28 Feb 2009

In the land of GMT+10, Skippy & Steve Irwin...

I'd been meaning to post this one for a good long time, but never really had any dedication to finish it off, so here goes. Here's the belated posting of BTUC From Downunda, as composed during my 'recent' winter holiday to the homeland of Qantas, Hugh Jackman, and that Prime Minister who looks surprisingly similar to our Fluid Dynamics lecturer.


Blog Title Under Construction is coming to you today from Sydney Harbour, in a nameless internet cafe and/or hacked resident’s unsecured wireless network, gazing out at the Tyne Bridge Harbour Bridge and Sage Gateshead Opera House. Yes indeed folks, this nerd is spending his winter break in Australia.
As a matter of fact, it turned out to be Starbucks Coffee. Sadly the wi-fi was overpriced with a download cap as opposed to the (apparently) free counterpoint in the UK.

Two weeks of questionable bliss in...

A nation that celebrates Christmas with fir trees, turkey, fake snow, Santa hats, reindeer antlers, carols, Cliff Richard... in the middle of summer with 20-30oC temperatures.

A country that sits 10 hours ahead of Greenwich Meridian Time, 11 if you’re in Sydney where they apply Daylights Saving Time.

A land that is just about to introduce Freeview digital television – OMG!

A state with somewhat limited internet access in urban regions.

The itinerary involved a helluvalot of travel.
One flight over to Dubai avec Emirates, departing UK early afternoon, arriving in the Land of the Married Cousins and Teatowel Brigade around 2am local time. A short power-nap in the airline’s owned luxurious hotel followed, before a 5am wake-up call, a short continental breakfast, and dash back to the airport for an earlyish flight. This long slog across to Brisbane featured a quick refuelling stop at Singapore, home of the “You chew gum, you chew bullet” federal policy, offering a nice little break to stretch the legs between two eight-hour flights. Final arrival into Brisbane airport was at 6, a.m., local time, on a Saturday. Initial departure was a Thursday afternoon.

Initial week was spent up the coast in a semi-suburb of Brisbane, Queensland. For the lavish price of ~AU$55 (about £25), I took out a week’s access to the ‘high-speed broadband’ internet access on offer. Or rather, 250 kilobit per second download rates. For comparison, the term ‘56k’ refers to 56 kilobits and was fairly traditional dial-up speed in its heyday. For further comparison, it’s 10Mbps with Virgin-and-Tonic Media back home, a factor of 40 faster. Sadly I’m a greater fan of the silicon in this Dell XPS M1530 laptop, than I am the silica residing on the beach, but it’s always great fun to stand and watch your sibling try and fail at surfboarding!

After one week up there, it’s one week a little bit further down under here in Sydney. It’s a mixed blessing that we’re doing Xmas in Oz, but a Christmas Cruise ‘round the Harbour is never quite the same as doing the traditional routine back home. *sigh* We depart on the 28th, so we’ll be missing out on the New Years’ Fireworks.
Reading various adverts at bars along the harbourside, ticket prices for their individual events on NYE were either in the region of AU$300, or not listed.

Impressions of Australia...
Terrestrial television is rather slanted, with 5 Murdochian stations – Fox Sports 1 through 3, Fox US News and Sky News AU/NZ; three or four national networks, featuring mostly late arrivals of US/UK series and programming overloaded with commercial breaks.
Whilst watching Ocean’s Twelve last night, they made 3 hours out of a probably 90-120 minute film. I probably watched the same advert for Christmas discounts at Generic Store Alpha about 10 times... America may have a similar overload of commercial breaks, but at least they had 5619 pharmaceutical ads to cycle through.

Sydney feels rather overpriced, especially the “£5 for a 200ml bottle of Coke” minibar and then the ‘AU$0.55/min in-room, probably dial-up masquerading as broadband’ internet connection.

Australia’s economy is looking a little screwed currently, with them being pretty reliant on China for export revenue on alumina, and apparently that market is drying up also. Coal industry specifically is being hit hard by economic progression it seems.

Events of the fortnight included a trip to the wonderfully-managed "Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary", offering photo sessions with its perfectly docile and marginally overweight inhabitants - got mine in '09 calendar format too. I have to commend their quick-thinking to get the domain http://www.koala.net registered.

Having watched Indiana Jones IV on the flight over there, I had a sudden desire to acquire some form of leather fedora/bush-hat, essentially to pull off the pose on the return flight, whereby I dozed with the brim fully closing over my head in shade. AU$75 from a gift-shop in Sydney, kangaroo leather (ethically-sourced in the government-authorised and managed annual cull) with a nice durable feel to it.
Can be seen here [I randomly decided to wear it for some engineering structural design testing here in Cambridge, which was promptly Facebook'ed]

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