Saturday, February 16, 2008

the part where I lose something...

So I made it through 90% of my vacation without screwing anything up too much (other than visiting Sydney in the midst of its rainiest summer in recent history), but yesterday night I managed to lose my grey, Manhattan Portage messenger bag. Luckily there's nothing irreplacable in the bag, but it did contain my camera, contact lenses, glasses case, and some things I'd borrowed from friends... as well as being a beloved bag.

In the unlikely (but hopeful) event that you, the person who found my bag, had the incredible insight to Google [Akshay Patil] and found this blog post, please know that you can contact me at akshay(a) Thanks.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

a brief dispatch

Heading off to the airport with Andrew C. soon to drive on down the Great Ocean Road for a few days. The weather here in Sydney has finally turned for the better -- reasonable stretches of sunniness punctuated by brief rain storms. I even went to the beach yesterday (boogie boarding is fun, currents were surprisingly strong).

I managed to knock off the two "must dos" of Sydney on Wednesday (the only gloriously sunny day we've had here) which were the Taronga Zoo and take a ferry to Manly Beach. I've now managed to not tour the Sydney Opera House twice now, thanks to tickets selling out and me showing up after they closed. Partially due to this, I've spent a fair amount of time wandering my way through most of downtown Sydney and getting a feel for how things are laid out.

Don't have anything much more to say at the moment... I've been keeping notes and maybe I'll write up some posts whilst we're driving (or maybe I'll actually look out the car window).

Monday, February 04, 2008


Well, I landed in Australia just in time to watch the Patriots lose the Superbowl in a bar full of what I assume were American students spending a term abroad (read: young, kinda annoying, drinking Budweiser, and generally Giants fans).
The other two downers so far are (A) I'm apparently allergic to much of Sydney (apparently a rare condition, judging from the utter lack of allergy medicine in their drugstores) and (B) it's very rainy/foggy here right now. Apparently this is going to last most of this week (ugh) but it's better elsewhere in the country, which I shall be venturing out to next week.

Oh, regarding the flight from SFO to SYD. I indeed had a middle seat and 14 hours is just about as long as I remember it being (I awoke from my one successful nap to find we were still only half-way there). When I bought the tickets, I indicated I'm a vegeterian with the intention of avoiding those mystery meats they serve in air. Well, apparently United decided to lump vegetarians with vegans on my flight (despite them being very distinct entries in their form online) so was served nothing but rice and vegan cookies all flight... so much for optimizing that parameter.

Other updates/learned things:

  1. You can get your visiting visa AFTER YOU LAND. How is this a "visa" and not just an enforced visitation tax? Just say: "Australia: A$20 admission; All major credit cards accepted" and stop trying to kid everyone.
  2. The non-downtown bits of Sydney look suspiciously like major suburbia in CA. In the cab ride from the airport, I half expected to drive past a Trader Joe's or end up in front of my parent's house.
  3. "Milk shakes" aren't what you think they are (thanks for the tip Bolin!). You'll be wanting a "Thickshake." I'll probably stop noting terminology differences soon, since I imagine there's a whole wealth of them that you probably don't care about.
  4. Aussies (at least Sydneyites) put sweet chili sauce on pretty much everything... ranging from nachos to french fries in my limited sampling so far.
  5. Having an American accent in Sydney feels much less foreign than I was expecting. Maybe that's the jetlag talking. Will have to reassess after I've done a bit more bumbling about.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

on my way out back

If it seems like I only blog when I travel, well, yeah. That's about accurate.

I'm in an utterly deserted United Airways terminal (does no one fly United and/or does no one fly on Saturday afternoons?) waiting for my flight to SFO where I'll switch planes and continue on my way to a two week vacation in Australia. Do I know what I'm doing in Australia while there? No. Should I probably have planned something by now? Yeah, probably, what whatcha gonna do about it? Vacations are about escaping responsibility and it turns out that just buying a ticket was almost too much to ask of me in the first place.

To prep myself for the trip, I'm working my way through Bill Bryson's In a Sunburned Country (generously lent to me by Ann V.) which has throughly sold me on two points:

  1. Driving through Australia is a great way to commune with the vastness of this indescribably massive country.
  2. Australia is full of many wondrous ways to die, one of which I will almost certainly experience first hand.
I mention the last one because Australia really just chalk full of things that will kill you and seeing as I can't go a few weeks in the U.S. without having the hell bit out of me by bugs, I really do feel like I'm risking my life going on this trip. Oh well, there'll be sun (it's rainy season) and surf (full of jellyfish) and I'll be thousands of miles away from work (we have an office in Sydney). Should be fun =).

Things learned today:
  1. Do not mention you work for Google to your taxi driver. It turns out that he got a Masters in Computer Science from LIU (doesn't know how to code, but likes networking) and is wondering if you can help get him a job in the industry. He was otherwise very nice and got me to the airport in record time, but he did spend an awful amount of time turned backwards talking to me about his educational experiences and reiterating that he was in the U.S. legally and had a passport (in case I was wondering). He also knows a little bit of the HTML. The one thing the exchange really impressed upon me is how amazing it is that I too got a Masters in CS without doing a lick of programming. It was great at the time, but seems so wrong in hindsight.
  2. The Chai latte @ Peet's Coffee is pretty terrible. Never get one.
  3. You need a "visa" to go to Australia for pleasure. I didn't realize this (and never checked, so clearly I'm the idiot here) and no one mentioned it to me, until the woman at the ticket counter asked me if I had one. Thankfully they (United Airlines) can issue you one instantaneously (how is this a visa!?) and it cost me $25; if you do it through the sketchy-looking Australian Government website (, it'll cost you AUS$20 ~= US$18.
  4. NYC->SFO on a saturday afternoon might be low traffic, but apparently my SFO->SYD flight is booked up and I'm stuck with a middle seat (they refused to issue me a seat when I first bought the ticket. It was.... no comforting). Knock on wood this flight isn't going to be as painful as it sounds like it'll be.
  5. You can indeed refill those little travel-sized shampoo bottles with contents from their normal-sized brethren. All it takes is a steady hand and an inordinate amount of patience. Do not try to do this right before you need to head to the airport though, especially if you too suffer from whatever disease causes you to loose all sense of time while doing the most unimportant and menial tasks.
  6. Seriously, this chai latte is awful. Maybe it's because I don't drink these sorts of things often, but it's like burnt milk + artificial caramel flavoring. Ugh.

Monday, December 24, 2007

favorite small albums of '07

Naturally there were a lot of solid albums this year, including a number of very good albums by band you've already heard of (Killers, Arcade Fire). And there are some albums I'm pretty sure I'll like, but haven't had a chance to listen to (Jesca Hoop, Radiohead, Kate Nash). These were the albums that caught be by surprise and I'm happy to say I'm not sick of any of them yet. Check 'em out.

  • Stars - In Our Bedroom After the War - As my profile will tell you, Stars have quickly become One Of My Favoritest Bands Ever. In Our Bedroom is maybe not their best album ever, but it's certainly their most cohesive.
  • The National - Boxer - There aren't any super stellar tracks, but for some reason, I can't stop listening to this album. I think, more than anything, I'm always in the mood for Boxer -- whenever I don't have anything else I feel like listening to, it's what I queue up.
  • José González - In Our Nature - Not as good as Veneer, but he still can't do wrong in my eyes.
  • Feist - The Reminder - Not as cohesive as you might like, but there are just so many stand-out tracks on this album, she could have filled it out with random noise and it would still be a great album.
  • The Weepies - Say I Am You - Ok, technically this came out in 2006, but it didn't cross my radar till early this year. This album is just so sweet, it's like a beautiful painting you could hang on your wall and never get sick of. You've probably heard their music in the JC Penny / Old Navy xmas ads now running.