Traveling for anonymity

Normally a traveling post would fall under the blog my better half and I share. But today (and Monday) I’m traveling on my own. It’s been a long time since I got to spend a day by myself in a new place. Well, sort of new. The last time I was in Sydney for more than a night was almost 2 years ago. I have fond memories of being here but also remember being jet lagged out of my mind. I’ve spent more time in pretty much every major city in Australia (Canberra and Brisbane excepted).

I feel like I need to try and cram all the things I missed on my first trip here. THe opera house, the aquarium, Kings Cross. But I’m sitting in the exec lounge of the hotel (the wife got an upgrade, I think it’s a computer glitch) looking at the harbor bridge and drinking tea. I spent the morning in the gardens reading a book. I’m looking forward to a haircut later today. I only have one thing to do on this trip. And that’s about all I want to do. Scratch that. Two things. Still traveling with no agenda is strangely liberating.

Thinking about it, it’s not the lack of an agenda. I’ve missed the anonymity of the city. For the past 3 months, I have rarely had a free evening or weekend. No one can ever say that life in Alice isn’t busy. Small town gossip is the easiest thing to get used to. Seeing everyone you work with at work and then at least 2-3 times a week outside of work is draining. For an introvert, small towns can be the most draining place. It’s impossible to run a simple errand without having a social interaction. And of course you can’t stop going out. Summer is so unpleasant that you feel guilty not enjoying the nice weather. But summer is the best/only respite from the social calendar from hell. 115 degree heat is a surefire way to force the masses to retreat back to their homes and back from my door.

In Sydney, I’m just another dude with a bad hair cut and scruffy beard. I’ve missed being that. Not someones’ coworker, neighbor, scoutmaster, jogging partner, or any other role I fill. Just another face at the bar. With that being said, I think it’s to find where I’ll be having my Manhattan tonight.


Live blog: Australia v South Africa Test 3

I’m going to try and live blog the third and final test that’s starting as we speak. I know next to nothing about cricket. My cousin warned me that it was the most boring sport on earth. I’m disinclined to agree with him after seeing what qualifies as a sport today. However, it is fascinating. Being a baseball fan this is oddly familiar but completely different. For my friends in the states, I’m choosing to watch cricket over the Thursday night NFL game.

Some notes: Test matches are played over five days. You play for ~7 hours a day. At the end of the five day, you figure out the result. I’m not going to go over the rules. The Wikipedia page is pretty comprehensive. It’s easier to understand if you’re watching. A full test is three matches (meaning 15 days of cricket) with a couple of days in-between each match. If I say something totally wrong, hopefully the locals won’t string me up in town square. All times are local.

11:34- After the local gambling website encourages us to places some bets, it’s announced SA will bat first. Good for the Aussies. The second test ended in a draw since they couldn’t get the SA folks out.

11:38- “Back in Black” over a historical montage of an old match. This feels like an American sporting event already.

11:45- Discussing the pitch. I wonder if the American public would stomach listening to Joe Buck talking about the type of grass in the outfield at Fenway or how the dirt is matted at Miller Park. Not that I care either but I guess that it’s important to the game.

11:48- Teams taking the pitch. Why do they wear all white? I’m assuming it’s a British thing (like wearing all white at Wimbledon). Since both countries seem to have green as primary color, it doesn’t help the confusion. The local teams get colors. Why not the national teams? The only plus side is that it shows the stains from the balls on bowlers.

11:50- Can’t open the games without some didgeridoo. The national anthems for both countries are quiet pretty.  It’s also nice to see the players signing. Why don’t American athletes sing?  Also, each player has a cute kid in a green bucket hat with them.

11:53- Wait, they’re playing for the #1 spot in the world. No one told me that! I’ve been watching the past two matches on and off but no one mentioned that. How did this slip by me!

11:55- One shining moment montage.  Now I know I’m watching something important.

11:58- “You can’t call it a huddle. They’re just standing around, not doing anything at all.” Sums up a good bit of cricket.

12:01- And the first pitch (bowl?) is……hit for a run! Not the start I wanted to see. The bowler is listed as fast medium. Can someone fast fast? Fast slow? I’m sure this means something to someone else but I’m lost.

12:04- Like baseball, the batter can call time. Since the bowlers get a great big running start, they can step out half way through the run up. That seems unsporting.

12:06- Slow mo of a player clapping. No idea why. Nothing worth clapping for has happened. So far nothing has really happened. Runs have been scored and an over has been bowled.

12:10- Instead of eye black, lots of players have white stuff smeared across their cheeks/noses. Is it sunscreen? Lotion? War paint? It looks kinda strange. Can they write things in it? Will I see someone with John 3:13 on their face today?

12:20- Got up to scramble some eggs. 5 runs scored. No outs.  I do love how polite this game is. Don’t hit the ball well enough to score but also not out? No worries! Step back in there and take another crack at it.  The nearest thing I can compare it to is baseball without balls and strikes and contact on 95% of the pitches.

12:21- And there’s an out! Wait… on there isn’t. Overturned on review. The review system is pretty amazing. They can tell where the ball bounced, if it hit the bat (both visually and with an audio check), and estimate where the ball would have gone. In this case, the batter wasn’t out because the ball would have bounced over the wicket if he hadn’t gotten his fat leg in front of it. That’s a pretty awesome bit of technology.

12:30- As I’m watching the bowlers, I’m curious how a big league pitcher would do as a bowler. Most of the balls come in between 125-135 Km/h (between 75-85 mph). I know ground absorbs some of the speed when the ball bounces but I can’t help but wonder what someone like Strasburg would do as a bowler.

12:40- 0/30 (0 outs/wickets and 30 runs) for SA. Yep. This is cricket.

12:42- Another out? No. Hit the side of the guys butt. Almost another out but the ball didn’t quite carry far enough to be caught (hit the guy’s glove). Oh well, back to batting.

12:50- 10 overs (60 pitches) bowled. It’s taken almost an hour to throw 60 balls (they’re not pitches even if I want them to be). That actually seems on pace with baseball. If the average game is say 140-150 pitches ( see here) and a game takes about 2.5-30 hours we’re kind of on pace. Of course that assumes that this match is half over.  Which it isn’t. Not even close.

12:57- Out number 1! It’s nice to see the guys celebrate so much for an out. They really should. SA could end up batting for the entire day.  It only took 55 minutes! And we’re almost to the first drinks break! SA 1/38.

1:09- Cricket’s equivalent of the ground rule double is worth 4 runs.  A HR is worth 6. The batters don’t have to run (of course not) but they get credit for the runs. Dude from SA with an epic beard (but no ‘stache) just hit one. And then the over had ended (not making that pun) and we had a commercial break. Seems like we break ever 2 overs. If I have to watch one more commercial for a stockyard, I’m going vegan.

1:15- Dude with the beard has just whiffed on two straight balls. That should count for something. It doesn’t but it should. He does, however, look pissed off.

1:18- The announcers are talking about how pretty Sydney is. Not that the match is taking place in Sydney. It’s in Perth.  We care about Sydney because………no idea. They’re straying into Dickie V territory. Please stay on target.

1:20- Guy is polishing the ball by rubbing in on his pants. Ok, not too weird. Wait, he’s rubbing in near the man zone. That’s……not ok. Now he’s got a huge red stain on his upper thigh.  This is getting weird.

1:25- Guy in a suit clearly enjoying a businessman’s special and sitting on the grass. The announcers call him out on it. I think it’s pretty awesome that Vodafone is giving out little radios that clip to your ear so fans can listen to the commentary. I have a feeling MLB would never go that way. Fans would be able to hear the TV replays while in the stands. I’d totally support the idea though. Also, grass seating seems nice, if it wasn’t so blasted hot out.

1:35- 1/60.  Yep. Still nothing much happening.  Lunch break coming up. That maybe my stopping point. I don’t think I can handle another hour of cricket.

The overlays of where the balls are landing are pretty awesome.  As a stats geek, I’d love to see MLB telecasts do more things like that;  Midgame they could bring up a scatter plot of the pitchers, showing movement, placement, etc.  I’m guessing the pace of the game doesn’t allow for it but I’m afraid the TV folks are underestimating the intelligence of American audiences.

1:40- I think I’m suffering from Stockholm Syndrome with these commercials. I want to order Jetcrete for my house and I don’t even need some.

1:45- Watching the players stretch in the field. They look as bored as I do. Although one of them is wearing a sweater vest. And there’s an out! Wow. Dude was bowled out (ball got passed him and hit and dislodged the wickets). It is being described as a “ripper”. And there’s an awkward slow-mo shot of two guys hi-fiving. It’s now 2/62.

1:55- The guys aren’t even running to score. I’d call it a mosey. Not even a jog. So civilized. There’s an interesting discussion of how the hi-tech review system is swinging the balance of power to the batsmen.  The earlier out that was overturned missed the top of the wickets…………and there’s another bowled out. Damn. Two quick ones.  SA is 3/63 as we inch towards the lunch break. Anywho, the other ball missed the top of the wickets by 1-2cm.  Without the review system he would have been out. It’ll be interesting to see how it actually plays out.

2:00- And that’s lunch. It took 2 hours to get 3 outs and we’re still well into the first innings (yes the ‘s’ belongs there).  I’m calling it. I can’t believe it’s possible to write 1500 words about 2 hours of cricket but here it is.  Go Aussies!

Taste Testing Pt. 1

Probably going to be doing a series of taste test posts.  I am not going to be covering Vegemite. Too much has been said, written, tasted, and discussed about it.  However, there are plenty more awesome foods in Australia that we can’t get in the states. Through my first month, here are the stand outs.

Jim Beam & Cola: The bottle looks a little stubbier than real life but this is available at ever bar I’ve been to. Retails for ~$5 per 375ml can (~$8/bottle at a bar).  The taste is pretty good. A bit on the sweet side but not terrible.  Definitely smells like a bourbon and coke. If this were a blind taste test I would have actually been fooled.  However, at 4.8% ABV it’s a tough call. Do you need your bourbon & coke fix badly enough to pay ~$20 for a real mixed drink or can you fool yourself into thinking this is the real thing.  Personally, the best bet is to bring a flask along and top this off with some Beam after a few sips.

If whiskey is more your style, you can get Gentleman Jack & cola in the same package.  Slightly more expensive, slightly higher ABV, still not sure if it’s worth it.  For comparison, 700ml of GJ will run you around $55.

Angostura Lemon, Lime and Bitters: Tastes like sprite/7up with a bit of an of a orange kick.  I greatly prefer to mix a bunch of bitters with some club soda and enjoy that.  There’s simply too much sugar in this to make it worthwhile.

Flame Grilled Steak chips: America has fairly tame chip choices. We’re missing prawn and a bunch of other flavors. I do have to report that this bag largely lives up to its name.  These chips definitely have a steaky/meaty taste to them. I don’t want to know how they achieve that.  There’s a little steak sauce tossed in for good measure.  The chips themselves, despite the “Extra Crunchy” label, are about the same as regular lays. Maybe an ooch thicker. Not much.

The only flavor here that I have yet to find a good substitute for is sweet chili (sometimes sweet Thai chili). At first blush it’s almost a tangy BBQ flavor. But it’s got a sweetness that doesn’t fit with most BBQ sauce.  It’s also got more kick.  The Crunchess and I have decided that it’s our fall back flavor for almost anything.

That’s it for this round. I’ll have more soon.

Left Hand Drive

Let’s talk about cars. I really don’t know much about them. It seems like a nice, manly bit of knowledge to have. The ability to repair your own car is will be an essential skill, akin to parkour and trap making, once the apocalypse sets in.  In that regard I’m probably stuck but until that fateful day, I think I’m fine allowing someone else to fix my car.

The Crunchess and I just bought a car.  Technically it’s our second but it’s the first we’ve ever paid cash for. The feeling of writing a check that big was incredibly depressing. I began thinking of all the cool things I could do with the money: trips to Tahiti, wine cellars stocked, camera lenses purchased, 12 core Mac pros with 27 inch cinema displays (oops, ok, not one of those). Somewhere in the back of my mind the economics class I took are trying to remind me of opportunity costs but I still get that confused with the Laffer curve and various elasticities.

While it was an unpleasant necessity, cars in Alice and down under in general are an interesting phenomenon. Left hand driver seats isn’t as weird as you’d think. Driving on the other side of the road is easy too. A friend has an American (read: normal) car and even driving it on the other side of the road is pretty simple.  I’ve only driven on the wrong side once (the Crunchess corrected me before anyone else noticed) and only cut 1 person off in a round abound.  Getting in on the wrong side of the car, about 3 times daily.  Here’s a tip: Don’t drive into on coming traffic. Follow that rule and you’ll be fine. Bonus tip: The turn signal and wipers are switched. I’ve only driven in the rain once but I run my wipers three or four times a trip, just for safety sake.

Let’s start with the utes.  Back in the states we call these things as El Caminos. They’re in style here. The beds come with a snazzy hard top that I’m pretty sure eliminates their use as a pick-up.  Much like the remaining El Caminos in the US, these are painted bright, garish colors. My favorite so far is the sparkly purple. Oddly enough, I’ve only seen 1 US style pick up here, owned by a Yank.  Trucks for work will get a modified Toyota or Nissan (think miniature Home Depot rental truck).

Toyota land cruisers are the car of choice out here.  These are the larger, more rugged, tougher version of the ones in the US. They’re more akin to real off road vehicles.  A nice, used one (2001 with 150K+ kilometers, well maintained) will run you $25,000. They’re the work horses for most of the in town folks who also have to go out bush. I’ve seen some Land Rovers but for the most part, it’s Toyota.

If you got into someone’s car and they had a piece of carpet specifically cut for their dashbaord, what would you think? Weird? Probably. Here in The Alice, pretty much every car has it. It gets so hot here that dashboards will crack.  That’s right, the hard molded plastic on your dashboard will crack because you parked in the sun.  Have I mentioned the lack of trees here yet? Yeah… times.
Snorkels…..I live in the desert! Average rain fall in The Alice is about 11 inches per year. Tons of cars come with snorkels. Even the monster SUVs with about a foot of ground clearance come with ’em.  When it rains, the river beds flood and make some roads impassible. I get why having a snorkel would be nice but it seems like a weird expense to me.

The only other odd thing I see here is the number of luxury cars. I’ve seen a coule A4’s, the guy down the road from me has a Z4, I’ve seen a couple more BMWs in town.  Seems like an odd place be driving them.  Gas will run you $1.70 a litre for regular ($6.43 a gallon) so I don’t want to think what premium will run.  Haven’t actually had to buy gas yet. That might deserve an epic post of its own.


Things have been quiet here for two main reasons. 1: I recently moved to Australia and 2: most of my posts have involved some analyses that take a while to run. Those posts are going to have to wait for the time being. My setup is currently being held hostage by the Aussies and it doesn’t look like I’ll get it for about a month. In the mean time I’m getting by on my deskbook (netbook with no battery) and prepaid wifi hot spot.  The Crunchess is at work most days so I’m left to fill time while I look for work.  In the week that I’ve been down in Oz, I’ve really enjoyed myself. Finally beat the jet lag and am getting settled around the house. I’m going to do a PCS wrap up at a later date but want to get my stuff before I pass final judgement on the process. Instead, here is my obligatory post about the weird things I’ve found Down Under:

Coffee: My standard order is a “long black”. It’s espresso and hot water that’s got the consistency of regular. Since I don’t usually drink my coffee with sugar/milk I haven’t tried a flat white (basically a latte) or any of the other combinations. At home, it’s really hard to find drip ground coffee. Currently using some espresso grind through a paper filter.

Air travel: Things I did not do and Kingsford/Smith Airport

  1. Remove my shoes
  2. Get porno scanned
  3. Pull liquids out of my bag

Guess what didn’t happen? My plane didn’t blow up! Shock! I though I need someone to look at me half naked in order to make sure there weren’t any dastardly devices and plots on board my plane.  On the other side, Quantas, while hella expensive to fly, does have some nice planes. On the equivalent of a DC to Lexington flight, I had my own TV, got to watch 2 movies and was fed a half decent burrito.  Why, I ask can a US airline not do the same?

TV: I’m surprised at how easy it is to get NFL games here. It’s 930 local time as a I write this and I just finished watching the Jets lose to the Pats in OT.  I completely doubt I’ll get college basketball but hey, I’ll take what I can get.  Tons of American shows (Burn Notice, The Mentalist, etc.) are on here plus the obligatory local remakes of things like Glee.  I am looking forward to watching Househusbands. The only strange thing is that the McDonald’s commercials are way better here. Haven’t validated the food yet.

Birds: I happen to like birds.  It’s nice to have them around and who hasn’t wanted to have wings?  The birds in Sydney were interesting, even if there were a lot of seagulls and pigeons.  At our new place we’ve got a bunch of cool birds. The most common site outside of my window are Galahs ( They’re noisy but so much cooler than anything we had back in the states. I’m sure the locals think they’re annoying but after a week, the charm hasn’t warn off.

I’ve got pics but due to limited bandwidth they’re going to have to wait.  That’s all for now.

The Tyranny of the cursor

Oh the cursor is a terrible creature.  To many, it is a hero, tirelessly marching forward, leaving great ideas, images, and thoughts in his wake.  A symbol of mankind’s progress! Always forward, rarely backward.  To its fellow bits, it is a monster to be feared and avoided.  It will never deign to look in their direction. It ceaselessly marches away from his progeny with never even a casual glance in their direction.  On occasion it has the opportunity to revisit the numbers and letters which it has birthed into the world.  Rather than a pleasant visit, he erases their very existence from this world.  Text farther away from the cursor can find no solace in this distance.  With a few swift and fatal key strokes, any item, anywhere could be deleted.  The cursor feels no emotion. In many ways, it is the perfect assassin. Swift, precise and deadly, eradicating without hesitation or question.  Woe unto mankind if it ever finds its way out of the digital realm.

However mankind has a special fear of this blinking monstrosity.  Countless sleepless nights have been spent agonizing over this digital phantom.  For while it’s fellow bits and bytes fear the cursor’s power of destruction, humans fear it’s power of creation.  Most of are unwilling to wield its god like powers to create universes of our own.  Thoughts about deadlines, quality, originality, other more important issues continually push the cursor out of our mind. But it lurks there.  Like Chekov’s gun, the cursor sits in the back of our consciousness. It waits, patiently for that day when everything else lines up perfectly and then goes off. It pierces through the distractions, the fear, the angst, and sends a single shot.  When this happens, our equipoise is shattered. The cursor roars to the front and demands we pay attention. It is ultimately selfish, demanding attention and using it to ask for more.  Yet it is no match for other psychological and social phenomenon.  All of this is to say, I haven’t had much to write about lately.  The cursor, it appears, was lacking in ammunition.

July Nationals Predictions

7/17-19 vs NYM –


Is there anyone who doesn’t love R.A. Dickey? Who wouldn’t love possibly the geekiest player in baseball (Paragraph 1 here).  The Met’s seem to have righted their ship and are on a tear through June.  They’ve put up enough offense recently to be spot on their PWP. That scares me.  I’m going to have to start buying the Mets as a serious contenders this year and they may bump the Nat’s out of first place by the end of this series.  Because of their recent success, I’m going to say the Nat’s go 1-2 in this series.


The Mets are the Mets.  They’re a team that has never “scared” me the way that others have.  Any team with a mascot that’s just a dude wearing a giant baseball on his head cannot be scary.  The scariest part about the Mets is Dickey, who has really steamrolled everyone else this year with his awesome knuckler.  I’ll take the Nats 2-1…with the caveat of 1-2 if Dickey starts in this series.

7/20-22 vs ATL –


As I write this, the Bravos just won their second game of the season against the Nats. Their second game and it’s basically the All-Star break. It was also 110 today in Atlanta. For whatever reason, the Braves can’t seem to beat the Nationals.  That being said, the Braves are a very good team again this year. Their continued lack of success is rather inexplicable. However, I still think the Nats are going to beat the Braves 3 games to 1, even with the double header.


Late July is hot in DC, and we’ve seen how the team has some issues dealing with the heat down in Atlanta this past weekend.  With a doubleheader on the 21st, and an Atlanta team coming back from the All Star break with renewed vigor, I can’t say anything more than a split series, 2-2.

 7/23-25 @ NYM –


See my previous paragraph about the Mets. It applies doubly now that the games will be played in NYC.  Mets take 2.


Is July Mets month?  In any case, my feelings haven’t changed, and I will continue to give this team weary respect until they prove they don’t deserve it.  Nats drop 2, and fingers crossed they win a game for my birthday on the 23rd.

7/26-29 @ MIL-


I’m looking forward to these games, not the least of which is the fact that the last one takes place on my birthday (I’ll be going to Phillies game the two days afterwards).  The Brewers are another cellar dweller from the NL central. Oddly enough, they lead the NL in K/9 but have a terrible BABIP (.319) which is a direct result of a terrible defense.  I’m not sure I can blame the defense for all of their woes but it doesn’t help.  Since I’m turning 30 and I believe the Nats are going to want to rebound after a tough series against the Mets, I’m going big with the sweep!


I seriously have no idea bout the Brewers.  They’re sitting in the mediocre middle-lower half of the NL Central, and I’ve just got to hope that the Nats look to close out July on a strong note.  Nats take the series, 3-1.