Tuesday, July 31, 2012

update: further troubles with buses

This actually happened a day or two ago, but it's taken me awhile to calm down enough to write about it.  Just when you think you've experienced anything that can go wrong on a bus ... you get trapped in your seat at your stop, miss the stop and have to get off at the next one and madly dash the distance back to arrive breathless at work just before you're due to teach.  And you thought you had a rough Monday.

Yeah, basically what it was was that I was by the window and there was a lady next to me who realized I needed to get out but had to wait for the others to get past her and by the time they did and she did and I got past the door was closing in my face.  I called out to the driving but he was busy training a new driver and didn't hear me and continued on to the next stop.  Literally, it's the stuff my nightmares are made of.  You try being a teacher and showing up five minutes before class starts and then tell me you don't have the same nightmares of being stranded in cabs that are going to get you there fifteen minutes late.

Moving on (phew), there are still further possible wrongs with buses.  Today, for example, I was trying to get on the bus at Broadway (a very busy stop, granted) but there were tons more people that usual just milling about at the bus stop.  Finally it dawned on me that the red 30 bus stopped there was actually out and out stopped and had shipped all its passengers off and was sitting there making an odd hiccuping sound in the background.  (Blooper number two of the post:  your bus can point blank break down.  I've been on it when that happened.  At night.  Just south of Dee Why.  On Thanksgiving.)  That at least explained the abundance of unwanted guests on the sidewalk.

A bus pulled up and began to let the throngs on.  It was getting full and another bus pulled up two buses behind it (the intermediary went to a different place).  I decided to stick with the line for the first one.  Which would have worked great if when it was my turn the driver hadn't slammed the door shut in my face.

Now I understand that when the bus is full they can't let any more passengers on.  What I don't understand is how you can snap the door shut without warning (I could easily have been in its way) and (ahem) how you snap the door shut when there are still seats left on the bus!

Oh, it was a bad moment for Sydney public transport and I.  A bad moment indeed.  Certainly not helped by the fact that the final bus in the lineup very nearly stood me up too (had it had a different driver I'm pretty confident it would have; as it was I just barely got noticed and catered to, but I think that was only because I was backed by a crowd of other angry bus miss-ees).  Thankfully it didn't, but all too often it is the case that the bus feels its done its duty by stopping entirely too far down (say, behind three other buses) and then speeds off into the middle lane while you, patiently waiting at the actual bus stop, are left without getting on at all because what you needed wasn't the first, second or third bus at all, but the traitorous fourth one.  Fourth bus syndrome, I think I'll call it.

Now if only someone could come up with the cure.

Monday, July 30, 2012

quicko: would you call these prices "down"?!?

Unfortunately it's a little hard to actually see the amounts that they're selling at these prices ... but trust me, they're still higher than normal in America.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Saturday, July 28, 2012

quicko: you get what you ask for

Sometimes I have trouble coming up with things to blog about (you've noticed, huh?) and sometimes I'm genuinely interested in what other people notice as cultural differences.  A couple weeks ago though I took notes while an Australian rattled off everything he didn't like about Americans.  They've been sitting in my notebook waiting to get written about (defended?  ranted against?  ignored?) and it's time for me to get a new notebook and close this one up and they're still annoying me so here.  Hot potato.  You take his criticisms and run with them, I don't want them any more.

--Things seen as "too American" such as employees clapping joyously at the opening of a new store.
--Americans talk too highly of themselves in public.
--Americans are too patriotic.
--Americans think too highly of their armed forces.
--Americans have bad coffee.

See why I was so thrilled?

Friday, July 27, 2012

plug: guzman and gomez

It occurred to me in the last blog post that I mentioned these guys (you haven't lived till you've had them) but they kind of need their own plug.  I really like them.

I suppose I should say it.  It's a Mexican -- I want to say fast food, but really, really don't want you to think of the place with the yappy dog -- chain at least around Sydney and it makes pretty yummy burritos.  If you're American, think Qdoba or Chipotle's -- same idea, more or less.  Twice as expensive, more or less, but worth the treat every now and again.

And now, having thought I had tons of wonderful things to tell you ... it seems I've exhausted my interest in the subject.  But if you'd ever like to buy me lunch ...

Thursday, July 26, 2012

quicko: jamie oliver's restaurant in sydney

It was my friend Anne's birthday the other day so a group of us went out for dinner at Jamie Oliver's restaurant in Sydney.  Not being interested in cooking anything more complex than taco salad (surely I've tortured you with pictures before ...) -- and only then under very extreme conditions of hospitality -- I really would never have stumbled across the restaurant without someone else propelling me into it.

Quite literally, really.  I've actually had several meetings directly next door to it, and I had never once registered that it existed until I looked up the address, discovered it was less than two doors down from where I'd just been, and thought, "gee, well, that's crazy, it must be really hidden."

It's not.  It's got big, glass walls at the entrance.  You just don't tend to see it unless you're looking for it, it appears.  I've actually been having a bit of trouble with glass in general lately, but if GarryWith2Rs doesn't tell you about it, you're certainly not getting it out of me.

So anyway, there I was, the queen of cereal and all things requiring less than no time to prepare (apples, chocolate ... occasionally cups of milk when I really splash out), at Jamie Oliver's restaurant, trying to act as if I had a clue what half the words on the menu were.

Generally vocabulary is my strong suit, but not, it appears, in fine dining.  I hedged my bets that half the rest of the table also had no idea and took the dignity blow of being the person to ask Anne what every single item I thought I was remotely interested in meant.  Which was really very handy because it turns out that one of the major ingredients in one of the salads I was strongly considering was really just a fancy name for cheese (probably some fancy kind of cheese, but still cheese).

Perhaps I haven't mentioned that I loathe cheese?  I loathe cheese.  Yep, pretty much all of it.  My two classic caveats have always been pizza (come on, I'm not a freak) and quiche, though I've recently had to add an addendum that if there is enough sugar to mask the cheese, I'm generally okay with it too.  Like in cheesecake.  But gosh, there's got to be a lot of sugar.  Oh, and it also seems that I've been happily eating it on burritos at Guzman and Gomez for quite some time as well, having completely mistaken it for ... a new kind of lettuce? ... for long enough to let it slide by.  I must be slipping.

Regardless, I loathe cheese and I certainly did not want a repeat of the unfortunate haloumi episode wherein I had very courageously ordered a dish of haloumi only to be shocked and distraught when what I was sure was fish turned out to be very definitely not fish at all.

Eventually, I decided to go with the silver dory, mostly because the waiter had referred to it as the "fish special," which led me to believe strongly that it was indeed fish and not cheese.

Happily, this time I was right and the silver dory was delicious.  I wouldn't go so far as to say my appetite was whetted by the end of it (and the salad.  I'm not really sure what it was -- and I highly suspect I dislike the sauce it was in on principle of it being entirely too close to "white and gunky" for my taste -- I also loathe anything "white and gunky" that isn't full of sugar -- but it was surprisingly okay and I ate it happily, though not as happily as the fish), but for a slightly fancier than usual restaurant, I figured I'd done okay.  (Why, oh why is it that the more you pay, the less they give you?  I shall never understand this conundrum.  Yet another reason I am an infrequent frequenter of fine dining.)

Again happily, though, this newfound hole in the "fullness" category left plenty of room for dessert.  (Ah.  That's the answer.  Marketing.  Vicious, vicious marketing, trying to take my money.  I should have just gone to Max Brenner afterwards and gotten twice as much.  Next time.)  They had one of those la-dee-dah ideas of giving you three flavors of ice cream you'd never normally think to put together (chili chocolate, hazelnut (not so bad, yet, I know, but wait) and lemon) and then sprinkling the resulting conglomeration with butterscotch topping and honeycomb (it's some candy thing here).  It was actually really good, if, again, not entirely filling.

All in all, it was a lovely evening (or night, rather.  Considering that bookings were unavailable before quarter to nine, it was a quarter to very late night for a Tuesday by the time I made it home.) and I hear the restrooms there are really quite exquisite as well.  Which would be very handy to know if I thought they'd be inclined to let me waltz in off the street to use them, but somehow I doubt it.

Anyway, that's the long and short of it.  A lovely evening at a lovely restaurant with lovely friends.  If only I hadn't eaten Nemo's friend.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

quicko: jaws open more? less?

I seem to be told both of these are true of Americans' pronunciation, on a variety of occasions.  Your call.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

quicko: split the bill

While a significant number of Australian restaurants are capable of splitting a bill, I find that it very rarely actually happens.  I can only figure that Australians enjoy sitting around spending ages working out who owes what and intermittently getting ripped off a dollar, two or ten every now and again.  For whatever reason, splitting is just not the done thing here.  I think possibly it's thought to be discourteous to the waiter or waitress -- which, speaking from experience as a former waitress, is a nice but unnecessary thought.  For goodness sake, it's their job!  Maybe you could round up a bit on their tip, but waitstaff expect to produce and split bills routinely.  At least in America.  Not sure what that precise consensus is here.

Monday, July 23, 2012

quicko: how many nifty united states?

Australians have virtually as much trouble remembering how many American states there are as they do remembering when Halloween is.  Both times they guess perilously close (October 30?  No, wait, November 1 ... er, maybe the 29th?  Okay, okay, I give up!), but with no cigars.

Obviously, then, the prime guesses for American states are somewhere in the high 40s or low 50s ... ranging generally from about 47 to 52, encompassing any number but 50.

How do they think the song goes?  Fifty-one nifty United States?  It really doesn't have the same ring.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

quicko: the southern draw(l)

Australians range in their estimation of most American accents -- some like them, some don't, some are fairly neutral -- but most express fondness for the Southern accent.  The Southern accent!  As a proud Northerner, I constantly take offense at this.  Sure, the Beach Boys might have liked it, but really?  Southern?  Oh, come on!!

They don't seem to care, though.  Guys, girls, everyone.  Australians like the Southern accent.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

quicko: adjectives for each

One of the overriding differences between Americans and Australians, according to a handful of Australians I was chatting to the other day, is that Americans are optimistic, whereas Australians are (I was waiting for the obvious antonym here but got:) cynical (which I think they think sounds smarter and, as an added benefit, less Scrooge-like).

I think there's a decent chunk of truth in that, as far as sweeping generalizations go.

Friday, July 20, 2012

quicko: engagement parties

Engagement parties are reasonably typical parts of Australian culture, particularly when there is a long (or undetermined) span of time between the engagement and the wedding.  They're usually afternoon/early evening sorts of affairs with family and assorted friends from various places (church, work, sports teams, etc.).  Children may well be invited as well to the mix-and-mingle event.  Presents are happily received but (I'm hoping) not required.  I've personally had a run of engagement parties to attend recently and am pretty sure I haven't mortally offended by only taking a card to each of them ...

Thursday, July 19, 2012

quicko: double trouble

Now this is a real humdinger of a false friend.  Americans and Australians both use it, but they use it in very nearly opposite ways, quite often for years on end without realizing how linguistically daring they've been and what very narrow academic escapes they've made.  I'm an English language professional and it took me the help of a stunt linguist to get it safely right.

So yeah.  My story starts late one night and ... yeah, I haven't got time for the story, sorry.  It's late one night now and evidently there's paid a English language profession waiting for me in the morning.  Here's the short of it:

America:  to get a BA you need a minimum of one major.  One's the norm, more or less, but two is cool too.  It's more work, more prestige, yadda yadda yadda.  There's also this thing called a minor.  Basically it carries no real weight, but usually no one sees fit to tell you this until you've decided to do one or two, at which point your best bet is to scrap the whole plan entirely and go for an interdisciplinary major.  Exit, tassle left.

Australia:  to get a BA you need ... something.  Check with your friendly neighborhood Australian as to what exactly.  But there's a major involved, which would be along the lines of "lots" of courses in a particular department.  For example, English.  You'd take ... a lot of the English courses available.  But then, if, hey, you really, really loved English and you took a double dose of pretty much everything the department offered, you'd end up with a double major.

Whoa, see the difference?  America double major = study two different fields; Australian double major = study one field lots.  An Australian major sounds like of kind an American minor to me (maybe they have to have at least two to graduate?  I hope so ...), but who knows.  Like I said, it's late for me now (well, not relatively speaking, but late enough on extended doses of entirely less sleep than "needed").  So, goodnight, sleep tight, don't let the double majors bite.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

quicko: billeted

This is an Australian verb I've learned recently and one I'm not entirely sure I'll use properly (though I'm sure a particular friend could correct me if I'm particularly wrong).

Basically, I think it's along the lines of "to stay at the home of someone at least vaguely connected to you for free."

It's the whole using it in a sentence bit that I'm a bit concerned about.  I think it'd go, say:  "I billeted at Kim's place because I follow her blog and she's really cool," but it could be "Kim billeted me up for a night," or possibly "I was totally billeted at Kim's."  The last two just sound kind of wrong, but, hey, it's an Australian word, so who knows?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

quicko: pantyhose

America, 10.  Australia, 0.

Sheer (ha!) number of pairs that worked from each country recently.  Possibly slightly biased.  And approximated.  Artistic license, for goodness sake!

But really.  American pantyhose are that much more sheer (i.e., look better and don't get as crinkled around the ankles, giving you that elderly doddery lady look).  They get runs (er, ladders) pretty much all the time, so I regard them as one-time use creations, but they're so much cheaper, it works out about even.

Which might lead you to argue that the numbers should be, say, 10-10.

But you'd be wrong.

Because American pantyhose are better.  Artistic license, case closed.

Monday, July 16, 2012

quicko: peony

Very odd pronunciation here.  Either than or one odd Australian who doesn't know how to pronounce it.  Can't actually remember who I heard it from; please don't take offense if it was you.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

quicko: the heebie-jeebies and other stories

In looking up the whole kit 'n caboodle idea, look what an amazing list I happened upon!!  Word nerds, this list of American phrases and sayings is for you!

(Incidentally, though I won't vouch for everything on this list, it's by far one of the better lists of its sort that I've come across.  Off the top of my head, I'd say about 75% of it seems pretty ridiculously accurate.)

quicko: kit 'n caboodle

Pretty sure this one tends toward the American side of phrases ... understood but not used here.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Thursday, July 12, 2012

quicko: the whole nine yards

Americanism, I'm told.  No one really seems to have any idea where the phrase comes from, not even (gasp!) Wikipedia.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

update: THAT hat

Avid readers may remember ages ago, around November 2010, there was a particular incident involving a particular hat and a particular friend.  Nearly two years you've waited for photographic evidence of what precisely that very precise hat looked like, and now you finally have it.  Or at least as close as you can come.  Though you may recall that the particular incident was particularly unsuccessful, the particular friend's particular parents purchased the precise hat.  I'm now pleased to finally be able to give you a very accurate picture of a very precise hat:

Particularly worth it, wouldn't you say?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

photos: moirder!!

Photos from tonight's 1920s style Chicago gangster themed murder mystery party!!
Special appearance by GarryWith2Rs of Cum Tacent Clament ... don't let his cynical online voice fool you ... he's actually quite friendly in person!

Monday, July 9, 2012

quicko: flippantly dating

I really don't know that this is true, but I recently heard Americans being accused of being terribly flippant daters -- i.e., that we date many people simultaneously, whereas Australians, I'm told, stick to one person at a time.  Anyone else noticed this?  The opposite?  Personally, I plea the Fifth and that's all you're getting out of me!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

quicko: attitudes towards life

There's a big mental mindset difference between Americans and Australians -- Americans tend to be ridiculously optimistic, enthusiastic and energetic, whereas Australians tend to be more cynical and laid back about life in general.  Kind of like the difference between a puppy and an older dog perhaps?

Saturday, July 7, 2012

update: max brenner still pretty ridiculously good!

It's been awhile since I've paid proper homage to Max Brenner, so here's a quick reminder -- I still say you haven't lived until you've had ... him!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

quicko: interstate travel

I was talking with an Australian friend about our cultural differences and she suggested I mention how Americans will travel/move interstate at the drop of a hat, but Australians tend to stay more put.  It's heard of to move from one state to another, but not nearly as common as in America.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012



Tuesday, July 3, 2012

quicko: phone companies

You know how there's big name companies that are household names?  Like Sprint and AT&T and Verizon?  Yeah, they're not so big in Australia.  Here the phone companies are (not sure how they've all merged so perhaps this slightly off) Vodafone, Optus and Three.

Monday, July 2, 2012

quicko: role reversal

I find it funny that in America the male "tradie" (i.e., construction worker, etc.) is stereotypically thought to be the lewd, leering sort ... whereas in Australia he'd have distinct competition from many of the girls oogling him!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

quicko: pros

Having just spent a month abroad, and half of it in the U.S., I figured a list of pros of both places makes sense.  I have a feeling I might have mentioned some of these before ... possibly repeatedly ... but hey.  I've been on vacation.  You should be happy just to get a break from all those photos!  So, without further ado:

--work-life balance
--4 weeks annual leave
--more ability to travel
--dates written reasonably
--tax built into prices
--tipping non-essential
--higher education paid for by government
--public transportation
--cool money

--floors in elevators numbered reasonably
--easy to have pets
--more cities
--more cultural events
--celebrate holidays fully
--can eat, shop, etc. 24/7
--easy to have a car
--hay rides and pumpkin patches
--college campus experience
--good passport to have