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DAY 280: Geocaching my way to victory

8 Jun

I’M late to the party, but I’ll explain geocaching – or ‘hi-tech hide and seek’ – to the absent guests.

The cryptic crossword of outdoor activities, it requires participants to use a GPS to locate a waterproof container (hidden by a previous participant) within a short radius of supplied coordinates. There are over 1.3 million active geocaches listed on websites, spanning over 100 countries.

Sometimes you might have to work the final coordinates out from a series of clues: by taking last letters of a series of road names and then using the numbers those letters fall into the alphabet at, for example. Once you find your haul, you add the date and your details into the logbook hidden within, and add a little something of your own to the package.

My interest wanes almost immediately as my young nephew wields the GPS and takes us at a fair trot towards the harbour… until we’re about five feet away and I spot the life ring. I leg it over while the little fella’s gazing about at stones and bushes, and shove my hand into the hole at the front.

I’ve found a dirty tissue decoy, but when I move around and shove my hand into the back, I pull out an old vitamin bottle. Triumph! Sucked in, kid.

Inside is miscellaneous rubbish and a photo off some kids. The first geocache, 10 years ago, was hidden in the wilds of Oregon and contained software, videos, books, food, money and a slingshot – so things have obviously taken a bit of a slide since then.

I can’t really talk though, as all I have to offer is a Malaysian coin. If I’d planned properly I would have brought along Chinese crackers, a gobstopper and one of those fortune telling fish, to really show the next person how it’s done.

Keeper? Feels a bit like you’re cheating, using a GPS. If you have your orienteering badge, you might want to try a more organic game.

DAY 279: NOT exploding with rage at my disconnected upload

7 Jun

IT’S either a sign of the times, or just because it can’t fight back, but my most apoplectic explosions of rage are reserved for technological equipment. I’ve taught countless printers a lesson they’ll never forget, while my violent rebuttal at the TV playing up is likely to surprise us both.

I decide to set up an impromptu experiment, to see if it is actually possible to avoid an episode if I really put my mind to it. I want to upload a very large file, and I want to do it right now – on this country train – and I am not allowed to curse, tut, slap my forehead or even bunch my fist if it fails.

Common sense dictates this is a stupid idea – I’ve tried it many mornings before and only achieved a dozen disconnects and accompanying oaths. It’s bloody asking for trouble. What’s more, a woman has sat next to me and is clearing her throat softly every few minutes, despite there being free seats elsewhere; I know full well that if I were to mete out a savage little “FUCK” upon disconnection, I would be able to glean some enjoyment from her discomfort, which makes this experiment all the more challenging.

Having established the controlled variables, I hit ‘send’ and keenly watch the progress report at the bottom of the web page. We’re passing through North Melbourne and out into the internet wasteland that is Sunshine, always a trouble spot for my disposition. Meanwhile, I’m egging myself on by watching the connectivity box; watching the green squares flicker in a desultory fashion around point zero. I can feel my blood pressure rising.

I dare myself further by thinking of the money; how much of my data allowance this is using up with every passing minute.

You can’t do it, can you?” I taunt silently, as I struggle not to shake my head slowly and condescendingly at the screen.

After 25 minutes, 90 per cent of the file has been uploaded. I’ve got my hand over my mouth, Hillary Clinton-style. We stay on 90 per cent for a further 14 tantalising minutes… and then finally, finally, that punchable little pop-up reports: “You were disconnected by the PPP server”.

Woohoo! I feel a strange kind of elation; something like triumph. The computer may have totally failed in its simple task, but I have succeeded in mine.

Keeper? I can do this.

DAY 266: Being a barber

24 May

I’VE always loved the idea of starting again – whether it’s doing a runner to another country, or bringing down the cleaver on gangrenous limbs of your life – and clipping off hair seems to be the physical embodiment of that.

I haven’t seen Ajay since school – 20 years – and he’s gone from being the most frequently caned/suspended/expelled kid I know, to a dapper, thoughtful gent with three barber shops to his name and a boxer’s physique.

He meets me at the station bearing a latte, responding to caffeine pointers that he has picked up from the blog. In fact, it soon turns out he has the upper hand, in that he’s completely across everything I’ve done and thought for the past 265 days. That never fails to puzzle me at first.

After some wry chuckling about how people should never be judged on what they were like at school (fyi, I was a stuck-up cow with a full arsenal of filthy looks, several big guns of which were aimed in Ajay’s direction), he hands over the tools and takes a chair.

I’m answerable for some atrocious haircuts, from clipping my own, gung-ho style, a bit like this…


…to maiming other people’s with my signature knife-and-fork look.

Today, though, Ajay’s talking me through it.

With the scissors and comb both in right hand, I comb up chunks through the fingers of my left hand, then cut across the top in a straightish line. Once the crown of the head’s all done, I take to the rest with the clippers. They’re set to a No.4, but as Ajay’s brother points out, at times I’m achieving a No.2. At school Ajay always used to sport tramlined eyebrows and hair like this, though…

…so I’m not too concerned.

There’s a bit of an unsightly ‘stepping’ effect going on, so I’m told how to hold the clippers over the comb to grade the hair lengths. Then it’s down to the mini clippers, to neaten around the ears and neck.

Easy!

Keeper? After Ajay’s brother steps in and whisks everything down to a No.2 it’s clear there’s no harm done, so I might keep having a go.

DAY 254: Stalking people

12 May

See?

WHEN I say ‘stalking’, I mean 90 per cent is a social experiment that can only further one’s development, and 10 per cent is personal enjoyment. Roughly.

In my continuing attempt to relate to others, I have decided to single out some strangers and follow them. This will sharpen my observational skills and encourage an interest in other people.

It turns out I only have time to kick off with one person today, but what a corker.  The subject pops out of Flinders Street Station, dressed ordinarily enough in a grey tracksuit, but walking like a lunatic: fists clenched and swinging, chin up, holding his arse a touch gingerly. He’s moving at a cracking pace and definitely up to something.

It takes all my energy to keep up pace; he’s got a blatant disregard for road safety and at one point I almost lose him until he stops at the lights, shifting from one foot to the other. My mission is to follow him to his destination, and he finally climaxes at an undisclosed address on Queen Street, which a quick Google later reveals to be offices for lease; just the sort of place where a big drug deal would go down on any number of gritty Australian crime dramas I’ve seen.

Keeper? Yes. Extremely exciting.

DAY 246: Experiencing great bonhomie at a glee club

4 May

It wasn't like this.

I HAVEN’T got the loveliest of timbres, truth be told, so when Esther – who provided the cynical backing track to our Heal Your Soul With Song experience – suggests we toddle off to a glee club, I’m apprehensive.

I’m picturing women in brightly coloured stockings and twee winter coats; Esther predicts gay men singing numbers from Starlight Express. Either way, when someone uses the words ‘hip’ or ‘funky’ in their online bumf, you know you’re going to have to check your pride at the door.

This glee get-together is held at South Melbourne’s charming Butterfly Club; a Victorian house with its parlour converted into a kitsch-cluttered lounge and the kitchen into a bar. It’s got a fairly clandestine entrance, which adds to the feeling that we’re slinking into somewhere shameful.

We cram into the front room with around 30 men and women, all clutching red wines, and not one of them looking particularly punchable. So far, so good.

Or this.

Glee hostess Vicky Jacobs has worked extensively coaching singers for musicals, and she has a warm, natural way about her. “I want her to run my life,” whispers Esther, brainwashed already.

Vicky runs us through some vocal exercises, each a tone higher than the last, so that we can discover our own comfortable pitch. I have a choking fit halfway through, which signifies I’ve passed mine already. I’m nervous that I’m going to vomit, because I used to trigger my gag reflex regularly when trying to sing along to screamy girl-bands in my teens. You know the ones – all jailbait dresses and photo shoots utilising raw meat.

Anyway, none of that here. We warm up with a run-through a ditty about some sailor whose flesh rots off his bones, sung in rounds. From there on, we sight-read our way through Solla Sollew, Chapel of Love, Falling Slowly and Over at the Frankenstein Place, singing in harmonies. En masse, it works, although I’m not ready for any solo spots. The songs sound so beautiful and forlorn that Esther and I grip our hearts and get goosebumps in rivulets… although I download the tracks later at home and it all suddenly feels a bit Sarah Brightman.

In the here and now, though, we’re filled with good cheer and wide-eyed about the whole experience. There’s a sense of stillness and robustness all at once. I may wind up rasping like Patty and Selma Bouvier for a few days, but I know I can get this feeling back.

Keeper? Yes.

DAY 245: Learning to drum unmolested

3 May

I’VE always thought I’d be pretty good at drumming; only such is my attraction to drummers that every time I tried to learn as a youngster I ended up nobbing my drum teacher and had to pack it in.

An arcade seems like the safest environment in which to learn, then, as presumably the Wadriko Rocket Dive has more of a sense of professionalism than those fop-haired shysters.

Urban legend has it these arcades are where ne’er-do-wells do their class A swappsies, but I’m too concerned with figuring out this giant bongo machine, the instructions of which are all in Japanese. Seems like a kiddy (“kodomotachi”) version of Guitar Hero, with dancing beagles fannying around distractingly at the bottom.

I'm demonstrating the French grip.

In the next arcade I find a full pad kit and some eardrum-botheringly loud Japanese rock songs to thrash away to. It’s fast, but not as fast as the kid next to me, who’s shredding away on a guitar with ‘PERFECT’ flashing up for every flurried note. If he could put that skill to some kind of actual use, he’ll go far.

Keeper? Marginally more productive than class A swappsies, so long as you’re not supposed to be at home doing your homework.

DAY 244: Gassing the old girl

2 May

I’D thought ‘gas’ was American for ‘petrol’ – giggle – but no. I’ve been joyfully reunited with my ute, now fixed, and I’m filling it up with a bit of gas because it’s dual fuel and it needs a bit in the tank at all times.

I pump the gas into the connection and it hisses right back out again, forming a frozen pool by my shoe. After a few minutes of this I fill the other tank with petrol and get back in – once I’ve figured out how to get the passenger door open again.

Truth be told, I’m too nervous to drive the thing myself right now. As a first car for the nervously inclined it’s starting to look like a dubious choice, and my parallel parking lessons didn’t extend to skips on wheels. So I get Old Dog to peel off down the freeway, with the old girl making a curious tha-thunk noise whenever there’s a burst of acceleration. Atmosphere: tense.

Keeper? Avoiding gas wherever possible. This vehicle is starting to look like a year-long challenge in itself, grumble.