A Good Deed

A day late and not very committed, I have seen the signs of NaBlo…Thing and thought, oh! perhaps I should write! Not every day, goodness no, but at least once since the last post in…. I can’t even bear to check when.

I saved someone from an unfortunate encounter today. And possibly saved an innocent spider from squishing. At the very least I encouraged said spider to rebuild its web elsewhere while still in the early stages of construction, preventing a sad investment of time that would no doubt be destroyed, likely accompanied by shrieking.

Australia has a lot of spiders, and while this is a characteristic that I quite enjoy I understand that others do not share my feelings.

And so, the spider carefully building its web at face height across the neighbourhood sidewalk was gently relocated to a friendly nearby rose bush.

About Time

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So, it’s been a while, eh? Time flies. Did you know?

Do you know what also makes blog-time fly? Photo-paralysis. I’ve got a bad case. I have so many photos that I think tell good stories. So many photos that I think are beautiful. But I’m scared to publish anything other than perfectly balanced, perfectly cropped…

BUT. Perfectionism is what drove me to have no life in high school, and guess what, if I had no life, I’d have no adventures, and then nothing to write about! Ahhh! I can never be happy! I know that I will rarely complete a project with perfected photos. So. I’m going to disclaim: please don’t think that all I publish is my best.

There, disclaimer done, maybe I can press “go” a bit more.

For now, a quick post about a bird.

Australian Ravens are one of favourite birds here in Australia. We didn’t know what they were, at the beginning, when we heard them for the first time. But they charmed us with their long, drawn out, bizarre cries. We identified them as “crying baby birds.” And then amended it to “dying cat birds” to be a bit more accurate.

This recording doesn’t quite do it justice, but it’s the best I can find until I make my own. Just imagine that last “aaaaaahhh” a bit lower and much more drawn out.

Recording thanks to the Australian National Botanic Gardens.

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They have a lot of character. Ruffly black feathers, grey-white eyes, loads of cocky personality. They love to sit on top of light poles and stake their territory with calls and posturing.

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On Rottnest Island I finally came across a raven in the setup I have been waiting for. For over two years. I love this bird.

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When did running become my therapy?

  I had a really frustrating day today. It’s been one more in series of frustrating weeks. At the end of it all my thoughts were circling in a maelstrom, the sort that’s going to break its way out by shouting or crying.
  Instead I changed, set my watch, and pounded the pavement all the way home.
  When I’m running I don’t have to think about anything else. When I’m done there’s one thing I can feel good about that day. When I’m done I’m out of energy, dirty, and disheveled. I hurt, but strangely, I look forward to doing it all over again.
  Writing about this, even indirectly, feels a bit strange. Vulnerable, because I’ve invited people to this forum with whom I might not otherwise discuss this sort of thing.
  I’ve been having a hard time lately. I’ve been feeling a little lost and a little hopeless. I’m working on changing this through work and will, but in the meantime it’s nice to be able to lose myself in something, even for a little while.


On Kookaburras, in trees, which happen to be of the gum variety.

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One of my favourite things about Australia is the birds. I’m sure I’ve become unhabituated to US birds, and upon returning I will find them just as exciting. “Omg! Squirrel!”

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But for now… I am quite happy to excitedly notice every bird I come across here. I have several favourites.

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Recently I’ve been spending time reading papers on the wide lawns of a large estate next to my institute.

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A special bonus to this besides the enhanced concentration due to absence of computer and internet, and the time outside in the air, grass, and sun, is the discovery of a clan/family of laughing kookaburras numbering at least four.

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They spend their days, as most members of the kingfisher family do, watching and fishing, in this case in the sea of grass.

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Sometimes they in turn are watched by noisy minors (top, noisy), ready to chase them away from a nest.

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They sit on a low branch intent on the rolling ground  beneath until some signal seen only by them sends it leaping into a dive at the ground, stabbing the turf with an audible “thunk.”

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…. and a spray of dirt.

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They often rotate from one tree to another. If you are patient, chances of one hunting 10 feet in front of you, or swooping low over your head are quite good.

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It’s really a most pleasant way to spend an afternoon (reading! I swear!).

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Anyone wanna visit? I’ll show you my kookaburras.

*all photos taken on lunch breaks :)


Christmas in Australia is… weird. It’s been in the high 90s the last several days, with almost equally high humidity. I spent one day at home lying on the floor trying very hard not to touch anything.

Today is christmas though, and it’s cooled down to the 70s with a nice dose of rain.

I haven’t felt like listening to christmas music or doing much to celebrate this year. With no family around, the holiday doesn’t mean much. We have a tiny blue tinsel tree and a couple of presents wrapped in golden skull wrapping paper.

To celebrate today Ben and I went on a run together. We usually run apart as he’s much faster than I am, and tends to go further, but as we set off one of us said something about christmas carols and the next two miles were a long series of jumbled lyrics, semi-in tune melodies, and gasping (me). We sang to people leaving their celebrations in their cars, and to people walking their dogs. We passed my boss’ house and sang at her open windows.

I think we made ourselves a new tradition. After one 2 mile lap I was done and Ben headed off for one more, alone.

Singing while running makes the whole experience WAY more difficult, but is also completely worth it.

rainy xmas run


We had an excellent dinner last night at a friend’s house, and as we walked home from the train station around midnight we noticed one of our neighbours set up a lovely surprise for their kids to find in the morning. The rain has ruined it a bit, but it’s still there. Notice the north pole runway lights that have been knocked over and the munched-on carrots (orange specs) to the right.

sleigh landing


We talked to Ben’s parents on Skype this morning, Colin called on the phone, and I chatted online with many of my friends in the US as they went about their christmas eve activities. My parents and I sent pictures back and forth, they of all the family, food, and warmth I’m missing, and me our blooming garden and our tinsel tree.


Someone needs to invent a teleporter already. I wanna see my grandma!

The christmas day carolling run, though. That’s gonna happen no matter where I am.

Soon we’re going to open some champagne and add garden strawberries. Then we’ll sit down and get to those presents.

It’s called Spautumn

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I’m gonna tell you a funny story. That’s not very funny! Actually, ignore that. I’m just going to ramble. And distract you with pretty pictures.

I went to New Zealand a couple of months ago (I actually started writing this only a month after getting back, but now it’s been 3. Oops.) and split my time between two Bens. It was amazing.

I took tons of photos, of course, and spent many hours editing, cropping, lightening… and then I deleted them all. I’m not sure how, though I have a hunch that I managed to select two folders while deleting something else. Woo!

It’s winter here (I got a winter birthday! In name only, because it felt like spring, but still. If I were in school I could bring cupcakes to class like all the school year birthday kids!) and leaves have changed colors, the sweet gum trees are dropping their seeds, and the Galahs are feasting on them at the side of the road.

Taken during a morning run
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They didn’t like me very much.
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I’ve started editing NZ pictures again, but… man that’s a daunting task and it’s going slowly. I hate redoing work.

So in the meantime you wanna know about something cool? Pretty flowers are cool! I took these on several different photo walks from late summer to winter.

Sometimes known as frangipani, the plumeria tree is really interesting. It’s produces beautiful flowers frequently used in Hawaiian leis and it looks like an emaciated succulent when bare.

I totally wasn’t exaggerating: strange cactus, perhaps? Plumeria leafless
Shortly after it leafs out, it starts the long process of blooming. Not that it takes a long time for it to flower, but that it just keeps going and going and going.

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Late afternoon rain storm._DSC2007aPink plumeria1 1

I remember them first flowering in… December, maybe? At this point some of them have lost their leaves, and some still have a few buds developing into flowers.

 The flowers are just so perfect and lovely.

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They feel really good, too. Texturally. They’re thick and meaty with a velvety skin.
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I wonder if they’re edible? I bet they’d taste good, like orchids._DSC2221aPink plumeria 10

So anyway. All at the same time, while the sweet gums are dropping leaves and seeds, some plumeria are bare, others are budding, and the magnolias are starting to flower. wtf winter, Oz?

It’s totally Spautumn. New season. I’ve named it.

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A post about cereal. Totally not boring!

I’ve discovered a few things about breakfast cereals here in Australia. Here, I’ll list them.

1) Yes, I will discriminate.

Foods branded the same in two different countries can be two very different cereals. Example: Cheerios. In the US, Cheerios are a dense, small circle of crunchy cereal with very little sugar. In Australia, Cheerios are larger and airier and sweeter, making them more like a pale brown fruit loop to my sensitive palate.

Aha. After delving further into this using the wonders of the futuristic filing cabinet called the internet, it appears that Cheerios here are made and branded by a company named Uncle Tobys which in turn is owned by Nestle, made possible because of an international partnership with General Mills, which produces the cereal in the US. Phew. Long sentence.

Damnit, Nestle. You’re ruining my cereal.*

2) You say dried grape, I say you’re saying it wrong.

Did you folks in the US know that we use the word “raisin” to apply to all different types of dried grape and that’s not necessarily how the rest of the world does it? Here in Oz there are supposedly different kinds of dried grapes which are given different names. I say supposedly because I haven’t seen any small dried fruits here that aren’t sultana (Seedless Thompson) raisins. And in the US’ defense, I don’t remember seeing any non-sultana raisins the US that weren’t labelled with the grape they came from.

I liked this bit from the Wikipedia article on sultanas: “Sultana grape juice was fraudulently sold as being of Chardonnay grapes in Australia for wine making, due to the lower cost of Sultana grapes. The fraud was discovered in 2003 by Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation. It was considered the largest case of wine deception in Australian history.” Hah.

Anyway, the point is that what I’m familiar with as Raisin Bran is here named Sultana Bran.

Back when we first got here and I didn’t actually know what sultanas were or how the name came about, I found this very charming in a sort of, “I don’t know why it’s named that, but I’m going to imagine to myself that it is very fancy and the king of cereals and all the other cereals send it tithes because it is the most delicious.”

Sultana bran

It might also be worth noting that the box pictured here was selling for over seven dollars. Don’t worry, I didn’t buy it.

3) The ACTUAL king of cereals.

Did you ever have Fruit Squares cereals? Man, they were my favorite.

Image credit: http://www.mrbreakfast.com

I miss them a lot. I remember plenty of times taking baggies of the dry cereal for breakfast or lunch or snacks and being quite happy with my meal experience. This isn’t going to help my “I’m not crazy” cred, but I even remember eating them with apple juice rather than milk and being in heaven… The apple squares were totally the best. Or maybe the raisin. Or the strawberry…

Anyway, every couple of years my longing for this discontinued cereal grows and I search online for a modern alternative. Or, even, a revival?

Well, here in Australia, I finally found it! Sort of!

Fruit Miniwheats

They were *on sale* even, so I bought them!

They’re a lot sweeter than I remember. They don’t so much taste of blackcurrents as they do mildly flavored sugar jelly. That was one of the things I loved about Fruit Squares – that they weren’t too sweet and really tasted like fruit. But I’ll take it, for now. Maybe if they get popular enough, they’ll bring back the old version… I can dream, ok?


*If you’re *really* interested in international cheerio differences, you can click on these thumbnails to see nutritional information. Daily recommended values are similar between US and AU, but you can ignore that and look simply at the grams. I only included this because I was curious and looked it up. The one in kilojoules is Australian.

Cheerios Oz nutritionCheerios US nutrition

There’s a hole in it

New South Wales does this thing with its trees and its power lines. The US may very well do this too, but I’d never noticed it, so I’m taking a moment to describe it.

Back when we were searching for a place to live, we visited a flat in a place galled Greystanes. The flat was nice looking, but it was one room with double glass doors facing the main socializing area of the family with young children that lived in the main house. Who smoked.

The real estate agent was very kind though we didn’t want the place, and gave us a ride back to the train station. She told us stories about landowners she had worked for.

One owner drove by a house he owned, and called the agent, furious. The top had been cut off of the palm tree in front of the property, and he blamed the tenants. Literally, the top had been cut off the top of the palm tree. There’s not much to a palm tree other than the top, you know. It turns out the local council maintenance folks had cut the tree in half because it was getting too close to the power lines.

Now, I don’t know how you would trim a palm tree if it really needed to be trimmed that didn’t involve cutting the top off, but it does make for a hilarious story.

(I still don’t understand why he would assume his tenants had cut his tree down, but whatever)

Anyway, the local councils are dedicated to keeping the power lines free of entanglement dangers.

And that leads to things such as this:

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It’s just so perfectly round!


Tiny dramas

I was late to work this morning because a tiny drama was playing out in my window:

A moth had been flying around our bedroom for a couple of nights. This morning I found it on the edge of death on the bathroom counter. I decided to see just how ballsy our little pet black house spider is.

It’s a Badumna insignis, black house spider. Or, Badumna insignis, “said to be a favourite food of the white-tailed spider.” I’m glad it hasn’t gotten eaten by that white-tail I accidentally let loose in the house…

As for toughness? It turns out, very.

I placed the moth in the web an inch or two above the entrance to Mr Spider’s hidey hole. He became alert immediately. Once he gathered the gumption to strike, he darted out and grabbed hold of the tip of one of the moth’s wings. And pulled.

This standoff lasted about 10 minutes. With a brief struggle, the moth gave way and was dragged partly into the entrance of the spider’s house.

Another ten minutes passed and I decided I ought to get to work. I set the gopro up wedged into the curtain rod above the window and hoped that more action would take place before the battery ran down. I doubt that it did, but Ben provided me with updates throughout the morning as it unfolded.

Ben: spider is eating/preserving the moth
me: yes!!!
Ben: nom nom
and the spider is back in its home
I wonder what will happen now
spider back on the moth now

I’ll see what’s left of the moth when I get home.

This whole drama played out in the lower left corner of the upper panel of our kitchen window.


Stenocarpus sinuatus

Firewheel Flowers crop

I ride to work through side streets to avoid the busy roads. There’s very little traffic so I spend most of my time looking around and listening to the radio on my phone (headphone cords act as antennae!). I noticed a flower on a tree that I’d never seen before. I made a point of changing the route of my next run to pass it, so I could look at it up close. It’s fascinating.

Several days later I took my camera to work, and stopped by this tree on my way home to take some pictures. I was busily shooting when an older gentleman came up to me from next door with his lawn mower.

When I got home I talked to Ben online, who was at the library working:

 me: I just met the nicest person, taking pictures.
  I was taking pictures of that tree I showed you yesterday
  and he lives nextdoor, and was coming out to edge his lawn.
  he asked me if I was taking pictures of a bird, in which case he’d not start his machine and scare it away.
6:25 PM I said no, I’m just taking pictures of these flowers, they’re so unusual.
  Do you know what they are?
6:26 PM He said, well, I think it’s called a fire wheel tree, but that’s not the real name… the woman who used to live there told me the scientific name more than once, but I can’t remember, I don’t think.
  I thanked him, he went to edging, I went to shoooting.
6:27 PM A bit later he came walking over to me with his edger on idle, and said, this might not be right either, but there’s a tree called the Illawarra Flame Tree, named after the place, Illawarra. That might be it. I don’t know if that’ll help, but maybe you could look them up.
  So I said yes, even if they aren’t scientific names, I’m sure they’ll bring up information online, thank you!
  Then I went back to shooting.
6:28 PM When I was done I asked him if I could take his picture, as the person who told me what the flowers were.
  He said he wasn’t very photogenic, but ok.
  I did, showed him, and he said “you can always delete it.”
 me: I rode away, got home, got my camera out of the bag
 me: and discovered I dropped my dragon change bag somewhere while I was getting out a new memory card.
 me: So I got dressed again and rode back to all the places I had been
  and as I rode past him to the tree where I had been taking pictures, he waved me over
6:30 PM and said he knew it had to belong to me! He was going to call the hospital tomorrow to try and return it (we’d chatted about work)
  I like him.
The wonderful Ross

The very nice Ross

While he was edging and I was shooting, a noisy miner did show up to drink some nectar, noise or no noise! It’s not a great picture, but it’s all I’ve got.

Noisy Miner and firewheels

*note: Stenocarpus sinuatus is a tree native to Australia, more frequently found further to the tropical north.

**note: Noisy Miners sure do live up to their name! We have a family living outside our living room window, and they’ve had at least one clutch of young so far. They can lay eggs several times a year (and are veeeeery territorial when they do! They’ll swoop and call and even attack you if you get too close). When the young are fledging, they go through a long phase of experimenting with their voices and cycling through the weirdest most bizarre calls before settling on the more typical adult miner call. It’s been entertaining to listen to!