Friday, November 27, 2009

Track World Cup #2

Last weekend, the second round of the UCI track world cup came to Melbourne. As events go, it's a fairly cheap way to be entertained. Also, elite level cycling!

Some shots from qualifying:

Points Race

Scratch Race

Sprints - Individual and Team


Random warm up shots

And some shots from finals:





Thursday, November 26, 2009

Gig Review - Pearl Jam, Etihad Stadium, Melbourne

Last Friday night, Pearl Jam was in town. This was easily the most that I'd ever paid to see them, but as we know, everything is more expensive here. Etihad is the biggest venue I've been to in probably 8 years. I haven't been doing the arena shows lately. It was big.

We had standing room tickets on the floor, which was split into the cheap floor seats and the close floor seats. We were in the cheaps, but right at the barrier, so we (or at least those of us that are tall) could see reasonably well. I'd probably only put the stadium at 65-70% full. Must be the economy.

Liam Finn was the first opening act. He was basically horrible. He tried to use an electro-theremin but he isn't the Beach Boys and shouldn't. Not impressed.

Ben Harper and the Relentless 7 were next. Quite good. Harper is a really talented guy, and this variant of his band is too. Eddie Vedder came out and did a cover of Under Pressure with him. Solid.

Next, the main event. Sound quality was good, with the vocals mixed too low (as most live shows are). Stage setup was simple, but it worked pretty well. Set list was solid (see below). Pretty heavy on the play from Ten, which isn't a bad thing. It didn't seem like the crowd was responding very well to much after Yield, so this may have been intentional. Maybe they knew that stuff is a little behind here!

While I didn't get to see Smile (which I have seen live) or Hail, Hail (which I haven't... grr) I was pretty pleased to see Brother, and the Who cover, which were both new to me. Vedder did a good job with the Neil Young cover (and that happens to be my favorite NY song).

Of note that isn't indicated in the setlist: Daughter morphed into Another Brick in the Wall. Mike McCready was sporting a Bon Scott t shirt for a while, and just before the end of YLB broke into a few sharp riffs of Whole Lotta Rosie, which I think shows that they know the audience. The last two songs were played with the house lights on, indicating that the venue had enough. The set went for just under 2.5 hours. Throughout the night, the band asked the crowd to keep an eye on each other, and had made a point to have crew bringing water around to people on the floor. I thought that was a great way to keep people sane and civil. Well done.

Also, Stone Gossard needs to cut his hair. He just looked shaggy. And Matt Cameron is my favorite drummer in the Pearl Jam drummer collection.

Monday, November 23, 2009


This weekend, there was a Hispanic festival up the street from us. There was music and food and such, like you'd expect.

It's still a little strange to have to go to a festival for what would otherwise be called "Wednesday" in SF.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Photo of the Day

I think this speaks for itself.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Singapore Trip Report, Part Three

Already better than working. Today's breakfast treat was mashed potatoes with sausage and veggies and who knows what spices. We presume it's somewhat Singaporean. We followed it up with Indian food for breakfast. Roti, curry, kopi. Yum.

After breakfast, we went to the National Botanical Gardens, but not before misreading the map, and having a longer walk to get there than we had planned on. But it was sort of cool, because in addition to passing a few embassies (Russia's looks like it's straight out of the cold war, Saudi Arabia's looks like it's straight out of a Florida trailer park - I was surprised) we saw easily the biggest residences we saw in the country. I assume this is where Big Important People live, but we're talking compounds, estates. Massive mansions.

Anyway, flowers. There were some great ones, and inside the gardens is the National Orchid Garden, which was also spectacular.

Not too many clouds today, so it's getting pretty hot pretty quickly. When we finish, we headed back to Orchard Rd. for lunch. This road is basically one ridiculous shopping mall with a smattering of high end hotels. Luckily, you can find food with aircon. So we had Korean (what the hell?)

We also popped into the Trek Store so that we could say we had been in the Trek Store Singapore (also, they have aircon).

After somewhat dodging the heat of the day, we went to Sentosa Island, which is a tremendous tourist trap/resort, but does have some WWII significance, including Fort Siloso, where the the Brits surrendered to the Japanese, and where the Japanese surrendered to the Allies. It was a little bit on the cheesy side, in terms of restoration, but had some fairly interesting facilities and museums. And that lack of clouds? The heavens opened up, and we (somewhat) shortened our trip and went back to the "mainland."

View from a gun placement

A beach at a "resort." It sounds like people with money go to Indonesia to get a view.

One thing that we had missed was the widely recognized merlion down near the Fullerton Hotel. So, after Sentosa, we went back towards town, and went to find it. It was a bit of an adventure (I was having the damnest time with my sense of direction the whole trip), but we got there eventually. We stuck around a while, and watched people, and the changing light as it got darker (and cooler).

And yes, a merlion is half mermaid, half lion.

Dinner was at a hawker stand near our hotel, where we had cheap and excellent spring rolls and Thai green curry. And big, cold beers. And a whole coconut.

Melbourne Cup Day. Somebody won, I suppose.

We had a bit of an awkward amount of time today due to our flight and never knowing standby procedures at international stations. We opted to take one of the train lines to the end and went to Pasir Ris Park. It was a pretty nice park, and rather large. You could even see Malaysia. (I can see Russia from my house?)

It was just a nice place to chill out and take in the quiet. It was a good reminder that there is more on the island than just a busy city. After taking in the sights and failing to crack into a coconut because I'm a wimp, we took the train back towards town, and started making a list of things that we wanted to do in our remaining hours.

So we went to Geylang St to try to find lunch. It was supposed to be an excellent place to eat, and it was. We had prawn mee, which was great, but I was bummed a little bit, because we still had not had a crab, and it was here that we learned that they are basically for dinner only. Not having a crab is probably my only regret from the trip. There was some cool old architecture here.

The other places we wanted to check out were the Bugis St. Market and Arab St. Upon arrival at Bugis St, we realized that we had been there before without realizing it, but before it was open. We also learned that any connection to its food roots was long gone, and now it's just a place to sell cheap crap to tourists. So, two S$1 ice cream sandwiches later, and we were gone.

But, Arab St. (and a lot of the surrounding streets) were extremely cool. I sort of wish that we had found it sooner. Tons of middle eastern vendors selling all kinds of handmade rugs and garments. Cool architecture, and a big mosque. Very interesting area.

So, at this point, it was time to head to the airport. No issues getting there, aside from ruining my shower within sixty seconds of departing. We were far too early, as it turned out, as Qantas didn't even have the counters open yet.

So we had some time to check out the airport. It's supposed to be the best in the world, so I had high expectations. I don't know if it was because so much of the terminal was under construction, or we were not in the "good" terminal, but I was a little bit underwhelmed. We had assumed that we could find a trinket for our shelf of collectables at the airport. You can almost universally bank on that. No dice in Singapore. I thought the pre security food selection was week (and I'll be damned if I'm paying S$14 for a Tiger). I thought it was lame that I had to register my passport with an information kiosk to get on the Internet. We got to figure all this out after we were pushed away from the desk because they weren't sure if they could get us on. No problem with that.

Luckily, they were able to get us on. Based on how the plane looked in flight, it was fairly close. Since we had to go quickly through security and passport control, we split up. I went looking for trinkets and Shannon went for duty free. Duty free booze in Singapore is amazingly cheap! Too bad this airport cuts you off 1 hour before your flight and delivers it to the gate. So, no cheap duty free for us. Only sort of reasonable Aussie duty free on the other end.

I've got no idea what else was behind security. Maybe it was awesome, but we were at a run. Generally though, kinda disappointed with the world's best airport.

Uneventful Qantas flight, except that we couldn't sit together. Good service, acceptable food, ice cream, and hot chocolate. No complaints.

Good trip all around. Very few regrets. I'd recommend it.

White Trash

Yesterday, I had a near brush with "greatness." I was walking back from the CBD, minding my own business, when I hear squeals of delight coming from the plaza across the street from the Park Hyatt. I see a handful of tv cameras, and photographers with 600mm lenses. This screams of trash.

How right I was. These folks were waiting for the emergence of one Brittany Spears. There were a few obsessed fans. From grade six. You can see them all in their little yellow uniforms.

This guy wanted her to sign his leg. I heard him tell the tv reporter. Like she was going to touch you.

This girl needs to check her priorities if her shirt is true.

After about six minutes of Ms. Spears NOT coming out of the hotel, I decided that I was more interested in a sandwich than seeing her emerge from her cave.

So there you have it. The time I very nearly saw a famous person in Melbourne. Oh, did you hear? Australia just figured out that the illustrious Ms. Spears might have some assistance at her concerts.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


I just mailed my passport to the Consulate. That's the most uneasy I've felt in a while.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Singapore Trip Report, Part Two

Goodness. I totally neglected to include some night shots we got of the riverfront area before dinner on Sunday.

Monday and Tuesday writeup will hopefully be done in the next day or two.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Singapore Trip Report, Part One

For Melbourne Cup Weekend, Shannon and I decided to stand by for a trip to Singapore. Here's how it went.

We listed to stand by for the nonstop Qantas flight from Melbourne to Singapore. Just like when we flew Air NZ, and the one other time I’ve been on Qantas, they gave us boarding passes straight away. They even sent us to another desk (and called to tell them we were coming) to see if there were any better seats available (exit, etc.) There was only one exit, so we opted to stay together in 66A and B (scary numbers, no?).

I really can’t say enough about the flight. This was my first time on an international flight with an Asian (more or less) carrier. The service was fantastic. I’ve had service that was certainly no better on certain other carriers in business class. As with all carriers that are with the times, there is in seat video, and in this case, free, on demand content. There was actually fairly ample leg room. My knees didn’t hit the seat in front of me (unlike my domestic Qantas flight – but this was a 747, not a 737), and there was significantly more legroom than on certain US based carriers that fly 747s.All in all, very impressed. The food was pretty reasonable, there were hot towels for everyone in coach, free booze, free ice cream, free hot chocolate (more free booze on request). I think the Qantas coach product would be doable for the flight to the US. Is it business (or even premium economy)? No, of course not. But still, impressive.

By the way, we got some great views of the real, dead center of Oz, outback. And damn, that’s impressive. I think going there just slid up the list a bit.We had a painless arrival at the Singapore airport. A lot of stuff was under construction, so it was tricky to find the toilets, but otherwise, easy. We took the train directly from the airport (as all major airports should allow you to do) and were quickly near our hostel, which we found with very few problems. We were greeted with a free beer, as our room had been double booked, and we had to move to the twin room, instead of the double room. But, since it’s basically just mattresses on the floor that were already pushed together, and they gave us the lower rate, it didn’t matter. They told us we could move to the larger room at night three for the lower price, but it wasn’t worth the hassle, in the end.

While the hostel we are in has free breakfast every day, they also have something extra on offer (not just cereal and coffee). Today, it was Singapore style deviled eggs. They weren’t totally different from what we would be used to in the US, but there was curry and chili in them, making them extra yummy. Also, they have coffee sachets that are pretty excellent here. As I write this, I don’t know if we will be able to take any back to Australia, but if we can, they will be great for backpacking. No more freeze dried sewage.

But, we barely ate at the hostel, because while free, the word is that the local food here is too good to pass up. So we started walking towards town. (Note: the hostel is only two subway stops from City Hall, so it’s not a long walk). We started off with fried pork noodles and fish dumpling soup at a hawker market, along with two cups of kopi – one with milk and one without. The milk for the kopi is condensed, so it’s hyper sweet. Coming from me, who drinks it black – yum.

Onward to downtown we strolled. We meandered down Bras Basah Rd./Raffles Ave. and checked out the huge hotels and fancy malls before winding up in Marina Bay. We checked out the river for a bit from a bridge, saw the Singapore Flyer (their answer to the London Eye and the Southern Star in Melbourne – just kidding – the Southern Star is being torn down). We walked a bit along the F1 course. It would be a pretty epic one to watch. Cool scenery.

We had (and really, continued to have) a break from the weather all day. It was cloudy, so it wasn’t nearly as hot as I could have been. But, by now, it was about 10:30, and it was getting hot. So, we stopped in the Esplanade mall for a sit and a drink. This mall looks like two giant durians on the outside. Once cooled, we walked across the river to the Fullerton Hotel (very swank) and then walked along the river, on a quest to get out of the weather a bit. We walked past Boat Quay to Riverside Point, where we first had slabs of ice cream from a cart, and then hit a local microbrewery, Brewerkz. Turns out, their air conditioning works really well, so we had a couple pints. Pretty good beer, too.

Onwards to Chinatown, where lunch was most definitely in order. Here we had our first bowl of laksa curry, which while over priced (this is the second highest concentration of white people we’ve seen anywhere yet) it was quite tasty. We did some shopping, with mixed results. Some gifts were purchased. Some kitchen trinkets were obtained, not because they were special, but because they were so much cheaper than in Oz.

More food! We had some kind of almond cream dessert, followed by dim sum and sugar cane juice. I was pretty stunned how much liquid you could get out of a foot long piece of cane through a press that would make an OSHA rep cringe.Walking south, we went down a street with more bridal stores than I have ever seen. Ever. And they were all on one street. Bizarre. We were also looking skyward, and seeing some clouds that looked rather ominous, so we hit the subway to Little India.

And it’s a good thing, too. Almost as soon as we entered the market closest to the train station, all hell fell from the skies. I’ve never really been caught in a tropical thunder storm, but I was duly impressed. We had been laughing at how deep the drains were beside sidewalks, and how they would eat a person if they fell in. They all overflowed. Sidewalks were flooded, serious lightning, thunder right over us. Epic. So, we did what anyone else would do. We ate.

Being in Little India, we had… Indian food (and Singaporean beer). We started with chicken biryani on rice, which was really amazing. Still raining. Wandered around a little more, and had some mee gorang and roti prata, the later of which we learned later is a Singaporian twist on roti. Both were really good. All the dishes we had here were new to us, so it was great fun to try them. After dinner, it was still raining, but not nearly as hard, so we decided to walk back to the hostel through Little India. To some degree, it was what you’d expect in any ethnic neighborhood, small shops with goods that were significantly cheaper than mainstream. There were very few tourists here though, and I’m not sure if it was because of the weather, or because of where we were.

We ran across a shopping center along the way that really caused us to take pause. We walked into the Mustafa Center, and it was like a whole different world. It’s like Loft in Japan, only it makes Loft look like a joke. It was four or five stories, each at least as long and wide as the biggest Wally World you can find, but packed so much more densely, you can’t even imagine. If you can’t buy it there, you truly don’t need it. There was a grocery store as big as a Wally World inside this monster. And, on a Saturday night, it was absolutely packed. This place completely blew my mind.

Today’s special breakfast treat was marble cake. It went very well with my coffee.
We had breakfast near Bugis St (which we later found out is a big deal for food in Singapore). Today, we had some kind of fried noodles (Shannon tried to order (“Hello you!) something, but when there was a communication breakdown, accepted “standard”) and three pancakes, one each stuffed with peanuts, coconut, and red bean paste. Oh, and kopi with condensed milk.From there, we walked to Fort Canning, which was used as a base by both the British and the Japanese during World War II. It was a nice park, but a bit thin on history at this point. There were a few relics, and an underground bunker that we opted to not pay for, but more than anything, it’s (seemingly) a place for expats to run, and couples to get wedding pictures taken.

Today, we had clouds, but not like yesterday, so it got hot fast. By 10, we were ready to be inside. Luckily, that’s just when the National Museum opened. Even luckier, this weekend, the whole museum was free, because of some kind of Filipino heritage celebration (I'm still not quite clear on how that connects). The bulk of the museum (or at least what we saw) was Singaporean history, and I thought it was pretty well done. There was a good mix of fact and anecdotes, and it really moved along quickly. My only real complaint was that I thought the separation of Singapore and Malaysia was really glossed over. But, considering that I never knew that Singapore and Malaysia had ever gotten together so that they could split, I’d say I took something away. Also, this all went down in the 1950s and 60s. Wow.

Because of the festival going on, there were Filipino food vendors on the lawn of the museum. So we had a few Filipino dishes, all of which were good, and none of which I can recall. One was like a veggie crepe, and one was some kind of egg noodles with perhaps pork. Since coffee was S$6 at the museum, we went across the street and had kopi o (coffee and about a pound of sugar, but no milk) for S$1.20.

We did make another stop in the museum for a final gallery, which had a great exhibit on local foods and how some of them are made. Also, we learned that we can’t stand the smell of durians because we are… white. Who knew.After all that learning, it was about time for a drink. We walked down to the Raffles Hotel, where the Singapore Sling was invented. It seemed appropriate to have one at the Long Bar, the spot where it was done. While the hotel was pretty swank, and it was cool to take a pass through, we opted out of the drink. We could have looked past the price (S$26.50) for the history, but everyone having one looked horribly disappointed, as if they had gone by obligation, and were let down. So we went across the street and had an ice cream slab for a buck instead.

We walked past city hall, the old and new Supreme Court buildings, and parliament before needing another break from the heat, and heading to Clark Quay to make our second microbrewery stop, the Pump Room. Reasonable beer, and it was happy hour, yet we still only stuck around for one. We did however, then make it to the third stop on the microbrewery tour, Archipelago. Good beer, but the prices were way too high, so we left after one.

We grabbed a late dinner to try to avoid the heat, had some beers, and called it a night. More hawker fare, so it was cheap and tasty.

More to come.