Saturday, 3 October 2015


Edible fungi...

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Tow Endorsement: 15 Jan. 2012

Weekend of 14-15 January, I took a Tow Endorsement course in preparation for the SIV course later in the month. This is the final flight.

Thanks for Roger Stanford (Winch-operator & organiser), and Chris Rogers (Instructor)

Getting ready

Lift the wing

Take up Slack

Go! Go! Go!

One step and ... airborne

A little left break to control yaw

Past the "danger zone"

Looks easy now

another 30 metres or so more height before release

About to release

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Thursday, 10 November 2011

You've got to love Student Tracking

Extracted from an email exchange with a student today:

Hello X,

I was wondering why it has taken you until Week#13 to notice that there wasn't a grade recorded for you for an assignment submitted in Week#4, but your records have answered it for me. There isn't a grade for the assignment because you didn't do the assignment.

BlackBoard records show that you accessed the site only once in the first four weeks (16 August) to download the unit outline. Up to the date of the Progress Report you hadn't accessed iLecture, or the Progress Report guidelines, or any other aspect of the unit.

In the four teaching weeks up to 7 Oct, you were a little more active, spending less than five seconds on the Group Project pages, and accessing the tutorial for Week#6.

In the final four weeks of classes, you accessed the Week#10 tutorial, and spent about two hours on Qualtrics. That may be more than some in the class, but I doubt it.

To summarise, in more than three months, you have done two tutorials, and one practice quiz, accessed no lectures, and no assessment guides, and you're asking me to recheck your grades?

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Paragliding Bright, Northern Victoria

Northern Beaches goes to Bright from Hume Winzar on Vimeo.

Kirstin organised a group to travel to the legendary Mystic Hill, Bright in Northern Victoria over the Labour Day Weekend, October 2009. Nine enthusiastic novices, with experience ranging from 60+ hours to about 10 minutes, took part.
Rain and fickle wind ruined much of the five days, but we had a great time, expanded our skills and knowledge, and saw memorable flights, especially from Nico, Marc, James, and Kirstin.
Here is a sample.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Weekend in Adelaide

Sometimes the deities smile and the reasons we become academics converge and we have a great time as both scholars and lovers of life. This last weekend has been pretty good. I presented a research paper on Friday, curtesy of the Business School at University of Adelaide. The topic was my ongoing study on application of Complexity Theory to undrestanding consumer/market behaviour. There were many more people in attendance than I had anticipated. People went away saying that it was worthwhile and there were lots of questions that got me thinking more clearly about where next to take the project, so it was definitely worthwhile for me. On Saturday I ran a workshop on Best-Worst scaling and how to link that in with conjoint measurement. That went for an hour longer than expected and again everyone felt it was worthwhile. Amongst those two events I was able to catch three shows as a part of the Adelaide Fringe Festival, and take in three wineries in the Adelaide Hills, and then finally join a wine-botelling party rn by the Adelaide Uni Reds club. Overall an excellent weekend. There's a niggling feeling however that I didn't really cover some of the obscure aspects of Conjoint modelling, so perhaps I should visit again. We're thinking maybe I cold be available for a seminar the day before the "Wine Crush" festival in Spring. And there may be some issues rising in a research study into consumer preferences of wine that could bring me back. I'll see if I can make it.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Scuba diving South West Rocks


These images posted, with permission, from the Gallery at fishrock.com.au

A belated post summarising a part of my journey to Sydney from Brisbane. My first plan was to make a circuitous route from Brisbane along the coast and then inland to the town of Manilla over perhaps two weeks. But that really was going to be more driving than it was worth.

First stop was South West Rocks, about an hour North of Port Macquarie, where I took pot luck on accommodation, staying two nights at the Sea Breeze Hotel right on the water overlooking Port Macquarie beach. I met a couple of lovely people there - Kieran Hartley and his friend Suzanne Ison. I'll be keeping in touch with them.

Next day I went scuba diving! Port Macquarie has some of the most amazing diving that I have yet experienced. The main feature is an underwater cave. At 126 metres long and completely dark inside. Each entrance is guarded by a wobegong shark, not the cute little half-metre creatures that you'll often see on reefs. These fellas were each more than two metres long, and their mottled brown and black colouring made them just about invisible on the sand amongst the shadows and rocks, until you right on top of them! Fortunately they seem to be used to divers appearing nearly every day and they just ignored the group. Also in the cave in abundance: squid, eels, huge reef cod.

Just outside the caves were giant batfish that would swim up close to look you in the eye and then quietly swim off.

The second dive was equally wonderful - about thirty metres from the cave is a trench which serves as a nursery for Grey Nurse sharks. There must have been nearly 100 sharks cruising around us, from new-born pups to big old creatures over 2.5 metres long. Grey Nurse sharks may look fierce, but they're actually quite gentle and safe, so long as you don't do anything stupid, like try to pet one or flash photograph up close. Fantastic. I would have stayed another day to dive some more but I felt a cold coming on, and equalising your ears on the way down is difficult and painful with a cold.

Diving was brilliantly organised by http://fishrock.com.au/

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Paragliding Rainbow Beach

Photo by Stefan Brandlehner on Flickr

Acknowledgment: Picture by Stefan Brandlehner on Flickr i.e. those are Stefan's feet, not mine. But they could have been.

I've been wanting to fly Rainbow for a while now. In fact I and two of my flying buddies, Tashi and Reid, had arranged to go there several weeks ago, but the weather forecast was not encouraging. Now that I'm heading off to live in Sydney the project had taken on some urgency. So I headed up on Boxing day morning and returned last night. Despite the season, there was room for a one-man tent at the camping and caravan ground.

Local French dude, Guy, launches from Carlo Sand Blow, Rainbow Beach

Rainbow Beach is a little over three hours drive North of Brisbane. It's the staging post for 4WD enthusiasts and beach-fishing types to cross by ferry to Frazer Island or to drive along the beach at the edge the famous Cooloola National Park The "shorter" route, calculated by whereis.com or your GPS navigator, has you driving for nearly 100Km along corrugated dirt roads to Rainbow. Maybe this is a practical joke, or practice for the 4WDers, but the sensible route is North to Gympy and then across to the coast. I shan't make that mistake again.

Youtube video of Rainbow Beach

Jean-Luc, the local instructor and tandem flights operator, is not very interested in anyone who is not a paying student: when I asked him for a site briefing, seconds after handing up my club membership fee, he told me not to land on the beach in the bathing area. That's it. So I asked others who were a great deal more helpful on letting me know where the potential rotar and other turbulent spots were, and the better approaches for landing. In the end that's all that was really needed because it's the easiest flying ever.

The tricky bit is dealing with the venturi effect on the Blow when launching and landing. Beyond a certain point on that part of the sand-dune, the wind is completely horizontal but blowing at 15+ knots. Touch-down is gentle but the moment you try to collapse the canopy then you are dragged backwards. Everyone but the local experts seemed to get caught. I did better than many, thanks for good training from Phil Hysteck. And the f***ing sand gets into everything.

On Friday I had a flight of nearly two hours, happily cruising up and down the sand dunes up to about 275 metres above the ground. On Saturday afternoon I had another flight of about 2.5 hours doing much the same but practicing a lot more various control maneuvers. I only came down because I could feel I was becoming tired and sun-burned, and really needed a drink of water.

Who knows, with a decade or so more experience, I may be as good as Tex, from the Conandale club near Melany, here in this other YouTube video, when he and some friends flew Rainbow Beach about a month ago.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Paragliding Beechmont

I'm progressively getting better at paragliding. I'm still pumped after an excellent flight this afternoon at Beechmont, inland from the Gold Coast. Ridge-soaring and some thermals that kept me up for more than 40 minutes!

Next weekend we'll be up again. These pics taken by my daughter, Grace.

That's me with the orange wing with "silver" trim. Tashi Sherpa has the custom purple wing.

Monday, 14 July 2008

Charles has arrived

My grandson, Charles Francis Fleming, was born last week.

Mother, Lauren, is tired & sore but very happy.

Charles is healthy.

Father, Mitchell, is beside himself.

And I am officially old.

[Wt: 8 lb (3.6Kg) All fingers and toes. Feeding well.]

Monday, 10 December 2007

Queenstown December 8-11

I came to Adventure and Party City with the intention of taking another bungy jump off a high bridge, but that hasn't happened yet. Two days were spent with colleagues from Griffith Uni taking a brief holiday after the conference - main activities: drinking, eating, drinking, bonding, slandering previous heads-of-department, current deans, pro-vice-chancellors and associated sociopaths, and drinking. Worth doing.

Now I've converted an Introduction to Paragliding day into a full course! The Intro day was exhausting. And painful. The day involves learning how to make a safe takeoff, and a relatively safe landing. Takeoff involves racing downhill as fast as you can trying to imitate an angry goose - chest and head down, arms stretched out high behind your back holding on to the glider controls. The result usually is to pull the glider in front of you so that it pulls you over onto your face, or lower one hand/control just slightly so the wing moves suddenly to one side and lifts/pulls you over like a judo throw so you trip and tumble. Eventually you get it right, and like all things that require practice it seems to be quite natural, and you leave the ground. This is when you start to learn how to land. With the beginners' hill you're never more than a metre off the ground so landing is really about just continuing to run fiercely downhill. As you improve you move to the higher steeper training hill and you glide further and then learn that landing is about using the controls/breaks properly so that you don't continue to land face first. Helmets are good. With each learning experience you get the opportunity to contemplate how improvement can be made as you gather up the glider and the lines, very carefully just so, in order not to get them tangled, plus the harness and carry the whole lot back up the hill. The hill is steep to begin with but seems to get higher and steeper as the day goes on. With my final run I had a great takeoff and then landed nicely, then had to carry everything back about 300 metres over boggy ground, long grass and then the hill. I didn't feel like doing much of anything else for the rest of the day.

The second day of gliding was so much easier! I'd been threatened with another practice flight or two but other people wanted to get going so we just went straight up to near the top of Coronet Peak. The launch site is the car-park of the ski resort, about 1000 metres above the valley and about 4 Km from the landing zone where I'd been practicing the day before. Launch can't be done half-heartedly or hesitantly - one has to commit. And the result is exhilarating.

I had three flights from Coronet Peak that day and improved each time. In constant radio contact with either the launch instructor or the landing instructor (well I could hear them, they couldn't hear me) I was talked through basic turning so I can comfortably do 360 degree turns, figure eights, and proper weight balancing and trimming the wing as I went through thermals. It's all about relaxing, not trying to fight the wing. Thrilling.

No flying today. After driving around to two different launch sites the day was cancelled because of poor wind conditions. My course is interrupted for a day but the paragliding business is hurt too. The company's bread & butter is tandem flights for Queenstown tourists. Ten bookings had to be cancelled today - about $2000.

Hopefully I'll be able to complete my course in the next two days. Time is running out before I have to head for Christchurch and then home to Brisbane.

Oin a theeratishun now!

The ANZMAC conference in Dunedin, New Zealand, was a lot better than expected. I arrived a couple of days earlier to attend the Doctoral Colloquium with one of my PhD students, Jannie Adamsen. Jannie found it all really helpful to meet with other Doctoral candidates, potential examiners and professors who may be able to offer advise. It was fun for me too. Good to see how other candidates tackle their problems and how other supervisors manage. Some students were doing trivial rubbish, some were trying to solve all ultimate questions at once, and some were doing stuff that could be really useful.

And It was really gratifying to not hear a single mention of the "five chapters model" for a PhD - a rigid template approach that seems to me is designed for witless students, and supervisors with zero abstract thinking skills.

The good people at CENGAGE (was Thomson Learning) had set up a big display featuring the new Marketing Research text book I've written with Steve Ward (Lead) and Ben Lowe. It looks like we've succeeded in gaining quite a few new adoptions for the text too.

My two papers were well received. One even won the Best Paper award in the Marketing Theory stream. That was quite a surprise and quite a buzz. The paper was on the application of Chaos/Complexity theory in modelling Word of Mouth processes - evidence perhaps that time-wasting and fiddling about on a computer can come of something.

Saturday, 30 June 2007

First two days in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is a wonderful country! I'm here for only a week and my dear friend Amal KarunaRatna, with whom I started my PhD program with about 20 years ago, is my host.

It's also a poor country. Crippled by a constant war between the Singhalese Sri Lankans and the Tamil Tigers in the North for the country, plus inept and corrupt government and inefficient bureaucracy, the country has only rudimentary basic infrastructure: roads, schools, and other services. Bureaucrats are so poorly paid that things get done only when they're bribed, or they're commanded to by their bosses, who have been bribed. Teachers and hospital employees are terribly poorly paid. Today our driver, Mohinda, was picked on by a tired and frustrated police officer and was fined 1000 Rupees (about $13), about two day's pay. To take care of the fine, we had to go to one place to get the forms to fill out, then another place to actually hand over the cash, and a third place to recover the driver's license that was confiscated to ensure the fine was paid. These offices were blocks apart.

Of course the situation was not helped with the terrible tsunami in December 2004. Last evening we drove past the railway line section that was washed away, causing a train to overturn, killing 1000 people. We're staying at a seaside resort hotel near the Southern city of Galle (pronounced Gawl) where there are still the remains of destroyed boats, and the cracked foundations of buildings that were washed away that day. This hotel has rebuilt or refurbished most of the ground and first floors. No one knows how many thousands of people died from that tsunami. It must have been terrible. The famous cricket grounds at Galle are still under repair. Despite the donations of cricket fans around the world and the special campaigning from the Australian team, little money has yet arrived to finish the job. Fortunately, the reconstruction of villages has been good, and a campaign to build and supply replacement fishing boats to villages around the country has been very successful. More importantly, the sense of community in all of the villages has helped the shattered lives of those who lost family, or were orphaned. The people have shown extraordinary resilience.

I was privileged this afternoon to visit Mohinda's village and meet his two beautiful children, plus his aunt, who brought him up, and cousin, whom he calls his brother, plus various other children, family members and friends. I couldn't really follow who was what. And that was the point - when Mohinda's wife was dying last year, people from all over the village came to help take care of the children and his wife when Mohinda was had to work and was unable to be there. This is not just because Mohinda is so well respected and well liked in the area, this is the normal and expected thing here. At least in the villages and towns.

This post must seem awfully bleak. But the country is definitely not like that at all. The people are friendly and helpful and always smiling. And despite the poverty, they are extraordinarily generous. Most villages have little traveller's booths on the edge of the village where people can have food and drink at no cost. It's simply a responsibility taken on by the village to help others who are on a pilgrimage. It's a part of the Buddhist philosophy that has been a part of the Sri Lankan culture for more than 2000 years.

And the food is fantastic!

More very soon.

Thursday, 28 June 2007

Gallipoli

I took a couple of days off to see Gallipoli, the site of the WWI fiasco that killed thousands of Australians and New Zealanders (and French and Canadians, and Britons) in a useless attempt to capture some territory held by Turkish forces so as to control the Bospherus Strait, linking he Mediterranean to the Black Sea.

Many more Turks also were killed, so it's of great importance to them as well. More importantly, the Turkish defense was commanded by a Lieutenant Colonel Mustafa Kemal, the man who soon after lead the Young Turks movement, essentially a political rebellion against the old military guard, that created a united Turkey. Ataturk saw that long prosperity for Turkey lay with the progressive West rather than with the East. So the story of Gallipoli is something that all Turkish children learn about.

Kemal Ataturk; (Inscription on Gallipoli Memorial put up by Turkey in 1934, also on Ataturk Memorial at Tarakina Bay, Wellington.)

"Those heroes who shed their blood and lost their lives, you are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side in this country of ours. You, the mothers who sent their sons from far away countries wipe away your tears, your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they become our sons as well."

Conference in Braga, Portugal

From Braga, Portugal

I probably didn't give Braga, Portugal, a fair chance. After all, the VirtualTtourist website lists the 800-year-old city as one of the beautiful cities in the world. It also says that in a very religiously conservative country the people of Braga are the most conservative, verging on fanatical. It certainly showed up in the city's total lack of any nightlife - I went searching for a cafe or bar where there would be people listening to music and talking. There simply aren't any. Maybe it's just that I was in Academic conference mode.

The food served at the conference dinners was interesting though. The staple seems to be dried salted codfish, reconstituted in water or milk, served on beans, or inside a pastry, or on bread. And of course thinly sliced ham. That's it. Even then perhaps I'm not being fair. Salt cod (water), salt cod (milk), in pastry (three kinds), on bread, mixed into beans (three kinds), sliced ham, tomatoes, cucumbers. Think through all the permutations and combinations and you could go for weeks without having the same meal twice.

The conference however was a great deal better than I expected. An ineresting highlight was a recital from the University of Minho's Society Tuna, a medieval-style singing troupe. They were very entertaining.