times I have done this dish I have had to select the 'herb and garlic' fillet. This has worked well for me as all the marinade on the meat makes covering it in mixed Cajun spice most convenient. I dice the meat and then throw it into a pan with some vegetable oil and then shake a whole lot of the spice onto the meat then mix it all in with my hands and do this till all pieces are well covered in the stuff.

Next prepare the Trinity by dicing one onion, one celery stick and one capsicum (I choose red for a more interesting selection of colours) and mixing them together in a bowl. Then fill a pot with boiling water and whack in the risone and one tin (the smallest you can find) of corn kernels (both cook in the same way so may as well cook them together). Turn on the element for both pot and pan and start stirring both.

Once the meat has turned brown throw in the Trinity and stir vigorously. Continue to stir the pasta and corn at the same time. The Trinity makes a nice smell as it is cooking. Finally throw in a generous handful of macadamia. You can make the dish even more interesting at this juncture by throwing in flavours you like such as a dollop of honey and a dash of lemon juice.


Once the pasta and corn is cooked, strain and throw into the pan with the kangaroo and macadamia and mix all together. Serve into bowls and enjoy with some refreshing drink to compensate for the spicy roo.

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11.9.06

Rachmaninov Vespers

In this entry on the date it was posted I wrote (moreorless) the following:

The Monash University Choral Society (MonUCS) is performing Russian choral works including the amazing Vespers by Rachmaninov on this Saturday at BMW Edge (silly name awesome venue) in Federation Square. More info ... just ask me. Come one come all. It is awesome truly it is.

And truth be told we were pretty impressive but the conditions in which we performed were far from perfect. Federation Square is a busy complex with several different venues in it and it seems that nobody has overall management of the whole. As a result we had to compete with a raukus party with pumping music (conflicting reports say it was alternately recorded music or live band) in the venue nextdoor which was separated from us only by a wall of glass and steel framework that was far from soundproof. Another way of looking at this is to say that the party nextdoor had to cope with a fifty-strong group of singers performing in a totally different tempo from their chosen music.

Anyway by the second half some hasty negotiations had been made with the venue(s) and harmony was restored. But it does make one wonder: Is there anybody running Federation Square who is even aware of what different events and functions that are booked in there? Or is the whole thing a mess of contractors and sub-contractors with nobody having any sense of the complex whole?

Anyway it was a satisfying performance followed by an after-party remininscent of the party scene from Breakfast At Tiffany’s (in terms of wall-to-wall mingling guests in a tiny apartment).

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Funeral

Assurance: Nobody need be at all alarmed or concerned by the content of this entry. I fully intend to have a life expectancy of several decades.

Attending a funeral gets one considering all sorts of things like mortality and posterity and ones life and its links to the lives of others. Another thing that funerals can get one thinking about is funerals. Over the last week I have been considering what kind of funeral I think I may want.

I am yet to make a will but my assets are few and the legal default of them reverting to my next-of-kin is just fine by me. But making some comments on what sort of service I want seems a worthwhile thing to do. Some time ago I did consider the kind of music I would want played at my funeral and gave cassettes to my parents of that music. However such things can get lost or destroyed in house fires and the like (besides which I am supposed to survive them). The Internet on the other hand is much more robust (says he trustingly) so I shall stick my intentions here. And then I shall be extra careful to evade the proverbial killer bus on the way home!

I would like to have a shortish and smallish service following this format:

* Attendees file in and sit while a recording of ‘Adagio For Strings’ by Samual Barber is played. I hope that by that time any associations this music has with a certain popular war movie will have faded. The music itself, free of any context, is very moving and tragic, which is fully my intent.

* A biographical eulogy is given by a civil celebrant who has consulted with surviving family and friends to put together some sort of verbal picture.

* There is a moment of silent contemplation while ‘Elegy’ by Jethro Tull is played. This instrumental is both sentimental and stately in feel.

* A friend recites the poem ‘At The Grey Havens’ by J R R Tolkien:

Day is ended
Dim my eyes
But journey long before me lies
Farewell friends
I hear the call
The ships beside the stony wall
Foam is white and waves are grey
Beyond the sunset leads my way
Foam is salt
The wind is free
I hear the rising of the sea

Farewell friends
The sails are set
The wind is east
The mooring fret
Shadows long before me lie
Beneath the ever-bending sky
But islands lie behind the Sun
That I shall raise ere all is done
Lands there are to west of West
Where night is quiet and sleep is rest

Guided by the Lonely Star
Beyond the utmost harbour-bar
I'll find the havens fair and free
And beaches of the Starlit Sea
Ship, my ship, I seek the West
And fields and mountains ever blest
Farewell to Middle Earth at last
I see the Star above your mast


These verses are the closest the service will get to any content of even remotely religious or supernatural nature.

* There is another moment of silent contemplation (how indulgent!) to ‘Last Horizon’ by Brian May. This instrumental is crisp and sweet with a dash of pomposity to it.

* Any present who wish to may now share personal anecdotes of the life we shared. I have seen this at one or more funerals I have attended in the past and think it works well. It is nicely freeform and community-oriented. After all a funeral is for everyone but the person having passed away.

* Attendees file out to ‘Memories Of You’ by Benny Goodman. This is lovely and lilting and very relaxed. A nice note on which to end I think.

All the music I have selected is instrumental. That is deliberate. Words impose concepts onto music while instrumentals let interpretations wander freely. I have all tracks named on CD.

What I have written here is pretty much what I want. Any other matter is something for others to decide. I did once prefer burial to cremation but I am now open-minded on the topic – whatever is most convenient is the thing to do. A setting that is garden-like and incorporates moving water is the one other notion I am drawn to (the Necropolis in Springvale has a lot of that sort of thing).

I do apologise to anyone who finds this at all disturbing or distressing. As I say it was just that attending one funeral put me in mind of others and ultimately of my own. Allow me this indulgence and regard it as simply an on-line record to be filed away for far future reference.

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4.9.06

The Don

I attended the funeral of Don Chipp on Saturday 2 September at Saint Paul's Cathedral. I had only met him a few times and knew him more by reputation than anything. However I felt compelled to attend. Funerals have a very personal function but they also have a more community-oriented aspect and I am part of a community for which Don Chipp was a monumental figure. Naturally there were many Australian Democrats past and present in attendance and I had a chance to spend some time with friends and colleagues following the service. But the state funeral was much more than just an event for ADs. There was a host of members of the community from all political persuasions and all walks of life. Don Chipp had a significant role in so many aspects of community life and this became evident during the course of the service.

Andrew Denton (who had interviewed Don on 'Enough Rope' and subsequently became his friend) penned and presented a poem at the 80th birthday of Don which is very much in the larakin tradition of Australian poetry. Idun (widow of Don) asked that he recite it once more for the service. It was a fantastic and funny set of verses which encapsulated the spirit of Don as a determined and driven person but also as a fun and loving one. I was reminded of an era in Australian politics that is fast fading. Debate was more heartfelt while now it is dominated by polish and packaging. Expressions of political rivalry were conducted with sparkling wit while now they are characterised by puerile abuse. Politicians engaged the electorate in packed townhall meetings while now they simply feed us sanitised and sterile five-second audio-visual bites. We have slowly been losing something over past decades and with the passing of Don it is that bit further away.

Senator Natasha Stott Despoja spoke movingly on the ability of Don to cut across generation gaps and be a mentor and friend to someone much younger than himself. Her sense of gratitude to him, for having started the party which has been her political home all her adult life, reminded me of my own. Technically the ADs were formed by many activists (including members of then-existing parties like the Australia Party) but it was Don who was instrumental in giving that party a kick-start like none ever seen in Australian political history. Following that he did much to steer the course of his new party to ensure it was much more than just a passing fad. And even in retirement he still monitored the progress of things and helped in times of need. The Chipps were in my branch till they moved recently and even at the last Federal Election I remember allocating Don & Idun to staff a polling place all day long. In history few things are guaranteed and the fact that the ADs ever came into existence owes a lot to the ability and reputation of just one person. My own involvement in the ADs has enriched my life and so I too owe something to this man who drew form and function from the ebb and flow of dumb historical forces.

The event was an historical one and a political one. But it was also a personal one at which I was simply an observer. The cathedral had over a thousand in attendance and many of those would have been family and friends of Don Chipp. The family members who shared anecdotes of the life they had spent together were moving. The presentations they made gave such a sense of the loss felt by a sibling or parent or spouse that at times it was almost too much for me. One of the clergy officiating told those gathered that grief only exists because of love. It was hardly surprising then that someone who had always championed actions motivated by love would be sorely missed by so many.

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