This is why library staff wash their hands so much.

The Guardian: Is reading on the loo bad for you?

Microbes don’t fare too well on absorbent surfaces, and might survive only minutes on newspaper. But plastic book covers and those shiny, smooth surfaces of Kindles, iPhones and iPads are more accommodating, and it’s likely bugs can live on those for hours.

Working in a library, handling all those recently returned books, you try not to think about this sort of thing too often.

Finally, Shaoul concluded that reading on the toilet is widespread, alleviates boredom, and is ultimately harmless. This rings true to Curtis. “I always have New Scientist by the toilet. I use it as distraction therapy. I don’t particularly want to think about crapping.”

Well, who does?

Thanks to Iain Broome for reminding me where all those books have been.

A frame for Kym

A large number of months ago my sister-in-law asked if I could make a frame for this.

Don’t ask me exactly what it is. I’m not quite sure, but it’s very cool. (EDIT: Vetti has enlightened me: “it’s a vintage toy meant to teach kids how to tell time – I gave it to them when the kids came along”). Of course I said I would be happy to make a frame, then proceeded to do nothing for far too long.

Eventually, I got moving on the project and chose this piece of timber from a table I salvaged from hard rubbish a few years ago. I had no idea what it would look like once cleaned up so I crossed my fingers and hit it with a handplane or two.

It was a nice light timber underneath. Not pine – it’s too hard for that, but I don’t know enough to give a positive identification. Here it is during glue up.

I made a fairly deep frame so it could stand upright if desired and chose to add little redgum plugs on top of the dowels used to reinforce the mitred joints.

The plugs turned out quite well once trimmed and sanded a bit.

A couple of coats of danish oil and some wax to top it off and the job’s done. All I have to do now is deliver it.

Fifteen. In which I attempt to quantify what cannot be measured.

I don’t know how to measure love. There’s no way to quantify how I feel about you.

There is no ruler to measure your beauty, no scales to weigh how my life has changed. An atomic clock can’t describe the times we’ve shared, some pencil marks on the wall will never show how we’ve grown together.

Our relationship can’t be defined by numbers. But there are a few that might help:

2 homelands.
8 homes.
5 universities.
1 great dane.
2 beautiful kids.
250 hours spent on aeroplanes (bit of a guess there).
17,752 kilometers between the places where we were born.

But most of all, 15 years married.

15 years seeing your face in the morning. 15 years hearing your voice at night. 15 years that have sometimes been tough. 15 years that have always been worth it. 15 years knowing we’ll always be together.

15 years I wouldn’t trade for any amount of any thing this world has to offer.

How much do I love you? This year, I love you 15.

Happy anniversary.

Tour de Phil

Last night I turned the TV to SBS, settled down on the couch and closed my eyes, ready to let the familiar voices of Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen wash over me with their description of the Tour. What I got was someone else talking. That’s right – someone else. Thankfully, before too long Phil and Paul were back and the world was back as it should.

I know I’m not alone in enjoying listening to Phil Liggett. There’s something about his commentary that just simply works. On a trip to Tasmania some years ago we happened to be in Hobart for a criterium stage of the Tour of Tasmania. For those who don’t know, a criterium consists of multiple laps around a small street circuit so you are able to stay in one spot and see most of the race. This was in the days when Cadel Evans was still a mountain biker making the transition to road racing. As a big Cadel fan I was pretty excited to see him race, but do you want to know the best part of the day?

Phil Liggett.

That’s right. The commentator was my highlight. Never mind that Cadel was there. Never mind that Phil Anderson, one of the all-time greats of Australian cycling was there managing Cadel’s team. For me, Phil Liggett stole the show. He knows his stuff, he communicates well. He just works.

He had a microphone, a loudspeaker and a hat.

There were two cyclists making a break from the front of the pack and for part of the race Phil was talking to them as much as to us. To encourage them on the road, he called for the crowd to put money in his hat. This money would be given to the two cyclists if they managed to lap the field. They didn’t manage to do it, and I don’t remember, or never knew what happened to the money in the end, but it was brilliant. It got me cheering for two guys whose names I can’t remember and probably could never pronounce and made the race come alive in a different way. Not because I put money in. Not because I was going to get anything out of it. Just because it was fun. And because it was Phil Liggett.

For the record, I wouldn’t even mind if Phil kept the money – he earned it.

I could go on, but it’s 10pm and the telecast is about to begin. But here’s a little something to help get you in the mood for The Tour:

If all the world was like eBay.

customer: I’d like to buy this HDMI cable thanks.

shop assistant: Sure, that will be $10 please.

customer: [hands over $10]

shop assistant: Thanks friend!! That was a fast and seamless transaction. You are a 100%, AAA+++ shopper! What a pleasant and uplifting experience :-) I will happily sell to you in the future and fully recommend you to other stores!!!!!

Any spot on earth

From William Steig’s Caldecott Award acceptance speech, 1970:

Art, including juvenile literature, has the power to make any spot on earth the living center of the universe, and unlike science, which often gives us the illusion of understanding things we really do not understand, it helps us to know life in a way that still keeps before us the mystery of things. It enhances the sense of wonder. And wonder is respect for life.

I have nothing to add.

Read the whole speech here [brought to my attention by gizo]

On Dr Seuss and iPhones

This morning I listed to episode 30 of The Daily Edition with Dan Benjamin, one of the 5by5 stable of podcasts.

Dan’s guest for this episode was Michel Kripalani, president of Oceanhouse Media who are the developers responsible for adapting Dr Seuss’s books for iPhone, iPad and Android devices. Among other things, he talked about the process of adapting the books for these devices while maintaining the whole point of the original books – to help kids learn to read. Worth a listen.

I have dutifully downloaded The cat in the hat but am yet to test it on my kids.

Perhaps the words I need to hear…

But if you want to be a writer, than be a writer, for god’s sake. It’s not that hard, and it doesn’t require that much effort on a day to day basis. Find the time or make the time. Sit down, shut up and put your words together. Work at it and keep working at it. And if you need inspiration, think of yourself on your deathbed saying “well, at least I watched a lot of TV.” If saying such a thing as your life ebbs away fills you with existential horror, well, then. I think you know what to do.

Get the rest of the kick up the pants over at Scalzi’s blog.