MeaN Dean at blogs4God - a Semi-Definitive List of Christian Blogs lists the Friday Five questions. Well, it's Saturday here in Australia, early in the morning but I thought I would answer the posers.

Did you get any snow yesterday? If so, how much? No. We didn't get any snow here yesterday. The day was a relief from the heat of the last few days. Temperatures reached only about 20 degrees Celsius. There was however a very strong wind. Actually, I could answer this question in the affirmative if I lived in Victoria or Tasmania. It snowed yesterday in the Victorian Alps and in Tasmania. The weather is haywire here at the moment, although snow in Hobart in January is not unheard of.

What is the biggest snow storm you've ever experienced? Well, I looked out of the window one day when my parents lived in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney. At first I thought it was ash from a fire, and then realised it was snow. I have been out in falling snow a couple of times, but it is far from common where I live.

What is your favorite snow-time activity? This is a bit hard for me to answer. How does sitting inside with a hot chocolate go?

What is the largest snow man you've ever built? What were the circumstances? I stayed in the mountains with a group of friends when I was at Uni. a lifetime ago. It snowed overnight and I remember building a snowman about 30 cm (approx. 1') high. As you can see my experience is somewhat limited.

With regards to sledding, do you prefer the old-school American Flyer with metal runners, a poly vinyl plastic wonder, an inner tube, a "liberated" cafeteria tray, other? Have you ever tried the waterslide? Very popular here in summer. A long length of heavy duty plastic is placed on a slilght slope. A few drops of detergent and a hose running very slightly at the top of the slope. Instant fun.

So here are some Antipodean answers to your questions. Snow would be very welcome here at the moment. Fires are still raging and although the weekend forecast is for mild weather, Monday is to reach 40 degrees again with a strong , hot northerly wind. Nightmare conditions for fire fighters. They hope to do some backburning on the couthern edges of the fires, so that if winds happen and the fires turn, they find nothing to burn. Even backburning here is hazardous at the moment.



Update on the fires around Sydney: I have been closer to the worst hit area as I was babysitting yesterday. Smoke was really bad and at night we could see the glow of the fire. Winds are still strong and squally and quite unpredictable.

My sister's house was directly threatened yesterday with the fire just across the road. Brother-in-law who is deputy captain of the local volunteer brigade had to make a rushed trip back to Sydney as he is the only one with a licence to drive thier enormus new tanker. He has been firefighting without a break for the last 30 hours. 15 houses were burnt in Glenorie, just down the road from Maroota. At the moment, roads are closed at the back of their house and at the side. This means that they are still in danger as the wind is from the south. Eldest son's house was threatened but since the wind changed, the danger is less. He is at Hornsby Heights. I must point out- when I speak of the "back of their house," I mean the area. This is several valleys of bush, tinder dry and not control burnt for years, so there is a great deal of undergrowth and shrubby stuff to burn. In two days, approximately 40,000 acres of land has been burnt in and around the city.

There are still fires to the south and west as well as northwest.

To any reading, I would repeat my request. Prayer for immediate relief is needed and prayer for relief from the worst drought for many years is also needed. I wonder just how bad things must get, before there is a call for national prayer?



Massive fires in and around Sydney this afternoon. Very high temperatures, close to 40 degrees Celsius, and very low humidity. Then about 3:00pm, a southerly change swept through with winds gusting up to 160kmh. Southerly winds usually bring a relief from the heat, but this was from the southwest and was hot and very dry. In about 30 minutes fires had taken hold. One was close to me in the inner west. The verges of the M4 freeway caught alight and damaged a substation. Since then, electricity supplies all over the city have just managed to hold up.

A fire in the southwest damaged some buildings at Holsworthy Army base and then moved to a suburban development. This was poorly designed with few through roads and many cul-de-sacs so access for fireys was very limited. Another fire threatened Maroota where my sister's house is. It has now gone the other side of the road and is headed northeast. Many more fires are burning.

Because of the dodgy power supplies, some of the freeway tunnels lost lighting. Freeways were shut. Side roads soon became choked and trains were also delayed because of lack of sufficient power to run at normal speeds. Total mess. Sydney spreads so widely and is bisected by rivers and harbour. It doesn't take long to grind to a halt when something happens on one of the major arteries.

Forecast for tomorrow is for only slightly cooler temperatures, strong winds and low humidity. No possible showers till the weekend. We need to pray for our city and our land. Pray for immediate relief and pray for drought breaking rain. In the extreme fire season last Christmas, there was a sudden severe, widespread storm of rain which put out some of the fires and dampened others, while giving firefighters some relief. This was unforeseen and unforecast. I could tell of other intervention at that time also.


There's a total eclipse of the sun today. Starts 7:13pm Sydney time and continues for about 30 minutes. Sydneyesiders will see only a partial eclipse and even that won't be seen to the end, as sunset intervenes. Two towns in South Australia are the only places on earth where it will be seen in its entirety. Ceduna and Lyndhurst are dealing with a massive increase in their population as visitors crowd the towns. Tent cities have been set up to help with accommodation. Ironically, cloud there threatens a good viewing of the eclipse. I'm sure the towns won't mind. These are small country places and extra money from visitors already there will be good in drought times.


Another article on Midnight Oil can be found here. Disposable hero - smh.com.au


Just as well spiders don't bother me. My husband helped himself to icecream after dinner last night. A couple of hours later, I went into the kitchen to find a small huntsman spider, about 5 cm (2") across from leg to leg, sitting in the dirty icecream scoop he had left on the bench. It was apparently enjoying dessert too. I'm used to spiders and other such things. We used to have a weekender in the bush on 40 acres of land.The variety of spiders and insects was amazing.



The end of an era was announced tonight. Peter Garrett of Midnight Oil has announced he is leaving the band. He may enter politics and will certainly spend more time on environmental issues. In many ways they have been a band with a conscience and have made their views known on many social and environmental issues. In the closing ceremony of the Olympic games here in Sydney in 2000, the band wore dark clothes with the word "SORRY" clearly visible in white. Perhaps not something recognised by our overseas visitors, but something very recognisable to us here. Prime Minister Howard had refused to issue an apology to our indigenous people for the treatment they had received in the past. Many, including Midnight Oil, felt that to be wrong. Peter Garrett will be missed, as will the band as it stands now. Even if it continues, it will not be exactly the same


Bene Diction Blogs On Voter Turnout . In the comments on this section in Bene Diction's blog, he asked for an entry about voting here.

Australia has three levels of government and elections are held for all three, federal, state and municipal. Voting is compulsory and there is a fine of $200 for failure to vote. It is the citizen's responsibility to ensure placement on the electoral roll, although from time to time elctoral officials and occasionally, political parties, do a door knock check to ensure proper enrolment. Fines arrive via a letter and then a summons and court appearance, should the letter be disregarded.

Because voting is compulsory, we also have postal voting and absentee voting where a person can front up to any polling booth if away from home and vote for his electorate. Australia very early on had universal suffrage. Women were given the vote in the early 1890s in South Australia. Voting is preferential, not first past the post. The lowest place candidates have their preferences allocated as each candidate is eliminated. Parties put out how to vote cards and there is often much fuss about preferences. I rarely use the cards, and make up my own mind, although this involves not only thought about my preferences, but also about preference allocations.

Federal and state parliaments have an upper and lower house, except in Queensland where they have only one. Lower house representatives are elected to cover every electorate. Upper houses, which are more for review than anything else usually, are elected for the state as a whole. It is the lower house which basically has control of legislation. Legislation is usually put forward by the government and voting is on party lines unless a conscience vote is declared. Very occasionally, an individual member introduces a bill.

Compulsory voting? Sounds a bit like George Orwell? I don't really see it that way. I have grown up with it and feel it is a privilege and a right to be exercised. While some do vote informally, the rate is relatively low. Compulsory voting ensures that the opinion of most people is heard. There is no electing of someone to power on 51% of a non -representative few. It could be argued that those who really care will vote. If that is the case, then there should be no complaints about the result. Here in Australia we have two large parties, virtually identical these days although they used not to be. It depends on which has the most charismatic leader at the time of the election as to who wins. Of course, this is a generalisation. Floating around the edges are the Greens and the Democrats, and in the states there are many minor parties fighting for an elusive seat in the Senate or Upper house.

Here endeth the lesson.




Fred Nile is not funny This is an article by Martin Roth and I'd like to thank him for it. Fred Nile is usually a figure of fun in this city. Few take him seriously and he is often lampooned for his stance and statements. Unfortunately, he also causes Christianity to be a matter for ridicule as the press seem to imagine that all Christians think like Fred. However, as Martin points out, the danger this time is worse. There have been increasing tensions in Sydney since 11/9 between the general population and Muslims and other people of middle Eastern origin. Some chador wearing Muslim women have been attacked while shopping. This can only exacerbate the situation.

As an aside... Martin quotes the article where Fred is shown as praying for a storm to drench the bare flesh exposed at the Gay Mardi Gras pasrade. This has not happened. Can you imagine the effect this has, even on those who are not homosexual? First there is the fact that he actually publicly prays for hail. Then the fact that there has been no storm opens God and his people to contempt.



Water restrictions will probably be imposed in Sydney by Christmas, with fines for breaking them. We have had a couple of thunderstorms over the weekend, but really need a week or more of steady rain over the whole of the east coast to break the drought.


An update on the post about the cricket. Australia won this Test, again without having to bat for the second time and again in three days. Unfortunately, Alex Tudor, a tailender batsman was injured when a ball went betwwwen the faceguard and the visor of his helmet. The cut required six stitches.



The first Advent candle was lit at church this morning. I really like being able to follow the seasons of the church year and have missed this at this church. So it wa a pleasant surprise to see the Advent candles this morning and wonderful to again think of the symbolism involved. God became flesh and dwelt among us.


I confess I'm a cricket junkie. Well, perhaps not that bad, and I'm not the type who knows every statistic for the last fifty years. I do, however, enjoy watching it. One day cricket is enjoyable but a completely different ball game (no pun intended) to a Test. Of course, it is even better when Australia's side wins, as we do usually. Cricket sides have their cycles and at the moment, Australia is top of cricket playing nations. Not only that, but there is a large pool of talented younger players waiting to join the national squad. This is probably where the other nations fall down.

There's something about a five day Test match that is not obtainable in other team sports. As I said, one day cricket is fast and furious. A Test is a battle of many things - wits, team work, fielding, cunning, intelligence, field placement, perseverance and concentration. It is fascinating to watch the tussle between batsman and bowler. This is now the third Test of a series of five with England against Australia. Admittedly, the England team has had a dreadful run of injuries. I think this reflects on their fitness and pre-tour build up. However, the first two tests saw them soundly defeated and this is going the same way.