Monday, July 30, 2007

A film at its Prime

If you want to see a film that revels in just being a big fun, cheesy, actionfest then you can do far worse than going to see Transformers. I went to see it at the weekend and really enjoyed the whole thing. The movie kind of feels like two different films with a definite change when the Transformers start talking. The Transformers (at least the Autobots), when first introduced, seem to be aimed at children (which is fair enough as they are childrens toys) which is slightly out of place from the lead up that's been given, but you deal with it by the general coolness of the CGI. There was a completely superfluous subplot with the NSA signal analysts, which could easily have been cut without really affecting the films overall plot, but it was harmless enough having it in there. Some of the battle scenes between the Autobots and Decepticons are pretty hard to follow as they're really fast paced with so much going on. They definitely require being watched on a huge cinema screen. I was surprised that there was a quite a large comedy element to the film, which actually worked really well. You'll be unsurprised that like with most recent blockbusters they've set themselves up for the sequel, but I'll be looking forward to it - maybe they'll even get Leonard Nimoy back as a Transformer (it might be pushing it to have Orson Welles again though).

As you'd expect you've got to suspend the thinking part of your brain for the film, but in general I sat through the film with a big smile on my face thinking "Woah, that's cool".

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

On top of the world

After a few fairly uneventful flights I'm back among the northern-hemispherians - oh, Polaris how I've missed thee. The main event being that I managed to spill a glass of orange juice down my trousers as I was setting off from Brisbane airport, so spent the rest of the trip with a vague orangey stain on my upper right leg. There were also a few issues with Qantas's inflight entertainment system, but these were resolved which allowed me to watch the last five minutes of Zodiac from where I'd previously been cut-off. There'll likely be some photos of my travels going online soon, so keep your peepers peeled.

My general impression of Australia was that it was a great place (even potentially liveable in), so I'm going to make efforts to go there again - now when's the next conference there...

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Fraser and Dave

First things first - I've not read Harry Potter nor will I for the forseeable future.

I'm now back in Brisbane for my last night in Australia. I'm again in the hostel Bunk at which it seems that Sunday night is the pumping party night, so rather than partying I've decided to plonk myself infront of a computer - I'll go for a beer or two later.

My stay in Bunk earlier in the week was pretty good. I was sharing a room with seven Irish folk who were traveling together. I went with them to a local pub where we indulged in two of my favourite passtimes - drinking and karaoke. We did attempt to go clubbing in town, but encountered a queue that appeared to be glacial in its progress. The next moring, after being incredibly quite so as not to wake my room mates, I left for the bus station to catch the Greyhound to Hervey Bay. I'd heard some bad things about Greyhound coaches and I feared the worsed when I encoutered a crazy person trying to check in for the coach. Luckily he wasn't getting on my coach (in fact I think he'd just randomly wandering in off the street and wasn't after any bus) and when I boarded I was pleasantly surprised - there were only about 10 of us on the coach and there was tonnes of leg room. The coach trip was unevenful and I arrived at Hervey Bay on time.

In Hervey Bay I was staying at the Koala Resort hostel. This seemed nice enough, but the rickety shacks that made it up were later shown to be inadequate insulation for the bloody freezing night that was to come. The problem with Hervey Bay is that it's dull as fuck. It's basically a stop off point for people heading to Fraser Island, but they haven't thought to give it any sort of nightlife. My hostel had a nightclub, but they didn't even bother opening it cos no bugger was around! I was reduced to sitting in the TV room for a while watching a show where the Aussie tennis player Mark Phillipousis had to pick a girl from a variety of desperate women.

After a very unevenful night I headed off to the one and only reason for being in Hervey Bay, Fraser Island. We were met on the Island by our tour guide called Dave. Dave was apparently one of the tour companies most experienced guides, but by all accounts there most mental - he knew his stuff, but liked to talk (mainly using inappropriate comments) and laugh (mainly at his own jokes, or even just at random sentences/words)non-stop. Fraser Island, as I may have said in previous posts, is the largest almost entirely sand island in the world and home to a large amount of dingos. We saw a dingo pretty much straight after we set off in our 4x4 bus. The first day involved part trekking through the forest and part driving places in the bus - Fraser Island's is big although not huge, but when you have to drive everywhere through sand it can still take a while. We visited Basin lake and later in went to the major attraction that is Lake MacKenzie. As there was water there I had to go for a swim, which was pretty nice although I was still the only one in my group who braved the water. At Lake MacKenzie I met back up with some of the guys from my Contiki tour group who were also on the island. That evening we were staying in some lodges on a nice Fraser Island resort called the Kingfisher Resort. These lodges had heating, which was a great advantage over most of the people who visit the island and have to camp. Watching the sunset that evening from the island was really nice. Food on the island was also really good. We finshed off the evening with a large amount of drinks from the resort bar. Maybe I'll recount some of Dave's pearls of wisdom some day.

The next day was an early start (I'd got used to these) and we set off to drive up the beach. The beach drive would have been something I'd have loved to be able to do myself, but it was still fun being driven by someone else. This day was pretty windy which meant that when out of the bus we were generally being sand blasted (you've got to expect that on a sand island) and the sea was pretty choppy. We visited thhe wreck of a ship called the Moheno and then carried on up the island to the Champange pools - these were a couple of rock pools on the beach with the surf breaking into them. As ever I was the only one to go for a swim. We then headed to Indian Head, rocky outcrop which gave great view over the island and sea - there was the possibility to see whales, but as the water was so choppy you wouldn't have been able to make anything out. There were a few more sights seen, but that evening I headed back to Hervey Bay - again it was dull.

Today was back on the Greyhound to Brisbane. During the trip we had a minor breakdown, but it didn't hold us up too much. Now I think I'll go for my last couple of Aussie beers. Next post from back in the UK.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Brisbane backpacker

I'm now in Brisbane where I left the tour group I was with to be a proper backpacker - they all wept as I waved them goodbye ;) I'm staying in a hostel and everything - it's called Bunk and is actually pretty nice from what I've seen so far. I'll give it a review when I've tried it's full range of services. I now just have to think up something to do tonight.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Duuude... wipeout

This morning went surfing for the first time (a group of us on my tour had a learn-to-surf lesson). When I say surfing what I really mean is flailing about in the water sometimes while holding on to a surf board. Staying on the board while lying on your stomach is hard enough and the waves we had were babies (six foot babies) according to our instructors, so I can imagine how much more difficult it would be in proper surf. It was good fun and pretty knackering, but I think it'll be a while before I'll be riding the waves like a pro. Anyway it's a glorious day so I should get back to the beach rather than spending time in an internet cafe.

Monday, July 16, 2007

East is east

I'm now further up the east coast of Oz in "the sunshine state" of Queensland. The current stop in Surfers Paradise where I'll be spending the whole day tomorrow - I'll be surfing as it seems to be the appropriate thing to do here.

I joined up with my tour group in Sydney early yesterday morning. We did a very brief trip up to Mrs Macquarie's chair which overlooks the Opera House and Harbour Bridge where we were obliged to get a group photo. We the raced out of Sydney and headed to the wine region Hunter Valley. There we sampled quite a large selection of wines including a rather bizarre sparkling red. The wines were ok, but I was expecting some slightly nicer ones, although maybe my wine tasting palate wasn't quite ready at 11am. We then drove on to Coff's Harbour (home of the big banana) where we spent the night. It was a fairly quiet one as most people were pretty knackered, plus the bar closed at 9.30pm. Today we set of for Byron Bay (just past the big prawn). We went to the lighthouse on Byron Point, which is the most easterly tip of Australia - the views were amazing from this headland, and we got to see a pod of Humpback whales migrating. In Byron Bay itself we went for lunch and I headed straight for the lovely beach. The town's really nice and it would have been great to stay for longer than the two hours we had. I did get to swim in the sea though and sampled the local fish and chips. The water was fine for someone from the UK and was about as warm as it ever gets back home. Following this we went to a wildlife park and saw the normal selection of Aussie wildlife - I didn't get my picture taken cuddling a koala, but many people did. We've now arrived at Surfers Paradise and I think I'll be heading for some food and drink pretty soon.

On a general note the tour group I'm with seems pretty cool (I have to say this as some might read it later ;)). The majority of them are heading all the way up to Cairns, but I leave them at Brisbane.

p.s. I'm going to say nothing about the gig we did other than don't mention "the Reaper".

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

It's on!

Australia is still treating me well despite a few days of cold rain - well I am British so I should be able to deal with that! The conference has been pretty interesting so far and has given me some things to think about. I've even had some interest in the poster I presented. We have this afternoon off, but there are now other things to plan. Myself and two of my bandmates are over here and have managed to organise a gig at an open mike night tomorrow night. Unfortunately they don't supply any percussion, so I'm off to buy something to bang or shake. We've already found a musical instrument shop, but I've got to decide on what I'm willing to spend for a one off performance. I think the gig might set a new world record in being the largest gathering of gravitational wave physicists at a musical performance as quite a few people at the conference have said they're coming - we'll see how many actually turn up.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

"In Australia..."

So after being swept up by a tornado (i.e. Qantas airplane) I've been safely deposited in the wonderful land of Oz (i.e. Oz). The flight was far less of an ordeal than I thought it would be. There was a wide range of on-demand in flight entertainment options and the food was decent. The Aussie customs folk were pretty cheery and even smiled, which is a far better reception than you get entering the US. The first impression of Australia is that it's kind of familar. It doesn't smell different from the UK and you feel far more relaxed than you'd expect from being in a country on the other side of the world. It's homely, but with an odd twist.

Yesterday I got the real feeling that I was in Sydney when I went off to meet up with my Aunt. For a mid-winter day the weather was fantastic. It was (to start with bright and sunny, with only a few small clouds in the sky. I was meeting my Aunt in Circular Quay and on walking there the Harbour Bridge hove into view. A little further on the Opera House came into sight. There's nothing that lets you know your in Sydney more than seeing these sight. It really is very impressive and the whole harbour area looks great. From Cicular Quay we went on the ferry to Manly at the opening of the harbour. Here I saw people surfing adding another piece to the Oz experience.

I need to leave the internet cafe where I'm writing this, but they'll probably be another update soon. The work side of this trip wil actually be starting tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

To the far side of the Earth

In not many hours time I'm going to be heading to Australia. It really is quite a bizarre concept that you can get on a plane and a day later be on the other side of the globe. This may sound rather old fashioned considering the ability to do these things has been around since well before I was born, but I'm still pretty impressed. That said the prospect of long-haul flying doesn't fill me with much enthusiasm. As I've noted before I'm very bad at sleeping on flights, so I'm just having to hope I can keep myself entertained for long enough - I'll have my iPod fully charged, a couple of books (one of which weighs in at a hefty 900 pages), a large set of crossword and Sudoko's, and even some scientific papers. I seem to remember having an ok time the last time I took such a long flight, but that was when I was four years old, was more excited by flying and had more ability to sleep through anything.

One thing that I won't be taking on this trip is my laptop. I'll be going nearly a full three weeks without it! Don't worry though, they'll be other opportunities for me to access the internet and update you with what I'm up to. You may even here of the fabled Corpse Full of Bees Australian tour...

Monday, July 02, 2007

Get a room

Yesterday I went for a swim in the Glasgow Uni pool, but I'm not going to bore you with how many laps I did, or my supreme mastery of the breast stroke, I'm just writing to express my annoyance at some couples who were in the pool. Now back in the day, i.e. the 80s, public swimming pools would prominently display posters with lists of forbidden activities, including the likes of bombing, ducking and petting. There're no such posters in the Glasgow Uni pool, but I'd have thought that the no petting rule would be fairly common knowledge and just general courteous behaviour. However the way two couples were carrying on was just not proper for a swimming pool environment. It just made the people near them, i.e. me, rather uncomfortable. I now sound like some sort of prude, but I think I'm in the right - there's a time a place with the pool just not being one of them. I propose a ban on couples having any sort of contact when in a swimming pool, with the penalty being a week under an icey cold shower. It may sound draconian, and some might say it's a step too far, but we must protect our right to not be slightly sickened by peoples poolside gropings.