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Jeremy Portzer's Journal

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


I'm going on a trip the first week of June along this route:

View Larger Map

Should be pretty fun. It's in a "railmotor" which is a self-propelled railcar, kind of like a bus on rails . More details here (PDF)..

Thursday, November 22, 2007

3:23PM - Turkey Sandwiches in Australia

So, in the spirit of Thanksgiving I thought I would get a turkey sandwich for lunch today.  (Though, I realize that a turjkey sandwich is really in the spririt of the days after thanksgiving, not necessarily the big Turkey Day itself!)  However, after going to about five different delis, I've determined there is no such thing as turkey in Australia!   You can definitely have lamb sandwiches, and beef and chicken, and even various pork products, but no turkey.

I did some searching on the web and found one place that is having a Thanksgiving dinner for American expatriates here, "The American Club" - but it's a formal affair, I'm not really interested in that.  I wonder where they got the turkey for that!


Thursday, August 2, 2007

6:47PM - El Salvador pictures!

On Wednesday I got back to Australia from El Salvador (I also visited Boston, New York, and North Carolina, while in North America...pretty crazy trip!). Here are the pictures if you're interested:

Read more...Collapse )

Monday, July 2, 2007

4:52PM - Trip back home...

I'll be flying to North America in a few days for a pretty crazy schedule. Here's what it looks like so far:

Friday, July 6: leave Sydney, arrive JFK airport, New York.
July 6-9: go to Poughkeepsie, NY, to visit my grandfather
Monday, July 9 - take train from NY to Boston
July 10-13 - presenting at and attending the BbWorld conference
July 13-15 - fly to NC - will be in the Triangle for the weekend
July 16-19 - work at the Blackboard office in Washington DC
July 20-29 - go to El Salvador for my annual Habitat for Humanity home-building work project
July 30-August 1 - fly back to Sydney from El Salvador (via Los Angeles)

If anyone wants to meet for lunch or a drink or something when I'm in the Triangle, let me know.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

9:12AM - Aviation Safety reporting system

Random web site of the day: Aviation Safety Reporting System..

I was looking through the database and found this pretty funny one. The pilot's description of the lady (about 3/4 of the way through) is excellent.

Read more...Collapse )

Sunday, May 13, 2007

7:34PM - Footy!

On Friday night, I had the chance to go to my first sporting event in Australia, in this case "footy" - which is the all purpose Aussie word for football. My colleague Daniel, the only true Sydney native in our office, is a rabid fan of the Manly Sea Eagles, one of the National Rugby League (NRL) teams here, so he got tickets for everyone in the office. In Sydney, "footy" refers not to international association football (soccer), which Sydneysiders actually call soccer, but rather Rugby League, one of two popular rugby variants played here. There's also Australian Rules Football, which is not that popular in Sydney, oddly enough.

On Friday night the Manly Sea Eagles beat the Parramatta Eels, 16-12 (See story). It was a boring first half but we finally got to see some "tries" (scores - like touchdowns) for Manly, the home team, in the second half. We sat in the lawn seating, the cheapest seats, but I thought the crowd was surprisingly well-mannered given the warnings I've heard about Aussie footy. However, Manly is on the "North Shore" - one of the snootier, richer, parts of town- so maybe they're more reserved. There was one minor fight at the end between some well-lubricated fans, so it wasn't all boring. We enjoyed overpriced beer, meat pies, but no chips (french fries) as the concession stand was sold out.

I thought the game was a lot of fun - it's fast-paced, like soccer, without all the stoppages of American football, but full-contact like "gridiron" so you get to see some crazy tackles. I don't quite yet understand the balance of the rules, so I'm not sure I can really critique the play, but I definitely want to go back. It was nice that tickets were pretty moderately priced (A$22, or US$18), and we got to sit about 10 rows from the field, with a great view of the end zone where Manly scored in the second half. Plus I got to feel like I was really experiencing some local culture and not just being an eternal tourist!

5:59PM - Canberra, ACT

This weekend I decided to take a trip to Canberra, Australian Capital Territory - the capital of Australia. Canberra, like Washington DC, is a purpose-built capital city to avoid conflicts between existing cities when choosing a capital. But since Australia wasn't federated until the early 20th century, the capital wasn't started until 1920 and didn't really get developed until after World War II, so it has a different feel. The ACT is a landlocked area wholly surrounded by New South Wales, about 200 miles to the southwest of Sydney. It was a nice trip, through beautiful scenery in NSW's sheep grazing areas.

Travelogue of Canberra visitCollapse )

Sunday, April 29, 2007

5:49PM - Cycling in Sydney - Botany Bay

Since I got my bicycle in March, when my belongings finally arrived in Sydney from their 4-month container trip, I've been exploring the area on two wheels. You can obviously cover much more ground by bicycle than by walking! One of my favorite locations so far is the Cooks River Cycleway, which connects to Botany Bay, originally discovered by James Cook, the famous explorer. (Cook thought the New South Wales colony should be settled here, but the First Fleet's captain, Arthur Phillip, ended up choosing the next harbor to the north instead - now Sydney Harbour). Since Botany Bay's foreshore is really flat, it makes a nice place for a cycleway. Today the weather was perfect (high in the mid 70s and sunny), so I decided to check it out.

Here's the route I took.
Click on the map to see the route in detail via google maps.

Or download the KMZ file to view in Google Earth.

As you can see there were great views of the bay, as well as the airport. At the end I connected back to Allawah Station through some suburban streets. CityRail allows bicycles on the trains at any time of day, making these kinds of rides easy. It's much more fun than having to double back.

Until next weekend!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

2:10PM - From Perth, Australia - it "just felt right"

So, in case you thought Viriginia was the only place that has wackos, look at this story from Perth, Western Australia:

Girls 'just felt right' murdering friend

Monday, April 23, 2007

3:55PM - Multiply.com

I'm not sure when I joined this site but I'm guessing it's gone the way of orkut - the latest fad for a while but now pretty much eclipsed? At any rate, a few weeks ago they started sending me emails ONCE A DAY telling me "What I've missed" on their site since my account had been inactive. What tools. Fortunately they offered an online cancellation, and my account is now permanently deleted. Guess I won't know what I'm missing from now on - OH WELL.

Current mood: annoyed

Monday, February 26, 2007

11:52AM - Queen Mary 2 & Queen Elizabeth 2

Last week, the Queen Mary 2 and the Queen Elizabeth 2, two large Cunard ocean liners, both visited Sydney. It was quite the event, with thousands of people lining the waterfront to watch.

I got a number of pictures; see here:

Most of the daytime shots were taken from the Rose Bay "SuperCat" ferry - I was lucky enough to get on a ferry that went right past the Queen Elizabeth 2, and also had a decent view of the docked Queen Mary 2.

News articles:


Saturday, December 30, 2006

7:41AM - Bicycling in Sydney

Surprisingly, it doesn't seem like bicycling is nearly as popular here as in the States. I did find a bike rental place in a large park called Centennial Park. I got a half-day rental on a mountain bike (they were out of hybrid-style bikes, which would be better for city riding), and rode around the Eastern Suburbs a bit. Here is a map of the ride (click to see the full resolution):

If you want to pan through the whole map with Google Maps, use this addres: "Hamilton Dr, Centennial Park, NSW 2021, Australia"

I really should update this blog more often! I'm planning on going to the New Years Eve fireworks tomorrow; Sydney has one of the world's largest fireworks shows on New Years Eve. There are actually two fireworks shows, one at 9:00 for families and then the main show at midnight. There are also speciailzed pyrotechnics set up on the Harbour Bridge. It will be awesome.

You can see many more of my pictures of Sydney here.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

11:53PM - Singapore...

So, I arrived in Singapore last night. It took just over 24 hours of travel time.

The day began on Tuesday morning, Eastern time, in Dulles, Va. where I stayed overnight in a Hampton Inn. I returned my rental car at about 9 am at Dulles Airport, took the bus to the terminal, and was amazed to find very few lines. I was checked in and through security in about 20 minutes. My flight was United flight 803 to Singapore, a 1-stop flight with aircraft change at Narita, Japan (the main airport for Tokyo). Depature time was 12:20, and it was only just past 10, so I spent the time wandering the large midfield concourse at Dulles; they could really use some moving walkways here! I found an electronics store and bought a universal power adapter for my laptop, and a new charge/sync cable for my iPod. I got a Stephen King book and some snacks at a newstand.

My flight to Japan was on a Boeing 777 - the first time I've been on one. United now has four classes of tickets - First, Business, Economy Plus, and Economy. Even though my ticket was Economy, I was upgraded to Economy Plus for some reason automatically, which basically just means more legroom. I did end up with a middle seat in the 5-seat section, which was somewhat annoying; the flight was completely full. However, my seatmates got up enough that I didn't have to bother them too much. They served lots of food and drinks on the 13-hour flight - two full hot meals, a "noodle service" which was basically Ramen-style noodles, plus all the drinks you wanted. I set my watch to Singapore time and tried to sleep at the start of the flight, which worked out okay, and then watched movies for the second half on the seatback video screens.

Changing at Narita airport was great - it's amazing how polite and respectful the Japanese are. There was a security checkpoint to go through, and my bag needed to be re-screened as I forgot to take out a bottle of water. The lady was amazingly nice - almost apologetic for having to inconvenience me a bit - and even retrieved the bag and brought it back to where I was standing after it went through again. Quite a contrast from the TSA! (And they all spoke English too - which I'm quickly realizing is the ligua franca of Asia - makes it much easier for American visitors than I realized it would be.)

By the start of the second flight, which was 7 hours from Narita to Changi airport in Singapore, I was pretty tired but forced myself to stay awake for the meal service, which was Japanese-style teriaki chicken and rice. The Singapore-based flight attendants were amazingly nice on this flight - stopping by periodically to check on each passenger. This plane was also a 777 and had quite a few empty seats; I was in the very last Economy row, but at least I had a window seat. I was worried the last row would be loud since it's well behind the engine, but it wasn't that bad. After supper I slept for much of this flight, and later got some reading done.

Arrival in Changi airport was smooth - since the 777 jumbo jets have two doors with two jetways, it emptied out really fast even though I was in the last row. The immigration/customs was extremely fast and easy, and I only had to walk about 5 steps out the door to the taxi stand. I did have a bit of trouble explaining the destination to the cab driver, but he finally figured it out. I got to the hotel about 1am Singapore time (Thursday morning), took a shower, set up my computer and IP phone, and got to bed about 2:30. This morning I was able to get up at 7:30 AM, since I had plenty of sleep earlier on the plane, and feel pretty adjusted to the time change.

I'm going to have some work-related meetings this afternoon and tomorrow, and then have Saturday to explore Singapore a bit. My flight for Sydney leaves 8:00 PM Saturday night.

Pictures: (will be updated later): http://www.portzer.com/gallery/singapore

Sunday, October 29, 2006

12:55AM - Australia....

Well, I had better post here before it comes a year since my last update. Doh!

I will be moving to Australia at the end of November. My employer, Blackboard is sending me there to be a technical lead for the Asia/Pacific support region. It's a two year assignment - having never been to Australia this is still a bit scary to realize I'll be gone for that long! I'll probably only come back to North America once in that period, too, due to the high cost of plane tickets ($800-$1300 ONE WAY).

Anyhow, I'm getting rid of a lot of stuff, because
1) It's expensive to move things halfway around the world and
2) Australia uses PAL and 240V systems so some of my electronics wouldn't work there anyway.

If you're interested in any of this, please let me know. I'll be in the Raleigh area Nov 9-11 and can drop anything off. Sorry for the crass commercialism!

  • 25" Zenith color TV w/remote - nothing fancy, just a TV - maybe you need an extra, S-video/video/cable input - $50 obo

  • TiVo Series2, with second 120 GB hard drive, plus USB wireless network adapter - $100 obo, lots of Mythbusters recordings at no extra charge, includes manuals, all original cables & remote

  • Koss home theater system KS4102 - 5-disc DVD player with 5.1 speaker system - $40 obo

  • 19" Dell monitor D1226H , $50 obo [good deal with free delivery in Raleigh or DC area!]

  • I am also looking to get rid of a blue sofabed couch, and my regular bed, which is a day bed type made of maple with a trundle frame underneath, plus two mattresses. Contact me for details - these will be harder to bring to NC. :-)

  • Saturday, November 12, 2005

    9:34PM - Philadelphia trains... (long)

    I decided to spend today, a Saturday, by taking a day trip to Philadelphia to ride some trains and trolleys. Philadelphia has one of the eastern seaboard's biggest collection of transit systems (second only to New York), with trolleys, light rail ("interurban"), heavy rail (subways), commuter rail, and the Norristown High Speed Line, which defies categorization. (It's kind of a cross between light rail and heavy rail - medium maybe?) My focus was going to be on the 69th St Terminal and the three types of rail transit that serve it.

    Detailed descriptions of trains and trolleysCollapse )

    I made it back to New Carrollton by 9:15 pm - after a 14-hour day trip, it's good to be home. Good night!

    Wednesday, October 12, 2005

    10:20PM - merger...

    My employer, Blackboard, announced today that we are merging with WebCT, a long-time competitor. It ought to be an interesting few months, especially after the deal is closed ...

    Monday, October 3, 2005

    9:30PM - shots fired ...

    Yep, the unmistakeable sound, at 3:40 AM this morning. Let me tell you, when you hear real gunfire outside your domicile at night, there is no question that it's a car backfiring or kids with fireworks or something. I carefully looked out the window and saw nothing, and then one more shot from somewhere outside my view. Then the squealing of tires. Decided to close the window...might be worth paying the A/C bill even on cooler nights like this for a little peace ...

    On a wholly related note, got notice in the mail that my lease is up at the end of November, and gave me the options on how to renew. I'm not thinking that letter had the right timing. Especially with the 10% rate hike for "operating expenses" - yeah right. The simple matter is the market is tight and they can command a lot more -- why do they insist on lying and claim it actually costs more to run the place?

    I'm thinking the best plan to reduce costs would be to look for a roommate, but I'm so messy I'm not sure I'd want to subject anyone to my living habits. Hrm.

    Saturday, September 17, 2005

    11:36AM - California

    I'm thinking of visiting California, specifcally L.A. and Silicon Valley / Bay Area. (I've never been to CA before.) Any suggestions on cool things to do? Is there anything in Silicon Valley that's touristy, or do you just gawk at all the office buildings?

    Tuesday, August 16, 2005

    12:48PM - iBook stampede


    iBooks for $50. I wonder if frijole was there. :-)

    Monday, April 18, 2005

    11:01PM - New York City!

    So this weekend I took a whirlwind trip to New York City to visit my father, who was there all weekend working in Brooklyn. My original goal was to take the train up early Saturday morning in order to spend the day riding subways, but I managed to sleep in by three hours (!) and had to take a midmorning train instead.

    But then... the train hit a WILD TURKEY (!!) and blew out its windshield! The result was we had to get off at Aberdeen, Maryland and squeeze onto another train, meaning I didn't get to New York until almost 3:00 PM. Oh well...

    Train Geek StuffCollapse )

    After arriving in New York, I rode the subway to 50th St. in Brooklyn to the townhome where my father was working, and left my suitcases there. I then went to downtown Brooklyn to visit the New York City Transit Museum , but ironically I got off at the wrong subway stop and had to walk about 10 blocks, so I only got to spend a half-hour there. Oh well, an excuse to go back again!

    After going back to meet up with Dad, we went to the hotel where he's staying, which is deeper in Brooklyn in a Hasidic (orthodox) Jewish neighborhood. That was quite interesting; it was still the sabbath so no work was being done or stores open; the residents were all wearing clothes that look like they're out of Fiddler on the Roof's costume department. Neat.

    We then decided to take the subway into Manhattan to visit the Empire State Building. I had never been there in my memory, though apparently I was there once as a small child. The wait to get up to the observatory was about an hour, through several floors and rooms full of serpentines, but it could have been a lot worse. It was a beautiful clear evening, with visibility at over 25 miles from the observatory. Wow. After getting a drink in the bar at ground level, we walked up to Times Square, which is an amazing sea of humanity at 11:00 PM on a Saturday night. I also had no idea it was possible for neon linghts and wall-sized TVs to light up multiple city blocks such that you think it's daytime. If you haven't experienced Times Square at night, you definitely should go!

    The next morning, we slept in, got some breakfast, and went to church at the Brooklyn Tabernacle, which is famous for its Grammy-winning gospel choir. That was quite an experience. The church is in an old stage theater that seats 3300 people - the fourth-largest theater in New York City! The service lasted for two hours and twenty minutes ... and the choir was amplified so loudly that we should have brought earplugs. The really amazing thing about the church was the diversity of the congregation -- equal parts white, African-American, Hispanic, Asian-American -- every ethnic group was represented. That is something you don't find in churches very much!

    After church, we went to the Battery (via subway) to ride the Staten Island Ferry, another NYC attraction I had never been on. We were pleasantly surprised to find out the ferry was free! (Yeah, I'm sure some of you are saying, "duh!" to that.) The weather was again very nice, and we had great views of the harbor, the East River bridges, the Statue of Liberty, the downtown buildings, etc. However, upon reaching Staten Island, we were not happy to find out that the 5:30PM departure had been canceled and the next boat wasn't until 6:00 . Given the 30-minute crossing time, that meant it would be very tight for me to get uptown to Penn Station for my 6:55 PM train back to Washington.

    After getting off the boat, I quickly went to the subway station for the 2/3 train -- only to find out it was closed! I then ran across to the "R" train station, where fortunately a train was just arriving. It slowly made its way uptown, and I raced down 32nd street to Penn Station, arriving at my train with just three minutes to spare. Whew!

    Today it was back to work. I ended up being on the phone most of the day, which is a little annoying, not because I don't like talking on the phone (my headset is very comfortable!) but because it makes it hard to get enough other work done. But I should get caught up tomorrow.

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