Thursday, December 23, 2010

One Year

Christmas eve.

363 days since I stepped on a plane in Toronto bound for Canberra. The first seven weeks were rough as I was "here" and Shannon, Mack and Malc were still "there". There was a lot of walking aimlessly last January and not much to do outside of the office. Fortunately there was a new job to immerse myself in and a new system of education to learn. It took time.

February to May, was difficult. Work set in and the family had too much time to adjust. No work for Shannon, no school for the kids and not much luck on finding a suitable place to stay.

June to September was better on the home front. We found a nice affordable place to live and the kids got their bearings at school. However, work got a bit hectic during that period as my Business Manager went on leave, I had to pull double duty for a few months, it was a bit of a blur.

October to December we settled into a routine, but as the time wore on I found myself hitting a bit of a wall. My stamina waned and I could see the end in site. That end is today as I sit in my office on Christmas Eve finishing up a little paperwork and preparing to be AWOL for the next three weeks.

I guess most of all, I'm proud.

When I announced at the dinner table in September 2009 that we had an opportunity to move to Australia I asked everyone what there percentage was for wanting to come. My son was 0%, somewhere along the way we got him to 10. I'm so proud of him for facing this challenge head on and making the best of the experience. I'm not sure where he sits on the percentage scale at the moment but I hope he realizes how much he has grown and how much more resilient he'll be as a result. Speaking of growing he's about a foot taller too, yikes! My daughter came in at 70% and has taken Australia by storm. Never one to miss a party if there isn't a good time on the horizon she creates one. Splendid. Shannon said she was 70% when we left but I think the number changed daily over year. But as we get ready for Santa's arrival tonight, there is no doubt that Team Rice is stronger than ever.

The most amazing parts have been the trips, the Coast, Kiama, 3 sisters, the caves, the Hunter Valley, Sydney, Melbourne, Bermagui, Broulee and so much more to come. I'm looking forward to more travelling and more blogging in 2011.

See y'all soon.

Sunday, December 12, 2010


I have mentioned before that the Rice's brought the rain to Canberra after a decade long drought. A favourite pastime of Canberrans is to watch the daily Dam Capacity. When I arrived it was routinely in the 45% range, but after only a few months of Rice residency the dams had filled to an unheard of capacity of 80%. The locals who had endured the desert like conditions were so appreciative. Their appreciation took a turn last week when after two more weeks of torrential rain the dams hit 100% and flooding ensued. Fortunately we are in the high ground but some suburbs were not as lucky. Extreme is definitely a feature of the Australian climate, no doing things half way.

I think I have the recipe for discontinuing the drought and having the sunshine once again prevail. My Mother in Law is arriving in Janaury and she has a way of bringing sunshine with her where ever she goes. I predict lots of warm days and sun all through the month. When they were handing our Mother in Laws I won - big time.

It's only 2 weeks away but we are planning a traditional Rice Christmas. For us that means leaving town, heading to a five star resort, sunning by the pool, ordering room service, playing a little golf, eating out and checking out the Casino. Gold Coast here we come!

Monday, November 29, 2010

The bourne identity

Spent the weekend evading the raindrops in Melbourne, trying to get a sense for the city that isn't Sydney. Sydney is bigger and bolder. In Sydney the waves crash; in Melbourne fairy penguins waddle to the shore. Sydney is Bondi! Melbourne is the gentle bay known as St. Kilda. Melbourne is famous for shopping; I'm not sure if that's because the shops are better (doubt it), the stores are better laid out (possibly) or there really isn't much else to do (can you tell it was raining). I couldn't find anything iconic in Melbourne, it all seems a bit artsy and understated. Ten people told me something about Melbourne before I arrived and each person mentioned the word "cafe" in the first couple of sentences - I think that was a clue. The Melbourne skyline is unpretentious, no one building dominates your gaze, each simply takes up its own space and no more, it wouldn't think to impose. Of course there is evidence of peculiarity in the town, the locals are ordered to make right turns from the left lane (doesn't that sound safe) and then there are the rickety old trams that creak through the streets, which I assume are designed to lend a certain charm but really just render the already jammed avenues all but impassable.

Apparently we owe the presence of Canberra to the epic rivalry between Sydney and Melbourne. Not much of a fight if you ask me, Sydney would throw a left and Melbourne would roll over with a dreadful case of bedhead around 11:00 a.m. sipping a Latte and win. Actually I felt that Melbourne would make a great Capital City, it's got a cool name and just enough style to pull it off. On a return trip I'm actually looking forward to checking out the Cricket Grounds, perhaps I'll even stop by to watch one of those games that goes on for five days, where it is never clear who is winning and when it's all said and done, it usually ends in a stalemate. Yes, I think cricket and Melbourne go hand in glove.

So I guess I'll leave it at this, if I have to spend one night in a place I'll pick Sydney but if I need to stretch out for a week or two, I'll go with Melbourne.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Fairs are for Tourists

What a day. The Canberra Montessori School put on a spectacular school fair on Saturday. I was sheltered / kept out - of most of the planning for the event - a wise move by the organizing committee and although I had a sense of the enormity of the affair, I could not have imagined how big it would be until I saw 500 people from the community wandering around the grounds...we had a hot air balloon, rides, games and lots of food.

Spring is school fair season in Canberra, there are several on every weekend, some during the day, some in the evening - it really is a great tradition.

I'll say this for Australian's they show up - they get out of their houses and support local events. Good on ya' I say.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


Under what conditions would it be acceptable to file for divorce from your lifelong "favourite" sports team. I became a Minnesota Vikings fan at the age 8. It was 1975 and I wandered down stairs to find a playoff game on the television between the Vikings and the Dallas Cowboys all but over. Looking at the score and the time remaining in the contest I quickly pointed out that the Vikings had won the game and would inevitably be advancing to the Championship. My father in a glib matter of fact manner countered by saying that "his" Cowboys still had a chance. Five seconds later the Cowboys aided by an egregious missed call from a seemingly crooked official pulled off a miraculous comeback. The smug look on my father's face was too much to bear and from that day forward I swore allegiance to the purple people eaters with the funny horns on their head.

It has now been 35 years since that fateful day and the Vikings have not won the Super Bowl. With apologies to my brother and sister it has been the longest relationship of my life. I have lived and died every Sunday on the hopes that they will come through. They often get close but they always fail. I suppose there is something comforting in consistency.

I write this blog because I have the Vikings / Packers game taped at home and I don't want to surf the web on the off chance that I might hit a site that spoils the score for me. It is a sickness.

Every friend of mine and I'm sure every acquaintance too knows that I am a hard core Vikings supporter. I'm sure that all across the Globe when the Vikings scores are posted people that are nothing more than casual fans look at the telly and picture my mood based on the outcome of the contest. That is what makes it so hard; I think I could summon the courage to embark on the 12 step program required to rid myself of this strange addiction, but how could I tell my friends! "We are what we repeatedly do" as Aristotle once said. Geesh I am sick.

I guess the real value in obsessing over these trivialities in life is that it helps mark the time. It provides me with so many stories of times gone by, of watching games at home with my brother and now with my son. Thankfully the sickness is not hereditary - Malcolm runs with Patriots and the only.

My dream is that the franchise folds, that the team moves to another city and the name is changed. It's really my only way out, even given the abuse I have been subjected to over the years, it can't come from me I just can't quit. I can't be "that" guy.

So it's off to home to scan the Foxtel, which I pay hundreds of dollars for here in Australia, in order to wade through a mountain of rugby and cricket games just to catch a glimpse of my team. So no calls tonight - the game is on - I will not answer and when we loose I'll be miserable tomorrow. Unless......ah the cruel temptress.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

I'm Learning

I drink whiskey. Rye to be specific. Crown Royal if I'm on your Christmas list. Of course depending on where I'm at; a beer is just fine too.

Australian men drink beer. Not a lot of wine drinkers here amongst the male set. Not that there isn't a lot of wine here, there is and I'm sure that men do buy wine and perhaps even taste it over dinner at home but once out on the town it's a Pure Blond over Pinot Noir for sure.

I've noticed Australian guys don't whine (or whinge as they say here). They don't sit around complaining about taxes or the government and they don't fret over the weather. Canadian men whine about everything; it is in fact a Canadian tradition. Also an alarming trend over my last decade in Canada was the number of men that would primp and preen in the public restrooms. There was more of a lineup at the sink than at the toilets waiting for some Canadian guy to make sure the gel was holding. Egad. Australian guys don't primp. Another thing that Australian guys don't do is shower. I've been working out at the gym the past few weeks and I'm the only one that I know of to actually use the shower. I could put it down to a severe water saving plan brought on by years of drought conditions but actually I don't think that's it. They just don't bother. If you see a couple out on a date in downtown Australia it isn't unusual to a see a woman who has definitely made an effort for the evening holding hands with some bloke wearing a decade old Collingwood Magpie jersey, that looks like it's just been pulled out of a gym bag. I'm not sure how these guys get away with it but more power to them I suppose. I think that there is an unwritten rule in Canada that men over the age of 13 cannot wear sports team wear in public - this law apparently was not instituted down under.

This isn't the first time that I've made such observations and in fact I have been canvassing a certain number of female acquaintances around Canberra and Sydney to ask them about their seemingly low standards or perhaps high tolerance for slovenly behaviour. I ask them what they would think of a guy that showered, used aftershave, made sure that their shirt had a collar and perhaps ran an iron over the ensemble before heading out for the evening. The consensus seems to be amongst the fairer sex in Australia that such behaviour could only mean one thing - gay!

By the way can anyone send me my old Toronto Argonaut Jersey from when I was 12 - I think I'll need it.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Where have you gone Dave Winfield

You can't own property in Canberra. You can only lease it for 99 years. Strangely enough this does not mean that housing prices are lower, in fact, they are quite insane. I'm not sure what the justification is for this legal loophole but after only 8 months I think I am getting to the bottom of the mystery. You can't buy land in Canberra because it is already owned by an insidious cartel of abusive creatures called "magpies".

We are now in the middle of magpie swooping season which means that women, children and 225 lb middle age Canadian men are all in danger of being swooped, pecked and eaten by black and white projectiles flying through the air at breakneck speeds. It is enough to make one leave the house every morning with a 4 iron, but before you even think about it... the Magpie is protected, and believe you me - they know it. There is nothing like the look on a magpies face when then tease over your head, land at you feet, stride over to your toes and glare into your eyes as if to say "just try it".

The survival technique displayed by the non protected species who must live in constant fear of the magpies (humans), is to tie "twist ties" and pipe cleaners to the tops of their hats and helmets, hoping that the dreaded beast will only dive bomb to the very top of the protrusion; thus narrowly missing any vital organs. As a defence mechanism it is brilliant as a fashion statement it is quite ridiculous.

Well I'm off for a quick bike ride. I take my life into my hands, and would like this blog as proof that should I not make it to my destination in one piece, I intend to leave every penny to the magpie protection agency, the master must be served...on second thought where's my tennis racket.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


If I was Tiger Woods, I'd start by changing my name. I wonder if he realizes that he has allowed other people to construct his persona, for his entire life. Maybe you don't realize it when you are 3 years old and hitting 3 woods into a net on the Mike Douglas show the extent to which you have been exploited, but come on, "Tiger". Do you ever get to the point in your life when you realize that you have been named after an animal. Maybe I'm naive, but I thought the idea of this whole "life thing" is that we construct ourselves as human beings. We are flawed, we make mistakes, even really big ones, sometimes repeatedly, but we learn and we grow and at some point we emerge as enlightened individuals. I'm not a big believer in happiness, in fact I'm not sure that the search for bliss is the point of all the time we spend waddling around this sphere, instead I think the point is to grow up. And I for one feel that if you have allowed others to name you after a predator and built teams of hangers on around you to live a life of focused execution in pursuit of some silly tin pots then in the words of Malcolm X, you've been had, hoodwinked, bamboozled, led astray and run amok. My advice, "Tiger", change back to Eldrick, see if Stanford will take you back and audit a few courses on philosophy or auto mechanics or something and try to figure out who is inside the created facade. As for Golf; let's see if you can be as good a loser as you were a winner? If you can, that is the true legacy you can leave your children. Redemption is never far away, but it starts by looking inside not out. It turns out the manufactured persona led to some fairly significant deficits, and I'm sure constructing one's real character will too; but at the end of the day at least you'll own it.

Monday, August 16, 2010


Head up to Sydney but don't stop; as a matter of fact don't even slow down - just keep on trucking North. If you dare, jump off the main highway and wind your way through "Broke" until you find your self in Singleton; home of the World's largest sundial. But don't stop for long - just a quick pit stop at the Caltex and head west along the New England Highway past the coal mines and transformers of Muswellbrook and if you can't make it all the way to Scone, just stop off in Aberdeen, New South Wales.

When in Aberdeen you may only stay at the Segenhoe Inn! Just go up the stairs and the 19th century comes alive. I recommend staying in the Maid's quarters, two twin beds and enough frilly furniture to unlock your inner daintiness. If you are lucky, Cherie will be there to serve you breakfast and make you feel at home. We were not so lucky. Cherie was away; but we had Rhett - not a bad second choice. Rhett had the fireplace crackling every night upon our arrival back to the homestead. Once we had our feet up Rhett became our personal butler...frankly Scarlet...

The region is called the Upper Hunter Valley it's where rural Victorian England meets the outback...coal mines, coal miners, freight cars, power plants and of course...wineries. Every town along the way from Mudgee to Peaks Pass has its own distinct character, yet at heart they are all so similar. Case in point - there are two eating establishments in every Upper Hunter town, one's a bar and the other is a Thai restaurant, even Aberdeen "gets it's Thai on". The other less demure similarity is that every homestead sells excrement at the side of the road and we found in Wollombi that you can drop $2 in the honour box and haul away a half ton of horse poo; you laugh, we have pictures.

Thanks Mack, another great weekend!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Skip Manhattan just give me that Countryside

My misspent youth involved a number of unhealthy pursuits. As a matter of fact I sit here tonight in a anti inflammatory haze brought on by a lifetime of too many sports played with too little finesses...but I digress. My youth also involved copious amounts of 1970's sitcoms and if you catch me with just the right amount of whiskey in my system it isn't long before I can slip into soliloquies from Barney Miller, Bewitched or Hogan's Heroes.

Many of these shows prepared me for my future career as an educator, as the first item you need to pack ever morning when you head to school is a sense of humour. There isn't too many days that I don't look out at the pageantry that is my school when I can't hear the Skipper in the back of my mind saying...Gilligan!

An "old" friend of mine used to say that the modern school experience could be viewed as the 70's TV show "Green Acres" writ large. The more I see, the more I think my friend was right.

For those who may not be familiar, in Green Acres a Middle Aged man (Eddie Albert) decides to eschew Manhattan and takes his new Bride, some heiress from an Eastern European royal family, to the county to live off the land. When he arrives he soon finds that the entire village is insane and his wife fits in just fine. The town, named Hooterville, was ridiculous and I can't be certain that my memory isn't failing me but I believe that the mayor of the town was a pig. But the genius of Green Acres was that everyone in the town thought that Eddie Albert was crazy as he was the only dissenter, it is true that in a world gone mad only the sane seem crazy.

Right now there is a website in Australia where you can see the test results of 8 year old children. Their marks are graphed and averaged against the rest of the country and of course compared to students of similar socioeconomic indices. Can you imagine? I have seen the tests they are quite ridiculous, students are given an hour to answer about 10 questions; most finish them in 3 minutes and sit around for 57 torturous minutes staring at the ceiling. The questions do not revolve around any particular content nor are they diagnostic to any large degree but if you can distinguish the words bare and bear - hey your on easy street. The seriousness with which there instruments are taken is hilarious. Measured over time the test will reveal almost nothing but minor statistical variations in the data are puzzled over. Only 75% or our students know the answer to 2+2! (um yeah - except only 4 kids took the test and one child spit his gum on the question and couldn't read it)...insightful!

I have sat at one too many meetings where such hot topics are debated and discussed until there is no fun left to be had. Occasionally I make an offhanded, "witty" remark in an attempt to see the humour in this noble pursuit of 8 year old accountability, only when I look up all I see are the characters from Green Acres looking at me as if I am mad. Their looks are generally followed by long sighs and a quick glance over to the "hog" in charge to be given direction. Yikes.

But it all goes in cycles, especially in education. Tomorrows leaders having grown up with this nonsense will surely do away with it and inevitable bring back some other antiquated educational philosophy, if for no other reason than something must be tried.

Alas back at it tomorrow.

Friday, July 16, 2010


In my last post I was threatening to go to Noosa for a well deserved 4 night holiday with the family. I am proud to say that we indeed did make the trip. It was not without drama as a police officer in Sydney was not impressed that my car registration was 7 days overdue, however we made it to our destination (and back). Of course all you get for 4 nights in Noosa is the realization that 4 months would be much better. Noosa is a coastal town (like almost all in Australia, Canberra excepted) and a tourist haven. The beaches are spectacular, the shopping is dangerous, the golf is overpriced and the natural wonders in the National Parks are astounding. As with everything in Australia, its not close, about 2 hours North of Brisbane and far enough off the beaten path but certainly well worth the trip.

Brisbane and everything North along the coast belongs to the province of Queensland. Having finally reached out beyond the Australian Capital Territory and the area know as New South Wales I finally felt that I had started to see Australia. I was interested in what people in Queensland were like. It seems that every second person you meet in Sydney or Canberra is from somewhere else but Queenslanders are well...they're...different. How so you ask, its hard to say...just...different. They seem to use grunts for conversation or at least that's about all that I can make out. It's a bit like Newfoundlanders in Canada. Everything is a masked riddle and they never say 3 words if one would do. It's like the waiter we had at Jack's steakhouse. A great guy, who seated us, took our orders, attended to our tables, pointed out the toilets (rest rooms for those not as bold as Australian's) and he did it all by only using one unintelligible word. I think it was "shwaggah" - not quite sure. Then there was the cruise boat driver that took the microphone and began a personal conversation with every other boat captain sailing on the harbour. There was a lot of "Ah, a rower, that's the way to save fuel, good on ya mate", I think he understood that no one outside of the confines of our little vessel could hear a word he was saying. I guess if you spend a lifetime sailing the exact same route you have to be able to entertain yourself. Perhaps the people could be summed up best by the shuttle driver on the way back to the area that decided since we were his only customers that he would personally give us a tour of the Coast. The 20 minute ride back to the Maroochydore airport became a 45 minute journey through the heart of the sunshine coast with scenic vistas and places of interest for the next time we return. His pride was evident. I have to tell you it won't be long before we are back.

School starts up Monday, and I am looking forward to my third term in office. I feel that our school resolved a number of issues in Term 2 and we have a good plan moving forward. By the end of Third term we will have left Winter (such as it is) and I understand the spring in Canberra is great.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


I can't believe it has been a month since my last post. I also can't believe that I survived an entire month without internet access in our new house. The utilities companies in Canberra took our move as a personal insult and refused to move services to our new abode at anything but a glacial pace. But they can't keep the Rice's down and eventually had to relent. I mean I have a blog to write and there must be tens of followers...

Tomorrow it's back to Sydney for a little more training and then a week of school break will be spent at Noosa; which I hear is very nice. It's been a bit chilly in Canberra (no really) so a trip up north of Brisbane into Queensland may be just the ticket.

Followers will be glad to know that not much has changed around here, Malcolm is knee deep in baseball and tennis and Mackenzie continues to dominate the golf circuit around town. Tied for first a Gunghalin today with an 88!

I will comment on Noosa upon my return.


Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Revolution

I'm not one to compare prices. You would go crazy trying to figure what "that" would cost in Canada. For the most part some things are less expensive in Canberra, most things are more expensive but taxes are already included and tipping isn't expected (or understood) so it all works out. But there is one item in Australia that I cannot reconcile on the price / quality continuum... Coffee.

A coffee in Australia costs $5. You can order it in any number of frothy varieties, none of which resemble anything black and hot. The only order that looks like a pot of coffee would be "long black", but if you order it that way you can't get cream to go with it and if you ask for milk they will run to the microwave and curdle it before serving it to you.

As a comparison I can buy 3L of gasoline in Australia for the cost of a coffee. Mackenzie can play 27 holes of golf at the Federal golf club for $4.50! Malcolm plays an hour of tennis for $3 and Shannon develops 50 pictures at Big W for the same price as that good old lukewarm buttermilk that they try to pass off as a cup of Joe!

My guess is if there is a revolution in Australia it will either be over the outcome of the state of origin rugby match or the cost of coffee. Most likely the revolution will be be avoided because it's just too darn hot here to get quite so worked up or because the paper work required to organize an uprising in Australia would be enough to put even the most ardent revolutionary onto a more productive pursuit.

Overall, I have to respect a country where the cost of coffee rates as a major problem.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Poor Tree

We have begun to house hunt again. The cozy charm of our little abode has begun to wear thin, with the Canberra winter (chuckle, chuckle) in full swing. As we approach the winter solstice (I know it's weird) daylight wanes and we find ourselves indoors a little more often and the 900 square feet we possess begins to close around us. Perhaps an extra room or two would help to keep the peace.

House hunting in Canberra is depressing, especially if you are in the rental market. Houses come on the market and are snapped up fast by transient government yocals, international visitors and embassy types. The result is too much demand for a limited supply and Realtors that could care less about you because they know the place will get snapped up anyway. Rental properties are way over priced, run down and gloomy. Neighbourhoods are mixed, 2 nice homes followed by a train wreck and the pattern repeats itself all over the city.

The general rule is a bunch of houses that look like remakes of my parents place. The one I was honoured to grow up in about half a century ago. You know the 1960/1970 homes, the ram shackled bungalows with three small bedrooms and 1 bathroom.

It's the one bathroom that I object to the most, mainly from painful experiences from my childhood when my father would retire to the loo after dinner with a crossword in hand. A 6 p.m. entry would routinely turn into a one and half hour sit down and leave my brother, sister and I crippled in pain outside the door. A knock on the door was akin to a death sentence and therefore rarely even attempted. I am not entirely proud to say that many an early evening I snuck out and convened with a poor little maple tree in the gathering twilight. Years later the little tree was hideously disfigured and only I knew the truth, poor thing.

Alas we march on, searching the listings and looking to upgrade. It is a dance that many a new resident to Canberra knows all to well. So we keep looking for that perfect spot - actually we'd settle for functional at this stage. I have now lowered my standards to accommodations with bushy foliage in the backyard...hey kids if it was good enough for me...

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Pursuit

I never stop at garage sales. I don't know what got in to me but somehow a cardboard sign on the side of the road next to the Weston Creek Seniors Home sucked me in - how did I ever let my guard down. Given the clientele the sale was littered with tea cozies and coasters, all looked bleak until Malcolm and I spotted Trivial Pursuit, the Genus Edition, and we began to reminisce about the games back in Canada at the Kitchen table... why not. I inquired about the price of the item and I was told to make an offer, after careful deliberation I came up with the figure of $5, which was received with a "Hmmmm...its pretty new". If pretty new means a ripped box, yellow cards and a die that was barely cube shaped, then consider my fiver an insulting offer. I stood firm and 10 minutes later Malcolm and I were driving home giddy over our find.

You can't force a trivial pursuit game so it took a few days (actually a week) to break it out, but tonight was the night. Question #1 - Which Australian Prime Minister....Question #2 - In Cricket....Question #3 - What river in Queensland.... Obviously the Genus edition was redone in Australia for a more Southern Hemisphere feel. Generally a game of TP takes the Rice's about an hour but this time there was no end in site, after 10 consecutive Ned Kelly questions we had just about given up, before we found a Geography question that read "What is the capital of Canada?" I imagine there's an Australian family that got stuck on that one.

By the way I'm, having a garage sale soon and the the first item up for sale is an Australian trivial Pursuit game, only used once...I'll start the bidding at 50 cents.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


People ask me all the time what I miss about home. This week I have no trouble answering, without hesitation it is my old home golf club, Vespra Hills. You see Vespra opens May 1 and of all the places I have played in my life, it is the one closest to my heart. I miss the lush fairways, quick greens and sheer peacefulness. I miss the driving range on a Sunday night, hitting balls with Mackenzie and convincing ourselves that we had finally unlocked the mysteries of the our golf swings (we hadn't). I miss the staff and the food in the clubhouse. I especially miss treating my family and friends to a night out in what seemed to be our own private restaurant. I miss laughing at Russ and with Cinder.

When I think of Vespra Hills a line from the movie Field of Dreams comes to mind, "When a place touches you like this one, the wind never blows so cool again".

I miss the fourth hole on the Sandhills nine, the one Mackenzie rightfully pegged as one of the seven wonders of the modern world. It was home to some pretty big numbers over the years, but you didn't mind staying longer because the view was always worth it.

I promise to make it back to play it again and I envision the same cast of characters hanging around the course, enjoying a game and stopping by to say hello to Mackenzie and I perhaps not realizing that we were ever gone at all.

Good memories of the place I taught my little girl the game I love.

Sunday, April 25, 2010


I used my phone this morning, but not to make a call, instead I thought I would take a moment to find out who the Minnesota Vikings selected in the NFL draft. It literally took me less than 30 seconds to discover the names and associated biographies of every one of the obscure college athletes that were selected by my team. By the way those 30 seconds seemed like an eternity, I couldn't believe how slow the information was to pop on my screen so I had to multi-task and pour my cornflakes at the same time...

The first bite of my breakfast while watching my son search for friends on Skype had me reminiscing about the old days. I remember an NFL draft from 1994, Shannon and I were living in a one bedroom cabin in Ontario and I desperately wanted to find out who was selected in the draft, but I had no way to access the information until 3 months later when a pre-season magazine was published. Those are the kinds of stories that my children just can't believe - in their generation information is immediate and it's only how you use it that matters.

In the words of a famous graduation speech by an eighth grade student from the USA, "the importance of memorizing the capital of Florida became irrelevant the day my cell phone knew the answer".

Still there are times when I wonder if my children know anything at all, so from time to time I pull the parental card like I did Friday night and buy the family a copy of one of the greatest books every written, "The Diary of a Young Girl" penned by Anne Frank (a Montessori student of course). It is on those occasions that my faith is more than restored as my son pauses from his DS to ask me four or five incredibly thoughtful questions about Anne Frank, WWII, Nazi Germany and Peace. He is quite articulate that man of ours and I'm sure that he will store away the conversation we had and it will come back out one day at exactly the right time to make a connection far more eloquently than I ever could.

Back to school tomorrow after a lovely 2 week break, can't wait to get back to the action. There are several things that Australian's do extremely well and school break is definitely one of them. So far the list for me also includes Anzac cookies, mangoes and their varied uses of avocado.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Is there any topic that cannot be made into a reality show. So you think you can floss..Laundry with the Stars...surely somewhere a tv producer is cyber stalking my blog saying hmmm maybe...

Reality TV is the ultimate disruptive innovation. Take a market, create a low cost, low quality product that is easily accessible and watch supply create the demand. As a business concept it is actually quite brilliant.

Then there are those of us that work in industries that can't take short cuts, we must make small incremental gains and take a careful approach to change. It's like that in schools, 2400 years after Aristotle there is still no royal route to Algebra and in the words of that famous educator Diana can't hurry love.

Speaking of love, it's back to my roots this weekend at the Highland Gathering in Bundanoon. Mackenzie is dancing and I'm feeling a caber toss coming on...let the games begin!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Caves

Easter coming up and we have a lot planned. We are heading up to the Jenolan Caves for a little spelunking. After, we are headed to Katoomba in the Blue Mountains and then back to Sydney. Somewhere in there is a golf game in Braidwood as well. It sure is nice to be able to experience so many different places.

Of course the more things change the more they stay the same; Hannah Montana is into some major hi jinx on the TV tonight and that's only the preamble for an hour of Survivor to follow. It's like we never left!

First term at the school has only a week left to go. Each school term is its own Marathon but this one seems like its been a sprint. Lots to see and do and so many new people to get to know.

Good times

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Quarterbacks and Teachers

I just finished reading a great article by Malcolm Gladwell. He draws a parallel between teachers and NFL Quarterbacks. I hadn't thought of it before but I think there is something to it. The Quarterback dilemma states that you can never tell if a college quarterback will ever make it in the NFL because you can never replicate the set of conditions that exist in the NFL, so you can never evaluate the candidate. There are a litany of examples that back up the theory.

Good teachers are worth their weight in gold as everyone knows, but how can you find them. I think the analogy to the quarterbacks is fair - you can never tell the characteristics that would make someone a great teacher as you can never recreate the circumstance of 25 children in front you and you with something to teach.

Maybe rather than selecting better candidates for teaching we need to simply try more people at it, find those that have "it" and train them.

Interesting...thanks Malcolm you always leave me thinking.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

This week I learned...

A Canteen cannot be called a Canteen in Australia due to legal requirements...

I have been asked to attend a PTT meeting hosted by ISTTA on behalf of the AISNSW...

My wife is joining HENSCAST and seems happy about it...

I can drive the green on the 14th hole at Gunghalin Lakes (sunk the 10 footer too)...

Canberrean Cab drivers blast the heat when the temp dips below 18C...

There are more lost shoes in Canberra than any other place in the world...

I can drink a beer on a flight from Canberra to Sydney (2 may be the record...)

I continue to bring rain to Sydney (my bad!)...

The Quantas Club is an excellent innovation...

Australian eggs have no taste (well at least not the cheap ones we buy)...

It`s all good

Monday, March 8, 2010

Jelly Legs

Museums. I think I like them. I have now been to a couple of them here in Canberra. First was Questacon and today was the National Museum of Australia. Both times as I was wandering around my legs gave out. I can ride my bike all around the Lake but the minute I set forth in a museum I can't walk 15 feet without searching for a bench.

My legs turn to pudding and I end up walking 30 miles behind my family begging for an elevator.

Good thing I moved to the city of museums.


Friday, March 5, 2010

Rainy Night in Sydney

Took the family to Sydney. They loved the harbour and the waterfront at Manly Beach. Who doesn't! Still, every time I go to Sydney it rains and I end up getting completely lost, generally looking for something to eat. No exception on Friday night, returning with my family - the road to Canberra was jammed (Sydney siders may insert a joke here)so I wandered into a suburb looking for dinner - nothing, seriously nothing was open. Friday night at 6 pm, malls closed, shops closed, restaurants closed - everyone is "out" there is no parking to be found yet every restaurant I try is a dead end. Finally my son spots Hungry Jacks and its game over that's where we must eat (Hungry Jacks is Burger King in Australia - heaven help us!). Today my internal organs are recovering from the "Angry Angus", I have a total body hangover.

I am in desperate need of a chain of family restaurants that I can punch into the GPS and I'll be in good shape. Coincidentally in Canada my go to restaurant of choice was the not in Australia - the folks here just wouldn't go for Alice Springs Chicken, they would understand the contradiction. The 4 hour ride back from Sydney in the rain was painful and its the first time I truly missed Canada - there is no drive that can't be made better by a Tim Horton's coffee and 24 chocolate chunk cookies.

Long weekend ahead, Canberra Day!


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

White Knuckle Ride

It's a 2 hour drive from Canberra to Bateman's Bay, but that doesn't really tell the story. The first hour is fairly ordinary but the second hour is a 2 handed thrill ride. Switch backs galore - we had to drug up my son or it would have been a messy scene. But the ride was worth it, the beaches are fantasitic. Broulee Beach (brew lee) was incredible. Of course we had to stop at McKenzie Beach as well for obvious reasons. On the way home it was time to eat at the 5 star fare offerred at the Hog's Breath Cafe, enough prime rib to choke a horse.

A Great weekend.


Sunday, February 14, 2010

Let the Games Begin

16 hours of Olympic coverage each day gives everyone more than enough time to release their inner Canadian.

It was a little strange watching the opening ceremonies from Canada while living in another country. I kept thinking what people in Australia would think about the opening ceremonies and the tributes to Canada, do we all live off a diet of Salmon, fly across the prairies like pixies and canoe down the Ottawa river while playing the fiddle, um - OK. I think what was most profoundly Canadian about the open ceremonies was how organized it was - every participant educated before hand about how to participate - yes in Canada we script our spontaneity. I also love that we hired a foreign company to produce the show that is truly Canadian. And of course when the cauldron didn't quite work in the grand finale I couldn't help but feel right at home.

Watching the Olympics from Vancouver and Whistler will be great, we are flying the Canadian flag proudly and we are posting medals in our window every time a Canadian reaches the podium. It should be a fun 2 weeks.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

I'm singing... the rain. Yes, its raining tonight in Canberra. This is monumental - as it hasn't done this sort of thing since I've been here, which is one day shorter than a month. With any luck this might just downgrade the fire safety measure from extreme to severe and wouldn't that be a blessing. Once you get past extreme the next step in catastrophic which means that if a fire were to break out - you're on your own.

Now yesterday there was no rain at all which is understandable as it was Australia Day. I spent the day at Commonwealth Park enjoying the typical patriotic displays whilst all the time searching for shade. Australian are experts at finding shade in fact I think that may be the defining element of Australian culture "the search for shade".

I also discovered yesterday that the fine beer drinking song "Waltz in Matilda" is not the National Anthem (go figure) - apparently it never was; just as well I have not clue what that song is about anyway, who exactly knows where Matilda has been or why the band is encouraging her to waltz anywhere - still after a significant volume of "grog" has been downed a rendition of that song leaves nary a dry eye in the house.

Alas the rain has stopped which officially means that this blog entry has gone too long. Off I go to the pub, I understand that young lady will be waltzing in shortly.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Little Miss Muffett

This morning I committed an act of violence against a semi-defenceless spider...better safe than sorry in Australia. It was first thing in the morning and I was a wee bit groggy from too much sleep. The night before I wanted to fill a 3 hour gap in my social calendar so I walked down to the local cinema and signed up to watch Avatar. Watching a movie in Australia is an expensive endeavor, you know there's a problem when you are greeted by a loans officer at the cash register... the other abnormality is that everyone that goes to the theatre is given some kind of strange ice cream concoction, everyone that is except me because I don't know what it is or how to order it - it doesn't seem to be on the board of fare it's just understood (by everyone but me).

The theatre had outstanding seats, it was such a classy joint that we had assigned seating!, which I found both civilized and a bit sad as it indicated that the management had no faith in us to sort it out on our own. Still as I approached cinema #4 I felt it was a good idea because obviously the place was going to be packed, it wasn't, I think that the entire audience was squeezed into two rows, hence I figured out that the assigned seating was a ploy to cut down on cleaning costs...diabolical.

For those of you who are fans of the science fiction genre, I apologize in advance, perhaps I was tuckered out from riding my bike back from work, but after about 40 minutes I found a cushiony spot in my seat and the urge to sleep took over. I think nap #1 lasted about 10 minutes, another hour into the epic and I was off again this time almost to the end. I am a notorious snorer so I hope I did not interfere with anyone Else's enjoyment of the show, though I have a sneaking suspicion that I wasn't the only one riding dream street. Oh yeah the movie, 6 out of 10 (the parts that I saw anyway). Cool 3D but the story was a bit lame IMHO. Go for Sherlock Holmes instead much better.

A couple of more weeks and the students will be back at school, yee haw, school's without children are a bit like science fiction movies with poor plots - relaxing for sure but that's not the real reason we come to the show.


Thursday, January 14, 2010

Darling Harbour

I can't imagine that there could be a more romantic sounding destination in the world than Darling Harbour in Sydney. Except that when Australians say the name it comes out as "dRlung aRbore" I suppose it looses something in the translation. This is where I'm stationed for the next few days, learning all about the Independent School world in NSW and the ACT, that is the AISNSW and AISACT, it is a fact that Australians love shortforms and acronyms.

What is also a fact is that the Independent School movement in Australia is huge. Between 15 - 20% of students are educated in Independent Schools, which must make it one of the leading countries in the world when it comes to private education. So far (early days) I am impressed with the progressive attitude towards education in Australia.

I'll be here through the weekend, also spending time catching up with the Montessori Australian Foundation (that's MAF don't you know). 5 nights in Sydney is great but I am missing Canberra - looking forward to spending a bit more time getting my life organized next week - there may even be permanent lodging in my future on Monday - hurray.

Well that's all from "Cockle Bay".

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


Yes, I can confirm that the constellation Orion is totally upside down in the southern hemisphere - head down, sword to zenith- quite a sight to behold.

I have arrived in the Capital of Australia, and is the case with most capitals, it becomes a dumping ground for every Australian complaint - storms (Canberra's fault), taxes (Canberra's fault), financial crisis (Canberra's fault), athlete's foot (you get the picture...). It's like the man I met on my first day who was trying to reach the airport and he asked me for directions. I explained I couldn't help him as this was my first day in Australia. His response "your first day in Australia and your spending it in Canberra - I think you need a psychologist mate!"

That may be the case but in my humble opinion this is a beautiful city. It is like a huge sprawling park, with city hidden amongst the flora and fauna. The sprawling part can be a bit of a hassle if you want to zip around but its a joy if you want to take in the countryside.

I am sitting at my office in Mulley Steet today trying to get organized, lots of fun. Next week I am off to Sydney for an independent school conference on compliance - it will nice to see the big city again.