Saturday, December 13, 2008

I'm Back!!

(This has been posted on a wall in my neighborhood. Don't know if it is
the work of Chabad or someone else:-)

I know I know, where have I been? Last posting was in October and the whole of November has come and gone without a peep. The world has in fact changed since we last visited with each other (YES WE CAN) and the Australian dollar has plummeted, which is good for wedding dress shopping but no so good for folks from Oz trying to get to the US next September. I appreciate the magnitude of complaints I got from my loyal readers…I’ve been so busy responding to your queries, I haven’t had time to write. Fine, only 2 people have inquired as to what has happened to my blog. I assume the rest of you were just too depressed to even put finger to keypad, given my absence. But here I am, back again. So you got me AND you got Obama…happy holidays indeed!

To be fair, one reason I haven’t written is that in my last post, I promised not to spend the blog talking about wedding planning and that has taken up a little bit of time. But November, even more than being filled with L’chaim and celebrations was filled with the dreaded OSCEs. OSCE stands for: O-something S-something Clinical Exams or something like that. What it means is that in a 3 week period I had over 200 slots to fill with SPs of all shapes and sizes. I had to recruit, get the cases copied and mailed, figure out who was going to which of the 5 different testing sites we had running, make sure everyone’s contract and bank details were sorted and occasionally, on the good days, do some training in order to make the exams run smoothly. While there were plenty of issues in the process which will hopefully be remedied next year- namely the last minute nature of the whole process- I did manage to find all the SPs and they showed up when and where they were supposed to be.

Rather than go back and do a play by play of my life since September (the rest of Brisbane was non-descript anyway, at this point!), I thought I’d focus this blog on some of the culture that we’ve been filling our days with, both before and after our betrothedness (if that’s a word?)

I can start with the good:
Some highlights of the spring include Michael Franti and Spearhead, a great show we went to with Shai, Adi’s youngest brother, and his friends. Stevie Wonder, who is truly a legend and entertained us as a rock star should and provided a great birthday gift- if not a surprise to Adi. And Billy Joel (yes, Sach, you would have loved it;-) who, in spite of his years and alcohol problems, is still “The Entertainer.” Adi is a huge fan of Mr. Joel and had never seen him, so that was really special for him. Thankfully neither of the latter two shows were simply greatest hits shows and they both played deeper tracks from their repertoires as well as the crowd-pleasers.

Ah, but the bad is so much more fun to write about, isn’t it? The Melbourne Fringe Festival way back in October, offered the chance to see a variety of unknown performers, and to discover why they are unknown. We saw a cabaret performance by an angry gay central-Queenslander (I have trouble believing there is any other kind—think rural and backward, but in the outback) who sang a number of songs about being angry and gay in central-Queensland. We saw an improv group perform a musical to Sondheim music, which was mildly funny but marred by the fact that none of them could sing. But the best of the fringe (and by this I mean the absolute worst) had to be “Vlad is Dead”, a one man show by a uni mate of Adi’s who staged a paranoid multi-media inclusive show that seemed to be about being a man without country, as he was born in the former Yugoslavia. In spite of its mildly lucid moments in the middle, it completely lost me when the actor eviscerated a pig constructed out of packaging tape right before wrapping himself up in said packaging tape. The best response we could muster when he came out after the show was stolen from 30 Rock: “great programs”.

Another show with great programs as its highlight was Shai’s end of year dance recital. Having shared our feelings with him, I’m not afraid to put in writing that I’m glad he’s decided to transfer to a social work program. The piece, which emphasized dance for the sake of dance, was performed to traffic noises. And this contemporary piece was the best in the 3 offered that night. Shai, of course, danced to the lack of music better than any of the others, but that didn’t stop his mother from wanting her admission fee back! If Shai is reading this now, I’m certain he is shaking his head and muttering “I knew you guys wouldn’t understand it.”

The Ugly: The closest I can come to finishing the cliché is by sharing that Adi and I have been taking swing dance classes. We’re getting better but this is because there is vast room for improvement. The last few classes have been fairly small, which is good because we rotate partners and when there are too many in the class, I don’t get to spend enough time with Adi. I end up dancing with the guy in the zoot suit who smells of mix of grape chewy and cigarette and has a vague look like he’s about to shoot up a post office.

A few other highlights of the spring: obviously, getting engaged was a big one. We had two of the aforementioned “l'chaim’s” which are informal gatherings to have a toast and celebrate good news. Photos from the one at The Local, a watering hole down the street, are below. The food at the L’Chaim that Adi’s mum threw for us was much better, but I don’t have those pics.

And finally, some photos from a fun girls’ night out- M to the 4th power . A great deal for manicures, makeovers, massages and martinis, that a bunch of us enjoyed a few weeks ago.

Mum and Dad touch down in Sydney in about a week so there will be lots of adventures to share with you…think Australia without Hugh and Nicole and the bombings from the Japanese. Meanwhile, welcome back and have a fabulous holiday season!! xx

L'chaim at the Local:

Me and the 2 friends I made all by myself-Maria and Loretta

Alon, Adi, David, Avi & Daniel

Me, Hanna, Mel, Nat & Sammy

"'M' to the 4th Night":

Sunday, November 2, 2008

What do you think this one's about????

Stop the blogosphere. I know you haven't heard the end of Brisbane or about the Fringe festival or any of the other happenings in Melbourne this spring. But I know many of you care very little about all of that and are much more concerned with details of my bigger and more exciting news so I shall jump ahead and simple share the details of last Sunday's magical day when Adi and I got engaged.

It's no secret that I knew (or expected) a proposal to be forthcoming. With a date set and a venue selected, the only remaining tick on the list was an engagement. In fact, it was getting to the point that if Adi and I were walking out of the house and he bent down to tie his shoe, my heart started pounding.

So last Sunday, I awoke to go running and instead of simply rolling over to spread out across the bed as he does most mornings, he woke up and said, "Go running then we'll go for a drive." I told him the weather wasn't very nice and also that I knew he had work to do but he insisted. I had afternoon plans (the first southern hemisphere Check Your Boobies party!) so our time was limited. As I began my run, it began to rain so I used it as an excuse to bail and returned upstairs. I was surprised to see him out of bed and looking a little guilty, but I decided to go with it.

Id be remiss if I didn't mention that I decided to put on a little makeup, even though we were ostensibly just going hiking. He mocked me but we both knew what I was thinking.

We got in the car and headed towards the Mornington Peninsula...I wasn't sure where we were going and it turns out neither was he. We ended up in a car park and he had to check the melways, during which time I self-talked to myself that I shouldn't be mad that he had what seemed like no plan.

He finally found our way and we arrived at Pt. Nepean, a spot I'd wanted to visit since reading about it in Bill Bryson's hilarious book about Australia (In a Sunburned Country). In addition to being an important military base during WWII, this is the spot where Prime Minister Harold Holt went swimming one afternoon, never to be seen again. Yes, Australia lost a prime minister. Too bad we haven't let W just wander off like that...

We took a short walk, up past some bunkers and artillery remains until we reached a beautiful overlook. We could see Melbourne across the water as well as Queen's Cliff and the Pacific stretching out in front of us. The area was deserted and I was disappointed that we couldn't find the former Prime Minister (for whom a public pool in Melbourne is named after!)

As I took in the scenery, Adi handed me his ipod and said, "there's something I want you to hear." I was excited and pleased that it suddenly seemed like he'd thought things through a bit and wanted to set the mood. Imagine my thrill when I realised he'd recorded himself playing and singing the song "just the two of us", even changing the lyrics from "i want to spend some time with you" to "I want to spend the rest of my life with you".

While we listened to the song, we hugged and I could feel his heart pounding which I thought was pretty cute since I think he knew there was probably a yes forthcoming. After the song ended, he told me lots of nice things about me, including that he'd had a conversation with mom and dad- NOT to ask permission, as I had told him not to do that- I never did so why set a precedent- but for their blessing...which I am assuming they gave. Then he said, "so..." and went rummaging through his backpack. It took a little longer than I would have liked and I started to panic that he forgot the ring. But he finally extracted a small box and got down on one knee and asked me to marry him.

I said yes and was excited to see the ring. I hadn't really known what to expect- didn't even think I was getting a "real" ring or anything right now, given his student status and an heirloom waiting for us in the states. But he had organised of his own volition a unique ring, designed and crafted by our friend Romy, which makes it all the more special. It's white gold with a bezel set round diamond and a triangular cut out underneath the setting. He had been having secret meetings with her months ago- even had the ring for over 2 months! It explains a bit why he has taken to pointing out on more than one occasion that a triangle is the strongest structure...

The only problem is that he used a pinky ring I never wear to size it so as he went to slip it on, it stopped just above my knuckle. He insisted he used a ring I wear all the time (it wasn't until we got home and he showed me the ring he'd used that i understood that it wasn't going to fit) , so as we walked down the trail and back to the car, I figured it was because my hand was a bit swollen from the hike and I forced it onto my finger. This proved to be a big mistake as my finger started to throb and quickly turned an attractive yet scary-looking purple. I tried to get it off and it wouldn't budge so in as calm a voice as I could muster, I asked my new fiance to get some sunscreen from my pack and we gooped it on the finger and after a short struggle and a little bit of ripped skin, I was able to remove it. I had a fleeting fearful thought that the day would be remembered as the time I had my finger amputated as opposed to the day we got engaged. But I got it off and decided not to put it back on that finger until it had been resized!
Romy came over the next day to pick it up and I got it back Wednesday and now, as you'll see below, it fits great and looks great and I love it! I even got my first manicure ever yesterday and it looks even more special. (I just stopped biting my nails a few weeks ago...see, I knew this was coming!)

We had originally planned to go to dinner to celebrate that evening, but I had the Check Your Boobies party- a huge success by the way- so we postponed until this past Friday night. We went to NOBU and had a fabulous meal. We put ourselves in our waitress' hands and she didn't disappoint- the highlight was the 3-day sweet soy and miso-marinated Black Cod. Yum! And we finished with a sweet dessert, emblazoned with good wishes from the kitchen.

And that is the happy ending to this chapter of our love story. I look forward to sharing many more happy stories with you all, and will do my best to keep wedding planning out of the blogosphere because really, that's boring!

But this is exciting and I am happy bride-to-be!



Moments after I say YES!

a mediocre self-timer but we're happy!

the romantic history of our engagement spot!

Stuffed after 10 courses at Nobu.

Of course, we have room for dessert!

Some ring pics:
and finally, I voted- so you should too!:

Saturday, October 4, 2008

What happens in Bris Vegas STAYS in Bris least until it’s posted on a blog…

Just 3 days after my return to Australia, just barely recovered from my jet lag, I was off again, to visit Queensland for the first time, sent for a Health Care Educational Simulation Technology conference.

I arrived in Brisbane on Sunday, 7 September and the pre-conference workshops started bright and early Monday morn. Rather than go through the oh-so-thrilling play by play of the conference, I’ll simply mention highlights- including a presentation by folks from a University in Perth (Western Australia) where they used an actual Coroner’s case about a patient dying in custody for the basis of a powerful simulation for ED managers and a workshop on difficult debriefs, where I got to role play the part of a student in tears - and lowlights- the non-attention given to the interactive poster I created with my boss, only to discover that for all of our work, we only got to exhibit the poster for one day due to limited space and the presenter who read a lit review on mental health simulations in a monotone voice.

The networking BBQ at a lawn bowls club was fun after my third beer and I did meet a number of interesting people throughout the week. In all, it was fun to see the “future” of health education even though simulated patients weren’t as well represented as I thought they should be. In my opinion, the best technology to show how a human being acts is a human being. And the future is in what is called hybrid simulation; that is, using Simulated Patients (actors) along with what they call part-task trainers to show both physiology and psychology together.

But, enough shop talk. The conference ended Thursday (11 September) but I decided to enjoy Brisbane for a few extra days so I moved into a B& B- Eskdale ( - I left the Sofitel once it was on my dime! It was housed in a traditional "Queenslander" style house, which is a house built up on stilts, much like beach houses in the souther east. The purpose of building houses like this, though, we note to avoid floodwaters. Rather, the concept was to allow extra air to circulate, in the days before A/C to keep the houses cooler...and to be fair, it seemed to walk. My room was freezing all the time, even as it was about 80 degrees (F) outside.

Once I settled into my new accommodation on the south side of the river, I took an exploratory walk to really see Brisbane for the first time, beyond the walls of the hotel and hospital where the conference was. As I began to amble, it occurred to me that I haven’t traveled solo to a new place in a long time. While Melbourne was obviously a new adventure for me, navigating was- and to some extent still is- taken care of for me. Furthermore, the freedom to do what I want with no outside influence is an experience I hadn’t had in some time. Don’t get me wrong, I love traveling and seeing things with Adi. But as someone who spent the greater part of her 20s and 30s traveling alone, it was fun to be back in that mode, albeit without the subtext of trying to meet myself a hottie fellow traveler! Thus, on this trip, I spent a lot less time prowling the café’s for cute looking backpackers than I used to.

I walked down towards the river and explored the south bank area, a parkland and man-made beach that sits across the river from the CBD. It was a perfect spring day so the walk through the “rainforest” they’ve created with local flora was particularly enjoyable and I found myself questioning why everyone mocks this city.

A little background- Brisbane is the third largest city in Australia, which seems impressive until you remember that the largest (Sydney) has just over 5 Million people. Brisbane is the state capital of Queensland, the northeastern most state of Australia and one that accounts for over 1/5 the landmass of the entire country. That’s BIG. Queensland is bigger than Japan, for example. It has 300 + days of sunshine, and with the mountains in the distance I couldn't help but think of Boulder, though it is tropical so in a few months time it will be hot hot hot and humid.

“Southerners” from Melbourne and Sydney make fun of Q’landers in much the same way some of the more urbane Americans might mock the South or West. But I found the city pleasant and cultured, with a fabulous Arts precinct set on the banks of the river. My walk took me to the fairly new GOMA—Gallery of Modern Art, which had an exhibit of Picasso’s private collection. Interspersed with his Renoirs, Degas(es?), Gauguins and Cézannes were some of his works and it was interesting to witness the influence, which even this Luddite could appreciate when it was hanging next to the evidence. And for dinner that night I discovered Mondo Organics ( a high-end organic restaurant and cooking school that offered a Zen-like setting again reminiscent of Boulder. Granted, I stayed in the “upscale hipster bohemian” area, which might explain the Boulder vibe. But the pumpkin risotto was as good as anything I’d get in Melbourne so I wasn’t prepared to mock the Brissies just yet.

The next day, I devoted to wildlife. I had read about the Lone Tree Koala Sanctuary in both my Lonely Planet and on-line and was anxious to check out this, the largest Koala sanctuary in Australia, devoted to growing the threatened population of these cuddly marsupials. I took the bus the 11K out of town to the sanctuary. I wandered around the eucalyptus trees and well-laid out paths, enjoying the koalas in their various environments. For example, in “the kindergarten” the “cubs” were kept together and the nursery housed and mothers and babies who had just merged from their pouches. There was even a retirement home for the oldest of the group, a place for the Hedy and Michaels of the Koala world to work!

For a small extra donation, I was allowed to hold one, Orion, and be photographed with him(see above, below or refer to my facebook page) He was remarkably heavy (and pretty stinky)- for his size. I went to the Koala presentation and learned a few fun facts:

1) Koalas are not bears. They are often called such because they are cute and cuddly looking but they are special kinds of mammals, called marsupials. Like kangaroos, koalas give birth to very undeveloped Joeys who then hang out in their pouch to continue to grow. During this time, they feast on their mama’s poo, which is specially formulated with the nutrition they need (but what a tough marketing campaign for the Gerber’s folk in koala world!)

2) Koalas have a reputation for being quite nasty, but that’s only the adult males during mating season. The rest of the time, they are pretty docile.

3) They feast on Eucalyptus leaves and people think this gets them stoned (look at Orion’s eyes if you don’t believe me). According to the sanctuary employees, who want to protect the koala’s reputation from being compared to a Brown student’s, the leaves don’t have a narcotic effect. Rather they are just very low in carbs resulting in koalas being low-energy. (That’s the party line, but check out Orion’s decidedly hippie-like stare and then make your decision!)

4) The males attract mates with their scent, which is why they have an extra spot on their bellies. This is where their scent comes from and I’m surprised any of them get action because they are muskier than Adi after a squash match.

It was a beautiful day to enjoy the sanctuary and I also got to feed kangaroos and see lots of other Aussie animals, captured below for your viewing pleasure.

I even made friends with another American, Eddie, who is chilling in Brisbane while sort of working on his PhD about a Native American artist from South Dakota. He acknowledged that Brisbane wasn’t necessarily the best place to research this, but he had the chance to come to Australia so who can blame him!

Given that this is lengthy, I’ll finish Bris Vegas (yeah, no idea why it’s called that) in my next entry…and leave you with photos of the conference, the non-bears and other animals!

The conference began thanking the original owners of the land and then a performance by a local indigenous dance troupe.

A lunch-time demonstration of one of the high-tech mannequins used to teach health professionals.

Me with our digital poster...eventually it will be up on our web site and I'll certainly direct you to it...FASCINATING stuff!

Brisbane, from the South Bank parklands. THis is one of the citi-link taxis.

A lizard I saw as I wandered the parklands.

These are some shots from Lone Tree Sanctuary:

This is me and Orion. Is he strung out on the Eucy, or what?

This is another Koala, after the presentation.

A cute and bouncy!

A kid feeding a 'roo...they're related to the wallaby but bigger.

Hopefully, the kid's mum didn't end her day screaming "the dingo ate my baby!"

10 of the world's most deadliest snakes call Australia home (and not one of them is a mortgage lender!) This guy ranks # 1, called the fierce snake, or the deadly taipan. (He was behind glass)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Off the soapbox and onto the Cape

Have you ever been so behind on something you just keep avoiding it and avoiding it until you are even more behind. I'm assuming most of you--other than my father, probably- can relate. I'm blogging now about the end of August and trying my best to avoid any new experiences here in Oz so I don't get further behind. I'm finally biting the bullet and writing about my North American trip.

But first, one final comment about the previous blog...the feedback I got was primarily positive, at least from my generation. The criticisms came more from my parents and (one) of their friends so I find that interesting. Maybe its just that I can pick my friends but not my family! Though I would pick my parents' friends so it might just be a generational thing. Or people who knew me back when I was always (even more often, anyway) on a soapbox. I really have mellowed in my old age!

Anyway, I just wanted to say that my main point was that if we ALL, myself included, thought a little more about the choices we make...if you want to turn on the A/C then don't use disposable water bottles, if you want the water bottles, then wash dishes by hand, want to use the dishwasher, then drip dry your clothes, etc. etc. - if we all made a few sacrifices to our comfort then we might all have more resources to enjoy the world..and the rest of the world might not have such disdain for our lifestyle. Though when Sarah P is screaming"Drill drill drill" in one of our most beautiful natural places, the rest of the world has a right to look upon us disdainfully!But if I was going to blog about my thoughts on Sarah Palin, we'd all be bored and I'd get more behind so...

enough of more politics (for now). When I last wrote, I was in North America and thats where this story picks up.

The week on the Cape (or as Adi says, "in the Cod") was lots of fun. Josh and Lucy are babies no more but little people with strong opinions and likes and dislikes (fire trucks and princesses are some likes for J and L respectively, listening and being away from her stuffed Grover are some dislikes. Oh, and everyone hates getting sunscreen put on!).

The weather was perfect and our house was much better this year. Mostly because Josh and Lucy had a door to their bedroom. Too bad they knew how to open it. Mornings were filled with getting ready to leave for the beach and we had fun playing in the sand once we (finally) arrived. Josh was into his fire engine red bike and took numerous trips on the nearby bike path and both kids went in a canoe for the first time. Josh went a step further, following in his "Pa"s footsteps and went on a sailboat, but luckily protected his nose from the boom.

We ate lobsters and lots of ice cream. Josh and Lucy learned to use nature's toilet, though Lucy has to work on her disceretion. She took to annoucing in the lake-- I have to go pee pee. Andthen she took off her bathing suit bottoms to do so.

I took a long solo bike ride out to the National Seashore. We watched some olympics coverage. Mostly, I hung out with my cute niece and nephew and showed them pictures of Adi on the compuer (because they kept asking!) The only complaint I had about the Cape was the multitude of Red Sox nation gear, but I taught Josh a good way to react to the omnipresent "B". He's scream Yankees as we walked by. Too bad we mostly got sad, pathetic glances. Oh, how things have changed.

Other highlights of my trip to the states included a work visit to the Wilson Centre in Toronto. This is the flagship Simulated Patient program in the world and I learned a ton of stuff about their program and training as well as about the projects they do. They have 18 people at the centre hadnling all the various aspects of job and I was jealous! They were so generous and welcoming and I would like to return to see some of their projects in action. I really wanted a USB for my head to soak up all the knowledge they were giving me.

Upon my return to NY I was excited to meet up with Wendy from CO who used my visit as an excuse to visit her New York office. I saw the Yanks lose one last time in Yankee stadium which would have been less painful had Wendy not been there as she is a Sox fan (and yet we're friends anyway, take note Israelis and Palestenians, Russian and Georgians, Shia and Sunni!) Saw a fabulous production of Hair and even got to dance onstage at the end with my friend (Adi's cousin) Rachel. Still waiting for all of those NY agents to call. Also met the Mayor that night, but the highlight was dancing onstage..sorry dad.

Labor day weekend my friend Kim from CO was in town, also paying homage to Yankee stadium with her dad. She joined Wendy and I Saturday night and the three of us took the boat ride to see the NYC waterfalls. An interesting concept, especially for 3 CO girls used to seeing nature in more natural places.

Saw Marisa on Sunday and we had our own adventures and then Labor Day went to my Aunt and Uncle 's in CT to see my cousins and play with Josh and Lucy once more.

This leaves out the details of my frequent trips to Target and Old Navy, taking advantage of the reverse season sales.

All in all, good times back in the states, and since photos tell a better story, I'll leave you with those:

(and since I won't write again before next week, L'shana Tovah to all!

Here's Joshie playing in the sand:
And Lucy at the playground:

After a long day of playing, they crash out on the sofa:
This was the best part of every day (if you ask Lucy!):
But I liked story time even more!
Back in NY, with Wendy and Kim:

And here's a short (3 second) video of the waterfalls:

Saturday, August 30, 2008

(Biodegradable) Soapbox

WARNING: What follows is a bit of a tirade on some American habits of which I am also guilty, but being me, I prefer to crticize than examine my own beahvior. Please proceed with a caution and read with a grain of salt!

They say you can't go home again. Of course you can! All you need are frequent flyer miles and the ability to plan way ahead so you can use the one seat every 5 flights that Qantas gives to American mileage holders. That, or a gig where you can get your work to pick up some of the expensive fare. I did both of those things and thus, found myself starting this blog on top of the world...or at least the Northern hemisphere.

I'm finally finishing from OZ, as I had trouble writing this particular blog.I'm very behind so dont be upset if there is a bit of a flurry of activity here in the coming days. Mum cautioned me that if you can't say something nice, just shut it's been a challenge to write about the week on the Cape with the collection of neuroses known as the Cardozo/ Rosenblut clan.

Surely, I jest-- at least a little- but I did want to organise my thoughts to demonstrate the reverse culture shock I experienced. Oftentimes, we see so much more clearly from afar, and much of what I knew nipped at my soul about the US has become clearer, and a bit more annoying, upon my return.

I was back stateside for a bit over a fortnight (see, I can still speak Aussie) and I have to admit I noticed things from an ex-pat perspective, even whilst enjoying treats and cuisines I've missed while abroad.

Now, me being me, there is the possibility that what follows could sound, um, critical. That's because, well, it is. There is an over-arching American sensibility that I have always had a vague notion of, but now that I've taken a step away, I can see more clearly. I understand more viscerally now why America is often viewed disparagingly around the world. I'm not speaking of our Imperialistic tendencies or the acts of our government, problematic to be sure. And do keep in mind that my visit occurred mostly prior to the Palin of America, so these thoughts pre-date her, though she's not helping to be sure. Rather, I am speaking of a general attitude of entitlement and self-absorbtion, even while claiming to be concerned about the world at large. I'll give some examples.

Australians don't generally buy into Political Correctness and because of its small population any subculture is noticably quieter about their beliefs. So while there are enviro-hippies and fascist recyclers, most people just go about their daily business. But because Australia is the driest inhabited continent on Easrth, there are environmental norms in place that even the most die-hard Liberal (which is what the Conservative party here is called) practices without a thought. I've previously mentioned the dual-flush toilet. Now I can't prove that John Howard and other Bush-lite politicos like him always use the 1/2 flush appropriately, it is true that every toilet is equipped, from the diviest bar to the most-hovel-like flat. (To be fair, I did just learn that the dual-flush toilet is an Aussie invention, so there is some degree of national pride in installing them everywhere.)

Additionally, every outlet has an on-off switch, so you can stop power being sent to a power point when there is nothing drawing on that power. Further, in a grocery store here, you don't see quite the breadth of packaging options, either. If a parent wants a convenient snack size of cheerios or crackers, they buy a large box of them and put the snack size amount they want in a tupperware (easy to find since all take-away food is package in recyclable plastic containers as opposed to styrofoam!) These are but a few examples of what Oz is doing to reduce it's carbon footprint and water usage from a nation that uses much less than the US. I don't have to spell out that many in the states consume conspicuously, even while shaking their heads at the horrors of Ike or Katrina or deadly storms around the world and wish there was something they could do to help, yet still refuse to reduce their own impact if it inconvieniences them.

I'll climb down carefully off of my soapbox now (and recycle it, of course) even as Adi is shaking his head, I'm sure, at my hypocrisy. And he's right. I sometimes let the water run when I do the dishes (though I am trying to soap them beforehand) and I regularly use paper napkins as opposed to cloth. If we had a dishwasher, I'd resist rinsing them off prior to putting them in the machine but its a non-issue in our cozy, air-con-less flat. I guess the point Im making is that in Oz, people are more environmental inadvertently, without it becoming a soap box, simply because that's how it's done and the option to do otherwise isn't available.

And being away and then back in the states made it more clear to me just how entitled we all (I mean Americans, not ncessarily any of you in particular) feel we are to these tiny convieniences, be they power plugs you don't have to bend down to use, toilets that don't require a thought process or small amounts of items that come in larger sizes too.Also disposable water bottles, excessive use of air-conditioning (do I need to bring a jacket to a movie theatre?), etc. etc.

And now Ms. Palin is on the scene to make sure the world knows that we are entitled, dammit, because we're Americans and even the girls can shoot guns!

More specific details and photos about the trip itself to follow after you've all had a chance to mock my hypocrisy!

But to be fair, I do want to let you all know that I've contributed over $100 to off-set the carbon footprint of my flights to and from the states, at This is one of the highest rated non-profit carbon off-set organizations, so check it out. If you're going to use a/c and water bottles, this can alleviate a little guilt.

Did I mention that it was good to be home, to see the fam and friends and eat good Mexican food? I will next time, I promise!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

August Skiing

The beauty of Boulder's unique location near numerous great ski mountains just over the Continental Divide means that Keystone usually open in October and A-Basin is slush-covered (and open to skiers) often till the 4th of July.

But this has left August and September ski-less in my personal history. That is, until a couple of weekends ago, when August fell to the sound of my carving turns.

On the last day of July, 8 of us drove the 5+ hours out to and then up the Great Alpine Road, ending at the hamlet of Dinner Plain, a small resort community about 14 K from Mt. Hotham.

Early Friday morning, 7 of us took off for the mountain, leaving Adi to enjoy the flat screen and tend to the fire.

The first shock was of the sticker variety...after spending $350 last season for a season pass for 5 mountains, I spent $237 (AU) for 2 days of ski hire and lift tickets. OUCH. No wonder Adi stayed home!

Given the cost, I was ready to hit the slopes. One of the beauties, as my Colorado friends can attest, of having a season pass, is the luxury of being a fair weather skier. Last winter, for example, Kim and I bailed on a day of skiing after 3 runs because the light was too flat. Thus, I haven't put up with white out, blizzarding conditions for well over a decade. Until last weekend.

The conditions at Mt. Hotham, to put it mildly, were atrocious. Visibility was literally zero...i couldn't see my friend Mel when she was just over an arm's length away. We got soaked ont he chairlift from the wet, slushy snow and when we got off, it was tough to determine where the edge of the cliffs were. The snow felt pretty good beneath my feet, albeit a bit heavy and wet, but who knows if that was true. It was the kind of day you could enjoy if you already love to ski; harder, I think, to learn to love to do so.

While Mel and Mark and I navigated the mountain- skiing a variety of different runs- I think- Jeni, Hanna and Alon took a beginner class and Kopel braved his way on a board. I finally figured out on the map where the treed runs were so I led Mark and Mel over there so we could at least have a boundary to break up the whiteness.

It was a fun day and while I didn't ski anything super difficult, not seeing it...on an unfamiliar mountain no less, was tiring. We reconvened with our beginner friends and sat in the lodge to dry out a bit before catching our bus back to our gorgeous house in Dinner Plain.

Adi had made us cookies and they were warm from the oven when we walked in and we devoured them. Meanwhile I set to work re-heating the 2 huge lasagnas I'd made which took longer than expected so all were excited when they were finally warm. At dinner, Hanna and Jeni announced their plans to hit the spa rather than the slopes the next day and our group of die hards was down to five. Well, that's what we thought- Alon had fallen asleep at the table so it was difficult to ascertain his plans for the next day.

Sure enough, Sunday morning the 5 die hards woke (admittedly a bit too leisurely for my taste...) and headed back to the hill. The weather in DP was perfect looking- blue sky and sunny, but alas, such was not the case just a bit higher up. We spent another day struggling with visibility but I had studied the map the previous night (turning into my father I fear) and knew where to go to find trees. We had a great day going all over the mountain and Adi even met up with us for lunch.

It wasn't the greatest skiing I've ever done; aside form visibility, the snow was definitely wetter than Colorado's. I didn't have all my proper equipment (you'll see my looking like a tourist in my puffy jacket) and the lifts were a bit slow. I also didn't love the layout of the resort, which is apprantly more bare bones than some of the higher end resorts here (more A-Basin than Vail). But the mountain goes over the Great Alpine Road so on occasion we had to pop out of our skis to cross the highway.

Nevertheless, it was a great weekend. It was fun to see snow and even more fun to watch my friends who have spent little time in the snow seeing the beauty it offers. My favorite thing was the gum lieu of evergreens, these trees look like regular deciduous trees, but they dont lose their leaves, resulting in heavy, snow covered branches bending towards the ground as they groan with the weight fo the snow. But they dont break and the leaves don't come off. These were the trees we skied through and it was a funny sight to see, after being used to more Christmas tree looking things in North America.

It was a great gorup as well. we had fun doing everything from daring Alon to lie in the snow in his bathers (that's short for swimming costume!) to eating a few great meals. We had a bit of excitements when Kopel had to have petrol delivered since he'd made it up the mountain on fumes and even more of a climactic end the next morning when he realised he'd left his door open and thus had a dead battery. It was nice to get out of the city and be in a really posh house with no wireless. And it was fun to enjoy the upstairs double shower with a view of the trees.

I'd do it again and perhaps we will next year...though maybe then we can go in September to clear my calendar of months with no skiing.

Finally, I need to revise my last blog- Australia was united in 1901, not after World War I..but still, the country is in diapers!

Now, enjoy so ski trip photos...

Waiting for the bus the first morning...that's
Hanna, Jeni, Mark, Me and Daniel
The view from our deck of the funny snowgum trees

The girls (Hanna, Jeni, Me and Mel) are sleepy
But not as sleepy as Alon (we haven't had dessert yet!)

Day 2- at the bus stop, this time with equipment

Some of the boys in the tub

Alon takes a dare (for $$ of course)

After another yummy dinner

Jumping Daniel's car
A good weekend had by all

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Benefit and the CBD

Last weekend we spent Saturday evening helping to end Genocide and Sunday being a bit more self-indulgent. SKIF sponsored a benefit using music to raise awareness about the Genocide taking place in Darfur. The closing act was none other than 10/2 Goathlands very own Adi Diner who was upstaged only by a member of the local Sudanese community sharing his story. Adi played a few tunes in line with the theme of the evening, including Stevie Wonder’s “Saturn” and Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World”.

Earlier in the day we’d attended a 1st birthday party for a friend of his’ daughter and another HS friend of his- not a SKIF person-, when told of Adi’s plans for the evening said, “What’s Darfur?” I was personally shocked. You don’t have to read a paper cover-to-cover to be aware of this horrific situation that has been going on for over 6 years. And this guy isn’t an idiot—he went to the same magnet school as Adi so that should count for something. Adi retold the story- much less judgementally than I have, and acknowledged that clearly awareness still needs to be raised.

The speaker from the Sudanese community went out of his way to thank the Jewish community. With Melbourne’s Jewish community being predominantly made up of survivors, there is a heightened sense of urgency about this situation amongst them. While the small benefit raised only $700 it was nice to do some small part to help.

And at the Russian Bar we went to after the gig I even felt moderately guilty about the $17 (!) chocolate decadent martini I had, but since my friend Helen bought it for me, isn’t it really her that’s the decadent one? (thanks, Hels)

Sunday was much more about us then the greater good of the world. After all, it’s exhausting to spend too much time making the world a better place, so Sunday we focused on appreciating the culture of Melbourne. I’d been kvetching of late that we never did anything “Melbourne-y”…how many of you regularly take advantage of the cultural offerings of the place you live? (Boulderites, you are excluded from the conversation since I know you all probably went running this very morning before going for a bike ride and climb! Unless you’re reading this blog from your I-phone as you hang off of a rock wall!)

In any case, I wanted to see some of the excitement that the city has to offer. Adi’s original plan to visit a seaside town was cancelled by Mother Nature so instead we hit the CBD. Our first stop was the National Gallery of Victoria. This museum has two parts- one focusing on Australian art, the other with an International focus. Adi had never been to either so we hit the international one. One interesting note is that the museum is a bit of a misnomer now. It began before Australia was unified in -oh I don't know, but it was after the first world war I think! So at the time, it was Victoria’s National Gallery. Since Victoria is no longer a nation, it should technically be called the state gallery but that doesn’t sound nearly as impressive. In fact, the State Gallery of Victoria sounds almost as though the art has been committed and is being held against its will.

The building is unique, with right angled escalators and cut outs in the wall as well as a huge stained glass ceiling. Given that it was built prior to the new push to house museums in destination works of art, I found it pleasing and less of a forced architectural entity. The collection itself is a bit eclectic. In the ‘European Art of the 19th and 20th Century’ room, for example, a Matisse is hung by a Manet which is next to a Rothko and then a Lichtenstein. Because the museum isn’t’ particularly well-funded—even by the poor funding standards museums have- it seems that when a piece by someone famous is available, they grab it. The result is a bit of a hodge-podge without much cohesion.

That said, I still enjoyed the parts I enjoy- notably impressionism and abstract expressionism, because I am not a very smart art person. I got annoyed by the post-modernist BS…in particular, a group of plywood letters, painted black and arranged to read “Infiltrating the Living Room of the Bourgeoisie”. This has inspired me to create a companion piece called “The Self-Indulgent Problem of Post-Modernism.” I think I’ll make a fortune.

After seeing about 2/3rd of the museum, we’d exhausted the cultural part of our brains and took our leave, guilt-free since there was no charge. I pointed out that we could return at any time and Adi’s reaction seemed to indicate that it would be at least another 27 years before he did so. And this is a guy who likes museums!

The weather had cleared a bit so we walked up the road, slowly due to Adi’s over-exertion at Squash earlier in the day. We headed for Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance which, unlike the museum, Adi had been to previously. The last time he was in High School in a marching band. Feel free to mock him for being a band geek here.

The Shrine was built after the First World War and is dedicated to all those who have served in Australia’s three branches of the military: The Royal Australian Air Force, The Royal Navy and The Australian Armed Forces. Or something like that. The important thing to remember is that these are kids who were serving at the request of a Monarchy a half a world away.

The Shrine include the tomb of the Unknown Soldier and an eternal flame and a museum showing all the different medals and such. Apparently anyone who has ever served for Australia is written in some book there. Lucky for them, they can close the book on Iraq since their Prime Minister has brought home his troops. Some pillars recount all the places various branches served during World War II, and it’s not the places we generally hear about. Such battlefields as Borneo, Singapore and Malaysia factored in heavily to their military story.

Our day of site-seeing complete, we made our way back to the CBD, towards Chinatown) or China lane as I call it because it is so compact) to Camy’s, our favourite dumpling spot. As we walked past federation square, the final remnants of the weekends’ Industrial Design Expo beckoned, so Adi grabbed a seat to watch the giant outdoor screen footy game and I took a look at the plastic pods displaying the ideas of the next generation.

My favourite was the emergency housing that could be transformed into permanent housing, for victims of disasters. So what starts as a canvas shelter at a disaster site is easily covered with timber to become a permanent dwelling in a relocated space in the after-math of the disaster. I’m sure there are folks in Myanmar and China who could use these now (unless they’re all housed and cared for at this point. Given how much news coverage they are all still receiving, that must be the case!)

Finally, we made it to Camy’s where we ordered way too much food. I’ll spare you the details as my mother has complained that no one cares what I eat…but trust me when I say it was really yummy, especially the pumpkin cakes!

It was a good weekend, made even sweeter by some huge sports victories…2 out of 3 at Fenway AND the Bombers beat our Red Sox-like rival, Collingwood in our match!

Enjoy the photos!

Smiling, Adi sings about a wonderful world. But it isn't :-)

Adi is in front of the wall of water

I smell the fresh flower in the statues hand...he was a great Australian army doc but I forget his name.
The pathway to the Shrine of Remembrance

A view of the Yarra River and the MCG.. the Melbourne Cricket Ground (footy happens there too) which holds 100,000 fans!

One of the plastic pods displaying the design show ideas.