Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Quote Of The Day

"The Ethiopian blend is really good. I guess it's always a skinny latte, eh?"

An Open Letter to Viacom

Listen here, Viacom. I've never asked you for much. Why must you take away one of life's simple pleasures down here in Oz?

For so long, I've been able to enjoy The Daily Show and The Colbert Report without resorting to tricks such as streaming through a VPN to get a US IP address. And then I return from my Trip Of Epic Proportions, and find that now Australia is blocked from streaming the shows.

I know that you haven't blocked all countries. Just some (most?). The comments section of the shows' respective web pages suggests that those countries you've blocked are up in arms. Do you really want to aggravate that many viewers? And what's the real value of blocking other countries? It's not like the shows aren't going to just pop up on bittorrent. How do you think I'm getting last nights?

There are a couple things that I really miss about not living in the States, but this wasn't one of them. Throw the world a bone and knock this crap off.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Bothell, WA


Least exciting waffle, trip to date.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

vegas

the one destination that makes southwest run out of seat belt extenders

--
Sent from Gmail for mobile | mobile.google.com

Monday, April 20, 2009

Melbourne to Sydney Drive

This post is now officially way late. Eons ago, we took this trip.

So, somewhere in the ball park of six weeks ago, we drove from Melbourne to Sydney. The most direct route is about 880km. We did it in about 1500km via the Great Alpine Road and the route up the coast. We scored a one way car rental from the respective airports for A$8 a day. Not bad.

Day One:
We took off with a map and a bit of camping gear, but no real plan. We knew that we wanted to drive the Great Alpine Road, and that we had to get to Sydney by a certain time. Those were our only restrictions. The plan was to crash where it suited us each night.

On our way to the north end of the Great Alpine Road (B500) we drove through some of the areas where the brushfires had been. It was rather dramatic to be on a highway surrounded by char.


Immaturely, we went by the town of Dookie.


The start of the Great Alpine Road is a beautiful valley with wineries and picturesque stretches like this.


The Great Alpine Road then turns up. It climbs for about 20 km going up Mount Hotham, which is a ski area in the winter. The road winds through a forest of mountain ash before breaking out above the treeline. The views are pretty fantastic from the top.





It seems that there is some snow in the winter. The red posts are on the side of the road that falls off, the whole way up. As you can see, they are not small. There are signs the whole way up that say to keep right of the red posts. Seems like good advice.


From the peak of Hotham, the road winds down through the mountains for 100 km or so and finally ends back at the coast. We drove to the town of Lakes Entrance for dinner and a sunset. There is a river that hits the Tasman Sea here.


We had hoped to camp the first evening, but had driven so long that we sort of ran out of daylight and had trouble finding a campsite. All the designated campgrounds were full of generator running campers, and we couldn't find a decent beach to crash in the dark. So, for simplicity, we grabbed a room in Nowa Nowa, which is just a crossroads with a hotel/bar. It was cheap, clean, and mostly vacant. There hadn't been a signature in the guest book in about 20 days, but there was one other room occupied. Mission accomplished.

Day Two:
The second day started with a stop at Cape Conran, where I found the biggest piece of seaweed I've ever seen.


There were plenty of surfers on the east side of the cape. It was a fairly desolate beach too. Very cool spot.


On the way off the cape, we saw this sign. Confused, we pulled over to inspect it. The top creature appears to be affixed to the sign just like the others, and the spacing indicates it should be there, but we have no idea what it is.



After a quick visit to Gypsy Point and Mallacoota, we entered the New South Whales countryside. It's very different than the Victorian countryside, almost as soon as you cross the border. It becomes much more rolling terrain, and despite Victoria being The Garden State, south NSW was just as green. Maybe more accurately, it was a different green - much more farmlands. We covered a lot of distance through here, not because it wasn't beautiful, but because there weren't as many specific stops that we wanted to make. Lots and lots of farmland.


We found Camel Rock on the map and were inclined to stop. From some angles, it really does look like a camel.


Near the end of our day, we tried to camp at Mystery Bay.

There was a reasonable car campsite, and a great beach, but sadly, there was nowhere to get food, and we were woefully under prepared. So, we spent some time at the beach before motoring north a bit farther.

In the end, we wound up camping in Dalmeny, where the view also wasn't so bad.


Day Three:
Very near the start of our drive, we ran across Mt. Agony Rd.

The beginning was rolling but sealed, and actually would have made a great bike race. Then it turned to dirt, and the name became very appropriate.


We stopped at Dolphin Point, where a river enters the Tasman. It had notched out a cool channel in the rock.


As we were leaving, we got to use another one of Australia's very accurate, yet very odd street signs.


A bit up the road was Seven Mile Beach, which, despite it's curious measurement, was probably accurately named. On the beach, we saw three guys kite-biking, or something. It was like a kite board, only there was no board, but a recumbent bike. They could really get going fast. I was impressed. It looked like a lot of fun.


Also, it seems that pipis can kill you. But I really don't know what pipi is.


Arguably my favorite stop along the drive was at Black Head. It is this black volcanic rock peninsula that sticks out off the coast. You can walk the whole way out, as many fishermen did, and have the waves crash around you. Also, there is amazing animal and plant life all over the surface that is living because of the water that pools up.

I think what amazed me about Black Head the most was the sheer power of the water, and how close you could get to it. Some sort of raw energy. Very cool feeling.


Next stop - Kiama - easily the biggest (and maybe only) tourist trap we stopped at on the entire drive. We saw on the map that there was a blowhole, and figured that we should check it out. It was rather anticlimactic, except for watching Asian tourists be amazed. It also had a lighthouse. In summary, don't go to Kiama.


The Sea Cliff Bridge was clearly a stop for Shannon, and I suspect one of her favorites. It's a lot like the Lynn Cove Viaduct on the Blue Ridge Parkway, except that it goes out over the ocean. From an engineering perspective, it was pretty sweet. You can walk the whole thing, and go check it out from the middle.


You can also see the bridge from Stanwell Park, which is also where hang gliders are launched from. Model airplanes, as well. It's quite blowy, so I guess just about anything can take off. Great view to hang glide over.


Our last bit of daylight was spent driving through Royal National Park. It's more or less a jungle in there, all the way until it hits the beach. Then the beach opens up between cliffs all down the coast, much like this one. There are miles and miles of hiking trails, and I'd really like to go back, especially since there are hostels in the woods that operate sort of like a hut system.



And that was pretty much it. We finished the drive into Sydney and grabbed a hotel for the night before flying back to Melbourne the next day on UA. It was the typical wacky UA SYD experience, where nothing was the same as any time before. But whatever.

All in all, a great trip.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Slow News Day

There are two news trucks at the post office distro center in Raleigh today.

Breaking news - idiots like myself file their taxes on the last possible day. Nothing exciting going on?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Bruxelles

Quote of the Day

me: ive got it with me. ill have to take a picture and email it because im in brussels
hang on

Ryan: of course you're in brussels...

Thursday, April 9, 2009

United

Flew from Dallas to San Francisco tonight via LA. We set up a trip with a 30 minute layover in LA. That's pretty mad if you take only carry on luggage. I checked.

United managed to get my luggage to SFO on my flight. Not only did it make it, but it was the first stuff on the belt after the priority luggage.

So, good on ya, United. Now let's see how much grief you give me for eating dinner twice and trying to expense it, since we started flying at 18:00.

Texas

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Yarra Ranges Hike

Two weekends ago, we headed up to the Yarra Ranges area just outside the national park for a little day hike. We drove to Starling Gap, in the middle of the forest, via some mostly fine dirt roads.

The highlight of my day came on the drive in, on the dirt roads, when FINALLY, after six months of seeing roadkill, I finally saw live kangaroos. The first one was fairly good size, and bounded across the road and up the hill when it heard the car. It looked almost black, which was mostly unexpected. The second was much smaller, and grey, and stood watching us approach for quite a while before bounding off into the ferns. No pictures, naturally, because they are fast, but it was great to finally see some living, exotic wildlife. Naturally, it wouldn't be the last.

The hike was through a forest that is a mix of mountain ash (a member of the eucalyptus family) and huge ferns. It turns out this area is somewhat rain forest.




We didn't have exactly enough information about where we were going, so we just walked out a few hours, then walked back the same way. While out, we heard and saw some great birds, most of which we can't identify, naturally.

Our other big wildlife encounter was when we stopped for lunch. We were bombarded with leaches, which is something I've never encountered before. I found them on my legs, and we found them dropping off leaves to come after us and our stuff. I presume they can source heat like a mosquito. I did a little reading when we got home, and was pretty surprised how interesting they are. I was also glad to see that they will fall off after they get full, in about 30 minutes. But an anesceptic on their skin so the prey doesn't feel them and an anticoagulant so they get full faster? Brillaiant.

Once back to the car, we went down the road to the Ada Tree, named after some pioneer back in the day. The forest was subject to heavy logging back in the day, and this tree was spared because they thought it was diseased. Now it stands about 75 meters tall, and pretty darn wide. It's not giant sequoia, but it's pretty good. The hike in and out to it was pretty, also.




On the drive out, we saw that the lumberjacks working the area were creative.


And on the drive home, we saw the local butcher. We aren't exactly sure what it means, but it certainly appealed to our immature sensabilities.

The President of Iran

The next three posts will be retrospectives of things that we have done over the last month and a half or so. They are horribly delayed, but that's life. I did want to make sure to note them, however, because they were fun and/or interesting, depending, and this is a journal for myself one day.

Last week, we went to hear the former President of Iran, H.E. Seyed Mohammad Khatami speak at LaTrobe University, just northeast of Melbourne. It seemed like a pretty good opportunity to hear a viewpoint from a part of the world that is often not welcomed in the United States in person.

The atmosphere was excited, but not tense. There was little active opposition. People were handing out flyers at the door describing some of the human rights issues that Iran had under Khatami, but even they were on good behavior. The shocking thing to me was that there was no security going in the door. This shocked me because not only is he a former President, he is running again for President. Turnout was huge. Sadly, the school doesn't have a lecture hall large enough for all the people that turned out, so it was shown by video in three adjacent lecture halls, all of which were still standing room. We were lucky to have seats.

Khatami's keynote was about the importance of dialogue in international relations. He was encouraging a more moderate, open relationship between all countries to try to solve problems. His keynote was generally agreeable - nothing he said was really confrontational to any countries, and was delivered in generic terms. It was good to hear that he thinks that conversations are more important than arms. The speech was delivered in parts through an interpreter, and since it was written in advance, it was generally easy to understand, as it was translated well.

There was then a Q&A period from the audience. Questions were asked about Israel/Palestine, nuclear arms, terrorism, and if Iran had the ability to engage in the dialogue that was previously discussed. The Q&A format was tough, because the moderator took 3 questions at a time, gave Khatami time to make notes about responses, and then he would respond via his translator. It was so on the fly that I think some things were lost in translation, but the translator was impressive.

Khatami was adamant that under the nuclear nonproliferation treaty, Iran should be able to develop nuclear power plants as other nations can. I suppose there have been some dubious actions from that country in terms of development. Things like arms inspectors were not discussed.

Khatami's position on terrorism was very interesting, stating that extremism doesn't provide any gains for any party, and that dialogue was far more useful than religious extremism. He did make an interesting point that Bush's comments of "if you're not with us, you're against us" is in some way just as extreme (at the other end of the spectrum) as terrorism.

My general lack of understanding of the Israel situation probably didn't help me understand exactly what Khatami meant about there being failed policies, not failed boundaries in the region. That whole situation is something that I don't really understand.

On the Iranian dialogue, he indicated that he believed that Iran was certainly able to maintain dialogue with other nations, suggesting that the lines of communication were more open during Clinton's term than Bush, and that he would like to see communications with the US improve.

It was very interesting to sit there as an American "under the radar" as world politics were discussed. I don't know that the comments would have been the same had this conversation taken place at NYU. Two things that I did note: 1) Khatami stated that he wanted Obama to succeed and that the nation needed it (unlike some talk show hosts) and 2) he acknowledged that the Holocaust happened, unlike Ahmadinejad.

While I think there was slant on the conversation all night, and despite decidedly not being perfect, especially in terms of human rights, Khatami seems much more moderate than the current Iranian administration. It was very interesting to listen to, and I'm glad I had the opportunity.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Waskilly Wabbits

I now know where to get a whole, skinned, beheaded rabbit for $11.95 each, the next time I want to cook one.

If only I knew how to cook a rabbit.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

This is a bad thing?

This ad scares children? Good? What am I missing here?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Today In Conversation...

"I already threw her under the bus once today... I guess I can back up."

F1 Grand Prix

Sunday. The main event.

Oh, and a lot of other events, too. It was a pretty full day of cars. We went to the race with our neighbors, took a picnic, enjoyed the sunshine, and made a day of it.

There were classic cars...

video

Mini's...


V8's...


and a host of other cars, blackhawk, F-18, and Qantas 747 flyovers...


in addition to, of course, the F1 event itself...

video

One pretty cool thing they did between races was the "Ultimate Speed Comparison." They let a BMW off the line, then 39 seconds later, let a V8 supercar go, then about 20 seconds after that, let one of last year's F1 cars go. They all finished within a second of each other, but I think the V8 edged them both at the line. F1 cars are fast.

The day ended with a concert by The Who. I've got to take issue with their performance. Now, before you say to yourself "wow, I thought those tickets started at A$250, these kids must be rolling," we didn't go. And yes, I will still take issue with the show. Here's why.

I don't live far from Albert Park. 750 meters, maybe. I couldn't hear a single note. No bass line, no windmilling guitar riff, no screaming fans. For that kind of money, to get that little noise, maybe it's time that The Who retire. They can go write books or something. But seriously - go hard or go home.

Overall, a very cool event, and I'm glad I went. Do I need to rush and get tickets to Malaysia this weekend? Maybe not. But good times.

Results from the 2009 Melbourne F1 Grand Prix.