This is my seventh visit to Australia.  There's so much to enjoy about this great country, little wonder that I've said more than once that I'd love to retire here.  As far as Melbourne, they say "third time pays for all".  On two previous visits, I've had no opportunity to see the city (though I did have a lovely stay at the Hilton a few years ago).  This time, I've been out walking on this beautiful Saturday, and even had the opportunity to see the Picasso exhibit at the National Gallery.  Great museum and great exhibition (thanks for the tip, Stephen!).

There's much more to write home about this week.  Here are some of my cultural observations:

  • Of course, there are always language differences in the various flavours of English.  This week, I've had trouble pronouncing "composite" -- us Americans say "kuhm - PAH - sit" but the Aussies say "KOM - puh - sit".  I've also tripped over the Aussie use of "entreĆ©" to refer to an appetizer/starter (entreĆ© is a main course to us Americans), laughed my ass off as a customer described this decade as the "naughties" (from 'naught' meaning zero, which we don't use in the States), and chuckled as Qantas orders passengers to "do it up" (translation: fasten your seat belt).
  • Food experiences: I learned what a "Babycino" is, drank the same wonderful sauvingion blanc in three different places (including a Qantas "wine service" on SYD-CBR), and had a fantastic tortino di cioccolata at Otto in Sydney.  At one lunch this week, I learned that in Australia, it is common for a catered meal to include multiple choices for the main course -- however those choices will not be offered, you'll just receive one of them arbitrarily.  At the lunch sponsored by itX this week, there were fish, beef, and chicken mains.  I received the beef, Jonathan and Max the fish. Since I had been presenting before lunch was served, I asked if I had missed where lunch choice orders had been taken.  They both looked at me funny and said "you aren't offered a choice, you get what you get here.  If you want, you can try to trade with someone else at the table".  (Good seeing you again, Max...)
  • On the aforementioned Qantas flight to Canberra, the gentleman who sat down next to me started a conversation with "how was your day?"  As an American, I have to admit I was a little surprised by the question -- it seemed direct to me.  I later heard that it was just a friendly equivalent of the "how are you?" that Americans typically ask each other, and like our question, the expected answer is "fantastic, mate, and you?"
  • I was disappointed that the Hyatt in Canberra has finally gone modern, and replaced the actual metal keys formerly used for the guest room doors with typical plastic swipe cards.
  • I've uploaded a few pictures to Flickr from this week.  While I don't normally take too many pictures of signs, this week had a few that were too funny to ignore.  First there was the billing by name in Brisbane, then it was the visitor parking spots reserved by name in Canberra.  I also thought this display in the Australian Health Department lobby was too good to ignore.  Anyone want the magnet?

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