Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween Zombie

 Originally uploaded by WilWheaton
Happy Halloween to anyone out there who still gets to enjoy it! Here in Australia there is nary a mention of something I get very nostalgic about. I asked our friend's daughter, who is in primary school, about Halloween the other day. She knew what it was, "but," she said, "we don't celebrate it at school because it's an 'American' thing."   Chalk up yet one more failure of U.S. diplomacy! For a more absorbing analysis of another American's experience of October 31 in Oz, please read Audra's entry.

This picture comes from one of my favourite bloggers, Wil Wheaton. If you know anything about "Star Trek: The Next Generation," you know who he is. He has become an excellent writer, and his blog is a great gathering place for geeks far and wide. (Yes, believe it or not, I am a geek).

Thursday, October 25, 2007

My Aunt

My aunt and my dad’s sister, Maj Siri Ulmen, passed away last week while I was in the States. Unfortunately, I didn’t learn about this until I was flying out of the country on Sunday. Last May she fell and hit her head, eventually leading to a blood cot that had to be removed. Her two daughters, Leah and Erin, kept a blog about her progress over the summer. I hadn’t checked it in a few weeks because I thought Maj Siri was getting better. My dad is in Minneapolis this week, visiting my cousins and their families.

The photo above is of my dad’s family. It was some sort of passport photo taken just before they boarded a ship to America from Sweden. As I understand it, their immigration in the early 1950s was inspired by the success of Sven’s brother, John, in Iowa and Nebraska. From left to right is Edla (my grandmother), Bo (my dad), Bert (my uncle), Maj Siri, and Sven (my grandfather). My dad was the middle child. I imagine that he must be feeling quite alone now, as he is the only surviving member of his family.

To be perfectly honest, I hadn’t seen my Aunt in over 25 years. And I only met one of my cousins very briefly when she was a little girl. There were various reasons why so much time passed without any contact between us. I do have many good memories of Maj Siri when we lived in Minnesota, however. She had a dry sense of humor and a really throaty laugh. She became an adult in the ‘60s, and there was always something hippy-like about her that I found fascinating. I know this is going to sound awful to contemporary ears, but I also fondly associate her and the rest of my dad’s Swedish relatives with the smell of cigarette smoke. As a kid I’d hang around listening to their conversations as they all puffed away on their cigs. The women usually had a special case for their packs, and everyone seemed to carry a personal lighter. My grandmother later developed a hacking cough, and most of the family died at relatively young ages due to various health problems. But memories of smoke-filled discussions (and plenty of arguments) between Maj Siri, my dad, Bert, and their cousins can still easily bring a smile to my face.

My thoughts are very much with my dad and my cousins. And I’ll say a prayer for my Aunt too.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


Just a quick note to say that I am back in Brisbane. However, I did experience a little "diversion" on the way from Los Angeles. Just after we crossed the International Date Line, the pilot announced that we were taking a "hard turn" towards Nadi, Fiji. It turned out that Brisbane was forecast to have heavy fog during our scheduled 6 am arrival, so that meant that we wouldn't have enough fuel if we were forced to circle around waiting for the fog to clear. Therefore, we had to land in Fiji to get more fuel! From my seat (three away from the window), I could see the country is beautiful, mountainous, and very green. It also looked sparsely populated. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to get off the plane during the refueling, so I wasn't able to see much more. Soon after we were airborne again, I used the plane's satellite phone system to call V. so that she would know I would be arriving three hours late.

Finally, when I got through customs at 10 am in Brisbane (they had to scan my bags because I declared my peanut butter), I walked out into the central arrivals area and heard a little scream of delight from my son. Will's face lit up when he saw me. I picked him up right away and he gave me a very tight hug, not letting go for several minutes. How wonderful! And, of course, V. was glad to see me too!

I'm home at last.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Flying with Trojans

I am in the middle of a 36-hour journey back to Australia, currently waiting at LAX for the 11:30 p.m. flight to Sydney. I arrive in Brisbane at 6 am on Tuesday. First, however, my trip began at 6:30 a.m. Sunday when I checked out of my hotel in Savannah. My friend Yuki and I then drove four hours to Atlanta. I returned my rental car to Enterprise (luckily, they didn’t notice the damage inflicted on the car by a homeless man with a wheelbarrow in the Virginia-Highland neighborhood where we had dinner on Tuesday), and flew to Chicago. I made some calls to my family there and received some sad news about my aunt, whom I will write about later. I grew even sadder as I thought about the great distance that I will soon be from my family once more. At the gate for the flight to LA I noticed a large number of USC Trojan fans, including members of the marching band, were waiting to board. I went to grad school at USC, and was affiliated with the university for nine years, but I haven’t kept up with its football team. This weekend, I quickly learned, was the classic USC-Notre Dame game, and yesterday these fans had watched the Trojans crush the Fighting Irish on their home field.

As our plane pulled away from the gate and the safety video started to play, I was happily surprised to watch at least half the passengers (i.e., the Trojan students and other fans) begin to interact synchronously with what was going on on the screen. I don’t know how it was organized, or whether this is some new cultural phenomenon based on a recent movie, but everybody really did the same thing at the same moment. For example, when the narrator mentioned that the seatbelts should be fastened, a steady clicking noise started to swell as all the passengers clicked their belts. When the video showed the oxygen masks fall from the ceiling, people made a loud blowing noise throughout the plane. When the exits were identified in the video, dozens of hands started to make waving gestures towards to the various doors. And when the film finished, everyone clapped. It was perfect. It was a bit like going to the "Rocky Horror Picture Show" back in college, in fact.

I feel especially happy to be an American tonight... and a (lapsed) Trojan!

P.S. This is my 100th post!!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Five Days Later...

Greetings from Savannah, Georgia, USA. I am attending the annual meeting of the Society for Psychophysiological Research, something I have been doing quite regularly for 22 years. My sleep is finally back to normal, but I get to disrupt it all when I leave for Australia tomorrow.

I was Atlanta for 48 hours earlier in the week. Besides working on some projects at Georgia State, I spent a couple of hours at our old house and surrounding community (where I launched a commando assault on Super Target and Babies R Us). I was surprised how little nostalgia I felt for anything, but that could be because I have been away for only 3 ½ months. The one exception was when I went to our house (it’s still for sale!) and walked through the Will’s old bedroom and his play area. I was momentarily overwhelmed with sadness as I thought about the times V. and I had spent painting his room and getting ready for his birth. It didn’t help that I miss V. and Will very much!

I saw a lot of old friends in Atlanta, and even some older friends here in Savannah. Many people have asked me what I miss most about the U.S. My first answer is always “my friends and family.” And then I have paused while I try to think of something else. If my questioner waited long enough, “peanut butter” was usually my next answer. Actually, I have found myself nearly every day wishing I was back in Australia, which has really surprised me. Besides seeing my little family in Toowong again, I miss the general friendlier “tone” of Australian society. Here in the States there is still so much public animosity surrounding race, religion, and politics. Sure, Americans are a friendly, happy lot. They are, after all, my peeps. But there is something not quite right about the way I have seen the Fox News Channel playing in the background nearly everywhere I go. I ate a burger in front of a TV in a diner the other night, and had the unpleasant experience of watching the hateful Bill O’Reilly for 30 minutes. The scorn that he regularly dishes out has made his show the most watched on cable TV (my guess is that he pulls in more viewers each night than does the top-rated show in Australia). I witnessed such spite firsthand as I walked the streets of Savannah, as the accompanying picture taken yesterday shows. Do democracies really require such extreme divisiveness to survive? I think not. Perhaps such hatred and intolerance is what leads to their eventual unraveling. I hope not.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Sleepless in the Land of Lincoln

I am writing this entry at 12:30 a.m. CDT from Rockford, Illinois. For four of the five nights I’ve been in the States, I haven’t slept very well. It’s the worse jet lag problem I have ever suffered through. I go to bed around 10:00 feeling sleepy, but then wake up two hours later, not being able to get back to sleep for another 4-5 hours. What's worse is that I had to get up at 6 each morning, and I haven’t really had a chance to nap. Later today (less than four hours from now), for example, I need to catch a 4:20 am bus to O’Hare airport, so that I can board a 7 am flight to Atlanta. Oh, why didn’t I take that Ambien along that V. recommended?!

Part of the problem is that my mind has been racing as I think about the events planned for the next day. And when you’re packing in each day like I am, there is much to think about. Recent highlights include a fantastic dinner in Chicago with my old friend Tiffany at Topolobampo, an exceptional Mexican restaurant part-owned by chef Rick Bayless, who has a line of cookbooks and television shows devoted to this cuisine. Tiff and I each ordered a sampler menu, which was comprised of five courses, each paired with the perfect ½ glass of wine. The mole sauces alone put me in a state of unbelievable gastronomic ecstasy. Oh, Rick, please think about opening a restaurant in Australia!! On Saturday night my conference had its big social event at the Shedd Aquarium. Our group had the entire place to itself, where we first sipped drinks while we watched the dolphins and beluga whales swim, and then were later treated to a buffet dinner surrounded by dozens of large aquariums. On Sunday I spent most of the day with my two brothers and their families. They each have two daughters in the age range of 5-9. We played Sorry! (the old board game) and some sort of shoot ‘em up video game. We also watched the Vikings beat the Bears, and then enjoyed an early Thanksgiving dinner put on for me by Betty. More than anything, my brothers love to laugh, and the constant kidding that goes on between them (and me) has been a part of our lives since childhood. I also briefly talked to my mom on the phone, who lives in Oklahoma. My family is currently scattered over a large section of middle America, so it’s always going to be difficult for me to create an affordable itinerary to see everyone on these trips.

Well, I am feeling a little more tired now. I had better try to sleep again so that I can get another two hours in. My next entry will come from Georgia. Good night!

Friday, October 12, 2007

One Man Shopping

Today I spent nearly six hours shopping along Chicago’s N. Michigan Ave. I didn’t realize how shopping-deprived I had become after living in Australia for only three months. But, the choices and the prices found in American stores just can’t be beat. My first stop was at the Apple Store. I got to handle an iPhone for 10 minutes, including sending myself an email using its beautiful touchscreen (the iPhone won’t be available in Oz until 2008 at the earliest). I also played with the new iPod Touch and the cool video Nano. It was like spending time in a geek porn shop. I then had lunch at the original Uno’s, where I had a marvelous deep-dish pizza. I had forgotten how tasty a real Chicago-style pizza is. After stops at The Gap, Niketown, Borders, Radio Shack, and Filene’s Basement, I paused my spending spree to save room in my suitcase for other things on our shopping list. Our son is getting plenty of new summer clothes, which are now heavily discounted here because winter is just two months away.

I did remember to attend the opening night reception for the conference I’m attending. And then it was back to my room to watch the end of “Survivor: China” and the latest episode of “The Office” while I munched from a bag of Cheetos Puffs. Don’t worry. I still want to go back to Australia after all this!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Touchdown in L.A.

I'm here...posting another blog entry at about the same time I did today (yesterday or tomorrow, or whenever). I’m sitting in the American Airlines terminal at LAX across from a Starbucks (where else?!) waiting for my flight to Chicago. I had to pay $6 for an hour’s worth of net access, so I’m using the time that I have left (after checking my email) to jot down a few lines here…

My flight was OK. It took nearly two hours of standing in line in Brisbane to check in, however. There were only two employees standing at the nine Economy check-in counters to process a nearly full 747. Sure, there were two counters open in Business class too, but that didn’t really help things. As a result of this staffing shortage, our plane left nearly an hour late, after several of us had to run to the gate when they made the final boarding call, just seconds after we got our boarding pass.

Anyway, I made it. I sat next to a very large woman, which made simple things like eating and sleeping a challenge. I watched three movies, several sitcoms, and probably slept an hour or two. Going through immigration and customs here took about 15 minutes. I picked up my rental phone, and walked out into the cool California sunshine. Of course, I was immediately accosted welcomed by three different solicitors begging for money (and I couldn’t even make out what “cause” they were mumbling about as I shooed them away). Back in Australia, I haven’t run into one panhandler yet, and anyone soliciting for charity sits quietly at a card table with a sign. They must come meet up with their American equivalents for some tips!

It does make me smile to hear those bilingual recordings of the LAX public address system and to be barked at once again by an unfriendly TSA agent. It feels almost like home.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The 17 Percent Loading

I leave for the United States in just a few hours. Today I will fly nearly 13 hours from Brisbane to Los Angeles, and then leave for Chicago three hours later. This 12-day trip is work-related, although I’ll get to see some friends in Atlanta next week, and my brothers and their families this weekend.

I attended a staff induction (orientation) this week at UQ--three months late-- and learned that one of my benefits (in fact, for all UQ employees) is four weeks personal leave each year, which can accumulate up to 20 weeks, plus a “17.25% loading.” I later learned that this loading is a 17.25% increase in pay whenever I’m on leave. Yes, I get paid more not to work! This is apparently a common thing in Australia, although no one seems to know its origin.

The price of an airline ticket between L.A. and Australia is nearly double what it was in 1996, so maybe the “loading” is meant to help with airfares when Aussies go on their holidays. It makes you wonder what will happen here when the “cheap” oil runs out. By then we’ll have more alternatives for cars, heating, etc. But, as far as I know, there are still no alternatives for jet fuel. Maybe Aussies will have to resume long sea voyages to see their families “back home.”

Monday, October 8, 2007

Mixed Tapes

V. and I had a "date night" on Saturday. After the babysitter showed up at 5 and went to play with Will in the back garden, we snuck away by foot to the Regatta Hotel for dinner. I haven't quite mastered the terminology yet, but "hotels" in Australia are sort of large combination restaurant/pub/entertainment centres. The Regatta in Toowong is a landmark, sitting near the river and having some sort of historical connection to Brisbane rowing. Anyway, we had a very nice dinner there, once I got over my angst about which steak to order. I haven't been so challenged about a piece of meat before. Take a look (the menu is posted on the website):
Stockyard MSA Beef 18-24 month old British Bred Yearling, grain fed at the "Kerwee" feedlot in the lush surrounds of the Darling Downs
Eye Fillet (minimum Med 100 days grain) 200gr $28.0
Eye Fillet (minimum Large 100 days grain) 300gr $34.9
Rib Fillet (minimum 100 days on grain) 300gr $26.9
Rump (long fed) (minimum 200 days on grain) 400gr $27.5

Diamantina MSA Beef Raised in the Central QLD Highlands, fattened at "Bottletree" feedlot in the heart of the rich Darling Downs
Sirloin (minimum 70 days on grain) 350gr $25.9
Rib Fillet on the bone (minimum 70 days on grain) $35.9
After dinner we walked to the ferry terminal below the Regatta and got on a CityCat for the 30-minute ride to New Farm. It was our first river trip all the way through the city centre and under the Story Bridge. Restaurants, clubs, and parks along the river were full of people enjoying the warm spring evening. Large clusters of people sat around public BBQs in the twilight, looking like scenes out of 1950s small-town America.

Disembarking at New Farm, we walked to the Brisbane Powerhouse, an old power station that has been converted into "a contemporary multi-arts, dining and conference venue." We had a nice coffee (a flat white, which has become our fav) before entering the Visy theatre to see Daniel Kitson's "C-90." We figured out that this was our first theater outing in over two years--the last just before we found out we were pregnant. The "play" itself was about 70 minutes long, and was actually a monologue by the fast-speaking Kitson, who wrote and developed the show back in his native England. I enjoyed the performance very much. It's the story about a man's last day at work in a large repository for mixed cassette tapes. (You do remember the cassette tape, don't you?) Most had been made for the benefit of others, either as gifts of appreciation or some romantic gesture (at the beginning, the middle, or the end of the relationship). As suggested by the show, sometimes a person might even make a mixed tape and label it "Sorry" before giving it.

In college I used to make a lot of these tapes. I remember the careful process of putting a record on the turnstile, setting the needle down, and then releasing the pause button on the tape deck set to record. As soon as the final bit of noise from the song was done, I would hit the pause button again and repeat the process with another record. Even after we got a CD player in 1989, I continued to make mixed tapes, but stopped when I was able to burn CDs in the mid '90s (a process that in turn ceased when I got my iPod). I still had many of these tapes when we were packing up to move. Of course, it had been many years since I listened to any cassette, so all the ones I had made were put in the trash and the rest given to Goodwill. After seeing "C-90," the funny thing is that I can't remember ever making a mixed tape for someone else, particularly for a romantic reason. I received a few from others over the years, but I don't think they were accompanied with romantic yearnings either. Maybe this was a more prominent form of expression in other parts of the world...

Did you ever receive or send a mixed tape? Was it ever done out of love?

Saturday, October 6, 2007

World News in Australia

For my friends back in the U.S., I thought you might be interested in learning about what we in Australia hear about the rest of the world in a typical week. The following represents my own memory of the major news stories, as presented in the past seven days on the websites of the The Courier-Mail, The Age, and The Australian, as well as the news presented on Seven and ABC television:
  • Britney lost custody of her children. This one received an excessive amount of attention in the Aussie press, unfortunately, and included the shocking detail that she went to a tanning salon after she dropped off the kids with their father.
  • The situation in Burma (Myanmar). Students on the UQ campus have been collecting signatures and starting facebook groups to urge the Australian government and the U.N. to get more involved.
  • The upcoming elections in Pakistan. As you might imagine, news from Asia is generally much more prominent here (and I hear very little about the Middle East).
  • Diana, Princess of Wales, died in a car accident. Oh, yeah, that was 10 years ago, but every excruciating detail of her final minutes has been discussed this week as a result of the inquest in London.
  • Eva Longoria released a sex tape. Actually, it was a joke intended for Will Ferrell's website, but there was a lot of interest in this one because Eva has massive appeal here. She's prominently featured in several ads, including one for Pepsi Max, where she ends up running out of the gas with two strange boys in the car whom she's just picked up. She smiles and says, "I guess we'll have to spend the night here."
  • Marion Jones admits to taking steroids before the 2000 Olympics. The headline at The Australian: "Marion Jones admits she's a drug cheat."
  • Aussies prepare for Pom Assault. According to today's Fox sports website, "AUSTRALIA is preparing for a foul-play ambush from England when the two sides collide in a World Cup quarter-final tonight." That's the World Cup in rugby union football, mind you. Again, rugby league is something else...
For the most part, the rest of the news this week focused on stories coming from Australia itself (e.g., the trial of a father who drowned his sons by driving his car into the water, the wildfires in New South Wales, the building of a pulp mill in Tasmania). One can dig around and learn much more about the rest of the world, of course, especially on news websites. And, I think it's safe to say that the average Australian is more aware of news in the rest of the world than is the average American. I am looking forward to catching up with the news back in the U.S. when I arrive there next week. What's the latest on the Obama vs. Hillary battle? What's the current hotspot for racial tension? What's the latest gruesome murder? Who have the police mistreated this week? And, most importantly, is the latest edition of "Survivor" any good?

Wednesday, October 3, 2007


We arrived in Australia a little over three months ago. Of course, I know it's going to take a much longer time to feel like we actually live here. Right now I still feel like I'm on a sabbatical from the U.S. I am making daily comparisons between what "they" do here and what "we" do back in the States. Owning a house back in Atlanta that hasn't yet sold and renting our home here adds to this sense of a temporary lifestyle. In fact, I leave in a week for a 12-day trip to America to attend some conferences and see some family members. I find myself very much looking forward to this trip because I'll be able to relax again, being in my own culture surrounded by people who talk like me and eat my food, sell "my" kinds of things, etc. We're creating a shopping list of things for me to buy there that will require bringing along an extra suitcase. And I'll get to see so many of my dear friends and family!

Given my current state of mind, I found this page appropriately amusing. It's from, a website for ex-pat Australians living in the United States. On this page is a little anonymously written essay called "The Five Stages of Culture Shock." I believe that I am experiencing the beginning of the second stage (which followed a stage of wonderment and tourist-like excitement):
The second stage is the actual shock. It can be characterized with loss of courage and general discomfort. Changes in character occur, depression, lack of self-confidence and irritation, people become more vulnerable and prone to crying, more worried about their health, suffer from headache, bad stomach and complaint about pain and allergy. Difficulties with concentration often occur and reduce the ability to learn a new language. These factors increase the anxiety and the stress. In this period, the self-awareness dissolves and people have trouble with solving simple problems. Conversations on this stage are about things that cannot be bought, what you must get along without, and everything that the people in the new country do wrong (which means "differently").
It is easy to get into a rant about the little things that are different here (e.g., the lack of built-in sink plugs, the light switches that flip down instead of up, the complicated choices involved in choosing mobile phone services), but such rants merely mask pangs of homesickness. Most of all I miss my friends and family. It's hard to accept the fact that I can no longer just jump in the car and drive off to see them in a few minutes or a few hours. I also realize now that I am resisting assimilation quite fiercely by surrounding myself with things from "home," and occasionally mocking what people do here. I end up spending most of my social time with North Americans (which is easy to do at my workplace)! According to the "Five Stages of Culture Shock:"
The third stage of culture shock is characterized with one's plunging into new ways of living. With patience, it is possible to reach this stage by the end of the first year. Key aspects in a new culture are being learned and the earlier chaos and lack of direction seldom appears. Relations with the native population are initiated, such as neighbours and workmates or schoolmates.
So, according to this, I've got another nine months of moaning and whinging to go! Then I can start on fourth stage. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Saving Daylight

Quoting from this morning's Courier-Mail (assuming that the link to the full article will disappear soon):

QUEENSLAND might not be about to split into different time zones under daylight saving, but yesterday's decision to bury the controversial issue has divided the state.

Premier Anna Bligh's decision to rule out a referendum, trial or a southeast corner zonal system split opinion between the coast and the farms.

The decision was taken worst on the Gold Coast, where support for winding clocks forward one hour during summer was strongest because of different time zones near the border.

Tourism groups were most disappointed, saying daylight saving meant more time for tourists to play.

"Many of our international visitors, in particular, like to dine and go out later in the evening and daylight saving works well with that lifestyle," Gold Coast Tourism spokesman Ben Poole said.

Gold Coast Mayor Ron Clarke last night accused Ms Bligh of lacking leadership qualities.

He said: "You really have to dig to the bottom of the barrel to find some reason not to adopt daylight saving when the rest of the country has it."

Yes, I live in the part of Australia (a very big part, mind you!) that does not have daylight saving time. In fact, Queensland had voted against it mid-20th century, later voted it in (and had it sometime in the 70s), and then voted it out again. Western Australia recently adopted it on a trial basis, although it's probably going to be repealed soon due to many people who now hate it (maybe Brett can clarify that...). The rest of the country, with the exception of the Northern Territory, doesn't appear to have any problems with DST. Having never spent a summer without DST myself, facing a summer with sunsets around 7:30 makes me a bit uncomfortable, so I turned to the old Wikipedia for some clarification.

First, did you know that most of the world's population does not observe DST and its use is actually on the decline?
Key: Blue=DST used, Orange=DST no longer used, Red=never used

Second, politics, and not some sort of common wisdom, has played an enormous role since 1907 when it was first proposed. Winston Churchill was very much in favour of it, and Canadian novelist Robertson Davies argued that opponents to DST represented "the bony, blue-fingered hand of Puritanism, eager to push people into bed earlier, and get them up earlier, to make them healthy, wealthy and wise in spite of themselves." (I saw one of these Puritans railing against it on TV this morning: "children would have to wake up in the dark!"). More recently, the U.S. Congress extended the American DST period in response to pressure from lobbyists representing the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association and the National Association of Convenience Stores. Typically, in other parts of the world the retail and travel industries have been in favour of DST, whereas those in more rural areas (primarily farmers) have opposed it. So, the arguments about DST confronting Queensland's Anna Bligh are really not so new after all.

Monday, October 1, 2007


Sydney is perhaps the most beautiful city in the world. And we got to spend five days there this week! Our friends moved to Sydney from London last January, so we made the trip to visit them (the things we suffer through for our friends!). We stayed in a hotel in the city centre for the first three nights, and then moved out to our friends' home in Roseville (a N. suburb) for the weekend. V. and I honeymooned in Sydney in 2003, so we got to relive many of those moments (without the jet lag) as we pushed Will around town. Circular Quay is a big draw for us. It's the place where all the ferries leave for destinations around the harbour, but it is also smack dab in between the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, so the views there are stunning. On Thursday we met up with our friends at the Taronga Zoo, which is perched along some cliffs on the north side of the harbour. Although it's compact and the exhibits are therefore on the small side, I definitely recommend it to any visitor simply because of its location. When arriving from the ferry, visitors can take a cable car ride up over the zoo and get treated to magnificent views of the city. On Friday we wandered around by foot, stopping for breakfast at Darling Harbour, visiting our honeymoon hotel in Hyde Park, looking through the windows of the Seven Network's studios (we watch "Sunrise" each morning, which is kind of a laid-back "Today" show for those of you from the U.S.), meandering through the walkways of the Sydney Hospital (built in 1811), and then stopping to smell the spring flowers in full bloom at the Royal Botanic Gardens. We finished the day by taking the ferry to Manly (which was in full Grand Final fever), where we had dinner under the stars with our friends.

On Saturday we had a quick coffee at Bondi, where Will was given a Kevin '07 balloon (Kevin Rudd is the leader of the Labor party, and who will undoubtedly become the next prime minister). Who knows...maybe Will will end up voting in an Aussie election someday! We then spent the rest of the weekend in Roseville, a nice leafy, northern suburb. Because I have meetings today, I flew back to Brisbane last night, and Will & V. will return tonight. For more pictures, see the album.

By the way, flying domestically in Australia is a bit like it was in the U.S. before 2001. No one asked to see my ID. I didn't have to take off my shoes when going through security. And non-ticketed passengers can go all the way to the gate. On top of that, the airports are not at all crowded, even on a busy flying day like yesterday, so the entire flying experience here is more relaxed than I am used to. And that's a good thing.

A Little More Sport

Just a quick note to add to what I wrote in my last post. Geelong beat Port Adelaide in the AFL Grand Final this past Saturday afternoon. I watched the final minutes of the turned out to be the most lopsided score in the Finals history. I also watched the post-game ceremonies. On Sunday evening Melbourne beat Manly in the NRL Grand Final. I got to see more of this one, and again I watched the post-game ceremonies. Of the two, the NRL seems a bit wilder. At the AFL Final it looked like most of the fans stuck around for the ceremonies, which were full of brief speeches from both the winners and the losers. The same occurred at the NRL, but, maybe because it was nearing 10:00 and it wasn't the winners' hometown, the seats were nearly empty when the PM, John Howard, gave all the players medals. I heard this morning that the 17 players get to "share" the $400,000 purse, which means that one of the players will make--oh my!--at least $140,000 this year!!! In contrast to American football, many (all?) teams here have a corporate benefactor, and the players wear their sponsors' logos on their uniforms. Geelong are sponsored by Ford (and home to its largest plant in Australia), whereas the Melbourne Storm are sponsored by Optus. I think I have figured out the scoring and the basic game play of rugby league, but Aussie rules football is still a bit of a mystery...