Tuesday 30 October 2007

Baltimore police tactical response unit with rear stealth

I got a bit excited about this button on the Baltimore police tactical response unit we saw at the Baltimore big truck day. Unfortunately it is not a Klingon cloaking device, it just turns the rear lights off :(

Monday 29 October 2007

Public transport trauma, another car back on the road

Now I know why everyone drives. I rode my bike to the train station, got on, and everything was going fine until there was a 'signalling error' which meant the train slowed down to about 10 miles/h and arrived at the station 15 minutes late.

So I missed the last connection from the station and was stuck with no way to work. I called work, got the number for a cab company, forgot the number immediately because I didn't have a pen (apparently my brain registers can't hold 10 digits), rang em, got another number and scratched it into the concrete with a pebble. Waited about 15 minutes for the cab, and arrived at work 1 hr 45 min after leaving home, at a cost of $14 one-way.

On the way back the train was (only) 10 minutes late, which meant the trip home was 2 hours long. Man. Driving takes 30min and costs about $5/day in petrol. I'm sorry planet, I tried but they broke me :(

Halloween = best 'holiday' ever

Halloween is so much fun. We carved a pumpkin, and it looks awesome, check out em's blog for a picture. The pumpkin cost us $4 (!) and is waaaay softer than the pumpkins at home. There is no way you could carve a Queensland blue with a cheap plastic carving kit from walmart :(

We went out on saturday night to a club where pretty much everyone was dressed up. The costumes are amazing. For girls it seems to be an excuse to wear the sluttiest outfits possible, which works out well for everyone. We went to pub trivia tonight and saw donald duck, the geico gecko, devil pimp, priest and catholic schoolgirl, scarecrows, pirates, and heaps more. My favourite from the other night was a guy in a hospital gown pushing a drip stand with a drip bag full of vodka.

The Halloween stores are so good, you can get all sorts of ready-made costumes as well as any props you need to make your own, and decorations for your house. We were recommended this haunted house but it looks way too friggin scary for me. Yes, I am a wuss.

REI is awesome

Outdoors gear is so much cheaper here! I spent a ridiculous amount of time in a store called REI (Recreational Equipment Inc.) that has every sort of outdoors gear you can think of without any of the hunting stuff. I even managed to convince Em she should get a climbing harness, since there were Black Diamond womens harnesses for $45 :)

I bought a small, super lightweight thermarest for hiking, 10 Black Diamond nuts (yes, non-climbers you can snigger now), daisy chain and other assorted stuff. I'm also going to get new rock boots, harness, and rope while I'm here - 60m dry core for $150, was almost $400 for the rope Al and I bought back home.

Thursday 25 October 2007

Every US State in Alphabetical Order - Think about it

No its not us. It's this guy who bought a car from the same guy who sold us our car - Voldemort's brother John Riddle. Doing every state alphabetically is seriously insane, he will have driven through some of those central states so many times....New Mexico to New York via (roughly if you draw a straight line) Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania. Way to spend some time in your car.

Lead paint is nasty

An article about a paper linking crime reductions to the introduction of unleaded petrol made it onto slashdot this week. I wonder if the prevalence of lead paint in Baltimore is contributing to its horrendous crime stats?

This reminds me of the link made between legalised abortion and crime reductions by economics superstar Steven Levitt, which was subsequently the subject of much controversy.

Monday 22 October 2007

E. coli with your coffee?

Minimising wasted coffee cups is all well and good (see previous post), but I forgot about the worst part of that approach. There isn't anywhere to wash your mug, so you have to do it in the toilets. Gross. There are no kitchen break-out type areas because:

a. Everyone uses disposable coffee cups.
b. Practically no-one drinks tea; kettles pretty much don't exist, although we did manage to get one for home.
c. Microwaves are available in the cafeteria for heating food.

More coffee trauma, but I'm determined...

Today I took the plunge and walked up to Starbucks with my coffee mug.

Me: Hi, do you mind if I get my coffee in this mug?
Starbucks money girl: No. *tone implies "you're an idiot"*
Me: OK great.

I pay for the coffee, leave my mug on the counter, and walk over to the pick-up area. I then watch coffee mug sit on the counter as other people are served, and two people get their coffee before me. Grr... Walk over, pick up mug.

Me: Can I get my tall latte in this mug please?
Starbucks coffee girl: *Blank stare*
Starbucks coffee girl: *Takes mug off me*
Starbucks coffee girl: *Look implies "you're an idiot"*

So I got my coffee, and it wasn't TOO traumatic. Hopefully if I do this every day they will eventually join the dots and figure out what to do. The guys from the team were watching all this and found it pretty funny.

Sunday 21 October 2007

Turducken: symphony of meat

One of our friends told us about turduckens. Man this is the coolest idea for thanksgiving. You take a turkey, stuff it with a duck, and then stuff that with a chicken. Turkey + duck + chicken = turducken. Making one sounds like a lot of work, but maybe we will buy one!

Suckiest theme song ever

Our DVR has been working overtime on the Sci-Fi channel :) So many shows with star in the title....I've been watching a fair bit of Star Trek: Enterprise, which has the suckiest theme song of all time. I can't believe how many people rate it on that youtube site. One guy has a go at it and is shot down by the very convincing and statistically sound argument:

dude youre a dumbass. the percentage of people that listen to country is about 63%. I know this because at my school, 3/4 of the students listen to country.


Thursday 18 October 2007

Tastes like pumpkin...

I had a pumpkin spice latte. It really tasted like pumpkin with cinnamon-like spices. It was pretty tasty, but I won't be buying it again. I am going to have to get one of the eggnog lattes at Christmas though....

Tuesday 16 October 2007

Most satisfying thing so far

Telling people that contrary to popular belief, Fosters is not "Australian for beer" but "Australian for effective marketing campaign to sell terrible beer to foreigners".

A loose interpretation of cappuccino

At the corner store near visitors centre in Shenandoah:

me: I'll have a cappuccino please
girl: French vanilla or mocha?
me: *sinking feeling* Oh no, just plain?
girl: We don't have plain
me: riiiiight. How about vanilla then.

What I got didn't really resemble coffee in any way, more like "inspired by" coffee.

In keeping with the Halloween season, Starbucks has brought out the coffee crime known as Pumpkin Spice Latte. I'm going to try and get one at work tomorrow.

Beary good time in Shenandoah

We went to shenandoah NP in Virginia:

View Larger Map

on Sunday, camped the night at Big Meadows and came back on Monday night.

The trip was awesome and the park was beautiful in all its autumn glory. We saw some great mountain scenery and got a lot of walking in, taking the longer less travelled routes. Great little waterfalls choked with leaves and mountaintop views. The trees in the valleys and most of the understory had changed colour, but the upper canopy was still mostly green.

The campground was amazing - the facilities were excellent and we could even choose which site we wanted online. We picked a "walk to" campsite, which was right on the edge of the campground, so there was just national park on one side of us. The design was better than any of the popular national parks grounds I have been to at home, with large stretches of bush in between each site so you felt like you were almost on your own despite there being 290 sites! The deer were not scared of humans at all, and we had a number wander through and around our campsite.

Each site had a lockable bear bin for food storage as Shenandoah has one of the largest black bear populations in the US. We were excited by having to lock all our food away. The excitement continued when about midnight I was woken by a loud sniffing sound and something brushing up and down the side of the tent! It wasn't a deer. I proceeded to shit myself for the next few minutes, after which our friend decided that we didn't have any food in the tent after all. Unfortunately I was busting to go to the toilet for the rest of the night but too scared to go out in the dark :( Em managed to sleep through the encounter, which was the best result for everyone.

We topped it off by seeing a bear on sunday on the other side of a small gully, which was close enough to see it clearly but far enough away to have a good running head start :)

Oh, and check out Em's blog for the wedding ring saga....

Friday 12 October 2007

There's a 't' there!

Every second commercial is actually for some sort of asthma medication. It is slowly driving me insane hearing the word "azma" all the time. C'mon! There's a "t" in there!

No medical problem is too personal for a TV commercial

The extent of TV advertising for medical products over here is amazing. No topic is off limits:

- Genital herpes creams
- KY Jelly
- Erectile dysfunction medication

I remember the endless parodies of the Metamucil ad when it came out in Australia. We ain't seen nothin.

There must be some law about disclosing side effects during the commercial too. I wonder how effective the ad for a medication is when at the end it says may cause fainting, vomiting, heart palpitations etc. They don't just say it really fast at the end either, the law must say something like the side effects information has to be delivered at the same speed as the commercial.

Update: I have some new favourites. My favourite new side effect is "gas with oily discharge" - whoah, gross. I think the most ridiculous case of the cure being worse than the disease is Requip for Restless Leg Syndrome, which apart from the usual dizziness, nausea, drowsiness etc. might cause:

...urges to behave in a way unusual for them. Examples of this are an unusual urge to gamble or increased sexual urges and/or behaviors....Hallucinations (unreal sounds, visions, or sensations) have been reported in patients taking Requip.

I think I'd take the restless leg.

Tuesday 9 October 2007

Eating corn makes you yellow

The chicken meat here is yellow! Why?

The answer comes from the aussie woolies homeshop website: "The flesh and fat of corn-fed chicken is slightly yellow rather than the usual pinkish colour."

There doesn't seem to be any conclusive research to determine if corn-fed or grain-fed chicken is nutritionally better. I'm less scared of the fluro yellow now though :)

What's with the eggs?

Why do they have white eggs over here? Do they paint them? Why would they do that?

Turns out egg colour is the same colour as the chicken's earlobe! Different areas of the world seem to have preferences for the types of egg laying chickens they raise. I'm not sure you can get any white chicken eggs at home. Here the organic eggs tend to be brown and the most common colour is white.

Now to find out why chicken breast looks yellow. Organic chicken looks what I think of as a "normal" pink while all other chicken has a definite yellow tinge. I know what you're thinking and no it isn't the packaging.

"Why are half the stations closed? City that never sleeps my arse"

We went to New York! Em has covered it much more comprehensively on her blog, so check it out :)


- Hearing an a cappella group of guys singing for change on the subway
- Seeing a genuine NY subway rat
- View from the 86th floor of the empire state: awesome!
- Riding bikes through central park
- General central park awesomeness
- Ellis island immigration museum was really interesting
- Giant, fresh Chinese buffet lunch for $4 in Chinatown


- Really confusing subway: "Is this an express train? Damn we're going to Coney Island", "Trains only stop here after midnight - why do they mark it on the map??", "Why are half the stations closed? City that never sleeps my arse"
- Hot subway: "Why is it 10 degrees hotter down here?" (it must have been about 30 degrees on the street)
- Paying another $15 each ($66 for both of us) to go to the 102nd floor of the empire state, which pretty much sucked.

Friday 5 October 2007

Manholes in the middle of the road - why? Sewer steam - why?

Who was the guy who thought: I have to build some access points into this sewerage system, I know lets put them in the middle of every road. Why? As the road surface changes over the years you eventually end up with either a 20cm raised lip of tar around the edge of the manhole, or a 20cm drop down from the road surface.

Either way you have created a driving obstacle course. Roads are bad enough with natural potholes without designing in extra ones!

Also for some reason the sewers steam...This is pretty gross, but why have all these grates and manholes so that millions of people have to step through clouds of sewerage every day?

I know lets just weld a plate over it...

They do this thing with roadworks here, where instead of fixing the road, they dig it up a bit then weld a gigantic metal plate (about 2m x 2m) over the top. They don't stop with one plate either, so you end up with 5 or 6 overlapping plates that makes for wonderful driving.

Thursday 4 October 2007

I suck at parallel parking on the right hand side

We went and got our drivers licenses today at the Annapolis MVA. It all worked out pretty well, mainly because Em did all the planning and checking to make sure we had all the documents we needed. Amongst other things we had to sit a written test and do a short driving test.

I was sweating the last 6 questions of the written test as you needed 17/20 to pass and I already had three wrong! Should probably have memorised the 180 page Maryland road rules guide first...

Next came the driving test which is cruising around a little course they have set up in the carpark. I was super nervous, mainly because I didn't want to have to drive all the way back and wait another few hours in the MVA to do it again! I forgot to indicate my first turn - whoops. I also had about 7 goes at the reverse parallel park, my excuse is that its different on the right hand side, and I didn't have any time to practice :) They are much softer with that than we are, as long as you don't mount the kerb and complete it within 3 minutes you can do pretty much anything.

So I passed, and Em did much better than I did :( Only took about 4 hours and one trip. This is actually pretty reasonable compared to some horror stories from other Aussies.

Monday 1 October 2007

Random jazz wake up call

This morning at about 6:30 some jazz filtered into my unconscious. While I was wondering if the person next door had their alarm clock set to a jazz radio station Em got out of bed and looked outside. "There's a jazz band outside" - and so there was. In a truly made for TV experience they set up about 6:30, played about 4 songs and then packed up before there was anyone awake to appreciate the music. Weird.

PS. I love the double glazing here :) Every apartment we looked at was either double or triple glazed!