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Driving on the wrong side of the road…

Left DriveWhen coming to Sydney I knew I was going to face a new challenge.  It isn’t that I had never visited a country that drives on the left side of the road, but I had always taken public transport in those places.  In Hong Kong, Great Britain, Hong Kong, Bahamas, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Grand Cayman, India, Jamaica, and Malaysia I walked, rode trains, and took taxis.  Australia was different – I would need to hire a car, and so I would need to hire a car.

I had actually contemplated giving it a go in Japan, but a colleague talked me out of it – and he was right.  Not only would I have to remember that right is left and left is right, but I do not know the rules of the road, and I cannot read most of the road signs.  Even worse I would get terribly lost very quickly – all of the road signs are in Japanese and there does not seem to be any great discernable order to the roads.

So I arrived at the Sydney (Kingsford Smith) Airport after over twenty-five hours in transit (2 hours on the train from Tokyo to Narita, 2 hours at the airport, 7.5 hours to Singapore, 6 hour layover, 8 hours to Sydney) more than slightly tired.  I collected my luggage and headed to the Avis counter, where the very nice lady handed me the keys to a very familiar car – a Toyota Camry, exactly the same car I drive in Canada (if newer and without all of the features).  The familiarity of the vehicle would likely make my transition to the wrong side of the road easier.

Putting my luggage into the trunk was easy, but that was about it… I went to get into the car, and immediately remembered that I was on the wrong side of the car.  This stupid mistake would repeat itself several times over the course of the week.

I walked around the car and encountered my first unexpected problem – how do I get into the car?  It is weird, but combining the seat being pushed all the way forward, and the steering wheel being on the wrong side of the road, I did need to work out a system to get into the driver’s seat.  Incidentally this issue would resurface when I first got into the passenger seat of a friend’s car – the steering wheel which I would usually grab onto when entering from the left was not there!

I adjusted my mirrors, and checked to be sure that despite their locations under the right-side front seat it would still be my right foot operating the pedals.  I put the car into gear (with my left hand… grrr!) and signaled to turn NO, sorry that’s the windshield wipers.  This is another mistake I would make several times, looking stupid only when it wasn’t raining (which is to say all week).  I turned on my headlights NO sorry, that’s the windshield wiper spray, so I had to sort that out.

I got out of the parking lot and did very well, following a simple rule… I am not in a rush, and I was going to follow signs to the City, and to make sure I was on the correct side of the road I would follow the cars in front of me.  I did very well with that strategy, and in no time at all I was proficient (if not fluent) driving on the wrong side.  I got terribly lost (mostly on purpose – I was not really in a hurry to get to the hotel, and the driving around on the wrong side of the road was fun!  I accidentally found myself crossing the Sydney Harbour Bridge – certainly nicer to see from below – which I suspect cost me a few dollars in tolls.

After an hour or so of driving around in circles I decided to pull over and read the map, and within about 10 minutes I was at the hotel, and just as happy to get out of the car for the week-end.  I would have to drive again Monday morning again, but for the time being it was time to lay me down my weary head.

The most interesting issue I have had with driving in Australia has been one I hadn’t expected… it was spatial.  It is easy enough to follow behind another car and not smash into anything head-on, but when I am behind the wheel of the car I am used to being flush to the left side door, with six feet of metal between myself and the right end of my lane.  As I drive flush to the right side door, I find myself drifting to the left, as I see objects in my peripheral vision that look like they should be eight feet away from my body, but are in fact much less so.

Fortunately this is not happening when there is a car to my left; my peripheral vision to that side has prevented that.  However I have become well acquainted with the rumble strips on the side of the road.  I have also somehow managed to avoid either scraping my mirrors or driving onto sidewalks… The Toyota Camry that I picked up at the airport the other day is currently on track to be returned Monday afternoon with all of its bits intact!

Really when it comes down to it the only difficult job I have had to do behind the wheel is following my friend Erdal back to his place… Driving through traffic for an hour while trying to stay behind another car can be trying.in a familiar city on the right side of the road… doing so when you don’t know the city, where you are going, and you are on the wrong side of the road is quite stressful.  Fortunately we were heading off to Taekwondo, where I got to work out my frustrations by kicking them away!

All in all Australia is not a terribly difficult place to drive, if you keep your heads about you.  I am glad that I gave it a go here and did not try in Japan… I would still be driving in circles!

Tie me Kangaroo Down, Sport!

When I found out I was coming to Sydney, Australia I made a mental list of things I wanted to do and to see.  So far I have checked off seeing the Sydney Opera House, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Bondi Beach and Manly Beach.  While walking around Circular Quay I heard an Aboriginal busker playing a didgeridoo, and in Darling Harbour I saw a shark fin.  Of course because I have friends here I knew I was going to be going to a Taekwondo class (which I did Tuesday night).  I have even gotten quite proficient driving on the wrong side of the road!

KangaI had not given food much of a thought, beyond my friend Erdal wanting to take me to his favorite Turkish kebab restaurant (which, we discovered, had burned down).  What I had not expected, when I opened the Room Service menu at the Sydney Harbour Marriott had an interesting dish on it… Kangaroo Steak.

Wow… I certainly wanted to see kangaroos while I was here, but did I have the courage to actually eat one?  The first night I opted for a hamburger.  Safe, but not at all interesting.

Don’t get me wrong, it was a good hamburger.  However I regretted ordering it almost before I put down the phone.  I consider myself to be a very adventurous sort – certainly but not exclusively with regard to food – and I always say that when I travel I don’t want to just eat the same old ‘American food’.  I decided that at my next opportunity I would order kangaroo.

Monday evening I was on my own again, and rather than going out for dinner I went for a long walk, then back at the room I looked at the menu again and ordered the kangaroo.  I asked the woman taking my order what to expect from the meat, and she told me that it would be very similar to beef, with a slightly stronger taste.

The specific dish (under the category of casual dining) is: Char grilled kangaroo with potato & carrot rosti, macadamia nut pesto & beetroot jus.  It looked very much like steak, and the description given by the woman was accurate – a somewhat stronger taste, but not at all unpleasant.  In fact, it was quite tasty.  It was delivered as several slices (much the same way my steak had been delivered at the restaurant Saturday evening) with the beetroot jus lightly drizzled on it.  It was, in a word, delicious.

Now here’s the problem.  I have heard people debate why we would eat cows and chickens but not dogs and cats, and the prevailing answer seems to be that cats and dogs are cute.  I happen to think that kangaroos are cute too, although that might just be my inexperience – I have heard people say that there are areas down here where they do become a nuisance.  Nonetheless I like them, and neither the picture above nor the stuffed roo that I was given to take to my son did anything to dissuade me from that feeling.  As much as I enjoyed my kangasteak, I must have felt guilty about it later on.. because only hours later I had a dream I was being chased by a kangaroo, and she caught me, knocked me to the ground, and got right up to my face and stared at me as her joey jumped up and down on my back and head.

For the sake of my dreams I think the next adventurous meal I will eat down here will be crocodile or something… I can’t imagine how badly I would sleep if someone served me koala pie!

Windows Server 2012 Videos from TechEd Australia

Channel 9 Guy

I wasn’t able to get to TechEd in Australia this year (or ever… sigh!).  However the folks from Channel 9 were, and they have a lot of the sessions available on their site.  I hope to find the time to sit through most of them over the next couple of weeks, but there are two or three that I know I will be making time for sooner! -M







What’s New in WS2012: http://channel9.msdn.com/Events/TechEd/Australia/2012/WSV311

What’s New in Active Directory in Windows Server 2012: http://channel9.msdn.com/Events/TechEd/Australia/2012/WSV312

WS2012 Dynamic Access Control Overview and Tips: http://channel9.msdn.com/Events/TechEd/Australia/2012/WSV334

Kick Starting your Migration to Windows Server 2012 http://channel9.msdn.com/Events/TechEd/Australia/2012/WSV331

WS2012 File and Storage Services Management: http://channel9.msdn.com/Events/TechEd/Australia/2012/WSV325

Enabling Disaster Recovery using Hyper-V Replica: http://channel9.msdn.com/Events/TechEd/Australia/2012/VIR321

WS2012 Server Manager for Remote and Multi-Server Management: http://channel9.msdn.com/Events/TechEd/Australia/2012/WSV317

Windows Runtime (WinRT) Deep Dive: http://channel9.msdn.com/Events/TechEd/Australia/2012/DEV317

WS2012 File System Enhancements: ReFS and Storage Spaces: http://channel9.msdn.com/Events/TechEd/Australia/2012/WSV316

What’s New in Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V, Part 1: http://channel9.msdn.com/Events/TechEd/Australia/2012/VIR312

What’s New in Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V, Part 2: http://channel9.msdn.com/Events/TechEd/Australia/2012/VIR315

WS2012 Hyper-V Live Migration and Live Storage Migration: http://channel9.msdn.com/Events/TechEd/Australia/2012/VIR314

The Faces of WS2012: Bare Metal, Server Core, Minimal Server Interface… http://channel9.msdn.com/Events/TechEd/Australia/2012/WSV314

Hyper-V Performance, Scale & Architecture Changes: http://channel9.msdn.com/Events/TechEd/Australia/2012/VIR413

Taekwondo: Care to comment?

Black belt, 2nd dan

Black belt, 2nd dan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I want to preface this post by saying that I don’t get it.  I have been in Taekwondo for four and a half years, and have in that time achieved my 2nd Dan Black Belt… but even before I started I am reasonably sure that I would not have gotten it.

A commentator on Australian TV watched the competition at the recent Olympic Games and said that it didn’t look like a very hard sport, and the competitors just seemed to be dancing around and waving their legs at one another.  This obviously upset a few people… it doesn’t necessarily offend me per se, but it leaves me wondering how someone can have so little respect for a sport, a martial art, and athletes, and to say it in a public forum is just stupid.

I did not hear the original rant, but I can imagine it contained comments about how much protective gear the competitors wear… and it is true, we do.  I own one of those chest protectors, and have sparred with a lot of people who were wearing them.  I know for a fact that getting hit on the protector can hurt like hell… I have unfortunately broken an opponent’s ribs through one.

Now, if someone says on TV that they think a sport – baseball, basketball, soccer, or whatever – is stupid and not really a sport, there isn’t a whole lot of repercussions that can be meted out.  It can be debated of course, but that’s about it.  Martial arts, on the other hand, is based on an activity that we all start doing very early on… so when The Footy Show invited him on to spar with the Australian Taekwondo competitors, he had the opportunity to put his money where is mouth was.  Here is the video of what happened:

In this video we see that the commentator (whose name is not mentioned) has a big mouth, and makes a big show of dancing around (and to any experience martial artist looking stupid)… until Safwan Khalil (who lost his Bronze Medal match in the 58kg division) lands his first naduban kick, which is essentially a spinning roundhouse kick, and one of my favourites.  The commentator goes down in a shock… but does get up for more of a beating.  As he gets up he is swearing and clearly in shock as to how hard the kick (which was clean) really was, and how far it sent him reeling.  When he is back up a double roundhouse kick combination doesn’t actually knock him down… he backs away quickly, and then drops to the ground holding his stomach (through the padding).  He spends a few seconds on the matt before getting up.

The host at this point feels that Mr. Khalil needs a bit of a rest, and brings his fiancé, Carmen Marton, in to take his place.  Ms. Marton also represented Australia in London, and her first spinning jump-back kick knocks the commentator flat on his back.

True to the tenets of Taekwondo that we are all taught, each time they knock the competitor down, they help him to get back up.  Their sportsmanship is apparent throughout, even to this <word removed by censors> who was so disrespectful toward them.

At this point the host put an end to the bout, and asked the commentator if he had anything to say to the athletes.  Unable to stand, he apologizes.  I am sure he now has a much better respect for the ‘sport’ than he did before.

For the record, I have never been faced by anyone (outside of the ring) who knew that I was a Black Belt and still wanted to fight me.  To the credit of most, the Black Belt is a very widely respected symbol, and while it means so much more to those of us who wear (or aspire to) it, to much of the world it is the international ‘don’t mess with me’ symbol.

I want to express my respect for Mr. Khalil and Ms. Marton for their achievements, as well as for the commentator, who did have the nerve to get into the ring… and after being hit a couple of times, still got up again.  He has courage, and I would love to invite him into the sport… I know that any dojang in the world would love to invite him in to help guide him on the path to Black Belt excellence!

(For the record: I consider myself to be a better fighter than a lot of the higher belts that I train with… that does not mean I wouldn’t get my @ss handed to me in a proper sparring match… I have never been much for sparring because my previous fighting styles go against the tenets of TKD… and I would never want to hurt anyone in a sparring match!)

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