A travelogue by Mark R. Leeper
Copyright 1999 Mark R. Leeper

08/08/99 Long Day's Journey into Night
08/09/99 Arrivals
08/10/99 Cairns: town
08/11/99 Cairns and Daintree Forest
08/12/99 Cairns and Great Barrier Reef
08/13/99 Cairns and Kuranda
08/14/99 Cairns and Tjapukai
08/15/99 Go Ask Alice
08/16/99 Ayers Rock
08/17/99 King's Creek Cattle Station
08/18/99 King's Canyon
08/19/99 Alice Springs to Sydney
08/20/99 Sydney and the Powerhouse Museum
08/21/99 Sydney and the National Maritime Museum
08/22/99 Sydney and the Rocks
08/23/99 Sydney, the Australian Museum, and Sydney Aquarium
08/24/99 Sydney: Miscellaneous Museums
08/25/99 Sydney to Canberra
08/26/99 Canberra and Parliament Buildings
08/27/99 Canberra and Space Sites
08/28/99 Canberra to Bendigo with the Road to Gundagai
08/29/99 Bendigo to Ballarat
08/30/99 Ballarat to Healesville
08/31/99 Healesville Sanctuary
09/01/99 Melbourne Walking Tour
09/02/99 Aussiecon Day 1
09/03/99 Aussiecon Day 2
09/04/99 Aussiecon Day 3
09/05/99 Aussiecon Day 4
09/06/99 Aussiecon Day 5
09/07/99 Melbourne to New Jersey

08/08/99 Long Day's Journey into Night

(All dates are Australian)

It has been a hot summer and a dry summer. And not a dry summer. It has been humid like it gets in New Jersey. When I had a dog and he would go outside and run around in summer heat he would come inside breathing hard. And that hot and moist dog breath is what New Jersey has been like this summer. There is just no escaping the wilting heat. So it was wet but there was no rain. So there now is a shortage of water. There is also a shortage of pennies, lending credence to the otherwise dubious theory that every time it rains it rains pennies from heaven.

Well, we are off. This is not as hot a day as the ones we have been having. But tomorrow it is supposed to rain and we will be elsewhere and above the clouds. I am writing this on the way to Newark Airport. The limo was a bit early and picked us up at 1pm Saturday which I have to convert to 3am Sunday in my own head. Australian time for most of where we will be is 14 hours into our future. That makes time conversions easier. Add two hours for Australian time and switch the AM to PM or vice versa. Right now it is 3:24 in the morning even if the sun is high in the sky. This trip is as far from home as we will ever be, probably. The antipodal point from home is near Australia, southwest of it. We will still be two time zones east of it, but we will be relatively close. It takes something like 39 hours of travel to get to Cairns (pronounced Cains) and right now I would rather it be you than me. What I would really like is to get an injection that would knock me out and then send me freight. Wake me up at the far end. No such luck.

I guess there is the question of why are we going to Australia now. At one point it would have been adventuresome for us to go a decade ago. By now we are among the last of the travelers we know going to Australia. The real reason is that it was inevitable that a World Science Fiction Convention would be held in Australia sooner or later and that we would attend. We decided to hold off on visiting Australia until the Worldcon was down under. That is this year. So before the convention we want to see the Great Barrier Reef, Ayres Rock, Sydney, Canberra, and Melbourne, site of the convention. And at least we can say we got here before all the people coming to see the Olympics. And the information will be timely for Olympic visitors.

Our limo driver offered to take our picture as we were leaving. I hastily loaded my camera. He held the button down and took three. But he did seem more friendly and gregarious than most.

At this time of day the lines are short. There was a young family of three that was at the international desk and we were first in line. From the length of the negotiation I think they were negotiating to fly the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus to Tuva, complete with elephants.

We go through security. Since I have most of my metal objects in my photo vest, I put my binoculars and my palmtop in my briefcase, I put my photo vest through the X-ray, and amazingly I set off no detectors. I don't remember the last time that happened, if ever.

We almost were not here in time. It seems without telling us they changed the flight so that it left earlier. This way they don't have to give us a dinner, which they did on the originally scheduled flight. United Airlines has really been cutting back on the service. Last time I flew coach on United they shoehorned me into a seat that was about four inches narrower than I was. I am a hard man to contain. Ever see The Blob?

Getting on the plane they have someone taking your ticket and feeding it into an automatic ticket-taking machine. In, Japan they let you put in your own ticket and don't even have that point staffed. It goes very quickly. United has someone to put your ticket in for you and it takes her forever.

At this POINT we are in LINE to get on a PLANE and head for SPACE. I guess that makes it somewhat dimensional. I should say this is a plane without much space. It is a tight fit getting into my seat. I am in row 9, but the nearest place to put my suitcase in the overhead is over row 7. Well, this is not the important flight. That is the flight from LA to Auckland. But I expect that to be just as tight.

But we are on our way. I napped a bit in the waiting area and on the plane just after take off. As is my habit I tried to hit the plane exhausted so that I would sleep, but it may not get dark this whole trip. To pass the time I brought three books on the plane. I have the Lonely Planet travel guide to Australia a trade paperback of The Fatal Shore, a history of The colonization of Australia and a collection of eight plays by Agatha Christie. Between dozes I am reading her Appointment with Death.

(I will probably refer to the Lonely Planet books. They are actually published in Australia. For countries throughout Asia they are the most popular travel guidebooks.)

They brought around a snack: a half-ounce of party mix and a glass of juice. Well, my next flight should have meals.

I spent the rest of this short flight in a sort of drowsy read of the play. It is odd that if I try to read when I am really tired what I am reading will take bizarre turns momentarily and I will realize I was dreaming for just a second or two. It may be the low end of hallucination. Some hallucinations may be a mixing of awake and dream states. In spite of fallings off to sleep I have gotten through two acts of my play. We are a little past the 1/8 point in the travel time. We are on the ground in Chicago's O?Hare and will be here for two and a half hours. We will be fairly hungry by the time we get on the next plane. It will be 8:30 home time, 7:30 Chicago time.

I walk around the concourse. They have about what you would expect. Food stands, book shops, souvenir stands. Nothing of any great interest unless you want fast food or Beanie Babies.

After two hours they boarded the plane. They had already announced that the plane would be very full. I would think that a plane is either full or not full. We had spent the time in the waiting area watching CNN, reading, and making goo-goo faces at some of the well-behaved babies. Our first flight had some not very well-behaved babies and they went goo-goo-faceless. Their loss.

Our sunny weather is going gray, but the rumor is it will cool off the hot temperatures. I just hope Australia does not get all this rain. After boarding there was no room anywhere around our seat for Evelyn's luggage. She was going to put it under her seat and fly all cramped up. I told her that this would get to be ursine.

One nice thing, they were supposed to put us on a 737 and when they combined two flights they gave us a 767. That is probably the most pleasant airliner. I think higher ceilings help. We cannot even use the space-it may even be an optical illusion-but the plane just seems more comfortable. I am glad we did not get a 737 which would be a nice enough plane with four seats across, but they tend to fill it with six seats across and that is just too tight.

We got on and the pilot said in an Asian Indian accent that this was flight 841 to Los Angeles and continuing on to Auckland, Australia. I sure hope he is not flying that second leg. If he does I would hope someone would tell him Auckland is in New Zealand.

Out in this part of the country they seem to be having a lot of thunderstorm activity. At about 8pm local time the sun went down. Sunsets seem particularly colorful this high up, layers going from bright orange to indigo.

They start with a snack of a half-ounce of party mix and I had a can of cranberry juice cocktail. After having been hungry it helped. I had napped through most of the flight so far and after the snack fell asleep again.

Dinner came around and they had used up all of their pasta. The choice was chicken and beef. There was a time when people would have thought of pasta as the cheap alternative. They probably would have thought of chicken as a cheap substitute for beef. The demand for red meat is dying down in this country. We are progressing past the hunter culture to the gatherer culture. Meat is becoming a poorly thought-out luxury. Vegetables and starches are becoming our meat and potatoes. I had chicken with a sort of pineapple sauce. The plate was aglitter with brand names so you would know what you were eating. It made it a sort of goulash of ads. You get these brand name items even if they do not go with the meal. I seem to remember getting a salmon salad that nobody in his right mind would put salad dressing on and a little tub of brand name Italian dressing. All those tubs ended being thrown out (I hope), but it fulfilled some sort of contract that the airline made. Frequently you get breadsticks of some well-known brand and a tub of brand name margarine.

As the staff gave out the last of the dinners the captain who did not know where his plain was going announced he had asked the service staff to sit down because of choppy weather. There were some beautifully inky clouds beside the window. A little later there was a beautiful almost fairy tale scene. Depending where you looked you could see a beautiful colorful twilight, some billowy storm clouds that every few seconds were lit up by bolts of lightning just under the surface, and through a hole on the clouds you could see all of a major city below. At least you could see a system of lights in yellow and white. It was a tremendous sight. Incidentally something I would not have guessed is that if you see most modern cities from the air you see more yellow lights than white lights. I don't know why that is. I guess we they must be streetlights and that make them a higher proportion of the lights we actually use.

After dinner I tried to read some of The Fatal Shore but fell asleep. I woke up as we were approaching Los Angeles. The flight seemed like it was about 75 minutes. We took off, saw some nice sky views, had an okay meal, and landed. At least that was how it seemed. But to get such a pleasant flight I had to spend a fair number of my valuable fatigue points. I hope I have some left for the really long leg across the Pacific. Luckily I did keep myself up all night the night before the flight so I could get extra fatigue points to redeem. Fatigue points are really valuable for cutting the length of long flights and for fighting jet lag. But you have to spend them wisely. I hope this was the right flight to spend them on.

We landed in LA and the captain who did not know where Auckland was also did not know the gate for the continuation of the flight. Getting off the plane there was someone with a paper sign that said we had to go to gate 68B. There the flight would continue with a change of equipment. That means another plane. I was rather amazed at the long hike to 68B. I bet it was more than a mile.

The continuation flight we are headed to Auckland on a 747. But the nice thing is that the plane is only about half full. That makes things a lot nicer. You can almost move the armrest out of the way. Not quite, unfortunately, but almost. And the staff seems a lot friendlier. They even gave out sleep socks. The headphones are electronic, not air-powered.

The pilot seemed to be having some problems with the public address system. It sounded to us like it was working but he kept trying. I was sitting in the center section and the overhead and reading lights went out. I pushed the on button but the whole circuit was out. I cannot even read the menu for dinner. Luckily I had seen the menu earlier.

Eventually we did take off. We were told that ten minutes later we could start electronic devices. Well, they could not run theirs and I could not see the screen of my palmtop. Fairly soon we started dinner.

As I eat the meal I like to turn the tray so that dish I am currently eating is turned toward me. United has special edges on the bottom so that it cannot be turned. Okay, so I can move the dishes except that each is in a hole in the tray. There is a little striped paper mat that is just wide enough so it does not cover the holes. Fly United and your main course has to be in the far right corner of your tray table. I could barely see what I was eating. After I finish my salad I buttered the roll and went to eat the main course and realized I didn't know where my fork was. It didn't seem to have fallen on the floor. I started eating the Beef Wellington with a spoon. It was cold. Halfway through I found the fork. I had put it down and in the half-light it blended into the striped paper.

The first of three in-flight movies was the remake of The Out of Towners. The original was just okay but it was a masterpiece compared to the much stupidiated remake. I watched it out of the corner of my eye and worked on my log until they turned out the overheads on the sides and there was not enough background light to see what I was doing. For a while I tried writing by pocket flashlight, holding it in one hand and typing one-handed. I asked a steward if there was anything I could do to get light. He told they are working on it. Right. I am sure they sent a team of experts to Auckland, New Zealand. They are up there in the cockpit of the plane working to get the reading lights back.

Well, I suppose I can sleep. Evelyn had a seat across the aisle in the section with reading lights. She was just going to sleep anyway so I traded with her and brought my log up to date. We are now about 40% of the way through our travel time. I may try to sleep, but I may have already used up too many Fatigue Points on the last leg.

I slept for a couple of hours. It is now 10:16. I am now just moments beyond the halfway point of this trip. I woke up and United was doing a piece on the Y2K problem. "Are you one of the people concerned about the Y2K problem? LET US SET YOUR MIND AT EASE." Now I am wondering what can they possibly say that can answer the question about what is going to be the worldwide impact of the Y2K problem. It is a bit like saying, are you afraid about the financial future of the US? Don't worry. United Airlines has plenty of money in the bank.

I should have known they were saying something stupid like that. It was to claim that United has totally taken care of their problems. First they can't know that even for themselves. Really the best they can claim is have put effort in on getting ready. Even if I was to believe them that hardly is enough to set my mind at ease.

They ran an episode of Suddenly Susan. It strikes me as a bunch of one-liners tied together into a story with very little plot. People don't talk this way.

Evelyn woke up about 10pm. We talked with a woman from Massachusetts who had lived in Australia for a couple of years. She had a son, Miles, seven years old, who was really interested in monsters. He had a connect-the-dots book with pictures of monsters. I talked to him about his most recent completion, The Creature from the Black Lagoon and other monsters in his book. I folded him some origami and generally babysat.

Eventually I got to sleep again.

08/09/99 Arrivals

Breakfast was quiche and a cinnamon roll.

We got to be friends with Miles's mother Beth and, of course Miles. We stopped in Auckland. It is hard to see much of New Zealand from the terminal, but it seemed like a place that I would like to visit. There was a call on the public address that someone had left a black bag in the toy store and somehow I thought of Miles. It turned out that it was Miles. We talked to them a while longer and I folded Miles my own brand of paper airplane. Miles has decided that I am pretty neat.

After we re-board the plane Miles wants to sit where he can talk to me. He does and we discuss history and people's ages and this and that. I think I have made a conquest. The movie is Entrapment. But I am not interested. It is too hard to watch on a plane. I slept. I hope I will be tired tonight.

I could be putting in more detail here, but it was a lot like lots of other flights. Except that it was Australia at the far end. The plane had a short film on what it would be like to go through customs. It featured a 3D virtual reality walkthrough. We landed and I strained to see my view of Australia. The vegetation looked a little Australian if I thought about it but the only animals I saw were cows. I quietly hummed "Waltzing Matilda" to myself. When plane stopped the woman next to me asked me if I would hand her down her dillybag. I love it.

There are lots of placed I enjoyed being, most recently Turkey, but it took a while to feel that way. Australia is a place I have taken to immediately. I just want to hear people talk. I don't have my dillybag. I lost my kit when a jumbuck grabbed my dongle back near the billabong. And that's the Dinkie Die. Wow!

I bid goodbye to Miles Burns and headed to customs. I don't fit anybody's smuggler profile so the only thing beyond a wave through was joking with one customs official. It was mostly that we were right over Cairns and about the feasibility of jumping.

We left and changed money at an ATM. As a rough approximation US$2 = A$3.

We are at least 90 minutes early for check-in. Nevertheless we go directly to the gate. I work on my log while Evelyn looks around. When she returns I ask her to watch my kit. As Evelyn pointed out the chips have interesting flavors like roast chicken, cheese and onion, and the full monty. I could make an off-color comment about the latter, but won't. I make a mental note that I must try Burger Rings. I cannot imagine with a hamburger flavored (flavoured) snack tastes like. Without being a hamburger, of course. The brands are Lays (of course) and Smiths. The latter may be local. I find myself asking why don't we get these interesting flavors in the US? But I guess if we did they would cease to be interesting and I would be disappointed that there were no new flavors here.

We boarded the plane about 12:10. It is a 737, drat. We didn't get one from United, but did from Ansett.

I got a window seat. The Melbourne Airport is well outside the city. As you take off you see a lot of grassy farmland with a few distinct trees.

Lunch was Barbecue Beef on rice and for desert there was a piece of cheese labeled "extra tasty." I told Evelyn I was pleased they had not passed off on us just the singly tasty stuff. Of course then I tasted it. That was one fine piece of cheddar cheese. I guess I would agree with the assessment. (Actually "tasty" really means what we call sharp.)

I find myself humming "Waltzing Matilda." I will try to at some point get an annotated version into this log. It sounds like nonsense words to us, but it is really full of Australian slang. The story is of a rover who steals a sheep and is pursued by the authorities. He drowns himself. Banjo Paterson wrote the song in 1895. Andrew Barton Paterson was a poet and balladeer. He called himself "The Banjo" after a horse at his family's station. He also wrote "The Man from Snowy River," adapted into a film with Kirk Douglas. What we think of as the American West happened in the bush of Australia about the same time. One really could have Australian Westerns. And Paterson drew poetic portraits of it like Robert Service did for the Yukon Gold Rush and Kipling did for the British term in India.

We landed in Brisbane, were made to disembark, and then after about a ten-minute wait were boarded onto the same plane again. This is our sixth take-off since we started yesterday. We will have eleven flights in the trip and more than half was in this stretch. Evelyn wants to go to sleep as soon as she hits the room. I may go out walking by myself. Hey, I have to put something of first-hand experience of Australia into this log soon. I don't want to lose my readers to John Grisham.

The snack was a scone with butter and jelly. Excuse me if I wax philosophical here for a moment. But when you are on a 737 I think it is a mealtime, when you have a tray of food in front of you, that you most miss having the living space that any decent human being would give a cocker spaniel.

What makes it worse is that we are the first row of coach class and in a plane this tight there is not curtain. We can see them handing out little cartons of ice cream to the first class passengers. They get juice handed out. Their seats are four across. In the words of Marat/Sade "Marat, we're poor. And the poor stay poor. Marat, don?t make us wait anymore. We want our rights and we don't care how. We want a revolution. NOW!". Today let them eat like Dolley Madison. Tomorrow they meet Madame La Guillotine.

Since the sears were four across the row ahead and six across where we were Evelyn's tray table was really two. It was split down the middle, one piece on the left half, one on the right. This made it harder for her to use it.

At last we landed and the big ordeal of flying was over. We had already been through Customs so it was merely a question of getting a cab, which we did easily enough. We joked with the driver who asked if we were happy to get away from "Bill." He expressed the opinion that Clinton would have had Monica Lewinski killed if he could have. We expressed skepticism. Where do we get these people? All kinds of people get these ideas about Clinton?

We got to our guesthouse, the Floriana on the Esplanade. Except for the size the style of place and the environs look like the Florida of Some Like It Hot. Our room has a bedroom, bathroom with shower, and parlor with sink, fridge, microwave, a tiny TV that needs work is just this side of unwatchable. The whole deal is A$70 a night. That is about US$47. Certainly by US terms it is very reasonable. The whole neighborhood has the feel of Florida in the 1930s.

We decided to take a walk around the neighborhood to see if we could find a grocery. At a kiosk we bought a bottle of sarsaparilla and a can of ginger beer. Ginger beer seems readily available and common in Australia. It is pretty tough to get decent ginger beer in the states. I am not talking about ginger ale. Ginger beer is like ginger ale in that it is a sweet ginger flavored soft drink. The difference is that ginger beer packs a real ginger wallop. It is very much like Chinese Crystal Ginger in liquid form. I tell people I love strong drink, I just don't like alcohol. When they ask what is strong drink without alcohol I give them ginger beer. Tough to find in the US. You find it more frequently in Britain and Australia.

There is the town of Cairns about a kilometer to the south. We did not find a grocery but we found some restaurants we might want to try. Thai restaurants were high compared to home. A dish would be about A$15.

We passed a movie theater. Movies are A$11.50. Tuesdays they are A$7.

Back at the room we had some of the sarsaparilla. Evelyn went to bed about 8:30. I put Law and Order on TV and tried to work on my log, but kept dozing. After it was over I was more awake and worked while listening to the radio. I could find no classical music, but I put on a rock station that was not too disagreeable.

08/10/99 Cairns: town

Little things woke me a couple of times in the night but I slept from 11pm to about 5:30am. That is about what I would sleep at home so I guess I have pretty much avoided jet lag. Evelyn points out that one of the problems of this room is that it really is just one room. There is no door to close between the bedroom and this sitting room. There is a door that closes to the bathroom, but the wall stops three feet short of the ceiling. If you turn that light on you light the bedroom. The room is also a little chilly at night, but it is a relief after the heat of home.

The toilet works, which is actually nice after some of our trips. One feature that guys hate. We have heard ad nauseum how men forget to put the seat down. Women always complain that men forget to do this one final action. I always do, but I feel I have the right to a counter-complaint. Women never stop to think that the lid and seat should be able to stand up on their own. When they install a new seat they never stop to make sure you can put the seat up so that it stays on its own. If it does they decorate it with a thick frilly something or other lid cover so the seat will not go all the way up and more importantly will not stay up. You so frequently find toilets where the seat will not stay out of the way at time when careful aiming is critical. The worst are the toilets where it stays up for seventeen seconds and then slowly and unexpectedly falls. This little surprise is a formula for disaster. You always know that a woman had her hand in the pot (so to speak).

The bathroom is very narrow, about three feet by nine feet with the shower on one side and the toilet on the other with the sink almost over the toilet. It is a real inconvenience having only a divider wall between it and the bedroom.

The Great Barrier Reef has really made Cairns. The reef is really a fish graveyard. It is made of the accumulated skeletons of hundreds of billions of sea creatures, all dead. This is the biggest coral formation in the world. It stretches 1250 miles and has 2500 small reefs and islands.

Cairns had been just a small insignificant town since its founding in 1876. It was a port for a gold mining town a hundred kilometers inland. An easier route was found a year later and it looked like the town would die. Then a tin rush began for the Atherton Tableland and the rail line was started in Cairns. That kept the town alive. Though until relatively recently it was a sleepy tropical town but the reef had made this into a great Australian tourist attraction. Now the town is highly commercial and highly touristy. We will be seeing the reef in a couple days and judge if it is worthwhile.

We are in a sort of prime location. We are across the street from the Coral Sea. From the 1940s to the 1980s Americans were very popular in Australia. That was partly because of the battle that was fought near here. Traditionally the Australians had their closest ties to Britain. But in WWII the Japanese strategic plan was to take Australia and they came very close to seizing it. Britain's response was not to protect Australia, but to take Australian troops and use them for Britain's ends. They were more a hindrance than a help to the Australians.

Americans were more interested in stopping the Japanese before they could seize Australia. MacArthur, who had recently been pushed out of the Philippines had come to Australia and had demanded Australian support in fighting Japan here at Australians doorstep. There had been friction with the American already in this war and they were not immediately happy about being ordered around by Americans, however Australians quickly agreed to give support to the US in their own survival's interest. They fought together at the Battle of the Coral Sea. That was fought May 4-8, 1942, with US and Australian navies fighting together, they prevented Japan from taking the strategic Port Moresby. Australia found America's ends in the war were closer to their own than Britain's were.

After the war the Australians felt they had been betrayed by Britain and had been helped, if not saved, by the US. They fought with the US in Korea and Vietnam. Realignment from Britain and now with the US had been coming a long time. Officially the British Monarch is still the Head of State of Australia. But through this century Britain has interpreted the connection to Britain as one intended to benefit Britain and they have worried less about it benefiting Australia. Australian troops were committed without getting permission in WWI. The Australian troops found that they had nothing against the Turks in the Dardenelles that they were being told to fight. They and the New Zealanders (together forming the ANZACs) unofficially formed a separate peace with the Turks and instead of fighting them developed close friendships with them. Australians are still welcomed back to Turkey each year on ANZAC Day, the anniversary of the day they invaded Turkey, leading to the friendship of the two peoples. Needless to say this was a not totally unintended slap in the face to Britain. And the allegiance to Britain was further exploited-and not coincidentally at the same time strained-by Britain in the Second World War.

This year November there will be a referendum vote to see if the Constitution may be changed. 60% of Australians want the head of state to be an elected president and to have Australia be a republic. It is a likely tide of events in which Britain mishandled their relationship with Australia. And the Coral Sea, which comes up just across the street, was part of that break in relations.

When I woke up this morning at 5:30 Evelyn was already up and reading. She had put my shirt over a lamp so the light would not wake me. I woke up and wrote in my log and Evelyn went back to sleep. Now it is 8am and I may have to wake Evelyn soon. I think that she has a touch of jet lag. She thought I was foolish to stay awake all night before the flight, but so far I have no jetlag and I think she does. By coincidence they are talking on the news about the upcoming plebiscite on President vs. Queen as the head of state.

Well, we had picked up brochures for the various tours and had made arrangements through the guesthouse. We had to alter one tour, but generally got what we wanted.

It turned out there was a grocery just a short walk away. It was an IGA. We went there and got some food for the room. Among other things I got a bag of the mysterious "Burger Rings." We also bought a passion fruit and had to ask how one eats it. We went back to the room and ate some of our gettings. How does one eat a passion fruit? It is roughly the size and shape of a lemon or a tennis ball. It has a smooth green exterior. Cut it open and you find it mostly hollow. Inside are individual seeds each carrying with it a soft, pulpy, juicy outer covering. One eats the seeds and the covering. The covering is tart and tasty. The seeds are gritty but not unpleasant, not unlike the seeds of a kiwi fruit.

Since we could not book tours fast enough, we had to start with a leisure day. We decided to walk into town and see what Cairns had to offer.

We decided to walk on esplanade, at the edge of the water. The tide was out and the edge of the water was mud flats. Walking on the grass we saw a straw-necked ibis. I would not have recognized it, but there was a covered board with informational poster and one helped you identify the local birds.

The mud flats uncovered by the receding tide had attracted ibises, pelicans, spoon bills, and some sort of lungfish locally called a walking fish that we could see running between the water holes.

The walking fish, called a mudskipper, is a local strange creature, sort of the piscine equivalent of Flash Gordon. It finds its way to the world above, but it is a master even there. It walks on land. A man chasing one cannot catch one. It burrows into mud to fast to catch. It also climbs trees. No, this is not a put-on. I think if I was a fish and was limited to a species a foot long this is what I would like to be.

Also along the walk is a monument to the Cairns war dead from WWI. It is of the form of a clock tower always showing the time 4:28, the time of the Australian landing at Gallipoli. Flanking the tower are two guns aimed out to sea.

In town we had intended to see the local aquarium, but Lonely Planet really did not say how good it was. They only gave a rather stiff price. It turned out to be a storefront in a shopping area and one that it was suggested would take 30 to 45 minutes to see. We decided it was probably more touristy and less complete than what we were hoping for so we decided to give it a miss.

Evelyn had not brought a swimsuit, but she would need one for snorkeling so that was the next order of business. She stopped at a couple of stores but finally got one at Woolworth's.

We stopped by to look at the Cairns Regional Art Gallery. This is an art gallery for those in a hurry. It is on three floors, but there is not much on each floor. There is only a tiny exhibit on the top floor. More than half of the middle floor is closed for exhibit change, though there is no warning of that. The A$6 entrance fee is by leaps and bounds over-priced.

The first floor is a temporary exhibit of art from the Queensland Art Gallery. It is highlights of English and French art from their collection. These have some pieces by well-known artists. There is a sculpture of Wisdom Supporting Liberty by Dalou. A figure of Athena has her hands full holding up the limp nude body of a female representing liberty. They have a Redon, some Pissaro, a Leger, and some Whistler. Dominating the exhibit, not just in size, is Blandford Fletcher's "Evicted" showing a woman and her daughter who are apparently homeless while people who still have their homes stand around staring at them. The faces of the on-lookers are less finished and more impressionist than anything else in the painting. It gives them a bizarre semi-faceless look. The picture is sad and frightening at the same time.

From there we went to the top floor where the aptly named Lorraine Lamoth has insects in all of her art. There will be what look like rugs with insect images. Mostly she does ants and beetles. She says, "After art school, I made a conscious decision to focus on insects as a way of conceptually examining the artificiality of preconceived notions and arbitrary standards. My familiarity with insects persuaded me that they epitomized man's need to divide things into categories and that I could use this to depict insects in ways that defied expectations." Her work should appeal to any of us fed up with the artificiality of preconceived notions and arbitrary standards. Ms. Lamoth has a collect of dead insect bodies that helps to inspire this important work.

The second floor has Jill Chisholm's works involving space. There will be a series of circles suspended from the ceiling forming a sort of space. They look like stripes on the Cheshire Cat's tail. One of the things I learned about space is that you cannot go into most of the space on the second floor because it is closed.

We went for Thai lunch at a local restaurant. It turned out to be quite reasonable since there is no tipping and no tax in Australia. Lunch came to A$16 even. I left an A$20 with the check. The owner brought me change of A$3.50 in coins. I pointed out to her that the change from A$20 for A$16 should be A$4. Evelyn said that the owner must have gotten confused between the A$7.50 and the A$8.50 on the check. With a grimace I suggested to her that the woman knows the menu to her own restaurant like the back of her hand, but she probably thought we did not know the coins. It is a time-honored tradition to shortchange people they think do not know the money.

We dropped into a used bookstore and I got two paperbacks including the Australian novel Turtle Beach. This was made into a film that in general did not get a good reception in the US, but which I thought was well made and moving. It deals with differences in Asian and European culture. It is an Australian journalist's strange relationship with an enigmatic refugee, a former boat person living in Malaysia.

Evelyn thought it might be a good idea to go to the movie theater we saw the previous evening. Someone we had talked to who was going into the theater said that the film Two Hands was very good. It was the one non-American film of the six films playing.

We killed time until the film started just walking around. A lot of the storefronts have become Internet Access parlors. For a certain rate, maybe A$5/hour, you can come in and surf the web.

As one last thing to fill time we dropped into the local library. It seems like a rather nice collection. From there we went to the movie.

Two Hands

CAPSULE: Pandemonium erupts when an amateur on an errand for a local hood loses $10,000. If this was the first film of its type, this could have been a clever and inventive film. Unfortunately there are just too many films a lot like this one coming out. Rating: 6 (0 to 10), +1 (-4 to +4) Things are starting to go right in Jimmy's world. Until now Jimmy (played by Heath Ledger) has been a street hawker for a second rate strip club. But Jimmy has fallen in love with a woman (Rose Byrne) he has seen outside the club. And a local gangster Pando (Bryan Brown) offers a small job as courier to Jimmy. What Jimmy does not know is that Pando killed Jimmy's brother. Now Pando wants to make things up to Jimmy and offers him a job that could lead to bigger things if Jimmy does not screw up this first job. Of course we would not have much of a story if something did not go wrong. In a careless moment Jimmy loses $10,000. Now Jimmy needs $10,000 to square things with Pando and a few of his friends want to see Jimmy dead. Before the film Pulp Fiction was made this all could have been a fairly serious matter. But now we expect crime films to have really strange dialog and really weird interconnected plots with very strange twists and odd characters.

This is not a bad little film. One of the people in a Cairns audience said it was the best Australian film he had seen in a long time. I can believe it. The real problem is the timing. Two Hands is just one more creative, violent, semi-comedic crime film made in the wake of Pulp Fiction. Its pacing and its plotting remind one a lot of Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels. And in the comparison it is not quite as good.

My recommendation for Showtime Australia is put this film in a vault for five years and release it again when there might not be so many films like it. I rate it a 6 on the 0 to 10 scale and a +1 on the -4 to +4 scale.

Incidentally I copied down Australia's film rating system:

G: general exhibition

PG: parental guidance recommended for persons under 15

M: recommended for mature audiences 15 and over

MA: restrictions apply to people under 15 years

R: restricted to adults 18 and over

After that I spent some time starting my review. Then pizza for dinner, ice cream for dessert.

Back at the room I nodded off, off and on and brought the log up to date.

08/11/99 Cairns and Daintree Forest

Woke up about 5:30. I listened to the news. I wanted to get a simplified expression for judging temperatures. Maybe something that could be a degree off but would give me an idea. I came up with subtract 20, multiply by two, add 67.

There was rain overnight. Just as the Perseids meteor shower is coming up. Generally the deal for Evelyn is clear skies, celestial events, me: choose two.

We woke up, had a hasty breakfast and were downstairs for our 7:10 pickup, which was just on time. We got onto a small van and are driving through area that looks a lot like Hawaii. Green velvet hills at a distance. Sugar cane with six-foot stalks. The hills around here are volcanic.

We are a hundred kilometers from the Daintree Rainforest, our destination.

When Australians talk we pick up about two-thirds of what they said. There is a lot of unfamiliar slang and a thick accent.

As we pick up more people we are down by some beach area. Crocodiles come out of the water here. They are around swimming in the water, but they only attack on the beaches. They range in size from 250 to 1000 pounds. They will kill three people a year. Annual death rates in the wild are one person killed by shark, three by crocs, sixteen by falling coconuts, and twenty by lightning. The crocs look scarier but the coconuts are more viscous.

Driver tells a story. I will shorten it here. Woman comes to a grocery store and asks for tomatoes. Grocer says, "none today, come back tomorrow." Woman insists "I have to have tomatoes." "None today, come back tomorrow." "But I really need tomatoes." "Let's try it this way. Say 'fear?." "Fear." "Now say it without the 'f?" "Ear" "Now say ?tomatoes.?" "Tomatoes" "Now say it without the ?F?." "There's no F in tomatoes." "That's what I have been saying."

We stopped to pick up fruit for lunch. There was a store that specializes in tropical fruit. They had something that looked like a grapefruit with a looser skin and was maybe ten inches in diameter. They had local pineapples and passion fruit. This is just what we saw from the outside.

It is clouding up as we get toward Daintree. That is not necessarily a bad thing. Supposedly Daintree is more interesting in the rain. Still, it is a bad portent for our future days. The reef visit is supposedly better in the sunshine. We get to the start of the river tour. They have hot coffee and tee and biscuits ready for us to welcome us. I take a cup of coffee and go out on the porch with Evelyn. Evelyn goes off to pay for the tour. Meanwhile people get up and start heading for the boat. No Evelyn. Frustrating because we wanted to get decent seats on the boat. I found Evelyn happily chatting with the tour leader. After waiting a minute I interrupted her and suggested we had to get to the boat. When I told her she should have kept her mind on what we were doing she said, "Well, I had to pay for the tour." "But weren't you just standing and talking." No response. Indeed we were last getting onto the boat and the boat was full. The only remaining seats were the center of the bench in back. As it turned out these were not bad seats. They were right next to the pilot/guide. So maybe I should not have been impatient with Evelyn.

The boat provided binoculars, but they were not as good as our Zeiss. I put theirs back. I saw a couple of snakes, one of which was a python.

We also saw a few birds and two crocodiles. On was low in the water and we could see little more than the eye and a little of the snout. As with our trip to the Amazon we just nominally saw the animals. In Alaska we pretty much just missed seeing whales. We usually do not have very good luck in seeing wildlife. Well, no that is not true. We do not see wildlife where we expect to. Tours that show you wildlife don't work. The wildlife we see is usually voluntary. Right after our Alaska trip we took a trip to the Southeast and on the first day a bear mother and cub very casually crossed the road right in front of our car. Still it might have been nice to get a better look at the crocodiles. They are interesting animals.

A crocodile is not like a shark. A shark does not have very strong jaws. It bites no harder than a human does. But its teeth are very, very sharp. A crocodile's mouth is incredibly strong. We are talking three tons to the square inch. With that kind of force bones are just the crispy part of meat. But the crocodile does not like the toughness of new meat. After killing by crushing in its jaws, the meat has to be tenderized. That means soaking in water for two days.

Crocodiles have amazing control over their bodily organs. If a crocodile is hiding, it will float under water and slow its heart to four beats a minute. In an environment with insufficient food, he slows his heartbeat and goes longer between meals, but he remains perfectly healthy.

The guide had a tree frog under a seat. Frogs do not like each other. You can have two frog on the boat, but if they see each other, at least one will leave.

The trip lasted just about one hour and we all filed back into the van. We stopped next at an overlook point where in one view we could see volcanic mountain going all the way down to the water and Port Douglas, sort of a posh area to live in.

The only real fixed activity in the day is the river trip. The rest is at the discretion of the driver/guide, Andrew. Our next stop was on a narrow but beautiful beach. Actually, not having to contend with the sand is a big help.

To sample some local fruits we stopped at a place that makes its own ice cream. The flavors are macadamia, mango, black sapote, and soursop. I will assume the reader is familiar with macadamia and mango. Black sapote ice cream tastes like a bland chocolate. Perhaps the fact it looks like chocolate contributes to the expectation that that is how it will taste. Sour sop ice cream is a little like pineapple.

From there we went to a beach with a rather nice look out point, just to take in the beauty. We spent about 45 minutes climbing a wooden trail to the lookout point, returning, walking on the beach, etc.

We returned to the van and Andrew drove off for about ten minutes, Toward the end there seemed to be less and less road he was following until he was in a woods next to a stream and a fallen log blocked out way.


From out of the back of the van came a big metal sheet and he put it over a flame and he grilled some steaks. We cut open some of the fruit that he had bought. A sour sop was as big as a football and full of a fruit the consistency of custard. There was a purple fruit called a star apple. It had little flavor of its own. I claimed it tasted like chicken and Evelyn thought I was joking. When she tasted one she was surprised to see that it did taste like chicken.

I had my steak rare and it was quite good. It was tough cutting a steak that was a little tough in a plate balanced on my lap. There was also potato and macaroni salad.

From out of the woods came first one goanna, then a second one. What is a goanna? It is a lizard in the iguana family. By rights it would be a lizard two feet long, but somebody was going for the record so with tail it is five feet long. They are not afraid of very much, having no natural predators. The second goanna did not seem afraid of very much. The first goanna was afraid only of the second one and allowed him to be chased away. The second goanna stayed as long as there was food. Andrew, our guide and driver I ink misjudged our attitude and treated him as if he was a big rat. "If he gets too close, you can kick him away. Don't leave him food because it will encourage him." I wanted to encourage him. How often do I see a lizard this size? I hope the goanna found enough food to make the time investment worth it.

The name of the company running the tour was "Billy Tea" and I had not realized that it was an allusion. But Andrew proceeded to make "billy tea." Over the fire you boil water in a bucket-like container. Then you add tea leaves, let them boil. Then you swing the bucket three times at the length of your arm and over your head. Then you spoon out the tea. Weaker tea at the top, stronger at the bottom.

You very quickly make friends on this sort of trip and we became friends with all the couple but particularly Ken and {somebody} Smith. He was English but came to live in Australia. A real life-lover this guy. Funny, friendly, full of information, and enjoying himself immensely. Ken Loved puns. He was about 70. We compared notes. We have been married 26 years. He wanted us to guess how long he had been married. We guessed 40 years. He said it was 5.

We next stopped at a scenic overlook that had trees in the way. At first we thought he was kidding but Andrew said we had to climb on top of the van. He brought out a ladder and five at a time up we went, those who dared. I got up to the top, saw the view, and said it wasn't worth the climb. Actually stepping over the edge to climb down was the hard part. I said the van should get a touristy sort of name. I suggested it should be The Dingo Star.

Next we went for a nature walk into the Daintree rainforest. People who think that nature is kind and benevolent should visit the Daintree. It has some fascinating forms, but most of what you find in the forest is dangerous and some is deadly.

We saw the poison walnut. There are ten different poisons in the leaves. You brush it wit your hand and it will create sores. Rub your are against it and in a few hours you will have headaches and nausea. One of the poisons it contains is the active ingredient of mustard gas.

The woods from this forest are often used for fence posts because no animal ever had time to develop a neural affinity for eating it. Plants in this forest naturally produce arsenic, strychnine, and cyanide.

There are weird looking trees that have their root system mostly above ground. The root are long and high but only very narrow so they look like rocket fins on the tree and coming out of the ground.

There are some very old cycads that need a forest fire to burn down to their seed in order to reproduce. How often does a forest fire started by lightning come along? This is a very strange forest.

Next was stopped for drinks at a sort of infirmary for kangaroos. I am not sure if they all had the same problem, but people had given them cows? milk. Cows? milk blinds kangaroos. These kangaroos were partially sighted and could not be released into the wild. Those of us who wanted it were given seed to feed them and they safely and gently just licked it out of our hands. They have hands with sharp claws three-quarters of an inch at the end of narrow dainty arms, but they gently hold your hand in place for them to eat birdseed. Of course it has the large claws not for defense but because it is arboreal. It will not even use its hands to fight. It balances on its tail and kicks with those powerful hind legs. You are starting to see kangaroo meat on Australian menus. The Australians never ate the meat traditionally but they exported it for others who presumably knew no better. No doubt the Aussies laughed at people who would eat kangaroos. Eventually they decided to see what others saw in the meat and so it is eaten domestically. I cannot see how anyone would feel right eating these marvelous relatives of the opossum.

That was about it for the day. Andrew sped over the roads at about 80 kilometers an hour and at times 100. Mrs. Smith was a bit shaken by the speed. Part of the trip back was taking a private ferry over a river. I thought of the scene in Outlaw Josey Wales.

Actually I talked about film with Ken. He asked what my favorite film was and was pleased when I said it was Quatermass and The Pit. He was a science fiction fan also and liked the film. His favorite film was Lawrence Of Arabia, which I like a great deal. We both enjoyed discussing film a great deal.

On the road we passed something called a four-piece house. If termites attack your house and they get too good a foothold, the house becomes worthless. You see real estate ads where these homes are given away free. People will collect such homes. When they have four or so they will cut away the parts that have been damaged and have four undamaged house pieces. They will patch these together and have one undamaged house they got for next to nothing.

Andrew kept trying to play one cassette after another on the van's cassette deck and they might play for a little while and then the sound would be horribly distorted with "wow." Andrew would look at the cassette and not see what was causing it. I could have told him that it was not the cassettes but the player. The belts were slipping.

Apparently most young people here are surfers and Andrew kept ogling the waves he was seeing as we passed water. Apparently conditions are just perfect for surfing right now, as they almost never are. He kept saying he was going to take the next day off and go surfing. I guess one must have his priorities. Between driving too fast and staring at the waves, he was doing a real job on some of the passengers. Turns out he wanted to get home for 7pm and the Simpson's.

We got back to the Floriana about 6:35 making for a very full day. I had some ginger beer and some Burger Rings. I had wanted to taste what the package said was hamburger flavored rings because I could not imagine what hamburger flavor could be. These are corn rings with a flavor not particularly evocative of anything. I am not sure where the claim that they taste like hamburger came from. Maybe they taste a little like catsup and onion. We keep these in the microwave so the ants don't go after them. We have little tiny ants that would be dwarfed by poppy seeds. They show up in our sinks so I presume they are looking for water.

We both tried writing but were falling off to sleep too early so we gave up and I went to bed about 9pm.

08/12/99 Cairns and Great Barrier Reef

I woke up at about 4:30. Maybe I should just live with early to bed and early to rise since I write much well in the morning. I finished my log for yesterday as it was approaching 6am. I munched a Burger Ring or two while I worked and suddenly I could recognize the taste of hamburger. I am not sure why I could not tell before. But, yes, I can recognize hamburger, catsup, and onion.

The day we were most hoping would be sunny has started overcast and rainy, not surprisingly to me. I am convinced that some people just statistically have worse luck than others do and I surpass expectation for getting the fuzzy end of the lollypop. It is Luck of Leeper. Overall I have been very lucky about the big things and amazingly unlucky about smaller things. Anyway, the cloudiness here does not tell you if it will be cloudy out on the water.

We breakfasted on cheese, crackers, sweet biscuits, and pineapple juice.

In a flare of marketing skill our tour of the Great Barrier Reef is in a "semi-submersible submarine." Aren't all boats semi-submersible? The laws of physics say that if you have a boat on water some of it will be submerged. The point of a submarine is that it is totally submersible. A semi-submersible submarine is like an airplane that gets partially off the ground. It is probably a glass-bottom boat.

We have asked for curtains for our room. There is not much provision to make the room dark at night and we get a light coming in at the side. Apparently ours is the only room that does not have curtains. The ones for the front windows are being replaced and the ones for the side they just don't have up. But we can see in other rooms there are curtains. Somehow when I talk to the manager she is cold and formal. She seems warmer and friendlier for Evelyn. Of course, Evelyn is more outgoing than I am. We will be headed out in about twenty minutes for the Great Barrier Reef. This company has two tours and we had wanted the more modest tour, but it is not offered, due to maintenance.

This time a large bus of people is here. We get to the pier and walk out to the catamaran. After we pay they give us coffee or tea and sweet biscuits. I had tea and milk sweetened with Equal. The sugar had ants.

We talked with Stacie and Cathy, the two women at our table. They had gone to the reef already and were going back for a second visit.

There was a humorous presentation that cleverly hid instructions on safety and how the day would run. People do not recognize how effective humor is in getting information across. At work I have to send out bulletins to people with status and instructions. There is a lot of this sort of thing going out from several different sources but my stuff is much more carefully read than anybody else's is. People have a responsibility to read all these bulletins, but they actually want to read mine because I write them in a whimsical humor and often have jokes. We have actually gotten complaints in periods that I have had fewer bulletins to send out that people would like more bulletins from me because they enjoy just reading my writing. I think it is a habit I picked up from my father though I lapse into whimsy more frequently. Dave Barry has us both beat.

After that the boat picked up speed. A catamaran rocks a lot, which Evelyn can do without. I, on the other hand, fought my way to the front of the boat and sat down right in front of the cabin. There I sat with the wind and the spray in my face. Best ride on the boat.

There were three Spaniards and I. After about five minutes the purser came around with barf bags. No, thank you. "Cuatro, por favor," joked one of the Spaniards later. It did not take long for there to be a whole line of people at the front. I had intended to walk around the entire deck, but there is a metal grating between the pontoons and my wet rubber soles could not get enough traction to walk on it. Still it was nice to look down and see the water shooting by right under me.

After about twenty minutes I returned to the back of the boat to find Evelyn still sheltered from the wind, but otherwise braving the elements. It is pretty tough to just stand on the boat. Under the gray skies the sea looked a coke-bottle-glass green. But the sun came out and now it is a deep blue. As I stand here writing several people have asked me about the computer. Some thought I might have been playing some sort of game. I explain to them on how this all going on the Internet, so they better treat me well. If I haven't mentioned it this is an Ocean Spirit Cruise. In fact the cat is the Ocean Spirit II.

As we approach Upolu Quay and the water turns a lighter blue as the water becomes shallower. It turns out we still are a long way from where we are going. We are going to Michelmas Quay. A Quay is like an island as seen from the top, but it is built on coral rather than on rock. It will change shape frequently due to prevailing wind patterns.

This cruise is run something like a resort. There are various activities we can do at different times. We choose snorkeling for the first hour.

Now Evelyn and I are pretty much new to snorkeling, so we ask for a quick lesson. Let us just say that Evelyn played it like an absolute beginner, I as if I really could snorkel somewhat but was just not really sure of myself, which was more or less true. Evelyn got towed over the reef and got to see the giant clam. I managed to get over the reef, but saw a lot less than Evelyn does. I then managed to get into a situation that .... Well, let me say that you have a very different perspective actually inside the mask and snorkel. I managed to get myself into a situation that to me inside the equipment seemed like I was in serious trouble, disoriented, and lost, unable to get a breath of air without risking losing the use of the snorkel. The same situation seen from outside the wetsuit would look like no moron could possibly be in trouble in this position and there are about eight different things that should tell him how safe he really is. I ended up way down the beach totally exhausted and out of breath. At the limits of my strength I pulled myself to safety like Robinson Crusoe. I got no sympathy from anybody. And explaining how I really was in trouble made me feel like even more of a moron, which hardly seemed possible. And I missed seeing the giant clam.

As I was trying to decide if I should make a new assault on the reef, fate stepped in and took a hand. We were called to lunch. Lunch was a buffet with whole boiled shrimp, fried fish, chicken, tropical fruit, and salad. I thought it was pretty good.

After lunch it was our time with the semi-submersible submarine. And who is our hostess but the woman who gave us the snorkel lesson? I could have tried to explain to her that it makes no sense to call it a semi-submersible submarine, but I stop myself. She already thinks I am a moron-this could be all the confirmation she needs.

The SSS has a viewing room with two long glass panels at the two bottom corners. You sit back to back in a column of seating down the center. Frequently you can look over your shoulder to see what the other people are seeing. The Great Barrier Reef is the largest system of reefs in the world. The SSS gives you a view of hard and soft coral, bright colored fish-ones Americans rarely see without a tank around them-giant clams, etc. The Crackerjack Prize for this trip is to see a turtle. A Crackerjack Prize is something perhaps a little rarer than the rest, but they can still be pretty sure you will see. They then tell you, unfortunately it is almost unheard of to see a turtle, but there is just a chance. Everybody feels disappointed. Then it happens... In an almost mystical experience somebody sites a turtle and everybody feels they got their money's worth.

For feebs like me and Evelyn, the SSS is the highpoint of the day. We got only about thirty minutes in the SSS, which really is not enough. They said that they had to get us back in time for the birding walk.

On the way back to the quay we talk to a British couple who are really into birding. I asked him what is the bird he would really love to see. I was expecting something like a California Condor or if he was the wistful sort a Dodo. He wanted to see a Rainbow Bee-eater or more hummingbirds. I talked to his wife and mentioned that Alfred Dreyfus on Devil's Island had seen some spectacularly graceful and beautiful birds that lifted his spirits. Years later when he went free he wanted to know what these wonderful birds were and found out they were common seagulls, frequently considered about on the level of a flying rat. The British woman had never heard of Dreyfus or of Devil's Island.

After a while when nobody came to give us a bird lecture I went looking for the guide and found her standing just a few feet away, waiting to see if someone showed up. The bird walk was more of a bird stand and try to hear a lecture drowned out by the cacophony of the birds and blown away by the wind. It was ten minutes that we got very little from. We should have tried snorkeling again since the tide went out and the reef was much closer to the shore.

After that we headed back since it is about a two and a half-hour trip each way. The trip is about from 9 to 5 with five-and-a-half hours of that being the commute. Not that the commute is not fun. At the front the wind is strong and exhilarating for the very few. My cap that was built in Japan and I bought in a Japanese shop was sunk in the Coral Sea. Part of the way back I talked to a Tasmanian about politics, and Turkey, and this and that. Inside there was live music which was okay.

I don't know where they get the staff for these things but there are a tremendous lot of them and they love their work. They all seem to be kid just out of school and enjoying a few years working in paradise. They are all tremendously friendly and seem to get to know by name as many of the passengers as they can. When I left the ship three of them said goodbye to me by name. Virtually nothing goes wrong due to something done wrong or even questionably by the crew. They can't pay this big a crew very much so they are probably mostly doing it for the love of the work environment, which admittedly is pretty good. The most negative aspect of the trip was the high incidence of seasickness. They hand out paper bags for this purpose and they go through a lot of them. You can have two hours of seriously heavy rocking after a big meal; it is almost inevitable that a bunch of people will get sick. Luckily I am fairly free of that. I used up all my motion sickness when I was seven or eight. There is this incident my family will not let me forget of having had purple grape juice for breakfast and riding in our green car and some stains that never came out.

People in Australia and in Britain are a different breed from the US. When we left the bus dropped off at our guesthouse there were about five couples on the bus that said goodbye to us. And that was from a bus about half full. Americans are really a very unfriendly people compared to Britons and Australians. The Britons are supposed to be reserved but it is really Americans who want nothing to do with strangers. Well, most of them are like that. Evelyn can start up a conversation with anybody. I wish I had that skill.

We got home and I washed the salt spray off. I was a little afraid to use my palmtop while my fingers were salty. I did however taste a Burger Ring or two. This morning I could taste something hamburger-like in the flavor, but I have lost it again. This is tougher than seeing the hidden 3D picture.

We had complained about light coming in because our room seemed to be the only one without curtains. Our big bay window the curtains have long since dropped to dust but they did put up some curtains over the window where most of the light comes in. They really are not curtains but lengths of curtain material over the window. Tacky but effective. I can live with tacky but functional. I live much of my life that way. There are also some that are pink-yech!-curtains in the archway between the sitting room and the bedroom.

At about 6:30 we went out to go to the grocery. I suggested we have dinner at the Kabob King, A fast food place next to the grocery. These are like huge wraps, not in Pita but in tortillas. Then they are baked in just minutes while you wait. They are bigger, better, and cheaper than what we have in the US for doner kabob. I was intimidated by the king sized and got the queen instead. So did Evelyn. I managed to finish mine, Evelyn took a piece back for the fridge.

I think this neighborhood is going down hill. Both before we went into the grocery and again on the way home we heard couple arguing at or near the top of their lungs using profanity. Evelyn and I have disagreements, but I think neither of us would want to hurt the other person's feelings. They say that marriage is a partnership, but that is misleading or a bad philosophy. A business partnership is a symbiotic relationship for selfish ends. It is multiple people each trying looking only to personally benefit from the relationship. I don't clean the toilets because I have to for Evelyn to be willing make dinner. I clean them because I think she shouldn't have to. Basically I want her to have good things. These couples who yell at each other do not want the best for each other. I can't think of any way to make that come out so it does not sound puerile, but there is more too it than it sounds.

I noticed we had a pet last night. A little tree lizard poked it head out above our light fixture. He was standing there upside down on the ceiling, held in place by suction cup feet. That should keep the insect population down. I wish we got those at home.

I went to bed about 9, intending to get up early to work on my log. I did wake up at 2:30 and it is now 4:45. Where did the time go? Let me try to get a bit more sleep.

08/13/99 Cairns and Kuranda

This is Friday the 13th. Not that that has a whole lot of meaning for us, but it is the only one this year. We woke up about 6:30 and rushed for a 7:20 pickup. Of course we had our usual breakfast of cheese, crackers, yogurt and juice, purchased from the local IGA. Tomorrow we will have a hot breakfast. Because we booked three tours through the guesthouse, we get a free breakfast. The guesthouse gets three commissions. It should be said that we booked The Three Tours through the guesthouse. There have been other attempts to cash in on tourism locally, but really there are only three major things to do. You go to the Daintree Forest, you go to the Great Barrier Reef, or you go to Kuranda and ride the skyrail and the train. There has been a train there for a while, but it is a local entrepreneur building the skyrail that turned Kuranda into something somebody would want to go to. It has become the third major local attraction. Today we submit to the attraction.

Evelyn asked how I could comb my hair without looking in a mirror. I explained the secret was not minding how it turned out. She thought as much.

We got picked up at least ten minutes early by Graham, a guy with military epaulets and shorts like out of the movie On The Beach. Of course, the epaulets had the name of his tour company so they were a little hard to take seriously. In fact everyone but Graham found Graham a little hard to take seriously.

We are the only Americans on this trip. We have at least four Germans, some English, and a lot of Australians. As we pick people up I see at a cafe table Cathy, one of the women from the boat whom we talked to yesterday. We wave.

We are seeing a lot of English traveling in Australia. Considering the upcoming vote to dump ties with England, it is interesting. The English I have talked to have more or less thought that Australia should go Republic. Well, there goes the Empire.

We are headed toward Kuranda over the Gillies Mountains. This is mostly sugar growing territory sending the majority of their sugar to Asia. With the economy suffering in Asia they are expecting some bad years ahead. Graham's guiding seems to center mostly on economic issues, particularly if they are bad news. Graham is just brimming over with the latest bad economic news.

He also tells us about some of the trees in the rainforest. We see an umbrella tree, classified as a "hemi." (Actually it is a hemi-epiphite. Graham only remembered the prefix.) That is a tree that is not a parasite but exploits another tree to get the height to get sunlight. The seeds will take hold two-thirds the way up another tree so it is not too far to sunlight. Then it sends down roots to the ground. It does not harm the host tree; it just stands on its shoulders. After that Graham is happy to get back to bad economic news.

Graham regales us with tales of price wars between two dairies where the big guy dropped prices to chase the little guy out of the market.

As we move up the mountain we are very suddenly in rainforest. The vegetation changes over in just a few feet. We stopped to see a Kauri tree, a tree about a millennium old. They cut down the three-millennium trees for furniture. This is more bad news.

We stop at a restaurant in Barrine where we stopped for morning tea. We also had scones with strawberry jelly and whipped cream. Very nice. We eat on a balcony over small Lake Barrine, a large pond really, surrounded by rainforest. One of the local ducks is so tame she comes up to people to have her neck scratched. Evelyn got a picture. I am surprised a bird even likes being petted.

We saw a Curtain Fig Tree, this is a parasite tree that takes root high on another tree, strangles the tree. The host rots away leaving the Curtain Fig to take its place. What we are seeing is really the classic such parasitic trees and is somewhat famous.

Evelyn saw some Poison Walnut and pointed it out to our guide. He said it would not be Poison Walnut. Our guide two days ago showed us how to recognize the leaf. Now we don't know whom to believe.

Graham is complaining that wheat prices and tin prices are all dropping and the local farmers and miners are all failing and leaving. Then he gets onto another tack. He thinks the Y2K problem is all intentionally created so someone can grab power in the chaos. He complains banks are closing right and left and are being replaced by ATMs. "We are all numbers," he says. We are all being manipulated, he thinks.

We stop at a stand to sample local fruits and fresh roasted peanuts. Several people buy fruit and nuts. We are all being manipulated, I think.

We stop to have a short stay at the Mareeba Heritage Museum showing exhibits of the settlers of this territory. Hats, pans, a linotype machine, a telephone switch, etc. There are stories of explorers, a railway ambulance, etc. That sort of thing. We also see termite mounds out front, some three feet high and two hundred years old.

Graham was giving us instructions for the skyrail. There is a museum as part of the run. Graham said that one pair of women had spent a long time coming up the skyrail because they went to the museum. He asked them what they retained. It was just about nothing, he said. He recommended if you go to the museum, don't bother to read the signs. You just don?t retain what you read. The passengers at this point are furtively looking at each other. Are we really hearing this? This is our guide? Graham is a real piece of work.

The skyrail is really three cableway tracks in tandem. The total length is about five miles. You do have a sort of acrophobic response at first, but I assume it is reasonably safe. You float along something like twenty feet over the treetops.

It is not a whole lot further and we are at the station at the base of the skyrail. It is just about a city block away from Tjapukai, the Aborigine arts center. (Of course out here in the country city blocks are hard to come by.) We may end up going there tomorrow.

Between the first and the second leg the station has a nature walk into the surrounding rainforest. This one had a guided tour. There was a fair amount of overlap with the previous two rainforest talks.

An "epiphite" is the real name for a tree that roots in another tree to give it a chance at sunlight. Presumably it can survive that way. One that cannot and has to send down roots to the ground is a "hemi-epiphite."

Cinema fans will remember that in the original Godzilla, the title monster is killed because an oxygen destroyer is put into his water in Tokyo Bay. In fact Aborigines kill fish in that way. If you throw milkwood leaves in the water with fish it destroys the oxygen in the water. Fish are unable to breathe and die. The Aborigines then collect them floating at the top of the water.

Another popular favorite is the stinging tree. This has nettles with poison. It is not very nice, though non-fatal.

There is something like fifty-seven varieties of tree in England and something in the thousands in Australia.

We then continued on the next leg of the skyrail. Evelyn and I were discussing how the rail actually works. The cars hang from the cable, but in doing so touch only the top part of the circle that is the cross-section of the cable. The support wheel touches only the bottom half of the circle. In this way the car can pass the support tower. The question was really what connects the car to the cable. Evelyn thought it was bolted. I thought that would weaken the cable. I thought they were held together by gravity, friction, and perhaps some mechanical clamping like you might get with vise-grip pliers. The primary difference in our points of view was whether the hanging car was affixed for life to one point on the cable. I thought not, Evelyn thought it was. Then we got to the station where the cars actually bunch up at the loading and unloading zone. How could they do that that bolted to the cable, I asked? Evelyn conceded the point. Now that I think about it, city cable cars grip onto the cable to go and let go to stop. They have pretty much one speed.

Getting off the skyrail we saw our birders of the previous day getting on. There are only three local attractions people come for. You end up seeing the same people over and over.

There are some views of the local gorge and waterfall, not as impressive as it is in the January to June wet season. But it still is pretty impressive. There is an exhibit on the rainforest where we had been warned not to read the exhibits. Actually a few were of some interest.

We continued on to leg 3 of the skyrail. The legs themselves were quite similar, just giving an overview of the forest canopy. We got to the station at the top of the mountain and took the shuttle into Kuranda. This was for the famous Kuranda Market. Market Hell! If there ever was a market here it has long since been replaced by tourist shops of dubious quality. There is like a flea market within the larger town. We visited their first but it was all tourist stuff. There was a Thai noodle stand of the food court variety. (My claim has always been that at a food court the food is tried and found wanting.) We had lunch there and it was mediocre. Tasty, but nothing special. We stopped in a second restaurant where they had a different brand of ginger beer. We shared a bottle. Evelyn tried to get me to spend a little on myself.

Time for an aside. Up until about five years ago Evelyn was very negative on me spending on myself. She was afraid I would just go hog wild. I don't know how she got that impression. We would each look at souvenirs when we traveled but she would try to make sure I didn't spend too much. She would usually get herself something like a T-shirt and I would end up getting nothing. This would culminate in small fights in places like Phuket. Eventually it culminated in a big fight and for a year Evelyn tracked what each of us spent on ourselves. I don't think Evelyn ever told me what the exact figures were but it turned out that Evelyn was pretty stingy with herself and I seem to almost have a psychological block against spending on myself. With the exception of the occasional outing to buy books and perhaps a videotape and the begrudged need to replace clothing when it wears out, I just do not spend on myself.

Part of it is gender politics anyway. We are told that men have the upper hand over women in business. That is true though the degree to which this is true is constantly overstated. Take Lucent. You have to go many levels up above my head before you reach a level where men predominate over women. You have to go up to the levels where people are allowed to talk about how important Diversity is in lieu of going to Diversity meetings. If you have to go to a Diversity meeting, you are not where the problem is.

But we are also told that men have more control over how the money is spent and spend more on themselves. This is an out and out lie. The signs all point to women being the ones making most of the purchasing decisions in our country and they were long before the Women's Lib Movement took hold. I call as People's Exhibit Number One any department store in any mall. Three quarters of the main entrances will lead to women's clothing and the rest will probably lead to something gender neutral. The men's department will be hidden away in a dark corner usually. Do you think the word has just not reached Macys which gender really has money to spend on themselves?

Don't stop at just the department store. Go to People's Exhibit Number Two, a directory of the department store, and count how many store cater primarily to women, how many cater primarily to men. I was surprised to find a two-to-one ratio. Even that was more than I expected.

Compare the average beauty parlor and the number of products for sale against the average men's barbershop. In my area we have dozens of nail parlors opening up. Many of the women I see who patronize these parlors are in low-paying jobs but they still apparently have more money to spend on themselves than men in significantly better paying jobs. Outside of malls and not including barbershops, what businesses around cater primarily to men? I see none. But I do see free-standing clothing stores for women.

Now at this point in the discussion I usually hear that men spend on different sorts of things. They buy big-ticket cars. And some do. But how many of us have had a Porsche in our driveways, owned by anyone, in the past twelve months? The men I know buy cars as family utilities, not as luxury items. It makes as much sense to count them as it does to count groceries as women's expenditure.

There are always exceptions, but the real spending power in US is more with women.

Off my soapbox.

I looked for a vest with lots of pockets which they had, but not in my size. You can never have too many pockets, particularly when you travel. I wear this sort of fly-fisherman's vest right now, but I might like one with a little more class.

Oh, one more word about Luck of Leeper. The Skyrail apparently broke down some time after we got off. Frequently when we have good luck it is a narrow miss of very bad luck.

Kuranda is an artificial tourist attraction. As far as I am concerned the Kuranda day is the skyrail and the train. The shops are a waste of time. I got a hat to replace the one sunk in the Coral Sea, more utility than souvenir.

For 3:30 we were more than ready for the ride back. There is a train that takes about a hundred minutes to cover about thirty kilometers. The train goes at about twelve miles an hour.

Trains are not a big thing in Australia. They were used but not romanticized the way they were in other countries. About the only trains left are for tourism. We sat across from a couple from Auckland. I forget her name. He was Peter and was a large and rather tough looking fellow with the thick features of a Fred Flintstone or a Soprano (from a series currently running on HBO in the States). At the same time he was instantly likeable and had a good sense of humor. He also thought that Graham was a real piece of work. As the train chugs you pass the gorge and get some photographic views of the waterfall and later the sugar harvest of the countryside. A bunch of the cane was ready to harvest. It grows in long stalks and when it gets ready it sprouts a little feathery stalk at the top.

We were about ten minutes late getting in. We could have stayed in town for a meal but were not really hungry. Instead we wrote in our logs. One of the stations ran the film Born on the Fourth of July so we watched that. Unfortunately I find myself catching cold. I will take vitamin C and antihistamine and hope to make it go away.

08/14/99 Cairns and Tjapukai

I woke about 2:30 in the morning. Unfortunately in this room that looks like near sunrise does. I wrote for a couple of hours. It was dumb. I should have tried to get more sleep.

We got free breakfast from the guesthouse. It was muesli, fruit, bread, and tea.

Our goal for today is Tjapukai, pronounced just like it sounds. It is an Aborigine Arts Center. It shows you the culture that was destroyed by the Europeans. Sort of a celebration of the culture mixed with Atrocityland. Evelyn is doing a wash and I am trying to get her to let me do more since with everything else she does she should not have to wash cloths on vacation. I think we are both trying to be noble. That minor, pleasant disagreement aside we are sort of lazing around writing. It looks like a warm day in paradise.

Oh, how nice. Australia has thirty-minute infomercials just like we do. How wonderful for them! They also show music videos on Saturday morning. They have one where they show people in deep emotional pain on a city street. There is sort of an electrical ripple effect in air and the band materializes playing their rock music. It is like the band has been beamed down to end all the pain messianically with their rock music. Gad, what pretentiousness, what arrogance. They are not even melodic. I wonder if future generations are going to look at our music videos and just laugh themselves silly.

Well, we started the activities of the day with a walk into Cairns. Already it was getting hot. On Saturday they have a market in town called Rusty's Market. Somewhat different from Kuranda. This was a farmers market. There were some other things for sale, but mostly fruit and vegetables. Evelyn got The Man from Snowy River and Other Poems. I have the first eighty pages of the book in my palmtop. They are ballads about bush cowboys mostly.

After that we go to a drug store and I get some extra Vitamin C to fight my cold. We get some chewable Vitamin C to make it easier to take throughout the day. Each one contains 1000mg of Vitamin C.

From there we grabbed a bus for Tjapukai, the Aboriginal Art Center. It is about a twenty-minute ride. On Saturdays and Sundays they do not go direct to Tjapukai but leave you on the highway at about a five-minute walk away. The entrance fee is currently A$24. This is a little steep, but it is entirely for the profit of the Tjapukai people and is on their own land.

The first room you see is like a dark museum room where in cases you see Boomerangs, wooden swords, woomeras (atl-atl like spear throwers), etc. Around the walls are art telling Tjapukai stories. ("Tjapukai" is the name of the tribe of Aborigines.) The first part of the myth tells how the God-spirit created all birds but had to specially provide for the Cassowary, the bird sacred to the Tjapukai. The second tale tells how the carpet snake went on a mission to bring seashells to the people, but bird people and cut ambush him into little pieces, which are scattered.

The Tjapukai divide people into Gurrabana, the people of the wet, and Gurraminya, the people of the dry. Each has its own totems.

On either side of this museum room are theaters and the timing of your arrival usually determines what order you see things in. We went into History Theater. The presentation shows how the Tjapukai were subjugated and exploited. It is all in Tjapukai language but everybody who does not speak Tjapukai hears it in their own language though the magic of Philips headsets. A lot of what they say about the Tjapukai seems to be very familiar. It is the same sort of rhetoric we hear about American Indians. We are told the Tjapukai lived in harmony with nature. Anybody who tells you that his or her ancient ancestors lived in harmony with nature is handing you a crock. Perhaps they are fooling themselves as well. There was never a time when humans lived in harmony with nature. There was a time when people were technologically weak and nature did more damage to them than they did to nature, but protecting nature is a very recent concept. Peoples who lived close to nature did not love it; they hated and feared it because so often it was unpredictable and dangerous. The American Indian left some pretty disgusting dumps around but they didn't have the technology to make anything that wasn't biodegradable. They would have if they could have. They would burn down whole forests so they could have a better view of hunting grounds or water. I expect that Australia's indigenous peoples lived in that kind of harmony with nature.

Huge injustices were done to tribal peoples here and in the Americas and in Africa. But the truth is they were not all the harmless, wise, nature-loving saints we like to portray them as. They were highly imperfect humans, just like the rest of us, who were unjustly abused and cheated of what should have been their rights.

The presentation was one-sided, though from what I could tell it was substantially true.

Next stop was Dance Theater; a twenty-minute presentation of Aborigine dance choreographed by expert on shows brought in from New York. Included in the ceremonies we saw was how to make a fire. There were some jokes thrown in. It all culminated in the singing of "Proud to be Aborigine." If that was a tribal song, I'm Mary Martin. The women performers are in modest knit tops. This is also inauthentic, but they don't want to get shut down. By the way, I had never realized that boomerangs were used as musical instruments, but apparently used in pairs they are an instrument to mark a beat.

Following that was a medicine and dijeridu show. Not much to this. They told you about two or three tribal medicines like lemon myrtle for sinuses and termite mound for diarrhea. I don't know who first thought of drinking termite mound in water for stomach problems, but it has the right ingredients. A dijeridu is just a tube of wood. Generally this will be a tree limb hollowed out by termites. You further hollow it out with live coals and a long stick. That gives you the tube. As the speaker pointed out, a length of PVC pipe works very well.

It just takes a little practice to get the low bullfrog sound from it. You then make a sort of Bronx cheer at one end. It is a sound that has become characteristic of Australian music.

Our next event was the spear toss. Neither of us was very good. We stopped for a snack of some soda and French Fries.

From there it is out to the boomerang pen. It was crowded before. Evelyn and I get some quick personalized instruction. It goes out and circles him counter-clockwise and lands about nine feet behind his right. "I can probably throw one that well," I think. The instructor says it should be ladies first. Evelyn throws twice but somehow misses the aerodynamic properties of the boomerang. It flies a short distance as of she had thrown a rock. I toss one and it goes out and then curves around me counter-clockwise and lies about seven feet behind my right. "Good one, what tribe are you from?" he asks. I should have told him I was from the tribe of Levi. I had bettered his throw, but neither of us was going to win any prizes. I tried a second and this one had the same problem. Seven and a half feet behind my right. It had been a while since I used to throw so I did not remember exactly what I was doing wrong. My third toss was terrible and the fourth was just a little better. But I had bested the instructor so I could show off a little. I admitted that I had thrown before. It was the only sport in which I ever had impressed anyone with my ability. Not that I ever tried to compete or impress anyone with it. After this trip I may take it up again.

The last bit was the Creation Theater. It is much the same deal as the History Theater Show. This is a live show that mixes images like an optical printer does. It tells the Tjapukai Creation story with magical imagery. Spirits fly out of the ground. Flames sprout from shields. There is a glass wall between the actors and the audience. It is tipped back toward the actors at a 45-degree angle. Cartoon images are rear-projected on a horizontal screen just above the glass wall. It reflects the images like a mirror at the same time it lets us see the actors behind. If the actor gets his shield in the right place and time, It will seem to flame. If he doesn't, there will be a flame there anyway. In fact, that was the one error I noticed. For that image the actor pulled his shield away too soon.

From there it was out to the souvenir stand (we got nothing) then we went to ride the bus to the end of the line. There were some nice homes reminiscent of those in Silicon Valley.

The bus was retiring for the day.

The bus driver told us that he was going off duty. He would leave us where we could flag down a bus for Cairns. It should be along in five minutes. After about fifteen minutes it struck me I was standing out in the middle of nowhere with no guarantee of anything. Finally after eighteen minutes a bus from the line comes. We try to wave it down and it ignores us and drives by. I figure I am okay as long as we don't see some biplane dusting crops where there are no crops to dust. Three minutes later we are picked up. This must have come from the beach. There is a bunch of people who look like they have been through a sand shake and bake.

We got back to Cairns about 4:45 and the exotic restaurants were all closed until 5:30 or 6pm. We sat down on a bench to rest and to write.

At about 6 we go to a Korean restaurant. We looked at the menu. For most prices here you multiply by 2/3. Right at the moment the A$3 is U$2. In other words the Australian dollar is worth about 2/3 of the American dollar in exchange. Looking at restaurant prices the ratio to use is 11/20. That is because tax and tip are included in the price, which is a very nice system. If it says that a hamburger is $5 on the menu and you lay down $5 to pay for it, everybody is happy. In New Jersey you should be prepared to pay a little more than $6 between the tax that will be added and the tip that will be expected. Of course you have no control over how good the service is in Australia. Good service or bad you pay the same. But then I hardly ever give less than 15% anyway.

The people running the Korean Restaurant seemed surprised to see us. We seemed to be their only non-Asians that night and they don't frequently get them in this resort town. They tried to over explain things, but it was clear we knew what we were doing. That seemed to be very unusual.

They asked if we have been to Korea. No, but we frequently eat in Korean restaurants at home. Some things Evelyn won't eat. One of the dishes was a mixture of raw beef and raw egg. If a friend served it too me I would probably not eat it. But you don't hear much of restaurants serving dishes that are unsafe.

In the end pretty much all the food goes. We would not want the owner to think we were provincial. After that we pay and go.

We take the bus back to within a few blocks of our hotel and are back at room about 7. We put on the TV and pack. It does not take long to pack. I lay down to finish the program. It is apparently over without my seeing the end. I must have fallen asleep at something like 8:45. I turn off the TV.

08/15/99 Go Ask Alice

I wake up occasionally in the night but fall asleep again. Evelyn turns on the light at 6. I slept more than 10 hours, which is unusual for me. Our guesthouse is nice and airy and over night it is hard to keep warm. My cold feels a little worse, but signs are good. Usually it feels a lot worse by this point. Besides a cold feel worst at night when you have less to distract you. The guesthouse owner's daughter has the same cold, so that might be where I got it. I will still hit heavily on vitamin C and will take antihistamine.

We put on the TV for the news, but there is none. An ad says, "big entertainment has broken out on this station." It is followed by a show in which some guy does sleight of hand tricks. They show you how wax figures are made for waxworks. And somebody comes on and tells a Bible story. I am rather pleased that I missed the small entertainment, whatever that was.

At about 7 we check out and call a taxi. It is there in roughly ninety seconds. I guess it had been dispatched from just up the street. It has clear seat covers on the seats. Whenever it turns a corner I nearly slide off my seat.

The airport is lovely, tropical, and empty. It is about an hour wait till we board and I work on my log. They insist I check my backpack, which is just a bit too wide to fit in the overheads. I was more or less expecting that. It is tough to come halfway around the world and spend a month with just the stuff that fits in a carry-on luggage. We walk to the plane, a small jet.

Breakfast is tea and scones and muesli. I am in a half-awake, half-sleep state from the antihistamine.

Evelyn found a couple from Virginia and talked the whole flight. My seat had no window for structural reasons so I could see only little bits of the ground along the way. This clearly is desert country.

We land and I go to luggage pickup. Why is it there is always one bag going around when you arrive? Then it is twenty minutes before the next bag shows up. I think it is to give people hope. Maybe it is like the dollar in the glass on a piano bar piano.

The bag does come by and we grab it. We pick from the Lonely Planet mid-range a place called Todd Tavern. We call and they have room. It is A$39 a night. We have to start picking from the upper range. This is really just a dormitory room in a somewhat depressing part of town. I saw the room after we got there and it was better than starting over to find a room, but not a lot better. Evelyn said she wanted to pick places in town, but we really have to make sure we don't stay at places like this flophouse in a rotting neighborhood. We went around to do some walking and while the street on one side of us is very grotty, on the other side it is somewhat nicer with a sort of weekend market and even some touristy shops. We saw a sort of a book sale, but we really do not want to get too many more books and haul them around down under. We arranged a tour of Ayers Rock, etc. The tour company is Sahara Tours. Most of the tour companies have the identical tour. This one supposedly has some nice amenities, according to the Internet. We set it up for tomorrow morning. That will mean only one night in Todd's Tavern. The woman who runs the agency suggested we might want to try the Desert Palm Resort. Lonely Planet also recommends them.

Our tour leaves tomorrow at 6am. But it gets colder on the desert than I was prepared for. I wanted to get another layer to keep me warm, particularly with the cold.

We went into a couple of the shops. They did not have a jacket that I thought was good. They did have sweatshirts for A$45. They said Alice Springs, Australia. It turned out they were not in my size. Our time was running out so the clerk suggested Woolworth's about one block over. They had me over a barrel so I had to buy a sweatshirt that did not say "Alice Springs." It cost A$4.99. It saved me about A$40 and I will just have to do without the advertising. My sweatshirt doesn't say anything. Unless maybe it says that I am not stupid. But I came close.

Heading back to the room I passed a stall for Boomerang Man. No relation to the company in Louisiana who used to import boomerangs. After that it was back to the room. I intended to write but fell asleep. I slept for about half an hour. I seem to have a lot of sleeping I am catching up on.

I have been listening to how to speak Aussie. It helps if you know the slang, but that is not as important as your pronunciation. What is important is how you pronounce your long vowels. It has been observed that long A's get transmuted to long I's. But equally important is that long I's become oy's. You would not say, "Try it for a day, Mate.? It would be "Troy it for a die, mite."

The ceiling over my head is pitched at an angle following the roof. It makes it feel like my feet are higher than my head when I lie in bed. I have my own Alice Springs Mystery Spot. We may be the only guests at the hotel (if that is the right word for it). When I signed the guest book we were the first people to sign in for two days. When we tried to pay with a credit card the woman was not sure how to take a credit card.

From there we went out for a walk, looking for the recommended Desert Palms Resort.

It took us about a half-hour to find it. Several times in Turkey wended up getting our maps confused and walking a lot further than we needed to get to what we were trying to find. Based on that experience, and a false start that took us a way before we had to backtrack, I gave Evelyn a hard time about how far we were going to find the hotel. It turns out she was right and the new hotel was worth finding.

Then we walked back. In wet times there is a river behind our hotel. In dry times it seems to be a gathering point for burnt-out Aborigines. They come into the tourist area loitering and begging. I think the streets are generally pretty safe, however.

The Aborigines have a sort of common look, a lot of character. They have very prominent eyebrow ridges. Their cheeks are full.

Back at the room I took my evening antihistamine and waiting for dinnertime it put me to sleep. I woke up to find Evelyn waiting for me to wake so we could go to dinner.

We had seen a restaurant called Red Ochre, which had intrigued us with Australian dishes. I had a good idea when I entered the restaurant that the service would be slow. Figure it this way. Your stay in the restaurant will be an interval of time waiting to be served and an interval of time eating. If the ratio of those intervals is too high, if you spend a lot more time waiting to be served and not very much eating. Assuming you did not enter the restaurant just after it opened, that ratio will be just about the same as the ratio of the number of tables with people waiting to the number with people eating. When we entered the Red Ochre there may have been two tables eating, three drinking, and maybe ten waiting to be served. That points to a service problem. Sure enough the wait to be served seemed disproportionate to what we ordered. The soup we ordered never delivered. I had ordered Prime Rib rare and it came medium. There was no sharp knife to eat the meat with. It is tough to eat Prime Rib with a butter knife. The Barramundi (a kind of fish Evelyn ordered) was just drenched in oil and did not have much in the way of spices. Much the same was true of my broiled mushrooms.

We got back to the room to find the fluorescent light over the beds did not work. We reported it, and to the credit of the tavern, it was repaired in twenty minutes on this, a Sunday night.

Evelyn hit the sack early. I may join her soon.

Before I came to Australia I had heard about the money being plastic. It is true that the bills are made of something plasticized. Each bill has a sort of a seal that is transparent. Each bill has a place you can look straight through it. And you will never see a torn bill. An attempt to tear an A$5 bill will end in frustration. I bet the money is no good for origami either.

08/16/99 Ayers Rock

Not a very good night. I probably napped too much during the day. I woke up at least once per hour. As we had come back from dinner they were playing "American Pie" in the bar. Evelyn called my attention to it to figure out if it was the traditional version or the new Weird Al version that told the story of The Phantom Menace. It was the original, but after I heard that I could not get the song out of my head. Every time I woke up I heard it. I have a grudge against that song anyway. Whatever it means it is obscure. If you met someone on the street who talked like that you would assume he was a babbling and incoherent schizophrenic. Because the words are set to music and it is a nice tune people think the meaning is there, it is just obscure. The lesson is that if you are losing touch with reality and are babbling, do it to music.

Well, we are going out camping on the desert. I am not sure if I should continue to take my antihistamine or not.

Last night the dorm bathroom seemed primitive and inconvenient. This morning it seems like it could be luxurious compared to what we are going to have the next few days.

Breakfast in the room was toast and coffee. The room had a toaster and a refrigerator. We also each had a piece of cheese left over from yesterday's plane flight.

I have to admit to being a bit nervous about all this. Once I was not nervous enough and I ended up hanging onto a mountain for my life. I still feel the effects whenever I am dependent on my strength over a long interval of time to keep myself alive.

A few minutes after 6 the minibus arrives. We throw out packs in the trailer. Rick, our guide, sees my shirt, sweater, jacket, and vest. He says that I have dressed wisely for the desert. The more layers the better.

I was afraid that when the others came on board we'd have nineteen people who look like Mercury astronauts. Actually what we have is nineteen members of the "English as a second language" crowd. Italian, Spanish, German. Only our guide Rick is comfortable with English. And they all look more fit than we are, dammit. The guide is having a tough time communicating. One kid sings along with the radio in English. That is the problem with America exporting its culture. Everybody knows our language better than we know theirs. Italian seems like the primary language. I think all the Italian speakers are traveling together.

We wait a fair length of time where the Italians get on. I am not sure what the problem is but they keep filing onto and off of the bus, changing seats. One does not have her voucher.

Well, we are headed out into the desert. Technically we won't really see desert but arid territory. It will be desert enough for us. The trees and bush we will see are all close relatives of rainforest plants. At one time the interior of Australia was all rainforest. Then somebody turned off the water. That divided the vegetation into two categories. There were plants that from some sort of fluke could adapt to the dry conditions. They adapt smaller leaves that require less water. The other category of vegetation was mulch. This is a lot like working at Lucent. These plant species all signed on for rainforest conditions. The upper management for its own reasons has decided to starve this area for water. Nobody asked the plants, of course. A lot of them didn't make the cut. A few struggle by by adapting. They no doubt know that parts of Australia are still rainforest and they keep dreaming that upper management will recognize the value of the rainforest environment and will bring it back. Meanwhile, they struggle with what little they have. This is ecology I understand. We pieces of burned out scrub know how to recognize each other.

As we ride we are told about various things. Originally Alice Springs was formed as a telecommunications center. Telegraph wires can carry signal only so far. A small distance short of that you can put a repeater. That is an automatic telegraph key. It gets the signal coming in and taps it back out instantly. Now that is the beginning of a leg and you can put a repeater at the end of that. Suddenly you are no longer limited in how far you can send a telegraph signal. Alice Springs was the location of a repeater station.

We will be stopping at some cattle stations. Cattle is the third largest industry of Australia. But the first stop is not a cattle station but a camel farm. In the 1840s six camels were brought to Australia. All but one died. Australians just did not know how to care for camels. By 1860 a lot more camels were imported together with care-takers. Now Australia has the healthiest camels in the world. Afghanistan who first exported camels to Australia now buys them from Australia since they are disease free due to the isolation of Australia. At the camel farm one can get refreshments, meals, and camel rides. Evelyn would like to say she has ridden camels on four continents. I lost my taste for joyriding of animals after Thailand. These camels hopefully are treated better than the elephants of Thailand. It is a gag you hear a lot, but these are really very beautiful camels. They are not mangy like the camel we saw in Egypt and India. They have long eyelashes. There is a difference between beautiful and attractive. These are not attractive but they are beautiful. Apparently if you are lucky you can see herds of wild, feral camels by the road.

We stop at the Mt. Ebeneezer Road House. There is a road train out front. That is a triple tanker truck. 64 wheels. Back in Detroit they were arguing if double tankers should be allowed. Of course here the road is very straight. We see them hear with up to three full length trailers and a fourth of half length.

The Mt. Ebeneezer cattle station is a cattle ranch a little larger than Belgium. Really. Some of these cattle stations get very big.

The Barrow Creek Cattle Station is about 12,000 sq. km. The Kidman cattle station made its owner at one time the richest man in Australia. Kidman's great-great-great-granddaughter, still very well off, is Nicole Kidman, an actress married to Tom Cruise. The cattle stations reached their limit. The cattle overgrazed the land and completely destroyed it. Now the law says you must have two square kilometers for each head of cattle.

Aborigines have very, very large families. Your father and all his brothers are considered your father. Your mother and all her sisters are your mother. You have no cousins, you just have brothers and sisters. If you own a store you have to staff it with non-family members. If your brother wants something from the store, you are expected to give it free. With so many brothers and sisters you could easily go broke.

As we drive we have seen several wedge-tail eagles. Thought to be endangered, they are coming back.

I alternately watch scenery and sleep. The Italians are rowdy, laughing and joking with each other in Italian.

We stop to collect wood. Each of us is supposed to get four pieces. That should be enough for the campfire tonight.

We pass Mt. Connor, but we will be talking about that more later. One group member has gone directly to the airport near Ayers Rock and we have to pick him up there. He speaks English. We won't make too many personal friendships these few days but he is a possibility.

We are off to the Olgas.

Earlier in the trip we were given brochures from the local tribes requesting that people neither photograph Aborigines, not climb their sacred rocks. Nevertheless we will all be given an opportunity to climb Ayers Rock. I have no intention of being such a rude guest.

The Ayers Rock Resort runs all tourism around the rock. We ha a campsite with two-person tents. We grab our bags off the trailer and pick a tent. Lunch is cold cut sandwiches we brought with us. We set up a buffet line and we all eat around a long table. Conversation is in Italian. If there are English subtitles, they are beneath the level of the table.

Earnest Giles, an explorer, gave most of these places their European names. He named most of the mountains. He renamed Kata Djuta (many heads) as the Olgas. It is a big sandstone rock with four apexes. At their tallest they are 200 meters taller than Ayers Rock. We head out there for an after lunch trek.

Well, we followed the trail for a way. We even kept up with the others. But there comes a moment of truth when you realize that you are a middle-aged man, overweight, and somewhat out of shape. Eventually we were the last people in line. Then we were by ourselves. Rick had told us that we must leave nothing behind us. Absolutely no litter. And if I were a cigarette smoker there would have been no litter on the trail. That is because cigarette smokers are in denial. They really believe that cigarette buts do not count as litter. You can yell at people absolutely no litter must be left on the trail. A smoker will leave cigarette butts on the trail and it will not even occur to him that perhaps he has in some way broken the no litter rule.

Evelyn and I continued forward. We got to a point when there was no trail, just a face of rock to climb. This is our vacation and it is not what I would term as being fun. We have gotten some nice scenery but it was pretty much like I had guessed. These rock faces are impressive because there is nothing like them for a long distance. Drop these same rocks into Zion National Monument in Utah and these rocks would not merit a second look. Zion was where a boulder the height and width of the Empire State Building cracked off of a rock three times its height and width. This is just peanuts to that.

The drag back was worse than the drag out. There is one place where you are just climbing angled rock face. Usually the way back seems shorter and this time the walk back seemed maybe twice as far. I should have taken more rests but I did not want to be passed by everyone else on the tour. I had a good twenty-minute wait before the last of the others came. He had brought chilled apples. I don't think I actually remember ever enjoying an apple too much. I must have been dehydrated.

When the group got together we went to see Ayers Rock at sunset. There is a secret little place that you can go to watch the sun go down on the rock. The only people who know about this place are the tourists for thirty-seven kilometers around. They have a huge bus parking lot and everybody touring the area shows up to see the sight. Some have champagne. There is something magical about seeing this rock in the light of sunset. There is something magical about seeing "Frasier" on TV. Neither magic works on me. It is a big rock and you see shadows. So what?

When we get back to the campsite we make and serve dinner. There is a bag of steaks and some port sausages. Then there are the same potato and pasta salads we had at lunch. To drink there are cans of beer and bottles of wine. There is not much to drink if you don't like alcohol. There is some lemon drink syrup you can mix with water or you can have the water without lemon syrup. I have had better. The conversation is all in Italian.

After dinner we sit around the campfire and try to communicate with each other. Evelyn and I have lucked out in that the only common language is English. Dick, the guy we picked up at the airport, is the only other native English speaker, coming from outside London. It turns out all the Italians are friends from somewhere near Mt. Blanc. It would be nice to have a group of friends at home who like each other so much.

People want to know most the young French speaking woman since by the firelight she is quite attractive. She is actually from New Caledonia. Eventually we head to bed.

It is a cold, dark night. There is not much we can see inside the tent. I try to put the sleep sock inside the sleeping bag but in the dark it is not easy. Everything has to be done by the light of a flashlight held in one hand. This is not really roughing it, but it is a lot rougher than our Africa trip. There is no light in the tents and I have to use my dirty laundry as a pillow. It turns out the mattress was not in straight either, making the bed more uncomfortable. This would have been a more comfortable night if we had been given a chance to set up the cots at lunch when there was still light.

I am not a happy camper.

08/17/99 King's Creek Cattle Station

I dreamed that I was walking down a school hallway when suddenly I was enveloped in white cushioning. I tried moving my arms and legs and I was held fast. I woke up and found I could not move my arms and legs awake either. I was tangled in the bedroll. It took quite a bit of fighting to get it straight. But I hated the idea I could not turn on a light for another four hours. You would think that after yesterday I would be really tired and would fall asleep almost immediately. Not so. I tried running a movie in my mind, but that did not help. Finally I decided to waste the batteries. I turned on the flash and the palmtop and played a game of solitaire. It was more rebellion against the dark than anything else. But I did fall asleep and woke up again at 5am. Since our wakeup call was 5:15am I consider that the night has successfully passed.

Breakfast was some malted milk and a peanut butter sandwich. From there it was out to Ayers Rock to see it at sunrise. I think I am missing something. It is just a rock and during sunrise it is just a rock with changing light.

I comment to Evelyn that if I wanted to hide this thing I would drop it in Canyon Reef National Park and nobody would ever notice it. Uluru, as its real name is, is 3.6 km long and 348m high above the ground. It is the largest single rock in the world according to the publicity, though I was almost certain that there were larger rocks in Zion National Monument in Utah.

We have a choice of walks this morning. We can climb Ayers rock, we can walk a large subset of the perimeter, or we can walk a small subset of the perimeter. We choose the large walk, five kilometers. Dick goes with us. It turns out he teaches photography at four colleges near London. He also does professional shoots. He leads an enviable life. Our destination is where people embark to climb Ayers Rock.

We reassemble at the bus for apples, oranges, and fruitcake. From there we go to the Aboriginal Culture Center, a museum of Art and Myth. There is not a lot. We get some myths illustrated with images of the snake. They tell you a little about Aborigine stories and their culture, particularly three pillars, Tjukurpa-the law and belief of the Aborigines, Anangu-what the people call themselves, and Ngura, country in which people live. They have a book there asking people to respond if they would be willing to come to Ayers Rock if climbing were not allowed.

I talk to Rick about this issue of climbing Ayers Rock. Ayers Rock has long been a tourist destination. People want to come and climb the rock. It is the largest tourist attraction in Australia. The problem is that it that Ayers Rock is a holy place to the local tribes. It is a desecration of this holy place to have tourists come and climb. Australia has been loath to give up this tourist attraction. They are recognizing Aborigine rights and returning land to the indigenous people but they do not want to give up a major tourist attraction. They said part of the return of lands is a lease to the government of Ayers Rock. The Aborigines have little choice in the matter. They take the lease and ask people to please not climb Ayers Rock as it is one of their sacred places. They are just not militant enough to make a strong issue of it. What would be fair is if they started building cook fires in cathedral.

While tourism to this area has been increasing, there has been no increase in the number of climbers. But a fair percentage of visitors say they would not come if they were not allowed to climb the rock. Rick has known only one Japanese tourist who did not climb the rock.

After our talk we pick up and go back to camp to pack up and have lunch. I go over to the restrooms where there is a vending machine and buy myself a can of Coke to have with lunch. Lunch is corned beef loaf and ham sandwiches. There are continual spills all over the table since we have put a table cloth across a table made of slats of wood an inch apart. It is an accident waiting to happen. Even the ever-careful Evelyn has spilled a drink this way. In spite of her constant warnings to me, I never have had it happen to me.

I hear Rick say he was going to buy more beer for the group. I suggest to him he buy more soda at the same time. He says we will pass a grocery and I will be able to buy it myself. And we will have lime-drink cordial we can mix with water. I think that is a "No."

After lunch a few stops and we are off across the desert to the King's Creek Cattle Station. I was well behind in my log after not being able to write last night. However a good three hour ride was just what the doctor ordered. I got a little bit of sleep and still caught up. There was a certain sameness in the scenery. It was long rolling hills of scrubby arid vegetation. We stopped to photograph Mt Connor, another mesa like Ayers Rock. We also collect firewood again. It is odd that there seems to be piles of firewood by the side of the road just for the taking. I am not sure how it got there. But generally we just drive.

About 4:35 we pulled into the Kings Creek Camp. The cattle station is much bigger but this is a camp site they have set up. There is a gas pump, a general store, a helicopter pad, and a kangaroo pen. We went into the general store. There was not very much there. They sell soda, ice cream, souvenirs, etc.

They have some kangaroos in a pen. I watch them for a while and realize something about kangaroo locomotion. They have mastered a form of bipedal locomotion, but they can neither articulate their arms or their legs to move independently. Instead a powerful tail has become a foot for him. The walking motion is to kick out with both front legs while balancing on the husky powerful tail and the front paws, forming a stable triangle. When the two feet land the tail is brought up. The tail has become as useful as any foot. For faster movement he will hop on his back feet not unlike a man hopping on one foot. The kangaroo, like man and few other mammals, stands on its heel. Some American Indians do not, by the way.

Fighting is done standing on the tail alone, freeing up the powerful hind legs for kicking. The front paws on dainty stalks of arms are not used to fight. There is nothing fierce in the face of a kangaroo. Instead it looks half asleep, sappy, and confused. The look is as if he perpetually has been just awakened from a deep sleep and is trying desperately to fake knowing the business of being a kangaroo. He looks like he will be happier given the chance to fall asleep again. There is a little truth here since normally he is nocturnal. Oh, he will go out in the day but if it gets too hot he will just stand still and wait it out. He licks his arms to keep cool. It always seems tied up with its own problems and unlikely to threaten anyone else. This belies its ancestor, a formidable six-foot carnivore.

We pulled around to our campsite. It is a lot like the previous night's campsite. It has two fire pits in front. We are warned never to step in the fire pits. Parts are constantly at a very high temperature. Why they put them half blocking the gateway to the campsite is questionable.

This night will be considerably more comfortable than the previous night. One reason is while it is still light we are given time to set up the tent. if I can wake up in the middle of the night I can set up the Walkman. That helps me get back to sleep. Since yesterday I have figured out how to have an overhead light in a tent. The problem was that a hand-held light did not illuminate much. It did have a ring at the back for turning it into a key ring. I do always carry a large safety pin whose primary purpose is pinning together curtains. If I open the pin and poke it horizontally through the inclined tent ceiling about two feet above my bunk, the end with the guard becomes a hook that will hold a flashlight. The light then comfortably illuminates a wide area without being held.

What was scheduled for the afternoon was for everybody to go swimming. There is a small pool. Nobody is interested. Instead this is a good time to catch up on our logs. As we sit working on our logs some little yellow birds land on the tent peg near us. They are not so bright as canaries. Yellow is a popular color for birds in Australia.

Some of the people are working preparing dinner. One of the Italian women has cut up a bunch of vegetables. Someone else makes a comment and the woman who did the cutting shows a muscle. I make a cultural shot in the dark and say "Machiste!" I am rewarded with "Si, Machiste. Bravo!" It is a film allusion. In the 1914 film Cabiria the main character had a servant Machiste, a sort of strongman hero. Italians have frequently made films about Machiste since. Frequently he would be renamed Atlas or Hercules for foreign release, but in the original film he would have been Machiste.

Well, for most of the evening, before, during, and after dinner we talked. Frequently we talked with Dick. I should get his full name. Before dinner I dragged over to the general store to have a Coke with dinner.

Dinner was much more a campfire meal. There was Garlic Chicken Stew, Curry Chicken Stew, Vegetable stew, and Damper (campfire backed bread). The last was necessary to soak up the sauce. All this was cooked in kettles over a fire pit. And how was it? In truth the garlic sauce was indistinguishable from the Curry Sauce. The bread was just flour some places. This is not to say it was not tasty. Real campfire food has a handicap to overcome. It has to be cookable over a real campfire. It has a reputation of being really good because the people who eat it are hungry and tired. That lowers the bar on quality level. We sat around the fire, but there was less connection between the language speakers than there had been the night before. The Italians sang Italian songs the rest of us did not recognize. They did sing an Italian version of the Battle Hymn of the Republic.

Johnny, the ringleader of the Italians disappeared and when he came back he had a bag of ice cream bars for all the Italians. Some did not want one so he offered them around the circle. I got one and enjoyed it very much. Rick announced that the waking time would be 5am. We wanted to see wildlife the next morning.

I went to sleep about 10pm.

08/18/99 King's Canyon

52 degrees F. It feels cold in the tents, but it really is not very. That is about 11 degrees C. Last night it was a lot colder. I am up at 4:35. Before they have turned on the generators so there is almost no light and the sky is beautiful.

Evelyn had been trying to see meteors this whole trip so far. We were supposed to have the Perseids meteor shower last week and Evelyn had gone out to see in Cairns. So far no luck. I looked into the sky and saw one and a few seconds later saw another. She ran to look and there was nothing. She stared and stared at the sky. All that effort and there was nothing. I felt bad that with all the effort she had put in she had seen nothing (but a beautiful sky) and with so little effort I had seen two. I should say that we are a log way from any serious lighting and you see many orders of magnitude more stars than you would see in New Jersey. At arm's length you cannot find a place to put you little finger that its last joint does not cover up six or seven stars. Of course the constellations you recognize are all upside-down. After a while Evelyn said she had seen a shooting star at last. At least she thought it was. I assured her it had to be and felt better.

For breakfast I had a peanut butter sandwich and a bowl of cereal. I ate in front of a bonfire in the fire pit.

At 6am we headed out to the tune of music from Priscilla, Queen of the Desert which was shot in this area. We got to King's Canyon about 6:30.

We had an orientation of what we were going to be doing. I suggested we might be looking for nocturnal plants. He who takes exercise bushwalking must have a long leash.

We started our walk. We were going seven kilometers in three hours. That sounds pretty easy. It is less than 1.5 miles per hour. We have canyon walked on previous trips and it was nice and flat. We were walking in the canyon. This was not in but around on the rocks that the canyon had carved. It would not be fair to call this rock climbing, there is more of a trail than that. But climbing is a big part of what we were doing. Climbing up and climbing down. There is always a trail over the rocks, but it is not always obvious and a bad choice could mean a fall. I would like to say we gave a good account of ourselves, but you need to be young or in shape and we had problems. Rick was perfectly understanding. Everybody was. But we were probably holding the others back.

We got lecture on cycads and how the Aborigines make woomeras and spears. There is how they use just those two items to hunt kangaroo, kill him, and cook him. There were stories about the gold mining in the area. There was about a fifteen-minute stop to snack on fruitcake. But we had gotten up early to see wildlife and saw none. Something I find hard to believe is that boomerangs were used for hunting like throwing sticks, but Central Australian Aborigines never realized that a boomerang would naturally curve around and return to the sender. They had to be shown by Coastal Aborigines.

The grand finale was a very steep climb down the side of the canyon at a very sharp grade, picking our path among rocks. By the time we got to the bottom we were really drained. It was still a long walk to the bus and we were panting. This canyon is ten times the age of the Grand Canyon, but luckily not nearly as steep or we would be dead. Back at the bus we had apples and headed back to the camp.

I packed up my things. Lunch was still in the process of being made. I decided to go to the general store and get something to drink with lunch. This surprised me just a little since it was yet more walking and it is a fair distance to the general store. I got there and realized I was curious what Stoney's was. It was another soda that they sold. I decided to get that instead of Coke. It turned out to be a brand of ginger beer. So what was I doing fooling around with Coca-Cola? I bought a can and headed back. It had taken only about ten minutes but lunch was almost gone. It was egg salad or tuna salad. There was not enough to make a sandwich out of either. I made a sandwich that was half egg salad, half tuna salad. To my surprise the egg salad was the better of the two. The tuna salad had peas and corn in it. Yech! Not a big lunch. But we would probably go someplace nice for dinner.

After lunch Evelyn went back to the tent to finish packing. As she was looking in a plastic bag that had some cookies and a block of chocolate she found a big hole in the plastic bag and it looked like there had been some tearing at the chocolate. Something had managed to enter a sealed piece of luggage without damaging it and attacked a snack bag. Unless Evelyn is wrong about having the luggage bag sealed it seems to have found a way inside without damage and stole some chocolate, doing no damage to anything we really cared about. We threw out the snacks. I hope the little robber came back and got the rest. Or at least that some little robber got it and really enjoyed it.

No great adventures on the trip home. We left after lunch, stopping for ice cream desert. The most unusual thing we say in the day was a herd of wild, feral camels grazing by the road. We got some pictures. The countryside changes somewhat, but it is mostly dry scrub. Not a really interesting drive. Rick's choice of music is only occasionally pleasant. The roads are straight as an arrow since there is little for them to go around.

I was a minor hero. We ran out of cups on the bus and of course people did not want to be dehydrated. They started sharing the dirty cups. When we stopped for gas I went inside and asked for a few disposable cups. They came in handy.

Johnny, the lead Italian, is sort of their master of ceremonies. He is always joking and laughing. I'd like to be that type.

Our last site is an animal farm where we see some emus, kangaroos, and more familiar animals like geese. We contribute for a cash gift for Rick, and we fill out an evaluation of the whole expedition.

We are dropped off at the Desert Palms Resort and we check in. This costs a little more than Todd Tavern, but it is so much nicer. It has separate cottages and is very comfortable. Of course it is necessary first to check out the toilet and then the shower. I had to check out the shower most carefully.

I turn on the TV and get the news. A man has been attacked by a crocodile but he was rescued by his friends. The crocodile has expressed extreme disappointment.

Evelyn took a look at the laundry facilities. One problem is that we are a little isolated where we are. Rick said the Casino down the street was the best nearby. We walked down but there was an hour wait to get in. Their Wednesday seafood buffet is popular. We were afraid that we could not dress casually, but no worries, mate. One of the nice things about Australia is that you almost never are expected to dress formally. In fact most places we visit formal dress is at most optional. The only places we have had to dress formally is one camp in Kenya and a restaurant in Zagreb. I am afraid that both restaurants were disappointed in me. In both cases I was with a tour group and tour company that expects that tourists will bring formal togs with them are crazy. Most people do not travel as light was we do, but to bring a jacket for what is likely to be one evening is crazy. That is what is nice about Australia. It is casual. It is bush country. People can act more naturally. I guess there is sort of an egalitarian effect of having the original Europeans having all been criminals. You don't end up with something snobby like the Daughter of the American Revolution. It makes the people earthier. Still I guess I expected that when we got to Australia I would be crazy about it, and I do like and recommend it, but it is very close to expectation. So far there are no delightful surprises. I will have to keep my eyes open.

The restaurant service was not great, but dinner was pretty good and inexpensive for what we got. I had tiger prawns on a bed of gnocchi and a salad with French dressing. The latter was like a creamy garlic.

Back at the room we crashed.

08/19/99 Alice Springs to Sydney

This being a travel day, it will probably be a shorter entry.

We slept surprisingly well, in spite of waking up once to turn off the heater. We slept nine hours. Once up we went to the main office where they run a small grocery store. This is away from the center of town and so they have to provide services that other hotels might not. In memory of my days in Singapore I had a noodles in a cup Noodles with Curried Prawn. When I opened it, it had five little Cheerio-sized dried prawn. However the curried noodles were just fine. I also had some yogurt with cereal in it. I considered getting some Vegemite. What is Vegemite, you ask. It is concentrated yeast extract. I guess the next question is what exactly is concentrated yeast extract used for? That is a fair question. It is actually a food. Usually you butter a piece of bread and spread Vegemite on top. The flavor is sort of a salty meat gravy flavor. Or perhaps something like Cheez Whiz. It is not bad. But then butter on bread is not too bad either. The question is whether things are better or worse for having put Vegemite over the butter. I am not sure if Vegemite is at all related to another acquired taste, Marmite. I think that is from England.

We gather for our shuttle and see a bunch of the Italians from the camping trip. It seems that the youngest of the group, Lorenzo has forgotten his camera on the bus and Rick is going to drop it off.

We think of Aussies speaking English, but really you hear a lot of Italian, a fair amount of German, and even some French on the street. I am pretty sure that is not all tourists either.

The shuttle to the airport came a few minutes late. Some of these tourists carry huge luggage. Our tiny packs are much easier to deal with. We just have to keep repacking them because they are so near capacity. Alice looks is a lot like the American West with its high rocky hills. So much of this country seems to recapitulate the American West. A local Australian had been in the California gold rush. He came back here and was looking at the geology. Looks a lot like gold rush country in America. So he starts prospecting out here. That was the start of the great Australian Gold Rush. Even the hat men wear look like cowboy hats. I was considering getting one, but anywhere East of the Mississippi it would look strange.

Well, we get off the plane at the airport and get in line at the ticket counter. Our little backpacks look so small. Some of these people have suitcases the size of closets in our house.

Evelyn is surprised at how small things are at the airport. You walk through the security check and you have a shop on either side. Ten more paces and you are in the waiting room. Another ten or so and you are out the gate. Evelyn is used to airports like Newark. Alice Springs is not a megalopolis.

The plane is a half hour late getting in but we have no connections to make. We are on the left side of the plane, which was recommended for this flight. I am in the B and Evelyn is in the C seat. I was hoping that they might not have put someone into the A seat. When one guy got on board who was taller and wider than anyone around him. He was wearing a broad Australian hat. As soon as I saw him I knew he would be in the seat beside me. Luck of Leeper. Turned out I was right.

The ground is large sandy expanses. After a while we do see some canyon country. Lunch is pretty good. It is moussaka with béchamel sauce, vegetables, and, of course, cheese and crackers. There must have been something wrong with the meal. I told Evelyn that I didn't think that a US airline would serve something so ethnic as moussaka. She said it was lasagna. Lasagna does not have a creamy thick coating on top. She ate it without analyzing it so is not sure. But I know.

They had an episode of a BBC series called Murder Most Horrid. Probably came from England. It was occasionally amusing. The audio program had some film music. I don't know why US airlines don?t do that.

Coming in for a landing there is a terrific view of land and water. You fly right next to the cove. You can imagine how it originally looked to the explorers? ships. I think it was Dick who had recommended we go for the left side of the plane and it was worth it.

As we landed they said, "We trust your flight has been a comfortable one." here we were stuffed in seats 36 centimeters wide and they trust we have been comfortable. It doesn't give you a very safe feeling. What else are they trusting?

We had checked our bags so Evelyn sent me into the fray to pick them up. I was typing my log and her bag nearly got passed me. She was not happy with me. There is a tremendous organizational effort to one of these trips and Evelyn does the lion's share. I probably should do my part a little more assiduously.

We get into the shuttle to the center of town. Over their commercial radio frequency I hear and argument over order of shuttles and who should be doing what. Someone tells one of the drivers that he should learn patience. I don't ever remember hearing something like that in the US. I don?t know if it is a cultural difference or not, but it struck me as odd. As we waited to leave our driver told us that another shuttle bus was leaving first and we should take that. I was a little disappointed since he seemed very affable and pleasant and I would have liked to talk to him during the ride. I was also a little curious about him. He was black but without any Aborigine features. This is to some extent a melting pot nation so I guess there would be some blacks from elsewhere. I wonder if they feel discrimination. But we had to take another shuttle and he insisted on moving our bags rather than us doing it. I bid him to have a nice day.

I sat in the back of the new shuttle and our driver said "not bad for winter," referring to the heat wave. I think the world is hot pretty much all over.

Our first view of Sydney makes it look tropical and urban. Maybe like downtown Miami or even a tad less colorful. I guess I expected to see more character. Most billboard ads around the airport are for electronics. The city itself seems a little run down in spots.

Our first choice hotel from the Lonely Planet was completely booked. That as in the midrange. Evelyn had gone into the low-range and picked out the Sydney Central Private Home to try on Wentworth Street. There were going to be doing construction on it. I took a look at one of the rooms through a long maze of hallways. The room was dingy and depressing though functional. The problem with rejecting it was that there was little else we could do, I thought. However friends from New Jersey are also coming to Sydney on their way to the World SF convention. They were going to staying just a few blocks away at the Southern Cross. The price A$182 a night. That is a lot more than we had been spending. But we have been eating cheaply and if we are going to be hitting the city with full energy it would be nice to be comfortable at night. Tour hard, rest easy. The room was a little less nice than I was expecting, but Sydney could be an expensive hotel town.

Now the capper irony. I went to turn on the TV. It would not come on. I tried the remote, it did not help. I tried to call the concierge. No answer. I tried calling the front desk. No answer. I tried calling the assistant manager. That worked. He sent up a porter quickly to show me how to turn on the TV. The porter's conclusion: the TV is broken and he will try to get it replaced. I went to turn on the radio next to the bed. The tuning knob is gone. It will pick up only static.

We decided to try the Queen Victoria Building for our evening's entertainment. It is right next to the Town Hall. It is considered by some (including Pierre Cardin) to be the most beautiful shopping center in the world. It started life as a farmers market, but designer and City Architect George McRae got hold of it in 1898 and made it instead sumptuous. It had its ups and downs since falling into disrepair and then being refurbished. In 1986 it was refurbished at a cost of $75,000,000. It is now ornate and filled with touristy shops, mostly upscale. Over the atrium hangs a huge clock (the largest hanging clock in the world) showing scenes from the history and colonization of Australia with moving mechanical figures about one-twelfth scale. Scenes include flogging of convicts.

They have a display with a Mandarin bridal carriage from China with amazing detail. It has four-foot chains carved of a single piece of jade. The front of the carriage rests on two dragon feet. The whole thing was carved at what must have been incredible expense for the Mandarin Chinese equivalent of a Long Island Wedding.

"By eating the native animals you are preserving them." That was a message on a piece of artwork in a shop window. The idea is that by eating animals like kangaroo you make their grounds profitable so they are not taken over by the beef cattlemen. If it has become necessary to eat kangaroo to save it, it is a sad state of affairs. "It became necessary to destroy the village in order to save it," was a popular quote from the Vietnam era.

Another display has a replica of crowns and gowns the time of Queen Victoria's reign. We were looking for a place to have dinner. The restaurants were all rather nice looking and somewhat upscale. We got to the basement and there were some of the value restaurants including the place we chose, Malaysian House. Large portions of good food for very reasonable prices. A$15.80 for a huge bowl of soup, and a large plate of seafood curry and octopus on broad rice noodles. We probably could have gotten buy sharing one dish instead of two.

After dinner we went to a book sale and with some forbearance we each bought only one book. We then walked back past what is clearly their movie house row. They are showing mostly American films. We stopped into Planet Hollywood across the street and found absolutely nothing of interest but a trailer for Snow On Cedars. I think it is a film I am anxious to see.

We got back to the room and the TV had not been corrected, not had the radio. They sent up porters. No the radio could not be played reliably. It was just old. You could take the one knob and stick it in the tuning hole to tune, or stick it in the volume hole to set the volume. The problems there was that the contacts were very bad. If you turned it up and down you might be able to get it to play. Move the knob just a little and it would go silent. You took the volume setting you got.

They brought in a different TV and it worked. Sort of. One channel came in poorly (of the four the hotel gets). But at least it is working up to expectation.

It is by a series of strange coincidences that places we have been have serious problems within a year or so after we have been there. It is likely easily explainable as being not all that unlikely. Maybe we are sensitized to news from that region. Sometimes it is days and sometimes it can be eighteen months. Yugoslavia went to war the day we left, Arizona got hanta-virus, India got bubonic plague, Latvia had a ferry disaster on the same run, Japan had the Om cult, and Turkey just had an earthquake.

We had been out of circulation for almost two weeks now. We had heard a little of the earthquake, but today was our first chance to get details. They said that countries sending aid included US and Israel. I am very pleased to hear Israel is sending aid because I have been to Malaysia. Huh, how's that again? What does Malaysia have to do with it? When we were in Malaysia I was frankly amazed at the vitriol against Israel in the press. It was repeated and vicious. More recently the Prime Minister (I think it was the Prime Minister) explained helpfully to the people that the country's economic problems were caused by a conspiracy of The Jews. I think he was later kicked out for other offenses, but it shows the tide of opinion there. The film Schindler's List was banned in Malaysia because it was sympathetic to "one group of people." Why is Malaysia so anti-Israel and anti-Jewish? It could be that so many miles away Israel is doing something nasty to Malaysia. I somehow doubt that. It could be that Malaysia is a Moslem country. And they may be a little biased towards other Moslems and against non-Moslems. That is what I think is happening. Turkey is a country overwhelmingly made up of Moslems. But rather than give into religious dogma, they separate themselves from the struggle to spread Islam to replace other religions. They do not let their religion do their thinking. This alone has made them Israel's best friend in that area of the world. Until relatively recently they were Israel's only Islamic friend and from my point of view, the only one Israel can currently trust without great caution. Israel would be smart to strengthen that bond.

08/20/99 Sydney and the Powerhouse Museum

The room was a bit cold and dry in the night, but at least it is comfortable and pleasant.

Just when I was feeling sanguine toward the hotel, that we had gotten everything straightened out, there was no newspaper. They make a big thing, having you pick your newspaper and telling you that you will get it free. Just a small thing. We wanted the Sydney Morning Herald. We went to the concierge and he said there was only one paper left and gave us a tabloid. No international news (well two pages). Almost entirely sports. We had a light breakfast at a French eatery. I had a third of a baguette, hot chocolate, and orange juice.

The plan for the day was to see the Powerhouse Museum in the morning, the National Maritime Museum in the afternoon, then to see the aquarium. We had to make a minor change. The entire day was devoted to the Powerhouse Museum.

There were only a couple of exhibits we missed. This building used to be the city powerhouse. Really it is a museum of science, engineering, industry, technology, and a bit of history and art.

Some countries seem to focus on and romanticize one mode of transportation. Canada and India love the train, for example. For Australia, like the United States, it is the automobile. Australians love cars. Though the US does not quite count since it also loves the horse and to a lessor extent the railroad. Americans tend to romanticize. But for Australia look at the lower end exploitation films that focus on cars like Peter Weir's The Cars That Ate Paris and George Miller's Mad Max. There are a lot more that do not come to mind. We started with a long-term temporary exhibit "Cars and Culture: Our Driving Passions." There is collection of cars, a thirty-six-minute film that is excerpts of car scenes in movies. There are explanations of how car engines work. Evelyn played a gridlock game that had her be a politician and choosing alternatives for handling gridlock in cities. They show historic toy cars. A Detroiter would have loved this exhibit.

Next they had steam engines. Their prize item was the Boulton-Watt steam engine-the oldest extent steam engine. There also is an example of a (short) steam train.

Continuing on was heard a short lecture on the many features of the ornate Strasburg Clock. These days it is hardly unusual to see clocks with dozens of features. This was a clock from the 1870s that has the time of day, tides, the phase of the moon, the positions of the planets, the stars in the sky, and one Casio never bothered with, the twelve apostles come out and bow to Jesus. Well, ten do. Peter turns his back rejecting Jesus and Judas bows to the devil instead.

One exhibit dissects two TV ads showing how and why they appeal the way they do. There is a section on Australian innovation and success.

In the section on steam power you see marry-go-round horses and a calliope. They have excerpts from Metropolis and from The Life of an American Fireman. They have a fire engine.

They have movie quizzes. Evelyn took a quiz on 1930s films of the Hollywood and did fairly well. I took films of 1930s film of Australia and did just okay. I did even that well only by some lucky guesses. Evelyn really did much better than me.

They had a drug store where you could talk via interactive computer program to a 1930s druggist. He recommended cures for your problems (you could choose from about twelve problems). I asked about three things and all three cures involved eucalyptus oil. Hmmm!

There was a terrific exhibit on Charles Babbage and his difference engine. Babbage was the inventor of the first real computer. Via projected images they had a play in which Charles Babbage traveled to different times and talked to computer uses. He talked to Turing, to a near-future woman, and to a man from 2100. It was really well done. Following that they had an interactive program where you could talk to Babbage on any of seven topics including God and the state of science. You have up to about fifteen questions you can ask him on each topic. I assume the answers are based on his writing, but you can get to know the man very well.

I have for years wanted to try out virtual reality. I finally got my chance. They have an exhibit where you can move around three dimensional mathematical shapes, even have them surround you and look at them from the inside.

They have a series of exhibits on robots and robotics. There is an amusing piece with an industrial robot articulate enough that when it dances to popular music it has real personality.

We expected to be gone well before 2:30 when they were showing a selection of silent Australian films. Evelyn thought we should get there ten minutes early to make sure we got seats. We got to the theater to find it empty. After about five minutes a woman showed up with her son and daughter. After being there two minutes the girl called out "Can we start the movie please, it's getting pretty boring." She hadn't even seen the films yet. What we saw were short files from a company called Efftee. There were short nature documentaries. The claim is that American films were unfair competition. They are fooling themselves. Staying home and doing housework was unfair competition to these films.

We polished off the last ninety minutes in the museum with hands on experiments in an Exploratorium vein. That was followed by exhibits on the space program including a showing of the film Voyage to the Moon. Computer simulations let you design your own space ship. That covered most of the museum. I was impressed. This was a full day in the museum without stopping to eat and we could have used another hour or so.

The museum was just a block or so from Chinatown and we were both hungry so we started looking. I sort of wanted to try Hingara, which had some good newspaper reviews in the window. A woman going in assured us it was kind of plain and cheap inside but if we didn't mind that the food was very good. I told Evelyn we should do it. We did. The woman recommended Sang Choy Bao. That is like dumpling filling that you wrap in lettuce. Also we got Mongolian Lamb. I liked it a lot. Evelyn was less keen on the lettuce dish. The restaurant had only three tables used when we came in. As we ate the restaurant pretty much just filled to capacity.

As I was eating a guy came in and I asked Evelyn if he looked familiar. He really looked like someone I had seen at science fiction conventions. When we were done we paid and left. The familiar guy was at the table next to the door. I looked more closely at him as we left, hoping I could rule out knowing him. We got outside and I told Evelyn, we really have seen that guy at conventions. So we went back in. "Do we know you from science fiction conventions?" we asked. I think he listed a few conventions he went to in New York. We didn't go to any of them, but now we had to be right. "Do you go to Boskone?" "Yes." "That's where we know you from." His real name is Jan Howard Finder but he goes by the fannish name of Wombat. He is also in Australia for Worldcon, but he is turning it into a six-month visit.

That evening Finder was going to the University of Technology, Sydney Science Fiction Society. He invited us along. Also there would be Janice Gelb, a friend of Evelyn's.

The meeting reminded me of my days in college. They seemed to be interesting people the topic that evening was to compile a list of stories with displaced people in science fiction. I must have made about ten contributions.

A comment that I heard at this meeting explained something to me that I was wondering about. To me it has often been hard to tell an English accent from an Australian one. They were talking about Arnold Schwarzenegger was to play Doc Savage, the world's most intelligent man. Well, apparently he is intelligent, people just assume he is stupid. An Australian said it is because he has an accent. Anyone with an accent we assume is stupid. Somebody said he had just insulted all the Americans. There was a big laugh and he said, they don't have accents. We do. To the Americans it sounds like the Aussies have the accent and vice versa. It is all relative. Or is it? Of all English-speaking people only Australians would say, "Troy it for a die, mite." From an Australian's point of view American, Canadian, Scottish, and British all sound alike. They all pronounce "knife" the same way. Do I have an accent? Probably one I can't hear. But if I can pin down what in Australian sounds like British English, that difference from the way I talk contains the essence of my accent. If everybody else talks differently from me but in the same way, that must be my accent.

After the meeting we walked back to the room with Janice and a friend who passed out hotel on the way.

In the room I tried a candy bar called a Cherry Ripe. It is a lot like a Mounds Bar with pieces of cherry in the coconut.

08/21/99 Sydney and the National Maritime Museum

We woke up about 6:30. I checked to see if we had gotten a newspaper. No, we had not. Had others been delivered? Yes. Okay. I wrote on a piece of paper "Room 703. No Morning Herald again this morning. I believe it is inadvertently being left down the hall. I took care of the problem this morning, but please arrange for it to be delivered to the correct room. Thanks for your prompt attention."

We stopped at a restaurant with relatively inexpensive breakfasts, at least by US standards. I had fried eggs, toast, mushrooms, and orange juice.

From there we went to the National Maritime Museum. Their main attractions are the destroyer Vampire and the submarine Onslow. Included in the admission is a CD audio tour of each. This is really a very good thing in some ways. You can access descriptions in any order. The Chief Petty Officers? Mess will have a yellow disk with a number. Enter that number into the player and you can hear a description of that room. It basically means that you can set up your own tour at your own pace.

On the Vampire they also have veterans of the ship giving live tours. At 10am we took such a tour. It is supposed to last forty minutes, but I had a lot of questions. James Kane, our guide, spent a lot longer with us than expected and I think he still had to cut the tour short at the end.

The Vampire was the last of Australia's big destroyers, in fact, the last gunship. It was launched in 1956, and it was commissioned from 1959 to 1986. It did not see any action. It did provide aircraft carrier escort and gunfire support for the Fleet. It weighs 3950 metric tonnes. The Vampire is 119 meters long, 13 meters wide, and travels at 30.5 knots.

We started amidships and discussed how torpedoes work. A surface boat uses compressed air to fire them overboard. This takes a great deal of strength to pump up the air. Depth charges are similarly shot overboard. There are instances of people being killed if the depth charges do not clear the edge of the boat.

We went to the bridge and I sat in the captain's seat-quite comfortable. The Captain has three radars for different ranges. He has to be able to function on an instant's notice. That is why these room are always kept dark, so his eyes do not have to adjust. There is an open section to the outside not for a view but so that code books can be dropped at a moment's notice.

The Australian navy names ships for ones that have previously been destroyed in action. The original Vampire after several decades of service was sunk in action in Crete in 1941.

We went to the wheelhouse which has master compass, repeaters at several places in the ship. The primary one is in the operations room, which is responsible for giving orders to the wheelhouse. Ultimate responsibility for keeping the boat from colliding and/or running aground comes from the operations rooms, the only place where the Captain's orders can be overridden. In fact disobeying to save the ship is required if it is necessary. It is a court martial offense to collide or run aground following a Captain's orders.

We went to the wardroom, the officers? dining room. The Captain cannot enter without an official invitation. Typically he might get one of these every two weeks. At least one captain thought to be incompetent never got an invitation. Most meals the Captain would have alone. They intentionally maintain a mystique around the Captain.

Apparently there is a new reason why the captain wants to stay as aloof as possible from the people he commands. It is a point I have been trying to make to Evelyn about the US but apparently it is happening here also. Sexual harassment accusations have been rocking the Australian military also. If a captain is found guilty of sexually harassing a woman under his command his career is over. If a captain is found guilty of sexually harassing a woman under his command his career is over. If a captain is found innocent of sexually harassing a woman under his command his career is over. The latter is true because every accusation makes the military look bad. They will never advance someone who has been accused of sexual harassment, whether it is true or not. An ensign can destroy a captain if the ensign is a woman and the captain is a man. So, if our guide is telling the truth, who really has power in this society, men or women?

Curiously the people who maintain the radar are told that they can do it no more than two minutes in any twenty. I am almost certain this is based on some misconception that radiation is like heat. You cool off and are all right again. But I think ten minutes in radiation is ten minutes in radiation if you do it all at once or in little two-minute pieces.

We talked about the long-range guns with fifty-pound shells (that had to be loaded one every four seconds-quite a feat since there was one person who did it) and the Bofors guns which were basically machine guns.

When we were done with the guided tour we started systematically covering the boat ourselves and listening to every CD explanation. About 12:30 another guide, Alfredo, saw us and asked if we were marine engineers. Apparently it was very unusual to have anyone study the boat so closely. We talked to him a little while about what we do and about this and that. He was from Spain and liked any cuisine, as long as it was one that you eat wit a knife and fork instead of chopsticks. He really liked paella. My tastes are broader. I claim I never met a cuisine I didn't like. It is a lie, but not by much. At least since I was a kid there are very few new foods that I do not take immediately to. Everything I have not liked about a food I can trace to a dislike when I was very young. (For example, I don't like things that taste too strongly of alcohol. But that is a very long-time prejudice.) He said the guides really hate the CD machines. They stop people from moving and sometimes you have to move visitors through the boat quickly. It causes traffic jams. To me it seemed to be only modestly true and they add a lot.

I won't go into all they had. There was an amusing story of how the boat was fitted out with a canvas cover. They were trying to impress someone and stoked up the engines in a way that they were never stoked up. And they found out why. They set their own canvas cover on fire.

As we were finishing up we saw Dale Skran and his son Sammy. Their plane landed 6:30am and their first day's activity was to go to the same museum we picked for the day. I matter-of-factly waved and he was boggled. It is still a coincidence to run into him six hours after his arrival.

We took the sub tour CD tour. Now the problems with the CD player became obvious. The sub is very cramped. Nobody passes anyone else in the passages. The CD makes people stop and listen to descriptions for as much as five minutes. Nobody who does not have the CD wants to stop for that long repeatedly. I ended up not hearing most of the descriptions. But I still like the CD players.

Following that it was time to see the inside of the Museum. The British National Maritime Museum at Greenwich museum is one of the most interesting museums in the world. It turned us into fans of Maritime Museums. But there is a reason why that museum is so good. It covers a lot of wars. Australia is a more peaceable country. They let the British and later the Americans pull them into some wars but rarely in a naval capacity. And even those were not covered in this museum.

Let's face it. The history of the fishing industry just is not going to make for great excitement. This museum has exhibits on The Living Ocean, whaling and fishing, Captain Cook and the discovery, the immigrant experience, sea products in what they are used in, racing, great ocean liners, etc. None of this is really dramatic. The most dramatic thing in the museum is an account by Patrick Stewart of the sinking of the Titanic. It is from a CD-ROM they sell. Of course any reasonable telling of that story is going to be dramatic.

We returned out of doors to take a look at some of the other boats they had harbored there for display but not for tour. One of them was the Krait. It was an Australian WWII raider built as Japanese fishing boat. Australians disguised themselves as Japanese fishermen and took it to Singapore harbor where laying charges it destroyed 40,000 tonnes of Japanese shipping and returned home undetected. The following year they many of the same crew tried to repeat the trick. This time they were caught by the Japanese. They would have been imprisoned like anyone else captured, but the Japanese wanted to show their respect and that they were considered too brave and dangerous to imprison. Instead they were ritually executed by sword. It was an honor they probably would have preferred not to have, but it was well-intentioned on the part of the Japanese.

Most of the rest of the boats were not so historic.

Returning into the museum we saw that we had missed an exhibit on relations with the US. Apparently during the Civil War the Confederate ship Shenandoah was given permission to put into an Australian port for repairs. The Union complained to Britain that this was a breach of neutrality. The British government paid reparations to the Union to resume a neutral stance. There was also an exhibit showing documentary footage of the US WWII Pacific campaign.

After that we walked back to the hotel stopping for dinner at the Nadaman Japanese Restaurant in the basement of the Victoria Building. I had really good miso with a stronger fermented flavor than we usually get in the US. They also served a block of fried tofu with a strong ginger flavored sauce. The main course was Sashimi Deluxe. It was not large, but the price was a good value by US Japanese Restaurant standards and I thought the sashimi was just excellent. Some of the fish was like eating butter. It included squid. A$19.98 was a good price.

After that it was back to the room to write.

Having Sam Skran see us here is not the surprise for three-year-old Sam Skran we might expect it to be. Sam is not old enough to realize that one goes half way around the world it is very surprising to run into somebody from home. He sees us and accepts, oh here are Mark and Evelyn. I have heard someone say you should never perform magic tricks for very young children. They do not know the wold well enough to know what you are doing is unexpected. I remember when I was about four my mother promised she would show me something magical after lunch. I was all expectant. Well, lunch got finished and she opened the refrigerator and took out a grapefruit. With a kitchen knife she cut it in half and showed it to me. It was a pink grapefruit, perhaps one of the first generally available. I looked at it and she looked at me and I think both of us were disappointed. I mean at four I had not built a whole lot of expectation that a grapefruit would look any particular way. Well, I didn't get a whole lot of surprises from my parents after that. Not pleasant ones, anyway. I should have expressed a wow and found out what I was wowing later.

Evelyn went to bed early to take care of her cold. With a little reading I went to bed at 10:30.

08/22/99 Sydney and the Rocks

We woke up at a reasonable time. My cold is manageable but Evelyn was coughing a lot last night. We did indeed get a newspaper. One small victory.

We wanted to do Yum Cha Breakfast. Yum Cha is what we call Dim Sum. It is a brunch sort of Chinese food. Dim Sum technically is just the dumplings. Yum Cha is the whole "tea lunch." The Lonely Planet recommended Golden Harbour. We were there at 8:45 though they were not yet open. Fine. They really open at 9. We walked around and walked in a 9.

We came in and the whole place was dark and the whole staff was at a back table talking. The alpha waiter told us we could come in, but they were still cleaning. We worked on logs. About 9:30 I took a look outside to see what other restaurants were open. While I was gone they started bringing steamer baskets around, though there were still just the two of us. We got some shu mai and some garlic ribs. We also had finned dumpling, spinach dumplings, and fried dumplings. Well, perhaps we had dim sum after all. We were there until 10:15 and only one other couple showed up. Some of the Dim Sum was quite good but other was just okay. There was nothing crispy about the fried dumplings. It came to $16.60 which is a good price, but we did not get much. To cap it off we went to a bakery and got rice cakes and a Mexico bun. Here the latter has no custard.

From there we caught a bus for the Rocks area. What the Barbary Coast was to San Francisco. Now the Rocks is probably the fanciest part of Sydney. There was a time not so long ago when it was the center of poverty and crime in the city. It was here that the First Fleet landed in January 1788 with the first load of convicts. Here are two of the three most familiar landmarks of Australia. This is where you find the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House. (The best known landmark is Uluru.)

The Sailors? Home was our first visiting point. It is now an information office that has a good history of the Rocks area on videotape and a better one on placards on the second floor. The building was first built to give sailors a safe place to stay in port. Until it was built there was little for them to do but stay in brothels and likely be robbed and/or shanghaied. For a long time only the poorest people lived here. Eventually the wealthy started moving in, living with the poor "cheek and jowl". The are saw anti-Chinese riots and even an outbreak of Bubonic Plague this century. We walked around seeing historic trade buildings. We saw a recreation of The Bounty made for the film the bounty. The same ship fitted with a figurehead became the Pequod for the recent TV Moby Dick with Patrick Stewart.

As you walk around there are a number of historic buildings from the area's mercantile past. Clearly the posh has pushed out the poverty since this is the area of the city that has the most beautiful views. But one rarely seethe the bridge without seeing intrepid tourists climbing its heights tethered to a cable to stop them from falling what surely must be a dizzying height.

Sydney to the early part of this century was geographically divided. One could take drive all the way around the bay, some 20 kilometers, taking five bridges along the way, or one could take a ferry across. Early this century motor travel made it clear that a bridge was really required. A beautiful bridge was built, completed in 1932. It cost 6,250,000 Australian pounds. The desk is 59 meters high and spans a distance of 503 meters. 1400 workers were required to build it, 16 of whom died in accidents. Its surface area for painting purposes is about 60 football fields.

Across the water at the base of the bridge is an amusement park called Luna Park with its huge logo, a giant laughing moon. It is a bit inadvertently terrifying. The park just adds to the visual interest of photographs across the water. This being Sunday, there is also a street market with books, spices, souvenirs, and other touristy knick-knacks.

As we walk back toward the Quay and walk around it toward the opera house we start seeing inlayed in the paving tributes to authors who are from or have written about Australia. Among them are Banjo Patterson, Stevenson, Hughes (of The Fatal Shore), Twain, and dozens of others. Reading them keeps us occupied as we walk to the opera house.

We arrive, take some pictures, and arrange for a tour. A rather distinguished-voiced man leads the tour. In the late 1940s Sir Eugene Goossens wanted opera in Sydney and petitioned the government to build at the current site.

In 1955 a competition was announced for the best design. In 1957 38-year-old Danish architect won and a lottery was established to finance the building. In 1959 construction begins. But so did the problems, and solving those begot more problems. Utzon's design was infeasible, but its beauty was an inspiration. The construction of the roof shells began in 1963 and Utzon opened up a Sydney office. Way over budget Utzon resigned in 1966. Australian architects were called in. One government was thrown out and part of their scandal was the disastrous Sydney Opera House project. Eventually the problems were all solved and the building was completed in 1973. The A$7M cost had swollen to A$102M. It now includes the largest pillar free chamber in world and is undeniably one of the most beautiful buildings in the world. Queen Elizabeth opened the house to a performance of Prokoviev's War And Peace.

Jorn Utzon is part genius for his idea, but he is also fraud. He presented his design for the opera house as if the problems had mostly been solved. On that basis he won the competition for the design of the opera house. But he was bluffing about the problems being solved. Eventually with some major changes in the design his problems were solved, but he had since resigned. The opera house should more be considered a tribute to other people's engineering rather than his design. He was more the problem poser than the problem solver.

The building houses an opera theater, a concert hall, two drama theaters, and will have a new jazz hall. The first hall we go into is preparing for the play Barrymore about John Barrymore. The second theater was showing "the Scottish play" which has had bad luck and it is considered worse luck to mention the name of the play. The opera theater is showing Don Carlos by Verdi. It will be performed by the Australian Opera Company. The room is also used by the Australian Ballet Company. In this last theater the stage has been modified to allow the orchestra to actually sit under the stage. They had been complaining about not enough space. (They should try playing on an Ansett flight.) Someone else asked a question I was thinking-does this not stifle the music? No, it uses the stage as a sounding box. I asked if it did not make the music too loud for the orchestra. Yes, this certainly has been a complaint. A complaint??? I imagine under that stage the music must be deafening.

He also mentioned that the reverberation time is kept to a specific number of seconds in the opera house and it is nearly twice as much in the drama halls. Each at what is considered to be the perfect reverberation time. It is kept perfect by the materials. The opera auditorium uses stone, the playhouse uses wood. The materials determine reverberation time.

Our guide told us the roof was held in place by cables pulling tin different directions. Gee, I wonder if it can be tuned like a violin.

It was funny. Early on our guide asked if Evelyn was in the music business because she asked the right sort of questions. The previous day someone had asked if we were marine engineers. I guess there is something about us that makes people think we know a lot more than we do.

Included in the tour is a free drink of coffee or tea or a soft drink from the restaurant of the opera house. The service was slow and it almost was not worth it.

From there we wanted to go to Speakers? Corner at the Domain of the Royal Botanic Gardens. Evelyn was puzzling over the map and I suggested we take a cab. That made things a lot easier and the price turned out to be quite reasonable. Of course the driver was unaware that there even was a place called Speakers Corner. It is run like the Speakers Corner at Hyde Park in London. Anybody can come and speak on any subject he or she wants. Some of the same people come week after week on Sunday. And some year after year. Some of the same people heckle from the audience year after year. Here it is considerably smaller than in London but nothing pleases the speakers or the hecklers so much as having someone come to listen. We pulled up to one soapbox and both the speaker and the heckler in the audience started addressing their arguments to us. The argument was whether England was or was not to be blamed for the disaster that was Gallipoli. My belief was that England may well have been doing what they had to at least try, but that they were using the Australians as fodder to try to save British lives. However they were both more knowledgeable about details than I was.

The next speaker I ended up telling that he was a disgrace to Speakers? Corner as his ideas were neither shocking nor even really controversial. His points were

  1. religion is the basis of most conflicts;
  2. parents should have more control over their children;
  3. it is just money behind gun madness in America;
  4. there never was any Christ and certainly no virgin birth.
1) is old hat; 2) is obvious; 3) false, there are people who are just as fervent about guns as any religion; 4) he was talking to two agnostic Jews. Is he expecting an argument? After about an hour we had to head out. We went to the monorail station near the Powerhouse Museum. We walked from there to Chinatown for dinner at Hingara. It turns out they had spent the day at the botanic garden. We had a confused meal with them and all walked together back to the hotel. Some long writing followed and a spot of TV watching.

08/23/99 Sydney, the Australian Museum, and Sydney Aquarium

Here I thought we had taken care of our problems with the hotel. There was no paper again today.

We had a few extra minutes this morning. We figured we might go to Chinatown and have Yum Cha breakfast. The bakery were we finished breakfast yesterday we had noticed served Yum Cha out back and opened at 8am. It is somewhat out of our way to go there for breakfast, but we went. And what did we find but that they had nobody else eating there. That sort of spoils Yum Cha since then you have to order off the menu. We went to Superbowl, a restaurant down the street that did seem to be serving to real people. For $5.50 each we got a combination breakfast including a bowl of congee, fried bread, rice noodles, a dumpling, and fried noodles. Not a bad breakfast.

Our first port of call is the Australian Museum. This is the big natural history museum for Australia. There has been a real revolution in museums perhaps the last 20 years. They have gone from collections of things in dark rooms with little explanation which is the same for everyone. Everybody reads the same paragraph of description or chooses not to. New thinking and the computer have transformed them to highly interactive experiences in which one has access to huge volumes of information. You can very much personalize your tour. That at least is one type of new museum. What is important is that they rethink how they display their materials and make the experience better.

The museums we are seeing in Australia have just the hints of the transformation. The Powerhouse Museum has quite an eclectic collection of collections but only the exploratorium experimentation section has much more than the beginnings of the transformation. The Australian Museum has not even that. It has a few computer displays that allow for some individual exploration, but for the most part it is old-style museum. If I wanted to see a hematite, it would be a great museum to visit. If I wanted to know how hematite's are formed or how they are found, my chances would be hit or miss. But you learn very little by seeing 500 mineral samples.

On entering the Australian Museum I asked the guard what is the photography policy. He looked me in the eye and said "go for it!" I like Aussies.

So what did I see? Highlights that stick out in my mind include

Overall, I cannot say I am a big fan of this museum. And we went on a school day so hordes of schoolchildren who had little interest in natural history flooded the museum.

From there we went to the big bookstore, Dymocks. The real reason is we wanted to get an automobile map. I told Evelyn that I bet we could have gotten the maps through AAA. Evelyn says that is just US. I say "Every major developed country seems to have an automobile club and they have exchange with AAA." That certainly seems to me to be true. "Well, we didn't think to get them in time for the trip." So we go to Dymock's and Evelyn is asking about maps. A local overhears and suggests Evelyn is near an office of the NRMA (The National Royal Motoring Association). Evelyn decides to give them a try. Perhaps they will sell her a map. She goes slips out of the bookstore and goes over. And asks at the desk. "Are you a member of AAA?"

Evelyn got the Southeast Australia map.

We got a drink at a local sushi stand then headed over to the Sydney Aquarium. The is a very good aquarium, the highlight of which is two oceanaria. These are very large tanks with 145 meters of underwater tunnels. You are surrounded by fish on all sides. It is much better than just seeing them from one side or the other. There are a fair variety of fishes, but most of the viewers are looking at dangerous ones or ones related to dangerous ones. We have the streamlined, gliding forms of sharks and rays.

Among the tanks one sees are one with platypus, one with crocodile. They were in the process of rearranging the crocodile tank they did not want to risk a croc getting near a human. One guy would shake a stick in the water the crocodile would come over, the two other guys would move a plant or two. Or one guy would stand behind a board and throw a grocery chicken into the water and the crocodile would crunch it up in a bite or two. At least the chicken never knew where it was going.

The aquarium specialized in animals of Australian interest like the Australian lungfish called a "mudskipper." Barramundi is a fish that until now had shown up only on Australian restaurant menus. It was interesting to see archer fish, but they were not spitting at the moment. They catch insects on plants just above the surface of the water. They spit water at the insect with some force. The insect falls in the water and the fish eats it before it recovers its wits.

The archer fish is one of many fish that are aware of the surface of the water and the fact that there is a world beyond. I have been curious about fish and their relationship to "the world beyond". You have fish like the archer fish who go hunting at the edges. Then you have flying fish who make excursions into it. The mudskipper is the real astronaut of fish world. The mudskipper makes excursions into the world above. Every land animal is descended from some sort of astronaut sea creature. Something that through accident or design or coercion from other sea creatures found itself colonizing the world beyond. He may not have been much to look on, and he may have been terrified to see me, but he was my ancestor.

There is a Harbour Seal pool. The elder seals were trying to sleep on a floating island. Two young seals were clearly not getting along. One would get on the island then the other would get into a barking fight with it. The parents did not seem too embarrassed.

The deep tanks are more interesting. You walk at your own pace as sharks swim overhead and rays of a variety of sizes. There are a few tortoises. It is a burn film sort of situation. The local fish get ignored. The second view tank is supposed to be further out to sea. The sharks are bigger. Quint was right. A shark has dead eyes. They play some sort of electronic music which makes the sharks seem even more formidable. They finish up with a new exhibit of bright colored reef fish.

Next order of business is dinner. There is a set of semi-fancy restaurants along the waterfront. We walk along looking at the places to eat. There at a table we see the Skrans. That is twice we have run into them by chance. They are at a Japanese restaurant so we stay with them. I have sushi bento box. A bento is a sectioned box so you get to try a little bit of a lot of different things. It had something I would guess with duck, it had salad, it had some tempura, and it had several pieces of sushi. Joe had sun-dried tomato and feta cheese Maki. A very unusual combination. She did not like it. I tried it and found it to be just okay.

After dinner we walked back to the hotel with them. Back at the room I nap a little and watch a program called War of the Words. It is a debate with six comedians debating. The topic is "Resolved: Happy Days are Here Again." It all is very strange.

08/24/99 Sydney: Miscellaneous Museums

This is our last full day in Sydney. We are in no great rush. I work on my log after we wake up. I do some packing. We leave the room at 8:20. We go to a Greek-Italian restaurant for breakfast. I have eggs and toast and share a strawberry fruit smoothie with Evelyn. It was just a mixture of milk and strawberries in a blender. In the US a smoothie is all fruit. They make sure to tell us that they are open for dinner, but it is a piece of information that does us little good. The food was not so good that we would want to come back.

Our first stop was the Barracks Museum. It was in a building designed by forger and architect Francis Greenway. Greenway was transported to Sydney for forgery in 1814. After two years he was allowed to exercise his architectural talents. He designed forty buildings in Sydney. In 1819 he was given a full pardon, but he was always considered dishonest. He died in poverty in 1837. At the time of his arrival convicts were released at night to find what lodgings and trouble they might, only to be returned to servitude in the morning. No returning was a flogging offense or worse. Convicts often got into trouble however and it was decided they should be held in prison at night. Greenway deigned a barracks for this purpose. In 1819 it opened, designed to hold 600 convicts at night. The building had several other uses at different times.

Rats ran under and between the floors. The excavations now display the "ratacombs" beneath the floor. Various rooms show various displays including photographs of old houses from Sydney history. There is a display of the archeology of the grounds with objects found like combs, games, tobacco pipes, cloth, etc. There is a room telling the history of the building including descriptions of floggings for such offenses as absent from barrack without leave. Another room shows convict clothing with the "Broad Arrow," the symbol of convicts. The tour also includes the grounds. The price of A$6 is a bit steep.

From there it was a short walk to the Great Synagogue of Sydney, the longest continuous running synagogue is Australia. There had been Jews here since the 1780s but no official worship until the 1820s. Requests had been made to Governor Darling for permission to build a synagogue. He refused. Eventually distinguished families like the Montfiores were petitioning him. Eventually he could no longer refuse. Official services began in 1932. There were multiple small synagogues.

The great synagogue was consecrated 1878. From the outside it looks very much like a Byzantine and French Gothic stone church, but for the Star of David at the top of the axis of symmetry of the front.

Getting in was a bit of a hassle. They have a rather strict security check. They did not want me to take in my photo vest. They started to take away my binoculars and saw the computer. That could certainly not go in. He forgot about the binoculars. It was worse than getting into Australia. Gee, it's fun being a Jew.

Inside they have a very modest sound and light show that tells you a short history of Jews in Australia, in Sydney, and a history of this synagogue. Some of that is summarized above. I asked if there was a lot of anti-Jewish feeling in Australia. I was given a list of people in government who were Jewish. When they wanted to build the Great Synagogue, they thought they could earn some money with a six-day carnival. The local decided to make the Jewish fair the major social event of the season. One fifth of the cost of the synagogue came from that fair. The security is needed because there are always a few Meshuganah. The Sydney area has twenty-nine synagogues. Twenty-six are Orthodox, three are Reform.

Leaving the same security guard who was so strict on the way in was all smiles and friendly. He even helped me on with the photo vest. I think he was trying to give me the message that he is not trying to be nasty, just that he has a job to do.

From there we walked to the Domain for the Art Gallery of New South Wales. The museum offers a reasonable collection of local artists and of some classical. The piece I enjoyed the most was Alphonse de Neuville's "The Defence of Rorke's Drift." It is probably not great art, but it is an exciting painting nevertheless. This is the battle that the film Zulu was about. After Cetawayo's victory at Isandluwanda the Zulu nation came upon a detachment of of soldiers in a small settlement at Rorke's drift. They attacked each other and great courage was shown on both sides.

Some of the paintings look a lot like cowboy art. This is particularly true of some of the art of some of Arthur Streeton art. He has some that look like views of West including a stage holdup. There was a painting of St. George and the Dragon. Evelyn pointed out it was a fairly small dragon. I said the Lord probably sent St. George a dragon he could handle.

Also notable were Monet, Pissaro, Gauguin, and even a tall, thin Giacometti sculpture. Degas had a nude. There were good sections on Eastern arts (though only three pieces of netsuke). Of course there was Aboriginal art.

The building is light-colored and airy. There seem to be ample places to sit.

We were tired of walking after the museum, but we still had to pick up the car. We walked to the Avis agency and were given a white Pulsar. Also the guy drops on the desk a book the size of a phonebook. This is the road atlas for Melbourne and vicinity. It is just solid maps showing the roads in detail. The cost is $50 if it is not returned.

Evelyn, who is the better of the two of us at driving so she gets to learn right-hand steering. She is very unsure of herself at first, but with practice she is doing well. She did not want to drive into the parking garage before 5PM or we would have been charged extra so that meant driving around for about fifteen minutes. She is still somewhat unsure.

We dropped off the car and went looking for a restaurant for dinner. Eventually we settled on an Indian restaurant called The Clove. I had Octopus Jal, Chicken in Peanut Sauce, and a Mango Lassi.

On the way back we stop to pick up snacks for the car. What are our preferred snacks? I like Arnott Ginger Nut biscuits. They are basically ginger snaps, very hard like dog biscuits. They have a lot of ginger flavor. We get a block of Cadbury chocolate with hazelnuts. Evelyn likes Arnott Marie biscuits.

Back in the room we worked on our logs, napped, and I watched a program which had scientific examinations of religious phenomena. The whole attitude of the show was entirely too credulous. They examined the blood from a bleeding Jesus statue. They gave it to a forensic investigator and she concluded it was real blood and it came from a woman. The host said that is what you might expect since Jesus got his father's side from a spirit. What they did not look into was the blood from someone in the household. Not at all convincing. I turned it off and went to bed.

08/25/99 Sydney to Canberra

I have no idea what I was dreaming. I woke up at 3:40am with phrases ringing in my head like "moral perceptiveness" and "portable ambiguities." I think I was attending a lecture on aspects of modern Australia and got in over my head. Does anybody else have dreams like this? No, I didn't think so.

We pick up our car from the Wilson Garage. Their trademark looks identical to the Maytag trademark.

We take a drive to the Botanical Gardens. I get a nice picture of the Opera House and the Sydney Bridge.

We are trying to leave the city, but it takes a long time. Some of the industrial outskirts are really polluted and smell bad. We spend at least an hour on roads controlled by stop lights. We stop for breakfast at a McDonalds. I guess when you want fast food you know will be edible, McDonalds has its place.

We pass restaurants with names like The Black Stump Char-grill (conjuring up images of a really bad cooking accident). Then there is the Good Luck Seafood Restaurant (if you eat here you may need it).

Eventually we are on Federal Highway.

We stopped at the Point Sublime Lookout. There is a beautiful view of 176 kilometers of coastline. I start to look with my binoculars but decide that is foolish. I am up here because I want things to look small and faraway and I want to see a lot of them. If I wanted to see only a few things big and close-up I would be down there. Stopping made me feel young. There were about four busloads of people and Evelyn and I were still the youngest. It is nice to be the kids.

Near Tongarra the countryside turns hilly but still cattle stations. Beautiful rock escarpments. The road climbs hills winding upward. I am a little nervous in that Evelyn may pick the wrong side of the rode on these narrow roads.

Now we are more on the straightaway. Heavily wooded farms with horsed, cows, and sheep. There is a BP station at the side of the road with a Hungry Jack. That is the same as a Burger King. There are even a few called Burger King but most are Hungry Jacks. And you Pulp Fiction fans, what is a McDonalds Quarter-pounder called here? A McOz.

Our radio stations keep fading out. We stop at a town called Collector for lunch. Population of 150. They do have a restaurant in a gas station but it looks closed. They might have opened it for us, but we decide not to trouble them.

Now the topography looks like the Great Plains of America. You have long flat plains, furry with dry grass, with hills in the distance.

We lost our radio station a while back and I had the radio scan for a station. Twenty minutes later we realized it still had not found one.

A little after 1pm we hit the outskirts of Canberra. Our first stop was at the Tourist Information Centre. We got some information including that a motel, the Dickson Premier Inn, near us was a good choice. I saw they were selling a booklet called The Top Secret Guide to Canberra. It had a lot of offbeat site including several that were pivotal in incidents of espionage. That could add to our trip. The booklet is published by Tourist Tours Australia Pty Ltd and lists neither an author nor a copyright.

We tried the motel recommended by the tourist information office. We pulled in and went to the office to register. Yes they had a large room with two double beds. Evelyn said that one of the double beds is in West Australia. The woman gave Evelyn a puzzled look. She looked at my registration card. She had never heard of Matawan. I said it was in the United States and pointed out I had given USA as part of the address. She had read the NJ in my address and interpreted it as "Northern Territories." I said the US is very northern territory. She looked at me quizzically. It is north of the equator. She looked at me grimly. I made a quick mental note, "Do not joke with this woman. She does not handle it well." But for A$75 a night we got a double bed and a spa.

The motel is probably the nicest place we have stayed so far. Everything is decorated in an antique bicycle motif. The halls and our room have posters. It all goes with a 24-hour antique bicycle museum nearby. It is all owned and operated by something called the Tradesmen's Union Club. They seem very powerful at this end of town.

There is a Chinese Noodle House right next door. We went there for lunch. Evelyn had Roast Duck Laksa, I had Seafood Laksa. Laksa is a piquant Malaysian soup. The first thing that was obvious was that we were having our big meal of the day. This is a big bowl of spicy soup with seafood in my case or roast duck in Evelyn's It also had noodles. I think that not enough restaurants serve large bowls of soup in the US because it is not sufficiently profitable. You go to a Japanese restaurant that serves the big bowls of Ramen and for $7 you get a satisfying lunch and you won't be hungry for dinner. The building is really the home of a bigger restaurant, Tradie's (owned by the Canberra Tradesman's Union). And there are signs around saying that you get free legal advice if you become a member of Canberra Tradesmen's Union Club.

After lunch we decided to head out on the "Top Secret Tour." Two problems it presents are that it is in large part about Australian politics. Much of what is listed will not be meaningful to Americans. Much will be, of course, so we have to pick and choose.

The other problem is that even with one person to read and one person to drive, this is not really a driving tour. You can never read the descriptions of the locations fast enough unless you stop your car dead in traffic. It is better to go through the booklet and choose a few sites and read up on them in advance. It is particularly useful for places you were intending to go anyway like Parliament House.

It brought us to the parking lot of the National War Memorial. I think what we were expecting was a torch and a relief on the wall. That sort of thing. Well, no, the Australian War Memorial is Australia's national war museum. It has extensive exhibits on Australia in the two world wars, smaller exhibits on the Boer War, Korea, and Vietnam. The tour opens with coverage of Australia's most traumatic war incident, Gallipoli. Australians and New Zealanders were ordered into battle against Turkish troops in the Dardenelles. Now if the truth be known the British lost a lot more soldiers in the Turkish campaign. The British felt they could use the Australians interchangeably with British troops and then really screwed up the invasion landing the soldiers in the wrong place and then ordering a suicidal charge. If they had done it their own troops it would have been a modest snafu. To have it happen with Australian and New Zealander troops made the mistake far worse. Australia was never convinced they were getting any great benefits by being part of the Empire, certainly not benefits worth dying for. British-Australian relations have never recovered.

Coverage of the First World War includes paintings, some very good dioramas, paintings, 3D stereoscope pictures, etc. Some 60,000 died in the war of which 23,000 cannot be identified. The coverage for WWII is similar but there are fewer dioramas and much more reliance on documentary films. Computer screens show the advance of the Japanese forces. (I do find it interesting that they list the dictators who caused the war: Hitler and Mussolini. They do not list Tojo, who more directly affected Australians.)

At 5pm they sent us out of the museum and played "The Last Call." It is sort of a tribute to Australian soldiers. It is like us playing "Taps."

We tried following the tour for a little ways further but one really cannot drive and follow this tour. We decided to choose just a few sites and see them separately. We headed back to our motel.

We were not in the room but almost immediately Evelyn suggested that we go to the Canberra Observatory. This is a small planetarium and observatory near our motel. Evelyn really wanted to go to the observatory and see stars we can see only in the Southern Hemisphere. Unfortunately, they had school groups in. They could give us observatory time at 9:30pm.

We stopped at the grocery and got some breakfast things. Juice, cheese, apples, yogurt. Side note: next morning we hear on the news the grocery had been robbed two hours earlier.

Back at the room we worked on the logs and a documentary on the conquest of Incas, a movie review show, and a BBC program on the planets. We had to cut the latter short to get back to the observatory. Even then it took a while to get the kiddies out so we could have our time in the observatory. It started with a slideshow about the history of the observatory. Alan Giles was our resident astronomer.

Back when Comet Halley was visible a local amateur astronomer set up a telescope and let people come over and look at the comet. After the comet was no longer visible people still wanted to come and see the sky. Of course it would take in the millions of dollars to build an observatory. The funding was provided by the Canberra Tradesmen's Union Club. He also told us about what we would be seeing. Then we went to a rather diminutive observatory, a domed aluminum building about fifteen feet in diameter. There were four of us guests and Giles. We aimed the telescope at Alpha Centauri, The Jewel Box, Mars, and the moon. We were supposed to have about half an hour, but I think he realized he had avid enthusiasts in Evelyn and me. (Certainly not the other couple. The woman commented only how beautiful the sky looked and the man didn't say much of anything at all. Evelyn and I were really interested in the science and knew about the history. He spent an extra fifteen or twenty minutes with us.

After that is was back to the room and to bed.

08/26/99 Canberra and Parliament Buildings

We had breakfast in the room. It was cheese, biscuits, coffee, and juice. As we were leaving the fire alarm went off in our hotel. Sports news is on TV. You see some computer readouts. They are doing a story on drug testing. Sports have become a science. Last week we saw a program on how professional wrestlers fake attacks and falls. Sports is becoming a lot like film stunt work. The absurd popularity of sports is driving it in all sorts of strange directions. Like the US, Australia loves sports all out of proportion to its value.

It is like the Olympics, the most sanctimonious sports event of all. All of Australia is gearing up for the Olympics so some country can brag that "though everything else going wrong in our country our culture has been able to develop the muscleman with the biggest muscles. Our best iron ball chucker can chuck an iron ball further than any muscleman from any other culture can. Rah! Rah! We also have someone very good at jumping over a stick." It may sound like sour grapes, but it would be one thing for the country to say "our system created the people who finally proved the four-color map conjecture" or "our culture developed someone who eradicated smallpox." But these things are not meaningful to any but a few people. What is meaningful is "we can better than anyone else develop in one person the muscle groups needed to chuck iron balls." And on top of it they say "this is the human race at its best." Bull feathers!

As we were leaving the motel the fire alarm went off. We looked nervously back to our room but continued on the way out. Evelyn wanted to get a picture of the observatory before proceeding and it is only about five minutes away. We drop back to the hotel, just a few blocks away to see a fire truck, but the alarm is off and things seem normal inside.

Today we are to see the old and the new Parliament Houses. From a great distance away one sees the unique flag pole on top of the Parliament House. It stands on four huge legs forming a sort of empty pyramid. At the top where the four legs come together is the structure that holds the flagpole. I really should have asked how they bring down the flag. I should have asked how high the structure is, but I would guess it is something like a hundred feet. I wonder how they change the flag. You can see it from a great distance away. The Parliament House is actually built into a hill and the hill was replaced on the top with this tower above it. It really is a unique building, not just for Australia but also for the world.

Security to get in is a lot like airport security. Everything goes through a metal detector. We got there just as a tour was starting, albeit an abbreviated tour because both houses were in session. This building was opened 1988. It is quadrilaterally symmetrical shaped sort of like an hourglass wearing a bow tie. The building was designed by American architect Walter Burley Griffin and by Romaldo Giurgola. The cost is $1.1 billion and eight years of work.

We are in the main auditorium also used for public concerts. Right through the center is a passageway that goes all the way through the building and extends to the War Memorial. On the wall is the world's second largest tapestry showing a forest scene with mostly just trees, but if you know where to look there is a comet and a cockatoo. Then toward the center of the building where the Senate and House meet there are four wooden screens. They house the Australian Constitution, the Queen's statement of assent to the Constitution, Petitions of the Yirrkala People for rights, and one of the four extant copies of the original of the Magna Carta. Also on display you can see the Barunga statement.

There is a painting that I (and not Evelyn) found delightful. The painting is "Opening of Parliament House by HMQ Elizabeth II, 9 May 1988" by Marcus Beilby.

Let me try to explain why I like this so much. I see it as a statement that Australia is tied to Britain by ceremony, but that is really unimportant. The Queen is a fair distance from the viewer and looking surprisingly frumpy. The largest figure in the painting is a female violinist in the foreground, someone who would normally be considered a very unimportant attendee. There are all sorts of interesting faces in the audience.

From there we wanted to go in to see the houses themselves. They told us we had to check our cameras and our binoculars. I asked what about our palmtops? Yes, those too. Evelyn got angry with me over this. Why volunteer the information we had them? Well, because we are guests here. We walk over to the entrance to the House of Representatives gallery. And what have we there but a metal detector? I had forgotten I still had a walkie-talkie. They insisted I check it. They would have taken the palmtops but we had already checked them.

The House was decorated in green. This is something of a standard. The House of Representatives is decorated in green, the Senate in Red. Over each is the seal of Australia with a kangaroo and an emu carved in full statues (as opposed to a relief.

The House of Representatives was nearly empty. There were just a few people arguing some conservation issue. Later we found the Senate was almost identical but in decorated in red. The government is a lot like the US has. It has a House, a Senate, and a governor-general. There are 76 senators, twelve from each of six states and two each from two territories.

Oh, the seven-pointed star on the flag. I had suggested to Evelyn it might be six points for six states and the seventh for the two territories. Evelyn was skeptical, but that turned out to be exactly right.

After that we went up to the roof and climbed down the hill. Evelyn picked up her knife. Her pocket knife is a little larger than mine and they had decided not to let it in the building. Mine they thought was a safe risk.

From there we went to the Old Parliament House. This was inaugurated at the national Parliament in 1927 as a compromise in the competition between Melbourne and Sydney. It as said a permanent building would be completed around 1977. It as actually 1988. The tour might have been of more interest had I known more about Australian politics. A lot of names got thrown around that I did not recognize. Again red is used as the Senate color scheme and green is for the House of Representatives. This is a carryover from the British Parliament where the Lower House is green and the upper house is red. There is a permanent demonstration area in front of the old Parliament. It is nicknamed the Aboriginal Embassy.

We stopped for lunch at the cafe, sandwiches and cold drinks, then went back to the War Memorial to finish what we missed the previous day. I saw parts of a Japanese mini-sub, an account of the Battle of Bismarck Sea near New Guinea. There was an exhibit on Barnes Wallis and the Dam Busters raid with its skip-bombing. One room tried to recreate the bombing run experience. They continued with the effort of women filling in jobs, the closing days of the war, and war crimes trials after the war.

We saw exhibits on the Boer War including a simulated magic lantern show and exhibits of guns used. For Korea there was a documentary on the Australian participation. They made a big point that Vietnam was the first war that we saw in our living rooms and they tried to recreate the war experience.

"Too Dark for the Light Horsemen" was a not very good exhibit of aborigines in the military. Mostly it was just pictures of aborigines in uniform. There was another exhibit of soldiers who had gotten special commendations.

And throughout the museum there was military art. Overall a lot more than what we had been expecting.

We leave a little before 5pm.

I suggest to Evelyn that we can sightsee a little while longer or we could go back to the room and try out the spa. Then maybe at 7 or so we could go to dinner. This is not generally my sort of thing to do. I can do without hot tubs, Jacuzzis, that sort of thing. I dislike being too warm. Evelyn on the other hand likes being warm and she likes things like whirlpool baths. I figured she would like this.

We head back to the room and sure enough Evelyn does enjoy the spa. By the time we go to dinner I also feel refreshed.

The big story on the news is about the government making an apology to the indigenous peoples for wrongly treating them. I had heard this issue coming up and my attitude was no they should not apologize if my understanding is correct. If the injustice was done by a previous government long since gone. You simply cannot apologize for other people. Apparently the government agreed and acknowledged a wrong without apologizing. I think it was a labor party member who complained about this saying there was just not the wording in the statement that would allow them to put the issue behind them. The man is wrong. There probably is no such wording. And if there was such a wording it would be immoral to put it in the statement. The indigenous people deserve reparations and justice, not the perfect words. What seems to be the main bone of contention is the "stolen generation" earlier this century. This was when children were forcibly taken from their parents and put in assimilation schools. It was stupid, cruel, and insensitive. We can condemn the action. I can say it was the wrong thing to do. I guess I can in a sense say I am sorry it happened. But I cannot apologize for it. Nor can the government. Evelyn asked me if I feel the same way. Should Germany apologize for what it did to the Jews in the Holocaust? We are talking about a shorter span of years, I think, but even so I would say those involved and still in the government should apologize. I doubt there are any left so at this point a government apology is meaningless. That is my opinion. But then it is not my country.

We went out for dinner and it was raining. This is our first inclement weather of the trip and rain is badly needed locally. So I guess we should swallow our disappointment.

We had seen a Laotian restaurant called Two Sisters. We walked over and Evelyn had second thoughts when the music seemed too loud. There are so many Asian restaurants in a small radius, rejecting one did not seem to be a problem. Instead we picked Chinese Noodle House, a different Chinese noodle house from yesterday. This one had Laotian dishes on the menu. Evelyn got Chicken Larb and I got Beef in Peanut Sauce. Very nice.

Back to the room and logs.

08/27/99 Canberra and Space Sites

We have class in the morning and we have two books of multiple choice questions we have to fill out. I assume that they are for late in the class. No, Evelyn asks and they are to be completed before our first class. That means we have to do the homework now. I just wanted to go to bed. I am really tired. We sit down in the auditorium and start to open the first book. But strangely I can feel a pillow under my face. I am in bed. But I don't have time for this. I need to get my homework done before class tomorrow. Should I go back to the auditorium? Where is the auditorium? No I really am in bed and it is dark. I don't have any class in the morning. I don't have any multiple choice questions to answer. I am in Australia and it is the middle of the night. I wonder what I would have found if I looked in the question book. I wake up a little later to find Evelyn already up.

This is the 27th of the month so Evelyn gets breakfast in bed. This is more than our monoversary-it is our anniversary. We are never able to fully celebrate because we are almost always travelling on our anniversary. I did, however, serve Evelyn yogurt, biscuits, cheese, and the all-important coffee.

I find if you are travelling and have cheese, one of the most valuable things you can have is dental floss. I take a seven-inch piece and tie it in a loop. I wrap it around my hand and between two fingers it becomes a nice cheese-cutter. Then when we are done I wrap the cheese in its own wrapper and hold it in place by wrapping the floss around the package.

Incidentally, it seems that in every hotel or motel room in Australia we have gotten has a small refrigerator and an electric coffee pot. The US is not so accommodating. All but Todd Tavern have had a hair drier.

One thing I am puzzled about is a two-button toilet. Toilets seem to vary a great deal from country to country based on the national needs. These are not discussed anywhere for fear of being distasteful, I suppose. Australian toilets use button flushing. Press a button and it flushes. Many seem to have two buttons. Intuitively I would think it means half and full flush. Symbols on our current toilet seem to confirm that. However the two flushes are indistinguishable. So I guess I still am not sure what the difference is.

Fathers Day is coming up in Australia. I guess here it is celebrated late the first Sunday in September. This year that is September 5. It seems to be a much more major event than it is in the US. Maybe if I just looked at the media it would seem a bigger event in the US. But you see a lot of references that it is coming. In the US is very secondary to Mothers Day.

Interesting ad on TV. A kid asks his father "Dad, who was the first President of the United States?" Without hesitation the father says "George Washington." "And who was the first Prime Minister of Australia?" The father is stumped. They ask a bunch of people and none of them seems to know. Finally some older people say Barton. The boy comes back to his father and says Edward Barton. "I knew that," says Dad. But it seems that not only to Australians know American history better than we know Australian history, Australians know American history better than their own. American history is somewhat romanticized. It grew out of a war; Australia was born in peacetime.

We head out to look at embassies. It is a gray and rainy day. There are better than a dozen embassies and high commissions in one small area. Most are in the architectural style of their country. I am not sure the difference between an embassy and a high commission. The terms seem to be used interchangeably. The Papua New Guinea embassy looks like a building from New Guinea. The Chinese Embassy is a combination of local and traditional styles. The American Embassy is the size of a small country but better fortified. There is not a lot to see at all the embassies, but the architecture is interesting. You don't want to look too interested since you don?t know who will suddenly get interested in you.

Better to show an interest in the stars. They don't get nervous when you start spying on them. Or even if they do, what can they do about it? Off to Stromlo Observatory.

We cannot do a whole lot of observing at Stromlo Exploratory. It is daytime, for one thing. Secondly, it is a very foggy gray day. Thirdly, their radio telescope was hit by lightning a few weeks earlier and is out of commission.

The constitution of Australia makes provision for resources to be set aside for astronomical observation. One place where an observatory has been set up for this purpose is Stromlo mountain near Canberra. It has optical and radio telescopes (usually). They make some extra money by showing it to the public and giving them a slide show. Then they have a sort of mini-museum to teach their guests a little how astronomy is done.

As we arrived an astronomer host came out and Evelyn talked to him. I was kind of half-asleep and stood there not entirely unlump-like. But as time went on I asked him some questions I think he thought were intelligent. More and more of his presentation seemed to be aimed at me. Also Evelyn, but I was asking him questions like "Doesn't it seem surprising that our sun had been around so much of the time since the Big Bang?" I asked him what were the highest profile discoveries made at the Stromlo Observatory. He gave me two. One was the discovery our galaxy will eat the Great Magellenic Cloud. The other was to see a MACHO event (Massive Astronomical Compact Halo Object).

After seeing the telescope and seeing the slideshow we looked at the exhibits. There are exhibit on how tell distance to stars, showing a live solar image, what is the visitor's weight on different planets, how does a gravity lens create visual distortions, etc.

As an aside, Evelyn says the constellation the Southern Cross is really a diamond. She says there is nothing in the middle that makes it a cross. I said it was a lot like the roads of New Jersey. On the New Jersey roads there is nothing in the middle that makes it across.

Driving down the hill we saw three wild kangaroos by the road. There were three there and they were quite aware of me. In fact they seemed as curious about me as I was about them. Three of them just stood in the woods facing me. I have never hear an assessment of how intelligent a kangaroo is. They certainly give no impression of intelligence beyond a rodent. Except for the fact that they know how to operate a kangaroo's body, I would think you could put a mouse's brain in a kangaroo and not recognize the difference.

Kangaroos can be incredibly prolific. They have a 33-day gestation period, then in two days they are ready to become pregnant again. The babies are only an inch long, born with a single contraction.. They have to crawl by themselves to the pouch and then stay there growing to be born again when they have grown. All kangaroos are born-agains.

When a male chooses a female he can spend two days chasing her trying to interest her in sex. He does this by caressing her tail. I snapped a few pictures as we stared at each other. There were three of them and one of me. When I moved forward for a closer view they hopped away to the safety of a greater distance.

Our next stop is the NASA Canberra Tracking Station. It is actually in Tidbinbilla, near Canberra. They have three similar tracking stations: Tidbinbilla; Goldstone, California (near Los Angeles), and Madrid. You really just see the antennae from a distance. NASA maintains a sort of museum associated with the tracking station. It is free but not well maintained. There are a bunch of exhibits but if it would attract children it is broken. They have broken computers, they have 3D images of Mars (minus the glasses to see them 3D), a Carmen San Diego game in space (with no instructions to make it comprehensible), a computer that should have a Discover Space program (it has a divide overflow), and you can roll marbles down a gravity well (all marbles chipped). The exhibits that don't attract kids so much are working better. The adult exhibits include a piece of moon rock, models of spacecraft, a program that tells you what is your age on other planets, and some films. We stopped for a snack-I had chocolate milk and sat listening to odd sounding birds making fuss. Australia certainly has a bunch of them.

Well, we finished up our drive around the back roads for a little while. Then back into Canberra and back to the room. Rather than going out sightseeing I watch Enemy of the State on the room TV.

Then right on the block we pick a Vietnamese restaurant, Pho Phu Quoc was the name, I think. We have Sinh To? Bo (Caramelized Pork and Prawn), Tôm Heo Rim (Stir Fried Squid with Vietnamese Pickled Vegetables), Múc Xào Dúa Câi (Garlic Chicken Wings), I have a pineapple shake and Evelyn has an avocado shake. I will miss this neighborhood.

We decided to go from dinner to see the bicycle museum. It is actually inside Tradie's restaurant. But you can't get into Tradie's unless you are a member of the Canberra Tradesmen's Union Club. You can, however, get a free temporary membership. You have to register. I am right now an honorary member of the Canberra Tradesmen's Union Club. And suddenly I can see that the Tradesmen's Union Club is just what Canberra needs. We need to keep control of Canberra to keep it on the right course. The wrong element must be kept out. We want Canberra to remain the Canberra we all love.

The museum is not big, but there is a nice collection of interesting bicycles. You can have your picture taken on a Penny-Farthing bicycle. They have a solar powered bicycle, a child's recumbent, a German wartime bicycle in which tires are replaced by concentric hoops of metal separated by springs. They have a least two hobby-horses that you walk along the ground and coast downhill. There are a couple of dozen more.

Back to the room and bed.

08/28/99 Canberra to Bendigo with the Road to Gundigai

There is something wrong with the heater/air-conditioner in our room. I cannot figure out how it manages it but it makes things too hot and too cold at the same time. I think it blows both hot and cold air at the same time. Part of me is too hot and part of me is too cold. I am a little afraid to complain too hard or the Canberra Tradesman's Union Club might reach out its powerful had and squelch me.

It is right now a little before 3 in the morning and we are both awake, but I have gone into the bathroom to give Evelyn maximum opportunity to go back to sleep.

I woke up near 7am and Evelyn was up. We packed and had breakfast, then checked out. We are headed northwest on the Barton Highway. Ahead of us are Gundagai and Yass. I love Australian names places. There seem to be several Australian songs about Gundagai and the road to Gundagai and Five Miles to Gundagai. I guess it was an important place to be driving your cattle to.

As we approach Gundagai we stop to get a picture of the statue to the dog who sat on the tucker box. There seems to be some disagreement whether this legendary dog is a hero or a scoundrel. His master was a teamster whose cart was sinking in the mud. The dog sat on the food box away from the action. I have seen the interpretation that he was loyally guarding his owner's food. Others interpret the story that the dog should have been helping and instead chose to stay with the food. Anyway it was turned into a song and a poem. And a statue.

We continue on to Wagga Wagga. It is usually called just Wagga, but it tickles Evelyn that the local literary society is called Wagga Wagga Writers Writers.

We got a CD of Australian songs and we listen to it as we go down the road. It has "Waltzing Matilda," but to a different tune than I am used to.

We stop in Albury about lunchtime. They have a bunch of Lonely-Planet-recommended restaurants but most were closed. We ended up eating at a kebab restaurant. Their slogan is "where the taste was meant to be." I think we really wanted to be where the taste actually was. I followed their instructions on how to eat a kebab, slowly unwrapping it. It worked until I got to the last inch. Then the wrapper sprung a leak and juices poured out. My mother was right. I can make a mess out of anything.

Back in the car it is almost impossible to find radio stations to listen to. As we pass Yarrawanga AM does have some stations but they are all discussing sports. Australians are sports-crazy. Of course, to me just about everybody seems sports crazy.

This has become a sunny Saturday afternoon after a totally overcast morning.

We go to play the CD a second time and discover that playing it the first time scratched the CD. We lost the song of "A Pub with No Beer." This leaves us little to play in the car since the radio goes for long stretches in which there are no stations. I have cassettes but the auto industry no longer gives you cassette players, they like CD players now.

In Wangaratta we stop at the airport which claims to have an aircraft museum, but we decide that A$6 is a bit pricey.

Glenrowen is a town kept alive by a dead man. Australia's Jesse James was Ned Kelly, murderer, dissident, and bushranger. A bushranger is what we would call an outlaw. Kelly was best known for his distinctive trademark, a suit of armor made from plow-metal. He looked like a cross between a cowboy and a medieval knight. Kelly headed a band of bushrangers who robbed banks and occasionally trains. In 1880 he was killed right here in Glenrowan. One cannot go very far in Glenrowan without seeing images of and references to Kelly. There probably would be no town if not for his notoriety. They have made more money selling his image than he ever stole. It is not much of an industry and it is not much of a town.

We drive on into the afternoon. There are considerably more trees as we go along, also the ground seems to have more water. But most of what we see are small towns and big grazing areas. A lot of sheep, a lot of cattle, that is about it.

Eventually we get to Bendigo where we have decided to break our journey. We pick a motel, the Central Deborah. The room seems comfortable enough. We drive into town looking for dinner. There are a small variety of restaurants and almost all are closed at 6pm on a Saturday. Bendigo seems to roll up its sidewalks outside of business hours.

A store I pass is named "Worn in the USA." What a thing to brag about. Australia is following American fashion and is going punk. You see a lot of tattoo parlors. I thought you saw a lot at home, but here the density is like four times as much.

There is not much open to choose from. We settle for Khong Dynasty, a Chinese restaurant. The food is uninspiring. Greasy and not very creative. Disappointing.

Back at the room we saw a documentary on propaganda cartoons from the American film industry during World War II. There are a bunch of things I could have added to the documentary that they left out. They talked about Disney cartoons but they did not mention that Disney animation was used in a lot of propaganda movies that were not made by Disney. There is some animation in Frank Capra's "Why We Fight" series and it is Disney animation. You can tell it by looking at it and I have heard elsewhere that it was. One interesting fact having little to do with their main topic is that Warner Brothers Cartoons from the likes of Chuck Jones and Bob Clampett consider themselves to be very secondary to Disney Studios. They thought their material was second class and that Disney was first class. They saw a Disney cartoon where Mickey Mouse talked to the audience-breaking "the fourth wall" as it is called. Well, we can do it too. I don't know what cartoon Disney did it with but it became almost a Warner Brothers trademark. But, and here's the point, there are only a relative few fans of the cartoons they were copying. Disney movies are remembered but few of his short cartoons are remembered. They were just not creative enough. Warner Brothers cartoons with Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck are the classics. Chuck Jones is really remembered as the comic genius of cartoons. Yet he always thought his stuff was second rate. Kids today grow up with his cartoons that were already old when their parents grew up with them. There may still be a market for 1940s and 1950s Donald duck and Mickey Mouse cartoons, but not much of one.

I hate to say it but when I should have been writing I was watching TV. They also had a German documentary on advertising and humor.

Of late I have been getting further behind in my log. The oldest stuff that I haven't written was two days ago, but that does not mean I am two days behind. I wrote my distaste with dinner right after dinner. With a palmtop you do not have to write in chronological order the way I did with a handwritten log. That is one reason I shift from present to past tense and vice versa.

08/29/99 Bendigo to Ballarat

I woke up early and started thinking about what we had heard at the observatory a couple of days ago and realized it fits in with a pet theory of mine. During the slide show the astronomer, Mark, mentioned the sun was made of gas from a star that had died long before. I asked what were the age of the sun and the age of the universe. I believe the answer was five billion years and something like ten to twenty billion years. The age of the universe has come into severe question over the last year. But the numbers say the sun is between half and a quarter the age of the universe. And the sun was made from the remnants of another star. Doesn't it seem unlikely that all this is happening so close to the beginning. New stars are forming all the time and will continue to form far into the future. It seems to me a little odd that our sun formed so early in the life of the universe. One might ask were we already in the Milky Way galaxy when our sun formed how old was it already formed when our sun was formed? I guess intuitively I would expect the universe to be a hundred or maybe a thousand solar lifetimes old. I didn't expect a number like two or even four. We just seem to be an earlier player than I would have thought.

But some of these numbers are based on surprisingly tenuous logic. Particularly a lot of our knowledge of far distant objects depends very heavily on measurement by Doppler or red shifts. I could be wrong about this but I think that we measure the distance and speed of very far distant objects by the degree of red shift in their spectra of light.

I assume most of you understand the concept, but suppose you have an ice cream truck driving down the highway and the refrigeration unit conks out and the sorbet starts to melt. Every second the blueberry sorbet drops a drip onto the highway. Every ten seconds a red raspberry sorbet droplet falls onto the highway. You are following at a constant speed. You pass a blue droplet every second and a red droplet every ten seconds.

Now the ice cream driver realizes that he has a problem and starts to speed up. Blueberry still drops onto the highway at once a second, raspberry once every ten, but now because of the faster speed the droplets are further apart on the highway. You now pass a blue droplet every 1.1 second and a red one every 11 seconds. You can actually compute the rate at which the ice cream truck is speeding up.

That is how light works and how we measure the speed at which very distant objects move. Various common elements give off fixed wavelengths of light when they burn. Light from distant objects also has familiar wavelengths and we might expect to see the light at those wavelengths but we see it at longer wavelengths. Then we assume the object is moving away from us.

BUT: suppose light that travels very going distances has a wavelength shift naturally. Suppose the ice cream truck is really travelling at our speed and the heat of the day is making the blacktop of the highway expand. You don't see this over short distances because the effect is really, really tiny. But the drops of sorbet are further apart when we see them than when they are created. Blueberry is still appearing at a 10 to 1 ratio. We would think the truck is speeding up and it would be just an effect of the heat.

What if the same thing were happening to light from very distant sources? From some principle that we do not yet understand light waves that travel very long distances get an increased wavelength. It is really tough to set up an experiment to demonstrate it since all are measurements are affected by it more or less uniformly and the affect is so tiny at any but huge distances. I don't know if there was any way we could detect it. Where it could show up is it would tell us the very far objects are accelerating away from us faster and faster in spite of Newtonian physics telling us the universe should be decelerating outward.

And there is the point. Because for the last several months cosmologists have been trying to explain why their measurements say that the universe is expanding faster and faster. They are postulating a new repulsive force. It would be easy to explain if this light starts out blue-shifted and as the result of its long trip ends up red-shifted. Certainly at our end it is too red-shifted and that is hard to explain. Could this effect be just a trick of the light?

So what does all this have to do with Australia? Hey, I am trying to give you my experience. It is what I am thinking about.

We checked out and went looking for a place to eat breakfast. We found ourselves at the Golden Dragon Museum. This is the largest collection in the world of Chinese ceremonial decoration and processional regalia. It includes the longest ceremonial dancing dragon in the world. It is Sun Loong and is a hundred meters long. The dragon is brought out and made to dance on Easter Hospital Sunday. The team to dance it in the streets is 115 people. 54 people are under it at a time in each of two shifts.

The museum has ceremonial clothing, it has coins, and it has explanations of symbols.

And it tells the history of the Chinese in Australia. Most of the first wave came from Guandong province in the 1850s. Life at home was precarious at best with land wars and various political problems. Most saw no future in staying in their home province. Then there were rumors of gold being found in other places like California and Australia. Chinese came looking for "The Big Gold Mountain." The ever-fair Australian government decided that the situation should be controlled. They started by putting a head tax on immigrants to the gold territory. It applied equally to everybody. You had to pay ten pounds per head no matter what nationality you were if your head was Chinese. Really fair. The Chinese started coming in through Port Victoria and walking to gold country.

Resentment became great on both sides between the Chinese and non-Chinese. By 1860 the easy to get gold and puddling was declining and Chinese started returning to homeland or opening different businesses. Through the 1860s and 1870s they diversified and got into other occupations. They did not have stories about any Chinese getting rich from gold mining.

The Loong Dragon and a dragon in general is a symbol of imperial power, male vigor and fertility. The dragon is a chimera with the head of a camel, the horns of a deer, the eyes of a rabbit, the ears of a cow, the neck of a snake, the belly of a frog, the scales of a carp, the claws of a hawk, and the paw of a tiger. It is supposedly the oldest ceremonial dragon in the world. It would have probably been destroyed in the Cultural Revolution if it had not been removed here from China. When it could no longer be used they had a Hong Kong expert make the world's longest ceremonial dragon Sun Loong. Both are on display.

One problem is that one exhibit ties to recreate the feel of WWII by using the furniture but also playing the song "We'll Meet Again." Some of you may remember it from the film Dr. Strangelove. This exhibit just plays it over and over and you hear it all over the museum. You get tired of that one melody, if not then, then hours later when you cannot get it out of your head.

They then have a room showing the Chines-Australian experience in WWII. I think it is more to show that they did participate. This seems to be a museum of tolerance.

There is what they call a sound and light show, but it really just some mannequins showing the ceremony of waking the dragon prior to taking him out.

There are tangential exhibits elsewhere in the building and then there is a garden across the street. Artisans from Hegei Province built this in 1996. They worked long workdays seven days a week to build it. That is just the Mainland Chinese way. They do not think it is necessary to give people a day off. They worked from August to November. The result is a garden much like we saw in China.

There is also a small shrine where you leave offerings to the Buddha. Mostly the offerings were fruit and dried vegetables.

We hit McDonalds for breakfast on the way to Ballarat. The radio played an adaptation of the Guy DeMaupassant story "Hydrophobia.".

By early afternoon we hit Ballarat, a gold mining center.

In 1851, E. H. Hargraves found gold near Bathurst in New South Wales. The news electrified everyone in range. Gold was on the ground just for the picking. This was shallow alluvial mining anybody could do. The news had much the same effect it had in the states. Stores would have to close their doors because the entire staff quit. The owners were forced to become gold miners when there was nothing else to do. Melbourne saw its workforce depleted as everyone went to the fields. To hold some people in Melbourne the city businessmen offered a reward to anyone who could find gold within 300 km of Melbourne. It was found in less than a week but with bigger discoveries being made at places like Ballarat and Bendigo they could not hold on to anyone. Internationally miners came flooding in. The government started licensing minors, but it did not stem the tide.

Bushrangers stole gold. Mining towns had drinking, gambling, and prostitution. The population of Australia jumped from 400,000 to over a million. These were the most productive mine fields ever found. Five hundred tonnes a year was taken from the ground. That is more than California, more than the Yukon, more than South Africa. Still eventually most of the mining died out and from 1860 on only mining companies could make a decent profit.

Sovereign Hill is a sort of open air museum and amusement park that is a re-creation (after a fashion) of the 1850s mining town. You can walk into shops and try their wares. You can tour a mine. Walk down main street. Look at the boiler rooms and the steam engines, or take a stage coach ride.

We took a look at several very large steam engines. We are called engineers, but the people who run these things are the real engineers. I told Evelyn that you are not a real engineer unless your hands are greasy at the end of the day. Evelyn gave me a nasty look. "That is why I like to have a kebab for dinner."

In the mine we heard about one miner who tended to go to the dunny a lot. He then said he should be the one who empties it. One day he keeled over dead. It was found he had for years been eating gold nuggets and then panning the dunny. He was killed by having swallowed a nugget too big. After that miners were allowed only one dunny visit a day.

It was something like a thousand feet between levels. There was something like an elevator, but it carried people twice a day. Other times you had to take the ladder. If the elevator broke down at quitting time you waited for a couple hours while it was fixed or you climbed the ladder. That might be four thousand feet of ladder climbing.

I mentioned that it was better to fire off rockets, a reference to the film October Sky. Evelyn said that was different. Those minors got black lung disease from the coal. I thought that gold miners must get something similar from the dust. Evelyn asked. Miners who do not die of accidents die of silicosis.

They said the children looked forward to working in the mines so they could earn a pound a week. This was a full grown man's salary.

Another dangerous job was setting the fuses for explosives. One guy holds a metal rod and the other hammers it eighteen inches in with one blow. The rod holder could not even use his hands to eat with at the end of the day. You put twenty holes like this in a face of rock and put a black powder charge in a bag in each. You put in fuses of different lengths into the charges and light them. Then you retreat and count the explosions. If your powder was a little wet it could delay the explosion. The bag would smolder while the powder dried and finally it would take. If you don't hear all twenty you have to go and figure out why. If it exploded while you were investigating, you lose.

I was happy to get out of the mine.

We visited the schoolhouse. The teacher was teaching penmanship to anyone who wanted to try it. They were selling something for $0.50 cents. Actually it used a cent sign. I pointed out to the teacher that the price made no sense. It could not be both dollars and cents. "I didn't write it," she explained helpfully. "Yes, but the school should be teaching the correct way to write a price. "I didn't write it," she repeated. Some school teacher.

We finished with Sovereign Hill about 4:30. Near Sovereign Hill is a Museum of Gold included in the price of admission. The museum is about all aspects of gold. You see how it is mined, examples of gold ore, and an exhibit of gold in Greek myth.

From the hill we look across town. It looks like a standard Australian town. There something that looks like a mast with a big sail or a leaning flagpole with a banner.

We find a motel quickly since we are both hungry. It is in the same chain as the ones where we have stayed. Then we head out.

We went looking for dinner on the main drag, Sturt Street. And a main drag is precisely what it turned out to be. This was where all the fancy restaurants were supposed to be but most of what we found were closed. It may be that it is Sunday night. This was the same problem we had last night. Of course, we were looking about 5:30. It may be that the good restaurants do not open until 6. But I think that they do not open at all. They leave the bulk of weekend traffic to chains like McDonalds. The latter is extremely popular here. More so than at home. Of course here at least they represent international cuisine.

On the way back we saw a little bank of restaurants and chose Chok Dee, a Thai restaurant. It may be that we have a really good Thai restaurant in the US, but this is a real disappointment. The sauces are way too oily. The cooking is just heavy and heavy-handed. It was exactly how I felt about the Chinese food last night. This restaurant could not survive back at home.

Back at the room I work on the log to the background of the Australian 60 Minutes and the movie The Long Goodnight. Evelyn is asleep at 8, I am up till 10.

08/30/99 Ballarat to Healesville

I woke up about 7:50. I had slept about ten hours. Unusual for me.

In the room I had hot chocolate and cookies. The rooms seem to have coffee and tea makings. Bendigo's motel had hot chocolate also, which for me is much appreciated. I did not make any but took a packet with me. I am not a coffee or tea person but will have cocoa sometimes.

Our first stop is the Eureka Stockade. There is a placard somewhere that says, "You can't make me do what I don?t want to do. But you can make me want to do it." This was frequently the British policy toward Australia and its colonies everywhere. You can't make us let a lot of Chinese into Australia if we don't want to. But if each one pays us ten pounds, well, WELCOME.

So it was with all the miners pouring into gold country. "You cause a good deal of trouble, so you pay us thirty shillings a month. You want to dig a claim-okay, you get a square of land eight feet on a side. If there is more gold outside that, we can determine who gets that claim." Well, the miners grumbled, but people looking for a big jackpot will put up with a lot. The farm land was all gone, the gold was running out, the license searches got more and more brutal, and there was just about no government representation. The upside of mining got less and less. The downside became more and more. The new governor ordered that license searches be done twice a week. Then a local landowner named Bentley murdered a miner and the court magistrate (who just happened to be Bentley's business partner) set him free. Now the miners started seeing they had been made second class citizens. They rioted. The government retried Bentley, finding him guilty, but they also jailed the rioting miners.

Under the direction of miner Peter Lalor the miners organized. Eight hundred burned their licenses and agreed they would buy no more mining licenses. The government sent in the military and the miners retreated to a defensible stockade. The government ordered the troopers to attack the Eureka stockade. In twenty minutes thirty miners and five troopers were dead.

The leaders of the rebellion were tried for high treason. But there is nothing like a government massacring its own people to make good newspaper copy. After public outcry the leaders were found not guilty of treason.

The miner's fee became one pound (twenty shillings) a year. The miners were given much improved rights to claims of land. Miner leader Peter Loler was later elected to Parliament.

Our first stop of the morning is the Eureka Stockade Memorial. There is a visitor center, but it is not open until 9am and not at all Monday. It is the mast and sail I saw from Sovereign Hill.

We head out on the road passing Buninyong. There are repeated warnings that the road is a koala crossing. I wish. I would not be lucky enough to see a koala. The name koala means non-drinker. Koalas get their moisture from leaves.

In Queenscliff we went to Fort Queenscliff. We arrived at 10:45am. There are daily tours of the fort, built against the bastion of threatening Russians, and we go in to ask about them. 1:30pm is the tour. Well, we have two hours and change to kill. The change we can kill in a phonebooth trying to make arrangements in Melbourne. We can wander the streets of Queenscliff. This is sort of a laid-back resort town.

This is a town on the water. The water is particularly dangerous with strong tidal flows, great variations in water depth, a narrow opening, and treacherous weather. They call it "the Rip." Shortland Bludd lighthouse was built here in 1842. A second light on a platform was built 1853. Two new lighthouses replaced them in 1863.

The artillery battery was placed here to protect shipping in 1859. The Crimean war put Russia and Britain at odds with the then powerful Russian Navy perceived as a threat. The gun militia was initially volunteer but 60 men of 140 available took part. In 1882 Russia took some provocative cruises into Southern Australian waters and as a response the defenses were built into a fort. Much of the Crimean War was financed for the British by gold coming in from Australia. It made matters worse that Russian ships were poking around the South Australian waters. They could rather easily have taken the port and from there take the gold shipments.

During both World Wars, this fort has claims to have fired the first shot. In the first it claims to have fired across the bows of a German ship escaping. They did not hit it. During the second they tried to repeat the distinction. They fired across the bows of an unknown ship. It turned out to be from Tasmania. That is part of their own country, for those with poor geography.

In 1946 the fort became a military college where one learned not soldiering but how to run a modern army. One must be of rank major or above to attend. In 2001 the military will close it down and turn it back to the town.

We stopped in a grocery to get candy, biscuits, ginger beer, and our tchotchke, a small container of Vegemite. Everything but the Vegemite was junk food. I can imagine what the cashier must think of Yanks.

We wanted to be frightfully British for lunch and had meat pies and ginger beer for lunch. Very nice too, I might add. There was a good flaky crust on the met pies and the Bundaberg ginger beer to wash it down was very nice also. Met pies used to be good in the US. These days only Boston Market seems to have them and then only chicken and vegetable.

Boy, we really need good ginger beer in the United States.

After lunch we checked out the ferry schedule, but it was really a bit much for so short an experience. We went back to Queenscliff and got there about half an hour before the tour.

Our guide was Keith Davidson, real character whose family history seemed all tied up with Queenscliff fort. He took us around for about an hour. Afterward he talked to us for about fifteen minutes. He wanted to know where we had been in Australia, where else we were going, what other countries we had visited.

From there we drive to Healesville. One the road there are many signs like "Drowsy Drivers Die." The Federal office for Road Safety has decided that one of the greatest threats on Australian roads is driver fatigue. You can see speeding and you can test for drunk driving. But there are no tests for driving under the influence of fatigue. They leave a pamphlet in hotel rooms warning you about tired driving. It gives guidelines of how to tell if you are fatigued. I can really understand this. It is tough to stay awake on these roads. The US does not make it nearly so high a priority. They probably should. I hate to say how often I wrote this log under the influence of fatigue.

We came to the Hotel and took a look at the menu. Meanwhile it was the hotel restaurant straight ahead and the bar on the left side. As we looked at the menu someone came from the bar several sheets to the wind. "C'mon in. We have a good time. Strippers and everything." Hmmmm. Well, we were not going into the bar. We started to look to see what else there was. Not much. The street was pretty dark. Okay, it's the hotel. We came back and our friend was across the street yelling "fuck" into a telephone. We came in and from the bar we heard "Teddy Bears? Picnic" on the jukebox. Strange. Very surreal. That ended and the song on the juke box switched to "We'll Meet Again." Great.

This is the kind of hotel you see in British movies. First, the restaurant was empty. Little tables with rattan chairs. There is a bar that seems to serve the dining room and the bar in the next room. Lots of bottles behind the bar. Little narrow menus on a wood background. I got lamb shanks. Evelyn got Salmon Teriyaki. Neither of us was entirely satisfied. My lamb shanks came smothered in peas and tomato sauce. By the time I was done I was sorely tempted to pick up the lamb shank. One just cannot do it justice with a fork and butter knife.

I was curious to try the lemon tart, but found it was closer to key lime pie with lemon instead than it was to lemon curd. The waitress asked me "Wasn't that just the best thing you?ve ever tasted?" "It was pretty good," I said, knowing it would come off a poor second to Louisiana Peanut Butter Pie.

I think the hotel had good food in the British sense of good food. The British have really good drama and really good science fiction mostly because they are not distracted by the quality of their food. With my lamb shanks the cook obviously did not realize that lamb was a good meat. We have to hide it by smothering it in tomato sauce to make it good. Tomato sauce and peas, for gosh sakes. Anybody can make tomato sauce. And mixing in peas! Yuch. British meat dishes are as bad as American candy. British candy is terrific. They really know how to make sweet things. But Wimpy Burger was just begging for McDonalds to cross the Atlantic and eat their lunch so to speak. And McDonalds obliged them. McDonalds is for people who like the taste of the beef. Wimpy was there for people who liked the taste of the bun. The meat was there to protein-enrich the bun.

Then back to the room to write and to doze. Something I noticed at Canberra and has been true since is that all the motel beds have heaters built into the mattress pad. It is like an electric blanket except it is below you instead of above you. Seems like a good idea. You are in much closer contact with what is below you than what is above you.

08/31/99 Healesville Sanctuary

I woke up at 2:40 or so and finally have gotten caught up in my log. It is currently 3:24.

Well, it was almost 7 when we got up. Evelyn had coffee. I had yogurt, juice, and ginger biscuits. You hear a lot of ads for pokies. These are poker gambling machines. They seem to be very popular here. Gambling is quite legal and you see the occasional casino around. I am not sure what guarantees that a poker machine plays fairly. The software can give you any odds it wants really.

At about 8:30 we got to the Healesville Sanctuary, a wildlife sanctuary. That is about half an hour before it opens. The animals clearly are just not up yet or they would let us in.

Evelyn tells me what some abbreviation stands for. I ask her how she knows and she says she figured it out. How does she know it is right? She doesn't. But she still states it as fact. I am sure that I get a lot wrong when I tell people things, but I try not to pass off inferences as fact. One cannot help it at times, but one should avoid it.

I am rather ambivalent about the Healesville Sanctuary. It is called a haven for animals. It "displays more than 200 species of Australian wildlife in 31 hectares of natural bush." The Sanctuary started out as a research institute in the 1920s and opened to visitors in 1934. Today [they] have breeding programs for more than twenty threatened species, conduct scientific research, both in captivity and in the wild, and are developing new techniques for restoring wildlife habitat."

On the other hand, I am not sure how easy it is for animals to leave when they want to. They are basically caged up in much smaller areas than they would be in the wild. It is in some ways little better than a zoo.

We got in and found the first exhibit, the billabong, would open 45 minutes late.

We went into a cage maybe twenty paces long that had birds of the bush, particularly lorikeets flying around and buzzing the guests. Lorikeets like sugar, an unusual taste for a bird. The mating ritual of firetail is jumping up and down with grass in its beak. I wonder if that would have worked for me. Perhaps, but maybe only on a firetail.

By the time I was a quarter the way around the path I was getting impatient. All I had seen was some birds and had been shown three different places to spend money. I could buy and admission ticket, I could buy food, and I could join Friends of the Zoo. I had also passed rest rooms and picnic grounds.

The Tasmanian Devil, which gives out blood-curdling cries has when fighting over food, has the most powerful jaws for mammal its size. As an aside, the Tasmanian tourist board chose the Tasmanian Devil as its spokesanimal for its tourism. They got an angry letter from Warner Brothers? lawyers. The Tasmanian Devil is copyrighted as a Warner Brothers character and if they persist in using it, they will be sued. Warners got a letter back saying that the Tasmanian Devil is a real animal. "Oh." These two just wanted to sleep.

In the kangaroo pen the roos, all huddle away from visitors. The visitors all stay on the path, and the roos all have at least enough space to stay on the grass maybe twenty feet away.

Frog Bog had several windows to see frogs, but only three actual frogs are in evidence. Recorded sound gives you the impression there are a lot more.

Fern Gully really delivers on the promise of ferns. There are about twenty different kinds.

The World of the Platypus is a small aquarium with two platypus in a tank, fish examples. There is another tank, but I could not find a platypus in it. That tends to be a problem. You will be told an animal is in a pen, but you will not see it. I suspect zoos of the future will be fitted with infrared scopes. They have a tape of platypus swimming. They say on the screen "discover more, visit our web site." Imagine a platypus with a website. Actually I think they have four websites.

Following that we see Leadbeater's possums, a long-footed potoroo, a quoll, a hyperactive pygmy possum, mountain brushtail possum, and dunnarts.

Wombat Gully had a sleeping wombat in a pen. We were told we could pet it, but I would have liked to see it moving around. So many of the interesting animals of Australia are nocturnal.

At 11:30 we went to the reptile show. It was basically seeing three poisonous snakes of Australia. All snakes we are told are cowards and bluffers. Snakes strike people only as a last resort. Three people are killed by snakes in Australia each year on the average and disproportionately represented among the victims are young males who had been drinking. If you see a poisonous snake give it a wide berth and call some experts like the police.

The Birds of Prey show brought out one at a time four large birds and flew them over the audience. A whistling kite buzzed Evelyn missing her by inches. They had a cormorant, an owl, and a wedge-tailed eagle who did not want to eat. The latter really seemed to bother the German-accented keeper. It had never happened to her before.

The koala pen was less than totally exciting. Koalas eat eucalyptus leaves exclusively. It must be great for sore throats but there is not a whole lot of energy in eucalyptus leaves. Koalas don't know what makes sloths so frenetic. The keeper brought in some new leaves and one of the koalas got frisky and turned his head. These thing sleep something like 19 or 20 hours a day and when they are awake they are hardly the excitement masters of the bush.

One of life's embarrassing moments happened to me. One of the keepers was walking a dingo and brought him over to me to pet. As I was leaning over my camera swung free and bopped the dingo on the nose. The keeper pulled the dingo away before more negative things happened.

They have an exhibition of Water fowl of the wetlands. There were ducks, cormorants, pelicans, and several others living together.

They had the Exxon Chemical Rehab Aviary to help prove what great lovers of nature and especially water fowl that those big-hearted people at Exxon are. They are still doing penance for the Exxon Valdez.

Next came the unexpectedly interesting flying foxes. These are fruit bats maybe eighteen inches long from head to foot. And measuring that way is moving upward. During the day they supposedly sleep, wrapping these huge wings around themselves like blankets. But they don't all have their hearts in their sleeping. They hang upside down from the chain-link fence ceiling. They have what look like canes coming from the bottom of their wings to also hold the fence. They walk around on the ceiling looking like old men walking on two canes. Some will fight for a space on the ceiling or perhaps just to be fighting duels. All this hanging upside-down.

Lastly we went to the Billibong. That is a sort of temporary lagoon formed when a river partially dries up but water in indentations will have no place to go.

We stopped at the shop on the way out and ran into science fiction commentator David Hartwell.

Then came the drive back to Melbourne. Evelyn had been planning to park the car at the hotel, then to return it to Avis the next day. I suggested it made more sense to return the car that evening and be done with it. At first Evelyn thought that would not be possible because we would have to cut the day short and would have to pay the same thing for the car in either case, but as she thought about it, it sounded better and better to her. We were getting back earlier than planned and they would charge for the longer rental. She decided to see if we could get it back today.

There are trolleys in Melbourne. The trolleys are the kind that gets their power from electrical cables above the street. It brings me back to when I was quite young and would visit my grandmother. She lived in Akron and in those days Akron would have trolleys and overhead power just like Melbourne has. Even at the time I knew just what the overhead cables were for. But like an adult sucking on a sore tooth kids like to frighten themselves with their own secret fears. To me there was crawling around someplace on this web a spider. It was a huge thing nine feet across with eight eyes. Now when I see trolley cables I still imagine something monstrous spider standing on them.

It is tough driving because there are two lanes, but one has slow trolleys and one has cars parked. It slowed us down but we got the car back and saved about $60 on the car. We had to take a taxi to the hotel and that ate about $10 of our savings. The Melbourne traffic is so slow we just stand as the meter clicks. Any other time of day would be better than rush hour.

We got to the hotel and checked in. We have a pretty nice room on the first floor. (The lobby counts as the 0th floor.)

Our next order of business was the ever-popular dinner. We had dreams of easy exotic picking like we had in Sydney. But the convention center is in the financial district. There really is nothing. You eat really fancy or you don't eat. There probably are cheaper and more exotic places, but not right here. And we were not dressed to eat fancy. I was wearing running shoes and Evelyn was wearing jeans. After a long search we gave up and went back toward the hotel. Our hotel is right across the bridge from a casino. Where you have a casino you have some way to feed losers.

We got to the casino and found the front of it was a food court. Most of the places were Chinese in one form or another. I picked fish and chips. I picked wrong. It was horrible. It was not at all like British fish and chips. It was frozen fried fish and French fries.

It was a nice night to look at the water on our walk back. In the hotel we started seeing convention people. You can generally tell science fiction fans. They don't look like cookie cutter people.

We unpacked and I tried out the TV. There was a really good BBC documentary on the battle of Kursk. This was a WWII battle I had never heard of, but I intend to look it up when I get home. Apparently the Soviets did just about everything wrong with respect to the Nazis, including believing Hitler's non-aggression pact. The only thing they did right was just in case building a secret weapon, the T34 tank. The first day it was used it blew a hole in the German lines nine miles wide. It destroyed forty German armored vehicles before being destroyed itself.

The German generals after fighting the tank for a while sent desperate pleas to Hitler to build German T34s. Hitler had a better idea. He wanted to build a more advanced, more complex, heavier. He built the Tiger Tank and sent four hundred to the Eastern front. Meanwhile the Russians were mass producing T34s. These tanks all came together at Kursk in what might be called the Gettysburg of WWII-Europe. It was one heck of a battle of metal against metal. In the end the invading Germans were defeated and always were on the defensive against T34s. Hitler committed suicide within hours of T34s entering Berlin.

I tried to write but was falling asleep. I gave up the struggle.

09/01/99 Melbourne Walking Tour

Right by our bed stand we have the choice of four radio stations and the classical channel. That is a thousand most beloved melodies of classical music chewed up and regurgitated as Muzak.

Evelyn and I woke up at 6:11am. Someone had left a wakeup call. Just one ring. It was enough.

We were in writing and watching the Today Show until about 9. There are two reporters talking about the situation in East Timor, one in Australia who thinks things will calm down, and one in East Timor who thinks that things are going to get very bad. There is going to be more rioting and perhaps civil war. I cannot judge for myself, but the latter seems to have more facts. It is a scary situation.

This will be a laid-back day. We will rest up somewhat preparing for the convention.

We went back to the other side of the bridge to see if we could find breakfast. Really we could not do a lot of exploring on foot. We ended up at the food court. The noodle concession had congee so I ordered beef and Evelyn ordered seafood. The woman said "you know what that is???" "Oh, yes." It was a little expensive. Mine was A$5.50 and Evelyn's was A$8. A bowl of congee stays with you.

We went back to the hotel to register for the convention and took the registration materials back to the room to decide out schedules. They we went out for the walking tour of the city from the Lonely Planet.

Wherever you would cross the street there are buttons. They have sound visual cues so you know the state. If you are supposed to wait there is a slow and patient tap. Tap-pause-tap-pause-tap. Suddenly the tempo will change to an excited staccato. Tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap. This is your signal to scurry across the street. You get halfway across and the tempo slows down again. This is your signal that some Aussie driver has you in his sights. He is not allowed to hit you if you make it to the sidewalk in one piece. Good luck.

Our first stop is the train station, the Flinder Street Station. This is a very characteristic building. It is a sort of orange-ish yellow so it really stands out. The clocks make it a local landmark.

One of the interesting things I have noted in both Sydney and Melbourne is that there are a very large number of bookstores in Australia, both new and used. You cannot walk very far without hitting one. It is a question of a block or two in the center section of town. Of course this is a university town so that helps, but there are lots of bookstores and very few TV channels. I think there might be a connection.

Young & Jackson's is a pub whose claim to fame is art. It has a famous painting of some poor lady without any clothes on. At a famous art show it was condemned as being pornographic. The painting ended up at this pub where it could be appreciated by the local art enthusiasts. For the benefit of sightseers who do not want to enter the pub but still want to be edified by the art, a postcard of the infamous painting hangs in the window. The lady is really, really naked. The textures and contours were really super. I would have liked an opportunity to do more art appreciation with this painting, but we had to move on.

St. Paul's Cathedral is a church in the gothic revivalist style. Having seen churches all over the world I can verify that this really is a church. I cannot say that seeing yet another church is a greatly edifying experience for this Jewish traveler.

Walking into the center of town I discover that there are parts of Melbourne that are not the financial district and do have good restaurants.

We passed by a video game parlor. When I was a kid growing up my father worked for Monsanto Chemical. Every year as a perk to their employees they would rent out the local amusement and have the Monsanto Picnic. All the rides were free. But part of the fun was the Penny Arcade. They had a bunch of different minor concessions. They had a vending machine which for five cents would dispense pictures of aircraft like the Bell X-1. There probably were pinball machines, but I rarely played those. One game I did like was a sort of anti-aircraft gun. It was a green metal tube about a foot in diameter. It had handles with triggers and a sight at one end. You looked through the sight and you would see a scene of sky and ocean. Not very convincing looking aircraft would fly over the ocean and if you were aimed reasonably close to being aimed at the aircraft when you pulled the trigger the sky would flash red about as credibly as a red light bulb could make it. That was how you got points. I guess I liked playing the game at the time. That is one technology that has changed a great deal.

We watched someone playing an "Empire Strikes Back" game in the video game parlor. The imagery was a lot more advanced. It really looked like this guy was in the movie. This guy was flying around wiping out these huge lumbering Imperial Walkers and these flying thingees and freeing friends and generally having a high old time. The 3D effects look really good. That supposedly makes this game what they call "realistic." But I asked myself, what's wrong with this picture?

This is not what battle is all about. It cannot possibly be this easy. If there were two people for whom it was this easy that would be enough to wipe out the entire forces of the other side. If there was only one guy for whom it was this easy on the other side it would not have been this easy for this guy. A more realistic view of what it really would be like to be in battle would be you would put in your fifty cents. Your speeder starts up, you fly thirty feet, there is a big red flash; the enemy got you; game over. But nobody would drop the next fifty cents in to try again.

This is not real war. This is the myth of war that the WWII movies wanted to present. And not just WWII movies have used this myth. From the beginning of time governments have wanted to convince the common people that war is great fun. You just go out there and you knock down those enemy soldiers one, two, three. And you win valuable hero points as you go. Maybe you even win medals. Oh boy. And people go out and they get killed. Before the Civil War the attitude of many people toward the war made it seem like a big-scale football game would to us. People thought it was a big game, and they would go out and teach the other side a lesson and come home with glory.

But a more realistic view of what war is or can be like is what you saw in Saving Private Ryan. It is a nightmare worse than most nightmares you could imagine without war. "The Empire Strikes Back" video games have much more market potential than "Saving Private Ryan" video games would. The is true even though the "Saving Private Ryan" games have even more potential to be realistic. And it really is the Vietnam generation who were around when video war games took off. These were people who went and fought and knew it was hell, or people who did not want to go because they knew it would be hell. Fake war got popular just as people were getting a serious lesson that real war is horrible.

Now don't get me wrong. I am not being as anti-war as I may sound here. I definitely believe that there are causes that are worth fighting for. And there are causes worth dying for, unfortunately. War is bad for the people who have to do the fighting, but it is not all by itself evil. Or if it is it can be a necessary evil. But we probably should stop fooling ourselves that it is great sport to fly through the legs of an Imperial Walker taking out enemy aircraft. Really these games are adjusted to feed the player's ego. If the player sneezes four of the enemy fall down dead. The game is made up of responses that are to battle what canned laughter is to humor.

Swanston Walk is a pleasant walk in a nice shopping area.

Ahead of us was a bookstore called Slow Glass. Now that is the title of a collection by Bob Shaw so I expected this would be a science fiction bookstore. The idea was that you could look into the past because light travels at a variable rate, but very slowly, through slow glass. You can look into the past. It was an excuse for a collection of stories, supposedly viewed through the glass.

It was not a bad science fiction bookstore. Better than any science fiction bookstore I know of near home. There is no longer a science fiction bookstore in Manhattan or one in Philadelphia.

One of the clerks was on the phone with a supplier. She said the bookstore had a funny name. It was "Slow Glass." When she got off the phone I asked her what was so funny about that? Of course, to a science fiction fan it is not so funny a name.

Turn the corner and you find the Bourke St. Mall. I am not sure it includes the post office or not, but down the street of the post office they have outlawed cars. It makes it a nice area where you can walk with relative ease until a trolley comes through. I guess they could tell the cars to stay out but they could not tell the trolleys. Well, they could but it did no good.

There was a demonstration on protecting the forests. It was an issue that was being debated when we were at the parliament building. The government allegedly has allowed some old growth forests to be chipped.

We passed the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, and in fact were all over the campus. Ah, it was a campus. A short distance off campus we did look at a nitery called Dracula's and which had interesting statuary. The other ghoulish site on campus is Melbourne Gaol, which once functioned as the town's jail. Inside are mementos of the great local criminals including Ned Kelly's armor.

Next we saw the first Turkish restaurant in all of Australia. From there it was a short walk to Chinatown. We saw at least three big decorative gates.

The Princess Theater is copiously and ornately decorated and is currently running a play called The Boy from Oz that is supposedly on its way to Broadway.

Next comes the State House of Parliament. We got there at about 1pm, which is the one hour on which they do not start a tour.

The Mint did have a tour of its gold vault. A park separated the two. There was a statue to Gordon, but I double checked and it was not Charles "Chinese" Gordon of Khartoum. We got to the mint. Yes it had a tour but they charged and we were a little weary. Let's not and say we did. Evelyn asked had I seen the statue to Gordon. Yes, but it was not Chinese Gordon. Yes it was. Look, I looked at the name on the statue and it wasn't. Actually, there are statues to two different Gordons, one of them is Gordon of Khartoum.

Well, let's ride the free tram around once, have lunch, and go back to the room. They have a free tram, ostensibly for tourists though the users are nearly exclusively locals. But it goes around the city from 10am to 6pm. We rode it one cycle and got off where we got on. Now it was nearly 2pm and we could have taken a State Parliament building tour, but we decided just lunch and then back to the room for convention planning.

Back to Chinatown we go. We look at two or three restaurants and pick one called Oriental Bistro. We order BBQ Pork with Tofu and Snake Soup.

We got the snake soup. It was a lot like hot and sour soup. Where there would usually be chicken shreds there were snake shreds. Not that it was easy to tell the difference. They say chicken tastes like snake. In fact any meat with not a lot of flavor they say tastes a lot like snake. However it should not be assumed that any new meat tastes a lot like snake. We were in a Chinese restaurant with a bunch of friends and someone ordered frog, just to say they had eaten it. They assumed it would have an inoffensive flavor. Frog has a distinctive flavor. I cannot describe it better than saying that it tastes froggy. That sounds circular, but once you have tasted it you know that is the best adjective for the flavor. Ask someone who has never eaten it to identify what kind of animal has a flavor like this and there is a really good chance he will say frog. You can't avoid it. But that is not snake. Snake has a sort of neutral flavor.

[The reader who is not interested in science fiction conventions may well want to skim or skip the remainder of this log.]

Back onto the free tram to our hotel and our room and more work on our schedules. We have some convention planning to do. There does not look like there is going to be much of interest on the film program. Worldcon Conventions used to have really good programs with many obscure films. This unfortunately has been replaced by thee video program. It took a lot of the fun out of the proceedings. You get a room full of people watching videos. It will be put in one little room and shown on a hotel TV set. If the film is at all popular you can't see over people's heads to see the screen and frequently the films are subtitled. And if you cannot see over the heads you probably can't hear over the talking. It is probably comments about the film, but I would rather hear the film than what is being said about it. The programming will be straight through without gaps for problems so rare is the video program that is running only 30 minutes late. Then the video programs now run mostly Japanese animation. Some of this is very good but more variety is needed. (P.S. None of this is accurate of the video room at this convention.)

About 6pm we go downstairs we are considering going down to the convention registration to see who is arriving. This is just a few minutes we think.

We run into a bunch of people including the author Bob Sawyer. We form a circle and talk in the lobby. Among the group are Erwin "Filthy Pierre" Strauss (a notable fixture of fandom for longer than we have been) and three Australians we met in Sydney at the Futurians meeting Ian Woolf, David Bowfinger, and John August. The others were interested in dinner so we went looking and found a very good buffet for A$9.90. The talking went on until 10pm. I hated to break it up, but I had left my room key in the room when we were only to be going down to the lobby for a few minutes. I asked Evelyn to lend me hers, but instead she decided she had to go back also.

Back in the room I read for a little while and went to sleep.

09/02/99 Aussiecon Day 1

We woke at 7:20. Looking forward to the first day of the convention. They are rioting in Dili, more or less like had been predicted by one of the reporters on TV.

Our first panel is 11:00. Fans rarely get up early. On the other hand there is a great deal of late night partying.

We go out about 9:15 and we go back to the Cantonese stand at the food court. Yesterday I saw someone Chinese order the roast duck noodle soup so I know it is not a faux pas. So I get it. A$7 and it is a bargain. It has a big slab of duck (maybe three by four inches). It also has noodles and lettuce. I never had lettuce in soup, but so it goes.

Back to the room to drop off jacket and to pick up photo vest and then to my first panel. Actually I am not that interested in the subject matter but it is where my next panel is. The subject is how conventions run and it is aimed at newcomers, but it is fairly amusing.

Next came a panel on science fiction and horror films. One person, Robin Pen, showed up and he had had no sleep. It was sort of a one man show. He did what he could to talk on the subject of the boundaries between horror and science fiction but he did seem knowledgeable on science fiction films in general. I was tempted to join him on the stage and did enter a few comments from the audience. Afterwards he thanked me for the comments I did make and I felt bad I did not join him sooner.

Meanwhile Pete Rubinstein, a long-time friend was in the same panel and gave me some useful information on where he had been eating, etc. We agreed to meet for dinner.

Evelyn had gone to a paper where a paper was being presented on "Utopia, Genocide, and the Alien Contact Novel." I could tell it was really deep because it used the phrase "epiphany of cognitive estrangement." Wow.

I was there for only five minutes or so and the first paper ended. Evelyn left for the huckster room and followed her knowing out luggage had no room for any more books. She bought three and I bought one.

From there I went to "Science And Terror: Close Shaves In The Lab." The sort of thing was people finding their calculator kept giving wrong answers and they discovered the reason was they were in the path of a particle accelerator. There were lots of space program examples.

I did like the T-shirt that said, "My pod-sibling went to Earth and all I got was this lousy human host."

I went to "Picturing Tomorrow-The Fantastic Visions of Australia." It was artists talking about their art. It was not illustrated. As moderator Nick Stathopoulos pointed out, talking about art is like singing about higher mathematics. Not an original idea. I think the original was "dancing about architecture."

I decided at the twenty-minute mark to leave and go instead to the art show where I might not be hearing about the art but could see it.

They had a small but diminutive art show. At the thirty-minute mark I went to the auditorium to join Evelyn at "SF & Sexuality." It turned out to be material that has been all too frequently rehashed.

"Loose Canons" at 3 was about what are the standard works of SF, done in Peter Nichols's blustery style talking about how you decide what is the canon of science fiction and whose opinion do you take.

The following panel was on the question "Are we the last mortal generation?" There are several recent advances that might stop the aging process and/or download the human personality to machines. Nano-technology may give us ways to do micro-repairs like clearing the arteries. The problem, of course. Is that if you are going to live forever you can no longer retire at 65. You have to prepare for a longer old age. If you retire at age N, you will be out of money at age 2N. You have to find work you like because you have to do that work forever.

This is the kind of panel that justifies science fiction conventions. It is about current technology and the probably impact, much of which if it pans out will change our conception of the human race. This is essence of what is good in science fiction. Heady stuff.

"SF Across the Media" started with the announcement that J. Michael Straczynski of Babylon 5 would not be on the panel. His plane was delayed. He tends to end up really sorry that he cannot make it to World Conventions. Always with a good reason. (P.S. Well, I guessed wrong. He did show up, but a little later.)

The panelists discussed what is wrong with Voyager. And what is wrong with other current programs. And what was wrong with how Channel 7 carried Babylon 5. And what was the one good episode of Seaquest DSV. They were opinionated but interesting. The show they put on was sort of a Wayne's World discussing science fiction TV.

After that Pete, Evelyn, and I went looking for dinner. It took quite a while to search one out. We found a Japanese place, and Evelyn and I shared a Sushi and Sashimi for two. As a dinner for two it was a little small, but at A$35 it was a pretty good deal.

Evelyn wanted to hear the fan Guest of Honor speech by Bruce Gillespie. We arrived in the Opening Ceremonies hosted by Perry Middlemiss.

Gillespie's speech recounted his reminiscences from growing up in fandom. Most would have been of interest mostly to Australian fandom (arguments like what was the year they moved the science fiction club to the new residence), though some were of more general interest. Following that was a presentation by British fan David Langford. Langford is Evelyn's primary competition for the Hugo. Some competition. He has won the fan writing Hugo every year since longer than Evelyn has been being nominated. Some chance Evelyn stands this year. Australian fans have paid Langford's way to the convention.

"Thog's Master Class" is the name of a repeating column of his and his talk. It is made up of sentences taken from any literature that seem crudely crafted and humorous sounding taken out of context. He fully admits that what he uses is taken out of context and he is taking the sentences from respected writers. I would say by doing so he avoids (or comes close to avoiding) the mean-spiritedness of the "Kirk Poland" Bad Prose Contests of Readercon. In those the audience and contestants are given a bad prose passage and they are supposed to write the sentences around them, then the audience is supposed to guess which one is real. I have marginally more respect for Thog. Thog is a barbarian who may or may not have shown up in someone's writing. Thog chooses what he thinks is the good writing but being a barbarian his tastes are different from the audience's. Langford may be unfair to barbarians, but there are not that many around any more.

While we were sitting there Jo Paltin arrived and tapped me on the shoulder. They arrived at the convention having missed the first day. We went to the San Jose bid party. I was more thirsty than hungry, but they were out of soda. I had a couple of their make-it-yourself burritos. We talked with Dale and Jo. I could tell I was tired because some of what they were saying was not sinking in. Also the background noise was loud. I invited them to visit our room which would be quieter and we talked to 11:30pm.

09/03/99 Aussiecon Day 2

There is a commercial for some newspaper's entertainment section. One scene shows a smart young couple walking along the sidewalk and the guy says enthusiastically "Hey, I've heard that show's FANTASTIC!" The poster is for Massenet's Manon. Somehow nobody I know of gets that hyped over Massenet.

Evelyn has a 10am panel. We go back to the noodle stand and today we both get roast duck noodle soup. They have a few more things if we come a little later, but it is a rush to get to panels as is.

At about 10 we headed out for the con. I wanted to be sure that at the end of the day there would be some way to get a cold drink in the room without paying $3 for a small can of Coke. I went to the drug store in the convention center and found they did not carry soda. Okay, then water. I returned to our room. It was a relief to see that they had not made up the room. The empty ginger beer bottle was still there. I filled it with water and put in the refrigerator. Earlier I had taken a bunch of the junk out of the refrigerator and put it in a drawer. I left a not in the refrigerator saying do not restock. I have put this stuff in the drawer above. They have a courtesy refrigerator in the room but they fill it with courtesy bar items. There is almost no room for anything else.

Well, we will have chilled water.

I started to the con timing how long it took from the room. 150 seconds. I ran into John Sloan. I glanced down at his badge to verify that was who it was. "John Sloan," he said. Now I knew who it was but did not trust my memory. I see this guy at Every Worldcon and know him. But I feel like a jerk because it looks like I cannot be bothered to remember who he is. Sorry, John. My intentions were good.

I went to a reading by Jack Dann who gives a spirited reading, but I arrived too late to get the gist of the story.

From there I went to the panel "Anime 101." Anime is Japanese animation. Animation in my opinion the genre best adapted to visual science fiction. It removes the issue of special effects cost. If you can visualize it it can be put cheaply on film with animation. My complaint is that they are almost always violent stories with lots and lots and lots of fighting. They tend to be overly melodramatic also. If they would keep it to the level of action and violence of Star Wars you could have better plots and make a really good film. They complained abut M. D. Geist. I cannot imagine what it must be like.

The best anime goes direct to video which is just the opposite of films in the US. They do really like Escaflowne.

I meet with Evelyn and we vote for San Jose for site selection. Teddy Harvey, a well-known fan cartoonist who gets the MT VOID recognizes my name and shakes hands. Okay, that may be the high point of the day.

I listen to some readings. At about 1pm I go to see an anime film. This is one that was recommended in "Anime 101" and had been recommended for years.

The Wings Over Honneamise

This Japanese animated film takes place on a sort of alternate Earth and is about the space program. This world is really in bad shape. The space program is really hypocrisy. It is more controlled by the Defense Department than by the Space Agency. The space program is especially a joke among the military who do not see what enemy there is to fight in space. Because the space program is a joke a misfit, Shirotsugh Ladatt joins the program, but does not want to follow the rules. He meets a missionary who is contagiously in awe of the space program and he finds himself feeling idealistic about it himself. When the program asks for a volunteer to be the first astronaut, not of his co-cadets trust the rocket makers sufficiently to volunteer. Shiro is still inspired by the missionary and to everyone's surprise he volunteers.

The writers are not really sure if they want the world to be different or not. The spacecraft and aircraft are clearly variations on what we have. One is a cambered design with two counter-rotating propellers pushing from the back. The equivalents of coins are actually rods. They have different names for months but the same names, but the military has the familiar names for ranks. The writers pick and choose what when they want to reinvent or reuse. This is not serious alternate history. There is no attempt at choosing a branch-point in the past. Further a view of the planet from space shows us no familiar contents. This is a story that takes place in another time and another place and that is all.

Toward the middle of the film the film flags in interest value. On a previous viewing several years ago it lost me at this point. This time I stuck with it and was happy I did. There is a gratuitous chase added that increases the pace while slowing the story. The set of things happening at the climax of the film is not totally absurd, but they are both melodramatic and unlikely. Like the space shot in the eye of the hurricane in Marooned there is an overabundance of action to push things a bit over the top. (Though telling what would certainly be a spoiler.) Still overall I would say that the background society is surprisingly complex and well-constructed.

This may well be my favorite Japanese Anime film of the admittedly small set I have seen. That is in large part because the story is not packed with fights and chases. I would give it a +1 on the -4 to +4 scale.

Terry Pratchett gave a reading that was a funny, light, fluffy, sweet, empty meringue.

The 4pm "Space Exploration" panel was one that seems awfully familiar. It looked at our potential in space

Ben Bova said that NASA really a loose collection of fiefdoms. He also asked the audience to consider how really costly it is sending people into space. $10 million is enough to keep ten good engineers working for two years. James Benford, twin of Greg Benford, talked on how China and India were on collision course and we should aid them in getting up observation satellites to stabilize them.

Benford asked, are we running out of time? We will max out on population next century and those people will want the good life, need to move industrialization off of Earth. He thought that a virtual presence in space may be more important than physical. Certainly people would get more excited moving a rover and seeing the surface of Mars than they would be getting reservations on the space shuttle.

Bova suggested that interstellar travel will become more possible if we can lick the aging problem which is a solution coming up soon. That will give us time for interstellar travel.

Asked what people would like to see happen, Stanley Schmidt said he would like population to stabilize on earth and that we would get people out into space. Jan Howard Finder (Wombat) said that we have potential to have colonies in space. Stephen Baxter said there has to be a better way than what are essentially modified V-2 rockets to get into space. There have to be fundamentally different space drives.

Benford gave a scenario of Low Earth Orbit Satellites, exploration of Mars, the asteroids, the moons of Jupiter, the development of ways to reach the outer planets, solar power to power a larger society, development of ways to observe planets of near stars, then interstellar travel. Bova wanted to see space elevators and moving of industry to space for a cleaner and greener Earth.

The next hour I was in and out of the George Turner critical writings retrospective. He sounds like a good writer who might be otherwise quite unpleasant to know.

After this we went to dinner at the buffet. I wanted to go to a movie at 8. It turns out we got back in plenty of time. Evelyn and Dale were talking about wanting to read the George Turner story in the new anthology Dreaming Down-Under. I figured I might read it first while I had the opportunity so I started it.

At ten minutes to 8 I went down for the 8pm movie in the video room. And they gave out a piece of candy to everybody who was there to see the movie. I felt obliged to stay at least as long as it took to eat the candy. The film was an amateur production called Sons of Steel. After about ten minutes I figured that there were more fun ways to spend the evening. Cleaning the toilet sounded like one. The head of a rock band sees his girlfriend OD on drugs. He goes off into the night on a quest that will involve him with nuclear shipments of something. It is not as good as it sounds.

Back to the George Turner story...

At about 9pm we went to the Cancun bid party. Evelyn grills Teddy Harvia on whether there is a grocery store near the site of the potential convention site.

It should be explained that the world science fiction convention is not really like the IEEE where there is a central committee to decide things like where will the convention meet n a given year. Science fiction fandom is anarchic. Each year two or three self-appointed committees vie to be the ones to put on the World Convention three years into the future. One committee is chosen at the world convention by vote. In the vote at the 1996 Worldcon the Melbourne in 1999 committee won. A bid party is a party put on to lobby for a given committee to put on the convention in the city they have chosen.

I wandered around the party more or less at loose ends. I am not good at starting a conversation with a complete stranger Hey, come to that, I am not so hot at starting conversations with close friends. I was saved by John Sloan coming along and starting a conversation with me. We and other people who came along to join us talked for a couple of hours on Japanese anime, and new films and what I have liked and travel.

At a little after 11 we called it quits. I read a little more of the George Turner story and went to bed.

09/04/99 Aussiecon Day 3

I woke up about 7am and the first thing wanted to finish the story. The title is "Time Has Wasted Me." It is about a sort of fooled wastrel who is given immortality although his only qualification is that he has inherited a lot of money. It actually is not a complete story but what was completed of Turner's last novel at the time he had a stroke and among other things forgot where it was going and what he was going to do with the story. ("A damsel with a dulcimer in a vision once I saw.") Immortality, usually assumed to be a great boon, seems like less of a bargain in this story than it is frequently portrayed. This story has overtones of Oscar Wilde's Picture of Dorian Gray. I would think it might actually have become more a modern version of The Wandering Jew. That is, it could have been a series of stories showing many aspects of a changing society of the future, all seen through the eyes of one person. It is hard to say if that was what was intended.

The story points up a lot of problems of immortality and also the pointlessness of giving immortality to someone with no obvious reason to be immortal. As the snake says in The Circus of Dr. Lao, "Older you will grow but no wiser."

Breakfast was back at the food court, but we were both were a little tired of having Chinese for breakfast. There was a deli open. They had something on the menu that was pretty close to bagel, lox, and cream cheese. W ordered it and they were out of bagels so we could get it a roll, so we did. There was almost no cream cheese, the lox was thin, and they put on capers and shredded lettuce. We had a pineapple, banana, and strawberry smoothie with it. I don't know where they get their fruit but it failed to have any sweetness. John Sloan and Peter van (Somebody) from Belgium whom we had talked to the previous evening were there and we sat with them over breakfast. I think we talked about when we had been in Belgium.

My first panel is "Time Travel, Time Scapes, and Timescape: A Symposium." The first speaker was Aubrey Townsend who basically cataloged various sorts of odd structures that are formed in the timescape by time travel and multiple time streams. Sean McMullen presented on time effects like life spans lived in slices and awakenings. This is the sort of thing where the person is put to sleep and wakes up many years later, perhaps due to cryogenics or suspended animation. I left this panel early (and in retrospect foolishly) to attend the film below.

Modern Vampires

Perhaps it is true of all generations but certainly it is true of our younger generation that they have little or no reverence for the icons of previous generations. The images that were horrifying in the horror cinema of the 1930s are now mostly deflated and are the subject of humor. One of the attitudes that has grown out of Buffy the Vampire Slayer seems to be that when you are dealing with a very potent evil force like a demon, all one needs is a really good karate kick to vanquish it. I suppose this may be no worse than saying religious symbols like the cross and the host repel vampires, but it feels less mystical.

Perhaps these icons deserve to be deflated somewhat. The very years that Bela Lugosi's Dracula was the image of evil on the screen, a very different and much more real evil was growing in Europe. Dracula, even if all the stories could have been true, pales beside Eichmann, if only half the facts were true. Dracula would kill one person a night, Eichmann would kill thousands in a day. Perhaps what killed the horror film movement of the 1930s and 1940s was realization that real evil could be so much more powerful than the imagined variety.

But I grew up in the 1950s and 1960s with the old horror films and I still savor that 1930s breed of horror. I am sorry to see films that trivialize those images by showing them without the style and atmosphere that made them so pleasurable. A vampire in most of the films being made is just someone in a particular sort of plastic makeup who gets parasitic sexual pleasure in biting necks. And everybody, the filmmakers more than anybody, knows that it is all just in fun. Such a minimal-style vampire film is Modern Vampires. The film is directed by Richard Elfman, formerly of the band Oingo-Boingo and brother to composer Danny Elfman. The Elfmans previously made the film Forbidden Zone with more weirdness and, perhaps unintentionally, much more style than Modern Vampires can summon.

The premise is that the vampires of Los Angeles are simple folk who just want to go to their rave-parties, fall in love, and drink the blood of the living. Their lives are made difficult by vampire crime lord Dracula who wants power over other vampires. They are also threatened by Van Helsing (played tremendously over the top by the once great actor Rod Steiger). Van Helsing's angry hysterics and ravings about vampires turn off anybody who might possibly help him track down and kill vampires. So Van Helsing hires Timebomb, a Cripp gang member as an assistant.

Caught in the middle is the main character is Dallas (Casper Van Dein) a simple likeable vampire who has found a vampire prostitute with a heart of gold. Dallas finds with her the joy of straight sex-well, with just a bit of neck nipping. But to find true love with her he has to avoid the supremely overripe Van Helsing and the nasty gang lord Dracula who has a governor-elect and two senators as close friends. Also present are friends of Dallas including Kim Catrell as an aristocratic vampire with a Eurotrash accent. With the exception of Steiger the cast all look to be about thirty and there is nothing in Dracula to give the slightest hint that he has not lived all his life in Los Angeles.

The film's one concession to style is to give a fast cut collage of visual images at the moment a vampire bites to show his emotions. But for the most part this is a film lacking in any sort of finesse. It feels more like an extended skit from someone's high school follies than a film with any real entertainment value. Rate it a -2 on the -4 to +4 scale.

At 1pm came Greg Benford's Guest of Honor Speech. The guest of honor is allowed to talk for an hour or two hours on any subject he feels would be relevant to the convention. Benford chose to talk on consulting work he had done for the government on communicating across long periods of time. He assured us that this is really nothing to do with time travel and would have nothing to do with extraordinary physics of any kind. In this case he was talking about leaving messages that the people of the future would read.

Messages do not last very long. Four thousand years is probably more than the longest lived message. Perhaps the oldest message is in the form of the pyramids and it says "we did great things." No more message than that is left with the pyramids. (I don't know what consideration was given to cave art, but perhaps that is just a decoration.) Benford did say that the overwhelming proportion of time capsules (and the percentage he gave was 90%) are lost. There is a time capsule Washington put into the US National Archives. It is in a brick someplace in the building. We would love to find it, we just don't want to disassemble the building and smash every brick to find it. Benford was asked to advise on a time capsule being created by the New York Times. They wanted to put it in their basement to be opened. Benford asked how did they know the building would still be there in a thousand years. The response was "Well, it's the New York Times."

(Let me put in my own aside here. Based on an article I saw in the New Yorker we can guess the longevity of the New York Times. The odds are 95% that we are not looking at the times really early or really late in its existence. We can say with 95% certainty that we are in the middle 95% of its life. If it is 120 years old the odds are 95% that is neither in the last 1/40th nor the first 1/40th. We would expect it will last at least (120 * (40/39 - 1)) more years. That is 120/39 or about three more years. We would also expect that it will last no more than (120 * 39) more years. That is 4680 years.) If you want 80% odds the odds are 80% it is neither in the last 10th of its life (the last 13 years) or in the first 10% so that it will probably not last 980 years more. Anyway, that is one way to look at it.

But then there are few messages that have to be sent far into the future. In the 10,000 year range you don't need to send anything more complex than "bad juju." On the 1 billion year scale about all you need to say is, "Hi!" Benford mostly concerned himself with how to label dangerous wastes, bad juju. Until recently nuclear wastes have been labeled with a statement in English signed by Glenn Seaborg. This is not going to be really useful a thousand years hence.

So what is the best way to label them? Signs like the atomic trefoil warning symbol are even more transitory. Over the long haul it is best not to draw attention to them. But the law says you have to label. So the question is how to label them so they do not look inviting. He talked about some architectures with spiky ugly shapes that might look uninviting, but was not able to come up with a really good suggestion.

One problem we are starting to see with public gatherings is that in the middle of proceedings phones go off. The larger the event, the greater the probability of it happening. There are signs all over to tell people to turn off their mobile phones, but frequently someone will not have. I think public buildings are going to have to start jamming mobile phone frequencies. The same sort of public indignation that the Americans have with smokers is soon going to be leveled against mobile phone users who disturb public meetings.

Benford's speech ended at 3 and I joined Evelyn at the room to prepare for the "Other Awards" ceremony. "Other" here means other than the Hugo awards.

Evelyn and a small group of friends have established an award for alternate history novels. They call it the "Sidewise Award." There are two winners and neither is here. Evelyn has asked me to accept for Stephen Fry. Fry is an actor/writer/director and who knows what else. We asked Fry's agent and he is shooting in Spain and the agent sent a message. When Evelyn announces the award I come up and say that I am a virtual Stephen Fry deputized to accept for Fry who is on a shoot in Spain where he is presumably playing me.

That event took a little over an hour with various awards. Some couple have set up an award called the Golden Duck for science fiction for children. I suggested to Evelyn that we create an award for science fiction for the elderly. We call the award "The Imperial Walker."

We ran into Saul Jaffe, a friend from near home who is working Program Operations. We have dinner with him at the small food court. From his point of view, the convention is disorganized and going disastrously wrong. We had heard that this convention was going to be a disaster. If there really are major problems, somehow the members are not seeing them. The errors are minor ones. Of course this is a very small Worldcon, but people were saying that the Aussiecon Committee was trying to run this like a small local convention only bigger. That does not work we are told. Somehow it is working pretty well from the attendee's viewpoint. We had a hard time convincing Saul that was true. It is a lot smaller than a US Worldcon and this means you tend to run into a lot of the same people and it seems friendlier. Also you can follow certain themes popular to certain guests of honor. George Turner liked immortality and the convention is still run with several panels on his theme of immortality. Greg Benford is interested in time travel and several of the panels are on this theme. There is a lot at this convention that works quite well.

Back to room for Evelyn to dress up for the Hugo Award ceremony. On the way we see really nice rainbow. This is our second rainy day, but we are inside all day, so who cares?

At the proper time we are at the Hugo reception. That makes us the first to arrive. Eventually we go in and in little uncomfortable circles we try to make conversation. The hors d'oeuvres are spring roles and little meat pies. There are potato crisps and something I call Matzo Sticks on the tables.

From there to the Hugo Award Ceremonies. The stage is decorated with two Hugo rockets, about thirty feet tall, flanking the sage. They look like two halves of a V-2 rocket.

The Hugo Award each year is the same and different. It must have the Hugo rocket, which looks a lot like an old hood ornament (which the first ones actually were.) But the base is different and usually appropriate to the convention location each year. This year the Hugo is exceptionally ugly in my opinion. On a square base is a five inch wide rendering of Uluru (a.k.a. Ayers Rock) with the Hugo rocket perched on top. While the base should have a design that reminds one of the places where the convention was held, this is a case of the Australians being provincial. Ayers Rock has a unique shape that any Australian immediately recognizes and associates with Australia and immediately feels his heart well with pride. Sadly the recognition value does not extend very far to the non-Australians in fandom or in the world in general. And as someone pointed out the award looks a little too much like a giant human organ with a rocket having landed on it.

Th Hugo awards go quickly and smoothly with the some humor, the biggest laugh being Tom Veal channeling Bob Eagleton (actually doing an impression of him). Evelyn does not get the Hugo for fan writing which once again goes to David Langford. The winning film is The Truman Show and the winning novel is To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis.

Afterward we went to the room for Evelyn to get into something a little less formal.

We went to the Hugo Losers party. This is supposed to be a small quiet party for nominees and a friend each. But in a larger sense has not everybody in the vast majority of people in a sense just lost a Hugo? On this sound philosophy they seem to have let in just about everybody who did not win a Hugo. And even this seemed like a soft requirement because after a shot while there also appeared in the room some Hugos so their winners must also have appeared. No doubt the lack of any other good parties was at least partly to blame. Partygoers increase to fill the set of parties available. Since this was the biggest party that evening attendees came swarming in spite of it being a private party. The instincts and senses of the party-hungry con-goers are truly amazing.

As the room filled up with party-goers, the general level of sound went up. Different people have different ability to pick out sounds from conversations. Science tells us that fans of Heavy Metal and other very loud categories of music should be at a disadvantage in such a party having damaged their hearing already. Unfortunately, these are people who are bred in an environment of loud noise and are adapted to it. They may even be contributing inordinately to the production of background noise. In any case the effort necessary to have a conversation increases, with some people better adapted than others. I must have been at the low end.

I asked around if the design of the Hugo was not somewhat sacrilegious since the site is holy to the indigenous people. The answer is "No. Definitely not. Not very. No. Well, sort of." There are sacred places in Ayers Rock, but the shape of the rock as a whole is not that sacred. Much. My analogy of a Hugo Award that showed Calvary with two crosses and a rocket is a much more extreme case.

09/05/99 Aussiecon Day 4

East Timor is Independent. That is the headline of today's paper. I think that this is going to be the start of a real bloodbath. There is nobody there really maintaining order.

On the way to breakfast we saw two fans, Morris Keesan and Lori Meltzer, and had breakfast with them at a sort of diner in the food court. Lori recommended Ricotta Pancakes with Caramel Sauce and Peanut Butter. Very nice.

The first panel I went to was Evelyn's panel, a sort of primer on Alternate History science fiction. It also had Ginjer Buchannan, Andrew MacRae, and David Lockett. I scribed for Evelyn on my palmtop. Scribing a panel for Evelyn means just typing phrases to get as much as possible of what is said. If you can imagine typing a conversation as you hear it and getting most of it down on a palmtop keyboard, you can imagine it is quite a strain. However, Evelyn's account of the panel should be fairly complete. I never had time to think about what was being said for more than an instant so I cannot remember much. (On the old Mary Tyler Moore show there used to be a joke that after reading the news Ted Baxter had no idea what he had read. There is more than a grain of truth in that. They attributed it to him being not very bright. Perhaps that is what it says about me.) Basically what was said was a sort of introduction to alternate history. They contrasted alternate histories that happen on their own with time traveler tampering. Even the time travel alternate histories are subdivided to a fantasy mystical time travel like A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court with time machine time travel. Lest Darkness Fall is one of the favorites of the field. Others mentioned were Keith Roberts Pavane and Sobel's For Want of a Nail. Another important dichotomy to alternate histories and history in general is whether one person really makes a difference or is there a tide of history. Marx would have believed the latter.

The next panel had George Turner biographer Judith Buckrich talking about Turner. I get the impression that he was hard to deal with but really believed in what he was writing. He took all kinds of low jobs like waiter to finance his writing. But like Cyril Kornbluth, he could be rather vicious to people's faces.

Next I went to Damon Dark, a serial produced on a nearly nothing budget for Australian TV. It had a little of the feel of a Quatermass serial but the acting and writing were not up to Nigel Kneale. An industrialist in contact with aliens is using the cellular phone system as a network to control peoples minds. What we saw did not have the music. Maybe with music, with acting and production values this could be a good program. The star and producer is there. I ask if it was inspired by Quatermass. Most definitely Quatermass II.

Admittedly I nodded off on part of it. Dale is seeing it at the same time. Jo meets him afterward and asks what the serial was like. I tell her that at its best it was a lot like Quatermass. Jo does not know Quatermass. I ask her if she knew that what I consider the best science fiction film ever made is Quatermass and the Pit. She has been a friend all these years and I have never mentioned it.

Nigel Kneale wrote three very fine serials for the BBC in the 1950s. They were The Quatermass Experiment, Quatermass II, and Quatermass and the Pit. By the time the third one aired they were such a public phenomenon that churches were rescheduling services so people could see the chapters. Hammer Films of Britain made the movies The Quatermass Xperiment (sic, to exploit the X-certificate), Quatermass II. In the US these films were called The Creeping Unknown and Enemy From Space. About ten years later they made Quatermass and the Pit called in the US Five Million Years to Earth. The first two are good films, though Kneale hates Brian Donlevy's Quatermass. I saw Five Million Years to Earth in 1970 or 1971. I immediately dubbed this the best science fiction film I had ever seen. People considered me eccentric on the subject. Here was this science fiction film almost nobody in this country had ever seen and I kept telling people how great it was. In the 1990 it has gotten a much wider audience. The film now has its cult and generally discussions on the net assume that it is a first rank science fiction film.

The next panel was "Genuine and Fake Jewels of Genre SF." Peter Nichols, David Hartwell, Stephen Baxter, and George R. R. Martin make their choices. I won't have most of the comments, but here is the list:

Gems of SF:

Overrated: Next I went to the Guest of Honor speech by J. Michael Straczynski, creator of Babylon 5, Joe to his friends. Joe is a good friend of Harlan Ellison and is starting to sound a lot like him. Two years ago TNT gave Joe the chance to do a fifth season of B5. Most of the B5 fans saw TNT as a sort of savior. The fifth season that Joe made was a disappointment. Now Joe tells us that TNT execs are saying they want artistic control and are making stupid plot demands. According to Joe they said his new series should have a sexual explorer, a character who has sex with every new species they encounter. He also says they are pressuring him to have a dog in the cast. Joe says he tells the executives "no" and it is something they have never heard before. He says when they hear it they make pterodactyl sounds.

Ellison frequently is an opinionated and frequently indignant jerk who is trying to be a demagogue. He gives one side of an argument and plays pretty fast and loose with the facts. I am sorry to say that Joe now sounds much the same.

In answer to audience questions he said that the series uses the character Vere much more than he expected and that Joe himself is working on a new secret project.

He showed a blooper reel. A German fan asks "What will you be doing in five years?" "Probably hard time," was the flip response. "We'd welcome it if you did," was the friendly response of the German fan who did not quite know what he was saying.

Asked "Can we do anything to keep you going?" He said, "Well, General Sherman burned Atlanta (now home of TNT)."

Asked about his background by a New Jerseyitem he said he was born in Paterson and raised in Newark.

They did show the first three segments of an episode of Babylon 5: Crusade. They find a planet that has been wiped out by the same evil they are trying to understand. The planet is dead. They want to land on the planet but are warned away by the techno-mage who cannot be responsible for their safety. But they have their mission so they land against the warnings. They are more or less sightseeing looking at the architecture left by the lost civilization of the planet. But the ancient evil that killed off the original inhabitants of the planet mysteriously comes alive and starts killing crew members. So my guess from this is that the plague turns out to be creatures from the id.

He next big event was a play, Cell, by Stephen Dedman performed by Dedman and Dave Lockett. It is a dialog between Dr. Faustus and Mephistopheles after Faustus has been in Hell for 600 years. For me it was very reminiscent of the "Don Juan in Hell" segment of Man and Superman by George Bernard Shaw. A lot of it was a discussion of the nature of heaven and hell.

Back to the room and then we headed out to the Masquerade. It started out with filk singers (none of whom could sing but some of the songs were clever). "Take a Walk on the Dark Side," "I'm Dating a Guy Who is not on the Net," "You and I Have a Holistic California Love," "The Parasite's Anthem," "Let's All Sing the Barbarian Song," "Starship Troopers," "We fought the Dark," "You Got a One Ton Mirror," and "The Ballad of Orbital Hubris."

The best deserve better singers and the rest should not have been presented. The masquerade had very few costumes this year. There were only about fourteen costumes when the usual number might be seventy. The presentation was extended by the high class clowning of Nick Stathopoulos and Danny Heap. Occasionally humor at the Hugos or Masquerade is really funny, but it is a rare occurrence. These guys were of professional quality. There was a great skit of the two of them as Martian war machines attacking a battle ship. There was another great bit with them recreating the slow motion bullet shootings from The Matrix using plastic Slinkies. Some of the other entertainment was just okay, including the dijeridu lessons. I left early to go to a film.

A Wind Named Amnesia

This is a Japanese science fiction animated film set in the United States. While it has a few action fights, it is far less than most Japanese anime and it has a stronger plot. Unfortunately like an "X-FILES" EPISODE it answers a few questions and leaves far more questions unanswered. The plot itself has similarities to The Day of the Triffids and Damnation Alley.

It is San Francisco some time in the 1990s. The human race has somehow been reduced to a brutal, animalistic state. The cities are full of animal-people looking for what food they can find. One unnamed wanderer about twenty years old seems still have his mental faculties. He encounters the mysterious Sophia who also seems to be immune to the mindlessness. The wanderer remembers living in Arizona when a strange wind came blowing across the land. The wind seems to have blown away the memories and minds of everybody. Humans become snarling animals. The big take from the small, the strong take from the weak. Most victimized are children.

The wanderer tell Sophia that he remembers the coming of the wind and the loss of all his intelligence and memory. He remembers fighting to wrest sausages from some young children. Then he stumbled onto a government defense facility where a dying scientist, Johnny, had been working on memory enhancement. He is able to restore the wanderer's ability to remember and even some of the memory. But Johnny dies shortly after the wanderer finds him. Sophia listens to the wanderer's story and dubs him Wataru, literally the wanderer. Wataru and Sophia set off on a road trip to see the country and the devastation that has resulted from the amnesia. Meanwhile we see what they so not, that government satellites are tracking their progress.

The story naturally breaks into episodes, but after the opening in San Francisco there is one episode in Los Angeles and one in the desert, perhaps Utah. Suddenly our characters are on the East Coast. One scene is in front of a pillared building, perhaps Washington, and then New York. It feels like there should be more episodes as they come across the country. We are not cheated of the climactic fight, but we are

The biggest problem with the plot is that it raises so many questions and then answers so few of them. Who brought the wind? Why did they do it? How does it work? How widespread are the effects? Is there a cure? How long will it last? Who is Sophia? Why is she here? Why is Wataru being tracked by the government? To be a decent story most if not all of these questions should have been answered in the writer's mind. Only one of those questions is answered and not really very well. At under ninety minutes the film does not seem to have time for explanations. Leaving so much unanswered should bother the audience, but in the age of The X-Files. The bar seems to have been lowered on that expectation.

General opinion is that animation techniques on Japanese animation is very good. That very simply is not true. It is a lot better than bad Saturday morning animation. I think what people are responding to is not the animation techniques, which are primitive, but the art direction which actually is quite nice, though it does not stand out from other anime films.

The Wind Called Amnesia has really only one good idea and it is used up in the first fifteen minutes of the film and it still feels incomplete. Oddly, the song over the end-credits begins in Japanese and then lapses into English.

At 11:30 I returned to the room to find Evelyn was still out partying. She came in a little after midnight.

09/06/99 Aussiecon Day 5

Well, this is both the last day of Aussiecon and of our vacation. I woke up about 7 and for the first hour showered and finished on my review of last night's anime film. That was more enjoyable than finishing my review of Modern Vampires.

Those complete I did a little preliminary packing. For breakfast it was back to the food court and this time we could try some of their Dim Sum. It is our last real breakfast in Australia and it was just okay. We had two kinds of spring rolls, meat and veggie, and dim sum on a skewer. It was cheap, but it was starch and fat with not much protein. I was surprised I was not hungrier since we did not really have a meal after breakfast yesterday. I have been taking some ginger nut biscuits with me in a pocket of my photo vest.

After our return I hit the huckster room to see if there were any last minute bargains. The answer was none that I would have wanted to carry back though Evelyn had gotten a couple of books. Well, getting them back is her worry.

Our next port of call was the Video Room for a 105-minute amateur documentary on science fiction in the 1940s to early 1960s in US and Britain.

Technical credits were not good, but the collection of examples was terrific. Most of what I learned that I did not know was that the 1955 BBC production of 1984 really shocked Britain. What got to people was the description of how Winston Smith was tortured by the state. It was all in the novel, but seemed much more real on the screen. Parliament and even the Prime Minister were discussing it. It seemed that people throughout government were taking stands for or against the BBC. I would add that when Hammer films made their Curse of Frankenstein with its graphic horror and for the first time color they cast as Frankenstein the same actor who had played Winston Smith, Peter Cushing.

From there it was to a panel discussing where a science fiction film ends and a horror film begins. Or do they mix? This is much like a previous panel for which only Robin Pen showed up.

Robin Pen wrote a book called Rubber Suit Monsters which did not sound very good, but the other panel members liked the book. They seemed to feel that a film cannot be both scientific and horror at the same moment. One of the reasons is they say that science fiction involves the rational, horror involves the supernatural. This is clearly not an inviolable rule. There is no supernatural in The Fly. But there certainly is horror. A film that mixed the two was Event Horizon, but the two clashed. Tess Williams found some deep symbolic meanings in Species II but I think she was stretching things. She has also been looking at evolution in science fiction movies. She finds Lamarckian ideas like creatures adapting quickly and passing on genes. According to her horror is about religion. Vampires are all tied up with religious symbolism and you can even say that there is a religious moral to Frankenstein. I don't see that a film like Cronos has much to do with religion. In some films vampires have nothing to do with religion.

Robin Pen says when you rationalize what is happening the film becomes science fiction. Ian Nichols says horror is the unexplainable. He says horror and SF can co-exist in part because SF always piggybacks with another genre. It can be comedy, horror, whatever. I disagree unless you include just straight drama. A film like Charly is not much but SF.

The next panel is "In Defense of Hard SF"with Greg Benford and Peter Nichols. Hard SF is SF that is scientifically rigorous. It can include so-called soft sciences like biology. The two panelists say there is nothing to defend because both of them love hard SF. Nichols says it tends to be written by right-wingers from California whose name starts with ?B?.

The two great hard science fiction writers are currently Greg Egan and Damien Broderick. With hard science you have more than modes of expression driving the story, with hard SF you have the science driving also. There is almost no real science in Star Trek.

Some facts about writers: Fred Hoyle wrote straight through until he finished a novel, He would plan out a novel then just sit down and type it out, stopping only for necessities like eating and sleeping. It would take five days typically. John Taine (mathematician Eric Temple Bell) wrote only over Christmas break.

Discussing the politics of hard SF writers, they did say Heinlein had a little-known left-wing background. He was the campaign manager for the Upton Sinclair campaign.

Discussing the form of hard SF, you have to stick very close to known science. It is a constraint of the form. You gain excellence by the strength of the constraints. One does not write a fifteen-line sonnet.

After the panel we made plans with Dale and Jo to get together for dinner. They also much recommended the Italian gelati at the food court. We decided that if we were to have dinner with them we would want a snack to tide us over. We went with David Bowfinger

The Closing Ceremonies were a lot of thanks all around.

Following that we went up to the room to pack. As we were packing I told Evelyn, you know, there comes a time when the obtaining of material possessions is not the most important thing in life. It is not the path to happiness. You come to realize that the things of real value are the love of family and the company of good friends. We may be approaching that time and, you know, it is about the same time that you no longer can fit all your damn stuff in two crappy little carry-on bags.

At about 5:40 we headed out for dinner. We rang for the elevator the door opened and someone came out. "Not the lobby," I said as he passed. He kept smiled and walking. You hear a lot things that don't sink in at a convention.

Then he stopped, realizing he had not gotten off at the lobby and got back on the elevator. He probably realized I was giving him useful info when I said "Not the lobby." "We have been telling people all weekend that this isn't the lobby." Our room is on the first floor and whenever we call for the elevator someone who was lobby-bound would get out assuming they were at their destination.

When 6pm came we walked over to Grand Hotel to meet Dale and Jo and the family. It took some time to get people together. Then the restaurant had very slow service. Evelyn and I had picked this restaurant because it had several native meats we wanted to try. I had kangaroo-bitter but not unlike beef. Perhaps a little gamey. It has to be served rare or it gets tough. Jo had crocodile, Evelyn had yabby salad. Yabby is local crayfish, hard to get out of the shell. John Sloan and his friends picked the same restaurant. He had eaten crocodile, as he said "I like to eat things above me on the food chain." I told him he must like worms. He looked confused for a moment. As Shakespeare says "We are food for worms." After the meal we went with the family over to the food court for ice cream, though Evelyn and I abstained.

I never mentioned the fire fountains next to the casino but they have several objects like pillars or slabs. Wanting something spectacular they belch out fireballs. It looks like the Wizard of Oz. They seem to run it every three hours or so. Seated in the food court we were near one slab. When it belched ,you really feel he heat in spite of the glass between.

After that back to the room. I was hoping to keep myself up all night but watched two films and then got some sleep.

Mr. Canton and Lady Rose

Jackie Chan is a Hong Kong martial artist with a sense of humor. His films are already quite popular in the US. This film (also known as The Chinese Godfather) is reportedly his favorite of all his films and it is also a genuine cinematic curiosity. While there are some martial arts sequences, but for the most part it is a remake of an old Frank Capra film that Capra himself remade. The films from Capra are Lady for a Day and A Pocket Full of Miracles. This is so unlikely a story for Chan to want to remake as a martial arts film it had to be seen. Chan plays a sort of country bumpkin from Canton whose martial arts temporarily save the life of a crime lord who nonetheless dies of natural causes. As he is dying he names Chan as his successor. Chan attributes his success to having just bought a rose from an elderly street vender. Chan pushes the new gang into legitimate enterprises including opening a new night club. Whenever he needs luck he buys a rose from the same street vendor. From here the story is a very much Lady for a Day. The rose vendor has convince her daughter that the family is wealthy. The daughter has a wealthy fiancé whose family wants to meet the bride-to-be's mother. They would never consent to the marriage if they knew the mother-in-law was a lowly street vendor. Chan learns of the rose vendor's problem and determines to carry out an elaborate ruse to make his friend appear to be a wealthy society woman. Before he is done he has traditional enemies cooperating in his good deed. The alternate title The Chinese Godfather is an allusion not to the crime elements but to the young couple saying they want Chan to be the godfather of their first child.

Chan takes the opportunity to make this film even more different. Included is an extended tracking shot that Ok three days to film. While it does not stand up to the tracking shots of The Player and Touch of Evil, it is remarkable that it is present. Also for the night club scenes he has a lavish singing production number. It took tremendous chutzpah to pass off this sentimental comedy to audiences who had come for an action film, but the result could be Chan's most unusual film and it certainly seems to be unique in the martial arts genre.

School For Secrets

This is an almost forgotten postwar film written and directed by Peter Ustinov. The film is about Boffins at war. A boffin is a scientist with an implication of possibly-endearing eccentricity. This is a not-at-all believable comedy-drama look at the heroics and foibles of the boffins who invented radar in time to be used in the Battle of Britain. The film opens with a whimsical origin for the term "boffin." From there we go to a plane crashing in heavy weather and the question of cannot science develop something to help.

We are introduced to two boffins, the supercilious Heatherville (played by Ralph Richardson) and a rival Laxton-Jones (Raymond Huntley). Richardson is opinionated but nearly always right. Early in the film Warsaw falls, signaling the beginning of the war for Britain. They are too valuable to draft as soldiers but are told to do research into radar, of which they know nothing. Soon the task becomes more heroic as they have to parachute behind enemy lines in pursuit of perfecting British radar and tracking German progress along similar lines. The film covers very little of their technical work and what we see just does not seem very believable.

A very young Richard Attenbourough is present as a young pilot, son of the owner of the boarding house where the boffins are living and who later gets involved in their mission. The film seems to have little play in the US. Considering the Ustinov pedigree and the good actors, a better film might have been expected.

At about 3 I gave up the effort to stay awake.

09/07/99 Melbourne to New Jersey

We could be a little leisurely this morning. We worked on logs and read the papers being up for about three hours before we had to leave. I had the remaining juice for breakfast.

At 8:20 local time we checked out and began the clock on the trip home. My estimate of the trio home is 28 hours and 20 minutes, door to door. A lot better than the 39 hours it took to come out.

Evelyn is carrying the bag with all the books that really is not unfair since they are almost all hers anyway. I offer to carry the heavy bag. No, she has to carry the bag herself so she learns her lesson. I want to be helpful so I suggest that I could carry the books now and next time if she does this again I could beat her.

We are sitting in the lobby of the Grand waiting for the people with whom we will be sharing a cab to the airport. Writer Joe Haldeman is checking out. Good writer though never one who I felt any particular liking for. He wears a bush hat and stands somewhat stoop-shouldered. He looks very tired. If it were not for all the other science fiction people around he would look a little shabby for these surroundings. He was looking that way at the convention also. He looks sort of beaten down. I think he is out of his element. Certainly at a convention he would be surrounded by admirers. We will be sharing a cab with Renee, a college friend of Dale's.

We take a cab with Renee and her friend Henry. On the way we talk about conventions sites. Renee is considerably less happy with San Jose as a site. She thinks of it as a dust bowl. I suspect that it has been built up since then.

We get to the airport. By our gate there are about fifteen Yeshiva boys dancing a Hebrew folk dance. That's unusual. They probably come from some local Yeshiva.

Customs is just a matter of getting our passports stamped. To use up our money we share a bowl of Tom Yum Soup

On the plane I am seated next to and talking to James van Pelt. He has not traveled abroad before and for his first trip he is travelling halfway around the world.

The movie is Love Letter. I don't remember having heard of it before. I sleep and work on my log instead.

Lunch or whatever is Chicken Kiev. I probably should have gotten the beef. There is just too much fat with Chicken Kiev. I am hoping that we lose the people behind me for the next leg of the flight. There is a girl six years or so but severely retarded. She keeps kicking the seat and howling. Earlier when I was napping she slapped me on the head as she was trying to get out. I have nothing but good will for the child, but I would like her to be where she cannot slap me and where I cannot feel her kicking the seat.

Over lunch Evelyn asks me about Zeno's paradox. There is of course the paradox that says that Achilles cannot catch up to a turtle since whenever he gets to where the turtle is the turtle has proceeded beyond that point. Evelyn is asking instead about Achilles arrow that every instant in time must be standing still. I flippantly say that Zeno was really begging for a course in calculus. Evelyn asks if you could do calculus with Roman numerals. I believe the answer is yes, but the notation is really going to make things difficult. But this brings up an interesting question. Supposedly there are idiot savants who automatically know the square root of a number. Were there such people in Ancient Rome who could automatically take the square root of perfect squares? They seem to know without consciously using a square root algorithm, but could they do it before the algorithm was known? Did this form of autism come along with Arabic notation?

The stewardess brings around Godiva Chocolates. It is, I think, the first I have ever had.

We land in Auckland and the retarded girl who has been making our trip difficult waves to me. I wave back and before I know what she is doing she gives me a big kiss goodbye.

As I was getting off the plane I hear the two people who brought up gateway say, "There are an awful lot of Amish on this flight." I tell her "actually they are Jewish Orthodox."

I get off and Evelyn asks me to watch the luggage while she looks around. I hear two of the Orthodox say something about nine and minyan. The morning and evening prayers require a ten adult men as a quorum. Now there are more than ten but some have apparently already done evening prayers. I am way out of practice, but I count and am willing to help them out if they need me as a tenth. And the guy comes around and asks if I am Jewish so I say yes and I am willing to help. I do and in spite of the fact I am not really good at it, I allow them to have their service. Afterwards they ask if I want to put on tefillin. This is like a leather strap that is wound is proscribed ways around the fingers, arms and head for prayers. I tell them no thank you.

When we are done they are curious where I am from and we make a minute or so of pleasantries before I return to our people. Four of us who are Jewish talk about travel and Jewishness.

Time comes to re-board. I talk for a little while with van Pelt, a finalist in the John Campbell new writer award. His stories were in Analog, Weird Tales, and a few others.

It turns out this flight is going to be packed. We get a man sitting between us. My guess is that he is Maori. Not tall but very wide boned. It looks like it will be an uncomfortable flight. I have to close my palmtop for takeoff and I get a little bit of sleep. After about fifteen minutes there is a reshuffle. The man who may be Maori will be moving up a row trading with a woman somewhere between 18 and 25.

Dinner is Chicken Parmesan with what they call Fettuccini Alfredo Pie. This seems more like a fettuccini omelet with absolutely no Alfredo flavor.

I watch a little of the first movie, the wickedly perceptive high school film Election. It is not an easy film to watch on a plane. Over one of the key sequences they turned off the sound to announce who had special meals, a rather long list.

After the film I try to sleep and success for a little while but having the aisle seat means the drink cart rolls over my foot or someone walks into my arm at every opportunity. As I awake they are screening An Ideal Husband.

We are just about 44% through my projected travel time.

About 9am they brought around little ham sandwiches and cheese and crackers.

I slept a little (very little) in the night. Evelyn slept some also. She thinks I slept more. I would have been smart to stay up all last night. Evelyn and I are sitting on opposite sides of an aisle. The guy ahead of her brought Thomas Harris's Red Dragon to read on the plane. I thought I could discuss it with him, but he was mostly playing cards with this wife. When he does start to read it it takes him an hour to get through ten pages. He is staring at the pages, but I take it that his reading is no all that swift.

The same group that drafted me is trying to make another minyan on the plane. I don't think they will be able since there are fewer of them.

Breakfast (about 12:30pm) was a fruit plate. The movie is Instinct with Anthony Hopkins. I tried watching it. I won't review it however. It just had too many interruptions and too many disturbances. What I saw borrowed heavily from One Flew Over the Cukoo's Nest. There was something of a mystery as to why someone who had lived with peaceful gorillas would have picked up savage ways picked up savage ways. Guessing why is not hard. I knew it almost immediately.

Well, we landed in Los Angeles. It took about twenty minutes to get our luggage. We could not see our luggage anywhere. Eventually we saw that someone had taken it off the carousel. One of the other passengers was really upset that someone had taken his luggage off the carousel.

On the other hand customs, etc. were just a wave-through.

We walked to the gate some huge distance. Nothing unusual about that. I had a pill to take so I went off looking for a water fountain. I could not find one. I asked one of the guys working there. There may be one along the side, he said pointing. I went. No fountain. There was a restroom. Okay, I will cup my hands under the sink faucet. But there are no handles to turn the water on. I wave my hands around the faucet. The water turns on without me touching anything. It is not too warm. I put a pill in my mouth. Next I cup my hands under the faucet. No water. I wave my hands around the faucet. No water. I cannot figure what I am doing differently. Finally I swallow the pill dry. It sticks in my throat a little.

I went back to the gate. They called for us to board and in just a few minutes we were on a bus. On the bus they took us out to the middle of the concrete and just stopped. One of the guys from the minyan was on the bus and we talked about Australia. They apologized for the problem. Eventually they took us to a loading ramp for the plane and we all left the bus an in just a few minutes we were on the loading ramp. Again we stood around for about ten minutes. They got on the PA system and again apologized. Finally we boarded the actual plane and I dozed, awoke to feel us take off, and dozed again. We are on a packed 767 but it seems roomier than our last plane. I see the Yeshiva guy is wearing a sweatshirt from Yeshiva Gedolah Zal in Melbourne.

The movie is again Love Letter and again I give it a miss.

Well, not much more. We landed, got into the airport. The limo that was supposed to be waiting for us was not there. They never seem to be. I got the luggage and Evelyn had to call the limo company. Flat tire was the reason for the delay according to the driver. We wrestled our luggage out. As we put the luggage in the car I noticed there was no flat tire in the trunk. I think we have to get a different limo company.

It is always nice to get home and find everything intact. Oh, I promised an explanation of the song "Waltzing Matilda." This is the original poem by Banjo Paterson.

In Australian sheep-raising sheep raising the equivalent of itinerant cowhands are called swagmen. A swag is a bedroll. Their gear is called Matilda. Sort of going around and getting work where you can is "Waltzing Matilda." A billabong is a small pond that is left when in the dry time of year a river dries up. Billy is tea made on a campfire. A sheep is a jumbuck. Clearly the whole story is not here since the song does not make clear why a swagman would risk drowning himself over a light crime like sheep-rustling.

Waltzing Matilda

Oh, there once was a swagman camped in the billabong,

Under the shade of a coolibah tree,

And he sang as he looked at the old billy boiling,

Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me?


Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda my darling,

Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me?

Waltzing Matilda and leading a waterbag,

Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me?

Down came the jumbuck to drink at the water-hole,

Up jumped the swagman and grabbed him with glee,

And he sang as he put him away in his tucker-bag,

Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me.

Up came the Squatter a-ridding his thoroughbred,

Up came Policemen - one, two and three,

Whose is that jumbuck you've got in the tucker-bag,

You'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me.

The swagman he up and he jumped in the water-hole,

Drowning himself by the coolabah tree,

And his ghost may be heard as it sings in the billabongs,

Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me? 1