Monday, July 27, 2015

Zenning Out in the Japanese Gardens

A few Saturdays past on a trip to Toowoomba, we decided we wanted to do a photography walk. Foiled by lack of information about the street art I had heard abounds in the CBD and put off a walk up historic Russell St by the cold wind, we opted for the sheltered, calm and beautiful Japanese Gardens.

The gardens are a real city treasure and you can find them in the grounds I the Universiy of Southern Queensland. Just look for the big red gates!

A popular wedding venue, we found the gardens still well-attended on a cold Saturday afternoon. Plenty of people, including families, we walking about at a sedate pace, feeding the ducks and geese or just sitting quietly taking it the quiet beauty of it all. 

The main paths circumnavigate the lake but wandering of the beaten track soon take you into quiet woods or stands of bamboo. You'll discover a burbling brook or a gushing waterfall. Terribly photogenic red bridges abound. 

My favourite though is the Zen Garden. Beautifully raked lines of pebbles meander along a garden bed like a pale river. I wonder who keeps it so neat?

We even came across a group of cosplayers staging a photo shoot in the bamboo. What a wonderful public space!

If you're in Toowoomba, it is well worth the drive south of the city to see the gardens. Particularly of you're looking for a place to calm down after experiencing the unique displeasure of Toowoomba drivers! You can even leave a donation at the front gate for upkeep of the grounds. 

Have you ever been to a Japanese Garden? Do you find them as calming as I do?

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

My Internal Jukebox

Ever get a song stuck in your head? I think it happens to us all sometimes. Earworms, I've heard this phenomenon called. 

I always seem to be humming or muttering songs under my breath, usually something I've heard on the radio, or tv. Working in accounts receivable, this can become hilariously inappropriate when that song is "Bitch Better Have My Money".

But I also have an "internal jukebox". This seems to be where my brain chooses independently of any outside stimulus (that I can discover) to start playing from its own stored reportoire. Songs I have not heard in years, or sometimes don't even know where I heard them. 

For example, last night when I went to bed I realised that I'd had a Bryan Adams song running through my thoughts all day. That song was "Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman" and I swear I have not heard or even thought about it for over a decade. RANDOM. 

So in addition to the incessantly catchy ad jingles and latest chart-topping hooks that I am bombarded with daily by media, I seem to have my own little radio station inside my head that sometimes chooses what tracks to spin in my thoughts. 

I'm curious to know - does your brain do this? I wonder how it chooses what to play next...

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Top Tips to Save You Money on Car Maintenance

Today's post is brought to you in conjuction with the wisdom of my husband C, a mechanic who is passionate about people looking after their cars. We want to share with you a few easy ways to look after your car, and hopefully save you money down the track with preventative maintenance!

On to the tips!

* Regular servicing. It doesn't have to be with the dealer, but always use a mechanic who looks after your car for a fair price. A service usually includes engine oil change and a new oil filter. Sometimes it will include a new air filter if you need it. Some mechanics will also do a full safety inspection. A regular service ensures that any small issues are caught before they become big ones. Eg. a good mechanic will identify if you need a wheel alignment before you incur the cost of two new front tyres. You should have all your oils looked at at least once a year - for a front wheel drive the gearbox oil, a rear wheel drive will need gearbox and diff oils checked, 4WDs need both diffs, gearbox and transfer case oils. Even people who think they know all about home mechanics regularly miss these!

* Tyres. If you don't know how to check your tyre inflation and wear, ask your mechanic or learn how yourself from a knowledgable friend or YouTube. Under-inflation costs you in the long run as your car will use more fuel. Improperly aligned tyres will wear unevenly and quickly, costing you money to replace and are also dangerous. Bald tyres will aquaplane in the wet.

* Occasionally drive with the radio off and listen to the noises your car makes. Any clanks and clunks and pings that you may not have noticed before may indicate something is wearing. Don't be afraid to tell your mechanic about odd noises. Eg. a hard knock while going over a bump may indicate a worn bush or ball-joint.

* Pay attention to indicator panel warning lights. In modern cars, they only come on for a reason. Even if the car appears to be driving fine, take it the mechanic - something may be causing you to use more fuel or be causing wear/damage in a major part that can cost you later. If your car has a ABS brake or SRS airbag light on do not drive it anywhere except to a mechanic to get it checked.  Both these lights indicate issues that can result in major injury if these components fail.

* Wash your car with a proper car wash product. This makes your paint last longer because it prevents dirt scratching the surface and protects your top coat. It also gives you a chance to give your car a good once over. Look out for broken lights, bits falling off, leaks etc.

And lastly, a bonus list!

Top five reasons cars fail roadworthy checks 
(note some of these can get you fined if stopped and inspected by the transport department)

- window tint - a single bubble or haze is an immediate fail
- inside edge of tyres are bald
- low brake pads
- steering wheel damage
- bulbs or indicators not working

I hope these tips are helpful, and if you have any questions for the mechanic, let me know - he's happy to do an "Ask the Mechanic" Q&A post in future!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

B is for Bath - A-Z Travel Guide Linkup

I can't describe how excited I was to visit Bath. After a steady diet of Jane Austen in my formative years, of course I yearned to walk the streets of the place where her characters and she herself spent so much time.

The Pump Room! Where the Georgians went every day to "take the waters". The signs seemed magical to me, like books brought to life - but of course Austen was writing from life experience after all. 

The Pump Room is just one of many wonderful sights to see in Bath. Starting at the bottom of the hill there is the Baths themselves (interesting tour) and the Cathedral (many famous people buried there, and beautiful in its own right). 

Further up the slope is the Jane Austen Museum (spent a lovely time there!) and the Assembly Rooms, location of so much of the drama in Northanger Abbey. 

At the top of the hill is the Royal Crescent - one of the most beautiful examples of residential architecture you will ever see. I couldn't help but imagine the carriages coming and going and the people promenading in the afternoon in Austen's time. 

On my way back down I discovered paths through gardens and woods. How delightful! And then I stumbled across the very spot where Captain Wentworth caught up with Anne Elliot, I'm sure of it...

If it wasn't for the awful backpackers hostel I was in, Bath would have been 100% perfect. Even non-Austen fans would love its gorgeous sandstone buildings and deep history. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Dark Universe at the Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium

Hubby and I are always on the lookout for interesting date ideas and after watching the TV series "Cosmos" last year the Planetarium has been on our list. 

Though both a bit geeky we don't know a lot about astronomy so on Saturday night - for the price of going to the movies -  we decided to go see the Neil deGrasse Tyson-narrated show "Dark Universe". It was amazing! The show was projected into the roof dome, and sitting back in chairs that are angled towards the ceiling you really feel like you are flying through space. Pretty trippy! 

And the show itself was mind-blowing, being focused on the latest developments in astro-physics and our knowledge of the universe. It went for about half an hour, and was followed by a look at Brisbane's night sky with one of the resident experts.  

The session was surprisingly popular and nearly full so I was glad we booked. I would recommend Dark Universe for teens and up, but the Planetarium has plenty of different shows that can be enjoyed by all ages. 

Have you ever been to the Planetarium? Do you ever think about how looking at the stars is looking into the past?

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A Pirate's Life For Me

On Saturday I spied a tweet saying that an old ship was going to be docked at Southbank for the weekend. 

Upon further investigation, I discovered it was the Notorious, a replica 15th Century Spanish caravel. 

As I'm a big fan of all things nautical, we headed in to the city to take a look. Apparently it has been part of the filming of the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie at the Gold Coast. 

It was so tiny! It blew my mind to think this is the kind of ship those explorers in the Age of Discovery sailed across the world in!

A guy from Port Fairy built it. Imagine that dream. One day waking up and deciding you're going to scratch-build a historical sailing ship!

There's a story there's a ship like this wrecked off the coast of Victoria. If so it would predate most Dutch exploration of this area of the world. What a good mystery! I'm going to have to find out more. 

Have you ever been on a sailing ship? Yo ho!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Crowdfunding Convert

Have you ever backed a project financially? Flashback ten years ago and this would have meant you were an investor with thousands to splash about on things like property development. 

But now, thanks to the magic of crowdfunding, you can contribute even just $5 towards something you think is worthy. 

I must admit I have always been a but sceptical about the begging-bowl aspect of people launching a crowdfunded project. I must have seen it as a bandwagon upon which every struggling artist and tech entrepreneur had jumped. "Give me money to make my amazing app a reality!" "Cash me up & I'll put on an exhibition!" I imagined them shouting. 

And sure, there are thousands of projects out there I wouldn't fund because of disinterest, but also because I judge that the person or group doesn't "deserve" my money. 

Last night, after watching a partially crowdfunded movie, I'm willing to review my opinions. Why? Because I'm always whinging about the lack of original content in film and on tv. Sure, I'll go and watch the lastest sequel in a big franchise but I'm also wanting to hear new stories, about new characters in new worlds. 

And the reality is, tv and movie studios just don't like gambling their money on things they aren't 100% sure will make a profit. Thus, we get a lot of stuff on our screens that has always proved to be a sure-fire hit formula in the past. 

The beauty of crowdfunding is people who normally wouldn't get a cent of studio backing can ask the general public if they'll pay for them to create their content. Genius! Especially when it's people who are already known good performers or creators. 

In this case, I watched the Veronica Mars movie. Previously a tv show that was canned, the star Kristin Bell got a big-screen sequel off the ground with the power of crowdfunding. Without this revenue-raising platform, the project would have been almost certainly dead in the water. Fans were willing to pay to have another story created for their favourite character. 

Another great crowdfunded project I'm looking forward to is Alan Tudyk's Con Man. This is going to be a web series - a medium along with streaming services that I think may eventually 
 kill commercial tv. Funded by thousands of dollars of Firefly (Alan's previous tv show) fans' money, the series is filming at present.

So, I'm a total convert. If crowdfunding can help creative people put great movies and tv shows in front of my eyeballs, I say we should put our hands in our pockets occasionally, instead of paying studios and watching advertisements. 

Have you ever backed a crowdfunded project? What was it? 


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