Sunday, July 24, 2011

Chicken guns, mongol bows, rockets and bicycle pumps

We just watched the first episode of Richard Hammond's Engineering Connections.  This one was about the Airbus A380 - the world's largest aircraft - and the engineering challenges associated with its design and building.  He showed how inspiration for the wings came from the steppe eagle, the use of composites in the aluminium are inspired by mongol bows - the strength of the aluminium is tested using chicken guns (where they fire chickens at it at high speed).  The idea of the landing gear is based on the idea of a bicycle pump, and they use the idea behind rockets to inflate the emergency chutes.

I'm sure its far more complex than that, but he has a good way of 'dumbing it down' so that its understandable.  Once again, a very enjoyable and educational show.

Friday, July 22, 2011


In 3 weeks time, I'll be at the RWA's writer's conference in Melbourne.  I can't wait! 

I'm signed up to some incredible sounding workshops. 

Friday - Warrior Writer's workshop
Using the Who Dares Wins approach, Warrior Writer will help writers develop a plan to enrich their writing and overcome hurdles. This includes finding personal blind spots that are hurting the writing. Integral to the plan is developing a career path which includes author goals in terms of books, theme, unifying concept, all the way down to organizing day-to-day writing. Of particular focus in creativity are finding true fears, developing the courage to conquer them, and uncovering each person’s unique creative tactics & strategies.

The Who Dares Wins approach:

1. WHAT specifically do you want to achieve with your writing
2. WHY do you want to achieve these particular goals
3. WHERE will sustained change occur
4. Understand CHARACTER
5. What is CHANGE, and how do you accomplish it
6. How do you build the COURAGE to change
7. COMMUNICATE your change to the world
8. Take COMMAND of your change
9. COMPLETE the Circle of Success and change


Session 1: - Plotting From The Inside Out, Susan Wiggs
Let's explore using character, conflict and motivation to create a compelling story plot. We'll look at setup and then track the action on a page-turning journey to a satisfying conclusion. When it comes to story development there is no right way or wrong way, so we can explore creative methods, from basic outlining, to list-making to story-board drawing to collaging. Come prepared to brainstorm!

Session 2: - Body Language
People naturally communicate through body language; it can agree with what’s being said or show signs of deception. Learn techniques to add an additional dimension to your writing and also discover how to use body language to enhance public speaking appearances.  

Session 3: - Staging A Fight Scene, Raymond Floro
Back by popular demand, the most talked about session from RWA's 2010 conference. A martial arts expert and counter-terrorism trainer, who has worked with military and law enforcement agencies worldwide, leads an educational and entertaining exploration of attack and defence strategies, weapons of the usual and unusual variety, and all manner of violent engagement. (Almost) no writers will be harmed in the making of this session.  


Session 1: - Writing The Emotional Roller-coaster, Joan Kilby
Worried that your writing lacks emotional punch? Want to boost the intensity to the next level? Learn how to build emotion into your story at every stage. Elements covered include: developing an emotionally charged premise, tapping into your characters’ core vulnerabilities, mining scenes for maximum emotion, and exploring the language of emotion. Through lecture, discussion and exercises, Joan Kilby will teach you how to deliver the intensely emotional experience sought by readers and editors.  

Session 2: - Sense And Sanity: Living With The First Draft, Lisa Heidke
This workshop looks at the nuts and bolts of the writer's life. How do you make yourself write when you don't want to? What motivational techniques can you employ to make the most of your writing day? How do writers balance their 'regular' life with their writing life? Participants will put together a schedule to structure their writing life, individual to their situation. 

Session 3: - Panel: Cutting It Short  (short story writing)
A panel of editors and bestselling authors discuss the writing, publishing and marketing of shorter works of fiction. From website extras to novellas for themed anthologies, learn about the challenges, opportunities and rewards of writing complete, satisfying stories in a shorter word count. Panelists: Kelley Armstrong, Angela James, Stephanie Laurens, Erika Tsang, Denise Rossetti.

It was so hard to choose - there were so many wonderful sounding workshops on offer!  Even going through them now, I keep thinking, oh I wish I could've done that one too!  

I expect to be thoroughly exhausted by the end of the conference - not forgetting the Cocktail party on the Friday night and the Awards dinner on Saturday night.  

But I really want to have my first draft of this book finished by the time I leave for conference - hence the eeeek :)  That doesn't leave me long.  I've been a bit paralyzed by it the last few weeks - too many loose ends that I introduced through June and I wasn't sure where to go next.  I sat down today and wrote out a synopsis and have gone through tonight and moved aside the sub-plots and scenes that weren't working.  Which hasn't left much of the story :(  I've sketched out the scenes that are remaining - now to write them...

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Term 2 Review

As we're easing our way into Term 3, I wanted to do a quick review of what we covered last term.


Billy's been doing a mixture of Khan Academy, Skwirk & Mathletics (year 4 level).  Topics covered have included: 2 and 3 digit addition and subtraction, multiplication and division, angles, direction, prisms & pyramids, place values to thousands and chanceHe earnt his first 'gold computer' certificate on Mathletics.

He's also been using Timez Attack to practice his times tables, watching Cyberchase for exposure to new mathematical concepts and general 'living maths' practice like mental arithmetic and calculations, handling money, measuring etc.


Reading both for pleasure and towards the Premier's Reading Challenge.

Writing lots of stories and plays.

Completed a grade 5 spelling test with 20/24 correct.

Science & Technology:

Water testing workshop

Experiments about surface tension, plant life-cycles, changing of plastic properties when adding heat, how yeast performs and air density

Discussions on the water cycle, solar energy, health and nutritional labels

Watching Mythbusters and Backyard Science

Creating video tutorials of how to use Minecraft and RPG Game Maker

Creating games using RPG Game Maker, and custom maps and worlds in Minecraft

Programming lessons using C#

Learning about native animals, habitats and conservation at cub camp


Visit to the historical Tocal Homestead

Australian history documentary - Tony Robinson explores Australia.

Watching the kid's current affairs show Behind the News.

Learning about the Australian coat of arms and the state symbols.

Creative Arts:

Weekly drama class - they worked towards an end of term performance.

Visit to an art gallery, making arts and crafts

Watching live performances of 'James and the Giant Peach' and 'Much Ado about Nothing'.


Archery (he has now progressed to shooting back at 15 metres), AFL (weekly training and games) and Martial Arts (twice weekly plus the camp)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Cutting down on salt

I had a general doctor's checkup and probe around my girly bits on Thursday - always so much fun lol!

She's sending me for some general blood tests as I'm forty and have vitiligo (white patches on the skin - what Michael Jackson supposedly had).  It's has some possible links to autoimmune diseases so she wants to check things like my thyroid function, B12 levels etc.  I'm not too worried about it - apart from the fact I have to fast first!  I blame my mum for that one as she has it as well as her sister and niece.  I've had it since I was in my early 20's so it's nothing new..

I can blame my dad for the next one - I have borderline high blood pressure. It's been at the top end of normal (around 140/90 or higher) the last few times I've been to see her, so this time she's sent me home with a blood pressure machine to check it twice a day myself. 

So I've been reading up on high blood pressure, as I do.  I don't drink, don't smoke, now exercise regularly and am losing weight so the only thing it leaves is cutting down salt.  We don't eat a lot of take-away or pre-packaged meals, but more convenience food has been creeping into my freezer lately. I went on a pantry search though, reading the nutritional labels and have been stunned at the amount of salt in basic food ingredients.  The tin tomatoes I've been using, for example, were packed full of salt!  And who knew milk had salt in it?!

I'm going grocery shopping today - it'll take longer than usual as I'll be scrutinising labels of everything that goes in my trolley trying to find the lowest salt version...

Wish me luck!  And if you've btdt and have any tips for me - leave a comment..

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Spartans Martial Arts camp

Billy has spent much of this week doing martial arts.  He attended the Spartans Martial Arts camp - 2 hours training Mon - Fri this week.  Each day they concentrated on something different - ninjitsu, MMA (Mixed martial arts), board breaking, boxing skills & judo.  Oh, and not forgetting the fitness work - they totalled over 1000 push-ups and 1000 sit-ups in the 5 days.

He was the youngest there and became like a little brother to the older ones - they were great at encouraging him and partnering with him.  He ended up being awarded the Encouragement Award for the camp so he was quite chuffed!

He wasn't able to get through his wooden board (there's always next year!), but he got through the practice board (a plastic rebreakable board) to boost his confidence.

It's been great for Billy's confidence.  And as one of the adult students, I got to go along and help out so it was quite educational and fun for me too.

Now I'm due for a rest though :)

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Made it to the next goal weight!

Talk about slow (and maybe-not-so-steady) - it's taken me 7 weeks to lose the 2 kgs down to my next goal weight.  I've now broken the 55kg barrier - it's been 2 years since I saw this weight (a reminder that I'm only 5 ft!).  I have to admit to seeing it only briefly then - that was my goal weight and since I'd been doing it mainly by diet and hadn't gotten into an exercise routine, it all fell by the wayside not long after that.

So in those 7 weeks, I had a few weeks where I put a little bit on, and a few weeks where I took a little bit off.  I've really focused on the exercise this week and have dropped 1.5kg!  I seem to do that - plateau for a few weeks and then drop it all in one go when I focus. 

So since the beginning of March, I've lost 6.2 kg.  I've also lost at least 9cm from my waist since I started measuring in mid-April.

I'll drop the exercise back down a notch for a few weeks, keep up the sensible eating, and try to maintain that weight or maybe lose a little bit.

Next goal is 53kg - another 2 kg to lose.  

Thursday, July 07, 2011

500 Club

Following on from the success of our 50Kin30days during June, one of the RWA members has started the 500 Club.  No, we're not sitting down playing cards :)

We're committing to writing (at least) 500 words / day, 6 days / week.  We can jump in and out any week, but its just a way to keep everyone's newly formed writing habits going strong.

So far this week I've written approx 500 words on Tue (bit under) & Wed (bit over).  Mon I had all the excuses under the sun as to why I didn't do it.

I've also talked myself out of radically changing the story because its boring and crap and the worst story ever written...  It may be so, but I'm going to stick with it until the end, put it aside for a few months and then see just how bad it is :)

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

We have solar panels!

After a bit of a wait due to heavy demand, we finally have 12 bright, shiny solar panels installed.  Now, we just have a wait for another few weeks until Energy Australia switch the meter on (or whatever they have to do).  Very excited!

Our solar hot water gets installed next week, so we should be set.  Bring on sunny days :)

Sunday, July 03, 2011


Pete & I spent Saturday night down in Sydney - thanks to a Wotif package deal we got to stay at the gorgeous Sir Stamford hotel (complete with breakfast and $20 credit for dinner at the restaurant).

Saturday afternoon we headed off for the matinee of Faustus at the Sydney Opera House.  It was very well done, but I'm still undecided as to whether I actually liked it or not.

We had a yummy & relaxed dinner at the hotel restaurant and a sleep-in this morning before heading back. Nice :)

Art gallery

Over the weekend, Billy attended an Aboriginal Art exhibition at a local gallery with his cousins.