Thursday 31 January 2008

Hockey! Hat trick = lots of hats

We went and saw the Washington Capitals beat the Montreal Canadiens 5-4 in overtime at the Verizon Center in DC on Thursday. It was our first American ice hockey game, and it was awesome. Canadiens is not a spelling mistake either - it's the French thing.

Alex Ovechkin scored 4 goals, which is pretty much unheard of; his third made a hat trick, and to our surprise, everyone threw their baseball caps onto the ice! Who are these people? Don't they like their hats enough to keep them? The guys who cleared them off the ice went home with about 50 pre-loved hats...They also had to clear off a burrito which exploded when someone lobbed it onto the ice.

Awesome game, I'm keen to see more hockey. Check out the sweet screens setup and circular LCD panel in the photo - I know where our ticket money went....

Tuesday 29 January 2008

$3 per gallon, time for some perspective

Americans are horrified that petrol (gas) is hitting $3 per gallon over here. In Australia we are paying AU$1.40 per litre (or more, depending on where you live), which is US$4.70 per gallon.

After writing this I realised that was pretty hypocritical, since there are probably lots of countries paying even more. In London (Essex), according to they are paying US$8.25 per gallon. Man.

Oh, and as part of this process I found out there is an imperial gallon and a US gallon (these figures are US gallons). Crazy imperial system...

Friday 25 January 2008

Happy Australia Day!

It's still the 25th here, but I'm listening to the hottest 100 over the Internet :) I can almost smell the beach, beer, and BBQs. Weather is a bit different here: 28°F (-2°C) right now and a high of 33°F (1°C) today. A group of us aussie expats are banding together tomorrow to drink beer out of stubbie holders with Australian flags on them. Happy Australia Day!

You are kidding. I go away for 1 year

I go away for one year and Rage Against The Machine decides to tour Australia after an eleven year drought. Dammit! They are the top of my all time "bands I wish I had seen" list - most of the others on the list are dead, some before I was born. Maybe RATM will tour the US in the next few months...

Sunday 20 January 2008

Geocache saves the lives of two climbers in Oregon

A geocache (GCRZCP) just saved the lives of two climbers on Mt. Hood near Portland Oregon. These two guys were lost on the mountain during a whiteout, and although rescuers managed to get them on their mobile phone the climbers didn't know where they were. They happened to stumble upon a geocache, which gave them their exact GPS coordinates!

Sunday 13 January 2008

Dogs OK. Pot-bellied pigs not OK.

I kept forgetting to blog about this. The first time I saw a dog being taken inside the airplane cabin I was astounded. Are you really allowed to do that? Turns out you are on certain airlines. I'm not talking about guide dogs for blind people either, these are usually tiny yappy handbag dogs.

We have travelled on Delta quite a few times, and I think there has been at least one dog in a mesh bag in the cabin on every trip. Delta says:

Your pet can travel with you in the cabin for a one-way fee of $75 (to be collected at check-in) when traveling within the United States (except Hawaii), Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda. Pets permitted in the cabin include dogs, cats, birds, ferrets, rabbits, hamsters and guinea pigs. Monkeys, pot-bellied pigs, reptiles, frogs, mice, rats, sugar gliders, and spiders are not permitted.

What, no pot-bellied pigs? Does that mean someone has actually tried to bring one on? The most surprising thing about this is that the dogs don't bark on the plane. I figure either they, like all the human toddlers, are drugged up to the eyeballs, or they are getting constantly fed some sort of treats to keep them happy.

I wonder how long it will be before we see this on QANTAS flights?

Give me spare change

Give me spare change and I may never get off these streets. Give to organizations that could really help me and you could save my life. It's up to you.

That is the advice from from Baltimore's Downtown Partnership on how to deal with begging/panhandling. I think it is pretty good advice, since your spare change can actually hurt the person by enabling them to delay seeking help. Unfortunately you can't avoid panhandling in Baltimore (or any major US city). Some more tips:

  • Make eye contact or acknowledge the person with a nod.
  • Politely say "no" or "sorry".
  • Offer to buy the person a sandwich, or offer food you are carrying such as boxed leftovers from a restaurant meal.
  • Volunteer, or donate to an organisation that helps the homeless.

The eye contact thing is important - I remember a Contiki guide in San Francisco (notorious for panhandling) telling me that some panhandlers had become violent just to get a reaction out of people. This was due to the person spending all day begging on the street where every person avoided eye contact, making them feel invisible.

Sunday 6 January 2008

Meat, glorious meat

We went to the classy Brazilian steakhouse Fogo de Chao in Baltimore, and it was awesome. The waiter gives you this card with a red and green side; while the green side is up, meat just keeps arriving at the table. There are 15 different cuts of meat, and they are all great. There is also a gourmet salad bar, which is delicious and had the most gigantic cheese I have seen (car tyre size).

I ate so much meat.

My tip is don't fill up on salad, and get there early because they don't take reservations. Cost is $42/head plus tip and drinks.

Wednesday 2 January 2008

Gear I wish I'd had in Utah

I bought a whole lot of stuff at the end of our Utah trip that I wish I had at the beginning. I thought I'd write some of them down for anyone else doing similar things:

  • Thick socks with little pockets on the toes for your chemical footwarmers. Much easier than trying to balance the warmer on your toes as you jam your foot into your boot. You can even get inner-soles that have space for you to slide a footwarmer inside! $5
  • Seirus neoprene/fleece face-mask for skiing. These were selling like crazy on the 0°F (-17°C) day at Brighton. I had my neck warmer up over my mouth, but couldn't bring it over my nose because it fogged my goggles. This covers everything and has breathing holes in the right places. $25
  • YakTrax rubber contraptions that strap onto the bottom of your shoes to give you traction on snow and ice. They are made from stretchy rubber that will fit over pretty much any shoe. We saw some people walking with these on some of the popular trails at Canyonlands where the snow was really hard-packed and super slick. Jealous! The traction comes from coils of wire, so no spikes to worry about! Wish we had these in Europe a couple of years ago, would have saved many staks on the ice. $20
  • Cheap, collapsible ski bag to make carrying skis on/off public transport and to/from the car more manageable. $30
  • Roll of velcro to keep skis and stocks together while you are carrying them. You can buy special purpose velcro ski clips, but this is cheaper. $5

Tuesday 1 January 2008

Canyonlands on screen

Just as I was writing this I watched an episode of Survivorman where Les Stroud was in Canyonlands. In the series Les gets dropped in all sorts of remote places by himself, no camera crew, and has to survive with a bare minimum of resources - usually just clothes and a multitool. Amazing stuff. In this episode he had a terrible time finding water in the canyons, and the only food he got was a rat that he killed with a trap made from sticks and rocks.

Of course Utah has been the film set for pretty much every western ever made, and Thelma and Louise drove off a cliff in Canyonlands NP.

Dead Horse Gap State Park near Canyonlands NP, last sunset of 2007

We watched the sun set on 2007 from this amazing viewpoint out over the colorado river. Imagine being Powell discovering this as well as the Grand Canyon on the same river!

Upheaval Crater, Canyonlands NP

There are two theories about how this crater was formed: meteor strike or underground salt movement. Amazing place.

Moab Highlights

  • The hike to Utah icon Delicate Arch in Arches NP.
  • Making fresh tracks through the snow to find Aztec granaries in Canyonlands NP. When they originally found these they still contained 800 year old corn!
  • The amazing buttes (said "bewts"), mesas, and canyons of Canyonlands NP. Every bit as impressive as the grand canyon, and one of the wildest, most inacessible, and harsh areas in the US.
  • Snowshoeing off-trail in the La Sal mountains.
  • Walking on a completely frozen lake, and watching people play ice hockey out in the middle.