Sunday, August 30, 2009

B11: Not Wilson's Promontary...

(This is a red gum tree, a type of Eucalyptus in the family Myrtaceae. Eucalyptus were imported to America and were originally only endemic to Australia and Southern Asia. [Triplet Falls, Otway National Park])


Lost soccer game, didn’t make baseball playoff roster (not enough game eligibility), been spending every waking moment on the text mining research project, turned in a sub par biology assessment (it’s ok, I’m taking it pass no pass), and trying very hard to finish “The Fountainhead” by Ayn Rand.

What’s more interesting, as you can probably decipher from the opening picture, was my weekend. My friend with a car had to go to an Australia Football game for an assignment (what kind of assignment is that?), so we didn’t go to Wilson’s Promontory. No worries, I took a road trip instead. Ignoring the weather forecast (thunderstorms and high winds), we packed our tent, cooler (eski), and lonely planet handbook and were off for a weekend on the Great Ocean Road.

Leaving at 5pm, my housemate Abdul and I picked up Michele (Berkeley) and drove the 3 hours to Port Campbell National Park via the Princess Highway. The drive was pretty uneventful aside from the nasty “carpet” of Christmas Beetles at the gas stations. Arriving at Port Campbell, “we” pitched our tent (I didn’t do much of the pitching) under the light of our Mazda’s headlights (I am foreshadowing an unfortunate event). After clearing the beetles off the ground of the tent, we settled in, watched some movies on the laptop and feel asleep with the intent of getting an early start the next day. I don’t think that it stopped pouring rain once during the entire night. Good thing the tent leaked on Abdul’s bag instead of mine.

Awaking before the sun, we de-pitched our tent and packed up… but this happened:

("Abdul, why did you leave the car lights on!?" Not the way to start off the day. I'm looking for the starter and Abdul is calling road side assitance. Time: 6:15 AM. [Port Campbell Campgrounds, Port Campbell National Park])

So instead of watching the sun rise over the 12 Apostles National Park, we watched the sun rise over the RACV truck as the mechanic pulled in to jumpstart our car. An hour and a half later, we were exploring “The Blowhole”, “Loch Ard Gorge”, “Sherbrook Estuary”, “The Island Archway”, “Thunder Cave”, and the “12 Apostles”. The ice cold wind and the stinging raindrops drove everyone away, leaving the natural phenomena to be enjoyed only by Abdul, Michele, and I. The pictures don’t do the rock formations any justice; they were magnificent.

(Michele and I in front of Lock Ard Wrecksite. [Loch Ard Gorge, The Great Ocean Road])

I forced my carpool to go on a hike with me. We drove to Otway National Park and stopped at a small coffee shop so that I could pester the locals for information about their favourite hikes. Soon we were trekking through the Australian rainforest lined with red gum trees (eucalypts) and huge ferns like the ones in “Jurassic Park”. We completed 2 short hikes, “Triplet Falls” and “Hopetoun Falls”, and the waterfalls were large and breathtaking… I can do all the describing you want, but it wouldn’t even come close to the pictures… so just look at those.
(I guess the hike was worth it. [Triplet Falls, Otway])

(Sneaking off the trail... [Hoptoun Falls, Otway])

My plan for seeing the Melba Gully glowworms at night and our plans for setting up camp at Apollo Bay were shattered by the relentless pounding of the rains. We argued and disagreed about what to do next. We came super close to waving the white flag and heading home on that Saturday, but my stubbornness and Abdul’s fear of driving on drenched, winding road forced us to rent a caravan in the Marengo Bay caravan park.

The caravan, a converted trailer with a living room attached was so comical that it lightened up our moods as we grilled sausages on the terrible stove and cut up a fruit salad. We laughed, took a million pictures, taught Abdul how to make s’mores, and completely forget about the thunder and hail outside.

We awoke with the sunrise again, and left the campground with the Lion King music playing on our stereo. After missing the exit three times, we finally found the Marriners Lookout and ascended to the top of the cliff and shared a stunning view of Apollo Bay with the sheep and alpaca. We then started back down the winding Great Ocean Road back to Melbourne.

(Amazing view of Apolly Bay and the hike only took 20 minutes. I believe Marengo Campground is near the tip. [Marriners Lookout, Apolly Bay])

On the way home, we stopped at Kennet River. Kennet River has one of the highest concentrations of Koala’s in Victoria and it was easy to see whey; the majestic eucalypt forests were dense and plentiful. We drove up the hiking trail (oops… we were supposed to get out and walk) and I spotted a kangaroo that darted off the road. Michele and Abdul didn’t see it and were baffled when I yelled “Stop!” and jumped out of the car and ran to the edge of the cliff to get a glimpse of the fleeting marsupial. They ridiculed me; “Mike, you idiot, there are no kangaroos up here in the forest. You are crazy, stop wasting our time!” I was upset because no one believed me. They made fun of me for a good 10 minutes… until we saw another kangaroo with her two offspring in the middle of the road. Ha! Point for Mike. I also spotted the first Koala and we spent the morning slowly driving deeper and deeper on Grey River Road looking for the lazy creatures.
(Animals? Look out for Kangaroos and Koalas... Scroll down for some more animals. [Great Ocean Road])

(Koala hunting! [Grey River Road, Kennet River])

We headed home and enjoyed the amazing scenery. This is by far one of the most amazing experiences I had and I’m glad that I pushed everyone to stay. Me being a stubborn, immature baby forced everyone to go on my hikes, my lookouts, and my stupid river walks… Hopefully Abdul and Michele enjoyed it as much as I did. Next week it is back to soccer, baseball, schoolwork (maybe) and hopefully I can make it out to Wilson’s Promontory next weekend.

Until then,

Mikey Doo

(The world famous 12 Apostles. But there's only 6! [12 Apostles, The Great Ocean Road])

(Walking on the beach our toes in the sand. [Loch Ard Gorge, Great Ocean Road])

(Heading into the ferns and gum trees. [Caltoun Falls, Otway])

(Being goofy at Caltoun Falls. The spray from the falls was refreshing. [Caltoun Falls, Otway])

(Loggin' it. [Triple Falls, Otway])

(Water and surfers in the distance. As the sun came out, the water got clearer. [Lorne])

(This is not a zoo! He was actually awake. [Grey River Road, Kennet River])

(Mamma Roo protecting her babies from us. [Grey River Road, Kennet River])

(Lorikeets and Roselas outside the coffee shop just outside of Otway. [Lavers Hill])

Sunday, August 23, 2009

B10: Baseball.

("Why is everyone driving on the wrong side of the road?" [Fitzroy, Victoria])

(This is me trying to look cool. [Tom O'Halloran Field, Albert Park Reserve, Melbourne])


Lot’s of school and lots of research. Turned in my globalisation essay, realised I’m very behind in my Flora and Fauna class, and did a lot of head-scratching in stats. There, that covers my academic obligation to this blog.

(This is mulga ant we learned about in Biology of Australian Flora and Fauna. The ants carry the aphids with their jaws out of their nest in the morning and put them on acacia trees. At the end of the day, the ants retrieve the aphids and bring them back to the nest. The ants stroke the backs of the aphids and the aphids regurgitate the honey or sap of the tree that they were sucking on and the ants eat this "vomit". The next day, the process repeats itself.[Photo courtesy of])

More importantly, I made a revolutionary discovery that changed my perpective on life and will ultimately alter my priorities in regards to the importance of certain material possessions. If you bite off the corners of a tim tam, you can use it as a straw for a glass of milk... I know this may not be as exciting to you as it is to me, but it has made the tim tam 4 times better which is unprecedented, since the tim tam is already my favorite night time treat. As the milk runs through the tim tam, it soaks the core of the fudge. The milk tastes like chocolate, and, more importantly, the tim tam becomes a mushy sensual delight that melts in the mouth. Tomorrow I am going to wake up early and swim in compensation for the heaps of tim tams I ate this weekend.

Anyways, this week has been all about sports. Tuesday we had our first indoor soccer (futsal) game. We came back from a 3-0 deficit to win our first game 4-3 against the Freestylers FC. I could only play for 5 minutes at a time because I couldn’t breath. I need to get on that treadmill! Next up: O rei de Futbol. At baseball training on Tuesday night, the head coach invited me to play with the 1’s team, the class A league, the following night. I actually thought about not going because I wouldn’t get any playing time and my essay was due, but decided that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity, so I went. I rode the bench the entire game with another American, and then “died in the on-deck circle” (the guy in front of me made the last out of the game).

(This is a tram that has the name of our fustal team on it. I think that "The Jersey Boys" are a boy band, and my roommate thinks the name of our team is hilarious. [Melbourne Uni, Melbourne])

The head coach came over and talked to me during the game about the players. Turns out the left fielder played on the Olympic team in Athens in 2004 and was also drafted by the Minnesota Twins a couple years ago. He went 4-4 with a double and triple during the game. He also poked fun at me for taking pictures from the bench… the red laser from the camera blinded him in left field. The situation was pretty embarrassing. The team also featured one the best pitchers in Victoria, an outfielder who played in Europe, a pitcher who pitched for the University of Redlands, and a high school catcher about to play college ball in America. Compared to the 3’s team, the pace of the game was similar to that of America and these monsters hit the snot out of the ball.

(This is the Olympian. He plays baseball. [Photo courtesy of])

(The view from the bench. This is best picture I could get... there is no "action" setting. [Melbourne Ball Park, Altona])

On Saturday I played on the 2’s team. Since this is my blog, I will dictate what I talk about it, and I have decided to talk about my defensive day instead of my offensive day (0 for 4). I started at second base for the first time since little league… I was so nervous. Guess where the first ball of the game was hit? It’s ok, I gobbled it up and made the play and that got all the jitters out of my system. I probably got the most plays of the day and didn’t make a single error! I even made a diving play in between first and second. I dove, rolled on my back, did a backwards somersault, landed on my feet and threw a short hop to the first basemen. The pitcher, who was about 40 years old, threw a complete game and had amazing control. We ended up winning the game 11-3. When I got a ride home and tried to offer my carpool some money for gas (petrol) he just laughed and drove away. I guess money ain't a big thing for these people.

(Evidence that I actually dove. [Tom O'Halloran Field, Albert Park Reserve, Melbourne])

I went ahead and rejected Melbourne Uni’s invitation to the uni games on the Gold Coast because of the financial aspect of the trip. Whenever someone asked me, I just blamed my parents for not letting me go, even thought that wasn’t the case. Anyways, I’m trying to plan a camping trip for the uni break and hopefully things work out for the best.

This weekend I didn’t go out. I was too tired after the baseball game and didn’t attend their trivia night. My housemate and I did make it out to Chadstone, the biggest mall in Victoria and flitted around there for a while before buying a coffee table and comforter for my bed. The other nights, I stayed home, watched “Man on Fire” with my housemate, traded mp3 music files (I got a lot of Australian artists: Empire of the Sun, Kisschassy, Midnight Oil, Rooney), and did some “managing” for our soccer team. We also went on to Google maps and street view, and I showed him Tierrasanta and Serra High School, and he showed me Wollongong , the city he grew up in. He said Tierrasanta was really “posh” which I guess means luxurious. It made me sad to see my old green Honda sitting in the driveway of our house (since now it is at the dump).

(The largest mall in Victoria. My roommate went crazy. To me, it looked like another Westfield Shopping Center. [Chadstone, Victoria])

Next week looks like it is going to be academically hectic again. Soccer on Tuesday, baseball on Tuesday and Wednesday, research meeting on Thursday but I can always look forward to the weekend. I’m going to ask my friend to drive me to Wilson’s Promontory for camping like he promised… Hopefully he keeps his word!

Until then,

Mikey Doo

(A lorikeet. They are common and really pretty. [Carlton Gardens, Fitzroy])

(Baseball. [Melbourne Ball Park, Altona])

(Dinner by candle light. My housemate wants to save energy. [Firzroy])

(View from traffic, This is the Yarra River. [Melbourne])

Sunday, August 16, 2009

B9: Surf anyone?

(We got up everyday at 6:30 so that we could watch the sunrise before our pancakes and cereal. Toitle is out there swimming around somewhere... I took him on the trip and now he's gone.. [Bancoora Beach, Breamlea])


Life is chugging along. Classes are going well but they are starting to buckle down and due dates for assignments are coming. I don’t have any midterms, so I can concentrate on my essays and labs for the time being. Research is going well as I’m starting to use the internet for programs instead of writing my own. The problem is learning all the programming languages and this takes most of my time.

Campus life is slowing down but I’ve managed to keep it exciting by continually losing the little traveler’s notebook (with all my bank account cards in it) that Max gave me. I’ve mostly been walking around campus, finding free lunches that clubs sponsor and I still have one more slice of cake left (I eat one every night). It tastes really good with some Hershey's syrup… apparently they don’t have that here.

Baseball is going well and I’m leaning towards going on the Gold Coast trip. Being around the baseball players here is awesome and they are always willing to share a good laugh. I haven’t gone to the pub with them yet because they go right after practice… when I’m the most tired. I even met a player from Occidentel College who played with a friend from high school… what a small world. I missed this week’s game, which means I only have one left for the season. Soccer starts on Tuesday and my housemate won’t shut up about strategy and playing time and the shedule (fixtures) and his new indoor shoes he bought… he is so excited. Our first game is against the Freestylers Football Club (we bettter crush ‘em).

I left school early on Friday and caught a ride up with some Americans (UC Davis, Boston College, Oberlin College, and George Washington University) to the surf camp. On the hour and a half drive, the ones in the back talked about Top Chef and Dawson’s Creek and, as fascinating as that conversation was, I found myself setting up other camping trips with the driver, Brian. Brian bought a car and has gone on trips every weekend. We plan on going to Wilson’s Promentory in two weeks As always, I’ll supply you with a quote from an outside source about Wilson’s Promontory:

“The southernmost point of the Australian mainland, Wilsons Promontory is arguably the most loved national park in Victoria. …
…The park has diverse vegetation communities including warm temperate and cool temperate rainforest, tall open forests, woodland, heathland, and swamp and coastal communities."
- Review from
I stress the word “plan”… Hopefully everything works out.

(The Bremlea market. The fries (chips) were amazing and the "Lot Burger" had beets and egg in it. The store also had tim-tams, but I restrained myself. [Breamlea])

We reached the “camp” at Bancoora Beach (named after a shipwreck) and I was greeted by another hostel-like, low-budget-looking, ridiculously-secluded, sandy-coloured “clubhouse”. The place had 40 beds and since there were 80 campers signed up, we had to stake out our sleeping quarters. I ended up having to share anyways. We got there, got some lunch (I brought mine, of course) and then headed out to the surf.

(Bancoora Surf Life Saving Club. This is where we stayed. [Breamlea])

It was COLD. I gave my carpool mates a condensed version of my lessons and fully intended to tow them into waves and work the “stabilizer” move to get them to stand up, but once I got in the water I was so giddy with excitement that I just ignored them and went surfing. I met an Australian from the camp we surfed for about 3 hours. She was way better than me and was excited to tell me about all the little beaches that were nearby. Saturday I surfed in the morning and in the evening and it was small. I had more fun paddling around and talking to all the other members of the Melbourne Uni Surfriders.

The nights were all about partying. The Australians prepared sausage, pasta, hamburgers, and salad and it was all a little subpar. What do you expect? All they cared about was organising their nude race (I didn’t participate) and singing outdated drinking songs. It was easy to meet people because everyone was so relaxed and eager to form new relationships. One person joked that they should called this “Drink Camp”, not “Surf Camp”. My favourite part of the Barbie Q was the stars. Without night pollution, I saw amazing constellations that are only seen from the southern hemisphere.

Sunday was spectacular as we Americans woke up, stole some boards and wetsuits from the garage and snuck out to 13th Beach before anyone noticed. We surfed there all morning and took some outstanding pictures with our Nokia (I’m working on getting the surf pictures from him… They should be posted by Wednesday). The rain, the bungee cords snapping, the boards flying off our roof, the mud, the 160 km/hr winds and the rocky gravel road were all forgotton when we caught our first waves. It was spectacular.

(When there is no surf, there are no surfers. The water was clear and blue. [Bancoora Beach, Breamlea])

(Sunrise on Saturday. [Bancoora Beach, Breamlea])

Check back this week for the surf pictures. Next weekend should be baseball on Saturday and we are trying to organise a day trip hike on Sunday. I didn’t get my hiking shoes sent out here for nothing! First, I need to get through this week and finish that stupid essay.

Until then,

Mikey Doo

(Here is our 4-runner and the boards we used. They worked out really well and you can paddle insanely fast on them. [13th Beach, Torquay])

(The first day. I think that was a camp of some sort. That girl in front is wearing a USC sweatshirt, I believe. [Bancoora Beach, Breamlea])

(Gippo (Melbourne Uni) and Brian (UC Davis). [BBQ, Breamlea])

(The Bancoora S.L.S.C clubhouse. This was your typical trophy room with plaques, awards, and autographs. The clubhouse also had a fully functional bar. The pool balls were way smaller, and they have a rule where you get two shots if you miss the bal you are aiming for. [Bancoora Clubhouse, Breamlea])

(These are Eucalyptus trees (Myrtaceae Family) endemic to the Gondwanan super continent which broke away from Antartica about 50 million years ago. The Eucalyptus is characterised by vertically hanging, isobilateral hanging leaves that avoid the suns rays. The numerous oil glands in the leaves are used in medicines and the oil is highly flammable to maximise burning so that regrowth can begin quickly. Eucalyptus was exported to California. [My Beautiful Landrette, Fitzroy])

Sunday, August 9, 2009

B8: Melbournians and their Sport

(Baseball! Hanging out with my "carpool mate", Michael. I went 1-2 with a strikeout, walk and RBI. Steven, that's 2.5 fantasy points. [Loyala Reserve, Watsonia])

(We got there a little early, so those are the Juniors, 21 and under, playing rugby. [Olympic Park Stadium])


For your loyal readers, I’m going to try and make an effort to blog every Sunday night so it should be up by Sunday morning for you guys on the west coast.

Week two was like week one, only a little more organised (I’m going to try and spell like an Australian, so no more zed’s!) because I don’t have to walk around campus with my nose buried in a map, I know my timetable by heart, I know my workout schedule and I have found my study haven in the Eastern Resource Center. I spent much of my spare time working on some research for text mining. Right now, I’m just taking other people’s code and running it on heaps of data in different ways to see if I can get some noun phrases for a corpus (data). I am still lost, but I continue to work hard. Statistics is tough with all the new material, Biology of Australian Flora and Fauna has us learning about the “foreign” prickly pear cacti, and my first essay for Globalisation is coming up.

(Mom, you would love this rose bush thing. Whatever it is. [The Old Quad, University of Melbourne])

Now that the boring uni stuff is out of the way, I can talk about the cool stuff I did.

I went to a couple club meetings and finally settled on my favorites. I joined the Melbourne University Surfriders. All they really do is surf and go to pubs. Next weekend there is a surf trip down to Bancoora and I can’t wait… I’m literally shaking with excitement. My housemate and I also started an indoor soccer league and, thanks to my lovely sister Kimmy, I will have my indoor soccer shoes here in a couple of days. I decided not to join the Mountaineering club because they were a little intense, with their backpacking trips through the snow and their canyoning down waterfalls.

(The field hockey pitch where we are going to have our Campus Sport Soccer games. [Tin Alley, University of Melbourne])

I also (as you can tell from the picture above) joined the Melbourne Uni Baseball team. There are only 3 games left, but I figured I might as well get the Ausball excperience. I practiced with the team and the coach said that it was “obvious that I had played before” and he invited me to the “Uni Games” which are like the Olympics for the Australian unis. The uni games are held on the Gold Coast (in Queensland) in September. Wikipedia has this to say about the Gold Coast:
Gold Coast City is renowned for its sunny subtropical climate, popular surfing beaches, expansive waterway and canal systems, a skyline dominated by high-rise apartment buildings, a peaceful rainforest hinterland in the west of the city, active nightlife and its wide variety of tourist attractions.
We’ll see what my bank account has to say when the time comes (will cost close to $1000). As of right now, I’m just enjoying throwing the ball around again with some truly friendly Australians.

On Friday night I went to the rugby game with my housemate. We sat in the third row and it was $20 (chump change compared to the $80 Petco Park tickets). The Melbourne Storm handled the North Queensland Cowboys by a fair margin (20 – 4) and I got to see Billy Slater, the hometown hero, run circles around Johnathon Thurston, the premier player of the entire rugby league. I probably annoyed my housemate into oblivion with all my questions. The first half we had a couple of trys (kind of like a touchdown) but missed our conversions (like a field goal) so the score was pretty close. We burst onto the scene in the second half and capitalised on some Cowboy mistakes, weak punts, and missed conversions (by Thurston). After the game, the players circled the field and gave high fives to the fans and even got in some pictures with some kids. For me, this was a truly remarkable display of appreciation, and it shows that the Australian athletes know what sport is about: being heroes and role models (even my housemate got a little giddy when his hero came by and gave him a high five). My favourite part was staring at the player’s massive legs, my $5 corndog dipped in sweet sauce and the cheerleaders.

(Thurston is wearing the hat thing. Sorry the picture is so blurry... they run fast. [Olympic Park Stadium])

This week I really experienced the Australian spirit. A guy from the baseball team offered to give me a ride to the game and on the way there, our car broke down. We sat in a 7/11 and a guy came over to help us. He got right into the car and was hitting stuff with a fist and turning nobs and tightening bolts. He sat there for a good 15 minutes trying to helps us out and after he failed, he didn’t stop. He proceeded to go around the entire parking lot and asked other people for help on our behalf! I couldn’t believe it. This was just an example of the Australian way. My carpool “chaffeur” REFUSED to take my money for gas (petrol) even though he had waited in traffic to pick me up. My baseball team captain sent me 15 emails making sure that I had socks and cleats and equipment for the game (and when I didn’t, he arranged for guys to bring equipment for me). People on the trolley helped me figure out how to use my metLink card. Guys in the laundrette offered me advice on how to use a front load washing machine. My housemate even bought me a thirty (30!) dollar cake for my birthday. I thanked him and he said “Ah! No worries!”. The friendliness here blows me away.

I’m having a great time, but I wish that I could have been home for my birthday. I had (for a long time) been looking forward to having a beer with my dad but unfortunately my 21st birthday was today. I know he was looking forward to it was much as I was, but at least he knows that I’m having the time of my life here.

(Remember those cakes in the window from Brunetti? The ones that I thought I'd never I'd get to eat? Well I ate one! This is my housemate Abdul and Michelle, from Berkeley. [Lygon St., Carlton])

Next week is a week of new lecturers (they rotate) and more settling in. I haven’t seen any kangaroos yet… but I think I’m going to buy some kangaroo meet at the market tomorrow… my carpool driver said that it is great on the “barbie”.

Until then,

Mikey Doo

(I love coffee and pastries. [Federation Square, Melbourne CBD])

(My first up close encounter with a marsupial. Abdul has a talent of getting possums to come over to us. [Carlton Gardens])

(Abdul gettin' some love from his hero, Dallas Johnson. [Olympica Park Stadium])

(Corndog. [Olympic Park Stadium])

(Right outside my Globalisation lecture. [Old Arts, University of Melbourne])

(Some funnel thing for the rain in front of the union house. [Tin Alley, University of Melbourne])

(The Union House. [Melbourne University])

(Hanging out on the South Lawn between classes. [University of Melbourne])