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My Blog

November 2010

It’s those crazy kookaburras again…

I have to admit that when I first heard it a couple months ago the noise scared the pants off me.  If you remember they disturbed my beauty sleep at what I thought was an outrageous hour (maybe like 5 am).  That first week it took me a couple days, but I eventually figured it out… kookaburras.  Unruly, insane toxin spewing winged creatures of death.  But wait it gets worse.
They have now started waking up even earlier.  It’s now routinely in the 4 am timeframe – and I think they have sensed weakness because they are perching on the terrace outside our bedroom window squawking like flying hyenas.  Ughh…  Now here’s the part that makes it even louder, (but it’ll make you jealous at the same time), it’s November here, Thanksgiving week no-less, and we’re sleeping with the windows open!  :-).
Wendy asked if I could get my hands on some little bird sleeping pills.  Perhaps we could find some that are worm flavoured and feed them to the stinking flying psycho-apes around sunset and put them out until morning. 
But wait it gets even worse than that.
The other day at the beach we got take-away fish & chips and were enjoying a beautiful beach afternoon with some friends.  I had taken maybe two bites of my fish when it was suddenly gone from my hand.  Just gone.  I didn’t see anything, don’t recall hearing any noise, nothing, just missing fish.  For a second I thought it had been knocked out of my hand by a ball or a Frisbee.  I looked around to see which kid I should shake my angry raised fist at.  But no, the others in the group quickly pointed out that a kookaburra had stolen my fish.  Fish thief!  I’ll admit that missing one fish & chips dinner probably does my mid-section more good than eating it, but to have it stolen from my hand by a dive-bombing fish felon was just too much.  I give up, a bird about the size of a game hen has beaten me.      
I can’t claim 100% that the bird who stole my fish was the same one who wakes me up in the morning, but I’d bet even money that it’s the same bird and he’s out to get me.  You win bird.
I bet he’d taste good all fried-up with some chips. 

Max is Awesome

enough said

Scenes from a Sydney Sidewalk

I think I’m more observant here in Sydney than I ever was back in the States.  I guess everything is still new enough that I’m paying attention to little things, and looking for new views (both literally and figuratively… maybe even metaphorically or politically).  In the actual view department I believe we’ve found the spot that offers some of the most amazing views in all of Sydney.  George’s Heights in Headland Park offers at least 270 degrees of views – pretty amazing what you can see on a clear day.  If you look one way you can see an amazing view of Sydney rising above the harbour.  Turn the other direction and you can see all the way out to the heads.  (North Head and South Head are the peninsulas on either side of Port Jackson that protect Sydney, Middle Harbour and the Parramatta River from the much rougher open waters of the Pacific… or the Tasman Sea to be perfectly accurate).  Although it's not very clear, pictured here is North Head with a cruise ship headed out to sea, so you can get an idea how big North Head really is.  If you turn your head even further it’s possible to see up toward Middle Harbour, Balmoral, the Spit, and if you had x-ray vision you can see over to Quakers Hat Bay and our house.  
It’s no wonder that George’s Heights has for hundreds of years been a critical point in Australia’s defense network.  Luckily these guns were never fired in anger, but the diggers who manned these guns certainly had good views up until the base was decommissioned.  (A “digger” is what Australian’s call their army soldiers; it’s become a term of endearment and pride among most in the army.)  Last weekend we were lucky enough to get a tour of the underground tunnels and facilities that were in use when this was an active base – pretty cool.
I’m also paying more attention as I walk through the city every day.  Some of the things I’m seeing are fascinating, others mundane, others annoying.  Like the guy who plays his guitar in the park every morning looking for people to buy his silly CD.  He smiles like he’s really enjoying himself, like he’s just in love with the music, like he’s not tortured in the least.  I find that guy terribly annoying.  I love music too, but I mean really guy, you’re here every day, playing the same stupid riffs on your beat up guitar, this is a job, not music for music’s sake. 
I’ve also observed what I consider one of the more interesting phenomenon that I’ve seen in a major city; drivers in Sydney rarely use their horns.  I walk close to two kilometers a day in the city and as I’ve paid attention in the last week I have not heard a horn blown once.  Go to any other city around the world and you hear horns all the time.  If cars don’t start moving the second the light turns green, horns blare…when cars block the grid at an intersection, a justified excuse to blow the horn…when someone cuts me off as I try to merge onto 128 traffic on a Friday afternoon headed toward the cape, I’m going to lay on the horn for crying out loud.  Not here in Sydney.  I suppose people here might be more civilized, but I don’t think that’s it, drivers are crazy, traffic is nuts.  Perhaps I just have my Walkman up too loud (Yes I said Walkman… I have a sweet cassette version that only weighs about three pounds and has its own shoulder strap… but I have my eyes on this wicked cool portable CD player and I think I might upgrade soon.)  If I upgrade from my cassette Walkman I can buy a CD from that guitar guy and see if he really has reason to be so smiley.  I don’t think it’s my Walkman’s volume either.  I think Sydneysiders have just collectively given up on the horn.  It doesn’t really do anything anyway.  You might think blowing the horn makes you feel better for a moment as an escape valve for the stresses of your life, but that’s a pretty fleeting escape.  Perhaps if drivers were able to exact real revenge things would be different (I’m thinking about a Taser-like stun gun or maybe even a dashboard mounted laser).  Until those inventions become reality (and as a result there is a lawyer riding in ever car), I’ll stick to using the horn.
So why title this blog-post, “Scenes from a Sydney sidewalk?”  I was inspired yesterday by an interaction I saw at a traffic light on my way through the city.  It was raining (another post for another day on how Sydney has become like Seattle in the past two months), and as I walked up Market St. on my way to York I was slowed by a mob of people trying to navigate overwhelming umbrella traffic clogging the sidewalk.  At the crosswalk a young visually impaired woman waited to cross the street in what was clearly an overwhelming and difficult flood of conflicting stimuli.  Before the walk signal even turned green a digger in his full camouflage gear full pushed his way up next to her and although I didn’t hear him, I imagine he asked calmly and quietly if she wanted a hand.  She smiled, took his elbow and they walked across Clarence Street toward the train station.  Once across, she nodded and thanked him and then went on her way as he went on his.  This kid couldn’t have been more than 20 years old, and he had the presence, decency and poise to help in such a dignified way, it made me feel good about people, and especially about diggers.
If I had been at the front of the mob, would I have offered a hand?  I hope so, but I don’t know.  I certainly will now.  Thank you anonymous digger you humbled me and reminded me of key life-lesson, “forget political correctness, offer to help.” 
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