Weather down under

Typical street greenery in the Redfern area.

Typical street greenery in the Redfern area.

These photos represent a spectrum of the open, green, urban spaces I found in Australia during our first week or so of the recent trip Down Under by UW-Stevens Point’s COMM 373 (Communicating Social Change) class.

I was fortunate to be able to chronicle the trip through my Portage County Gazette column. The first of four weekly posts from Sydney and the surrounding environs is linked here.

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Airfare tips for Australia winterim, part III: When to purchase

It only takes a bit of searching around  the web to realize how complex purchasing an airline ticket can become.  A final aspect I’ll deal with, at least for the time being, is when to purchase tickets.

If we really wanted to save on airfare, we'd have to schedule our Australia class in September.

If we really wanted to save on airfare, we’d have to schedule our Australia class in September. ( on Chicago-Sydney flights)

In a nutshell, check for flight deals on Tuesdays (because airlines post sales on Mondays) and plan on buying soon to be safe.  But keep in mind that prices could go down, according to some reports, and always remember that you’re dealing with a business with lots of data but which is still difficult to predict.

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Airfare tips for Australia winterim (part 2)

You can spend all day looking up flight info on the Internet ... good luck!

You can spend all day looking up flight info on the Internet … good luck!

Now that we’ve covered some of the basics for the COMM 373 winterim course, here’s some other information you might find useful.

While I mentioned in Thursday’s post that I thought it unlikely you’d be able to find a cheaper deal than the $2,600 or so my flight is costing, I did find at least one cheaper deal today (Aug. 7) for essentially the same flight.  Read on …

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A musical interlude, brought to you by the didgeridoo

Outback's second and final album.  Used copies can still be found on and likely elsewhere.

Outback’s second and final album. MP3 versions and used CDs can still be found on and likely elsewhere.

Maybe the fact that I’m headed to Australia in another six months made me more open to the musical wonders of the didgeridoo, but I’ve definitely become a fan after hearing Outback’s “An Dro Nevez” on the internet station Radio Paradise in April.

I immediately bought what turned out to be the only two albums Outback ever produced, and they were a bargain — both were used CDs purchased on, and they cost more in shipping (about $3 each) than I paid for the discs themselves. I’ve been wearing them out since, as I find them both interesting enough to listen to but relaxing and unobtrusive enough to be good working music (at least one friend has called Outback repetitive, which I get, but I think it’s great stuff).

Baka, Outback’s first album, was No. 1 on Billboard’s world music chart. Despite its clear Australian ties and influences, Outback can’t really be called “Australian,” although the didgeridoo itself (also spelled “didjeridu”) is an invention of Australia’s Aborigines.

Outback was formed in 1988 by Graham Wiggins and Martin Craddick.  As is often the case, the history of these musicians and their various bands is quite varied and interesting, but perhaps moreso because Wiggins started inventing his own forms of the didgeridoo while a graduate student in physics — a field in which he earned a doctoral degree from Oxford.

After Outback broke up in 1992, Wiggins begain performing as Dr. Didg.  He’s almost certainly the only guy to ever play with the Grateful Dead (you can hear the session at the linked site) and reach an equal pinnacle of success in scientific fields — radio-frequency engineering and magnetic imaging. He’s currently a senior researcher for the Center for Advanced Imaging Innovation and Research in New York City.

Outback's first album was a world-music hit.

Outback’s first album was a world-music hit.

Some of his work can still be found on Soundcloud, including Serotonality (a piece that gives some indication of why he probably was invited to play with the Dead). His web site, Wikipedia bio and Facebook page seem to indicate he no longer plays professionally.

I’ll write more later on the didgeridoo and, I hope, Dr. Didg, as I’ve been learning a bit more about the instrument and expect it and other aspects of Australian music will be a big part of my Winterim 2015-16 COMM 373 course.

For now, I’ll leave readers with another YouTube version of the same song linked at the beginning of this post.  Half the fun of music is listening to — or watching — different presentations of the same stuff, so here’s another video featuring the same musical version of “An Dro Nevez” and some nice footage of a couple of guys riding through the Australian outback with Ural motorcycles and sidecars. (Never heard of Urals?  Me neither).


Hey, Aussies … stop making fun of us. We’re tougher than you think.

Just one of these has caused panic on the East Coast, but they're common in Australia.

Just one of these has caused panic on the East Coast, but they’re common in Australia. (Screen capture from Fairfax Media video)

Australia is home to more deadly creatures than any other continent, and the typical Aussie response is to pooh-pooh their dangers. But that doesn’t mean folks in Oz should hit us below the belt when something comes along that we’re not used to.

This amusing report pokes fun at New Jersey’s response to the unusual appearance of a single bluebottle, also know as the Portuguese man of war.  Complete with ominous music, the accompanying video makes light of a situation that’s rare in Jersey but in Australia occurs frequently and with far greater numbers of bluebottles.

Granted: the Jersey folks overreacted.  But not all North Americans are wimps.  Wisconsinites have dealt with strange creatures that would send shivers down the spines of even the toughest Australians.

“It has more things that will kill you than anywhere else.” Bill Bryson on Australia

Yes, Oz is well known for the extraordinary presence of venomous bugs, snakes and even mammals, not to mention other dangerous creatures like great white sharks and the cassowary.  Bill Bryson’s book In a Sunburned Country  devotes a great deal of discussion to this charming aspect of the Land Down Under.

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