Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Today Christine and I went down to the medicare office down by our house. I don't think I believed her earlier when she said how easy it was... But she was right! There were three tellers and we waited no more than a minute to be seen. The young cheerful lady almost seemed in a hurry to get use through. We passed in our forms and there were lots of "yup yup yup"s and "no worries". Christine was getting a reimbursement and the lady asked "would you like that in cash?" You could've just about blown Christine over with a feather. It was all as strange as a talking dog.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Real estate auctions

At the recommendation of Beth and David Ebert, we went out to a real estate auction. Apparently it's a natural and very common thing here. Completely unimaginable in the US. So here's how it works...

The house is open for about a half hour and people walk through like a normal showing- even without auctions its typical in Australia to show an open house that only lasts 30 minutes. In the US open houses are typically all day and you wander through at your leisure. Not so here, it's a galloping stampede of potential buyers and then poof it's over.

The difference with an auction is that they then herd everyone out into the front yard and everyone stands in a big circle. In our cases there were probably 30-40 buyers. Everything you could imagine, young couples with dogs, people in biking clothing, hawaiian shirts, asian investors, rail thin college girls looking weak from hunger with the large sunglasses on the forehead (beaming dad or mom in khaki shorts in tow), you get the idea.

Then there's two real estate guys in the nicest suits and the whitest shirts and the loudest ties you've ever seen. I could almost see a mirage above their heads from the cologne wafting off them. You must also understand that in South Yarra, there is no front yard to hold the auction in so half the people were on one half of the street and the other half were on the other and cars were driving in between.

There was a long "ladies and gentlemen what a wonderful house we have before us" speech (this was outdoors so it was shouted... the job of barker is for extroverts only) and then there was also some legal mumbo jumbo (you can't put in shill bids, you can't prevent someone else from bidding). After about 15 minutes of introduction the bidding began when the agent solicited a bid.

There's a couple things that can happen. The "vendor" (the sellers agent) can put in a minimum bid (only one bid I think). Next, people can bid up from that. At some point the seller's reserve is met and the barker says the "house is now on the market", i.e. we're not kidding around now, if you're the highest bidder, you're moving in and need to cough up the dough. If you win you go in and sign the contracts put down your deposit and you're done.

At one auction we went to (we never got to go inside, we got there late), the place was apparently a bit of a dump, someone smoked in it for years and it was 1 bedroom 1 bathroom apartment with a parking space. But the location was excellent. To bid, people just raised their hands or gave a nod to the auctioneer. Bidding started slow, $260k AUD ($180k US) and in the beginning was mostly between two couples. An asian kid clumsily jumped in at one point with a bid. Then a 4th guy (middle aged) put in a bid. They went up in intervals of $10k, and then slowed down to $5k and eventually $1k.

At the end the middle aged guy was bidding against a slick tanned blonde guy in a trim suit and blue mirrored glasses. Stoic, he was the definition of cool, he didn't even lift his hand to bid, he just raised his eyebrows or jutted out his chin to signal. Bidding ended at about $330k. There were probably 30 bids in all back and forth, very lively.

The second we went to was another nice place in a great neighborhood, two bedrooms one bathroom, but totally remodelled. Indeed, Christine thought it was too remodelled, e.g. the kitchen drawers didn't open all the way without hitting something else. Most of the newly planted trees had died from the heat/watering restrictions. The sellers handed out a flier of comps that were $720k AUD ($500k USD) and up.

Bidding started and there was dead silence. I really think a tumbleweed blew by. A loose gate knocked on its hinges in the distance. Stunned. The silence broke when a hunched-over old lady shook her cane in the air and croaked "$500" ($345k USD). Nervous laughter. The sellers agent entered the vendor bid at $680k (I guess that's to prevent someone from walking away with it for $1... but it's always the second bid just in case someone has no clue what it's worth and way overbids right out of the gate). Lots of "going once, going twices", "going one more time" and so on.

So the seller's agent stopped the bidding and he announced that he would go inside and negotiate with the seller. The seller could've agreed to a lower price and restarted the auction. However, after about 10 minutes the agent came back and said a lot of mumbo jumbo again that eventually someone translated to me and christine as "the seller's not going lower, take it or leave it". In the end, nobody took it, everyone dispersed and I guess later on the house is just going to go on the general market (called a private sale)

Kicked ourselves for not having a camera because the Eberts explained how all this worked and we couldn't envision it. It was so foreign to us... but it was just like how they said it would be. It felt a bit like watching a foreign ritual like where villagers run along the backs of a line of oxen or where they bungee jump off platforms using jungle vines.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Chinese satellites

Continuing with the random old photos from our computer...

This picture was taken at the Chinese Meteorological Agency in Beijing in November 2005. I went there for a workshop on monitoring drought. They wanted to set up a drought monitor like we have in the US. It was a mix of talks and table-top type exercises. The food was amazing... Our hosts taught us the saying that the Chinese eat everything with four legs except the table.

This picture was a tour of their central command for managing all the weather satellites (i.e. its location, speed, how all the sensors are doing). The guy in black I think is the head of the Chinese Academy of Science (not the whole thing, just the environmental science part I think). If you looked to our right there was another bank of computers and then a large display on the wall. I vaguely remember that it wasn't a projection, it was a 5x15 foot LCD screen.

One strange thing you'll notice is what they're wearing. Whenever someone was doing anything operational (e.g. making a forecast, preparing a map) they'd have on a white lab coat. Not many chemicals to protect yourself from in weather monitoring, but it definitely gave that air of scientist-as-the-modern-techno-priest, separate from the lay folks.

Early in the morning at sunrise I would go out and walk around the city on my own to get away from the group and see the sights. I wouldn't know where I was going in advance, just keeping a general idea of was direction I was headed and the distance. At times it was an incongruous scene, e.g. wearing my long black peacoat and walking upstream through a crowd of manual laborers who were mostly dressed in rags.

Going around in the streets was a taste of "how the other 7 billion live", something we saw more of in India. As with China, however, it's strange how there's isolated pockets of incredible high tech. For example, the Chinese were doing with satellites some stuff that even the US wasn't doing. And it was all going on just blocks from eachother.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Critical mass

A while ago we scanned almost all of the photos we owned using the aptly named scanmyphotos.com (you send them boxes of photos and they scan them in a day for pennies per picture and send you a DVD). I was thinking it'd be interesting to go back and randomly pluck out pictures and then tell a story about what was going on in them, or otherwise some impression. This'd skew things to back when we actually used film, so today I made a random number generator (yes, spreadsheets were involved) and found this one from my digital camera...

The original's quite dark so I diddled with the colors a bit so you could actually see what was going on. You can click on it too to blow it up I think. 

This was taken September or October 2002 in Portland, OR at the corner of SW Main St and SW 3rd. I had been in Portland for about 5 months at that point, working for the NRCS Water and Climate Center. It was about 7 pm and I was getting off of work late. Between my office and the bus stop there was a Critical Mass Bike Ride. They're events were large groups of bikers get together and have enough "critical mass" to take over traffic patterns rather than having to bike on the defensive from cars. Some rides are 20 people, this ride was probably about 15 city blocks long. I stumbled upon this one and just happened to have my camera. I don't think I knew what Critical Mass was, so I had no clue what was going on. 

There were lots of costumes and this was one of those warms-your-heart endearing Portland kind of moments. In this picture alone I can see...

A cat-in-the-hat hat
A bumble bee costume
A clown outfit with rainbow wig
"Where's waldo"? in a bathrobe
A pink wig
and someone dressed as a Christmas tree.

Another staple at these rides are the chopped up custom funny bikes (e.g. tall bikes where someone's welded two framed together, added an extra long fork to a tiny wheel in the front and so on).

It reminded me of one time when Andy Wood was driving me back home late at night and we were stopped at a light. Across the intersection bikes a lithe 20-something girl in a sundress... and a Nazi Stormtrooper helmet. He said, "yeah, only in Portland" and how much he missed living there as opposed to Seattle. I dunno, sometimes when I tell that story people don't quite get it and ask "so... you're saying you like nazis? hunh?" Clearly the outfit was ironic, a parody. I liked to think that my business-casual work clothes were a parody too... Subtle, but...

In the background the restaurant is La Terrazza ...Funny enough earlier this week I was reminiscing with Sheila about their tomato basil soup and how I used to love to go and sit at the bar during lunch and watch their open kitchen. It was the cheapest, quickest and tastiest food around and made for great peoplewatching. Peoplewatching was the thing I missed most when our office moved from downtown to across the river. 

Friday, March 20, 2009

Lockin' and Poppin' with Tom

I used to have a boss who wouldn’t let me go to important meetings unless I wore her clothes.  She really believed that image is everything, and I can remember her mantra, “You don’t wear Prada for the people who don’t get Prada.”  Have you ever seen Prada?  Really.  I don’t get it.

When Tom and I met, he was looking for someone who gets his jokes.  I can always be trusted to crack up over the stuff he says.  He doesn’t wear his sense of humor wrapped around him like a fox stole, the kind with the little dried up paws and empty eye sockets.  You have to listen for it, and not everyone is going to get it. I don’t think he says funny things for the people who don’t get him.  Actually, I don't think he gets Prada either, so this is working out pretty well.

There have been many times where his ability to fire off a solid half hour round of hysterical one liners has changed the way the earth rotates on its axis for me. When things get really bad, that’s when he’s the funniest.  I try to think what it would be like to have both my arms and both my legs severed in a farm accident. The depth and breadth of material this kind of tragedy would draw out of him is unfathomable. I shall fear no evil, because it’s going to be frickin’ funny. 

Maybe you had to be there, but the other night, we were strolling along a downtown waterfront, called Southbank.  It was beautiful out (as always here), we were eating gelato cones and basking in the warm afterglow of breaking even at the casino. There were street performers every fifty yards or so…a scraggly guy playing upside-down 5-gallon bucket drums, a classical Spanish guitar playing dude and then, I donno, this weird set of two kids.

One looked like the older brother, about 14. This isn't him, but you get the idea. He was sitting on a pretty hefty piece of music amplifying equipment that I picture being painstakingly dragged down to the river with them for these gigs. Like a woofer or something, is that what you call it?  

His baseball cap was turned backwards and it appeared as though he’s spent about the last 18 months doing nothing but practicing looking apathetic to the world. Such a thin veneer, so easy to see through. I think he was actually quite proud of what I assumed to be his little brother, who looked to be about 5 or 6.  

Now this littler kid was moving around in the middle of the sidewalk, creating a traffic flow issue. There were at least 30 other strollers halted and watching him. Again with the backwards baseball cap (I hate that…makes me sound like a grandfather in my own head, “You’re life is going the way the brim of your cap is, Sonny!”).  But he’s adorable. Like a Pixar cartoon, all the quintessential, embellished features of kid cuteness…big eyes, blond, baggy pants . 

The music coming out of big bro’s amp is some kind of cheeseball hip-hop and the little bro is doing what appears to be The Robot.  This is a dance from the eighties where you pretend your joints only move one way in measured amounts.  No one has really seen it since Vanilla Ice started doing Celebrity Rehab reality shows as far as I know. 

It was the weirdest vibe. What is a five year old kid doing in front of a casino at eleven o’clock at night? Do his parents know he’s here? Why is he doing a dance that ended before he started? What cut of his tips does the big bad bro get? What’s he thinking? Is he having fun?  I’m uncomfortable. I think he should go home and play a video game now.  This seems exploitive somehow, make it stop. I think I want to go home now. Meh.

And then there’s Tom. We roll up and he nonchalantly takes the scene in, turns to me and says, just loud enough for anyone to hear, maybe even the kids themselves, “Humph.  By the time I was his age, I was lockin’ AND poppin’.”

Guess you had to be there.  I just really like it, that when stuff around me seems, well, inappropriate, I get to hear a narrative on it that is so perfectly synchronized with the scene. Inappropriately… very, very …appropriate. Yeah, you have to be there. 

Thursday, March 19, 2009


A bit off topic... But outside our window is the local high school and its sports fields. Every weeknight from about 5:30-10:30pm they play a game called netball. It looks a lot like basketball but is largely a girls sport and there's no backboard.

For some reason, there's a whistle blown loudly a couple times a minute during play, especially when they have two courts going. You can hear the whistle from our apartment 12 stories up with the windows closed. 4 whistles a minute for 5 hours a day is 24,000 whistles per month. It's no joke!

If I had to guess, when you get the ball and the whistle blows you can't move, you have to pass or shoot or something like that. I had an epiphany about what it is that's wrong in this picture. Doesn't it seem to make more sense to replace the whistle with a rule and then just blow the whistle when the rule's broken? I mean obviously this isn't musical chairs, the whistleblowing isn't random. But if you can't take three steps without passing, why whistle on the second step just to remind them? Someone needs to kaizen this sport.

the inside tour

Today was an absolute banner day at work. I went over to the bureau of meteorology for a meeting and there were a couple of out of town visitors. At the end of the meeting the head of the flood warning division asked us (~6 people) if we wanted to go and see the weather center of the bureau office there.

In my experience, when anyone offers you a tour of anything, you should totally go for it. One time I was working out at Brookhaven Labs as a physics intern summer 1995. One day I got a tour of some of the equipment there, including inside the massive particle accelerators. In some ways, I feel like, excitement-wise, it's been all downhill since then. I suppose getting married was pretty cool, but we're talking about 30 foot tall magnets here!

So we went to the central hub where weather information and model output from all over the world comes to a point. There were some realtime paper weather maps hanging up (sometimes wonder if those are ironic or not...everything's now on the computer) and a couple large displays on the wall. One display was recent earthquakes, being worried about tsunamis. Yesterday Melbourne had an earthquake that many people felt but I was flying at the time.

I don't know if you've ever taken a tour of a weather forecasting office but lots of monitors are a must and three monitors are standard. Not what I was looking at, but the below is typical (was totally kicking myself for not having my camera today)

I'd probably guess there were about 60 monitors in an area about the size of our dining room. One thing caught my eye though - a 30" flatscreen monitor. Oh no, wait, I'm sorry, DUAL 30" flatscreens!

I asked if we could get a tour of their server room and they said sure. We got badges and went to the ground floor. We went through an area something like an airlock where our guide showed us their fire control system, where air is sucked through to a central bank of smoke detectors. I asked what came out if there was a fire and the response was "water" which was a surprise I guess.

Walked over a sticky jelly pad on the floor to get the dust off our shoes and we were in this cavernous hall with stacks and stacks of server boxes. This is not it, but this is a typical supercomputer:

I'd say the room was twice that large. There was lots of empty space because it turns out that the bureau just ordered a new supercomputer and was making space. And when I say "just bought" I mean the press release just came out today announcing it.

We also saw the systems that chilled water and then used that water to cool air for the room. We went back into the large rooms containing massive batteries for backup. Apparently there are blackouts all the time so they use the backups quite a bit. We saw these large machines with robotic arms whirred around quickly plucking storage cartridges off a wall and plugging them in. Also saw a computer that gave a readout of the status and temperature of every single plug, valve, cooler, so they could remotely manage things from upstairs (it's all automated).

Rows and rows and rows of servers in addition to their old supercomputer. Ironically enough, one of the people we were with knew where the hydrology section was and we walked over there. Through the grate, it looked a bit like the desktop PC I had in grad school. Hydrology usually commands so little respect/resources, especially next to weather folks, so this was a bit iconic. At my old work, our server was so old they didn't sell parts for it anymore.

Maybe it's a bit underwhelming not having pictures for the post, but it was super cool. These kind of tours were one of my favorite parts of my old work. Access to pristine watersheds that were locked off from the public. I got two behind-the-scenes tours of Hoover Dam (the scariest part was probably the deepest part of the dam at the bottom on the water side... there's all kinds of water seeping in). I also got to see "The Big Board" (for controlling water and power) at the Salt River Project, the water supplier for Phoenix. The emergency management operations center in Phoenix is also something to be seen. Literally black helicopters and underground concrete bunkers. The arizona state emergency management group also had a room that looked a lot like NASA's mission control with movie-theater sized screens showing TV from every channel and banks and banks of phones for emergencies.

My lab at Highett for CSIRO is also cool, although in a decrepit way sometimes. Entire buildings on campus are abandoned and sealed for having too much asbestos. But there's also large hangars where they do experiments that I don't that much about. Hopefully some day I'll get the tour before they finally decommission the site (in a year or two?) and move us somewhere else (which will double my commute no doubt).

Condoms for All

I’m so mad at that damn pope. He just went to Africa and declared that condoms contribute to the spread of HIV. Sixty percent of the world’s population that suffers from HIV/AIDS lives in Africa. That’s 26,000,000 people, or about three times as many people that were killed in the holocaust. One of the problems is a widespread African belief that condoms are emasculating, a weapon of outsider authorities to limit family size. Well, hmm.

But really, when you look at the bottom line of what kinds of things we can do to slow down the imminent destruction of the earth, public health and family planning education is like a no-brainer. Basically, just education. World population has nearly doubled in my lifetime. That would be all and good were we all getting enough to eat, but 13% of the world is undernourished, primarily Africa, India and the rest of SE Asia. We all saw Sally Struthers, channel surfing for cartoons when we were little. When you get bigger, then you go on a trip and meet hungry people in real life; it’s not cool.  

In the US, we have other problems. Like the cost of medical malpractice insurance, for example. People get litigious and look for someone to blame when healthcare goes awry (there are other reasons too, like insurance companies making bad investments or not having adequate reinsurance themselves). It makes practitioners very, very careful. Lots of rules. I wonder, sometimes, if it isn’t cost that gets in the way of family planning but a lack of convenience and accessibility.

Ask any American woman what kinds of hassles she’s tolerated to get birth control. Your company switches providers and you basically start over. I’ve literally had to have annual exams a month apart. “But I’ve just seen a doctor. Here’s my records.” “Not a Kaiser doctor. Can you scoot forward please?”. Renewing prescriptions is unfun. Years ago, my purse was stolen with prescriptions in it. If that exercise in replacing them took me to the brink of red-lining my hassle-ometer, what are 15 year old girls doing? Women who live in rural West Virginia or Mississippi, where GYOB’s are scarcely practicing anymore?

Enter the Australian medicine system. Remember how immigration made me go to a doctor about my urine when we first got here? So I look on the internet and see there’s a clinic two blocks from here. I call them. A charming young doctor sees me the next day. We talk about my urine. I tell him I take Depo Provera shots and will be due for one in a few months. He writes me a prescription. Right there. “Don’t you need to, um, see me?” I meant have an exam. That kinda came out weird. He says, “I’m seeing you now! Here’s your prescription.” A few months pass. I go to the pharmacy across the street. Pay $19 Aus. They give me a vial that will keep a family planned for three months and ask if I’m injecting myself, do I need syringes? “I can DO that? People DO that?!” I would totally do that. Bring it.

Just look at numbers like eleven trillion dollars (current US national debt) and try, like me, not to wonder why a mere pittance of that couldn’t have been spent on big festive baskets of condoms to put like cocktail nuts on every horizontal surface in the world? But just making tools readily available to people isn’t enough; they have to learn how to use them and then make a conscious choice whether then want to use them.  

I’d say an important factor in making choices is what we’re taught, what values are instilled in us by those who we admire. This is probably second only to a guidance by faith, an inexplicable belief in what is right. How can you make a logical argument for something that may be illogical?

Tom desperately wishes I would keep my overt self disclosures (say, like, birth control?) to a minimum and I adore Tom....can't even tell you why, but I'd do anything for him. It's just that I’m so mad at that damn pope.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A flight to Canberra

This morning I got up at 4am to catch a morning flight to Canberra to visit the CSIRO Black Mountain Lab (I think my comment to Christine after her 5th "honey you need to get up" was "WHY DON'T YOU DIE IN A FIRE" but that's what she says, I don't remember it). Our group in Melbourne is actually a small outpost of the larger main group in the capital and I was just going to spend the day there. It was my first domestic travel on a plane here!

I described it as "un-insane". It seems that in America they don't just make it harder for the terrorists to get on planes, they make it harder for everyone to get on a plane. Check this...

Nobody looked at my ID at anytime during the day. I printed out my boarding pass and went right to the gate.

There was no line at security going or coming and there were only two guards in trim fitting uniforms, not seven guards either running around or sitting chatting drinking 64-ounce big-gulps. I didn't have to take my shoes off.

I even pulled out my drink and asked the guard if it was "ok"? To which he replied "I dunno, I've never tried it" then let me through drink in hand. I suspect he thought I was asking more about taste than safety.

Then there was this number:

A machine in the bathroom "the air blade" that will dry your hands in 10 seconds, blowing sterilized air on your hands. Christine said we'd never have them because they don't meet ADA standards.

This was the clincher though:

PINBALL! PIN-FRICKIN-BALL! Not in some side room. But right in the terminal next to the gate. Granted it was $2aud ($1.25usd)/game which is more than I've ever paid in my life. But I got a replay on my first ball. That made my day right there.

I got second highest score... which probably doesn't say much if it doesn't see much action, but still. And this wasn't the only one. On the way home I did really badly at Simpsons pinball.

Maybe the only downside was that on the flight there, literally the back 80% of the plane was pre-teen girls in matching orange tracksuits. The giddiness was contagious, when one would squeal they would get excited and squeal more and get more excited and then squeal and then... I nodded off while we were going down the runway. But when we lifted off the ground with a little jolt, you'd think that we just went over the top of a roller coaster, it just turned into near pandemonium, like there was a sudden discount on shrieks.

On the taxi ride in Canberra I only understood about 40% of what the taxi driver was saying, his accent was thick, but he still enjoyed talking. Later that day I met another American and it was novel to hear someone talk without an accent, it permeates everything so that you don't notice it anymore until its gone.

One interesting conversation today was with someone who was talking about how it's easy to be taken advantage of in India... but it's downright dangerous in the US. His relatives were in a car park in LA and someone came up and pointed a gun at them and took their money, wallet, credit cards, phone, jewelery, etc, all in front of their infant and 5 year old child (who reportedly couldn't sleep for a couple days afterwards... I still have troubles sleeping after getting mugged by that taxi driver in india but I digress).

It does make you wonder though... With air travel so un-insane here (dare I say enjoyable?), will going back to the US just seem... oppressive? Fearful? I dunno, hard to say. It'll be strange to see. I expect there'll be a whole range of emotions that'll cycle through quickly in the first 2-3 days or so, some of which may just be based on expectations. I guess we'll have to see when it happens. Totally don't want to become one of those expat snobs but, I guess life is different here...

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Dollar coins

$1 coins... The normal tail side. 5 kangaroos.

Old whatsherface...

New whatsherface...

1986 tail's side. International year of peace. Hard to argue with that. Definitely in favor of peace.

1988 This is a cute one. It looks like a kangaroo... but apparently it's for the 100th anniversary of the "first fleet" landing. I'm a bit puzzled by the connection. There's a little shame around the imperialist plunder associated with early colonists. So showing a flotilla of invading ships maybe isn't that warm and fuzzy. You see the dash-speckled pattern in aborigine art quite a bit. Still though, would it make sense to be like "Happy Columbus Day" (cute kitten here):

Probably not, I dunno. 

1993 Landcare Australia. A group for preserving landscapes, specifically soils it seems. Almost like my old agency, which used to be called the Soil Conservation Service, except that this looks like a mix of volunteers and such.

1996 Sir Henry Parkes 100 year anniversary of his death. Father of the federation and one of the most influential of early politicians. But it kind of seems strange that they'd put his title in "scare quotes". Not sure why its sideways either. 

1997 Charles Kingsford Smith, 100 year anniversary of his birth. Famous aviator, flew all over the place. First to fly across the pacific. Went missing while flying. They only recovered parts of his plane.

1999 International year of older persons. "The concentric petals or lines draw attention to the independence and interdependence of the generations, factors which blend to create a dynamic and reciprocal exchange of encouragement, enablement and caring."

As an aside, I googled "older people" and it got 14 million hits, "older persons" got 1 million. Just because more people (persons?) use it, does it make it right? Some more googling and persons seems to mean a group of a certain size whereas people is a lot of people, some indefinite large amount, like "People love to go to these kind of things but I know two persons that didn't go to the laughing club in the park today because it was raining like nobody's business and there was just no way we were going to go out in that" or maybe "people like to people-watch at the casino. But tonight at the casino, there were some persons that had eye-stingingly plant-wiltingly make-a-dog-put-his-paws-over-his-nose-and-whimper-ingly strong body odor. Christ almighty."

2001 100 year anniversary of the federation. The seven points on the star are for the six states plus the territories (the northern territory [even though it's huge, it's not an actual state I guess], the capital and Jervis bay). There's a mess of islands too.

2002 Year of the outback. This may be what the windmill on the 50 cent coin is about.

2003 100 years of women's suffrage. In favor, no doubt. New Zealand came first (1893) in the world some say.

Another from 2003 about volunteers. You know, it might be worth it to write a little about volunteering and service later. In the last couple years I've starting having doubts about how good an idea volunteering is. It's tough though, who's against volunteering? It's like being against kittens:

How could you! Shame

2005 60th anniversary of world war II again. The photo has an interesting story, it's the dancing man. When victory was announced they captured a guy on film in the streets of Sydney, doing a little softshoe. But everybody and their brother claims to be him.

2007 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting. There's 21 points for 21 countries. It's like the WTO or something. Fat cat bureaucrats in smoky back rooms no less. 

2008 and finally the scouts. Kind of like boy scouts.

Strangely enough, the recent coins are the rarest. I don't have a lot of coins before 1997 or after 2005 and I could only find one scout coin (but friggin 16 of the 2002 coin). Originally I thought maybe the outback lobby is powerful and was able to convince the government to produce a lot of coins, whereas the scouts maybe knew someone in the mailroom at the mint and came forward with a $2,000 check and the mint said "we'll see what we can do, but no promises". I wonder if it has to do with how long it takes for coins to reach people, that all the 2008 coins are mostly still in banks... and all the 1970s are lost in couch cushions. Some genius mathematician could even use the age-distribution to guess the average age that coins last. I would guess you lose half your population of coins from a certain year every 10 years.

coins 20 and 50 cents

Christine made me promise not to clog the blog with currency (I think "SNORE" was her reaction, as in "SNA-UH-OAR"... never realized it had 3 syllables). Hang in there though. Like I said, the $1 coins are pretty exciting.

So... Of we go... $0.20 coins. On the back, the usual old and new queen elizabeth:

Jowls on the newer (aged) queen really apparent. Here's what the normal back of the $0.20 looks like... Platypus...

By the way, looks like I totally got the animals on the 5cent and 10cent pieces wrong. It's not a hedgehog and a peakcock. Rather it's a Echidna and a Lyrebird(!). The lyrebird is quite rare and is only found in Australia. I'll be dipped, learn something new every day!

20 cent pieces have a couple of special years... The design on the front's the same, the tail's different:

These are the two from 2001. In 1901 the federation of Australia was formed and I think each state got its own coin. It was a banner year for commemorative coins. This one's for Southern Australia. The flower is Sturt’s Desert Pea (state flower), the stars are the Southern Cross and the Adelaide Hills are in the background.

The other coin is about Donald Bradman the world's greatest criketer who died in 2001. We tried to understand cricket, we really did, but I think we've just given up on it ("SNA-UH-OAR").

Ok, then there's 2005's 20 cent piece...

60's anniversary of the end of WWII. Meh. 10 years late for the 50th anniversary? Christine is still mad at me for busting our downloading budget when I got about 10 gigabytes of Ken Burns' The War. Great series, can recommend without reservation.

50 cent pieces... Heads... You'll never guess who's on it: 

Tails...Here's the normal tails

It's the Australian coat of arms. There's a whole lot going on there and everything has symbolism. I thought this part was interesting: "the kangaroo and emu were chosen to symbolise a nation moving forward, reflecting a common belief that neither animal can move backwards easily."

Here's 1977's tails. I'm reluctant to declare a favorite, but I think this one is it. It's the 25th anniversary of the start of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. It's like a fruitopia commercial on a coin.

1982 Commonwealth games. It's like the Olympics every 4 years, but only for British colonies.

1994 The year of the family. Totally don't remember that. The upper right is the emblem described so: "The open design is meant to indicate continuity with a hint of uncertainty. The brushstroke, with its open line root, completes an abstract symbol representing the complexity of the family."

1998 Discovery of the bass strait by George Bass and Matthew Flinders. It's the water between Australia and Tasmania. Flinders' name is on pretty much everything here, streets, buildings, etc. Never hear about Bass.

This one is 2001, again that 100 year anniversary of the federation where each state has its own coin. This one is New South Wales.

This one's 2001 again too, but this is just a different version of the coat of arms, not really tied to any state. They seem to get a little uptight about variations on logos and such, which is a bit of a shame. The Bureau of Meteorology  has to use that as their emblem. They used to have a swirling hurricane logo, which I think is more recognizable from a distance, but there was a kerfluffle that forced them to do away with it.

2002... Windmill. Oookaay? Moving on...

2005 The commonwealth games again, this time in Melbourne. It took me a little while to figure out what was going on here with the animals. I guess it's saying that humans have the spirit of animals in sport (i.e. jumping, kangaroo, swimming, platypus). The lady with a whip and the crane though, that one's lost on me.

Well there it is... Neat!