Monday, April 30, 2012

Blue Mountains Part II

We went back to the Blue Mountains (see here for Part 1). Not just because they're awesome, but also because we have some friends who hadn't been there yet. There were also a few things the we hadn't done last time that we thought would be cool.

I guess I should mention who the friends are. We've got some peeps from Dr. Erika's lab that we hang out with on occasion. Alex and Anthea (Canadians), and Dr. Hilke (Belgian). Note that none are Australian. We have nobody here that we regularly hang out with who is Australian. I'm not even sure I can do an Australian accent unless I'm pretending to be a shopkeeper. Even then the majority of shopkeepers aren't Aussies. Where are all the Australians? I actually spent the first two weeks learning how to do a Thai accent before discovering that Australians don't speak like that. True story.

At any rate, we decided to head up to the Blue Mountains... wait. One more aside. We almost ran out of gas. How do you run out of gas with the cumulative weight of education we had in that car! Here's the degree list:

Alex: BSc, MSc, working on his PhD
Anthea: BA, BSc, MSc
Dr. Erika: BSc, MSc, PhD
Dr. Hilke: BSc, MSc, PhD
Paul: BSc, Diploma in Game Design, A+ Certified Computer Technician

I mean, c'mon people. That's 14 perfectly valid and totally equal academic qualifications in the car and we almost run out of gas? It would have been 15 but Alex is still doing his PhD. Sheesh, I guess I shouldn't be surprised, he was driving after all.

So we head up to the Blue Mountains... whoops. You don't know who any of these travelling academics are. I guess I should provide a photo:

From left to right that's Hilke, Alex, Anthea, and... well, that's me. Erika's not in the shot, and I'm not an academic. Here, I'll just Photoshop her in:

So that's Hilke, Alex, Anthea, and Erika. Much better.

Now on to the Blue Mountains! First off, I think I may have come up short on describing some stuff. For instance, you may recall from last time there was this pretty awesome waterfall:

What I failed to capture was this. It looks like a bit of water running off a ledge:

Yeah, well that shot is taken from right here:

I love it that the only thing blocking you from a colossal drop is some stone steps and a railing:

On top of that, this time we were looking forward to going right down to the bottom of the waterfall. It's a long haul, but worth the effort. Right down at the bottom you can cross the waterfall just as it pops over the last ledge:

Pretty gorgeous view isn't it? You want to know what a biologist does when they arrive at sights like this?


Yes, there's this beautiful waterfall forty feet away and instead they were fixated by a small pond and spent 20 minutes trying to catch this:

It's colloquially called a Yabby, which means crayfish. In case you wondered. By the way, Alex is a jerk. I have 19 minutes of footage of him contorting himself over this pond and he didn't have the decency to fall in so I could put it on YouTube. Thanks for nothing Alex.

So that was our second visit to the Blue Mountains.

This is an incomplete tangent because it relates to the post in general, but didn't quite fit the overall tone. I also think it might make me a bad person.

We went to a new viewing spot in Katoomba. There was one place we wanted to try because we saw this sign:

It was well worth it, check out the view:

Wait a minute. Let's go back to that sign:

Umm... ok. I guess they'll post signs describing the view? I mean, it kind of feels like taunting but what do I know.

Oh, ok! So they're describing what it is that the blind person is seeing. That actually makes a ton of sense. It would actually let them feel included in the group. Although, I'm not so pumped about this part:

"There are many spiky plants to feel", AKA "Hey blind person! Since you can't see the view why not get stabbed in the hand? That's almost as good."

So, yeah. I'm not sure this was the most well thought-out way to make blind people feel included. If I were blind I'd probably prefer a small carved model of the view over getting spiked in the hand.

But that's just me.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


ANZAC stands for “Australia New Zealand Army Corps”. This was the combined military of Australia and New Zealand that fought together during the First World War. This is the only time their militaries have ever fought as a single force and ANZAC Day is celebrated in both countries as their day of remembrance. You’ll see a lot of things around Australia titled “ANZAC” in the same place where we’d use the word “Memorial”. Hospitals, bridges; that sort of thing. On Remembrance Day in Canada it’s a pretty solemn affair. There’s services for the fallen, poppies, and military parades. In Australia you get turbosmashed* and gamble.

It’s pretty fair to say this caught Erika and I off-guard. We were thinking “Hmm… is there a service we should be going to? I wonder what people do.” Then we got this flyer from our local pub:

First off, I want to make it clear that I’m not being critical of the way Aussies celebrate their remembrance. Every culture has their own way of doing it and I think it all boils down to whether the soldiers are on board. Which it seems they are. So I’m not one to judge. Heck, in the US they go camping on Memorial Day.

That said, let’s break down a couple parts of this flyer that I think are fantastic:

Start your day off right!

Nothing kicks off a day of drinking like liquor and coffee!


I'm also wholly on-board with annual celebratory sporting events. You have to respect the irony of pitting an Aussie team against a New Zealand team on the day to commemorate their unity in war though, right? Maybe it's just me.


In case you didn't notice: "Wear your Family Medals 1st DRINK on us".

AUSSIE:    Hey Grampa?

GRAMPA:  What?

AUSSIE:    Can I wear one of your medals for ANZAC Day?

GRAMPA:  What!? Why would I let you do a damn fool thing like that?

AUSSIE:    I'll get a free beer. How about your Commendation for Brave Conduct?

GRAMPA:  I didn't get shot in the ass so you could get a free beer. Here, take this if it's that important to you.

AUSSIE:    A Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal? I'll be lucky if they make me a Cosmo with this!

GRAMPA:  You want the free drink or not?

AUSSIE:    Sigh...fine.

I don't even want to hazard a guess at what "ANZAC Theme Dress" consists of.


This has to be my favourite one. DJ/Band, that's fine. $9.50 jugs? Excellent. But let's talk about "2 UP". Here's the rules: 2 Coins, three outcomes. Heads, Tails, or Odds (one head, one tail). Now gamble.

How awesome is this! It's a special ANZAC Day degenerate gambling game! You know what's best about it? It's only legal on ANZAC Day! Yes, for 364 days a year this game is considered a destructive level of gambling, and this in a country where every pub has slot machines and racetrack betting. Technically the games are supposed to be for charity but, well, c'mon people. Apparently the soldiers in the trenches would play Two Up to pass the time (I assume for charity as well), and thus it is allowed out of respect to the soldiers. In case you hadn't noticed, I think this is the greatest thing ever.

Let's end on a respectful note though, since this IS a day of remembrance. When in a foreign culture, it's only right to respect their traditions:

Why does my computer have 3 volume knobs? There's one for the PC, one for iTunes, and one for my speaker? They all control volume! What's the correct arrangement? Should I max one out and adjust the others? If I put them all to full will that somehow raise the sound to catastrophic levels and damage the foundation of my home? How did we go from "Hit Drum Harder Make Drum Louder" to "Why Won't My Computer Stop Screaming At Me?"

Visitor update #5: B-Rent was in town for business and took Erika and I to dinner, which was awesome. What wasn't awesome was the complete monsoon coupled with Brent's lack of an umbrella. And the fact that he wanted to meet at Nick's Bar and Grill in Cockle Bay but said Nick's Seafood in Darling Harbour. Some things never change. We had a great visit though, good times!
#1: Sylvia
#2: Timmaaaay!
#3: Amelia, Daniel, and family
#4: Martha
#5: B-Rent

*PS: Thanks to Brent for the term “turbosmashed”. I plan on using it excessively.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Paul’s 3 Tried and True Methods for a Country to Achieve National Sporting Pride

Yes, I’m capitalizing every sport. I haven’t gone insane; I just made a choice for this post.

Have you ever noticed that it’s really important for countries to have a sport where they can pimp themselves out as being the best in the world? It doesn’t matter what it is, the country will find something and say: “Yo, maybe you got basketball down but we kick yo’ ASS at Ping Pong”.

Unfortunately there’s a bunch of sports played by multiple countries so it’s really hard to be “the best” at those ones. For instance, most everyone would like to be globally regarded as the best at Football (Soccer). But there’s no clear-cut winner. Nobody can go out there and say “Yay! We’re the best!” because someone will counter with “Well, that’s not true because of reasons A, B, and C”. In Football’s case you’d probably say Brazil has the best claim but then you’d get a bunch of northern hemisphere countries who say “Pfft. That’s just because your summer is during the winter so you’re all rested for the World Cup and even then look at all these years where we beat you”. It’s a no-win situation. So where does that leave you when you’re looking to be the best in the world?

I would suggest starting with Paul’s 3 Tried and True Methods for a Country to Achieve National Sporting Pride. They are:

  1. Take an international sport nobody’s all that pumped about and throw everything you have behind it to a grossly disproportional degree.
  2. Take a sport you’re already good at and force it on the globe so you can achieve international success.
  3. Say “Screw it. We’re never going to be good at any of these sports. Let’s just pick something as our national sport and go with that”.

Let's break them down one by one.

For your convenience I’ve provided an explanation to go with each example. Or just made a comment. Whatever.

Take an international sport nobody’s all that pumped about and throw everything you have behind it to a grossly disproportional degree.
(aka the “Whoah buddy… if it means that much to you go ahead” method.)


AUSTRALIA: Swimming (Hey, they got sent to prison on an island. I'd be surprised if they weren't interested in swimming. What? Was that offside? I’m just getting started!)
ROMANIA: Gymnastics (They love them some gymnastics. Did they invent it? Hell no. Does every gymnast on the planet now have a 300 pound Romanian coach? Hell yeah!)
USSR: Every amateur sport they could get their hands on (“Ve vill crush you vith ze iron fist. You are weak and coddled and vill break before ze might of ze communist regime. Also, ve has steroids”.)
NORWAY: Cross-country Skiing (When the closest town is 400km away through waist deep snow you better learn how to ski if you want to look beyond the local wildlife for dating opportunities.)
NETHERLANDS: Speed Skating (Same as Norway but with canals)

Take a sport you’re already good at and force it on the globe so you can achieve international success.
(aka the “Fine, fine we’ll do it. Look at us… yay, see we’re all doing it? Just let it go already” method.)


CANADA: Hockey (Also an example of Option 1. Canada said “Let’s be good at hockey. Everyone else who’s freezing their asses off and looking for a way to warm up during the winter will eventually sign up and we’ll have a huge head start.)
ENGLAND: Rugby, Cricket, and Field Hockey
  ENGLISH GENT #1: "Good day chap. What shall we do today?”
  ENGLISH GENT #2: “Well, perhaps we should head down to the cricket ground? Leichesterburmingshire is playing Middlesburingtonishcastle. It’ll be a jolly good go I’d think.”
  ENGLISH GENT #1: “Hmm. I was thinking of perhaps invading several countries and teaching the locals how to play our sports so we can give them a good old rogering on behalf of mother England. What do you think of that then?”
  ENGLISH GENT #2: “Oh good show. That would be capitol!”
JAPAN: Judo (They only invented the sport in 1882. Then when they hosted the Olympics in 1964 they just said “Mmm yeah. We’re all doing judo now”. They only lost one match and were PISSED about it.)

Say “Screw it. We’re never going to be good at any of these sports. Let’s just pick something as our national sport and go with that”.
(aka the “Take Your Ball and Go Home” method.)

Examples: (Note that I don’t include any of the official national sports, of which many fall under this category. Also, if you disagree with anything, well, I invite you to change the Wikipedia page I got it from.)

AFGHANISTAN: Buzkashi (All you need to know is that in order to score a point you have to throw a decapitated goat across the goal line while on horseback. I kid you not.)
BASQUE COUNTRY: Jai Alai (Ok, so Basque Country isn’t a country, it’s a region. But the Basque government promotes it as “the fastest sport in the world because of the balls” and I just had to get that in here somewhere.)
CAMBODIA: Bokator (A thousand-year-old technique for savagely beating the crap out of someone with whatever is handy. The name means “Pounding a Lion” for crying out loud. On a related note, 96.4% of the country is Buddhist. Go figure.)
IRELAND AND AUSTRALIA: International Rules Football (Ireland has Gaelic Football, which is awesome and all but there’s nobody to play against. Australia on the other hand has Aussie Rules Football, but nobody to play against. They’re all “Yay! This is fun!” at home, but they’re so lonely out on their islands. So what do they do? They basically looked at the rules, said “Meh, close enough”, and fudged the numbers so they could play each other)
USA: American Football, Basketball, and Baseball (I love that the US has 3 of these. But let’s face it, America kind of has a massive superiority complex and needs three sports to reinforce that. Ok, that was a joke, but you get my point*. They’ve also invented negative terminology to describe anyone who plays sports they’re not the best at, e.g. Soccer (pansies), Hockey (goons), or Math (Chinese))

In addition to those above there are the “Official National Sports”. These are sports where the country in question has actually declared in law what their national sport is just so there's no question where they see themselves as the best. Otherwise it’s up to debate. Since there are only 13 of them I decided to put the whole list down, along with a brief description of each:

ARGENTINA: Pato (AKA Polo combined with Basketball on the back of a horse. Umm, ok then.)
BAHAMAS: Sloop Sailing (Why sloops? Is it the most chill? Can you drink a rum and coke while sailing one?)
BANGLADESH: Kabaddi (Basically reverse Red Rover while holding your breath. I don’t know how else to explain it) SPECIAL NOTE: Ok, I found some footage of this. It's AWESOME!

BRAZIL: Capoeira (Dancing while kicking people in the face)
CANADA: Ice Hockey and Lacrosse (We have two because of our national inferiority complex. Ice hockey is obviously a sport where you skate around on ice and try to whip a hard piece of rubber as fast as you can at a net protected by a goalie, while occasionally hammering other players as violently as possible and punching them in the face when the referee isn’t looking. Lacrosse is the same thing without ice. Way to overcompensate Canada!)
CHILE: Chilean Rodeo (Rodeo with different rules than everyone else)
COLUMBIA: Tejo (It’s Horseshoes with gunpowder. I couldn’t make these things up)
INDIA: Field Hockey (What the girls you went to high school with played. I’m not making a judgement call here; I just don’t understand why it’s a girls sport in Canada. It looks fun)
MEXICO: Charreria (Rodeo with different rules than everyone else. Sensing a trend?)
PHILLIPPENES: Arnis (Beating the crap out of people with sticks. Think of that next time you want to yell at your nanny and she’s holding a broom)
PUERTO RICO: Paso Fino (This is a kind of horse. Was there a paperwork error or something?)
VATICAN CITY: Ultimate Fighting (Just seeing if you were paying attention)
SRI LANKA: Volleyball (Are you kidding me? Volleyball is the National Sport of Sri Lanka? Are they even good at Volleyball?)
URUGUAY: Being a Cowboy (No, seriously. That makes three countries with rodeo, all of whom use different rules. So of all the countries with national sports 23% are rodeo)

So that’s my thoughts on national sports.

I went to the mall today to buy a pillow for Erika. I hate malls. Every mall on the planet looks the same and shares the same “please God, just shoot me” traits. This one was especially enjoyable because it didn’t have any guides! How am I supposed to be a hunter instead of a gatherer without a mall map? Ooo… then I discovered that they have digital guides on advertising boards instead of static maps. Really? What was wrong with the old style? I just walked up, looked, and went where I needed. Instead I have to push 12 buttons for each store I want to find? That’s not better!

If someone told me I had to choose between going back to this mall and choking a baby panda to death well, I hope you don’t like bamboo.

*Note to international readers: Totally not a joke

Monday, April 9, 2012

A Zooper Awesome Day

Last weekend we made an awesome discovery. Do you know when the best time to go to the zoo is? When the weather is crappy! I was very hesitant to go on Sunday because it looked like it was about to rain. Super cloudy, muggy… not sure it was going to work out. The thing is, two important things happen when it’s cloudy and looks like it’s about to rain:

1) People don’t want to go, and thus the crowds are smaller
2) The animals aren’t sweltering in the heat, and are thus more likely to move around and be active.

And it didn’t rain! Well, not until later that night when we had the storm of the century, but who cares. We had the best day at the zoo in the history of days at the zoo.

Sure, let’s get the obligatory “Oh, zoos are cruel and the animals shouldn’t be penned in like that yada yada” disclaimer out of the way. Whatever, Taronga Zoo is the best zoo in the world. You need to teach people about the dangers animals face, you need to make kids grow up into adults who care about animals, and you need to carry out breeding programs for endangered animals. And on top of that, where else can you put an expression like this on a grown man’s face:

Also, this is the view from the zoo. Tough to argue that the animals don’t get a good view:

As a last point before I start talking about the visit itself, it was $44. And worth every penny.

Special thanks to Martha who was visiting when we went and took all these photos because I’m a dumbass and forgot my camera.

So let’s talk some animals! Did you know that Koalas jump? I had no idea. I thought they just slept (saw that), ate eucalyptus (saw that), and looked cute (check). And then we saw a Koala that was on one branch who decided he wanted to be on another one. And he jumped! Really didn’t see that one coming. It’s like being in South America and looking at a sloth when it suddenly flips up into a handstand and starts doing pushups.

Very cool.


We hit the tiger enclosure by chance right when it was feeding and were fortunate enough that there was a large rock we could stand on so we had a clear view of the action:

That’s the flesh of the zookeeper it’s licking off its lips. You’d think that would make it hard to find zookeepers but it’s more a matter of people really want to work at the zoo, they just don’t want to get assigned to the tiger cage.


One of the highlights for me was this snake:

It’s called an Inland Taipan and is the most venomous land snake in the world. Seriously? This guy? How can someone so dangerous look so innocuous? It should really look a lot more deadly than it does.

There, much better.


Aren’t elephants fantastic? Just look at this guy:

One caveat I’ll throw out there… this guy does NOT like people. I say this because the first thing he did was back up into the crowd, take a gigantic leak, and fart in everyone’s faces. Oh yeah, and he dropped his dink out before taking the leak:

Yeah… I’m pretty sure I got the gender right this time. That’s quite the ugh, package. Some observations:

1) As Martha said, you don’t need a fancy car when you’re hung like an elephant
2) Even controlling for size, that thing is pretty damn big
3) I can’t be sure, but I think he’s circumcised


Ok, there was a lot of animals at the zoo, so I’m not going to bore you with every one we saw. So this is going to be the last one, and it was the animal that I was strangely pumped to see. Meerkats:

There’s only a few in this shot, but they live in these big communities of burrows in the Kalahari desert. They don’t have any body fat so they have to scrounge on the surface every day, which means they’re pretty vulnerable to predators as they’re looking for food. They’ve coped by having at least one member of the group always on lookout for predators, standing up on its hind legs to get a better view. Here’s a shot from the wild:

This guy is pumped for action. He knows the team is depending on him, and is ready with constant vigilance to identify a threat the moment it presents itself. As a result, I thought it would be cool to see that community at work in the zoo. Instead, what we saw was this:

What the hell? Where’s your concern for your brethren? You’re on duty for god’s sake, show some intensity! Sadly, here is the real sadness in the zoo. Regular food and water just can’t help but take away some of that natural instinct. So while the wild Meerkats get this:

The zoo Meerkats get this:


All in all it was a great day at the zoo. Topics not covered include seeing a Snow Leopard jump around, Kangaroos cruising, a Komodo Dragon looking like the badassest of all badasses, and coolest of all we saw a platypus doing barrel rolls in his tank and swimming around like a madman. Amongst other things. Long story short, definitely check out the zoo if you go to Sydney.


Visitor update #4: Martha rolled into town for a visit! She’s off elsewhere right now but will be back to hang with us again next weekend. Dave was also supposed to come, but he thought he was Spiderman and broke his ankle. Smrt move Dave, we look forward to seeing you when you heal up.
#1: Sylvia
#2: Timmaaaay!
#3: Amelia, Daniel, and family
#4: Martha

Monday, April 2, 2012

For the Love of God, Someone Please Just Get Me the Internet

Going to be a short post today, and I’m sure you’d like to know why. It's because I’m tired of having to post these things from a pub. Do you know what I said to Erika this morning? I said I would check my email at work. At work! I’ve started to refer to the pub as “work”? That’s unacceptable. WHAT IS SO DAMNED HARD ABOUT GIVING ME THE INTERNET! It’s 2012 for crying out loud. I’m not asking them to breed me winged white rhinos that will fly about the country with packets of ones and zeroes. Just hook me up with the thing that already exists, thank you very much. I’m 100% certain that I would have an easier time getting the internet in rural Afghanistan than in Sydney. I’m also 99.99% certain that the preceding sentence contained no hyperbole.

Can you believe they give a timeframe of 10-20 business days? That’s a month! It’s ludicrous, but I’m patient. I think: “I’m going to wait until I’m entirely justified in screaming my head off” (which I’ve been assured by multiple people is the only way to get internet around here). So I wait. And I call. And the guy says that my request was entered but never processed. Are you kidding me?

PAUL: Are you kidding me?

GUY: Uh, no. We’re really sorry about that. What would you like to do?

PAUL: I want the express 1-3 day setup, and I don’t want to pay for it. I want the internet in my home, this week.

GUY: Well, that’s usually an extra fee on top of the regular installation costs.

PAUL: So you want me to pay extra to get my internet in 1-3 days when I’ve already waited 20 days? You have to agree with me that’s ridiculous right?

GUY: Umm… I’m going to go talk to someone. Do you mind if I put you on hold?

PAUL: Yeah, go ahead.

MUSAK: Doo dee doo doo… love you baby… doo doot doo… hold me… doo doo… we hate customers… doot doo be doo… lovin’ yoooouu

PAUL: …wait, what?

GUY: Hi sir. We can do all of the installation for $79 and have it in 1-3 days (normally $225)

PAUL: Fine, whatever.

Please note, that was a week ago and I don’t have internet yet. If it isn’t hooked up by the time the NHL playoffs hit I’m going to head down to the iiNet headquarters and start throwing people off the roof.

BMO can also go hump a moving Buick for their complete inability to wire money internationally. I’d get more competent service from a room full of monkeys hucking feces at a fax machine. That is all.


It's over. I finally lost it. After a few choice words regarding sex and travel I am now in the search for a new internet company and will probably miss the first round of the playoffs.

I called Erika after getting off the phone with iiNet, still swaddled in rage. We have a rule around here of "no drinking before 5pm" but I asked Erika for an exception. We agreed that this was an appropriate situation for it. She said that I had to limit myself to one glass though, which I did:

Thank God she didn't ask me to limit myself to a standard drink:

At any rate, this is the last you'll hear from me about the internet. It's not funny anymore.

BTW, if you want the full story here's the email I sent to Paul Cahill, the General Manager of Customer Support for iiNet. I can never resist trying to be a little tongue in cheek, but it's not exactly a humour piece:

Dear Mr. Cahill,

I just wanted to send you a note about how catastrophically bad my experience with your company has been since I first signed up. To summarize:

- I signed up, asking for 1-3 day connection

- A month later I still had no connection or contact from your company
- I called and was told that the order had never been processed. It was agreed that I would be given the 1-3 day service for free and half the regular connection waived
- A week later I still had no internet
- I called and was told that they had checked and there was no phone line installed, and that it would be $300 to do so.
- This is ridiculous by the way. I live in quite an old building with established jacks in the walls. The concept of it not having a line makes no sense to me.
- I then asked when this fact was going to be shared with me since nobody had been in contact, to which I was told the technician had been trying to get in touch but was unable to
- I pointed out that I had not received a single email message or phone call from anyone, to which the person on the phone asserted that the tech was right there and had definitely done so. This assertion is tantamount to claiming I was lying, something which I am positive the tech was doing themselves.
- I then proceeded to lose my freaking mind.

Mr. Cahill, I encourage you to listen to the phone calls I placed to your company. Up until the end of the last call I was reasonable and clear headed. When you get to the point where I fly off the handle (something I have never done before) don’t think of it as just an angry guy being angry. Ask yourself “What could my company possibly have done to drive a person to this point?”

I can’t believe the difficulty I have had with your company. I sincerely hope this is the worst customer service I ever experience in my life, it has certainly been so up until this point.

Paul Parsons