Saturday, January 31, 2009

More sunsets

Here's how the heatwave ended last night. It went from 113 F to 88 F in less than a half hour. The humidity (green line) spiked and then it just turned into this sloppy sweaty mess. Getting home on the train was brutal, a packed train would pull up to the packed platform and people would try to crowd on while people were trying to get off. The scene was probably moments away from eye gouging and hair pulling.

About an hour and a half later I got home soaked through. It's been a long week so we just stayed in but were treated to this sunset as the clouds rolled in. Tom

Friday, January 30, 2009

Welcome Michael Lloyd Martz!

This is Reagan, my two year old niece. messed up and didn't send her birthday gift (a giant indoor tunnel and tent compound)on time. Never use them. Toddlers can't be bothered with supply chain logistics, they want cake. I thought this would be a great gift because 1) what kids don't love a fort? and 2) it will monopolize a huge footprint of my brother's house which he just may find irritating.

Anyway, my brother and his awesome wife, Tanya, had their second today, a boy. He's perfect. I knew someone who used to say that when each of her grandchildren were born..."He / she is perfect!". Makes you wonder at what point we might stop being perfect? 2? 6? 12? 25? Could it be possible that you stay perfect and you're just human? I'd like to believe that...that these two can grow up thinking that they are exactly right.

One of the consistent things we hear here is that people are homesick, that they miss their families. While we can go back every year or so and people can come see us here, it's going to be hard for me to have these two growing up without my knowing them. I hope that by the time they are in school (and old enough to think about things other than cake, which we're hoping I, myself, will jump that shark soon), that they can come spend some summers or long vacations with Tom and me.

It's an incredible gift to be able to pick up and move wherever we want without having to worry about how it effects our own kids. We are often told how much more challenging it is and see the amount of investment it takes to raise a family. Clearly, there's a huge reward in it too, but a lot of missed sleep and spilled milk, for sure.

I desperately want to be a good aunt...we'll have to figure out what that looks like from 8,000 miles of ocean away.

Let's talk about sex

Too Hot for TV: PETA's Banned Ads

When we were India a few months ago, we were shocked by the number of stray, starving dogs. In Bangalore, for example, one of my hosts joked that you could "throw a rock and hit a software engineer or dog". Funny.

The big thing in Australia is hybrid, or "designer" dog breeding. They're cute, and apparently saner and less prone to health problems, but it makes me wonder if an Aussiedoodle, Bichapoo, Chi-Chi, Dorki (there's a whole alphabet) is what the world really needs?

We don't see many stray dogs here, but there are certainly shelters full of them being euthanized every day.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

work work work

My old boss Phil emailed me a collage of pictures of his family in the snow in Portland. Apparently there's dense ice fog there and it's been below freezing for a while. Meanwhile, today I was talking to the Australian head of the climate forecasting division and he was saying that there's probably even odds of Melbourne breaking high temperature records for all-season, all-year if not this week then next. 

The rival is something ominously called Black Friday in 1939. It was a day that had unimaginable bush fires (wildfires). Get a load of this description: 

"Giant trees were blown out of the ground by fierce winds and large pieces of burning bark (embers) were carried for kilometres ahead of the main fire front, starting new fires in places that had not yet been affected by flames."

In the last hour or so, the temperature has really come down as the wind has changed direction. The wind is howling now and I can hear out the window stuff tipping over from the gusts. Not quite trees being blown out of the ground but still. The sunset is going to be amazing tonight, there's a high cloud base of fluffy little clouds. Already the sun is blocked by the clouds and producing those religious-style rays of light that I'm sure were the subject of innumerable Family Circus and Ziggy cartoons. 

It's been dawning on me that I haven't written much about work since starting about three weeks ago. The first week was mostly an administrative week, getting passwords for computers, ID badges and so on. I've been reading a lot of papers, trying to catch up on the Australian flood forecasting systems. 

I spent this week over at the Bureau of Meteorology talking with many people, operational forecasters, managers, researchers. I'm learning quite a bit but its been like making scientific foie gras. I'm not complaining but long meetings with strangers/new friends loaded with new information/acronyms, etc. My brain has been sore at the end of the day and the most I've been able to do is flop into bed. 

In a nutshell, the national Bureau office loosely manages a group of regional flood forecasting offices, one in each state of the country. Those offices use a fairly simple but reasonably effective flood forecasting method. It's limited and it's not as good as it could be. They brought me in to work as part of a team to improve short range river flow forecasts of less than 14 days ahead.  

Maybe I'm getting a hand-picked selection of people to talk to, but one thing that's surprised me is the lack of organizational dead wood, everyone seems top notch, enthusiastic, engaged. But one challenge I anticipate is that I see a field littered with great projects that just never saw results transitioned into practice. What makes me think I'm going to succeed whereas so many others have failed? What's different now from back then? 

In my last job, I think being an outsider helped. I always liked the image of the Wiley Coyote cartoon where he chases the Roadrunner over the cliff and doesn't start falling until he looks down; succeeding at the impossible because you didn't know it was impossible when you tried it. 

Obviously you don't want to be dumb about it. We've been going to the Casino and it seems natural to think that you're special and you're going to be a winner. I don't know which is worse though, believing that you're lucky or skilled at gambling. Strangely enough, I sometimes wonder if I'm both when it comes to finding the love of my life- isn't Christine just the cutest little spitfire? 


Not-so-secret diary of a (temporary) housewife

Today's mission: get a microwave, start permanent residence application, call the Good Guys about overbilling us for the washer and fridge, do laundry (that gets LINE DRIED, yikes), clean the tile in Tom's bathroom with a bottle of contraband acid I got off the building manager, respond to the 25 or so very sweet notes I got from old friends in an online restaurant review group (I was review of the day for a breakfast sandwich I ate a month ago!) and organize our google social calendar for the next few weeks. And perhaps, if there's time, apply for a job or two. Meh...

So when I walked by the mirrored closet door and saw this, I had one of those shocking "how did we get here"? moments. Have I lost my edge? Is that education we just sacrificed so much for going to good use? Am I, god forbid, getting BORED? It's a little out of focus. That's serves to protect you, believe me.

I'm wearing boys undershorts (don't ask) and curlers in my bangs. There is a vacuum in the bedroom, a laptop, phone, and papers on our new $1800 unmade bed. My legs are ripped though, hmm. I suspect that part of Tom's reasoning for not wanting a car is that we're more active without one. I've lost ten pounds since we started moving and am at the lowest weight I've been for about 10 years, so we're doing something right.

Here we are a month ago, knee deep in Portland's fifty-year Christmas storm.  It's also lacking photo detail to protect the visually innocent...I'm wearing my "take the picture fast cause I got furniture to carry down the block to a neighbor's for the consignment people to pick up" expression.

There's a deconstruction and simplicity to my new life that I'm thoroughly enjoying. I like pinning socks up to dry, it triggers a visceral desire of domesticity perhaps? I liked chasing the tram down with my new microwave strapped into a little dolly they call a "jeep" here. My Jeeprowave. I like making chicken salad and seeing that every bathroom cabinet is fully stocked with non-baby-powder-smelling TP. Does anyone really like the smell of baby powder and why are the sneaking it, unlabeled, into TP?

I really like that our stuff isn't here. Why did we ship all that stuff, WHY? So far the shipping bill for 36 boxes is over US $4000.00, and that doesn't include any appliances or furniture. Just half full bottles of face cream I didn't like, a collection of Mao busts, records, tools, kitchen knives and shoes (lots of shoes, actually). (Lots of Mao statues too, but let's not get into that). Tom can feel the anxiety about what to do with all this stuff coming off me in waves.

After we get our Permanent Residence documents filed, get on the national health insurance, have all our stuff delivered and perhaps even get a couch, I think my housewifiness may end....give it a week, maybe two for all that to happen. A new friend I met at the Australia Day BBQ suggested I get myself a job sooner rather than later, as the economy is just getting worse. So time to dust off the old resume.

Having the last six months off from work has been a gift. A gift from Tom, actually. When we met I was making good money, sitting on a board, wearing heels, big hair and makeup every day. Today I find great joy when, every few hours, I can go tip the tiny ice cube trays into the catching bin below. Or take my new pink kickboard down to the lap pool. But a big bag of oranges and porter it home from the market in my jeep trolley. Cleaning the house. Who knew?

Some people take a sabbatical to write a semi-autobiographical first novel. I guess I scratched that itch in writing dozens of online restaurant reviews a week. Some are drawn to parenting. I find a deep sense of satisfaction in having found Abbie (our golden retriever) and Neko (our tabby cat) incredibly good homes.

Tom is driven to accomplish and make a difference in the world, while I'm more motivated by your standard gluttony, relaxation, sunshine and laughter. Though to take stock, in the past six months I got an MBA (two actually), sold the house and most everything we own, said goodbye to friends, family and pets, survived the 50 year Christmas Storm of 08, moved across the world and set up an incredibly peaceful new place to live in a foreign land, where I'm working hard to make new friends and explore all that this beautiful country has to offer.

I don't think it matters that there's a vacuum in the bedroom. In spite of whatever's going on in this picture here, I'm speechlessly grateful to get to be me these days. We'll do another happiness metrics after I get a job.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Happy Australia Day (and month!)

Yesterday was Australia Day, and also our one month anniversary of arriving here in Melbourne. 

We were invited to a BBQ, where we had delicious kangaroo tips, sausage, kabobs, pasta salad, cake and ice cream.  It was great to see other Portlandians and a Canadian.  I feel part Canadian after all my time in Kingston for school last year - what a treat to talk with people who can understand us and who we understand!  When we were getting ready to sell the house last fall, we talked about moving into a short term apartment rental so it was easier to show the house/keep it clean/etc.  One of the places we looked at was owned by a young guy who works for Columbia Sportwear and who was transferred to Melbourne. His mom showed us the place and we'd never met him until we ended up here, where we popped by his store to say hello.  Anyway, all of the family and guests were delightful.  Tom got invited to go camping with the guys though we'll have to see if he's studied up on all his lethal snake and insect protocols by then. 

We got home just in time for the fireworks. 

I just start laughing every time we walk through our front door as to how great the views are from the apartment.  We were talking about what we like about art at dinner the other night and Tom said that he appreciates being able to look at something differently each time, to see layers and innuendos behind the overt.  Well that describes our balcony completely!  You can continue to discover Melbourne indefinitely from this vantage point. 

Monday, January 26, 2009

Hepburn Springs and hiking

Christine put together a whole surprise weekend getaway for Australia Day. We went up to Hepburn Springs, apparently the mineral springs/spa capitol of Australia. The drive up there reminded me quite a bit of Arizona, rolling hills and cattle and bone dry grasslands, with the occasional patch of trees. Melbourne has a bit more vegetation, like this picture below is from a park we walked around in near Kew... We're still learning all the names of the trees. 

The high point of Hepburn Springs is the Hepburn Bathhouse, a government facility that's been open for many decades but recently had a major overhaul. The website is here The architecture of it is breath taking and I recommend checking out some of the pictures. Christine signed up for the full boat maximum package with aromatherapy steam room, mineral hydro massage, salt water floating pool, monsoon showers, etc. When they were walking us around they explained that it was largely on an honor system, but two hours (our package) is really quite a long time to be at a spa, about the most one could handle. I figured they hadn't met Christine before. We probably stayed for about 2 1/2 hours. 

When we first rolled into town we ate at A Perfect Drop, a wine bar with tapas. There were a lot of places in town but I have to think that we just stumbled upon the best place off the bat. We had olives and the cheese and leek fritters with spicy sweet and sour saffron sauce. I notice Christine gives a hearty enthusiastic "Yum." when she tastes something she likes. Extremely good brings out the Opera Yum, a drawn out falsetto "Yuuuuumm!". The fritters got both the regular Yum and the Opera Yum, so we ended up going back for dinner to the same place.  

We did some hiking (or bush walking or tramping) around some of the springs, which was nice. We saw The Blowhole, a hole in a rock that a river passes through and when the river gets bigger than the hole the results are spectacular. When we were there it was a dry riverbed. However, when we were driving back into town there were some Wallabys/Kangaroos that were jumping ahead of our car down the road. Christine tried to run them down with the rental car (a Toyota Corolla Seca that she's named Gunther and says she'd marry if she hadn't already met me) but this is about as close as we got with the camera: 

To kill some time we also went to the Chocolate Mill (Christine: "Houston we have a problem- there's a tourist town without a chocolate factory"). Their story was actually quite inspiring. We got to talk with Jennifer, the owner, for a bit. Very friendly and obviously passionate about what she does. They lived on the property for 20 months together without electricity and meeting deadlines by putting in 14 hour days every day for six weeks. We'd be flattering ourselves to say that we could relate and it definitely puts our immigration saga in perspective. We asked what impact it had on their relationship and she said something to the effect that there was one day that was their darkest moment, but otherwise it was a bonding experience. She said that what helped the most was having her own thing to work on, that both people were not always working on the same thing. She said it all very eloquently so I regret not remembering her exact words... but I was caught in a sugar spiral after taking down one of their dark hot chocolate drinks, the remants of which are below. Note the spoon scrape marks. 

Friday, January 23, 2009

It's probably the knowing

Today we were walking around along the side of the Nepean Highway in west Bentleigh and found a very crumpled piece of paper with some writing on it. It was dated yesterday and labeled "pg 2". It read

"It's probably the knowing what could have been that is killing me the most. In a perfect [world?] that I dream about I would be doing all the right things that I actually know I'm capable of"

Can't even imagine the story behind that. It was vigorously wadded up and looked pretty weathered for something written yesterday. What ever happened to page 1? Was it a letter or a diary? Who dates both pages? Christine says it's "obviously" a guy's handwriting ("with high self esteem... left brained... seventeen").

Moving as a couple story

I've been meaning to write down a funny episode that happened a couple weeks ago and it just keeps slipping away so here it is dangit.

We bought a table/chairs through a classified ad from a young couple with a baby. She was dutch and he was English and they were both very affable and friendly. When they heard we were new in town they were overflowing with good advice on where to buy things and cultural differences and so on.

At one point I think Christine asked them something along the lines of "So yeah big move! Did you find that moving brought you together, was it a bonding experience that strengthened your relationship?" To which there was a bit of nose wrinkling and laughter. She then said "Well, you know... There were times when I was just like grrr!" with a two hand motion that looked like a combination of pouncing and throttling.... there was a little bit of teeth baring, which I have to admit was cute coming from a small blonde dutch girl to a tall thick necked beefy english guy that could double as a bouncer.

And that was it. No "grrr! but...", just "grrr!".

If you've done a big move, you could probably relate. Once you get an address, bed, phone and internet, the pressure definitely eases off though. It wasn't all (or even mostly) bad, but there were a couple moments where we were really white knuckling it to the finish line. From a distance after the fact though, a lot of the problems seem a lot smaller and more manageable than they did at the time.

My friend Cara related a story of one time when she was panicked about doing badly on a test. Her dad kept asking her "so then what?" as in

"I'm going to do badly on a test"
"it means I could get a bad grade for the semester"
"it means I could fail the class"
"it means I could get kicked out of school"
"it means I could be destitute and homeless"
"it means that I'll be attacked by roving gangs of street dogs"
etc etc

to which then the remedy is to back up and just say whoa and double check that all the assumptions are right, e.g. what if your grade for the semester so far is a B+? You really think you're going to fail the test? And even if you do you're still going to fail the class? etc etc.

I guess the key is to be realistic/objective about how bad things really are. Moving is probably one of the bigger challenges though because if it's your first time through, you have little clue what's coming up next... And that could be a good thing!

Thursday, January 22, 2009


Here's the view outside of our bedroom window.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Music from Australians: AC/DC

We all know the Young brothers, from AC/DC grew up in Sydney, right?

I was going to post the original video of You Shook Me All Night Long, remember the one where Angus Young does the little heel click walk in the schoolboy shorts?

But then I happened upon this, touted as "the worst remix ever made", with over 3 million Youtube hits. Wow. Celine Flippin Dion and Anastacia. This is so wrong.

Music from Australians: The Little River Band

Remember The Little River Band? Tom may throw up a little bit that I'm posting these. We've been trying to build each others tolerance to each others music.

Australian music here folks:

Oh how could I NOT post this one....someone has made an inspirational photo montage to go with the lyrics (sniff).

Little Fish

The other day, I was asking the clerk from the video store down the street to recommend some Australian movies.  He laughed and said there was another customer, a bloke, who comes in and is also watching all the Aussie titles.  

After so many years of being single, my little ears perk up...habit..."A man who loves movies and is on the same quest as me?"  Then my mind plays out the storyline of Sleepless in Seattle, the destiny of soulmates meeting, shuffle, shuffle, buffalo, jazz hands, and a big finish.  All this is a mere moment. 

I snap back into present time, describe Tom to him.  He's the bloke. Sunset, happy ending.

This is from "Little Fish" filmed in Sydney.  Kate Blanchett is a month older than me.  I think the contrast is quite noticable.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


People have been warning us about the sun here and getting burnt. When we were at an outdoor festival the sunshine was menacing... but of course we forgot hats, so we became shirtheads.

Tom is staring agape at a drag queen's outfit that looked not unlike a fruitopia ad. 

Photos from MidSumma

The river running through downtown... Lots of foot bridges. 

Joy 94.9 FM Radio was one of the sponsors along with city of melbourne. It's a little surprising just how many free events the city is sponsoring all over town. 

There's a drag queen "lil orphan annie" on the right.

Lots of kids running around. 

The worth of water

I flunked my medical exam for immigration.

It’s been 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) the last few days. For me, that’s “I wouldn’t want to sport in the paddock (play cricket out in the blazing sun) all day”, but I wouldn’t want to do that in any kind of weather. It seems like I’m cold almost all the time, so when it gets toasty out, you don’t hear me complaining (about the heat anyway).

The water here tastes horrible. Someone told me the draught has lowered the water table to the point that we’re drinking silt. Ewe and blech. I tried seeping chamomile tea and adding Splenda, but now my brain just reads “Oh, she’s trying to pull the old Bad Water + Chamomile + Splenda trick again”. So I just don’t drink much.

Yesterday: (1) instant coffee, (1) vanilla milkshake, (1) raspberry Slushie and (1) Coke. That’s literally 2000 calories in sugar and apparently didn’t get me any credit for hydration; when the immigration health people sent me in the restroom with the little sample cup, I could tell immediately that my very small amount of very dark orange urine was going to be an issue somehow.

They said I have moderate levels of protein in my urine and that it’s for my own good that my application is being held until I go see a specialist and have a mammoth blood work up to make sure my kidneys are functioning. Had I only had trace or nil levels, they might have negotiated with me.

No amount of badgering was going to convince them to let me drink some water and retake the test. In fact, I was so agitated (exacerbated by the grumpiness that comes with dehydration perhaps?) that the doctor started ticking off some points on my mental health section and even called me “anxious”. I was NOT “anxious”, just mad. Tom explained that this was my usual state and that I am not a public risk (though he whispered that I am somewhat of an immigration liability). I sulked.

I’m forcing fluids like a banshee now….studying for tomorrow’s urinalysis at the clinic for remedial hydrators I have to go to. In the midst of my pity (potty?) party, I forgot to congratulate Tom on his perfect pee. Way to go, Precious!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Technical difficulties

Christine's laptop isn't charging anymore and we think that either her power cord is broken or the motherboard isn't connected to the power jack anymore. Talk about not knowing the worth of water until the well is dry! Without a computer we've been living like savages. Christine briefly considered using a phonebook today. There was also discussion of there being a non-online version of classified ads in "newspapers".

I don't know the whole story yet but the phone company finally came to our house to give us phone/internet service. It's possible we may have fried our US phone though by not using a voltage converter (the second such electronic casualty along those lines I think, I'm sure there'll be more). I don't think we actually have internet though and Christine vaguely mentioned something about losing it after they said she had to wait around all day Saturday too now.

Oh and we still don't have a fridge. To keep things cool, we bought some bags of ice... Christine's now MacGyvered the dish washer to serve as our ice box. I have an ice maker at work and we've been eying the possibility of loading up a burro with ice wrapped in banana leaves to bring home, a la Mosquito Coast.

Good news though, we did buy a cheepie camera a Canon powershot somethingorother. So hopefully we should be getting more pictures up here soon. When I last checked the card Christine had done a photo shoot off the balcony of some little yip dog that lives right below us.

This weekend I think we're going to a "TED Melbourne" event. Hopefully this link comes through ok. Or maybe try this one. It's a day at the local university where they screen TED lectures and then discuss them and also have live lectures too. They're expecting 100-300 people? Neat stuff.


Tuesday, January 13, 2009


I suspect Christine believes that I have a damaged flavor palette. I guess the particular tastes/flavor combinations that I enjoy are unusual. She also says I have atrocious table manners (she has been particularly appalled at my new habit of emphasizing words by stabbing my knife in the air). Such must be the curse of every wife... But I digress...

I used to be nuts of Patak's Chili Relish, this stuff right here:

It's a very powerful taste but it somehow resonated with me. If I was eating something and didn't like the taste of it, there was nothing that a slathering of relish couldn't cure. Christine bought me a case of 18 jars about a year and a half ago and I only had one left when I left Portland.

So my new thing, and I suppose it's a shame it's not something more social like a bottle of wine, has been Vegemite, sometimes called Marmite.

I first had it on our honeymoon in New Zealand, so maybe there's an element of imprinting. But again, it's an overpowering savory taste (not unlike beef bullion) that you can add to anything to mask whatever the original flavor was. When we first got here we bought a 150 gram tube of it (labeled as 30 servings, and let me say I'm impressed with what they call a serving; a little dot on a cracker is enough to have me satisfied... they must be shellacking both sides of a piece of toast). Tonight I bought the 600 gram tub. It smacks a bit of graduating from snorting to mainlining. What can I say, it's my weakness.


It's hot out ... and routing

I'm sure the "it's sunny here/it's raining here" is probably one of the least interesting posts one can make but it had to be done. It's 9:00 pm and there's a neon sign between us and downtown that gives the temperature. It says 34 degrees, which is 94 F. By Friday it should be down to 11 C/50 F. Truth be told though, if this is as warm as it gets, then it's quite tolerable.

I miss my raingage and taking readings every morning. It gives a nice sense of routine and it was a bit like playing the slots (lots of 0's and the occasional big win). Thinking back, the highest rainfall I ever got was about 2 inches (50 mm)/day.

While sick the last couple days I've been reading some articles for work, in particular learning how stream routing models work. In a nutshell, you start with some amount of streamflow at a certain part of the river, say a big flood that is coming through, cresting right now. Routing describes how that flood will travel downstream, e.g. the river will peak 30 miles downstream in a couple hours.

It's pretty dry material, but it's nice finally knowing the equations behind some of the methods I had heard about for years such as Muskingum or Kinematic Wave. It might be a stretch for me to come up with a Doogie Howser type reflective metaphor for how routing is a symbol for how we travel through our lives.

But that's one thing that I think I'm going to enjoy in my time here, that there's quite a bit to learn and now I have the time (hopefully) to learn it. In operational forecasting it was mostly about slapping together the least possible workable solution, often without knowing fully what it is you were slapping together. Similarly, there was a lot of patching leaking holes in the bottom of the operational boat.

I suspect that a good amount of this stuff was taught in grad school, but I just didn't have the perspective to appreciate what it was all about and it didn't sink in. That said, it always amazes me how universal some of the math is, that the model for water flowing over a watershed is the same as how clouds work is the same as how money circulates through the economy or how peanut butter spreads on a cracker. Input minus output equals change in storage is what it all boils down to. That and maybe a little friction.


We caught colds and got videos

One of the things we were excited about was living an instant-entertainment life here. Tom grew up in a virtually TV-free house and my parents intermittently had us taking a year or so off from it. I gotta tellya though, nothing brings me more joy that watching, say, an entire season of Madmen, Dexter, The Sarah Silverman Program, The Wire, Arrested Development or Weeds in one sitting.

We all like a movie, right? What a disappointment when it’s over in only two short hours. But a whole season, why take some breaks for snacking and call it a weekend! Anyway, we’ve both been reading a lot since we got here and commenting how peaceful a tv-free life is.

That is until we got sick. Tom caught a cold last Friday. I’m concerned his new office could have ventilation or mold problems. Although we’ve been using public transit and under some stress, so there are lots of explanations. Now I have it too and what a great excuse to march us right to the video store up the street and get a membership that allows us to take out three movies at a time. Joy of joys! We’ve been focusing on Australian movies for the um “educational cultural components”. So far we’ve seen Picnic at Hanging Rock, Chopper, The Nugget, Three Dollars, The Proposition and The Castle. Though they were all watchable, the last two are quite good.

We're getting better, as evidenced by our outing to Ikea tonight, though we scarcely got down a shared child-sized meatballs dinner. Will keep you posted as to how the movie-mania goes, whether it subsides or gets momentum. It doesn't really count as putting ourselves out there socially that the video store clerk now knows us by name, I know, I know...

Though it wasn't our favorite, Three Dollars had a montage featuring this this song by Allison Krauss.


Taz wakes up to find that she doesn't have a fridge still.
Has a nice bath.
Takes on the day.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Balloons O'Clock

Tom gently woke me at dawn. A small flock of hot air balloons were floating by the apartment window, only a block or two away. The soft whooshing sounds fron the burners took me a peaceful place where the person who stole our camera is quietly gagged, skewered and set on fire.

Here are some stock photos.

Zippy the Pinhead

This is Zippy the Pinhead.
I just thought it would be fun for you to see him, for no particular reason.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Working stiff

Here's my CSIRO ID photo...

Clutter and why we don't have a couch yet

When you move, don't you start by carefully wrapping each glass and end with dumping junk drawers into boxes, swearing that you'll sort it all out when you unpack? I wish I could say it's any different moving overseas, but in some ways I'm afraid it's worse. We didn't know if we'd have a house or apartment, big or small, storage or none...and we really didn't have a sense of how much it would cost to replace things here. In as much as we got rid of 3/4 of our belongings, I still managed to pack a lot of kibble. A lot.

Our 37 boxes should sail from San Francisco sometime next week and arrive here sometime in February or March. I've become fixated on the fantasy that our shipment is lost at sea, our container not properly secured, it catapults overboard, sinking to unrecoverable depths. This is a happy thought, mind you. Gone forever would be our raggedy bath mats, plethora of kitchen knives (only about 3 of which do we tend to use), my collection of manufacturing process books and their many chapters on how to eliminate inefficient workplace clutter.

Today I'm going shopping for "white goods" (major appliances, like a washer/dryer and refrigerator) and I sort of wished I had one of my 10 or so tape measures to know what sizes will fit in the apartment. Tom's desk at work is the size of our new king sized bed, but has a broken lock, which could easily be removed if we had a standard screwdriver. We don't. Right now. A few weeks ago we literally owned 20 of them. And about 200 standard screwdriver drill bits. Those ended up in the ubiquitous "sort on arrival" category.

But there is hardly anything in that shipment that we truly want or need. We did ship a lot of books, which by the way, an Oprah's Book Club type novel runs about $35 here. Books are fine. It's really Tom's career and education that got us here - he needs a good library of hydrology references. I just had to sacrifice most of my accounting and finance texts though.

Don't you love staying in hotels? Especially modern hotels with big rooms and lots of unused space. There's something about having no projects in sight that is so incredibly liberating. No bills on the kitchen counter, towel bars that need rehung or plants that need watered, just loads of empty space. I really believe that the only way to have a peaceful, creative home environment is to minimize clutter, but it's like fighting gravity. There are so many reasons we hoard material goods....insecurity, vanity, laziness, and sentiment, but also out of resourcefulness perhaps, or conservation?

One method we're trying is to buy what we truly NEED (defined by wishing for it more than, say, three times). We figure out what we think is reasonable to spend on, not by total price, but cost PER DAY by assuming it has no value 5 years from now (when we may or may not move again). We thought of renting furniture. Does it seem reasonable to pay $1000 for a fairly basic couch? $2000? You sit on your couch maybe once a day, right? If there were a coin operated mechanism on the couch, how much would you be willing to put in that "once a day"? $.50? $1.00? I recently had to pay 2 Rupees ($.04 American) to use a restroom and it kind of bummed me out, so how does that rate compared to a couch?

Anyway, I'm going to try to not clutter up again.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Marsupials, Marsupials and more Marsupials

On tuesday we went to the Phillip Island day tour with a small tour company. Here's their promotional video. We got picked up at noon from downtown on a bus with about 15 people or so. First off, let me apologize for the lack of photos, we're still shopping for a good digital camera! Email us if you have any recommendations.

It started off with a wine tasting at a small winery... meh.

Then we went to an animal sanctuary that had a bit of a feel like an amateur zoo. Apparently a week ago the main place they go to burned down. When Christine asked the tour guide which place was better he replied "Well, they're both a bit weird", which was kind of true. It all reminded me of in Tucson of a roadside attraction called The Thing?, somewhat derelict, a bit kooky, but real elements of what was actually advertised.

The first stop in the sanctuary was a little cave where they kept the Wombats. A guide was holding a wombat that we were able to touch. We recoiled in horror a bit when all the other tourists mobbed the baby wombat, flashing pictures in its eyes and rubbing it all over. One british lady was really trying to get her money's worth with the wombat (one joke we heard was that $5, you could look at one, $20 you could pet one, $100 you could hunt one). Apparently the flashing doesn't bother them at all, unlike Penguins but more on that later. We gave in at the end and petted the wombat and you can kind of see why cats are kept as pets and wombats not. A bit like a hedgehog.

We also walked out into a field where there was a family of kangaroos of all shapes and sizes, about 20 or so. Even had tiny 'roos in the pouches of their mother. The kangaroos were mostly napping as we walked up to them. They would eat out of our hands so when we approached you could get an "ok, time to go to work, lets get this started" vibe from the kangaroos. The way they stretched and scratched themselves was unspeakably cute and a tad anthropomorphic. We could also feed some emus by hand but they're more pecky and not so blissed out as the kangaroos. We saw a koala from a distance in a tree. Christine kept haggling with the staff on how much she could pay for the koala (not for sale, no matter how much foot stomping happened). I saw a giant earthworm... A llama didn't want anything to do with me... There was a parrot who would only say hello when I walked away, etc etc....

Yet in some strange way it worked. So much in life, if you asked "what would you think if we put X,Y and Z together and wrapped it in chicken wire and piped in music", you might think you wouldn't like it... But once you're somehow plunged into something like that, all you can do it be amused at how surreal it is. That's a good thing I think.

But the highlight I would have to say (and I'm cutting out some boring parts where we had tea... and a not bad part where we ran down to the ocean) was the Penguins on Parade, described as Australia's most popular wildlife attraction... From their webpage: "Each night at sunset, the world’s smallest penguins, the Little Penguins, emerge from the sea and waddle ashore to their sand dune burrows. This is a truly memorable natural wildlife experience." No kidding! You go out to some bleachers on the beach and at sunset thousands of penguins come up on shore, shake them selves off, do a bit of preening and then waddle off along side a boardwalk to their homes. ~40 minutes non-stop of penguins going by about 10 feet away. Heartachingly cute. Like japanese cartoon cutesy cute with the peeping and falling down and the nose rubbing and so on.

On the way home they gave us some personal movie players (I want to say it was a sony psp?). I watched Priscilla Queen of the Desert, filmed in AUS. The "finally" scene was great, the emu hats made me laugh out loud. Christine watched a video documentary about Tasmanian Devils and she said that she felt like she found her species. Maybe she'll write about that herself.

Anyhow, it was a full day and the next day we barely had the energy to take a water taxi from Williamstown to downtown and then go win a heap of money at the Crown Casino. In Williamstown we were checking out sailing clubs. Not quite sure what we were expecting to find from the "Royal Yacht Club of Victoria", but it was a bit too pinkys-out for our taste.

We'll see, I'm sure we'll be out on the water in no time!


Sunday, January 4, 2009

Mystery Tenant

We've moved into our apartment and while mostly clean, tucked in the corners here and there were remants of the last tenant. It's been really fascinating trying to piece together her life story. Over dinner with Beth's family last night, it was suggested that this is the kind of thing that's given as an assignment in a writing class. So here's what we have

On the inside door handle of the front door there was a tiffany's bag with a small box that was empty. There was a receipt from a Hong Kong store for about ~$350. Lots of questions there... Why was it on the door? Why Hong Kong? Why empty?

Bank and credit card statements - really overdrawn, by a couple tousand dollars. A couple nasty notes from lawyers

Eviction notices, overdue 2 months of rent.

A sweatshirt from Bond University, relatively small, not too small.

A business card with someone of the same last name (family member?), working in Queensland.

Various unmentionables hinting at an active love life. Empty bottles of wine and Kahlua.

A computer bag with a logo from a 2000 conference of international securities regulatory agencies (i.e. international finance).

A high end digital bathroom scale. When I weighed myself on the carpet, I was faint with delight... but then when I weighed myself on the bathroom tile I was brought back to reality a bit. I'm thinking of just switching over to kilograms.

"Final notice" in the mail for unpaid parking tickets.

Lots of great cleaning supplies like a $300 vacuum cleaner, windex, etc. Vacuum was completely jammed with hair.

A large litter box (used) and a small halter leash. Hard to say if it was a cat or dog. A pet brush with lots of light long brown hair.

And here's the coup... A packet of developed film, with many pictures of a 20-30-something year old woman, which we're going to assume is her. There's a similar age guy in the same picture. We heard she lived alone, but we suspect that's the love interest. The film has a contact sheet showing some of the missing photos, most of which look like some kind of church baptism. Christine says that the pictures have a look of someone who has been out clubbing a bit too late... for a couple years. I'm not really one to judge.

So yeah, the mind reels filling in the details. Some googling has turned up some more details about her, but I suspect we're bordering on invasion of privacy (her job looks quite respectable). A fascinating life though... It all reminds me a bit of the really interesting story of the found memory card in Alaska .

A fine balance

Christine borrowed "A fine balance" from Beth's library and has been reading it.

Christine: "I have to tell you, working in India in the 1970s was really awful!"

Tom: "Like how so?"

Christine: "Like, you would be doing hard labor under the worst conditions for essentially nothing... You'd work all day and in return you'd get, like, a twig. And if you showed up a little bit late, your boss would chop off your feet^1 and stuff them down your throat."

Tom: "Mmn...sounds like marriage"

Christine says I'm funniest when I'm being mean to her. I'm not quite sure what to do about that. Tom

^1 edited for modesty