Tuesday, May 31, 2011

quicko: not so hot

Australians, I was told after spending the whole night snugly curled up next to a friend's heater, do not leave their heaters running throughout the night.  It seems they are all environmentally conscious and turn it off.  Which is all well and good if you want to freeze to death on your friend's couch.  Thank goodness I'm not Australian.

Monday, May 30, 2011

quicko: going, going ...

Vocab lesson:

To have a go at:  to make fun of
How you going?:  How are you doing?
How'd you go?:  How did you do?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

review: my place

I didn't expect to like My Place.

I got it for my birthday and didn't like the cover.  If you'd told me it was non-fiction, I probably still wouldn't have got to it yet.

But I read it.  And, what's more, within the first chapter I was actually into the book.

I'm not sure what I expected -- boredom, presumably -- but I didn't get it.  It's a book I think you could accurately term "beautiful," which also generally sends me scurrying the opposite direction, but was really well written, and enjoyable to read.

I think it's possible I wouldn't have liked it in high school (I think it's one of those books that gets put on recommended reading lists for Australian high schoolers, along the lines of a To Kill a Mockingbird), but, gosh, I'm really actually nearly a decade removed from high school now.  I was going to say perhaps my tastes are maturing, but I read Pilgrim's Progress as a fifth-grader, so I'm not sure they had too terribly far to go.  Not that I got much out of it, but I also despise re-reading, so whatever I did manage to glean is probably all I'm going to get.

But My Place is a beautiful book.  It is the first person narration of Sally, a little Australian girl of, to her, unknown origins.  It is her quest to discover her roots, which sounds terribly pretentious, but is actually extremely down-to-earth.

There's a blurb on the back of the book from Alice Walker of The Color Purple fame, and there are definite similarities between the plight of African Americans and the struggle Sally's family had.  It's a monumental journey, but not in a tiresome sense.  It's very real, very grounded and very much worth reading.

I think the thing that worried me was that there wouldn't be any plot, any momentum or any forward pull -- any of the "but-what's-going-to-happen-next?!" variety of anticipation.  I, however, found myself finishing the last hundred pages or so in one fell swoop, wanting desperately to know the mysteries Sally herself was so desperately seeking.

I can't tell, though.  Now it's your turn.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

quicko: the rabbit rapist ... no, really ...

This story speaks for itself.  What it doesn't speak for is the longest, most hysterical conversation I've ever had on ... a Very Serious(ly Bad) Topic.

Friday, May 27, 2011

public service announcement: bad news

The Menzies has put locks on their lobby restrooms.  How cruel is that??  Best bet trapped at Wynyard then I can only recommend going to the ones in the hallway behind Max Brenner or elsewhere in that complex -- though some may close after, who knows, 5 pm.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

quicko: nice strangers

Twice recently I have had remarkable, uncharacteristically lovely experiences.

First, a couple days ago when I was en route to a late evening event at the Writers' Festival by bus I stopped on my way out to ask the driver directions. 

"I'm going that way," he said.  "I can take you.  I have to turn the lights out, but you're welcome to come along."

I was amazed:  a free ride (Well, I get a My Multi.  I had certainly paid for it!) from a nice bus driver!

Secondly, today I had finished a rapid dinner of takeaway sushi on a solitary bench at Wynyard only to decide I was ridiculously thirsty.  Seeing as there aren't any water fountains in Australia (hyperbole, people, hyperbole!), I naturally determined hot chocolate was my next best course.  I found a little shop that was still open and asked if they were still doing hot drinks.  The woman working there needed a repetition of the question about three times until she finally understood, but when she did she explained they were only doing hot chocolate and chai.  That wasn't a problem in the least for me, but the cash situation was.  The small hot chocolate was advertised at $2.50.

"How much do you have?" she asked.

"$2.10," I said.

"It okay," she said.  "I make you."

And she did.  I was blown away.

And there you have it:  two kind strangers -- in the space of not even a week!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

quicko: the QVB

The Queen Victoria Building.  Icon of Sydney.  Not so famous as the Opera House, but it's been here way longer.  Currently under a bit of scaffolding, presumably for renovation, but still quite impressive.  A building that no doubt holds many secrets.

I also could have sworn I had a better picture of it.  Evidently not.

Finally, my phone's predictive text absolutely refuses to predict it.  Every other three letter combination it can handle, but it's my opinion that the lack of vowel throws it entirely and sends it into a rampage.  So catastrophically so that it starts predicting four and five letter words instead -- anything, anything, but at least give it a vowel, it cries.  So I give up and put a space between each letter.

Kim v. pink cell phone, who has won?  I was going to say I'd let you be the judge, but I don't like where that might be heading.  KIM has won, end of story!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

quicko: the ATO

The Australian Tax Office.  Much as I dislike it throughout the year, I'm generally quite the fan post-June 30 when I get my tax back!  Currently holding on with bated breath!

Monday, May 23, 2011

quicko: TAFE

TAFE -- who knows what it stands for -- is Australian "tertiary" education -- i.e., past high school, but not really what I'd call college.  It's a bit like a vocational school or a community college -- but, depending on your social circles, possibly without such a stigma.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

quicko: writers' festival update

Walsh Bay -- home of the Sydney Theatre Company, Sydney Dance Company and the Sydney Writers' Festival.  The photos are from earlier in the festival, but I hadn't got them up yet.  Wasn't it a beautiful sunset?

Anyway, just when you thought Kim couldn't possibly go to any more of the festival ... she did.  (Really, she couldn't believe it either.)

Today's episode was much briefer than, say, Friday's, and was really lots of fun.  I went with two friends who had cleverly walked across the bridge (we're all Lower North Shoresiders).  I, however, running perpetually late, determined it would be much faster to simply meet them there.  Besides, on the way I discovered I could also grab a cupcake that way, too.

Amazingly, we all ended up in the line for our session at exactly the same time!  I was floored, but, as I've said before, it was a writers' festival.  Stranger things have happened.

Anyway, my friends wanted to see Dr. Karl, a renowned Australian scientist with lots of books and a radio presence, so we got in line for his presentation.  As per usual, we waited patiently until five minutes before and then filed in.  (Incidentally, this is the second time in writing about the writers' festival I typed out "orderly" as in, "we filed orderly in" but realized it needed to be something like "orderlyly," which clearly isn't a word, but surely "orderly" is already an adverb, but it still doesn't make sense there, even though it does later in the sentence -- "we filed in orderly."  Maybe it has something to do with separable and inseparable phrasal verbs?  Gosh, I've been teaching ESL too long!)

The talk itself was pretty interesting and exceptionally rapid.  You think (those of you who know me) I talk fast -- you should have heard this man!  When we left I asked if it had been a hour or an hour and a half.  It was just an hour, but man, he packed 90 minutes' worth of talk into it.  It was funny, informative and, as one friend said, rather on the manic side.  He was kind of all over the shop in terms of topics (I, for instance, completely missed the segue between the Bermuda Triangle and the lack of justice served by judges in Israel. But hey.  I suppose it could happen to any of us.)

Afterwards, (this was such a novel concept to me after Friday) we (are you ready for this?) left!  It was so exciting!  Much as I love the festival, it was lovely to simply go for one session and then leave.  Particularly as we then walked over the bridge!  (Have I mentioned how much I love the bridge?)

We left discussing how great Sydney is -- there really are so many amazing things in the city -- fun things, free things, cultural things, cool things, etc. that just happen regularly and are there for everyone to enjoy.  And then there's the harbour and the Opera House and the bridge and the view.  Sigh.  I'm so happy to live in Sydney!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

the sydney writers' festival

As aforementioned, the Sydney Writers' Festival (abbreviated SWF which just seems awfully "single white female" of them, but never mind) is currently on, so what can I do but write about it?  Here goes.

Let me preface by saying there's still 2 days of the festival but I am thoroughly writered out.  I dashed out of work both Thursday and Friday this week in time to make a 2:30 session.  The problem with Thursday was that I actually got there at roughly 2:32, which is clearly much too late to get into a session, by about 30 minutes.

If there is one thing this festival has got going for it, it's punctuality.  Really.  You wouldn't think writers would be so highly regimented, but their orange-shirted helpers certainly are.  It's really pretty highly structured all around, which is necessary considering there's roughly lots and lots of lots people there.  So many lots of people in fact that you really do have to start standing in line about half an hour before a session if you actually want to get in and even then, as we'll see later, it's a still a bit of a gamble.

So assuming you arrive on time at 2 for a 2:30 panel discussion (Sigh.  Why can I, even after nearly a decade, still not get "To be early is to be on time, to be on time is to be late, and to be late is to miss the bus" out of my head from marching band?  Oddly enough "The form -- is always the first priority.  Constantly correct the form -- by visually guiding off of others.  Stay in the form -- regardless of your plotted position." is still pretty stuck in there as well, just not quite as apropos in this paragraph.), you jump in line (hopefully the right one; there are many to choose from) and proceed to stand there and wait in precisely the same spot for a good 25 minutes.  I have yet to understand why, but the festival is clearly under the impression that too many writers sitting in one auditorium for any longer than five minutes before a session starts is bound to create more trouble than they're inclined to deal with.  Thus, at 2:25 the line will move forward orderly and at 2:30 on the dot the host will commence the program.  At exactly 3:15 questions will begin being taken, at at 3:30 the host will announce, regardless of what else is simultaneously being said, that the session has now concluded and the presenter will be in the book shop signing copies in 10 minutes.  Then everyone files dutifully out.

This is all well and good as long as you actually A. get in B. to the right session and C. it's good, and as long as D. you stop at the restroom you pass on the way out.  This is vital.  Whatever you do, do not make the dastardly error I committed by listening to the "helpful" lady who said there were more restrooms "just around the corner" and they had shorter lines.  I can only assume she mean the port-a-potties, which for obvious reasons I never remotely have considered using.

Unfortunately, the area "just around the corner" was also outside of the area I'd queued for 30 minutes to get into and there was no way there were letting me back in willy-nilly.  Or really at. all. period.  So, I spent the next ten minutes asking the normally extremely helpful orange shirted individuals where real restrooms could be found and was increasingly told there weren't any, sorry, deal with it.  Obviously this would not do.  Finally I found one orange shirted woman whose eyes lit up with understanding.  She clearly did not use port-a-potties either, and told me it was a great secret, but if I went to shhh-shhh-shhh-shhh I could find real restrooms.  I did, and I have kept her secret.  But if you're a girl and you're desperate, ask and I'll tell you, too.  Deal?

So anyway, back to Thursday 2:32 pm.  There I was distinctly not in the highly scintillating "Reading Is Overrated" (humph.  the session certainly wasn't.) I wanted to be in but in whatever was available and what I determined later must have been the quintessentially Australianly titled "Home and Away."  I surmised fairly quickly that the woman speaking (it was two speakers chatting to each other while the audience listened more or less intently in) was of Aboriginal descent, which I found reasonably exciting as I am currently reading My Place by Sally Morgan, another Aboriginal writer.  I even harbored a fanciful little notion that, perhaps, just perhaps, I had inadvertently stumbled in on Sally Morgan (Hey, I'd also just seen a photo and heard mention that Markus Zusak, author of the last book I read, The Book Thief, was also around.  Stranger things have happened, and this, after all, was a writers' festival for goodness sake.).  Unfortunately, I am convinced my intrinsic authorial tendencies had convinced me before long that this woman honestly had an entirely different voice to Sally (who, for the record, could be dead for all I know), and, in the final blow, the program informed me that her name was actually Marcia Langton.  Come to think of it, perhaps her co-speaker called her Marcia once or twice, too, which would have also been highly suspect had she really been a Sally.  The program, informative tome that it is, went on to inform me that,

"Two long-time friends, indigenous activist Marcia Langton and writer Peter Robb, talk about matters of race and culture in contemporary Australia."

And talk they did.  For their full 45 minutes, and most of the question time too.  It was all reasonably interesting, but perhaps a bit more interesting had you actually lived it all yourself, as they clearly had.  I'm sure it was very intelligent and cultured and informative, but I was a bit sleepy.  It was really just a few brows too high for my post-IELTS teaching afternoon lull.

In any event, once I was caught up on every activist buzzword of the 1970s and how to rearrange them varying orders to form 45 minutes worth of highly intelligent sentences, I was happy enough to meander off to my second session of the afternoon:  "Cracking the Code:  the Art of Editing."

This program was great.  It was really fun and down-to-earth and there was an American guy on the panel.  Actually there was a British guy, an American guy and an Australian guy, so it was clearly some sort of joke waiting to happen, but I never quite got the punchline.  I really wanted to ask about cultural differences they saw between writers and readers and publishers and editors in their respective countries, but if you want to get a word in edgewise in the question time you have to be an absolute vulture.  Alas for you, I'm not.

After that, I had a few errands to run but then came back about 8:30 to catch The Chaser's 9 pm performance.  Unfortunately, I had forgotten the golden rule of arriving at least an hour before any show you actually really, really want to see.

The Chaser, for the unaware, is an Australian satirical group that performs for television and other such outlets.  They sometimes pull crazy stunts, offend the public and generally entertain and amuse in a potentially thought-provoking way.  Needless to say, the waiting area was packed.

I dutifully waited in (the of course not moving until 5 minutes before) line for my 35 minutes or so, occasionally with staff members walking down and saying, "you know, if you just want to go home, you'll probably get to see the show faster finding something of theirs on YouTube," or something roughly along those lines.  I persevered until 9, then gave up.  I was about 30th in a line of 100-plus.

Friday I was exhausted, but managed to fit in a full day of writerly goings-on.  I started at 2:30 (in line promptly at 2) with "When Is a Children's Book Not a Children's Book?," which was a great discussion about the blurring of the "young adult" and "adult" genres of fiction, as well as the "crossover" book which pulls readership from both.  For instance, Harry Potter as a children's-book-turned-adult-novel or The Book Thief as an adult-novel-turned-young-adult-fiction.  Or something like that.  It's all a bit fuzzy, really.

The thing they didn't mention that I really wanted them to was how, when I was a kid, all the books I read that were "good" (i.e., critically acclaimed, Newbery honor sorts) I really didn't like.  I enjoyed some "commercial" (what a lovely euphemism they coined) books and some "adult" fiction, but "young adult" classics such as Island of the Blue Dolphins, Hatchet, Bridge to Terebithia or Sarah, Plain and Tall were not at all my cup of tea.  Boggles me to this day -- when, for the record, I still don't like any of them.

After defining genres, I moseyed off to the Club Theatre at Pier 2/3 where I decided to try to get a seat for the rest of the day, seeing as everything else I wanted to see was there -- most importantly, The Chaser at 9 pm again Friday night.

The afternoon event was not nearly as popular as The Chaser and I was able to meander quietly in halfway through and sit down wherever I felt so inclined.  I found myself a good seat and cosyed up to "Conversations with Richard Fidler:  Daniel Swift's Bomber County," which discerning readers of this blog may realize is not generally in line with my life interests, broadly speaking.  Really, I'm not much of a bomber.  Shocking, I know.

The chat was actually reasonably interesting -- about Mr. Swift's grandfather who was a WWII pilot who got shot down.  I'm not exactly sure where the whole "this-is-a-writers'-festival" thing came into play for this one, but oh well.  Writing, history, it's all "arts," hey?

After the enlightening conversation with Mr. Swift, I had an hour or so to kill in the Club theatre before the next scheduled event, a taping of the radio show "Thank God It's Friday."  I found myself chatting to the two women I was sharing a small table with and we had a very happy, friendly chat for quite some time until my friend Melissa was able to join us moments before the show went on air.

It was really funny -- a panel of three humorists (with highly prepared, but thus also highly humorous, texts to share), a host and a couple guests appearances (can it be an "appearance" on radio?).  I thoroughly enjoyed it, and was excited to learn they actually broadcast every Friday from Ultimo and listeners can always come for free.  They were thrilled to have such a huge crowd, and we were thrilled to be there.

After that, Melissa and I thought we were set to keep camping out in the Club Theatre, but unfortunately, they cleared the whole place out for "tidying" or something to that effect.  It was most distressing, but we did seize the moment to find some real restrooms and grab a bite to eat.  The queue to get back in was already quite long for the 7 pm (Melissa-picked-it-not-me!) "Erotic Fan Fiction" readings prior to the 9 pm Chaser.  We waited our half hour, then did find again quite reasonable seats we were again grateful for.

The fan fiction ended up being really quite good.  Some of it was rather raunchy (er, erotic), but I suppose that was to be expected given the title.  Basically each of five readers took a turn of about 15 minutes reading a short story they'd written.  I discovered at the end when I consulted Melissa and two of them would have been hugely more entertaining to me had I had any idea who the famous people being referenced in them were.

Hey, cut me some slack.  They were famous Australians.

So the first guy wrote this story about two older movie critics who have a famous TV show.  It sounded a bit like Siskel and Ebert to me, except there was one guy and one woman who, according to the fan fiction, enjoyed making the show a bit more than they were contractually obligated to.

The second was also hysterical if you were an Australian and familiar with the (former?) cast of "Hey Hey It's Saturday."  While I'd heard the show existed, I fear much of the humor was lost on me, though I enjoyed the story for what it was.

The third story was by far my favorite:  it was written by an Australian woman named Elmo, which I found curious mostly because I had also recently met a young Asian guy also named Elmo.  In any event, she had the terribly creative idea of personifying Google.  What's more, Google fell in love with her protagonist (after all, he already knew everything about her, and googled whatever he didn't).  It was extremely funny and well written -- they type you wish you'd thought of writing first, minus the blatantly colorful language and descriptions.

The fourth story was a bit different -- if I understood correctly, someone else had written it and given it to the man it was written about to read for the first time in front of this audience.  Or possibly that was all a huge funny ploy.  I'm really not quite sure.  It was supposed to be about an encountered he'd had in the ever-elusive "industry," etc.  It was funny in parts, but I also wouldn't be surprised if I missed a major element or two there as well.

The final story contained characters I actually recognized -- a whole host of pop princesses.  Not (honestly!) that I am at all a pop princess type, but at least I know who Lady Gaga and Beyonce are.  It was also humorously well done.

After the intentionally erotic aspect of the night drew to a close, a few people left and a few more (thankfully including Melissa's boyfriend Joe) were let in to take their precious places in time for The Chaser.

It was worth the afternoon's effort -- a funny series of interviews, sketches, etc.  They interviewed two Jewish writers at the festival -- an old guy who'd just won the Booker prize and presumably is Quite Good, and a young woman who was presumably clearly troubled in some significant way she wrote elegantly about, as determined by her repeated references to her psychologist couch experiences and the drowning Ophelia sort of cover her book had.

They also did a short highlight commentary of the royal wedding (there was quite the hullabaloo here when Her Majesty Herself decided that The Chaser was not allowed to broadcast live commentary of the wedding; it seemed that their feelings had been rather hurt), a history lesson that thankfully didn't offend too much and then they got two people up to tell stories in 5 minutes:  one true and one false.  The audience was supposed to guess which was which.  All in all, it would have been much harder had the "false" storyteller not blatantly stolen the entire premise of her story directly from O. Henri's "The Gift of the Magi," switching only the long hair from the woman to the man and updating the setting to modern Sydney.  It was clever, but hardly likely to fool many (though my Australian friends seemed less familiar with O. Henri) at, of all places, a writers' festival.  It was fun, though.

And that's that!  I think I've written quite enough about the festival now -- as i said, it's on today and tomorrow as well, and well worth going early to.  As for me, I'm all written out.

The end.

Friday, May 20, 2011

public service announcement: sydney writers' festival

The Sydney Writers' Festival is on NOW through Sunday.  There's lots of free things totally worth going to, though unfortunately you really need to be in line at least/about a half hour before things start to get the places.  It's really popular -- for good reason!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

photo: glen's farewell

Goodbye!!  We'll miss you lots!!!

quicko: blocking bridges

This is highly dated news now, but last Friday morning the Sydney Harbour Bridge was closed for a ... while in the early morning.  This happens from time to time for marathons and car accidents and whatnot; this time it was because some guy was protesting against DOCS (Australian children's services) for restricting the time spent with his children or something like that.  Evidently he'd managed to finagle his way from his truck up the pylon or something and was threatening harm so they shut the whole thing down and everyone was reduced to using ferries.  Thankfully it was all under control and reopened by the time I went to work about quarter to eight, though it did make for a dramatic start to the morning.

Monday, May 16, 2011

quicko: come again?!

No matter how long you've been here, there are just some things that never fail to take you by surprise.

Case in point:  hearing all about the wonderful party the children had at church where they burst open a thong pinata.

quicko: a pity party

Unknown expression here.  Come join me and we'll have one.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

quicko: no egg rolls

Only spring rolls.  Not sure what they do in fall, but ask for an egg roll and you'll get a blank look.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

quicko: australian authors

A few big names I saw at Dymock's (major bookstore):

Bryce Courtenany
Tim Winton
Peter Carey

Friday, May 13, 2011

quicko: what i miss most (about the best staffroom ever)

Besides the people, obviously.  In no particular order:

--the mirror in the lift
--having a sink to wash my hands in when I come in off the dirty public transport
--10 am Friday biscuits
--casual Fridays
--my own desk!!!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

quicko: avoiding bus bloopers

Key strategy for convincing someone not to sit by you on the bus:  begin blowing your nose just as the new passengers are boarding.  Works wonders.

quicko: utes

Kind of squashed up pick-up truck quite prevalent in Australia.  Short, I'm told, for "utility."  Occasionally come in fun colors.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

quicko: opposing bus bloopers

Double-edged sword:  you can be in a crowd and either

A. flag down the bus and feel stupid because everyone also gets on OR
B. anticipating A, not flag down the bus and it doesn't stop because it turns out everyone was waiting for a different bus.

Also, you can get on a bus that you're sure goes to the place you want to go to with the ticket you're sure you're supposed to have only to have the driver tell you have what is lost in his accent as either the wrong "bus" or "pass" and force you to get off and wait for the next one.

Monday, May 9, 2011

quicko: australians and cable television

So last night I was casually asked, "You've blogged about Australians and cable television, right?"

"Uhh, no," I said.  "What about them?"

"They don't have it," my Australian friend said.

"Really?"  I asked.

"Well, some people have it, but not so many.  It's not like you guys who all have it."

"I don't.  My family never had cable," I said.

"But lots of you would," he said, which I had to concede was true.

And there.  Now I've blogged about Australians and cable television, and I hope I never have to again.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

happy mothers' day!

Happy Mothers' Day, Mom!!  I love you!!!

It's one of the holidays that actually is the same on the same day in both America and Australia -- though I'll always have a "mom" instead of a "mum."

review: company

Bobby.  Bobby.  Bobby, baby, Bobby.

Sorry, it's just that's the catchiest part of Company.  If you've seen it, you'll have it in your head already and know what I'm talking about.  If you haven't, well, you probably won't.

It's a good musical -- one of the most true-to-life ones I've ever seen -- but not great on the community theatre stage.  It's not exactly fun, but it is a bit on the thought-provoking side.  It's Stephen Sondheim, which should really just say it all.  Nobody was expecting a happy ending.

Not that it's all doom and gloom.  Sure, it's a bit bleak, but the songs are catchy.  You Could Drive a Person Crazy, Company and Another Hundred People Just Got Off of the Train are my favorites.  At least that's what I'm guessing they're called.  Sorry, I didn't feel it that necessary to look up their official titles, but I think I might be right.  It's been known to happen.

The Willoughby Theatre Company presented this production at Zenith Theatre in Chatswood.  It was reasonably well done, though a bit scarce on the audience end of things.  I'm not a musically inclined sort myself, but while the pit seemed okay, I thought some of the singers might have been a bit off key from time to time.  Others, though, were really great.

And I was struck again by how normal looking Australian actors are -- though perhaps that really works better with the plot anyway.  It's more real life.

Their 70s clothes were quite 70s -- a bit over the top, but I suppose that's to be expected on stage.  Their American accents were surprisingly good -- not the usual Valley Girl/hick most Australians get, nor the usual lapsing back into Australian accents you tend to get on stage.  One Southern drawl might have been a bit overdone, but really, I don't think there is any other way to do a Southern drawl.  I certainly spare no expense when I attempt it.

The set was good -- simple, but more would have been overkill.  Props were mimed perhaps a smidge more than necessary, but all in all that department was alright.

All in all the whole show was alright actually.  Nothing spectacular, nothing terrible.  Probably not worth the $40 they want for it, but how are you to know that before you go?

The bottom line?  For me, the best part of the night was the company.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

quicko: tortillas

This one gets me every time:  Australians, unless they've studied Spanish (and even sometimes if they have), will pronounce "tortilla" at face value.

Now I am not remotely an expert on the Spanish language, but at the very least I know that "ll" is supposed to be more along the lines of a "y."

Australians, take note!

Friday, May 6, 2011

review: the book thief

As I neared the end of The Book Thief, I was afraid it could be one of those books that is perfect right up to the end, at which point the author jerks it precariously around, causing it to lose its footing entirely and crash into a frustrating heap of an ending.

I am happy to report it is not.

That's not to say I wouldn't have been bawling my eyes out had I not been reading in public.  As it was, I still couldn't stop a handful of tears escaping.

Don't worry, I'm not spoiling it for you -- the narrator does that halfway through, anyway.

And frankly, any book set in Nazi Germany that doesn't make you cry really doesn't deserve to be read.

This one does.

I only read The Book Thief because it was a present.  I'd never have picked it up on my own accord.  I expected to tolerate it, but not necessary like it.

Sometimes I love being wrong.

I won't say it's my new favorite -- it's not -- but it deserves to be read.

Written by Australian author Markus Zusak, it's a relatively recent title that was getting all the press a little while back.  It's the story of Liesel, a young German girl, as seen through the eyes of Death.

I could rave to you about the character development and the writing style -- both are truly exceptional -- but I'd rather you read The Book Thief yourself, without too much pomp and circumstance.

Like I said, it deserves to be read.

And I don't give that compliment lightly.

quicko: present pricing

Yesterday I finally managed to articulate something that had been stewing in the back of my brain, but I never had actually put completely together:  among my American friends and family members, $20 is a pretty reasonable sum for a present (Mothers' Day, birthdays, Christmas, etc.).  However, among my Australian friends, $50 is a pretty reasonably sum for a present.

It's taken me ages to actually work this out -- and I've been continually perplexed at why I'm being asked to contribute more to a fund for a casual pal than I'd normally spend on my mom.  But this is it!  The "reasonable" figure is just a bit different.

Or maybe I'm just cheap?  Oh no ...!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

quicko: matty put the kettle on ...

... we'll have a cup of tea!  Preferably at noon on Friday :)

I think I've mentioned before that tea kettles are omnipresent in Australia, but virtually unknown in their electronic form in America.  Here are the photos, complete with sexy model:

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

quicko: incoming!

FYI, flights leaving the west coast of the United States and coming into Sydney arrive in the morning -- early in the morning -- but at least it's easy to get through customs and out of the airport and into the world at that time of day.  Unless of course you hit rush hour ...

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

quicko: cop tuck

I don't know if this is their worldwide policy or not, but in Australia police officers all get free food at McDonalds.

Courtesy Matt, cop-in-the-coming.

Monday, May 2, 2011

quicko: not so casual friday

I know it's only Monday, but I'm already thinking about Friday.  So sue me.

I just have observed that casual Friday is not quite so common in Australia as it is in America.

Well, let me rephrase.  I actually have no idea how common it really is in America, seeing as I've actually hardly worked there.  My Australian workplaces are 50-50 on the issue.  And, (this is the crowning glory of my research) the other Friday I watched people getting off buses in the morning rush (er, peak) hour and not many of them were wearing jeans.

Hence, Australians are not so casual on Fridays.

I rest my case.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

the pros and cons of thai food

This was not a topic I ever thought I'd think about, let alone address publicly.  But it seems the time has come.

Sydneysiders, as I've mentioned, are crazy about Thai food.  This adoration is particularly rampant on the Lower North Shore, where you can find more Thai restaurants than you can shake a stick at.  Not that anyone in the Lower North Shore shakes sticks at anything, but should you try, you'd most certainly fail.

And then give up and go have Thai food.

Now let me just say right out:


I like Thai food.  I really do.  I never had it growing up, except when my friend's mother (who was Thai) cooked for me.  I really don't remember what she cooked (said friend's brother making pancakes for breakfast seems to stick out more in my mind), but it was delicious.  And it's delicious here, too.  It's just that


it's so very filling.  It's great for lunch, but everyone always wants to have it for dinner, and it is just so heavy it leaves me feeling very overly stuffed.  I enjoy the stuffing, but not the rest of the evening.  However, on the plus side,


it is reasonably priced.  Which is very good when you're very broke and all your friends are continually engaging in food-related activities wherein you're expected to eat a full meal and looked at sideways every time you try to just order an appetizer because, at $7, it's the cheapest thing you can find on the menu.  At least you get your money's worth -- and quite possibly lunch tomorrow -- at a Thai place.  The problem just comes in when


your friends want to share.  Thai food is the sharing food.  Everyone orders something different and passes it all around and you, having ordered the cheapest dish on the menu thinking it's what you'd be paying for, are suddenly sharing all manner of dishes and forking out for the average price, plus the alcohol everyone else is drinking.  And not getting to eat any of the dish you ordered because you liked it because taking too much of it is rude.  Thankfully


the food does almost always come quite quickly.  Wherever you are, you rarely have to wait for long.  Unfortunately,


the plethora of pros of Thai food mean that everyone else loves it and is continually eating it and socially forcing you to do the same.  As I said, I like it, just not at every social occasion.  It's really just done a bit too much.  The frequency of visits, though, does mean that


you generally have a pretty good idea of what it's going to be like.  There aren't too many surprises, except as regards what you actually ordered


because most of the wait staff are not exactly fluent and often misinterpret your requests entirely.  However,


there are Thai restaurants nearly everywhere so if you are in the mood for Thai, you shouldn't have to go more than 50 yards to whet your appetite.  They might have


dimmed lighting, but at least there's usually a


great pun in their name.

And really, what more do you want from a restaurant?