The Sydney Project: Wild Ground

Last year was my sonÂ’s last year before he began full time schooling in 2015. I have spent the last year reviewing child-focussed activities in Sydney as “The Sydney Project”. Because V has begun school, the Sydney Project is concluding here with an activity he went to with Andrew in January. You can view previous entries throughout 2014 and early 2015.
Wild Ground

In mid-January, Andrew took V to a Wild Ground experience morning. Wild Ground is a new Blue Mountains business that conducts “creative nature-play” activities, and V had a morning adventure courtesy of us supporting their crowdfunding campaign to launch the business (see disclosure at the end). The event was at Minnehaha Falls Reserve; they began in the park with some singing and music before walking down the trail to a creek. Wild Ground’s Rick Webb laid out some “treasure” (coloured sticks) on the trail to encourage the kids to look around; they collected both the coloured treasure and anything else of interest.

Wild Ground art

The group walked further down the trail to a small watering-hole and then back up the creek itself; Andrew was taken with the lesson here about micro-geography (I guess you’d say), I’m not sure if that was deliberate. After returning to the top the kids snacked on fruit and had a chance to try slacklining and did some crafts with natural paints. Andrew says that V initially mistook the slackline for a finish line and thus had to enact a spontaneous running race, but that he was also the child who was most into the slacklining proper, which otherwise got a bit of a mixed reception from the children.

V fell asleep in the car on the way home, Andrew summarises as “Outdoor activity that wears kids out. Tick!” He didn’t think that V was enchanted with or overwhelmed by the experience, but that it was a fun day outside for them both.

Cost: an equivalent experience doesn’t seem to be available now that the crowdfunding is over. Wild Ground’s Creative Bush Adventures for older children are $60, and term-long Bush School programs start at $115.

Recommended: a bit hard to say, since I don’t think this precise program is an ongoing part of their activities. But it suggests their programs would generally be a happy and interesting day for children.

More information: Wild Ground website.

Disclosure: Andrew and I have known Danielle Carey, one of the Wild Ground founders, since university. I supported the Wild Ground crowdfunding at the Little Adventurer level, and V’s Wild Ground experience was part of the Little Adventurer reward. No review was requested in return for the experience.

Gyms and personal training

So I have a dilemma with exercise that I suspect a lot of people share: I’d ultimately like to have access to the facilities that many gyms offer, both the weights and the exercise classes, but the whole surrounding consumer setup is completely offputting to me.

First of course is the price structure, where they take money whether or not I use the gym. Smooth, gyms, smooth. (Yes, I am aware that they make more money — I assume far more, given how bad it is for customer perceptions of their industry — that way. But I am not interested in gyms’ profitability, in capitalism I highly value my right to be an utterly selfish consumer in that respect.) So, yeah. Is my (realistically) once-a-week-with-occasional-skips use of a gym worth $30 a week to me? No.

Assuming I got past that, here’s what needs to happen, for example, for me to join Ian Thorpe Aquatic Centre’s gym, which is most likely because I’d like access to their pool rather than paying for a gym and a pool. First, I need to go there with my husband, because it would be a joint membership. OK, there go about ninety-five percent of my trips there. Secondly, my husband must either not be in a hurry to get back to work, or we must not have our bored toddler fussing at us. So, that’s the remaining five percent of trips. Then, once I did sign up, there’s compulsory personal training sessions focusing on my fitness goals. I can’t think of anything I find less inspiring, than to discuss my fitness goal “I enjoy moving my body sometimes” with people who are trained to equate fitness goals with either “I want to achieve top percentile cardiovascular or strength performance” or “I want to lose a fair chunk of weight”. I rather suspect this mismatch is deliberate too, because there’s no better customer than one who has been persuaded that they really need to keep this gym membership… for the far-away day that the sense of being too inferior a body to use the gym goes away.

Some fun for 2011

Things I plan to do!

  • visit the Canberra area at some point, as we know several people there and want to spend more time with all of them. I’m currently thinking sometime in March.
  • have someone(s) over for dinner several times, maybe every other month or so.
  • join a gym. I realise this doesn’t fall under the category of “fun” in many of these lists, but YOGA CLASSES and maybe a chance to try pilates and maybe Zumba and free weights. I miss the pool already dammit.
  • occasional shore diving, probably with a local-ish club (Frog Dive?).
  • at long last, five years after we started on swimming fitness, I’d like to do PADI Rescue Diver, ideally combined with a Nitrox course. That, barring perhaps PADI Deep, will likely be the last SCUBA course I do in the foreseeable future. As a prerequisite, this requires renewing our First Aid certification, which is a February todo.
  • some kind of organised parent-kid thing with Vincent: book group or something like that.

Things I’d love to do, but realistically… we’ll see. I definitely won’t do all these things.

  • Travel to the US/Canada. I’d like to visit Liga, spend some time in the mountains, go to one or two great conferences… This will probably happen sometime in or before 2013, but I don’t know that it will be 2011.
  • Go to the snow again. And maybe level up in snowboarding again. Or work out if I should be on skis instead.
  • Baby swimming lessons for Vincent.

Reverb 10: Community, Beautifully Different, Party

Community. Where have you discovered community, online or otherwise, in 2010? What community would you like to join, create or more deeply connect with in 2011?

The Geek Feminism community has been my big community in 2010 (and late 2009). It leaks nicely into the personal, expanding my undead army of feminists, and of friends.

In 2011, I really hope to make more contact with other parents of young children. I’m picky about this, I probably basically want to hang out with feminist parents, but I live in an uncongenial location physically.

Beautifully Different. Think about what makes you different and what you do that lights people up. Reflect on all the things that make you different – you’ll find they’re what make you beautiful.

Saving this kind of question for therapy?

Actually, being snarky is all too common. I find this question really hard: I am much more able to identify things that I share with other people than ways I differ from them. Here’s some things that are different about me, I suppose beautiful is in the eye of the beholder:

  • I’m extremely tall for a woman.
  • Despite being born and raised in Australia (by parents who were likewise, but it doesn’t matter much for accent) I do not sound Australian to people who live here, and constantly have awkward conversations about where I’m from.
  • I am quite fearful of heights, but am and always have been perfectly happy in deep water. (Except, just once, watching divers descend in extremely clear water, as it looked like they were falling.) I do not find spiders, snakes or sharks especially scary either.
  • I need (or vastly prefer) a couple of hours of screen or book time a day for relaxation purposes.

I honestly cannot answer a question about what I do that lights people up.

Party. What social gathering rocked your socks off in 2010? Describe the people, music, food, drink, clothes, shenanigans.

I conceived and threw what I called “Party of Three”, which was in May celebrating Andrew’s third decade, Vincent’s third month, our third year of marriage, and becoming a family of three. Excellent conceit: I can’t think that I can repeat the pattern for anyone’s fortieth. We went to Shark Island as for Andrew’s twenty-first and had a slow picnic in the heat of an autumn day. It was beautiful.

I don’t know where I will be living this time next year, possibly not in Sydney at all. So it’s good to take advantage of the harbour while we’re here.

Self-guided diving

I went scuba diving yesterday. I normally dive in and around Sydney, which is coolish temperate water (20℃ yesterday, ranges are 16–23℃ over the year) and provision of dive guides for everyone on the boat is fairly standard at least with the shops I dive with. It’s quite common to meet people with 20 to 30 dives experience who have never dived only with a buddy.

Andrew and I were thrown in the deep end with Queensland diving. We learned to dive in Thailand, which many people don’t recommend (because the diving is comparatively easy) but I do recommend (because… the diving is comparatively easy, so you don’t get scared off as much). We then did a single dive in Sydney and then Advanced Open Water and then a liveaboard off Cairns, on which every diver was expected to self-guide.

And ever since then I’ve preferred it. Reasons:

  1. Yesterday, I dived in a group. I got kicked in the face with fins twice, and kneed in the head once. I also think I kneed someone else in the head or back. Divers have a restricted field of vision and are somewhat awkward about turning. Tangles are hard to avoid.
  2. Yesterday, our group was eight people. We were queuing to see anything interesting. If that interesting thing was in motion, the last six people didn’t get to see it.
  3. Queues go double if half the divers have cameras with them. (Some photogs believe they should go last, since they will look for so long. Some believe they should get first look, so as not to have other divers in the shot.)
  4. I try not to get too uptight about purist diver sentiments, in which you must do the hardest reasonably accessible dives and diving style in order to be considered safe or respectable and so on, but I have enjoyed forcing my underwater (landmark based) navigation to improve by not following a site expert around.
  5. Some dive guides (not yesterday’s) are really bad at their job. They won’t turn back when someone’s air is low-ish, they get lost themselves. (Divemasters are often backpackers, not necessarily local experts.) Sometimes their air consumption is worse than mine. There’s nothing less fun than chasing down Speedy the Dive Guide to say you’ve reached the agreed air mark, and to use another 10% of your original air in the chase.
  6. It’s rare that they communicate the details of the dive plan. “We’ll look at the sharks,” is one thing. I dive tables, not computers, and I need to know that there will be a loop back past the boat in time for my timed dive ending (I usually run out of time before air, on air tables). And I hate the practice many dive guides have of reviewing everyone’s air about three quarters of the way into the dive and signalling to people to re-buddy with air matches. My buddy is my spare air, I want to have talked with them before the dive at the very least, and to have the same buddy throughout the dive, not to be paired with Air Matched Random Diver.

Sometimes a guide is unavoidable, for example, in the Similan Islands there are so many boats around, each launching multiple dinghies with outboard motors. And groups aren’t such a nuisance in the tropics, as the vastly improved visibility means that you aren’t all on top of each other. But generally speaking I’m happy diving in pairs.

Ask Auntie Hoyden: get your dog outlines here, and other search engine queries

This article originally appeared on Hoyden About Town.

an on-set photo of Katharine Hepburn, with overlaid text reading "Ask A Hoyden?"auntie hoyden

Why, I enjoyed those posts (1, 2, 3) in which Lauredhel tried to answer search queries as questions too! So much so that I show up in this site’s logs looking for them. So today, I too become Auntie Hoyden.

Frankly, it appears to me that most people stop here on their way to I Can Haz Cheezburger (funny cat pictures, captioned cat pictures, supernatural macros funny, funny pics), but they also appear looking for soylent green simpsons, any medicine for truth speak and, in considerable numbers, anal sex diagram. (Which is a bit odd, Google finds plenty of considerably more helpful sites for me on that term.)

But let’s see what I can do for you all today, although my specialities are more in the computer line than the sexual health and breastfeeding line that is traditional for this.

pluralising names

Lauredhel observed in 2008 that there’s a construction in Australian English (among others) that allows you to use things like “the Marys of the world” to mean “people like one particular Mary” rather than necessary literally multiple people named Mary.

But if you’re simply interested in how to add a suffix to a proper noun in order to indicate multiple things with that name, here’s a style guide’s answer.

dog outline png

I like openclipart.org for this sort of thing: it’s public domain clipart, take it, use it and modify it without credit. (Not that I don’t also love various Creative Commons licences that do require credit, but dropping that requirement makes using many pieces a lot easier. I’ve seen people who use CC images from Flickr need to put a credits roll at the end of slide presentations.)

Plus! openclipart.org provides SVG as well as PNG. SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) is a free image format which allows pictures to be scaled up in size without loss of quality, as well as down in size. This is accomplished by describing an image in terms of lines or curves (hence, vectors) rather than in terms of individual coloured dots. It’s not very useful for photos, but it’s great for clipart (and fonts, which are generally described in vectors and thus can be scaled up).

openclipart.org has hundreds of drawings of dogs. I’m not sure if this person was looking for a silhouette of a dog, which I couldn’t find on a very brief look, or simply a line drawing of a dog, of which there are many. Here’s a cute one.

snuggle otter

Don’t. We love ’em but that doesn’t make them domesticated pets.

mother sprays milk

Does she ever. I breastfeed a ten month old baby. When he was little I had a supply suitable for twins, or perhaps sextuplets, and milk was everywhere. Then things balanced out and we had a nice interlude of not spraying. Then he got a bit more distractible, which resulted on the weekend in him getting a letdown, pulling off and slipping so that he headbutted me in the breast and milk shot out for the best part of a metre.

If anyone else wants to grace the Internet with a milk spray story, feel free.

australia’s prime minister 2010 smiling

On the 25th June 2010, one day after becoming leader of the government and being sworn in as Prime Minister, Julia Gillard smiled in the presence of the US ambassor to Australia, Jeff Bleich. This is important, because it was photographed by embassy staff, and as a work of the US Federal Government, it is thus in the public domain and you can get it from Wikimedia Commons.

anti filter

That’s us!

Can you help out with these?
squirrel give thanks
the worst shoe eveeeer
placenta accreta deathrate
crivens!