Jan 31 2010

Australia, 2009-11-28

It was probably a good thing we crashed so early the night before — we’d only planned a short nap, but it ended up taking us through the whole night.  We needed it.  It was the first time we’d adapted, and caught up, to a somewhat normal sleep schedule.

Degraves St.

The hostel recommended breakfast at Degraves St., which conveniently enough was halfway between the hostel and our car rental.  It’s right near the Flinders St. Station as well, and reminds me of the small cafe-lined European streets that movies are so fond of shooting.  It really was a charming little area; breakfast was delicious, and for the first time, not of obscenely large portions.  And to top it off, there was a kick-ass little jazz-punk band playing in an alcove at the end of the street, complete with upright bass.

Flinders St. Station

We wandered the Melbourne CBD until we found our the rental agency, which conveniently enough was right across the street from the hotel we planned on staying at after we returned.  I was a little hesitant to drive though the business district on the right side of the road and the wrong side of the car — and not because I didn’t trust my driving skills.  Melbourne has these bizarre right hand turns rules in the CBD:  to turn right, you pull into the intersection, on the far left hand side, then when all the cars and trams have cleared, you cut across every lane of traffic going both direction, and turn right.  Makes no sense to me.  As it turns out, this would be the least of my problems.

I kept turning on the blinkers instead of the windshield wipers, and vice versa.

Right Side Steering

After we got on the freeway, the frequency of inappropriate windshield wipings decreased, and we found ourselves headed down to Torquay.  We also passed hundred-strong motorcycle gang at a gas station, and didn’t yet realize we’d be playing leapfrog with portions of their group all weekend.

At the end of Torquay is Point Danger, our first view of the ocean on our Great Ocean Drive journey.  It’s quite beautiful, and the clouds rolling in weren’t yet threatening and provided a wonderful texture to the already beautiful scenery.

Point DangerPoint Danger


Point DangerPoint Danger

On the way out, we hit up a restaurant called “The Nocturnal Donkey,” if only for the name — which we’d also end up recognizing, in the future, that Australian have a fondness for restaurants name “The Odd-Ajective Animal,” like “The Exploding Frog” or ‘The Effevescent Duck.”

As we ate, the clouds turned on us, and it began to pour quite heavily.  Since we were headed up the road to Bell’s Beach, and it’s associate with the stormy antics of Point Break (which was not filmed on-site, however), it seemed appropriate.  Bell’s beach, like just about all of the Great Ocean Drive, is stunning.  We wandered the shore for and hour or so, although the rain made it a bit difficult for me to shoot.

Bell's Beach


Most of the rest of the day was spent on the road, stopping periodically to take in the salt air, rainstorms, moments of sunshine, and snap photos.  Oh, and we learned that if there are cars stopped on the side of the road, with the occupants gazing upward, that someone has spotted a koala.  We emulated this behavior frequently, although not always when koalas were around.

Great Ocean DriveGreat Ocean Drive

Great Ocean DriveGreat Ocean Drive

Great Ocean DriveGreat Ocean Drive

We rolled into Apollo Bay near sunset and went searching for a place to crash.  Unfortunately, it was the weekend, and it appeared that Apollo Bay was somewhat of a mid-to-upper class getaway for Melbourners.  After an hour of driving around, checking off each entry in the Lonely Planet guide, we found one available room at Nelson’s Perch B&B.  The owner, Wayne, was spectacularly friendly.  The rooms was actually less than the guidebook stated, even on a high-demand weekend.  He informed us that the town shuts down early, so he handed us a set of keys, told us to drop our bags, get dinner, and we’d take care of the charge in the morning.  After a quick inspection of the rooom — which had a kind size bed, jacuzzi in the bathroom, private patio, and all the trimmings, we thanked him sped out splurge on a dinner.

We settled on La Bimba, a seafood restaurant we’d spotted earlier, since Apollo Bay was, and perhaps still is, a fishing village.  The food and wine were truly fantastic; we had the seafood paella for two.  I highly recommend it, even though it’s not inexpensive.

Sated, we headed back to Nelson’s Perch, where the wind and rain rose to torrential levels.  As Lanaea prepped for bed, I took the opportunity to back up the days photos to my netbook and charge my camera batteries.  Prior to the trip, I’d constructed something of a voltron doppleganger, where battery charges, outlet adapters, and all things electronic hook together with a surge supressor.

The one thing hadn’t yet used, was the surge supressor, which I’d brought more for it’s ability to turn one outlet into three, so I didn’t have to buy a bunch of outlet adapter.  Of course, this was also the thing I forgot to check for electrical characteristics, so as soon as I plugged it in, pow, the supressor blew it’s fuse and dropped the entire 220V circuit.  Doh.

Half the devices in the room still worked, so I figured it each room had a circuit or two, and I could let Wayne know what happened in the morning.

Jan 30 2010

Training Log

Improvised training (4 1/2 hours):  thatching and shoveling.  It turns out that thatching, which is essentially raking with an reasonable amount of resistance (in the case of my yard), is essentially a series of pi chuan stances and strikes.  Shoveling out the not unsubstantial debris can be performed via a series of sliding bo strikes, and the subsequent raking is centerline clears with a bo.

Actually, quite exhausting.  But, training can be found anywhere.  If performed with martial intent.

Jan 29 2010

Training Log

Conditioning (60 minutes)

  • Warm-up stretches
  • 3 cycles:  chin-ups, pull-ups, air squats
  • 3 cycles:  crunches, reverse crunches, oblique crunches, 1 lap run
  • 3 cycles:  bear crawl, sprint, spider crawl, sprint, crab walk, sprint
  • Slide/curl/press, pyramid wind sprints, claw carries, yes/no/maybe’s, finger carries, two-foot alligators
  • 10 minute run
  • Two low intensity jogs interspersed with: pull-ups, chin-ups, mountain climbers, mountain hangs, vaults, incline crunches, incline oblique crunches.

Training (30 minutes)

  • Taiji 12 Movement
  • Taiji 24 Movement

Jan 28 2010

Training Log

  • 1/2 standard warmup
  • Bagwork:  open palms shinkei’s, horizontal forward elbow, reverse elbow
  • Shiho sabaki review
  • Technique detail and drill (form, flow, power, speed, power and speed, form):
    • Inside stick, head shinkei, stomach shinkei, to kotegaeshi
    • Inside stick, iron triangle to chest, reverse elbow to groin/xiphoid
    • Inside stick, head shinkei, stomach shinkei, to standing Americana
    • De/merits of standing Americana for control

Jan 27 2010

Training Log

Regen day:

  • 25 minutes freeweights
  • 15 minute run

Jan 26 2010

Training Log


  • 1 hour total, 20 minute continuous cycles with 3 minutes breaks:
    • overhead weight runs, wind sprints, box jumps, bear crawls, spiders, alligators, slide/curl/press, knuckle stands, makiwara work, table climbs, yes/no/maybe’s (neck lifts), mountain hangs, monkey swings, crunches, reverse crunches, 8-count bodybuilders, burpies, lunges, tricep presses, pullups


  • Warmup conditioning, 30 minutes:
    • basic stretches and rolls
    • subset of above
    • bagwork:  front kicks, front and side shinkei’s, walking punch, double-barrelled punch
  • Single Technique drill and detail (Initial sequence of Bushi, 30 minutes):
    • 3x proper form, slow with full follow-through, focus on breathing, balance, and form
    • 2x lunging variation, slow with full follow-through
    • 2x fading variation, slow with full follow-though
    • 3x increased speed, focus on flow
    • 3x slow, focus on generating full power
    • 3x fast, focus on generating full speed with only incidental power
    • 3x full speed and power
    • 3x proper form, slow with full follow-through, focus on breathing, balance, and form
  • Liang-Yi Chuan section 1 review (30 minutes)

Recent Readings/Re-readings:

  • The Gift of Fear, de Becker, Gavin

Jan 24 2010

Training Log

  • 60 minutes live blade work:  breathing, balance, form, foundations
  • 90 minutes tameshigiri

Jan 21 2010

Training Log

Already slacking on appending to the training log …

  • Warmup, sprints, long distance running, lateral walking, some conditioning
  • Aiki exercises review:  kokyu-ho, ten-chi, and weave
    • Suwari waza
    • Tachi waza
    • Muto
    • Niten

Jan 18 2010

Australia, 2009-11-27

We woke at 7am to the sound of thousands of little girls slamming doors.  It turns out we booked the Central Sydney Hostel for the one time of the year that performing arts schools from all over the nation meet to show their talents at Sydney Exhibition Center. After Lanaea and Natalie have elbowed tweens out from in front of the bathroom mirrors, Nate and I decide to see if we can wander over to the Google Sydney office, but once again, are foiled by the Australian sense of scale.  We spend an hour walking around without ever catching sight of the office, sweating like dogs in 30C heat, before deciding to grab some food and catching the train for the flight to Melbourne.  I don’t know if it’s changed since the “Underwear Bomber”, but airport security was actually reasonable:  no shoe, belt, and watch removal, personably security, anddefinitely some behavioral profilers on hand and the standard X-ray and metal detectors.  Much more pleasant than having to re-dress after being gruffly herded and nearly stripping like in LAX.

Tullamarine Airport is about an hour outside Melbourne and amounts to little more than a paved runway and a moderately sized building.  If you miss the bus back to the city … well, you better know how to spend a couple hours without entertainment or food anywhere in sight.  Fortunately, we were able to jump on just in time and walk the few blocks from the Southern Cross station to the Melbroune Central YHA.  This particular hostel wasn’t in Lonely Planet, but was absolutely one of the best places to stay in the central district:  new, modern, spacious, all amenities, and connected to a kick-ass bar and restaurant called Bertha Brown.

Melbourne City Central YHA

Melbourne is a city undergoing dramatic growth.  There are more construction cranes in operation than NYC, and the entire central business district is a mesh of ultra-modern and classic european.  There’s slick metal leaning bridge entrances right down the road from the classic Flinders Street Station, pedestrian-only laneways of outdoor cafes right across from stark minimalist over-priced bars, and hipster galore mixed among office executives and blue collar workers.  Despite the incongurencies, it works — and prices are generally better than Sydney and the attitude more relaxed, even though the attire and attitudes are a step up on the classy scale.

Degraves St

After a brief wander around the CBD and some food, we both agreed that we already like Melbourne better than Sydney; it just fit our attitudes better.  We were a little sad to be leaving in the morning, but the Great Ocean Road beckoned, and we’d have more time in Melbourne once we returned.

Scots Church

I can’t recall what Lanaea had for dinner, but I know it yet again had bacon on it, which she graciously delivered to my plate, commenting, “They put bacon on everything here!”

“I know.  It’s a glorious country.”

Jan 18 2010

Australia, 2009-11-26

We woke early again — although we still hadn’t adjusted to the time yet, so we didn’t really have a choice in the matter — to head into downtown Sydney to meet a man with a van and plan:  a Hunter Valley wine tour.  Hunter Valley is a few hours outside of town, so there was a little chatting amongst the passengers, as encouraged by the friendly tour guide, but overall it was a pretty uneventful trip.  Essentially, we hit three wineries, a cheese shop, and had a mediocre lunch break, all over the course of 8-10 hours or so — and we only really liked one winery and the cheese shop.  Not to mention, we probably quaffed a total of perhaps 2 glasses apiece for the entire day.

Lanaea at Iron Gate

Inside the Fromagerie

The first place, Petersons’ Savanna, wasn’t very good, the last place, Ernest Hill, was acceptable, and the middle one, Iron Gate, was fantastic.  I normally don’t prefer white wines, but the Mellenio and Chardonays were exceptional.  And the “Smelly Cheese Shop” lived up to it’s name: very smelly, very delicious.  Highly recommend the Danish Viking Blue.

We powernapped on the way home and check into the Sydney Central Hostel.  It was much more like a hotel than Bondi Beach, but it also high a nice rooftop sauna and pool.  Nae and I sweat out some wine, showered up, and Frenchie magically appeared at our room.

Hunter Valley Private ChaufferThanksgiving dinner was traditional Irish at Paddy McGuires, after which Nae, Frenchie, and I hit up the rooftop and broke out a bottle of Millenio from Iron Gate.  While the wine was fantastic, Nae got bit by a spider, eventually had trouble breathing, and spent the rest of the evening in the ER waiting rooom.

Lanaea and Myself at the Sydney Central Hostel RooftopFrenchie and Myself at the Sydney Central Hostel Rooftop

Um, Happy Thanksgiving?