Monday, December 29, 2008

For the price of a movie ticket

Wild Oats the Race Winner

After Christmas in Hobart, the Waterfront becomes crowded with people involved with or watching for the entrants of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race to come in. We saw the winner sailing past the lighthouse near our house early in the morning, and then close up at the water front. The boating enthusiasm is easy to catch and we went on a boat ourselves. A replica of 'The Lady Nelson' from the late 1800s. I don't know anything about boats, but the differences between a Yacht such as Wild Oats and the Lady Nelson both of which have cross the same Ocean ways was apparent even to my eyes. I am sure both were thrilling, although the Lady Nelson took weeks to do what the Wild Oats did in 36 hrs.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

It starting to look a lot like Christmas

The weather has been strange-variable-nothing I am sure compared to what my friends in the Northwest have experienced, with all that snow falling.
Yesterday though started off warm, then was cooler in the afternoon due to a cool breeze and too thick of a cloud cover, then by 5 p.m. the sun was out and it felt like 80 degrees in the back yard so even Zok agreed to go swimming. His first time since we've come home. He only donned his short, lighter weight wet suit but was complaining in the water that he was without gloves. There were nice swells and we were out in the water for awhile. Mostly as you can see I spend my time reading or listening to audio books-I follow the sun, after the sun leaves my back yard I go to the beach where I can find the rays again. We call this Christmas.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Turning Left instead of Right

At the end of the street where I live, there is a roundabout. If you turn right you reach Kingston. Here there is tragically, a McDonalds, a Big W (aka Wal-mart in a thinly veiled disguise), Coles (one of two large Grocery Store chains), various other chain stores and a few good places such as the Library.
But, if you turn left instead, the towns are much smaller and the shops more interesting. There are some charity shops along the way, and although I did not find any cute ornaments, I did find a game made by 'the Scrabble people' called 'Shrinkwords', all pieces included for $2.50 AU. We go that way to take our garden waste to the Tip which is Australian for Dump. As far as city dumps go, ours is sort of charming, lots of birds, and a second (or I suppose by the time an item reaches the tip, fifth hand) shop, and the place is not even very smelly. We went looking for rocks to put in our garden, larger rocks to build up in the corner, so we can add some running water to try and grow Wasabi. I love that there is a Wasabi grower on the island, there is also a Saffron farm.
Along the road we found a nice Nursery, two places that sold rocks by the ton, and a small bakery.
Left is better.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Archers

*photo borrowed from the Archers website

When I was in Sweden for an extended period of time, I discovered Podcasts. I did a lot of wandering around the web and I was lonely for the sound of the English language. This was over four years ago, before the programs were organized on sites such as iTunes or even yet embraced by professionals. As I waded through the different programs in search of a person who sounded better than a kid with his or her first tape recorder, I was reminded of using a CB radio. Now, I don't actually listen to any of the podcasts I started out with. The ones that I liked such as a music program out of Scotland stopped broadcasting (if broadcasting is a word I can use in this context), and others I grew tired of. I do still listen to quite a few, but they tend to come from established sources such as the short fiction program produced by 'The New Yorker', or the music programs produced by KEXP in Seattle. I listen to them when I am walking, gardening, driving, or even doing housework. I learn new things and somehow they are friendly.
I also enjoy a good radio play. The BBC excels at radio plays. The U.K. seems to have never doubted the radio play whereas America seems to have all but abandoned the concept. This brought me to a lovely coupling;
"The Archers"
The Archers is a daily radio show, presented on BBC 4 and also in podcast form. Each episode is about 15 minutes, depicting the lives in an English rural village. The radio show has been running continuously since 1951.
In strange ways listening to the show has aided my understanding of living in a low populated state, and there is quite a bit of farming. Tasmania is more the place where saffron and wasabi is being cultivated but there is also sheep breeding. I, being a city girl find myself quite ignorant of even farmer terminology. Words such as 'farrier' which is a person who trims and shoes horses hooves. Plus the world of the Archers being rural England has much in common with where I live now, there are Pubs, Pasty's, Show Day, and much too much talk about the weather.
I wish there were more ongoing radio dramas. I long for a nice 'Lights Out' podcast.

Cloudscape & Power Lines

Cloudscapes For Monte-

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Pretty like that

Australia has a lot of War Memorials but this is the first one I have seen for Dogs. I kinda loved it. Plus most of the cycle way goes through industrial areas so this park was nice.

Riding a bike is a bit of a novelty for me. I think I owned one for a sort while when I lived in L.A. but I might be remembering a roommate that had a bike. I know I never owned one while I lived in Washington. I don't remember ever owning one as a teenager. Zok however is unafraid to make a purchase, so now I have two. One is a standard sort of mountain bike with gears, my feet barely reach the ground when I am on it. I prefer this small one, it reminds me of Sacramento. I did of course ride on the handlebars of bikes, well being smallest meant I was often on the handlebars. Then there was also the borrowing of bikes. There are only a few memories that make me think of Sacramento (the place, not the people) fondly, and riding bikes late at night, in the heat of Summer is one of them. My point being that I don't have a lot of experience riding a bike but now I go a couple times a month. For incentive there is this mostly flat seemingly unending trail that starts in Hobart.
The intercity trail goes for hundreds of kilometers, I went to Berriedale, so about 26 kms all together. I always want to go a bit further than the time before. I am paying for it today though because my butt and legs are hurting. Zok blames the ghost riders' lack of gears but I blame my advanced years.
I read in the Times that Betty Page died. My stepfather had magazines with her in them, and when I was small I always thought 'I want to be pretty like that'. She always looked so happy.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

G'Day this is; Sierra... Nevada... Tango

Zok has been taking as many flying lessons as possible. He is very, very pleased with himself. He has been learning how to turn the plane, talk to the radio tower, and tomorrow he gets to complete the whole take off instead of just assisting.
The sun is out, but the temperature only reached 60 degrees which is sad for me-I know that January will come and suddenly it will be Summer but from the wrong side of January that hot weather seems so far away.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Memories of Thailand

My last few days have been full of crooked stitches (read sewing disaster), broken bowls (read kitchen disaster), and the incident with Australia's version of Karo corn syrup which was almost solid and caused me a small mental break.
Therefore, I am going to write about Zok.
Zok does all the cooking when he is home, I have been trying to encourage more vegetable dishes, as in vegetables as a side dish, or as a lunch dish because I don't think we eat enough vegetables. Since the vegetable patch is growing well, and Zok will try to cook just about anything if the ingredients are handy these vegetable additions have been frequent. The other inspiration for new dishes is when a fruit or vegetable comes into season. Living on a fairly isolated island the furthest our produce travels is usually from Queensland, by example; Pineapple. When I see pineapple in the store, my creativity only goes as far as thinking of cottage cheese, or making a pina colada. But when Zok sees them we get amazing stir fried pineapple, tofu, cashews, with capsicum (bell pepper)-The only thing that could have made this dish better was if Zok had hollowed out the shells to make more room so that I could eat more without getting up.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Christmas Crazy

So Sparkling! So Glamorous!
By Day

By Night

Even this sort of Charlie Brown-ish Ikea tree was better than...

...this sad abomination of a pine tree.

This Christmas Sign for the local Butcher pretty well sums up the Australian Xmas.

If you are fortunate enough not to know personally what Christmas brings out in me, then count yourself lucky. I am told that my enthusiasm can wear a normal person down pretty quickly. Waiting until the day after Thanksgiving is all the self-control I have. I always use that Friday to put up the tree. I can't put into words how sorely I miss going to the Christmas Tree lot, especially my Christmas lot off of 15th ave. in Seattle. Tasmania has a 'self-seeding, fast growing pine'. I would argue that it isn't even in the same family as the pine trees that grow in N. America, trust me when I state that this is not the same sort of disappointment one would find when they had to get a blue spruce instead of a douglas fir. The boy scouts here sell them, but not until about a week before Xmas, there is also this prevalent idea that having a real tree in the house will attract ants, and each year some acquaintance would mention (kindly) that I should put some bleach in the water. The pine is also only vaguely fragrant and try as I might I couldn't wire together any sort of garland.
I suppose what finally broke me was the fact that around Christmas the sun is setting at 10 p.m. and rising at 5 a.m., so Christmas lights are anti-climatic. There is no 'staving off the darkness' with fairy lights and candles in the window. The feeling for me is 4th of July, BBQ with nicer decorations.
The solution to my Christmas tree problems came to me here, over 8,000 miles away from the likely location of the item I wanted. I had decided that an aluminum tree would be perfect, it would sparkle in the sunlight, with no need for the additional heat of lights. I had been turning my nose up for years at various flea markets only to be now at the mercy of Ebay. Basically, we paid the price of a normal artificial tree which is not bad, but it also was not a bargain. I had to buy the tree off season, so by now I have suppressed the price all together not that any price would have dampened my spirits as I listened to over six hours of Christmas music, decorating, dancing, and drinking Pina Coladas which somehow has become my Australian Xmas decorating drink of choice. I think that started because there were bottles of rum in the liquor closet, and continued because, well it is the start of summer and I can drink them through green and red bendy straws.
Plus, you know, fresh fruit in a drink equals meal.
Zok is so over me.
The bright side of that might be that if he was like me when it comes to holidays, we'd be one of those houses that is commonly referred to by other residents as 'the holiday house'. I think you know what I mean.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Brave, but not that Brave

I am not a strong swimmer. I took lessons in dowtown Seattle, at the Y. I remember making comments, trying to bond with my instructor, after many a blank look I finally asked him how old he was. He was in the neighborhood of ten years younger than I was. I had that first shock of really knowing I was in my late twenties which perhaps I had been thinking was just like being a teenager twice. I also had a lesser shock when he stated 'Not everyone needs to be able to do a flip-kick'. He made the comment after I cracked my head on the side of the pool and got a nasty lump on my forehead. As the weekly lessons went on I felt less and less ready to brave open water, there was the experience of losing the bottom half of my bathing suit while diving (seriously, but seriously NO ONE every mentioned that to me). People I knew were not exactly un-supportive, but I think most were flabbergasted that I did not learn as a child. There was the comment made by my employer's daughter, she said in a bit of a stage whisper 'I hope Colleen doesn't come to my school for lessons.' Oh great I thought I don't even have my own kids and I am still an embarrassing adult. I did forge on well enough that I would swim in hotel pools whenever I got the chance.
I haven't really gotten much better at swimming, nor can I dive (although I can duck a wave)-but I have learned how to cheat. It is called; owning a wetsuit. So much easier to stay afloat!, and I think using one has strengthened me a bit to where I am more confident to swim without one for the two odd months where it is warm enough. Even this time a year, when the water might be in the 40s, I don't care as long as the sun is out to warm me on the walk to the beach.
The beach by the way which looks entirely different to me after being away for the Winter. I almost feel betrayed. There is some sort of 'sea lettuce' on the rocks (which I swear have multiplied and rearranged themselves) and the sea lettuce seems to have enticed a lot of sea snails to feast. There was a lot of seaweed around and few jelly fish, but that just gives me incentive to swim faster to the deeper, clearer water. The weather has been unseasonable cool and rainy. I am itching each day for beach time. Heidi (who makes the delicious cakes) lives 'off town water', but she has told me that all her rain tanks are full, so I am going to start wishing for the real Summer weather to start.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Andy Does Thanksgiving

(At Andy's party I met a woman named Elizabeth Daley, who besides being lovely is apparently very smart and she compiled a field guide to Tasmania insects; I thought I was the only one who wondered about them but now I know that I am not. I was so happy to find someone else who felt they needed to know about the strange flies that have fly wings and bee bodies, and don't even get me started on the damselflies...
If are able to look for the book, it really is fascinating, I am asking Santa for a copy)
I met Andy through a short course I took to learn how to use the 4WD on my Jeep. The course was fun actually. The best part of the class was meeting Andy who has a large, nice family who all seem perfectly content to be in the same room together. He has recently finished renovating the house he lives in. The house is located 'in town', and by Australians standards is a comparable to living in a San Franciscan Victorian. As you see the turkey is on the BBQ, but then what else would you expect from an Australian Thanksgiving? Today I am tired out, I get a bit hung over from interacting with so many people after being around so few. I tend to talk myself hoarse, which is good only in the fact that then people stopped commenting on the 'cartoon' quality of my voice tone.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


This is the real telescope that the professionals use at Canopus

Here is fair use Web photo of the jewel box

Canopus Observatory

One of the member sheds with fancy telescopes

Fair use web photo of Messier 62

I went up to Canopus Observatory for a Astronomy Society Meeting. The drive up is always pretty, and there is the benefit of seeing a lot of Wallabies. The drive down in complete darkness is scary for the same reason, I want to get out of my Jeep and shoo all the wildlife away before driving down the road.
I have only been up on a few observation nights, but I aspire to go regularly. I am fairly sure that everyone there went much further in Math then I ever did. I also get nervous and overexcited which causes me to misspeak, commonly I say 'visible universe' when I mean to say 'visible galaxy'. The Southern Hemisphere really does rock over the North. Besides the obvious differences between light pollution and for that matter regular pollution, there are many more naked eye observations here. Some are more spectacular than others, here Orion looks like a saucepan. Because of the inverted perspective I see the Orion Nebula not located in the sword but now in the handle of the saucepan.
Through fancy telescopes (fancy is as technical as I can get with telescopes so far, I hear snippets such as 'light collection' not magnification, talk about 'angular resolution'). So far, I have seen The Jewel Box, which is an open cluster of stars they are various colors and really do look like jewels. Last night we looked at Andromeda which is a bit on the fuzzy side, but it is 2.5 million light years away and I find that impressive. Sirius, which through the telescope is clearly two stars, not one bright one, and Messier 62 which to me looks like a firework.
I am trying to learn how to pick out even five markers, there is no North Star (or Polaris as they call it here) to help located the celestial pole here, no Big Dipper, and as I said all familiar constellations are inverted. Plus the sky is so CROWDED! In Winter I can see the Milky Way come up right in front of my porch. I can watch falling stars and satellites. Many of the stars sparkle with colors, atmospheric action to most and magical to me.
Now if I could just get Zok up to the roof.