Monday, April 18, 2011

New blog

You may have heard that we're going on a year of travel. I'm making a project of writing about river forecasters and hope to someday turn it into a book. Here's the link:

I reprinted 2 of the old blog's entries on the new blog but there'll be plenty of new material coming.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

How is the new cat working out?

So how is our new cat working out?

I mean, I'm crazy about him, the new cat (this is Kitty, bona fide dog person, talking. I know. It's confusing.) Tom is ambivalent. Buoyantly neutral? I see hope. Soon Bentley will count a pile of fallen toothpicks and the skies will open up with fatherly love. It's imminent. We find that if we don't overfeed him fresh Alaskan crab legs (we do), he's more playful. Mommy is the same way with Reese's, so we understand what is happening.

It's easy to catch him adoring the Supreme Grand Champion Sir Keysborough Bentley Preshapotomous Kittyflake (aka "Bentley" aka "Fatty fat-n-fat" aka "Kitty Pot Pie") making a paw bouquet as he sleeps in a desk chair...but then Tom also goes and wants to, I donno, wear him like a straight man's chinchilla scarf ... and Mr. Puss Puss wants nothing of whatsoever, period.

Frankly, I don't mind washing a stack of fur-clad t-shirts for this much cuteness.

This was Tom's father's end table that we had shipped over from America. Bentley loves to hang out under, over and around it while Tom works on his computer.

He'll even shower there.

If you hold up a tasty morsel, Bentley will make like a prairie dog and beg for it. It's pretty adorable. We'll have to get a real picture of the whole thing. You'll die in love. Geez, it's hard to get good pictures of animals doing cute things.

Anyway, I've just made a blog post of random pictures of my cat.

Shoot me now. :) - Meow Meow

Monday, August 2, 2010

Skiing / Biking Weekend

This weekend, I went skiing at Mt. Buller with a mob of other girls.

We love the movie The Castle. It's an Australian legend. Just thinking about it, it's hard not to sing the lyrics "We're going to Bonnie Doon" or ask "How's the serenity?". You have to watch the movie to appreciate it. My favorite line is when the dad talks about how much they all love going to their cabin at Bonnie Doon. He insists they all love it, "the dogs love it", etc. Then the camera pans to his dogs looking at the ground nonchalantly...really no indication that the dogs love the cabin at Bonnie Doon at all. Anyway, just see it,'s our national treasure.
We stopped for photos at every Bonnie Doon sign we could find. It drove Aimee, who took the picture, bonkers, because she likes to ride in the car with her shoes off....and it was raining.

The view from the cabin was amazing.

I tried to get everyone to wear pink cowboy hats so we could find each other easily on the slopes, to no avail. Face tattoos from our candy stash didn't catch on either, which was unfortunate...I had to scrub mine off with a nail file.

Lots of cooking and eating! Here's Huibee, who got mowed down by a snowboarder and sent home in a soft cast on her leg. She said the ski patrol guy wasn't even cute. They strapped her into a giant sled and attached her to the chair lift to cart her down the mountain. I don't think the weekend turned out quite so great for Huibee.

More eating. I'm standing in the back, on the right.

Played a lot of board games. Scattagories was fun. There were a lot of American references, like states and cities starting with a particular letter. The girls kept saying we needed to switch it to Australian terms...I would have lost hopelessly.

Peta and I faking spontaneity....the friend that took the photo didn't think we looked natural enough so she posed us.

Meanwhile, Tom when mountain biking with our friends Tony and Emma. He usually only gets to ride his bike down the shopping center road, past TGIFridays, and into his office, so it was fun for him to be out in actual nature and feel the serenity.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

No two snowflakes are alike

We've been on the hunt for a name for our new cat. It's a bit like naming your band. Hard to rock out with a name like "my little pony".

Lots of names were left on the cutting room floor...

Warren Demontague
Va Jay Jay
Puss puss
Boom Boom
Reggie Love (... real name of Obama's big black bodyguard)
Mister Meaner
CC Pounder
Dorian Gray
Slate Smiley
Mack, Gray, Argento, Frassino, Nevar, Chollo, Deuce Bigelow, Chev Chelios, Gogo Yubari, Hank Marvin, Steve McQueen and finally "Johnny Awesome".
I was gunning hard for "Mongo" but got vetoed.

I think we're zeroing in on "Bentley" as in Snowflake Bentley. He was the first photographer of snowflakes, taking pictures of individual flakes on black velvet under a microscope in a cold room in his barn in the late 1890s. He was the first to coin the phrase, no two snowflakes are alike. He wrote rapturously about the fleeting beauty of nature. Any photos you see like this came from him. He made thousands.

It's not over yet though. Typically, cats that compete for best in show have a long name that includes the breeder's name, a given name, and the owner's name, like "PopTart's Momentary Lapse of Reason Concrete Hullabaloo."

It's strictly forbidden to include an award in the name even if it's misspelled (e.g. "Mastere"). So we're going to stick it to the man by calling him "Supreme Grand Champion Sir Keysborough Bentley Preshapotomous Kittyflake."

I insisted that we need a silent numeral somewhere in the name, like a silent seven in "Key7sborough" (just for good luck, you know?) but again, vetoed by you know who (her name rhymes with "prett2y", and I'm not talking about the cat).

Monday, July 19, 2010

New Cat

This is our new boy - we got him yesterday from the Keysborough cat shelter. He's 3 years old and his last owners moved house and "couldn't" bring him. We hoped to bring him home Saturday, but he was sneezing and had a runny eye, so the cat shelter lady told us he might have the flu, or even chlamydia, then made us hose down with antiseptic spray and banned us from playing with any more cats for the rest of the day. We left, tail between legs, in shame.

The shelter ladies said he is half Scottish Fold, but it looks like he didn't get the "fold" (folded ears) part...just the face fat, which is okay.

Here's what a purebred Scottish fold looks like:



Mommy is tormenting him. Look at that fat face.

He's such a pretty cat - every hue of gray. His whiskers are dark at the roots and white on the tips. Just like mommy! A little smudge of color on his nose and mouth makes him look like he's stepping out of a black and white photo.

We're not sure what he thinks about. He seems to like to just lay around and stare at the walls a lot. Just like Mommy!

Still working on a name for him. His name was "Smokey", although we've tried everything from schmokey, the smokester, smokearooni, golden-eye smokeopolis, kiki, puss, koala bear, ghost, casper (for casper weinberger), angel paws, Bob Barker, maru-san, Chairman Meow, nothing seems to stick. Anyone have any suggestions?

Monday, June 21, 2010

New House

Next weekend, we move into our new house. It is walking distance from Tom's work and is "pet friendly". It's bigger than our current flat (3 bedroom) and has an attached garage. It's only about a year old - nice clean lines, hopefully spider and roach free? I like the real wood floors. It has a central vacuum system - fancy, but we're wondering how well that really works?

Moving is a huge hassle. Tom is very busy at work and we have been entertaining a lot lately. This is going to be a hectic week. A nice thing about moving is that it does force you to clean, organize, file and arrange those pesky areas that get away from you. We had a dinner party over the weekend and apparently my Tupperware cabinet unleashed its fury on an innocent friend who was just trying to help put things away. The secret is to quickly shove the Tupperware in and slam the door closed. Her mistake was conveying vulnerability in hesitating.

Feels a little like going to the next phase of our immigration/adult lives. Talk has now turned to planning future events with friends "in the city" used to be a five minute train ride, now it will be about forty minutes to go downtown.

Sorry we haven't been posting much lately. Could be a few variables here: the theme of this blog was mostly about our immigration, discovering our new world, adventures in moving, etc. That's all pretty well been covered. We also wonder who are audience is and what you truly want to hear...we know everyone likes photos, so we'll try to keep those coming.

It's interesting that "news", in the traditional sense, is often bad news. By definition, occurrences that are newsworthy are going to be outliers in some form. But our blog seems to be just the shiny bits and bobbles of our real lives.

No one wants to know that Tom has taken to secretly packing and furling away the evidence after I go to bed because I didn't want boxes all over the place. Or are you guys really interested in things like my new fixation on how we're going to hang pictures in the new place when we aren't allowed to drive holes in the walls without written permission from the property manager? ***snore****

Maybe I should post a transcript of what I had to say to the phone company guy when they told me what it will cost to get our new service. It wasn't one of my most elegant diatribes, just very, um, heartfelt.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

swanston st drifter

This week's writing exercise was to go out with a classmate into a nearby fast food restaurant and pick someone to observe. We had about 20 minutes to write a "double tanka", an expanded version of a haiku (that's 5-7-5-7-7/5-7-5-7-7/-5 syllables per line). Here's what we came up with

In and out of doors,
drifting like a bird of prey.
Like a ghost he haunts,
muttering on silent lips.
His stare stretches a mile long,
his shirt a loose shroud.
An invisible burden,
his arms mid-cross,
not committed to the fold.
It's the season everything
wants to be inside.

Earlier that week I watched some metro workers replacing some of the rail lines. They do it at 3am when the trains aren't running.

Lit up by flood lights
working in the ink of night
tearing up the tracks
the cool hiss of hydraulic
yellow spiders march along

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Grampian weekend continued....

To wrap up the big Grampian Mountain birthday weekend...

There was fabulous chicken wire around a shed on the Royal Mail campus...chickens are called "chooks" here.

We picked out some $6 commemorative cheese knives from the gift store that looks a bit like the chook wire, above. It also reminds of the great metal workers I used to work with in Portland. We can't remember the last time we went on holiday and felt the need to buy a fridge magnet or snow globe....that kind of thing turns into dust gathering kibble around the house. But we practically live on cheese and dips and have lots of hors dourves parties, so these will be well loved.

There were fun sculptures on the grounds. Here's some cute fauna frolicking in it.

The motel proprietor promised that kangaroos would come to our back door (or money back!) where we stayed on Saturday night, in Halls Gap. They're in the background. Nice cow though.

We eventually made enough new kangaroo friends that we stopped "recruiting" (slamming on the breaks and careening Winston, the car, to the side of the road to take photos).

Tom loves to find water stations. Sewers? Well...close. Circle of life, Baby.

Silverband falls: A waterfall that ends up underground. What a thrill to find actual cascading water in this drought.

Chilly and a bit rainy. Romantic I least a thrill to find a second waterfall, MacKenzie Falls. Can we go back to that 10 course restaurant now please?

Did some hiking. Tom claims this tree stump was hollowed out by lightening. Funny that, there were hundreds like this along the path.


While I waited in Winston and ate leftover garlic pizza while Tom took pictures of the water guages. A true win-win!

I can't stop thinking about the food at Royal Mail and are going to go sit vigil tomorrow until they let us feed again.

Grampian Birthday Weekend

After seeing Anthony Bourdaine's visit to Royal Mail in his show "No Reservations", I have been all aquiver to get a reservation here, a restaurant 3 hours north of Melbourne.

We finally got a booking and are here celebrating my 41st birthday. Tom keeps asking what I want for that so wrong that I just want to eat homegrown, organic, gourmet, Spanish / Australian food for four straight hours? It feels so right.

The town, Dunkeld has only 400 residents. I would have guessed 100. It's terribly quiet. Anthony Bourdaine says it's at the "ass end of No-where's-ville". True, that. He also calls it "quite possibly the best restaurant in Australia". So far, yes, tick that box for us.

Start watching at 2 minutes, 27 seconds...(email people click here).

Some of my favorite comments from Tony's bit here:
  • "I don't know if want to eat that or roll around naked in it." (Tony...lover of all things indulgent... food, booze, drugs, tattoos, travel ... and writing)

  • (Friend, Paul Wilson, local Melbourne chef) "And you're not a man who likes vegetables, Tony." .... Tony (in adorable, childlike voice): "I like pretty colorful things!!!" (and then he plays around in his flower salad...adorable!)

  • "You forget how good a carrot can be. You do. Did I say that or did I just think that? (Tony)

  • "Nothing felt constructed." (Tony) ...
    "Make it have a reason, and at that point, stop." (Royal Mail chef, Dan Hunter)

  • "It's so good it's almost depressing." (Tony)
It really was like a book you didn't want to end...I was sad as each of the 10 courses drew to a close. Luckily, I ordered the omnivore degustation menu and Tom had the we each got to try both.

Chef Dan Hunter designed the venue with "its own ecosystem" and "its own sustainable sourcing and food production". As we were eating the complimentary continental breakfast this morning, we saw a sous chef walk by with an armful of freshly harvested rhubarb from their massive garden ... I wanted to tackle/hug him.

How can one not wonder what leads up to toasting prohibition? Anyway, back to dinner...

Heirloom baby carrots in black cream, sardines on toast and mini pork sandwich.

Egg yolk, toasted rye, legumes and yeast with a broccoli paste. All we can think about is getting more. It's like we're chasing a sprout dragon now. We grilled the server for recipe details ... apparently we'd need a special immersion bath that keeps the egg yolk at an exact 62 degrees. This feels ever so slightly out of our skill range, notwithstanding kitchen cabinet storage capabilities.

Coral trout, brassicas (mustard greens), chicken broth and fried skin.

Fresh and dried berries, beetroot, black olives and rose petals.

The (above) strawberry and the sprout dish are among the best things I've ever put in my mouth. Fortunately, the venue also had a boutique hotel, so they only had to show us the door and pour us into bed afterwards.

I was going to ask for an I-pad ... maybe a tennis bracelet or a bike with a big rattan basket on the handlebars, but the memories of this marathon experience (and let's hope, not the fatness accrued) will last forever. No, gluttony is not good. But there is a lot right about this place and truly a thrill of my lifetime to get to be a part of it.

Even though we spent the rest of the weekend in other parts of the Grampian Mountain range, we are haunted by the flavors and determined to go back to their bistro on Sunday.

Fly away, you poor little precious quail we noticed on the ala cart menu ... TomKit is in route and hungry for more.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


Tom here again. This week's class involved more going out into the street and finding interesting scenes for about 20 minutes and coming back to discuss. He gave us a structured form to fit, and so here's some of the things I saw

She colors her hair
and gabs with the beautician
her man stands nearby
pacing near the door he looks
far too long in his wallet

A broken old man
hermit crabbed over yogurt
his spoon barely lifts
his mouth drops open slowly
lets it meander inside
then his eyes widen
his pace quickens near the end
he scrapes down the walls
intent on getting his fill
when satisfied he looks up
and lets out a silent sigh

(from a poster on the classroom wall)
cauliflower clouds
oppressive humidity
a featureless plain

Marge had the scrambled eggs
Ann had the mushrooms
Marge: "I don't think there's an end in sight"
Anne wondered if the wine bottles on the shelf,
arranged 3 deep, were in a particular order
alphabetical, by vintage, maybe even biographical.
"Nobody was prepared for it to go on for this long"
Anne sees a girl without sideburns
at the edge of her stool chewing too quickly
"You'd think nobody was in control" she clucked
A barista with coke bottle glasses wipes a spoon
with the edge of her neon pink surgeon's smock
"I think it's clear who should be responsible"
Anne notices an impatient blonde male behind the counter
biting his lower lip, he keeps his finger on the button
waiting for his shot to pull
The chrome coffeemaker rumbles on
his brow is the inverse of furrowed
A leather bracelet on one arm, she wonders why
his watch on the other is stopped, 3 hours late.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


I'm taking an observational writing continuing education course just for the sport of it with a friend, Peta. The teacher John Elder is a crack up, a journalist at The Age newspaper. Tonight was our first night and there were 11 people in the class, a very broad range of ages and interests. Our first exercise was to go down to the street and observe someone and write down what you see. Peta and I watched two people next to eachother (a guy and a girl). Here was what I saw:

A 45 year old man started on the stoop of the Night Cat City, a closed bar whose portico looked like a church. He pulled a large forest green wheeled suitcase that looked surprisingly new and clean, considering that his hair was a mess, he was tanned and weathered and had many small scabs on his cheeks.

We walked easily to the corner convenience store and back, returning with a glass bottle of beer in a brown paper bag. He went through a familiar ritual of preparing the beer, rolling down the edges of the bag and crossed the street to throw the cap in a bin. On his way back he looked up and down a young fashionable girl sitting on the stoop. She was well dressed in black and gray but with a red and orange matching wool scarf and hat. [Peta remarked that she was 18 but chain smoked patiently and knowingly like an 80 year old].

He took his place on the top stair of the stoop, up and behind her. He stood so he could watch her without seeming like he was staring. He stood in away from the rain but close enough to protect his luggage if it came to that. He meditated on his cigarette, spent a fair bit of time slowly rubbing his face and hair. When he was done, he flicked his cigarette in a long arc across the sidewalk into the gutter.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

A visit to mt olympus

John Jr. playing under John F. Kennedy's Oval Office Desk, 1963

Today I was invited to the Bureau of Meteorology headquarters to give a talk to the management committee of the research program I'm involved with. Someone described this as a "visit to mt olympus" where the titans of water and weather in Australia reside. The lineage is that I was talking to my boss's boss's boss's boss's boss. I had about 15 minutes of their time to do something a bit like an elevator pitch on what I'm doing and why our work is important.

The most surreal part of it was that the meeting was in the executive boardroom, in a posh and locked off part of the Bureau headquarters. I sat next to the person at the very tip top of the org chart for the Bureau and was video conferenced in to Canberra where there was another inner circle of Bureau and CSIRO heavyweights. The talk went well, they were very gracious and friendly.

I was surprised at how similar going to the executive offices was like it is in the movies, going into the inner sanctum, the Holy of Holies, Art-Deco-Empire (except a bit more Ikea). I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a bit star struck. The best part? I stumbled into the executive washroom (which, yes, had a lock on the door but was ajar). I didn't steal any embroidered linens, but it was a heady day in all.

Back when I was a wee grad student, I had the honor of getting seated at a banquet next to Joe Friday, the former executive of the US National Weather Service, the equivalent of who I met today. Of all the directors, he was especially revered by the people under him. As usual, no real clue who I was sitting next to at the time...

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Cats vs. Dogs

As you may know, Tom is more of a cat person, I'm more dog.

As the time we move to a potentially pet-friendly home grows nearer, the dialog is starting to heat up. Tom found this on the internet this morning. Can't see why he'd want a cat when he already has me?

Excerpts from the Dog's Diary ......

8:00 am - Dog food! My favorite thing!
9:30 am - A car ride! My favorite thing!
9:40 am - A walk in the park! My favorite thing!
10:30 am - Got rubbed and petted! My favorite thing!
12:00 PM - Lunch! My favorite thing!
1:00 PM - Played in the yard! My favorite thing!
3:00 PM - Wagged my tail! My favorite thing!
5:00 PM - Milk bones! My favorite thing!
6:00 PM - Oooh, Bath . Bummer.
7:00 PM - Got to play ball! My favorite thing!
8:00 PM - Wow! Watched TV with the people! My favorite thing!
11:00 PM - Sleeping on the bed! My favorite thing!

Excerpts from the Cat's Diary....

Day 983 of my captivity.

My captors continue to taunt me with bizarre little dangling objects.

They dine lavishly on fresh meat, while the other inmates and I are fed hash or some sort of dry nuggets. Although I make my contempt for the rations perfectly clear, I nevertheless must eat something in order to keep up my strength.

The only thing that keeps me going is my dream of escape. In an attempt to disgust them, I once again vomit on the carpet.

Today I decapitated a mouse and dropped its headless body at their feet. I had hoped this would strike fear into their hearts, since it clearly demonstrates what I am capable of. However, they merely made condescending comments about what a "good little hunter" I am. Bastards.

There was some sort of assembly of their accomplices tonight. I was placed in solitary confinement for the duration of the event. However, I could hear the noises and smell the food. I overheard that my confinement was due to the power of "allergies." I must learn what this means and how to use it to my advantage.

Today I was almost successful in an attempt to assassinate one of my tormentors by weaving around his feet as he was walking. I must try this again tomorrow -- but at the top of the stairs.

I am convinced that the other prisoners here are flunkies and snitches. The dog receives special privileges. He is regularly released - and seems to be more than willing to return. He is obviously retarded.

The bird has got to be an informant. I observe him communicating with the guards regularly. I am certain that he reports my every move. My captors have arranged protective custody for him in an elevated cell, so he is safe. For now................

Million Paws Walk

Back: Pocket, Kitty, Tom, Nesstastic, Maddie, Glen
Front: Daisy, Angel, Freddie
Photo by: Olivia (Pocket and Freddie's mom) - at Albert Park Lake

Today we went on the SPCA's fundraiser 5 kilometer dog walk, the Million Paws. I don't know that there was actually a million paws there, but Tom said it was like Dog Woodstock at least. At the starting line, we didn't dare push our way into the booth area where they were selling cupcakes, pizza, latte's and BBQ. Tom said it was as though they knew I was coming and planned the menu around me.

This proud Pomeranian-dad special ordered his custom "Outward Hound" doggie sling. Tom wondered how the plaster casting process went. Badly, I'd imagine.

There were many cute hairstyles. I cut myself off from using the word "cute" five minutes into the walk, by the way. It was becoming both redundant and repetitive.

Old English Sheepdog with a pony tail.

Little girl and poodle with matching pink bows. Awwww.

It was a beautiful morning. Lots of friendly people and gorgeous, pampered pooches. Australians are big into cross-breeding...they'll pretty much pair anything up with a poodle. One of the neatest dogs of the day was a "Roodle" (Rottweiler/Poodle mix). Something like this:

A Roodle.

The irony of all this deliberately-accomplished adorableness was that we were there to support the SPCA, you know, the place where unwanted dogs go? 200,000 dogs are "euthanized" in Australia each year. I'm not sure that's the right word though.

Tom and I loves us a Golden Retriever. Apparently they are now being selectively bred to have a white coloration. In fact, celebrity dog owner of the year, 1996, Oprah Winfrey has a few. It will be interesting to see how dogs' health issues and temperances evolve as this trend progresses.

I thought Oprah was in to cocker spaniels? When did she cross over?

Puzzle and Kitty with Star Wars characters. Rather random.

Nothing says "help nervous over-excited dogs feel safer" better than sci-fi costumes. I was not scared at all. Pocket, my loaner dog, mmnnn....?

Notice the Storm Trooper and Tusken Raider each have tiny doubles.

I pride myself on being able to identify all the dog breeds. Clearly, this is a Lhasa Apso, Pomeranian, Maltese mix. Though I think it may have actually been an Ewok that defected from the Star Wars mob...

see the resemblance?

I made a new friend.

Tom made a new friend.

He knows how much I appreciate a (1500 calorie) bottle of Ice Break Iced Coffee so I think he thought a peace offering to one of Albert Park's aggressive black swan's was a good place to start. A good time was had by all. We had to put our 'trainers' (walking shoes) on the patio to air out a bit when we got home.