Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Red Dawn or Martian Morning in Oz

Good Strange Morning. I was woken up at 4AM to the sound of hurricane winds whipping through the flat. Of course, I have all the windows open as it has really gotten warm in the past couple of weeks, with the night time temps still too warm to have blankets on the bed. In fact, records are being set with one spot having a low of 73F rather than their typical 60 or so. While laying there awake, listening to the howling of the wind, I noticed a smell in the air of dust. The back of my throat seemed coated and I even put the sheet part way up my face (not all the way, I'm not dead yet).

About an hour later, it began to get light, but not the usual light. The curtains and entire flat glowed a eeire red colour! I knew right a way what it must be...the dust storm they usually have in the Outback has jumped the Escarpment and hit the Illawarra. The Google Earth shot shows the extent of the plume ranging from here in Wollongong to Newcastle 115 miles away with Sydney right in the middle! It's not as thick here as it is in the City and I've attached some pictures from the TV news this morning.

First, wind and rain storms have been pelting the area from here to Adelaide over 700 miles away. Trees have been uprooted, areas flooded and then in Melbourne last night was a small earthquake! Just when you wonder what else can happen, here comes this dust storm that is supposed to stay in the Outback. Yep, lotsa fun downunder.

More soon...if I survive!

Monday, September 21, 2009

More Local Housing Units

I hope this isn't too boring for you but it is very interesting to me. Maybe this is due to having architects in my ancestry. But here are a few pictures of one of my favourite sets of units in the local neighbourhood. There are 6 units on a plot of land that is smaller than my lot on the Island. At least according the measurements on Google Earth, the lot is about 85' x 150' maybe 180' deep, but has been planned to house 6 units in style.
These units appear to have at least 2 bedrooms and a garage so there isn't any on street parking. Of course, the car ownership here in Oz is slightly less than in the US, although I think every adult pretty much has their own car. Commuting by mass transit is more popular than in the US too, I believe. But, at these units, I've never seen a car parked outside although it's not like I'm stalking this place.
Anyway, the reason I'm showing this because the City of Seattle at least, keeps harping about densification and unfortunately, seem to allow unimaginative units to be constructed that when looking at them, you can just see a slum developing in the near future. I'm not saying that there aren't great examples back home, it's just those well thought out developements are often far and few between as we try too hard to do everything on the cheap which in the end, we all pay for. Hopefully through thoughtful regulations and design, any new units that are similar to these will be constructed to be functional and enjoyable to view for all for a century.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Summer's Coming Like a Freight Train

What's that saying? If February goes out like a lamb, then March roars in like a lion (bad weather-wise). Something like that. Often we'll get a week of very nice weather at the end of February or beginning of March, often coincides with Mardi Gras for some reason. It's a breath of warm weather which I think is Nature's way to prevent some PNW suicides. It seems like here down under, there is something similar. Of course the cold, horrible winter weather in the Gong is nearly down to the low 50's during the day, a far cry from high's in the 30's and wet 30's at that, back home. I've included some pictures of the beach yesterday and from last weekend where it's becoming a typical day. Yes, I was mean by sending these to some friends, dangling the carrot in front of them by implanting the idea that they could have this during their winter (trying to make their winter a little more discontented).

On the social scene; I've discovered free sausage sizzles at the Charles on Saturday afternoon and the Cabbagetree on Sundays. Free is of course the lack of truth in advertising at after a pint or three, nothing seems better than some free meat, cooked up and ready to eat. I'm not going this Sunday as it's nextdoor neighbour's son Jared's 18th birthday (think 21 in the US) so they're all going to go out for tea this arvo (translation = dinner this afternoon) come back to Mark's flat for a beer or two (along with 20 of Jared's mates) and then the kids will be off to go pub hopping. Fortunately, there are buses or shuttles made available by some of the pubs for their patrons so they don't kill themselves by what they call here, 'drink driving.' It should be fun today (and not so fun for them tomorrow).

On Thursday night, I won at the meat raffle. Here's a picture of the leg of lamb plus a couple steaks and sausages (also called snags, which can mean something else, too). Most pubs have meat raffles to bring in customers. It is incredibly popular. So much so, that when I tell fellow drinkers that we don't have meat raffles in America, their eyes bug out and jaws drop in dis-belief. Often they ask, "Well, then just what DO you do?" Pubs here are more of family affair, especially on a Sunday afternoon. In fact, here's a picture from the Cabbagetree when the music was on and a row of kids came in from outside (they're really supposed to stay outside on the patio) to listen to the music and watch the drinkers as that certainly is cheap entertainment.

That afternoon the entertainment was especially good as some of the regulars such as Troy with the Scorpion tattooed on his face, along with Larry who is about 68 years old, bragging about how much beer they'd drank so far that day, beginning with their usual Sunday morning lawn bowling at 8:00 AM! Troy was close to punching out his good buddy with lots of raised voices and concerned on lookers while Larry made the smart decision to leave. Unfortunately that decision was a little late as when we started walking past the band, actually fell into them! The band was great, just backing up giving Larry plenty of room and not missing a beat the whole time.

Poor Larry felt very embarrassed only hurting his ego in the fall. I did tell him that I dance that way myself, but I don't think that helped at the time. The next Sunday, he was in great form...again. What is odd is that thinking about starting off a Sunday that way gives me the shivers but when describing it to neighbour Mark, he seemed to think it was a great idea and wanted more information! I guess I'm not really a man in Oz.

Read, comment and hopefully visit! I'll be back stateside during the Christmas holidays.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Happy Father's Day Downunder

This past Sunday was Father's Day downunder. On my way to the office, I drove past the beach and it was packed with families celebrating their Father's. No room to park and 1,000's of people getting the first pink tinge of the season all over the white bodies. I worked for a bit then off the the local pub, the 'other' one named the Cabbage Tree as it sits along a ditch named Cabbage Tree Creek. Sunday afternoons typically have a sausage (called snags which can also mean something else...on a man) and risoles, which are like meatballs however once on the grille, they smash them into a patty. I think they just like their hamburgers to start out as balls first. Anyway, it's a free feed and with pints at $2.50, it's a cheap afternoon. The crowd that day consisted of Fathers and Sons as well, all enjoying several pints together in a true, Aussie bonding experience. There were tears, fights and wives trying to stop it all and haul their men off home before things got ugly. It really never did get too out of hand, in spite of a few fellow drinkers attempting to walk and not quite getting there. There is a very good cab service here and you see them pull up regularly to take people safely home. It's a good system.

I tried to get my family to help me celebrate Australian Father's Day, but they informed that ship had already sailed in June and there wasn't going to be any double-dipping. I guess I've taught them TOO well!

This was just a short one. Write, comment or better yet...visit! Next on the horizon is (formerly) cousin Amy who'll be here towards the end of November for a couple weeks. You too, can take over the guest bedroom, the car with the steering wheel on the wrong side and a cell phone that works in Oz. More later.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Update - Oz

G'day my friends! I know that it has been quite a while since I posted but I have an excuse...I've been traveling. I snuck back into the Good Ol' US of A for a couple of weeks to drive Miss Holly home from the UW in Laramie. It's the second time we've done this and it is a beautiful drive, no matter which route you take. We went through the middle of the state to Cody, then up to I-90. Prior to that, I spend a couple nights in LA with Rick and his lovely new bride Doris. That was followed by 3 nights in the other AZ with my Bro and a night with my folks. I haven't seen them for quite a while and needed to check out my Bro's new home in Maricopa. Daily temperature was 114! At least it cooled off 10 degrees at night.

When I finally arrived back at the Island with Holly, I only had 3 nights. The Wednesday in the middle of it all, I had an Aussie-style BBQ. Basically the same as an American however there's more beer, more meat to burn and it starts when the first guest arrives and ends when the last one leaves. Naturally, I was on my good behaviour, drinking light beer for the most part and not very many of them. I'm putting a gold star on my calender...I'm so proud!

On that Friday, Holly and I jetted to Oz where she could spend another 2+ weeks with me while I toiled away. The first week back was just plain hell and I really wondered if I'd just get on that plane with Holly on Sept 1st. I didn't as the following week went fine and now I'm in the throes of the dreaded quarterly surveys. I managed to mess up plenty already. So much so that I think my coworkers believe the "M" in Craig M. Berry stands for Murphy! I'm wondering myself.

Holly did leave yesterday and I called her towards her bedtime. Her goal was to stay up until 10 that first night to begin the adjustment back to AMERICAN time! She'll begin work and school has already started. It'll be another 4 months until I can sneak back home for a couple weeks around Christmas. I hope to see my friends and family during the holidays. Of course, if you really don't want to wait that long to see me...I do have a spare room in my flat with 2 single beds. So far, (formerly) Cousin Amy is due to arrive around the end of November and possibly Shelley (formerly) from the vanpool may show up at the end of February as well. I can only hope as it does get lonely downunder.

Cheers my friends! Comment and write. I'll post something more interesting later...I hope.