Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Hollywood trend-setter

Hey look- I started wearing bandages and accessorising with crutches and before you know it hollywood starlets are picking it up too!

I wonder if George will notice if I just slip in there next to him and knock her out of the way?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

When Chickens Attack!

Yesterday's typhoon brought with it a serious case of cabin fever.

Evidence of my sanity slipping slowly away:

All images created using Artrage 2 (trial version)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Typhoon Whew...

We're still here- Typhoon Wipha passed fairly uneventfully in Shanghai during the middle of the night. I was more disturbed by Typhoon Phil who kept jumping in and out of bed when he couldn't sleep. Babe- top tip: next time you smother a sneeze outside our bedroom door, forcing it instead to come out as some sort of strangled howl, can you please stick around long enough as I am ripped terrified from my peaceful slumber to reassure me that there is not actually a maniac outside our bedroom?

[that's quite possible the longest sentence I have ever written... ah to hell with it, it stays]

But back to Wipha:

Typhoon Wipha made landfall in eastern China on Wednesday, knocking out power and water supplies to tens of thousands of residents, but promptly lost strength as it travelled inland.

Forecaster Tropical Storm Risk downgraded Wipha to a category one typhoon that would weaken further into a tropical storm as it headed north towards Nanjing.

Its projection showed the eye of the storm passing some 250 km (155 miles) to the west of China's financial hub, Shanghai, within 24 hours.

More than 2 million people had been evacuated in the coastal provinces of Fujian and Zhejiang and Shanghai ahead of what Chinese officials had predicted would be a powerful and destructive typhoon.

Officials reached by Reuters said it was too early to assess damage on the coast, but there were not immediate reports of casualties. Sometimes such reports take hours before being released by state media.

The typhoon made landfall at the border of Zhejiang and Fujian -- just where Typhoon Saomai hit last year killing hundreds.
--Reuters (read full article here)
For the time being there is still a lot of windy rain, and it's not a fun day to venture out in to.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Typhoon Wipha

(click on image for enlargement)

What kind of name is that anyway? Typhoon Wipha?

At present Typhoon Wipha is descending on Shanghai and the surrounding provinces and true to form the rain and winds are starting to whip about. Although Shanghai mostly only ever gets hit by the tail end of typhoons (read: a bit of rain and wind, but nothing to make you want to stock up in preparation for armegeddon), Typhoon Wipha "may bring to Shanghai the most serious typhoon damage in recent years".

The best information today says that Wipha will either be upgraded to a Super Typhoon (from its current status of severe) or it could just switch directions and fizzle out. I guess the responsible thing for me to do today is to make sure there are no potential projectiles loose on the balcony and check that we have enough water, food, and, more importantly, DVDs to ride out the worst case senario.

So I'll let you know tomorrow if Typhoon Wipha turned out to be Typhoon Whiplash or just plain Typhoon Wimpy.

UPDATED: 4.20pm Tuesday- the rain is picking up, as is the wind, and the forecast is not great-

"This is the first time in 10 years that the eye of the storm will probably make landfall in Shanghai," said Ding Ruoyang, a meteorologist at the Shanghai Meteorological Bureau. (AFP.)
The typhoon is expected to hit the coast in the early hours of tomorrow morning (Wednesday), though 200,000 residents of dilapidated or temporary housing are being evacuated by 6pm tonight. Knowing Shanghai's typhoon history, it may still blow over, but I did just duck out through the rain to the supermarket to stock up on the essentials anyway.

However, the best news so far is that school is cancelled for tomorrow, and possibly Thursday also. I'm starting to like Typhoon Wipha.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Graphics made easy

A couple of weekends ago I splurged and bought myself the Wacom Graphire4 graphics tablet*:

The idea of a graphics tablet, for those of your who have yet to try the best thing since sliced bread, is that you use the pen like a mouse, together with software such as Photoshop or Illustrator, to actually draw or paint entirely digital images. It serves the same purpose as your mouse does in these programs, but it is much, MUCH more accurate and more intuitive. For example, if you are using the pencil tool in Photoshop (my software of choice at this point) and press harder or softer on the tablet, the line that is drawn in Photoshop will become darker or lighter respectively.

I splurged on the Graphire4 not only because it is a totally cool gizmo, but also as a part of my grand plan to combine my experience with teaching children with my art skills to do something useful with my career- children's book illustrating.

As I have been forced to spend the last couple of weeks on the couch I have had a little time to practice with the tablet. These are a few things I've drawn/painted in Photoshop (bare in mind that I am still just experimenting with the possibilities):

"Daphne" 2007- My 1959 Morris Minor 1000

A composition copied from the Wacom Graphire graphic tablet (Asian version) logo as test/study- my colour and lines

Study of an illustration by Jill Schwarz

My composition, still experimenting.

Overall, if anyone is interested in buying one of these tablets, I wholeheartedly recommend it.

*This may seem like a shameless product plug, however I am really just a very satisfied customer. That said, should anyone from Wacom stumble on this site, I will expect your checque in the mail....

Friday, September 14, 2007

For the Honor of Grayskull....

I have been masquerading on Facebook lately as Wonder Woman, but truthfully the real hero of my childhood was She-Ra.

Unbelievably (to me at least), many people I talk to about She-Ra have no recollection of her at all. My crusade for the week is to turn that around.

She-Ra: Princess of Power:

The premise of the show is that Princess Adora, whose secret identity is She-Ra, and her friends must free Etheria from Hordak and his Evil Horde, after realizing her true destiny through the help of her twin brother Prince Adam, who is also known as He-Man.

The cartoon's premise is similar to that of the He-Man cartoon, with the distinction that while He-Man serves King Randor on Eternia, She-Ra is a revolutionary engaged in a rebellion against Hordak, the tyrannical ruler of Etheria, and to a larger extent against the rarely seen Horde Prime, leader of an evil intergalactic empire. Another similarity and distinction is that while both series mixed science fiction and sorcery, He-Man's stories tend to lean towards science fiction and technology, while She-Ra's are geared more towards swords and sorcery.

She-Ra, like He-Man, wields a magic sword: the Sword of Protection. Adora transforms into She-Ra by holding it above her head and saying, "For the honor of Grayskull... I am She-Ra!" The Sword of Protection differs from He-Man's Sword of Power in that it has a crystal set into the blade. The crystal is the source of Adora's transformation power, and if cracked, prevents her from changing to She-Ra, as revealed in the episode, "The Stone in the Sword". The crystal is able to emit a beam of light, akin to a laser, capable of cutting through stone and metal. The Sword of Protection is also unique in that it can change into other forms at She-Ra's command, changing into a shield, helmet, parachute, lasso, or flaming blade among others.

Additionally, She-Ra and her alter ego, Princess Adora look exactly the same, much as He-Man and Prince Adam do. This is due to budget restraints on the animation, and the presumption that youngsters would not be able to follow the stories with a vast distinction in appearance. The only real change that occurs in the transformation is a change in clothes and a deeper, more authoritative voice as well as giving She-Ra longer hair than Adora. Unlike Adam, who pretends to be a lazy, irresponsible playboy to keep people from suspecting he is He-Man, Adora never acts as anything than her true self: energetic, somewhat tomboyish, strong-willed but with a kind streak.

She-Ra also possesses superhuman strength and stamina, in addition to being very athletic and agile, and like He-Man, She-Ra often outsmarts her opponents rather than simply beating them up. Her personality combines the archetypical female traits of kindness, compassion, and a soft-spoken manner; however, she also displays bravery and perseverance in the face of danger. As well as the super-human strength and stamina shared by He-Man after his transformation, She-Ra had additional skills in her changed form. These include a healing touch and telepathic communication with animals.

From Wikipedia (read more).

And if that wasn't enough to jog your memory, this might just do the trick:

"For the Honor of Grayskull... I AM SHE-RA!"

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Views from between the crutches of evil- vol 1

Crutches are evil.

I firmly believe that they do nothing to help your injured foot/leg, but instead just make every other muscle in your body hurt so much that you actually forget about your original pain. Kinda like following up a Britney Spears concert with an Avril Levigne special.

Right now this "Views from between the Crutches of Evil" post series is really just a whinge (whine/complain for those not up with the aussie lingo) about how miserable I am, but I hope that in time it will become a highly insightful but none-the-less amusing accounting of the trials of us Crutch-Cripples in Shanghai.

"coz she's got hiiiiiiiigh hopes, she's got hiiiiiiiigh hopes....." come on, sing with me now...

Last night was the fifth Shanghai Roller Revival- an event we've been looking to for weeks, and of course I had to go and and watch from the sidelines. Yes, there's not much point in going to an 80s-themed roller disco on crutches, even if my costume did rock. I received comments ranging from "Good on you for coming anyway- you rock" (thanks dude), to "What are you even doing here?" (Well, you see tonight is the one night of the month that they let me out of the cripple home and the special bus just dropped me off here- I wanted to see how the real people live.)

Phil won the best costume contest- who can deny a 6'2" man dressed in brown velour hot pants complete with head and wrist sweat bands and knee length sports socks- and I even managed to climb onto the raised dance floor for a swinging sexy crutches boogie to "I wanna dance with somebody". Unfortunately the photos and video of that spectacular moment will be on facebook before I can say "delete".

The highlight of the evening was visiting the ladies room. When 99% of the women visiting a squat toilet are wearing roller skates, well, let me just say that accuracy in aiming is not exactly up to par. Then you get me trying to balance on one leg, the other sticking out in front of me, and my crutches failing to grip onto the urine-slick porcelain surface of the floor. Not pretty. The most amusing moment was when the girl in the stall next to me was complaining loudly to her waiting friend about having to pee in roller skates at the same moment when I hobbled out of the stall, and her friend, on seeing me, told her to "shut the f#@$ up, Melanie".

On another note, I must say that I was always a strong supporter of the (highly ineffective) anti-spitting campaign in Shanghai, but now I am much more so. Having one of your crutches slip out from underneath you because it landed on a big, juicy chuck of spit on the footpath is a highly unpleasant experience.

But it's not all bad. I have had some people actually make room for me in public (an otherwise unheard of even in Shanghai- it's usually very much an every man for himself situation), and some taxi drivers have even gotten out of their seats to open the door for me!

On the bright side, that's one week of my sentence down. Only five more weeks to go.

Excuse me while I go dose up on some more mind-altering pain killers.

Phil's gets his groove on
Photo by Charlie Xia (my crop)

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Limpin' Lou

My top tip for all the kind readers out there:

If you are going to tear a ligament in your foot, try not to do it a week before the Rollerskating Disco you have been looking forward to for months.

Yep. I tore a ligament in my foot. I stumbled down an uneven gutter- and to be honest with the state of the gutters here in Shanghai, I'm surprised I haven't done it sooner really- and now I am on crutches for a month or so (4-6 weeks, according to the doc, but I'm hoping my foot will be a ligament-healing prodigy).

Some observations from between crutches in Shanghai:

  • When you go to the hospital with an injured foot, they will put you in a wheelchair to take you across the huge grounds to the right wing, however if you leave after 5pm (i.e. when all the orderlies have left for the day) you will have to hop back to the entrance.
  • The doctor will demand strict bed-rest, but finally concede to the use of crutches during work time, but when it comes to administering medications he will ask YOU what you want.
  • Random people who see you on the street will look shocked and then utter a (sometimes embarrassed) chuckle.
  • Crutches are really bloody inconvenient when you teach a nursery class of 2 year olds.
  • When you trip into the gutter strangers will shout "Ai-ya!" ("Oh no!"), but then just stand there and watch you struggle to get up.
  • Some of the strangers watching you in the gutter will actually laugh at you.
  • The gate guard of your compound who stood there chatting with someone while you were lying in the gutter will feel guilty enough to get you a chair and find a taxi for you when he next sees you on a pair of crutches.
  • Crutches are sold packaged as a pair, but priced for one only. It's like pricing shoes individually.
  • Muphey's Law says it will rain the first day you have to use crutches- everything is slippery, and you have no free hand to hold an umbrella!
  • If your colleagues start calling you "Hobbledy", it helps if you don't have a surname also starting with 'h'... alliteration can be so cruel.
  • An accepting close-lipped smile coupled with a slight shoulder shrug will become your facial expression of choice when you meet inquisitive people throughout the course of a day.
  • 'crutch' sounds enough like 'crotch' to make some really inappropriate jokes (childish, I know, but it helps when you are feeling a bit useless and pathetic)
  • Handbags and crutches don't mix. I am back to a day pack/backpack- what a fashion victim!
  • Likewise, Crutches + Gin = Disaster.
On a personal note, I have the best boyfriend in the world... thanks for taking such good care of me honey.

I must say though, my new hero is my sister Liz, who was on crutches off and on from the age of 11- 16. I don't know how you did it, but I'd take my hat off to you if I had a spare hand.

My un-broken, yet still rather useless, right foot.