Guerilla Bay near Bateman's Bay, NSW Australia
Guerrilla Bay, NSW
AUSTRALIA, SPRING 2008 (November)  

Robin & I (Jerry) returned for nearly a month to Australia to visit people neither of us had seen since we lived in Canberra for five years in the 1970s.  I was excited to see eucalypt-covered hills from the airplane window -- California is dry, but not that color.  Waking to  raucous birdsong  told me on first light that I loved the Australian countryside more than I knew.  We stayed in the country with Michael Brown in Gunning, a small town north of Canberra, and made day trips to Canberra and the people we knew there.  Later photos come from Markdale, a working sheep property, and Pebbly Beach, a nature reserve on the coast.  The Blue Mountains were our last refuge before returning to Washington, DC from Sydney .  

Michael Brown, Gunning, NSW Australia  
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Robin & Michael in Michael's kitchen, Gunning.  


Audiosphere company, Gunning, NSW Australia   Southridge Estates, McLean, VA - living room  
click any photo to enlarge. Audiosphere loudspeakers under construction in Michael Brown's workshop in Gunning, Australia, right, and the concrete Audiosphere loudspeaker we bought from him in 1972 (right) in our home in the USA.   Those 80 lbs of concrete have followed us home from Canberra and back and forth across the Atlantic as well

Michael uses his Gunning building as a workshop to produce Audiosphere loudspeakers made of concrete.  A single speaker ways 80 to 130 lbs.  

Technically, it matters that the enclosure is spherical on the outside (uniformity of frequency response, uniformity of sound field, sharpness of stereo imaging).  It matters  that the enclosure walls are rock-solid (deep bass response, lack of coloration).   Today Michael has moved on to smaller high-velocity drivers, minimal or no crossovers, and isobaric paired speakers.  The isobarics  drive harmonic distortion down in the bass where speaker "motors" are non-linear (don't behave the same way going "in" vs going "out").  In a word, purity through simplicity.  Our classic "woofer-tweeter-midrange" system has been left in the dust.   Sigh.  

DETAILS:  If you are familiar with design issues in high-speed electronics buses and connection lines, then you'll find the issues with rectangular speaker enclosures familiar.  An  acoustic impedance discontinuity  at the end of a surface causes reflected signals which create 10 and 15dB multipath distortions (destructive interference) with  the main signal, as well as robbing the rear of the listening room of acoustic power.  
The Poplars property, Gunning, NSW Australia  
click any photo to enlarge.  A hillside on a property near Gunning, NSW, Australia called "The Poplars".  

The smartest thing I did was go out with Michael on his morning school bus run serving kids on the outlying properties.  As the road gives way to dirt and a kangaroo crossed our path, parrots I couldn't photograph flashed by in rainbow colors.  Above: view out the school bus window.

Sulfur-crested cockatoo pair, parrots of Australia    Crimson Rosella, parrots of Australia   Australian Magpie, Gymnorhina hypoleuca, birds of Australia  
click any photo to enlarge.  Sulfur-crested cockatoos, crimson rosella,
Australian magpie (Gymnorhyna hypoleuca).    
If you don't get 3 photos side-by-side, you can pull your browser window wider with the mouse.  

Above: birds at any bird feeder in eastern Australia -- this feeder is at John Ferguson's house.

John Ferguson, Australia  
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John whistles the magpies in from across the valley (view from his home office below).  Magpies forage for grubs as robins do,  but are happy to snatch tossed cheddar cheese on the wing or sing for it.   In aggressiveness they remind you of  Blue Jays.

Whiskers Hill property, Australia -- view from east balcony
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Sydney Airport 1976 - Robin & Jerry Nelson  
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Robin & Jerry, Sydney Airport, Sept 1976
Our total gear after camping in the Red Center.  

MacDonnell Ranges - Ormiston Gorge campsite 1976. Jerry Nelson  

John lent us camping equipment in the '70s.  

We approached Australia like our European honeymoon.  And after we had done the 3 cities and seen both museums, then what?  Our Dutch friends had the parties, but geologists had the camping gear.  After surviving "Canoe Tours Australia" with Jonathan Doyle, we told Ferguson we could survive anything.  He lent us the tent and two "Ferguson Boxes" from his last Greenland Expedition -- one box was "kitchen", the other, the kitchen table.  Canvas rock-sample bags were perfect for rice, lentils and beans.   We flew into Alice, rented a silly city car utterly unsuited to washboard dirt tracks, and set off for nowhere.  

(right)  Ormiston Gorge campsite, McDonnell Ranges,
September, 1976.  Photo: Robin Nelson.

(below) Canoe trip with Jonathan Doyle, Founder, Canoe Tours Australia.  It was December 1975, one of his first runs.  In pubs up and down the Murrumbidgee they placed bets on how long it would be  before he killed one of us.  Some said Our Leader had once qualified for the Australian Olympic Swimming Team.  We prayed it was true.  The food was fabulous.  Camping was the easier part of it.  We decided to mooch equipment and go camping.  

1975Dec-Johnathan Doyle, Founder, Canoe Tours Australia. Adjungbilly & Murumbidge River  
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Sculptor Bruce Radke, Australia     Solar Power in Australia - typical battery shed, DC-DC converters and charge regulator  
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Bruce Radke gestures to the solar cells (left) that feed power to his battery shed (right).
The shed is also plumbed to a hillside dam with a 75 meter head of water.  
Until Australia's drought of the new millennium killed it, the Pelton water wheel by Platypus Power
(white enclosure, foreground) generated a steady 300 watts day and night on
 1.5 litres/second through a single, small 7mm aperture.

Now John was introducing us to Bruce Radke -- another geologist who likes isolated, beautiful country and makes great coffee.  Bruce is an accomplished sculptor, which meant becoming good in metalwork and welding.  


Gunning Shire, New South Wales, Australia - school bus feeder service    Rural schoolbus service in Gunning Shire, Australia    Countryside at Biala via Gunning, NSW, Australia  
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Australian school bus service.  Our host drives the feeder bus (left) to the big bus (middle).
Kids come and go on the big farms -- the current high school run is for a single student.

Countryside near Gunning, NSW, Australia - solitary gum tree
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   Scenery out the school bus window, near Gunning, NSW, Australia.  



The Caledonia Store (1880) in Gundaroo, New South Wales, Australia   Gundaroo, NSW - Literary Institute & Library  
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Living in Gunning and driving in to see friends in Canberra, we pass through Gundaroo (above)  every time.  (left) The Caledonia Store, 1880, Gundaroo, NSW.  Robin had an art show here in the 70's, opened by the Cultural Attache of the US Embassy, Canberra, who bravely soldiered on after the town's power failed.   Gundaroo may be a sleepy town not on a main road, but it has a Literary Institute & Library (right).

Braidwood, NSW, Australia   Goulburn, NSW, Australia  
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Country town Braidwood (left) and the local shopping town Goulburn (right).

Australia has lots of flies. Goulburn, NSW
Keep your drink covered in the town square lest flies get in (yellow sign).

Local dung beetles didn't know what hit them when the first cow pie fell.  Sheep imported by white men weren't that much better.  Dung beetles chew dung, killing the larva of other insects in it.  They roll it into balls and bury it.  Without them, Australia gets poor soil and a rich crop of flies.  Hence the signs.

Fighting back, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization imported the biggest dung beetles they could find from South Africa.  To avoid past mistakes (think Rabbit Fence), only the eggs were imported, and first they were washed in alcohol, so many of them were duds.  When adult beetles were finally obtained, they were duds too -- indigestion.  Without native commensal bacteria, their guts couldn't handle the dung.  More research money -- shit-eating bacteria for a  strong Australia, cure upset tummies in insects.  You can see the Golden Fleece Award coming. 
Fast forward 30 years and everyone sees fewer flies, but critics say it's the drought.  


Post Office, Gunning, NSW 2581, Australia  

Robin Nelson, Michael Brown at Gunning Post Office

Old Court House, Gunning, NSW 2581, Australia   Corner butcher shop, Gunning, NSW 2581, Australia 
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The Old Court House on the main street, Gunning, NSW, Australia (left).  The old butcher shop (right) is up a side street. Some towns in the rural U.S. Midwest still have this feel, if not the wrap-around verandas.

The Audiosphere company, Gunning, NSW, Australia   Obama bookstore in Leura, NSW, Australia  
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We flew to Australia a couple days after the Obama Presidential Election and brought our treasured  McCain/Palin--Geezer/Dingbat signs with us.  The first three people to speak with us spontaneously mentioned fears of an assassination.  The U.S. must be seen abroad as a violent culture.

Michael Brown and Robin Nelson, Gunning, Australia  
After trips to Canberra (below), Robin regales Michael Brown with our adventures in the quiet of his Gunning backyard.


JCSMR, The John Curtin School of Medical Research, Australian Capital Territory, Australia  
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JCSMR, The John Curtin School of Medical Research, Australian Capital Territory, Australia  
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The old brick JCSMR (John Curtin School of Medical Research) building where I worked and the new ones.  Two Nobel Prizes are associated with the old building, although one winner came after key discoveries in
New Zealand and the other had to leave in the middle of them (twice) for want of tenured positions.

Paintings by Eva Henry, Canberra, Australia Paintings by Geoff Henry, Canberra, Australia
Paintings by Eva Henry, Canberra, Australia Paintings by Geoff Henry, Canberra, Australia

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Paintings by two artists, one a computer programmer, the other a neuroscientist who sometimes recited poetry while prepping up for surgery.  Two guesses which is which.  


Eva Elekessy Henry, Australia   Geoff Henry, Australia
Eva and Geoff Henry, Canberra, Nov08

Robin Nelson & Gill Ferguson, Stone Place, Australia  
Gill Ferguson

We could walk from our university housing to Gill's house in my Canberra  postdoc days.  The Fergusons had come from South Africa with stunning Afrikaner furniture -- old, primitive.   Our first child, first home, my first Stateside appointment all lay ahead of us.  We looked for the comfort of her home as we began to create our own.  We seemed to find ourselves visiting a lot of antique stores.

"MARKDALE"  Binda, New South Wales   

Markdale Cottage, Binda, NSW, Australia - R. Nelson & M. Brown 
Robin Nelson, Michael Brown.  Click any photo to enlarge.

Aussie breakfast at the Markdale B&B -- 6,500 acres,
12,000 sheep, and us.  

Markdale garden flowers, Binda, NSW, Australia   Braidwood, NSW, Australia  
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Gardens designed by Edna Walling (think: low, curving walls) provided flowers for the 1850s stone cottage.  Fortunately the gardener was standing over my shoulder as I reached down again to see how they lay the protective fences that I could use on my own  gardens at home.  The red-bellied black snake caught in the fence (right) is poisonous.  The gardener politely told me not to be an idiot and later killed the snake.  

Markdale estate, Binda, NSW, Australia - wysteria house trellis
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Wisteria arbor on Markdale's main estate house.  

 Abandoned farm home, near Binda, NSW, Australia    

The chimney of an abandoned home on the road to Markdale. It's green here, an equipment shed and its water tank replaces the home.  Only Americans can build 100 million homes and not collect  rain water from them.  I thought of harsher Australian landscapes,  but everyone was waiting.   I ran back to the car.    


When tea is not enough - Jerry Nelson - exhaustion     
As old age advances, there are afternoons when a cup of tea won't cut it

Josh's Cafe (logo), Berrima, NSW, Australia
To the rescue.

Australian flat white coffee        Braidwood, NSW, Australia    
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A "flat white coffee" is popular across Australia.  It's 1/3 coffee, 1/3 milk and 1/3 water.  The milk is not steamed as in a frothy cappuccino, hence "flat".

Josh's Cafe is worth a detour to Berrima on the Old Hume Highway, if you are driving between Sydney & Canberra.   A shelf of cookbooks give you advice in German on how to cook Chinese (Chinesisches Kuchen).  Josh studied 8 years in Bern, Switzerland, did a stint in Canberra's posh "Ottoman Cuisine" restaurant.  

Water served throughout Australia - purple bottle         One-a-day pill box, blue  
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Plain water -- no ice -- is served at most tables -- large bottles, sometimes strangely colored
In small towns, every building has a water storage tank.  You don't need Perrier if you have sweet, soft rain water from your own roof.

(right)  The simple concept of a one-a-day pill box for vitamins gets a little twisted if you go back and forth across the international dateline. My PC is hopeless.   I fix the date, Microsoft in its infinite wisdom puts it back.

Braidwood, NSW, Australia  
Most countries think bills of different denominations should be different in size and color.  Differences  make mistakes and cheating harder.  Australia also saves itself expense by printing on plastic ("plasticized paper") which lasts forever.  If you forget to empty your pockets on laundry day, it won't dissolve, it just gets cleaner, giving new meaning to the phrase, "money laundering."


  ocean headlands cliff at Pebbly Beach, Muramarang National Park, NSW, Australia  
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November 2008 - the cove at the (private) Pebbly Beach cottages. Nice sand.  The next cove north is actually the one with a long windrow of pebbles -- Pebbly Beach.  All of it is protected within the Murramarang National Park from development.  The park has brought improvements to the hiking trails and a limited number of simple tent-camping sites, but the animals are still tame and little has changed since we first came in 1976.  

The cove at Pebbly Beach cottages, Muramarang National Park, NSW, Australia     The cove at Pebbly Beach cottages, Muramarang National Park, NSW, Australia  
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"Is our house back home OK?" we asked the neighbor looking after it.. "Yes, and we remembered to get the peppers from your garden before the freeze.  Don't bother to come back, winter has set in."  When you get an e-mail like that, of course you have to send back photos like these.  

Pebbly Beach north side, Muramarang National Park, NSW, Australia   Pebbly Beach south side, Muramarang National Park, NSW, Australia  
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North and South headlands of the Pebbly Beach cove.

Pebbly Beach, Muramarang National Park, NSW, AustraliaRobin (arrow)  hunting for the best rocks on Pebbly  Beach.
All colors had to be represented, but, most of all, the rock had to be perfectly round and have that comforting, smooth feel in your hand.

This was Christmas present material, but could we get them through security?  Having a quart of relish unceremoniously dumped into the trash on the way to family Thanksgiving really annoyed me, but, if you dump a quart preserve jar of Mrs. Lloyd's Green Tomato Relish on the counter, it won't hold its shape, and technically that is a liquid.  The jalapenos I put up whole in a jar looked more shapely to me, but into the trash they went also.  Better to preserve national security than garden produce.  Fortunately, rocks are neither liquids nor terrorist weapons.  


Pebbly Beach, Muramarang National Park, NSW, Australia     Bethlehem West Bank, March 2008
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   Pebbly Beach, NSW, Australia  and (right) Bethlehem, West Bank, March 2008

Australian bush shower (bucket & hoist)    Australian 32V lightbulb for classic rural battery power plants  
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Pebbly Beach cottages have bush showers -- heat some water, fill  the canvas or galvanized bucket, hoist it up.  I love the cabins with gas mantle lamps, but ours had a small eclectic circuit driven by photovoltaic cells.  All the refrigerators run -- silently -- on LP gas.  This is escape.  You can deal with this, you can do everything yourself, and the animals don't run away.  

Pebbly Beach, Muramarang National Park, NSW, Australia  
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Goanna lizard, Australia   Possum & baby, Australia  
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Yvonne told us when we arrived to keep the back door shut or the goanna would come in.  Of course we thought she was kidding.  Scratching sounds proved to be a possum at the front door.  He ran back to mother when Robin opened it. 

The cove at Pebbly Beach cottages, Muramarang National Park, NSW, Australia   Joey nuzzle mother kangaroo's pouch for milk-like secretion. Australia  
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The cottages still had roos on the lawn as they did 30years ago.  Kangaroos must not have belly buttons, because there is no placenta and no umbilical cord.. The babies can grow no larger than a worm before they must crawl out and into the pouch.   No breasts either -- something sloughs off the pouch that the joey can eat.  It's nice to feel superior, but they've been here 10 million years, and we've made a pretty good mess of it  in less than 3.  


Grey kangaroo, NSW, Australia; photo Jerry Nelson  

Thinking it over, I decided I had enough kangaroo photos, and would concentrate on birds.

Female King Parrot, NSW, Australia. Photo Jerry Nelson      Male King Parrot, NSW, Australia. Photo Jerry Nelson
Female and male King Parrots.  Click any photo to enlarge

Rainbow lorikeet pair, NSW, Australia. Photo: Jerry Nelson   Pelicans, Bateman's Bay, NSW, Australia 
Rainbow Lorikeets.  Pelicans at Bateman's Bay.  Click any photo to enlarge

Australian magpie - fledgling begging mother. Photo: Jerry Nelson  

This "baby" Magpie is almost as big as his mother, but that's no reason to stop begging for food.  The "helpless" cries go on forever, coming from one side of the house and then the other as he shadows her everywhere.  It is springtime in Australia, and you just have to put up with the racket.  


Rainbow lorikeets, King Parrot, Australia, on Robin Nelson.


Jerry Nelson & rainbow lorikeets, Australia  

Kookaburra, Australia. Photo: Jerry Nelson    Kookaburra pair, Australia. Photo: Jerry Nelson  
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Kookaburras.  Check out the beaks -- these are meat eaters.  

Michael Brown, Robin Nelson. Australia    Michael Brown, Robin Nelson. Australia  
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As soon as Michael put out the first chop, our local kookaburra swooped off with it, and Michael -- momentarily stunned -- took off in pursuit.  (It was a little gritty, but we got it back.)   After that, Robin stood guard (left) and eventually celebrated victory.  Long ago, it was she who bolted out of the tent in her nightgown when a wild dog (dingo) made off with our beet salad.  For a long time we had a refrigerator container with two fang holes in it.  

Michael Brown, founder, Audiosphere, NSW, Australia   Kookaburra looking for meat, Australia  

Thanksgiving in Australia = Lamb.  Tandoori lamb, with the kookaburra "on station."  Michael rigged up an extra grating and finished the slow roasting over a wood fire.  The kookaburra went hungry, but not for long.  Yvonne complained the next day that a kookaburra had swiped her ham sandwich.  But you know they're meat eaters.  What's so surprising?  "Straight out of my hand?  I was holding the sandwich!"          


Govetts Leap, Blue Mts, NSW, Australia. Photo: Jerry Nelson  
Govetts Leap, Blue Mts, NSW, Australia. Photo: Jerry Nelson    
Govett's Leap in the Blue Mountains outside of Sydney.  Early explorers knew Europe, where mountains separate cultures and passage was down the river valleys.  But, many things in the Southern Hemisphere are upside down.  The "mountains" point downward.  Passage came on the highlands, not the valleys.  


About 1971, I visited a famous MIT lab and saw computer interface cards on the carpeted floor of rooms with no furniture (you cannot buy furniture on a Federal grant -- the University is supposed to provide it).  I went to the MIT library and turned to the Methods section of papers in my area (cortical neurophysiology) looking for the best-equipped lab in the world.  I found it and flipped back to title page to see where it was.  Within two years I was in Australia in Peter Bishop's group. It was perhaps the only event in my professional life which was not pure chance.  

You can reiterate... my immense gratitude, and that of most others who worked in Peter's department, for the scientific and social environment attracting a string of distinguished visitors, as well as for his immense support and loyalty, and their combined liberality on the social scene.  Canberra was a wonderful place to live and Hilary and Peter made the most of it.  All that on top of the resources of the John Curtin, the IAS and ANU.  It was idyllic, what universities and research are all about.  An outstanding period.
-- Abbie Angharad Hughes

Robin Nelson & Hilare Bishop, Australia     Robin Nelson & PO Bishop's wife Hilare, Australia 
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Hilare Bishop, November 2008, with Robin Hannay Nelson 

Hilare Bishop, Sydney, Australia     Hilare Bishop, Australia    PO Bishop home in Canberra -- 93 Arthur Circle, Canberra, ACT, Australia  
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Hilare Bishop.  Robin & I stopped by Hilare and Peter O. Bishop's former family home in Canberra, and brought a photo of it with us to Sydney. Showing it on the gloriously bright Macbook Pro screen provoked many memories for Hilare.  We thank Rod Bishop for his hospitality and for arranging this visit. 

Prof. Peter Orlebar Bishop, Australia, November 2008 & Robin Hannay Nelson  
P.O. Bishop and Robin Hannay Nelson, November 2008.


       Loose beading in the cabin of a United Airlines 747, December 2008              Duct tape in the cabin of a United Airlines 747, November 2008
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Back home to the most powerful country on Earth in airplanes mended with duct tape.

Braidwood, NSW, Australia 
34 lbs of junk mail & bills.  

              Please report errors or request changes to jerry-va at speakeasy dot net

 rev 21Jan09  13May09   16May09 14Jul09 PhotoALTtext