A year in the life….day 142: tired

I am feeling completely exhausted tonight. Looks like the boys are too.

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A year in the life…day 141: Happy Piggy Birthday James

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In a happy coincidence, Benchmark was holding a “Pork and Pinot” evening on the same day as James’ birthday. Thys we gathered there with 11 of our closest friends ( and a couple more who popped in later) to celebrate. The food was great with the suckling pig cooked beautifully in particular. The sausages were also fabulous while dessert was the least inspiring. Wines were also good – I was particularly taken with the first and fourth of the pinots. Happy birthday James!

Tex Mex time!

When you have spent the weekend on your feet, talking about skilled migration, and then managed a hard core shopping trip (it is awesome that the shops in Houston are open til 7pm on a Sunday), a frozen margarita is exactly what you feel like. So it was lucky that our choice of Pappasito’s for dinner presented us with the opportunity for fabulous frozen margaritas!

James had been enthusiastic about the table-side guacamole of Tex Mex restaurants when he had been to San Antonio last year (one of the few things about Texas that made him at all enthusiastic, that and $1 Coronas), so we gave that a whirl pre-mains. Delicious – and naturally demonstrably fresh.

The restaurant was entertaining in its eclectic decor – and the neon beer signs above the bar always make me think I’m in a Supernatural episode.

The it was onto the main course.

I had a chicken burrito which was enormous. A couple of my dinner companions went for the steak fajitas which they thought we fabulous. The burritos were good – but so much food! Like a number of meals I had in the US, I didn’t manage to eat them all. I actually had fajitas myself the next night in Austin at Chupacabra Cantina.

Again it was delicious, and again I didn’t manage to eat it all. In Austin as I was alone I actually sat at the bar, and a couple of cold Coronas (though not $1 ones – $3.85) were very welcome after walking around in the 30+ heat of the Austin afternoon.

We don’t get very good, or indeed much Tex Mex at all in Australia, and particularly Canberra, so it fun to be somewhere where there was lots of it, and it was all pretty cheap and good. Even the tacos I had at Dulles airport at Chipoltes were pretty yummy!

A year in the life…day 140: another new office

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The change of Departments through Machinery if Gocernment changes last December has now led to a change in offices. Here is my new office. It was a mess yesterday because both Vicki my magical EA and I were out of the office last week. But I went up to Senate Estimates yesterday and came back today to find it magically transformed. None of yhis changes the small sense of deja vu – it was in this building that my Commonwealth public service career began, and it was also the building I was in when I returned to the education portfolio. Clearly there is no permanent escape.

A year in the life…day 139: my current read

I have seen the film and I loved The Road (well, as much as you can love something as devastating as that) so when I saw this for $10 in a bookshop it was an unhesitating purchase. Started reading it on some plane flight – maybe between Washington and LA. Or maybe Austin and Washington. Anyway, some plane. Between jet lag, Eurovision, Senate Estimates and Game of Thrones though I haven’t managed to pick it up since I have been home. Soon, hopefully, soon.

A year in the life…day 138: Eurovision Australian style

So despite me only just being back in the country and us doing nothing to organise a usual Eurovision evening, we ended up with a small gathering at our house for the usual ritual. And to make it an especial Australian Eurovision, Rachel brought pavlova. Delicious delicious pavlova. Still hoping that Russia might win, but not holding out much hope at this point in the voting.

Roller derby Houston style

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While the majority of my week in the US was spent either working or travelling, there were a few moments to do some fun things. The biggest bonus in Houston was the chance to go to a double header roller derby match on the Saturday night. Roller derby! Texas! Texas Roller Derby! For those of you less familiar with contemporary roller derby history, the revival really started in Austin in Texas in 2001. Thus it would be reasonable to expect that those participating in roller derby in Texas probably have a longer history than most of the rest of us.

The bouts were held in the centre of Houston at the Bayou Music Center (Snowpatrol had played there the previous night). There was upper level seating, but for the first bout I chose to sit on the floor at the edge of the track. I loved the fact that the experienced audience members had brought their own folding chairs to set up in this area.

Over all the action was really fast, with lead jammers quick to call off jams if there was any chance the other jammer might score, or even if they couldn’t get a clear lead before heading into the pack for the first scoring pass. There were a lot of jams in which no points at all were scored, and only a few where the non-lead jammer scored anything. There was also some slow/stopped derby when it was appropriate, but this tactic wasn’t over-used.

The first bout was between the Psych Ward Sirens and the Suicide Shifters from Dallas. I could not go past supporting the Psych Ward Sirens with their all red and black gear. Of course. They were fantastic. Jekyll and Heidi was absolutely my favourite player – she was completely outstanding as a blocker. Watching her single handedly stop the Suicide Shifter’s jammer time after time was just amazing. I also really liked SyRenge as a jammer – and the jams when she was jamming and Jekyll and Heidi was blocking were fantastic to watch. The Sirens used a variety of tactics, with knee starts a regular feature when the Shifters jammer was in the bin.

In the end the Sirens smashed it, winning 262 to 82.

The second bout was between two Houston sides – the Bayou City Bosses and the Brawlers. The Brawlers roll out was dedicated to MCA with them all in shirts and ties and sunglasses to the sound of Sabotage. So naturally I chose to support them. I also moved to the upstairs seating for a different perspective.

This was a much closer game with a few really impressive players on each side. For the Bosses, Big Bad Voodoo Dollie was the jammer who impressed me the most. Fast and small, she was able to whizz through the pack. For the Brawlers, I loved Freight Train – a powerful skater who used that power both jamming and blocking and popped out as lead jammer repeatedly. This bout ended with the Brawlers winning 125 to 111.

I must say it was nice to get out and drink enormous plastic cups of beer and eat a hot dog and fries and watch some fabulous derby. It also felt quite familar, just with a lot more Texan accents. And no small talk! But I knew that the work and jet lag combo was hitting me when in the last couple of jams I actually found myself nodding off slightly!