Saturday, April 30, 2011

photos: cockatoo island

I'm sure there's all sorts of interesting facts and things I should know to tell you about Cockatoo Island -- it clearly has some sort of a history; I'm guessing militarial -- but I don't know what any of them are.  Let's just say I wasn't exactly on a research trip.

It does seem you can camp there -- which very nearly became necessary seeing as the ferries are a bit hit and miss -- there's a couple different timetables, but they get progressively fewer and farther between after dark.  Fortunately one did come eventually -- and all's well that ends well, hey?

Friday, April 29, 2011

quicko: the royal update

So the royal wedding obviously was broadcast and celebrated in Australia.  I was wondering what the Australian reaction would be given their somewhat tenuous relationship with England.  Ultimately, though, I think it came down more to whether not or not the Australian in question was male or female than what their actual politics were.  Well, roughly.  There were a lot of guys who were interested, and a fair handful of girls who couldn't care less, but generally it ran something along those lines.

I went to a royal wedding watching party that included representatives from Australia, America, France (!) and Spain.  I learned such interesting facts (as you probably were already aware) as that former British Prime Ministers were not invited, but the current Australian one was.  And that the Queen does not sing "God Save the Queen," although if she'd just go with the updated version ("My Country 'Tis of Thee," of course) I don't see why she couldn't.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

quicko: levels of water

Australians are a bit taken aback by how very full of water American ... facilities ... are in the restroom.  I also have on my hands a very inquisitorial Australian male who wants to know how men manage to not make a mess, given these circumstances.  I said I really hadn't made a habit of spying on men in restrooms to find out, so if anyone would like to -- delicately -- offer the solution, please be my guest in the comments.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

quicko: barefoot in the park

Australians are much more likely to go barefoot than Americans -- just walking down the street, out in public or even -- oh horrors! -- on the bus.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

quicko: dirty deeds, and another australian movies

Today my friend Luz and I watched the Australian movie Dirty Deeds, which we considered a diverting cultural experience.  Not out and out amusing, but anthropologically enlightening.  It confirmed for me many of the generalizations I have regarding Australian movies.  For example:

--They are odd.  Really just plain strange.  Australians find them highly diverting, but everyone else eyes them with the suspicion relegated for any film labeled "foreign."

--The accents are thick.  I have lived in Australia for over three years and have rarely had trouble understanding anyone.  Very occasionally I'll meet a very "ocker" (is that how you spell it?) Australian, but if I pay attention then I can generally cope.  The movies, though, are another story altogether.  Highly idiomatic and laced from start to finish with Australianisms, they also feature lazy speakers who continually sluralltheirwordstogether.  I have no idea if the plots would be easier to follow if they simply enunciated, but somehow I doubt it.

--Not really sure how this one works, but I have the hardest time keeping the characters straight in a "but all the white guys kind of look the same" sort of way.  Maybe this is because no one besides Australians knows the "famous" Australian actors?

--Averageness.  I'll leave you to determine if I mean this in the American (average = the middle) or Australian (average = below the middle) sense, but it's just so prevalent:  average looking actors, average cinematography, average special effects, average acting and average plots.  Not saying they're bad, just saying they're average.

--Swearing.  Far be it from an Australian screenwriter to produce a sentence entirely devoid of profanity.

--Inside jokes.  Australians find their movies utterly hysterical.  Everyone else finds them odd.  I pride myself on now being able to point out parts that an Australian is likely to find funny, though I'm still at a loss as to explaining why.

 Now this makes it sound like I don't enjoy Australian movies.  This is only partially true.  I enjoy parts of many of them, such as when the show the Sydney Harbour Bridge and I get all excited at recognizing something.  And really, as an outsider, I know I'm in a bit of a tight spot to judge.  Perhaps I don't get them entirely, but I was never really the target market, either.

Go out and watch one for yourself -- and enjoy it, if you can!

Monday, April 25, 2011

good vibrations

I live at the Vibe these days.

For those unacquainted, the Vibe is a hotel.  Before you get any wrong ideas, let me be clear:  I live in the lobby.

The lobby, you see, is very nice.  You can just wander in and sit and watch out the window to see when your bus is coming on cold nights.

Oh, wait.  That's the Menzies.

The Vibe has a nice lobby, too, though.  There are comfy chairs and cushions and such and most of the staff are beginning to recognize me, though I think they think I have a split personality.

The reason I go so much, you see, is because it's just near where I used to work, and it's a favorite haunt of my co-workers.  I go there to stalk them.  Which is why the staff thinks I have a split personality:  they don't understand it's not a mental illness, it's just that when you're stalking you're necessarily covert and quiet for hours on end, and then boisterously ecstatic as soon as stalkees enter the area

The area being defined, of course, as within one block in any direction. Stalking 101, really.

Generally my co-workers know I'm waiting for them; other times they're trying desperately to avoid me.  One never leaves work these days without having a water-tight excuse prepared in advance regarding Urgent Appointments they are Already Late for, in case they should meet me within a block of the Vibe.

But reasonably often they deign to recognize me, which I always find preferable, particularly when we've already arranged to meet.

They'll saunter in casually, you see, and give a slight wave or smile that is suddenly transformed into a look of intense panic as they find me suddenly five meters closer than expected, given that half a second previously I'd been sitting, to all appearances, content and serenely sipping tea.

It throws the staff a bit more, though, as they aren't used to things yet.  My friends have grown rather accustomed to violent, unexpected bear hugs (which make up for all the years of unprincipled friends tickling me when least expected, in my opinion.  pity it's not the same friends, but there's not much I can do about that, really.) and now know it's generally safest for all concerned to simply return them, and perhaps give a cautionary frolic or two so as to not be thrown too far off kilter.

The staff simply, I assume, watch in alarm, deciding whether or not to call security immediately, or to keep an eye on the situation for a few minutes first.

Then my friends and I meander over to order beverages and the staffs' momentary alarm is forgotten in the wake of impending cash.

Which they certainly receive a lot of.  There's many things I'll say for the Vibe, but if there's one thing I won't, it's regarding money.  It is not a cheap place, particularly when you're stalking a couple of times a week and feel the need to purchase a beverage an hour to keep the peace.

Thankfully they have come out with those handy customer loyalty cards, from which they thoughtlessly offer a free beverage after the purchase of every four hot drinks.

Presumably their line of reasoning went something along the lines of "we're a hotel, people will only stay here a short time, they're unlikely to drink more than four coffees here, or, if they do, we'll at least get them coming and going with our exorbitant room service charges."  Presumably they forgot to calculate in stalking co-workers.

I'm not complaining.

Anyway, I think it's time for interesting trivia about the Vibe.  Ahem.

--They dim the lights at precisely 6:15 every night, to correspond with sunset.

--They occasionally serve canapes free of charge (is that what canapes mean?  I've never worked out the exact definition, though I do know that I like them, which I think is the main thing.).  It is important, however, to be sure that the selected canapes are actually the complimentary ones and not the dish ordered by other patrons.  This mistake can prove highly embarrassing.

--The restrooms are one of Sydney's hidden gems of cleanliness and hair straighteners.  Should you be female and find yourself in desperate need of a hair straightener, fret no more.  The Vibe has you covered.  Should you be male and in a similar situation, I'm not really sure.  If the gents are not adequately covered, perhaps you could disguise yourself as a cleaning man and sneak in for a quick adventure.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is all you need to know about the Vibe.  Unless of course you mean to use it as a hotel, in which case I know nothing at all.  Perhaps you may like to find a different review, as I really can be of no further assistance.

Perhaps you'd like a drink in the lobby before you go, though?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

photos: easter with the other williamsons at dee why :)

quicko: the projects

An Americanism.  As is ghetto in the sense that Americans use it.  Here it's more along the lines of "commission housing" or "council housing."

Saturday, April 23, 2011

quicko: burlap

An Americanism.  They had some other phrase, but it was weird.  Seems I've forgotten it.

Friday, April 22, 2011

update: see-through showers

 I mentioned awhile back that Australian bathrooms quite frequently have next to nothing separating the shower from the rest of the bathroom -- no curtains, no plexiglass, nothing.  It's downright appalling.  And look:  now I have proof!!  (Many thanks to friends who may or may not recognize their bathroom ...)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

quicko: magnums

I've mentioned them in passing, but I think Magnums deserve a full, official mention:  they are ice cream bars on sticks, and they are delicious.  They're egregiously expensive, but I love them.  My favorite flavors, should you wish to bestow one on me, are almond and peppermint, depending on my mood.  The originals aren't bad, either, and the older newer (if that makes sense) Temptation (the one with brownies) is really quite amazing, too.  Their commercials are pretty top-of-the-line as well ... perhaps I could be in one ... mmm!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

quicko: a dill

Some debate as to if this derogatory term comes from dill pickles ("Is that what a dill is for you?  A pickle?"  "Well, uh, I don't like pickles, but yes.  We have dill and sweet pickles."  "Oh, okay, yeah, dill pickles then.") or not, but it's a word for a guy (pretty sure it's male only, if only for the pickle problem) who's a just a jerk or a bit of a (another Aussie slur) tool.  See also tosser.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

update: even more bus bloopers

--You can be on a reasonably full bus that has people standing all the way down the front half of the bus, but no one standing in the back half, and the middle aged woman next to you -- adjacent only to you and half a bus of empty space -- can insist on not going down it, but blocking the aisle so that you are sandwiched most unsocially acceptably between her and another middle aged woman who wouldn't have to let her hair keep infringing on your territory if only she'd step slightly another direction but you're firmly sandwiched between them, uncomfortable, unable to move and with your two feet of personal space most severely impinged.

--An M61 can stop before the lights its stop is most assuredly after.  So, while you patiently wait for the lights to change and it to move up to its actual stop, you actually succeed only in missing it completely.

--Your ticket can be the victim of in-purse water bottle incidents and become so permanently damaged as to not fit into any of the ticket machines and leave you explaining to every driver (after waiting in the long line because you can't go through the fast line since you actually have to talk to the driver) for half a week that it's not going to work properly.  After, of course, embarrassing yourself the first time by picking the fast line only to realize the damage was so extensive as to render the ticket utterly useless.

--The machine can malfunction when it prints your valid "to" date on the ticket and mean bus drivers can assume you're using a bad ticket and stop you and give you grief until you point out that the date they're looking at is actually the valid "from" date and that, being a $41 MyMulti, it is actually still valid for a week thereafter.

--There can be general rudeness and insensitivity on the party of the other passengers.  I'll leave this to your imagination.  Or rather, past experiences.

--You or the transport, or, generally, both, can just be running late, slow, etc.

--You must always wash your hands after riding buses.  Sometimes a sink and soap will be harder to locate than others.

--And, finally, if you're lucky, you can experience all of the above in one fell swoop.  Welcome to Monday.

quicko: hot cross buns

A staple of the Australian Easter-time diet.  Unless you've given up goodies for Lent, which would really be a bummer since it's the only time they're actually in the stores.

Monday, April 18, 2011

quicko: jiffy lube

I had never once given Jiffy Lube a passing thought -- I had vague ideas that it had to do with cars and maybe you could get your oil changed by a guy in coveralls -- until I realized my Australian friends couldn't say the name without bursting into fits of giggles.  Turns out they don't have it here.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Saturday, April 16, 2011

quicko: ads

It seems a bit backwards, but I think the ads on Australian TV are uniformly of a higher quality than the ones on American TV.  It's not so much that the Australians make better ads as that there's very few local ads.  So, it's like having all ads for big national products -- cars, laundry detergents, fast food, etc. -- but not for local yokel carpet places, gyms, politicians and such.

Friday, April 15, 2011

link: midwest v. coast

One of my friends recently posted this on facebook -- I was drawn because the the graphic shows "Greetings from Ohio!" with a picture of Iowa's shape and a slogan for Idaho:  "The great potato state."  Upon closer inspection, "Iowa" has various Ohio cities such as Cleveland, Akron and Toledo, as well as Idaho's capital Boise and a couple actual Iowan cities (Davenport and Des Moines).  I thought it was great because it sums up most Australians' understandings of American geography perfectly:  "oh, yes, you're from Ohio?  I have a brother in Oregon, is that nearby?"  Utah, Iowa, Idaho and Ohio seem to particularly throw people, as does the idea that you can be in the Midwest and still be in the same time zone as New York, as does the idea that all the states in the Midwest aren't exactly near each other.  "Minnesota?" I'll be forced to discuss.  "Well, I, um, suppose it's not as far from Cincinnati as Kansas, but I might not quite call it 'my neck of the woods,' either."

Anyway, the article itself is interesting, too:  it's written by a Kiwi sharing her perspective on Americans' great "cultural divide." She's referring to the "liberal coasts" v. "conservative center" debate, though I'd be curious to hear if she gleaned anything about the "north" v. "south" debate as well.  Check it out!!5792535/the-specious-midwest-v-coastal-elites-debate

Thursday, April 14, 2011

stood up

I have one friend who, while not technically allowed to stand me up, does so so regularly I have stopped asking "so, when are we getting together?" but instead, "so, when are you standing me up next?"  He never fails me.

It's when it spreads to other friends, though, that I feel the situation has gotten a bit out of hand.  Have you ever had one of those weeks where everyone stands you up?  Give "stand up" a slightly looser definition than usual -- stretch it to include last minute cancellations, minute-before-last-minute cancellations and minute-before-minute-before-last-minute cancellations and multiply it by 8 and you'll have a good idea of what last week was like for me.

Now, of these upstandings, a small handful were of the ouch! variety, a couple of the you-owe-me-so-big-for-this variety, a few of the legitimate variety and the rest of the drat-not-again variety.  None, for once, fell into the thank-goodness-because-I-was-going-to-do-the-same-if-you'd-waited-two-minutes-longer-to-call variety.

It was most frustrating.  It's in times like these, when you're suddenly on your own in a city with two hours to kill, that you start pondering why.  Do they not like me?  Do they know how frustrated I am?  Do they know how many times this has happened this week?  Are they sick to their stomachs from overdosing on Max Brenner every day for the last month?

Canceled plans, you see, are among my greater grievances in life.  Having nothing on I can handle -- barely -- but having had plans and then having had them pulled out from under me I cannot.  I get very grumpy.  I run and jump in bed and fall asleep.  I write scathing notes to twist into blogs.

Please don't misunderstand.  I am a very forgiving friend.  Goodness knows I've stood people up and canceled at the last minute a few times myself.  And I understand things happen.  It's just when they happen, and happen, and happen, and happen, and happen, and happen to happen that I happen to get upset.

But Upstanding Pal, no worries if you're reading.  You haven't stood me up in ages and certainly weren't part of the eight last week.  It's really about time, I'd say.  Want to stand me up for Easter?

I can't wait.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

photo: kirribilli house

[Sydney] home of the Prime Minister of Australia.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

on with the show, the world has been saved

The other day I stopped in to one of the snazzier make up stores in Sydney to pick up the one and only product I buy there -- eye shadow.  It happened to be the end of a rather long day and, seeing as I'd run out of eye shadow, my cheap (splurge on one, no cash left for the other) eyeliner had run haywire and taken on the role of both eyeliner and eye shadow in a way that was more "disheveled gothic" than "smoky."

I approached the only employee, a guy who was very young and very gay.  "Um," I said.  "I'd like some eye shadow."

I don't exactly remember what happened next, but I ended up standing in front of the product I wanted, being shown a different one that clearly was better while incorrectly answering a short series of questions about my questionable make up habits.  I could only answer them with questions -- "uh, do you have to wear a primer too?" -- that entrenched me even deeper.

After a few minutes my helper gallantly allowed me to conduct my ill-thought-out purchase, but suddenly, as he recorded more personal details than my bank tends to ask for, he had a flash of brilliance.  A makeover!

I could see the light as soon as it entered his eyes.  From the moment he'd met me, he'd been absolutely dying to whip out his fashion police badge and, if not outright arrest me, at least send me to a correctional spa for a few days.  He saw his chance, and there was no stopping him.

"Sweetie," he said, "this is what I'm going to do for you.  I'm going to give you this voucher for a free make over.  It's a great way to learn tips if you don't know a lot about make up, and it's valued at $95.  It expires at the end of this month [Read:  Get yourself together.  Now.], and I'm going to give it to you today for free.  Just call and make a booking.  Come in any time, okay, sweetie?"

Dear goodness.  Shamefacedly I took my new souvenir, half wondering if he gave them to everyone, half wondering how bad you had to look to actually get one.  Sales made me think the former, but his eyes confirmed that latter.  Triumph, there was no mistake.  This unfortunate waif would no longer inflict herself on society, the greater good, etc, at large.

The world had had a narrow miss, but thankfully had been saved.

Monday, April 11, 2011

quicko: the archibald

Not to be confused with the illustrious Arty award of the Calvin Theatre Company, the Archibald is Australia's premier award for the best painted portrait of the year.  It actually has quite a few juicy controversies in its past (was it technically a "portrait" or was it perhaps a "caricature"?), but I'll leave you to wikipedia those on your own.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

a one station girl

I think I might have mentioned that Wynyard is my comfort station.  I love it, I could live there, I tell it secrets, etc.  Turns out I don't like the other stations at all, if by the other stations you mean Central and Town Hall.  If by the other stations you mean Circular Quay and Museum, well, then, that sentence isn't so accurate.  But it loses a lot of the punch, so I think we'll just stick with how it stands.

The problem with Town Hall is that all of the screens telling you where to go for your train when are located -- whose genius idea was this? -- outside the gates.  And not immediately outside the gates, halfway down the station outside the gates.  So you run in, run halfway down, check your time, run halfway back, forget which platform, run halfway back, recheck, run halfway again, miss your train, repeat.

The other problem with Town Hall is the amount of exits.  I haven't counted but I think there's at least half a dozen.  And while they've clearly gone to an effort to label them all, I still inevitably end up coming out the wrong on on the other side of the street (possibly even catty-corner if it's a particularly bad day).

I suppose the pros to Town Hall are that it is about as central as you can get (unlike, ahem, other stations that seem to indicate they might be centrally located) and that everyone knows it.  Wynyard cocks eyebrows of south-of-the-bridge types, which perhaps just shows they're trying to get their brows a bit higher.  Somebody of reasonably in-the-know repute told me Town Hall is actually the busiest station in Sydney, and I had no desire to question the authority.

As for Central, where do I even begin?  I think it's psychological.  It's a scary place.  Not so much in the dangerous sense as in the overwhelming sense.  It's just too big and sprawling for its own good, let alone anyone else's.  This is true inside and out.  If you find yourself on the wrong the side of the tracks, literally, it's a monster of a job to rectify the situation.  I'd call it a good 20 minutes and severe frustration.

Inside the station though it's not really better.  From what I can gather (I rarely go if I can help it) there are two main, huge, entirely separate parts.  One services trains that go a long way away and the other services trains that go a short way away.  Or something like that.  Goodness know where you'll send yourself if you end up in the wrong half.

Even if you end up in the right half, though -- which is much easier to do when you catch a train in to Central -- you still have the problem of figuring out where to go next.  You can follow signs to the ways out easily enough, but it's which way out that's the question.  I don't care which one you pick, you'll still spend at least ten, if not fifteen, minutes trying to just disentangle yourself from the station and emerge on real roads that you recognize.

So, for instance, I now work not that far from Central.  And it would, theoretically, make reasonable sense to take a train there.  I, however, after two tragic days of trying this maneuver, have decided to put my Australian vocabulary to use and give it a miss.

It just isn't worth the ten minute post-train trek to the street.  Sure, it looks nice and close on the map, but is it?  No!  The M30 does me just fine, thank you very much.

And you know how I feel about buses!

update: the usual bus blooper

Sigh.  It's the usual.  You never check bus times any more because it's really just a waste of time -- they come when they feel like it and not when they don't.  But inevitably if you're in a rush -- an occasionally if you're not -- you will get to the bus stop five minutes after the bus.  That comes every 30 minutes.  And you will sit there.  And wait.  P. a. t. i. e.  n.  t.   l.   y. For 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 minutes.  And it will be 5 minutes late.  It's the usual.  Sigh.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

update: yet another bus blooper

You're waiting in line for your bus one morning.  It's gotten quite long, but you're near the front of it and the 246 is pulling up miraculously full of empty seats.  However, just behind it, the M30 is pulling up and will take you all the way to your destination.  It's a tough call, but seeing as you're going to be running for the same M30 at Wynyard anyway, you figure you might as well go for it now.  You leave your spot in line, go for it and ... the M30 is too full and decides even though it's supposed to, it's not going to stop at your stop today.

Epilogue:  You walk grumpily to the end of the long line and end up standing all the way into the city on another bus before catching a different metro bus from Wynyard.  Welcome to the weekend.

Friday, April 8, 2011

quicko: state slogans

Like American states, Australian states also have state slogans.  Ahem:

New South Wales:  The First State*
Queensland:  The Sunshine State**
Victoria:  The Garden State***
South Australia:  The Festival State
Western Australia:  The Real Thing
The Northern Territory:  Outback Australia
Tasmania:  Apple Isle
The Australian Capital Territory:  The Nation's Capital

*American equivalent:  Delaware
**American equivalent:  Florida
***American equivalent:  New Jersey

Thursday, April 7, 2011

quicko: wagga wagga woy woy

Australia has some of the coolest place names in the world -- Kirribilli, for example.  Many of the best names come directly from Aboriginal languages.  Here's the interesting part I just learned:  there are many places that are words repeated -- Wagga Wagga or Woy Woy for instance -- and this rhetorical device, in Aboriginal, meant "a lot of" whatever the first word was.  I have no idea what Wagga or Woy means, but say if one meant "ants," then the doubling effect would mean "LOTS of ants!"  Cool, huh?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

quicko: our ______

The highest compliment for an Australian, I've heard, is to be referred to as "our _______."  As in, "our Nic" (i.e., Nicole Kidman).

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

quicko: kangaroo meat pies

The other day I had my first kangaroo meat pie.  Honestly, I was quite a bit apprehensive, mostly because I don't like pie.  The filling I'm generally okay with, but the crust just doesn't do it for me.  And meat pies are utterly covered in crust.  The kangaroo part didn't excite me either -- I've had kangaroo before, and generally find it just gamey.  But social norms called and I took half a pie.  Much to my shock, I actually liked it.  It was absolutely delicious.  It was homemade, which always helps, and the crust was not same crust I'd thought it'd be -- it was closer to a pastry than an out and out dough-based entity.

As another note, Australians are crazy about meat pies.  They're practically the national dish.  They always make an appearance on Australia Day, and are just omnipresent -- pie shops are open late at night, and a staple of Australian night culture.

Furthermore, "pie" to an Australian is always "savory" -- whereas to an American, it's quintessentially sweet.

Monday, April 4, 2011

quicko: cheers, big ears

An Australian saying:

Cheers, big ears.
(Followed, optionally, by:)
Same goes, big nose.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

quicko: time change

FYI, Sydney is now 14 hours off US EST.

photos: palm beach is always beautiful

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Friday, April 1, 2011

quicko: papaw ointment

Every Australian I've met absolutely swears by this ointment, and many carry it with them.  It is the treatment for burns, cuts, scrapes, bites, rashes, etc. -- anything that go wrong with your skin.