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Friday, March 30, 2007

Ben's BBQ at Aaron's

Twas a good night tonight in Rozelle. Glenn Mason whacked half a dead lamb on the grill for Sam Wade to cook. Aaron Fuller took care of the lentil salad while Ben Waud cut the bread and Sam Coates wore a colander as a helmet. Yes we all contributed and a good time was had by all.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Tim Coulter's Bucks Night

The good man - Tim Coulter - celebrated his Bucks Night (aka Stags Night, Bachelor Party) - this past Saturday. It was a steamy, sticky, late-summer day. The Lord Nelson provided fine refreshments from 4PM, until we moved on over to the Harbour View just before the rain started. The monsoon kept us inside, drinking, laughing and playing golf. Golf ball into glass = FINISH IT!

Next was dinner and a few dozen litres of beer at Lowenbrau. Tim got slap-happy dancing like a clown, and the rest of us watched on increasingly unsteady feet. Golf ball in 1000mL beer = uh oh. Sorry, let me explain: they had organised dances and contests for people there for special occasions, such as our good man Tim Coulter!

Many continued on from there, on for a much later night than I was destined for. Along with Jimmy Bats and a few Glenns, we were denied re-entry to the over-crowded Bavarian brothel of bliss. I'm sure the photos from 4AM are even more entertaining than these photos, which finish at about midnight. My guess is no other photos will ever be made public. Right Tim?

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Digital Neighbours

Yesterday I was walking back to my apartment and passed my neighbour, Gordon, having breakfast with his girlfriend at a local coffee shop, Mecca. I stopped to say g'day, as you do here in Oz, and he asked me is I was still on my own. I paused for a second because I had not seen Gordon since Australia Day, but then I realised that he reads my blog. So Gordon knows that I was on my Pat Malone. Gordon is my neighbour in my apartment building as well in the blogosphere. In 2007 it is more common to bump into each other online than it is in person. Is that a bad thing? I think not. We comment on each other's blogs, which is the modern-day equivalent of chatting over the fence while mowing the lawn or having a BBQ. And I must point out that we met at a real BBQ, not during a match of World of Warcraft.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Puppet Up!

Last night Dana and I went to see Puppet Up!, an improvisational comedy show featuring the Jim Henson Company's puppets and crew. I went in with high expectations and really enjoyed the show. If you're in Sydney this week, try to make it over to the State Theatre on Market Street for a good laugh. Keep in mind, it's improv so the jokes can get a bit crass. This is not a kid's show. That being said, the host did move things along very well and swapped out the scenes when the toilet humour started. I haven't seen much live improv, but I used to perform in come improv shows in college. It's tough work.

Puppet improv? Huh? Yeah it sounds odd but it really added to the comedy. It helps that the puppets themselves are often very funny-looking, such as the pug and the hot dogs, and that the puppeteers have excellent vocal skills. The characters they created could easily have been on the Muppet Show... as long as it aired after 11PM. So this is how it worked: There were two large screens at the back of the stage, and the puppeteers had their guys up above them in front of the camera. So you could watch the TV screens or the stage itself. This unique set-up was highly entertaining.

Puppet Up! had a number of inventive and interesting ways to keep things fresh. The most hilarious one may have been when they asked a volunteer from the audience to come on stage and try to man one of the puppets. That puppet was all over the place - arms shooting up, mouth agape and bobbing in and out of the frame of the video.

Yes I'm a softie when it comes to puppets. I just think their fantastic. Avenue Q is the best show I saw on Broadway. And nothing quite cheers me up as much as Mahna Mahna!

If you saw Puppet Up! here in Sydney, at the Riverside Theatre in Parramatta, in Edinburgh, or in Aspen... or anywhere else, I'd love to know what you thought. Drop a line! Mahna Mahna!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Jimmy Bats in Sydney - The Great Walk

I thought I might elaborate on Jim's introduction to Sydney. It would be useful to others coming to Sydney and looking for a good way to fill their day.

Jim is here for work, and I used to work with him in the New York office before I moved to Sydney. I had a rather late night on Saturday, but I was still chipper when I woke up after four hours sleep to show Jim around. I did a rather good job as tour guide, I must say, and managed to keep Jim awake until it was appropriate for him to fall asleep. I did walk him into the ground though:

  1. Met at his hotel, the Amora on Jamison in the CBD
  2. Walked to Circular Quay
  3. Continued around to the Opera House
  4. Through the Botanic Gardens to look at the trees, birds, spiders and bats
  5. Past St Mary's Cathedral
  6. Into Hyde Park for a break - Jim was lucky enough to hear a kookaburra here
  7. Back into CBD for a walk down Pitt Street to check out the Monorail
  8. Turned down to George and through the Queen Victoria Building
  9. Down King Street for a break in our apartment
  10. Over the Pyrmont Bridge for a view of Darling Harbour, King Street Wharf, Cockle Bay, Maritime Museum, Wildlife Park, and Aquarium
  11. Into Harbourside for a look at some didgeridoos and other Aboriginal Art, as well as kangaroo pelts, kargaroo claw back-scratchers and kangaroo scrotum change purses & bottle openers
  12. Around to Tumbalong Park to get a view of Sydney's interesting water sculptures and Northern Territory Information Centre
  13. Back through Cockle Bay to dwarbi's roof
  14. Deep into the Rocks for Little Creatures and pizza at The Australian Heritage Hotel

I had no camera last weekend since Dana borrowed it for her return to the United States of America, so I've included a photo of shoes that makes it look like you're a bear to make this post more visually appealing. I hope you enjoy it.

Actually, here's a map that corresponds to the walk above:

Thursday, March 15, 2007

And Then There Were None

Pete died. The last of our two lionhead goldfish was found belly-up on the bottom of his fishbowl this morning. Autopsy results indicate that Pete did not take his own life. Jim, another lionhead, died last month. We picked these two guys up last September. We also watched after Survivor, the sole survivor of the Great Queen Victoria Goldfish Massacre of 2006. Survivor wound up dead in the same position as Pete Back in January. Jim was floating at the top of the bowl in February. The third gruesome month this year has delivered us Pete's corpse.

Dana and I miss Jim, Pete and Survivor. We're going to take a break from fish possession for a while. There are two weird notes about Pete's expiration:
- I took two photos of Pete two nights before he expired, but neither have been accessible on the camera.
- Last night I dreamt that Pete's bowl went black. The first thing I did this morning was check on Pete.

True story.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Against the Grain

This past Sunday I met James Malkowski aka Jim Malkowski aka Jimmy Bats in the city after he arrived from New York. Jim is town to assist us with some jobs, you know what I mean. So I was showing Jimmy around town when we happen by Hyde Park. We wander in for a Guinness and realise they're set up for some function. No bother, we head back towards CBD but are overcome with a swarm of humans heading into the park. It turns out that St Patrick's Day in Sydney was a week early this year. Sydney has a past of reinventing holidays: Mardis Gras (which means Fat Tuesday and is meant to be held on the eve of Ash Wednesday) takes place on some convenient weekend in March. I read that Sydney has plans to move Christmas up a week this year so that it does not conflict with boat show to be held on the last weekend of December.

Monday, March 12, 2007

More Lightning

My neighbour, Gordon Flood, of Australia Day fame, got some wicked snaps of the lightning storm last week. Struth mate. This is from my very own building and yet I slept through the entire storm.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Ramblin' Jack

Yesterday I mentioned a few of my favourite musicians. One of them is not known to many, or at least known to as many as he should. I'm talking about Ramblin' Jack Elliott. I've seen Ramblin' Jack live in New York three times in the three years I was aware of him before moving to Australia, and each performance was fantastic. The photo in this post was taken in Battery Park on my birthday (9 July) in 2003. He's not a crotchety old country singer, but a singer who carries thousands of folk songs in his person. He's not a bard or a troubadour - he hasn't written too many of his own songs - but he can preamble a song with a true story about listening to Woody Guthrie sing a song with Cisco Houston while driving with them, as he does before Picture From Life's Other Side. Or he can give an authentic introduction to Leadbelly's song about Blind Lemon Jefferson. This is why he's known as "Ramblin' Jack", you go see him for the stories nearly as much as for the music. Ramblin' Jack taught Bob Dylan much of what he knows, from training under Woody Guthrie. The man is a living legend. If you see Jack playing near you, go see him. You must.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Livin' It Up

For the third time on this blog, I'll mention that Dana's back in the States for a couple of weeks. This means I have one of those rare opportunities to do everything I like to do but Dana doesn't. Listen to the music she doesn't like, eat the food she doesn't and watch a movie she wouldn't. Last weekend I was scuba diving so I left tonight to be a Denis night. The problem is that there are not too many things we differ on! I managed to scrape together three things for one night, but after this I'm out of ideas. I'm very happy that she'll be back on Tuesday.

  • Movies: Tough one. Dana saw The Queen without me but I couldn't find it at the video store. I had World Trade Center in my hands but lost my nerve. Then it came to me.
  • Food: Tougher still. There's not much either of us don't like. And whatever I don't like Dana doesn't, and vice versa. You wouldn't catch either of us eating licorice flaked with coconut. I ordered sushi from our local, Akaneya across the street. They know us and automatically started to double everything. Thankfully I asked him to repeat the order. Again, I did find one Denis dish.
  • Music: Toughest. Flaming Lips? Ramblin' Jack? Daft Punk? Even Tom Waits? Check, check, check, yep: check. But... after some thought I found something.

So what has my evening been like? I ate eel while watching a Japanese horror film. Now I'm listening to polka.


Wednesday, March 07, 2007

On Me Pat Malone? Ken Oath?

Yes I am on my Pat Malone. If you were confused by this post, it was mostly Australian rhyming slang, taken from Cockney rhyming slang:

  • Charlie Wheeler = sheila = girlfriend
  • Pat Malone = alone
  • cheese & kisses = missus
  • gimme a bell = call me
  • dog & bone = phone
  • frog & toad = road
  • steak & kidney = Sydney
  • septic tank = Yank
  • Oxford scholar = dollar
  • elephant's trunk = drunk
  • apples = everything will be fine
So it means Dana's back in the States for a bit. Struth mate.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Sleep of the Dead - Even Lightning Won't Wake It

Last night I crashed at 10 after day one and day two of the PADI Rescue Diver course. This morning the talk was about the amazing storm last night. The one that kept everyone awake. I heard nothing. Here are some photos of last night's storm. Note: I did not take any of these, I was sleeping. If you took of these, please comment so I can give you a proper shout out.







Sunday, March 04, 2007

PADI Rescue Diver Course - Day 2

It is taking everything I've got to write this entry. This evening I returned from day two of the PADI Rescue Diver Course I've been doing with Abyss Scuba Diving, and sat down on the couch for a few minutes, doing nothing. I think I was trying to work out what to eat, but with Dana on the lam and my brain and body barely functioning, I lost myself into space. I managed to stand and order a pizza. A large one with lots of meat, and I am going to eat the entire thing.

Peter Letts, the instructor, told us that yesterday would be worse than today. He lied! Well, it just didn't work out that way anyway. We planned to dive Oak Park, a normally placid spot of sea. We got there and it was most unplacid. I would say the placidity was well into the negative. So we moved to The Monument dive in Kurnell, right by the first place that Captain Cook landed on Australian soil. This spot was calmer, but there was a current on the surface. This is what killed us. A lot of the skills were on the surface, so we had to constantly battle the current while doing things such as removing the gear of the "victim" and ourselves, delivering rescue breaths to him and towing him to shore. We were in the water a little after 10 and out for lunch at about 2.

The rescue course is supposed to be a challenge so I am very pleased with the day. We also learned how to safely bring an unconscious diver to surface and get him back onto land to provide CPR. The current was accompanied by surge near the shore and, as I write this, I can feel myself moving back and forth.

Simulated rescues just before lunch put me over the edge. Since we had an odd number of people, I was the lucky bugger who had to do it twice. I made mistakes both times: not removing my BC the first time and towing the victim to shore so quickly that the other rescuer, who was delivering rescue breaths, couldn't keep up. Hey, I'm trying to save this guy! It was also fun to loose my mask and snorkel for real and have to find it. I did find it.

Getting out of the water after this session I was destroyed. It was a long walk back to the lunch site, but I made it. I was suffering from heat exhaustion at this point, but a few cold showers and several litres of water set me straight. I hardly ate any lunch... where the hell is that pizza! Yes, wearing a full-body diving wet suit in Sydney during summer can be a challenge.

After lunch we were set to a rescue scenario. Well, not after but during. Another divemaster was supposedly lost while diving with Pete, and we had to react. So nine lethargic divers played along. Brett and I were at the car when it started so we acted as snorkelers (diving at the surface with no gear). As a team our response was pretty weak, and the guy would have died. This is largely because we had an Annoyance. This person who did the course was one of those unbelievably irritating know-it-alls. You know the kind: the kind who know very little. The kind that finished the instructor's sentence, only to be told she's wrong. The kind who argues with the instructor when she's obviously wrong. Oops, I realised I've been using "she". Yes, this was a female. During the theory part, she dramatically closed the book and sighed when she was done first (she got plenty wrong). You know the kind. Anyway, it was a mess. We ran a second attempt and I decided to take - pizza's here.

Sorry, the pizza came. Mediocre but the best I could do given my situation. Living in the middle of the city has its advantages, such as proximity to everything that surrounds the city and yearns to be near the city, but there are drawbacks. There are not many places that do take-away (take-out) and no place delivers. So my large pizza came from Dominos. I ate the entire thing and do not feel uncomfortable at all. On Friday Brett and I split a large Dominos and were full. You Americans reading: Dominos pizzas here are a lot different. They are like the "gourmet" pizzas you get in Sydney. They're high and thick and not too large around. But I still fold each slice in half New York-style.

OK, where was I... let me go back and re-read this rambling post that adequately presents how out of my mind I am right now... ah, yes, so during the second scenario I decided to take charge. We did pretty well, even though the supposedly drowning diver was supposedly in the car park, and the rough surf caused both Brett and I to have our tanks knocked out and our fins lost (Brett found his). Peter was happy with the rescue operation as a whole though, so I'm happy.

So now I am a PADI certified rescue diver. I am tired and sore. I feel like I just ran a half marathon. I and sunburned and feel as though I am in constant motion. I am thrilled I finished the course and feel a hell of a lot more comfortable in the water now. It's funny: while doing the course a lot of saltwater got into my eyes, and my vision, cloudy and foggy, was a lot like how movies portray memories, except it was in real time. Occasionally I wondered if I was just remembering the course. Now my brain has it easy because when I remember the course it doesn't have to make it all cloudy and foggy. Your welcome, brain.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

PADI Rescue Diver Course - Day 1

Today was the first day of the PADI Rescue Diver Course Brett and I are taking with Abyss Scuba Diving. I know this because 1) I am wrecked b) I've consumed about 6 litres of water since 4PM and iv) I have tan lines on my wrist.

This particular course, as taught by Peter Letts, is considered by many in the dive community to be the best PADI course of any kind offered in New South Wales. I was expected to be destroyed, and I was. The course is meant to teach you how to respond to an emergency situation while scuba diving. We had two nights of theory - Thursday and Friday - in addition to the required Emergency First Response course.

We entered the water fully geared but overweighted, making it easier to sink when required. The first task was to drop our masks and then swim down to find it. This one freaked me out a little bit partially because I'm not used to trying to eyes my eyes in the ocean without a mask and partially because it was the first skill of the day. I found my mask and was much more comfortable the rest of the day. Later skills also required mask removal, such as this one:
Brett and I were sitting back to back on the bottom. The instructor came around, pulled our masks off and shut off the oxygen to one of our tanks. The kicker is that the secondary air supply for both of us had been disconnected, so we only had only one regulator between the two of us, and we did not know who has it until the other person ran out of air. Mine was first and we did well - same when Brett's was turned off. Peter got a bit confused and shut mine off a second time (which he denies!) but we still pulled it off.

At the surface, while the instructor and half of the divers were down doing the skill above, we had a real emergency. One of the divers started splashing around like wild and shouting that he was sinking and that the female diver next to him was pushing him under. We thought it was an exercise that Peter had organised, so I swam over and half-heartedly said, "Diver, diver, are you OK? I can help you." When I saw his eyes I could tell he was serious! I realised that his secondary air source had not been reconnected which meant that he couldn't get any air in his BC (which is what keeps you on the surface). As mentioned earlier, we were all over-weighted, so he was sinking. He could have put his snorkel or regulator in but he was panicking, and it was interesting to see the real thing while training. I swam around behind him and cradled him in front of me, inflating my BC to get his head out of the water. He calmed down and Brett came over to reconnect his hose. All was well.

The course covered quite a bit, and as the conditions worsened, bringing visibility to nearly nothing, the exercises became more challenging. We were also put on the spot. For example, without Brett seeing it coming, I had to yank his air source out his mouth to see how he would react - while we were at the ocean floor. He did well!

When the day was done, we had a nice steak at the Oaks... nearly falling asleep at the table. Right now I'm looking forward to a good long sleep tonight to prepare for tomorrow.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Dwarbi's Roof on Google Maps!

It appears I was wrong about the Sydney Google plane flyover fiasco. As a refresher: prior to our Australia Day party, I set up shop on the roof, along with another resident of my building, so that the Google plane scheduled to fly low over Sydney for detailed photos on their maps site would catch dwarbi's roof. Early reports indicated that the Google plane captured a very small percentage of the original area, and nowhere near my roof. I was disappointed. But they Sydney Morning Herald recently announced that the photos taken by the Google plane on Australia Day are now on their web site... and no mention of the fact that the plane caught less than 10% of the area it was supposed to! I was wrong - check out the photo of Ch√Ęteau dwarbi there on the left.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Everybody Loves the Dentist

Today was my first visit in nearly two and one half cycles of the Earth around the Sun or the Sun around the Earth, depending on where you stand on this Galileo scandal. I admitted the date of my last visit, as if I were speaking to priest at Confession. Instead of Hail Marys I was given the usual "You should visit the dentist every 6 months" speech, but a bit lighter than usual. Two and one half years ago was my first visit in nearly four years. That dento (I assume that's what they call them in Australia) really laid it on thick. My teeth turned out fine then as they did today.

Today the good doctor took some x-rays because it had been a while and also because I felt like a hit of x-rays. He put them up and said, "Wow." He really said that. He continued to tell me to keep doing whatever I do but floss more and not to bother coming every six months. Once a year would do for teeth like mine. I like this guy.

To top it off, on the way out, thanks to some funky dento-dance my insurance provider does, I actually made money. What they covered was more than the charge, so the dentist gave me the four dollar difference. This could have something to do with the state of the dental facilities. It appeared that they had not renovated in some time, and they had a bowl of candy next to the complimentary soda-pop stand. The guy after me was there to get a haircut and a shave.