Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thanksgiving II

We had a very nice Thanksgiving, with our friends Peg and Andy. There were probably 35 people there, about half of whom were from Iowa, including lots of Aunts and Uncles. All of the traditional fare: turkey, stuffing, cranberries, pumpkin pie.

As is typical, the guys were planted in front of the television, only we were watching Cricket. The game is actually pretty easy to follow: one guy runs up and throws the ball, another guy hits it with a bat, and everybody runs around, or, more precisely, one set of guys runs around, and another set runs back and forth. The score changes like the numbers on a pinball machine (on the first day, Australia scored 346 runs). Every once in a while, something else happens, and the team in the field jumps up and down and hugs each other. This will go on for 5 days (seriously).

What makes it even more unusual is that the fields are huge -- an oval up to 160 yards along the main axis, roughly 4 times the size of a football field, twice the size of a baseball diamond. The spectators are sitting so far away that it has to be close to impossible to see what's going on. I'm told, though, that beer is sold in the stands. Perhaps that's the answer.

In any case, the U.S. is one of the few places in the world where the game isn't huge. People love it here, and the Australia-England rivalry is comparable to Michigan-Ohio State.

To me, it looks like what baseball would look like to someone who has never seen it before. If you combined it with lawn bowling.

We were all talking about how much we missed watching the Lions and Cowboys play.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

We're celebrating Thanksgiving with some friends Susan met through the association run by the embassy. He's an AF Lt. Col, and she's from Iowa, so she and Susan have lots to talk about. It will be a real slice of home, although instead of watching football, we'll be watching cricket. No, not crickets -- we're not entomologists. CRICKET! A popular commonwealth game that looks vaguely like baseball, except that it doesn't look like baseball. Imagine trying to explain baseball to someone who has never seen it before; there's an old Bob Newhart routine where he plays a game company executive listening to Abner Doubleday describe baseball. That's how I feel trying to understand cricket.

When I was in graduate school in New Haven, I spent my thanksgiving watching the traditional Dallas-New York NFL Game on Turkey day (this was before John Madden started the whole Turducken business, with a turkey stuffed with a duck stuffed with a chicken stuffed with a frog stuffed with, well, we pretty much stopped there.). In one of these games, a punt returner was signaling for a fair catch and got creamed at full speed, to the point that he ruptured a major body part. I'm surprirised he's even alive. Bet that rarely happens in cricket.

So, Happy Thanksgiving to All!

I'm Melting! I'm Melting!

Time for a bit of self-indulgence. We had mapped out our remaining schedule, which would take me on my travels thorugh early November. Then my folks would visit for three weeks, and then we we would wrap up in the middle of December. But Life throws curveballs.

In early November, both Adam and I got sick; nothing serious (and Susan found a marvelous doctor nearby, whom we heartily recommend to anyone venturing to this part of the world). Then my parents had to cancel their trip - long story, but everyone's ok -- so November turned from a time of anticpation to one of routine. And then -- typical American gripe -- our AC burnt out last week. It handn't been a problem until today, when the daytime highs reached 100F. We were really swealtering,. The AC should be fixed tomorrow, but one never knows. Earlier in the week it had been unseasonably cold, so we were in one day asking for heaters, the next asking for ac.

Our current plans have us traveling to New Zealand from 12/16-12/22, then to LAX on 12/24 to get some quality time with the parents. Then back to Madison on January 2.

It is hard to believe that we're really winding down. Susan has begun shipping our winter clothes back home - they're no use to use here, and will be extremely valuable back in Madison. Plus we don't know how much "liquid" we're able to carry on. If the restrictions extend to 750ml bottles of Glenlivet 18, the UN Commission on Human Rights will receive a sternly worded letter of protest.

This is the challenging part of international travel -- the routine (which is, really, an accurate measure of how most people live their lives here) bracketed by shorter periods of unbelievable adventure.

But, oh, man, is it hot!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Australian Idol

One of our guilty pleasures has been watching Australian Idol -- the down under version of the American show. We never watched it at home, and I wouldn't know Taylor Hicks if he fell off a roof and landed on me. Although I suppose it would hurt.

But we've been hooked. We started watching in Hobart in September, when we were all in one hotel room and had no internet access. It's now down to the final two, and they are really talented. Even I can tell.

The judges are comparable to the American, except the panel is led by Marcia Hines, who's a damn sight smarter than Paula Abdul.

Most prime time TV here consists of American shows, and there are about 300 different versions of CSI (Miami, Las Vegas, Little Rock, the works). There's even a campy version of Family Feud, run by a longtime TV star with what has to be the worst toupee in the Southern Hemisphere.

Thursday, November 09, 2006


I have a guest op-ed in today's Brisbane Courier-Mail. The news here is describing the election as a huge change in American politics, but I think that's wrong, and reflects the particulars of the political system here. In a parliamentary system, legislative elections are everything: the House elections determine who has control of government, and the entire cabinet (including the Prime Minister) is selected from among the majority. The effect in the states will be more modest. Probably some legislation on immigration, taxes, and the like, but no dramatic upheaval.

I particiipated in a friendly pool on the election, and was off by one in both the House and the Senate (I had the Senate at 50-50, but picked Allen to win in Virgina; I had the Republicans with 231 House seats, which is probably off by 1 or 2). Not too bad.

I've been doing a lot of radio interviews, on both news programs and talk shows. When I find the links to the online broadcasts, I'll post them.