Australia's wildlife is absolutely amazing. Just the birds are stunning in range of colours. And there's something simply awesome about seeing some wild wallabies bouncing along by the road. And the Blue mountains!!! Fantastic place. The city life is cool too! There's plenty going on in both Sydney and Melbourne. After spending some time in Sydney, and getting a feel for the city and exploring away from the city centre, I warmed to the place, but still think I prefer Melbourne. It's just so much more visitor friendly, and the bohemian areas are more bohemian, and I like the trams.
I've met some lovely people here. emma_roberts80 especially. But loads of others were really awesome and I loved meeting you all.
I think my next holiday will have to be combined with a convention. Sweden or Reno & San Francisco?
Sydney airport is very shut. Doors are closed, everything's shut down, but for some reason the escalator on the other side of the barrier is running.
There are a couple of dozen of us with the same idea waiting for flights to Auckland, Singapore, Dubai, Christchurch, all sitting in the lobby of the railway station because it's the only building that's actually open. Many people came prepared with sleeping bags and pillows. They're prepared. Why can't Sydney airport accommodate us? All we want is a cafe and an area with comfy seats to wait in. Maybe something kip-on-able.
Do all airports close between midnight and 3am? There's clearly a demand for something to be open. Maybe no the entire shebang but at least one coffee stand.
I guess I could have spent more time in Sydney. There's just only so much to do there though. I had a nice meal saw a movie (Scott Pilgrim - absolutely brilliant movie - not nearly enough movies do gamer/comic culture), had a drink or two at an overpriced bar of severe trendiness. But really I need a nice place to sit and relax for the next few hours.
Check-in opens at 3. Just over an hour and a half to go.
So I thought I'd wander round town. It's pleasant and inexpensive. Wandered into Paddy's markets. I have a voucher for a free bag but have no idea where to get that from. Walked into the mall and back to the Converse shop that was having a clearance sale. They'd miraculpusly spawned a pair of bots in a colour I liked, and only $40. Bargain. I handed a $50 note and was given my change with apology for the small denominations. As I walked out and counted the change something seemed wrong. There were four notes. They were blue. The blue ones are ten dollar notes. They were extremely grateful that I came back to correct things.
Next stop Chinatown. It seems a curious feature of the world that every city over a certain size has a Chinatown. I bet there's even on in Shanghai. Not that much to see there though.
Walked over to Newtown. Pleasantly studenty, with a huge used bookshop selling computer books just $2 each. Just in case you need to know how to configure Windows NT 4 or are having issues with Word 95. Stopped to see a very tiny sculpture garden. A piece of astroturf with some small models on and some students doing origami. Had an origami lesson and chatted to the students. Much fun was had.
Now I have one more night and a full day to use up.
Top tip - never take a flight leaving at 6am. Airport buses and trains don't run that late. You need to check in at 4am which given there's travel time and getting up time on top of that, this even makes sleeping seem a bit pointless.
I'm not sure a single day is enough to really explore the mountains, but plenty of time to get some nice views and pleasant strolls.
So I took the express bus down to the skyway, rode the skyway across the sky, and took the "scenic railway" down the cliff. This is the steepest railway in the world, going down to 52 degrees at its steepest. Sort of fun. Not sure the Indiana Jones theme was really necessary.
Katoomba was once a mining town. The Scenic railway was part of the mining rail lines, and there are a few bits of discarded mining equipment still lying around the area, as well as a couple fo displays complete with recorded commentary which is something I find a little annoying. The walkways are very pleasant though, with many a sign indicating the interesting trees, a lot of them seem to be telling us about terrible things that have happened to Turpentines.
Was delighted to meet an annoying Australian. I was starting to think the cocky outbacker stereotype didn't really exist.
Got on the bus, went around to a short walk down to Leura cascades. I was tempted to follow the path to Echo point, but there wasn't a good indication of distance. That and I had no idea whether the path might have become less beaten. It probably would have been fine but I wasn't really equipped if the walk did turn out to be longer than expected and if it turned out to be colder than I expected. Both unlikely but I had the option to wait for a bus as well. Bus took me to Seven Sisters viewing point and Echo Point. I bought myself a bush hat.
On pixiequeen10thk 's recommendation I went to Common Ground. Nice ambience, and good food. Made it to the station just in time to miss the train so I had an hour's wait for the next one. Plenty of time for a quick half of Amber ale. Despite location the pub seemed to be popular with the locals. There does seem to be a slightly funky geeky alternative crowd.
And so finally I got the train back. 2 hours. I had accidentally finished my book in the first half hour of journey out but I do have several audiobooks on my mp3 player to choose from.
Day was finished off by me trying to find a train going in the right direction. First candidate was delayed due to passenger illness so I was directed to platforms 20 and 21. I eventually found platforms 20 and 21. They were nowhere between platforms 19 and 24. When I found theme there was a train about to leave for my stop. After sitting on it for about 5 minutes we were told to get off because actually the train was terminating there because the driver's relief hadn't turned up. Next train arrived and waited about 10 minutes for that to start moving. If I knew the city better I would have walked. Certainly would have been quicker. Central to Museum is only 1 stop. So, I got to the hotel and my keycard had stopped working in the lift.
Sometimes I feel my life is a budget 8-bit text adventure game.
Met up with a friend from Brighton who is working in Sydney. Went for dinner. Got very wet. Ate a delicious swordfish steak. I used a voucher I got from the day pass on the monorail for a free dessert (which cost more than the day pass so that was worth it). My social requirements are satisfied for a day or two.
Was hoping to meet up with other friends but seems undoable.
Am still conflicted about plans. Had replanned to do Manly on Wednesday partly because I'm wildlifed out and wanted to do urban stuff and partly because of weather. Want to visit the brewery. 4 Pines brewery in Manly is doing an Oktoberfest thing on Thursday. OTOH, just want to visit the brewery and Wednesday nights look pretty cool generally. Indecisiveness is a bad thing. I need less information.
I wasn't totally sure whether it was going to be warm so I packed an extra layer just in case. Forgot about the possibility of rain. Decided the way to deal with rain was simply to get wet.
So, the zoo - it's a zoo. Cable car up to the plaza, animals from around the world. Lots of hyperactive kids rushing around. There was a very impressive bird show. One of the demonstrations had a bird peck a coin from an audience member's hand, and drop it in the keeper's pocket, then dropping the coin back in the keeper's palm. Not only is this an impressive trick but a clever money raising scheme. At the end of the show, kids can give coins to the bird to drop in the collecting area. The seal show was amusing as well. It does slightly worry me that their behaviour in the show is learned rather than natural but they seem to enjoy themselves.
I had a couple of hours spare, and a ticket so had enough time to see Sydney Wildlife World. Lotsa spiders and insects and some possums. Also saw some kangeroos and more wallabies. Sadly the weather meant they just wanted to hide under shelter.
Plans were the Blue Mountains tomorrow but that does depend on weather a little, also on mood. May do Manly instead.
So anyway I think I'll avoid the more expensive activities for now. Climbing the bridge could be fun but I can find other things to do.
Today was a rapid sightseeing day/bearings getting day. Walked to the Sydney Opera House mainly to get a feel for map distances, then up to the Sydney tower because I like observation towers. It's good way to get a feel for a city and to see what there is to see. So I saw what to see and was pleased. Decided to go for the 4 attraction pass, although not sure if that was a good idea or not. The aquarium was decent enough with lots of sharks and things but I have no idea if I want to see more of almost the same stuff at Manly Oceanworld.
That said, I'll probably be vbisiting Manly. It sounds like a place where I can be all Manly.
Rode around on the monorail. Have an all day pass. Will have to ride around and find somewhere to eat to take full advantage of this. Time to find somewhere to eat.
Fortunately it's the weekend. Melbourne is one of those cities that does weekends. Lots of buskers and things, including a dragon dance team in Chinatown, a very shy violinist who hid behind his violin when I took a photo (either that or he expected money before photos but I thought it was a good photo).Wandered around the south bank. Put $1 into the slot machine since I felt I had to try the casino and didn't want to waste too much there. I fouind the slot machines confusing. Roulette, blackjack, Poker, and horse racing I can see are fun. There's that little buzz all the time that you might possibly win. Slot machines just seem so random especially when they're entirely digital. It's just a switch somewhere that determines whether you've won or lost.
At a loose end, I went back to Federation square to see if anything was going on. Found a bit of ACMI that I missed the last time, a nd randomly bumped into another con geek at the cafe. Which was nice.
Then went for dinner because it's always nice to have someone to eat with.
Then was a little anxious about getting back to the Hostel that had my bags before it closed. Then just missed the bus to the airport and was a little anxious about getting the plane (How long before take-off can you check in anyway?). But I made it. QANTAS Domestic is like taking a flight in the 1980's. I'm too used to long distance international with seat back entertainment systems. Having a low quality projector and having the stewardesses actually demonstrate the use of seatbelts is something I haven't seen for years.
I have to wonder though, why they still serve meals on short haul flights. It's 50 minutes. Even including boarding and waiting for baggage, there's only 2 hours, with food available at both ends. Most people can cope for that long without eating. What is it about planes that's so different from trains and coaches? Also bemused that people care enough to pay the extra for business class but I guess if the business is paying, why not.
And do we really need lifejackets for an overland flight?
So anyway, Hello Sydney. I have bag at last. Now to find the buses.
First step was finding where they kept the sun. I only knew where Jupiter and Saturn were. This did give a convenient direction though, so I shortly found Mars. Earth was a short distance away and Venus Merury and The Sun soon showed up. And another body that appeared to be slightly larger than Jupiter. This was Proxima Centuri. I was jut looking at it from the wrong direction. Each of the planets has an plaque with an arrow pointing to the next one and giving a distance. Proxima Centuri's pointed in the opposite direction and said the distance was 40000km.
It can be interesting heading off on a pointless obsessive task. You get to see other odds and ends. There was a display about the bridge at the harbour entrance, of which a single pillar remains, something explaining the navigation beacons in the harbour, a plaque pointing out a chimney that's was a local landmark. Just little quirky things like that.
Total length of the solar system at this scale is about 4 miles. I've done a fair amount of walking today.
I relaxed at the bar and waited for the sun to set. The other reason to visit was to see some more penguins. And get some photos. I was told they hide under the pier. And I did see some penguins. They were hiding in the rocks being adorable at us. No sign of the water rats though.
I was treated like a damn criminal! I'd paid for this! The Old Melbourne Gaol is worth a visit where the ticket includes the Arrest experience. All the fun of being lined up against the wall, checked for drugs, I was designated the criminal for the day. Actually had met the prison guard at the convention. Apparently I was caught manufacturing drugs. I wasn't on drugs. Just sleep deprived. We were then thrown into a prison cell. I pulled out my imaginary harmonica. It's a pretty gruesome depressing place. You'd have expected this given it was a prison. Saw Ned Kelly's armour, saw all the exhibits. Had a fun afternoon.
Discovered a shop that sells chocolate pizza!!!
Met up with Emilly. Was introduced to Sumana. Ate food. Drank chocolate porter. Ate dessert. Was also given a free comedy act courtesy of Sumana which was absolutely hilarious. Saw live music courtesy of Justin Carter and Rosie Burgess trio, who were all pretty good.
The Penguin Parade tour this time. I boarded a very full double decker coach. The driver's name was Bruce. All Australian Bus Drivers should be called Bruce. Bruce told us the sights, made various jokes, and observations along the way, told us about the penguins. We arrived at Phillip island and stopped at a farm.
They had Wallabies there!!! They were cute. Also several birds. Far too timid to get close enough for a photo though. I miss my old camera already. I forgot just how useful an optical viewfinder is for high zoom, and using continuous wind on fast moving objects. Birds are just way too fast. The inflight velocity of an unladen swallow is pretty damn speedy.
So after far too little time there we were herded back onto the bus and on to the next stop. Koalas! No need for a high shutter speed here. Difficult to get a good photo though. They're all up trees and generally facing in the wrong direction. Apparently there are other animals here but I didn't see any. Did get a couple of good snaps of koalas though. They may not pose but at least they're not inclined to rush around. Sok herded back on to the coach again, and onto the penguins.
Note for omylouse (I'm assuming you'll want to visit) - The cafeteria at the penguin visitors' centre is pretty awful. Didn't seem to be much of a vegetarian option.
The Little Blue penguin is the smallest of 17 species of penguin. It reaches about 30cm in height. The population was been hit quite heavily in the 19th century by the introduction of European animals, and then in the 20th century by careless holidaymakers trampling on their burrows. The remaining Phillip Island colony is now very well protected, and looked after with great care by the rangers.
At dusk, after the likely predators have gone to roost, the little Penguins creep out of the water and march across the beach into their burrows. We get to see them walk up. They're really quite cute. But they're also very tiny. You don't get a great view of them from the viewing platform unless you're near the front and to the left (or the right if you're on the left viewing platform). But once they're off the beach, they walk along and past the boardwalks and you can get to see them right up close.
So we actually had enough time here, which was good since that was the whole point of the exercise.
Still, I enjoyed it and that's what matters. Caught a quick glimpse of a camper van that had rolled down the hill. First stop was Devonshire Tea (freshly baked scones - very nice), and feeding of kookaburras, rosellas and other native avians. The Devonshire Tea was nice in that they seated single people together so we could have someone to chat to. I was with a Korean girl who was either shy or not good enough at English and an Indian Executive Producer for Star TV.
Next stop was the train ride. A preserved Narrow Gauge ride, called "Puffing Billy". It's hard to work out whether that was the name of the line or the engines or the service or what. It was fun though and they actually encourage people to sit on the edge of the coaches with legs dangling out.
So we had the train ride, then went on to the "unique" town of Sassafaras. Unique in that it appears to have a population of about 30 but can support three teashops, a toyshop, and antiques shop, a shop selling nick-nacks, and a couple of sweetshops.
That was only a morning tour, so I went down to St. Kilda in the evening. Someone mentioned "Lentil as Anything". A volunteer run vegetarian restaurant where they spend their profits on various worthwhile goals. My table had a map on it. It must have been quite old because it still had the USSR on it. A very loud pair of women came in. Well, one was loud and seemed a little out of it. According to her "I'm not on drugs, just sleep deprived". Then she whispered "because I was in the lockup all night".
Had contacted the photographer girl I met the yesterday to see if she wanted to meet up. Eventually she caught up with me. She was feeling a little rough after a heavy night the night before. There was a nice art area/garden. Beach would have been a lot more pleasant if it was summer and stuff was happening and it was warm. Dipped my toes in the water to see what it was like. Wayyyy too cold.
They have a scale model Solar system along St. Kilda beach. Saw Jupiter and Saturn. May go back sometime and find out what the sun is.
Checked back through emails to find out where the veggie restaurant was that ghostpaw had recommended. Found the place. It looked a little closed. Then I realised that was actually next door, and the closed bit was just an annex or something.
Sat down at a large table, and chatted to another single person because she had cameras. Actual proper film cameras that take film!!! One of them had a polaroid film alternative back, which was really awesome. We chatted about comic books and Doctor Who and where the cool places were. Seems my geekdar still works.
I had the world's biggest ever falafel wrap. I had no idea where to start. Seriously there was enough food on that to feed me for a week. Took various photos around the town. Found a second hand bookshop that had a very old and somewhat foxed Official Star Trek magazine in a basket outside, and a lovely selection of books including one abut 2 decades of Doctor Who, one about cyberspace and art, and another about Picasso.
So that was a pleasant place to wander. I guess I could have spent longer there and explored more thoroughly rather than just looking at shops but that was pretty cool.
I did have plans to eat with one of the people I met at the con but she cancelled last minute. In hindsight that wasn't really a problem. I really am exhausted. A quick bite and retiring to my room to relax and read and watch telly was probably the best thing for me.
The scheduled events for the day ended with the Hugo Awards. It's Worldcon. Many cons have panels, masquerades, Guest of honour speeches, and parties, but only the Worldcon has the Hugo Awards. It seems silly not to attend the ceremony. My main impression seems to be of an interesting experience rather than excitement.
Many people dressed up very nicely. Men in tuxedos, or in some cases, period costume, ladies in posh frocks. It's a serious award ceremony, and high profile in SF publishing. As such there's something of an air of respectability to it.
The ceremony started with the Traditional Australian start of ceremonies ("I'd like to thank the ancestors..."). Awards were given. Speeches were made. Most were short. Some people got quite emotional. I was pleased to see Girl Genius win an award. Slightly surprised Doctor Who won since Epitaph 1 was really good, but I suspect the large Australian presence (50% of attendees, and abut a third of eligible voters) and the fact that DW is actually shown over here, was a factor.
I would have been surprised had anything other than Windup Girl or The City and The City won best novel. I'm sure everyone was surprised when it turned out that there was a tie between them.
Met jeanieofoz and her friend Emma who was absolutely lovely. JeanieofOz had to disappear but Emma was happy to accompany me to the parties. Emma is an absolutely adorable sweet and also extremely affectionate girl:) We had a lovely time together and later I felt guilty about worrying JeanieOfOz by returning her a little late... Alas Emma wouldn't fit in my luggage and I wouldn't fit in hers.
So that was Sunday. Monday was a quiet affair. I was a little tired. Went to a couple of panels. Helped with teardown. Last panel was on the Beschdel Test. Sadly the panellists had to cancel. We figured that just because there was no panel there was no reason not to still do the panel and it worked nicely enough as a round table. In fact it's what I think the last panel item should be like.
Closing ceremony ended with the traditional handover to the next Worldcon (Renovation 2011). I have to say, the chair of Renovation did a fantastic job of selling that one.
So that was that. There was officially no Dead Dog party. There was a helper's party that I went along to. Caught up with Emma again. Eventually found the unofficial dead dog party. Always a shame when a con comes to an end.
Still think that the 2014 Worldcon should take cues from 2005 (and Orbital 2008) more than Aussiecon. There's something about the cons I like where they give the impression of being thrown together by a bunch of people with completely different ideas about what a con should be, so they do everything!
Apparently I missed some comment at some point in the masquerade that has been apologised for.
I'm avoiding overexerting myself. I think I'm feeling a lot better for it.
Apparently there was nobody running the masquerade yesterday until one of the UK con crowd decided to take command.
So, by about 3:00 I was absolutely exhausted and hid in my room. Nice to be able to do that. I sort of forgot that I'm an introvert. People exhaust me.
After a couple of hours rest, I no longer hated the entirety of humanity and was okay to go to parties.
London Bid was again extremely popular because it had alcohol! Other bids looked fun. There was a party for George R R Martin which meant I got into the awesome private function space in a club at the casino. Would have been cool, but I forgot I don't like clubs.
And there was a Masquerade. Which was a little disappointing. The costumes wrre good and I rather liked the format. People went on stage, did their bit, and then the hosts asked them about it afterwards so that was cool.
Internet access at the station seems to be getting worse.
Taking it easy today. Want to preserve energy.
Thursday, I got to the opening panel by opening time. Went to some panels. One of them was about humour in Spec Fic. "Steampunk is what happens when goths discover brown".
Note to self: Sign up for panels for Redemption. Didn't here because I had no idea what sort of mood I'd be in.
Seems to lack the enthusiastic chaos and sheer busyness that I felt at Glasgow in 2005 (although that was twice the size). Lack of real Ale bar is a shame as well. That's sounding really negative. It's a great con, and I'm meeting lots of people and having fun.
After the last panel item I randomly saw a couple I recognised from Eastercons and Discworlds and said Hi, and was suddenly invited out to eat. Went to party for Montreal thank you, Met samara_47 (waves: hello!!!) who was enthusiastic and drunk and was invited to a room party in a nice suite.
Volunteered to help man the London 2014 bid desk. Been to more panels. Volunteered for infodesk. Got additional ribbons on my badge.
Saw jeanieofoz while at desk. Went to eat with the UK geeks.
Am now at station blogging and working out which parties I'll go to and what to wear.
Went to Tim Burton Exhibition. Was probably worth it just for the cute animated short - Vincent. Am tempted to make an Edward Scissorhands costume at some point or a mad hatter one. Sadly no photos were allowed.
Also had a look at ACMI. Decent enough movie museum.
Bought a Myki card for the trams. Similar to Oyster except Oyster works and these are really flaky.
Pub crawl. Started off with a piss up in a brewery. Directions were rubbish. Stops out in the sticks aren't all labelled on the route map. Brewery directions don't mention stop numbert. Just the name of an adjacent street. Eventualy got there. They did a sampler platter - 4 smallish (third of a pint?) glasses on a wooden board, each with a different beer. Nice idea. 4 very different beers.
Followed up with the Lambs Go Barrrr. Bad pub. Huge selection of bottled beers from around the world. Chocolate porter was interesting.
Apple/Pear Cider in Mrs. Parma's. Pub #4 was Penny Blue. By the time I left there were only 4 of us. Then there were three. I'm sure the others went on to the next pub after I left.
Feet are really killing me. Am going to spend as much of the con as possible sitting down.
Have found launderette. Now need to find coins.
Have sorted out phobile SIM, and the number is 0061 468850146 (0468 850146 inside Aus) if there's anyone at the con who reads this and might want to contact me.
So, last night I went to Nandos. It was a little empty. I had all three staff to myself. They don't do bottomless Coke here though!!!
Walked past a bar that actually had some life in it on the way so called in on the way back. Chatted to a girl at the bar. Nice girl. From Florida. Travelling around the world. A couple of people were playing the prize machine thingy (match up blocks to win a prize). They won too much crap so randomly gave us some. Then encouraged me to have a go. I failed to understand the first time and completely lost. Second time I had another go. Won a minor prize. Didn't understand how it worked and ran out of time so ended up going for the major prize.
Options were... Camera, mp3 player, phone, cigarettes. I don't want cigarettes, have a better mp3 player than an iPod shuffle, a better mobile phone than was on offer and ended up choosing the camera even though I'd just bought one. No idea what I'll do with it. Maybe ebay...
Was a good icebreaker though. Ended up forming a nice throng of the four of us generally chatting and having a good time.
(edit: fixed number)