10/15/2014

Egg is sick



Egg, as in our kitten and not an actual egg, got real fussy about food last week and went off her food entirely a few days ago. We took her to the vet and they said she's 1.2 kg underweight for a cat her age, so clearly something is wrong. She has been acting completely fine/normal apart from not eating, although she is quite lethargic and just sleeps all the time (just like me!). We are awaiting blood test results and she looks very sad with part of her neck shaven and bruised. The vet said her lymph nodes are enlarged and that it could be FIP which I really don't want to think about. I hope it is something relatively benign in comparison i.e. cat diabetes (which would of course be bad, but not fatal/incurable). She seems very sad and is just loafing on the ground although she ate the smallest piece of turkey and some butter before (which got stuck in her fur so she smells like a croissant now). I hope she will be OK

9/30/2014

30 Sept quarry visit

I was planning on observing in the morning but my allergies were terrible. By the time they subsided the rain began so I left after the worst of it - I figured that I probably wouldn't see anyone, and at best, I could argue that informal use is linked to weather (i.e. a nice day will attract more people).

4:15 pm: Nothing is happening and nobody is here. The weather is horrendous, overcast and windy. A barrier has been placed along Halong Drive where it meets the roundabout/dead-end - this is new, since it wasn't there when I last visited. I wonder why they've done this (whoever 'they' are) and what impact this will have on passive surveillance by residents who choose to enter/exit RVE the long way.

4:21 pm: Aside from the barrier, the other difference worth noting is that all the empty blocks and nature strips have been covered in roll-out turf. I knew something looked a bit odd when I drove in, so I checked with my photos from Sunday to confirm.

4:34 pm: Still nothing, still cold (and now rainy), and no cars coming through.

4:46 pm: It is so quiet that a family of magpies has emerged to feed from the newly rolled-out turf. A large group of cockatoos have taken over the dying tree adjacent to the quarry lake.

4:49 pm: A young male in a silver sedan drives past and does a complete loop at the roundabout before returning uphill. He slowed down when passing my car and looked at me. Is his preferred route home now blocked or did he have other plans? I wonder if my presence alarmed him.

4:52 pm: Quiet again.

4:59 pm: Still nothing - boring. I just noticed that the roundabout sign has been vandalised since my last visit.

5:00 pm: Spoke too soon - a tiny silver-blue hatchback has arrived. The car is quite new and there is a couple inside who look somewhat professional. I expected them to be alarmed by the roadblock and drive back uphill but they parked next to the roundabout.

5:02 pm: Hatchback people have not yet exited the vehicle. I don't blame them because the weather is cold.

5:03 pm: The driver of the hatchback exits the vehicle and goes to the boot. I'm thinking he could be here to dump rubbish but instead he grabs one of those silver foil sunshade things and tries to place it in the rear window of the car. He seems really annoyed that it won't stay in place - I assume he/the passenger don't want to be seen inside the car.

5:05 pm: After much fussing, the sun shade is in place and he has returned to the vehicle. I've heard the area is commonly used as a 'lover's lane' (which is probably the strangest facet of car culture and something I think would be interesting to explore in future research) and I guess this is proof of it. I'm kind of amazed that they're willing to do this in relatively 'dangerous' place.

5:10 pm: Quiet again. I'm mostly bird-watching now since nothing else is happening. The magpies accepted a magpie lark into their fold and they're all walking around together, while five cockatoos have congregated on a single dead plant.

5:13 pm: Old man in a silver BMW* drives through, does a full loop of the roundabout, and slowly drives back uphill - again, is this because of the new barrier blocking Halong Drive?

5:15 pm: L-plater in a 4WD drives through and around the roundabout. I learned how to drive here as well, and I've seen a few other learners around here, so it must be a known spot for locals. The couple are still there but I'm not going to stick around and make the situation more awkward so it's time to go home.

*I later saw this car parked outside a house under construction near the entrance to RVE so the driver must have been checking out something (quarry? Progress of construction?)

Took this when leaving, looks pretty useless to me but what do I know about barriers

Bad photo but cool bird tree

Baby magpie and older magpie near my car

9/28/2014

Potentially my second last quarry visit

I was going to visit the quarry this morning but I had terrible allergies last night and took antihistamines which made me sleep for a long time. Anyway excuses don't matter because I still saw interesting things today:

3:00 pm: So windy! Nobody is here and I think that's why. It was windy when I left home but it's really bad here. There is a burgundy-coloured sedan parked just near the roundabout, about half-way up the hill, in the driveway of an empty block. He is smoking and occasionally talking on the phone.

3:20 pm: Nothing has happened. Burgundy car guy is still on the phone.

3:28 pm: A silver ute appears - they've parked on the naturestrip closest to the quarry, next to the roundabout.

3:30 pm: The driver of the silver ute gets out of the car and walks around for a little bit. He's just standing at the fence and looking at the lake.

3:31 pm: Silver ute man somewhat tentatively walks around the Mangled Fence.

3:32 pm: He walks back to his car, smoking a cigarette, and fetches something from inside - I think it's a can of drink? He returns to a small rocky outcrop just meters beyond the mangled fence and sits down with his cigarette and drink, seemingly admiring the view.

3:34 pm: A green sedan with a family inside arrive and park next to the silver ute. A different silver car, this time a 4WD (and also containing a family), follows them but does a complete loop at the roundabout and drives back uphill. A man gets out of the green sedan - I think he's on the phone? He's walking around while his family wait.

3:36 pm: The phone man from the green sedan gets back in the car and drives away.

3:40 pm: Silver ute man is still there.

3:47 pm: A 4WD exits the scrub by the river - they drive up to the mangled fence and the steepness of this exit gives them some trouble. The Silver Ute Man is somewhat perturbed by this. The 4WD is covered in stickers (if you must know, vaguely aggressive patriotic statements) and has a "heritage" numberplate, which is really weird to me, because I wouldn't be inclined to call a 4WD a heritage car but anyway... it was covered in mud and full of young males who where shouting and whatnot. They drove uphill.

3:48 pm: Once the 4WD is out of the quarry area, the burgundy sedan waits for them to drive uphill. As soon as they reach the top, it follows closely, making me wonder whether the occupants of these vehicles know each other. Was the burgundy sedan keeping watch for those who could threaten their afternoon activity (such as the real estate agent sitting in his car at the entrance of the estate, waiting to make a sale)?

3:53 pm: All quiet again, Silver Ute Man is still in his spot drinking and smoking. It is incredibly dusty, so I can't imagine any extended dwelling here would be pleasant.

3:57 pm: Two dirt bike riders appear from the same place the 4WD came from. They pause just beyond the trees before riding uphill towards the railway bridge.

3:58 pm: I can't see the trail bike people anymore.

4:00 pm: (In my notes I described the silver ute driver as) "cigarette drink can man". He is still there. I wonder how long he stayed for.




9/23/2014

Can't stop visiting quarries

On Thursday I met with a local resident to interview them. We ended up going on a walk around the quarry and he pointed out weird little things (4WD tracks, car embedded in a riverbank, NYE party spot set-up by teens) and it was brilliantly informative. I don't know if that walk counts as an observation of the site but if it does, I have notes from which to write up an actual 'report' (key events were seeing the crossbow hunters and more people 4WDing, as well as cars acting as 'lookouts' for those driving in the quarry area).

Today's visit:

6:00 pm: There is a blue car parked at the dead-end. A couple are standing near the quarry together. They look quite young (almost too young to be driving) but someone could easily assume the same thing about me so I won't judge.

6:14 pm: They're still there, standing and hugging - they seem awkward but nothing too weird. They haven't wandered far beyond the mangled fence so I get the feeling they're a bit scared or reluctant to explore the site further. I don't think they're aware of how visible they are from RVE.

6:20 pm: A cyclist on a mountain bike emerges from the filled quarry, and rides out and down the path adjacent to the Maribyrnong River. I can definitely see the appeal in this activity, the landscape is right for it.

6:32 pm: The couple get back in their car and leave.

6:45 pm: A strange car appears - they've dimmed their headlights while descending down the hill before disappearing into RVE. They reappear for a minute and I can see the silhouettes of four (or potentially more) people crammed into the back seat of this dark blue sedan. They slow to a stop near my car and slowly do a three point turn before driving away again.

7:00 pm: I leave. Nothing else has happened. While driving uphill from the dead-end on my way out of RVE, I notice a red sedan (late 90s model, very blocky) with super-tinted windows parked in the driveway of an undeveloped block of land. The passenger side window has been wound down slightly but I can't see the occupants. My 25 year old car struggles uphill right past the red car and almost on cue, I see the brake lights come on before it reverses out and follows me through RVE. 

I got out of RVE without them following me but they sped up to follow me as I turned right into Surrey St. They turned into a side street soon after. Could be a coincidence? I don't know.

At the very least, my observations so far have given me a nice sample of the various things that go on at the quarry, from 4WDs to dirt bikes to bored teens and cyclists. I wonder if it would've been any different had I changed my methodology slightly (i.e. observing on foot rather than from a vehicle [probably unsafe though]) but I'm happy with the results thus far. I'm going to visit once more in the afternoon on Thursday and then stop by on Saturday and Monday morning, and maybe Sunday afternoon if I have the time. I'm actually kind of sad this is coming to an end because visiting the quarry so regularly has become a pretty major part of my routine. 

Spot the stolen car

9/16/2014

Quarry Watch 12/09 and 16/09

Friday:
6:00 pm: Nothing - just crows and cockatoos. Another soccer match is on.

6:23 pm: I can hear a strange alarm sound, like a high-pitched police siren, but I doubt it's from the quarry. I can't tell where it's from because it echoes throughout the valley. It stopped after 30 seconds.

6:28 pm: The alarm has started again, and stopped after 30 seconds. Maybe from a nearby factory?

6:29 pm: The alarm is back, and again, it lasted for 30 seconds. How annoying (for me, for the residents, for the dogs in the area who don't seem to enjoy it).

6:31 pm: Can this alarm stop? Seems to have a pattern to it. A car just drove past me really slowly and the people in it stared at me and then turned right to go downhill and through the dead-end/roundabout, still driving slowly.

6:36 pm: This is the most uneventful visit yet, which I didn't expect because it's a Friday night and the weather is great.

6:43 pm: A car drives along Halong Drive and I get excited thinking maybe they're visiting the quarry but it's probably just someone returning home.

6:46 pm: Another car does the same as the above but in the opposite direction.

6:50 pm: Nothing has happened for a few minutes now. I am still surprised at how dull this evening has been. Maybe I've come here too early in the evening? I would visit later but the warning from the security guard has put me off coming here too late.  

7:00 pm: Home time.

Today:

6:45 pm: I arrive and park my car in the usual spot. There is a single car parked at the dead-end street. No soccer tonight so it's quite dark.

6:58 pm: A silver 4WD ute drives past me and turns left up the hill, before doing a three-point turn and driving back downhill towards the roundabout/dead-end. They slowed down when going around the roundabout and drove away. I wonder if they're disturbed by the presence of the other car there.

7:01 pm: The occupant of the car mentioned at 6:45 pm exits their vehicle. They walk towards the barrier separating the street and the quarry and stand there. Something about their movements makes their presence seem a bit strange.

7:04 pm: Two different cars drive past the roundabout. As soon as they're out of view, the aforementioned individual gets back into their car and drives away. Are they irritated by the amount of vehicular traffic?

7:07 pm: A cyclist appears - at least, I think they're a cyclist. Their bike is making a strange noise (almost crunchy) and they're quite low to the ground. Is it one of those bizarre tiny motorbikes? A car is tailing them quite closely and the whole thing seems really weird.

7:13 pm: The mysterious bike, and the silver 4WD ute from before, are going in circles around the roundabout. Another car has appeared and is following them closely.

7:31 pm: Nothing.

7:36 pm: The bike person has appeared near my car! They just walked up the hill with their bike and rode back down again. It's dark so I can't see their bike very well but it's not a normal-looking bike.

7:45 pm: Nothing else happens for the night. I've heard this weird noise during the past few visits, kind of like a rock hitting rock (or potentially metal-on-metal) but I attributed it to the soccer ground. There's no soccer on tonight but the sound is still happening which makes me wonder what it actually is, as it's coming from the general direction of the big flooded quarry. It could be a gate at a nearby factory but why would it be that loud and repetitive? If it was a gate swinging shut from the wind I would understand but I've heard it on clear, still nights, so I don't know.

At this point, while driving down the hill, I see the aforementioned bike plus the silver ute and the other mystery car that followed them around for a while. It looks like a family have congregated to watch their child ride his bike around (a closer look at the bike reveals it's one of those low-rider stunt things with plastic wheels). I think they've been towing him with a rope because the silver 4WD ute has a really long length of rope attached to the back. A strange choice of activity for a dark Tuesday night but it looks pretty fun and they've chosen a good space for the activity - I'm glad there's an innocent explanation for this.


A boring post about idiopathic condylar resorption

I probably wrote about this very briefly in another post but my original intentions for writing a blog were motivated by my jaw disease. Obviously I haven't written much about this (mainly because 99.9% of the treatment is "wait and see" and I can't get any content out of that) but I intend to now, solely so that anyone else going through the same thing can search "idiopathic condylar resorption" and stumble across this (that's your cue to stop reading if you're not interested). Very altruistic of me (but not really since I'm just writing about myself from this point onwards). Anyway, I had my annual check-up today which involved getting three OPGs done of my face and the general consensus is that my disease is worse than ever, and potentially the most severe case ever encountered by my surgeon. Everyone (surgeon, orthodontist, GP) assumed the disease had stabilised and that any jaw pain was most likely from clenching due to stress but this has been thoroughly dismissed now and we're most likely looking at surgery after my condyles have resorbed completely, which is probably the worst outcome possible. I didn't expect this to be the case after having my open bite/overbite measured last week by my orthodontist as all signs pointed to stable but I guess the measurements were slightly off? At least this provides an explanation for the jaw pain and general weakness and fatigue I've been experiencing lately, and why talking and eating are gradually becoming the most arduous tasks in the world. Oh well. I would probably be less annoyed if there was an explanation for this (i.e. rheumatoid arthritis in the condyle/s) but every relevant test so far indicates perfect health (that being said I have a genetics appointment on November 25 to see if I have Ehlers Danlos syndrome).

How boring and sorry for the above but I hope at least one person attempts to research their condition and comes across this and feels a certain solidarity (in which case I invite any and all comments/questions). I would post a photo of the OPGs but I forgot to ask for a copy. Back to regular programming now...

9/10/2014

Notes from today

6:30 pm - Nothing. I think there's a car down near the roundabout but I can't tell. Soccer match is on tonight.

6:43 pm - A white 4WD appears! It came from the riparian woodland alongside the river. A group of cockatoos took offence to this and made a lot of noise, so naturally, every dog in the neighbourhood started barking. I can hear a loud acceleration noise - the 4WD is out of view, and this is mere speculation, but I wonder if they're trying to drive up a steep rock wall (the one with the mangled fence) to leave via RVE.

6:46 pm - Police helicopter appears in the distance. The accelerating noise has stopped and I can't see the 4WD. I wonder where it went. Maybe the driver was spooked by the helicopter.

6:49 pm - A different white 4WD goes past me but it was a Range Rover and I highly doubt someone will be driving one of those around a quarry.

6:50 pm - The original white 4WD is back! They've turned around and gone back to the trees by the river. The tail lights on their car are out, which makes me wonder whether it's a purposely acquired vehicle for this kind of activity (I can imagine they'd have a 'Mud pig' bumper sticker). There is a huge discrepancy between the 'height' of the one operational light on the back of their car and their headlights - where they're driving seems unpleasantly steep.

6:52 pm - The 4WD has completely disappeared into the trees as I can't see headlights anymore. This strikes me as really odd because it's quite dark right now. 

7:04 pm - Nothing happening. Three planes have flown over since the last update which is a lot, and I can now see why RVE is under an airport overlay. I hope the residents have soundproofed homes.

7:12 pm - Two cars go past the dead-end street but continue along Halong Drive. One drives past me. I'm starting to think this is common practice.

7:14 pm - I can't help but ruminate over where the 4WD could've gone. Were they unable to exit via RVE, for whatever reason? I'm curious as to whether there's an informal road that leads elsewhere (the petrol station near my old house in St. Albans had a little dirt track leading from the truck parking bay to the eastern edge of the Kealba Quarry and then under the E.J. Whitten bridge to the Maribyrnong River. I remember seeing people on dirt bikes there when I was a kid. I think it is also a favoured spot for arsonists in summer because the scrub there burns very easily - wait actually a further search brings up this forum post which supports the existence of the track so yes there is an alternative way out). 

7:20 pm - I can hear someone yelling aggressively in the distance. I think this is probably from the soccer ground.

7:30 pm - I exit RVE via the dead-end street/roundabout configuration. The car I thought I maybe saw in my first note turns out to be real! A dark blue Holden station wagon, relatively new, and exuding a very strong "unmarked cop car" vibe (but if they were police, wouldn't they have noted me? It does provide a good reason for the 4WD acting strangely though).

That's it for now. My next visit will be Friday afternoon. I also just came across this, which was published recently, while looking for more information about 4WD activity in the area. I can see why the security guard warned me about creeps. Reminds me of hiking at Werribee Gorge a few years ago and some rabbit hunters came out of nowhere with gigantic crossbows and blood-stained clothing and it was really unpleasant. 



I have a soft spot for things in supermarkets being put in places they don't belong

9/07/2014

Sunday at the quarry

I can't be bothered turning this into a narrative so I have just typed my notes verbatim. The visit was productive and I look forward to returning on a weekday afternoon to see what kind of things happen then. I have been ruminating over the lateness of my visit on Friday night and whether I should attempt anything like this again and I think probably not (even though I would really like to) just because of safety reasons (but that makes me feel like I'm missing out on a whole lot of weird things that would be interesting to observe so I don't know). Maybe I can compensate for the lack of nighttime observations with information provided to me by Sunshine police. So far the developers of RVE have ignored my attempts to contact them but I may physically attend their sales office in the coming week.

I think I forgot to mention this but I have been told by Brimbank CC that any information I want must be obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and therefore costs real money. I don't know if this is for real or just an excuse to get me to stop calling them. I'm going to the VU library again tomorrow to read through some final things and when I do, I'll wrote the biggest blog post ever about it, because I've discovered so many interesting things. I guess the challenge here lies in actually integrating these findings into my thesis rather than stating a series of facts but I guess the difference there is a critical analysis of the things I have discovered.

Anyway, the point of this post is the quarry, so here you go:

3:45 pm - I arrive at the quarry. There are 3 trail bikes on a small plateau about 150m from the dead-end street (where a blue Mazda is parked).

3:51 pm - A small white car arrives, and parks next to the other car. A couple exit the vehicle and walk around, crossing the mangled fence and walking about 10 metres into the quarry site. They mostly just looked around.

3:53 pm - A mother and her two small children walk over from Halong Drive and explore the fence line. The youngest picks up a plastic bag and takes it with him. The couple from the white car return to their vehicle and stand next to it talking. 

3:56 pm - The couple get into their car and leave. I wonder whether they're considering buying property in the area, or whether they were there for the quarry. 

3:57 pm - The mother and her two children walk back up the hill. Four young adults, who I didn't see before, walk out of the quarry hole towards the trail bikes and continue uphill towards SH, before changing course and walking out onto the first terraced ledge of the quarry (closest to the water). The quarry looks larger than usual with a group of people providing scale.

3:59 pm - Distant motorbike sounds (I can't see anything, though - probably coming from the other side of the river or dense shrubbery on the quarry side).

4:00 pm - A black Mercedes arrives. The driver of the vehicle slows down and gestures repeatedly to his passenger, pointing at the quarry. He drives away.

4:01 pm - More motorbike sounds. Two members of the quarry ledge group return to their bikes.

4:02 pm - A small black car with a half-open boot containing building materials arrives and proceeds to park perpendicular to the other cars at the dead-end. 

4:05 pm - A trail bike rider (perhaps relating to the above motorbike sounds) exits the quarry, driving over the mangled fence. They disappear down Halong Dr. The black car full of building materials leaves. I don't know whether these materials were new or used/going to be thrown away.

4:09 pm - Two sports cars arrive in a row, driven by a male and a female. An old man walks past my car. The two sports cars park next to the blue car noted above. A male exits one vehicle and proceeds to punch (jokingly or seriously?) the car tailing him. A young woman then gets out of her car, speaks with the male, and places her handbag in the boot. 

4:12 pm - The two drivers set off to explore the quarry on foot. They enter the site with some confidence, like they've been here before (as contrasted with the other couple, who seemed to exhibit some trepidation).

4:13 pm - Those on the quarry ledge walk back to their trail bikes, although a member of the group has been left behind. He sits alone while the couple wave at the rest of his group - they proceed to greet each other and begin socialising. 

4:15 pm - The now-larger group walk slightly downhill and are out of view. The couple follow those who have already been at the site for quite some time.

4:16 pm - The group now begin walking uphill to SH. 

4:17 pm - The group stop on a small slope; they look around and point out various things to each other (I wish I knew what). Most of them seem well-acquainted with the area.

4:18 pm - The group slowly descend.

4:20 pm - The group return to the trail bike plateau. The group member left on the ledge is still there, sitting motionless on a large piece of basalt.

4:21 pm - The group now return to the ledge. There is a motorbike noise to the north-east of the site. Ascertaining the true location of this noise is difficult given most sounds tend to echo throughout the valley.

4:23 pm - All group members are now on the ledge, but one individual decides to return to their car.

4:24 pm - A young male drives down the street (Rivervalley Boulevard) in a Burgundy sedan. He does a full loop of the roundabout and drives past me slowly, before pulling over to the left about 100 m up the hill. He proceeds to park in a driveway (for an unsold and empty block of land) directly in front of me. 

4:26 pm - Quarry lurker who returned to their car now back with the rest of their group.

4:27 pm - A silver car arrives, driving slowly and probably looking at property. It does not stop and leaves almost immediately (unsurprising - there isn't much to see if you're not into quarries). The people on the ledge are still there: someone is yelling and others are laughing. I can hear the motorbike again.

4:28 pm - This burgundy sedan is still parked in front of me. I can see the driver looking back towards me every now and then. I wonder what their deal is.

4:30 pm - A motorbike drives up Halong Dr, crosses the mangled fence (sorry - there's no better way to describe it, so get used to hearing 'mangled fence') and stops.

4:32 pm - The bike person proceeds to join the ledge group. There are now five people there.

4:33 pm - Another bike person appears! This seems to be a popular activity. Makes sense given the good weather (and lack of mud). They don't make contact with the group.

4:34 pm - Two men walk downhill from the more developed part of RVE. As they do so, they pass the burgundy car, which leaves almost immediately. The driver does not go past me (or the quarry) again, instead opting to drive straight to Duke St.

4:35 pm - The ledge group begin throwing stones into the quarry. Some guy in a white shirt is the main instigator of this as he picks up stones and begins hurling them into the water. Others start joining in as they begin walking south along the quarry ledge.

4:39 pm - The group are still throwing rocks. A few cockatoos are bothered by this and fly away from the quarry in a panic. 

4:41 pm - A young family walk along Halong Dr and briefly towards the quarry before changing direction and walking uphill.

4:42 pm - The group catch on to the idea that rock size = splash size. They start lifting heavier rocks and throwing them in, while two individuals decide to sit on the very edge and push loose stones with their feet (the thought of this makes me feel so uneasy). They're still laughing and yelling.

4:44 pm - They're still going. I would love to hang around and see if anyone eventually falls in or does something stupid but I have a birthday dinner to go to. So far they're having a great time which makes me wonder if they come here every weekend to do this kind of thing. I know I would if I had more spare time. It's kind of cool that they feel such ownership over the space that they just leave their motorbikes and related gear on their little plateau while they explore the area.

That was boring so I'll make up for it with photos:

This picture has no purpose I just thought the bird was cool 
Tyre marks on the roundabout
More
CCTV cameras installed somewhat recently
A crow and some new signage. A lot of the trash and some of the concrete pipes have been removed
Poor fence
Such a mangled fence (if you look closely you can only just see the shaded plateau thing where the motorbikes were) 
Relatively clean (the pile of crud is the concrete pipes)
Useless fence
New signs!(!!!!!) which were definitely not there last time I was here during the day 
More tyre marks (I'm going to assume 4WDs) plus you can see how far away the closest houses are (the last few times I visited, I've parked up near the house in the middle) 
What a nice day to be at the quarry