Travel Thursday Snapshots: How I Became a St. Kilda Fan

Back in the mid-nineties I was on my first official trip to Australia (official=non-military-related). It was my first time in Melbourne, and I wanted to visit a friend in one of the suburbs despite the rain that wouldn’t let up my entire trip. (Is it any wonder I prefer Sydney?)
So I jump on the tram/trolley/train/whatever and end up sitting next to a lady in her 60s or so, with whom I amuse myself by pretending I’m a local and checking out how well I can do the accent.
When I got to my stop and said goodbye she looked surprised, at which point I realized I’d forgotten the accent. “Bloody Yank!” she laughed and waved as I dropped off, a nice memory as I searched for the right address to find Christina.
A few hours later I was back at the station, though in no hurry, as I had nothing planned for the rest of the day, just wandering downtown. This time I was sitting next to a big blonde guy who would not be out of place in a boxing ring in Russia or Germany, but his cheery “Good day, mate!” left no doubt he was in his natural habitat. We spent the whole ride talking, mostly on the differences between our countries, and then he asked me if I’d ever heard of Australian Rules Football.
Oddly enough I had, which surprised him. I’d actually only caught a glimpse of it on a sports news show, where a player was sitting on the grass with his right kneecap somewhere in the vicinity of his lower shin. The amazing part was that he didn’t seem to be in any pain, simply staring at this weird circumstance. . . until he drops his hand to try to smack the damned patella back into place. Still the strangest sports moment I’ve ever seen. . .
He agreed with a huge laugh, then said he was a player on a local team named St. Kilda—the Saints, as one might expect—and invited me to come watch them practice. Having found the game an interesting mix of soccer, American football, a touch of basketball, and possibly some others, I heartily agreed, and was happy I did when we walked into the stadium and the team manager asked if I wanted to dress up and play, despite not knowing what the hell I would be doing.
So of course I said yes!
It wasn’t easy. The hardest part was getting used to the ball, which was more or less shaped like an American football, but quite a bit bigger. Having been a wide receiver and kicker in high school, I eventually made some good catches, though I had no idea it was okay to whack your opponent in the back or climb all over him. The kicking was a bit more difficult, as I was used to booming it as hard as I could, not aiming at a teammate thirty meters away. The hand passing was hard too, never having seen anything like it. But I was really excited to score a goal, even in practice, because this sport has by far the best scoring salute by a referee.

Oddly enough, in this gif St. Kilda just scored!

Oddly enough, in this gif St. Kilda just scored!

My best moment was going on a long run through the midfield, barely remembering to dribble that silly-shaped giant ball, dodging a few tackles with a couple of spin moves, and then kicking on the run in the general direction of the goal. Turned out to be a forty yarder right over the last defender, and as I tried to slow down I pictured the umpire in my mind with his double-gun salute. . .
It was magical. . .
;o)

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Book Reviews: Outback, Mars, and College

“Hope you had a great weekend!”
“I had a weekend. . .”

The Doom Loop!
This book deals with boredom in the workplace; too bad there was no advice on dealing with the boredom of this book.
Which is not to say there isn’t some good stuff in here, if you’re into this type of business stuff. From a symbolic logic standpoint it’s interesting seeing how the four variables work despite their simplicity. It’s basically the psychology of the workplace.
It’s the presentation that doesn’t work for me. I actually think it could have been even shorter than its 100 or so pages, once you take out the diagrams. For one thing, there was too much repetition. Despite being intrigued by the premise at the start I quickly grew bored. This would probably only be helpful to human resources people.
2/5

Fear is the Rider
Female photographer in the Australian Outback shares a drink at a way station with an architect. He’s so smitten he follows her off the main road, picks her up when she’s attacked and her car is stolen. His sedan versus her land rover on a small track, like a submarine battle in the dust. There’s also scenes in an abandoned mine, a closed-down hotel, a bunch more road, and a walk to a cave of the Dreamtime. In addition to the wacko after them, they have to make it through heat, dust, sand, and a huge fire.
For something claiming to be a novella, it sure reads longer. Toward the end I felt as bogged down in the sand as their car, even though I read it in a little over an hour late at night. . . which I wouldn’t have, had I known this could easily fit in the horror genre. Would have liked at least one sentence to explain why the Man was after them; not a whole psychological profile, just enough to make this emotionally worthwhile.
3/5

Keep Mars Weird
In a future Earth that appears to be like Harrison Bergeron’s, a guy who is clearly a stickler for following the rules gets into a fight over a girl he thinks he loves but blew him off; he can choose his punishment: jail or Mars. Since the advertising says that Mars is such an awesome party place to be, he chooses that option. Might have been better off in jail. The reality of space travel—cheap space travel—is just the first step in showing him how wrong he is. The ride from the spaceport to downtown New Austin is a huge second.
There was one info dump near the beginning; thankful for the info, but not so much at once. In general this story was a good idea, good sentiment. Appreciate the parallels to the present situation with income inequality and corporate greed, and especially advertising, media, and scholastic brainwashing. But the story itself could have had more to it, been better. The dialogue was there, but at times too snarky for its own good, especially Leonard. On the other hand, there were a bunch of tiny gems that could easily be missed, like “The University of Austin’s prestigious Willie Nelson School of Natural Pharmaceuticals.” And there is a spot about halfway that could be the dictionary definition of how you do a cliffhanger.
By the end of this part of the story—it’s a continuing serial, by the book and you get updated as new parts come out—the protagonist is completely brainwashed into being everything he was fighting against; the bad part is it took so little, even discounting sleeping with the gorgeous daughter of the main bad guy.
3/5

The Semester Of Our Discontent
A newly minted college professor at an exclusive university clashes with the evil department head, so of course he turns up dead. Is her cousin the poetry teacher guilty? Why won’t she explain about the design that keeps showing up, especially as a tattoo on her body?
The story is a little longwinded; when I got to chapter 8 I was surprised to find how much there was left. I did like the main character; witty always does it for me. There’s plenty of fun dialogue, aside moments that have nothing to do with the plot. But here’s another example of my pet peeve, where no clue is given as to who the murderer might be. We read mysteries to see if we can figure out who it was before the detective in the story, but the author needs to play fair and give us a chance, more than “it’s the person you last suspect.” I also have to agree with the protagonist that the secret her cousin and others was keeping was not worth all the crap that happened, especially spending weeks in jail.
3/5

;o)

Book Review: K9 Blue: Duck and Weave

{Me Tarzan. You give me book early, I write about it. This that follows happens.}

First thing to mention about this adventure/police thriller written by Matt McCredie is that, according to what I could glean, this appears to be a sequel, but other than to further establish the main characters it doesn’t seem to screw with the reading of this one.
Another note: after going on a ride along with a Redondo Beach K9 unit, I’ve been researching this particular branch of police departments and military. James Rollins has also written on this, but I was particularly pleased to find another book on the topic.
Falcon and his human Mike are cops in the police department of Sydney, Australia, as is Sarah, Mike’s girlfriend; there was probably more about them in the previous book, but oh well. There’s more than one plot here; what starts as a tale about corrupt drug-running cops and a secret organization turns into a chase story, which then becomes a military mission in Afghanistan before returning to wrap up the original.
To show the bond between man and his best friend, there’s this: “Falcon was running off Mike’s energy and knew his handler was upset with the two men in front of them; he barked and lunged at the closest one, snapping his jaws shut a centimeter from his groin. Both detectives recoiled at the sudden attack.” But Falcon is also just a dog, playful as any puppy with his human. My favorite scene is when Mike and Sarah are making love on the beach and Falcon sticks his nose–or snout–where it doesn’t belong.
The spycraft is pretty good, particularly a scene about cellphones designed to baffle the pursuers. Another great example is when they disguise themselves so outlandishly that when the bad guys are interviewed and tell the cops who they were fighting against, they wouldn’t be believed. Thankfully there’s plenty of humor, such as: “The big dog’s excitement overload sent him lunging toward the fight. Mike was caught off guard for a brief moment, hanging onto Falcon’s lead as he lost balance, fell forward and was dragged face first through the dirt by his partner as the dog’s rear legs found traction on the loose surface.”
So while I enjoyed this in general, and wished there was more Sarah, it has to be said that this author is not yet very experienced. For one thing, there’s a lot of redundancies–“sweating a river of perspiration”–and for another there’s empty verbs, such as “said” and “demanded;” with no adverbs. At one point I wondered if the author was trying to reach a certain word count.
Another example:
“Good boy!” yelled Mike.
“Arrrrgh!” yelled Tank.
“Grrrrrr!” yelled Falcon chewing on his hard-fought snack.
Funny dialogue, not much imagination when it comes to style, with three “yelled” in a row. Still, I think with some polishing this author is well on his way to better things.
3.5/5

;o)

Travel Theme: Sky

So, this week on the Ailsa Travel Blogging Network, and intrepid and mostly fearless leader is looking up at the atmosphere with a gaze of wonder. And just to go along with the theme, here’s a little mashup for Joss Whedon fans, involving Firefly and Agents of Shield: You can’t take Skye away from me.

Philip Island, Australia

Philip Island, Australia

The Empress of Victoria, Canada

The Empress of Victoria, Canada

Tiny town on the mountains of Mexico

Tiny town on the mountains of Mexico

Portland bloodshot

Portland bloodshot

;o)

Travel Thursday: Alicia from Alice Springs

My first time in Australia I got to see. . . pretty much nothing, since I landed in Sydney after a damn long flight and was moved right to a military plane for the hop to Alice Springs; I was asleep and never got to see Ayers Rock out the window either.
For those who don’t know, if there’s any of you left, there’s a “top secret” military base near Alice Springs, basically a place to download all the stuff coming down from the satellites and spy on Russia and probably now China. But even though it’s no big secret anymore, it’s still very security conscious, and I was joining a team looking into possible leaks from either the personnel or the workers, like janitors and such.
I don’t know if there was no room left on the base, or whether they expected us to check out those workers at home, but we were put up in a hotel on the outskirts of town, where I slept away most of the day. Luckily Alice isn’t that big, but when it’s 110 degrees it’s big enough. Anyway, I was going downtown for the first time to find a place to eat before I started work the next day.
I don’t know what I was expecting, but it seemed like a typical small Midwestern American town. I saw a regular-looking school on my walk, and a few blocks later there was a gym with babes doing aerobics. Next to it was a porn shop, which I did not go into! {At least not on that walk.} I might have watched the aerobics class for a while, had it not been so hot. And the odds were not very strong that the porn shop might have air conditioning. Besides, I was hungry.
As I looked away from the aerobics babes, I saw this incredibly beautiful blonde walking toward me. It was even more of a shock as I realized she was the last thing I expected in the middle of the Australian desert. Why wasn’t she in Sydney, or Hollywood?
I’m sure I was gawking at her, and she seemed to have a slight smile in place, like she was usta being stared at by horny guys, particularly Americans, and had learned to accept it and maybe even have fun with.
Anyway, one of the things every resident and visitor to the area remembers is the flies. They’re huge, and there’s billions of them. Everywhere. You can’t escape them. On my next trip I bought a face net at Ayers Rock, they sell by the thousands. The reason this is important is because as I’m gawking at her, a fly lands right on my nose!
Well, if you’re gonna bright side it, at least it didn’t go into my gawking mouth. In irritation I move my hand up to brush it away, but I forgot I was wearing a cap. I hit the brim instead and caused the cap to fall over my face, blocking the view of that wondrous creature.
So I yank the cap away, feeling incredibly sheepish, especially when I see she stopped in her tracks and was bent over laughing. Wonderful. . .
A couple of days later I found an air-conditioned mall during my explorations. I was surprised to find a mall in such a small town, and even more surprised to find it so empty. Later I was told it was build to attract the Americans from the base, so they got most of their business at night. Anyway, I wandered the stores until I came to a sports shop, not so much the kind that sell equipment, but like the ones in the malls in the US, where they sell caps and jerseys and such of professional teams.
Just for the heck of it, I went in to see what teams they sold. I was hoping the local teams would have better names than just Kangaroos and Koalas. Turns out some of them had the same names we do, like Lions and such, although there was an Aussie Rules team named the Swans! That doesn’t figure, not very masculine.
But then I see they have a whole American section, Mostly basketball, but some football and even baseball. . .
And then, as if it had been waiting for me all my life, I spotted a UCLA cap.
So what? you’re thinking. You must have dozens. But this was a classic, literally. They’d only made a few of these, blue with gold lettering; they’re making them again now, but you can tell the difference. Rumor has it some fans steal the old ones, right off of people’s heads.
So I immediately grab the cap before someone can beat me to it and march right to the front counter. . . well, it was a small store, so it wasn’t much of a march, and it was the only counter. I hadn’t seen anyone working there, but since the door was open, I figured someone would eventually show up. I didn’t want to go outside to check because I wasn’t letting the cap out of my sight, and they probably had those sensors on the door, so as I waited I checked out the goofy key chains in those little racks on the counter, which is what I’m looking at when I hear this voice say “Try to keep this one on your head.”
Yes, our heroine finally arrives. I wondered just what a woman like that would be buying here, only to discover she was the clerk! Of all the really dumb luck!
Anyway, one thing led to another and we ended up going to dinner that night. We became friends, and you’ll never guess what she does now.
She works for the Australian version of the FBI. . .

;o)

Travel Theme: Light

So this is what it’s like to relax on a weekend. . . oops, spoke too soon! Volleyball tomorrow, Egyptology conference and a burlesque show on Sunday. . . don’t worry, I’ll just be taking photos, not performing.

So back to the Ailsa’s Travel Blogging Network; this week she’s a little lightfooted with the theme. Too bad I already used my “floating” stuff in “UP,” so I have to go with regular ol’ lights. . . or not so regular. . .

Something to gawk at while you wait for the opera to begin. . .

Something to gawk at while you wait for the opera to begin. . .

Or the train. . .

Or the train. . .

Or another train. . .

Or another train. . .

Or if you're in the right place at the right time in Australia. . .

Or if you’re in the right place at the right time in Australia. . .

;o)