long Easter birthday weekend adventures part 2

Right, so this is part 2 of the four-day crazy long weekend extravaganza. Part 1 can be found here.

So Saturday was my actual birthday. Apparently it is a Emily’s-family tradition that birthday boys/girls gain quasi-dictatorial powers on their birthdays, so I was awakened with laughter and told we could do anything I wanted, with the obvious exception of things like work, or housework. Shortly after putting out some washing (a joint effort), Em’s parents dropped by bearing a gift: a surprise tiramisu. It had been three weeks in the planning, and had several deadly ingredients which would significantly shorten my lifespan, hence the name “Tiramisu of DEATH“. The only time I exercised my birthday privilege was to have a second helping of this stuff, which was nigh infinitely tasty — but my inability to digest it completely in a timely manner (“of DEEEAAATHHH“) was related directly to my inability to sleep later that night. Oh well, I was warned.

Birthday itself was a somewhat more urban adventure. Em decided to take me to see the National Carillon, on Lake Burley-Griffin in the middle of Canberra. We could have parked pretty close to it, but since it was an unexpectedly lovely day we decided to park near Commonwealth Park and walk around the lake to the carillon. (In fact the entire weekend was unexpectedly lovely. We had been expecting at least two of the days to be gray and rainy, but the worst we got was some partial cloud on Monday afternoon.)

On our way we encountered numerous birds: purple swamp hens (small duck-like birds with red beaks), darters (graceful water birds with long necks and spear-sharp beaks), and black swans. In fact the standard Australian swan is black, so the connotation “black swan” = “unexpected aberration” is lost Down Under. Don’t be fooled; these swans can be vicious! Apparently Em was nearly mauled by a swan when she was in high school, and ever since then they’ve taken on a sinister cast. It never told her what she did to deserve its enmity.

We thought the carillon itself was out of service, but as we approached the instrument it started clanging out “Waltzing Matilda”. Quite a treat! The plaque on the side, which won’t come out legibly in the photo at the resolution I can post easily here, reads:


The rest of our lake circuit took us through the sculpture gardens adjoining the National Gallery of Art, as well as the National Library’s cafe which I patronize irregularly. (I think they have the best coffee in Canberra.) We stopped for lunch at the National Library and then walked back across the lake and towards home.

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After all that walking we headed to Canberra Centre, in Civic, for a bit of a shopping trip. We picked up some tea (French Earl Grey and some decent Gyokuro) and lasagna ingredients for dinner. I had a look at some headphones to replace a pair I just broke, but decided they were too pricey; I’ll replace them when I head back to the States again later this year. Then we headed back.

Rest of the evening: Em showed me how to make a white sauce, upgraded to a cheese sauce for the lasagna. Constructed lasagna proper in a collaborative effort. Birthday present unveiled: she got me a set of panniers (saddlebags for a bike!), which I’ve been talking about getting for some time and never got round to it. Dominion was played; she won, and claimed she was incapable of letting me win even on my birthday (it’s okay, I wasn’t expecting her to). Another episode of The Wire was watched; McNulty was dumb and self-destructive again as usual. Terry Pratchett bedtime story read. Sleep transpired.


About Richard

I'm an American scientist who is building a new life in Australia. This space will contain words about science and math, but also philosophy, policy, literature, my travels, occasional rants, all sorts of things I find strange and awesome. The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect the opinions of my employer at the time (currently University of Sydney), though personally, I think they should.
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