Graduation and other stuff

November 27, 2006 at 1:48 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

I took Friday off to go to my Graduation ceremony. It was a great morning – except for the whole morning part! Nonetheless it was fast and efficient. While the speakers were dull they were over quickly and showing all the class of a masters graduate I spent much of the ceremony catching up with my friends. Afterwards I took photos with Nadia, Rhiannon and Miki before chilling out for the rest of the day. Yes, that’s right. No big booze up for me, a definite drawback of the early morning graduation. The other failing of the graduation was the lacklustre certificate which looked like something that had been printed from a laser printer, a second grade printer, with a barely visible seal to top it off.

On the plus side, my undergraduate graduation was basically in a gym – very high school – whereas this time it was in the Great Hall at Sydney University so it had an added sense of gravitas and prestige.

Beyond graduation business its been some long hours and weeks at work. As I’m on a contract that works out well for all the public holidays coming up when I won’t be earning cash but it really cuts into my doing nothing time. I apologise but as a result my weekly-ish travelogue of Sydney will be delayed by a day or so.  

More content to come soon!

Weekend Walk: Bondi to Bronte & Sculptures by the Sea

November 22, 2006 at 11:38 am | Posted in General, Out and About, Sydney, Travel | 1 Comment
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Although in this case it was  Bronte to Bondi. After enjoying a lovely few hours chilling at Bronte beach celebrating D’s birthday I left the group to undertake the well know walk between Bronte and Bondi beaches. Over the past few weeks the walk has also featured the Sculptures by the Sea exhibit. If you’re unaware Sculptures is a variety of outdoor modern art sculptures that are framed by the natural backdrop of the ocean and beach.

The walk itself is very pleasant and undoubtedly a good way to admire the coastline and visit more than just the famed Bondi beach. Although being both a weekend and when Sculptures is on there are a number of people wandering around. It sounds bad and irritating, especially for us city folk who normally walk at pace and direction. Fortunately, there was enough scope to get around most people. The only piece of advice I’d give is one of etiquette, please do not stand or crouch on the path to take photos of the sculptures. Yes, it might be the best location but you’re holding up the line and it’s unlikely you will actually get the shot with so many people trying to move past.

There really isn’t much to say about the walk, it is just a walk but a very relaxing one and for those of us whose idea of the great outdoors is The Domain then the Bondi to Bronte walk has the added benefit of still being in the city, so give it a try!  

By far my favourite sculpture was the melted ice cream truck (including a melting them song!) and at the end of the day I spied a functioning van.

 

I also liked the Sphere, it speaks to my geekiness and reminds me of any number of movies, shows and games with giant spinning spheres and on the bluff added to the atmosphere. Granted the people milling around did detract a tad.

 

And now an assortment of photos from the walk… (also on Flickr).

Christmas comes to Martin Place

November 14, 2006 at 10:23 am | Posted in Christmas, General, Sydney | 2 Comments

Martin Place has begun setting up its Christmas tree, which is quite novel for me as I’ve never seen a giant version of the plastic tree my family and I set up each year. My understdaning of other countries (northern hemisphere) is that they use real trees and so for any of you foreigners out there you may want to check out the construction – assuming it hasn’t been finished yet. It just seems so bizarre, a tall trunk with a ‘regular’ sized tree at the top.

Speaking of weird, while walking through the already decked out Sydney Central mall on my way to the Galleries Victoria I noticed the music they were piping through the center. Donnie Darko’s “Mad World”, are they trying to depress people into shopping? Where’s the cheery holiday music?

Apparently at David Jones, whose window displays have several songs playing and I have to admit to feeling just a bit Christmas-y listening to it while waiting for the lights to change. Luckily no-one honked their horns or were being otherwise obnoxious to kill my spirits. Last year I practically forgot about Christmas (beyond the obvious at the malls) and didn’t really engage until the last minute. Perhaps this is a good sign over a month out?  

Worst analogy ever.

November 14, 2006 at 12:08 am | Posted in Random | Leave a comment

Recently I’ve started playing RPG’s again. In most RPGs you’re forced to sit around for any number of hours beating up bad guys to level up before moving on with the story. Which leads me to my really bad analogy: my job is the equivalent of running around in the field waiting for battles all with the expectation of getting both money and experience. However, now I’m at that point in the process where the enemies no longer pose a challenge (even without the level up) and all you’re waiting for is to cross the line. Just like work. The only question being will you be lucky, resulting in a lot less points to go or cursed to spend hours going through the motions.

Something of an improvement: Giotta Art Cafe

November 13, 2006 at 12:02 pm | Posted in Cafes & Restaurants, Coffee, General, Out and About, Sydney, Travel | Leave a comment
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After two poor choices I made my way home and decided to try for another coffee on Stanley Street. I’ve never spent any time in Stanley Street, I don’t really know why. I had always presumed it was a larger stretch of eateries but it covers just a bit more than a block. Most places appeared either packed or empty-ish, so in a Goldilocks moment I went for the middle option and walked into Giotta Art Cafe (they don’t seem to have a website).

Décor wise it could have ended up being bland. However, the wooden seating and tables help to warm the interior away from the white walls. The venue also has, as the name suggests, art along the walls that I assume you could buy. I further assume that these change on a regular basis. I imagine if I came back on a regular basis the changing art may influence the mood of the establishment.  

I only ordered a mocha so I can’t comment on the food. The mocha was decent and quite sweet (granted I added 2 sugars without even tasting it) however once again there was too much froth, not as much as earlier but enough to be annoying.  All in all the café offers an inviting interior and reasonably friendly staff. While it’s not going onto my regular rotation it is one I wouldn’t say no to.

Disappointment continues: Organic Produce

November 13, 2006 at 11:51 am | Posted in Coffee, Food, General, Out and About, Sydney | 2 Comments
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I walked to Organic Produce on Crown Street near Oxford after the Hyde Park Barracks with free Herald in hand. I’ve often walked past this café/deli on my way to the Lounge and today was the day I decided to try it out. I should have kept walking.  

I had a pasta salad and a mocha. The mocha tasted more like a regular coffee and had about a third of the cup filled with froth. The coffee was particularly bitter and while that may suit some people it does not match my sweet tooth as I couldn’t taste anything but strong and bitter. The salad was ok but nothing to write home about. The shop also has organic fresh foods and goods. If I was an organics person who lived closer I may have tried them out but I’m not and so as a layman I am saying that there’s nothing special about this café and nothing at all special if you don’t like bitter coffee.

On the other hand if you’re into organic foods give it a try and let me know whether it meets your expectations.

Another museum, this one’s a dud.

November 13, 2006 at 11:36 am | Posted in General, Out and About, Sydney, Travel | 1 Comment
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Apparently I’m not one for museums, at least not museums two weeks in a row, particularly when the day is sunny and bright or when the museum is a little dull, or really quite dull. Of which museum do I speak? The Hyde Park Barracks of course.

 

While the museum could have offered more, could have been more it ended up being a below average establishment. If it were free then I would suggest looking into it as you’re walking through the inner city. However, in this case the $10 entry fee is too much and even the free Sydney Morning Herald doesn’t make up for the lack of stimulation. Now that I’ve made my opinion abundantly clear let’s discuss the why of it.  

First off upon entering the museum you’re permitted to walk around in one room as an introduction before having to pay. This room basically allows you to look down into some of the excavations and in the glass cases you can see some of the things they’ve uncovered. Wow! Stimulating and thought provoking! On the plus side at least they’re being up front about the ‘quality’. As this is a Historic Houses Trust building the attendants restrict the consumption of water (on a hot day) and once again I must presume that this to protect the artifacts in the glass cases from the damage that water may do to the…glass. The first floor had, what I believe is a temporary-long standing exhibit on convict settlements throughout Australia. It was kind of interesting seeing differences between the prisons and the levels of punishments handed out. There were a couple of interactive screens but nothing was particularly eye catching. The second floor had displays on the experience of women particularly those that came over freely when the Barracks were used as an immigration center for young women. I assume this is for school groups and children but you can also dress up in ‘period’ clothes – just don’t drink any water! This floor also housed information on the Catholic experience as only Anglican priests were permitted with the first fleet. I’m not Catholic but I did find it interesting especially the development of St Mary’s. However I found the Jewish Museum’s exhibit on the same matter better presented. The floor had some other things but nothing of particular note, just more “stuff we dug up”.  

The top floor shows prison life. ‘That speaks for itself’. How did they show this? By having two of four rooms filled with hammocks – obviously to show numbers, another room had some computers for finding out about a possible convict past with a tablet outlining the punishments for various crime. Life for petty theft seems a tad harsh.

  

The last room was basically empty. It had cut outs on the side each with some sort of blurb – that may have given some sort of anecdotal history, which would be good – however, the ye olde text was difficult to read. Of course that could be my own problem but any foreign speaking tourist would have a very hard time. Apparently, the purpose of the room was to permit a soundscape of all these conflicting voices. Granted I couldn’t hear them at the far end and by the time I’d gotten to the other they’d stopped and were never very clear or informative.   Outside there were a few bits and pieces. One of which is some of the old courts that according to the flyer only moved in 1979. It’s a bit hard to believe that these were being used for so long. 

Given the number of Irish convicts sent to Australia there was also a memorial the Irish famine. 

According to the web site there are some other things but they’re only open during the week. Oh well. For those more interested practically everything had an information panel but for the lazy like me you can easily get by with the summary panes.  

You can give the barracks a miss. Realistically you should try and make your way to one of Australia’s premier convict settlements such as Moreton Island or Port Arthur. If you can’t and are really interested in the topic or insanely bored then by all means, otherwise this deserves a big miss.

Sidebar. I am not trying to dismiss the archaeological experience and I do believe it is useful in understanding a period. However, I don’t believe lining everything up in cases – even with information – is the most conducive to learning and appreciation. I’m not going to say I have answers but rather than being dismissed as a complainer I will offer that greater interactivity or context setting – even if only through the use of personal histories, or ‘characters’ that pop up throughout the history would be beneficial or at least entertaining. Even if that entertainment is through a cynical eye roll!

Roy’s famous?

November 6, 2006 at 1:40 pm | Posted in Food, Out and About, Sydney | Leave a comment
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Foodwise I went to another local, Roy’s Famous. I’m still trying to figure out what people see in this place, the backpackers I understand as it is right next door but for everyone else it’s a mystery. Don’t get me wrong it’s decent but that’s about all. I do come here on occasion, usually for nachos. I think it’s one of the few places to get them in the area, if not let me know but don’t say Fountain as I detest that restaurant. Apologies for the link, apparently they don’t have a site, note even on eatability

Side note to Roy’s: Fountain is terribly overpriced, mediocre food with incredibly poor and slow service. The only reason I’ve gone there is because it’s one of the few places that has a sizeable number of tables and has relatively late hours (before the all night kebab shops) and the “view” of the Fountains and the Cross.

OK so this post just became a mini rant…back to Roy’s.

Roy’s in contrast has friendlier service but I have definitely felt pushed to leave when they want my table or urged to buy more food. The food is decent and the interiors are warm and inviting with an outside area that is good for people watching.  Their coffees are not a highlight as my mocha was particularly weak.

In the end I guess Roy’s is ok and a nice place to while away or read the paper but with so many other venues in the area it isn’y my first choice.

Another rainy day, another museum.

November 6, 2006 at 1:03 pm | Posted in Out and About, Sydney, Travel | Leave a comment
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The Australian Maritime Museum was my stop this week. Located on the harbour and with free entry to the museum it was a nice way to spend an hour or so. However, if you don’t have a strong interest in maritime history (like me) you may be a little bored, although there are some interesting elements. As you walk towards the museum you’ll see several ships moored outside, including a submarine and a tall ship. You do need to pay to board them and if I had more time and the weather was not so terrible I would have considered buying a ticket. OK, so now onto the museum.

Basically, I had assumed that the museum was going to be all about ships, mainly because of the ships that I’d seen outside. For the most part this is true, it’s a museum about ships, and the trade, navy, immigrants, explorers and invaders they have brought to Australia. However they also have several exhibits outlining Australians connection to water in general (ie sport and social life)  as well as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander traditions.

The final/ first section in the museum is the United States’ gallery which outlined US influences and naval history as it relates to Australia (sort of…). Considering the obvious influence of British history it was nice to see some other contributions, not only from the US but other European countries (it was lacking a substantial history of Asian influences).  The Gallery was a gift from the US for Australia’s bicentennial that began in 1988, dedicated in 1992 and cost $5 million. I tried to find out what Australia gave the US for it’s “birthday” but the powers of the Internet failed me (and my search terms).  

Currently they are also running an exhibit (that costs additional money) on pirates. By the sounds coming through the other side of the wall I gather this is mainly for children. Speaking of the walls the museum is set up somewhat like the interior of a ship with the different floors called decks and the partitions giving the impression of bulkheads. It was kind of cool.

There were a few surprises as I wandered about. Seeing a globe from 1602 was quite novel, as was the whaling exhibit – mainly because I thought that the QLD Museum did a better job -, a lighthouse light and a small section on Admiral Nelson that seemed so out of place in any other locale than an Australian museum.

It was random and funny in a, wow I can’t believe I find this funny way, but in the convict/early transport section it is an area with wood paneling and “hull-like” as I turned the corner I saw a hulking wooden table and at the far end a group of young women sitting and chatting a bit. I had a momentary thought that other than for their clothes (and hygiene) this may have been similar to a scene on a real ship. I know weird!

There are a variety of displays and I have to reiterate that while this museum is not for everyone (myself included) you will likely find something to interest you or ponder. Next time you’re on Darling Harbour and if you have some free time give it a shot, you may be surprised. Of course if you like ships then this is no doubt a must.

Oh and apparently I can’t spell museum. Spell check has to keep reminding me which way the letters go. I blame typing too fast, yeah that’ll do…

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