Sunday, August 13, 2006

Weekend Update

On Saturday, we went to some exhibits for a city-wide science festival called Questacon -- it's a two- week long program involving different venues and programs, all designed to get kids interested in science and engineering. We saw a 12-foot olive python (named, of all things, "Olive"), and learned that it's against the law to use live animals as food, even in zoos. Not clear whether this applies to everything, like crickets or goldfish. But it definitely applies to rabbits. Which, I guess, is better for the rabbit, but in the end it still gets euthanized and eaten by Olive, which remains a bummer if you're the rabbit.

Of course, the highlight of any decent science show is fooling around with liquid nitrogen:

This guy, from a Canberra science center called CSIRO, proceeded to pour the nitrogen on a latex balloon (it shrunk to nothing, rather than freeze; and then he reinflated it by breathing on it, noting that this is the only way to blow up a balloon from the outside).

On Saturday night,we caused an international incident, though no word yet on whether we will be recalled to Washington, DC. We went to a going away party for the head of consular affairs at the U.S. embassy, who is taking a position as chief advisor to the Secretary of State for Antarctic Treaty affairs. The host graciously invited the kids, who we promised would be well behaved. Then, I managed to spill a full glass of red wine all over the cream carpet. It looked like a scene from CSI Miami -- it was everywhere. Usually we don't do this much damage when we are invited to people's homes. We offered to pay the cleaning fees, and plan on sending over a couple of bottles of wine as a token of our embarrassment. White wine.

Sunday we visited the Australian Institute of Sport, which identifies and nurtures athletic talent. The Australians are very strong in swimming, basketball, and track -- our tour guide was a 6'3" race walker, who does a 5k in about 19:30 (that's about a 6:30 mile, a pretty decent clip). There wasn't much going on, but it was an impressive facility. On the basketball courts, we saw a 7' vollyeball player going 1-on-1 against a 5'2" gymnast.

This country takes its sports seriously. Since we've been here, we've seen television coverage of two kinds of rugby, Australian rules football, soccer, field hockey, tennis, basketball, a somewhat strange variant of basketball called netball (which is not played in the U.S.), swimming, cricket (which is the most complicated sport ever invented, kind of a cross between baseball, croquet, and Calvinball) , and bocce ball. Televised bocce ball. I suppose that's no worse than watching the 1978 Miller Hi-Life Professional Bowling championship on ESPN Classic. Uh, make that seeing. I wouldn't be caught dead watching that crap.

Susan plans on posting something soon; I've heard many requests to have her say something, and I guess people are getting tired of me. She awaits her muse.


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