Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Tonight, at bedtime, after all the fuss and all the wringing of hands and stomping of feet, I experienced the proudest moment, to-date, of my fatherhood.

My son (six and 3/4 years old) was finally in bed when he called his mom for something and since I was there I opened the door. He wanted one of his pillows, which was down stairs.

He was sitting on his bed, next to the window, with the blinds open, in the fading light, marking his place in the Harry Potter 1 book, and wanted the pillow to prop himself up just a bit more so he could read until the light had died completely.

I learned to read before we had any electricity at home and put myself to bed reading with a kerosene lantern (or a dieing flashlight when everyone else wanted to sleep) and have the sharpest vision (20/15 on the Snellen scale) of anyone I know. Yes, I know that a "statistic" of one is completely unscientific, but I have no concerns for his eyesight.

I gave up on the HP books after the third one because the story was boring and repetitive. I hear that it gets better later, but...meh. I have so many other things to read and I'm just not that interested. However, just about anything dear son wants to read is fine with me. He wants to read HP1, he reads HP1. He wants to read it in the faintest light, he reads it in the faintest light.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Travel to Australia

This is not a science post. I am decompressing figuratively and literally (my spine is probably several millimeters shorter than before my over-seas trip). Right now, it's a complaint post. Perhaps in a few paragraphs it'll become better. Certainly in a few days I'll post something worth reading, with pictures.

Let me preface these whines by saying that I had an absolutely wonderful time.

I've been awake going on 28 hours with only a few hours sleep before then. I have done longer stretches of wakefulness, often enjoying them, but those 28 hours were not doing something enjoyable, they were spent stuck in a box with... well, read the rest. I really did have a great time. I just like to whine first then talk about the fun stuff later.

1) people who wear perfume suck more than people who smoke, and in my book smokers are the ultimate in antisocial. Why? Because:
A) It isn't killing them, so they'll continue to do it until they're dead, and they'll wear more and more as the years drag on.
B) It is legal in airplanes, restaurants, etc.
C) It stinks as much as and sometime more than cigarette smoke.
D) Petuli wearers: I'm a self-described hippy, but I could easily convince myself that the life-sentence would be worth washing that stench from your body with nitric acid followed by a copper bath (google it). Especially when that crap is worn inside a closed space, and especially after being awake for more than an entire day. You stink. A lot.
E) Perfume DOES NOT EVER smell good or attractive or sexy or any other such crap. Just disgusting. And the same goes for the perfume men wear. They all smell like a chemical factory, not a human being.
F) Those of us who are allergic don't get relief except through a drug like benadryl.

2) Airport Customs hallways must be designed for bleakness. If you have never seen the movie Joe Vs. The Volcano, go see it. Think of the opening office scene(s), but magnified in bleakness and then compressed into tighter, more airless hallways. I have yet to encounter a pleasant customs area. "Welcome to our Wonderful Country. DO NOT ENJOY IT. Also, Do not bring in nuts; we hate nuts." And there are always perfume wearers.

3) Airplane seats that are leather or faux leather or fake leather or nagahide are not plush, they're not high society, they're not chic, they're not special, they're just uncomfortable. I slip, I slide, and I cannot find a comfortable position. I refuse to lean my seat back if someone is behind me because I always feel like applying the nitric acid-copper bath (see above) to people who do it to me.

4) Americans cannot make a salad. The worst purchased salad I had in Australia was leagues above the best salad I've purchased in the USA. Seriously. Well, okay, that's not entirely true, but it is certainly true that the worst Aussie salad (being just "rocket" and tomatoes) was much, much, much better than the shit people call salad at most take-outs and many sit-down restaurants here in the US. Iceberg? Doesn't exist in the rest of the world. We apparently invented that to complete our descent into tastelessness.

5) Traveling with a young child and not losing it (the mind or the child) is amazingly difficult. I've done it domestically a lot, but I truly feel for those fools who go overseas with more than one. Seriously, how in the world can you keep track of more than one? Maybe that's the trick: if you bring more than one, you can afford to lose one or two.... Hmmm...

6) People in other countries are much nicer to travelers than are people in the US. I have heard of the southern hospitality but haven't actually experienced it when I've traveled to that side of my country. In Aus, people were either genuinely happy to have you staying/eating/visiting/whatevering with them or they were the best actors I've ever seen. The same goes for Switzerland. I'm willing to bet that I've just been lucky, but I'm a pessimist.

7) Big cities are pretty much all alike. There are a few places worth visiting, those places usually charge some sort of entrance fee, and the locals don't want the tourists to find out about their favorites, which are free. The public transportation system always has its own convoluted logic but usually works once it is understood. Finally, the very best places to go are out of the city, but they're a pain to get to from the city. Don't get me wrong, Sydney has some very interesting sites to visit, but next time we're going to the small towns or where there are no towns at all.

8) Skivvy dipping in the Tasman Sea in the middle of southern winter is quite an experience. It's cold out there.

View Larger Map

9) Seeing little penguins coming out of the Tasman sea onto the beach at night to nest is pretty cool.

10) Platypus(es) are smaller than I thought they would be, but they're pretty cool to see.

11) Oh, right, I'm supposed to be whinging.

12) Tasmanian locals are insane drivers. First of all, I am certain that there is not a straight 10 km stretch of road anywhere in Tasmania. Their "highways" are two-direction country roads without shoulders to us. They have maximum speeds of 100 km/hr (62 mph), which I usually stayed well under by at least 20%. The locals drove faster by at least 20%. They also don't know which side of the road they're supposed to on. Seriously. I only had one or two times in parking lots where I found I was on the wrong side of the road (because there weren't any stripes so I couldn't keep a stripe to my left), but on the main roads, I would have locals come around a corner entirely in my lane, take their sweet time (at 120 km/hr; ~75 mph) getting back into their lane, and look at me like I was at fault. Also, they pass on wet, blind turns.

13) In the southern hemisphere, the sun is always in the wrong place. I knew this would be the case, but it still screwed me up. Orienteering or rogaining in winter down there would be a nightmare for me. I really, really, need to get a good compass if I plan to go back for some hiking.

That's all for now. I'm home. I'm glad I went, and I'm glad to be home.