Wednesday, September 25, 2013

No Dirty Birds Around Here!

Regular bathing is important for companion birds, both for the hygiene and for the obvious enjoyment they get out of it.

It can take a while to introduce a parrot to a human shower. It has to be done gently, slowly, with lots of patience, but we've managed to do that with our birds. Laka and George enjoy a nice shower.  I partially fill a bucket with water and they stand on the edge of that (they like the sound of the water dripping into the bucket - gets them in the mood). As long as the water is a steady, gentle trickle, they're happy.

I've been wanting to get a video of Laka playing in the shower, but our old shower stall so horrible I was ashamed for anybody to see it. In April we had the bathroom redone and got a new glass-enclosed shower, but Laka copped an attitude and has been refusing to cooperate ever since. Instead of splashing and having fun, she's been sitting on the edge of the bucket and scowling at me (ever seen a parrot pout?). But suddenly she changed her mind - and here we are....SPLISH SPLASH!
I'm hoping she's turned a corner, and will get back to enjoying her shower more regularly.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

What Happened In Chicago on Sept. 18

The folks from Tecoma who went to Chicago with the intent of delivering the "No Maccas" petition to McDonald's headquarters were finally successful.  They weren't invited in, but were met outside the office building by representatives of management.

The petition has been delivered!

Here's an interview with the leader of the delegation and an online report summarizing what happened.

(Update - there's a video of the meeting on Facebook. I haven't found it on YouTube or anywhere else yet, but expect it will show up there sooner or later.)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Tecoma Group in the News in the US

Apparently the protestors who headed to Chicago (with the goal of personally delivering the nearly 100,000 petition signatures to McDonald's home office) are there and making some news:

Here's a link to a Chicago area TV station's story

Will McDonald's execs meet with them tomorrow (Wednesday)?  I have my doubts, but boy, it sure would be great if they did.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

A Me$$age 4 Ma¢¢a's

The fight in Tecoma against the building of a McDonald's continues - and now it's gone international.

Yesterday, Chicago TV station NBC News posted a story on their website about the arrival of a group of protestors from Tecoma.  They are there to meet with execs of McDonald's in the company's home office, and deliver a petition signed by over 93,000 people in support of their cause. The report doesn't say if McDonald's is actually going to cooperate with this, just that the group is there and going to try. The meeting (according to the news story) is supposed to happen next Wednesday.

Will it happen? Wouldn't it be lovely if the execs actually met with them and listened, let the people who've gone to so much trouble present their case? 

Yeah - I know I'm dreaming.

I wonder if McDonald's has an inkling of the bad publicity all this is giving them. But they're such a huge company they can afford to ignore it, I guess.

That Macca's on Burwood Highway is going to be a gold mine - tourists coming up from the city won't resist the temptation to stop and grab a fast burger. It's an ideal location and, yeah, it's gonna make a mint. Macca's is going to continue and press on. They're interested in their "bottom line", and if the furor over this store in Tecoma doesn't affect profits, they'll just continue to brush it aside.

There's a Facebook "event" page set up suggesting that people boycott McDonald's - all McDonald's, not just the one in Tecoma. So far there's just over 3,000 Facebook members who've marked "going" and another 300 who've said "maybe". I'm not sure how effective a boycott is if it's ongoing - is it being noticed?

I've been wondering why the protest organizers haven't tried a one-day boycott.  No signs, no placards, no flash mobs (although I agree there's a time and place for all those things - they are effective) - but instead just declare a "no Macca's day" in Melbourne and surrounds. And only for one day.  If enough people join in, it would surely be noticed. Of course there would be people who'd ignore the boycott, but if I'm right about the bad feeling this fight has stirred up, it would be interesting to send a clear message in a language they certainly understand.

Would that stop them from building that store in Tecoma? Probably not. But I still like the idea.

  Me$$age 4 Ma¢¢a's Day  

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


Last Saturday we had a federal election in Australia. As a new citizen of this country, I'd voted before - several months back there was a mail-in local election. Mail-in votes were allowed for this election, too, for those who wanted to go that route. For the rest of us, it meant turning up at a polling place and casting our ballot in person.

It was a very different experience from voting back in Ohio.  Let me explain.

When I was in the US, I lived in Reynoldsburg, Ohio - a suburb of Columbus (capital of that state). Voting in the US is optional, unlike Australia where every citizen is required to vote. In Ohio you are assigned a specific place to go for voting and when you turn up there's generally a queue, sometimes quite long. Because voting isn't required, those setting up the polling areas don't really know how many people are going to show up - and because voting is done on a week day, there are log jams of people before and after normal office hours.  I can remember times when I stood in line for well over an hour waiting for my turn, and can remember hearing many horror stories about people standing in line for hours. Voting there is done via an automated voting machine - a large boxy shaped metal cabinet where you flip levers next to the names of candidates or to indicate "yes" or "no" on issues up for voting. The cabinet is enclosed by a thick curtain which closes around you before you vote, and which is yanked back when you pull the large lever to lock your vote into position.

Here?  Very different experience.

As hubby Stephen and I approached the grammar school (our local polling place) we were greeted at the gateway to the school by a swarm of members of various parties, handing out little advertising sheets for their candidates, showing exactly how to mark your ballots. I was surprised to see them so close to the entrance and in such numbers (esp. for a tiny little village like ours). In the US they'd never have been allowed so close to a polling venue.

Inside the school we stood in a short line for, maybe, 15 minutes. Then I was directed up to one of two people who were registering voters. They looked up my name in a huge book and put a little mark next to it, indicating that I'd showed up as required.  Then I was handed two paper ballots: one a small green paper with the names of candidates for the House of Representatives on it and the other a very long white sheet used to record my vote for the Senate.  No technology involved - just paper and pencils (on strings which were secured to little polling stations).

Now it gets complicated.

On the green sheet I was to put a number next to each candidate (even the ones I didn't want), indicating how I ranked them (1 for preferred, 2 for next-preferred and so on). If I failed to give each candidate a unique ranking, my ballot would be declared invalid. There were only a few names, so it wasn't hard.

The Senate ballot, however, oh my.  The Senate ballot had all the candidates (nearly 100!) grouped by party. There were two ways to use the ballot.  You could either vote for the party (which involves just putting a "1" next to the party name) or individually - which involved ranking each and every individual candidate from "1" to "97" (yes... you read that right: 97 candidates for the Senate).  Certainly much easier to vote for the party and not individuals. 

Voters were reminded over and over that if you were to accidentally mess up your ballot, the folks running the venue would be happy to give you a new one so you could start over.

No curtains, no "secret booth", just little cardboard cubbies side-by-side, so that you were elbow-to-elbow with your neighbors marking your ballot.

After marking the ballots, voters were directed to deposit them in large cardboard boxes near the exit of the room. As I made my way to those boxes I heard a familiar voice calling to me and saw "Chris" - one of our local school crossing guards grinning at me (he was standing in line waiting his turn to vote). I changed course and quickly went over to him to give him a hug, ballots still in my hands. Then I suddenly realized what I was doing and for a second worried that I might have broken some kind of rule - but nobody batted an eye. I turned and went on to deposit my ballots and headed out the door, waving goodbye to Chris.

I've been voting in US elections for nearly 40 years and always felt it an important act, something to be taken seriously. It always gives me a great feeling of responsibility and participation. Voting here in Australia was just like that - but I have to admit that with the low-tech approach and the atmosphere, well, it really touched me. It felt more "organic" somehow... ...well, that's not quite the word I want, but it was a sense of accessible democracy.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013


We don't normally see huntsman spiders in winter. They are hibernating, or hiding, or maybe they just holiday up in Queensland, awaiting the spring. I don't know. I only know it's rare to see one much before October. But there we were the other night. It was a chilly day (50F) and rainy. I'd been thinking about the huntsmen and thinking how they'd be coming out in weather like that. We had just finished dinner - about 7:30'ish - and it was dark, rainy outside. The light on the deck outside the kitchen/dining room window was on, illuminating the deck, plants, and deck railing.

And then I saw it...

 ...slowly lowering itself down on a single line of silk...

...a smallish huntsman, maybe 3 inches across at most. I pointed just in time for Stephen to see it as it dropped to the level of the sashing between the upper and lower part of the window. And here she is, Delena cancerides:
...or at least I THINK this is a Delena cancerides.  Here's a closeup of the same photo:
Delena won't become a huge sumo wrestler like "Wolfgang" - but she'll be a respectable size, all the same. Actually, I think she's kind of pretty, really, reddish body hanging on to the green window frame.

A sure sign of spring - but, again, a little early.