Friday, September 29, 2006

My Australian Home

Spring is in the air and the days are hotting up quickly here in Brisbane. Colleen has been working hard in her gardens around the house as per usual (not an easy thing to do when a water ban prohibits hose watering of any type). But things are looking lovely and I decided it was a great chance to share some photos of the place I call home while in Australia.

The house known as 21 Boxgrove

The spacious backyard

The Verendah - Cool and Breezy
I'll be spending much time as the weather warms

Jess Dog

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Queensland's Wine Country

I know I am getting older when for my spring break I didn’t head to the coast as many classmates intended but instead suggested to Chris that we should explore the granite belt, an area in Southern Queensland known for its produce and wineries. A couple of days was all we could afford for a break so take advantage we did.

Winery hopping was a little different in this particular area than I have encountered elsewhere. The wineries were small owner operated ventures. Walking into the cellar door was like entering someone’s private home for a bit of a chat with the tasting of wines being an welcome addition.

Queensland Low Key Yet Tasty Wines

The scenery is also unlike any wine region I have explored. Set atop a volcanic plateau means the fields are punctuated with giant boulders. It was not uncommon to see vines strategically weaving around the piles of unmovable rock.

Our plan had been to camp in the nearby Sundown National Park but rains bucketing from the heavens quickly convinced us to change our minds. It is hard not to be a little bitter when during the worst drought in Australia’s recent history Mother Nature decides to finally bring forth the rains during the first chance we have had to camp in many months. So a motel in Stanthorpe it was.

The second day greeted us with a gorgeous blue skied crisp morning. The climate is much cooler up on the plateau and locals shared tales of temperatures dropping to -10 degrees. It has even been known to snow in the lifetime of some with whom we spoke. Hardly what one expects in tropical Queensland.

We decided to head back to Brisbane through the back roads and enjoy the wonderful scenery that was even more stunning when not back dropped by a blanket of grey and rain.

One stop we made was at a lavender farm, where although the bushes weren’t in full bloom still managed to invoke whimsical dreams of one day owning our own little piece of this rural paradise.

Lavender Farm Scenes

The roads were twisty, the traffic non-existent (our biggest concern was watching for stray cows) and the scenery breathtaking. While living in the city, surrounded by freeways and shopping centres it is far too easy to forget that Australia affords some of the prettiest country I have yet to encounter on my travels.

Road Traffic

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Grapes, Grooves and Global Warming

This past weekend was the Grooves and Grapes festival put on by the casino in downtown Brisbane. In Australia festivals are not limited to the summer months, but with the sun shining and the temps unseasonably warm the weekend did have that summer is coming buzz about it.

My expectations for the music were hardly optimistic. Aren't casinos the venues for hasbeen 80's artists still attempting to milk their 15 minutes. Admittedly, I was drawn by the grape aspect of the day. But we were pleasantly surprised to find our ears blessed by jazzy beats and talented artists bordering far more on cutting edge than washout.

And the wine certainly didn't disappoint. In the past, Queensland wines have been the underdog of the Australian industry but it is more recently developing a more respected position. We sampled some tasty pinots and merlots. But my favourite was a cabernet sauvignon sporting a label that look reminiscent of something my parents plaster on their home brews and costing all of $10. Is it so wrong to love a $10 bottle of wine so much? It was just a perfect drink for sitting beneath a shady tree on a hot spring day.

But before we ventured to the festival we saw An Inconvenient Truth, a movie that should be mandatory viewing for everyone in the world. Who would have thought that a two hour powerpoint presentation could be so enthralling?

Thursday, September 14, 2006

One Down....

Two to go.....

Saturday, September 09, 2006


So I have remembered the part about uni life that I didn't love so much. Midterms!

My life has been nothing but microeconomics for four days. And when this is over I have two more hanging over my head. I don't even have Chris here to pull me back when I get too close to the brink. He is snowboarding somewhere down in the south of Australia. Or at least attempting to get in some snowboarding with the laughable amount of snow that they have there.

Luckily he left me here with our new toy. A Krups XP4050 espresso maker which makes delicious concoctions of rich dark coffee topped with foamy milk even when prepared by yours truly. So needless to say I have spent the past week in a constant state of caffeine buzz.

Back to it I vibrate....

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Not Quite Water off a Duck's Back

The other morning while out on my walk (yes, hamstring sucks and so there has been no running for me) I happened upon two severly disorientated ducks. They were waddling back and forth across a busy road not certain of which side they should stay. Cars raced by driven by distracted commuters chugging back coffee and I could see that this would likely only lead to disaster for the ducks. So I chased after the ducks until we were close enough to the creek that I was satisfied they wouldn't be venturing back onto the road.

My duck encounter got me thinking about an article I had read recently where John Howard (Australia's Prime Minister for anyone not in the know) was quoted as saying that the state governments here in Australia are to blame for the skyrocketing housing prices because they are "bowing to greeen pressure" and not releasing enough new land. (Big mental leap but there was a whole ducks losing their habitat logic going on)

Just like that. As if it is that absolutely simple. Encourage even more urban sprawl in a country where infrastructure is already struggling to hold up to the current demands. He said nothing of that fact that perhaps the problem lies within the government policy that has encouraged its citizens to buy buy buy as a means of stimulating the economy. Well Australians listened and now they have the highest per capita debt in the entire world. Inflation is quickly sliding outside even the highest reaches of acceptable. Still John Howard chooses to blame these issues on the banana prices. Sure, Hurrican Larry destroyed banana crops and at $12/kg they are expensive. I for one have not eaten one in weeks. But expensive fruit does not a debt and inflation problem create.

And this completely visionless man is the most powerful man in the country??? I could go on about how he is nearly singlehandedly destroying the trade industry by ripping power from the unions and handing it over to international corportations. Or how he has abosolutley no plan for addressing the issues of greenhouse gas emissions. His comments are we won't ratify the Kyoto agreement because Chine doesn't have to.

But there is an election coming soon. And unemployment rates being at an all time low certainly look good for his government.

I love my masters program and it certainly is helping me to understand relevant economic issues. But right now the more I understand the angrier I get.