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Sunday, March 31, 2013

MUGA Day #7: Sydney--A TOTAL MAKEOVER FOR NORTH KOREA


Went to sleep last night with Eric Clapton's Tears in Heaven, #248.  He wrote the first verse after his 4-year old son Conor fell from a 53rd floor window in New York City.  The song won the 1993 Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best Male Pop Vocal.  He stopped playing this song in concert in 2004.

I awoke to the Righteous Brothers' Unchained Melody, #172.  I soon leave for the airport, but can provide Max's Top 10 Greatest Songs of All Time:


10DON'T BE CRUEL                          ELVIS PRESLEY            
9YOU'RE THE VOICE                        JOHN FARNHAM             
8NOVEMBER RAIN                           GUNS N ROSES             
7MORE THAN A FEELING                     BOSTON                   
6GOOD VIBRATIONS                         BEACH BOYS               
5SMELLS LIKE TEEN SPIRIT                 NIRVANA                  
4KHE SAHN                                COLD CHISEL              
3STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN                      LED ZEPPELIN             
2BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY                       QUEEN                    
1IMAGINE                                 JOHN LENNON
Never heard of some of them.  Cold Chisel is a rock band from Adelaide, and John Farnham is an Australian pop singer, so I understand.  They are both on Australian stamps and therefore must be famous here.

However, I don't recall More Than a Feeling by Boston, a rock band from Boston, Massachusetts.  This song was released in 1976.  In 2008, Barry Goudreau of the group wrote to Presidential Candidate Mike Huckabee:

"While I’m flattered that you are fond of my song, I’m shocked that you would use it and the name Boston to promote yourself without my consent. Your campaign’s use of "More Than a Feeling", coupled with the representation of one of your supporters as a member "of Boston", clearly implies that the band Boston, and specifically one of its members, has endorsed your candidacy, neither of which is true."[9]

Boston supported Barack Obama.  The song was pulled from the Republican's campaign.

Well, I'm soon to board Thai Air to Bangkok, but thought I'd close with my plea to Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un, for after Thailand, I'll be on to Japan, and Kim's rockets are an adaption of Russia's Scuds, which were unreliable.  But their only hope are American bases in Japan.

No one listens to me, but you never know, there can always be a first time.  For example, I started my Huffington Post career with:

Well, Barack, We have a Problem...


This was followed with several other 10% solutions for world peace in HuffPo.

I later went on to:

A Message to President Hu Jintao: Three Steps for China to Attain Superpower Status


And:

My Second Message to China (this to new leader, Xi Jinping)



Not a peep.  So I don't expect Kim Jong Un to respond.  Anyway, here are my recommendations:

1.  Get a new hairstylist.  Those whitewalls too appropriately reveal your immature youth.

2.  Exercise some and eat less.  I would guess that your Body-Mass Index is approaching 30, which is obese.

3.  Replace your female TV announcer.  She is much too bellicose and severe.  Consider signing up Kathy Couric.

4.  Soften your provocative overblown rhetoric.  First, they're more comedic than intimidating.  Granted, they are funny, but I don't think that is your intent.

5.  Do a more professional job on your photoshop releases.


Considerable credibility is lost when you goof so blatantly.

6.  Establish a legacy as the Universal Peace Advocate.  As President Barack Obama has snubbed my 10% Peace Solution, this is your grand opportunity to crash the next G8 Summit, which, by the way--will this year be held in Northern Ireland on June 18-19--and shock the G8 leaders with your vision for World Peace.  This will be guaranteed to work.  I stake my reputation on unbounded success.

7.  One other obvious image polishing move would be to ditch Dennis Rodman and cultivate Michael Jordan.  

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Saturday, March 30, 2013

MUGA Day #6: Australia

G'day.  Woke up to #410, True by Spandau Ballet.  Executive Club breakfast.  #402, Traveling Wilburys singing Handle with Care.  Haven't seen them for some time.  They are led by Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Roy Orbison and Tom Petty.  They recorded two albums between 1988 and 1990, except Orbison passed away before the second one was released.  Harrison was largely responsible for getting this group going, and their name refers to "we'll bury 'em," recording typos.

I'm killing time because it's raining.  #401, a fabulous video of Amii Stewart's Knock on Wood.  Well, I can read the Sunday paper and follow-up on some correspondence.  If nothing else, I'll walk to the Sydney Opera House in the rain, for I'm not that far away and badly need some exercise.  #385, Bonnie Tyler, Total Eclipse of My Heart.  It's a shame I won't be here for the end, as in 24 hours I leave for Bangkok.

#374, Play That Funky Music, Wild Cherry.  Anyway, Australia, as large as it is, is the tiniest of continents, a bit smaller than Brazil. It is also the flattest and driest.  Some oddities:

  • Until 1902 it was illegal to swim at public beaches.  
  • In 1954 Bob Hawke is noted by Guinness for drinking 2.5 pints of beer in 11 seconds.  He went on to become Prime Minister (left).  
  • Sir John Robertson, drank a pint of rum every morning for 35 years.  He served five terms as Premier of New South Wales.
  • More land is occupied by pubs than by mines.
  • Australians spend more money on gambling than any other nation.  With 1% of the world population, the country has 20% of the poker machines.
  • 22% of Australians have a convict ancestor.  On the plus side, only non-serious criminals were sent here
  • Kangaroos can go for months without drinking any water.
  • The box jellyfish has killed more people in the country than sharks, crocodiles and everything else combined.  I hope it's a different species from the one that stings Waikiki tourists a couple of days a month.
  • Cockroaches have been around for around 350 million years.  So has the Queensland lungfish.

  • The first aborigines came to Australia 50,000 years ago, beating Captain James Cook by about that many years.  About 1% of the population today is aborigine.  The first Aboriginal elected to their Parliament, Neville Bonner (left).  Read his story.
  • 40% of those living here are migrants or first generation children.
  • Sydney is known as "Sin City," not because of current sin, but because it was formed by convicts.
  • The term "selling coal to Newcastle" as foolhardy now makes sense again today, for while the original in the UK does today ship in coal (because it ran out), the Australian Newcastle now is the largest coal exporter in the world.
  • Adelaide, a state capital has a lot of churches, partially because it is the only one not receiving any convicts.  Perth, it is said, has currently monopolized the convict tradition, where they now work in parliament and are businessmen.
  • children in the U.S. ship off their parents to Florida to retire, Queensland has become the equivalent in Australia.
  • Tasmania is one of the largest supplier of licit opiate products (think cocaine and opium).  The right, not Afghanistan.
  • "Waltzing Matilda" is German for "carrying a backpack."  The tune has origins in Scotland.  It's the unofficial national anthem of Australia.
  • The name Australia comes from the Latin Terra Australis Incognito, which means Unknown Southern Land.
  • Americans are referred to as "Seppos," an abbreviation for "Septic Tank,"  which rhymes with "Yank."
  • Australia was founded by convicts and has a homicide rate of 1.8 per 100,000.  The U.S. by religious zealots, where our homicide rate today is four times higher.  In Vietnam, American soldiers fired seven times as many bullets/person as Australians.
  • The average world population density is 117 people/square mile--Macao 69,000, USA 76 and Australia 6.
  • There are 16 rabbits per person.  It was worse in the 1920's with 10 billion, all coming from 24 imported in 1859 by Thomas Austin (left).  They have caused immense ecological devastation and can't be exterminated.
  • Kangaroos were so named when white settlers asked Aborigines what they were, who responded with "Kanguru," which means, "I don't know."
Click here to speak Australian.  #360, Paul McCartney, Band on the Run.

Well, the sun came out, so here is the obligatory photo of the Opera House, with the Bridge in the background:


#323, Joni Mitchell, Big Yellow Taxi.  She'd never make the first cut in American Idol, but made 19 record albums.

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MUGA Day #5: Sydney: Est

Again, MUGA stands for My Ultimate Global Journey.  The countdown is at #495, Bob Seger's Old Time Rock and Roll, with the video mostly about Tom Cruise in Risky Business.  Est was wonderful.  I had an enjoyable 3-hour meal, which began with Sommelier Chiara and a 2003 Dom Perignon (in a DM champagne glass):


The first course was a chilled soba with assorted vegetables.  



Perhaps the noodles could have been a tad more al dente, and a touch of wasabi might have been perfect, but I'm sure Chef Peter Doyle, a founding father of modern Australian cuisine, knows what he is doing.  Hey, I go to Zippy's and Rainbow Drive Inn.  I had his tasting menu with accompanying wines.

I would say that this is a French fusion restaurant with international flavors and ingredients.  Some of the dishes reminds me of Chef Andre of DOM, particularly the artistry.  A good example was #2, cuttlefish with peas, summer squash and lardo.  Not sure what lardo is, but one definition is Italian cured pork fat.


The wine was a German Mosel Riesling in a Riedel glass, quite sweet, but okay.  Again, I'm being far too suggestive, but in the spirit of being constructive, a junmai daiginjo chilled sake might have provided a better balance, while underscoring the international theme.  The next course was a Moreton bay bug with won bok, coconut, ginger, chili, kaffir lime and coriander, except scallops replaced the bug:


Australians have a way of using insect names for crustaceans.  The bug is smaller than a lobster and is high in omega fatty acids, EPA and DHA.  The wine was an Italian Timorasso.

Next, a steamed Murray cod, shaved abalone, snowpeas, black fungi ginger and shallots, with a Pouilly-Fuisse. 


The main entre was a saddle of venison, black pudding, celeriac (a kind of celery root), apple and semolina gnocchi, with a Shiraz from Barossa Valley:


There were three desserts.  First a rockmelon sorbet with white fig and white cucumbers, then a passion fruit soufflĂ© accompanied by a passion fruit sorbet.  The wine was a Spanish Malaga, which is close to a late harvest German Reisling, but with more character.  This might have been the best wine of the evening.  


The souffle was one of the best I've ever had.  The dinner ended with an expresso and mignardises (tegan blue plum, toasted almond bavarois, coffee biscuit sponge, buttermilk sorbet) and a 2008 Domaine Rotier Gaillac Doux 'Renaissance'.  


After the equivalent of a whole bottle of wine, not sure what was that middle jelly thing, but it was uber tangy and a fine ending to the evening.  I had the opportunity to say thanks to Chef Doyle for a job very well done:


I'm already gaining too much weight.  Tomorrow I will consider going on a fast.

Many times the best restaurants have the most fashionable restroom.  Here is Est's:



The walk back to the Westin was a sure and easy 10 minutes down George Street, which really rocks on Saturday night.

As I close this posting, the countdown on Music Max is at #472, a sensuous Rihanna with Jay Z performing Umbrella.

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Friday, March 29, 2013

MUGA Day #4: Sydney--Australian Royal Easter Show


MUGA:  My Ultimate Global Adventure.  First, a tip is not expected in Australia.  Sure, go ahead and leave 10% at the top restaurants, if you must, but this is not necessary.

I'm here on the four days of Easter holidays, so many of the finest restaurants are closed, as workers go on holiday.  Thus, I again will miss Quay, probably the best in Australia.  By the way, fish markets are open, for people here eat seafood on Good Friday, plus hot cross buns.  Has something to do with the death of Jesus and avoiding mammal flesh.  I remember fish being served every Friday night at my Stanford eating club.  Today, Catholics I know consume whatever they want on Fridays.  About a quarter of the population here are Catholics.

I arrived Friday morning, and there were a lot of people walking around, but McDonald's was one of the very few places open.  So I had a Grand Angus for lunch.  My dinner was at the Executive Club of the Westin:


I had an Australian Cabernet and a Shiraz, with a new drink I created:  Australian lime liquor, Australian rum, Australian sparkling wine, vodka, cointreau and ice (maybe a C-, for it tasted like a medicinal potion), with cheeses, nuts, etc. Not worth finding a name.

Oh, a TV station over the 4-day weekend is showing the top 1000 music videos of all time, and they're now down to #715, Jennifer Warnes and Joe Cocker, Up Where We Belong.



I awoke today to #678, J. Geils Band and Centerfold on the MaxTV 1000 Greatest Songs of All Time.  Apparently, Sydney TV station Max is playing 200/day, stopping the count from late night till almost dawn.  Now on, #591, You Sexy Thing by Hot Chocolate.


The biggest deal of of the year (according to my taxi driver--and the ride cost around $45 from the airport with all the fees and taxes) is the Sydney Royal Easter Show at their Olympic Park (site of the 2000 Summer Olympics). 

The Royal Easter Show?  Combine ten American state fairs and you have this largest national ag show with rides, etc.  Over a 12 day period a million people will come.  The City Rail train roundtrip plus entrance ticket cost around $40.  The system is aging, as one of the trains I sat in smelled badly of a tired bar.  But all is functional and the announcements were loud and almost understandable.  They talk kind of British, but I'm sure anyone in the UK would laugh at such a description.

There were exhibits:


That largest pumpkin is around 1400 pounds.  Hardly saw any animals.  Must have made the wrong turn.

For lunch, mate, I settled on an Australian barbie of ribs, with corn:


What you see here cost around $22.  They do everything possible to prevent you from drinking alcohol and eating, with fences, etc., so that's a Coke.

There was a lot of color:


Tonight, est., one of nine Australian 3- hat (sort of like Michelin 3-Star for this continent) restaurants.  Many of them are closed this weekend.  #580, David Bowie, Golden Years.

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Thursday, March 28, 2013

MUGA: Day #3-- Arrival into Sydney, Australia

My United flight from San Francisco to Sydney left on time.  We all got these toiletries in our section:


The usual champagne followed by a red and a white with appetizer, soup, salad and a spinach tortellini.  Okay, but then everyone went to sleep, so I did, too.  This is why I don't like overnights.  What a waste, but I was exhausted.  The flight was bouncy, I watched two Korean films...and 14.5 hours after departure:


The longest flight I've ever had, and maybe the most boring.  But I'm here, and ecstatic:


From now on I'll only be traveling in daylight.

The Sydney Westin must have upgraded the facilities since the last time I stayed here, as the whole place now looks terrific.  Conde Nast ranks it as the #1 hotel in Sydney.  The Executive Club was okay:


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Back in the USA, the S&P 500 finally broke its all-time record set six years ago, increasing 6 to 1569.  The Dow Jones Industrial Average also hit another high, up 52 to 14579.  When will the correction come, and will it be 10% or 20%?  I have colleagues predicting a doomsday crash.  Remember, in March of 2009 it sunk to 6469. I am a lot more optimistic, but some time this year the Dow will sink, though not below 10,000.   That's when I'll buy.  What?  Any ideas?

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