Thursday, April 7, 2011

Rugby League! Rugby League!

Enough of this cute animals and endearing stoires of cuteness, its time for some serious business. Lets get in the sport. First of all, the Australian version of English has a curious approach to pluraliztion. Words we clearly think of as singular are plural here, for instance, "sport." If you were talking about football and baseball, it would be sports. Not so in Australia, its always just sport. For instance, "of all of the sport in Australia, AFL is clearly the most popular." This rule doesn't always apply, because the word math doesn't exist here. Its "maths." As in, "get out your calculator so we can do some maths."

Anyway, sport. Australia is a sport mad country, they really put the US to shame. During the summer its cricket and soccer (apparently the only other country in the world that calls it soccer), but when autumn starts, its time for the serious stuff- the various footie sport, of which there are three- Rugby Union, the National Rugby League (NRL), and the Australian Football League (AFL). Confusingly, all three of these can be referred to as the shorthand of "footie," which refers to the rugby ball they use.

Now, I plan on hitting AFL in a later post, hopefully after we have been to a game, which is slightly harder since Canberra doesn't have a team. Canberra does however have an NRL team, the Canberra Raiders, and a Union team, the Brumbies. Union is the old school version of Rugby, the one that is beloved in England, and is played at the international level. The Rugby World Cup (who knew there was one?) will be played in New Zealand in September and goes by Union rules. The main differences between Union and League is that the rules are designed for League to be a faster paced game. Thus there are less men on the field, the point system is organized to emphasize the scoring of trys (touchdowns) over kicks (field goals), and there is a down system similar to the NFL. Union tends to be more of a field position and posession game, which is not to say its any less exciting. Personally, I prefer it of the two styles.

Anyway, the below pictures are from the NRL game we went to see with our British friends, Karen and Ant (of Thanksgiving and Hobart New Year's fame). I give you- the Canberra Raiders! They're team color is bright, neon green, and while they are historically an awful team, they finished strong last year, just sneaking into the play-offs, so there are high hopes for this year. To give you an idea of how ill thought of the Raiders are, every year analysts make two picks at the start of the season- who will win the Premiership (championship), and who will win the Wooden Spoon, the worst team in the league. The Raiders are always a safe pick to make.

Here's the Raider doing a dance to get the fans excited before the game.  Love it.

Cheerleaders! Now we know its a real sport. For how would we know when to be cheer for the home team if we did not have overly tanned girls shake their pom-poms at us? Ant thinks that Rugby League having cheerleaders is the hieght of apostasy, "They don't have them in Union, nor should they." I think that was British for serious smack talk. I believe Rugby League was just proper-served. It is, indeed, on, governor.

The mighty Raiders take the field. This is the first game of the season, everyone is pretty stoked. They were playing the Cronulla Sharks. Cronulla is a suburb of Sydney. NRL and AFL continues the Melbourne-Sydney rivalry, as NRL grew out of Sydney, and AFL started in Melbourne. Over half the teams in the AFL play in or around Melbourne, and its the same for the NRL and Sydney.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Tasmania- The Zoo

Last post of Tasmania pictures! No, seriously, it really is. Get ready for an animal heavy update guys.

This first batch of pictures is from the Platypus House- a small platypus and echidna conservation park. It's about 20 minutes north of Launceston, where we spent the last few days of our vacation. It's getting pretty close to the north end of the island. After failing to see a Platypus around Hobart we figured we pretty much had to visit this place. They're almost impossible to take pictures of though. We had only slightly better success taking their pictures than we did of the dolphins. Here's a platypus butt.

Fun fact- platypuses are poisonous! Who knew? The males have a small spur on one of their back feet, that has enough poison in it to make a grown person quite sick, and could be potentially fatal to small children.  They also have a very thick layer of blubber to keep them warm, which means they naturally float.  They really like having underwater outcroppings that they can rest under while they wait for fish to swim by. Here's a picture of the little guy swimming to one such resting/hiding place.

Now, the echidna portion was very interesting. They brought two out and put them in the middle of the room with everyone. They put a little food out for them, some kind of honey and ant paste or something, and then just let them go! It was kind of cool watching them wander around.

Look out! He's on the move!

They are also quite accomplished climbers. The old school Sega game "Sonic and Knuckles" makes way more sense now.

The next day we went to the Tasmanian Zoo which is right outside of Launceston. What can we say? We are suckers for the wildlife.

This emu was especially interested in Laurel's camera.

This is an Eastern Quoll. I think it's the closest thing Australia has to a squirrel.

Some monkey from Senegal or something, we don't really remember. This would have been a much better blog post if we had posted it in January.

This is Laurel's new best friend. She's a rosella. She followed Laurel from one end of the cage to the other. They had a nice conversation, and enjoyed biting the end of her sunnies when we put them through the wire. Really friendly bird, and we were worried that she was lonely all by herself. On our way out, we asked about her to one of the zoo attendants. Turns out, this rosella is by herself for a reason. She's apparently a very naughty bird with a history of aggresive behavior, and actually killed the last rosella she was caged with! Bad rosella bad! She is pretty cute though . . .

Laurel was actually super popular at the zoo- she was drawing a lot of attention. We had lunch at the zoo, and they have some fish tanks around the picnic area. These fish actually stopped swimming around and just stared at Laurel the whole time. We ran some experiments- if Greg left the table, the fish continued to stare. If Laurel left the table, they immediately lost interest and swam off. As soon as she came back, they resumed staring. We're pretty sure they wanted to eat her.

Now, we had already seen Tasmanian Devils, but this zoo had baby devils- and you could have your picture taken with them!

Here are some adult devils eating some bones. Mmmmmmmmmmm, delicious.

Its a penguin! Greg loves penguins, and this guy was especially cute and fuzzy.

Lastly, here's a wombat. This is the first wombat we've seen in Australia, which is ironic since we named our blog after one. Wombats are nocturnal so this guy was pretty sleepy. After getting a couple of great pictures of his butt, he was nice enough to turn around for us. Wombats live in burrows they make for themselves in the ground and their chief defense against predators is their strong, sturdy backside, which they will use to pin predators to the wall of their burrow, until they give up and leave. True story.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Simon vs. Chopsticks

Simon is our cat. We got him about two weeks before we got Luna. We wanted to adopt his sister as well, but when we got to the shelter, someone had just adopted her about 30 minutes before. Oh well, Simon and Luna are the best of friends now. Of the two of them though, Simon is the problem cat. Not that he means to be, he just is. You see, he has been blessed with great beauty, and perhaps the finest tail that a creature has ever been given on this Earth. But with cats, like people, when you get too much of one trait you have to give something else up. In Simon's case, he got short changed on intelligence. He's just not the brightest, but we love him anyway. He's our "Mimbo."

For instance, Simon has never figured out his name is Simon. Luna responds to her name and the dozens of variations and nicknames we've come up with for her over the years. There have been a few basic rules we've been able to instill in him over the years. One of these was no kitties on the table while we are eating. As you can see, once we got to Australia, he forgot this rule.

Simon also has strange eating habits. He's recently developed a love of people food. But not the food you would expect. He has no time for salmon or tuna, only dry cereals and other grains. He can't get enough. Weird, right? He's always loved oatmeal- he doesn't know his name, but he can recognize the sound the oatmeal container makes from halfway across the house. Lately though, he's expanded this love to include breakfast cereals, chips, crumbs of all sorts, and most troubling, chocolate cake.

Also, he likes to help Laurel eat. By "help", we mean "try and whack whatever she is holding" at the time. Forks clearly need to be swatted. As do chopsticks, nachos (with dip preferably), breadsticks . . . well you get the point. Here's Simon, giving up on the fist swat technique and going to his classic finishing move- the headbutt.

This particular day we had picked up some take-out Asian food from a place called Wok-in-a-Box- it's a fast-food noodle bar. Delicious. Apparently, these noodles and chopsticks challenged Simon's honor. A great battle ensued.

What these pictures don't show are all of the noodles that ended up on the floor from too aggressive swatting. Ah, life with cats. It's never boring.