Sunday, January 31, 2010


In my earlier search, I overlooked this one
The 2001 "International Year of the Volunteer" dollar. I had found the 2003 "Australia Year of the Volunteer". You have to wonder if the "committee for the year of the volunteers" gets paid.

Volunteering is an important cause given that it also got a 50 cent piece. It features a kaleidoscope of volunteers from emergency services, meals on wheels, shelters, charities (e.g. clothes donations), conservationists, sports volunteers, big brother/big sister, firefighters, and surf lifesavers.

It doesn't stop there. There's also the 2003 Australia year of the volunteer 20 cent piece. They don't just hand out 20 cent pieces. Not even the queen has a commemorative 20 cent coin!

The last of the 50 cents

It's hard to believe that this blog has had 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 posts about Australian commemorative coins. But I think we're near the end of the line. On Christmas morning I was treated to an easter egg hunt around the house of all the 50 cent pieces I hadn't yet found. Some are hard to come by, such as
The 1970 celebration of 200 years since captain Cook was the first recorded European to encounter the eastern coast of Australia. Apparently the one who got big fame out of the trip was English Botanist Joseph Banks. He is most famous in our circles as being a great answer to any Botanist question at pub quiz.

1988 First Fleet Bicentenary. The map reads New Holland. The stars are the southern cross. 18 years after Cook landed, the first settlers arrived at Botany Bay. Or rather, first convicts arrived. 1,403 people set out, 1,332 arrived including 18 children convicts (!), 4 of which were born en route (!!) during the 8 month journey. They arrived on 26 January, just in time for Australia Day.
2000 Millennium Year. Was anyone besides me disappointed that Y2K didn't end in total chaos?

Again with the Royalty! This is the flagpole at Parliament House. The queen visited in 2000.

And then there's this oddball. A Merino Ram's head graces this 1991 celebration of the 25th anniversary of ... Decimal Currency. Before then, they used the shilling. For almost 30 years, the Merino Ram was on the back of the Australian shilling, as a symbol of domestic agriculture. A pound is like the dollar. A shilling is 1/20 of a pound. A penny is 1/12th of a shilling. Totally makes sense, that.

Friday, January 29, 2010

More public healthcare accolades

Well the bad news is that the Reece's Peanut Butter Cup -> Broken Rib -> Lung Infection debacle wears on. I still keep Tom up at night coughing. It could also be some kind of rare virus or infection I picked up in SE Asia. So my GP suggested a chest X-ray. It showed scar tissue in my lungs. Good! Nice strong sinewy lungs...they oughta serve me well for a long time. Who wants wimpy little tissue paper lungs? Everyone thinks Clint Eastwood has a nice leathery face, why can't I have nice leathery breathing organs?

Anyway, I don't know where they're going with this, but today I got sent for a CT scan, which I remember being a big deal in the US. Like you had to choke up a hunk of cancerous tissue first and then, maybe, after a series of appeals to your insurance company, you might get approved for the partial payment of getting one. My impression is that they had out referrals for those things like lollies here.

Cost to me? Free!

It was the first time I got to go to the state hospital, which was just as nice or nicer than any other hospital I've seen. The whole procedure didn't take more than 20 minutes. I ran errands on the way and the technicians actually carried my grocery bags of prawns, cheese and Thai vegetables around for me. And the giant tub of garlic dip I devoured after fasting all day for this dumb thing. I also bought a brownie on the way home. Between that and the Xanax I gobbled down when I found out needles were involved, it looks like a nap is imminent.

The only weird part was the IV of dye. They made me sign something that I was aware it would 1) make me feel flushed and hot and 2) make me think I tinkled myself, but that I wouldn't actually tinkle myself. My parents' cars have heated car seats so I know the exact feeling. Sure enough, when they started pumping in the creepy fluid, I got hot and thought I tinkled myself, but didn't. Mmmnnnn....overshare.

If anything, I feel guilty that I'm presumably not even really sick, but I'm getting this state of the art, customer-servicey-convenient health care for free. After all the time I spent in Indian hospitals doing my thesis, being the welfare plan administrator at my old job and trying to help our manufacturing employees figure out how to use their US private health plans in a way they could afford, and reading what Haitian survivors are going through trying to get patched up, it's all kind of hard to reconcile --- why me?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

About america

Today I came across a quote from Jeremy Clarkson, the English host of the car racing show Top Gear.

He says about America,

"Everybody's very fat, everybody's very rude, and they all offer you cheese. (Mimics American accent) 'D'ya want cheese with that?' And then they shoot you."

Saturday, January 23, 2010

where's the bank?

On friday I went down to southern cross, the main railway station for downtown, a hub of all the trains for the city as well as the large interstate lines that go out into the country. While down there I figured I'd run an errand and deposit a big sack of coins from the bedroom nightstand.

I stopped off at the main newspaper stand and asked where the nearest bank was. The guy replied after some thought "There's no bank here. Only ATM down there" and pointed to the other end of the station. I felt that "there's no bank here" was fairly definitive. It almost made it sound there were banks formerly but they had finally managed to get rid of them. So I kept on walking, looking for a branch, any branch.

Soon I spotted two college age kids handing out bottled water for NAB (National Australian Bank). Surely I thought these people would know. "Uhh, nearest bank. You mean the nearest NAB (shakes bottle enticingly)! Not sure. I reckon you should head downtown". Already being downtown, I figured mission accomplished. "So your instruction is to keep on wandering around until I eventually find one?" "Yep" "Why thank you, that's a great idea!" "Too easy, cheers!"

Finally I stopped in a watch repair place and asked. The jeweler appeared pleasantly surprised at the prospect of a customer but when he found out I was just asking directions he replied disdainfully "Aww, everywhere's a bank, mate!" To which I said "In that case, I'd like to make a deposit!"

I think something may have got lost in the translation, he didn't think it was that funny and eventually just walked away. A couple blocks later I found a cluster of six banks, all of them closed. Note to self, banks open at 9:30 fridays.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Haiti Quake

People aren't really talking about Haiti much here. One friend asked if it was a popular travel destination for Americans and we could only think of examples of humanitarian work being done there, no vacationers that we knew of.

One of the fellows I went to school with has a business there and was in the earthquake. I don't know him well, as he lived in another city and I only saw him when we all met up for a few weeks each semester. Here are some quotes from emails he sent to another classmate:

"We barely made it. We were so close to death. Our warehouse and office building fell while we were still in it. Many employees were not as lucky. I do not wish anyone to experience what I've seen that day and the days after. Times are desperate here. Food, gas and medical supplies are extremely rare. Dead people all over the roads. We've been spending most of our days and nights helping the survivors and dead out of our company's rubbles. DONATE and raise as much as possible."

"We worked for 8 hours to remove a girl from the debris - we were so happy for her.... She had been under the rubble for 21 hours. We used our truck (the ones we use to distribute our products) to take her to a hospital. After being rejected by 5 hospitals, including the UN, a hospital accepted her. We just learned that she passed away because no one attended to her. No one had time. DONATE...."

It's pretty horrifying that Haiti had so little to start with - daunting how much suffering there must be and how long it will take to recover.

Anyway, my classmates are donating to Doctors Without Borders. Click here if you'd like to.

Trains and trams troubles

"Our" train station, just up the street.

One big reason we decided on our high rent flat is that it's next to a train station. A hub of a train station - a good one that splinters trains off in lots of directions. It has a 7-11 that sells my favorite iced coffee drink, Ice Breakers (450 calories, and I have one most every day). It also has a deli that serves delicious, cheap, crispy fried chicken parts.

We mostly take trains North/South and trams if we need to go East/West. A tram is like a trolley, it runs on rails (slowly) and stops often (constantly). I don't like to transfer more than once... occasionally we're looking at 1 train + 1 tram + 1 tram + short walk. I have a special word for that, "taxi".

A tram. Note Melbourne's cartoonishly perfect
palm trees, which are everywhere.

Tom always buys a monthly pass all-zone pass, so he can ride anything he wants all day for no extra cost.

I probably have fifty pairs of shoes more than I need, but it just destroys me to not plan my training and tramming for the day in the most cost effective way. For about $3, you get a two hour window to ride any combination of trains or trams...but if you validate your punch card within 3 minutes of the hour, you can get nearly three hours out of it. So guess who mills about train stations watching the clock? The girl who talks funny with the pink shoes, yes!

Now they're changing the whole system...when we get on board either a tram or train, instead of disposable little punch cards, we're supposed to start using a credit card type thing, called "Myki". Their tagline is "Myki, it's your key". We've found the advertising and marketing people here aren't terribly sophisticated.

New hard plastic travel passes. No worries if it gets lost, your balance is tracked by fancy computers and you can get a new one, easy peasy.

Today I went to have some routine tests done at the hospital. I made a slight bookkeeping misestimation (that's my word for "spent too much over the holidays and forgot to transfer money out of savings"). So when the X-ray receptionist told me my bankcard was declined, I didn't have a melt down, but I was a little embarrassed. Everyone is really SO nice here that even these kind of things are pretty manageable. Tom straightened it out, I paid the bill, which Medicare will mostly reimburse us for, and I went to get on the tram.

Which was peppered with ticket checking agents. Now one of my worst nightmares is to be one of those passengers who gets a $172 ticket for riding public transportation without a validated ticket. What could be more shameful? I would never let this happen. I ALWAYS have a valid ticket.

So here I am, this cutting edge new Myki card holder, aglow with redemption from my last humiliation, only moments prior. I whip out my new Myki plastic wallet (very handy) and swipe my new Myki card over the tram's new Myki reader, right in front of the officer. Nothing happens. No light blinks. No sound makes. I swear I was doing this all weekend and it worked every time.

The officer, ticket pad in hand, tells me Myki isn't valid on trams. I did a quick round of "Nuh uh!...Uh huh!...Nuh uh!" in my head. This is seldom useful to play out in a real negotiation so I try to just do it in my head. I wonder if anyone on the tram also got to witness my credit card incident at the hospital? Admitting defeat, I punch one of my old paper passes with the old manual validating machines and skulk off to a seat.

Old, paper punch pass. They often get wadded up in pants pockets and stop working. Occasionally, laundered and rendered useless.

Now tonight, when I go to our board games group, it's going to cost me like an extra seventy cents. If that happens a hundred more times, guess who won't be getting new shoes?

As it turns out, the ticket policeman was right, the trams aren't using the new system because the of glitches in the roll out. I read it online. It's an all out debacle here. Seriously, this is big news for Australia. The injustice of it all. How did we not notice this before we let ourselves get roped into the whole new Myki thing?

I think I was somewhat aware of just what luxury problems I had in America. This reminds me that, in fact, I think we're even more insulated from everyday troubles here. Last night in the park, a friend asked if we thought we would stay here indefinitely. It's hard to imagine anywhere I could enjoy living more. Maybe we'd leave eventually, I guess, if something took precedence over enjoyment, which it certainly could. I'm not sure what that might, family, personal development, sense of purpose, access to wider range of nifty shoes...hard to say.

It snowed

Following on our heatwave a week ago, it looks like it's snowed this morning up at Lake Mountain at ~4500 feet (~1300 meters). That's just about a 2 hour ride northeast of Melbourne. This morning in Melbourne the low was 10.4 C/50 F with 30 mile per hour winds. Realize we're in the northern hemisphere equivalent of late July here!

What did we do this weekend?

Tom has been moving in to his new office. I wasn't clear why he wanted the old, abandoned receptionist's area, but now I can see how much light and open space he'll have.

How office with guest chairs in it? We're trying to picture who is going to stop by and lounge in them.

Tom even bought some decorative office foliage this weekend. Here that is called a "pot plant". That sounds funny to me, so I keep trying to correct him, "Potted plant". But no, it's one of those armageddon-proof 'pathos' varieties, and they do call them "pot plants" here. Giving up our plants in America was tough. It's good to see him letting himself love again.

More going to the moonlight cinema and pretending lollies are our teeth. We never seem to get tired of this. Here we are with friends Mel and her boyfriend, Mark, seeing a movie that made us want to take up roller skating. Last week they climbed they Sydney bridge for Mel's birthday, how fun is that!

Though she moved here from New Zealand with the requisite two suitcases a year ago, Mel was wise enough to get renter's insurance (or as they call it here, "contents" insurance). Apparently I loaned her a book or two (I don't remember them). The flat over hers flooded so, after the claim was processed, she insisted on reimbursing me for them. Books are CRAZY expensive here due to some kind of publishing protectionism thing. I'm in two book clubs, "Women's" and "Classics", and I order everything from Better World Books. Thanks to the Bank Of Melissa, a huge portion of this year's reading list is now financed! This includes:

The Tree of Man
Swann's Way
The Picture of Dorian Gray
The Trial
The Sun Also Rises
My Father's Moon
Carpentaria: A Novel
Barchester Towers
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Jane Eyre
The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman
Tale of Two Cities
The Woman in White
Sarah's Key
Breath: A Novel
Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China
The Handmaid's Tale
One Hundred Years of Solitude

This weeks dance lesson was funk. It was my favorite so far, despite the sprinkles of rain. You know when you aren't sure of the right dance moves so you just kind of jiggle around? Those are the actual right dance moves in funk. Here we are with our friends who let us house sit when we were homeless last year (after first arriving), Andrew, Dave and Beth, our Bollywood dance buddy Diane, and her husband Michael.

We had some great meals out with a few other friends....we eat out a couple times a week, but nowhere ever makes me so happy at Movida, which is downtown, only two train stops away. I'm addicted to their: Cigarillo, a baby leek wrapped in brik pastry, served with a chicken liver parfait and the Cecina, which is air cured wagyu beef, thinly sliced with a truffle foam and poached egg.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Mystery buzzer

I'm moving into a new office at work in to a building that is probably from the 70s. I'm reclaiming a receptionist's area that is outside a large office that used to belong to a CSIRO chief. I've been cleaning and rearranging and just trying to make it my own so I came in a couple hours before anyone else.

The floorboards have an array of bizarre sockets and cables so that I'm guessing pretty much anything could be run through the walls, phones, internet, printers, intercoms, etc. There's even a doorbell. Given that everything is running through the internet now, I figured nobody would be using these anymore so I started cutting some of the cables and pushing them back into the wall.

Within about a half hour a bleary eyed maintenance man in overalls bursts in and says, to effect, "good lord, what's going on in here?". It turns out that one of the cables I cut was for an emergency distress signal and it probably set off a siren at the security station.

When we realized what happened there were laughs all around but he explained that this was a predecessor to the "man down" system for people that are likely working alone in dangerous situations. Mostly it's used for labs and the machine shops... However you'd often also see it in the HR and executive offices (where I am), wired up under the bottom of a desk in case someone came in and started to cause a bit of trouble (e.g. disgruntled employee, irate citizen).

Putting two and two together, I think I actually found a real-life "release the hounds!" buzzer. I'll have to be careful that I don't trip that lever to open the trap door.


Monday, January 11, 2010

heat hunting 2010

Back in Arizona I used to roam around with my office mate to see if we could find the hottest spot on the hottest day of the year. Last year, at the height of the record-breaking heat wave, I tried to see what would be the hottest for Melbourne. I was looking for something big and metal and eventually found a slab at a construction site that registered 145.5 F/63 C.

Today looked like it was going to be a scorcher, so this morning I called in sick with a terrible "cold". Right around 4:30 when it appeared like the airport temperature had reached its peak (110 F, 43C), I donned my cashmere wool overcoat and hat and set out.

First stop was the tram rails at Chapel and Toorak. In theory, a great spot, but I think I'm going to give up on this one. I only had the thermometer down for half a minute before the cars at the stoplight started to honk.

Where the construction site was last year, there's a skyscraper now. On the first floor is the Outpost Cafe, a high end coffee place that has a fancy contraption that makes a cup of coffee, one drip at a time over about 4 hours.

Those black metal plates below the windows were just about perfect and they had been facing the sun all day. As I got closer I saw that a couple flies had foolishly landed on the wall and were burnt to a crisp on the spot!

And the verdict is...

165 F/ 74 C, blowing away my record last year by over 11 degrees C! In theory, that really is hot enough to cook an egg (>158 F, 70 C).

It was a banner day for old Salt and Pepper here- a grand time was had by most!

Sunday, January 10, 2010


Kitty Hello Kitty

Okay...grace period over. Let's all get on board with this Kitty thing, can we?

Yet not everyone thinks I'm a Kitty. I'm not fluffy. I don't purr. Or bat my little paws in the air adorably. I'm not very histrionic or particularly provocative, as many Kitty's are.

I don't like cats.

Dare I say that anyone who refers to their grown feline as their "kitty" best be chockablock with some kind of redeeming qualities. ***cough***cough***Annoying!

In other non sequiturs, the French and Latin origins of the name "Christine" are "child of Christ". Flattering? Sure. Consistent with my belief system? Oh let's get into politics or religion on a blog post, now.

Leaving everything you own and everyone you know 10,000 miles away sure does make for a clean break. Not that there was anything I wanted to get away from in America, we had great lives there. I just figure that being human is all about choices, and I am going to make conscious ones as often as possible. So it seemed like a good time to decide what I would want to be called. It didn't seem like a big deal, seeing as how this is the same period as when I got married. Lots of women change their last name when they get married...why can't I change my whole name?

The documentary 51 Birch Street picked Kitty for me. After 54 years of marriage, the director's mother dies. He, posthumously, reads his mother's many volumes of diaries and learns that, despite what he and his two siblings took for granted, his parents marriage "was not loving. It was a functioning association." Within a year of his wife's dying, his father moves cross country to be with the love of his life with whom he had worked forty years prior, Kitty. We, the audience, never really know the whole story.

I just know that my family's story is not unlike this. There were a lot of sacrifices made on my behalf. Many people, for compelling and honorable reasons "love the one they're with." Sometimes people put their own fulfillment behind that of others, for a long time, and that is poignant for me.

So this Kitty name, it really only has significance to me, and it brings up all kinds of reminders about gratitude and the blessings in my life, balance, commitment, and family.

It's also easy for people to remember. You know, like the ABC and NPR anchorwoman Mary Martha Roberts? And let's admit it, before you meet a Kitty but you know you're going to meet one, well, the mind boggles.
Cokie Roberts
Whimsical First Name-spiration

Sometimes, instead of actually applying for jobs, I like to imagine HR directors showing my resume to CEO's of giant corporations, you know, the ones worth more than the GDP of Holland? "Here's just one heckofa crackerjack ivy league MBA we've got to pursue." This is said with a flourish and wrist twist as my CV is flung down. Then they enunciate my name. That's the part of the fantasy where I burst into peels of laughter and hilarity ensues.

I was pretending I was chairwoman of the board here.
Actually, it's just me and my classmates. It really just smacks of
"someone's too lazy to stand up for the photo", you think?

Swing dancing and baby luke

It was a full weekend and we just got back from the first free summer concert/dancing in the park. It's put on by the city, happens every week, and round about 500-800 show up for it. They give fun basic lessons on a particular kind of dance and everyone lines up and does it as a group. That's how we got hooked on Bollywood dancing last summer and eventually ended up taking a class in it. This time around it was Swing dancing and we went with our dear Iranian immigrant friends Sepehr and Azadeh.
They kicked up a storm most of the evening, but I was sidelined after I just couldn't get rid of my "spaghetti arms". When Kitty held up my arm and pressed hers against it, I was supposed to give her tension by pushing back. Instead, when she pressed, I would yield and we would fall over. I suspect there's some completely obvious dancing-relationship metaphor in there but I can't quite put my finger on it.

We also went to visit our friend Catherine and her baby boy Luke. He's just picture perfect, here he's delighting at a perfect sip of aeropress.

Later we saw Herb and Dorothy, an excellent documentary about two elderly art collectors. Here's the trailer:

Friday, January 8, 2010

Movies, concerts and dancing

No Moonlight Movie Picnic is complete without
Gummy Teeth, or as they are called here, "Lollies".
-Kitty, Tom and Kiwi Expat Friend, Laura -

So what are we doing this SUMMER (it was 93 degrees Fahrenheit today - still odd to have summer in January!).

Well, every Sunday night, we're going to take dance lessons in a giant downtown park. We'll learn: Swing, Salsa, Funk, Bollywood, and, my favorite, movie dances. That will include moves from Saturday Night Fever, Slumdog Millionaire, Dirty Dancing ("Nobody puts Kitty in a corner!"), Muriel's Wedding (a classic here in Australia), and Michael Jackson's Thriller. I just love the part where you do the "zombie hands with knee lifts". They line everyone up, so no partner needed. It was just this kind of class that made us fall in love with Bollywood last year, and sign up for a whole series.

We're booked up with a bunch of different friends to go to the outdoor cinemas. It's quite something, to trek about a kilometer down the road to the gorgeous Botanical Gardens with our backpacks full of sleeping bags, iced coffee, card games, blue cheese and our new favorite snack, grilled pepperoni (like pizza, sans mess). We like to get there early and stake out our turf while we picnic. "You're so American", our friend Laura says last night when I tell her we need to stretch the blanket out bigger. We're finding that Australians make for a really polite, well behaved mob. We seldom see the kind of confrontational crowd dynamics we're used to. Accidentally step on someone? No worries, Mate!

Around 8:30 pm, flocks of wild cockatoos fly over the crowd. Lovely animals, but horrible screechers. I can't believe my brother and his wife had a cockatoo for their first child. They could have raised a race horse for all the trouble and expense of that nefarious bird. It took them about a year to properly rehome it after they started having human we're the exotic ones and they're the locals.

By 8:45, the giant bats start doing their thing overhead. I was horrified when I realized what was happening the first time, though assured they are gray headed flying foxes, just going out to gather fruit, not hunt humans. Lies, all lies. Wish I'd known that 5000 of them had set up shop in our (hey, there's that American thing again?) park, and that they are protected. One meter wing spans, people. Meh...cute babies anyway.

We're also going to a number of concerts, though I tend to whinge incessantly both about the music always starts so late plus Tom likes stuff that's so cool they expect everyone to want to dance, or, at minimum, stand. Hard to believe I'm looking around for chairs and wondering where the "40+" section is. Tonight we're going to see a famous DJ who goes on at, get this, 1 am, so I'm going to start my power nap now.

There are so many great people here - we're thrilled to have such nice friends and fun things to do.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

centennial coins

Australia day is just around the corner (January 25th). It celebrates the first landing of the colonists. However, Australia's closest equivalent of the 4th of July (US independence day) is "Federation" on January 1st when the Commonwealth of Australia was formed out of 6 british colonies. They appear to be totally into it here, right at midnight December 31st, there were heaps of fireworks, big parties, and cheering. Loads of people were roaming the streets late into the night, completely stink-o.

In 2001 was the 100 year anniversary and it was celebrated by a set of centenary coins, one for each state. They're probably the hardest of the circulated 50-cent pieces to come by. In no particular order:
The coat of arms of Victoria where Melbourne is. From top to bottom, a kangaroo holds a crown. Two women (peace, holding the olive branch and prosperity, holding the cornucopia) support a shield containing the Southern Cross constellation of stars. The base is a grassy mound (called a "Compartment" in coat of arms parlance) and the sprigs growing out the back are Pink Heath, the official flower of Victoria.

Norfolk Island? Seems like a weird one. It's a "self governing" Australian territory, an island half the size of Manhattan with ~2,000 residents far off in the Pacific. Indeed, it's cheaper to fly there from New Zealand than Australia. From the web:

"The arms show a Norfolk Island pine, a native tree, on a rocky mount. The stars are taken from the Australian arms, as well as from the arms of James Cook, who discovered the island in 1774. The anchor, the naval crown and the bible refer to the background of the first settlers, which moved to Norfolk from Pitcairn. The division of the arms is also identical to the arms of Pitcairn. The lion on the crest wears a laurel wreath, which is taken from the arms of James Cook. The cup is taken from the arms of Fletcher Christian, the founder of the Pitcairn Island settlement. The supporters refer to the ties with Britain and Australia. The motto is taken from Matthew 25:34 ["Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."]

I would've imagined that some of Australia's seven other minor territories would've had a chance but maybe they didn't have coats of arms...or an active tourism board.

The Australian Capital Territory gets mention though. Its coat of arms is chockablock with symbolism, mostly related to government (the castle, the crown, the mace and sword). ACT's motto (along the bottom) used to be in Latin "For the King, for the Law, and for the People" until someone pointed out that the translation was actually "... and for the Mob". This coat of arms also features the white and black swans. White swans were a sign of english culture, whereas black swans are more Australian, at times even representative of aborigines.

Western Australia also uses the black swans, swimming in its natural habitat. Kangaroo paw flowers surround the crown on the top and two kangaroos hold boomerangs (again symbolizing aborigines).
More kangaroos in the Northern Territory. This blowup shows a bit more detail of what the coat looks like, but its full of symbolism of fauna, flora, and aborigine art.

Still more kangaroos in New South Wales. Some say the Kangaroo has trouble walking backwards and so is a symbol of moving forward and progress. The lion is a "British" Lion to symbolize English and multicultural roots. The motto is "Newly risen, how bright you shine" (being on the east coast, New South Wales greets the sunrise over the ocean... See also the rising sun at the top of the coat of arms). Every one of those small things in the center (lions, sheep, wheat) has about 3-4 levels of symbolism.

South Australia has a miner's pick and cogs on the right. The bird in the center is a "piping shrike", although there's nothing actually called that, it may be a Murray Magpie. Sturt's pea flowers sprout out the top and the other symbols are for grazing and agriculture.

Queensland's motto is "Bold but faithful". Two stalks of sugarcane surround the crown and maltese cross on top. According to wikipedia, no one quite knows why the maltese cross is used. The shield has a bull, a ram, wheat and gold rising from a pile of quartz. The bird is the Brolga, Australia's only native crane and the red deer is because the queen once gave Queensland some deer as a gift... and they like the queen I guess.

Finally, Tasmania! The motto is "fertility and faithfulness". The shield has wheat, thunderbolts, hops, a ram and apples. The lion on the top is holding a pick and shovel. The shield is held up by two Tasmanian Tigers, which has long been extinct. Tasmania doesn't use this coat of arms much anymore, but instead has replaced it by their government logo, again with the tiger.

Happy 2010!

Lots to catch up on here, it's been a whirlwind of a holiday... We're still recovering from New Years Eve. There was a "Roaring '20s Burlesque Show" at the Royal Melbourne Hotel. We had a pre-party at our place where everyone got into costume:
Katrina, Catherine, Debi, and Sara (Mustafa took the picture but sadly didn't join us later that evening).
Kitty went as "The Madam". She had a wig that itched and therefore was thrown on the floor with a shriek and a pout, so there was some last minute emergency hair arrangement that had to happen.
Debi and Sara are the organizers of the's "Ladies Lounge" Group, which has been a great way to make friends. Ladies get together and enjoy eachother's company, they're always off doing interesting events and activities around town.
Despite the background looking empty, downtown was completely chockablock with revelers. The tram would pull up and there would be an audible groan from the waiting crowd when the doors opened onto a veritable human terrine. It was like out of the cartoons, a leg sticking out here, an arm dangling there.
The Burlesque Show's website says this

"Happy New Year and thanks to all who participated in the Roaring Twenties Burlesque. All the performers, DJ and MC were exceptional and the full house audience was one of Melbourne's best dressed. According to our Burlesque spies the vibe was one of the best. If you left blue tassels and feathers, let us know and to the winner of the female 'Lovely Legs' send us an email. There's a reward to for the finder of the missing Bowler hat."

You know it's a good party when your Bowler hat goes walkies.

Looking back over the years, this NYE was probably the most fun we've had. With so much expectation, NYE can often seem like an anti-climax, but Melbourne really set it off in style. Great entertainment and a room full of friends you never knew you had. I kind of have a good feeling about 2010... I do have to say though that I'm quite disappointed that we're not yet riding around in hovercars and eating our food in pills. -- Tom