Australia 2014 Days Eight and Nine: Canberra to Sydney

After our day-trip extravaganza over the long weekend, we had a fairly low-key day in Canberra on Tuesday. (Translation: we slept in for a while, and didn’t head off to the museums until just before lunch.)

We started at the National Museum of Australia, where we went through a lengthy exhibit about the history of the first Australians, which was very interesting… and sad… and thought-provoking. It’s too much to get into in a light travelogue post, but — as an outsider to the country — it was a surprisingly frank examination of the way aboriginal people were/are treated in Australia.

We also spent a lot of time outside at the museum, on the two café patios (one at lunchtime, the other a few hours later when we needed a snack) and also just checking out the wacky post-modern architecture of the building. The design, overall, isn’t really my taste, but I did like the way the windows reflected the sky.

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After we finished up at the museum we headed up to the Australian War Memorial, which commemorates all Australians lost in wars, but most particularly World War One. It’s an impressive building overall, and the poppies people place along the panels of names make a striking image.

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We happened to be at the memorial just before closing, when they do a ceremony called “Last Post.” Dignitaries from foreign nations come to lay wreaths (on the day we were there, delegations from Afghanistan and Singapore were present) and the life story of a soldier is read (we heard about a young man who died in the First World War). There is also a little music (bagpipes and a bugle, not at the same time) — overall, a very lovely and solemn remembrance.

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After the memorial, Mark picked us up and drove us to the top of Mount Ainsley to take in the panoramic views of Canberra before we headed off to dinner.

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And then came Wednesday, when it was time to leave Canberra. We took a quick tour of the Embassy grounds, since that’s where Mark & Sara work, had a leisurely breakfast in the Yarralumla “suburb” (which is what Canberrans call neighborhoods) , and then headed to the train station.

It’s only a four-hour train ride to Sydney, but along the way, we caught back up to the rain we’d been chasing around the country.

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A little (or even a lot) of rain was not going to keep me from my first activity in Sydney: seeing Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band at one of the venues in Olympic Park. It took two trains to get there (which was actually easier than it sounds) though a delay on the first train left me sliding into my seat about halfway through the first song. (In my defense, Bruce’s US shows start 30-40 minutes after the ticketed time; this show started a mere 23 minutes late.)

It was a terrific show — I got to see the band play the complete “Darkness on the Edge of Town” album, and because I was at the top of the lower section with a wall, rather than people, behind me, I could stand up and dance as much as I wanted. I also had a view of the TelePrompTers on stage, so I could tell on advance every song that was coming — and what they skipped. And yes, Bruce… Replacing “The Rising” with “The Ghost of Tom Joad” was an excellent call.

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I was back to the hotel shortly after midnight and tucked in for a quick six hours rest before a full day tour of Sydney. Which is a story for another post.

I’m Back!

Y’know, I really didn’t think it would take me so long to get back to blogging after I signed off from my 2012 Post-a-Day project. But here it is, almost six weeks later, and I’m just getting back to it. To get things rolling again — and to recap my absence — I decided to steal an idea from venerable hockey writer Elliotte Friedman, who posts a weekly column called “30 Thoughts.” *

So, without further ado, here are 30 thoughts from the past month or so.

1. My nephew D turned nine. I don’t know where the time has gone!

2. I moved offices at work to sit closer to the team I am now on, after some staff reshuffling. For the first time in 14 years, I have an office that is just mine, and has both a door and a window.

3. With the NHL being locked out to start the year, I watched a lot of the NFL playoffs — and actually enjoyed them. There was some really exciting football going on.

4. There’s a new tiki bar in town, which was inexplicably, but awesomely, playing 90s hip-hop the night Alison, Lori, and I went. And ordered the volcano.

the volcano from Hogo

5. DC hosted another inauguration, which, like the rest of America, I watched from my couch, having decided I did all the freezing I need to do in the name of democracy back in 2009. (Yes, I know the photos are missing from that post — I somehow ended up with two Flickr accounts and those pix were in the one I didn’t keep. I still have the image files and will re-load them… sometime.)

6. I’ve gotten sucked into the new Kevin Bacon tv show, The Following, even though it makes me feel like I need to have my brain bleached after every episode — it’s very manipulative and extraordinarily violent.

7. Speaking of manipulative, my book group’s January pick was “Gone Girl,” by Gillian Flynn, which I highly recommend. It may not be literature, but it’s definitely a can’t-put-it-down read.

8. Eight… eight… I forget what eight was for.

9. The NHL lockout finally ended!

10. Nobody seems to have told the Caps, however  — they’re off to a 3-8-1 start. Only last night’s 5-0 drubbing of the Carolina Panthers has provided any hope that the season won’t be a complete washout.

11. Bad hockey, however, is still better than no hockey.

12. I am wondering, though, if my friend Mary (who went to the game with me last night) is a good luck, because she’s been present for two of the three Caps wins this season.

13. One of the local breweries, DC Brau, made Caps-themed shirts, which provided just the impetus I needed to finally drag my friend Rudi there for growler hours.

DC Brau/Caps shirt

14. Rudi also helped me do a “clean install” of the newest operating system on my computer, and recommended a memory upgrade which will make my four-year-old laptop as zippy as new.

15. One morning a week or so ago, I bumped into the soapdish in the shower and it fell right off the wall. It didn’t break, fortunately, though most likely because my foot cushioned its fall. Ow.

16. This past Friday, my friend Alison and I went to get donuts at a  new place (Zeke’s DC Donutz) owned by a friend of hers. We happend to arrive just as the staff was about to do a tasting of a new donut recipe, and we were invited to join in. This is about the best way ever to take a break from work, in case you were wondering.

17. Kai the hatchet-wielding hitchiker in Fresno is my current favorite thing on the Internet. And though the auto-tune version of his interview that I liked best is now gone from YouTube, there are plenty of others to choose from. (There’s also a GIF. I love the Internet.)

18. I’ve been slightly obsessed by the discovery of Richard III’s remains under a parking lot in England. Finding him was such an amazing collaboration between the history and science nerds!

19. I wrote a guest blog post for the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota about the Twitter chat I manage. If you’ve ever been wondering what the hell that is, here’s your chance to find out.

20. “Downton Abbey” is back! Yippee! (Though, OMG, so much sadness so far this season.)

21. The kittens are still insanely cute, and Carly is well on her way to being enormous.

Carly & Harper

22. I’ve seen four of the nine movies nominated for Best Picture (“Argo,” “Les Mis,” “Silver Linings Playbook,” and “Lincoln“). I don’t know if I’ll get a chance to see the other five, but my money is on Argo nevertheless.

23. I got a letter in the mail from my cousin a couple of weeks ago. I’d forgotten how nice it is to just get mail for no reason. (Consider this foreshadowing of a post to come.)

24. I’m a little bit addicted to the debut albums from Fun. and the Lumineers and couldn’t be happier about the return of pop music that sounds vaguely like showtunes, and that folk-inspired music is having a resurgence.

25. It actually got cold enough for a couple of days that I got to drag out the giant, puffy coat I bought to wear to the Winter Classic a couple of years back. First time I’ve needed it since then.

26. Less than a week after I needed my warmest coat, I didn’t need a coat at all outside — and it’s yo-yo’d up and down since then.

27. Of course, complaining about the variable weather here seems unkind when so much of the northeast got buried in almost three feet of snow this weekend.

28. One of the Ravens players made a snow angel in the confetti after they won the Super Bowl, which was just about the cutest thing I’ve ever seen.

confetti snow angel

29. I wish tomorrow was Presidents’ Day and therefore a holiday, but alas, it’s not until next week. On the bright side, I ordered king cake for the office tomorrow, so there’s that to look forward to.

30. The blog got a bit of a refresh, with a new, responsive theme. This means it should look equally good no matter whether you’re reading it on a desktop, laptop, tablet, or phone. Feedback is greatly appreciated.

Phew. I’m done. Never trying that again. Thanks for reading, if you made it this far.

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* If I’m being honest, I’m also stealing it from Japer’s Rink, one of our local Caps blogs, who started their own riff 30 Thoughts this past week. Though I read Friedman’s column regularly, it never ocurred to me to steal it until Japer’s Rink did it first.