Friday, November 02, 2007

On Thursday I needed to head down to the testing facility to attend some tests for the program that I'm working on. It's not so bad because it gets me out of the office even though I have been known to sit around there for 8 hours with nothing to show for it. The facility is about 100km outside of Melbourne and, even better, only about 30 minutes away from Phillip Island, which is one of the places that I go surfing. If they run the test early enough and with the recent time change here in Australia, as long as I can get out of there by 5 I should have at least an hour to surf.

I checked the surf that morning and it was forecasted to be around 6 feet - that's pretty big for a beginner like me but I didn't want to waste this opportunity so I loaded my board into my car and headed down to the test. The test guys were on the ball and it looked like I would be out of there in plenty of time and be able to get down to the island to put myself out as shark bait.
The first choice was Smith's beach because the rip isn't as bad there but the tide was up and the waves were choppy and wouldn't be easy to handle. There were also only 2 people in the water and being by myself and a beginner, I feel safer when there's a crowd. I also go by the theory that if there's a crowd then the waves are good because someone in there must know what they're doing.

I decided to move on down the road to Woolamai, which is a place where I've surfed before but the rip is much stronger there so you have to be careful. Same result here; no one out on the waves and very choppy. But I could see some surfers around the corner not too far away. I went over to that parking lot but it looked like they were surfing a reef break, which I am not ready for at this point. They also looked like they were really good, some of them would paddle twice and all of a sudden they would be standing where, in contrast, I tend to paddle about 20 times and then roll over when the wave hits me. In the end I decided to save myself and the rescue team the trouble of pulling me dead or alive out of the water conditions that I'm not ready for.

But I did get some pictures. They're all from Smith's Beach.

Thursday, November 01, 2007



It's sad that baseball's over, especially now that it's finally warming up over here. What I wouldn't do to sit in an old ballpark out in the sun with a couple of beers and a couple of friends. But they don't have much for baseball here.. they play cricket, which is similar but very very different. But going to a match would be a good excuse to get that sitting at the ballpark feel. Especially since I know that not many people attend the interstate game so I would have plenty of room to stretch out and enjoy the day.

The Victoria Bushrangers were playing a one-day against the Western Australia Warriors. The match started at 2:45pm and was scheduled to go to 9:45pm with a half-hour break around 5:15. There was no need for me to be there the entire time. The plan was to go for a couple of hours, have a few drinks and leave. And when the tickets only cost 10 dollars there isn't a problem so I was planning to get there around 6.

I sent the email out to invite others along even though I was perfectly happy with going myself and to my surprise some actually bit... but then thought better of it and cancelled.

I was on my own. I left work a little after 5 and rode my bike home to get changed, grab a book (in case I got bored), and jumped on the tram up to the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground). On the way there I passed a ferris wheel with the MCG in the background:

I also had a pretty good view of the city center:

Found some strange and large art:

Then looked back at the ferris wheel with the city behind it:
And finally came upon the MCG, one of the largest cricket grounds in the world. The stadium holds around 100,000 people and hosts events such as international cricket, soccer, Australian Rules Football, rugby, etc. It's huge - I've been there for AFL games and an international one-day cricket match vs England, which had 75,000 people.
I walked up to the ticket window and asked for one adult ticket. "Did you buy a public transport ticket today?" the woman behind the glass asked me. I took out my metcard, which got me up to the match and cost me $3.30, and showed it to her. "You can go in for free then." Look at that. I walked in, found the beer and food stands, and then found a seat.
Now, cricket is boring. Baseball is one of my favorite sports and I can watch it - and usually require myself to - from first pitch to last no matter how the game is turning out but I understand when others say that it's boring. Cricket consists of some guy throwing the ball at the wicket and the batter in turn defending the wicket. If he hits the ball far enough or in the right location then he can run in between the wickets to score runs. But it seems that these guys were just interested in blocking the ball and not running. There's not a lot of action. Also, a dismissal (or 'out' for baseball fans) happens so infrequently that when they do accomplish what is actually an unecessary part of the game the entire team runs (or walks) over to that player to congratulate him. And since this doesn't happen very often it's not unusual for the spectators to miss the play because your mind tends to wander away from the game. I can't imagine how cricket was before instant replay (they replay every significant play about 40 times on the big screen).

Like I said, the MCG holds 100k people - that's a big stadium. I get to the ballpark for baseball games early and I remember one time in particular when I was the first one in my section (my beer in hand, I sat there in the middle of the section and the beer guy walked by and screamed "BEEEERRR!!" I looked around... "Is he talking to me?") but I arrived to this match at 6:30, right in the middle of the action. There's no way that I can tell how many people were at the match but I would guess 200.. maybe. In a stadium that fits 100k:

Look at the crowd:

Seriously, do we need to play here? We could have played at the oval by my apartment. We could have played in the street. This is crazy:

Overall it was a great time. There's just something about hanging out with not much to concentrate on and some sort of sporting event happening in front of you to draw your attention intermittently. And for cricket you can just walk in and out whenever you like without really missing anything. I would highly recommend it but, please.. for your own sanity, only stay for an hour or two. Though if you get into a big international match stay for the whole thing. Incidentally, test cricket lasts 5 days (4 days for Australian interstate) and is much slower than this - you've got to be kidding me.

"It is not true that the English invented cricket as a way of making all other human endeavors look interesting and lively; that was merely an unintended side effect."
-Bill Bryson

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