Thursday, March 31, 2011


So what's with the new picture on the right?

Well, as we move toward our self-imposed deadline of holding a garage sale in 10 days, yesterday we finally arrived at the boxes that contained all our old pictures. You may remember the kind that you put in little albums to view rather than clicking on the Slideshow button on Shutterfly.

From a deadline perspective, this was an easy one. The boxes just needed to be brought down to the closet off the family room downstairs. There was nothing to sort through because none of these pictures were going to be sold or thrown away. Quick and easy work.

A few hours later LK was still sorting through them.

"It will make it easier to sort them by older pictures before we were together and newer ones since then," she explained.

When I explained that it really didn't matter if we sorted the pictures so long as we got them stored downstairs, she smiled her not quite "I-pity-the-fool" smile and told me, "No, it makes more sense to do them now."

I saw where this was heading. Unpacking was playing second fiddle this day. I grabbed the secaturs and went out and cut the deadheads off most of the plants in our garden.

When I came back in, LK handed me that picture. It has always been one of my favorite shots. We were in Edinburgh for Hogmanay (New Year's Eve) about 13 years ago, and she took this picture of me in my dinner jacket and party hat.  I thought it was so funny we used it a year later as an invitation to my 50th birthday celebration.

The pictures LK set aside reminded me of so much that I had forgotten. I had forgotten that I was thin and she was a brunette when we married. I had forgotten that Streak was a cute ball of fur when we first got her, that the folks at Digital News put on a grand farewell party for us when we moved to Oz, that Walt shouldn't fall asleep wearing a swimsuit when there's a camera around.

Once we get past the garage sale, I plan to scan these photos so they can be shared and stored. It would be nice to think that I won't stick this plan on the back shelf along with all the others gathering dust there. Of course, spending the afternoon looking at old photos didn't help us get any closer to actually having the garage sale.

On the other hand, it was a really good idea.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Moving is God's way of punishing you for buying too much stuff. I am pretty sure that having to unpack glasses and dishes for eternity was one of the punishments mentioned in Dante's Inferno for people who repeatedly abused their Amex during their life.

And yes, we have returned to our punishment this week, tackling the remaining boxes piled high in the garage.

I am told that most people deal with moving house in a logical, orderly manner. They "de-clutter" their home prior to the sale, getting rid of things they can do without. Once the house is sold, they plan for the move by selling or giving away things they don't want to pay to have moved. The rest they leave on the curbside as a gift to those mythical creatures that make them disappear overnight.

The working motto for moving house is easy: If you're not sure, don't bring it with you. The reward for adopting that attitude? You don't have to pack and unpack that stuff. Not to mention that you don't have to pay to have it moved.

We, needless to say, did things a bit differently. If we weren't sure, we brought it with us. And we were quite liberal in applying the "not sure" criterion.

Even if we were 90 percent sure we wouldn't suddenly use that waffle maker we hadn't even opened in 15 years, we brought it with us. We brought the George Foreman Grilling Pan, still unopened after 10 years. Ditto the bike for Lily that I never got around to putting together and which she is now too big to ride. And the food slicer. And the pie maker.

(We did, however, pat ourselves on the back for getting rid of the darkroom equipment after recognizing it was extremely unlikely that we would ever be going back to using black-and-white film to take pictures.)

One of our goals in moving here was to simplify our lives. OK, "goal" may be too strong for the two of us - let's just say "vague expectation".

We knew we didn't need seven sets of dishes. But we brought them anyway. It turns out to be a good decision, I guess, as the picture at the top should make clear, for we are all set if we ever want to host a dinner party for 150 people. Or open a bar. Or decide not to wash glasses or dishes more than twice a year.

Yesterday I learned that we have more fry pans than burners to put them on. It's actually a ratio of about 4:1.  We bought new ones to replace grotty old ones where the teflon had worn off. Yet we kept the old ones and brought them with us. We have two stove top grills (not to be confused with our three outdoor grills). We have two risotto pans. And much to LK's amazement, she discovered that she has a paella pan.

"Donald, I don't remember getting a paella pan," she said in amazement. Then after some thought, she added, "But it's good to have one. I like paella."

And on and on it went. I think even LK was a little embarrassed to discover not one but two "micro-colanders". These are teensy weensy colanders, the smallest of which measures 1/4 cup. To put it into perspective, two large olives would fill it up. So I guess we bought two of them in case we want to rinse off four olives at a time.

Anyhow, all of this has led us to an absolutely unpredictable point in our life. LK, a woman who has spent her life avoiding garage sales, has decided we are going to do one ourselves. More next time.

Monday, March 28, 2011


Our flight from Honolulu arrived too late to connect to Hobart, so we stayed at Shirley's Home (and Bar)  for Weary Travelers before flying home Thursday afternoon.

Sydney was classic Sydney - not a cloud in the sky, temperatures above normal in the high 80s, and the harbor deep blue with thousands of sparkling lights. When we arrived in Hobart, it was in the mid-60s and rain was pelting down under black clouds that looked like staying for a while. And that's when both of us realized it. We were home.

Having Caroline Weather hardly mattered. What counted was that this was where we belong now. It's not that we're "over" Sydney, just that it doesn't feel like OUR place any more. Sure, we care a lot about the friends and family there, but the city itself is just another place (albeit a beautiful one) that we were passing through.

Once inside our house, LK turned absolutely bubbly. "Oh, Donald, it feels so good to be home," she said. I am pretty sure a stranger overhearing her would have assumed that, rather than spending a week in Hawaii, she must have been in prison for a few years or trapped in some disaster zone.

But I knew what she meant and how she felt. I was glad to be home, too.

The weekend did a classic Hobart flipflop and became spectacular. Yesterday we awoke to bright sun glistening on the water and temperatures warm enough to drive with the windows open. We drove into the farmers market to stock up on  veggies and then stopped in Kingston at the homewares store to make a return of a duplicate item and exchange it for a food mill.

Of course, having the two of us go into a homewares store that is having a sale is a virtual guarantee that we will inch ever closer to the limit on our Visa.  The little le Creuset casserole dishes and the chef's pan were on sale and we probably did not absolutely positively have to have them. But the prices had been cut significantly. As I paid for them I realized we would be better off not making returns but just donating the items to charity.

And in the interest of  full disclosure, I was probably more in shopping mode than LK. I even started thinking about how much money I was saving by buying the sale items, rather than how much I was spending.  I really have lived with her a long time.

But no matter. We want these for the house, and this house is a home now. And we are loving it. By the way, at one point yesterday afternoon, LK looked on the computer and noted that Hobart and Sydney both had the same temperature. We were fine and sunny; Sydney was raining.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Hoop Dreams

These past four days in Honolulu have been heaven for me.

Oh, I didn't go to the beach or the pool, and I avoided tourist spots. In fact, I spent most of the last 96 hours in our hotel room watching television. But not just television. This is the weekend when the NCAA kicks off the men's basketball tournament, a knock-out competition for American university teams where it's win or go home until only one remains.

There is an 8-team playoff earlier in the week to give four low-ranked teams a spot in the 64-team tournament. Then it's sheer basketball gluttony. There are 16 games each on Thursday and Friday, 8 games on Saturday and again on Sunday. After 28 games, there are 16 teams left that will play next weekend.

Every game is on TV and also free to view online. Starting early in the morning here in Hawaii and going non-stop until early evening, in the early rounds, there are often three games on at the same time.

With channel surfing elevated to a fine art, news of the day takes a backseat to watching teams I have often have never heard of.  But they do matter, because there is a tradition in the US where just about everyone fills out a bracket with their projected winners.

And when I say just about everyone, consider this. I started out yesterday's games ranked somewhere south of 3.5 million on's bracket competition. But I had a good run picking some upsets and am now in the top 5 percentile. My rank is 238,233.

That's good and bad news. The bad is that I am obviously not going to win the competition. The good? Well, I am doing better than several million others, many of whom probably follow college basketball a lot more closely than I do. Like sports commentator Dick Vitale and rapper Snoop Dogg, both of whom are more than 1 million spots behind me. (Most impressive, though, is Barack Obama, who ranks around 7,000th place - that's the top 1 percent. I'd guess somebody helped him with his bracket.)

LK is happy to put up with my mild case of sports addiction. First, it only happens once a year. But even more important, it means she can happily sit by the pool or go to the mall without having to find something to keep me out of her hair.

Anyhow, we are heading home tomorrow. I have checked the listings, and the next batch of games are on ESPN in Oz. I hope she is as happy to lose me for a few hours then, when there is no pool to compensate.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Give Me Your Tired

We're back in Honolulu.

Taking a holiday when you are retired may seem a bit self-indulgent, and the truth is that it is very self-indulgent. I mean, what am I doing? Giving myself a break from not doing anything?

Sure, LK and I do some work at home - she cooks and washes the clothes; I clean the house. And when we are on holidays, LK cooks and washes the clothes and the housekeeping staff cleans the place. So I guess I am earning my holiday rewards faster than she is.

For people who like to travel so much, LK and I aren't travelling all that well lately.  Returning to America, I suppose it's appropriate that we live up to the lines Emma Lazarus wrote in her poem, now inscribed on the Statue of Liberty, "Give me your tired . . ."

Shirley's with us on this trip to Honolulu, and none of us slept much on the 9 1/2-hour flight from Sydney. We were pretty tired when we landed a little before 7am.  (And there is an argument to be made that I also qualified for that other line in the poem - "wretched refuse of your teeming shore.")

Figuring we had to kill 7 or 8 hours before we could get into our room, we rented a car once we cleared customs. Shirley had never seen Pearl Harbor, so we decided to drive there and be among the early birds. Of course, most of the people who care about World War II are older than we are, so we weren't even in the first wave of early visitors despite getting there before 8am. (That average age might also explain the long lines at the loos near the entrance, I would guess.)

Anyhow, the first chance we would have to take the tour that includes the Arizona Memorial was the 10:45 tour. Not to worry as we thought about killing the time: there was a museum to wander around, a snack bar to give us our caffeine and a beautiful sunny morning if we wanted to roam the grounds.  You won't be surprised to know that less than an hour later I discovered LK and Shirley sitting on the wall at the museum entrance and questioning whether any of us really, really, really wanted to wait for the 10:45 tour.

The answer to that was pretty easy. LK and I had done the tour several years ago. Shirley hadn't, but then again it was Shirley asking if we really wanted to wait around. By 10 we were at the hotel, prepared to sit around the pool until our room was ready.

And nearly weeping with joy when they told us our room was already available. By the time the Pearl Harbor tour started, LK and I were sound asleep in the bed.

Once we finally dragged ourselves back to the land of the living, we did what every tourist comes to  Honolulu to do. The three of us went shopping at the Safeway.

Shirley and I were responsible for the week's allotment of beverages, while LK set about choosing food for our meals. I did extra duty and got chips and crackers to make sure we had something to eat with our booze that did not qualify as healthy.

The best part was that I remembered to bring my Safeway Club card with me. This is the loyalty discount card that I got the last time we were here. When we checked out, LK - the veteran bargain hunter - was ecstatic, pointing out that it saved us more than $105 on our purchases. Since about $60 of that savings was from the vodka and wine that Shirl and I got, I suggested that we were better shoppers than LK.

But we all know that's not true.

Anyhow, that's enough work for today. After all. I'm on holiday.

Monday, March 14, 2011

A Day at the Museum

Cloaca Professional at Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart

One of the best things about moving to a new place is that you can stay home and still be a tourist. And on the weekend, that's exactly what happened.

My new friend's a work of art. (Aren't they all?
Davy and Geoff were visiting, and we drove over to check out the new Museum of Old and New Art.

MONA is a private museum that opened its doors in late January. It was built by and houses the collection of one of our local rich guys, David Walsh, and he has created a beautiful building that displays everything from ancient Egyptian death masks to Cloaca Professional, a modern machine that recreates the human digestive process in a series of glass jars. (In the end, that one was crap.)

There are works by famous artists like Damien Hirst, Brett Whiteley and Sidney Nolan. There are famously controversial pieces like Chris Ofili's Mary.  There are many explicit pieces, including one section where there are 150 molds of female naughty bits.

Which made me finally understand what someone means when they say that they may not know art, but they know what they like.

I had wondered if I would like MONA. It is beyond doubt a confrontational exhibition and many early visitors let it be known that they did not like the museum. I did not know much about all of the wonderful pieces in the museum, but I sure had heard about the poo machine.

On the other hand, many love the place. Our group all did, and I will gladly return the next time visitors say they would like to check it out.

I will try to write more about MONA in a future post, but I would need to organize my thoughts to avoid writing a 50,000-word essay. And that from someone who doesn't even get most modern art.

On the personal side, it was a great weekend catching up with Davy and Geoff. Davy is the guy who took my job when I retired, and I had wondered if he still blamed me for handing him the poisoned chalice. Fortunately, he is a forgive-and-forget sort of person.

We turned on what may have been Hobart's best weather of the year - brilliantly sunny, warm days and not even a hint of what a windy, rainy day feels like here. The latter is known as Caroline Weather, you may recall, since she managed to bring out some of our nastiest days on both of her visits.

The good news, though, is that we named our guest bedroom the Caroline Bucknell Room in recognition of the fact that she was the first person of European heritage to discover and explore it. Caroline works for Davy, but he didn't mind staying in the Caroline Bucknell Room. And I am sure she will enjoy knowing he slept there.

It was a quick flying visit for the lads, and we barely had time to get rid of our Saturday night hangovers before we went into town for lunch on Sunday at the waterfront before bringing them to the airport. Nonetheless, as we said good-bye to the fifth set of visitors we have had since New Year's,  LK and I had a bit of a chuckle thinking of all the people who told us we would be lonely if we moved here.

And finally, in the Year We Are Not Travelling Much, we head out to Honolulu tomorrow. We've already booked trips to Port Douglas, Bali, the US and a cruise through the Panama Canal. I think I need to have LK explain what "not travelling much" means.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Best Sellers

This post is dedicated to the American TV commentator, Andy Rooney. 
Not the Andy Rooney who tends to cry a lot lately when contemplating his mortality, but the Andy Rooney who made an enormously successful career by doing a weekly 3-minute blather that invariably started out in a whiny voice asking the question, "Have you ever noticed?"

Have you ever noticed that the digital age is making it so easy to buy stuff that we are all shelling out lots of bucks for things we otherwise might have passed on?

That became so evident to me this morning as I looked at my Kindle library and realized that I probably will never find the time to read all the books I have bought in the past year. (I am assuming I will not have severe diarrhea for six or seven weeks in a row. If that happens, then that amount of loo time significantly changes the maths.)

Just yesterday LK downloaded "Methland". She is raving about it, and so I told her I would read it next - right after I finish "Swamplandia". Despite their names, these are not books we are reading hoping to identify some new and interesting travel destinations. How we ended up reading these books, though, does help to illustrate my point.

Swamplandia is a simple story. I subscribe to the New York Times weekly book review e-mail. One of their critics loved the book. I bought it and had it on my Kindle less than 60 seconds after first learning that the book existed.

LK took a somewhat more circuitous route. She was reading something about Charlie Sheen. (Don't judge her. It would be almost impossible to go online and not read about Charlie Sheen this week.) One of the stories LK read mentioned former Hollywood train wreck, Tom Arnold. LK clicked through a link and learned that Tom Arnold's sister is one of the people featured in a 2-year-old nonfiction book about middle America and drugs called Methland. She checked a few reviews. She bought it.

In other words, we now have a pair of books that we almost surely would never have bought if there were no Internet. And even if we had become aware of these two good books, we almost surely would not have ended up owning them were it not for Kindle.

LK would have to be lucky to find a two-year-old American nonfiction book here in Oz. And I would never have gone into a bookstore looking for something new to read. Not with more than 40 (!!!!) books I have bought and not read yet,  which in printed form would have been a floor-to-ceiling display of stuff to be read before buying more stuff to be read.

I have written about how LK and I are trend people - the ones that market researchers would get rich off of if only they knew what we were doing. So I am pretty sure there are lots of people out there buying books they may never get around to reading just because it's so easy to do it now.

Surely there must be some shamefaced publishers out there - you know, the ones who were worried that digital books would ruin their businesses. OK, they're probably getting paid less now than they did before, but they're selling stuff they never would have.  And I suppose it also has dawned on them that it's Borders, not Amazon, that owes them a bazillion dollars they are unlikely to receive.

I can foresee the day when people - especially people on fixed incomes - start getting rid of their Kindles in much the same way some people cut up their credit cards. Because it's just too easy to buy stuff when you have them around. Of course, you won't think of dumping the Kindle at least until you've read all those books you've got piling up in your digital library.

And, of course, it's not just books. Just in case you still have a faint memory of Andy Rooney's voice ringing in your mind, let me ask one more question.

Have you ever noticed how you hear a song at the end of a movie, download an entire album to your iPod and then never listen to it for months because you forgot you had it?

But that's another post.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Beware the Chides of March

I have been getting chided this week for not producing the goods.

Let me see if I can come up with an original excuse for not writing sooner.

How about I am a lazy slob who just couldn't be bothered?

Funny, isn't it - but of all the excuses I could have come up with, that is probably the one you believe automatically.  The truth is I have been meditating and undergoing detox and liver cleansing and I wanted to devote all my attention to improving my physical and mental health.

Yeah, I know. You still choose lazy slob who can't be bothered.

Anyhow, Jason and Laura (aka Lora) have been here for the past five days and it was a real joy to have the kids here. (Kids being relative, of course. In probably the same way that my parents still think of me as a kid. And they don't even drink much!)

Anyhow, Tassie cooperated brilliantly. We had some lovely autumn days, the sun shone when it should have and the beautiful sparkling water views let us charge the kids an extra $25 a night for their room.  Although I think Jay may have figured things out when he said to just put it on his tab and he would sort it out when the estate was settled. (No. He didn't say that. I am just in that kind of mood and desperately hoping to get your mind off my slackness.)

Anyhow, while we've been having a ball with all our visitors, it's not been the sort of eventful activities that give me heaps of new stuff to write about. And I don't think anyone really wants to read a fifth or sixth review of the Red Velvet Lounge - even though it deserves that many raves.

So, this should get a few people off my case. Peg chided me (via LK) about not posting, so consider this a post. My mother has chided me for, oh, several weeks for not putting up some pictures of the house - and especially one of the exterior. So here you go with that, too.

Now if I could just get LK to stop chiding me about the state of the underwear I give her to wash life would be darn near perfect.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Market Forces

To market, to market
To buy a fat pig.
Home again, home again,

The Sunday farmers' market in Hobart is one of our favorite places. This isn't to be confused with the massive, crowded Salamanca markets held every Saturday. It's a smaller market set up in a car park (that's a parking lot to you Americans). It's got great breads and cheese and (if they show up) fresh pasta, but mostly it's a wonderful spot for veggies and fresh herbs.

So LK suggested a veggie run and that got us on our way Sunday morning. The thing I like best about this market is that in about half an hour you're done even if you've checked out each stall twice. And the bank account is secure because A) the prices are cheap and B) how much can you spend on vegetables, anyhow?

As we left the farmers' market loaded with three or four shopping bags, I suggested we stop by a great sausage store in Salamanca. I have an innate understanding that too many vegetables can be bad for you unless you balance them with fatty meat byproducts.

LK had an even better idea. She likes the meat selection and prices at a store just around the corner, so we went there instead. Once in the store, we split up. I went to the deli counter and bought sausages, cheese, pate and black pudding. That should counteract the harmful effects of fresh vegetables and at the same time put my cholesterol meds to the test.

I caught up with LK in the vegetable section. "How can you spend half an hour at the farmers' market and shop for fresh veggies at the next store?" I asked. That question, as you probably have guessed, was one of those that does not deserve an answer.

LK attacked the meat section, but not in a heavy-duty way. Lamb shanks seemed to be the chief purchase. With the total bill at the store coming in at under $100, I was feeling OK about our little Sunday shopping expedition. That is until we got back to Kingston.

It was then that LK very mildly suggested that we needed some non-food items, but they could wait ... but maybe it was easier to get them now, etc. So a quick stop at the large supermarket near home.

"Are you going to stay in the car?" she asked. "Aren't you just running in for one thing?" I asked. "Well..." she said, "I thought I would check out the meat. We are getting pretty low on meat."

By this time I figured out what was going on. It has to do with two things: One, she had not reached whatever level she needed to satisfy her shopping urge. Two, the fridge in our garage has a mostly empty freezer. Like Nature, LK abhors a vacuum.

So into Coles we went. First LK browsed the vegetable section. Don't ask. I certainly didn't.

Then she pillaged the meat department. And here she began living up to her reputation as a super shopper.  She acted as if the bomb was on its way here and her job was to fill up the bunker's larder. Hams, steaks, ribs, roasts - it was a carnivore's orgy.  If an animal is mentioned in Old McDonald Had a Farm, we bought it.

On the way home, I did the by-now fairly substantial sums and mentioned how much we had ended up spending on what started out as our little Sunday morning veggie run. "Yes," she said, "but now we won't have to shop for meat for a while."

Yeah, I thought, not until 2013 most likely. But I didn't say it out loud. No sense in making another comment my darling chooses to ignore.