Sunday, May 31, 2009

Weekend in Sydney

I feel as if I didn't do a whole lot this past weekend, but when I think about it, I did a pretty good job on filling my schedule.

Friday I woke up early and headed into Sydney to attend a job and career fair. It was at a big exhibition center in the heart of the city. It was your standard job fair. There were universities, government agencies, and a wide variety of career choices. The majority of the attendees seemed to be high school and university students, but there were also a fair amount of people like me just looking for a job. I picked up a few informational packets and even filled out an application for one company. A woman was there from Hamilton Island. I'm not sure if you heard a few months back about the "greatest job in the world" search that involved hiring a caretaker for Australia's Hamilton Island. They were just advertising their website and some of the positions that are available. It would be like working on your own private Caribbean Island.

After that, I walked a long way all the way to an area known as The Rocks. I picked up my train nearby at Circular Quay where the Opera House is and headed home. I went for a run when I returned and that was my Friday.

Saturday I went to the Shiraz and Jazz festival in Cronulla. It was a big wine and food tasting. Unfortunately it rained all weekend, but it didn't stop people from going out and enjoying the wine and food. The festival was right next to my old employer, so I stopped in and picked up my pay slips so I can fill out my tax forms and said hello to a few of my former employees. No awkwardness. I'm over it.

I bought 10 tokens for $10 and also a $2 glass for my samples. At each wine booth I could either give 3-5 tokens for a whole glass or just one token for a taste. I found that just paying one token was more than enough. It took me a good 2-3 hours to use all ten of my tokens. In Australia, there are no buckets to spit your wine out. You drink it. I was very happy I opted not to buy 20 tokens, because after 10 samples, I felt just fine. My favorite wine, of all kinds that I sampled was the Cabernet Sauvignon. I think I'm more of a white wine fan.

There were wines from all over Australia there. Yellow Tail had a booth. Yellow Tail is a wine I work with back home. I mentioned that to several of the samplers. They all knew about its success overseas. Yellow Tail reminds me a lot of Foster's Beer because I never see Australians drinking it, but Americans love it.

Because the festival was right on the ocean, and it was raining, I had the chance to see a beautiful rainbow. The last time I saw a rainbow was on a trip to Las Vegas back in 2007 while driving from Portland, Oregon. This was a beautiful scene. The beach, the water, the surfers and the boardwalk and a beautiful rainbow in the background. It's hard to savor moments because once they're gone, that's it. But I made sure just to enjoy that one for a few minutes before it disappeared.

The day was eerily similar to a day I spent in Breckenridge, Colorado back in July, 2008. That day, along with my intern, I attended a Corvette show and a music festival. Both events that day were rained on and had a very well off, non-diverse attendance. On Saturday, there was a display for Ford Mustangs. It is so strange to see American cars with steering wheels on the right side of the car. The jazz music wasn't bad at this event either.

Saturday night I watched old episodes of LOST on my computer. In the US, LOST has been finished for three weeks. We still have the second half of the season finale this Wednesday. I can't wait for it! If you're a LOST fan, my all time favorite episode is still Season 4, Episode 5. It's the one centered around Desmond.

Like Friday night, I also had a great night sleep Saturday night. I woke up this morning at 8am and went for my 2.5 mile walk/run, then ate a huge breakfast. I had my bowl of "The Guardian" Cereal with a sliced banana in it. I also had a fruit salad with kiwi fruit, apples and oranges in it, and a protein shake.

I then called my friend Ken Macie back in Massachusetts. I was in Ken's wedding back in November. He and is wife are moving into a new house. He is still working at TPC golf course in Boston. It was great to talk to him again.

After that, I sat and watched the first two periods of the Stanley Cup Playoffs on my laptop, as well as game 6 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals on TV. Once I saw the Cavaliers were going to lose, I took the train into the city and had a late lunch and a couple beers with my friend from Keene, NH. It was great to catch up. We talked about the Red Sox, Australia culture, what it will be like to return to the states, and a slew of other things. I had a couple Australian beers I haven't tried before and a pizza with salmon on it.

It was great to see him for a couple reasons. First because it is always fun to go to the city and have a beer and a good meal with someone I know. The second reason is because up until then, everything I did on Friday and Saturday, I did by myself and I was really in need of some conversation. I've never had any trouble going on adventures solo, obviously. It is really what I do. But spending too much time alone isn't always fun. It would have been great to have some people to enjoy that wine festival with, or to walk around the job fair in Sydney. I guess despite all these fun things I did, it was a rather lonely weekend. However, I don't dwell on the lonliness because I remind myself that (A) I'm in Australia, (B) meeting people isn't the easiest thing in the world, and (C) I'm gaining new experiences everyday.

It is funny I mention that because Curt York invited me out tonight for drinks and I declined! I was exhausted from the run and the trip to and from the city and just had no desire to have a slew of drinks on a Sunday night like so many Australians love to have. No, tonight I am writing to you, having a light dinner, and spending an hour with Mr. Jack Bauer. My roommates are kicking around here too, so there's some additional company.

So that was my weekend. Thanks again for checking in. Be sure to check back here in two days for my "Six months in Australia" post.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Trip to the Grocery Store

Now that I am on a health kick, part of my week is devoted to shopping at the local grocery store. In Australia, there are really only two options if you want to go to a major one. There's Coles or Woolworth's (Wooly's). I have seen a few Franklin's around also. But the one I go to is Coles because it is only a 10 minute walk from my house. Everything seems normal to me now, but Australian and American grocery stores have major differences.

In the USA, we have dozens of major grocery stores. Depending on what region you are travleling through, you will see different stores. I grew up with Sun Foods (Now Hannaford Bros.), Shaw's and Market Basket. We now have Price Chopper, Massachusetts has Big Y and Stop & Shop. In Wisconsin I traveled to Pick n' Save, in Colorado it was Safeway, Texas had H-E-B and I suppose Wal-Mart should get a mention also as they are a big competitor throughout the country of all the above mentioned.

You have to understand that in America, everything we do is big. So I can't say that Coles or Wooly's are mini, I just think that the USA is huge. In the states, we have two large entrances to the super markets. You can enter and pick up a cart or basket at each of the entrances. In Oz, there is one entrance. This is where the cart is picked up. I'll talk about exiting later on.

This is the entrance to Wooly's at the mall near my house. Just a little turnstyle like entrance.

The portion sizes are smaller as well. Australia is increasingly being recognized as an obese nation, yet they don't have the "super-size" options that I remember back in the states. For example, the cereal I eat comes only in a 480g(17oz) box. Back home, I could get a box maybe three times as big as that. There are a couple of flavors that do have a bigger box like Corn Flakes, but not many of them come in that size.

Those boxes (above) are a popular snack cracker called Shapes. I could eat one box in five minutes easy. My ideal size snack cracker box is a family size box of CHEEZ-ITS!

Shopping carts, or trolleys as they are called here, kind of baffle me. Back home, our shopping carts obviously have four wheels, but only the front two swivel. This makes it very easy to steer the cart left or right. It does make it a bit difficult to move directly left or right. That's where you normally hear that loud noise produced by the cart scraping the store floor as the shopper drags it to the side. Well here in Australia, all four wheels swivel. This is great for moving the cart in all directions, but I find that the cart is always rolling away from me! If I'm going around a corner, it kind of takes off. I prefer the cart sticking around. I will say that the wheels are never noisy like back home. One last note about the shopping carts. People wheel them home! I see usually four or five carts on the side of the road enroute to Coles. I think it is illegal, but I've also heard that it is someone's job to go pick them up around the neighborhood at the end of each day.

I found this trolley up the street from Coles in an alley

The Australian Trolley with 4 swivel wheels

The next difference is the store layout. In the past five years, I've noticed that American grocery stores are making dynamic changes to the floor plan. It used to be that all aisles go in the same directon, but now depending on which section of the store you're in, the aisle could be going vertically, horizontally or diagonally to the entrance. For example I know in some stores in my hometown, the organic rows make you feel like you're in a completely different store, with different flooring and colors.

In Australia I feel that they haven't grasped this concept yet. There really are no different layouts except that of the produce section, which is a little more open similar to the US. Otherwise all the aisles go in the same direction.

A typical health foods section at a US Grocery Store

And going back to the size differences, what skinny aisles they are! I mentioned that everything is bigger in the USA (Texas too!). It would be difficult to get three shopping carts side by side down the aisle here. I don't think it can be done.

A shopping aisle at Coles, Australia

Another aisle at Woolworth's

A Price Chopper Aisle, USA....BIG!

It may sound like I'm saying I don't like the Australian grocery store. That isn't true. I'm just still used to the way things are at home. For example, the location of the milk! In the states, the milk is put usually somewhere near the back of the store. I've read that because nearly everyone purchaes milk, the store wants customers to pass by all the other products before getting to the milk. It is a marketing scheme. At Coles, where I shop, the milk is in the second aisle to the left! Everyone here goes left to right through the store, so I disagree with the milk placement because (A) it gets warm if I am taking a long time shopping, and (B) it isn't a great marketable location. In Woolworth's defense, I did notice that they do put the milk in the way back of their store. It is Coles that isn't up with the times. I didn't notice Franklin's milk...moving on.

Try sometime Google searching "Grocery store marketing tactics" or something similar and you can find all sorts of ways that supermarkets get you to buy more. From fancy end of aisle displays to slow music. It all has a purpose of getting the customer to throw a little more in their carts.

In New Hampshire and Vermont we have an impressive beer aisle. I always liked the beer aisle because that's where I spent a good amount of time working this past decade for Clarke Companies. In Australia there is no beer aisle. There is just the liquor store outside the supermarket. Much like Massachussets.

The Beer aisle, USA, one of my favorite aisles

Finally, I mentioned earlier something about the exits. I found it is hard to leave a store unless I buy something. It sounds strange, but I've been into stores before back home and had to run out because I had forgotten my phone in the car or because I changed my mind and didn't want anything. It was easy because the entrances are also the exits there. Today, as I was trying to compare Franklin's, Coles and Wooly's, I went into all three and indeed had to do a bit of searching before I could leave. You are not allowed to leave out the entrance and they block all the unused register aisles with trolleys. Don't you hate that!?

That's all for now. Happy shopping. Next time I'll compare USA's Home Depot to Australia's Bunnings Warehouse...nah.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

My weekend at the Pig Party

I am just wrapping up a very lazy Sunday. It is around 8pm and I'm watching 60 Minutes (Australia) with my roommate. The current story is about Australia's most successful band, AC/DC, otherwise known here as "Aca-Daca." They are in their 60's now, have sold over 200 million records. Impressive. I have the song "It's a long way to the top (if you want to rock and roll)" in my head right now.

Yesterday I attended Curt York's Swine Flu party. Perhaps it wasn't the most PC name for a party, but it was a very good time. The Yorks bought a 65 pound pig and had a good crowd over to their place. I donated my first meat tray for lunch and had a fun time grilling for the seven or eight of us who were there early.

Curt is a "man's man" I'd have to say. It was amazing watching him do about a dozen different projects while I was just enjoying the beer and the horderves. Actually all the York men are like this. One was painting a doorway while the other was fixing his keg that he holds his home brewed beer in. They were moving things and fixing stuff. I offered to help a couple times although I really had no idea what to do if they said yes to my offer. It was just real impressive to see them do all this handy work in preparation for the party. A couple of times I told Curt I hoped he could relax a little. I think he finally was able to once that pig was done cooking. The guy is a worker though.

It was a great time to see Mike and Curt's parents as well as a lot of people that the York boys have introduced me to while living here. Oh, another fun thing about the day was when I arrived. I weighed myself and was 158.5 pounds...the lightest I've been since being a teenager I'm sure. Then I feasted.

The day felt like Thanksgiving for me. There was so much good food to eat. The pig tasted amazing. There were great sides of corn, mashed potato, apple sauce, salad, bread, chips, dips and the list goes on and on. I made sure to enjoy it. There was lots of good company too.

I made it home around 3am and set my alarm for 9:30am so I could watch game 3 of the NHL Eastern Conference Finals. Carolina was beat up by the Penguins again, going down 3-0 in the series. That Penguins team is stacked with superstars. I pick them to win it all. Earlier last week I emailed the Carolina Hurricanes radio broadcaster Chuck Kaiton with a question. During the second intermission of Canes games, he conducts "Kaiton's Corner" and answers a few questions from listeners. So I emailed him asking about the Carolina head coach Paul Maurice and told him I was listening to every game from down in Australia. Well Chuck was kind enough to write me back and say he would try to get my question on the air today. He didn't include it, but it was exciting to have him personally respond to my email.

Our next season of hockey starts tomorrow. I'm thrilled that I will continue to have the opportunity to play hockey once a week. My scar is looking okay. By the time I get home (or wherever we run into each other again), hopefully you won't be able to even see it anymore.

This week I hope to find a couple more leads on the job search. I've been working on a few blog posts that you might see in about a week, so I'll continue to work on those. And I will hopefully have a solid workout everyday. I have to run off that meal from the swine party.

Enjoy some of these photos from yesterday. There was a good crowd there but these are just of the Yorks, Eoin and myself. See ya.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Monday, May 18, 2009

Strikes and Gutters

It's amazing how 24 hours can give you something to write about. I realize I don't write posts anymore unless something happens. So the last day has provided you with the following post:

Last night was our last hockey game of the "season." As I mentioned last week, it was the last place game. The game was going well. I had a couple goals in the first half and we took that lead into the third quarter when the unexpected happened.

I was trying to prevent their best player from taking a shot, so I lunged from behind him and tried to hook him down. As I did that, I fell to the ground and after that it is hard to tell exactly what happened. I think one of my teammates was right on my tail, and tied the guy up. But for that one second I was on the ground, my face was run over. It felt like a skate, but I'm pretty positive it was a stick. It felt like I was hit twice actually. The feeling was instant numbness. It wasn't quite pain because of the adrenaline flowing, but it was unfamiliar, and I was pretty positive I was cut. I saw blood start dripping on the playing surface and knew my night was probably done.

You could say I was lucky. One clean cut above my eye, a bit of a shiner on the other side of my face and a little cut to the bridge of my nose. I of course wanted to go back out there, but knew I should look after my face. My friend Eoin was there and he helped me treat it. It is a bummer I didn't get back out to play as we lost the game 13-8.

After the game, Mike York, Eoin and another friend, Bryce, went over to Eoin's parents house. Eoin's mother used to be in charge of an entire hospital and is a former nurse. So she attached some butterfly bandages to my face and I was all set to go.

You may ask why I don't wear a face mask. It is a preference really. I have played every week for three months and this is the first time I was hit in the face. It was a fluke. I probably won't wear a mask when the next competition starts - next week! That's right. We're keeping the same teams and just starting over again. Three or four of the best players are leaving for Europe next week for a world wide tournament, so the teams should still be fairly even.

What great timing with the cut eye and shiner to have a job interview the next day! That's right. 9am this morning, I showed up to Zest Marketing with some fresh looking bruises. I had found this company's ad online and wrote them over the weekend. They called Monday and we set up an interview. I wasn't positive what they did, except that it had something to do with marketing.

It was a bit disappointing when I found out what it was exactly. You know those people in the cities who stand in parks or busy areas with t-shirts for The Red Cross or a Cancer Society? Well that's what this was. It was in your face marketing. I knew as soon as I saw what it was that I wasn't going to do it, no matter what. They let me watch for an hour or so and had me fill out some questions about marketing. I know I could have acted my way into that job. No problem at all. But in your face selling might be one of the most miserable things I can imagine doing.

I marketed Up with People for a year. In that time, I learned many strategies on what makes a fun marketing campaign. We had booths and put on fun games and made the consumer comfortable for the most part with what we were trying to sell them. It was fun for us as the seller also!

As someone who hates...loathes...being approached for a donation, I could never do this type of selling. I have walked many many steps in my day, out of my way, to avoid people I can see coming towards me trying to sell me something. It offends me, I get uncomfortable and I usually have no desire to donate, not because I don't like the cause, but because of the way they are approaching me. Yeah so you could say the job I was going for today was my worst nightmare. It was telemarketing, door to door selling and any other type of selling that makes you angry.

I'm happy I got out of the house and tried something new, but am a bit disappointed. I should have realized what they were. The people were very nice. They were enthusiastic. What a harsh job though. On one of the forms it talked about the ability to accept hearing "no" a lot. I asked the team leader how many donations they expected to get today. In 6 or 7 hours, the four of them are expected to get THREE donations each, sometimes four. That means three times people say yes, and most likely 100 times they say no or just walk right by. I couldn't do it. Nope, never.

Oh and while I was observing these sales persons, I was texting a guy who lives in Sydney who is also currently looking for work. He writes the Stuck at Seven blog. He was telling me to RUN! Just run away, because that's what he did. He was somewhat duped into interviewing similar gig that I interviewd for and literally ran away from the interviewee. Pretty hilarious picture. Edmund explains it below. He tells a good story.

So that's my story. Hopefully I will have more interviews to tell you about soon. In the meantime, enjoy these photos from hockey last night. Hopefully you won't be seeing anymore like them! That's Mike York with me in both photos.

That's the other York brother above, Curt. I went to his soccer match on Sunday. Will tell you all about his party he is throwing this weekend next time. See ya!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Rough day for New England

Celtics...lose in game 6, Red Sox...lose in 12 innings, Bruins...lose in overtime of game 7. Not exactly the Hat Trick the city of Boston was looking for.

About a minute ago, I just watched the Hurricanes beat the Bruins in the NHL Playoffs. It was in overtime of game 7. The Canes are now headed to the Conference finals to take on the Penguins. But what a heartbreaking loss for the B's. I should be estatic, but I'm feeling a bit sad for the city of Boston and the Bruins right now. As someone who has been on the losing end of an overtime game, I just gotta say OUCH.

Kevin Smith, the Hollywood director, recently wrote a blog about his New Jersey Devils when they were matched up against the Hurricanes during the opening round of this year's playoffs...I edited the swears out for you...

"I can’t root against the Hurricanes because they’re the Hartford Whalers. What kind of black-hearted, hateful person could ever cheerfully root against the Whale? We’re talking about the (first) team that brought Gordie Howe out of retirement! This is a team of legends, with an old-time-hockey legacy. Paul Coffey, Dave Keon, Bobby Hull… even our own Shanny: all legends who swam with the Whale. I can’t bash on the Green and the Blue; they’re the Connecticut Yankees in King Stanley’s Court who inspired the immortal cinematic bon mot “Breakfasts come and go, Rene; but Hartford… the Whale? Hey, they only beat Vancouver once, maybe twice in a lifetime.”
For the complete blog.... (He actually edited out the swears too in a fun kind of way.)
So I guess if I were to write my paragraph similar to that, I would say that it's hard to root against the Boston Bruins. I grew up with Cam Neely, Ray Bourque, Andy Moog and countless others. Even with my loyalty to the Whale, I can't hate the Black and Yellow. Despite all the losing in the last 20 years, I've always hoped they make a Cup run. I just don't want to see them beat the Whalers, er Canes.

Also, something isn't quite right with me rooting for a non-Boston team. I love the Patriots, Celtics, and Red Sox. The stars should all line up, and I should root for the B's. But I don't. And that still feels strange to me. In the world of pro sports, I feel you're really only allowed to have one favorite. And as you know, I decided a long time ago who my favorite would be, whether they come from Hartford or Carolina. They say "you can't have your cake and eat it too," so I guess I'm sticking with the Canes.
Good luck Carolina in the Eastern Conference Semis. It is going to be a battle to beat Pittsburgh but you can do it. And for the Boston fans out there, try not to think about it too much. The Celtics still have game 7 to play, and the Red Sox have a long road ahead of them.

On to the next round. Don't you dare shave those playoff beards.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Some NHL, Aussie TV and a Giraffe

Another weekly update...although I have posted the previous two days. So I guess this is a daily update or rather something to keep my mind busy.

It has been a mostly stress free 48 hours since losing my job. I would consider that a good sign. I worked out yesterday, walked/jogged/ran around 5 miles today. I feel great. All the pants I bought when I left for Australia definitely are too big now. I need to find a short, stalky guy to sell them to.

Surfing the net today, I stumbled upon a blog that was created in 2006. It was written by a Canadian student who spent a year in Australia. The title of his blog? Ryan Down Under. See, I had a feeling that Ryan Down Under wasn't an original title.

Did you know that KMart is a huge store here? I saw a TV commercial about 20 minutes ago for it. Wasn't it going out of business in the USA? I know it left Keene a long time ago. What did Rain Man say about K-Mart....K-Mart Sucks.

I am missing being in New England right now. Two of the past three days, the Red Sox, Celtics and Bruins have won games on the same day. What a week for you! (Most of you) I was able to watch game 5 of the Celtics/Magic series, but today they played the Minnesota Twins vs Detroit Tigers live from the Metrodome. Truly one of pro sports' most boring matchups ever.

The NHL playoffs have been pretty amazing so far this year. There are three game 7's in the next couple of days including The Bruins/Hurricanes that I am most interested in. I called it that this thing would go seven. All the games so far except one have been very one sided and Boston has the big advantage of being at home for game seven. Also the Chicago Blackhawks are going to the Conference Finals. Amazing.

Mothers Day as I mentioned before was pretty uneventful. I did finally get to talk to Mom (or mum as they call it here) on Tuesday. Great to talk to you!

Wednesdays are a great TV night here for me. Wednesdays feature LOST, House, Family Guy, My name is Earl and a new Australian show I enjoyed tonight called Thank God You're Here. It is an improv show featuring famous Australian comedians. I don't watch all of the shows I mentioned above, but definitely LOST and Family Guy and sometimes House. Tonight is the 3rd to last episode of LOST for us in Australia. Those of you in the USA are two weeks ahead of me. No spoilers please. Also they play about every cop drama you can name. NCIS, CSI, The Mentalist...the list goes on and on. I could never stick with those shows.

Most of your standard reality TV shows, they have here as well. Master Chef, The Biggest Loser, So you think you can Dance, Australias's Got Talent. They are basically the same. Australia only has 20-22 million people. The participants really become celebrities here overnight.

Speaking of celebrities or personalities in the spotlight. A famous National Rugby Player is involved this week in a sex scandal dating back to 2002 with a then 19 year old woman. In fact, the NRL is starting to get a reputation for bad behavior including assaults and public drunkenness. It gets so much attention here. As an American, I guess I am used to my sports scandals by now. With the legal problems over the past 10 years in the NBA, NFL and the drug scandals of MLB, nothing really surprises me anymore. I think that Australia is becoming politically correct finally and that still shocks a lot of people here.

I've mentioned this before, but I'll say it again...It is illegal to talk on your cell phone while driving in Australia, but your passenger can drink an entire six pack of beer and there is no crime being committed. Is that strange to you?

I found a great website that can distort photos of you for free. Check it out sometime. Here's what I did with one of mine...

I leave you with something to make you laugh. Watch it five times. It gets funnier.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Hockey Mondays (Playoffs)

Tonight's semi final matchup was a great one. Unfortunately we lost 16-13. I don't think it was our team's best effort of the season, but on a personal level, I felt good. I had a hat trick, including an Alexander Ovechkin-esque goal. It was a forehand shot from on my knees, from about 15 feet in front of the goal with a defender all over me. Looked something like this...except mine was a forehand...and I was in a men's league inline game.

We actually had a decent crowd for us. Probably 20 people including Eoin and another buddy, Bryce. So there were actually cheers when I scored it. One player says I'm king of the garbage goal. I disagree. I think I'm king of making goals look GOOD! I told Mike it is redemption for all those years I spent on defense.

Our problem seemed to be taking care of the little pests on their team. Whenever we scored one, they came back with one. At half, we were down 8-3. After three quarters we were down 14-8! The final quarter was pretty excitng as we narrowed the lead to 15-13. I missed the 16th goal, but Mikey York put it in our own goal. It happens.

Mike had a great hit on one of those little pests early on. The kid had already had a penalty for hacking me and was really giving it to Yorky. Nobody was noticing, but finally Mike shoved him down while everyone was watching...I think he muttered something like "Hit me again, I'll kill ya..." and we didn't really hear from #55 again.

I told Mike he almost was in a DonnyBrook...and he had never heard of this old fashioned hockey phrase. For those of you who don't know, the definition of a donnybrook is: an inordinately wild fight or contentious dispute; brawl; free-for-all. Take that with you.

I thought we were going to make the incredible comeback. It reminded me for a bit of a hockey game I played versus Berlin as a youth. We were up by three goals at home against them pretty much due to them not having their best player Chad Lauze. He was running late. He showed up for the third period, hat a hat trick and we lost. We were down six going into that final period and nearly pulled it off.

So we'll be playing in the toilet bowl game next week. No hard feelings. It was another great workout. I think we only take a couple weeks off before the next series starts and I believe we will be keeping the same teams, instead of shuffling them up.

Even the Chiefs couldn't win them all....goodnight.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

And here we go again!

Harry: So you got fired again, eh?
Lloyd: Oh yeah. They always freak out when you leave the scene of an accident, you know?
Harry: Yeah, well, I lost my job too.
Lloyd: Man, you are one pathetic loser. No offense.

- Dialogue from the movie Dumb and Dumber

Hello there. I was going to write a Mother's Day post, but then had to work a double shift on Saturday and Sunday. So I did not get to it. Actually the above quote is appropriate because work asked me not to return last night after I clocked off. So....for the second time in a few months, I am now out of work.

They said it was due to my performance and falling behind a bit when it came to making coffees. In my defense, I know I worked my butt off. In my heart, I worked as hard as I ever have. I probably should have mastered the coffee machine sooner, but I walk away with a new set of skills, and also the pride in knowing that I did the best I could. Maybe I'm not cut out for the restaurant business. Either way, I refuse to dwell on this. It is the restaurant's loss that I will no longer be working there.

And so the hunt begins, again...
Tonight is our first playoff hockey game. As I mentioned in last week's post, we should win. Although we do have one problem. Goalies. Throughout the season, we've had three goalies who rotate playing the two games each week. Now only one goalie is available for the remainder of the season. Last week I heard we were desperate to find another goalie. So this whole season might just end in a rather boring fashion if they haven't found anyone to mind the nets.

It reminds me of the scene from the movie Clerks where the convenience and video store clerks (Dante and Randal) close the store and have a hockey game on the roof of the Quik Stop. But they lose the ball in gutter on the first play of the game and nobody brought another ball, so the game was over. That could be tonight for me.

I'm currently watching the Celtics vs. Magic on TV Live. This has been one of the best surprises of the past month, having live NBA games on my TV in Australia. Also I am able to listen to Boston Red Sox games online now as well as NHL playoff games. Have you ever tried listening to hockey on the radio? It is nearly impossible. It is basically just a guy constantly naming off who has the puck. Crazy Russian and eastern European names too. I just like to hear the part where the announcer says "HE SCORES!"

This is about 20 minutes later than the last paragraph. Just watched the Celtics win at the buzzer! That was amazing to watch. Also I was on a video conference call with my buddy Matt Zidron from Chicago at the time. So we watched it together. The broadcast in the US was about 15 seconds faster than the one in Australia. Matt was also watching the Red Sox/Rays game on TV and showed me his tv screen. It is just remarkable how I can see people on the other side of the world through my computer screen.

If any of you ever want to do the conference call with me, my Skype name is rywatts9. Don't know what skype is? It is a great way to communicate with friends and family in other countries. Email me and I'll tell you about it.

No worries, mate. Talk soon - Ry

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Curing some boredom for me and you

No specific topic tonight. Just your standard weekly update randomness...

I worked tonight for the first time since Sunday! I was pretty pumped to run around waiting tables. It turned out to be a bit of a stressful night as there were only four of us working. That includes two new people, myself and my boss. Things got a little busy and I had to pick up the slack, and I was the "veteran" server out there after only 30 days or so on the job. My boss did tell me at one point that I need to be mindful of something. That's the worst feeling. That feeling when you think you are busting your butt and the man points out what you're doing wrong.

It reminded me of this varsity hockey game I was in when I was a junior in high school. My coach was yelling at me for this or that and I looked him in the eye and said, "But coach, I'm doing great things out there." He benched me for the final period and a half....and overtime in which we lost.

So instead of telling the boss how good I was doing, I just nodded my head. We had a really good chat at the end of the night about how things went. I thanked him for his support, then went home.

Waiting has its ups and downs

I've mentioned in previous blogs that my new focus is getting healthy. So this week I've worked out everyday (except Tuesday, my day off). My workout consists of a 2.5 mile (4k) run, some push ups and sit ups and this little muscle building exercise called Plank. It is like a push up, except you just try to hold your body up off the ground for as long as possible. It is supposed to build all sorts of muscle. I was pretty bored on Wednesday, so I did this workout twice. I was wearing 36 waist pants when I left the USA, now I am using the smallest notch on my belt just to keep my pants up. I was a fatty. I'm taking this so seriously now that I am reading labels at the grocery store and I even went to the movies the other night and did not get movie popcorn. I found some jaw dropping stats on the amount of junk they put in that stuff. Also I've cut back on alcohol, only having one or two drinks a week. I think I just need to remember to have some fun once in awhile with the food. Ironic, isn't it that I went to a country famous for its binge drinking to STOP drinking. Feels great though.
Dec 31, 2008...pushing the scale at...I don't know...but it was a lot.
10 minutes before publishing this blog. I have a neck again.

Having days off has been great for listening to radio broadcasts of Major League Baseball, the NBA and NHL. This week I've been listening to the Carolina Hurricanes radio broadcst for the Bruins/Hurricanes series. During intermission today, a caller asked "Who was on the roster when the Hurricanes first started in 1998?" And the announcer listed off the whole roster. It was a great trip down memory lane. And the Hurricanes won today to take 2-1 series lead. Also I listened to my first MLB game on the internet the other day. How much a part of New England culture is the voice of Joe Castiglione, radio voice of the Red Sox? That's as American as Dunkin' Donuts.

I watched the Dodgers play the Nationals on TV today. During the seventh inning stretch, I stood in my livingroom and belted out God Bless America with the rest of LA. The woman really blew the ending, but I had my hand on my heart and sang it like I was there regardless of how she sounded.

I like that I get to watch former Swamp Bat Andre Ethier on my TV in Australia. I was lucky to have the opportunity to pick him up at the airport the day he arrived in Keene back in 03. I bet he doesn't remember, but I do tell people I drove the guy around. Same goes for Jeff Keppinger and Amazega.

Hockey Monday night was another good one. We won 10-6. I had a couple in the win. Next Monday is our playoffs. We are the #3 seed playing the #2 seed. 1 is playing 4 also. We really should win and then all we have to do is beat the bad guys and we're "champions" of a league of four. Yep, doesn't get any better than that.
My friend Eoin responded to my previous post regarding Australian vehicles and yards.

"Read the blog, too short but funny. True our cars are small and those little fences, well we don't own the land past them. The council does. You should do a piece on Australian local councils.... Like how its illegal to cut a tree down on your own property. Yes you can get really big fines if you do it, like $30,000. Oh and don't even think about building a garage without permission."

So I didn't realize the council or basically the city as we'd say in the US had so much pull.

Mike York had a different defense when he heard I was bashing his country's vehicles.

"Our roads aren't as big, so our cars can't be as big."

Well who's fault is that Mikey? Actually Mike drives a good sized truck for Australian standards. He passes.

I graduated from College five years ago this month. Carroll College or Carroll University as it is called now was my home for three years from August 2001-August-2004. One of these days there will be a post titled "The College Years." It will be edited for all ages to read.

What else is going on? I've been talking with Andy Neumeister recently on facebook. Andy and I both used to work for Clarke Distributors in Keene, NH. One summer in 2001, we were weekend merchandisers together in Rindge and Keene. We worked in major grocery stores like Shaw's and Hannaford Brothers and it was our responsibility to make sure there was plenty of Budweiser on the shelf each weekend. We've kept in touch since that time and I was in his wedding a few years back. Anyway, we invented a fictious competition called the "Merch Off." and we would always talk about the events. You'd have the Merch off decathalon:

Tools of the trade for "Merch-Off 2009"

Events include:
30 pack toss, catch, and building of display
40 yard pallet pull, avoiding obstacles (shoppers) along the way
Wheeling of kegs off the back of a truck
Merch off terminology ("Did you check that cooler?" a.k.a. "Check that attractive women down the aisle")
Speed rotation of the "Born on Dates"
Precision label fronting
Syncronized Pallet-jacks

And of course our guest referee would be Dizzy. He's the living legend merchandiser.

I think we should write a screen play about the merch off. It would be a Vince Vaughn film I imagine. In the movie Black Sheep, Chris Farley talked about a "bounce off" regarding some security guard competition. I believe that's where the concept started.

Time for bed. Goodnight.