My collection of little mini-updates, for when news bits need somewhere to go and I haven't got the time or reason to do a longer update.

Well it's been a while since I posted here! Dayum. I'm currently in New York, well, actually I'm leaving New York (cue R.E.M. song) for Boston for a few days, going to an awesome astronomy conference called .Astronomy. Very much looking forward to it! Was in NYC for a day and a bit, first time there. It was quite interesting! I managed to do quite a lot in the day I had to explore, and got so much souvenir shopping out of the way too so I'm quite pleased about that. My shopping included the Disney store, Toys R Us, Nintendo World, the MoMA store, Godiva… I'm such a 5 year old. But seriously, a ferris wheel in a toy store? Amazing!!!

Inevitably when you travel to a new country, you compare it to your own. Here is no different, and I also stayed at a friend's place while they were out of town so I wasn't in a touristy area. Two interesting things I came across so far:

1) Trying to figure out safe areas in NYC
This is probably silly, but in Sydney I know where the potentially dodgy areas are. Here, I have no idea. I found this interesting compilation of crimes from 2003-2011. The danger of course is that when you look at data over several years, it looks much worse than it is and also you don't know what the current trends area. It's not working on my current connection for some reason, but you can see all the dots and it's interesting to see the concentration in certain places. It was enough to convince me not to walk north further into Harlem to find an IHOP, which is probably a bit overly cautious but you never know.

2) Taxis in NYC
In Australia, if you want a taxi you can wander the streets or you can call/book one online. I needed to get from Columbia University to Penn Station this morning and wanted to book a taxi, but that's not the common way here. It's beginning to change, but the best bet is just to go and find one on the street. Again, not knowing the area I was a bit lost but I found this very useful taxi map which shows you, with day and time, the average number of taxi fares in different regions. So useful!!

Based on this, I headed towards Broadway from my friend's place and got a taxi almost immediately. Very cool. I love how technology enables us to interpret and use data these days, it's so great!

We went on a sort of treasure hunt yesterday, looking for a mini telescope to help reproduce an awesome working model of an equatorial telescope mounted on the Earth (made by Henry Chamberlain Russell in the 1800s). Ended up at the Maritime Museum, where a very helpful lady was super cool and found us a very small brass telescope-ish piece. I also bought a pretty globe from their shop — it's one of the coolest gift shops in Sydney, by the way — so I'm getting on the way to making this replica model happen! In other news, kind of on the same theme as those planet chocolates, these jewel-themed chocolates by Chocolatines are fantastic! Edible treasure! Pity that they, like Japan, don't ship to Australia :(

Edit: perhaps the parallel between Chocolatines and the Japanese planet chocolates was not so stretched - the owner of the store is a chef named Rieko Wada, who was born in Japan.

Edit #2: Okay that's it. I want to know how to make these chocolates!

First update for 2013! Hurrah! Where did January go, by the way? Thanks to Nova 969 (radio station here in Sydney), we won two places in the sold out Swisse Color Run at Sydney Olympic Park tomorrow! I signed up last week because it sounded like an awesome experience (I hadn't heard of it before!), but didn't really think we would have a chance of going. Got an email last night saying we won two of their last-minute tickets - and that the run is THIS SUNDAY D: Missed that part. Luckily it's not a serious run, and so our absurdly terrible fitness probably won't be too much of a hindrance :) Yay for colour!! Thanks Nova!

Won four tickets in the Japanese Film Fest's treasure hunt! We had to look around Hyde Park around 12pm today to grab some giant silver keys and then contact the JFF to arrange to pick up the tickets. Super excited - we won free tickets to a film we were hoping to see tonight anyway ^_^ Spotted them about 10 mins before the hunt actually started, and happily sidled off with two keys to have lunch at Oporto.

Afternote: all worked out well and we got great seats, but the movie itself ("The Kirishima Thing", or きりしま、ぶかつやめるってよ if I recall correctly) made NO SENSE!! It was great up until it concluded with no apparent conclusion haha. If anyone knows what was going on please contact me!

It's been a bit of a crazy month so far! Kind of strange series of winnings, with low odds. My brother has become the first person I know to actually win a "Tell us in 25 words or less" competition (which I prompted him to enter!) and will soon get to meet a pretty famous astronomy outreacher (guess who!). I just won a double pass to the Japanese Film Fest 2012, and earlier this month a limited edition water bottle from Sydney Water. So that's all pretty exciting ^^ I've also been doing some little treasure hunts here and there, and also some treasure hunter training which I'll post about eventually! And that nostalgic obsession I mentioned before? It's been disastrous for my savings :p

Just a small update on various aspects of treasure hunting. I've been learning a lot about an aspect of being a treasure hunter that I had previously not considered: knowing the market to sell your acquired treasures to. A random email inquiring about something I intend to sell set me off on a path to nostalgic destruction, although I have learnt a lot about the value of objects in the process and the worth of knowing your audience. We also finally cashed in on our intake from the second (and some leftover first) Stockland treasure hunt, which resulted in awesomeness:

The bag was a bit of a splurge and required 51% of our winnings, but it's so amazingly detailed and apparently hand-painted. We bought some other clothes which are missing from the current photos, so will update that later. I also ventured into the world of bootlegs, and found out just how convincing some bootleg products can be these days! Pretty interesting. And my rekindled nostalgic obsession has let to an acquiring of many small trinkets, which shall soon be housed in a really nice wooden display cabinet that I just won in an auction. Look out for updates! If I ever get around to them…

I'm still here, and still on my quest for greater treasure hunting knowledge. A lot has been happening in the last month, some of it good, a fair bit of it bad, but there you go. There are quite a few updates to come, but some of them haven't finished happening yet so it's not really out of date yet. The Stockland gift cards came back! That was pretty fun, and a few stressful moments to be had there. I'm currently learning how little I really understand about Japan, and paying the price for my foolhardy trust in my own language comprehension - but it's been a useful exercise nonetheless. Watch out for updates to come :)

The Internet is a funny place, isn't it? It seems unfathomable to me just how much information is out there in digital space, about almost anything you can possibly think of. And this is all especially overwhelming when you consider how different the world was only five or ten years ago. I have recently been reminded of how differently my daily life took place back when I first started university, or even before that, and it just seems crazy how connected we are at the moment. I remember thinking a long time ago, when someone told me that it was really, really hard to think of an idea that someone hadn't already thought of, that surely this was not true - it can't be that hard to think of something original or unique. But the fact that Google searches (or any kind of web searches) often return exactly what I'm looking for suggests otherwise. I think it is getting harder to think of original ideas! Or at least, to guarantee them as original in a world that is connected and in constant contact with itself.

In actual treasure hunting news, I can testify to the fact that it is indeed possible to win prizes through social media, and that I'm now the happy owner of a new coffee machine thanks to World of Coffee. Pretty crazy, no? I know this only seems tangibly related to the above rant on the Internet, but I just find that the gap between everyone and everything seems smaller than ever. Between people and companies, between friends and strangers, between celebrities and their fans, between scientists on different continents… I can't get over how much there is to know, and how relatively easy it is to find out compared to how it was in the past. Which is a good thing, I suppose - in some ways.

Ack and erk! This week saw a failed hunt, despite the best collaborative efforts of a treasure hunting alliance. We got so frustratingly close too… one of those hunts where lots of lessons were learnt but alas no treasure acquired. Spent most of the rest of the day kicking myself frequently and painfully :p But as I told my ally, these are the times when we can afford to fail, and most importantly, when we can learn from the mistakes we make. So as a learning experience, it was most productive :) Found a treasure hunting book in a bargain bookstore and was super cut to find out the competition closed on March 31st 2012, but might have a go at it anyway:

Greetings again! I've been feeling rather guilty lately since there have been quite a few hunts passed that I have not yet written up. Not sure if I'm feeling guilty enough to update them yet but we'll see. Incidentally, I met the Head of NASA yesterday after his presentation at the University of Sydney. While both his presentation and meeting him were actually super cool, it's probably not enough to deserve an entire adventure update or a physbit. In short, he told everyone present about the current goals and mission of NASA, as well as some funny stories about life in space (he was an astronaut prior to being Administrator) as well as answering questions from the audience. I was one of the three Faculty of Science students (actually, astrophysics students) chosen to ask a question and I asked my question about the collaboration prospects between government and commercial organisations when it comes to space travel and exploration. Probably the most interesting point he made was that exploration will almost certainly always be the domain of governments - when it comes to exploring the unknown, there will be loss of life and he said this is a risk and a gamble that most industry is not willing to take.

My favourite part of his speech was when he described looking at Earth from space. He said, "Every time I looked back at the beauty of the Earth, I was frustrated. It looks so peaceful from above." I had never thought about it that way - it's kind of melancholic when you picture him floating up there in orbit looking down on such an up-and-down planet whose grudges and feuds are distant and unresolved. In any case, here are a couple of photos as evidence that it all really happened ;)

In other news, I just completed a hunt (which will later be written up, hopefully) and I'm proud to say it was a great success! Ironically, while I was off treasure hunting this morning, my name was also drawn first as part of an Easter draw at work and I missed out on winning a prize :p Guess you can't win 'em all hey!

Welcome to the new year! I'm pleased to be here, though I'm realising looking at these scribbles that I have developed quite a backlog in updates. A few big hunts to write up, and also a couple of physbits. So I'm feeling a little guilty at the moment. Perhaps one of my non-existent new year's resolutions should be to finish all these outstanding updates. Anyway - I am writing this particular scribble from somewhere near Leicester, England. I've been on a few adventures since arriving here on Boxing Day, which again are needing to be written up. Sigh. Well, better get cracking then…!

I am writing this update from the country NSW town of Parkes - home of the famous Parkes Radio Telescope (star of the film "The Dish" if you're wondering). I, along with about 70 other astronomers, am here for the 50th birthday celebrations of the dish which is taking place in the form of a 50th symposium all week at the telescope. There are only about three students here (of which I am one), and so it is somewhat of a unique position to be in - we are very much the juniors in a group of people who built, pioneered and discovered with Parkes. Only drawback is that all of us need to give a talk - hence why we are here! Eek. Nonetheless, I thought that since this is such a significant date in the history of Parkes, I will do my best to document it (in the form of a pending update) so that it is preserved in some way. Look out for the update! :)

So bummed. So, so bummed. Words cannot express how bummed I am! Nor can I disclose just yet, but I will very soon. It's the most frustrating thing in the world when you're expected to just know something, and yet it would be incredibly difficult to prepare for knowing that something. You can't reason it out, you can't be logical, you just know it or you don't. And in the heat of the moment, you don't make the right choice even though there are warning bells… Sigh. Ah well - it was a fun ride!

Second update for today! My random reading of facts just *might* be paying off, because I knew tonight that Franklin D. Roosevelt was the longest serving US president. He had 4 terms, from 1932-1944. Another fact I picked up - unfortunately for Roosevelt, he contracted polio when he was 10 years old which is why he ended up in a wheelchair. Also, he served as President for the majority of WWII, but died only weeks before its conclusion in April 1945. Even if this is all that comes out of my reading, it's a tiny bit of proof that I'm not doing it for nothing. There is some retention!

Only one week left to become knowledgeable! Crap. In other news, we tuned in this morning to the Kyle & Jackie's O Cruz Car Chase iPhone app to watch the epic conclusion which appeared to take place on water! Two boats were chasing each other around Botany Bay, in a showdown that would surely make Captain Cook proud. Not sure who won - we thought the competition would go on till later in the week, so were surprised that people were taking it so seriously, but perhaps there was some insider information about just when the competition was going to end. It was almost like watching a movie! We never seriously considered taking part, only found out about it yesterday - but we discussed options and boat seemed definitely the way to go :p

Rediscovered the fun TravelPod series of apps, which teach you country flags and capitals at the same time. The Americas (level 6/9) kill me at the moment, all the Caribbean countries plus a lot of South American flags I don't know well! But Oceania (level 7/9) is not great either - who knew there were so many island countries in the region *other* than Australia :p

Submitted my first paper today, on a Galactic supershell! Eek! I'm also missing my Lumix camera, which is in repair at the moment… trust a moon halo to appear last night, when I am lost and cameraless. I owe the adventures section a few updates, on some Pump Urban Treasure Hunt fun and also an upcoming (and possibly demotivating!) voyage into the world of game shows. Stay tuned!

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License