Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Monday, June 21, 2010


Last time I went up to the Research School of Physics and Engineering to get a form signed by my supervisor, there was a small soccer field taped out in white on one of the two front lawns. I thought maybe someone had set up a game for kids they had in day care at the uni. Then I went inside and found giant pinata-like soccer balls hanging from the ceiling, streamers wrapped around supports, and player profiles stuck up on most open wall space. The bottom floor lounge always seems like a fairly social place (Wen told me there are two scheduled coffee breaks a day in addition to lunch), but their World Cup outbreak really made me grin.

I was riding down a fire road at Stromlo, knowing it was probably my last time there, admiring the view of the city in the late afternoon sun. Bringing my attention back to the trail, I took an entirely unnecessary hop over a small water rivulet only to look up to find kangaroos populating both the uphill and downhill sides of the trail, looking mildly alarmed by my sudden appearance and strange antics. They then decided I couldn't be much of a threat and hung around as I rode on.

It was lucky that the weather was a little warmer than it's been-- actually above freezing at night-- as I headed down town to meet up with some friends from Engineering for a last chat. They're thinking they may want to explore the States in a year or two. Other than that, some comparisons of the 'political correctness' standards between Australia and the U.S. (these two were always giving each other quite the hard time), cringing about the exam we'd struggled through last week, and final well wishes.

The bus to Sydney is leaving in about two hours. I'm quite excited to travel to Queensland and Northern Territory (turns out it will be another camper-vanning expedition), but it's hard to say goodbye to Canberra. It's been a great place to live.

If I get a chance, I might write a bit and post some pictures from the trip when I'm home. Otherwise, looking forward to catching up with all of you in a few weeks. It's been a while! Cheers.

Monday, June 7, 2010


For future reference, Bank of America counts purchasing three one-way flights from a budget Australian airline as "unusual activity." I didn't have to stay on hold too long to unfreeze my account, though, so no harm done, and I now I have tickets! Where to? Sydney to Cairns, Cairns to Darwin, and Darwin back to Sydney. All this will commence after my last final on June 22nd, and unfortunately more in depth planning shouldn't start until after my first two finals this Friday. But for a little bit last night, while Mira and I alternated booking our flights on my laptop, I pored over the descriptions of Daintree and Kakadu national parks in my Lonely Planet Australia book. This much we know: there will be reefs, rain forests, outback, and lots of camping.

Sorry for the lack of bloggage as of late. Life has basically just been a mix of reviewing course material, going into the research lab, mountain biking (can I bring Stromlo and Majura home with me?), and enjoying the last couple weeks with people I've met here. Just about 2 weeks before Canberra moves from being a home to a memory!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Monday, 9:15 p.m.

The rain came a little early this time. Usually it shoots for the Friday or Saturday of a three day weekend and continues through, but now it's only Monday evening and the showers are supposed to be infrequent and clear up by Sunday at latest.

The weather forecast is a good thing at this point. With the skies intermittently grayer and breezes encouraging the continuous stream of autumn leaves, staying inside to face physics problem sets and engineering assignments feels a little more natural. It also means that the trails at Stromlo will be a bit better next weekend; parts were getting pretty loose from the sand-like soil drying up.

I can't believe there are only two weeks (two weeks minus one day, to be exact) left of classes. It's always funny to remember your exact thoughts at points when you didn't think time was going to fly by. Not quite as funny when you remember that finals are quite so close, but I'd say that in the mixture of feelings related to the impending end of the semester, knowing I'm going to miss Canberra and wishing time would slow down just a bit is found in higher concentration than worrying about the painful days of study that will proceed exams. (Not to belittle the strange coincidence of numbers: 3 classes, 3 week exam period... Physics and Engineering finals on the same day.)

No big adventures recently, but a number of small pleasures this weekend: Night riding at Bruce Ridge with some friends. As I apparently have a bit of a jinx in picking the headlight that will die, I discovered that my one-LED headlamp from IB does for cautious night riding in a pinch! Making "pumpkin" pie afterward. "Pumpkin" refers to all types of squash here, and I've yet to see an actual pumpkin so we picked up a green one that looked promising; it was delicious nonetheless. Watching the last half of an Australian Rules Football game on campus. I've decided that AFL >> American football, by which I mean that it's actually fast-paced and enjoyable to watch, and the rules, though unique, are fairly simple to pick up. Ask me about it sometime.

And I leave you with the following Aussie words: heaps, keen, and dodgy.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Trails

The above picture summarizes my weekend. It was a good one.

A mountain biker I've met here planned a bike-touring trip through part of Namadgi National Park. The plan: park one car at the entrance to Smoker's Trail, drive to the top of Pryor's Hut trail. Ride mountain bikes down through Cotter Catchement, and back up to car #1 over two days, taking small bushwalk side trips along the way and camping out for the night.

We got a bit of a late start on Saturday (the story of nearly every bike trip I've been on...), but since the first leg of the trip was very rocky but mostly downhill fire road, we covered a fair amount of distance. We even decided that the walk up to the peak of Ginninderra was worth it so I saw the Namadgi Ranges and Canberra from one of the highest points in the ACT.
Can you spot the city in the middle of the bush?

We rode till riding was no longer a safe activity (possibly a bit after that, but we wanted to find a nice place to camp!) and settled down right next to a deep-burbling creek in a clearing in the valley. It started getting chilly pretty quickly, but I was with two of the biggest outdoor-buffs you'll ever meet (seriously, they mountain bike, mountaineer, rock climb, xcounry and downhill ski, kayak, canyon, scuba dive, and who knows what else) so we fared pretty well. Sven got an awesome fire going, and I definitely took note of a few good ideas for short-term camping food ideas. It was my idea of a Saturday evening-- chatting with some pretty interesting folks, alternating between considering the fire and staring up at the stars, two of which were considerate enough to fall while I was watching. Waiting for the billy to boil!

Having gone to bed sometime between 9 and 10, I woke up pretty early, but, peeking out from under the tent (we'd just used a tent cover so that all three of us could fit under what ordinarily would have housed two quite cozily) and seeing the helmet that had been black the day before pure white, coated in the thick, crystally layer of frost like everything around it in the gray morning light, I was quite content to stay snuggled up in my borrowed sleeping and bivvy bag until more of the chill had worn off. After the sun had been hitting it for half an hour or so.

Some breakfast and repacking, then off to the next day of riding in beautiful weather. Starting off with more rolling hills and then downhill to the lowest part of the valley, we made light jokes about the impending climbs to come. The topo map showed that Smoker's Trail would be quite the quad-killer. However, when it came, we rode as much as we could, walked sections where the combined inclination and weight of our packs made keeping the front wheel down more effort than it was worth, and stopped for lunch half way up, so it wasn't too bad at all. Despite toodling along, when we hit the intersection with another hike up to Square Rock, we figured we had enough time, stashed the bikes and headed up. I didn't take a picture of the square rock (it was behind me), but this is a small section of the view!

It was downhill back to the car from there, and then came the hardest part of the weekend... waiting with the bikes for about three hours for the two who could drive manual transmissions to go and get car #2. I was just about ready to pull out my sleeping bag again as the cold set in with the dropping sun when Jasmine showed up again. We loaded up and headed back to Canberra. It doesn't look like such a small city as you approach its welcoming sprawl of winding lights at night.

Thursday, May 6, 2010


This guy was a bit camera shy. I have a plan to do a post entirely consisting of pictures and descriptions of the awesome birds here, but as the times when I see flocks of them and times when I have my camera have been fairly independent categories, its prospects aren't looking good. Anyway, he's just one of the many cockatoos who hang out at B&G. They make a veritable racket around 6:30 am every morning, and one of them always sits and screeches about how pissed he is about getting wet every time it rains. Regardless, they're really beautiful birds, and I do a double take nearly every time I see a flock of them in a smaller-sized tree since it's branches are so covered in white that it appears out of the corner of an eye to be holding up the remainder of a snow fall or to have sprouted strange, immensely oversized blossoms.

Monday, April 26, 2010

But I miss you most of all

The inevitable has happened. I wore a fleece jacket to classes yesterday. Despite the sunny days over the past week during which I had no trouble pretending that late April was full spring as usual, the color of the trees and the leaves they've began to shed (excepting the eucalyptus and pines, of course) and the sudden change in ambient temperature has incentivized changes in clothing choices as well as admission that it is autumn in Canberra.

Mira, my IB companion, sincerely regretted the shorts and flip-flops she'd chosen for the predawn hours of Anzac Day; as the group of us shuffled into the bleachers that had been set up around the War Memorial at the starry hour of 4:30 am, she realized that she'd just about lost feeling in her toes. We sought out hot drinks, though, as the hundreds of seats for the Dawn Service continued to fill, and those that got there too close to the start at 5:30 stood at the top of the ampitheatre-like set up. The sun didn't rise till nearly the end of the half hour ceremony, the most light coming rather from the battery-powered candles, which had been passed out at entrance gates, as wreaths were laid, prayers and reminders of the spirit of Anzac were read, hymns and the national anthem sung, and a section of "In Flander Field" read by a young boy. I heard a kookaburra's laugh for the first time, from the trees somewhere behind us, during the moment of silence. It reminded me a bit of a chimp. The majority of B&G residents that had gone seemed to be curious international students-- one from the Netherlands, Sweden, Colombia, and of course the US. However, Mira explained that most students have probably been to the Dawn Sevice many times before as it is held in pretty much every home town, and then she gave us Anzac biscuits.

Now the short week following a public holiday weekend is half way gone, and most uni students (myself included) are spending more time with the books as the "20-80 rule" kicks in-- 20% of assessment (graded assignments or tests) in the firt term, 80% in the second.

Slipping in runs at the ends of days, I'm passed on the bike path by both commuters, well-equiped with panniers, bells, and blinkies for their daily ride from civic back to the suburbs, and mountain bikers, tearing into the evening with camelbaks and headlights. I know where they're headed and itch to join. I went to Stromlo three times in a week after a first ride there.


Note: The title is really the line that comes after this one, but that would have been too easy. Did anyone sing it in their head?