Wednesday, July 10, 2002

Sydney Observatory and other things

We went to the Sydney Observatory Tuesday night. They had a nice little evening program. It wasn't nearly as nice as the one at Kitt Peak, but it did provide the opportunity to look at Alpha Centauri through a telescope, something you can't do up north.

By the way, if you're ever in Australia, it appears that you can't buy cold medicine from a convenience store; you have to buy it from a "chemist" (pharmacy). You can, however, buy "Panadol", a pain reliever. I thought I was doing well by looking at the generic name, "paracetamol," to figure out the US equivalent, but I've never heard of paracetamol. Turns out it's also known as acetaminophen -- Tylenol. So don't go asking for Tylenol, look for Panadol.

Last night, we took the ferry to Manly for dinner. We ended up there at around 9:30, but we found a place that was still serving food (Australia seems to roll up its sidewalks early) and had some reasonably good food and an absolutely great passionfruit tart.

There's much much more, but I'm a little bit overwhelmed at describing it all, and I have a cold (see above). Certainly more to follow from me and also from Christina.


Monday, July 08, 2002

Sydney Harbour Dining

Well, the publishing didn't work yesterday, but so far it's working today. Once again, I only have a little bit of time during the conference's lunch break. I'm chairing an afternoon session, so I probably shouldn't be late.

After the conference yesterday, we walked down to the Rocks, which is where the convicts originally landed in 1788. It's been turned into sort of a touristy restaurant and shopping district -- it reminded Christina of Georgetown.

We stopped in an Aboriginal restaurant, which had kangaroo and other sorts of interesting meat. The sign said that it had traditional dancing, but the place was empty. So we stopped in to ask when they would have traditional dancing. The woman explained that they only brought the dancers in when they had at least 25 bookings. We asked when that might happen, and she told us last Saturday they had 40 people, but none of them had booked in advance, so there was no dancing. Christina took a card, and the woman wanted to know if we were really going to call to make a booking.

She seemed bitter, and I guess if your people's land is stolen, you have a right to. But my ancestors didn't steal her ancestors' land -- they were busy stealing somebody else's. All we wanted to know was when they might have dancing. We'll probably go back later in the week, and we may even make a booking -- in case there happen to be 24 other bookings (as now seems rather unlikely).

We walked some more until we got to the water, and we eventually selected Italian Village, which offered us a nice meal, washed down with a nice Australian wine.


Sunday, July 07, 2002

Down Under

I've only got a few moments here...this is the first time I've had Internet access I could publish from.

Random thoughts:

  • The water really does go the wrong way 'round down here, but I've never really paid that much attention to it going the right way up there.
  • Australia is cheap. You get about 2 Australian dollars for one American, and a lot of times the prices look reasonable even before you divide them in two.
  • Driving on the wrong side of the road isn't as hard as I thought it would be. Driving in Syndey, on the other hand, is ridiculous. Lots of one-way streets, lots of no-right-turn signs. The GPS has been a lifesaver.
  • The Southern Cross is really quite striking, and I can see why various countries use it on their flags. The Milky Way is amazing...I can't believe I had to come down here to get away from the light pollution.
  • A lot of times when Christina was driving, I'd look for the wheel, the brakes, or other things I expected to be on the "correct" side of the car. Last night when I was driving by myself, I got into the car, sat down, and then had to get out and get in the driver's side.
  • This is a really empty country. It's the size of the continental US with 1/15 the population. And parts of the US are really empty. We've been travelling in the more populated part (east coast), and it's been at times like driving through rural Colorado.
  • Australia is a relatively wealthy country per capita, but not per mile. So the roads don't seem to be as wide as we're used to. Except near major cities, you don't see anything bigger than two-lane roads.
  • Australians don't seem to speed very much. I guess when you can get caught behind somebody doing 30 kph under the speed limit until you get to an overtaking lane, you have to have a relaxed attitude towards travel time.
  • More later