My Life Abroad: The Adventures of Two Birds
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Sep '12

Lowering the BAC from .05 to .02

This topic brings to light one inherent problem in Australia that I struggle with as an American-Australian. First if I might… Australia claims to be a “free” country but the bureaucratic government here, based solely on the English parliament, leaves little to be desired in the way of “Australians making decisions, and in fact laws for themselves”. There is no medium here for the people, the constituents to vote into law any type of regulation or directive whatsoever. So the question is: “When we vote for a party, be it Liberal or Labour, what are we voting for actually?” Because the actual people of Australia have no say in law as it is made by voting as a public entity – how do issues turn into law. Well it seems that it is up to the parliament members that we vote into office to be responsible for voting on our behalf. Parliament members, just like in America, make lots of empty promises and dodge important issues to the community such as adoption, gay marriage, public job pay increases, or changes to the taxes. Never in the course of the 7-1/2 years I have lived here have I ever seen a referendum come to a vote by the people.

Recently there has been talk of dropping the already low BAC from .05 to a staggering .02 – and basically this means that possibly even one drink could put you over the limit to drive. The task here is to make it so people will not drink and drive at all. This is not something that the people of our state will vote on, we do not get a say, if the parliament wants it to happen, it will pass and it will happen.

Victoria is Australia’s most densely populated state, and has a highly centralised population, with almost 75% of Victorians living in Melbourne, the state capital and largest city. In Victoria there are is an annual average of < 42 fatalities of a total 200 relating to a blood alcohol level of .05 or over. In 2011 in the whole of Australia the road toll nationally was 1,291 in total.

Look, it’s not that I don’t support a responsible drink driving limit, but I do find fault in the Australian government for consistently punishing the people that do the right thing and enabling an entire generation of people that don’t.

Binge drinking in Australia has become a very big problem; this is something that the government is fully aware of but continues to do nothing about. Responsible drinking starts at the beginning. And taxing alcohol ‘in general’ really puts a strain on the groups of people that are responsible drinkers. We are constantly hearing on the news about alcohol mixed with energy drinks (Vodka Red Bull) and in Australia we also have what is called pre-mix cans. A 6-pack of cans you can purchase at the bottle shop already pre-mixed with things like Vodka Red Bull or other high alcohol options mixed with high caffeine energy drink products. This is what the kids drink, none of these types of pre-mixes are geared toward or even advertised for adults. They are sweet tasting drinks that keep you drunk and awake for longer and in the end are a majority of reasons why fatal fights break out in the city centres around Australia. These drinks are served in bars, and because the drinking age is 18 here – they are served to 18 year old kids.

So why aren’t we focusing our attention to irresponsible drinkers? Maybe it’s a good idea to raise the drinking age or banning such pre-mix drinks (like the US has done). It seems like every time the government wants to take a stand on drinking in general – they add another tax onto alcohol, rather than looking at the real problem. These taxes don’t discourage kids from drinking but they do cause hardships on working adults that have to pay $80-100 for a case of beer. You can’t get even a 6-pack of the crappiest beer for under $15.00 here. The same ‘taxing mentality’ to cigarettes has driven the cost for a pack of cigarettes up to $25 a pack – and it hasn’t stopped anyone I know from smoking.

I know I’ve said this before but there is just something wrong about turning 18 in this country, the first year you are old enough to drink is the same year you are allowed to start driving. How are our children to learn responsibility when they are giving two of the biggest responsibilities in their lives in the same year… and at 18 for that matter, one of the most immature of ages? If we are able to turn our attention to the real problem of “binge drinking teenagers” and start to teach our children to be responsible drinkers we might actually get somewhere with this.

A culture of pre-mix drinks geared toward a much younger generation


At least in America you are learning to drive at an age before you are too confident and ‘know everything’ to the extent of being as reckless as some 18-21 year olds. And although we did drink when we were young, in high school for example, we weren’t able to go to bars and night clubs that stay open all night and drink until we were stupid high on energy drinks and hard alcohol. We had some time between learning the responsibilities of the road and road rules, and starting to drink – 5 years as a matter of fact. Can you imagine taking on all of the responsibilities that go with drinking, and driving in the same year?

And back to the question at hand… really what are the benefits of .02 BAC? Certainly it keeps drinkers off the road – that can only be a good thing. Making this change as Switzerland has done definitely means that the road toll will decline. But for those that are responsible, and want to have a glass of wine with their dinner out, or meet friends for a drink in the city after work, there are no options. Public transport such as trains and trams end at midnight, a cab from the city to my house is over $100. I’d say about 90% of Melbournians do not live walking distance from a bar, pub or restaurant, we are much more rural community. The majority of the restaurant/pub industry is in the city centre. I think that it means that the bar and restaurant business in Melbourne will suffer some great losses. This industry is one of the best in Australia and it means that our culture will change to one that does not include having a drink with your meal and sharing a drink with friends. BAC .02 definitely means no drinking.

For me it all comes down to a change in the attitude of our parliament members, in the way that they think and lead this country. We have no say, obviously, but until parliament can put their hand up and take responsibility for what is going wrong – and by that I mean turning our attention to the problems we are now instilling in our younger generation with behaviour toward alcohol, and not creating taxes and new laws to increase the cost of alcohol for the general public – will change finally result in a positive outcome.

Read more…

Move to .02 drink-drive limit inevitable: expert by Danny Rose, Brisbane Times –

May '12

Great Australian Beer SpecTAPular, Melbourne (GABS 2012)

Our second Brew Fest in 7 years… GABS 2012, we really enjoyed this one.  I don’t think that brew festivals are highly publicized here, I’m starting to get a little more keen watching out for these in the future.  The one we attended previously was located at Federation Square in the Central Business District, several brewerys attended and brought several of their beers to try.  GABS is a bit different, at this one they invite 60 Brewerys and each brings one beer – it can be a current beer, or a specially made beer for the event. The GABS event was held in the Royal Exibition Center Carlton, a beautiful building plenty of room for the thousands that attended.

There’s a big difference between the brew festivals in the US (which I used to attend quite frequently), and the ones here.  The cost for entry to the fest is $30-40 and then all the beers you taste are also purchased.  Terribly expensive way to do it but it sure doesn’t detur people from attending.  And with the cost of beer 50% higher in Australia than the US, I think people expect to pay a lot more for beer, even if it is a tiny cup to taste.

With 60 Beers we were to use the guide to nut out which ones we wanted to try, then we were given a wooden paddle with 5 holes to hold beer cups, we line up – the lines were very long but moved at a good pace.  As we arrived at the bar we walk to each number (in order) and get the beer with the number.  We carried a couple paddles each so we could try more.  There were some fantastic beers!  I’ve listed the 60 beers available below.  My favourite was the Yeastie Boys ‘Gunnamatta’ (“Tea-leafed” IPA). Citrus explosion with grapefruit and lemon hop flavours intermingled with the pungent bergamot orange and English tea.

I’m already looking forward to the next one but in the interim we have found out about “The Local” Taphouse in St. Kilda.  I’m hosting my Americans Club for an even there in June, and I’m really looking forward to their 21 beers on tap.  Having craft brews on tap is pretty out of the ordinary here, of course this Taphouse was started by an American.

See more about the event at the GABS website:

The Beer List (location and alcohol percentage)

New Zealand

Barrel aged Scotch Ale (Renaissance, NZ) 7%
Imperial Chilli Pilsner (Emersons, NZ) 5.2%
Taranaki Rose IPA (Mike’s, NZ)
Chilli Stout (Invercargill, NZ)
“Tea-Leafed” IPA (Yeastie Boys, NZ) 6%
‘Double Day of the Dead’ Strong Black Lager (Garage Project, NZ) 8%
Smoked Manuka Ale (Mussel Inn, NZ) 5%
ANZUSPA (Croucher, NZ) 2.5%
Double Brown Ale with coffee (8 Wired, NZ) 8%
TBC (Epic, NZ)
S!mcoe Imperial IPA (Liberty, NZ) 8%
West Coast DIPA (Golden Bear, NZ) 6.5%
Double APA – TBC (Tuatara, NZ)
Chocolate Wheat Beer (Moa, NZ) 5.5%
‘Zesty Wit’ kiwi fruit infused Wit Bier (Harringtons, NZ)
English Pale Ale with 100% NZ ingredients (Townshend, NZ) 4%


Rum Weizen (Stone & Wood’s ‘Side Project’, NSW)
White IPA (Doctors Orders, NSW) 7-7.5%
Beetroot Belgian Ale (4 Pines, NSW)
American Brown Ale (Lord Nelson, NSW)
Red Pilzner (Pinchgut, NSW) 4.8-5%
Pine Needle Ale (St Peters, NSW) 4.6%
Porter (Little Brewing Co, NSW)
‘Bobs Farmhouse Ale’ Oak Aged Farmhouse Ale (Murrays, NSW) 8%
Barrel aged Black IPA (Hop Dog, NSW)
Rouge Saison (Illawarra, NSW)
Dunkelweiss (Burleigh, QLD) 5%
“Sour Blonde” (Wig & Pen, ACT) 4.5%
Special Bitter (Cowaramup, WA) 4.6%
Dunkelweizen (Last Drop, WA)
Coffee Stout (Mash, WA) 4.5%
American Oatmeal Stout (Nail, WA)
‘The Little Rabbit’ Belgian Pale Ale (collaboration between Little Creatures, WA, and White Rabbit, VIC) 6.2%
American Black IPA (Bootleg, WA) 5.8%
Watermelon Berliner Weiss (Feral, WA) 2.9%
Sweet Potato Porter (The Monk, WA)
Wooded barley wine (2 Brothers, VIC) 9.5%
Farmhouse/Saison TBC (Mountain Goat, VIC)
Imperial Pilsner (Bridge Road, VIC)
Sarsaparilla Stout (Grand Ridge, VIC) 4%
Belgian Karakaberry Ale (Kooinda, VIC) 5.7%
Farmhouse Ale (Hickinbotham, VIC) 5.85%
Pilsner (Thunder Road Brewing, VIC)
Grisette Ale (Hargreaves Hill, VIC) 4%
Russian Imperial Stout (Matilda Bay, VIC)
Aotearoa S.M.A.S.H California Common (Boatrocker, VIC) 5%
Smoked Weisse Bier (Temple, VIC)
Coconut Porter (True South, VIC) 5-6%
India Red Ale (Bright, VIC)
Sticke Alt (Red Hill, VIC)
‘ChainSAW’ Stella Australian Wheat Beer (Otway, VIC) 4.7 %
Honey Amber Ale (Red Duck, VIC) 5.5%
Australian Brown Ale (Barry Cranston – Australian Homebrewer 2011 – brewed at Bridge Road, VIC)
Unfiltered Belgian Blonde (Holgate, VIC) 6%
Imperial American Amber Ale (Mornington Peninsula, VIC) 8-9%
Wild/Sour Ale (Moondog, VIC) 5-8%
Double Dubbel English IPA (Lobethal/Steam Exchange, SA)
Foreign Extra Stout (McLaren Vale, SA) 5.5%
‘Cowboy’ Belgo (Moo Brew, TAS) 4.5%
Black Elephant Black Belgian Abbey Ale (Seven Sheds, TAS) 6.3%

Jul '11

Beer Making 101

Well, it’s that time of year again.  End of the winter season and time to start brewing beer. Encouraging thoughts, as my brother Adam successfully made it into Sierra Nevada Beer Camp this year at the brewrey in Chico, California.  We anticipate hearing all about his adventure at Sierra Nevada! 

Beer is so expensive in Australia, and we really don’t have the the variety of beer here either.  There’s a couple major brands and none are micro-brew quality.  The ones that are small micro-brews are quite expensive so we’ve resorted to creating our own beers at home.  Home brew is great because with the recipes out there we can create pretty much any beer we want. 

One of Birdie’s best re-creations is Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, he’s been making it since I moved here, mostly for me, but over the past 6-years he’s definitely perfected the recipe and it’s a beautiful brew.  Birdie makes many varieties and we end up with cases of beer ever year that we drink ourselves and share with our friends.

On average beer costs between $50-85 for a case here, much too expensive for the ‘regular beer drinker’ in my opinion.  When we have parties we really enjoy being able to provide all the beer and have a nice selection from Cervesa’s to Bavarian varieties. 

So, this year Birdie has decided to show a couple friends who are interested in making beer, just how he does it.  From what equipment to buy, to the varieties of hops, yeast, and grain to use – and recipes for making certain kinds of beer.  Today is their first day.

I love ths aroma of the hops in house, it smells lovely.

This is only day one of a several week process of creating the beer.  Next the beer needs to ferment and then we move on to bottling.  But the process has begun and I can taste good beer in our near future.  Can you?  To see all the pictures of beer making day one, click the link to my album:  Beer Making 101

Jul '11

Adam’s submission to Sierra Nevada Beer Camp


My brother Adam, a lover and connoisseur of beer, has decided to make a submission to the Sierra Nevada Brewery Taphouse and Restaurant annual Sierra Beer Camp 2011.  His submission is available on the Sierra Nevada website, where you can vote to assist him in achieving his goal of going to beer camp this year. Please take a look and give a vote to Adam’s video so that he can make his Beer Camp dreams come true.  Click the video to the left or go online to vote for his submission.

Click here to vote online:​#/view-entries/168

Good Luck Adam, I hope you get through!!

Dec '10

Our trip to California

Family and Sierra Nevada Brewery

Going home to Chico was fun as always, we got to see so many friends – it seemed like everyone came out of the woodwork for the night.  Some that never come out to the bars even… and thank you for that everybody.  I had a great time.  The Sierra Nevada Brewery was great, we always love going there, and we met up with my friend Liz, her boyfriend Cody and baby Gavin. The cheesecake was yummy!!  We also made a special trip to see Kahlua, Marie & Leanne.  As always the Sierra Nevada Brewery was great, on our second trip with John and Jackie, and Dustin we tried the beer sampler of all the Sierra Nevada beers in a short taster glass each. 

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NBA Basketball 

During our trip we went to a few Sacramento Kings basketball games, and we had some nosebleed seats, and some floor seats.  We also got a close up of Andrew Bogut (the Australian player on the Bucks).


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Christmas at the Hay house

We’ve spent the week shopping, and going out for some fun dinners while in Sacramento.  With Mom and friends, we’ve had a good time! Were settling down a little for Christmas then back on to the shopping, and all the after Christmas sales.  We had Gramma, and my cousin Lavette, my brother Adam and girlfriend Kat, and Mom, and the dog Raider (yes Mom is a Raiders fan). It was nice to be home with the family this year for Christmas, hoping to catch up with a bit more family and some friends before we head on to New York City for New Years Eve and 5-days of sight seeing.  Stay tuned for pics of our New Years Eve events!

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Our Christmas Day


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Merry Christmas everyone!

Jul '08

Goodbye Chico! (day 9 of 35)

We spent our last day playing Guitar Hero III on our new PS3 with my friend John and We are still recovering from our last two nights here in Chico hanging out with the friends, drinking the local brew and just jamming.  I ran into some of the guys from my very first band last night at “The Towne Lounge” bar downtown, the band was called Your Mother and I think we practiced a lot but only played two gigs.  They are a fun group of guys.


Birdie and I went to the Sierra Nevada Brewrey for appetizers and the beer sampler.  I sure love Sierra Nevada and if you are some of our friends that come over for our dinner parties you will know Birdie’s homemade brew of Sierra Nevada Extra Pale Ale.  Splendid!  These are some great pictures from the brewrey, the sampler is a little sample of all beers on tap at the brewrey.  It looks like this and I can’t explain how it tastes!

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Here are our snapshots of the Brewery, we miss this brewery because these are our favourite beers in the world:

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But to top off the evening we had a dinner at Casa Ramos Mexican restaurant with all our friends, most from my old band and their significant others, and some old friends from work and around town.  I love everyone and miss you all tons.  Please keep in touch!  Much love to everyone.  I even got to see my friend from high school Kathyleen that showed up just to say “hi”.  In this pic left to right is: Me and Birdie, Mari and Chris, Reena and Johnny D, Karen, Cheryl, Lou Mars, Alyssum, Laura & Robert.



Mental Status: Sad to leave Chico and sad I didn’t get to see Marie or spend time with Heather.
Favourite thing this week: Our drive down the coast, seeing my brother Adam and meeting Kat.
Book this week: Everybody Worth Knowing by Lauren Weisberger
Happy Moment today: The picture from dinner tonight, it was fun to get everyone together and have a group photo, and I’m so glad to have such good friends that still have fun hanging out with me when I come visit.
Looking forward to next week: Rest, Candace, and spending time with Birdie.

Apr '08

Australian Rules Football

On our last day we headed out in the morning to the Queen Victoria Market and bought some goodies, MAdam got some pressys to take home and we had some brekky in the morning then made out trek over to the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground) for an Australian Rules Football game, the Pies vs. Tigers.  The Collingwood Magpies are on the top of the ladder and the Richmond Tigers tried to keep up but to no avail. 

On this, our last day, we had a great time hanging out at the game – there were 70,000+ in attendance.  Adam got some great pictures of the game too:

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After the game, Birdie had a big suprise for us.  We walked into Richmond until we came aross this Mexican Restaurant (and by the way, Mexican really sucks here).  We walked in and found a table for 12 setup.  Just then I turned around to see Blair, Michelle, and the girls along with some other friends. It was a great suprise because I thought Blair was away in London!  We had a great evening and hung out late for drinks in Richmond with my family, Michelle & Blair. It couldn’t have been a better suprise. I must say, I am very thankful for some of the good friends we have. It was a really fun day, and it really ended our short holiday with a bang.

Again, don’t forget to check out all our photo albums from MAdams trip from our Photo Album page.

Jul '07

On the beerfront… again!

bottling.jpgCrazy enough, beer is one of the most expensive things to buy here.  And not just because of the exchange difference between the US dollar and the Australian dollar.  We’re talking about And now we go on our trip to the beer and wine makers stores throughout Victoria to find all the ingredients.  Birdie is making extra lots of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Sierra Nevada Extra Special Pale Ale for me.  These are the two beers that seem to go the quickest at our parties.  We miss Sierra Nevada and I’m so glad that Birdie has perfected the homebrew version.  The stage after the bottling process requires the bottles to be in a warmer temperature – so with stacks of milk crates full of beer bottles surrounding the heating vent, covered by wool blankets, we await… the beer!  The bottling process is the most messy (and interesting) to watch of all the stages – fermentation is not quite as exciting.

Queensland first on the agenda

sufersparadise.jpgI’m looking forward to my first business trip, although my first two hospitals on this trip will be my biggest and toughest job.  Now, I’ve been to Queensland – on our honeymoon we went to the Great Barrier Reef – but on this trip I will be going to Surfers Paradise (famous), and Brisbane.  This will be an excellent couple weeks and I plan to make the most of it. This area is called the Gold Coast and you can see from the picture, it’s a beautiful spot. This is also the site of the one and only amusement park of which Birdie and I plan to attend.   I’m excited to see more of Australia during this three month excursion. And although there is a lot of work to be done on this trip – it is definitely going to be a working holiday!



New addition to the McCally Family

flowers.jpg I am happy to announce my favourite couple in the world are off to the hospital to deliver their first baby.  Josh and Staice are longtime friends, I introduced the two some 10 years ago and even performed as the celebrant at their wedding in Northern California.  They are now living in Manassas, Virginia and their new baby will be a wonderful addition to this very happy and lovely couple.  I would like to start the petition to name the child after myself… you can leave your vote here.  I haven’t heard if it’s a boy or a girl just yet but I think Elaine would be a wonderful name for either. 


Book:  Reading “The Thomas Berryman Number” by James Patterson.  One of the first books, finally got my hands on a copy.
Favourite Thing Today:  I only worked 8 hours today!  Its a miracle.
Favourite Thing this Week:  Anticipating my business trip and a couple scheduled weekends away with Birdie.

Jul '06

Beermaking 101

Beermaking 101

Rod started his brewing and fermentation process last week and the beer has been sitting in barrels in my diningroom smelling of hops and yeast. We’ve got a ton of Australian Pale Ale, Mexican Cervesa, Czech Pilsner, and an Apple Cider.  It’s been an interesting process and Rod has been talking about making beer for the year I have been here.  I can say that I’ve learned a bit about the fermentation and bottling process. I will have to do some more research on the beer tasting part – I’ll get back to you on that.

Fermentation in progress


 On the Farm

Last weekend we were guests on the Farm in Kinglake withour friends Dawn & Woz.  Dawn is my friend that graduated from the same high school as I (5 years later), that we went camping with last month. Dawn and Woz are planning to be married this coming February.  Dawn and Woz made a wonderful vege lasagne and some excellent BBQ.  Their neighbors, we’ve met before, Bud and Melissa and their son Sam were there as well as Heather & Blair and the girls Ashlee and Skye.

Dawn invited us to stay in their guest loft and in the morning we woke to some very odd noises.  Peacocks, sheep, a lamb, the dog Lily, and someother odd bird noises – it was quite an interesting morning on the farm.


Around the table left to right: Skye, Sam, Bud, Melissa, Woz, Lainey, Rod, Heather, Blair (Ash not pictured, Dawn behind the camera)


Well, last week Rod and I spent a good amount of our time and a lot of our money last week filing my paperwork for a Spousal Visa of residence.  Our filed document included everything from certified birth records, to an FBI report and just about every document the Navy has on me.  At least one hundred pages, it is all filed and now we await our interview that preceeds approval.  After my VISA is approved I will be able to seek other employment, and I will have permanent residency in Australia.  I can apply for citizenship (dual citizenship) after I have been a resident for two years.

Other new news

Dawn and I have recently become involved in a Yahoo networking group for Americans in Australia, it’s been good for us to hear and participate in conversations about difficulties us american’s have here in Australia.  I have gotten some great information about filing my VISA paperwork at immigration and other things like where to get American brands of food that we miss so much! 

We’re going to see Jason Mraz on Monday the 7th of August (only a few weeks away)!  He’s finally made it to Australia on his first tour.  I am so thrilled that we got tickets!  On 31 July Billy Joel tickets go on sale – I’m hoping they won’t be so completely expensive that we can get a pair of tickets.


Mental Status: Under the weather
Song: Mr. A-Z -Jason Mraz
Favourite Thing Today: My work Tupperware party this week