Stuff I see, which you might not.

Three things I like a lot right now

Oh, hello. I just wanted to tell you about three things that I am liking a lot right now. In case you might like them too. A book, an app, and a podcast – they won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but I think they’re great.

Firstly, the book. It’s Hillbilly Elegy by J.D.Vance – I’d heard good things, and when the Independent is quoted on the cover: “a great insight into Trump and Brexit”, then I really couldn’t resist. I guess it’s a great insight into that, like a window into a different world. 

I have always known that I couldn’t go on one of those tv talent shows – sure, mostly because I can’t sing and/or dance, but also because I don’t have a particularly interesting back story to my life. Family, friends, education, health, opportunity – this book made me realise that what I consider “normal”, or maybe even “boring”, must sound like fairyland to so many people. And this J.D.Vance kid was born in the 1980s, so it’s not as if it’s a story of how life used to be in ye olden days. It’s interesting and well-written – easy to read on a rainy weekend – and I like that it asks more questions than it answers. Definitely got me thinking.

The app is Lumosity, a “brain training” app that I bought a family subscription to for Christmas. When you google, “apps to prevent dementia”, it always gets a run, and although my parents are (a) reading this, and (b) currently in possession of all of their marbles, I figure it never hurts to give these things a try. We are a competitive people, so the fact that this tracks your performance and compares you to your age group (with an impressive global sample size) is appealing. Some of the games are also quite addictive (looking at you, Train of Thought) and you feel like king/queen of the world when you beat your previous score or get to the next level. 

I think they recently got busted for deceptive / misleading advertising (allegedly over-stating the scientifically proven benefits for dementia / aging etc. But I think as long as we’re enjoying it as a fun challenge, and not expecting miraculous results, then that is all good.

The podcast was discovered by my lovely sister-in-law, Rocky, who shares my interest in slightly quirky books, people, things in general. It’s called Missing Richard Simmons, based on the fact that colourful character Richard Simmons disappeared from public life a few years ago and seemingly flicked the switch on his former life – no contact with his former staff, friends and associates. For someone who was so gregarious and seemed to thrive on his relationships with people, this dramatic disappearance has stumped lots of people. Hence the podcast – the guy is a former friend of Richard and is determined to find make contact. The colourful characters that he meets along the way make this podcast so great – I am sure I have been caught shaking my head or giggling as I listen to it on the way to work. 

It’s become a very popular podcast (we’re up to episode 3, with a new episode released each week) – even if you don’t love Richard Simmons (you monster!) then there are surely enough bizarro people and stories in this podcast to keep it interesting.

And they are three things that I like a lot right now. Hope you like them too!

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Talk to the Animals

In case you haven’t seen this video, taken at an aquarium in the USA, here’s a Beluga whale trying to get his point across to some kids. I think their mother might be partly responsible for their shrieking – at the very start of the vid, she says “Ooooh, he’s coming for you!”, but I think he’s really just saying “Hey, guys!” and wondering what all the fuss is about.

Also, it’s a bit boring up to 45 seconds, so please stick with it (or fast forward if you’re in a hurry).

Happy Monday!

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Hello again (with chimps)

Hi there. It’s been a while since I last posted. I’m not really sure why that is – time has been filled with stuff and things and to be honest, I haven’t really felt like writing. In the face of happenings in the real world, the silliness of finding and sharing everyday sparks sometimes seems so ridiculous. I mean, people are suffering and getting sick and breaking up and shutting down and doing mean things. Then again, people are also being born, getting healthy, having fun, making things, doing good, starting again, having adventures and laughing. Right?

I also know that whatever is going on, I am still noticing those everyday sparks – whether they’re funny, silly, weird, nice, scary or quirky. And now I feel like getting back into sharing them here. In case we like some of the same sorts of things and I’ve seen stuff that you haven’t. Because we could all use some sparks to make us smile or grimace or snort or make that tsk tsk sound from time to time, I reckon. While we’re dealing with all of those happenings in the real world.

To get back into the swing of things, here are some pics of the baby chimp born at our Taronga Zoo here in Sydney over the weekend. Some classic shots for the family album.

Shiba and her baby boy. [photo by Lisa Ridley]

Shiba and her baby boy.
[photo by Lisa Ridley]

The Fam.  [photo by Lisa Ridley, from the Taronga Zoo Facebook page]

The Fam.
[photo by Lisa Ridley, from the Taronga Zoo Facebook page]

And my favourite.  [image by Lisa Ridley, from the Taronga Zoo Facebook page]

And my favourite.
[image by Lisa Ridley, from the Taronga Zoo Facebook page]

You’re welcome!


My first parkrun

I’m not sure if you’ve heard of parkrun – I hadn’t heard of them until I read an article in the local paper last week about one starting in our area. Such a cool idea – I’ll let the parkrun people explain it: parkrun organise free, weekly, 5km timed runs around the world. They are open to everyone, free, and are safe and easy to take part in. These events take place in pleasant parkland surroundings and we encourage people of every ability to take part; from those taking their first steps in running to Olympians; from juniors to those with more experience; we welcome you all.

Mosman parkrun, Balmoral Beach. [image from Mosman parkrun Facebook page]

Mosman parkrun, Balmoral Beach.
[image from Mosman parkrun Facebook page]

Sounds pretty good, yes? And when they launched a parkrun at Balmoral Beach in Sydney, a picturesque part of the world not far from where I live, I thought I would go along and see what it was all about. As an aside, I haven’t been running for over 12 months after being scared off by a couple of big injuries in quick succession. And I wanted to avoid going back to the physio’s torture chamber and putting on those horrific communal short shorts (which I wrote about here last year).

I was in there somewhere! [image from Mosman parkrun Facebook page]

I was in there somewhere!
[image from Mosman parkrun Facebook page]

Saturday was a lovely day in Sydney and I arrived at Balmoral about 10 minutes before the 7am start. There were an assortment of people there – almost all of them looking like super fit and fast runners, sponsored by major sporting brands. I started to suspect that the parkrun promise – encouraging people of all abilities to take part – had not quite reached glamorous Balmoral.

I skirted the edges of the group, still thinking I could skulk away and get a coffee and just watch them, but then summoned up the courage to speak to a volunteer in a fluoro green vest. Meg was a parkrunner from Curl Curl on Sydney’s northern beaches and had come to help out with the first ever Mosman parkrun. She assured me that there would be lots of ‘normal’ people there, even some walkers, but as we looked around the group, I think we both doubted whether that was true. Then I saw some people with prams and a few older ladies and thought I might as well give it a go.

Flagging the end of the run.  [image from Mosman parkrun Facebook page]

Flagging the end of the run.
[image from Mosman parkrun Facebook page]

And so I did. I ran the whole way – more of a shuffle than a run, mostly – and when I was tempted to walk, the words of my Camino buddy Shane rang in my head: DO NOT STOP. And so I didn’t. The atmosphere was lovely and there were lots of smiles and high fives from the 102 runners – the fastest ran past like a blur and finished in half the time it took me, but I was very happy just to get to the end and find the earlier finishers hanging around to clap and cheer the slower peeps.

Some Mosman parkrunners. [image from Mosman parkrun Facebook page]

Some Mosman parkrunners.
[image from Mosman parkrun Facebook page]

So, that was a great start to Saturday morning – exercising (for free!) in a beautiful place with nice people – and all done before 8am. Everyone was nodding and smiling and looking forward to building this little community that had just formed.

Now I don’t want to get political, but this story has since taken a bad turn. By yesterday, Mosman Council had squashed the new parkrun community like a bug – cancelling the Balmoral run because of blah blah blah. An annoying setback, but hopefully the organisers will be able to come up with a different route that doesn’t upset the precious people and lets the parkrun community thrive. If only so I can try and beat my first run time and feel like an Olympian with a new PB!


Time for the Color Run

You might recall some time last year when I posted about the Color Run, which was coming to Australia for the first time in 2012/2013. Well, Sydney’s time has come and it all happens on Sunday morning. Basically, it’s a really fun run – the organisers call it the happiest 5k on the planet – and at each km mark, a group of random strangers throw brightly coloured powder at you. Hopefully not in a mean way, although my lovely friend Steph is prepared and bought us some protective glasses (don’t worry, they’re not like a scientist’s lab goggles, they’re Ray Ban lookalikes).

Uh huh.

Uh huh.

We sure are!

We sure are!

We went along last night to register for the event in the CBD and if the registration hype is anything to go by, we are in for a great time on Sunday. It was a lovely sunny evening and the music was pumping as hundreds of people stood in Martin Place after work to check in, get their packs and maybe buy some of the crazy Color Run gear on offer. Pink tutu? Sure! Knee-high fluoro socks? Absolutely! White short shorts with ‘COLOR THIS!’ written across the back? Alrighty then. For the record, we didn’t buy these things, just saw them for sale at the Color Run shop.

The official Color Run tutu.

The official Color Run tutu.

Yep, all that.

Yep, all that.

Anyways, we’ve got our official t-shirt, race bib, headband, temporary tattoo, big pack of coloured powder to throw at the ‘finish line festival’ and the rest of our gear ready and we’re very excited to be out there on Sunday. At Sydney Olympic Park, no less. With my friends Steph, Stef, Steph and Anne in the Sydney summer sunshine. (The Steph/Stef/Steph bit isn’t a gag either – it wasn’t a pre-requisite, must just be something great in the name!)

The Shirt.

The Shirt.   

The Race Gear.

The Race Gear.

The Powder.

The Powder.

And if you’re interested, or if you just want to see something cool, or if you want to get in the zone for Sunday Run Day, here’s the official Color Run You Tube clip… Have a great weekend!


Trick or Treating

So, yesterday was Halloween – the one night of the year when it’s perfectly acceptable to turn up at your neighbour’s door and demand lollies. I was lucky to be invited by some of my nieces to join them as they toured their neighbourhood and collected a bizarre assortment of candies in big buckets shaped like pumpkins. Good times.

The main unofficial rule of the evening are that you can only stop by houses that have decorations outside, showing that they’re on board with the whole idea. Although even the decorated houses participate in different ways – some welcome you to their door and personally hand out treats (with a few even making their own lolly bags), while others leave a basket outside the door or gate with a sign that optimistically suggests that you take ONE ONLY, and then there was the man who didn’t even open his security gate as he struggled to pass the kids their chocolates through the bars of the fence.

We had a good time and got a great haul of jelly body parts, eyeballs, jelly pizzas, sherbets and even some sugar-free lollies from one of the houses. A lot of people in the neighbourhood made a huge effort to make their homes spooky and really got into the spirit of the day. It was lovely to see so many kids of all ages (even the dreaded teenagers spraying their silly string) dressed up and walking around the ‘hood. Wandering around in the late afternoon sun, it was a really nice community feeling as people admired outfits and decorations while sugar-filled kids squealed and laughed – I think Halloween is a great excuse to make that happen. ‘Til next year!

OK, so these were actually our decorations – spooky eyes peering out from behind the gate. With horrible, sticky, fake spiders’ webs all across the gate, of course.

Scary stuff. This house also had grave stones and body parts scattered around the otherwise beautiful garden.

You’ve got mail.

A friendly Halloween house.

One of our skeletons, just chillaxin’ in the bushes.

Our witch – she has a frightening cackle when touched. But still not as scary as the skull hung on our verandah, which drops down from the ceiling when you clap – its horrible wail freaked out many unsuspecting people who followed our directions to clap loudly if they loved Halloween & wanted to meet our skeleton. And then they screamed. (Then they laughed, I promise – it was very funny to hear them as we sat inside eating our lollies.)

An amazing witchy pumpkin, hand drawn and carved by the girl across the street – looked even more incredible as it got darker…

And one of the highlights – my niece (7) had prepared notes for 60 Halloween potions (‘posions’). I was impressed by the range of ingredients – from monkey fur to cocoa to screws to garlic to wool to bananas. Happy Halloween!








The First Sydney Color Run – I’m in!

I’d never heard of the Color Run until my friend Anne asked if I’d like to join her team – when I checked it out online, I saw that it looks bizarre, crazy, colourful, fun and very very very different to a normal fun run. So, of course I’m in. They call the Color Run (American spelling – it’s really bugging me not to write ‘colour’, believe me) ‘the happiest 5k on the planet’.

According to the organisers, there are really only two simple rules: (1) you have to start the run in white shirts and (2) you have to finish the run covered in colour. I love their big picture explanation: “Runner/walkers begin the 5k at the start line like a brand new pristine coloring book. By the end, they look like they fell into a Willy Wonka… tie dyed… vat of colored goodness. We are the creators of an all new paint race phenomena!” Of course, they had me at Willy Wonka.

So, how does it work? Apparently, “each kilometer of the event is associated with a designated color: yellow, orange, pink, or blue.  As the runners/walkers reach the Kilometer COLOR RUN Zones, they are blitzed by our volunteers, sponsors, and staff with COLOR.   All products are 100% natural and safe.  You can eat the stuff if you’d like (we have tried it and don’t suggest it, it is surprisingly high in calories and leaves a chalky aftertaste).  Of course, we save the best for last, ending the race with a color extravaganza of epic proportions.

Basically, you run 5km and every km, people jump out and shoot or throw coloured powder all over you. This is the first time the run has come to Australia, after being rolled out across the USA. The first Australian Color Run is in Melbourne in November and we get our turn in Sydney in February. I’ve registered and, by the looks of the peeps in this promo video, better make sure I don’t have any appointments for the rest of the day…Let me know if you’re in Sydney and want to join in the colourful fun!



Think Geek promises to sell “stuff for smart masses”. But not all of their stuff is especially geeky or designed for techos – today’s find made me giggle and I think it has a huge potential for adding a spark to the everyday items that we have around our homes and workplaces. Customers who have bought the kit have even sent in their own photos (which are then added to the product page) to show how they’ve used the stickers to add a bit of personality to things that would otherwise look pretty boring. See what you think…

In case you’re not familiar with the term ‘anthropomorphise’ (I wasn’t either), I’ll let the good people at Think Geek explain it far better than I can: We do it every day, though mostly without thinking about it – we get angry at the stapler that mangled our presentation, or the phone when it can’t get a signal. We say we “love this coffee mug,” and sometimes we even imagine a face on the clock on the wall. It’s called anthropomorphizing, and it’s where we imbue human characteristics to inanimate objects.

So they’ve taken this one step further and sell “Inanimate Character Stickers” – over 100 stickers of “eyes and mouths in various shapes, sizes and expressions, waiting for you to give life to the lifeless.” This idea is right up my street – I love it! From fruit to office products to shoes, people have submitted photos of what they’ve managed to achieve with just some kooky looking eyes and a toothy grin.

And the possibilities are endless. If others keep borrowing your stapler and forgetting to give it back, a scary face might be just what you need. Or if you want to encourage people to eat the orange cream biscuits that no one else wants, maybe stick on a nice little friendly face and watch them win people over. I’m thinking that doctors could take medical implements to a whole other level with a well chosen pair of eyes and a smile – except the only thing worse than a needle coming at you is surely a needle with a maniacal face coming at you…

I think these stickers could change our lives. Or, at least, they could help make us smile as we go about our business every day. And that’s a step in the right direction. If you’d like to check them out, they are available from Think Geek here.




Way to play, crochet

Frame magazine recently featured some amazing playground designs by Japanese artist Toshiko Horiuchi-McAdam. What’s so special about them? Oh, just that they’re made of crocheted yarn. Uh huh. Like giant brightly coloured spider webs that you can climb on and swing from.

Apparently Toshiko first came up with the crocheted playground idea back in the 1990s: ‘she was installing a piece made of crocheted yarn, when children asked if they could use it as a hammock’. Nothing like a live experiment to test the strength of the yarn – and it seems that the piece was actually stronger than expected.

Since then, Toshiko has turned her focus to creating public playgrounds and founded a company with her husband, ‘aimed at developing the concept of the play structure’.

The whole point of their work is ‘public art for kids’ – to design an artful experience that responds to the joyful engagement of children. Love it. For more info and pics of this fantastic idea, you can check out the Frame mag feature here.