Saturday, April 30, 2011

Wrote this a couple of days ago, but just now got dem internets. 

So I’ve been here another couple of days and I’ve done a couple more awesome things.

Dart River Jet Boat/Canoe: With another group of strangers, I hopped on a jet boat for a ride up the Dart River. Firstly it was gorgeous. The mountains, the water, everything was wonderful. However it was pretty cold. It’s almost winter here, and flying up a river isn’t the best way to keep warm. But the boat did have heated hand rails, an absurd yet wonderful invention.
Lemme tell you Jet boats are cool machines. Using a high powered inboard motor, the hydroplane on around 6 to 10 cm of water, gliding on things that not even canoes could traverse on. The engineer in me loved this. Plus they can do spins.
After we finished the jetboat ride, we blew up ‘Funyaks’ which are just inflatable canoes and floated down the river, getting stuck a couple of times on the shallow floor that the jetboat didn’t have any problem with. Solid day. 
A couple of pics:

Hauling the Canoes up to the canyon 

In the canyon

This morning I woke up, ate some brekky, and went to the gondola to ride up so I could bungee (spelled bungy in NZ). Of course the gondola was broken due to power surges. Immediately I remember the words “nontransferable and nonrefundable” so I set out to hike up the mountain. Sigh. I like hiking, just not on a time schedule. But I booked it up the mountain and then went and bungeed.
Bungee jumping was nuts. I jumped with a harness, not the ankle straps, so I got a running start and dove way out over the valley. The 3 or 4 seconds of free fall got that crazy feeling that feels something like “shoot, I’m dead” but then you are just bouncing around and it is wonderful. I went ahead and jumped a second time, this time leaning backwards and falling blindly. It was even more thrilling, and was sooo much fun. It was easily the most thrilling thing I have ever done. Here’s some pictures.
Long way from home 


Unrelated to New Zealand, Terry Pratchet is a great author. Also, C.S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce is an excellent book, bringing up some excellent points about nature and making some statements about heaven and hell. I still don’t know completely what I think. Finally, I am out of books to read for the last two days of my trip…

Finally, Needtobreathe has won the title of official band of my trip. Huzzah!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

New Zealand

So I have been here like five days and it is so gorgeous. It reminds me a lot of the Grand Tetons out in Wyoming. Seriously it is beautiful. Here is some pictures: And I mean I will put pictures here when internet is faster.

Now as for what I have done:
Hang Gliding was super awesome. We flew from The Remarkables (a mountain range) to a deer pasture below, like on a deer farm. Basically you run with your glider and then you start flying. I always pictured it like running off a cliff, but it was actually more like running down a mountain that was almost as steep as a cliff. But it really wasn’t an adrenaline rush at all. Maybe I am just crazy, but I thought it was extremely peaceful and relaxing. I mean I also wasn’t steering but was just along for the ride. Landing was a lot of fun too. Your booking it across the sky and the ground gets closer and closer and you just have stay laying there. So cool.

Canyoning: zip lines, repelling, swimming, hiking, jumping, sliding- all in a canyon. Lots of fun.

Arrowtown: An old gold mining town about 20 minute drive from Queenstown. I caught the bus and spent Easter Sunday hanging out here. In addition to a short hike and some reading and relaxing, I saw a couple of places where lord of the rings was filmed. Here’s the pictures, maybe you can see the similarities!
Isildur was killed by orcs on this path... 

Ford of Bruinen, where Arwen saves Frodo from Nazguls

Hiking: No body likes to walk up a hill. But as soon as the hill becomes a mountain everybody wants to walk up it. Including me. So I did.

Milford Sound: So far the coolest thing I have done here. Hopped on a bus at 6:30 am and rode 5 hours to Milford Sound, through Fiordland. This is fighting with Yellowstone/Grand Tetons for the prettiest place I have ever been. There is just big sharp glacier carved mountains all around you as you drive through a temperate rainforest full of ferns and mossy trees. We stopped and took photos a couple of times, and I filled up my water bottle in the stream. It was definitely the freshest water I have had in New Zealand yet, spanking the tap water at my hotel. Anyways, Milford Sound itself is beautiful too. There are easily like 30 or 40 waterfalls everywhere, along with seals and birds. I can’t explain how gorgeous it is, pictures don’t do it justice. Once the boat got out to the Tasman Sea, we saw a pod of bottle nosed dolphins, probably like 50 in the pod. They were swimming and jumping and being my favorite animal and stuff. They captain took the boat in a little loop, and a pair of them started swimming right beneath the bow. He said it was their favorite spot to swim. And I was definitely standing on the bow when they did it, because I’m not a pansy and can handle the wind and the cold. So basically it was the coolest thing ever. Then we got back on the bus and I slept and listened to music all the way home.
Some Pics:
Mirror Lake

Looking back

A couple water falls


The bus driver also played some quirky Kiwi movie called “The Fastest Indian Ever” staring Anthony Hopkins. It wasn’t very good.

Biking: This morning I woke up, ate two PB&Js and rented a bike. And rode it. Probably around 20 miles. Solid. The rear and front break were definitely on opposite sides of the handlebar from my bike back home though...

Friday, April 22, 2011

Two weeks ago I worked my tail off to make sure I would be ready to skip class for a week then go to NZ over break. I'm not a fan of skipping class due to getting behind, but I figure I could make an exception and get ahead this one time.

Last week I spent in Australia with my mom and brother. Here is a quick list of our adventures:

  • harbor bridge climb
  • opera house tour
  • harbor cruise
  • blue mountains tour
  • featherdale wild life park
  • lots of eating out
  • drinks at Shangri-la bar on the 36th floor looking out over sydney
  • other fun things that I forgot or don't know how to put in a bullet 
So there it is bullet form. Here's the more in depth spotty description.

The Sydney Opera house is probably the most ballin' building ever. Not only is it gorgeous on the outside, it is beautiful on the inside too. I really really enjoyed the tour, and I am not one to appreciate buildings or tours. However, I will say that the Australian government in the 1950s was not necessarily the most well thought out, as they picked a design that was no more than some sketches. No wonder it went 90 million+ dollars over its 3 million budget...

Featherdale wildlife park had this big area where kangaroos just hop around and you can interact with them. You can buy ice cream cones that are full of grass to feed them. They are such cool animals. More memorable than the 40 to 50 kangaroos was the single emu. This guy was insane. He pretty much came up, pecked at my ice cream cone that i was happily feeding to three small kangaroos. I then yanked it away and hid it behind my back. After moving his long neck in a z motion like some stereotypical sassy snapping black girl saying, "O no you didn't," his bird brain got distracted by my tasty looking north face back pack. after pecking at my strap I just kinda decided to walk away. But this bird had good tastes. After a couple minutes I set my pack down on a bench so I could take some pictures. He comes running out of nowhere, stops, looks at my pack again, and then realizes that my blue carabiner holding my water bottle is tasty looking. He tried to eat my stuff again. By this time I had run out of kangaroo food anyway, so i just decided to move on and pet the koalas and check out the bilbies, quolls, and other strange Australian animals.

I am currently in New Zealand. It is gorgeous. I bought some internet so I could do a take home test that is due the day I get back, but clearly that isn't going so well. I'll write some more about kiwi land later, but for now I just want to show you what made me pay attention to the safety briefing on a plane for the first time ever:

Just a heads up, hang gliding is super relaxing and peaceful, not so much an adrenaline rush. But it rules.

Song of the Moment:
These Hard Times by Needtobreathe

peace and joy.


Friday, April 15, 2011

Tonight I sat down to read the last hundred pages of Lés Miserables. Around 30 pages left I was wondering how Victor was going to close his story with so much still hanging. Then I finished page 667, the end of the book, only to realize that I only have volume 1.  Another book to find. And another 650 pages to go.

I can't express my disappointment.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Here's a piece of what I did today: Hooray Matlab!

function [p,ite] = bisect(fstring,a,b,tol)
%[p,ite] = bisect(fstring,a,b,tol)
%   Bisect uses bisection method to solve a nonlinear equation f(x) = 0 on
%   interval a,b. fstring is nonlinear function as a string, and tol is the
%   tolerance to stop the iteration.
%   Returns, p the approximate zero, and ite the number of iterations used
%   Stopping Criterion: |f(p)| <= tol
%   NOTE: fstring must be continuous between a and b!
%   Author: Ryan Boyer

f = inline(fstring);

y_a = feval(f,a);
y_b = feval(f,b);

if y_a == 0
    p = a;
    ite = 0;
elseif y_b == 0
    p = b;
    ite = 0;

%check to make sure bisection applies, that is y_a and y_b have different
if y_a * y_b > 0
    fprintf('Error: y_a and y_a do not have opposite signs\n');
    fprintf('Bisection method does not apply\n');

%set up loop
p = (a + b)/2;
ite = 0;
y_p = feval(f,p);
while abs(y_p) > tol
    if y_a * y_p < 0 %y_a and y_p have opposite signs
        b = p;
        p = (a + b)/2;
        a = p;
        p = (a + b)/2;
ite = ite + 1;
y_p = feval(f,p);
y_b = feval(f,b);
y_a = feval(f,a);

Any questions? Glad your calculator does this for you? Well, it doesn't, it uses faster methods than this.

This wasn't a particularly hard problem, but it had lots of strings and loops and notes so it turned out colorful and I thought I would share another glimpse into what I get to do as a math major.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Last night I went to the Sydney State Theatre and saw B.B. King perform. First of all, I was probably 20 to 30 years under the average age in the auditorium, but that is to be expected.

B.B. was awesome. He is now 85, and struggles walking, but man he can still play the guitar. And his voice sounds exactly the same. As much as I loved watching a living legend play guitar and play the true blues, the best part was definitely just listening to B.B. and his band interact. Like Mr. King, B.b.'s band is a bunch of 60+ black guys too. They cracked jokes on each other the whole night, B.b. threatened to cut his drummer cause he was teasing him, and they just had a genuine good time playing music together. And I really respect anyone who can do what he has for so long and really enjoy it still.

At one point in the show someone yelled out, "Play 'How Blue Can You Get'!" At first he kind of scratched his head and said something like, "Man I haven't played that song in years....". After trying out several keys, starting the song in Ab, then deciding to change it to Bb he played it. He forgot the lyrics at one point and he just started laughing so hard. Some people reminded him, and he started over and played it through and freaking killed it. But the entire time he was just all smiles. Too awesome.

Here's a link to a version of the much, much younger B.b playing it: He sounds exactly the same, just looks a little tiny bit older. 

Anyways, concert experience over, life is going alright down here. I definitely have been trying to rest daily, because I've never been able to do that. My mind is constantly running and it is exhausting. Even now as I try to remember how great Mr. King was, I am thinking of things I need to do and things I don't understand. That being said, this is a verse that I have had to read/quote daily in reminder:

“You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.
Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”
John 6:67-69

Oh the truth feels so good when I can rest in it and stop the questioning!

To everyone back home, and in the rest of the world, I miss you and love you.

Peace and Joy,


Friday, April 8, 2011

I bought a pack of orange tic-tacs, but they are no longer orange. They are white. Sometimes life is hard.

In other news today I went to the Powerhouse Museum, which is basically Sydney's science and technology museum. Steam engines are cool. Some newer inventions and tech that they had there were sweet too. My favorite was definitely the life-vest cannon. It basically was a double barreled bazooka which shot softball size pods up to 300 meters that would inflate into a life vest after a chemical reaction with the water. That would be the coolest way to save somebody's life; by shooting at them.

I have nothing else to say, so I am going to stop.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

So it is definitely crunch week at UNSW. I had a math test today, and I have a couple of big assignments due next week and a midterm next week. Add to this the fact that I am skipping a week of class in order to extend spring break and am doing all of those assignments ahead of time makes me a little stressed. Add to it the fact that i woke up at 4:45 this morning to register for classes, and i just become mentally unstable. (Not really, but seriously. And a lack of sleep isn't helping my productivity.)

So how am I coping with stress? By remarking on some of the finer nuances of Australian culture:
1.You don't erase a chalkboard/whiteboard in Australia- you "rub it out"
2. Built in tax about cancels out with 1 and 2$ coins on differences to the money system. My wallet has some nice 1 and 2$ sized circles in the leather now.
3. A free water in McDonald's doesn't have ice. WHY??? I miss ice water so much.
4. Since everything indoors is smoke free, bowling alleys are smoke free. Bowling is much more awesome now. But like everything else it is expensive. But the fact that I had super cool black and blue bowling shoes that looked like sweet nikes definitely made the money worth it.
5. Laser tag is a big deal here apparently. Everyone talks about it. Who knew?
6. Sydney = cockroach city. However: Eleuthera = cockroach heaven. I am unaffected.
7. There are two types of cell phones in Australia: Bricks and Iphones. I have a brick.

Tonight was deep south night at Hillsong. Everyone was supposed to dress up like they were from the southern US. I didn't go, but I can only wonder what that was like.

It is starting to get colder here. Bummer. This bummer is intensified by the fact that it is currently 75 and sunny back home.

I also miss everyone back home immensely.

I am going to get back to work.

Isaiah 65:17-19

Peace and Joy, America! (and Argentina and Italy)


Song of the moment:
Letters from the Sky by Civil Twilight

Saturday, April 2, 2011

So last night 5 of us went to a rugby game: the NSW Waratahs vs the New Zealand Chiefs. The Waratahs won, which I guess is who I was cheering for because they were the home team. Anyways, here is what I found interesting:
1. No commentating. At all. No one told me the name of who scored the last try, the name of the subs, what the penalty was nothing. It was an oddly silent sporting event.
2. Instead of saying "Go Waratahs" or "Go 'Tahs" everyone yells "Go the Tahs!". The opposing fans yelled "Go the Chiefs!" The extra "the" is just wierd.
3. I now know what it feels like to be that guy. I would liken this to being a girl at a football game, clueless of rules and penalties, however after thinking about this, it seems I don't know any of those girls. Success. Though I still don't understand rugby penalties.

Here in Australia I feel like I see people all the time that remind me of people back home. Usually they just look somewhat similar and walk or hold themselves similar, but all in all it is really really funny. I think it shows that I miss everyone back home a lot, and that my brain is a funny thing.

Today my roommate Bill and I went to the Botanical Gardens and just chilled on the harbor and talked and rested and stuff. It was the relaxing afternoon I needed. Here's a picture of the view:

Anyways, it wasn't quite the same experience as a good ole Clemson Botan Eno-ing adventure, but it was definitely a good afternoon.

By the way, I made some ballin' baked chicken drumsticks tonight. Chef Boyerdee in the house.

Peace and Joy.

Song of the moment:
Tethered by Sleeping at Last