Thursday, November 22, 2007

Dirty Politics

The Australian Federal election is on for tomorrow. Three polls were released today. One showing a Labor landslide, one showing a labor marginal victory and one showing a Liberal marginal victory. My money is still on Labor.

But more interesting is the scandal in the Lindsay seat in West Sydney (congress seats each have names here). Liberal party member were caught handing out fliers from a fake Islamic group thanking the Labor party for their support. What a cunning plan! Pray on people's fear of Islam to get votes for your own party. The culprits included none other than the Liberal candidate's husband, who claims his wife knew nothing of the scheme.

Will this incident be the final nail in the Liberal coffin? If it's not, what does this say about tolerance within Australia?

North meets South

What do you get when you mix boomerangs and lederhosen? A sunny afternoon in Australia with good German beer! Hooray Oktoberfest:

Oktoberfest + Lisa's karaoke farewell

Also, a few picts from Lisa's karaoke farewell.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

A new chapter in cycling

Cairns has two seasons: the dry and the wet. So far, I've been enjoying the dry. This week, I've started to get a taste of the wet, which usually lasts from January through March. It's hot and humid. It rains sometimes in downpours, sometimes in sprinkles, but always when I'm outside. Then there's a little sunshine, and the sidewalks steam dry, and you have just enough time to fish out your sunglasses from your purse before it starts raining again.

This sort of weather pattern has created some new obstacles for biking:

A plague of frogs
Given the options for cycling in Cairns involve either the North Highway or the South Highway, roadkill is a common occurrence. Most of the time, it's just wallabies, identifiable by their fur and red meat. They have since been replaced by a plague of frogs that emerge during the storms and hurl themselves onto the highway. These are not little frogs either. These are the frogs you dissected in high school biology. In fact I think I could make money collecting them and selling them to high schools (10 bonus points to the student who can name which organ is still lying on the side of the road).

Was that a giant lizard or a tiny croc?
Really, who can tell when you're trying to avoid large chunks of it on the shoulder of the road? Seriously, based on the remnants, I believe this thing must have been between 3 and 4 feet long. One of the other riders swore it was a goana (aka, tiny dinosaur), but I'm not 100% convinced.

Mangoes: tasty treat or obstacle course?
Mangoes are in season here, and they are delicious. Unfortunately, the storms knock them out of the trees and onto the roads. They can be a bit hard to avoid, especially when riding in a pack. But they will either shoot out from under your tires or just squish. Occasionally though, you'll hit a pit. They can easily throw your balance.

Cycling shoes should come with drainage holes
I'm seriously considering drilling holes in the toes of my cycling shoes. Since the soles are a solid piece of plastic, they just pool with water when it rains. I could just feel my toes shriveling.

80K ride + buckets of rain = chafe
I'll just leave it at that.

Hurray, only 4 more months of rain!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Separation of Church and State

It is two weeks until the Australian Federal Election. As an outside observer, who works with some very politically passionate people, it seems to me that there will likely be a change in government. Not necessarily because Labor is better, but because it's different. 11 years of Liberal government has led them to be sloppy in their campaign. Polls have consistently shown Labor up by a statistically significant margin.

I initially drew the comparison to the US parties. Labor = Democrats, Liberal = Republicans. (Took a while to get that Liberal != Democrats) Using the analogies above, I assumed that I would be a Labor voter, as I tend to be a Democrat back home, but I haven't found the Labor party to be enticing in the same ways as the Democrats. And though at a fundamentals level these may be a reasonable comparisons, there is one primary difference between the parties here and those back home: the party lines are drawn on moral issues in the US.

In the states, I vote Democrat because I am pro-choice, I believe in teaching safe sex in classrooms, I believe in evolution, I support gay marriage. All moral issues, that in Australia do not define the parties. Other than a vague idea of big government vs. small government, I don't have a good sense of what really separates the parties in the US besides these moral issues.

In a way, I'm grateful to be currently living in a country where those moral decisions don't plague the government. But in another way, it makes me far less passionate about a horse to back in this election. Are they really all that different?

Friday, November 02, 2007

Bike lesson

I've made a lot of improvements on my bike in the time that I've been here. I'm a much more confident rider now, I can get a water bottle out of the cage and put it back in while riding, I can fetch things out of the pocket on my back while riding, I can open and eat a gu, I haven't fallen in 3 weeks! Today, I learned an important lesson:

Used gu wrappers should not be tucked into the leg of your shorts

I'm never quite sure what to do with the wrappers cause we never stop at all, let alone, near a trash can. So I'm left deciding where to put them, I have been putting them back into my back pocket, but as I've been doing longer rides (60K today!) I need more gu, and everything, including my keys, starts to get a bit sticky. So I decided I would try just tucking it into the leg of my shorts. Easy. About 30K later, I realize the back of my knee is sticking together on every stroke. The gu has melted down my leg. So I think, maybe I can just rub it in with the sweat, and it will be less sticky. Still sticky, only now my left hand is sticky as well. Ok, I can lick that off. Except that I have to brake, now my handlebars are sticky as well. By the time I got home, I think everything was covered in gu. Fantastic.

Off to clean my bike and buy a shirt with more than one back pocket.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Scary Cookies

To bring a little American holiday cheer to Australia, I decided to bake some Halloween cookies. Although, I can't really remember the last time I baked Halloween cookies, I do remember the last time I baked Christmas cookies, so I felt confident in my abilities. Unfortunately, several factors conspired against me to make some of the most homemade cookies, I think I've ever made.

  1. I didn't have Halloween cookie cutters, so I cut out stencils from paper, and traced around them with a knife. Maybe this seems obvious, but this step was incredibly time intensive.
  2. In the time it took to cut out the cookies, the dough would get too warm (tropics, right?) to manipulate onto the tray
  3. How many grams is one cup of butter? The internet suggest 240g, I'm still unconvinced.
  4. My oven doesn't fit a standard cookie (or biscuit) sheet. I learned this, having finally negotiated my first batch of cookies onto the sheet, and nope, doesn't fit the long ways, ok, and doesn't fit the short way. Hmmm. I ended up baking them with the sheet at an angle, the one way it would fit, making some cookies much closer to the heating element than others, and all of them battling the forces of gravity.
  5. I set butter out to come to room temperature for the icing, when I came back the butter was not just softened, it was a puddle, making my icing then a bit thinner than anticipated.
  6. All iced cookies then went into the fridge to firm up the icing. Promptly upon removing them the icing began to melt once again, so that jack-o-lanterns had smeared their smiles by the time they reached work.

Much to my surprise most of them got eaten, and it did remind folks that it was Halloween. I guess that's the point.

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