Norway is the most desirable country to live in according to a United Nations report, but we're glad to be in Australia - the second best place to live in the world.

This was all in a report compiled by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) ranks 182 countries based on such criteria as life expectancy, literacy, school enrolment and gross domestic product (GDP) per capita.  The United States came in 13th.

The top 10 were: Norway, Australia, Iceland, Canada, Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden, France, Switzerland and Japan.  Interestingly, most of the top 10 in the list have cooler climates... except for Australia.

More at The West news online.

Incredibly dramatic tiebreaker baseball  game - Twins beat Detroit 6-5 in 12 innings.

Dane and Karl celebrate with homer hankies while Grandpa watches on.

Twins Win

Sugar Loaf near Cape NaturalisteLast week we did one more getaway with the Grubens as we headed south to the Margaret River region of Western Australia.  This region is known for its top surfing beaches, wineries, caves, galleries and shops, lighthouses and karri forests.  We had a wonderful 2-night stay in a rented house in Dunsborough from which we ventured out each day.

See the placemarks on the map below which will give you the highlights from the trip.  For better viewing, see the larger version of the map here.

 

 

 


View Southwest WA holiday Oct 2009 in a larger map

GrubensWe had an incredible almost 3 weeks with Lanette's mum and dad here in WA.  They are now working their way east through Adelaide, Kangaroo Island, Melbourne and Sydney over a 10-day period before flying home.  We had two great getaways: one to the north to Kalbarri and one south to the Margaret River region.  Altogether it would be about a 13-hour journey between our northernmost and southernmost points.  Yet, on a map of our state of Western Australia, the area we saw looks so incredibly small.

WildflowersOur photos show the diversity of spring-time wildflowers we saw over the past two weeks.  And we were able to show the Grubens much of the interesting wildlife in WA including bobtail lizards, kangaroos, wallabies, pelicans, parrots, red and pink galahs, whales, dolphins, seals, wedged tail eagles, wild goats, and sheep.  We have great memories of vivid sunrises and sunsets, rainbows, pink lakes, wheat fields, forests, bushland, sand dunes and rugged coastlines.  Check out the whole lot of photos in our photo galleries.

We were so blessed by our time with the Grubens and we're so thankful for the effort they made to travel half-way around the world to see us.

whale watchingWhile on our holiday in southwest WA, we took a hike at Cape Naturaliste to take a shot at whale watching (see on map).  Unfortunately, we only had a couple of glimpses of whales and their splashes far off the coast (about 2/3 of the distance to the horizon).  However, we enjoyed watching the fur seals that were sun bathing on the rocks below our perch.  These seals migrate to WA from the Antarctic regions and can be seen even on our own Warnbro Sound beach sometimes - though we missed the one that showed up last week while we were away.

The fur seals blended in quite well on the rocks.  You had to look closely to notice how many were actually there. (We could hear them, too!)

Try counting them in this photo below.  See if you can count as many as I found.  Click on the photo at the bottom to see the ones I counted.

 

Fur seals at Cape Naturaliste

 

My count here: (click to enlarge)

Counting fur seals

 

We've been waiting a long time for summer in Perth and it came quickly today.  We topped 36.7°C (98°F) today.  With only 15% humidity, it was a very pleasant day for watching two baseball games (first of the season for Dane and Karl; second for Peter).  It gave us a good start to our tans.  During the Grubens' stay here just a week ago, we had a hard time getting above 21°C (70°F), and all the locals have been complaining about how that 20°C winter weather kept lingering far too long.

Meanwhile, we read today that Minneapolis didn't get its summer and now appears to have missed autumn.  They say it was the coldest first half of October there with an average daily temperature of only 47°F.  The Power Line blog tells more about it in their piece titled "No Summer, No Fall".

And, I may have to wake up at 3:30am tonight to catch the Minnesota Gophers football game at Penn State (if I can find it broadcast somewhere on the Internet).  Apparently they had 6 inches of snow on Friday and were expecting 6 more inches on Saturday.

I miss the deep, cold winter of Minnesota, but I can definitely handle the consistently dry, blue sky summer days of Western Australia.  We should be getting our next significant rainfall in maybe... April?

Saturday, Oct. 17th was the hottest day in October for Perth in the last 13 years, reaching 36.9 degrees Celsius (98 deg F). The boys sweated it out on the baseball field while Tim and I sat in the shade of the large eucalyptus trees. We didn't have the high humidity (only 17%) so it was not too bad.

 

Karl and Dane's game was late morniing and they won the game. Karl played 3rd base and pitcher and Dane was at 2nd base. Karl's highlight was a double play. When playing pitcher, he caught the ball on the fly and then threw it to 1st base to get the other runner out before he tagged up. Peter's games are at 4:00 so it gives us time to head home for some lunch after the morning game.

It's been said that Aussies are the "kings of colloquialisms".  A year and a half into our stay Down Under, we're noticing how our vocabulary has grown with the addition of many uniquely Aussie (and some borrowed UK English) words and phrases.

Lanette began writing down a list of the phrases we're either using regularly, or know we need to use to be understood, or at least have to comprehend in order to get along.  With a little help from the rest of us, Lanette's list is up to 130 words and phrases.

For those Americans who want to prepare themselves for understanding us when we return to the States, we've created a series of matching exercises for learning what we've learnt so far.  Download the set of 5 matching exercises here (PDF file).

For an interactive method to perfect your Aussie vocabulary, try the Flashcards below developed from Lanette's list of 130.  (This works using Internet Explorer and Firefox in Windows XP, and in Safari on a Mac - but I haven't got it working in Firefox on a Mac.)  For even more options in using the Flashcards, view them here.

 

Aussie slangWhilst writing my last blog post about Lanette's list of 130 Aussie words and phrases, I happened upon two good web sites...

The Australian Word Map is produced by the ABC (one of the major Aussie television and radio network).  This site demonstrates the regional differences in vocabulary in Australia.  The experts claim that Australian English is unique in that it doesn't have any distinct regional dialects (Western Australians insist that Queenslanders do talk with a different, slower accent).  But, as with anywhere else, there are words and phrases unique to regions.

The other site I found very interesting was ConvictCreations.com.  They have an excellent page describing the Australian language titled "Strine - the world's most advanced English language".  To explain that title, "Strine" is how people from "Straya" pronounce "Australian".  This site explains that there are 3 defined accents: broad accent (10% speak like Crocodile Dundee), British received accent (80% who speak like Nicole Kidman), and the cultivated accent (10% who speak like they're from Oxford University in England).  There's quite a bit of other interesting comments on this site also.

 

Grandma BoseckerWe sadly received news this week that Lanette's Grandma Bosecker passed away on Monday in Rochelle, Illinois.  She was 91 and had recently been put in hospice care.

We knew she hadn't been doing well for several weeks and were hopeful that Lanette's mom and dad wouldn't have to cut their Australia trip short.  The Grubens were fortunate to have returned home from their long trip to visit us just on the Friday prior and did have 3 days with Grandma and the rest of the family.

The funeral will be on Friday in Rochelle.  She was a lady of strong Christian faith and conviction.  The funeral will be at the church where she had been a member for 47 years.  You can read her obituary online.

The photo here shows Grandma Bosecker with the great-grandchildren on the Gruben side of the family at our last Christmas in Illinois in 2007.  She had 28 great-grandchildren in all.  (I think this photo was taken by either Kurt or Kreg).

Below is a photo of one of the many pieces of china that Grandma Bosecker painted and passed on to children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  Wonderful pieces that hold many memories.

Grandma's painting

 

 

PeterPeter received a significant honour last evening.  He was awarded the "Year 10 City of Rockingham Scholarship".  The small print of the certificate explains the award:

For a strong academic student who best displays the following attributes: participation in lessons and activities, leadership, modelling College values, consistent commitment, contribution to College life, showing care and concern for other members of the College community, self discipline, willing service, involvement in extra- curricular activities, faithfulness and reliability.

 

Peter was unaware that he would be receiving this.  The presentation was made at the Year 12 valedictory (graduation) ceremony last night at the Mandurah Performing Arts Centre (about 25 minutes south of here).  All of the Year 10s and 11s are required to attend, and I was to be there as a teacher.  I had known about the award for about a month but only let Lanette in on the secret the night before the ceremony so that we could plan for all of us to be there.  Instead of explaining to Peter the real reason why the last minute change in plans, we reasoned that we'd been talking about sometime going out to eat at the Japanese restaurant owned by Peter's Japanese teacher and her husband.  The restaurant is just walking distance from the Arts Centre so it all worked out well.  Peter didn't realise he was eating at his own celebratory dinner! (The food was really good!)

PeterPeter is doing very well in his studies this year.  He's in a cadre of kids that includes several that are positively challenging each other to excel in academics.  While the Year 12s have finished their year now except for those who are sitting for university exams beginning next week, Peter and the rest of us have about 7 more weeks left before the summer holiday.

Obviously, we're all quite proud of Peter.

The photos show Peter receiving the award from our head of senior school, Simon Tresidder, with the graduating Year 12s behind.

 

Canal Rocks

The southwest corner of Western Australia has become a very much favoured destination for our family.  And, according to one source, it's not just our opinion.  The Lonely Planet travel guide publisher has come out with a new book highlighting the top 10 holiday destinations in the world which includes, in their estimation, the Western Australia's southwest region. See the news story announcing it here and that story's link to a photo slideshow of southwest WA.

It's referred to as the Cape to Cape region (Cape Naturaliste lighthouse to Cape Leeuwin lighthouse), the Southwest, or Margaret River (a surfer's paradise and one of the main towns), and it's the popular 3-4 hour escape destination for Perthites.  We've been down that way several times in the past year in a half as a family, including trips with Grandma Schumacher and again with Grandpa and Grandma Gruben.  Maybe our favourite thing to do has been sitting on the rocks and watching the waves near the water wheel at Cape Leeuwin, the most southwest point of Australia (we've done that on 3 different occasions!).

I've compiled a slideshow of the best of our photos from the southwest over the past year and a half... (click here to view the slideshow if it doesn't work below)

 

 

This news from Lonely Planet made me think about how far (or not so far??) we've been able to travel around our state of Western Australia.  The inset in the map below shows the size of our state (almost half of Australia) relative to the size of Minnesota.  The arrows show some of the regions of WA that our family has visited.  Apart from my trips to Australia's eastern states on school-related business and Lanette's and my trip to Adelaide, we feel like we've seen much of WA and yet we've covered only a small corner of this huge state.

Schumacher travels in WA

Baseball newsThe boys were excited to see their names in the sports section of our local newspaper today.  The Sound Telegraph has been good about including a story each week summarising the results from the games of all of our Rockingham baseball club teams.

Karl and Dane's Little League (Under-13) team is cruising along early in the season outscoring their opponents 43-3 in 3 games.  It's looking like there might not be much competition for them.  I credit their success to a coach who is terrific at teaching fundamentals.

In this most recent game, the newspaper article (click on it to enlarge it) notes that Karl and the other two pitchers were "flawless on the mound."  "Flawless" might be an overstatement, but they did combine for a shutout.  Karl's big highlight was a triple which he smashed over the head of the left fielder.  Dane added a hit also, as was noted in the news story.  The week before, Dane was the catcher for the whole game including for a stint by Karl on the mound.  Dane caught again for one inning this last weekend.  When not pitching or catching, Karl and Dane have played both infleld and outfield positions.

You can follow Karl and Dane's team fixtures (schedule), results, and ladder (standings) on the Rockingham Rams club web site.

Peter's Under-17 team isn't doing so well. The team is lacking in fundamentals and discipline, but they've got two "imported" coaches from Nebraska (former minor leaguers brought here by our Rockingham club for the season) who are very capable of making a difference.  Peter seems to end up on the mound for some innings each game.  He's become very reliable at keeping the ball in the strke zone but would benefit from some increase in velocity.  When not pitching, Peter's played shortshop, first base and left field, and he's hanging in there well against the Under-17 pitching.

You can follow Peter's team fixtures (schedule), results, and ladder (standings) on the Rockingham Rams club web site.

The rest of the news story mentions the other teams in our Rockingham club.  The three teams playing in the "provincial" leagues are men's teams.  Karl and Dane's coach, Mike "Thommo" Thompson has been hitting very well this season for his team.

Last Saturday was a "full on" day for baseball as we watched three games.  Karl and Dane's game was at 10:30am.  Peter played at 4pm. Then we went up to Baseball Park in Perth (see Google map below) to watch the state team, Perth Heat, play "Team USA" in the evening.  Team USA consisted of Americans living here and playing in the local competitions.  Watching the Perth Heat is like a mix between watching talent that's approaching low "A" minor league ball in the US and the atmosphere of town ball in rural Minnesota, but it's the highest level of competition we can watch in WA.  Perth Heat beat Team USA 5-3 (story here).

 


View Baseball Park in Perth in a larger map