Sunday, January 31, 2016


Tim took me to my first cricket game on Friday night, at the Melbourne Cricket Grounds.

Even though it was cricket, an obscure English sport, there were a lot of people there! It turns out that many Commonwealth countries play serious cricket!

You could tell the game was a big deal, because not only were there a lot of people, but also they shot fireworks every time someone hit a home run, or got out. I don't think they really call it a "home run" in cricket, but it's the same idea. Someone hits the ball outside the ring of play. And I don't think they call it "getting out." I think they call it a wicket. But it's a bad thing for the batters, and a good thing for the fielders.

I learned all about cricket on Friday night. I learned that there are two batters, and in a typical game, thirteen wickets. And once you are out, you are out forever. And typical games last five days.

But luckily, this was a short game, which only had twenty overs for each team. And each over involves someone, whom we shall call the "pitcher," throwing the ball six times.

There are two batters. If the one in front of the pitcher hits the ball far enough that the two can switch places, they get a point. If they hit it far enough to switch places twice, they get two points. If they hit it hard enough that it bounces and rolls out of the field, they get four points. If they hit it hard enough that it clears the edge of the field without bouncing, they get six points, and there are fireworks. If they hit it and someone catches it, that is a wicket, and there are fireworks. If the pitcher hits the little contraption behind the batters (the wicket), that is a wicket, and there are fireworks. If the batters run, but the fielders get the ball to the wicket before the batter's bat crosses the line in the sand, then that is a wicket. And there are fireworks. There weren't really that many fireworks for all the different ways I've listed for getting fireworks. That's because these fellows are professionals.

Whew! Did you get all that?

There are also things called "wide" and "no ball" and I have no idea what those are, because it was my first cricket game, and I couldn't learn it all! My brain was full!

The team from India wears blue. The Australians (Aussies) wear black and yellow. There seem to be more Indian fans than Aussie fans in Melbourne. Which was good for the fans, because India won.

So there you go. Cricket.

If I'm going to pick up a new sport, though, I think I'll stick to Australian rules football. More fun, even though there are fewer fireworks.

That Facebook game

This has been going around Facebook for a while. The idea is you get your child in the room, and ask them questions about you! I think this was actually made for 2-3 year olds, not 11 year olds. But I wanted to do it anyway. And I'm going to do it again when the boy is 21, and then 31, and then 41. And then I will stop, because it just won't be fun anymore.

I ask Jonathan the questions, he responds.

1. What is something I always say to you?

2. What makes me happy?
  "Um. I don't know. Going to the park. Playing Pikmin."

3. What makes me sad?
  "Um. People dying."

4. How do I make you laugh? 

  "Um. By saying funny things."

5. What was I like as a little girl?

  "You were a nerd. Who did ballet."

6. How old am I? 

  "You are thirty ... nine?"

7. How tall am I? 

  "Uh, five foot ten?"

8. What is my favorite thing to do?

  "Play Clash of Clans."

9. What do I do when you're not around? 
  "I don't know, because I'm not around. You work."

10. What am I really good at? 
  "You are really good at ... going to work."

11. What is something I'm not good at?
  "You are not good at playing the clarinet."

12. What do I do for a job?

  "You are a mathematician."

13. What is my favorite food?

  "Uh. Asparagus? I don't think that's actually your favorite food, but you like it!"

14. What do you enjoy doing with me? 

  "Hmm. Talking."

Now my mom should call me, and I'll go through the game with her. In fact, maybe I'll do it even though she hasn't called. Pretend my mom is asking the questions, and I am responding.

1. What is something I always say to you?
  My mom always says to me, "It's nice to talk to you!"

2. What makes me happy?
  My mom is happy when she has a full collection of family around her.

3. What makes me sad?
  She is sad when we use that time, when she has a full collection, to argue with my dad about religion and politics. Too bad my dad has such terrible opinions on religion and politics!

4. How do I make you laugh?

  My mother makes me laugh when she says she is going to organize her basement.

5. What was I like as a little girl?

  When my mom was a little girl, she was smiley, and all black and white. She didn't turn colored until after her teenage years. There is proof of this in various photo albums.

6. How old am I?


7. How tall am I? 

  Five feet, six inches. 

8. What is my favorite thing to do?

  My mom's favorite things to do are to take naps, and long drives in the canyon, and to hang out with family. The best thing is when all three happen at once!

9. What do I do when you're not around?

  Campaign for Millcreek City. 

10. What am I really good at?

  My mom is very good at sewing. Also reading children's books to grandchildren. And tickling grandchildren. She is a good peacemaker. She is good at listening. Do you think that's because she has a masters degree in social work? Or because she raised eight children?

11. What is something I'm not good at?  

  Alas, my mother is not very good at ice hockey. She has never won a game.

12. What do I do for a job?
  Well, Mom, first you taught elementary school, but that wasn't much fun, so you finished the masters degree I mentioned above. After working a couple of years in the schools, you decided to grow your own school, and ran an unlicensed child care center for years and years. It was all legal, though, because the eight children were your own. Except that one German exchange student that one year. You were nurse, therapist, counsellor, teacher, taxi driver. Except I did a lot of biking and walking, and then taught myself to take the bus, so maybe you were less of a taxi driver than my friends' mothers.

13. What is my favorite food? 

   Mom, do you have a favorite food? You like to bake potato bread. There's a fish casserole that you seem to make often when I'm around. You do like ice cream. Tin roof sundae. A lot of the recipes I use came from you. A few years ago you went through your recipe file and turned it into a book for a Christmas present, and that was a great idea. I go to your book first when I don't have ideas for dinner.

14. What do you enjoy doing with me?

  I enjoy talking to you. I still value your opinion, even though my own opinions don't match yours like they did at one time when we both had fewer wrinkles.

So there you have it. That Facebook game.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

First day of school

Today was the day. The first day of school.

This is what the first day of school looks like.

And also like this.

Looks good, doesn't it? The whole outfit is required. Shoes, socks, shorts, shirt, tie, blazer. No hat required in secondary school, though. That's because he's all grown up. *Sniff*

Let's have some live blogging here while I interview the boy.

Me: What do you want to tell people about your first day of school?

Jonathan: It was fine.

Me: Anything else?

Jonathan: Classes were really random. And we brought our laptop to each class, and we weren't allowed to have a bag.

Me: What do you mean the classes were really random?

Jonathan: The timetable is really confusing. They have different classes at different periods each day over ten days.

Me: Did you make any friends?

Jonathan: I met some people.

Me: You have the same twenty people in all your classes?

Jonathan: Yeah. Today, at least.

Me: Anything else I should tell our readers?

Jonathan: Um.... I have to wear a suit to school.

Ok. That was a great interview.

Add your own questions below, and maybe we'll do another one.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Happy Australia Invasion Day!

Australia day is commemorated on the 26 of January and marks several things. First, it reminds us of the day that the pink aliens landed in New South Wales, Australia, in 1788 and thus began hundreds of years of theft, murder, abuse, kidnapping, rape, pillaging. That's why it is also called Invasion day in some circles.

Although perhaps the timing is inopportune, it is secondly a day to celebrate Australia and the people of Australia. Awards and honours are given out to those who have made notable contributions to the country over the last year. I received an email congratulating a mathematician on being honoured for their contribution to mathematics education. The government house is open for tours in Melbourne. And people have the day off work, so many head to the beach or the park.

We were invited to the park with a group of people from my work, to meet "under the gum trees northwest of the large playground." There were a lot of gum trees, and a lot of people under them. But we did find our group and had a very nice picnic.

Under the gum trees.
It was a large park, with a small lake. We took a walk around the perimeter, just because we could, and because one of us was banned from electronic devices for the day anyway. So why not?
Jells Lake.
Back home, at the park out our back windows, there were lots of parties and cricket games. We took a while to cool off, though, inside.

And finally, later in the evening, we took a tram to the city center at the Docklands, to see the fireworks. The bridge was lit up in green and gold, colors of Australia.

And the fireworks came in all colors.

Happy Australia day!

A third thing marked by Australia day is the very end of the summer holidays. Jonathan goes back to school tomorrow, to start year seven, first day of high school. We are all very excited about starting school again, where we means Jonathan, Tim, me, and probably the entire state of Victoria. He got a uniform and school supplies, including a laptop, and a student card for public transit.

Tomorrow: first day of school pictures. Provided I remember to take them....

Monday, January 25, 2016

A walk in the park

There is a 100 acre park just behind our apartment. Not only does this mean we have a great view, but it also means when we walk to anything to the east the journey is very lovely.

On Saturday, we walked to the nearest large grocery store, starting out in the park. The weather was just lovely. All my friends in New Jersey, Philadelphia, and Washington DC were posting pictures of multiple feet of snow all weekend. We had green grass and blue skies. I'm sorry, New Jersey. Summertime makes my heart sing.

These people in white are playing cricket. I don't know how you play cricket, but summer is cricket season, and the game is played in the park in several fields all weekend long.

Over by the playground we noticed a couple of gray birds on the ground.

Looking closer, I realized they had pink heads and tufted feathers. Galah cockatoos! This was the first time we have seen galahs in the city. We have only seen them before out in the hills. They are very fun, social birds. When we've seen them before, they've been in groups, all laughing together as though they were having a fun family reunion. These two were just digging in the grass. Here is Tim, getting closer to take a better picture.

Here is the picture Tim took.

And, because neither of us got really close, and we only had phone cameras, here is a picture of a galah from Wikipedia. Thanks Wikipedia!

["Eolophus roseicapilla" by Toby Hudson - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons -]
 At the south end of the park we found this tree, blooming bright red with dark seed pods. I can't figure out what it is. Any tree specialists?

Everyone else was playing cricket, but this group of people had climbed into giant plastic balls to play soccer. Sometimes you've just got to do your own thing.
And then later that night, we watched the full moon rise over the park from our apartment windows.
Finally, because there were so many snow pictures on Facebook, I realized we really needed to continue to take advantage of summertime. So we packed a picnic and had dinner in the park on Sunday. The city provides gas grills in all the parks, with gas. And they clean them and maintain them. We just brought meat and sides and a table cloth.
When we finished eating, we threw a frisbee around for a while. Has everyone had enough warmth and sunshine and green grass and blue sky? Yes? Ok. Now let's go home and post these pictures. 

I love summer.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Great Wall of Boxes

We have been unpacking. Unpacking and shopping and unpacking.

We bought a toaster, microwave, iron, griddle. And we hauled them all home using only public transportation! And arm muscles! And lift with your legs, not with your back!

We have been ticking boxes on our to-do list like crazy. Today, for example, Tim and I enrolled the family in Medicare, which is Australia's universal health insurance plan. But apparently we still need a supplementary private insurance, so next I need to call and get that arranged. And then we can find doctor and dentist and... Ok. We have more on the to-do list than we have checked off the to-do list, but we've started. We're off to a start!

I used the washer and dryer for the first time. Here is a picture of our washer and dryer, crammed into the tight washer-dryer space that just barely fit the two machines.
If you look at the bottom left corner of each machine, you will see the energy star rating. See how very energy and water efficient our machines are? They are very eco-friendly.

I also learned as I ran them that eco-friendly also means long wash and dry time. I did two loads today for 2 hours each, wash time. Then 95 minutes dry time. That's a long time. But eco-friendly! And also on the positive side, I feel more confident that the clothes are actually clean, because if nothing else, at least they've been swishing around in soapy water for about two hours. After two hours, if there is any dirt left then there is no hope of getting it out anyway. And actually, both machines also have a quick cycle that lasts only 30 minutes on the washer, 45 on the dryer. I may try that next. Except if my clothes only swish for 30 minutes, will they really be clean?

But the main important thing is that both washer and dryer seem to be doing something, with noises and turning drums and little numbers and lights in the top right corner. Since washing and drying is pretty much magic happening in a couple of very expensive heavy white boxes, I'm totally happy with the purchase.

The other pictures I have for you are views of the Great Wall of Boxes in the living room. Front view.

Side view.
Artistic view with people.
We called the moving company today and told them that we are ready to have the Great Wall removed: a free box pick-up was included in the relocation cost. However, the box pick up happens whenever the movers can fit it in. I hope they can fit it in sometime soon. It would be awesome to have the living room back again.

And in other news, we're now to the stage of moving where we're just trying to find places for everything we unpacked and unloaded and unboxed, and we're doing pretty well, and the place is looking pretty good. But I'm not yet ready to send the house pictures. You will just have to wait in nervous anticipation like the rest of us.

Saturday, January 16, 2016


We got two pieces of really great news on Wednesday.

The first is that our permanent residence visas came through, after being under consideration for eight months. That's good! I needed that for work. But it also opens up a large task list of items we couldn't do without those visas. For example, we now have to go get Australian drivers licenses by some deadline, and apply for universal health insurance by another. Stick those things on the to-do-eventually-by the deadline list.

The second piece of news is that a slot opened up, and the movers could come on Friday, at the end of the week, so we could spend an entire weekend unpacking and organizing! Yes! We get all our stuff back after just six months!

I took the day off work Friday. We left the temporary house at 6am to get to the train to arrive by 7am. The movers came at 7:30. And then for the next 15 hours or so I stood around unloading boxes. I figured out how to get all our kitchen items condensed into a kitchen roughly 2/3 the size of our previous kitchen. It all fit. It wasn't clear that everything would fit, but it did. It all fit.

2700 of these boxes fit into our kitchen cupboards.
After the movers were gone, we decided to shift all the furniture around in the living room seven more times. And put the extra chest of drawers in Jonathan's room. Then move another bookcase. Then switch around the living room again....
One version of the living room. This one was too blurry so we swapped it.
This morning, I woke up to a beautiful view at the new apartment!

And then more unpacking. We found a lot of broken stuff today. We've been heaping curses on our packers from the US all day. And taking photos of stuff we'll claim under insurance. The guys were total morons. Who puts a glass frame, unwrapped, into a box and then heaps heavy stuff on top of it? And then ships it across the ocean?

One of the Australian movers yesterday said that the stuff they get from the US is always really badly packed. US movers do a terrible job.

"I hear it's because they don't get enough training," he said. "What do they get, only six months of training before becoming movers?"

Um, actually, our movers were three totally random guys. Two of them were students picking up an extra summer job. We had thought that the more senior guy would have done better, but he was the one who left all the fine china in its unpadded storage containers, and just stuck it in the box as it was. Yet he wrapped every single cheap everyday drinking glass in two layers of packing paper. Lucky lucky lucky for us none of the expensive dishes broke! But I cannot recommend these packers. I think they needed an extra year or two of training.

One more quick photo. 

That large leggy spot that you see above the door hinge is a spider the size of my fist. She was hiding in the laundry room in the temporary rental this afternoon, when we returned to pick up a load of things. She was clearly waiting behind the laundry room door until the perfect time to run across the hall and climb up on the toilet seat, to stay there until the darkest part of the night when someone stumbled in, fumbling for the light switch, reaching to lift up the seat... and ...


"Why don't you squish it?" asked Jonathan.

Because you don't kill something that size by squishing it. Maybe you stab it with a knife?

The spider won. We decided to leave that house to the spider, and we're back in the new place again this evening.

Thursday, January 14, 2016


It's better to just switch your brain into celsius mode, rather than try to convert temperatures from celsius to fahrenheit in your head. For example, learn that 25 degrees celsius is what the temperature will be like in heaven, so a 27 degree day will be lovely and warm, a fifteen degree day will require a jacket, and a seven degree day is winter weather in Melbourne. This seems to be the most effective long-term way to interpret the forecast. It is worth learning to understand these numbers, too, rather than just dressing the way you did yesterday.

Yesterday the temperature topped 42 degrees. Recall that heaven is a pleasant 25. I left my office just before 3pm and, stepping out of the air conditioning, I thought I had entered a convection oven. The wind blowing from the west was hot enough to slow-cook a potato.

Lucky for us, we had set up an early evening get-together with neighbors across the street: a woman named Ursula and her son Daniel, who is not far from Jonathan's age. Ursula texted me in the morning. Her mum lived next door and had a pool. Because of the heat, could we meet there instead?

Thank goodness that the people in this city are friendly -- friendly enough to invite a family of strangers over to spend an evening at their mum's pool!

The pool had no heater, and the water temperature was 28 degrees. Even though the outside temperature in heaven is a pleasant 25, your body temperature is around 37, and so 28 is a little chilly for swimming on  a cool day. But on a 42 degree day, it felt so so so good to get into that pool.

We said goodbye to the neighbors at about 9:30pm. The hot wind outside had stopped, and the temperature was probably around 38 degrees, so tolerable. We opened all the windows in our rental house, and turned the bedroom fans on high, and attempted to sleep.

At midnight I woke briefly, and then couldn't sleep any more. I had not realized, while sleeping, that I was being slow-cooked like a potato. All soft on the inside.

Luckily, fifteen minutes later, the room filled with air. A cool breeze had climbed in the windows and was checking out all the corners of the room. And then, it became stronger and a little unruly, and it slammed the door shut and ran down the hall knocking over furniture. The blinds began to whack against the window, loudly, chattering and banging. And I just lay still a moment longer, listening to the havoc, appreciating the cool. Finally, Tim got up and pulled up all the blinds, propped open the door, ignored the thing that had fallen over down the hall, and came back to bed.

We listened to the trees whip around in the wind outside. I pulled up the sheet. And we finally slept.

Five o'clock in the morning, huddled in the sheets, I was cold. I rolled over and pulled my arms around me to try to warm up, but it was no use. I climbed out of bed, turned off the fan, pulled on a blanket. Outside, rain was lightly falling. Fifteen degrees.

The forecast said that the high today would be 19. I am wearing long pants and a sweatshirt.

It is not a good idea to just wear what you wore yesterday. Pay attention to the forecast, whether or not you can convert temperatures in your head.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

In between moving

We signed a lease on a a 3 bedroom apartment on Friday, as I mentioned in my last post. The movers can't come for two more weeks, though. But meanwhile, we can prepare for them by starting to tick items off our nearly endless shopping list.

Because the plug outlets are all different here, and the electricity runs at 220 volts, we sold or donated most of our large and small appliances in the US. Yesterday, Saturday, we did the first of the serious shopping we will need to do to replace those.

We ordered a fridge, a washing machine, and a heat pump dryer. We needed a dryer, because we've lived without and we don't like it. We needed a dryer that didn't vent outside, because our dryer hookup doesn't vent outside. That meant we could get a condenser or heat pump. The heat pump ones are more expensive, but more energy efficient. We had a condenser in England, and it made the house humid and sweaty. So we got the heat pump. I shall report on how it works for my curious faithful readers.

We signed up for internet and power. Both should be connected Wednesday. The appliances are scheduled for delivery Thursday. We also need to buy vacuum, before the movers come, microwave, iron, toaster. We would like another griddle, I think we'll need room fans (no air conditioning, although the walls are really thick). After the movers come, we'll need an assortment of table and bedside lamps. We shall spend a great deal of money! And then we shall buy Jonathan's school uniforms!

On the way to church this morning we passed a tree in which the lorikeets were screaming with the sheer joy of being alive and being in a tree and being lorikeets! I love lorikeets. Upon closer observation, we realized that they were not the usual rainbow lorikeets, however, but musk lorikeets! More green, with bright red rosy cheeks. And the same pure joy of being alive.

I took a picture of the tree. There were lots of musk lorikeets in the tree. Unfortunately, you probably won't be able to see any of them in the picture because first, I don't have a nice zoom on my camera phone, and second the birds wouldn't hold still for me.

And so another week has passed. This next week, I'm hoping to get more work done, around the excitement of almost being able to move but not quite. The weather will be somewhat typical summer Melbourne weather: variable. Today the high is 31 with sunshine (87F). Tomorrow 37 (98F). Then 29 (85F). Then 40 (104F). Then 20 and rain (68F). A difference each day of 15 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit seems about right.

I get to wear all types of summer clothes!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Adventures in house hunting, part 2

We have continued to look for places to live. In my last post, we looked at three different locations. City centre, suburbs nearer schools, and central-ish previous home.

We decided against the city centre. The apartments were just too small, the neighbors too youthful, and the commute too long.

We wanted to look at more places in suburbia, especially within an easy commute of Jonathan's school, and a not-unreasonable bike ride away from my work. That is, the location of the first place we visited last time seemed good, if not the house itself. So off to more apartment inspections.

First stop: Hawthorne East, a 15 minute walk from Jonathan's school, on a nice leafy street.

So this place was strange. The kitchen looked new and well cared for, but other things looked pretty beat up. Like the roof over the porch, which had a big gaping hole.

There was a lot of space, including a garage and a small garden in back (without lawn to mow). But it smelled a little of pet, and we just weren't super impressed.

So we started walking. We had been looking at the map at a couple of houses for rent in a suburb located about a 30 minute walk from Jonathan's school (or 15 minutes by bike, or 30 minutes by public transit -- no direct connection). The houses were near a large park, and near the Gardener's Creek bike path, which runs to the city centre on one end, and out to join with a couple other bike paths to take me to work (45 minute ride) on the other end.

The suburb really was lovely. This is the only picture I took, outside one of the houses.

And the bike path seemed nice. We walked along it for a mile or so (it was also a walking path, but there were far more bikes -- lots of bikes).

But while we were out, the realtor for the more central-ish previous home called, and said there were other people interested in that apartment. And how serious were we?

So we had to decide how serious we were, while walking through suburbia.

And we kind of decided that walking for an hour through -- very lovely -- suburbia was tiring, and maybe it would be nice to be more central-ish, where we knew where everything was.

But before making the decision that we were seriously serious, we stopped at one more open house. A townhouse near the next train station down the line.

And we decided no on that one.

We were tired, so Jonathan voted to stop for Slurpees, buy one get one free. (Check out our gas prices. That's AUD, per liter. Do some math and see how it compares to your gas prices!)

And then we were done.

The realtor called the next morning and said he had another application on the central-ish house, but since we were first, we could have first dibs if we were willing to take it right now now now now. I hate that kind of pressure.

But we took it.

We've paid a month's rent, a month's deposit. We sign the papers and pick up the keys tomorrow.

And we're happy! I think.

No, we're happy. Given our constraints, this seems like the best option.

We've scheduled the movers: they can come in two weeks. We need to buy a fridge and washer/dryer. And a vacuum cleaner. And other stuff, mostly electronic. And set up utilities. And internet. And a phone for me. And moving will go on for at least a month it seems. Not counting unpacking.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

House hunting

One major task for the next two weeks is to figure out where to live, potentially long term. We have begun searching for suitable places.

First stop, suburbs.
The first place we toured was partway between my work and Jonathan's school, right next to the train line and the freeway. In realtor speak you say "conveniently located." When you actually see the place, it's probably a little too close to train and freeway. To the immediate left is the train line, about 20 feet from the side of the building. Here is Jonathan looking disgusted at the graffiti on the train side of the building.

Train noise is not so bad, but just on the other side of the train is the freeway, walled off so you can't see it. However, from outside you could hear the constant hum of freeway traffic.

There were actually three options in that location. Two were dark, one had one fewer bathroom than necessary. One had fewer bedrooms. And none would actually fit our furniture.

But the location really was great. This little park is where we would pick up the bike trail.

Commute times:
To Jonathan's school: 15 minutes by bike, 27 minutes by public transportation (either tram to bus, or train to bus, or train to 20 minute walk), 5 to 10 minutes by car (if there is no traffic).

To my work: 40 minutes by bike, 50 minutes by public transit (train to bus), 12 to 15 minutes by car (if there is no traffic). 

Next we toured a few apartments in a high rise building in the city center. There were four options in this location. Some of the views were good.

Option 2.
Except the views of the opposite buildings.

Option 3. Definitely not an option.
The fourth of the options was a corner apartment, and the only one of the four with windows in every bedroom, and light in the apartment. It is the only one we would consider. But the rooms were very tiny. We would have to sell most of our furniture. And the others in the high rise apartment seemed to be almost exclusively university students from China. I don't know how we would enjoy lots of students as neighbors.

Commute time:
To my work by public transit: 45 minutes. By bike: 1 hour, 30 minutes. 24 minutes by car with no traffic, but (a) there would always be traffic during commute times, probably it would take an hour to get there, and (b) there is no way we would get a car if we decided to live in the city centre. We would have no place to park it.

To Jonathan's school by public transit: 38 minutes. By bike: 41 minutes (that would probably not happen), and 20 minutes by car with no tolls in no traffic, but again that would never happen.

Third choice, and this is pretty wild: The apartment just on top of the apartment we lived in two years ago!

We loved this place two years ago. It backs onto a 100 acre park. On the opposite side, trams run every 3 minutes direct to the city center. We know where everything is from here. 20 minute walk to the Prahran market. 25 minute walk to grocery store. Or take one of the trams. 10 minute walk to the Botanic garden. The park is full of birds, possums, flying foxes late at night. I trained for a 5K by running around the perimeter twice each morning.

And it's actually better than our previous place: one floor up means there is space for that most desirable second bathroom.

But the commute is not as nice as the first place.

Commute time:
To Jonathan's school by public transit: 40 minutes, tram to bus, or one tram, then walk 10 minutes. By bike: 40 minutes, along the Yarra river. By car: 15-20 minutes without traffic. (Probably there would be eternal traffic.)

To my work by public transit: 45 minutes, tram to train to shuttle (or skip the tram and walk 20 minutes through the park). By bike: 1 hour 23 minutes via Scotchman's creek trail (that would almost definitely not happen, but at least the ride would be pleasant). By car: 24 minutes without traffic. But traffic happens during commute times. So I'd really have to plan to take the train.


We would like to see a few other houses in the neighborhood of the first options, in deeper suburbia. The 40 minute bike commute for me sounds great. On the other hand, a 20 minute walk through a park followed by a half hour on the train is not bad for the chance to live in our old place. And we know we loved living near the huge urban park.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Happy New Year!

The weather was unusually hot on New Year's Eve. The high was 40C, or 105F. And we don't have air conditioning in our rental house. We had an appointment to view an apartment a little after noon. The trains and buses were air conditioned on the way there and back. But then what to do to get out of the heat? Maybe beach? Beach would be in the middle of the heat, with no escape possible. Maybe shopping? Blah. We decided just to go back to our rental house, even without air con (that's how they shorten it here). We closed all the blinds and pointed the three fans at ourselves and baked in the heat watching TV. Australian news. Year in review. When the temperature began to decline ever so slightly around 6:30pm, we had had enough. We left all the windows open, and caught the bus to the train to the city center.

Family fireworks were scheduled to go off at 9:30pm. Before then, there were carnival games, live music, and a movie in the park. We found a place under a eucalyptus tree to watch the movie, with relatively tree-free views in the direction we guessed the fireworks would be. In the shade, the weather was actually very pleasant by the time we arrived.

As dusk fell, the rainbow lorikeets began to fly home. One went in and out of a hole in the tree just above us.

We also saw some pairs of cockatoos flying in the distance. And then as the sky began to darken, large groups of seagull-sized fruit bats flew across the sky just overhead, off to find food for the night.

The fireworks started promptly at 9:30, and we did have a nice view. But photos of fireworks don't work on my phone. You know what they looked like, though. Imagine as well some background music consisting of a mix of kookaburra calls and a didgeridoo, at least at the beginning. It was pretty awesome.

We contemplated briefly staying for the midnight fireworks, but it wasn't clear whether or not we could get home, since our air-conditioner-free rental lies out in the depths of the suburbs where the buses stop before 11pm, and a night bus only comes once an hour. So we braved the masses of families returning home by train after the family fireworks. Here is a picture of the huge groups trying to access the trains.

And here is a photo I took on the train. Standing room only. And these were the people who were not staying for midnight.

At midnight, we could hear the fireworks from our rental house. We watched them on TV. Wished everyone a happy new year, and went to bed.

Awoke to pleasant 25C, 77F temperatures for New Year's Day.

We rested and slept all morning. And then for fun in the afternoon, we went to the beach.

It took an hour to get there by bus, because we're out in suburb wasteland and everything is running on holiday schedule. But still, just an hour by bus? Awesome. And we get to live in this city.

The water was nice, until Jonathan scraped his side a little too hard on the sand while body surfing. The wind coming off the bay was a little too cold. So we stayed just over an hour, and then caught the buses back. Showered. Ate dinner. Getting ready for bed now.

In all, a very nice New Year's Eve, New Year's Day combo.

Before we close this post, I'd like to list some resolutions for the new year. I learned many years ago that the best kinds of resolutions are those you already know you are guaranteed to follow. So here goes.

1. (Social) I will make new friends. Maybe I will make new friends where I live, or maybe where I work, or maybe where my son goes to school. Since I'm starting life over in a whole new geographic location, I'm sure to make new friends somewhere.
2. (Physical) I will exercise either by walking or biking to work, depending on where we end up living. Walking to the train station then riding to work from there also counts.
3. (Mental) I will write and publish research papers for work. I will learn all about the Australian higher education system for fun and entertainment.
4. (Emotional) I will cry sometimes. But not too much because it will give me a headache.
5. (Spiritual) I will go to church, and pray for help with resolutions 1 and 3. Mostly 3. Also 4 when 3 isn't going well.

Those should be enough resolutions to keep me going another year.

Best wishes to you, too, for 2016!