Monday 31 May 2010

5 hour ACT Metrogaine

With many excuses (some good) from my friends about why they couldn't do the 5-hour Metrogaine with me, I decided to enter as a one-man team.  This was a luxury permitted by the organisers because the event was held within the confines of suburbia well-endowed with mobile phone coverage.

The controls were a mix of normal bush controls located in parks and less accessible areas, and questions such as 'What bird is NOT featured on the toilet block?' (which was my favourite control).  There was a 40 point penalty for incorrect answers to discourage guessing.  Nav was ridiculously easy, which was a refreshing change (see previous Rogaine experience) - this event was mainly about speed and route planning.

The weather was atrocious, it basically poured the entire day, except for a couple of hours at the start when it was only light drizzle.  As a result #61 was pretty much in the Molonglo River, despite the setter putting it back a number of metres from the water the day before.

I had to cut everything below #70 off, and couldn't stomach crossing Mt. Taylor for #60, due to time constraints.  My knee acted up about 2 hours in, which meant no more running and a 20 point time penalty for being 2 minutes late despite sprinting down Red Hill and tragically passing up #34, which was less than 100m from the road.  All up I estimate I covered about 27 km and scored respectably in the middle of the pack.

Despite the terrible weather I had a great time and enjoyed the course.

Surly Griffins vs. Black 'n' Blue Belles

We jumped on the newest goth-niche-sport bandwagon and booked tickets months in advance for 'madstax: beyond the hyperdome', the final bout of the Canberra Roller Derby league.  The event sold out, and the stadium was packed; if the level of public interest in the sport is maintained they are probably going to have to move to a bigger arena.  Especially if they make a sequel to the movie.

I was interested to see how the Canberra (presumably public servant-filled) teams would compare to the Baltimore Charm City Roller Girls we saw back in 2008.  The Black 'n' Blue Belles (pictured) certainly brought the freakiness I'd seen in Baltimore, so I decided to go for them.  The Surly Griffins looked fairly normal in comparison, but had the skills and ended up winning the bout. 

The Canberra skaters were generally slower than those we saw in Baltimore, but I'm sure they'll get faster as they gain confidence and experience.  Having said that, there were two stand-out really fast skaters (one from each team) who were often paired up as jammers and were loved by the crowd.

Some of the hits were massive, there was definitely no holding back.  The 'suicide seating' in Canberra was much less suicidal than in Baltimore where skaters landed in the crowd regularly.

Had a great time, would go again!

Thanks to D-eye on flickr for the great photos.

Monday 17 May 2010

Steripen - clean water, but fairly temperamental

I've been using a Steripen Classic for all my water purification needs when out bush, but it has proven to be pretty unreliable.  Firstly it seems to be very particular about batteries: if you didn't charge your NiMh batteries within the past few days they probably won't work.  It is also very picky about how long you hold the button down for: 2 or 3 seconds seems to work best for me.  If you give the button a few goes and nothing happens, the FAQ says you should wait 15 seconds, which works most of the time:
Pressing the button too quickly may result in an unrecognized electronic signal. Wait 15 seconds to allow the SteriPEN to reset and then start again. Push the operating button slowly (hold for 1/2 second) and release. If selecting the 0.5 L dose, pause for a half a second before the second push of the button. If this doesn’t work, please check the batteries.
 I was also getting a problem where the UV light would switch off mid-dose and go to steady red, which means the Steripen thinks it isn't in water any more.  Ironically this happens when the water is too pure:
SteriPEN water sensors look for electrical conductivity to indicate the presence of water. In most cases water has enough trace mineral content to allow for a small amount of electrical current. On occasion though, very pure water may be encountered – most often in areas where water is from recent snow melt. Since very pure water is a poor electrical conductor, the sensors may only function marginally resulting in an incomplete UV dose. This can easily be corrected by adding a small pinch of salt, or a drop or two of some kind of electrolyte beverage to the water.
 Turns out the Canberra tap water I was testing with was pure enough to fool it - adding some salt made it work reliably.  Apparently newer models have been improved (and there is a new model with an optical water sensor):
Since late 2008, all SteriPEN models have had their water sensors enhanced by doubling the sensor electrode voltage, thereby increasing electrical current flow in water with low conductivity to allow proper function in snowmelt and even mineral-free distilled water
 Despite all these issues, I think it is still the best bet for purification (combined with some tablets for backup).

Sunday 16 May 2010

Where did all these new posts come from?

For those who are viewing this in an RSS reader and just saw a whole bunch of new posts, I thought I should explain :)  I have consolidated my US and Australian blogs into one blog which I'm calling 'sleeping with my eyes open' - something I have been known to do.

As a consequence, I have abandoned my plan to have a new blog for every continent - I had already optimistically created one for Antarctica :)

Hope you enjoy it.

Monday 10 May 2010

Gig: Groovin The Moo

Silverchair, Vampire Weekend, Empire of the Sun, Grinspoon, Tegan & Sara, Spoon, Lisa Mitchell, British India, Miami Horror, Kisschasy and more come to Canberra. What the? How did this happen? Turns out there is benefit to being the bush capital, because it let us sneak into the 'regional' Groovin the Moo festival.

I was really impressed with the organisation of the festival. Two stages next door to each other meant for quick band changes, and minimised waiting around between sets. There were massive numbers of bar staff (no drink queues), massive numbers of catering staff (no food queues), and plenty of urinals (no wee queues, at least for guys). The only improvement I would suggest would be designated spray-painted walking lanes on the grass where people aren't allowed to sit to make moving around easier.

The lineup was the best we have seen in Canberra for years (sorry Stonefest). So who was good?

Highlights for me were Vampire Weekend (best of the festival), Tegan & Sara, Spoon, Miami Horror, and Kisschasy. Empire of the Sun were a big disappointment - they had awesome costumes, dancers, and graphics (see right, thanks to saimagery.1 on flickr for the photo), but didn't really connect with the crowd.  Even their big hits fell flat.

Similarly, Silverchair were pretty ordinary.  They played all their old songs terribly - adding boring self-indulgent solos into the middle of them.  They played good versions of songs off Young Modern, which rescued the set from disaster. Of course I would have liked them much better if Daniel Johns hadn't opened his mouth between songs, but that goes without saying.

By the time Silverchair took to the stage the temperature had dropped to about 5 degrees.  It was beautifully sunny during the day, but got really cold at night.  There were plenty of people wandering around in singlets, shorts, and thongs getting hypothermia (despite substantial beer coats).

Vampire Weekend stole the show with an awesome performance.  They had a giant version of the Contra album cover behind the stage with lights inside the girls' eyes.  Ha!  The chandeliers on the stage were also a cool touch.

Thanks Groovin the Moo, I'll come back next year.  Make sure you come to Canberra.

Saturday 1 May 2010

Vanuatu: paradise cove, cascades, a giant pig called Mama, the end

To give our wonderful hosts a break, Em and I spent a couple of fantastic nights at Paradise Cove.  We loved the bungalows (fair way up on the fancy scale cf. Friendly Bungalows), and the snorkelling off the jetty was awesome.  Their bar and restaurant was fantastic, food was great etc.  Highly recommend.

We spent an afternoon exploring the Mele Cascades outside of Port Vila.  The waterfalls were spectacular, and great for swimming, although a little chilly compared to the bath-temperature sea water (BTW Vanuatu doesn't have leeches or pretty much anything else nasty/dangerous).  There is a grassy lookout at the cascades that would be great for a picnic.  There was hardly anyone else around, which was great.  Apparently it is best to avoid the cascades on 'cruise ship days' unless you want to hang out with drunk Aussie bogans.

From the cascades we had a very entertaining bus trip back through one of the large village areas of Vila called 'freshwota', where we helped load and unload massive bunches of bananas and coconuts destined for the market.  A little girl came up to the bus window for a chat, gave Em a flower, and told us about the giant pig called 'Mama' that was wandering around behind her.  Good times.

We finished off our trip with a great dinner with our hosts at L'Houstalet, which is something of a Port Vila institution (the Constitution was signed there).  Thanks to our hosts we had the benefit of local knowledge and saw some amazing stuff in just 10 days.  Thanks guys!