April 04, 2003

Canberra Trip, Days 3-7

Naturally, John the Tester and I spent most of the work week working, so there's not much to tell. Still, there were a few highlights, including several more half-pints of Toohey's Old.

On Monday another JPLer showed up; he'd gone through hell trying to get here. His flight got four hours out from LAX, had a problem, and flew back to LAX. After five hours in the terminal, the passengers were loaded on to another plane and flown to Sydney. He missed the last flight to Canberra last night by fifteen minutes, so they put him up in a hotel in Sydney. He woke bright and early, not surprisingly, and caught the earliest flight to Canberra, and then got lost on the way to the complex at Tidbinbilla.

Tuesday we had dinner at the Santa Lucia Trattoria in Kingston. I'd been there with some folks from the complex on my previous trip, and had had a chicken and veal risotto that was out of this world. I'd been wanting to have some more, and was not disappointed. John and Bob, the other JPLer, had a seafood risotto which featured, among other things, Baby Octopus. Lots of restaurants that we looked at had dishes which included Baby Octopus; I asked an Australian friend whether this was some kind of fad, and was assured that the friend had grown up with it.

There was a neat bookstore near the restaurant, where I picked up a few oddments you'll be seeing reviews of in the next few days.

Not much happened on Wednesday and Thursday, but on Friday I learned a valuable life lesson: Australian hot dogs are made with an unnatural red dye, and are to be avoided. That was at lunch at the Moonrock Cafe, a little snackbar and giftshop attached to the museum at the complex.

John and I left after lunch, because we were going to be coming in again for Saturday morning to talk to some operators who weren't going to be in on any of the weekdays we'd be there. After some discussion, we decided to spend the afternoon at the Canberra Zoo. It's a nice zoo. We got some excellent pictures of the koalas, and also of the little fairy penguins, one of whom, we were assured, is the original of Tux the Linux penguin. It's unique among zoos, in my experience, in that you could actually see all of the animals fairly well. Most of the new exhibits at the Los Angeles Zoo seem to be designed to let the animals hide from you.

Then, that evening we went shopping for gifts for friends and family (Jane scored a blue denim pullover covered with aboriginal art), and ended the day with a glass of Toohey's Old Black down in Manuka.

Sometime during the week, I don't remember exactly when, John was telling me about the places he's been. He's just out of college, but compared to me he's a world traveller; and he has a way of tossing off the most exotic comments with a straight face. The best example, and my favorite, was

I went to this hookah lounge in the Egyptian section of Bangkok...

He didn't get any farther than that, because I stopped him. I couldn't let a remark like that pass without comment. And since then, I've been completely unable to think of anything else as casually exotic that doesn't involve either sex or illicit drugs. I mean, who knew that there were hookah lounges in Bangkok? Who knew there were Egyptians in Bangkok? For that matter, who knew there were hookah lounges in Egypt? Not me.

Posted by Will Duquette at April 4, 2003 06:18 PM