morsla: (lookin)
I'm about to head off to Barcelona for the ICWSM conference: leaving tomorrow, and getting back in two weeks. I'm mostly ready... that is, I've packed just about everything I can think of, printed (and packed!) a poster to present at ICWSM, and I have a vague idea of where I'm staying. I still feel a lot less prepared than I'd like to be, but there are plenty of reasons for that.

I've never travelled solo in a country where I can't speak or read the local language, so that adds a little bit of stress into preparing for the trip. I'm looking forward to it, but really don't know what to expect. At some stage during the flight (almost 22 hours in the air, with a few hours in Singapore airport) I'll try to work out exactly where to go once I reach the airport, and how to say "I apologise for mangling your beautiful language" when I try communicating via phrasebook.

Money will be a bit of an issue this trip. I'm still yet to see any money in my account from a botched casual timesheet (four weeks of research assistant work), or a thousand dollars worth of registration fees for the two big conferences (reimbursement claim lodged a month ago). That means I don't have the easy safety barrier of throwing money at anything that might go wrong: most of my account has been emptied for the mortgage payment that happens while I'm away, so I will be doing my best to use those budget traveller senses that have been honed over the years.

In the past fortnight, I've had over a dozen people warn me about pickpockets. Most of the warnings come from people who have spent a reasonable amount of time in the city in the past two years, so I'm taking them seriously... Barcelona currently has the dubious honour of being the pickpocket capital of the world. So I'm hoping that I manage to keep my possessions, at least for long enough to consult a map and track down my hostel. Maybe I should write down that address somewhere.

The first few days will be spent in a backpacker's hostel on the western side of the city. During the middle of the trip I'm in a hotel, near the conference. Then there are a few days after the conference, which I have no plans for yet... I haven't booked anything yet, and will hopefully find a good place to stay in my first few days in the city.

So, yeah. Not particularly prepared, this time. I wonder where this road will lead me.
morsla: (Default)
Kinda busy this week - there will undoubtedly be a bit of lag on replying to emails, checking messages, etc.

Settlement for our house is happening today, and I spent yesterday chasing up last-minute problems with paperwork and finance. The vendor is charging penalty interest for the delay, so we'll try to get some money out of St George as the mistake was theirs. Right now, my bank account is empty.

The Business Plan entry is being assembled today, and is due by 9am tomorrow. We've spent the last three days on it, and have overhauled a lot of content. I have one more bit of industry research to write up, and then I'll spend the rest of the day working in InDesign.

Marketing brief and press release are also due tomorrow.

~320 pages of interview transcripts need to be read before the Small Business project meeting on Thursday. I'm putting my long train trips to use, looking for themes and quotes from the data.

Project summary for Small Business project also due on Thursday, for our progress report.

Briefing day for the Business Plan presentations is held at Ernst & Young on Monday 7th. I'm becoming the official "team leader" as I'm a full-time student. That also makes me the lead presenter, so I'll be fielding the majority of our questions.

30th Birthday is on Saturday 12th! Never have I felt older than in the past two months. Haven't organised anything yet - will try to wrangle something next week.

Business Plan presentation materials due by Friday 18th. These will need to be in earlier than that, as I won't be in town then...

In Brisbane for GenCon from Thursday 17th - Monday 21st. I'm running Warmachine demonstration games on Friday and Sunday, and playing in a timed tournament format on Saturday. Louise is running a freeform on Saturday afternoon. I forsee much Arkham Horror, cocktails and good beer during the evenings.

Business Plan presentation is from 3:15pm - 3:45pm, Monday 21st, followed by a media interview. We present to a panel of eight judges, all of whom are professional investors. Apparently I'm supposed to wear "corporate attire," though I don't actually own any such clothing.

I also need to re-book my flight back from Brisbane, as I'm currently due back in Melbourne after our presentation starts...
morsla: (vnv)
Dear diary,

On the holidays, I went to Coruscant. It had suburbs named "Chicago" and "Toronto," but I wasn't fooled at all. As soon as the sun went down, all traces of the natural world disappeared from the landscape and I knew that I was a long way from the old-fashioned trees and rocks we have back home.

More pictures under the cut... )
morsla: (Dawn1)
I had a sudden flash of nostalgia yesterday, as I waited for an early-morning tram down Bourke Street. I'd been awake for far too many hours, the tramstop was across the street from the old Abyss venue, and I was heading home...

Flying east without crossing the International Date Line is like taking a temporal crash diet. Since boarding the plane on Friday night, I've managed to lose two days. One of them was claimed by the timezones; a debt owed to replace the bonus day I'd stolen while flying to Los Angeles. The other vanished as my sleep debt caught up with me - seamlessly merging Sunday morning and night, with no trace of what happened during the daylight hours.

Now I'm back in familiar surrounds, seeing them from a new perspective. It's time to start work on the biggest task of the lot: where I'm going next. Over the next few months I'll be busy implementing all the new ideas I've borrowed from around the world, and slowly getting my business off the ground.

Instead of sleeping, I watched CNN Future Summit: Virtual Worlds on the flight back from Singapore. One of the panellists (probably Second Life's Phillip Rosedale) commented that a part of what we consider the "real" world is our ability to change it. There's something satisfying about returning from two months of constant flux, to a place where I can finally have some tangible effect on the world around me.

Enough with the typing... back to reality, whatever that might be.
morsla: (Default)
As much as I love maps, sometimes the best time to read them is after you've found something. That way, the all-important random wandering can take place, and you can still identify whatever you have just stumbled across.

I headed north up Rue Lepic this morning, heading for the trees barely visible at the end of the street. While looking for a spot to eat breakfast, I found Moulin de la Galette and Moulin Radet, and ended up in the Basilica du Sacre-Couer. Not a bad run, considering that I hadn't the foggiest idea what I'd find in that part of the city...

I'm a few blocks northeast of the Louvre at the moment, resting my legs and killing some time before I head out to the airport. In about five minutes, I'll finally have adjusted to using a French keyboard... just as I run out of time on this machine. Not long to go, now - back into the weird time-space vacuum of international airports, and then back home again.
morsla: (Default)
I know, I know - long time, no updates. Long time no internet, in fact - the closest I've come was a few minutes on CensorNet (public libraries in Devon Shire, where the mere thought of allowing people to use LiveJournal could see mild-mannered librarians having fits), and about two minutes in Perpignan attempting to use a French keyboard...

[ profile] aeliel is my hero. Not only did she adapt to a left-hand-drive, large, cumbersome, manual rental vehicle, and drive on the right (and correct) side of the road, her first few seconds in the car involved navigating around the 13-way roundabout at the Champs Elysees in Paris. She then kept driving for ten of the next twelve hours, until we reached Carnet en Rousillon around midnight... with frayed nerves and tempers throughout the car, which also contained her parents (who were sharing the driving).

Since I last posted anything in here, I've travelled from Edinburgh to Nottingham (to see the Games Workshop miniatures hall and some art displays), to Oxford (to see the ever lovely [ profile] deathbyshinies and Dan, and explore their town), to Birmingham (GW Games Day 2007), back to Oxford, to London (where I rediscovered an [ profile] aeliel at Victoria Station), to Torquay (where we met up with her parents), through the Chunnel to Paris, down to Perpignon, to Barcelona, back to Perpignan, and finally back to Paris.

If that seems like a long paragraph, try fitting it into two weeks...

Games Day was bustling, but seemed strangely quiet after Gencon - only about ten thousand people there... Sebastian Archer (a painter from Sydney) won first place in both single-figure painting competitions, so the world is slowly developing a bit more respect for the Australian painters. Oxford has all the important things in life (good vegetarian restaurants, bike paths, excellent company) and is slowly developing the other aspects like decent Mexican food - I think given another century or so, it will be a paradise.

I fell in love with Barcelona, after a spur of the moment decision to visit it for a day yesterday (Perpignon is closer to Spain than to most things in France). I already want to go back - partly to walk down all the winding laneways in Barri Gotik, and partly to eat everything in the marketplaces of Las Ramblas. So much good food, so little time to eat it in. Also, my Spanish seems much better than my French. I don't speak much of either, but I can translate signs and menus fairly well...

[ profile] aeliel and I almost missed the TGV to Paris this morning, but stumbled into the first carriage with seconds to spare. It's the only French train I've ever seen to run on time. We're staying in Montmartre tonight, surrounded by some of the best patisseries I've found so far. [ profile] aeliel leaves first thing tomorrow morning, and I fly out at 11pm tomorrow night. By Sunday night, Melbourne time, I should be back home again - although I make no promises about being conscious until at least Monday.

I have about eight hours to kill tomorrow, and a grand total of eleven euros to spend. I think I'll spend some of it walking along the Seine, and the rest of my time and money in the bakeries near the hotel. Hope you're all doing well - I'll see most of you in person soon.
morsla: (Dawn)
Culture shock!

I've spent the last few days on a bus trip around the Scottish highlands. Small group of people, small bus, small towns. Suddenly I've reappeared back in Edinburgh, walked into a crowded internet cafe full of people using Skype to call relatives overseas, and I've spent half an hour finding tomorrow's target (Games Workshop HQ in Nottingham - via Edinburgh and East Midlands airports, and the Broadmarsh bus station) in Google Maps. Life certainly moves at a faster pace in the cities...

Of course, three days aren't enough to really see the highlands - instead, I've been scouting for places to put on the Must Come Back To list. Unfortunately, it's a very long list. I could happily spend months in the mountains of Glencoe, even if it does rain virtually all year. I scrambled around on rocky trails and shorelines whenever the bus stopped, wandered through ruined castles, and learned a lot more about the long and bloody history of the highland clans.

I swam in Loch Ness, as the water was warmer than the wind and rain outside. I met a battered looking backpacker who managed to "fall off" Edinburgh Castle the night before the bus trip, bouncing 140 feet down the cliff to crash into a spike-topped iron fence - winding up with only two lots of stitches and a few bruises. Two nights later he was dancing (on one leg, mind) in an Inverness pub.

I've also been complimented on my "very good english" by a local in the Oban Inn, who apparently thought we spoke something different down in the colonies. It's a strange place, but it's the best sort of strange. I hope that I'll be back in the hills before too long.

Tomorrow: Edinburgh Airport by 6am, then through Nottingham and on to Oxford, all by public transport. Wish me luck.


Sep. 16th, 2007 02:57 pm
morsla: (Dawn)
"Scotland Not Britain" reads one oft-repeated chalking on the buildings of Edinburgh's Old City. "End English Rule!" is proudly marked on a building across the laneway. Nationalistic pride is strong in Bonnie Scotland, but I think they have it all wrong - far from being under English rule, this part of the world appears to have quietly become Australia's most northen city.

The Australians are everywhere - if it's not a recolonisation attempt, it must be some sort of infestation. I've been served by them in pubs and shops. My hostel seems to be a breeding ground for them - all the staff are aussies, and well over half of the 200+ guests. TripleJ is playing in the shop down the street. I always thought Australia ended somewhere a little bit north of Rockhampton, but apparently we've managed to annex part of Scotland along the way...

Yesterday I joined a walking tour of the Old City, and then headed off to the Royal Botannic Gardens - mainly to see their huge glasshouse complex, filled with relic species a few million years out of their comfort zones. After finding most of the exits closed for renovations, I took an unplanned detour across 92 acres of parkland - wandering through a Chinese medicinal garden before finding my way out.

Today, I went to Our Dynamic Earth - a new museum, focussed entirely on the Earth Sciences. They have a pretty heavy bias towards geological exhibits, with a tiny bit of atmospheric and oceanic science - not that I'm complaining, mind you :) A good mix of exhibit types kept even the smallest members of the audience amused, although the scripts used in the film displays are aimed well over the heads of the kids. Some nicely built displays, especially in their evolution area.

My favourite section was the very last - using a planetarium-style dome projector to show complex decision making at work. The audience is divided into three groups by rotating floor panels, and each is assigned the task of voting (via armrest buttons) on Energy, Population or Water issues. After each vote, the three areas combine as the display jumps ahead a few decades - showing the benefits and problems caused by each step.

Unfortunately, my camera has died some time in the past 24 hours - possibly from the humidity of the glasshouses. The colour balance is shot to hell (electronics problem), and the focus is out across half the field of view (lens problem?) - all I can really do is hope that any trapped moisture evapourates, and that the camera will fix itself. That means I'm unlikely to get any photos of the Highlands over the next few days, though.
morsla: (Default)
I've spent most of today swallowed up within the vast grey void of the international airport domain, as the airlines decided to send me from Dublin to Edinburgh via Heathrow...

Heathrow is a winding maze of narrow, signposted passages. It's a comforting claustrophobia - I was quite content to scurry along, happy in the knowledge that the covered walkways were protecting me from something unimaginably vast out there. The bulk of the airport lurked out beyond the walkway tubes - occasionally looming large on the other side of a window, and then mercifully hidden again. I was glad to escape the labyrinth with my sanity in as many pieces as I'd entered with.

After spending about an hour in the rabbit warrens, I can confidently say that I have absolutely no idea which part of the airport I was in, or how much of it I saw. All that I know is that I bought the world's most expensive sandwich for lunch, when my normally reliable constitution baulked at the thought of having muesli bars for the fifth week of travelling...

For my last night in Dublin, I went to Johnny Daly's "Food, Folk and Faeries" at the Brazen Head - apparently the oldest pub in Dublin. Johnny is a masterful storyteller, and split the evening into three parts (punctuated by hearty servings of some excellent food). I arrived early, and had a pint of Guinness while he launched into the first chapter - daily life in Ireland, for the landed and landless farmers. It's a significant portion of Ireland's history, and one I've heard from a few sources now. Here, Johnny used it to introduce the conditions that helped Irish folklore to evolve over the generations.

Food arrived, more drinks were ordered, and our resident bard moved on to the main area for the evening - detailing the world o' the gentle folk, and their history in Irish myth. Unlike most of Europe, Ireland was never taken by the Romans: with its cold climate, they christened it Hybernia, and decided against fighting in a land that seemed cloaked in perpetual winter. As such, the country escaped the initial wave of conversion to the christian church. When the church finally made inroads into Ireland, it did so in a far subtler fashion - incorporating itself into local myth and legend, and gradually subverting the stories. The fair folk became fallen angels, soulless creatures of white blood, cast down from Heaven. Their trickery was an attempt to lead humans astray, or to mingle their bloodlines with the red-blooded mortals who were assured a place in Heaven.

Johnny finished up the evening with a motley collection of yarns garnered from all about the country - of piskies and pookas, leprechauns and banshees. It was a good way to wind up the Irish leg of this trip, and to celebrate a couple of birthdays (September is the month for them, it seems) at the same time. Not the cheapest thing to do in Dublin, but if you're a fan of folklore I recommend it.

Now I'm in Scotland - staying in a hostel right in the shadow of Edinburgh castle. It seems like a friendly place, possibly as most of the occupants seem to have been there for several weeks. I've managed to find my room (no room numbers on my floor - I'm in the Puzzle Room), and after trying my keys in all the lockers I've found my bed (again no numbers, so I'm sleeping in the worryingly titled Pandora's Box). Judging by the vast piles of football gear covering the floor, and club banners hanging from the beds, I'm guessing that it's a room full of guys who are here for the rugby. Some peaceful nights ahead, obviously :)
morsla: (lookin)
I'm posting snippets, mainly so things don't fall straight out of my head.

Just before leaving Dublin on Monday night, I saw Ketzal at the Fring festival. The show was... manic, bewildering. I loved it. From the opening moments (when the audience have to fight to clear plastic and foam off their seats, and are promptly clambered across by a tall man with a habit of picking up the audience and rearranging them), to the tearing down of the backdrop (which was used to fend off a group of other performers who'd been hiding behind it), to flooding the theatre so they could run about trailing droplets and ripples (in the best tradition of many Hong Kong crime flicks), the show kept going at a frantic pace.

It also went almost half an hour over time - if it appears in the Melbourne or Adelaide fringe festivals, don't schedule anything directly after it. It's a bit of dance, a bit of circus, a bit of bizarre costuming (mostly done with gaffer tape, black plastic sheets, and a few bits of coloured cloth). I don't make any claim to understand what went on, on stage or among the audience. I do know that it was the most fun I've ever had at a fringe show...

The trip to Bushmills took three buses and about six hours, heading north on the inland route. On the way, I met a Spaniard named Angel, who was riding a bike around Ireland in his two weeks of annual leave. The weather was closing in, he'd been riding for five hours already, and so he decided to catch the bus I was waiting for at Coleraine. A few hours later, we were having a few drinks at the only open pub we could find in the town...

Bushmills is a comfortably quiet little town, a few kilometres south of the causeway. If you ever visit the place, keep in mind that the hostel doesn't open until 5pm - I arrived at 2pm and wandered up and down the (short) main street to kill some time, browsing through a second-hand bookstore. After looking longingly at their hard-bound Ordnance Map Survey collection (I love maps, but I couldn't fit the things into my bag) I settled on a copy of "The Fairies of Ulster" - a handmade book, reprinting a series of articles from an Anthropological journal circa 1858.

I spent all of Wednesday on the coast, walking first to the Causeway itself - where I think I spent a few hours, climbed everything in reach, and took about a hundred photos. I love a national treasure that you can climb on :)

I then headed east past the Organ Pipes formation, until the paths were closed by landslides on the cliffs. Turning to the west, I walked to Dunluce Castle via a nice strip of beach (I had the place to myself, and walked barefoot through the waves) and Portballintrae (Ireland's Portsea or Sorrento - although I guess we copied them) - full of Mercedes and BMW's, and bereft of the cheerful greetings I'd had elsewhere on the coast.

The castle (thanks for the tip, Hugh) was well worth my £2 entry fee - despite the busloads of tourists who were taking photos from the road, once I crossed the entry bridge I had the place to myself. It's been heavily damaged by cannon fire across the ages, and the northern walls (and kitchen) fell into the sea one night - prompting the lady of the house to move the family home inland. Still, the round towers are intact, and I got to climb up a winding set of stairs to get a view all the way to Portrush, in the west.

I'd had glorious weather all day, but dark clouds blew in as I left the castle - a meteorological warning that it was time I headed back Bushmills. The warning came with impeccable timing, too, as I reached the old distillery just in time to join a tour...

Bushmills have been producing their whiskeys on site since 1608, making them the oldest licenced distillery in the world. After almost four hundred years, they've turned it into quite an art, too... I'd tried their "original" the night before, and sampled the twelve year old House Reserve after the tour. It was like drinking a roaring open fire - one sip and I could see why you'd use it to thaw out people frozen in the snow. I left the distillery with a lighter wallet and a heavier bag, having bought myself a bottle of the house reserve as a birthday present. I'll open it up for a suitably momentous occasion - looking ahead, I think there will be several coming up, over that horizon.

And that, in many more words than I'd expected to type, is the short version of what I've been up to over the last few days. The long version? Well, the best way of describing a tale is to tell the tale, in its entirety...
morsla: (Default)
It's a sad day when you can't get a drink amidst all 64 acres of the world's largest brewery. Still, if there's one thing I've learned this trip, it's that anything is possible - especially if it goes against whatever you had planned to be doing.

I walked over to the Guinness Storehouse this afternoon, worrying about a couple of things: that the streets (which never seem to have signs) were leading me so far from the River Liffey that I'd end up in Galway Bay, and that the blisters on my feet would force me to investigate the bus routes that might take me home. When I finally found it (realising at last that I'd been inside the brewery district for a good five minutes), brewery employees and yellow-jacketed Federal Security officers were standing around looking worried.

Last week I'd spoken to a Scot, about the worryingly short opening hours of Canadian pubs. We'd just had last round called at 1am, and weren't sure what to do with the rest of the evening. "If a pub didn't open in Scotland, it'd be a disaster - might cause a riot."

Of course, in the Guinness capital of the world, that would never be a problem. Unable to get a pint at the brewery itself? Unheard of.

Well, except when undisclosed "maintenance issues" forced the lower levels of the storehouse to close down this afternoon, preventing any thirsty tourists from getting into the building. "Workplace safety," they said. "But I've already paid for my drink, and I leave on the first bus tomorrow morning" I said.

I've been promised a refund, and given two complimentary tickets for a tour and pint at the brewery - expiring this time next year. I doubt I'll be in town to use them, but I'm sure someone out there is heading to Dublin before then. If you are, have a drink for me.


Sep. 9th, 2007 06:31 pm
morsla: (Default)
Q. What d'ye call a northside Dubliner in court?
A. The accused.

Q. What d'ye call a southside Dubliner in court?
A. Your Honour.

Dublin's been great so far. I've already walked off two edges of my map (note to self: get a better map). After two cities with right-angle streets, I've had some trouble adjusting to narrow, winding laneways - but the best thing about travelling on foot is that if you walked there, you can generally walk back again later on. In my many miles of rambling, I've wandered past everything from super-trendy Temple Bar restaurants, to a group of teenagers trying to demolish a parked car using 2x4's. I've since decided not to plan any shortcuts via the housing commission flats up north.

Getting here proved a little harder than expected. Apparently, airlines have about a 10% drop-out rate on seats allocated. Their solution? Simply sell 10% more tickets than they have seats. I spent a few hours in Toronto Airport, waiting to see if they could fit me onto the flight that I'd paid for. Five minutes before boarding started, I was finally given a seat...

Once in Dublin, I headed to the hostel to crash for a couple of hours - partly feeling the jetlag of a five-hour shift, but mostly just feeling the end of a week's poor sleeping habits. Globetrotters feels like the result of describing a hostel to a luxury hotel owner, and then having them try to build one based on their own experiences. It's great - security entrance out front, sparkling clean stainless steel bathrooms, comfy beds, muted lighting all through the building.

After spending about three hours walking blindly about the city, I decided the best way of finding out what I'd seen was to take a tour. Lucky I did - it turned out to be a damn good way of speed-loading about sixteen centuries of Irish history into my head, courtesy of Tommy Graham's Historical Walking Tour. As he said at the start of the tour, "You'd better pay attention - otherwise you might miss a century or two."

My "wander blindly into big events" abilities are as keen as ever, it seems. Without realising it was happening, I saw the opening bit of the Toronto International Film Festival, and now I've arrived here in time for the start of the Dublin Fringe. I've just bought a ticket for tomorrow night's performance of Ketzal - a dance/circus hybrid from Russia, which sounds like fun.
morsla: (Default)
It's almost 2am, and a taxi has just dropped me off out the front of the hostel. I've been at Niagara Falls today; a landmark that somehow manages to overpower the Las Vegas-style casino town that's growing on both sides of the river.

The falls, especially the upper rapids, are beautiful. It's a primal, savage beauty that says "don't f**k with me" to all the property developers, casino operators, and any shipping on the river. It's mesmerising to watch. A few metres from the top of the Horseshoe Falls is the rusting hulk of a cargo ship that was caught in the current - scuttled by its crew to prevent the whole thing being dragged over the edge.

The town surrounding it is well worth skipping entirely, and I'd happily avoid it if I come back to the area. I've enjoyed most of the meals I've had over here, but tonight's plate of spaghetti and meatballs from a tarted-up roadside diner (put some cloth on the table and you become a restaurant...) has been a culinary low point so far; costing an arm and a leg, and not tasting much better than the truckstop food in central Henan Province, China.

Still, if I have to visit any bloated tourist trap on this trip, I'd rather visit one with a waterfall capable of tearing through four feet of limestone each year :) I'm glad I went - good company, good photo opportunities, good day out.

It's when the day was winding down that things changed a little...

Half an hour out of Toronto, stuck in that grey limbo between offramps on the highway, we blew a tyre on the bus. The girl in front of me, drifting off to sleep, was sitting right over the wheel. I don't think I've ever seen someone wake up, jump out of their seat, and run to the other end of a bus quite so quickly...

Of course, changing a bus tyre isn't as simple as fixing a car. And the only company Moose can use for repairs had their one truck on the other side of Toronto, two hours away. So we sat, and talked, and waited.

Eventually, the driver called for cabs. Eventually, the cabs began arriving. It's a Thursday night, and the cabs were sent in from Oakville - not exactly a happening nightspot at the moment, so I think we used every cab in the area. Right now, I'm quietly packing my bags out in the hallway (so as to avoid waking people in the dorm) - I check out of the hostel at breakfast time, and I'm determined to get everything ready so I can beat the queue to the showers before then.
morsla: (Default)
Okay, so I'm not actually employed as a geochemist, but I have the qualifications for it. The joke in question is actually the story of last night's trip out to Queen Street.

Ever seen someone walk into a pub and shout "a round of drinks for everyone, on me" at the top of their lungs? Neither had I.

After a round of drinks at the Black Ball, four very loud Americans wandered onto the patio, offered to buy drinks, and then staggered back outside again. After a few comments from the crowd ('sure, just leave your credit card at the bar') everyone settled back down to their earlier conversations. Then the group came back in, sat at the table next to us, and called over the waitress.

"We'll have a round of vodka shots, and forty - no, fifty beers for my Canadian friends. Yes, I'm serious."

The buyer didn't seem to have any particular reason for doing it (he mentioned that his 50th was in two weeks, and then decided to announce that it was his birthday today), and he succeeded in getting the whole crowd to sing him Happy Birthday. After a quick speech ('this is a present to thank my loyal Canadian allies, from us angry, angry Americans') he tried to get a rousing "Oh Canada" going, but the patio was full of backpackers who had no idea of the words.

And then, as suddenly as they had arrivd, they paid the bill (platinum credit card), tipped the waitress (counting out a handful of American $20 bills), and they staggered off down the street. I don't know where they came from or where they went next, but I appreciated the drink.

I wonder what my next dose of randomness will bring...
morsla: (Dawn1)
So. Algonquin Park. It looks nice in the travel brochures - guess I'll have to cut out a picture to take home.

I called last week to book two tours, and the one on Thursday is still apparently going ahead - unfortunately my booking for the three-day trip to Algonquin has vanished into the ether. The tour company has no record of it, my name wasn't on the passenger list, and so I waited at the hostel for almost two hours before finding out that the bus left without picking me up...

I'm getting my money refunded, but I leave Toronto before the next tour departs. No national park visit on this trip. I also have another three days to fill in Toronto, after I ran around finishing all the things I really wanted to do.

Now to kill some time until they'll let me check back into the hostel I checked out of this morning...
morsla: (vnv)
Today, I am but a shadow of my former self - burned into a nightclub wall by brightly-coloured lasers...

Or perhaps shadow isn't the right word. I think 'residue' might be more apt. My god did I sweat a lot last night.

After two days of stubbornly willing my blisters to fade, I had recovered enough for a night out at DarkRave last night. Despite the queue stretching up the street and around the corner, I managed to get in just before 2300, and somehow managed to spend the next six and a half hours dancing flat out in a club that could serve double duty as a sauna (airflow? what airflow?), pausing only to gulp down another drink...

Good crowd, good music and friendly bar staff made for a pretty good night. The only thing I really missed (other than being able to breathe) was the lack of friendly faces in the crowd - especially [ profile] aeliel and [ profile] jilavre. Also, in Melbourne random people often come and chat between songs, or at the bar. Last night the only people striking up a conversation were looking for somewhere to buy pills...

I really shouldn't have found it quite so funny, but I amused myself during the night by watching the pill-poppers wilting one by one when they ran out of energy. As the music got faster a girl demanded to know what I was on, and wouldn't believe me when I told her that I was running on a couple of litres of water :) Exercise is good for you, kids. Let your body make its own chemicals.

The club had two rooms - the main room had Psyche headlining, bracketed by industrial and psytrance DJs. Generally good, but they proved that occasionally you can play too much Combichrist in an evening - understandable though as the band is touring here soon. The back room was run by the VampireFreaks group, and was... odd. Often odd in a good way, but the music was far too varied to rely on. The back room decks broke down in the middle of the night, falling silent halfway through a Skinny Puppy track. With only the occasional screech of feedback for company, one girl kept right on dancing to the music in her head...

The club was only five minutes from my hostel, but I took a two-block detour on the way home to pick up a litre of gatorade. Back at the hostel I had a shower, and slipped into my dorm at 0600 - just as my roomates were beginning to stir. It was a good night, and something I think I really needed. Now I just need to make it out to clubs more often back in Melbourne.

I'm heading out to Algonquin Provincial Park tomorrow, and will be back on Wednesday night sometime. Time to head away from the city for a while...
morsla: (Default)
I like what I've seen so far, in Toronto. Unfortunately I've covered so many kilometres of footpath sidewalk that I ended up hobbling about the place, blisters on both feet...

Hopefully my feet have recovered enough for a night out. Queen St. West is rapidly filling up with goths, and there's a shade more black on display in the hostel common room. DarkRave v.91 is on tonight, and it looks like fun - I'll head over there in a couple of hours, once I've had time to cook some dinner.

Jonathan and I spent the afternoon at the Airshow, volunteering for SmartRisk - we spent a few hours handing out giveaways, talking to people about the organisation, and being deafened by the jets flying overhead. A good way to spend an afternoon... plus, it got us in to the airshow without having to pay for the tickets. I think the F-22 takes the prize for loudest piece of military hardware on show, while the Canadian Snowbirds stunt team had some very sharp formation flying.

The only downside to spending eight hours in the sun is that I'm now glowing like the red paper lanterns that decorate chinatown at the moment, and I need to drink a few litres of water. I've just returned from the traditional Red Bull and Gatorade shopping run, and I'm looking forward to the club.
morsla: (Default)
I seem to have been swept up by the current in Toronto... I hit the ground running (mainly due to Jonathan's lightning one-hour street tour after meeting me at the airport), and haven't really stopped yet.

Last night's serendipitous discovery reminded me of watching films with [ profile] fetnas, [ profile] futurelegend and [ profile] virtual_munkee... while walking up Yonge Street, I stumbled across the closing night of a free open-air cinema.

Not just any cinema, mind you. A twelve-week Sci Fi marathon, pulling a regular crowd every Tuesday night. For the final screening, they showed Fritz Lang's Metropolis, which in its original form was a silent epic spawning most of the science fiction film we've seen over the following eighty-odd years.

Not so silent here, as two local musicians (Cameron McPherson and Delivery Boy from Echo Deck) played two hours of live trip-hop to accompany the film. Very eerie, atmospheric sounds, adding a great vibe to the evening.

I also struck up a conversation with the person sitting next to me (frantically marking a stack of assignments he'd brought along), and my notebook now has a couple of pages of restaurant recommendations. One thing I've noticed about the city so far is that everyone's very quick to offer advice about everything from the food, to the public transport, to the sightseeing.

After the film finished, I wandered back to the hostel through Toronto's own metropolis. With the illuminated CN tower hanging half a kilometre above me, looking for all the world like some kind of spaceport, Toronto looks far more sci-fi than any 1920's vision of what the future would bring.
morsla: (Dawn)
Oy. I think I've been spending at least eleven hours a day on my feet... but it's my brain that's starting to hurt.

On Saturday, I joined Helen and Brett for a trip to the Museum of Science and Industry - aka the grand repository for all the stuff too big to fit anywhere else in Chicago. One room has five aircraft hanging from the ceiling, including a Boeing 727... and a chamber under the front lawn has a complete German U-boat, captured in 1944. We arrived two minutes after they opened for the day, and left at closing time, eight hours later. I think we read, watched, steered and climbed through everything that's currently on show - a long day, but a good one.

Sunday was a Museum-free day, but not a walking-free one. Starting south of the Loop, I walked up North Michigan Avenue in search of some new trail shoes (I'm starting to wear through the bottom of the old ones), and kept going until I reached Ohio St beach. After spending the day on my feet, I found a comfy spot to sit on the shore of Lake Michigan until skyscrapers cast long shadows that darkened the sand. It's a nice spot, but I still think it's strange to find a beach that doesn't smell like the ocean...

Still gravitating towards tourist attractions like a moth fluttering around a candle flame (actually, I had a ticket that needed using in my CityPass booklet), I headed up the Hancock Building to set up a camera on the 94th floor. Pictures will have to wait until I'm back in Melbourne, as I have neither cable nor card reader with me. I did manage to get some nice shots of the beach I'd just left, and I finally put my tripod to use for some long exposure shots of the streetscape after sunset.

Today's adventure was a trip to the Shedd Aquarium. Not something I would normally have visited if the CityPass didn't have tickets to it, as I usually associate aquariums with the "Sea World" popcorn-and-trained-animals imagery. Shedd was something completely different, and by far my favourite site in the week of museums.

While they had a deep water pool for the dolphins, my favourite exhibits were the Amazon ecosystems - complex displays of river life from throughout the monsoon cycle. Conveniently, the reptiles tended to come out while I watched them, perhaps because I timed my arrival to avoid the small children banging on the glass... For a few moments today, I stood as still as the caimans while crowds of visitors surged between us. Fortunately, the dolphin shows drew away the family groups - leaving me alone to enjoy the rainforest.

When I reincarnate, I want to be a turtle. A really big one.

Next up: back to the airport tomorrow morning, and then on to Toronto.
morsla: (Dawn1)
Chicago takes a while to get up to speed, but when it does, it doesn't stop. I've been waking up hours before others in the hostel, and walking through silent streets waiting for things to open. Fortunately, most places are still going well into the night - my 'normal' bedtime is well after midnight, so there's plenty of stuff to do.

Like, for example, randomly stumbling across a free concert in Millenium Park. I heard the self-proclaimed 'circus punk marching band' during their soundcheck, and stayed for the whole show. Mucca Pazza are a big group of band nerds, and they make a big sound. Dressed in brightly coloured, mismatched marching band outfits, they make a big spectacle on stage as well - especially as they come with their own cheerleaders. Well worth the wait until they came back on stage.

The concert was called 'Sing Me Back Home' - mostly comprised of the New Orleans Social Club playing with a lot of blues musicians from Chicago and New Orleans. The crowd filled the park with picnic rugs early in the night, and then everyone got up to dance by the end. I wasn't sure what my Friday night would involve, but a few hours of live blues closed the week nicely.

Earlier in the day, I wandered through the Field Museum of Natural History with [ profile] peacockangel. Despite spending many hours in there, I get the feeling that we only saw about a quarter of the exhibits... in some architectural sleight of hand, the building seems a lot bigger on the inside, and it's pretty imposing from the outside too. The Field hosts the largest Egyptian collection I've ever seen, complete with slabs of stone bearing original carvings.

I've decided that you can never trust those sneaky archaeologists, though. (Hi to the archaeologists reading this, by the way...). For the most part, they're all about deducing social contexts for artefacts, and unravelling the mysteries of the past. I'm convinced that one day, on some imperceptible signal, they'll turn on the humans of the present - sealing us away in bakelite, claiming that it's "for the benefit of future generations." Our current infrastructure might fade away without continual maintenence, but a well timed flood of epoxy resin could preserve whole neighbourhoods for posterity...

September 2014

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