Yesterday was D's first day of work for the folks who make Campaign Monitor, leaving me free to spend the whole day however I'd like. Yesterday I took a stroll down to the waterfront and took some more 'artistic,' less-'touristy'-type photos -- or, more accurately, attempted to. It's just too nice here to be focusing on the minutae that usually makes up my style.
I'm hoping to upload a few more pics this afternoon, but my hopes for better wifi at our beach-front hotel did not come to fruition. Turns out, it's $5 for fifteen minutes here, compared with $5 an hour at the Sydney hotel. Lucky for us, another kind soul has an open access point within range of our super-wifi equipment, meaning I can still be somewhat connected. (Arg. Hang on; I'm drying off on the balcony after my morning shower and fear that I'm beginning to burn. I best put some clothes on. OK.) When we inevitably move here some day, we're going to have open wifi with a little paypal tip jar or something. It's way too hot here in the direct sun, so I'm going to head down to the water to write down there. See you in 5.
Boy, I'm sure glad I opted to bring my OLPC; the battery life and daylight-readable screen are both fantastic. I can't imagine trying to sit on a bench and write with a normal laptop, so I'm really glad I got one of these while I had the chance. If it weren't for having to constantly stop and tell people all about this cute little machine that they can't possibly buy anyway, it'd be a machine perfectly suited to freelance writers. Maybe I should become one.
I've now got the ocean breeze at my back, surrounded by the cries of hungry birds -- irate that no one is giving them anything to eat -- and the sound of a gurgling fountain that looks entirely too much like the head of a giant stone penis, dribbling out fluid from exactly where you'd expect if you were familiar at all with penises. (Penii?) Appropriately enough, the sculpture is entited 'The Seed.' I'll snap some pics of it for your reference.
Speaking of birds: the gulls here seem to be of a different sort than I'm accustomed to seeing in the states; they're leaner, more muscular and slightly smaller. Yesterday I took pics of one in particular who had staked out an area as being his, violently ruffling his feathers and screaming when any other gull dared enter his space. This was aggravated when some kind soul (me) donated a found Nutella sandwich to them. This bossy gull spent the whole time chasing all the other gulls away from his sandwich that he failed to notice as two smaller black birds devoured the whole thing. He defended the sandwich for at least ten minutes, throughout which time he didn't even have one bite. I suspect he might be an American tourist.
Oh yeah: if you'd like to see the area in which I'm currently sitting, I shot a silly little video with the OLPC's webcam yesterday morning whilst air-drying on my balcony. It'll be the sort of greenish, blocky area towards the left side of the blocky screen. Note the .au in that url; it got there automatically :)
It took a few meals, but I've decided that my American taste buds are not particularly pleased with the flavor of pork in Australia; I can't really describe the difference, but I suspect it may be due in part to the lack of copious amounts of seasonings and preservatives (and hormones) that American meat producers include in everything. I've tried bacon, link sausage, and now a Sausage McMuffin with Egg from McDonalds, and it just doesn't quite sit right with me. I had an interesting turkish pastry-thing yesterday with 'mince' in it, which I suspect to be a ground pork product because of the same odd flavor which I found initially curious and eventually off-putting. I believe this to be the first occurance of something that I've found that I think is 'better' in America. Oh, 'tomato sauce' was the first. It's not quite ketchup, in that it's sweeter and doesn't seem to contain any vinegar, and it does not do to chips what ketchup does to fries in the states. Adding insult to injury, Heinz actually sells 'tomato sauce' here rather than ketchup.
There are countless things that are better here, though. The soft drinks in particular are fantastic, probably in large part to the inclusion of sugar rather than corn syrup. Delish. There are a variety of different soft drinks that I'm really going to miss when we have to leave, most notably being Coca-Cola's 'Lift,' and to a lesser extent, the 'Solo' range of beverages. I've searched in vain for Marcus's's New Zealand favorite 'J&L,' but both 'Lift' and 'Solo' taste remarkably similar to how he described it. As dissimilar as they'd like to appear, I guess Aussies and Kiwis share a fondness for lemon drink that I wish Americans would develop as well.
In conversations with experienced people before our trip, the one thing everyone recommended was Arnott's 'Tim Tam' biscuits, so I popped 'round the corner shop and purchased several varieties. Those are some bloody wonderful biscuits, but I have to say my heart lies more in all the other varieties of biscuits that Arnott's sells. The 'Spiced Fruit Roll' is particularly wonderful, though difficult to describe. Imagine a 'Fig Newton,' but with a slightly pretzel-like (in consistency) toasted shell around it that your teeth crunch through before getting into the softer 'mantle,' and that the filling is not fig, but instead currants, raisins, orange zest and the same types of spices you'd find in mince (not the pork kind) pies in the U.S. and U.K. I suspect that we are going to need to acquire some more luggage with which we'll bring a several year supply back with us.
Speaking of raisins, here they are apparently frequently called 'sultanas' or 'saltanas' or something rather similar to that, requiring a creative renaming of a familiar product. Kellogg's 'Raisin Bran' becomes Kellogg's 'Sultana Bran.' Other more inexplicable renamings include Kellogg's 'Rice Bubbles' rather than the familiar (to this American) Kellogg's 'Rice Krispies.' I'm not entirely sure what 'krispies' denote here, but I suspect it might be the turds that cling to the ass-end off a sheep. For brekkie this morning I had a cereal that LOOKED for all the world like the krispies on the ass-end of a sheep, but tasted really wonderful, especially as the milk soaked in.
Oh: remember how I was initially weirded out by spinach at brekkie? Well, since then I've eaten a number of traditional Aussie brekkies featuring things such as gigantic sauteed mushrooms and roasted tomatoes (toe maaah toe), and 'hand sliced' thick white toast, which, apparently, is the greatest thing here since sliced bread; many cafes proudly advertise that their toast is hand sliced. It is all delightful, especially the roasted tomato and mushrooms. Also, these Aussies sure know how to poach an egg; that's enough right there to keep me here. Aside from the copious amounts of pork in most traditional brekkies, I'm in love with Aussie fare. I'll fit right in.
Since being here, I've developed what can only be described as 'a bit of a coffee addition'. I've fallen in love with what they call a 'flat white,' which is a small shot of espresso and a big cup of steamed milk. I usually add a dollop of honey to that and I'm good to just sit and drink it. Just talking about it now is making me want to go grab one. Alright, hang on a tick, I'm going.
Ok, back. So one other thing I really like about things here, is that cafes usually have different pricing for 'eat-in' vs 'take-away,' and there is no tipping anywhere. They actually pay the staff a good wage, charging the customer accordingly if they're going to have to be minded and/or cleaned-up-after. That's exactly the way I think it should be. Mr. Pink would be really happy here, had things worked out differently for him. Also, portions are smaller, and there are no refills on soft drinks. D doesn't care much for the latter, but as one who rarely drinks more than one serving, I'm tired of paying for everyone else's refills. Better for me is better all 'round right?
Prices here in Cronulla (a perfectly cromulent name for a town) are a bit more manageable than those in downtown Sydney. I just paid $3.50 for a large takeaway flat white, which is what I'd imagine Starbucks in the states would charge. Meals out are still pretty spendy due to being right on the sea in tourist territory, but my knocking about during the day isn't racking up quiet the cost that it would have were I doing it in Sydney. It's a lot cooler here as well, and the crowds less crowdy. I'd gladly be exiled here by the British constabulary.
With that, I'll bid you fare well for now. Next time: spiders.
This morning we had breakfast in an establishment at which we'd previously not had breakfast before, where I was confronted with a glorious sight: plastic opaque Heinz ketchup bottles where once there were ganky glass previously refilled ones.
This reminded me of my saga some time back trying to do something about those refilled bottles once and for all. This seems like a perfect time to shamelessly crank up the Wayback Machine and send all you newcomers back to those glorious days.
I stayed home from work again today, and despite my sore throat and general feeling of crapness, I decided to go ahead and call Heinz, since the limited business hours would make it difficult for me otherwise.
The call didn't quite go as I had hoped, but I still find it amusing nonetheless. When listening, keep in mind the following things: I hate talking on the phone, talking hurts today, and I feel like crap.
If you aren't aware of my efforts working with Heinz, you really ought to... wait for it.. catch up (ha ha!) before listening.
While I'm on the subject of Heinz, I'm curious what the deal with Heinz Mustard is. As far as yellow mustards go, Heinz is simply the best. Sure French's says right on their bottle that they're the best, but I have to disagree.
What's odd is how much Heinz has dominated the ketchup market, yet they've barely dented the mustard market. I challenge you to go buy a squeeze bottle of Heinz yellow mustard. I'll wait.
Back now? You weren't able to do it, were you? It is simply impossible to find Heinz yellow mustard in today's modern megamarts (I'll save my ranting on megamarts for another day). I'm only able to acquire it at my neighborhood mustardmonger, but his business hours get fewer and fewer as his customers get drawn away by the relative proximity of mustards and ketchups in the megamart.
Gone are the days of visiting the mustardmonger and the ketchuppery to take delivery of their wares -- arg, sorry, I almost got sucked into the anti-megamart rant after all, but I digress.
It must be all the energy that Heinz has to expend tracking down ketchup forgers and unscrupulous bait-and-sandwitchers that is preventing them from dominating the mustard market. Afterall, it sure isn't because of an inferior product; as I've previously stated, Heinz is the best.
My plan of ketchup consolidation might possibly give Heinz the boost it needs to surpass French's and claim their rightful yellow throne. Let's all do what's best for America and unite our ketchups and mustards under Heinz's bountiful umbrella. Your mustardmonger and ketchuppery will thank you -- shelf space and freight are expensive after all.
Ordinarily, I am devoutly against unfair brand associations. I go out of my way to say "adhesive bandage" when others might say Band-Aid, "tissue" rather than Kleenex, "hook and loop fastener" instead of Velcro, so on and so forth.
In addition, I am a staunch advocate of patent reform; in the case of Lego v. Megabloks, I have to agree with the verdict which stated Lego cannot own the shape of the block, and thus other companies are allowed to make blocks that interact with Lego blocks. This is a good thing for both culture and the marketplace.
There's one product, however, that I actually advocate associations, provided the association causes a total domination of the market. That product is ketchup.
To me, there is only one ketchup, and if it were up to me only the Heinz corporation would be allowed to manufacture it. Conversely, I'd also be OK with forcing Heinz to allow other manufacturers to produce ketchup that falls within the guidelines they specify.
See, Heinz is simply the best, there is no contest. Many restaurants proudly serve Heinz because, as they should, their customers demand it. Some, however, decide they can defer costs by either refilling the Heinz bottles, or worse yet, refilling the Heinz bottles with inferior brands of ketchup, in the hopes that the consumer doesn't notice.
Let me tell you, sleazy businesses, I do notice. Those bottles say "do not refill" for a reason. See, when you top off a ketchup bottle, it allows the ketchup below the topped-off bit to ferment, thus ruining the flavor of the ketchup, and causing a misrepresentation of the glorious Heinz name emblazened across the bottle. This is a bad thing.
For a few years, I was considering writing a letter to the Heinz company, inquiring what the process to become a Ketchup Deputy entails. Could I have a badge to whip out of my billfold whenever I spot the telltale signs of ketchup corruption (tiny bubbles on the side of the bottle, or a foul non Heinz flavor)? Then I thought about trying to get Heinz to require licenses to display a Heinz bottle; only restaurants that pass the weekly ketchup inspections would be allowed to use the Heinz name. Then I realized that both of these measures are too costly, and ultimately would hurt America.
The way I see it, the only two options are: a) the total elimination of all other ketchup manufacturers, or b) a dilution of the trademark which would, in essence, make all ketchup into Heinz ketchup.
Either one of these would be O.K. by me, so lets go ahead and get on it. You can decide amongst yourselves which way you want to go, but clearly, America needs to unite under one ketchup. This country was founded on ketchup, and it is vital that we work together as a country to maintain our quality ketchup. Or ketchups, it's really up to you.