31 August 2004

This category 4 hurricane (max sustained wind 140mph) has a few people in Florida a bit worried... including myself. Posted by Hello

Key West

Was fantastic, well for the most part anyway. Saturday night was an absolute blinder and I'm still trying to figure out what went on there. Luckily I was with a group of friends the whole time and they took good care of me.

We headed off to Key West at about 7am in the morning. Our first stop was for a canoeing trip and then snorkelling. The canoeing trip lasted for about an hour and was heaps relaxing. I must point out that from Key Largo to Key West there are no natural beaches. It's all mangroves, so that's what we were canoeing through.

Next we went on the snorkelling trip located about 5 miles off the coast . I haven't been snorkelling before and I had an absolutely fantastic time. The people who had snorkelled before said it was one of the best trips they'd been on, mainly because I spotted one of these guys:

He's a Hawksbill Turtle, and it was absolutely amazing to follow one of them around watching them eat. Apart from the turtle, I saw lots of different types of fish and coral. It was all very, very cool.

We had lunch and a couple of pina coladas and then decided we'd better get moving to Key West. We arrived at about an hour before sundown and decided to have a few more drinks. I had a couple of mudslides (I literally nearly sculled them) and because we were running late we had to get down to the main strip to see all the Key West freaks come out. We got there just after sundown and saw a lot of freakshows. Guys shoving swords down their mouths, other people getting out of straightjackets whilst dangling upside down, people jumping through hoops - it was all there.

After the initial perusal we headed back to the hotel to get changed for going out. I noticed a catwalk setup and I thought to myself "Hmmm... have to check out the people walking on that later..." Well, I did check out that catwalk later on and there was a swimsuit competition on. The models were later chucking shirts out to everyone and I was wildly jumping up and down at one stage trying to get one model's attention. She threw a shirt straight to me. Booya.

We also checked out a 'clothing optional' bar. C'mon people, it's one of the things you just have to do. I started talking to a few people up there. Oh, they were all clothed and pretty damn normal. I didn't see many people who weren't clothed actually. I don't have any pictures by the way ;-)

I can't really remember what happened next, the rest of the night was a blur. I did wake up in our hotel room however in one piece. Take note people - if you're going to go out to Key West, make sure you go out with a good bunch of people like I did. Things could get pretty bad otherwise.

We ended up having to head back home immediately because some of our group had to catch flights from Miami and Palm Beach. We never got one of the people onto the Palm Beach flight. Not to worry - we went back along the coast to Delray Beach. I saw some of the most impressive houses I've ever seen in my life. My god! We found a sports bar where I had some much needed pork ribs and then we all chilled out on Delray Beach. I've got some good photos from that - it was an absolutely fantastic night.

Anyways, I've just done some housekeeping stuff. I cleaned up the blog entry about the Ebay scam a little bit - it should make a lot more sense now. I've also edited some of the entries in my webshot account. I found the name of that little charger of a bird whose name I forgot. Oh, and photos from Miami's South Beach are here.


30 August 2004

First batch of photos online

I've uploaded a selection of photos that were taken at our visit to the Everglades, a national park located on the southern tip of Florida. See them here.

26 August 2004

Fraud on Ebay

I came very, very close to being done in by a fraud on ebay. My undying want of a digital SLR camera was nearly the undoing of me, and I couldn’t see the forest for the trees. Luckily I stopped any transactions that could have gone through to this guy but what is left are some interesting e-mails between him and some of the other potential buyers on Ebay I have been corresponding with. Here is one such e-mail thread:

The fraud

The buyer

Hello, Dear Sir there is no need to bid so you can buy one camera. I still have 10 for sale. Please e-mail me back and tell me how many cameras do you want so i can make you a good price. The price of the one Nikon D70 is 1000 USD shipping taxes included. It is brand new in it's original box and it has full warranty.

Good morning, I would like to have one camera. What are your preferred methods of payment?

Hello, For the shipping I use UPS Express Air and the package will arrive to you in 2 days. For the payment I use Western Union Money Transfer.

Excellent, if you can send me all of your payment instructions and info. I'll send you a money order right away. Is it possible to e-mail me a shipping tracking number after the item has been sent?

Hello Dear sir it is very simple to work with Western Union. All you have to do is to go at the nearest post office or bank near you where you can find a Western Union Office. You have to complete a form with your name and address and mine and then the people there will give you a code named Mtcn number which you must give me to check if the transfer really exists. My payment address is: [address removed]
Now please e-mail me with your fullname and address so I can send you the package and please tell me if you have other questions. E-mail me soon. Thank you.

HI, Where is the package leaving from? On e-bay, it is mentioned that the address that the item is located in Jersey Shore, Penn. Why is the payment address in Spain? Since this is an interesting sum of money, what kind of security can you offer me on this transaction?

Yes sir but for 2 months I'm in Spain. I have a store here. You don't have to worry about this deal because i'm a honest man and a very respected person who has many friends who trust me. I'm 53 years old, i started from somewhere very low and i reached a high level by work,by honest business and I never stole a dollar from anyone.

I know how hard is to earn money I mean no disrespect and I do not wish to demean your good reputation, but i still have a few questions: -Will the package be sent from Jersey shore or from Malaga? -If it is sent from Spain, is it compliant with North American power supplies? -Can you offer a tracking Number to help me figure out where the package is and to estimate it's time of arrival? I would like the package to be sent to my parents address. Thank you for your patience.

Dear Sir I will send the package from Malaga, Spain by UPS Express Air and the package will arrive to you in 2 days. The camera is USA model, it is brand new in it's original box and it has full USA warranty. Yes of course I will give you the tracking number but after I will receive the Western Union confirmation code so I can check if the transfer really exists. Yes I can shipp the package in Canada. Now please tell me if you have other questions

Can we find another way of payment? Western Union does not offer me any type of proctection whatsoever. I did receive a paypal invoice from your partner. I would much prefer going through them.

You don't have to worry about this deal because i'm a honest man and a very respected person who has many friends who trust me. I'm 53 years old, i started from somewhere very low and i reached a high level by work,by honest business and i never stole a dollar from anyone. I know how hard is to earn money

You gave me the same answer yesterday. I'm sure you are a very honest man, but I don't know you and I don't know your friends. Work with me and we'll make this deal happen

Dear Sir I prouse you tp close the deal in this way: you will send me now half of the money and I will send you the package. After you will receive the package, you will inspect the camera nad in 24 hours you will send me other half of the money Please tell me it is ok?

Sounds interesting, but it is still $500 and I still don't get any protection. How about we go through escrow (www.escrow.com). I'll pay all the fees and you'll get all of your money through a wire transfer as soon as I receive the camera and the kit

I don't accepr escrow. You have seen in the auction

Nowhere in the auction does it mention that you do not accept escrow. I have seen 3 different e-mail contact for this item ([contacts removed]). I need more than your word for security. If you have any good options, I'm very willing to listen.

Hello, Dear Sir my partener's, [name withheld] is in vacantion. You will clouse the deal with me. The total price is 1000 USD. I will pay the shipping taxes and the insurance of the package. For the shipping I use UPS Express Air and the package will arrive to you in 2 days. For the payment I use Western Union Money Transfer.

Hi, You have not answered my question in a straightforward way. Are you going to offer me some real security for my payment or what? Please, none of these pre-generated answers again. I'm sorry but I don't send the package first. What kind of security can you offer me?

First of all i want to tell you that I am a 52 year old I have a family and 2 children. For me my family is important not the money! I'm not a 15 year old boy who is playing tricks on the net! And do you think I'm that silly to arrive in jail for 1000 $ and destroy my beautiful life together with my loved ones? Please think about it and you will see that money is not all!

Dear sir, if you have been in business for such a long time and have started from very little, you will understand that there is not much room for such blind trust in business transactions. There are just too many things that don't add-up in all of this auction. First, the different item location, then the fact that you only accept money transfers (even if E-Bay AND Western Union strongly discourages auction payment made through money transfers), then I received a paypal invoice from [name withheld]. Later, you refuse complete the transaction through Escrow, even after I offered to pay all the cost associated with the process (even if that incurs an extra $100 for me, because it costs extra to send a money transfer through Escrow...) AND you keep on telling me that you are an honest man. Prove it, let's complete this transaction via Escrow (or any trusted 3rd party financial institution). That way I will be able to fell secure in this transaction and I won't feel that I am taking an very expensive chance with this deal. You have to understand that, I too, work hard for my money and I too am a trusted individual in my community. As you probably know, Escrow will send you an e-mail notifying you of my payment due payment. You do not have to send me the package until you receive that notification. When I do receive the camera, and confirm that it is in good working order, Escrow will send you the money, by money transfer as you wish. Please go on their site to see all of the details. (escrow.com) My dear sir, you have to realise that $1000 USD is an expensive leap of faith to make for an anonymous transaction on E-bay. It is not a chance I am willing to make without any type of protection You have sent me at least 3 e-mails stating that you were an honest man, that you have never stolen a dollar in your life... I am more than willing to believe you. But I am not willing to take that chance with MY money. Let me feel good about this transaction, let me have some type of protection.[name withheld] P.S. Are you 52 or 53 years old?... There seems to be a lack of consistency between you last and previous e-mails...

After that the buyer didn't receive any more e-mails from the fraud. Here is what happened with me (pretty much in parallel with the previous winning bidder):

The fraud


Hello, Dear Sir my partener's, [name withheld] is in vacantion. You will clouse the deal with me. The total price is 1000 USD. I will pay the shipping taxes and the insurance of the package. For the shipping I use UPS Express Air and the package will arrive to you in 2 days. For the payment I use Western Union Money Transfer.

Western Union money transfer should be fine. Please send the transfer details and I will get the money to you as soon as possible. Thanks!

Hello Dear sir it is very simple to work with Western Union. All you have to do is to go at the nearest post office or bank near you where you can find a WesternUnion Office. You have to complete a form with your name and address and mine and then the people there will give you a code named Mtcn number which you must give me to check if the transfer really exists. My payment address is: [address removed] Now please e-mail me with your fullname and address so I can send you the package and please tell me if you have other questions. E-mail me soon. Thank you.

[At this point I sent some 'details']

In this moment i came back from the Ups office where i have sent your package at your name and address. As soon I will receive the Western Union confirmation code from you I will check if the transfer really exuists. If the transfer in OK I will give you the Tracking Number from UPS so you can pick up your package. I wait your e-mail. It has a pleasure making business with you. Grettings your family.

From where will you be sending this package? I'm sorry, but the address in Spain and the whole fact that I will be transferring money through Western Union (something ebay advises against), and the fact that it will be $1000 of my hard earned money, makes me worry. I'm sure you'll understand! I can arrange an escrow service (www.escrow.com) to hold your money until I receive the item. I will pay for all charges, I will even re-imburse shipping costs if this inconveniences you in any way. I hope you understand this. I want to believe you in what you say but because I haven't met you before, understand that I am a little wary. I understand that you would not have sent the package yet, so please do not send it until we have sorted this issue out. Please respond.Thanks.

I'm sorry Sir but I can use escrow service now because I send you the package yestarday. First of all i want to tell you that I am a 52 year old I have a family and 2 children. For me my family is important not the money! I'm not a 15 year old boy who is playing tricks on the net! And do you think I'm that silly to arrive in jail for 1000 $ and destroy my beautiful life together with my loved ones? Please think about it and you will see that money is not all!

That is ok! I have not received the package yet nor have your received your money. Escrow is the perfect service for such a transaction. I can set this up today. Otherwise, there is no logic to you not chosing an escrow service. Believe me I want this transaction to go ahead but I do not know you personally and thus it would be stupid of me to send $1000 via money order to someone I do not know. Western Union themselves advise against such transactions. I understand you may have family and that your family is important and not the money - but you were selling goods on ebay. You are selling those goods>to make money. Trying to tell me otherwise is just foolish. Please let us resolve this issue as quickly as possible so we can both get what we want.

I'm sorry but I can't use escrow now because I send you the package. If you don't send the money untill tomorrow the deal is off and I cancel the shipping

Do you have a phone number by which I can contact you? If I can talk to you and believe you are who you say you are, then perhaps this deal can still go ahead. Please advise...P.S. How can you cancel a shipment if it has already been sent?

First I want to tell you that the package arrive at the UPS office not at your home. You can pick up the package only with the Tracking Number. Tomorrow I will call at the UPS office to send me the package back. I will lose only 48 $ the money that I paied for shipping.But you will lose a very good deal. Sorry again. My phone number is [withheld]

Out of interest, I tried calling that number. Disconnected. I had been collaborating with a few other people who were involved in the auction and eventually I received this from one of them. It was an e-mail from the person who actually belonged to that user id - the one who actually had the good reputation:


What interesting times we live in :-)

25 August 2004

Remember to slip, slop, slap

Freaking hell, I remember the ads with that stupid Pelican. Slip on a shirt, slop on some sunscreen and slap on a hat. Do you think I paid any attention to that at all? No! I didn't wear sunscreen, or a hat, or a shirt when I was at the waterparks on the weekend. My back and shoulders are the most burnt I think they've ever been. I am an idiot. I deserve this. Thank *God* for Aloe Vera gel though.

Plans for this weekend are to head to Key West. I've been looking forward to this for a while. I think the whole idea of driving on bridges in the middle of the ocean is pretty cool. A breakdown on what we will be doing:

Key Largo - take a boat out and go snorkelling
Islamorada - Chill out to some reggae bands
Key West - P*A*R*T*Y!

I still haven't actually bought anything that I wanted while I was over here. The SLR digicam has been delayed because some weird stuff is going on with my bank balance. I think it has everything to do with the exchange rate and me spending too much money...

23 August 2004

This is insane!

I went to Disneyworld on the weekend with a few friends, and "this is insane!" was pretty much the only comment that was ever coming out of my mouth. I have to say, we absolutely fluked the whole weekend. I don't think we could have planned it better. There were the hugest thunderstorms I've ever seen each afternoon, but if you waited through them you pretty much could go on any ride with little waiting time. Awesome.

If you know me reasonably well you'll know I'm freaked out by heights. I also don't normally do things one would consider risky, even if it is a theme park attraction. I pretty much threw all those attributes out the door on the weekend.

We started off on Saturday with a view to seeing Blizzard Beach. However, a massive, massive storm brewed up and we were stuck in a bus for an hour. After this cleared, we decided to go to the Magical Kingdom. That place was insane! We went on a few rides there, but there was nothing that really scared the absolute crap out of me. Ok, there was a bit of a drop on one of the water rides that freaked me out a bit, but that was about it. We got to watch the parade with all the Disney characters at night (this only happens on a Saturday - we completely fluked this) plus a huge fireworks display and that was all a real bonus.

I was blabbering on about how I couldn't wait to see Pleasure Island that night. We didn't get there until very late and it was only open till 2am. Soft!!! Anyway, we headed back to the hotel room and found that our keycards to get in the room were not working. One of the people with me said that they heard at the front desk they were having problems with the system, so we were there for a few good minutes kicking the door, cursing the keycard system, and nearly forcing our way into the room (we were all pretty damn tired at that point). Then all of a sudden the door opened and a guy said "I think you've got the wrong room". Silence. Comprehension. I realised we'd walked up two flights of stairs instead of just one and that our room was directly below us. I think the guy took it pretty well.

The next day I'd have to say was one of the most insane days in my whole life. This is the day I broke a few personal records. Our first destination was Blizzard Beach, which we never got to go to the day before. We went on most of the rides there, but one that I was initially too scared to go on was Summit Plummet. Did I end up going on it? Hell yes! I was freaked out by having to wait in line on some stairs that were way up high, and I was even more freaked out of taking the actual plunge. But hell, it was so worth it. It was so good I actually forgot to scream on the way down.

The next park we went to was .Typhoon Lagoon. This had an insane wave machine that generated huge 6-foot waves. The only problem was there were soooo many people there you kept on hitting them. That fun was short lived though as a cranking storm came along and we had to take shelter. It lasted for over an hour and then the theme park got shut. Bugger! I still had an excellent time there though.

The last park we went to was Disney-MGM studios. I went on the Rock and Rollercoaster which was just insane. 0->100kph in 2.8 seconds. 5G turns. Wicked. That ride was heaps of fun. I think my favourite ride though was Tower of Terror. This thing took you up 13 floors, opened up the elevator doors so you could see how high you were, then took you back down again at 1.3Gs. Then it did some crazy random stuff - up, down, up, up, down you didn't know what to expect next because the ride is supposed to be different each time. It's pretty funny watching the ride from the outside because each time the outside elevator doors open everyone is screaming their heads off.

So, now I have to calm myself down and try and get some work done today. How the hell am I supposed to do that?!? I should be putting some pictures up tonight so stay tuned!

Ooh yes, I mentioned to some people that I was originally supposed to go to the Kennedy Space Centre on the weekend as well, but we just ran out of time.

19 August 2004

Milo - it's all good

I went to a Jamaican diner today for lunch. The whole place probably wouldn't have been more than say 7x10 metres in size. It was very, very simple but I liked it. The thing I found appealing about it initially were the speakers they had that made up some sort of divider. No kidding, there were 2 massive speaker cabinets with *at least* an 18-inch driver in each of them, plus another 4 speaker cabinets that had a couple of 12-inch drivers per cabinet. They must have some bloody massive Rastafarian parties there! The place doubled as a small (very small) convenience store, and I saw that up on a shelf next to the ovaltine and other crappy substitutes for milo was, in fact, a few tins of milo itself. The heavens opened, choirs sang, so I bought some. I'm the happiest Aussie alive I reckon. *tear.

18 August 2004

I've still no guitar

and none of my music, and no computer, and 1/2 of my clothes. It was actually a blind, dumb-arse mistake of mine to put my music CDs in the wrong suitcase, but oh well. Originally though my air shipment was supposed to arrive a few days after I did (it is an air shipment after all) so I wasn't really that worried. However, that isn't the case as I've been here for nearly 2 1/2 weeks and I ain't seen anything yet. Yeah, whinge whinge whinge, I know :-) Supposedly it's in customs at Miami airport still... those buggers are playing my guitar (good luck it's left-handed), wearing my clothes (good luck that's mostly my winter stuff) and listening to my CDs (yeah, um, good luck).

There are some album releases I am waiting on that may tide me over if my stuff never arrives. One of them is Way out West's "Don't look now". There is a little article here. I've been listening to some of their songs using Distinctive Records' streamer. I'm also waiting on some more CDs I ordered through Amazon, namely an earlier CD of Way out West's and the new album by Brit group Keane.

That was another big weekend...

I was waiting on some pictures from somebody else's camera before writing this update, but due to technical difficulties, that'll have to wait!

Friday night I didn't have anything planned. I was sitting home, absolutely buggered from the week and I nearly went to bed. Note that I said nearly. There is a switch in my brain that comes into effect on the start of the weekend. It says "Don't stay home on a Friday or Saturday night by yourself you friggin loser or I'll give you nightmares and make your sleep general hell". I payed heed to that switch, so I called up some friends and met them at Delray Beach. It's half-way to Palm Beach and I found it was a pretty nice place to go to. Beers were a flowing everywhere when I arrived at the pub, so I joined in. A couple of hours later we moved on to somewhere else and I had a couple of Jagermeisters. That's because they didn't have any Absinthe (it's prohibited) or Chartreuse. So after all that I couldn't drive anywhere and I had to get a lift back to my apartment, which was ok since the people I was out with were staying in a hotel not far from me. The problem is I had parked my car next to the beach in a pay-zone, and I was worried I would get a fine the next day...

Anyhow, I got a lift to Delray Beach and arrived early afternoon - thank God I didn't get a ticket! We then drove to Ft Lauderdale and continued on to South Beach in Miami. In a few words, I had a friggen awesome time there! We went for a bit of a swim and then went to the Clevelander. Uh, that place was out of this world. You can look around their website and, uh, see what I mean. I got some good pictures too! I'll update my webshots account with those asap. The pork rib meal there is excellent. It was commented that I had a smile on my face the whole time - actually, I've got that smile cranking again as I think back on it :-) We headed home at about 8pm or so.

That switch was on in my head again so I met up with some other friends for line dancing at Roundup. I don't know any line dancing moves but when the more conventional nightclub music starts I'm out on the dancefloor in a flash. Roundup is where I met the guy who wanted me to try out for the reality show. His girlfriend also gave me her business card - she's a massage therapist and offered me a discount. Sweeeeet!

16 August 2004

I just turned down a reality show opportunity - I had to

This is all a bit surreal as I write this, but Saturday night (at line dancing of all places) I was asked if I wanted to try out for a pilot of a reality show. I thought I may as well check it out first and so I called up the production company involved. The deal is a printing company who were funding/creating the show were looking to cast a white, single, heterosexual male. They couldn't tell me much more than that because of the non-disclosure agreement. The thing is I couldn't take the opportunity due to the Visa conditions that I'm over here on. Bugger, eh?

I'm also inclined to think - what sort of reality show was this? :-)

13 August 2004

Tobacco Road review

I am absolutely blown away by this place (and I ain't only talking about Tobacco Road). It's true when they say that everything is bigger in America. I was driving to Miami last night with a pretty good set of directions, thank God, and I was amazed by the sheer amount of concrete used in the construction of the highways. As an engineer (or just a generally inquisitive person), I am in awe at how all of this stuff is designed and built. I start thinking about it and then give up because it hurts my head.

I must also add however how unimpressed I am by some engineering efforts, especially in car design. I will have to review the Oldsmobile Alero in a following post and give my thoughts on just how crap I think it is. Thank *GOD* I am not paying the rent for that thing.

Anyhoo, I found my way to Tobacco Road ok. It's a very narrow, long, 2 story building and its claim to fame is being the oldest bar in Miami. The place just absolutely oozes character. It has an outdoor beer garden, a downstairs section which normally accommodates a Jazz/Blues band, and upstairs is normally reserved for the rockier acts. Both floors have acts going at the same time. I started my night in the beer garden and some guy says to me "where are you from, Australia?" after he heard me talking on the phone. Now I befriended this guy called Mark who originally was from England but has lived in the US for the last 15 years or so. He's a pretty funny chap - early 40s I think and an absolute geezer. He's been going to Tobacco Road for the last 10 years and was absolutely amazed that I'd discovered Tobacco Road already, as it took him years before he found the place. I guess I'm just ahead of the curve :-) One very interesting thing that Mark the Englishman said was that Miami has very little original music performers. Most of the bands are cover bands, and he said this was probably because they get paid a lot more for that than they would performing original songs. Personally, I'm not a huge cover band fan, nor would I like to be in one. There is only so far one can go regurgitating other people's songs.

At around 10:30pm I headed upstairs to because Santos Renuentes were supposed to have already started playing. I don't know where Mark the Englishman had gotten to at that stage, I think he was off having a smoke somewhere. Santos Renuentes were fantastic. The lead singer, Sophia, had an absolutely fantastic voice. In fact, she sounded a lot like Gwen Stefani from No Doubt. That's pretty darn good! Omar is a great bassist too. He's got that whole bass player groove thing going on, and actually has a 5-string custom made Fender bass guitar. It sounded really, really good. The group as a whole was just amazing - hats off to Santos Renuentes!

The next act was called Cana. They most certainly didn't look like a real rock band, but they sure as hell sounded like one! I must admit to start with I was only mildly impressed. However after they had warmed up they were fantastic! The lead singer sounded a lot like the singer from Hootie and the Blowfish. Good stuff!

I didn't get the name of the last act. I don't think they were on the list as three bands had already played for the night. They seemed to have a significant goth influence but their music still sounded pretty good. I had a chuckle to myself because when they were setting up there was a geeky goth band member with a Legend of Zelda t-shirt on. Ok, I'll admit, I wanted that shirt. Truth be known, I wouldn't mind that shirt and another one with Kid Icarus on it. That would rock! Anyway, the geeky goth was the gizmo guy in the band who used his laptop to generate effects sounds over the top of the guitars. It seemed to work pretty well.

I ended up leaving at around 1:30am to the most vicious rain I've ever been in. It was absolutely *bucketing* down. I couldn't see 10 metres in front of me and I don't know how the hell I navigated my way back home. I think that sort of rain is going to be the story of the weekend what with all these tropical storms and hurricanes hitting Florida. One really unusual thing I did see driving home was the clouds being illuminated orange and blue by the lightning. I haven't seen that before. Weird.

Hasta luego

12 August 2004

Tobacco Road

yeah, I'm still at work (7pm here) but I've been studying the directions for making it to Tobacco Road to see Santos Renuentes play (plus the other bands there!). I think I'll be able to find the place... expect a review tomorrow!

Fort Lauderdale - Part II

Fort Lauderdale - the return. This time around I spent a bit more time actually walking around and enjoying the sights rather than trying to find some place at some address that was completely wrong. I had lunch at some European cafe and they actually had a pretty decent margarita pizza (or margharita - I see it spelt every possible way under the sun) - booya! I didn't think I was going to be able to eat all of it, but my stomach thought otherwise. There was also a pretty good jazz band playing next door that provided a nice backdrop. The cars going past this place were all class - BMW, Mercedes, Jaguar, Porsche, Corvettes, and nothing like the equivalent of a Commondore or Falcoon.

Next we headed down to the beach. I didn't bring any real swimming clothes with me but gosh darnit I wish I had! The water was so darn warm and I so just wanted to go for a swim. I'll save that for this weekend, maybe. There are supposed to be hurricane warnings in effect which should be pretty fun (don't worry Mum, I ain't going to be going outdoors if there is a bleedin' hurricane outside my door!) Anyway, after that we headed to a series of places all overlooking the beach. I was drinking lots and lots at each one. Luckily I didn't drive so I drank some more. Eventually we got some food from the Hooters restaurant. Yeah, they actually had some pretty good food there - and a pretty good view of the beach among other things. I'll have to take some pictures from up there so you can see what I'm talking about. I had some chicken strips that came with chili that could be either mild, hot, very hot, or 911. Can you guess which one I chose? After putting out the fire in my mouth (this time with something that wasn't beer) I asked the waitress for a picture of her with my friend with the black eye from Friday night. I told her he had a pretty rough weekend and getting a picture with her would make his day. I'll post it up once he scans it for me :-)

After that I headed to the theatres to watch Collateral, the new Tom Cruise movie. I'm still a bit undecided whether I liked it or not. Watching my first movie in the US seemed... weird, and the movie had a completely different feeling to it. Maybe that was because Cruise boy is the bad guy. I had one problem with a scence in a danceclub where people were getting shot left, right and centre. It took a little while for people to clear out of the club - I know I'd be heading out of there pronto rather than running back and forth trying to steal more camera time. I ended up getting home around 1am. This again probably adds more weight as to why I've been so buggered this week (apart from pulling 12 hour work days... yeah, I'm a wuss, I know)

11 August 2004

Roundup - it's more than just a herbicide

This entry is coming in late - mostly because I've been busy as heck at work and I'm just plain buggered.

I spent most of Saturday recovering from the previous night since I only ended up getting home at 4:30am or something like that. Saturday night I didn't have anything planned - but that didn't particularly worry me at 2pm in the afternoon. At 8pm however, I was starting to get worried so I called Chet the player to see what he was up to. He was at this place called "Roundup" - a country themed bar out west of where I live. I was told there were lots of guys wearing cowboy hats but hey, I wanted to meet some new people so I didn't really hesitate. Chet the player hadn't been there before either so it was all new for him too.

I rocked up to this place, had the security guard scrutinize my license details for ages and then a grin started to form on his face. I rewarded him with a "thanks mate" and moved inside. Whoa! I wasn't really prepared for what I saw. There were lots of guys in cowboy hats but even more - there were dozens of people line dancing. Sheesh, they weren't joking about it being a country bar! Some of the people had the biggest belt buckles in the west I reckon. I could see Chet and his friends right from where I walked in so I headed over to where they were, pronto.

Chet the player started chatting to some girls who I later found were from Miami - this was also their first time in a country bar, so we all had some common ground there. One of them had taken a keen interest in country music and was telling me the names of a lot of the songs. I sorta found this a bit weird since she was very South American looking, and South American and Country music just don't go together. Anyways, I have to admit I did participate in some of the line dancing routines and, surprisingly, I had a ball! It was the most fun I've had in ages - I didn't think synchronised dancing could be so fun! I am seriously contemplating at this stage in doing the line dancing lessons on Thursday nights from 7-9pm. Hehe.

So anyways, the girls we met up with promised me a tour around Miami - they were probably under the influence of too many Bud Lights though so we'll see about that :-)

Speaking of Bud Light, the 'light' doesn't mean low alcohol content - just low carbs (everything over here is "low carbs this" and "low carbs that"). The alcohol content isn't anywhere on the bottles so you have to guess at how many standard drinks you've had. The Bud Light commercials at http://www.budlight.com/index_flash.html are pretty funny but.

So after Roundup I headed back to Chet's place to meet up with the rest of his group. He had Hootie and the Blowfish's album on repeat for 3 hours or so. I ended up drinking some really bad red wine, crashing on the couch and falling sleep at around 4am. Is anyone getting an idea of why I'm so tired this week?

Soon enough I'll write something about Sunday - which involved more of Fort Lauderdale, Bud Light, and Hooters.

09 August 2004

Fort Lauderdale - Part I

Friday night I was due to hook up with a few people from work at a place called the Baja Beach Club. Here was the invite I received:

Baja Beach Club, Riverfront. Upstairs, just past the movie theater. 3 for 1 from 6-10, with full dinner buffet. Come on out, and bring anyone you can.

I hadn't been to Fort Lauderdale yet, but this sounded as good an excuse as any to go. Because I was uber prepared, I decided to do a quick internet search to find out where this place was, just in case. No problemo, I had an address and I said I'd try to arrive at around 8pm.

I headed out after work but could not for the life of me find this damn place. I spent a good 2 hours driving around Fort Lauderdale, in what seemed like peak-hour traffic, to no avail. The address I got off the internet was just plain wrong. Shit. What was I to do? I was down and depressed. Luckily I found a Krispy Kreme store and I bought a few donuts from there. Mmmmm, sacrilicious. I never thought that food could pick me up so well. I asked the guy who served me whereabouts the Baja beach club was. His directions sounded ok, but after another 1/2 hour of driving around I decided to cut my losses and head back home. Five minutes into my journey home one of my Aussie mates called and so I went to pick him up and, feeling reinvigorated, we headed back to Fort Lauderdale. I couldn't believe it, I found the place and there was no way in hell I would have found it by driving around. Of course I found it 4 hours later than anticpated. Oh well.

There were stacks and stacks of people everywhere. It is at this point in the story I'd like to say something to all those people who, once I told them I was going to Florida, said: "Isn't that where old people go to retire?" Ummm, yeah. You've been watching too much Seinfeld. Take the clientele of the Savvy bar in good ol' Adelaide. Multiply that by, ooh, 50. Empty them on the streets of Fort Lauderdale. Got the picture?

Actually truth be known, the Baja Club is very much like the New York Bar and Grill in Adelaide. Think popular RnB music with a smattering of dance music and there you go. It probably would've been a lot better earlier on but I wasn't going to hang around much longer. A couple of the other clubs we went to were like those in Adelaide. There were slight differences, but not enough to invoke a "wow!" Actually, the biggest difference I found was in the toilets - there are guys who wait next to the hand basin who offer to wash your hands for you, for a tip of course. Yeah, right! I couldn't believe it. I said "no thanks" and proceeded to wash my hands myself like I have for most of my life. Because I felt like being a bit cheeky, I washed my hands again. I can't believe there are people who would hang around in the Men's toilets (of all places) all night for tips!

It was about 3:30am that I was in this club with my mate and he said that he was going to the toilet. He didn't come back for ages. I went looking for him and saw him standing outside - I tried calling out to him to ask what the hell he was doing but he couldn't see nor hear me so I headed outside. What I saw was both funny and shocking at the same time - some guy had punched him in the face. He couldn't remember exactly what provoked the attack apart from him accidentally bumping into some guy, but he had a nice black eye brewing. He was very drunk too so I decided to call it quits for my Friday night out and drop him home.

A MASSIVE weekend

Wowsers, I think I just had the hugest weekend in a while - my first real weekend in the United States. I'm going to have to break it into several posts I think. I made it into work this morning, so that's a good start I guess.

06 August 2004

There are some crazy-ass drivers over here

I thought Adelaide drivers were supposed to be bad! Things I've noticed:
  1. The indicator is just a novelty item and rarely gets used.
  2. If a person driving in an adjacent lane notices that their vehicle will fit in the gap between you and the car in front of you, then they'll take that gap. Refer to (1).
  3. There is no such thing as a safe distance between cars. If you can count "1001, 1002" you're too far away from the car in front of you. Refer to (2).
  4. Don't expect anyone to safely let you in even if you have your indicator on. You'll have to barge your way in. Refer to (2)
  5. Stop signs are red and octagon shaped. That's about all people notice about them though.
Then there are some other things I've noticed - like the number of crashes between my residence and work (a 5 minute drive). I've seen the result of three crashes so far, and the one this morning was a doozie. It looked like an SUV had rolled a couple of times and was lying on its side - and that was in a 45mph zone!

Also, the location of places is given as the intersection of streets, not actual street numbers. This is probably better than using street numbers as you rarely see street numbers anywhere.

I nearly made a fool of myself on my first day of driving because I was going to tell someone their brake lights weren't working properly. Then I realised a lot of cars had the same problem. Then I realised the brake lights over here doubled as indicator lights in a lot of car models. But then again, I dont' see this very often - refer to (1) above.

04 August 2004

I need to learn Spanish

Especially if I want to spend a couple of days in Miami, I've been informed. Ok, so learning Spanish is probably not essential, but it would probably help to know a bit more than just "Yo quiero taco bell".

I met a guy today who works here, Omar, who is in a band called "Santos Renuentes". If you go to their website you'll see pics of the whole band. I've listened to a couple of their tracks and it really can be best described as Spanish alternative rock. There are a couple of links to their tracks on their website, and it sounds like really cool stuff. Apart from being the bass player of the band, Omar does the mixing too. That then got us to discussing all things Reason, Cubase, Logic and VST plugins. He is also involved in a trip-hop band (think music that sounds like Morcheeba). Actually, I just had a quick look at the Morcheeba site - they actually mention the Adelaide show that got cancelled just over a year ago. This is what they had to say:

Morcheeba would like to apologise for having to cancel their show in Adelaide on the 12th April. All other shows are 100% confirmed. They look forward to seeing you all there.

"Much apologies to those in Adelaide for the cancelled show. We hope to be back as we LOVE it there." Ross Godfrey

Well, that's just weird. I've still got the four tickets that myself and a few other slightly disappointed fans had for the night.

Anyways, I'm going to see if I can make it to the Santos Renuentes performance at Tobacco Road in Miami next week. Here's hoping :-)

One thing I'm missing the most is my guitar. I really, really hope it arrives soon - I've got a funny feeling that it may have arrived today, hopefully with the rest of my luggage. That also reminds me that I have a list of things to buy whilst I'm over here:

Kawai ES-3 Digital Piano
Nikon D-70 Digital SLR camera
iPod 40GB rev 4

I think after purchasing all that I'll be pretty satisfied.

03 August 2004

Second "work day"

It's funny how some things just don't happen sometimes. Even though there were lots of delays in getting to the US, there still isn't a computer ready for me and I've had to use another computer whose owner is currently on holidays. Of course, this computer doesn't have any of the tools I need to do my work, but oh well.

I had lunch today with some American guys plus a couple of Aussie blokes at pizza place. The waitress we had was pretty darn friendly, and the service was so good I could see why the American guys always went there (no, this wasn't a topless pizza place in case you were wondering). Everyone was ordering pizzas with toppings I haven't really seen before, for example, pizzas with sausages on top (and I mean full sausages just laying on the pizza base. WTF?) One of my Aussie workmates tried ordering a ham and pineapple pizza but they didn't have any pineapple. I went for my normal Margarita - except the waitress didn't know what a Margarita pizza was. I told her tomatoes with basil on top. The American guys sitting with us looked at me a bit weirdly, although I must say that one guy there knew what I was on about. I got back a pizza that had ham and basil instead. The waitress said "that's not what you ordered, is it?" I shook my head and she got me another one, this time with the correct toppings. I ate both of them anyway, and it only ended up costing me a few bucks (I had 2 large cokes as well).

Next the American guys started talking about what was concerning them in the world. First there was the issue of many devices being "melded" into a single device. Consider the mobile phone for example - once only used as a communications device it can now be used as a PDA and pretty soon it will be your music device as well. What happens to the companies that used to produce the other products? I guess the most limiting factor with mobile phones is their small screen size. In the future there will probably be some technology that enables the "screen" to be beamed directly to the brain anyway, so you won't actually need a screen at all. Hmmm...

The other thing the guys talked about was the rising superpower China, whose economy is absolutely skyrocketing. They were concerned that with Chinese people now starting to buy and use cars more that the world's oil reserves would be even more punished. Add to that the technological capabilities that China may develop over the US in the future. I would expect the US Government would be seeking to make some treaties with China in the near future... this may have started already, I don't really know. I haven't done any research on it yet.

I really hope the rest of my stuff arrived today. This included my guitar and my computer which has all my music on it. I learned that my apartment has a cable internet connection. Booya!

02 August 2004

I'm here!

I can't actually believe that I'm in the US at the moment - it's all sorta a bit weird still.

I think I most enjoyed the flight from Adelaide to Melbourne - mainly because it was the shortest. The flight from Melbourne to LAX was just plain painful. For over 14 hours I was right at the back of the plane and a Mexican dude in front of me had his seat right back which cramped my legs up. I lost count of the number of times I had to get up and walk around. I tried getting sleep on this stretch but it was just plain impossible. I chatted a lot to some Australian guys next to me who were biologists heading to Oregon. There was also an Australian girl, a vegetarian who was planning on hiking through South America. Talking to them made the time pass a little faster. I got to watch "Starsky and Hutch" and "The Girl next door" on the inflight entertainment channels, as well as a couple of documentaries. Woo hoo!

Coming to land in LAX was just weird - for the first time I actually saw with my own eyes cars driving on the other side of the road. Yeah, it's a small thing, but enough to bring in a reality check. LAX is a mess. I don't know how I did it, but somehow I was able to find my luggage and my way to the domestic terminal *and* to the gate that my flight was leaving from. I needed to call the limo service that was picking me up from the airport to tell them I was going to be late. I didn't know why the phone number I had been given wasn't working, so I asked some American guy for some help. Half way through my question he cut me off, pointed to the service desk and said, quite arrogantly, "Ask him". He didn't look at me the whole time I was talking to him. What a prick! Thank God I haven't met any other people like that. Everyone else has been really friendly.

Ok, next I had to catch a plane from LAX to Fort Lauderdale. It was here that I noticed a bit of a difference between Qantas and American Airlines. The flight attendents on Qantas are quite strict in not letting you get up while the seatbelt light is on. Not so on AA. People were getting up all the time, and the flight attendents didn't really seem to care a heck of a lot.

I arrived at Fort Lauderdale airport and proceeded to get my luggage. Actually, I was surprised it even came in the end. I was waiting there for about 45 minutes, tack onto that the flight was about 45 minutes late. I didn't see anyone walking around with my name on a card so I assumed my limo driver had gone already, or didn't even come at all. Not to worry, I caught a cab to the apartments.

Next thing to happen: my apartment number had changed. This was something I was supposed to check before I left, but I forgot to do this in the rush. There was someone else in my supposed apartment, and since I had arrived after-hours there was no-one to help me at the front desk. I had no idea what to do at this point. My phone was not working and I was looking at a bench and thinking I'd have to sleep on that! Luckily, I remembered that the US used a slightly different GSM network and that explained why my phone wasn't working. I changed my phone settings and - voila! - I was able to select from a couple of service providers. After a few phone calls I found out what my apartment number was and got to bed pretty bloody quickly.

The next day it rained and rained and rained - due in no small part to tropical storm Alex. I think nearly 2 inches of rain fell in a couple of hours. I was going to go pick up my rental car but decided against doing this for reasons of localised flooding.

Today I drove on the right-hand side of the road and successfully navigated my way to work. I'm pretty stoked about that! I also had lunch at a Thai restaurant across the road with one of the people I'm working with and I also got introduced to no less than 20 other people. I also found out how bloody huge this place is!!!

Well I'm going to have to sign off now. I'm bloody tired and I have to go buy some groceries and stuff.