So, we haven’t proven that the toilet flushes the other way, but horse races are – I was watching an advert (they abbreviate everything here) for an upcoming race, and the jockeys were crossing the finish line right to left, which looked very unusual. At first, I thought it was the camera angle, but no, from above, the whole race is clockwise as viewed from above. I wonder what the stock car race tracks are like, if they have such a thing.
Saturday was a sightseeing day of satellite dishes, telescopes, and legislatures, which have nothing in common except that that’s how we visited them. South of Canberra, way down outside of town in a little valley out past the watersheds, is the Deep-Space Station CSIRO, which hosts a number of US-funded radio dishes, which both track satellites, and monitor far off phenomena like pulsars. A very nice self-guided tour takes you through multiple rooms and astounds you with all sorts of technology like how space suits are made, how these dishes provided much of the communications for the Apollo missions, and what are some of the cool upcoming satellite technologies planned. The gift shop was a little sparse (one criteria upon which I judge all tourist interactions), but the Moon Rock Café was splendid, offering a delicious home-made lasagna for us to savor, out on the veranda, while we looked out across green pastures, hearing the hum of the big white structures as they hummed and oscillated on their various assignments.
On the way back to town, we diverted up to Mount Stromlo, which has an optical telescope observatory that dates back to the 1920’s. Up to 50 telescopes have operated over the years, providing valuable research such as proof that the expansion of the universe is accelerating, but unfortunately everything was wiped out in 2003 by a bad wildfire that even reached the fringes of Canberra. There are a few university telescopes back in operation, and they’ve restored some of the historic buildings, and have a visitor center, including a café where we couldn’t resist a glass of wine (Stacey needed one anyway because of the winding roads that I drive and terrify her on) while enjoying the view over the city. Most of the important research has shifted to a new location, Siding Spring, because as Canberra as grown, Mount Stromlo was getting a bit too much light pollution.
We finished the day with a tour of the Parliament House, including getting to actually enter the press galleries overlooking the two legistlature bodies, the House and the Senate. Based on the US government model, one has representatives for population, the other has senators for each state and territory. The House passes bills, but the Senate must approve them. Interestingly, legislation gets two chances to try, and if not successful, pretty much all of Parliament is dismissed and the public gets to elect everybody all over again, at the same time – interesting concept! It’s happened a few times, and it seems to make both sides a little more bipartisan. The Parliament House is built into the hill, and it has a grass roof, and you can actually walk up it and have a picnic. The building is also built on transparencies – the Prime Minister can open all the doors, and see through his office, through both sides of Parliament, through the Great Hall, out the entrance, over the fountain, down the empirial gardens, over the old Parliament House, over Lake Burley Griffin, up Anzac Parade, over the War Memorial, to the top of Mount Ainslie, just how the city designers intended.