31 October 2008

For The Birds

Perhaps one of the most redeeming feature of the Australian landscape is the avian tableau. The variety of exotic, if not somewhat cacophanous bird life almost compensates for the relative homogeneity among mammals. I've already dribbled on at length about the joys of Rainbow Lorikeets, Flocks of Wild Cockatoos, and Bemused Kookaburras, but I have yet to elaborate on the charms of Magpies. A Pomme friend once lamented on the dearth of songbirds in Australia, declaring that most native birds merely squawk. While their calls might not compare to the sweet notes of a starling, I find comfort in their soft warble, which reminds me of wooden wind chimes.

On Halloween...

I wrote a lengthy and elegant post about Halloween and then thought it sounded awfully familiar to me...turns out I pretty much expressed the exact same sentiment last year, only with slightly less elegant verbiage. http://audrasaustralianadventures.blogspot.com/2007/10/fall-into-spring.html.

There are distinct advantages to having to having a terrible memory: the world is always brand new and I can be entertained by the same anecdote over and over and over...

Just Can't Get Enough?

If you live in America (hmmm.. or anywhere on planet Earth for that matter) and you are not yet fully saturated with election coverage, I invite you to listen in on a comedic antipodean take on the candidates, the issues, and the virtues of pie:


I particularly like the interview with Osama bin Laden where he is all pissed off that he keeps getting mistaken for a black Christian.

30 October 2008

Blockin' Up The Scenery

Although I have been forced to resort to the tactic on numerous occasions, I am not a fan of signs or notes in the work place. Occasionally, one’s co-workers might require a visual reminder not to place biohazardous waste in the staff room refrigerator, but for the most part I prefer to trust that people know how to behave with regards to safety and respect. Although there is a certain amount of satisfaction that comes from taping a well-worded reprimand onto an abused piece of equipment, no amount of signage is going to compensate for the moral or professional inadequacies of poorly socialized human beings.

The other day, I ventured into the women’s bathroom on the sixth floor of the Blackburn Building. Aside from the usual University sanctioned signs instructing me in proper hand washing technique and reminders of what may or may not be deposited in the toilet, there was this rogue sign next to the wash basins:

The implications caused me great pause, and indeed, a full three days later I am still puzzling over it. Obviously, the sign was inspired by an interruption of the act in question. Has this been an ongoing problem? Why do the women on the sixth floor have such dirty feet? Isn’t it truly in your best interest that your co-workers have clean feet? What would Jesus say about this?

Fortunately, I work on the second floor where there are no such restrictions on podiatric hygiene.

29 October 2008

What Australia Thinks of America

...as if America cares...afterall, America thinks Australia is strictly populated by Kangaroos, Koala Bears, and Crocodile Dundee look-alikes, though the more wordly among them may know something about sheep. However, Australia, like the rest of the world, does think about America. A lot. And often with more thoughtfulness and insight than America thinks of herself.

2008 US Presidential Election survey

30 October 2008

The United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney today released the results of a major survey on the views of Australians towards the United States and next week's presidential election, undertaken during the financial crisis last month.

Professor Simon Jackman Visiting Professor in the United States Studies Centre and Professor of Politics at Stanford University in California conducted the survey "Australians, Americans and the 2008 Presidential Election" that also compared attitudes of Australians with those of Americans on the same issues.

The survey comprises telephone interviews of 800 respondents and an on-line survey of 3,000 respondents. The field work was conducted by Brisbane based Q & A Research.

The survey found that most Australian respondents (80 per cent) believe the US is on the "wrong track", mirroring the views of Americans. In contrast, a solid majority (64 per cent) of Australian respondents said Australia is on the "right track".

If Australians could vote in the US presidential election, they would overwhelmingly support the Democrat candidate Senator Barack Obama by more than a 4-1 margin.

Almost half (49 per cent) of the Australian respondents think Senator Obama would make a better president "in terms of Australia's interests". Only 11 per centsaid the Republican candidate Senator John McCain would be better for Australia. Fully one third of respondents said it would make "no difference" if Senator Obama or Senator McCain wins, reflecting confidence in the underlying strength of the US-Australia alliance.

More than two thirds (69 per cent) of Australian respondents felt anger towards or ashamed of the US because of "things America has done". A similar number of American respondents (60 per cent) also reported feeling "ashamed of things that America has done".

About half the Australian respondents think the US should exit Iraq within twelve months. This is very similar to the views of Americans on the right strategy in Iraq. But even the one third of Australian respondents who think the US should stay "as long as it takes" still prefers Senator Obama as president by a 3-1 margin. The one third of Americans who think the US should stay in Iraq support Senator McCain by more than 10-1.

Senator Obama being the first African American presidential nominee of America's two major parties is less important to Australians than to Americans. The survey's Australian respondents scored considerably lower than American respondents on a "racial resentment" scale assessing attitudes towards the treatment and status of African Americans in the US.

On religion, many fewer Australians (5 per cent) than Americans (18 per cent) incorrectly think Obama is a Muslim. He is a Christian.

Asked about American stereotypes, two-thirds of Australian respondents describe Americans as "violent", "greedy" and "ignorant". At the same time, two thirds of Australians described Americans as hardworking.

Australian respondents were twice as likely to think of China as an "adversary" of the United States (33 per cent) than as an adversary of Australia (15 per cent). More than half (55 per cent) see China as an "ally" of Australia, almost twice the proportion (29 per cent) that thinks China is an "ally" of the United States. Only 5 per centof American respondents see China as an "ally".

Australian respondents were asked to rate both Australian and American political figures on a "progressive-conservative" scale. Australians consider Senator Obama to be considerably to the left of Australia's Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, whereas they consider Senator McCain to be far to the right of Australia's Liberal leader Malcolm Turnbull, with President George W. Bush even further to the right.

Professor Geoffrey Garrett, CEO of the US Studies Centre, said the results showed that Australians of all political stripes shared with many Americans hopes for transformational change at home and abroad if Senator Obama wins the presidency next week, succeeding what is widely viewed in both countries as a failed Bush administration.

The detailed survey results are available on the US Studies Centre election watch website: http://www.uselectionwatch.org.au/

And, for my Australian readers - if you'd like a chance to win a trip to Washington DC for the inaugaration, visit: http://uselectionwatch.org.au/

All you have to do is guess the winner, the number of electoral votes, and the popular vote. Good Luck!

25 October 2008

Lawn Bowling

Last week, I organized an outing with a group of Yankee transplants (and a few Aussie partners) for a day of Lawn Bowling at the North Sydney Bowl-O. Normally the clubs are the exclusive domains of elderly leagues of bowlers wearing tidy white uniforms, but once a week the greens are open to the general public for barefoot bowls.

Unlike ten-pin bowling, lawn bowling requires no particular skill or strength and is therefore well suited to the co-consumption of massive quantities of beer...not to say that I haven't consumed massive quantities of beer while playing ten-pin, but in this case, I did not have to wear ugly shoes and was treated to glorious views of the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge.

The play is quite similar to Bocce Ball, except the balls are weighted on one side, which results in a perfectly thrown ball wobbling off in wonky directions at the last minute. Teams alternate turns chucking different colored balls down a turf field toward a target ball (the jack). The object is to get as many of your balls as close to the Jack as possible without spilling your beer or falling over. There were some subtle rules regarding fouls and scoring, but I couldn't be bothered with those, as they only interfered with the play.

Perhaps I should just let the video explain the rest:

18 October 2008

The Abortion

“Can we get a cat?”

“We have a cat.”

“Yeah, but The Cow is 8,000 miles away, and I miss her. Let’s get a kitten. Kittens make me happy.”

“How about we sign up to be foster carers for Cat Rescue? Then we could get kittens, keep them for a few weeks and get a new crop when they are adopted out.”

“That sounds like a good idea.”

So I made arrangements to foster a pair of tortoise shell kittens for a week until they could be placed in an adoption center. When we arrived at the vet in Annandale, we were given two tuxedo kitties, plus a ‘bonus cat’. Being flexible and experienced, and appreciating the difficulties in placing cats that are beyond the cute and fuzzy stage, we agreed to take on the ‘four month old’ female.

It took less than 24 hours to learn that we are not cut out to be foster carers, as rescue cats are almost without exception damaged in some way. The bonus cat hid under the couch for the entire weekend. The kittens were indeed entertaining, but I was a little dismayed to learn that my compassion is not limitless. One of the kittens had a prolapsed rectum (basically, it had an ‘outie’ for an asshole, which resulted in significant ‘pinching off’ problems and a propensity for constant rectal leakage. Unable to keep it locked in the laundry room until Monday, I spent the entire weekend wiping the cat’s ass. Gross.

On Monday, we promptly returned the broken kittens to the vet, but agreed to keep the bonus cat until she could be placed for adoption. With the kittens gone, she emerged from under the couch and turned out to have a really great personality, affectionate and chirpy, and completely adoring of Kevin, following him everywhere (and stealing steak off his plate, which he found immensely amusing.) By the time I returned from the states, they had bonded completely and the house was filled with cat toys. Looks like we have a cat after all.

Upon my return, it became quite obvious that there was no way the bonus cat was four months old, as she was clearly at least five weeks pregnant. A short debate lead to the obvious conclusion that it would be in no one’s best interest to let her go to term, and so we made an appointment to have her ‘de-sexed’.

I don’t think a human abortion even costs $300. Not much incentive to keep the feline population under control here.

Meet Lady Hawke:

17 October 2008

To Market, To Market

There are few activities that bring me more simple joy than buying fruit and vegetables from growers markets. I trace my love of produce shopping back to the weekend farmer’s market that would spring up outside the BART station when my family moved to San Francisco in the early 70’s. Back then, you simply could not get fresh vegetables in the middle of winter in Ohio, and it seemed so decadent, so hedonistic to buy artichokes or oranges on the street in January. When we moved to San Jose, my mother and I would make weekly sojourns to the Berryessa Flea Market, returning home with armloads of fresh veggies, avocados, sticks of pepperoni, and jars of exotic olives. As much as the actual procurement, I adored the interaction of being in a crowd of shoppers, jostling for position in front of a stack of crisp apples. How well I remember my first encounter with a pale green chile, which I found on the ground. I thought I had scored a small fortune, until I bit into it and wiped my eyes, which flowed like faucets all the way home…

With that knowledge, I often marvel that it took me nearly two years to visit the Sydney Markets, the mother of all produce markets.

Passing beneath the giant fair-ground style entry gates, we joined a parade of cars in chaos, all searching for prime parking around the crowded perimeter of the markets. Averting several Mexican stand-offs, I slipped into a nearby covered parking garage only to find it mysteriously deserted. I felt as if I had won the parking lottery, and we set off towards the enormous warehouse that seemed to be the center of commerce.The main building is about the size of two football fields and was packed from end to end with stalls of growers hawking their goods.

“Lovely, Lovely Beans – on sale for the next half hour – only $2 a kilo. Get you Lovely, Lovely Beans.”

“I got yer freshest Mangoes. Mangoes Here. Only $16 a flat.”

“Garrrrlique. 1$ a bag. Garrrlique”

I was instantly overwhelmed and could only wander aimlessly up and down each aisle, palpating pears, pumpkins, and pomegranates, cooing at the cost of carrots, cantaloupes, and capsicum, salivating over celery, cilantro, and strawberries, awestruck by apples and avocados, and totally repulsed by crates of fava beans.

Unless you operate a restaurant or a produce stand of your own, the best way to tackle the Sydney Markets is with a group of people among which you can divide the bounty into more reasonable portions. While the discounts are deep, they are dependent on quantity.

I have completely underestimated my ability to eat an entire flat of mangoes before they succumb to the voracious appetites of the cloud of fruit flies which now inhabit my kitchen. Turns out I enjoy buying produce a lot more than I actually like preparing it, and now the bottom of my refrigerator is slowly dissolving into a thick slime of lettuce and lovely, lovely beans.

09 October 2008

Watch For Me on 'Border Security'

Chris Defourney, Manager
DFS Duty Free Galleria
San Francisco International Airport
C/O 1580 Francisco Street
Torrance, CA 90501

Re: 773178663/ Txn # 1010-840-06858 and 1010-840-06859

The purpose of this letter is to lodge a formal complaint against DFS Duty Free Galleria located at the San Francisco International Terminal and specifically against Mr. Corvado Ruiz, formerly of El Salvador.

On Wednesday, October 8, 2008 at ~ 21:15, I entered the DFS Galleria at the San Francisco International Airport to purchase one carton of cigarettes and one liter bottle of Stolichnaya Vodka as gifts upon my return to Australia. I was approached by Mr. Ruiz who strongly urged me to purchase a second bottle of vodka, since the price was so reasonable. I concurred that the savings were substantial and succumbed to his charming persuasion. Mr. Ruiz, then seeing that I had also selected a carton of cigarettes, further urged me to purchase a second carton. I explained to him that Australia had limitations upon the importation of tobacco and that I could only bring in 250 cigarettes duty free. Mr. Corvado then swore to me that the regulations had been changed as of January 2008 and that Australia had increased their limit to 400 cigarettes. I told him I did not believe that was correct, yet he assured me that was the case and said that if he was lying, I could lodge a formal complaint – and then he showed me his employee badge.

Mr. Ruiz was indeed lying, and I am indeed lodging a formal complaint. Upon entering Australia, I was fined $113.98 AUD and subjected to a humiliating search, during which I was told that it is common practice for duty free shops to blatantly lie to overseas consumers. DFS Duty Free Galleria should be painfully ashamed for employing predatory business practices that are based on deception and coercion. While I recognize that it is ultimately my responsibility to be aware of the restrictions upon importation, I believe that DFS Duty Free also has the responsibility to not deceive their customers with deliberate fabrications just for the sake of a meager $34 sale.

In the future, I will most certainly make such purchases elsewhere, and will further ensure that I alert all travelers to the despicable business practices utilized by DFS Duty Free Galleria.


Audra A McKinze

74/9 Herbert Street
St. Leonards, NSW 2065


San Francisco International Airport
Department of Concessions and Development
PO Box 8097 San Francisco, CA 94128-8097

BBB of the SouthlandBBB of the Southland (Colton, CA)
315 N. La Cadena Colton, CA 92324-2927
Phone: (909)825-7280Fax: (909)825-6246
Email: info@labbb.org
Web: http://www.labbb.org

03 October 2008


A few months ago, I watched a documentary series that discussed stuff and how humans relate to it. The brilliant comedian George Carlin penned a hilarious monologue about stuff. These two performances have been very much in the forefront of my mind over the last several days, and I would not presume to imagine that I could draw observations that are any more pertinent or humorous than those supplied by the experts. Nonetheless, I am compelled to lighten my psychic load by dumping a few conclusions on my audience.

1) Stuff abhors a vacuum.
And by vacuum, I mean the academic definition of empty space as well as the household appliance, the latter particularly when the former is an attic. This is a frightening theorem, considering the size of the Victorian house my mother has lived in for the last 30 years. I had always thought it was a shame that the foundation had been lowered in the 1950's to improve the chances of the house withstanding a major earthquake, but now I am immensely grateful that the basement is not one cubic inch larger than it is, for that cubic inch would be filled with stuff.

2) The stuff of freedom.
Aside from children or ailing parents, mass quantities of stuff is one of the most insidious thieves of personal liberty, especially when it comes time to move house. However, it is amazing the stuff people will take as long as it is free.

3) Other people's stuff.
It is a simple pleasure to sift through the detritus of someone else's life, to handle and ponder mysterious objects, to experience reminiscence at reminders of things that have been misplaced in one's own history. In fact, it is so much fun, that as we began to empty the basement, we recruited several people from the neighborhood who were so enthralled by our activity, that they volunteered the services to help sort and sift the stuff.

All right. Enough stuff.

Except we haven't even opened the garage yet...