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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Moving Madness!

I'll be going offline for a little bit, after we leave South Orange and before TimeWarner gets our connection running in Brooklyn. I checked out the apartment earlier this week, and it's coming along beauticiously. Magnificious. Check out the cherry wood floors and great lighting:
The kitchen and bath might be a bit tight, but they're lined with brand new tiles and even backsplash tiles above the counters:

The fact that the place looks so good is making it a lot easier to deal with the knuckleheads I've had to deal with to move. The landlord has been OK, and the super has been great... but U-Haul? Well, at one point I had to ask a customer service representative if the 'U' stands for 'Useless.' Later on, when someone who works at my pick-up location called me to say he was concerned because he was located so far from South Orange, I called customer service again. I was explaining the situation, stopping because the woman on the other end was talking to someone else. Then she would say, "Go ahead, I'm listening." I would continue. She, too, would continue... talking with her coworker about lunch.

The last thing I said was, "And so can you tell me if there is a closer location where I can pick up the truck?"
A moment later she stopped talking and said, "Go ahead, I'm listening."
"I'm done," I responded.
"Well I don't know what you want me to do."
I replied, "I just asked you a direct question. Can you answer it?"
"I'm... What do you want me to do?"
"Do you want me to repeat what I was saying?"
"No, I was listening."
Finally, she asks, "What did you say?"

I love these people. Really, I'm just amused at this point.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Sunday, November 25, 2007


From the people who brought you "bush tucka," "gimme a bell this arvo" and "she'll be right, mate," we now have "Movember".

That's right, what was once left to Roman emperors such as Julius Caesar and Augustus Caesar, has fallen into the hand of the Australians. They have invented a month. Do not despair! I see that look of panic at the thought of a month of eating roo, grilling prawns on the barbie and stacking pineapple and beetroot on your hamburgers, but this has nothing to do with food. It's about mustaches (moustaches). "Mo" is Aussie for hair grown on the upper lip. "Vember" was an incomplete name of a month.

As the official site explains, the month-long event is meant to raise awareness about men's health, specifically prostate cancer and depression. I can't think of a more noble reason to grow a 'stache... except maybe becoming a cop. Or joining the Village People.

The fund raising event has expanded outside of Australia, but it has not yet taken off here in the US as it has in Oz. Back in Sydney, mos were seen sprouting and growing throughout the month. Several friend of mine are participating, and if you would like to donate, click on the post-pubescent human of choice:
Ben - pictured top left looking like James Hetfield.
Cory - pictured to the right in a tough-guy/nostril-exposing pose.
Ian - not pictured because he needs as much time as possible to grow convincing facial hair.

These famous examples of moustaches are not participating:

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thoughts on Boerum Hill

Soon I will be a Boerum Hillite. Or is it just Boerumite? Or Boerumian. One sounds like a mineral, the other like a type of protohuman who lives in caves of boerumite. Whichever.

We will be moving to the neighborhood, so I decided to look into what "Boerum Hill" is, geographically speaking. I think it's a real estate term, with little historical importance... a word or phrase emphasized to encourage people to move in. For example, attaching "Park Slope" to an apartment helps it move in the market, so "Park Slope" has grown into surrounding areas seen to be not as cool as Park Slope.

"Boerum Hill" is a different sort of neighborhood. For a long time, it carried the connotation of a dangerous place to live. As time has passed, just as gentrification flipped Alphabet City, so has Boerum Hill found itself in the process of flipping.

What does this mess mean for finding a proper map? Well, I wanted to find some sort of online map. Preferably one that was updated daily to reflect Park Slope's expansion and Sunset Park's withdrawal to the south. No luck.

I did find some maps from the New York City Department of City Planning that clearly defined some zones. However, it was brought to my attention that some residents of a few neighborhoods in Brooklyn have created their own SuperSexyHood called BoCoCa. Obviously these people couldn't find the time to Google where they lived, panicked and created a new alliance of Brooklyn city-states: Boerum Hill + Cobble Hill + Carroll Gardens.

It's certainly catchy, but I'm wary about aligning ourselves too closely with those neighborhoods, thereby distancing ourselves from other, more powerful neighbors. ProFoPa (Prospect Heights, Fort Greene and Park Slope) would make a pretty hefty alliance, leaving those of us exposed at the eastern edge of BoCoCa in Boerum Hill particularly vulnerable. I think we should stay neutral and remember to maintain friendly relations with Downtown Brooklyn and Brooklyn Heights, ensuring access to the water as well as serious clout if we ever need it. And we can look into invading Red Hook if we need art, drugs, Swedish furniture or a distraction.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Landerpalooza 2007 or The Malt Assault Birthday Hop II

Saturday would have been the date of Landerpalooza 07, but it was bagged and replaced with The Malt Assault Birthday Hop II. Huh? Landerpalooza was once a time to celebrate all things Lander. The Malt Assault Birthday Hop II was a pub crawl through Brooklyn to celebrate all things Lander and DJ Gonzalez and anyone else whose birthday is around this time of year. Well, anyone who could make it out to Brooklyn. And who we knew.

It was a mega-crawl, starting at The Gutter for some beers and bowling in Greenpoint. We were there early enough to bowl, unlike last time, but I skipped it in favor of taking time to snap shots of the retro decor.

Second stop was The Diamond, a newish joint also in Brooklyn. For entertainment, these guys have indoor shuffleboard, which was good because we didn't have to start talking to each other until the third stop: The Brooklyn Brewery. Brooklyn Local One and homemade beef jerky (thanks Jon) - a perfect match!

The beef jerky put us in the mood for more meat, so it was a good thing the next stop was Fette Sau, the awesomest BBQ place in New York. I was happily stuffed with beef cheeks, sausages, pulled pork shoulder, baked beans and German potato salad. Fette Sau is built into an old garage and food is ordered by weight. Funky. Spuyten Duyvil, across the street, followed. Same owners, similar funkiness. SD has been a beer destination for years. A Williamsburg gem. With trucker hats and extremely rare beers.

The last stop for me was Barcade, also one of my favorite pubs. It's a cavernous bar with dozens of classic arcade games - games still cost a quarter. Unfortunately, Rampage was on the fritz, so I dropped a few into Dig Dug. The crawl continued to Wells Ales & Lagers, but I began the trek back to New Jersey. Thus ended a great Brooklyn Pub Walking Upright. Thanks Steve!

View it in stereoscope here.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Big Trip Summary - It's Over (Links To All Posts)

That's it. The trip has been over for quite some time now. All of the photos have been posted, and some of the stories have been written down here. Below are links to all Big Trip blog entries and photos from the journey. If you're planning a trip to any of these countries, I hope my blog will help you. If you have any questions about accommodation in any of these locations, please leave a comment and I will get back to you. It's just a bit to much to do an entry on all the wonderful and mediocre places we stayed. I will say that our most uncomfortable nights were in 1-star and a 4-star hotels (three nights in the former, one night in the latter) while the 2-star and 3-star joints were fantastic, almost without exception.

That's it for the Big Trip. 98 links below.

The Big Trip
Singapore Locked In
Queensland Locked In
(Then Dana told me it would be overkill to write before the trip even started.)

Queensland, Australia
We Found Internet Access
Writing in Cape Tribulation
Mt Sorrow
*Cape Tribulation photos
Poolside Extravaganza
The Great Barrier Reef
*Great Barrier Reef photos
Wild Queensland
Found: Previously Unblogged Photos from Queensland
*Queensland photos

Sydney Airport
Aiport photos

We Sail Tonight For Singapore
*Singapore photos

Rest in Tuscany
La Guerra a Firenze (The War in Florence)
*Rome photos
Posting from Florence
*Cortona photos
*Siena photos
*Assisi photos
*Montepulciano photos
Firenze!!! (Florence.)
*Florence photos
The Villa in Cortona
*Villa photos

Nice Post
The Greatest Toilet in the World
Yes, It's Nice
*Nice photos
Monaco & Monte Carlo
*Monaco & Monte Carlo photos
Avignon - Dance!
*Avignon photos
Bridges & Cheese
*Roquefort photos
A Stop in Orange
*Orange photos
Lyon, Lyons, Lions
*Lyons photos
Lyons at Night
*Lyons at Night photos
Lunch in Annecy
*Annecy photos

Greetings from Switzerland
Montreux & Château de Chillon
*Montreux photos
I'm Going to Beat You With a Pig Bladder!
*Interlaken photos

Getting Slap Happy
German Sing-A-Long
A Week and a Half Left
My Last Night as a 20-Something
My Special Day
Deine Karte Bitte Nehmen!
Bier Hall in Garmisch-Partenkirchen
*Garmisch-Partenkirchen photos
Videos from Gasthof Fraundorfer in Garmisch-Partenkirchen
*Munich/München photos
Bamberg, Germany
*Bamberg photos
Stop at the Würzburg Hospital/Winery
*Würzburg photos
Koblenz - Bikes, Castles & Fickle Weather
*Koblenz photos
Saddle Up, Boys, It's Time for Düsseldorf!
*Düsseldorf photos
Farewell Germany, Heading to Belgium!
*Aachen photos

Bye Bye Holiday
In Leuven with Jan & Maxine
*Leuven photos
Big Time in Brussels
*Brussels photos
Brussels Grote Markt/Grand Place
*Grote Markt photos
In Bruges/In Brugge
*Brugge photos
*Antwerpen photos
The Big Trip Ends

The Big Trip Ends (OG style)
Big Trip Photos Mapped
Pigeons Rule the World
*Pigeons Ruling the World photos
Faces in Stone (an other matter)
*Faces in Stone photos
The Big Trip Summary - Food & Drink

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Big Trip Summary - Food & Drink

The food in the tropics of Queensland surprised us. This was the one destination where I did not expect to find fantastic meals and drink - and there it was, right in front of me! The dishes we enjoyed in Cape Tribulation were mostly "New Australian" takes on traditional Australian fare, like barramundi. The wine lists were solid, but the beer was lacking outside of Cairns, where we found a better than average hole in the wall at which to avoid returning to our hostel. Similarly, the food we ate at the Great Barrier Reef on the live aboard scuba dive boat operated by Prodive was also wonderful. I did try to tackle the cassowary to taste, but no luck.

Singapore was a culinary destination for us, even before reading Calvin Trillin's article "Three Chopsticks" in the most recent food issue of The New Yorker. We quickly learned that plenty of good, inexpensive food can be found in markets, like shopping malls. Dana and I tried everything we could, but we left with dozens of intriguing menu options untasted. Some day we will get back to eat as much as humanly possible.

I don't usually seek out Italian food and, honestly, I think the cuisine is too heavily relied upon by those nervous to branch out. The freshness and simplicity of the food we ate in Italy was astounding. I could not get enough. I've never eaten so much pasta in my life! Well, since college, at least. We learned a lot of the essentials in Assisi during a cooking class. From our eating experiences in Italy, the two ingredients I will remember most will be the truffles I ate throughout the peninsula and the chicken neck I ate in Florence. Most Italian restaurants won't risk their reputation by serving a bad house wine, so the appropriate liquid accompaniment to these fantastic plates were both tasty and inexpensive... €5 for a liter at one restaurant in Rome. Of course, we had even better wines in Montepulciano.

Of course France is known for its culinary delights, and we sought out one of my favorite cheeses, made in Roquefort-sur-Soulzon. Lyons had plenty to offer, including the famous Le Sud, but our best meal in the country was lunch on our last day, in Annecy. Here we dined on the traditional alpine meal of raclette cheese melted over bread, potatoes and other equally healthy foodstuffs.
"What about the wine?"
Oh yes, the wine was great, but we didn't venture into too many wine regions and did not get to do any tasting. I can say that the French wine was much better than the French beer.

Switzerland offered some very good food, but it was by far the worst value during our trip. The Swiss franc had about the same exchange rate as the Australian dollar, but the costs were much higher. What's more, when we ordered a bottle of wine, it was 500ml instead of the usual 750ml. The travel books and Web sites mentioned Switzerland's secret: fantastic wine that was not exported. The impression was that these wines are SO GOOD that the Swiss don't want to share it with the rest of the world. Well, we tried a few, and they can keep it. The vineyards do make for beautiful scenery.

These Germans are great eaters and great drinkers! Large portions of flavorful meals served with expectedly good beer or unexpectedly good wine. Sure, I knew they make some great riesling and gewurztraminer, but the range was broader than that. Würzburg surprised us with their winery/hospital. With beer specialties such as altbier and rauchbier, Düsseldorf from and Bamberg, respectively, and impressive bier halls across the land, it's a true beer destination. Dana and I were even a bit overwhelmed early on, and we picked up sushi for lunch in München. Heresy!

But we saved the best for last, didn't we? There's not much I can add on the quality of Belgian beer that I have not already posted, but I will reemphasize the quality of the food, in terms of taste, presentation and service. I can think of no other place where people genuinely seem to care so much about your culinary experience. Not because they want to impress you, but because they want you enjoy your meal. Then again, I guess they really have to do that if they're going to serve you horse.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Setting Up the New Apartment

I've put together a layout of the new apartment to figure out what we can put where. I'm worried that we won't be able to get our couches through that hallway and around the corner. The diagram is to scale, and I've decided to put it, as well as the measurements, on the series of tubes to ask you, The Internet, if you think it will fit. So what do you think? I'm nice to you, can you help a guy out here?

The hallway is 34 inches wide, but the doorwar is just about 30. The ceiling is roughly 109 inches, or nine feet, high. The distance between where the wall against the kitchen is and the other wall is 44 inches. The bigger couch is 30 inches high, 39 inches deep and 79 inches wide. So it seems like the couch will just barely fit. Do you agree, The Internet, or am I a fool?

By the way, sorry about the mess, we're still trying to figure out where to put things. Why yes, those are cherry wood floors.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Sydney at Night

Sydney at night. I took this photo a few years ago from the Sydney Harbour Bridge. I sent it to Sydney's free weekly newspaper, City Weekly, and it was published. I also won 100 free digital prints! The warm color of Rocks is a nice contrast to the cool blues of company logos on the buildings.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Empire State Building

Last night I snapped a couple of interesting shots of the Empire State Building. It was a wet, chilly night, and the clouds clung to the top of the city's skyscrapers. The architectural icon was illuminated yellow in honor of the 10th anniversary of "The Lion King" on Broadway. While that's kind of lame, the building looked beautiful. The lighting changes frequently, for holidays, special events or seasons. While on the topic, I'll add another photo of the Empire State Building. This is in my banner above. I took it back in August.

A few interesting facts about the top of the skyscraper:

  • It was completed in 1931.
  • It's height is 381m (1,250 ft).
  • The dome on which the antennas now stand was meant to be a docking station for zeppelins. Unfortunately, the updraft through the building was too great and each attempt at docking resulted in a near-crash.
  • The broadcasting antennas were added in 1951.
Obviously, there are a lot more interesting facts about the Empire State Building, but I decided to limit myself to facts about the very top.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Guy Fawkes Night at Pacific Standard

The guys at Pacific Standard threw a Guy Fawkes Night party last night, the 5th of November, of course. Remember, remember? The 5th of November? Jeez, I could have sworn I told you about it. Most Americans don't know who Guy Fawkes is and only recognize the mask from V for Vendetta. This is understandable because we're no longer a colony. They still celebrate it in the colonies of Canada, New Zealand and Australia, to some degree. And I think they still pay tax on tea.

So who is Guy Fawkes? He's the guy from the famous Gunpowder Plot in 1605. He tried to blow up Parliament and kill the king of England. They caught him with loads of explosives and gave him a a bit more than a slap on the wrist. They tortured him, hung him and then did it again once a year for four hundred years. The holiday is also known as Bonfire Day or Fireworks Day. Setting off explosives seems like a funny way to celebrate his failed attempt, but it is less violent than burning him in effigy.

"Are you setting him on fire?" an early visitor to Pacific Standard inquired of the dummy-in-the-making. "No," John, one of the owners, replied, "Not allowed to, but he's actually a piñata."

Ah, Guy Fawkes makes it to the New World as a piñata. Perhaps one day we can see his face on a totem pole! I did not stick around long enough to see the destruction of Guy "Guillermo" Fawkes, but I stayed long enough to have a great time. This bar is a gem, and, with 4th Avenue Pub a few doors down and Cherry Tree right across the street, the block might be the best beer bar block in the world. I'm moving into an apartment two blocks away! Seriously, I am.

Monday, November 05, 2007

New Apartment in Development

Last week I popped into our new apartment to take some measurements for furniture. They were redoing the entire place! It was great to see the new tile in the kitchen and the rewiring in the bedrooms was a nice bonus. It turns out that dealing with an idiot broker has its upsides, like the broker neglecting to mention that the management company intends to renovate the entire apartment. We lucked out because we loved the location and went for the apartment despite the flooring and wiring, which have now been redone. That's a photo of me and the bathroom. Thankfully the water had not been turned off. Next time I should think twice about drinking a large coffee and a sport bottle of water while en route to Brooklyn from Jersey.

Work in progress.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Pigeons Rule the World

Humans create statues of heroes and gods. Pigeons stand on their heads and defecate. I don't think there's any question who's in charge here. More pigeons being pigeons.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Faces in Stone (and other matter)

Shortly into our trip, I began to notice a common visual element to locations we were visiting: freaky faces. Usually in the form of a sculpture and frequently the part of a fountain, they were carvings in wood, granite or other material of mythical, historical or fictional characters. As we distanced ourselves from Rome and grew closer to Brussels, the medium and the message both became more bizarre. From Bacchus in Florence to an overwhelmed tourist in Wurzburg to a mouth-bleeding piece of graffiti in Antwerpen. Here's a little collection of some photos I snapped of faces during our trip.