sydneyfireworks2009We've had our New Years celebration and have been to bed, and now North America can celebrate in a few hours.  We had a number of church friends over to the house for a game night.  At midnight we walked to the beach and watched fireworks towards the north up the beach from Rockingham's foreshore (about 9 km away) and towards the south down the beach at Mandurah (about 20 km).

We taped the celebration from Sydney on TV and watched the fireworks when we got back to the house.  Simply amazing!  They launched 100,000 fireworks from the Sydney Harbour Bridge and 7 barges with 1.5 million people watching from the harbour foreshore.  The photos here are incredible. The news video edited the 20 minute show down to about 2 1/2 minutes, so it's not quite so stunning.  We're now wishing we could be in Sydney someday to watch the fireworks live.

Map of SW WAWe've returned from our January summer holiday tour of soutwestern Western Australia.  We camped for 7 days at Peaceful Bay with our friends, the Fulwoods.

We'll be posting more to the web site here including photos and blogs from the kids.  You can get a quick tour of where we went by clicking here to interact with a Google Map it in it's own window).

Be sure to click on the blue placemarkers to see popup windows with some text and photos of the places.  Zoom in and out using the plus-minus scale on the left.  To see places in the general order we saw them, just click on each of the blue placemarkers going down the list in the left margin (use the scroll bar to see the whole length of the list).  These photos won't have too many pictures of family as I'd rather not post many of those to be viewed by the public in Google Maps.  Look for more photos soon in the photo galleries on this web site.

If you are comfortable using the application Google Earth, you can download this file which will allow you to view the same map and photos in Google Earth.

 

 

 

temp differenceWhile friends and family back home in Minnesota and Illinois are shivering at -20°F, we're BBQ-ing outside and scrambling to keep the grass from burning up.  Our "bore reticulation" (or, "retic" or in-ground sprinkler system fed by our well) has been broken for the past month and our property manager has been slow to respond, so we've had to keep the grass watered the old-fashioned way on the 3 days a week allowed.  There have been some bush fires in and near the Perth metropolitan area, including one rather serious one today that started in our cherished KIngs Park in the middle of the city of Perth.

We had a top of 41.2°C (106°F) today officially in Perth after a top of 39.5°C (103°F) yesterday.  But don't feel bad for us as we're not suffering from this dry heat.  At the peak of the heat today, the relative humidity was only 15%.  Our house is staying very comfortable with our evaporative cooler (like a swamp cooler in the US), and we don't even run it all day and not at night.

Yesterday we all went to a big cricket match at the WACA in Perth... Western Australia v. Queensland in a short "20Twenty" one day match (lasts less than 3 hours).  At the 6:15 pm game time it was still over 100°F and we were sitting in full sun for the first 45 minutes, but it really turned out to be a really beautiful evening sitting outside.

It cools nicely in the evening as it's down to 28°C (84°F) as I write at 8:30pm, heading down to 18°C (64°F) over night.

Meanwhile, we've seen in the news about temperatures around -20°F in Minnesota and Illinois.  Apparently it hasn't been above 0°F in Minneapolis since Sunday (it's early Friday there as I write).

kookaburraThe different sounds of birds outside have often been a reminder that we're a long ways from "home."  This was especially true while camping on holiday when were out in nature most of the day.  Our favourite sound is probably that of the kookaburras whose laughs woke us in the mornings and entertained us at other times of the day.  Peter happened to capture the laughs of two kookaburras from our campsite at Peaceful Bay (click on the audio play button below).

 

 

 

 

Southern CrossI came across this inspiring poem by the late Dr. Kurt Marquart, former LCMS theologian and professor at Concordia Seminary - Fort Wayne, Indiana, written in 1959 for a seminary classmate of his who was at the time being asked to consider a call to Australia.  The classmate did not take the call, but two years later, Dr. Marquart did come to Australia himself.  The complete poem was recently posted on the web site SteadfastLutherans.org.  Here's a sample from the poem "The Call of the Southern Cross":

We have here no abiding city,

Nought chains our souls to transient earth;

God’s heaven is ours by His pity,

Our home, our pearl of priceless worth.


What matter, where our ways be wending,

‘neath Southern Cross or Northern Lights?

Our parted pilgrim’s paths are tending

To but one Zion’s sacred Heights!

 

Dr. Marquart understood from his own personal experiences that we have no "abiding city" if we accept that ultimately heaven is our home.  He was born in Estonia, displaced with his family during World War II to Austria and afterwards to camps in northern Germany, and then emigrated to New York.  After serving two years as a pastor in Texas, he spent from 1961 to 1975 as a pastor in Queensland, Australia.  A brief biography of his life and work can be found on the Concordia - Fort Wayne web site.

 

I previously wrote about the Southern Cross constellation here.

The barbie (Australian for "BBQ") is at the centre of the Australian national psyche, as acknowledged by this news story from the BBC.  An excerpt here:

"The barbecue, or barbie, gives people the chance to chew upon a sausage (a "snag"), drink a few beers ("blow the froth off a couple of cold ones") which usually come in ice-cold bottles ("stubbies"), which are stored in a refrigerated ice-box (an "esky"). People normally arrive wearing their flip-flops (their "thongs"), while a beachside barbie might even see a few pairs of swimming trunks ("budgie-smugglers")."

You'll hear similar sentiments in the tune "Aussie BBQ" recorded by the Aussie Bush Band:

We had put off a purchase of a barbie upon arrival here.  The plan was to use some Christmas money to acquire this item, and thus, confirm our residency in Australia as official.  Early in December, however, we were fortunate to receive a used barbie from a departing staff member.

Although Australia Day celebrations (tomorrow - 26th January) typically involve lamb chops on the barbie, the sausage is the everyman's common barbie fare.  We have "sausage sizzles" at nearly every community function it seems, from school activities to baseball team parties to funeral luncheons at church.  And, as a family, we're really liking it and do plenty of our own at home.

Tomorrow (Monday) we join in the celebration of Australia's biggest public holiday - Australia Day.  26th January was the day in 1788 Captain Arthur Phillip, commander of the First Fleet of eleven convict ships from Great Britain and the first governor of New South Wales, arrived at Sydney Cove.

For Americans to understand, think "July 4th" and you'll be close.  It's the celebrating of the Australian national identity on the anniversary of it's founding day with fireworks, burning something on the barbie, and playing cricket (instead of baseball).  There will be lots of people hitting the beach or pool.  Lots of flag waving and I'm sure we'll hear the national anthem more than a few times.

The photo shows Karl with the Naval Ensign in Albany WA.  I don't have a photo of the national flag, yet, so I'm showing this one which different from the national flag only in the red field replacing the blue.

sung by Julie Anthony, posted on the Australian Prime Minister's website

We think we'll head to the Swan River foreshore across from the Perth skyline for the afternoon and evening "Skyworks" celebration.  We'll picnic and take in all sorts of events along the riverfront including an air show and the fireworks-set-to-music.

The 2009 Australia Day celebrations from the south bank of the Swan River. 26 Jan 2009

 

Click on the image to view full size

Perth's Australia Day FireworksSo we celebrated Australia Day.  Not sure if we, as temporary residents, were supposed to do that, or if it says anything about our loyalty to America.  Australia Day marks the landing of the first white settlers in Sydney on 26 January 1788, but is also known by some Aboriginals as "Invasion Day".

We fired up the barbie at noon at home and then headed up to Perth to the foreshore of the Swan River opposite the downtown skyline.  The kids (just Karl and Dane, as Peter was doing an overnight with friends) had a great time in the rides and attractions at the Kid's Area.  We had a picnic supper while waiting for the fireworks show.  The fireworks were simply incredible - a 28-minute show by our unofficial count, set to music played on the radio.  Lanette thought it was the best fireworks she's ever seen.  All very much like a typical American 4th of July celebration.  One thing Lanette and I noted was we saw far more Aussies wearing and showing their flag than we recall Americans doing it on the 4th.

Australia Day picnic in Perth

The summer holiday is over (although we have two more months of hot weather to come).  Today (Monday) was the first day of the new school year.  While you were watching the Super Bowl, we were settling in for the first class period of the day.  Actually, to be honest, I was right there with you keeping an eye on the game from my computer while working at my desk.

I've been used to a daily attire of shorts and barefeet or sandals, so I did not enjoy having to put the long pants and dress shoes on today.  We had a humid top of 38.4C (about 101F) today, so the shorts went back on immediately after my walk home.

We forgot to do our traditional photo of the kids (in their school uniforms) on their first day back.  It's been a year and half since they've experienced a true first day of school.  We'll try to remember to take a photo tomorrow and then post it to the web along with more news about their first days.

My role has changed a little for this year.  Last year I taught information technology (IT) to pre-primaries (kindergarten in the US) through Year 9, and Christian Studies to Years 11 and 12.  This year I've taken on a leadership role as "Head of Learning Area, K-12 Technology" (or, HOLA).  In Western Australia, the "Technology" learning area includes home ec, wood/metal shop, and computers.  Most of our HOLAs are responsible for a learning area within just one of our subschools (eg, Middle School), but my role keeps me plugged into all year levels.  Something had to be dropped from my teaching duties to make this happen, so I've dropped the junior school IT classes (but will be mentoring my replacement).  That means, my IT teaching is only in the Middle School (Years 6-9).  I'm still teaching the Years 11 and 12 Christian studies classes.  Below here I've posted my weekly timetable.  "DOTT" is "duties other than teaching".  Normal class periods are 50 minutes, but you'll see that all of my IT classes are 100-minute double periods that meet only once per week.

 

timetable09

It's a new thing for us to live in a place that has a rainy season and a dry season.  And right now - the middle of summer - this is what dry is.  According to the chart below, we can expect one day a month in January and another one in February where it rains more than a millimetre.  Well, we're not even getting that.  This past January, they recorded one rainfall of 0.2 mm on the 13th.  We topped that with a 0.4 mm rainfall last Sunday (1st February), giving us a grand total of just over a half of a millimetre this calendar year (two-tenths of an inch).

perth_rainfall

 

The BBC News in the UK had a story today about Perth leading the world in desalination technology - largely out of desperation.  Desalination is the process of making salty ocean water drinkable. The first desalination plant in the southern hemisphere was built in Kwinana (right next to Rockingham) just a few years ago.

By the way - we think we have great tasting drinking water in our house.

Karl with autographYou can see from the photo that Karl was quite excited about this.  Karl and a friend went to a baseball game last night which was the first of a 3 game series that determines the champion of the highest level of competition in organised baseball in Australia -The Claxton Shield Grand Final.  The Perth Heat are playing the New South Wales (Sydney) Patriots.  Perth finished the regular season at the top of the ladder and is hosting the series this weekend.  About 2,000-3,000 people will be attending each game.  All 3 of the boys and I will be going to tonight's game 2.

Karl got the autograph of Luke Hughes after the game last night (Perth lost 5-3).  Luke is on the current Minnesota Twins 40-man major league roster and is hoping to have a shot at the third base position in spring training this year.  Luke is a Perth native who attended the Western Australia Institute of Sports which has produced 26 major and minor league baseball players in the last 10 years. (Unfortunately, WAIS is dropping its support of baseball since it's no longer an Olympic sport.)  He was drafted by the Twins in 2002 and has since been playing up through their farm system.  Luke reached AAA level last year having a sort of break-out season in Rochester.  In November and December he had a very good winter season playing in the Venezuelan League.  He joined in on the Claxton Shield season down here just at the beginning of January playing for our Perth team.  The West Australian newspaper ran a story on Luke this past December.

The autographLuke is a good friend of one of our staff members at the college, Patrick Moore, who himself played minor league baseball in the Tampa organisation for several years.  Patrick has been looking for a chance to introduce us to Luke, but Karl found his own way last night.

The game 1 starting pitcher for Perth last night was another player from the Twins' system - Liam Hendricks.

One of the Perth coaches is Graeme Lloyd, former two-time World Series pitcher for the New York Yankees.

Australia is gearing up for their entry in the World Baseball Classic which starts in March.  The Twins have been very active in scouting Australia as the Australian entry in the WBC includes 7 players currently playing in the Twins system - including Luke Hughes.

hughesluke

 

 

 

 

 


Just a note about Australian baseball vocabulary that you may have detected in my writing.  League schedules (of course, pronounced "shedules") and tournaments are called "competitions" or "comps" for short.  A "shield" is the large plaque or trophy that is awarded to the winners of a competition.  In our college office, there are a number of shields hung on the wall that are annually awarded for various sports comps - with metal plates added each year for winners.  They don't call the list of team records in a comp a "standings" here, but rather a "ladder". (Perth Heat finished at the top of the ladder.)  The championship game of almost every sport in Australia at every level down to the youngest kids is called "The Grand Final".  Coming from a cricket-playing culture, they often say "innings" for the singular "inning" in baseball (as in, "The blokes played a great innings in the 3rd.").  Rather than calling "Balls in" when the warm-up tosses are complete before an inning begins, coaches call "Balls out".  After the final out of a game, the umpire declares "Time of Game", which is the sign to me, the scorekeeper, to finish the book with "Time of Game" written across it and noting the current time.  And sometime I can write on and on about the ridiculous scoring method used at all levels of Australian baseball that makes keeping the scorebook an incredibly complicated task.

Twins player Luke Hughes bats for the Perth HeatApologies to the non-baseball fans checking in.  I'm going to talk some serious baseball here having been fired up by an exhilarating game the boys and I saw in Perth tonight that featured several Minnesota Twins prospects and over a dozen players selected for the Australian team in the upcoming World Baseball Classic (WBC).

We saw New South Wales play the Perth Heat tonight in Perth in Game 2 of 3 of the Claxton Shield Grand Final (see game stats).  The big story was the significant roles played in this game by players currently in the Twins farm system: Brad Tippett (P) playing for New South Wales, and two other players from the Twins system playing for the Perth Heat against Tippett - Luke Hughes (3B) and Allan de San Miguel (C).  A fourth Twins prospect, Liam Hendriks, started and got the loss in Game 1 for the Perth Heat last night.  All four are native to the Perth area.  Between the New South Wales and Perth teams, there are a total 13 players here in this series who are on the provisional roster for Australia's WBC team, and 10 currently signed with Major League teams.  Add to that, Perth's assistant coach and former Yankee, Graeme Lloyd, told me tonight he'll be coaching for Australia in the WBC.  In other words, this is about as big as baseball can get here in Perth, also known as the most remote capital city in the world.

The Perth Heat won the thrilling Game 2 tonight with a solo home run by Nick Kimpton in the top of the 9th (home teams alternate in this series even though all 3 games are here in Perth).  The Claxton Shield is the highest level of domestic baseball competition in Australia. The series is now tied going in to the decisive Game 3 which will be played at 4:00am Sunday (Minneapolis time).  You should be able to listen live to it here or catch the details here.  There were about 3,000 in attendance for Game 2 at Baseball Park just south of Perth.

Hughes carries himself with a look of maturity and confidence in the field and at the plate.  Tonight he was 3 for 5 with an RBI single, a triple, and another single off Tippett in the 7th.  He struck out twice, but reached the first time on a passed ball - his second K was thrown by Tippett in the 9th.  Hughes stole 2 bases, and scored twice from 2nd. He was without an error playing third with a putout and an assist (threw a rope to first with a foot on the third base bag), and played a part in a crucial inning-ending run down between third and home.  His one big mistake was getting caught off 2nd for the third out on a line drive to the left fielder when the game was tied in the top of the 7th.

Tippett looked sharp in 3 and 2/3 tense innings of relief.  He came on in the 6th with the bases loaded and one out, and pitched out of the jam to preserve a 4-4 tie.  He held the tie at 4-4 into the 9th, until he gave up the eventual game winning solo home run with one out.  To Tippett's credit, playing at any higher level of baseball surely would have meant a closer would have come in to pitch the ninth for him.  He took the loss, while giving up the 1 earned run on 4 hits with 0 walks and 3 strikeouts.

Twice the Perth Heat preserved the 4-4 tie with putouts at home on throws first from center (bottom of 6) and from left - both masterfully caught by the plate-blocking Twins prospect Allan de San Miguel.  The second putout at home was a very close play for the third out in the bottom of the 8th.  de San Miguel also looked decent at the plate going 1 for 3 with an RBI and a strikeout.

As I said, this is about as good as baseball gets in Australia.  The kids were so pumped on the way home.  Dane had escorted a Perth Heat player during pre-game introductions and stood with the team on the 3rd baseline for the Aussie national anthem.  Following the game, they all got autographs from, and photos with, the three Perth Heat Twins prospects and with Graeme Lloyd (thrilled to be next to a two-time World Series pitcher).

As Twins fans, we'll be closely watching the Australian team in the WBC since they've got 7 Twins prospects on the provisional 45-man roster.

Not sure if the well of talent is soon to run dry here in Western Australia.  26 major or minor league players have come out in the last decade from the Western Australia Institute of Sports.  However, WAIS is dropping its support of baseball now that it isn't an Olympic sport.  (They lose federal funding that supports Olympic efforts.)