Saturday, October 31, 2009

Cristo, Bicycles and Spring Blossoms

The title says it all except for a complaint that there weren't any pictures in the last entry. The first two are related really. It's not Cristo although Holly thought that's what it looked like. It's simply the roofs of tents for booths in the middle of being set up to receive the Sydney to the Gong bicycle event that is happening today. I thought it looked pretty strange.

The other is a tree that grows these great purple blossoms before the leaves sprout. Similar to our local forsythia that shouts out it's bright yellow blossoms announcing Spring is on it's way...really.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Melbourne Cup – This Year's Pre-function

Having passed my one year anniversary here in Oz, things are beginning to repeat themselves. No, I’m not feeling part of the whole experience or at home in this great country (yet) but slowly some familiarity is creeping in.

This Sunday for example is the Sydney to Wollongong bicycle ride. This 80km ride is mostly through the National Park to the south of Sydney ending up at one or several of the many Pubs that dot the Illawarra. Last year, I was shocked as I went to a couple different Pubs in my quest to find the right one, and kept running across people dressed in brightly coloured Spandex. (I’ve since found out that here, Pubs are like pizza: there is no bad pizza). I did ask what it was about, afraid that I hadn’t received the memo on proper Aussie dress for the day and while it isn’t the STP, it still is a fun way to get out and exercise in true Aussie fashion. They do like to celebrate fitness down under.

Now, regarding the title of this entry: The Melbourne Cup! This is such a big deal here that the State of Victoria makes it an official holiday giving everyone a day off. Since it falls on a Tuesday, I think most will spend the weekend shopping for their new, spring dresses and hats, probably taking Monday off as well, celebrate all day Tuesday or at least until around 1:00 pm when the race is over, and then most likely recover throughout Wednesday. It is a BIG deal here and the rest of the country partakes in the fun. Last year, when I rode the train into work, it was filled with mostly young people dressed to the nines in what to me looked like an old fashioned Easter Sunday. Again, I thought something about not getting a memo on the day. Last year, I took some pictures to include in my blog entry and will update this entry after the fact.

Every race track in Australia joins in the festivities with their own races leading up to the big one, The Melbourne Cup! One of my coworkers told me that cheap entertainment was to head down to the local race track and park along the road between the track and the train station at the end of the race. Since most people are savvy enough to take public transportation to the celebration, it is fun to watch all these dressed up people trying to navigate across the highway (in a crosswalk) to the station. Quite a few young ladies are carried across the road by their boyfriends who do have trouble walking in a straight line themselves.

Yesterday, we received a memo regarding the event. Basically, we were invited to participate in the Sweeps put on by the engineering firm we’re associated. I’m not sure exactly how it works, but it’s similar to the football pools found in most US offices and bars. Almost immediately upper management responded! The Managing Director said ‘why don’t we have our own Sweeps instead of joining in with the engineers?’ Can you imagine what the response would be in a US company? Most would be so busy stumbling over each other trying to out-PC one another, it would look like the Keystone Cops! They DO have a lot more fun down under and if you think that they’re not serious about business, look at our respective economies!

Pictures to follow (in Part Deux-the Dis-function) if I manage to get some good (and appropriate) ones.

Monday, October 12, 2009


Just a few miscellaneous shots from around town, except for one of our employee guides in the Outback. I just happened to come across his picture in one of our corporate hats and thought it was perfect!

The second picture is a place I pass by on my way to work and it is such a nice little spot over the garage in this obviously college student apartment. A hammock, a flag and plenty of room to party at night and recover during the day. I did send this to Harvey once, but this shot is a little better with the morning sun hitting it just right. While taking this picture, I also thought the view down the sidewalk looked very nice in the morning sun as well. It's so inviting and does lead to the beach. The other two shots are of some condos/units very close to the water as well. Newer and for older, more mature people but I thought were creatively crammed into the small lot space they had to work with.

Yep, it's easy living here in the 'Gong. This is such a nice place and really, the whole Illawarra while put down as the just a mill town, is really more like Santa Barbara. A nice spring day today is around 75F and just right for my lunch time walk about the mall. I still see parkas but less so as the natives begin to warm up after the horrible winter of daytime highs only in the mid to high 50's. I know, they laugh at me when I'm dying from the heat and humidity when it's not even 80F yet.

Read, comment and send me an email. Better yet, visit like Cousin Amy is going to do next month!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Bikes, Muscle Cars, Tattoos and the 4th Reich

Today (Saturday) I went to the 16th Annual 'Fair' that is a benefit for the Australian Air Patrol, similar to our Civil Air Patrol. This is hosted by the Fourth Reich Motorcycle Club (FRMC), a full fledged 'bikie' gang. To me, having a somewhat sheltered life rally, this was surprising. Plus, done in true Aussie fashion, it really was a family day with free admission for kids for free rides, petting zoo and lots of fair type food like Fairy Floss (cotton candy), corn dogs, corn cobs on a stick, etc. It is funny how a person gets off balance seeing very familiar things intermixed with strange things, like something is out of place or just not quite right. Maybe this was a staged affair like an episode from the Twilight Zone.

The adult entertainment included the tattoo competition, a burnout competition, best custom bike (an acquaintance from the Charles won!) along with the assorted 'dancers' on the stage where 2 very well known local bands played. Kids (and cops) were herded out at 5:00 so the strictly adult portion of the program could begin. This was all at the FRMC facilities that are actually very nice. There is a grassy courtyard with a meeting/workout room on one end, a very nice bar on the other and in between, new and clean (rare in Oz) bathrooms. The property is a nice large paddock (field or pasture) with lots of room for fun on bikes and cars.

I took heaps (Aussie for lots) of pictures and the burnout pictures were taken by a little girl who sat on my shoulders so she could see the fun. While she didn't look like a bikie chick in training, there were a few kids who did, all excited about buying a black leather vest or headband adorned with skulls and swastikas. Scary.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

No Comment

Ok, you know me better than that. I'll make a comment...or two. This must reeeealy be good soda to have this name. Forget "Smuckers! With a Name Like This..." Actually, here in the land of shortening words such as sun glasses are 'sunnies,' postal workers are called 'posties,' people working in the trades are called 'tradies,' and believe it or not, members of motorcycle gangs are called "bikies!" I did tell an Aussie that to shorten words and add "ie" to the end tends to make Americans think it's cute, such as "Isn't that cute little Bikie?!" Naturally, the Aussie was horrified telling me, "Bikies are NOT cute!" Aussies call soda pop, soft drinks. Not 'pop,' not 'soda,' not even 'sodie pop' like the do in Missouri, but 'soft drinks?!' Of course the option is either water (only in the Outback would this even be considered) or milk if you're a child, so the only 'other' drink would be a hard drink, which I guess makes sense.

I did have a previous post about weird food items and it is funny what is really innocent in one geographic area can be so...funny in another. Maybe it's just me. We got a memo about an office meeting that said we'd have a demonstration for a defibrillator with our Office Manager Mark, giving a demonstration on the office staff. I was wondering who hadn't been performing well lately and of course thought it might be me and wondered if I should skip the meeting or if I had to attend. I re-read the memo and of course it said Mark would be giving a presentation to the office (on the current condition of the office and finances is what was supposed to be inferred). I wrote to the author of the memo suggesting a clearer way to express the TWO different items on the agenda and her left handed response was "it must be interesting being you."

I hope this little bit was somewhat interesting. I feel like I'm not sometimes as this is a rare 3 day weekend and what am I doing on our Monday off? I'm in the office since not all States in Oz observe this day off and I need to get some work out of the Perth office today.

Write, call, email, comment. See you around the Christmas holidays!