Saturday 30 August 2008

Savannah GA

Savannah was beautiful, but the river cruise was rubbish. Spanish moss makes the trees look amazing, although it is neither moss nor spanish. Savannah has become the classic southern movie destination, my favourite was hanging out in the park where Forrest Gump had his bench :)

Friday 29 August 2008

706 Pennies, 2 good cups of coffee

We became good americans and never used change for anything, so over a year we accumulated a fair bit. We dumped our change jar into the counting machine and here is what came out:

Quarters: 133
Dimes: 261
Nickels: 230
Pennies 706
Total: $77.91

While we are on statistics, I thought I'd list the good coffees I had in the US. There were two, one from an asian place in a random food court in Boston that had a proper espresso machine, and one from the Bluehouse cafe in Baltimore. Not sad about farewelling American coffee.

The long way home

We have started the journey home via Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Colorado, Wyoming and Hawaii. The first problem was that we were arriving in New Orleans at exactly the same time as hurrican gustav, so we replaced that leg with a trip to chicago well out of range of gustav. Turns out this was a really good move, since New Orleans was totally evacuated.

Saturday 23 August 2008

Smallest American car ever

I realised we never got around to posting a picture of our car, so here it is, the mighty chevy aveo pictured beside a regular-sized American truck for scale :)

356 days without an accident

Maryland roads are dangerous, and Baltimore has the 15th rudest drivers in America. Once I rang up our insurance company to find out how I could reduce our ridiculous premiums, their advice was "move out of Maryland". Great.

The other day I ended my run, at 356 days of driving in America without an accident. I got rear-ended on the freeway when a car got cut off and had to brake suddenly a couple of cars in front of me. I stopped in time, but the old guy in the ancient ute behind me ploughed straight into my car, pushing me into the one in front, and so on, until we had a four car pile-up.

As far as accidents go, this is about as good as it gets (well, for me anyway):

  1. No one was injured.
  2. It wasn't my fault.
  3. My car was still drivable.
  4. It wasn't my car.

We had made the, in retrospect awesome, decision to sell our car to carmax and accept a bit of a loss on the price just two days earlier. The car I was driving was a hire car, so I filled in an accident report, went back to the shop, and got a new one! Awesome!

Cashing in, moving out

You may remember that I found out most Americans don't use change. Well Em and I have become good Americans and have amassed a massive amount of change in a jar. We took it to wal-mart and dumped it into the change counting machine. Turns out 1 year works out at:

  • 133 Quarters
  • 261 Dimes
  • 230 Nickels
  • 706 Pennies

Which is $77.91 minus the coin machine's cut = $70.98

Wednesday 20 August 2008

How to make a top-rope anchor, Earth Treks style

OK I'm back-dating this one. Before we left Baltimore I did the Earth Treks top-rope course, which was excellent. It was basically a full day of tying top ropes, and the instructor was a very experienced, knowledgeable climber and moutaineer. He started out by telling us that the double fishie above the figure 8 that American gyms require for harness tie in is useless, it is just for people who don't know how to tie a figure 8.

His method used 100ft (30m) of 10mm static line:
  • Take a bight of rope and tie a quick bowline (see below) around your best anchor, securing with a double fishie (make sure you put it one the right strand of the rope, where the end exits the knot).
  • Use the short(er) tail to tie in to your harness with a figure 8, you are now (reasonably) safe.
  • Tie a big friendly knot (see below) as your focal point and position over the climb by clipping your rope/backpack or something else heavy to two screw gates. Try and get the rope to hang off the rock in a hollow or in an overhang, so any rubbing happens above the knot.
  • Tie your second anchor point in the same way with a quick bowline and double fishie.
  • Adjust equalisation by holding the circle of rope you made in your bowline and sliding the knot up or down the rope (leave yourself some room!).
  • Done. Note he only used two anchors, but they have to be good ones (like big trees).

Quick Bowline

Very cool way to tie a bowline quickly. Make a loop on the load side of the rope and pull a loop through the circle from the load side of the rope. Pass the other end of the rope through your loop. Hold the load part of the rope with your right hand and slide the knot up with the left - it will sort of flip over and you will get the classic lifejacket look that means you have done it right.

Big Friendly Knot

The instructor uses this instead of a figure 8 because it has redundant strands that mean if part of the rope loop fails, there is another backing it up. Couldn't find this on the internet anywhere under this name so have taken a few photos. Only an overhand is needed, not a figure 8, but you can do one if you want to shorten the rope a little.

Saturday 16 August 2008

Ravens lose, Phelps wins

We thought we had better get to a Ravens game before we left, so we headed out for a pre-season game against Minnesota at M&T stadium, and paid $65 each to sit in the very back row! We couldn't afford a regular season game, the ravens only have 8 home games and tickets run at a couple of hundred for the cheap seats. Football is ridiculously popular - 70,000 people turned out for the game and it was only pre-season!

Despite the massive number of people, the atmosphere was pretty ordinary. Very little cheering, or booing, or...anything. Admittedly the ravens were losing, so I get the feeling the crowd is pretty fickle. I couldn't believe it when people started leaving shortly into the second half when it looked like the ravens would lose.

The best part of the whole thing was cheering on Michael Phelps to make history in the 4x100m medley relay with about 15,000 Baltimorians in Phelps' home town on the big screen after the game. The crowd was amazing, with everyone on their feet screaming their lungs out for the full length of the race. The aussies were ahead at one of the turns, and I let out a big involuntary cheer, which caused a whole lot of strange looks from the Americans around me. Em and I agreed that if Australia won we wouldn't cheer so we could make it out of the stadium alive.

Thursday 14 August 2008

Downtown Phelps-ville USA

People (well, my mum) have been asking me what the Olympics coverage has been like in the US, and I was wondering how this would go myself. Turns out the TV coverage has been similar (or better) to what we get in Australia - we have three channels-worth during the day, and one (NBC) that continues through prime-time. The coverage is US-athlete focused, but with three channels during the day they actually cover much more events where the US isn't involved than Nine covers events without Australians.

Mum tells me if Michael Phelps was a country, he would be beating Australia in the medal tally at the moment. He may not be a country, but he's definitely a city - he's from Baltimore and I hear his name about every 30 seconds on the TV. NBC just did an article about a massive increase in kids' swimming lesson enrolments in Baltimore and showed me how much he eats for breakfast - the american version of '16 weetbix'.

Are any Americans actually watching it? Well, it's not like football season where after a Ravens game you can hear everyone at work talking about it the next day. Having said that I think quite a few watched the opening ceremony, including a few with us. My favourite quote from a particularly loud American "Cameroon? Oh my god, is that a country?".

The timing is awesome. We have seen lots of the swimming finals live during our night time, that would have been during the work day in Australia.

I have a new favourite athlete - Reese Hoffa, pictured above with his famous turkey-leg celebration at the US track and field championships. He can solve a Rubik's cube in 55 seconds. Awesome.

Sunday 10 August 2008

Kath and Kim remade for the US....badly

Check out the US remake of Kath and Kim.

I object to NBC billing this as "Australia's number 1 show", when that isn't what they are showing at all. Although it is fair enough they remade it - it would have to be subtitled to be shown in the US (just like the Mad Max DVD someone showed me the other day, which has been dubbed with American accents).

I agree with those in the SMH article - I'd be surprised if it lasts a month.

Tuesday 5 August 2008

Is google street view the coolest tech of our time?

I'm amazed how much of Australia Google has covered. Directions are now even more awesome too with street view images to help with landmarks.

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