As I write this, it’s 10am on Saturday and I have 10 people coming over in two hours to bake cookies. Yes, the Jewish aunt hosts an annual cookie-baking party for her nieces and nephs. There is about 10 pounds of cookie dough ready to go in the fridge—gingerbread, sugar cookies, and almond dough for belated Hannukah hedgehogs. I’ll also be making latkes, so the house will smell like oil for a week. There is flour and sugar spilled everywhere.
I went through my cupboards and closets and made a “giveaway” pile of books and gadgets and odds and ends I bought overseas and didn’t know what to do with once I got home. There will probably be a kangaroo tea towel in this pile next year.
I bought a new mattress, a bed in a box from Walmart, and naturally it was delivered last night. When my son arrives he will get to hoist the old one out and set the new one up. Shh…don’t tell him.
I have a new foster cat who is very friendly and constantly underfoot so that should make everything more interesting. My son’s two step girls, aged three and seven, will be sleeping over. It will be dark by 4:15 and they’ll probably get bored but bedtime is 7pm so how hard could it be?
It’s chaos, and I anticipate utter exhaustion on Monday. Here’s a “before” photo of my dining room, complete with cookie cutters, every kind of thing you can sprinkle or spread on cookies, and tins ready to fill with cookies. I will share some during- and after-photos in the next post.
I hope you are enjoying the year-end, whatever latitude you are in and whatever holidays you celebrate, or don’t.
There was more to learn about Australian military history as Heidi and I walked into town. “There’s an RSL Club,” Heidi pointed out.
I believe RSL stands for “Returned Service League,” and it’s similar to a VFW Club in the US, where Veterans of Foreign Wars hang out. I wonder where the Veterans of Domestic Wars go?
And it had a museum—this looked very exciting—but it was closed, forever. “They must have moved to a new location,” Heidi said, disappointed.
Across the street there was an intriguing building behind a barbed wire fence and an American flag flew alongside the Aussie one.
“Why would the US air force be involved in monitoring seismic disturbances?” I asked. “I mean, seismic disturbances don’t happen in the air. I bet it’s a cover for a secret UFO project.”
“Oh yes, most certainly,” Heidi replied.
We stopped at a Woolworths, or Woolies as Aussies call them. Similarly to Target, Woolworths is something different in Australia than it was in the US before it went out of business. In Aus there are Woolworths gas stations and another version that was more like a Walgreens but with groceries and alcohol. We swung by the motel and grabbed some coffee mugs, then made the pleasant hike up Anzac Hill, where we watched the sunset and had a discreet mug of wine.
It was a beautiful view and the weather was perfect. We talked about our family members who had been in the military, and Heidi told me more about her mother’s experience during World War II and subsequent move to Australia.
“We have at least as many refugees in the world now than there were at the end of World War II,” I commented. “And yet it doesn’t feel like we’re at war. Now we kill people with drones.”
“I know,” said Heidi, “You know we’ve got service members fighting, but it all feels so out of sight.”
It became dark and we were the last people on the hill. Suddenly the sky lighted up in the distance with purple and orange Aboriginal patterns and I wondered if I was hallucinating.
“Do you see that …” I asked Heidi.
“Yes! I think it’s a laser light show at the Desert Park; I saw it in a brochure.”
We agreed to go see it the next evening, then we carefully made our way down the hill in complete darkness until we saw a sign from another familiar-sounding business.
JGGRS was indeed a secret project when it first established itself in the post-WWII military depot town of Alice Springs in 1955. The Air Force was charged with developing scientific techniques to detect nuclear weapons tests from hundreds or thousands of miles away, using a variety of sensors. One of the most reliable techniques, seismic, is still used widely today.
Seismometers are primarily used to detect geological events like earthquakes, but these sensors are precise enough to pick up man-made underground explosions of a very large size – including underground nuclear tests that occur anywhere in the world.
There is an international effort by over 180 countries who are treaty signatories of the Conprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization whose aim is to end all nuclear testing worldwide. The JGGRS compound you happened upon is one of over 100 seismic stations located around the world, on every continent.
My small team in Alice Springs monitors the operation of and occasionally performs repairs on fielded equipment. We share data with Geoscience Australia, an Australian Defence science organization, who are partners in the CTBTO as well as operate the Australian Tsunami Warning System using our data and dozens of other sensors on land and at sea.
By the way, we were declassified in 1978 by treaty between the United States and Australia… and I’m sorry to disappoint, but we don’t have any UFOs stored here. 🙂
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Thank you for the clarification, even if it does mean there is no UFO conspiracy. Travel always raises more questions than it provides answers–especially when you only get a glimpse of something via a sign or snatch of conversation. Blogging has been a way to go back and answer some of my questions, either by online research or by comments from folks like you.