Posts from March, 2008
Quisque sed purus consequat, gravida velit eu, pharetra ex.
so, the family bought me a wii for my birthday this year … the vermont parkers have one, the virginia parkers have one, and there was this notion that we might be able to play together if i got one too (and then quietly explain to everyone how to hook them up together via the interweb).
i think this is the first time in recorded history that i have been the last adopter of new technology in my family. what’s even more strange is that the lady sparkler (a) comes home from work and wants to play wii as soon as she walks through the door, and (b) invites other people to come over to play with my video game console … and they are (gasp!) even female.
truly, i have entered some strange parallel universe where geeks get the hot chicks, everyone speaks Klingon, and the varsity a/v club slams the basketball team into the lockers everyday after gym. oh, and everyone in this magical land of dork-dom speaks only in movie quotes, uses their windows computer as a doorstop, and tina fey was just elected president.
ahhhh, it’s good to be home.
my alma mater (william & mary) has not appeared in the ncaa tourney yet despite 80 years of trying, and my favorite team (maryland) just crashed out of the tourney-wannabe (N.I.T.) this afternoon. in a purely sociological experiment, i decided early on to root for the teams with the best looking cheer/dance squad. i am sad to report that this turned out *not* to be the way to go as my teams went 1 for 4. (although i must say i was *much* less stressed about the games’ outcomes then the rest of my Baylor-, Georgia- and Arizona-rooting friends.)
baylor actually played quite well. they took good shots, and held their own defensively, but the ball simply never bounced their way. their opponent, purdue, were chucking balls at the basket without looking and scoring left and right. not much you can do when you are up against a team having that kind of a day, unfortunately.
duke, on the other hand, nearly screwed the pooch (pardon my french, of course) and ended up just one point shy of losing to the 6th worst team in the tourney. they shot 28% from three-point range, and their regular-season leader in points had just one field goal in 29 minutes. only guard gerald henderson saved duke from the abyss — with 21 points, seven rebounds and five steals.
anyway, in the end … duke won, baylor lost, and evan embarrassed himself by picking the losers better than the winners. all is as it should be.
I can count on exactly one finger the number of “first” cities I like (New York) and wasn’t planning on this being any different. So, I was a bit surprised when I found myself picking out curtains in Sydney after being decidedly ho-hum about Melbourne.
Granted, I crammed a LOT into my 30-hour Sydney experience, including the Bridge, a tour of the Opera House, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Observatory Hill, a beach (Manley), two ferry rides and one of the best opera performances I have seen in the last five years (La Boheme at said Opera House).
In the end, the Sydney / Melbourne question went a lot like the rest of the trip: all the greatest stuff came when we weren’t expecting it, and for entirely different reasons than we expected.
The best city was the afterthought (Sydney). The most time was needed at the place we had the least (Tasmania). The best part of the Great Ocean Road wasn’t actually part of the Great Ocean Road (Adelaide to Port Fairy). The best part of my Australian vacation was the work. Even with all the spectacular vistas, the best part wasn’t the parks but the people.
In the next couple of weeks, I will pull my thoughts together on the trip as a whole … and try and distill all the best bits. But until then, I think it is a fair say that this was far and away the best three weeks of travel in *my* short lifetime, and while Belize was paradise on earth, Australia is where I will be packing my bags for if I ever get the means.
The sport is nothing like American baseball, but the easiest way to explain it is through that terminology. (A new Aussie friend of ours explained that you can tell when an American understands Cricket because they start getting offended when the baseball analogy is made.)
Basically, there are two batters (batsmen) who don’t bat as much as they protect the wicket (three croquet mallet handles stuck in the ground behind each of two home plates) from pitchers (bowlers) who hurl wooden balls trying to knock the wickets over.
There are “outs,” which comes if the bowler knocks down the aforementioned wicket, or the batsman makes a batting error (hits the ball to one of the outfielders, or uses something other than his bat to strike the ball). Two batsmen are on the field at once, and each stays until he is out once, scoring as many runs are possible. All members of one team bat before the other has their go.
Runs are scored when the ball is hit well enough that the two batsmen can exchange places. There are even two types of home runs (6 runs if the struck ball clears the park without touching the ground, and 4 runs if it just dribbles over the boundary). Good batsmen can score one hundred — or more — runs in a match.
There really isn’t the downtime here that you have in baseball, with nearly constant action through the whole match (except for when they break for tea, of course). Because each player does their batting all at once, there is a better opportunity for a “dual” to develop between batsman and bowler. Also, when the batsman or bowler is having a good go of it, there is a sort of “king-of-the-mountain” tension that develops as well.
The greatest thing about the game is that it is watched here by all kinds, though women do seem to roll their eyes when it is discussed at the dinner table.
being an Olympiphile (sounds dirty, huh?) I wasn’t going to pass up an opportunity to checkout a venue, and so I led us on a walk around the city that “conveniently” went past the stadium.
unfortunately, it’s now a private training venue.
not to be denied, I marched right up to the security gate and proceeded to barrage the (60+, toothless) lady with how honored i was to be at the Stadium, how incredible the 1956 games were, how I reveared Australian national icon (and three time Melbourne gold medalist) Betty Cuthbert, and how important the games became when they were the first to allow all the atheletes enter the closing ceremonies together (as opposed to marching in by country).
needless-to-say, she was confused by my knowledge and excitement which it became obvious that, as she stammered to keep up, she didn’t share.
(what I neglected to tell her was that I had watched a two hour documentary on the Melbourne Olympics on the flight over … details, details.)
finally, I assume out of boredom or desparation, she waved us through and asked us not to wander too far.
and while the stadium itself doesn’t look too different from the track at my college, seeing the same venue from the documentary (only less scratchy, and less black-and-white) was incredible.
not that i need an excuse to Become more obsessed with the Olympics, but it’s nice to have one regardless.
Once we got back on the road from Otway to Melbourne, there was much to see, but not a lot to photograph. The last day of the Great Ocean Road — which is actually the first day for most as it is closest to Melbourne — was a series of small beach towns with some scenic surfing beaches in between. Lovely, but not unlike coastal America.
Driving the last little bit into the big city more than a little tedious … lots of one way streets, a omnipresent tram system, flocks of asian tourists, no serviceable map, and rush hour traffic. There will be more on all things Melbourne a little later.
Shortly after arrival they took us on a “dusk” walk around the properties, and within the first 20 minutes we had seen three koalas, were explained the entire regional ecosystem and were firmly behind their site management plan. On our way back it was all down hill, only tripping on three parrots, two dozen kangaroos, two wallabies and a magpie that enjoyed attacking human’s shoes.
The owners are a zoologist and a natural resources manager in their mid-twenties, who have overcome some pretty long odds to launch this, their dream project. Besides using the property to test a range of ecological hypotheses — including the best ways to revegetate portions of Australia that have been over-cleared — they take in injured / abandoned animals such as a baby kangeroo who flopped around the house while we ate dinner that night. If you have the chance, we highly recommend making the trip.
We had quite a great crew of fellow quests, including a retired couple from Sheffield, England and a couple of small business owners from somewhere along the Gold Coast of Australia. Much of the convesation that night was predictable (“how in &^%$ sake did *he* get elected?!?) but everyone was most generous to keep it amicable and gave us the widest possible recognizing that the lady sparkler and I weren’t unilaterally responsible for the current geo-political situation.
Ah, imagine that … two cultures who don’t assume the worst about their contemporaries.
On our way back from the second, we ran into three billy goats (“gruff” presumably) in the middle of the path. Don’t know where they came from — they weren’t anywhere to be seen on the way out — but they were sure enough there on the way back. Initially, things didn’t look particularly good … the biggest one of the bunch approached slowly, dipped its head, and started pawing the ground.
Perhaps, now is a good time to pause for some back-story:
Last year when the lady sparkler and I were in Tucson, we mis-timed one of our hikes and found ourselves out in the desert after dark. As we were scurrying back, we had not one but two rattlesnakes try and kill us. The second of the two actually rattled across the path between the lady sparkler (who stopped) and myself (who sped up).
Yesterday, we were hiking around Mount Richmond in the middle of the day, when I noticed a large tree branch that was down across the path began to move. We’d find out later that it was actually a copperhead, one of the 14 breeds of snakes in Australia that can kill you. Now, when you think copperhead, you think of a normal-sized snake that just happens to be poisonous. This, however, was the size of the basilisk from that Harry Potter movie. It looked like it had recently eaten a moose. Or an auto.
Anyway, back to the goats. The only thing that kept me from running around like a blithering idiot around the snakes — other than the whole “being paralyzed with fear” thing — was that I keep being told that they are just as scared of us as we are of them. The goats? Not afraid of us, though, this turned out to be a good thing.
Momma goat DID dip her head, and pawed the ground, but was just looking to soften up the dirt before she laid down to completely block the path. Her two chil’en quickly followed suit. We gingerly chose about a 6 inch path between the goats and the 200-foot cliff, and resisted the urge to pet the (now) cute little goats. Didn’t want to open ourselves up to *that* conversation with Customs.
Turns out that not everything in Australia is trying to kill you.