Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The End of the Pickled Eel Blog - Almost

I have been working on transferring this blog to (this blogsite here) something that will give me a bit more flexibility in how I present my material. It is a work in progress (you will see I am still having some fun with the formatting) but it is finally at a point where I think a reader can survive navigating their way around the site.

I hope you like it. Let me know your thoughts if you have time to leave a comment.

The new blog is at

If you are an email subscriber please resubscribe on the new page - I am using a different email service to the one I use here. Assuming of course you continue to wish to have my posts drop into your inbox. THANKYOU.

Feel free to forward this on to anyone who you think might enjoy the occasional digression in their web reading.

The Last Post (if you have a bugle sound it now).

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Flight Loads in the US - Getting Some

If I was was to reflect on my travel this last 12months I would ruminate over some of the unexpected destinations I found myself heading towards, obscure places visited and always the remarkable people I have met. Some old friends. And some new ones. The process of getting there has been interesting as well. The nightmare which is now Heathrow Airport stands out. And so too packed aircraft. I can understand there being no spare seats out of Baghdad - that kind of makes sense. In fact packed aircraft are now the norm although the thrill of flying (I am still a ten year old boy in that regard) tends to outweigh the small seats, lack of legroom and awful food. (Can anyone beat freeze dried carrots in a small plastic packet (flight from LA to Dallas)?) With cheaper airfares, the demands of business, and 2001 receding into the background (though the chart here barely registers a minor blip in 2001), more and more people are taking to the skies. In fact the expectation is that commercial airline passengers will double in the next ten years, explaining the massive buildup of global airlines which are creating their hubs in the Middle East. And then there is China's incredible airline expansion which has yet to really impact us. But it is not all bad. Being packed into a seat on a small MD80 making a connection from Philadelphia to Dallas earlier this year I got chatting to about six or seven American travellers in the rear of the aircraft. The cramped confines made for an intimate setting of sorts and we spent the couple of hours in the air talking about family and business but mainly literature. As we descended into the behemoth which is Dallas Forth Worth airport the woman next to me declared (imagine a slow southern drawl), for all the rear cabin to hear, "boy, with an accent like that you could get some." There was much mirth. Sometimes being an Australian abroad can be good for the ego - even if you are getting mileage out of something you have no say over. It was of course a standout moment in 2007.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Sydney Storm

Some dogs smell them coming and hide under the hedge. Others smell them coming and spin on their chains in insane, barely comprehensible excitement. I relate to the latter. Standing in the middle of a cracking storm is an almost spiritual experience. In fact I suspect it is - completely. Sprinkled, hosed down, baptised with a thorough deluge that hammers every sense. It does help if it is a tropical storm and the rain is warm. But being caught in a storm of any sort sharpens the senses, gets "up your fur" and makes you feel very much alive. Sadly for this one I had to settle for the office window today - though 45 minutes earlier I had been out under a clear and sunny sky eating lunch. This photo (courtesy of Fergus Woolveridge at the Sydney Morning Herald) catches the storm that hit our office this afternoon - and it is hitting right where our office is. A remarkable burst of sudden rain from a ruptured black tank above us. No warning, no spitting, leaking drips. Just a boom and a splash, and you're on your way home for a change of clothes if you didn't see it coming.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Leunig Lessons For Life

It is that time of the year again when those of us who have resorted to online newspapers pick up a print copy - the Leunig calendar is out. Was out, on Saturday. His ability to distil the essence of an idea in a few simple lines, and convey a poignant message at the same time is to be envied, admired and even emulated. If we can. Here he is again (click on the label to see the post on him from last year).

Evel Knievel

Here is a chap who attempted to kill himself year on year and yet he managed to survive until his 69th year. Passed away from an illness or illnesses that may well have come about from bashing himself up with his motorcycles. And other vehicles. Here is a name that we were all familiar with in the 1970s but a face that had vanished since. Like that of Leif Garrett. Where on earth has he gone? Or the Bay City Rollers?! Boy was I seriously peeved with those jocks - it was pretty hard to compete with life size posters of music heart throbs that distracted our own heart throbs, causing them to swoon over them rather than the blokes in the third row with long shorts and a dodgy haircut. But Knievel had a different impact on us altogether, perhaps best measured by the fact that his name entered our lexicon as teenage boys and has remained there ever since. To to an "Evel Knievel" was to do something so daring and outlandish that it was worthy of peer respect - not always an easy thing to achieve. A broken bone or a suitably impressive gash always helped. In a community where we had reasonably ready access to vehicles, bikes or motorbikes (one of my fellows had even built a motorbike with a wooden frame!) there were all sorts of ridiculous and dangerous "Knievel" challenges posed and attempted. If our parents had any idea what we were attempting on mate's motorcycles they would have grounded us immediately for our own safety. But even without vehicles a leap into a river from a high rock was a "Knievel" leap. I am sure he would not be surprised but Evel had a big impact on us as impressionable country boys back in the early seventies. Its a sad day when a part of your formative fabric, even if it is now a faint, even indiscernible thread, passes away.