Thursday, November 23, 2006

Quiet Friday

Blogged on Friday, and attended a farewell tea for three University of Queensland employees. Budget cutbacks hurt, and the St. Lucia campus appears to be gobbling up the satellite Gatton branch.

There have been any number of fires nearby for days, some controlled burns, but some uncontrolled as well. Today there was thick smoke up on Mt. Glorious.

I went bird watching again at UQ Gatton's Lake Lenore, and saw that familiar, yet unknown, species of spider again in the bird blind. It looks nasty - I won't touch it...

Saw several birds, including:
  • Dusky Moorhen;
  • Australian White Ibis; and,
  • Plumed Whistling Ducks.
In the evening, Andrew, Gary, and myself went to a Christmas dinner for Campus Staff. I wondered why the Christmas dinner was so early, and Gary said it was because the semester was now over, and if they wanted to do anything at all for Christmas, they had to do it now, or few people would be left on campus for a December dinner.

The meal selection was excellent: roast turkey and ham, sweet potatoes, and plenty of vegetables. It was appropriate that it was also Thanskgiving Day in America.

On the drive back from Theodore, on the radio, the station's Washington correspondent reported on the strange American tradition of the U.S. President pardoning Thanksgiving turkeys. 'Flyer' and 'Fryer' had been pardoned by President Bush and would live out their lives at Disney World, which struck the Australians as surreal.
Toying With The Serpent - Part II

On the drive back to Mt. Glorious, Andrew skidded to a halt: a carpet python lay stretched out on the pavement, soaking up the pavement's heat in the early evening. This was a dangerous place for a python, lying across a road, but how to make it move?

I've read that stretched-out snakes can't strike easily - they need to be coiled to get maximum strike. So, I took a six-inch long branch and lightly stroked it over the very tip of the python's tail.

Just because it's hard to strike doesn't mean they won't try. The snake's head lunged towards the tail, simultaneously bringing the tail in, and coiling, making an impressive display of anger and power. The first effort was for show, but now coiled, the python would subsequently be much more accurate and pack more punch. They aren't poisonous, but that doesn't mean they can't hurt you.

Since the snake was now safer, coiled up in the middle of the road, we decided to leave. Presumably, the aroused snake left soon after we did.
How Do You Wash A Car In Dalby?

I wanted to wash Andrew's car before I returned it, but I was driving through the the First World's tightest water restriction area anywhere - really stringent!

The only car wash in Dalby is at a BP station. You get two options:
  • hand wash, with buckets and rags; or,
  • automatic wash.

I chose automatic wash, and I marvelled at just how little water the process used. The water is said to be 85%-recycled. We need these car washes everywhere!

So Chumpy You Can Carve It!

Left: Isla Gorge National Park

At 5 a.m., the Moura dump workers showed up. I quickly drove past them, rolling down my window and waving a cheery hello as they scowled back, one worker sarcastically saying "All right, then!"

Haunted by the raptor, I drove into town but found an intense traffic jam at the Mobil gas station. Male workers in some sort of uniform - vinyl jackets with an orange top half and a blue bottom half, with two horizontal white or yellow stripes, and blue pants - were frantically jamming the station. I waited till nearly 6 a.m. before I could wedge my way in. Turns out, the workers were trying to make the morning shift at the nearby, large Dawson Coal Mine.

As I waited, I listened to country music on the radio. I had always been puzzled by reports that country music was very popular in Australia - C/W singer Keith Urban, for example, is an Aussie, if I'm not mistaken - but it wasn't till I got here that I understood why. Urban Australia is a wafer-thin veneer on the eastern and southeastern coasts of the nation. Everything inland is very like the western United States, in many ways. I some ways, Aussie country is more country than U.S. country is. I listened to one woman singer sing the graces of having grown up country, in the Burnett River area. That area is just a few miles west of Bundaberg, on the Capricornia coast. Imagine, if you will, San Francisco being just the way it is, but Oakland being just like Muskogee.

Driving south on the Leichhardt Highway, I passed Theodore, and I was happy to see the Dawson River had more water in it than it did upstream. I stopped briefly at an overlook at Isla Gorge National Park and I ate breakfast at a sandwich shop in Taroom. I stopped at an Internet cafe in Wanoan, but it was closed, despite posted hours: the huge cricket match between England and Australia was underway. The contest to see who possess the 'urn of ashes' was taking everyone's attention.

I stopped at a supermarket. The first supermarkets in the U.S. were just glorified stores like the Curtis Park market in Sacramento: same here. The three aisles of the Wanoan supermarket were jammed with familiar and unfamiliar merchandise.

I saw a can of dog food - the large can signalling the discount variety. The label was blue and featured a terrier, the same kind as President Bush's dog, Barney. The label proclaimed "CHUM - with Chicken." Chum's motto was:
So Chumpy, You Can Carve It!
That's got to be the best advertising slogan ever!

Left: Historic Australian vehicles on display at the Wanoan Historical Site

I visited the Wanoan Historical site, where the original sheep station had been, and finally joined the Warrego Highway again at Miles. Miles, which had seemed like a shockingly-small town on the way out, now seemed like a vital hub of commerce and civilization.

Then east, towards Dalby, Toowoomba, and Gatton!
The Road To Moura

After Carnarvon, I felt a kind of gnawing anxiety, a kind of terror at being so far from people, so far from help should I need it. Instead of heading back south the way I had come, I headed north, through the nighttime, towards the closest town of Rolleston.

At Rolleston, however, the whole town had gone to sleep. Troubled by my emptying gas tank, and still anxious, I drove east on the supposedly major highway, the Dawson Highway, which was really a very bumpy two-lane road, which sometimes was a lane-and-a-half wide, with no central dotted line. Nobody, but nobody, was on the road tonight - I was in the middle of oblivion! Every so often, however, a vehicle passed - an enormous road train or two, but that's it.

Arriving at Bauhinia, I was downcast: everyone had gone to sleep there too. I hated the idea of just stopping without an assurance of nearby petrol, and even though it was late, I decided to continue pressing east, towards Moura.

Within thirty minutes, three events:
  • A large raptor was startled by my vehicle's approach and tried to outfly it. It lost. I smacked into the bird with the windshield and it tumbled over the top of the vehicle;
  • I ran over a rabbit; and,
  • My tires left the pavement as I reached to change the radio station. I had to wrestle for control, and nearly joined the other animals as a victim of Australia's roads.
I can justify the rabbit by saying that, even though I love rabbits, they are not native to Australia, are pests here, and probably should be eliminated. Thus, I was doing a public service. But not a beautiful raptor! Compounding my guilt was that I didn't stop to see if I could help. Maybe the bird died outright, but maybe it was merely injured. I didn't know where to take it, but I could have at least tried. In the brief two seconds I saw it, I thought it was an owl, but my wildlife books don't show an owl that white - it may have been a Black-Shouldered Kite instead.

Paraphrasing that old, cynical saying from Vietnam days:
Become an international tourist! Travel to distant Australia, met the rare and unique wild animals there, and kill them.
Finally, about 11:30 p.m., I arrived at Moura. That town was shut down too, but at least I could see they had a gas station. Poking around residential side streets, I discovered the refuse tip, so (appropriately enough), around midnight, I fell asleep in the driver's seat of the car, without dinner, in the Moura town dump, not far from the pile of glass recyclables. I was awakened only once, by a curious cat.
Checking Out The Night Sky

At home, I have a star chart with the southern constellations, but I forgot it at home. The names are odd, as if a navigator under Captain James Cook was given half an hour to come up with names and he just looked around his cabin: easel, ship's keel, telescope, swordfish, and the like.

At Roma, I first tried to scan the night sky. Orion dominated the northern sky. The star Sirius, the brightest star in the sky, always seemed so washed-out in the northern sky because it is so close to the light-filled southern horizon. Here, Sirius rules! There were two amazingly-large smudges in the sky too! Nebulae of some sort, maybe the galactic center, or the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds. Interrupting my reverie, two horses approached, no doubt looking for an apple or two.

After Carnarvon, I stopped to look again, and, for the first time ever, clearly saw the Zodiacal Light, the light scattered by interplanetary dust in the plane of the ecliptic of the Solar System. The Zodiacal Light is present every night, but it's very hard to see back home due to the light generated by cities. Here, that city light was mostly absent, so you can clearly, clearly see it!

A Cavalcade Of Kangaroos

(Left): A Carnarvon Gorge kangaroo gets bolder as the day grows long.

The Carnarvon kangaroos were very skittish earlier in the afternoon, far upstream of the Visitor's center, but as I descended the Gorge, and the afternoon got longer, they seemed to get more numerous and more relaxed, until at the bottom, they were almost tame.

Left: This roo looks more like a wallaby than a kangaroo.

Yummy grass is to be found on the lawn at the Carnarvon Gorge National Park Visitors' Center.

Left: I tried, but failed, to pet this kangaroo.

Tamer kangaroos are to be found at the Australia Zoo.

Australia Zoo baby.

Left: Girraween National Park kangaroos. The big one was fretful and suspicious of my intentions.

Left: At Lake Wivenhoe, near Fernvale, Thursday evening, Andrew and I saw a wonderful sight: a mother kangaroo, with a joey poking up out of her pouch (left). The mother kangaroo was trapped between us and a fence, or so we thought, until she decided to leave. From a dead stop, she simply jumped OVER the fence, baby and all, with plenty of room to spare, and bounded away into the forest to join the other kangaroo!
Carnarvon Gorge, And The Hunt For The Wild Platypus

Left: Aboriginal cave paintings at Baloon Cave. Interesting place!

Left: Peeling Spotted Gum Tree.

The forest here is very noisy compared to the western U.S. With the wind blowing and the spotted gums peeling and the cabbage palms scratching and the lizards scampering and the parrots squawking and the kookaburras laughing, it's an amazing racket.

Very few people were in this park, midweek - 20 or so. Amazing, considering how crowded parks like Grand Canyon get in the U.S.!

There is an unconformity between permeable sandstone above and impermeable shale below in the Carnarvon Mountains. The result are many springs in the Canyon, generating that rarest and most valuable of all Australian commodities: permanent, fresh-flowing water. In Carnarvon Creek, untroubled for millions of years by growing continental-wide drought, lived that strangest of all of the world's animals, the platypus, with the famous designed-by-committee look. But it was a shy, secretive animal. Would I get to see one?

I walked west, up the canyon. The canyon wasn't that remarkable by western U.S. standards - bigger than Sycamore Canyon west of Nogales, Arizona, for example, but smaller than Sabino Canyon near Tucson. In general, Australia's mountains are much older than America's, and thus more-eroded and lower in elevation. Still, it wasn't the relief of the terrain that was of most interest - it was the unique wildlife, isolated here in the arid fastness of the world's driest continent.

I walked to the Moss Garden and the Aboriginal Art Gallery.

Left: Moss Garden - permanent water at the sandstone/shale unconformity!

Left: Art Gallery. The daily concerns of Aboriginal life are all evident here: paired hunting boomerangs, painted three-toed emu and longer kangaroo footprints, ovals representing water-carrying bark baskets, hand prints and carved vulvas.

I saw:
  • Kangaroos:
  • a water snake of some sort; and, most importantly,
  • an echidna, or spiny ant-eater.

Left: An echidna, or spiny anteater, one of the few animals in the world in the monotreme class, and one of Australia's strangest and most exotic of animals.

The ant-eater was very cute. When I stepped next to it, it would hide its head under a branch and freeze for a few seconds, like any sensible ant-eater should, but then resume snuffling for ants.

Since I didn't spend much time looking for the platypus, I never saw one. I didn't know exactly where they lived and so didn't want to cut into valuable hiking time looking fruitlessly in pools. Rumor had it one lived in the 'Rock Pool' near the Visitor's Center, but I got lost before I could look (damned Northern Hemisphere navigational instincts again!) in the Visitor's Center parking lot as the daylight swiftly vanished, and I almost failed to find the car before nightfall.

I kind of wanted to stay, but knew I'd have trouble getting back to Gatton by Thursday evening if I didn't leave, and besides, I had no authority to camp here, so I crawled out the same way I had come, on the bumpy dirt road.
The Road North

Wednesday morning, I looked for breakfast at the restaurant, but it was closed. I asked the desk clerk where 'brekky' was, and she gave me a wan smile of the sort usually reserved for the slow, and said, "brekky is in the hatch!" I asked, "where is the hatch?" (hutch?) She said next to the door of my room. Oh! They deliver breakfast here! How nice!

I drove from Roma north towards Injune, sharing the bumpy, narrow road with the enormous semi-trucks they call road trains. A passing vehicle from the other way came close to forcing me off the road - they shouldn't pass on curves!

The land was dominated by a very arid-looking deciduous forest, obviously suffering through drought. After the last, destructive El Nino in 2002, there were no good years of rainfall at all, and now there is a new El Nino this year. Even though the rainy season is supposed to be starting now, the climatologists are saying it may be delayed, or maybe never occur at all this year, so people are very concerned whether the vegetation here can possibly hang on much longer.

Analogous to the western U.S., stockmen have cleared forest to promote grass growth. In other places, the forest looked like it was dying. In yet other places, both processes seemed to be occurring.

Just south of Injune, the ground began to look a touch greener, as if some rain had fallen here not that long ago, or maybe the elevation was slightly higher here. A sign announced the central highlands of Queensland, and a new plant appeared: the low-lying cabbage palm.

I stopped to look at the Dawson River, which the road crossed several times. The river was a series of isolated, discontinuous pools - bad, considering the Dawson is a major Queensland river:
And the story you told,
about a river that flowed,
made me sad to think it was dead.
Soon, some better-tended grazing fields appeared - a surprise, actually, considering the terrain - and then there appeared the road west to Carnarvon Gorge National Park.

The road was nice at first, but then turned to dirt. Cattle wandered all over the road. Since I went slowly, so as not to damage Andrew's vehicle, it seemed nearly-forever before I reached the Aboriginal Cultural Trail parking lot, the first sight at Carnarvon Gorge.
Boonarga Cactoblastis Memorial Hall

This place, 12 km ESE of Chinchilla, is the only building in Queensland that honors an insect.

In the 19th century, roughly 1843, a prickly-pear cactus (Opuntia stricta) was introduced here from South America. By the 1920's, dense thickets of inpenetrable cactus covered an area larger than the UK, destroying countless farms and becoming a major national crisis.

Alan Dodd travelled to both Americas, looking for a pest that would target just this cactus. He brought back the cochineal moth (cactoblastis catorium), whose larvae were released in 1926 by Queensland farmers from several locations.

The program was the most-successful pest-control program in world history. Begun in 1925, it was out-of-business by 1936, an absolute smashing success. Dodd became something of a national hero for his efforts to save Queensland agriculture.

Other pests remain, of course. Slowly spreading in the area even today, the three-pear prickly pear cactus......
Across The Darling Downs - Anti-Matter Arizona

I've been curious about the Darling Downs since I was a kid, having seen this curious blank spot midway down the east coast of Australia in the Reader's Digest Atlas of the World. Presumably it was an agricultural area, but what kind - sheepranching? cotton? millet?

Went to bed late, but got up early on Tuesday, and rode into Gatton with Andrew. After discussing a trip to Carnarvon Gorge National Park with Murray and Andrew, it seemed better to take three days instead of two - the distances were considerable. I borrowed the car, then off I went west, towards Toowoomba.

I stopped at Helidon and talked to a friendly gas station clerk. He had seen a television show about the construction of the transcontinental railroad through the Sierra Nevada in the 1860's, and we talked about that challenege - snow sheds, coolie labor, bankrupt railroads, and other fun stuff.

I drove up the steep escarpment of the Great Dividing Range, to Toowoomba, and I stopped to take pictures and fill out post cards. I ate lunch at the super Rooster and talked to a music teacher named Barbara Broom who plans to visit California in 2008.

Headed WNW on the Warrego Highway. The famous Jondaryan Woolshed was closed Tuesdays, so I went to the cemetery instead.

Vast cotton and wheat fields stretched from horizon to horizon, looking fallow, but maybe just in-between crops. On the distant low hills, battered-looking eucalyptus forests. Dalby, Chinchilla, Miles were the principal towns.

It looked a lot like open meadows in Northern Arizona, but the heat felt like Southern Arizona. In Toowoomba, the red brick and palm trees made me feel like I was in some kind of alternate-universe, mirror-image version of Tucson, Arizona. Interior Queensland was like an Anti-Matter Arizona. If the two regions were to actually meet, there'd be a huge explosion and they'd both annihilate each other.

Looking at the map, it looked as if population density slowly dwindled the farther you went west. I was unprepared for the reality: population density radically crashed west of McAlister, not far west of Chinchilla. Sedentary agriculture largely ended and ranching, mostly cattle, took over. The forest was back again here out west - a very arid-looking eucalyptus kind of forest, with some pines, but it looked as if stockmen had tinkered with it over the years, killing off trees in some areas, and parking cattle in others.

The maps did not readily express the sharp change. Given that the population of Toowoomba is about 100,000, and looking at the map, you'd guess the populations of the big towns were like this:
  • Toowoomba - 100,000
  • Dalby - 50,000
  • Chinchilla - 30,000
  • Miles - 10,000
  • Roma - 50,000
The reality was more like:
  • Toowoomba - 100,000
  • Dalby - 30,000
  • Chinchilla - 10,000
  • Miles - 2,000
  • Roma - 5,000
In addition, road quality deteriorated, so even this major, major highway was a just another bumpy, narrow two-lane kind of road. Speed limits are somewhat low (100 or 110 km/hr, which works out to about 62 and 68 mph) and rather well-enforced, so it always takes longer to get somewhere than you'd think necessary. Even if you'd want to speed, road quality discourages you from doing so. Plus, I was misjudging distances from the map - everyone uses kilometers, and the Australian road maps are larger-scale than their American counterparts - so, I kept getting surprised. And my directional instincts were crap anyway, with the sun in the northern sky, and with few landmarks.

Near Tchanning, I saw *something big* hopping across the road - my first kangaroo! - but also potential roadkill. Approaching Yuleba at sunset, I stopped to investigate a roadside field where I saw some strange animals - probably kangaroos - but the animals stole off in the gloaming.

Nearly out of petrol, I stopped at 7:30 p.m. in Roma, getting a room at the Quality Inn, a higher-end motel chain - still far from Carnarvon! Oddly, they asked me to fill out a breakfast menu and make a breakfast reservation. I was still wearing a DMTC T-shirt, but I changed into a different T-shirt, thinking that an obvious reference to musical theater might be a bad move in macho interior Queensland. Roma, 'The Gateway to the Outback' looked very empty - emptier than a town in Wyoming, for example. I ate a lamb dinner at their restaurant, also after they made a reservation for me (still traces of the old formalities here).

Roma looks big on a map, but in reality it's a little, vulnerable town on Bungil Creek, lost in the vastness wilderness of Interior Queensland. I'm not even close to the REAL Outback, either, where there are almost no people at all. Population density here is like the western U.S. around 1920 - not that many people! Picture interior Nevada, with fewer of the crowds.
"You Could Do Some Damage! You Sound Like A Wild Animal!" - Second Kylie Concert, November 20th

Took the Ferny Grove train to Bowen Hills. On board, a tall blond teenage girl with a school jacket and a very long skirt instructed another girl on the fine art of of rolling rubber balls (slightly larger than billiard balls) from the forearm, over the fingertips, to the back arm, and back again. They sat together and waved their arms in synchrony, with surflike rhythm. When they dropped the balls due to the train's motion, they fished the balls out from under the seats with a large, Q-Tip-like baton that seemed more suitable for martial arts. The baton apparently had a collapsible rod, so it could be changed in length. They also twirled a second baton. Cheerleading skills of some sort!

At Bowen Hills, someone on the train platform was smoking pot, and I saw a conductor wrinkle his nose in disgust. Despite clear warnings of a $150 fine, a teenage boy jumped down upon the tracks and ran across to the other platform, rather than using the elevated stairways across. Fortunately, there is no third rail: the lines are all above.

The Shorncliffe train took long to come, so we last several hundred Kylie stragglers barely made it to BEC in time. I quickly took my seat.

This time, I was seated directly in front of the stage, but towards the back of the arena. The seats were fine - the sound and the lights were directed along the axis of the arena, so the concert seemed louder and brighter than Saturday's had felt.

Excellent show - I thought better than the first.

Kylie, as with Madonna, is experimenting with Arab themes - Madonna with her Yemenite influence, and Kylie with a Whirling Dervish motif. Madonna's is superior - nothing beats Yemenite music! Still, Madonna was also too repetitive. Kylie, in contrast, mixed scat singing with her song, in an excellent interpretation, better than Madonna's. So, Madonna has the better theme, but Kylie the better execution.

Various songs were excellent: 'Shocked,' for example, and the crowd went nuts over the classic, original Kylie hits: 'I Should Be So Lucky,' 'Put Your Hand On Your Heart,' etc.

At intermission, I talked to two teenage boys, one of whom was a longtime Kylie fan. They wondered whether I was one of these folks who follow their favorite pop star all around the world. I said no, and explained how Kylie doesn't perform in the U.S. (Andrew says the correct answer was 'yes, but I am just starting'). I raved about Australian wildlife and one boy said 'yes, but we are used to it.' I said that was human nature - they'd have a similar reaction if they went to the States. I also talked to the woman next to me, and a mom with daughter and friends in front (all wearing specially-made 'Team Kylie' T-Shirts).

unlike Madonna, Kylie places a section of her concert where she schmoozes with the audience. Her statements were mostly mundane this concert: she asked the audience to applaud two girls in particular (why is unclear - perhaps they had endeared themselves to her, or had serious life challenges of some sort). She welcomed (*) Martin from 'Coldplay,' and sang 'Happy Birthday' to her uncle Michael. Someone apparently barked at her from stageside so she said, "You Could Do Some Damage! You Sound Like A Wild Animal!"

After the show, I walked around behind BEC to waylay the star, but the guards there said she had left immediately after leaving the stage. The guards struck me as insincere, but perhaps they were right - after all, if you don't leave immediately, you have to deal with the traffic jam. I talked to a woman wearing a pink halo - I said it said something about herself.

On the train back to Bowen Hills, I talked to a very nice couple about the concert. She was wearing pink hair laced with stars just for the occasion. We both agreed that 'I Can't Get You Out Of My Head' was the strongest song of the evening.

After Ferny Grove, I filled up Andrew's vehicle with gas and drove back to Mt. Glorious, getting back at 1 a.m., earlier than I had on Saturday (1:40 a.m.).

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Sunday, And Monday Afternoon

Relatively quiet days. On Sunday:
  • Breakfast;
  • read the weekend paper;
  • midday tea;
  • watched from the back deck as the kookaberra family and the currawong family squabbled over territory;
  • watched parrots;
  • hiked over to Greene's Falls;
  • went wine tasting;
  • ate Indian food in the evening.
On Monday, I went in to work to Gatton with Andrew, and blogged. At lunch, we drove into town and got some fish and chips, and picnicked at Apex Lake, while also feeding opportunistic water birds there. Returned to campus for more blogging. Late afternoon, I want to look for some of the scaly-breasted lorikeets - these parrots are SO cute! It's a pet store outside! But now, windy as well.

At U of Q Gatton Lake Lenore, saw:
  • Magpie Goose;
  • Purple Swamphen;
  • and probably a Pacific Black Duck.
Eventful Ride Home

After the Kylie concert, I left late and lost my way to the train station. I caught the train to Bowen Hills quite late.

At the train station, I encountered a Happy, Drunk Lady. She was about 55, and completely schnockered. She asked three girls on the opposite platform if they had cigarette machine there. Misunderstanding, she said 'what, a titty machine? Where?' She wandered off to scrounge a cigarette, and returned. I was bending over to get a Diet Coke from a vending machine, and she made as if to spank me. When I opened the soda, she grabbed it as her own (so I had to get another). Very, very funny, and very entertaining! Fortunately, she had understanding friends to guide her home.

At Bowen Hills, I caught the train back to Ferny Grove. On the train, a fellow in a yellow-and-green rugby jacket, and his girl friend, both dozed. I wondered who had won the big rugby game that evening. I moved closer, hoping to ask, if circumstances allowed.

At Enogerra station, an emergency radio message was clearly audible. There had been an accident at Ferny Grove, and we were supposed to get off instead at Keperra station, where buses would take us to Ferny Grove. The rugby fellow and his girl friend both awoke.

I approached and asked "did Great Britain or Brisbane win today's game?" The girl friend corrected: "Australia defeated Great Britain" (I later learned the score was 33 - 10). The fellow, somewhat sarcastically, asked "do you know where you are?" I cheerily answered "Barely!" He asked, concealing disappointment, "you're an American, aren't you?" I answered yes. Girl friend said, "oh, we've seen many international folks today - Germans, Czechs, etc." I continued, "you see, when I flew into Brisbane on Wednesday, I flew in with the Great Britain rugby team." Rugby guy answered, "then you must have felt right at home." I said, "no, rather...."

He interrupted: "Listen! I hate Poms (*) and I hate Yanks, the two most loser nations in the world!" Girl friend said "hush, don't be rude." At that point I broke off the conversation He then began muttering all kinds of venomous anti-American things to the girl friend, amongst which I heard the name George Bush mentioned.

At Keperra station, as we exited to the buses, I asked the conductor what had happened. He said, "I don't know, mate. I do know it was a fatality. It happens, sometimes." "A fatality!" I gasped.

At Ferny Grove, as we exitted, a City Train employee asked the Rugby Dude how he was. Rugby Dude said "I've been better." I asked the employee what had happened. He shook his head and said "lady threw herself in front of a train."

Then I drove back to Mt. Glorious to get some needed sleep.

(*) I asked Andrew where the nickname Pom (adjective Pommie) came from for the British. He suggested, ironically considering rude, insular Aussies, that the nickname comes from the French, for pom d'terres - roughly, potato-eaters.
"Bris-Vegas, You Didn't Let Me Down!" - First Kylie Concert, November 18, 2006

I entered the chaotic crowd and bought a hot dog and a soda for $7.50 AU. I sat down next to two teenage girls, Emma and Steph, who were Kylie enthusiasts. I asked if BEC was the biggest rock venue in Brisbane, and they said no, Suncorp Stadium was bigger. Then they asked if I was new in Brisbane. When I explained I was from California, they were very impressed!

Kylie's eyelids were heavily-weighted with makeup, making her look sleepy.

The first act of Kylie's show seemed slow, cautious: the second act was much better, and the dancers were much more daring. In Sydney, Kylie had appeared with U2's Bono, but he didn't appear here. I was given to understand (maybe incorrectly) that the dancers in Kylie's new song 'White Diamond' were the Scissor Sisters (I suspect is that the Scissor Sisters collaborated on the new song, but weren't actually present). Kylie covered one full verse of Madonna's 'Vogue', confirming pre-concert rumors.

I instantly recognized Kylie's trick dancer, the fellow who did 'Confide To Me' on the 2002 Manchester concert video. He did all kinds of flips! Musicians Andrew Smalls and Steve Tyler were evident as well.

Kylie covers Madonna's "Vogue."

At intermission, I got in trouble with the authorities. I had brought Steve and Jan's gift, the digital voice recorder, in order to tape the concert, so I could remember the song order. A harsh voice behind me said "that looks like a digital voice recorder," a clear copyright infringement, apparently. I lamely explained that I had lost the instructions and had forgotten how to make it work. The fellow called his boss and they skeptically listened to the recorder to verify that I had told the truth, and returned it with an order to put it away. I asked if photography was a copyright infringement, and the fellow said no, "within reason."

Kylie had three - four? - encores to satisfy the roaring applause. Kylie did a favorite thing, pointing out people in the audience for special mention for their campy wear, particularly highlighting one girl who, for the evening, wore the white hoodlike wrap that Kylie wore in the 2002 video 'Can't Get You Out Of My Head.' Kylie said "Bris-Vegas, You Didn't Let Me Down!" (people here call the city Bris-Vegas when it gets very hot, but Kylie meant the city was hot, in a second, sexy sense - nothing works like flattery, as they say!) Kylie also thanked the audience for their patience and sang 'Especially For You,' in commemoration.

Afterwards, I bought a bag, two programs, and two T-Shirts for a shocking cost of $135 AU. Then I bought an ice cream cone for $4.50 AU, but the girl got distracted, thinking I had given her $20 when I had given her $5, and gave me back $15. Normally, I would have called her attention to it, but feeling a bit stripped already, I pocketed the change.
Mt. Nebo, and South Bank Of The Brisbane River

Left: Geodesic dome at Mt. Coot-tha Botanical Gardens, Brisbane.

On Saturday, we took the mountain crest road south, through Mt. Nebo, where Bellbirds were making a huge dinging racket. We stopped at Jolly's Lookout and saw kookaburras and scenic vistas, then continued south. Something about the Shiraz the night before, and the winding mountain roads mixed, and soon I urgently asked Andrew to stop at the side of the road, for a personal upchuck moment. Wobbly, but nevertheless feeling better, we continued on to Camp Mountain, Brisbane Forest Park HQ, and Mount Coot-tha Botanical Gardens.

Left: The City, Brisbane, as seen from Mt. Coot-tha

Afterwards, we went to the South Bank of the Brisbane River, and ate fish and chips at one of the touristy cafes there. We walked around, looked at the new public beach area there, shopped at the various concessions stalls, and explored the river's edge.

Afterwards, we drove above the riverside cliffs, to Kangaroo Point, and tried to enter the fairly new (2003) Mormon Church there. A man dressed in immaculate white waved us off, so we briefly entered a public meeting hall before returning to Mt. Glorious.

In the evening, I drove Andrew's vehicle to the nearest train station to Mt. Glorious, at Ferny Grove, and caught the train into the city. Then, at Bowen Hills, I caught the Shorncliffe train to Boondall, the closest station to the Brisbane Entertainment Centre (BEC), in the suburbs near the airport, where Kylie Minogue would perform that night.

Everyone in the crowded train car was in festive mood. One set of teenagers asked another to take their photo - "we're from the country," they explained. At one point, one of the teenagers asked everyone to hold up their hands if they were going to the Kylie concert. Even though it was clear from the nightclub style of dress everyone sported that 80 - 90% were concertgoers, only three held up their hands, which just made everyone laugh. Then, at Boondall, hundreds exited from the train, joining thousands more at BEC.

BEC appeared to be about the size of ARCO Arena in Sacramento, and the place was jammed.