Craig N. Dolder, Ph. D. Acoustics

Ultrasound In Air

Hi All,

One of the many projects I’m involved with on the side of my main research project is the Health EFfects of Ultrasound in Air (HEFUA). It is investigating the question of whether the standards for high-frequency audible sound (~16 kHz – 20 kHz) and low-frequency ultrasound (~ 17.8 kHz – 30 kHz) are sufficient. This is especially important in light of the constantly increasing use of ultrasound in everyday life. I know I was continually annoyed around Austin, TX by a variety of sources that I could hear, but others couldn’t. Recently there was a really annoying high-frequency sound near the London Eye. Here is a spectrogram of it:

Spectrogram of annoying sound near London Eye.

Spectrogram of annoying sound near London Eye.

While most adults can’t hear these sounds, many children can. There is an Instagram hashtag #UltrasoundInAir where people report the annoying high audible frequency sounds they come across. If you are interested in learning more see this paper.

Peace,

Craig

7 Quick Takes On Dubai

— 1 —

The most posh light rail I’ve experienced.

One of the shiny Dubai Metro stations with track running off into the distance.

One of the shiny Dubai Metro stations with track running off into the distance.

Unfortunately taking pictures of public transit in many countries can land you in jail so I do not have a lot of pictures from the Dubai Metro. Each train has a car and a half reserved for women and families and a first class car. It’s hard to imagine the Subway, Tube, or Metro in any other city having a first class car on every train. The Metro connects to Terminals 1 and 3 or the Dubai International Airport. Unfortunately for me, I flew into Terminal 2, which is used by the economy airlines. Terminal 2 also has no easy public transit options, so I opted to take a bus!

— 2 —

My Dubai bus experience

The challenges of taking buses comes down to three elements, taking the right bus, paying, and getting off at the right place. The first element is easy in cities where Google transit works, fortunately Dubai is one for those cities an only failed me slightly. The second can usually be answered by asking around. In most cities there is a more expensive option for tourists which is less likely to cause frustration or cause one to go amiss and I’ve found people at airport information booths are very insistent you take that option. Usually they eventually give up and will help with public transit. The third is solved perfectly by the modern GPS enabled phone, yes mine is very much a cruch for me.

I was directed to the arrivals terminal to get a public transit pass. It wasn’t a long walk, but with my bags and the oppressive heat I was soaked before getting there. The lady at the money exchange booth gladly sold me the smart public transit card (pictured below). It operates much like any other system (Charlie Card, Delhi Travel Card, Oyster Card).

Having obtained proper payment I waited for the bus of the appropriate number at the appropriate time. It came and I got on. About 5 minutes later I felt it was going the wrong way. I verified that on my smartphone and told myself there must just be a detour in the route. 15 minutes later it was still headed in the exact opposite direction than that I wished to travel in. It turns out it was a linear route and I got on in the middle headed the wrong way. On the up side I was in no rush (I only get to the hotel 1.5 hours later than I would have otherwise) and I got a tour of a side of Dubai others don’t usually see.

The most fascinating part of the journey was the buildings. As I got further from the epic center of Dubai the buildings became more normal. Most could have been in any Western city aside from the signage in both Arabic and English. Despite that even at the edge of the city every sixth building had extravagant modern architecture. These building seemed greatly out of place, though they would have fit right in downtown, except for the fact they were only one or two stories.

Public transit cards from various cities. Top to bottom: New Delhi, Dubai, London

Public transit cards from various cities. Top to bottom: New Delhi, Dubai, London

— 3 —

The Megamalls, in general.

The malls in Dubai are absolutely immense and I can find no adequate comparison. They have all the premium shops from around the word. Do you like coffee? Well at the Mall of the Emerates you have a selection of: iHop (Unlimited carafe style), Starbucks, Costa Coffee, Seattle’s Best, Krispy Kreme, and yes, Dubai runs on Dunkins. I probably missed a few.

In that same mall there was also a Poutine restaurant, all the hippest fashion stores, a movie theater, a massive arcade, and a ski mountain. The arcade offered all the games I could imagine and some I couldn’t. It had an electronic beer pong table “Sink It!”, bumper cars, a robo coaster, rock gym, bowling alley, carousel, you know, all the typical attractions you find at the corner arcade. The ski mountain offered skiing, snow boarding, tubing, zip lining, and a penguin encounter. The crowd varied from skimpy outfits you would expect in Paris to flowing formal Saudi robes and included some odd fusion. One such occasion was a man wearing the traditional UAE white robes and a baseball cap, which caused me modicum of cognitive dissonance.

If that first mall isn’t good enough for you, there is always the nearby Dubai Mall with an ice skating rink, an aquarium, and the tallest building in the world.

 

— 4 —

The stores in the Megamalls.

In each of these stores is an excess of smiling employees wanting to help make your shopping experience as pleasant as possible. Truly, getting to the other side of the store without crossing paths with an employee eager to help you is difficult. It is unreal, pretty much like the rest of Dubai.

— 5 —

 The side of Dubai you try not to see.

While enjoying the air conditioned walkways and transit you are constantly presented with a view of shiny skyscrapers in all stages of construction. You don’t want to see the construction crews outside in the unbearable heat with their blue jumpsuits. I can’t go in depth about their situation, but this article can:

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/commentators/johann-hari/the-dark-side-of-dubai-1664368.html

To summarize:

  • If you go into debt you are put in jail and can’t leave the country until all debts are repaid.
  • Manual laborers have their passports taken from them and are denied consular access.
  • If anyone speaks out about the government or its dictator they are jailed and they and their family are blacklisted so they cannot leave the country or get select jobs.
  • Over 1000 laborers die of heat related health problems every year.

— 6 —

 The streets smell of new rubber and the malls of perfume.

That’s pretty much it. Everything smells like a new toy or a flower and everything is kept shiny and spotless.

 

The surreal mix of beautiful towers and construction in Dubai.

— 7 —

I don’t see how it can last and certainly don’t think it should be supported.

Dubai is a prime example of excess that is unsustainable. It is run by a ruthless dictator with an effectively enslaved labor force. The only thing it has going for it is that it is very pretty. While it looks like the ideal metropolis on face value it could not be further from one.

For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum!

7 Quick Takes On Indian Sleeper Busses Vs Sleeper Trains

— 1 —

Your own little glass capsule vs a bunk with a sheet.

Here I am comparing a standard AC sleeper bus and an AC class 2 sleeper train, which are the more common means of long distance travel in India. I know this take is where a lot of travelers are divided. I have had a few female travelers say they feel more secure on the sleeper bus and I can see why. You have a bunk with a sliding glass door all to your self. I think the solidity gives extra comfort, and the knowledge that sliding the door will be more noticeable than the shifting of the privacy curtain on sleeper trains. You do have a privacy curtain as well in the bus, inside the glass door. An additional benefit of the bus is that you also have a window on the other side that is the same size as your bunk, also with curtains, so while in your bunk you also have an amazing view.

On the sleeper trains the bottom bunks are seats until that person decides to make their bed. The huge disadvantage is that you can be kicked out of a seat and into your bunk if someone decides to make their bed. The upper bunks on trains do not have windows.

— 2 —

Size constraints.

The sleeper bus is a much tighter squeeze than the sleeper train. For smaller folk this isn’t much of a problem, but I am of the height where it begins to be so. Space was not a problem for me (just shy of six 6 feet tall) on the sleeper train. I could both sit on the bunk and just stretch out fully while lying down. In contrast the sleeper bus was a few inches shyer than I of six feet. This left me with either slightly bent legs (just enough to be uncomfortable) or a tilted neck when on my back. Whenever I woke up I more often found myself with the tilted neck. There was also not enough height for sitting up. I am usually a side sleeper, but the bus definitely encourages back sleeping because of the…

— 3 —

Low-frequency spectral contribution to mass-spring-damper systems from inconsistent terrain and driver behavior increasing the variance of body position in the y and z axis. (Bumpy ride, part of me misses grad school and high nerddom.)

Depending on which bunk is yours it can be better or worse, but the conditions of the road and the cultural attitudes of driving make for a lot of motion, and being on one’s back seems much more stable. I did spend some of the night on my side, but the higher center of gravity increases the chance of rolling which can cause collisions with the horizontal metal bars on the inside of the outside window. Plus, if there is a big bump I found it much more comfortable to land with the back of my neck on the pillow rather with my head swinging from side to side.

The rails on the other hand are smooth. While some curves may be noticeable sleeper trains are a much smoother ride.

— 4 —

Vendors.

You see a lot of vendors on trains, from peanut men, to fried snacks, whole meals, and chai wallahs. There was one point where a guy selling cold drinks and bottled drinks did come on the bus, but it is a bit harder to see what is going on and interact from the glass cubicle.

 

— 5 —

 Bathrooms.

Sleeper busses stop every 3 or 4 hour somewhere that has pay bathrooms of greater or lesser quality. It is really hit or miss.

Sleeper trains usually have at least one western toilet onboard per carriage.

In neither case will you find toilet paper.

— 6 —

 Availability.

Here is where busses have much more convenience. Trains are usually booked full up to two weeks in advance, so you better have well laid plans if you want to go. In addition there are usually fewer destinations reachable by train.

It is likely that you can get a berth on a sleeper bus on the same day and the destinations are not limited by rail geography.

— 7 —

Pricing.

In my (limited) experience AC sleeper busses cost about half as much as AC class 2 sleeper berths.

For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum!

7 Quick Takes on Indian Travel

— 0 —

Introducing quick takes and the linkup.

My Austin friend Lindsay (http://lindsayloves.com/) is an active blogger who I admire for her dedication to blogging. She’s been using the 7 Quick Takes format for a while now and I’m joining the linkup for three main reasons.

1: I like the format as it allows me to post on a variety of topics.

2: It requires me to keep them short so I don’t write so much I don’t finish it for a month (or two).

3: It encourages me to post weekly.

None of these are the typical reason for a linkup and I could make all these convictions without joining, but this seems like a group of fascinating people and I look forward to the experiment.

— 1 —

The philosophies of finding a room.

Before this trip I had always traveled using the traditional philosophy of booking ahead. This is the path of least stress, which I generally favor. However, this method proves difficult for a few reasons. Firstly there is a severe lack of places with online booking in Sri Lanka and India. Secondly, If a place is mentioned in a tourist guide, chances are it is fully booked. Lastly, any place with good reviews or online booking will be at least 2x as expensive as an equivalent room with no online booking or web presence.

The second method is to travel early and go hunting for a room. This method is fraught with disadvantages: You are carrying your gear until you find a place and agree; Many places will be fully booked; Every cab driver that sees you with a bag will try and take you to their friend’s place (recommendations made on commission, not quality); You have to navigate in an unfamiliar city; You take time that could be used touring or resting. That said, this is the only way it appears to get a decent rate. While I do not have this down to an art, I have met many that do. They find the place in town with the most lodging (easy to do with a guide book), get dropped nearby and walk place to place haggling. They also never take an offer without first walking out the door (something I have only done once, and it worked). Of course if the sun sets and the first places you asked at were all full you are pushing your luck, which leads to option three.

Let a taxi driver take you to their friend’s place. The idea of this sounds like a nightmare to me, but the two times I have resorted to taking unsolicited device from strangers it has worked out extremely well. The second time I had two individuals haggling over taking me to their allies, and the place I chose was ideal. First, make sure they are not taking you far and they agree to take you back if you decline. Second, make a judgement call on their honesty. It’s a tough thing to do. Every place I have visited shows you the room first, then you talk about prices.

— 2 —

The next quick topic has to be taxis.

I mentioned in topic 1 that in a pinch they can be a useful resource; however, don’t be fooled. Taxi (here I am referring to both formal sedans and auto-rickshaws) drivers lie regularly and more as a rule than an exception. If they can say something in order to encourage you to take them or pay them more they will. This includes statements like “there is no bus going there today,” “the next bus doesn’t leave for two hours” (in that case the bus left every 20 minutes), “that place is closed,” “The entrance is 2km away” (in this case the entrance was about 400m away, I’m glad I walked), and “no one will take you for less than X amount” (I ended up getting a taxi 150m down the road for less than X/2).

The other challenge is negotiating the price. Many places don’t have taxis with meters. Other have taxis with meters, but the meters are conveniently broken. A few drivers have meters and are honest that they work, despite there not being a tipping culture I often tip these drivers for their honesty (also, the meter + generous tip is always cheaper than the price I can negotiate). I usually highball negotiated prices or accept the initial offer, that’s a known character flaw. One time I had a taxi driver claim he had a working meter, then he pointed to his broken tachometer and quoted an exorbitant amount. I should have taken a picture of the cab and called the police, but the person I was traveling with paid him more than he deserved (1/6 what he demanded) and we walked off.

— 3 —

Meeting people on the road.

Can be tough, especially for shy people (yes, my natural state is shy. I don’t like disturbing other people) and in countries with cheep hotel rooms. The shy bit is self explanatory, but the cheap hotel bit took me by surprise. In countries where travel is less expensive you are less likely to find hostels and dorms. Not only do you share rooms in hostels, but you meet other tourists in the common areas. This provides plenty of opportunity to meet people, make plans together, and get advice. If you have a single room with an attached bath and no comfy common area or kitchen just bumping into people can prove difficult. I’ve been told that you can meet other travelers in bars, but I’ve never been much of a bar person.

— 4 —

Preserving culture while monopolizing on selling your culture.

What some call cultural appropriation has always sold well. People love incorporating the pretty and unusual customs and looks from other cultures into their lives. This trend is quite obvious in India, where Saris, Ali-baba pants, and statues of Ganesha are only a few of the things that are ferociously marketed to foreigners. I like to learn about other cultures and do as the Romans do as respectfully as possible. I also prefer understated simple designs and solid colors, which is why the apparent mechanism of cultural preservation I see stands out to me most glaringly.

The people of India wear bright and colorful clothing, but it is not the clothing the tourist shops sell. The cut is very similar and sometimes the material the same, but the patterns and the style are different. When I have enquired about getting a solid color or a light plain design light like all the locals wore in Sri Lanka I always got the response “No, we do not sell that.” It may be my imagination, but it seems like this is some sort of defense mechanism. The idea being that they will sell caricatures of local dress (sarongs, kurtas, etc.) to foreigners and in that way save their heritage. Encouraging the fake cultural appropriation while ensuring it is different from their heritage. Then again it might simply be that this is what they think foreigners want. I can’t tell for sure.

— 5 —

The shopping extremes in Mumbai and what they lack.

In Mumbai and many places in India you get all shopping extremes, from street vendor, to bazaar, to mega malls. I like to visit all of the above because they all give a piece of the cultural puzzle. On one side you find clues bout the past, on the other the future, and in both how the two are linked.

The authentic markets are stripped of traditional clothing. They get the same shirts and pants as we do, though the size markings are different and the quality isn’t as good. It seems that whenever companies make mistakes or a production technique doesn’t work well, those items get sent to market on this side of the pacific. In fact the terms export quality and non-export quality are in common use. On the flip side you will still find items for traditional cooking and cleaning. The traditional broom is made from a hard grass and acts as both broom and rake. I still don’t know how the traditional cookware is used, but it is everywhere. There are also a plethora of stalls selling cheep memory cards, cell phones, and accessories, but from both word on the street and personal experience these work less often than more.

The malls are extreme. There is nowhere that the disparity of wealth in India is more apparent. All the brand name fifth avenue stores that I could never afford were in the mall I visited and their prices were certainly no less than their counterparts in the USA. Rich Indians know how to dress well. One store I didn’t expect was a comedy club, that made me chuckle.

Despite the rich offerings there were two gaps in the wares available that left me scratching my head. There were no mainstream electronic stores (or any electronic stores) or athletic or outdoor apparel shops. This has been my experience throughout the Indian subcontinent. I was able to find a Nokia store and a Samsung store outside the mall proper, but in this gadget crazy age there are no big, reliable, consumer electronics chains. I would pay a pretty penny for a Besy Buy. I also would really like another tech t-shirt, but that doesn’t look promising any time soon.

— 6 —

Replacing my smartphone

My trusty Nexus 4 has been less than trusty of late. Sometimes it has barely worked and other times it acts as if a small child is constantly playing with the touch screen. As these problems have gotten worse, more frequent, and since the cell phone camera is broken, I decided to put forth the expense to replace it.

I decided to replace it with a Samsung Galaxy A5 because of availability, reputation, and the camera, but that’s not the point of this post. Aside from the difficulties in finding what appeared to be a reputable electronics store (see take 5) there are several more interesting hurdles to its use. The first was that almost all the smartphones have gone to a nano-SIM card. Seeing how large the phones are compared to the tiny micro-SIM I see no reason for this. Of course the major source of consternation is that my old phone has a micro-SIM, so getting a replacement from T-Mobile will require recruiting help from a few people and international mail. However, even if I had a nano-SIM it would be of no use. While cell phones in India do not come locked, they are blocked for use only with an Indian SIM card until 5 minutes of calls have been placed with an Indian SIM. It’s an interesting mechanism to prevent their export.

Many of you might be unaware that getting a SIM card is more difficult in India than it is in other countries. In order to buy a local SIM card, a foreigner needs to provide a passport photo and a photo copy of both their passport ID page and the visa page. Then after security checks are done (1-2 days) the SIM can be activated. In sharp contrast I was handed a SIM card upon arrival in Sri Lanka.

— 7 —

The cost of a cuppa in India.

A cup of authentic chai in rural areas (or less wealthy areas in major cities) is between 7-10 Indian rupees (between $0.11 and $.16). For that you get a 6-8 oz strong, hot, milk tea in either a paper cup, glass cup, or stainless steel cup. If you are purchasing more than two cups you can get the tea ladled boiling hot into a plastic bag to transport to your office and pour into cups. If you are given the paper cup there will generally not be a trash bin. The culturally appropriate place to drop your used cup is on the ground.

If you go to an Indian tourist establishment the price increases to 40 Rs and if you go to an establishment for foreigners you pay around 100-140 Rs ($1.60-2.25) for anything from a small cup to a pot with two mugs worth. You never really know until it turns up to the table, even if it’s a place you visited yesterday.

For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum!

Merimbula and the Sapphire Coast

Day 34, Melbourne, Australia – Merimbula(Sunday)

By the time Sunday rolled around I was eager to be moving on to see more relatives. I got up and showered. While showering I noticed peculiar crotch height holes between the shower dividers. Obviously they could be there innocently or not, I decided not to make a big deal about it, but to comment to the clerk and the suggestions box. I had a hearty breakfast of Greek yoghurt and jam and was off to catch a train.

I needed to catch two different trams to get me down to The Flinders Street Station. Once there it took me a few minutes to find the ticket counter, which is inside near the intersection of Flinders Street and Swanson Street. The gentleman took my online reservation receipt and gave me a ticket, this was the second train ride of my journey, and I went to find the platforms. Unfortunately the entrance area I was in had ticket checking machines for small tickets like a subway system, I glanced around and saw no signs indicating where I should go then went back and asked where the platforms were. I needed only to go around several commercial stalls to an area that had the same machines, but their gates were all open.

I also could not find a monitor listing which train was at which platform so I had to walk down the main hallway reading the sign on each track. The second time through I found additional tracks on the southern end and found my platform. At this point I was getting worried because all of my small delays were adding up, but once on the platform I realized the train was running late and all was well, at least for me. I have yet to miss a train and while I do flirt with disaster on occasion I hope to keep it that way.

I settled into my seat and began to read. Since it was a Sunday and I was well rested I decided to make progress on JP II’s Theology of the body, which is a long text on sexuality and the human body in Catholicism.

Part way through I realized that my only opportunity to buy lunch would be on the train, so I purchased a coffee and a wrap. We also passed a very small town names Stratford with an even smaller river named Avon passing through it. As one would guess the trackside was covered in Shakespeare motifs and I was told the region’s annual festival for that authors is held in the town.

I transferred over to a bus in Bairnsdale and son found myself nodding off, which was not necessarily convenient or comfortable as the road wound quite tightly through forested hills.

Finally I recognized the Pambula golf course and the bridge into Merimbula. Pam was waiting outside the bus. Since they thought the bus might have arrived early (it was in fact like the train late) George had gone off to see if I had already made my way to their home. We caught up to George half way there. Pam is my Father’s first cousin, making her my first cousin one removed (1C1R). They were originally from England, but moved to Australia a long time ago and have a large family there. They originally managed tourism properties in Merimbula seasonally, the eventually came to run one themselves and then retired there. Merimbula is a popular vacation spot for people living in Melbourne.

Day 35, Merimbula, Australia (Monday)

I got up and breakfast was already laid out for me by my hosts. They had a morning Jazz club meeting, so I had some time to work on my CV. I wandered through the kitchen during their back porch meeting and was spotted by one of the meeting attendees, who calmly informed my hosts that either they had an intruder or they had failed to introduce their guest, so I had to go out to be introduced and try some wonderful baking that had been brought. After the meeting we had a cold cut sandwich lunch and Pam and George went off for a Historical Society meeting, so I went back to my computer to try and figure out bookings for the next leg of my journey. In order to get some internet I went to the bowling club, which was a blend of social club, restaurant, and casino. I met them back at their house and then went off with Pam for some actual bowling, standing in for someone on her league. I didn’t do very well, but enjoyed the game. After that I played dominoes with Pam and George on their back porch and had an amazing streak of beginners luck.

Day 36, Merimbula , Australia (Tuesday)

Tuesday I was taken on a tour of the parks south of Merimbula. It is a really lovely place. We stopped at Aslings beach, several small parks, and Ben Boyd National Park. At the national park we reached a point where George stopped looking puzzled. He was certain that there was another path which led down to the ocean that broke off from the main path where we were. I could see no signs of a path ever existing. Sure enough he started trekking off the path, me not far behind, and he found the missing trail. They had put a lot of work into hiding the once well maintained path, but the further we got from the main path,my he clearer the trail was, until we hit the first official warning that the path was closed. We passed around it to find another barrier about 5 m further along that gave the clear impression of “No, we’re serious, the ground is unstable ahead and you can get yourself killed.”

At that we turned back and met Pam at the car park. We stopped for a picnic lunch, found more abandoned trails that led to scenic views, visited Pambula beach, bought some local oysters, stopped one place for inexpensive fruit and another for inexpensive milk, though both places had both, and got back to their house for some lamb curry.

Later in the evening George broke out old travel videos of their visits to New Zealand and England. It was good to get some travel advice.

Day 37, Merimbula, Australia (Wednesday)

On Wednesday I slept in until 8 and again the makings of breakfast were laid out for me when I went downstairs. We went to hike the Merimbula and I was struck at the strong pace set by these Aussie pensioners who were easily old enough to be my grandparents, but put me through my paces.

I stopped at a local camping store one we hit the town to ask if they had permethrin, which is an amazing clothing treatment to repel mosquitoes. The store clerk insisted that while they normally had it, it wasn’t in stock. At least I knew it was sold in Australia. We had lunch and I had a nap.

I then tried to catch up on some Journaling, though still a month behind. After making a modicum of progress I went to walk to the wharf, which was a fair trek. George gave me directions to a nature trail, that while I knew I didn’t have to time to take, I knew I would try anyway.

I kept up a good walking pace, found the aboriginal hiking trail that led me to Bar Beach. There was a cafe that proudly announced on the sign that is was open from X am, but had no indication of closing time. It was clearly already closed for the day. A lot of businesses in the area had the same trait of announcing an opening time, but no closing time. I dodged some ladies jogging on the nature path, made it to the quiet and pretty viewpoint of Fisherman’s lookout, and made it to the wharf.

I was almost at a jog myself on the way back and made it to their door just as dinner was being served. I was late, but my timing was good. After dinner we left for the square dancing club meeting Pam and George ran. I had never been square dancing before but was able to demonstrate that my claim to be a fast learner was true. Several members lamented that they wanted to keep me.

When we broke the equipment down, cleaned up the dozen beetles that had flown in while we were dancing, and got home, Pam and George put a Wild Croatia documentary on the TV and took out a lovely Muscat.

Day 38, Merimbula, Australia (Thursday)

On my fifth day in Merimbula I got up around 8:15, used my host’s laundry machine and went on a hike to see the Merimbula Classic, a surfing a kite boarding competition. There were a lot of kite boarders at the beach. I am regularly amazed how kite boarders manage the right of way and don’t get tangled together.

I met Pam and George at the historical society, where they were volunteering, and they took me to visit the lookouts on either side of Middle Beach. The beach itself is tucked between two cliffs, so the chances of stumbling upon it are quite low. One of the lookouts involved quite a long hike, on which we saw many birds, another akidna, and heard but didn’t see the elusive sweep bird. At the end of the trail was a very nice viewing platform.

After a quick stop at the house we walked to a BYOB Chinese restaurant. George brought a bottle of wine and I had my goodbye dinner as I was leaving in the morning the next day. The night was capped off with another round of dominoes.

Post conference Melbourne

Day 31, Melbourne, Australia (Thursday)

The only real thing I did on my 31st day, the first day after the InterNoise conference, was to amble about the Royal Botanical Gardens. There was actually some interesting history to be had there. Apparently early in its existance a new director came in with a philosophy that the gardens should look as natural as possible, and that concept stuck. There are very few straight paths and large open lawns. Instead there are many sloping and curving paths and all the areas of the garden blend into each other to create a continuous natural look. When I got to the cafe in the middle of the park I stopped for a muffin and a small pot of tea. I burned a knuckle of my pinkie finger getting the pot outside. I was quietly enjoying the scenery when the people at a table nearby left their table and scraps. A flock of various birds instantly descended on the table. Near the end of my circuit I also came across a fascinating man made hill reservoir which had a detail of the water circulation and filtration system, which the engineer in me loved. It also discussed how keeping the gardens became extremely difficult when the falls in the Yarra river were destroys, since their primary water source was then brine. This was overcome after many trying years by joining into a public water system. I thoroughly enjoyed the views and consequently took very few pictures. In the evening Woutijn took me to the Crown Casino for a little roulette and to see the balls of fire that the columns outside shoot out. It was pretty intimidating.

 

Day 32, Melbourne, Australia (Friday)

I had been aware for a while that Woutijn was leaving for another conference on Friday and as such I would have to find other lodgings. As such both of us got up early. He had a flight to catch and I had new lodgings to find. I didn’t get my stuff together before he had to grab his cab, but I was out the door shortly after him. With all my stuff with me (except an electric toothbrush charger) I took a tram and walked to the hostel I would be staying at for the next few days, the Melbourne Metro YHA. I went to put my bags in a locker because it was too early to check in and failed twice to actually shut the locker. The first time I inserted my $2 coin and turned the lock like you would lock a door. Quarter turn clockwise and quarter turn back. At which point it had eaten my coin and was now open again. On attempt number two I successfully locked it and took the key out; however, I failed to close the locked enough for the lock to latch so it was locked open. The third time I was sufficiently embarrassed with myself and succeeded with locking my luggage away.

The second fail of the day came from my fruitless attempts to get some WiFi. I walked a few blocks from the hostel to find a coffee show with free WiFi. I passed a couple with no sign indicating that they provided internet to their customers and the third had the anticipated sign, so I went in. I also had one of my great internal struggles, because they had reusable glass and plastic coffee cups in the store. I had gone through many disposable coffee cups while at the conference. I had planned to use my thermos, but that plan was thwarted when they used espresso machines for the free coffee at breaks rather than drip coffee machines or carafes of hot water for tea. A 20 oz thermos just doesn’t work for an 8 oz coffee or cup of tea. After my usual hemming and hawing I got a small glass and silicone cup, which came with the first coffee free. After being served I asked how to connect to their WiFi and got blank stares. The eventual verbal response was that they were covered my the University of Melbourne’s WiFi so they no longer had their own. With a smidgen of annoyance in my voice I pointed out the sign and they apologized and said they would take the sign down, but that’s all I got. I couldn’t even ask for them to refund my coffee without being a complete jerk because I had gotten it in the new glass cup. *sigh* I sipped my coffee outside, they removed the sign, and I walked on.

I then walked through the University of Melbourne, admired their book store, and went back to the hostel. I went up to their rooftop patio and napped until it was time to check in. I checked in, repacked my stuff slightly, and was off to the ball game… er, the cricket grounds rather for a One Day International (ODI) match between Australia and South Africa. Before leaving I made sure to lay claim to one of the beds my making it (hostel beds are generally unmade, minimizing labor) so I wouldn’t disturb anyone when I came in late from the match. I took a tram down to Flanders Street, where I knew there were two trolleys that went down to the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG). When I got on the tram a lady sat down in full South Africa regalia. Since I didn’t know when to get out I decided to befriend her. She was a serious South Africa fan and we chatted all the way to the gate.

I thoroughly enjoyed the cricket game and still maintain that while it is not the most exciting of sports, the 20-twenty form or ODI games are more exciting than American Baseball. I took several pictures during the match, but one of the most fascinating was that of a poor fielder getting beamed in the head with a cricket ball.

Further on in the game I decided to see if I could walk around the oval stadium. About three quarters of the way around I hit a sign saying members only. I talked to the gent in uniform and he told me that there was a slice (about 30 degrees I’m guessing) of the stadium that was reserved for club members only. I ignorantly and innocently asked if I could walk through as I was visiting and wanted to walk around the entire stadium. He paused and looked at me (I later discovered there was a dress code for the members section, of which I was in complete violation with sandals, shorts, and a t-shirt) and finally told me I could pass through this one time as long as I didn’t stop or dawdle on the way. Victory. I finished me lap. I also later picked up my second pocket game of the trip, pocket cricket. The game involves six specialized dice and has complicated rules. I look forward to trying to figure it out with someone.

The second half was the most exciting, witch Australia trying to beat South Africa’s score for the first half. I saw a batter score a century, which does not happen in every game, and then the birds arrived. In this form of the game the ball is white, and the players had no control over the hundreds of white and grey seagulls that decided the field looked warm and inviting.

The end of the game was very intense with Australia winning with just a few pitches (called bowls) to go. I got back to the hostel via a couple trams and found a Chinese man sleeping in the bed I had made. So much for that plan, I guess I need to leave a bag or jacket on the bed in future. I tried to be as quiet as possible as I made the bed above him and went to sleep.

At this juncture windows explorer has stopped working on my laptop, so there will be no more photos on the blog for the near future. My apologies.

Day 33, Melbourne, Australia (Saturday)

This was a bit of an empty day so I purchased internet from the Hostel. I generally hate places where you need to purchase internet because you can only connect one device (I need to choose between my laptop and my iPad) and often the internet is just as bad as free places. That was the case here. The internet was slow and spotty making booking anything difficult.

I decided to wander off the the Victoria Market. I wandered the market for most of the day. I purchased very inexpensive fruit and veggies and made lunch that day out of that raw produce. I found a guy selling Barmah hats. I love the one I bought six years ago and take in on many adventures, that is one of the reasons I did not take it on this trip. What caught my eye was the prices. I bought mine at a semi-tourist store. No, I’ll be honest I bought it at a fully tourist store, but the prices were comparable to online. This booth however was selling them for almost half what I bought mine for. Sad, but to be expected. They are not cheep hats.

I then passed into a different section of the market where I found an Indian chai stall. It looked completely authentic and was run by a lady who said she operated it with her father. The chai was spot on and she said they had opened it to remind people of India. They succeeded. I sat on a curb and relaxed for a bit and watched the crowds. I then decided after walking through the rest of the market to get a coffee at a street side cafe, sit down, and read a book. I was there for quite a while and they started packing up the street tables by the time I moved on.

I was not sure what to do, so I decided to explore the parks up near the zoo. The entrance to the parks that are around the zoo was a short tram ride away. I found some very elaborate public restrooms and made use of them. I walked up to the Grass circle. The whole park had signs through it indicating where dogs were not allowed, where they were allowed on a leash, and where they could roam free. It was interesting to see all three zones in one continuous park. There weren’t many people there, but those who were had dogs happily socializing with all the other pets.

I started to walk toward the zoo and saw a local cricket group playing across the street in traditional white uniforms. As I watched a batter was caught out and had to take the long walk back to the pavilion. I got to the entrance of the zoo around 4:30 pm, which seemed reasonable for me on a Saturday. Unfortunately it was closing at 5 pm and I felt disinclined to pay the $30.80 AUD admission for half an hour. I took the tram back into town.

Since I would be traveling all Sunday I decided to go to a Saturday evening Mass. I got there early and took some photos of the church. At the entrance there was a man begging and I told him that I would gladly buy him some food after church if he was still here. He was there and he got a few meals worth of food out of me. He was clearly mentally disturbed or an exceptional actor.

I tried to use up my remaining groceries, which made for a really bland dish of scrambled eggs. I played some Tantrix and called it a night.

InterNoise 2014 Travel

Note:

I’m going to start with a travel post about my experience at Internoise. I will follow up later with posts about the interesting talks I heard.

Day 27, Melbourne, Australia (Sunday – 16th of November, 2014)

The conference had arrived. This is why I had jumped over to Australia from the North Island of New Zealand, InterNoise. The plan was to lay low until the opening ceremony. I think I did some more wandering in the morning and made my way over to Registration. I let Woutijn know where the registration desk was and he came to join me. I may have mixed up my East and my West in my directions, which is uncharacteristic of me, but he eventually found me. We sat and went through the conference bag. This bag had more advertising material than any other conference I’ve been to. We both ended up recycling a lot of flyers.

Woutijn still had work to do so he skipped out on the opening ceremony and the plenary speaker. I went and got a seat near the front right of the audience. Looking back at the crowd I tried to catch anyone I knew (to no avail), but a peer, Suzi Wiseman, who had worked under my Ph.D. adviser found me and joined my row. Her work is fascinating and deals with soundscapes in zoos (BBC News on her work). I really need to write a post on that some time.

The opening ceremony was just as corny as one would expect. It had very little introduction and a lot of calling people on to the stage and recognizing those who had made the conference possible. After the introductions there was a pause since the next act wasn’t ready.

Eventually the spokesperson for the local aboriginal tribe came on stage and started welcoming us. This was followed by a music and dance performance complete with face paint, didgeridoo, and clap sticks. Then we were welcomed out to the reception where refreshments, including Australian wine, cheese, and beer, were being served.

I soon found one of my friends and academic role models, Lily Wang, and her students from the Nebraska Acoustics Group. I tried to find the few other people I knew would be attending the conference, but had no luck. Since the bar was open I had a couple drinks and tried to fill up on the free snacks, grad school survival skills die hard.

After several round of discussion Lily announced to our huddle that she had gotten a ticket to the Chair’s dinner that evening for her father and her father had booked a tour and wouldn’t be available. She offered the ticket to her students and none of them stepped forward, so I volunteered to accompany her.

The dinner was across the street and we missed the subtle entrance to the restaurant and had to double back. We were offered drinks upon entering and I had to decline, since I had had my fill at the prior open bar and I wanted to stay sober. I was introduced to many important people in the field of Acoustics and barely crammed in the exquisite dinner. After the dinner I walked Lily back to the convention center and walked back to Woutijn’s apartment.

Day 28, Melbourne, Australia (Monday)

I hit the conference early and was in talks all day. I started out in an Aeroacoustics session and then bounced around. I tried to get into the Young Professionals workshop, but the person at the door said it was by invite only. I later heard that this was a logistics error since the invite only portion was for the drinks afterward (which I sneaked into and had a drink anyway) and the organizers were possibly disappointed by the workshop turnout.

It turned out that Lily’s father still hadn’t gotten back from his touring and there was an extra ticket to the Melbourne Chamber Orchestra that evening, so I again joined her and her students. I informed them that Hammer Hall was a 15 minute walk away. I often underestimate walking time. Google calculates the walking time as 24 minutes. Either way we had plenty of time, others just took the opportunity to give me a hard time about how much longer the walk was. *shrug* Lily treated us to Indian food at a very posh food court along the way. The Mango Lassi was fantastic.

We arrived at Hammer Hall, discussed what made its acoustics unique, and took out seats. Lily and I sat in the balcony and her two students, Ellen and Joonhee, sat in the right side of the orchestra. We heard Sravinsky’s Difertimento and Dvorak’s Serenade for strings in E Major, Op.22. I loved both.

During intermission I realized the cunning of the Nebraska Acoustics Group’s concert listening. They intentionally got the seats in different sections so they could switch seats and hear the hall from multiple locations. Brilliant! I fumbled to find my ticket to switch with Joonhee, but found it and we swapped seats. The second half was more modern and consisted of Enescu’s Octet for strings in C major, Op 7.

After the concert I walked with everyone a little over half way back to the conference center and then broke off to head to Woutijn’s place.

Day 29, Melbourne, Australia (Tuesday)

I spend pretty much the whole day at the conference. It started with Lily’s keynote on the impact of building acoustics on speech comprehension and student achievement, where she very effectively set up and plugged Ellen’s talk later in the day (paper). Of course I said this was a travel post and not a technical post, so I’ll leave further discussion to elsewhere. I also talked to all the SPL meter companies at the exhibition. I still feel that class II SPL meters should be less expensive than they are. I was yet again tempted to buy one to conduct research on my travels. Fortunately most of the vendors weren’t set up to sell at the conference, only advertise.

Day 30, Melbourne, Australia (Wednesday)

There were more interesting talks on Wednesday. I went to the closing plenary which was on soundscape planning. One of the messages that people were really trying to hit home is that just evaluating the loudness of a place has little to do with the actual acoustic pleasantness of a place. The closing ceremony was very similar to the opening one. There were many people thanked, some long speeches, and plugs for the upcoming acoustics conferences.

After the conference was over I headed back to Woutijn’s place and cooked Indian food for him and his flat mates.

There weren’t many good photo opportunities at the conference, plus I was concentrating on other things. Never the less, here is your moment of zen:

 

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Day 26, Hispanic-Latin American Festival Melbourne, Australia (Saturday)

This is a single day post for the Hispanic-Latin American Festival I attended in Melbourne on the 15th of November, 2014. Yes I know I’m pretty for behind. I was actually tipped off about the festival by Woutijn’s flat mates and am glad I heard about it. To start off they had blocked off about four blocks of a street with a stage at either end, one of which was a specifically Cuban stage.

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The dance lesson schedule was impressive:

12.30 pm – 1.00 pm Bachata
1.00 pm – 1.30 pm Cha Cha
1.30 pm – 2.00 pm Kizomba
2.00 pm – 2.30 pm Salsa
2.30 pm – 3.30 pm Rueda de Casino
3.30 pm – 4.00 pm Reggaeton
4.00 pm – 4.30 pm Cuban Salsa
4.30 pm – 5.00 pm Zumba
5.00 pm – 5.30 pm Cuban Shines

 

All of the Cuban style teaching was done by Buena Vista Turro Martinez International Cuban dance company (Webstie, Facebook). Looking back I don’t think they stuck to the schedule at all because they taught a Salsa lesson followed by a Son Lesson. I’m guessing the Son lesson replaced the Rueda de Casino lesson, though ruedas were called. I was very impressed by his teaching style. He was able to teach complete beginners the salsa basics while giving tips that more experienced dancers would find useful. There was also the full compliment of food for the occasion, including a dozen varieties of paella, plenty of churros, and multiple sangria vendors. I was wise enough to pay the extra $0.50 for sangria from one of the proper restaurants rather than from one of the street carts. I’m certain there was a huge difference in quality. Unfortunately it is hard to take pictures while dancing, and I was mostly dancing. Fortunately I can share these photos others took and posted of Facebook.

 

After half way through the event I went to pick up my jacket and got searing pain along both sides of my left knee cap. It only hurt when my knee was bent significantly so I was able to keep dancing, but my energy drained pretty quickly. After about four hours after I got there it started to rain and I started limping home. My knee was very sensitive for a few days but slowly got better. It is now over a month since then and I can still feel a tinge of pain on occasions, but generally I’m fine. To end the post on a high note, here is a video of one of the Son demonstrations.

Day 22 through 25: First days in Melbourne

Day 22, Auckland, New Zealand – Melbourne, Australia (Tuesday)

The time had come to go to Australia. I got up early and packed in three bags instead of the normal two because I had to check my main bag. Terry very kindly got up early and dropped me off at the airport before returning home for breakfast. The flight was direct and actually pretty easy. I had the proof of my flight out of OZ ready just in case, but it was never asked for. On the other side I declared everything as normal and they waived me through. At the information booth on the other side of customs I asked how I could get to town. They said I should take the direct skybus. I asked if there was public transportation, and I was informed that I would have to take a bus and a train to get downtown and it would cost me as much as the direct bus because I needed to buy a reusable public transit card called a Miki card, this is essentially the same as the Charlie Card in Boston, MA, USA. I took the long circuitous public transit route without a problem and arranged to meet my grad school friend, Woutijn, for lunch outside the Melbourne Library.

We went to a local restaurant that had Thai teas, a reminder of our Grad School work lunches. Then Woutijn took me to his lab at the University of Melbourne. He had work to do, and I also had work to do, so we both sat down at his cubicle and were productive. Even after so little time out of Grad School, I miss researching and checking journal articles. I wrote up some of my research for hearing loss and motor-sports.

After Woutijn was satisfied with his work he gave me a tour of the department. All of the testing facilities were very impressive and certainly would have made my Masters research much easier. Then Woutijn gave me directions on how to take the tram to his house as he had to drive his motorbike home. It worked out well and we both reached his front door at about the same time.

Upon entering his apartment I met his first flat mate, Mehreen. Woutijn showed me to the corner market where we picked up a few things for dinner. Woujitn cooked and Mehreen contributed as well and joined us. After dinner and tired from a long day’s work Woutijn decided to visit his apartment complex’s hot tub. I joined him and we brought a couple Aussie beers down with us in Nutri-bullet mugs. Little did I know that Woutijn and his flat mates regularly joked about the blender. After chilling in the hot tub both Woutijn and I showered in turn, I was introduced to the third house mate, Gabby, and we all went to bed.

Day 23, Melbourne, Australia (Wednesday)

I got up early, but laid low until I heard others stirring. I had some museli and a kiwi (fruit this time) from Woutijn for breakfast. I decided to tour Melbourne and the War Memorial had been recommended to me as a starting point. Unfortunately I was too early to rise and the memorial wasn’t open yet. I did however get some cool pictures, including the highest building in Melbourne.

From the war memorial I walked north past fountains and gardens. I got to the information center, saw a billboard for a cricket match. The information center was huge and had a number system for talking to a staff member about tourism opportunities and bookings. I grabbed a couple pamphlets and decided to start by wandering west.

After several blocks I could tell I was getting near the edge of the central business district, CBD, so I decided to walk a north-easterly cross section of the city. I found a cool little cafe to grab a small sandwich and a coffee at and eventually hit China town. This part of town has some phenomenal street art, here are the day’s photos.

 

I was told that this art is replaced quite often, always with work of similar high caliber. At this point I needed a bathroom fairly badly. I’ve learned that when you are in a city, public restrooms are not always easy to find, but in any westernized city there is a mall or food court with a rest room. I found Chinatown’s food court and the bathroom at the back easily. Before relieving myself I forgot a very important travel habit that I need to cultivate. Checking for toilet paper, or even better, carrying your own. I was out of luck and had to use the traditional Indian wipe and washed my hands extremely well. Then I dried them on my pants because there were no paper towels either.

I then went on a wild goose chase for the public restrooms marked on my Official City of Melbourne Tourist Map. They either didn’t exist or had a perception filter on them. I then walked up to the Melbourne Museum. On the way I passed a government building with tons of students cramming outside and a couple of food trucks. It was apparently the date for some sort of important standardized test. At the museum they had a really fascinating exhibit and the building was gorgeous, but I didn’t feel like paying to walk around exhibits on such a nice day. I did however avail myself of their pristine bathrooms.

I then wandered west again toward the university and found a really quirky coffee shop. I asked the server for recommendations and ended up ordering too much food, but it was good food. Although some did go to waste, I was full and the food was tasty. I then walked south to the State Library, where I had met Woutijn the prior day. I saw signs for an exhibit on Les Miserables and was excited. Les Mis is both my favorite book and musical. To my great sorrow I was a few days late and the exhibit had closed. They did have a very nice exhibit on the history of books, but it wasn’t the same. Overall the library was very impressive. The only thing that surprised me more than the large study stations was that they were being used.

From there I crossed the street into a mall. The mall didn’t seem to end, it went on for blocks. There was nothing here that I was interested in buying, but I was really excited to see a lending library in the mall. I think a lending library should be a requisite for all malls, especially since physical book stores are going out of business. Melbourne seems to have a large literary crowd. There were several small quirky book shops I saw around town. One with a maximum price of $10 set for the store, another with all modern books. Another book store I saw an advert for turned out to be quite contrary to what I expected. I saw a sign for the “Liberated Bookstore” and a statement that it had moved. My first impression was that is was a philosophical book store, akin to the liberated mind. Unfortunately when I found the store it had an opaque red door in a run down building with no windows and several signs saying XXX and adult. Oh well, I’ll continue to hope for the best.

I was now back to the river and crossed to the “Southbank” region. I followed the river back to Woutijn’s apartment. When he got home we went out to a premium burger joint where I had a Mediterranean Lamb Burger. When we got back to the apartment Mehreen mocked us, asking if we were going to have another romantic Jacuzzi together. We both were spent so we took turns showering and went to bed.

Day 24, Melbourne, Australia (Thursday)

On Thursday I sort of slept in, I kept waking up as to not impose if they wanted to use their common room. Inspired by our prior nutribullet discussions I had a banana smoothie for breakfast. Mehreen, Woutijn, and I discussed green smoothies. I appeared to be the only one who thought they could be both healthy and tasty. I exercised a little and was fortunately in the apartment when Mehreen got back from the gym as she had forgotten her keys. I worked on my travel journal and planning.

I had a little grocery shopping to do, so Mehreen offered to show me to the nearest proper super market. She took me through some more amazing street art:

When we got to the supermarket she parted ways so she could get some chores done. It was tough, limiting myself to what I could carry back to the apartment, but I managed.

Day 25, Melbourne, Australia (Friday)

I finally made it to the inside of the War Memorial. From the outside I would have never guessed that there was a museum underneath. The most fascinating part was a dynamic infographic. It should be no surprise to anyone who knows me that I’m a fan of infographics. This one had violence statistics for every wold country, each country’s Global Peace Index, and how the global peace has varied over time. It ranks 22 metrics including violence in society, military expenditure and prison population. Unfortunately the USA ranks 101 out of 162 countries, not a good score. While we are not a police state, we do suffer from our status as the world’s police. It also continually polled on very thought provoking questions. You can view a very similar interactive demonstration at the Vision of Humanity website.

I then walked down to Luna park, it was a bit over-cast and chilly and the walk was longer than I had anticipated, but overall it was a nice experience. It was also my first close experience with Australian Magpies. These are massive black and white intelligent birds. I would be walking along with them near just fine. I could even stop and look at my watch and they took no notice. The second I looked their direction or pointed my camera at them they looked directly at me, squawked at me, and flew away. These birds can apparently be quite aggressive and have been known to attack people.

I took some pictures of Luna Park and then walked along the beach. I decided to lay down and rest for a bit before finding a tram and heading to meet Woutijn near his university.

 

After getting off a stop too late, I found Woutijn and we walked toward the Fitzroy district of Melbourne. He had arranged to meet up with a couple of his friends for drinks. He sent them a message that we should meet at the bar Naked for Satan. This place was a microbrewery and had great beer, but the best part was the rooftop terrace they had built. The patio above the existing building couldn’t be seen from the street, but had a phenomenal view of the skyline. After a couple drinks, we decided to grab dinner somewhere else. One of the two guys that joined us said he knew of a place with $5 pizzas. This is quite hard to believe even for personal size pizzas in Melbourne, so we let him lead. We arrived at a place called Bimbos. He led us across the main dining area, up a flight of stairs, down two hallways and to a busy outdoor patio. This was definitely a patio that you have to be given instructions to find, yet it was packed. That’s probably because it did have $5 pizzas and they were great. It took two for me to be satisfied, but that’s still cheep for dinner in Melbourne.

After a long time at Bimbos, Woutijn and I started to head home. About half way there Mehreen sent Woutijn a message begging him to come meet her at a bar. She had apparently been talking him up to one of her friends. It was actually close to where we were and I said I was game as long as there was no cover, so we went. The bar was large and deep, with a DJ and cool blue lighting. Mehreen met us outside and seemed amazed that we actually showed up. She asked me to take a couple pictures of her with a moose head that was on the floor. She forbade me from posting them on social media because they made her arms look large, alas, but she didn’t say I couldn’t talk about it.

We proceeded inside and she introduced us to her friends. There was one who was shorter (but taller than Mehreen) and quiet and another that was taller and more vociferous. Both had a very cool if not cold attitude toward us. We got drinks and tried to start conversation, but it wasn’t flowing. Eventually Mehreen decided to lighten up the mood by hugging the taller one, also getting close to tell her something. Just minutes before Woutijn had handed her a glass of water, which was still in her hand. I watched as the glass of water started pouring down the poor lady’s back while the hugger seemed oblivious to the wide eyes and clenched body language of the hugee. I quickly stepped in and grabbed the glass while it was still half full to prevent the whole volume from running down the lady’s back. After the initial panic wore off she turned to me, gave me a glacial look in the eye and said “The least you could have done was apologized.” She quickly turned away, though I have to admit I was so taken aback that I had nothing to say. I figured that she wasn’t my friend and I would let Mehreen (who had now realized what had happened) try and let her know the truth. Suffice to say none of us stayed much longer. The two friends left and Mehreen came back to the apartment with us. It had been yet another fascinating day.

Days 19 through 21

Day 19, National Park, New Zealand – Wellington (Saturday)

After the adventures of the prior day I planned on having a low key travel day. I got up, ate some breakfast and packed. I decided that I would catch up on backing up photos, booking rooms and other internet chores so I purchased the hostel’s internet for $5 and after checking out sat in the kitchen. I grabbed lunch at the gas station and started my bus journey to Wellington. The first bus was a small bus just like the trip into National Park.

We got to Turangi for the transfer and I was a bit hungry. I still had 15ish minutes until my transfer bus and someone walked by with a soft serve ice cream. I asked the couple I can been talking with since before the first bus to watch my bags and I jogged off to find the source. It was a burger king. After some particularly slow (but very kind) service I was walking back and saw the lady of the couple wave and inform me that my bus had arrived. I jogged back, thanked them and then waited. The bus driver was loading people up and I was by no means late, but I hadn’t eaten my ice cream. The NakedBus chain typically has a very strict no food or hot drink policy, but it is up to the drivers to enforce. After the driver had loaded everyone else I let him know I was on the bus, but was trying to eat my ice cream quickly. He told me not to worry, to eat my ice cream on the bus, and to not let the other bus driver find out. Happily suprised I got on the bus and leisurely ate my ice cream. Just like the last time there was a driver swap, but instead of doing it outside the city both busses were fairly on time, but we still had to wait about 5 minutes for the new bus driver to arrive. By that time I had finished my ice cream and could enjoy the bus drive to Wellington.

The view along the bus drive were spectacular. We could clearly see all three mountains in the Tongariro National Park. The bus driver seemed to notice all the shutter clicks because he offered to pull over so we could get it out of our system. He found a nice open stretch of road and pulled over. He also warned us that none of the other drivers on the highway would be on the lookout for photographers, so we should be extra careful. Here are some of the pictures I snapped:

We then had a rest stop at a town on route, the bust driver instructed us to “Be back in 30 minutes, I’ll find out how many people are missing and radio headquarters and then we leave in 31 minutes.” The rest of the drive was fairly uneventful. We arrived in Wellington around 8 pm, the Guy Fawkes (They had delayed it to the weekend) fireworks were at 8:30 pm. Unfortunately for me the hostel I chose was a 25 minute walk away along the bay. As I was trying to quickly walk to my hostel crowds were pouring by perpendicularly to me to get to the water front for the fire works. I checked into my hostel, threw my stuff down, and grabbed my GoPro.

Now almost every experimentalist knows the motto well “Know thyne equipment.” I have not found the GoPro interface intuitive and the actual instructions are quite lacking. As such my photos of the fireworks are sub par. It didn’t help that I couldn’t find a good place to shoot from in the 5  minutes before the show started.

Once the fireworks were over I was quite hungry, so I’ll admit going to McDonalds, however I did so for a reason. They had a Kiwi burger. Now it didn’t have the fruit kiwi in it, but it was meant to be characteristic of New Zealand. I loved it, it had beets as a topping. Beets and burgers are perfect together! I’m sold on this philosophy. I got back to the dorm in the hostel and realized I was the only person in that 6 person room for the night, that was nice, especially since I had an early morning ahead.

Day 20, Wellington, New Zealand – Auckland (Sunday)

I got up, packed, and went to quickly check the farmers market. They were just setting up and none of the food stalls were up yet, so I had a dilemma, wait for the food vendors to open, or start walking the 25 minute trek back to where my bus had dropped me off, the train station. I checked out, came back, and they still weren’t running. I hemmed and hawed internally and then took off, running late toward the train station. While walking as fast as comfortable while loaded with all my gear a cyclist came up along side me. He asked me what I thought about Jesus…

A bicyclist evangelist… No suit and no partner… so he wasn’t Mormon. I decided to cut to the chase “I think he’s an a wonderful Son of God and is my personal Savoir.” This caught the cyclist off guard and caused him to wobble on his bike. Within a few more words he said God Bless and left me alone. I still don’t know what denomination he was.

I got to the station, saw the check in place closed, check to see what platform, got to the mostly empty platform and jumped on the train. I just turned a single corner and there was a conductor with my ticket in his hand. He seemed as relieved to see me as I was to see him. I took my seat and the train journey began.

The Northern Explorer is a beautiful train. On this day it had (from front to back) one engine, one baggage car, two passenger cars, a dining car, two more passenger cars, and a viewing car that just had railings and a roof. The weather was also gorgeous. I hit gold with this part of my trip. The scenery along the route was fantastic. I also did a time lapse experiment with my GoPro, but haven’t taken the time to try to do anything with the results. Here is a small selection of the photos I took:

I also had some great conversations with strangers, some with a random guy who had a lot of cameras but was obviously an amateur, and some with an older Irish lady. At the end I used my international cell phone to give Terry a call and he was waiting in is car just two blocks up the road. I got back to Terry’s place, recited some of my adventure, and went to bed.

Day 21, Auckland, New Zealand (Monday)

I got up and right away booked my flight out of Australia, since they also have a policy that you must have an outbound flight, though they don’t enforce it as strictly as New Zealand does. I also activated my international credit card; the replacement for which had been generously shipped to Terry’s house by my father. I then tried to register for the 2014 InterNoise conference and my credit card was rejected. It turns out my travel notice had not been extended to my new card. Half an hour of collect calls to my card company later I was able to register for the conference. I then decided to make sure I had my Australian Visa confirmation… and couldn’t find it. I knew it had been approved and had been emailed to me, but I couldn’t find it anywhere. I finally (with heart pounding) checked my spam folder, and there it was between two Viagra ads. I then went on a long walk around Terry’s community, was walking back at the same time school was getting out. We then went and had dinner with the family. I met Terry’s sister, her family, and more of Terry’s immediate family. It was a great evening. By the time we got back I was ready for bed, especially because I had another early morning ahead, an early flight to OZ.