27 October 2006

The vote

Heather and I have mailed our absentee ballots. We almost missed the deadline to request them because we've never had to do it this way. As you consider who you will vote for I would like to give you a couple of things to think about. I certainly don't intend to tell you who you should vote for, but I would ask you to vote with an open mind, considering these issues.
  • Budget
  • Economy
  • Education
  • Environment
  • Ethics
  • Foreign relations
  • Health care
  • Homeland security
  • Immigration
  • Iraq
  • Social security
  • Taxes
  • Terrorism
Decide what you think about each issue. Then decide why. If you are for/against school vouchers, why? If you think the US should/should not work more closely with other countries, why? If you are for/against socialised medicine, why? If you are for/against the Patriot Act, why?
Examine the candidates. Look at their websites: they all list their plans for each issue. Don't worry about party affiliation, just find the candidate that most closely matches your own views and vote accordingly. Or consider this: don't vote for what you want the country to be like today, but vote for what you want the country to be like for your kids/grandkids.

14 October 2006

Australian advertisements (ad VUR tis muhnts)

Got a few clips from Australian TV for you today. This fist ad cracks me up and Heather doesn't understand why. It's for Big Pond, Telstra's broadband service.

There is a slightly longer version with the kid slapping his forehead to slick his hair down at the end, but it's not on YouTube. The second and third ads were run by the AFL this year. They both feature Barry Hall Hall, a fictitious AFL university run by Sydney Swans star AFL. They are similar to the Bristol University ads ESPN used to run. At the :38 mark you can hear a few seconds of the fight song, 'borrowed' from Notre Dame.

This commercial is part of a series for Nova, a radio station here in Sydney. They use the same video, but add different audio to create a different circumstance. This particular video is a fine example of what a majority of the people here think of Canberra. Not sure what it has to do with a radio station, however. Their current videos are set at a boxing press conference, but this one is on a commercial airplane.

What are the funniest ads during the Super Bowl? It's no different here. Here are two ads, one for Carlton, the second for Tooheys.

This is a portion of an ad run by Channel Seven in July before the Rugby Union match between the Wallabies and the New Zealand All Blacks. A few months earlier, Tana Umaga, All Blacks captain, had hit a teammate with a handbag belonging to another patron after their loss in the Super 14s Grand Final.

As it turned out, instead of carrying handbags during the haka performed at the advertised match, the All Blacks added a throat slash to the routine. Go here for a video of a New Zealand news piece about the commercial, including clips and discussion of other commercials in this heated rivalry.
No big surprise: the handbag was auctioned off, generating over a million hits and eventually selling for AU$19 200 (US$14,400).

13 October 2006

Google Maps: Canberra

If you aren't using Google Maps yet, what are you waiting for? And no, I don't mean Google Earth. Google Maps is the greatest mapping program on the internet. Delete all bookmarks for MapQuest or anything else you use. It has three views: map, satellite and hybrid. It is easy to manipulate the map. But the best feature is one search box. No multiple boxes for start/destination/street/city etc. One box. You want to look at the Statue of Liberty? Type it. You want directions from your house to the Statue? Type it. You want to know where all the Domino's Pizzas are in your town? Type it. I bring all this up because Google Maps finally has Australia up, although you can't get directions from it yet. But you can get pictures of locations, so I would like to refer you to an overhead satellite image of Parliament House in Canberra. I mentioned a week ago that it was built under a hill and we walked on top of it on our visit there. Compare the map image to the image on that previous post to get an idea what it's like.

11 October 2006

Two nights at the theatre

Last Friday, Heather and I went to The Crypt Theatre to see Turning Up, a play directed by a fellow teacher at Canterbury Boys and written by a friend of his. It is a very small venue, allowing for at most about twenty-five in the audience. The set was very simple: solid pink walls, solid blue table and folding chairs, solid yellow props, including a mobile phone, laptop, and milk carton. The play was about a woman who is married to an ambitious businessman and gets reacquainted with a high school classmate who rails against social and environmental injustices. The characters were very extreme and stereotypical, but that was the point. Hyperbole makes a statement. There were plenty of lines that were both amusing and cutting. However, the review in the paper gave it 4/10. Director Daryl wasn't too concerned--he said he was going to get a t-shirt made that said 'uninspired', the criticism leveled against him in the review. Daryl said he would have been upset if he was in the Sydney Theatre Company, whose professional performance got 6/10 one column over.
On Monday we made our second trip to the Sydney Opera House for a performance of Bell Shakespeare's The Tempest starring John Bell. The performances were very good but we both left rather unimpressed. We think it had more to do with the play selection. Heather compared it to something Ben Folds said at his concert. He had had a big hit and was under contract to write five more songs that year. Now that he was wealthy and uninspired, he couldn't write anything. As his deadline approached, he ripped out a few bad songs to meet his contractual observations. Heather said The Tempest must have been a similar situation. I'm waiting for them to perform All's Well That Ends Well.

08 October 2006

The second greatest website

Number one is LR of course, but last Friday I found a close second, especially if you are a runner/walker/cyclist. Check out favoriterun.com. Once you sign up for a free username, you can enter and save courses using a Google Maps template. It will tell you the exact distance of the course, and once you start logging runs/walks/rides, it can track times and give you averages. You can search for other local courses as well. And if you are lucky enough to have one of those Garmin GPS things, you can sync it and do other things I don't even know about. Check out my Domain Loop course that I ran while training for the SMH half marathon.
Hardhat zone: blogger.com has upgraded their service and I am in the process of getting LR moved over. There are a few improvements available when I get it completed, but if you check in here in the next few days and things look a little funny, that's why. All post content should be available, but layout or colours might be off, especially in the sidebar.
One last note: Andrew in Colorado found LR this weekend and posted a comment about the AFL Grand Final that was automatically deleted by someone with Blogger. Andrew, it wasn't me and thanks for your comments. For the rest of you, he provided a link to his blog The Gunsmoke Files, specifically to a post about his experience with the AFL Grand Final a few years back. Good reading--check it out.

05 October 2006


Monday was Labour Day, so Heather and I took a quick trip down to the nation's capital. We rented a Hyundai Getz (pronounced he-YUN-day here) Sunday morning and took off. We stopped at the Bradman Museum in Bowral, home of the
greatest cricket player of all time, Sir Donald Bradman. Notice the 'pitch' pool with its 'wicket' fountains (reference photo here). At the museum and
on the website you see '99.94' a lot: this was his lifetime batting average. To put that in perspective for you non-cricketers, the next nine fall between 58 and 61 (a group
including Ricky Ponting, current captain of the Australian team). In his last at bat, he needed only 4 runs to have a lifetime average of 100, but got a duck--no runs.
It was then on to Canberra, where the theme of the weekend was 'flowers'. Floriade
is an annual event in the spring that we have heard quite a bit about. The flowers were tightly planted to form patterns when viewed from overhead, each one celebrating a different country. You can get an idea of the plan in this map.
We got up Monday and visited Parliament House. It is a unique
structure in that it is basically underground. There was a hill, they dug it up and built Parliament House, and put the hill back on top. There are several reasons for this. One is the overall design of the city. Walter Burley Griffin was an American architect who designed
the city to fit into the natural environment. Another reason, more symbolic, concerns the idea of government 'of the people, by the people, for the people'. You can actually walk on top of the hill and physically look down on Parliament--a reminder that the people are in control. Another interesting
feature of the House is the clocks--all 2416 of them, at least one visible from anywhere in the building. The small squares, one between 4 and 5, one between 7 and 8, light up green and red respectively. The coloured squares, along with a bell, alert the house (green) and the senate (red) they have four minutes to get to their chamber for a vote or be locked out.
Heather had a little fun in the gift shop at Parliament House--she is pictured here wearing what I think was a koala potholder on her head.
From there it was on to the Botanic Gardens where we saw--what else?--more flowers. These gardens are home to more
indigenous Australian plants in one place than anywhere else in the world--over 10 000 species. Among them we saw waratahs, the large flower the NSW rugby union team was named for. We took part in a guided tour that was very informative concerning the plants and flowers we saw.
Some people say Canberra is
dull, but I found it very nice. It has some of the features of a big city (namely, major sports teams), but also feels small, partly because there really aren't many people and partly because of the Burley Griffin design. And if you ever visit, be sure to eat at Mecca Bah (I recommend the lamb with Lebanese lady fingers for dessert).
Lots of pictures for you here. Be sure to click on some of the photos to enlarge them. Heather and I got a new camera--you're now looking at 7.2 megapixels of brilliance.

03 October 2006

AFL Grand Final

This was the team the Swans supporters wanted to avoid. West Coast won the minor premiership (best record for the regular season). They lost a close one last year in the Grand Final to Sydney. They lost by one point in the first round of the playoffs this year to Sydney. In short, they were a great team with a serious chip on their shoulder--very dangerous.
It was an exciting game, but the Red and the White came up one point short. One point. One. 85-84. It was particularly painful because they played so poorly in the first half, failing to convert easy goals and giving away goals to West Coast. Definitely a game that leaves you wondering 'what if...' But congratulations to the West Coast Eagles on their victory.
The video clip is the highlights from the match as presented by Fox Sports News. Give it a look, but before you do, allow me to try to explain a little of the game.
It looks like total chaos, but it is really quite simple: You try to kick the ball between the posts. A goal (a kick between the tall inner posts) is worth six, while a behind (a kick between the short outer posts) is worth one. You are allowed to run with the ball, but you must bounce it every fifteen metres. You can hand pass to a teammate (think underhand volleyball serve) or kick it. A free kick is awarded for a mark (caught kick that travels more than fifteen metres). If you are tackled with the ball you must release it so play can continue. A player from either team is allowed to pick it up and play on.
Enjoy the highlights.

I have really gotten into AFL and the Swans--Heather and I will likely get a membership (season tickets) next year--but I have one complaint. The AFL Grand Final is always at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. It was referred to at the beginning of the game as Australia's Madison Square Garden. Many of the teams are based around Melbourne. The league used to be called the Victorian Football League since the teams then were all in the state of Victoria. But if the AFL is trying to promote their league around all of Australia, shouldn't they play the Grand Final in other parts of the country? I prefer having the team with the better record host it, but if you want to move it around Super Bowl-style, that's fine, too. But having the game in Melbourne every year, even if no Melbourne teams have played in it the past three years, isn't doing much to promote the AFL around the country.