They're calling the bushfires of the last few days in the southeastern Australian state of Victoria "the worst natural disaster in Australian history" - at least, that's in terms of the number of deaths.  The current count shows 181 deaths, but the Victorian police were quoted today saying the final toll may be 300 by the time they're able to re-enter all of the burned-out areas.  This is all within about 80 km of Melbourne, much of it in the wooded hills northeast of the city.

I'm sure the heart-breaking videos have been shown in the US news media.  But if you need a sobering summary, BBC News has posted a three and a half minute slideshow with audio.

In Perth we were back over 35°C (95°F) today and it's supposed to be even warmer through the week.  Perth is on a "high fire alert", but so far their haven't been any large fires here.

P_2008_HeatLogoJust a followup here to the baseball stories I posted over the weekend...  Our Perth Heat team went on to win 3-2 in the decisive Game 3 of the Claxton Shield - the championship of the highest level of baseball within Australia.  As they did when we saw them in Game 2, they scored in the 9th inning to break a tie.  The Minnesota Twins prospect, Luke Hughes, was named MVP of the Grand Final having gone 7 for 13 in the series.

The Game 3 summary can be found at this link. A photo of the champions and their "shield" is here.

 

 

Aussies all across the country have been responding in incredible ways to the appeals for donations to help the victims of the past week's Victorian Bushfires.  Today our college did its share using a common Aussie way of raising money at schools... a "Free Dress Day".  In exchange for not having to wear the normal school uniforms, kids bring a "gold coin" donation for whatever the announced cause that's being supported.  In Australia we have $1 and $2 gold coins.  Due to the seriousness of the current need, our college asked kids to consider bringing a "note" instead of a gold coin today.  The lowest denomination currency here is the $5 note.  At the end of the day today it was announced that the kids (and their families) had brought in just over $10,000.  An amazing, spontaneous response!

All week there have been various fundraising efforts going on around the country.  Last night I watched a telethon on national television during which Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban gave a $500,000 donation.  Tonight I'm watching Aussie Rules Football (pre-season game) and cricket, during which both are making a big effort to encourage donations with outstanding results.  You can see the Red Cross web site here for the latest on their efforts, and the Melbourne newspaper The Age for the latest news - including the search for the arsonists who started some of the fires.

The Halls Head campus of our college (about 30km south of us) also used a Free Dress Day today to raise money to help the victims of the Victoria Bushfire.  The local newspaper did a story that mentioned that they raised $2,070 with the help of the 130 students on their campus.  See the story here in the Mandurah Mail including a photo of the kids not dressed in their normal school uniforms.

boys day 1 LWLC 2009Tomorrow morning we begin Week 4 of the ten-week first term of the 2009 school year.  It's been a blur for me as I've been blown over by a number of tasks and deadlines.  (If you've sent me an email in the last month and I haven't replied... now you know!)

So, finally, I'm posting photos from the first week of school.  Our blokes had six weeks of not wearing school uniforms over the summer/Christmas holidays - but didn't complain too much about having to don them again.

bikes day 1 LWLC 2009Peter is now in Year 10.  The way his courses are shaping it, it looks like he will have some good challenges this year.  He's taking Japanese for the first time and is working hard to catch up with other students (all K-12 classes get some Japanese at LWLC).  He's soaking up heaps of new learnings in all his classes.

Karl has moved into Year 6 and the Middle School at Living Waters.  He's enthused about the teacher he has and that his good mate is in the same class this year.

Dane is now in Year 4 and thinks his new teacher is very funny.  He's learning how to get along at recess/lunch without Karl around - but doing well.

With Lanette heading off to work early in the morning three days a week, the boys have to be a little more independent.  They do enjoy the freedom of getting to school on their own via their bikes.  We'll see how well this arrangement works when the rainy season comes this winter and Lanette needs our one vehicle to get herself up to Fremantle.

Boys with end of season trophiesIt's autumn and the baseball season is winding down.  Peter's team finished 3 weeks ago.  They struggled earlier in the season with inexperience and motivation and inadequate coaching.  But a mid-year coaching change brought some needed discipline and attention to fundamentals.

Peter ended up as the team's #1 starter, and since they only played once a week, he pitched in most of the games down the stretch.  In his last outing he went 4 innings from the start, striking out 6 and giving up one run.  His style is all about location and definitely not speed - but he had a very good ball to strike ratio.  Peter made big strides in his batting this year, becoming much more confident and consistently getting the bat on the ball.  Next year he's expecting to play in the under-17 league.

Dane catchingKarl and Dane played their last game today.  Their regular season ended at the end of February, but their undefeated record in their league moved them on to a 4-team regional tournament.  Besides winning all of their regular season games, one of the highlights was the game when Karl started at pitcher with Dane catching.  Dane had caught for a couple of years in the states, but our coach here (a catcher still himself).  They lost today to Perth in a close 5-2 game.  They hadn't faced any competition like this during the season and surprised themselves with a close game.  Dane scored the first run of the game by taking a walk, advancing from 1st to 3rd when the catcher tried to pick him off first and threw it into right field, and then scoring on a single.  Karl had a big throw from right field on the fly to home to stop a runner from scoring.  They've benefited from having a great coach this year and look forward to one more year together in Little League next season.

Dave Walker cartoonToday is March 21, 2009.  My last post here was one month ago. New posts to this web site have been a long time coming as I have had an incredibly busy beginning of a new school year.  My inbox has been overflowing for many weeks now (sorry to those awaiting replies), I haven't been to my Facebook page for weeks, and I just couldn't justify taking time to update this web site.  This cartoon seems to sum up the condition (click on the cartoon to enlarge it).  Here's a brief on what's been happening down here:
  • Autumn (not "fall") officially began here on March 1.
  • The new school year started on 2 February with Peter in Year 10 (Senior School), Karl in Year 6 (Middle School) and Dane in Year 4 (Junior School).
  • We've completed Week 7 of the 10-week first term of the school year.
  • Much of April will be a school holiday (10-29 April) exactly matching the much anticipated visit by my mum.
  • The hot summer is behind us which means the end of the dry season and now tops of 80° to 90°F.
  • Our lawn took a beating in the summer heat leaving much work to be done through the winter (if you want to call it "winter") to  revive it.
  • We celebrated Peter's 15th birthday on 14 March.
  • Baseball season ended today for the boys.
  • The AFL Aussie Rules Football season is beginning next week.
  • Lanette is into her second month of her new job as physiotherapy assistant at Kaleeya Hospital in Fremantle.
  • The global economic downturn is trickling into Australia with much less impact it seems than in the States, although unemployment has "jumped" to 4.2% in Western Australia.
  • One response by the Aussie government to stimulate the economy is to give schools heaps of money - thus $3 million of free money is coming to our school this year to be used to build a multi-purpose room.
  • I recently completed a new web site design for our church (http://rmlp.org).
  • I've been working to address the issue of "cyberbullying" in our senior school with the writing of a series of homeroom devotional activities and an upcoming parent information night.
  • We've rolled out 148 new laptops (thanks to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's program for schools).
  • I'm serving on our church council now.
  • I'll be a delegate at the synodical convention for our Lutheran Church of Australia's Western Australian District next weekend.
  • Daylight Savings Time ends in WA next weekend. We'll be back to 13 hours ahead of US Central Time.  DST may never happen again here, as a referendum in May will decide its future in WA after this 3-year trial.  Surveys are hinting the majority doesn't like it.
Thanks to everyone that's kept check the web site for new news - and finding nothing.  I'll try to be more frequent with posts soon again.

Peter's 15th BirthdayOn Peter's birthday, we headed up to Perth for a day of seeing some things we've been talking about doing but hadn't done.  After shopping at the "Fielder's Choice" baseball store, we went to Cottlesloe Beach just west of downtown Perth to see the "Sculptures in the Sands" - an annual 3-week show.  Then we went further north to Scarborough Beach to eat at "Peter's By the Sea".  The owner of the Edina Grill grew up in the family business that runs Peter's By the Sea here in Perth. (Lanette enjoyed an "Aussie Burger" with fried egg and a red beet slice at the Edina Grill before we left Minnesota.)  We finished the day with a tour of the historic Fremantle Prison - a maximum security prison between in the 1850s and only closed in 1991.

 

 

 

 

Karl with sheepOne of the teachers that went along for the Year 6 Camp to Busselton (our neighbor, Mr. Wilson) shared a photo he took of Karl and his mate with a lamb on the sheep farm they visited.  Notice his bandaged toe.

(The magnifying glass on the corner of the photo means you can click to enlarge it. Then in the popup window, look for the "Maximise" button at the bottom to make it the biggest size it can be.)

The big news in the Perth region today was the discovery at 7:00 this morning of about 80 beached whales in at Hamelin Bay in the Margaret River area.  This would be about 4 hours south of us, just minutes from the cave we explored in January and about 20 minutes from the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse.

Despite a huge effort to save the whales, over 60 whales have died today.  Read more about it here and see a photo gallery here.

Swim Carnival. 27 Mar 2009

This the 50-metre pool across the oval from our school where we have several swim "carnivals" during the school year in which students compete for their "houses".

 

Click on the image to view full size

Kaleeya HospitalLanette's been at her physiotherapist assistant job at Kaleeya Hospital in Fremantle for over 2 months now.  It's going very well.  She's working out the best ways to get there and back (about 40 km each way) using trains and buses.  It's been 10 years since she's worked with rehab patients, but she feels very comfortable back in that environment.  Beyond this, I need to leave it to her to tell more about her work sometime.

Lanette found a brochure about Kaleeya Hospital. You can download it here. As the brochure explains, it's in a beautiful residential neighbourhood.  The patient rooms have balconies from which they can see the ocean and/or Perth's Swan River.  The brochure has a photo of the pool that Lanette is responsible for maintaining.

 

 

 

 

 

Western AustraliaThere was a story on the BBC News web site today about the end of the 17 consecutive years of economic growth in Australia, largely fueled by the mining industry of Western Australia.  Read the story here. The mining town of Ravensthorpe mentioned in the article is about a 6-hour drive southeast from Perth. (image by Mark Ryan and used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License)