We’ve come to Australia during an interesting time, weather-wise. There have been massive hailstorms and super-cell thunderstorms in the province above ours ( Queensland ), but here in New South Wales, we’re enjoying cool spring days ( lower 70’s ) with brisk, windy evenings ( lower 60’s ). Imagine if San Francisco’s weather pattern came to San Clemente’s beach and you have the right idea.

Manly village is a charming and walkable area. We make frequent trips down to the ferry building to the supermarket, or to the chemist’s. Visits down via the Corso to the basic shoppes seems to anchor our lives in a calm rhythm which seems to match the soft lilting waves.

This morning after an errand run I stopped for a tasty espresso while Lauren went upstairs. The friendliness of the Australians is really something that can’t be emphasized enough. It’s such a warm environment. I’m sure that through the tourist season, one could get a bit jaded by it all, but thus far everyone has been very charming and mate-like.

Today the wind was really aggressive, but we braved it to attend a surfing class at Manly Surf School. It was a very solid two hours of work. Lauren said that, despite her years surfing in SoCal, the lesson and the pointers today helped her pull things together today. Myself, I had a great time back out on a mini-mal in the Australian Pacific shores. It was a great deal of fun and the ocean was largely cooperative.

We’ve come to appreciate the 24-hour news cycle of a fairly small country. It’s amazing that here small “human interest” stories become permanent fixtures of all the networks’ news programs. Teaching children to pole dance, end of the world or no? Death of Princess Diana inquest makes field trip to Paris, Cricket Skipper Ponting angry with call. It really loops frequently in this small and tight gyre.

I was struck because yesterday an Australian soldier was killed in Afghanistan. Today the prime minister, for one soul, mind you, came out and gave an appropriate and sensitive statement about the dangers of protecting the homeland. How many half dozens and scores do we lose every day and our president issues banal and vacuous platitudes about some ideal that no one is sure he can define, let alone truly support.

The news is also all astir about recent green initiatives being paid for and subsidized by the government: solar cell implementation, gray-water recycling, high water efficiency equipment. The virtues of an involved government in a small country seem to provide opportunity for forward-thinking policy to turn into reality in very short order. I can only imagine what the leaders of my own country would do with such a proposal: figure out how to give it to Halliburton, deny that the climate is changing, insist that private business ( preferably owned by cronies ) be the ones to implement the policy.

It saddens me that my own land, for all its inventiveness, lacks the gumption or moral clarity and resolve to make forward thinking dreams a reality. Hats off Australia: you have an old boys system and occasionally let a laconic attitude of “she’ll be right, boss” undermine your entrepreneurial drive, but your coasts are beautiful, your people decent, and your policy informed.

Come to think of it, watching the Australian parliamentary system is also inspiring. Party 1 has minister of X, party 2 has shadow minister of X. The shadow minister, in theory, is every bit as informed as the real minister is on the topic of X, and can offer counter suggestions from a position of expertise. So, for example, when chairman Ted Stevens is comparing the internet to a series of tubes, no one is there calling him a clueless dolt. I severely doubt that such ignorance would stand long un-attacked in a parliamentary system.

In any case, these are the thoughts that I’m able to compose based on a few days here.