Thursday, April 5, 2007

Why NZ Is Awesome- Part 2

This is a continuation of a list started earlier that seems to keep growing the more I'm down here. So to continue...

~ Sky Tower. Anyone who's been to Auckland knows it because it's sort of hard to miss, as it is the tallest free-standing structure in the Southern Hemisphere. Granted there isn't much actual competition for this title, Australia sort of puts up a fight now and again and maybe somewhere in South America does on a good day, but it is by and far the tallest thing around so it serves as a great navigational aid throughout the city and surrounding countryside. ("I don't know where I am in this strange city... oh look, there's the tower! Never mind.") At night they light it up in different colors, sort of like the Empire State Building, and I've even seen them shoot fireworks off the top.

For the record, no, I haven't actually gotten around to going up there yet. You can jump off of the top of it though, and I've watched several people do so in idle fascination.

~ The Monkey Bar. Every Friday night in order to celebrate it being, well, Friday, my residential hall runs a small bar during the dinner hours known as the monkey bar. You can get drinks for a mere $3, making this whole thing a bargain, and you have the additional excitement of having something with dinner that isn't the standard red juice or yellow juice. (It's been the same two options since I came here, and their exact contents remain a mystery. You can see a lot of attempted alchemy by seeing kids mix up the two in hopes of a different flavor... I'm a red juice fan myself.)

~ While on the point of food, unfortunately the dining hall food is of the sort whereby I am never complaining about Leutner food again. It's not that it's any worse, it's just that back at home we had more options to choose from whereby here you choose between the two dishes every night... but seeing as this post is supposed to focus on good things, I shall tell you that sometimes they give us ice cream for dessert, and I have never seen people get more excited for plain vanilla ice cream. We almost get to the point of writing songs extolling the virtues of the dining hall crew.

~ Kathmandu, the camping store, is quite simply one of the coolest stores I have ever set foot into to the point where I'd not really regret giving them all my mone. I mean yes, obviously they have all the standard sleeping bags and tents and mess kits you'd find at any other camping store in the world, but then you get into all the efficient camping tools that are just pleasing to look at, even if you don't buy them. (Sort of like how you're happy sometimes just knowing a solution exists to a problem but don't actually need to solve it yourself.) To top it off I arrived just in time for their end of summer sale, so I've aquired things like a $40 sleeping bag and other assorted goodies. I have to keep reminding myself when I'm in there that I don't really need half the stuff else I'd probably spend my money there.

~ Aucklanders really love to complain about their weather, so I found myself rather wary of the fact that overall it's quite, well, pleasant. So then I went online and looked up the average monthly percipitation for Auckland versus Pittsburgh, and every single month Pittsburgh had more wet stuff being dumped on it. (And some of that wet stuff is cold! You get hail here sometimes, but never snow.) When I pointed this out, the Aucklanders retorted by saying that their rain is unpredictable, which I'll agree with but really isn't that big a deal because usually it's just drizzling with the sun out when it does rain. So you get to keep an eye out for rainbows!

~ I don't have class tomorrow because hereabouts everything closes for Good Friday. I find this quite nice, as I get to start my break a little earlier!

~ After break the physics department will start up regular public observing nights with the departmental telescopes (the primary one used here being a Meade 12" SCT), and once I expressed an interest in using said telescopes I got recruited into helping out during observing nights. (Except my green laser pointer's at home! Oh no!) My student visa doesn't let them compensate me for this, however, so per current arrangements I get compensated by being allowed to use the telescope until whenever after all the members of the public go home. An interesting but nice arrangement to be sure... I was also offered the chance to help out in taking some light curves in an actual scientific capacity, but I don't see that as becoming very serious because a. I'm not actually here to research and b. in my experience, light curves get really boring really quickly. We shall see what happens.

~ While I miss a lot about CWRU Physics, there is a distinct advantage to being off in New Zealand because it allows you to think. I mean yes I do physics here and am progressing rather nicely in it, but if I were at Case right now I'd be in four very difficult physics classes and beating my brains over studying for the GRE. Here I have time to sit around and jot some ideas about physics down on a piece of paper and see what comes out of them for no particular reason. Sort of like Newton going off to the farm during the Black Plague to develop his laws, with the notable exception that my ideas don't get very far... Still, it's a nice experience to have, and I wouldn't have had it back home. I suppose there's a commentary on physics education hiding in this, but I shall refrain from fleshing it out here.

~ On a final note, I will finish off with a really nice picture of the Kiwi native forest. It's really incredible because it's so, well, primeval- you wouldn't be surprised to see a dinosaur tramping through the underbrush in most places. Of course this is because New Zealand split off from the rest of the continents 80-100 million years ago, during an era when the dinosaurs were alive and well, so the native bush that remains consists of gigantic ferns and conifers and all sorts of cool-looking things. Unfortunately not a whole lot of it remains, a lot of the native bush was logged for timber during the late ninteenth century, but what remains is definetely worth coming half a world away to see. I sometimes look at the pictures on my camera in hindsight, wondering if they're really real or just a photoshop!


Lycus said...

"You can jump off of the top of it though, and I've watched several people do so in idle fascination."

Holy dammit!

...oh wait, did they have like a bungee or a parachute or something. Because that would be a slightly less disturbing story. ;-)