Wednesday, July 25, 2007

ANU Graduation

Friday 13th of July 2007. Jenn is crowned Master of the Environment. Okay well, Master of Environmental Science.

The diploma is really in there!

And below, a video of the occasion. Wish at least some of you could have been there, but at least Brian caught it on film!

Weekend in Sydney

After the graduation ceremony we had lunch at Tilley’s, a cozy cafĂ© near our house and then went to Sydney for a long weekend. We stayed in the central business district and were within easy walking distance of all of the sights of Sydney. Though what we were most in the mood for was some time at the coast and so we went straight to Bondi Beach in eastern Sydney. Too cold for swimming but we did a coastal walk to Bronte Beach and spent the afternoon being tourists and eating at beachside cafes. Below you’ll see me at one of the many vantage points.

The next day we spent strolling around Circular Quay and vicinity. I always find it a bit surreal when in Sydney that I am only a couple hours drive from some world famous icons like the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, both captured from across the bay in the following photo.

That afternoon we spent several hours strolling around the Sydney Botanic Gardens which are just around the corner from the Opera House. While there were lots of interesting plants and birds to be seen, at one point in the day we saw a large flying object that we couldn’t quite identify at first. As this creature flew over our heads we both guessed it to be a huge fruit bat but were sad that we didn’t get a better look. Then I noticed two of them hanging in a nearby tree and we were very excited to get a closer glimpse. Then we turned our heads slightly and noticed that many of the trees within sight were literally dripping with these creatures!

Turns out they were Grey-headed Flying-foxes, one of the largest species of bats in the world, weighing up to one kilogram with a wingspan of up to 1.5 metres. Fascinating!

Sydney is situated on very extensive and quite amazing harbour and there is a ferry system running all through it. We took the ferry to Manly Beach and had a nice walk and ate fish and chips on the beach. All in all a very nice weekend getaway. When we take weekend trips we don’t often choose to go to big cities but it’s fun to be a tourist now and again. We spent the weekend eating (even some so-so Mexican which you can’t find very much of here) and enjoying the city life, but went home very glad that we live in nice, quiet Canberra!


And as a postscript (and to offer an excuse for why I haven’t posted on my blog in so long), we were away last weekend as well. I found a holiday beach house rental on the coast in the town of Bateman’s Bay which is one of the closest beach destinations from Canberra. So Brian and I and our friends Matt and Sarah spent last weekend on the coast in a house on the beach with a full size hot tub overlooking the ocean. Fresh Queensland prawns (like no prawns I’ve ever had before), local oysters, Lark Hill biodynamic wine, a BBQ and multiple blocks of cheese made for a pretty relaxing weekend...

Monday, July 23, 2007

Didgeridoo Competition

Two weekends ago we went with a friend to a didgeridoo competition at the National Museum of Australia here in Canberra. There were three adults and three kids in the competition and it was great fun to watch. The didgeridoo is such a fascinating instrument. All the sound that you hear is made by the vibrations of blowing into the instrument and can be manipulated by the persons tongue and voice. Players use a special breathing technique called circular breathing, where you breathe in through the nose while simultaneously expelling air out of your mouth using your tongue and cheeks. Sound impossible? It’s not, but I certainly can’t do it. Give it a try with a straw and a glass of water. Try to continuously blow bubbles while taking breathes in through your nose. Didgeridoos are a traditional aboriginal instrument made out of eucalyptus tree trunks that have been naturally hollowed out by termites. They are supposed to be the oldest wind instruments. The following is a short video from that afternoon of an eight year old playing the didgeridoo. Enjoy!

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Home Energy Audit Video

Humboldt State University's Green Campus Club has produced a great film that pays homage to the Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin, to show you how to carry out a home energy audit. The video offers tips to reduce energy use and lower your monthly energy bill.

Click here to see the short video and hear a yank having a go at an Aussie accent. Classic.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Blue Moon

Yesterday’s full moon was a blue moon which I know as the name in folklore given to the second full moon in a calendar month. June had two full moons, on the first and on the thirtieth. However, with a quick bit of research I found that this definition is actually the result of a misinterpretation of the Maine Farmer's Almanac. The original definition of blue moon was the third full moon in a quarter of the year when there were four full moons – normally a quarter year has three full moons. Oddly, it is the third full moon in a season that has four which is counted as the "extra" full moon and named blue moon. According to certain folklore, it is said that when there is a blue moon, the moon has a face and talks to the items in its moonlight.

Calendar blue moons occur fairly infrequently, and of course the saying once in a blue moon is used to describe a rare event. While most years contain twelve full moons to match the twelve months, every two or three years there is a year with thirteen full moons. On average, this happens once every 2.72 years. So now you have a better idea of how often once in blue moon actually occurs.


I spent Thursday and Friday of last week in Sydney at a conference on leadership and group facilitation in education. The conference was held at the Olympic Park and my hotel room had a terrific view of the city and harbor bridge, though it's rather out in the burbs so there was no evening sightseeing around Sydney. No spare time anyway. Interesting but exhausting – something about being engaged with people for two days is so much more tiring than being holed up in my office. The conference did however make me think seriously about the option of pursuing a career in academia...hmmm, more on that after a bit more reflection time...


This morning (Sunday) two lovely little Eastern Rosellas were foraging in our back yard and while this isn’t the best photo (it was taken through the window), you get the idea of how colorful they are.