Monday, November 24, 2008

Week Thirteen

Thursday is Thanksgiving, the tastiest day of the year for Americans. I'll be celebrating with Swedes, Canadians, Australians and a Colombian at a potluck event. It won't be quite the same without the full day off and football in the background, but there will be tons of food and I plan to bring my A-Game in eating virtually all of it. In the Spirit of Thanksgiving, I have created my own list of the top-10 things I am thankful for:

1) Diet Coke
2) my retarded friends
3) my mum and all of her motherly wisdom
4) Caffeine free Diet Coke
5) Diet Coke with Vanilla
6) the current Australia:U.S. dollar exchange rate
7) having a roof over my head
8) Kanye West's new album
9) Mexican food, and
10) God.

I love you all!! Especially you, Diet Coke with Vanilla. I would trade any of my friends for you on any given day.

So yesterday was the Australian Idol Grand Final, the biggest day of the year for Australians aged 11 to 11.5. Nearly two million (about 10 percent of the entire Australian population) watched or attended the live event, held at the Sydney Opera House. Thousands of tears were shed, mostly by my flatmate, when Wes Carr, the pretty blonde from Bondi, won a recording contract, Mazda 2 and instant Australian fame. Though I attempted to boycott the show due to the controversy surrounding the departure of my beloved Brooke Addamo, the only looker in the entire top 24, I did watch the Final in its entirety. I have to say, it was pretty cool.

Unlike the two-day American Idol Finale, which consists of performances from the final two contestants and an ultra-long voting recap show, the Australian Idol Grand Final has no voted-on performances and is not performed indoors - it is on a giant outdoor stage in front of the Sydney Opera House, filled with thousands of spectators and hundreds of fireworks over the Harbour. If I were 11 I would think it was the coolest thing south of South America/ north of Antarctica.

So less than a week after firing Greg Robinson, the Syracuse football team beat Notre Dame at Notre Dame in what many are calling the biggest upset of 2008. It was so bad and so embarrassing that Notre Dame fans threw snowballs at all of the players, which literally added injury to insult following a terrible loss for the Irish. Seriously, how do you lose to the worst college football team in the 139-year history of college football? Destiny's Child could probably beat the Syracuse Orange and the Fighting Irish can't. Good grief.

(picture at right = Don's Mo Watch Day 23)

Well, there are only six days left in the month of November, meaning there are only six days left to sponsor my moustache. It's getting a bit out of hand, as evidenced by the picture to the right. Luckily only six days until I can shave!! So unlucky week number 13 is almost in the books, meaning my one year here is one-quarter done. My thoughts are with all of you Californians recouping from the wild fires. We all love Bad Religion, but safe to say most Angelinos are getting a little sick of hearing "Los Angeles is Burning" for the fourth year in a row. The L.A. wildfires made headline news here in Australia, and I hope that all of you and your prized possessions are safe. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!! Thirteen weeks down, 39 to go.

Week Thirteen Summary:
Weather: cold, rainy, windy and hailing.
New observation: my office building has to be the oldest office building on the entire Southern Hemisphere
New activity(ies): Australian Idol Grand Final, The Order of Melbourne
New food: skewered lamb with coriander yogurt
New word(s): pronouncing "capsule" "capsholl", pronouncing "ketchup" "tomahto sauce"
New people: A 25-year-old who is pulling a Don: Quit her job on Friday and is moving to England with a one-way ticket, visa, suitcase and nothing else. Good luck :)
What I miss: Thanksgiving, pumpkin pie, limitless nighttime and weekend minutes, Shiner Bock, my own washer & dryer, American mayonnaise

Monday, November 17, 2008

Week Twelve

(picture at left = Don's Mo Watch Day 15)

Yesterday was November 16 (or 16 November as the wacky Australians would write it). For most Americans other than Cowboys/Redskins fans, the date held little importance. For two young women in suburbian San Antonio, T.x., however, November 16th is "Founder's Appreciation Day", the most important day in the history of their 29-year-old lives. "Founder's Appreciation Day" is a made-up holiday celebrating Megan Lehnhoff and Jamie Baker on the anniversary of their founding City Girl Society, an exclusive and somewhat questionable for-profit organization for young professional women in a small and un-diverse section of central Guadalupe County. Some of you may know that I do probono public relations for them, due in part to a drunken promise I made when they brainstormed the concept of City Girl Society one year ago.

During a trip to San Francisco on November 16, 2007, Lehnhoff and Baker came to me with the idea of City Girl Society, also known by its nonsensical acronym of CSG. I told them if they really went through with the ridiculous concept I would create their website and help with their public relations efforts. One year later, they have an official state-recognized corporation status, a bank account, six members, revenue and their first-ever Founder's Appreciation Day, proving America may in fact be the worst country in the world for allowing organizations like CSG to succeed while symbolic American institutions like General Motors, AIG and thousands of nonprofits fail. Congratulations to Baker, Lehnhoff and all of CSG however, for proving their husbands, their friends and the general public wrong.

Keeping with the "probono" spirit, Saturday was the second annual Rainbow Ball, a black tie event and fundraiser for the Ilhan Food Allergy Foundation. Approximately 800 people at $500 per seat attended the event, which benefits research and public education programs on the issues and causes of anaphylaxis for Australian children. Burson-Marsteller was a proud a partner of the Ilhan Foundation and I was fortunate enough to help lead the public relations efforts for the event and its fundraising initiatives. The Ilhan Foundation raised $1.7 million on the night, which is the equivalent of $1.71 million more than my friend Liz has in her checking account.

Other than the day after "Founder's Appreciation Day", the 17th of November also means it's Day 17 of Don's Mo Watch. Over the course of the past 17 days, I have been ridiculed, mocked, stared at, laughed at and mocked some more, but I'm proud to say that depending on the sunlight, I have arguably grown a half-moustache. So ha. Approximately 78.6% of survey participants didn't believe I could grow a moustache, so now who looks silly. The answer of course, is me, with a half a moustache. Thirteen days left to sponsor me so please jump on that bandwagon.

Finally, a recent news story proved that blogging does in fact get major institutions to take action, and no I'm not talking about federal legislation for gay rights. Several weeks after I first wrote Syracuse University should fire Greg Robinson, he was finally fired, illustrating the power of my blog. Greg Robinson's first year as head coach of the Syracuse Orange coincided with my first year of graduate school, and who would have thunk I'd be the one with a job. Not my mom, probably.

Well I'm feeling heaps better than I did one week ago. I sadly had to cancel a prepaid weekend trip to Mornington Peninsula, but I did have fun dancing to bad techno and 80s. I don't wanna lose your love, toniiiiiight!! Classic. To all of you Americans and Europeans bored with boring America and boring Europe: Please come visit me!!!! Twelve weeks down, 40 to go.

Week Twelve Summary:
Weather: 88 degrees on a November evening = just punch me in the face.
New observation: Working from home is a pretty sweet deal.
New activity(ies): Australian casinos, black tie events
New food: braised Wagyu ox cheek
New word(s): "Hey?" instead of "What?"
New people: Tons of fancy yet sweet people at the Rainbow Ball!
What I miss: air conditioning, pounds/feet/inches/miles, my comforter, Kraft Mexican shredded cheese, Wegmans, looking forward to Syracuse basketball when Syracuse football knocks itself out of bowl contention

Monday, November 10, 2008

Week Eleven

(picture at left= Don's Mo Watch: Day 9)

Alright so apparently the U.S. had an election last Tuesday. Did you know that? Being in Australia I would have had no idea, if not for the 19,200 Facebook status messages from my friends saying "we did it" or "yayyyy" or "i'm proud to be an american again" or something along those lines. That is, except for the 4.4% of my friends who are either Texan or Mormon, in which case their status messages were "time to stock up on amunition (sic)" or "well (sic) see what change really is" or my favorite, "i'm moving to austraila (sic)", as if Australia is really any better than the United States. Trust me, it's not.

But lost in the presidential election were the extremely disappointing results in my home state of California. Proposition 8, which would overturn a California Supreme Court decision that recognized same-sex marriage as a fundamental right, passed by a margin of about 5 percent. This was the result of too many religious people believing that their Church would not tolerate gay marriage and their God would not recognize a gay person's right to marry the person he or she loves, which really begs the question, isn't it time there's a separation of church and state? Listen, I'm proud to be Methodist and I'm happy to be straight, but Proposition 8 had nothing to do with my religion or my sexual preference - it is an issue of equality.

It's incredibly ironic that Black voters, traditionally among the most liberal in California, voted overwhelmingly (more than 2:1) in favor of Proposition 8. Because of Barack Obama, Black voters came out in full force in California, which made a significant difference in the 500,000 vote differential. Gay people have been some of the most supportive of Black and other minority rights in the traditional civil rights struggles in our nation, but many African-Americans believe their discrimination is different than gays', often arguing "Black people didn't choose to be Black but gay people chose to be gay..." But I'm not blaming Black people, who because of their own centuries-long hardships have been rightfully so some of the most religious, soulful and faith-driven people in all of the world.

As influential blogger John Aravosis wrote in, "The Mormon church has for years been bankrolling hateful and bigoted efforts to block civil rights legislation in various states. This time, it appears they finally went too far". Now anyone who knows me knows I love Mormons, especially Shante. But Mormons for Proposition and other various Mormon-supported propaganda illustrate how naive the Church of LDS really is. While the Mormon church is pointing the finger at other groups that supported the ban on same-sex marriage, such as the Catholic church, the unfortunate fact remains that centuries after our country's founders separated church and state, some religions are still impacting government and using it against nonbelievers. I would encourage you to look at the facts, look in your hearts and do what you can to support the huge Anti-Prop 8 protest movement.

Even Arnie, in true Terminator fashion, says we should keep fighting.

While I'm sure Proposition 8 is making national news all over the U.S., the only thing we talk about in Australia is Barack Obama, Barack Obama and Barack Obama. I'm proud that everyone in Australia followed the U.S. election so meticulously (I watched it live from my office), but I hope some of these other issues make international news as well. Any issue of equality hits at a global level. But enough about politics...

The past week was Cup Week, which began with Derby Day and included Cup Day, Crown Oaks Day, and Emirates Stakes Day. To celebrate, I got really full-on sick. Yes, Thursday through the present I have been sleeping 12-16 hours a day in pure pain and misery. Ninety-three percent of my body is in pain, which is 93% more than I would like. I sadly had to miss a birthday celebration, a co-worker's farewell dinner and drinks, and a home-cooked lasagna dinner, which just shows my knack for good timing. I did, however, finally get Taco Bill.

Now understand that I love Mexican food. I heart it. I embrace it. It completes me. But there is evidently a translation issue between English and Australian on what is Mexican food and what is a Mexican restaurant. Take Taco Bill, the Mexican restaurant chain in and around Melbourne. The menu is ok, similar to a "Jalapeno's" in Alabama or a "Tortillas" in Virginia. It's filled with enchiladas and fajitas and burritos and tacos and combinacion platters, etc. I'm ok with that. I'm even ok paying $2.50 for some jalapeno peppers, a necessity when there is no Cholula within 12,767 kilometers. What I'm puzzled by, however, is a Mexican restaurant that plays trance and electronica music with specials buzzing on a stock ticker board and Australian paintings on the walls. No Mexican chefs, fat customers or mariachi music anywhere to be found. I still loved it though. God bless beef enchiladas and frijoles.

Well Trinity lost two in a row and effectively kicked themselves out of the D3 playoffs. Syracuse blew a 14-point lead and lost 35-17 to Rutgers in the annual which-mascot-is-less-masculine:a-scarlet-knight-or-an-orange battle. And speaking of less masculine, my mo is on Day 10!! According to my preliminary survey results, 61.5% of my friends believe I can only grow a moustache with Sharpie pens while 46.2% don't think I can grow a moustache because I only have seven hairs on my entire body. It's not too late to make your vote count. Get in the voting spirit and speak your voice. And again, please sponsor my mo!

Anyway, this upcoming week should be a hectic one, filled with work and rest and painkillers. Hopefully I'll be at least 80% by the weekend! Eleven weeks down, 41 to go.

Week Eleven Summary:
Weather: Too hot for a November
New observation: The Australian healthcare system is pretty cool...if you're an Australian.
New activity(ies): influenza; not shaving
New food: Strepsil throat lollies
New word(s): "herpes zoster"
New people: A Canadian doctor who spent 15 minutes talking to me about America while 4 sick patients waited to see him.
What I miss: election parties, Ibuprofen, gay people, ice cold fruit smoothies, all of my wonderful friends and my mom. I miss you guys!!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Week Ten

You must be really bored. I mean why are you reading my blog when you Americans could be following the online election coverage, you Australians could be getting spastic for Cup Day, or you Europeans could be scarf shopping, cigarette smoking, wine making or listening to O-Zone? Tomorrow is the biggest day in the history of everything. Tomorrow is Election Tuesday, the one day every four years that Americans typically go brain-dead and screw things up for the rest of the world. But that's not going to happen this year.

This year Americans are going to vote and they're going to get it right. While there's bound to be some evidence of the Bradley Effect, the belief that many voters tell pollsters they'll vote for a Black candidate in order to avoid seeming racist (when in fact they end up voting White), a larger turnout of African-Americans and young voters than polls originally accounted for should even things out. It's up to you, young people. And Black people. Make us proud. Everyone else just stay cool.

But a new president isn't the only thing worth voting for. California's Proposition 2, which would prohibit certain farm animals from being confined in cruel ways, and Proposition 8, which would eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry in California, are two issues that are provoking even greater interest. While Proposition 2 is expected to pass in a landslide, Proposition 8 is tightening up. There are 153 proposals on ballots in 36 states, and include measures to ban dog racing, outlaw affirmative action and criminalize most abortions. It's an exciting time for every American, whether in Ohio or 17 time zones away.

But Australia is also making international news! In a move that would make John McCain proud, the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship denied permanent residency to a German doctor and his family because his son has Down syndrome. Snap. The immigration department said 13-year-old Lukas Moeller's condition would cause "significant and ongoing cost to the Australian public". His father, a specialist physician, came to Australia two years ago to fill a doctor shortage in a rural area of Victoria. Why the country's immigration department would refuse an ethical and heroic doctor yet keep me, a public relations practitioner, remains a mystery.

However, I'm still here and I've finished my second month. To celebrate, I have decided to grow a mo!!! Yes, in an effort to either put Gillette out of business or raise money for prostate cancer, or both, Australia is changing November to Movember. Movember is a month-long charity event where males lose the razor and grow moustaches to increase awareness and raise money for men's health issues. To help this cause, I have registered my upper lip in hopes that my three facial hairs can collectively come together to grow something special for this annual event.

Please take my mo survey and give me your feedback on whether or not this is a futile attempt.

Then please sponsor my mo.

So this weekend was Halloween and Derby Day, good fun but nothing compared with the hullabaloo going on in the States. The first week in November of Olympic years is the best week to be in the U.S., with Halloween, the massive elections, earnings season, college football in upset-mode, basketball season beginning and snow just around the corner. I miss all of you terribly and depending on the outcome of the election, will be back home in winter or back home in 2012. Tomorrow, however, I'm being Aussie and watching the Melbourne Cup. The Cup, as they say, is the race that stops a nation. Tomorrow is also the day that re-starts my nation. Let's do it people. Ten weeks down, 42 to go.

Week Ten Summary:
Weather: Hot, cold, rainy, sunny, lame.
New observation: Australians don't celebrate Halloween to the same extent Americans do.
New activity(ies): Federation Square; Australian Halloween
New food: mini meat pies with tomato sauce
New word(s): stubby; Eski; a schooner; a pot; a Blonde; Draught = beer-related terms
New people: I met an Irish potato-loving kleptomaniac with an eye infection, low tolerance and potty mouth.
What I miss: Lee Corso, walking to work, Texas football, San Francisco protesters, cilantro, a delicious Freschetta at 2:01 a.m., my 16-year-old homemade artwork dinner plates