Monday, 30 November 2009

november reading list

“Fallen leaves lying on the grass in the November sun bring more happiness than the daffodils” Cyril Connolly (English critic and editor, 1903-1974)
This set i think’s on the way to the returns bin. They’re all overdue and now accumulating fines for poor poor pitiful me. Except for the ‘running’ book and the ‘back-breaking’ book and the fruit & vegies book and 'the wild American' book, i’m thinking i skimmed through the stuff before. maybe. not sure?
Must be the onset of old age.

Dawkins' latest book received positive critical reviews and also some negative comments.

A couple of cds here too but not much to choose from. There's 2 or 3 okay tunes by Fogerty, but I’d rather listen to the blues...

Altho that running book taught me one thing: “eat less move more”. Sounds like a good motto. If only i read it when i was in my 20s. Then i wouldn’t have this back problem to be worrying about. I might just go home and plant camote, or fruits and vegies.

That wild American Kristofferson has a lot to do with it. like him am still running from my devils... “move more eat less”. Okay. i hear there’s a mountain fun-run somewhere. Or is that over and done with.

Oh yeah been there done that. I told you i was young once.
“When chill November's surly blast make fields and forest bare.” Robert Burns (Scottish national Poet of Scotland, 1759-1796)
Growing a moustache can make one forget to pay bills and mortgages and debts and other necessary modern evils.
So it is that this next pile of books remains unread.

Stephen Hawking's history book remains a must read, and to reread every now and then.

A book by an Englishwoman Fern Elsdon-Baker attempts to balance the shrill commentary from the writings of Richard Dawkins, by offering a thorough impartial and enlightening perspective.

Women do have wit. And some have wit more wicked than others. As a playwright said: "hell hath no fury like a woman scorned". Plenty of evidence of that. In the little red book here. and no it's not Mao's.

Samuel Clemens continues to entertain to this day.

An autobiography by David Suzuki provides an insight on his influences and what shaped the career and life  of Canada’s foremost environmentalists.

The Italian intellectual and novelist Umberto Eco appreciates beauty and writes on it so beautifully, and i can only ohh and ahh and not um but to echo.

There are pearls of wisdom found in the centuries-old 'art of the samurai'. Hai.

Ford county by Grisham is a collection of short stories. To fill in the time - if you’ve got time to kill. He won’t mind that will he?

Billy Bragg is an English singer-songwriter who put his thoughts to paper. The result is a book that is an eye-opener for those of us who haven’t been to England, or even to those who have been there and live there but are somehow deaf and blind to other than mainstream news and entertainment.

Let’s see now the mo looks ugly marto bro.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

gasfields at the crossroads (gasfields pt. 2)

The Western Downs region is a hive of activity and growth and is among the highest local government performers in Queensland and Australia. Over the past five years the electorate has experienced an increase in population, reversing the trend of rural decline. Businesses have diversified into the energy sector although agriculture, forestry and fishing dominate the economy, representing 22.6% of the region's $1.3 billion GDP. The energy resources sector, which comprises coal, coal seam gas, coal seam gas water, ethanol and power station development, will significantly increase the gross regional product. this growing economy reflects low unemployment figures of 3.1%, well below Queensland and Australian averages.
So one day in Spring i headed out west where the rain don’t fall (sounds like a song – it is a song!)
got a job with a company piping for gas..
Into the sunset we rode – driving towards the setting sun in the late afternoon is a dangerous thing, so we drive carefully, as the goldfields -pardon me- gasfields beckon.

video: up and down the toowoomba range
(this video is like driving up on a fresh January day from Saitan to Baguio on the Zigzagging Kennon Road. the mist on the uphill drive is reminiscent of camp 7 all the way to the BGH in the olden days when there were still pine trees standing)

That’s Gowrie Mountain west of Toowoomba – gateway to the western downs.

Dairs gold in dem dar - er gas beyond dem hills.

Nestled in the heart of the Western Downs, the Chinchilla district is a small, but thriving community which has progressed from a rural based economy to the now dynamic region where coal and gas exploration and power station development projects go hand-in-hand with extensive feedlots, cotton and broad-acre farming.

A linear irrigator watering broad acres of farm fields, seemingly in vain.

The economy is still largely reliant on primary production including intensive livestock industries as agriculture, beef and pork production, wool growing, horticulture and timber resources.

After a stop-over for some supplies (drinks- softdrinks only. oh and milk) in Chinchilla, we continue on down the road south by southwest (sounds like a movie), towards Tara and the town built on the banks of the mighty Condamine.

Many of the attractions of the district may be observed just by driving along. These include an amazing variety of bird life and flora. A highlight are the White Gums, either as a lone magnificent tree or standing proudly in a group of three or four, on the dry river beds-

As in the banks of the once mighty Condamine river (here shown in its driest for some time).

or around the edges of strings of lagoons, which after good rain are transformed into wet paradise for birds and wildlife.

Adding to the diversity are large specimens of Prickly Pear.

Vegetation ranges from brilliant yellow flowers of the wattle tree to dry spinifex rolling lazily across the countryside. One can come across some of the rare and common flora and fauna.

Along with common trees such as the narrow leaf tea tree, smooth bark cabbage gum, spotted gum and bull oak, Woolly Oak, Budgeroo, Yellow jackets, Broad and Narrow leafed Ironbarks. you will also come across the rare Woollybark Eucalypt. Tall reeds and lush grass surround serene lagoons perfectly reflecting the overhanging majestic blue gums and scented leptospermum. 60 different Wattles found in the district including the rare Hando's Wattle, which is endemic to the area. Black Cypress and the better quality timber producer White Cypress is common throughout the forest areas.
A short journey down the other way will lead to historic landmarks such as the dingo barrier fence.
The Rabbit Fence can also be seen in various locations.

Where we’re headed though is the gasfields.
These gasfields may be on the crossroads, but not at the crossroads.
They’re in ‘The Crossroads’ a locality of the western downs regional council, named after a crossroads. This place is smack bang in the middle of nowhere and bounded by Chnichilla (north), Kogan (east), Tara (south) and Condamine (west). In the few weeks I’ve spent here, and I travel up to 100kms a day, I’ve only seen the two or three homesteads.

One can see many more road trains than houses. Here they're in a convoy - a conga line to Condamine he he.

These are the ‘shorter’ road trains – only 36m long.

Chinchilla is ideally situated in the middle of the Surat Basin - a coal-rich area that stretches from Toowoomba to beyond Roma - and for the past three years has seen major growth and development.
A number of energy companies are active in the areas surrounding Chinchilla in their quest for coal seam gas for use in gas-fired power stations, as gas suppliers for the domestic and export markets, or for gas-to-liquid projects.

These companies are all major players in the energy industry.

Some of the place names under exploration and development around the vicinity of The Crossroads have strange sounding names: Argyle-Kenya, Berwyndale, Tipton West, Daandine, Braemar, Talinga etc.

So where are we staying? The Condamine bell?

No silly that’s just for a drink, we’re booked in camp.

Too much gas talk Marty. let’s get back to work.
Okay that’s a job pre-start meeting.
Have we signed in yet? No cos i might get a random blood-alcohol test.

Following the pipeline crews can be a tricky business.
One time we tagged along behind cultural heritage officers. These are usually local aboriginals.
They showed some of the stone artefacts they were collecting.

Here’s one such collection under a scar tree.
(A scar maybe from the taking of the bark to make canoes and coolamons, marking out a boundary area, marking a sacred burial site or other traditional purpose.This is very significant in that it defines Aboriginal occupation of Australia for over 40,000 years. Scar trees are evidence of native title and helped demolish the concept of ‘terra nullius’).

And why are they collecting these artefacts?

Because these gasfields are identified Aboriginal cultural heritage areas and they are under threat by pipelines and the machines that come to dig them up – all in the name of development - to keep this fuel hungry world running.
Until our climate has changed enough to incinerate us all to kingdom come.
But if we keep denying it enough, maybe climate change is a myth.

Hey i just work here. What would i know about anything.
All right check it out then. Stand on that post Mr Postman.

Now tell me is the earth warming or not?
Dunno but the pipes are heating up.
They’re expanding.
Martin i expected better from you. What did you deliver? Duds?
No dude. Talking hot air again. I need to cool my head.
Let’s chill out in chinchilla.
This is a blurb:
So there you go folks, chill out in chinchilla.
If you've never seen anyone split open 40 watermelons in 60 seconds using nothing but, well... their own melon, you should probably come to the Chinchilla Melon Festival.
Known as the ‘Melon Capital’ of Australia, Chinchilla produces a quarter of Australia’s melons and celebrates the fact biennially in February.
The big news from the last festival was that John Allwood broke 40 melons with his head in one minute for the Guinness World Record (previous was 36).

Okay shall we go meet some locals.
Locals? Out here? Yep.
We’ve been to Chinchilla, Condamine and Kogan. Let’s check out Tara.
What’s her name's from there - Vivien.
Oh you’re really silly.
It’s Scarlet who’s from Tara.
Okay, she might think I’m Rhett with this moustache.
Not Rhett it’s Clark.
And that's Gable not Kent...

you've lost me Martin.
you truly are a hopelessly lost romantic.
you've come with the dust
and are gone with the wind...
(sounds like a song too).

Friday, 27 November 2009

hard times in work camp (gasfields pt. 1)

Life in a work camp is all right at the best of times.
But often the prolonged absence from loved ones (if one has them) or just the departure from the mundane and the daily routine that one has come to get used to, can be very taxing.

Here’s some snapshots of living in camp.
Daily before the rooster crows, one is roused from his slumber by an alarm of sorts whether from a clock, radio, phone or even body clock.
After a quick ablution, it is then time to head to the mess for some breakfast.

On the way there you could pause to just gaze and admire the sunrise.

There’s not much by way of food in camp.
Breakfast usually consists a few spare choices.

Hot foods are bacon and all sorts of eggs, hash browns, sausages, baked beans, spaghetti, pancakes, and sometimes rehashed left-over dinner, etc.

Cold foods are a choice of about 8-10 cereals,
or toast from abt 6 choices of breads.

Beverages are either coffee or teas.
For cold drinks, there’s a choice between fresh fruit juice or cordial softdrink.
I don’t have a photo of the fridges but these are full of milks of all types as well as yoghurts and butters and margarines and...

I didn’t even have a look at what’s in them fridges – maybe they’re hiding the daing and tuyo there. That’s why am not happy – there’s no pandesal even.

After breakfast or before, one can pack lunch from an assortment of cold foods, salads, frozen pies, sandwiches etc.

Cold foods choices are salami, chicken, ham, beef cuts etc.

There’s also garnishes as olives, sundried tomato, tuna, pickles etc.
Salads normally include fresh green garden salad, cucumber, beetroot, carrots, cheeses, cut boiled eggs and bacon pieces, a pasta dish or two etc.

Sadly not a salted egg or balut in sight.

Frozen foods include factory processed pies, sausage rolls etc. There’s also various condiments and spreads for sandwiches or smoko. I looked but there’s no ice buko or halo-halo.

So with the esky filled with 3 or 4 or 5 lunchboxes (i don’t know about them but there’s something missing here), and 3 or 4 or more pieces of fruit, one is then ready for a big day at work.

I know. They don’t have sardinas, or adobo or lechon.
I might go on strike – maybe a hunger strike.

Sweets are either fresh-baked cakes with icing, muffins, or other delights such as gelatine or jelly. Freshly sliced fruit such as rockmelon, honeydew, pineapple, kiwi fruit, and grapes.
My favourite is the locally grown watermelon from the nearest town Chinchilla, only a half-hour’s drive away.

Fresh whole fruit are also in store by the boxful. 

Well-known other Queensland stone fruit such as apples and pears are aplenty as are oranges mandarins and bananas.
That's a typical packed lunch for me above - very spartan.

I’ll post some notes on work later but for now let’s assume the lads and ladettes had a big 12 or more hours of toil out in their respective worksites.
So around sunset to nightfall, the crews start filing in from the field.

Some will go straight for a coldie, others for a shower, the odd ironman to do laundry, some might even drive out to town, still a few will attend to a bit of paperwork, while others go to the gym, rec room (ping-pong or pool), or tv (paytv sports etc) or computer room (internet surfing). 

But around dinner time, there will be a constant to-ing and fro-ing to-and-from the mess hall.

Here everyone knows everyone er on a nodding acquaintance level. There would be at least 40 people in the mess hall at peak dinner time, but sometimes it can be to full capacity of about 60 or more people.

Dinner is usually the big meal for most in camp. And to break the monotony of food, every night has a different main menu.

But every night there’s choices of at least three meat dishes and steaks as standard, spaghetti pasta rice potato or breadrolls are the staples relegated to the side, as well as soup and vegetables.
Friday nights always has fish and seafood as part of the main menu.

Saturday night is barbeque night. Still buffet style. choices of abt 6 mains. Eat all you can.
Sometimes drinks are served. Drink all you can.

Desserts are normally cakes puddings custard sauces and toppings etc.

After dinner – i think everyone feels like they’ve had the lion’s share – people would settle down to some well-deserved drinks or coffee or tea, or milk for growing boys like me he he.

I’m despondent actually, where’s the pinikpikan, or dineng-deng with bago-ong or alamang?

I’m seriously thinking about a strike action – maybe a stop-work.

There’s also a choice of about six flavours of ice cream and the same toppings as chocolate or other.

Cones are provided but i like mine in bulk – tubs he he.

So with a heavy heart for having to leave all that food behind, and with a heavy tummy, i start back to my unit.
Still dreaming of the avocado-flavored sorbetes and/or pinipig.

Here’s some photos of camp:

There’s at least a hundred self-contained units in camp.

Each has a bed and desk,

fridge and tv set,
toilet and shower,
and it’s fully air-conditioned.

All that’s missing now is a special someone, but then night visits are not allowed.

Pity about that. what about inmates' rights?
But maybe the groaning and moaning might disturb the peace and quiet and the local amenity.

Martin forgets that he’s here to work and not otherwise.
Must be something in the water -
or the milk eh...