Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Play on, playa.

Well I’m back and ready for action.  After what seemed like 2 months straight of guests….no wait.  It actually was two months straight of guests….anyway, what WAS in actuality two months straight of guests has now come to a conclusion!  During that time, I’ve been to Sydney, and the Sunshine Coast, down the great ocean road, and yes, had many more animal pats.  But before I get into all of that….I want to back track a bit.

A LOOOOOOONNNNGGGG time ago, I had the awesome opportunity to meet Bajo and Hex from Good Game and Good Game SP.  For those of you who have not followed my new Aussie TV obsession, these are two shows dedicated to reviewing video games.  A FORMULA THAT COULD TOTALLY WORK IN THE STATES SO I DON’T KNOW WHY IT DOESN’T.  (next project when I come home?  Any takers on that?  I’m ¾ serious about this idea)  Anyway, they were at the Australia Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) for the opening of Game Masters.  An exhibit dedicated to…video games.  Hurray!  I got a little star struck (it happens, I cannot talk to celebrities, no matter how minor or major), and stammered some compliments at them and thanked Hex for being a good role model for girls/women gaming. 

Me and Bajo and Hex!  (we're so chic in our greys and blacks)
 Here’s my life gripe.  When I was a little kid, I liked to play video games. (when I wasn’t drawing maps for my step-father in Zelda: true story, I am awesome at dungeon map drawings). I especially loved RPG’s where I could get lost in an entire new world.  The thing was, I basically didn’t even know one other girl that played video games at that time.  Or at least played them like I played them.  And it made me a little sad because much like seeing a good movie, or reading a great book, I like to TALK about them.  It STILL makes me a little sad that I’m virtually one of the only one of my girl friends that plays with any sort of seriousness.  And by seriousness, I mean 5 out of the 7 days of the week, I’d pretty much like to be playing video games.  So much so that I sort of wonder if having children one day is going to put a damper on my ability to play.  (you can breast feed and game at the same time, right?)  Shawn likes to joke that I’m going to be Clara from The Guild. Although now I’m sort of thinking maybe it’s not a joke, based on my previous statement….

Anyhow.  It would have been great to have a role model like Hex out there who’s not just playing ‘girly’ games.  (okay...I owned that one. BARBIE MERMAID ACTION!) I am lucky in life that I have a wonderful husband who still lets me get lost in my video game world (ugggh persona 3 portable, I cannot put you down!), and even helps me make sure that I don’t miss all the hidden extras.  (even if he tells me who I’m marrying in Harvest Moon, I STILL maintain Luke was the better choice over Gil)

A few months after we met Bajo and Hex, we decided to actually check out Game Masters.

I have one issue about ACMI and that’s the fact that they don’t let you take pictures.  IN A MUSEUM THAT IS BASICALLY DEDICATED TO FILMS.  That seems a bit odd.  Anyway, hats off to the inventor of the camera phone and kudos to my awesome acting ability to pretend I am texting while taking pictures.  SHOOT FROM THE HIP.

Game Masters was really cool.  They had a whole display on old skool game systems and controllers.  Including R.O.B.  Did anyone else have him but me?  I LOVE(D) GYROMITE.  Please feel free to share your R.O.B experiences.  And also if you know what it stands for.  I doooooooo.

Awesome game artwork
Hi R.O.B.

The exhibit also had approximately 1 million playable games.  Some old ones, like Donkey Kong (admittedly, this was my first time playing) and a huge space for dancing it out to Dance Central.  We played some 3D Sonic, original Sims (yeah there was one drowning in the pool, very classic) and a bunch of independent games which thanks to the technology that I sort of despise, are now possible.  So score one for you tablets, I DO like that you are a new platform for people trying to get into game development.  There was this one cute little game with a little fat cute monster that ate bugs.  I could have played that for hours.  (I don’t care that you are glaring at me lady, it’s MY turn.) I think it was downloadable on Xbox, so now I’ve got to add that to the list of things I need when I go home.  Or alternatively if places would JUST STOP REGION LOCKING, I could just get it while I was here.  

Shawn playing Missile Command

I think there’s still such a weird stigma about not just women playing video games, but people who play them in general.  It seems more acceptable to play the sports ones in mainstream society, but admittedly, I don’t think I’m even helping that stigma much by basically pretending that I don’t play them unless I’m directly asked about it.  I will give Shawn some credit on that.  Although there were a variety of reasons I decided to go out with him, one of the biggest initial attractions came from when we first talked and he was like ‘yeah, I like to play Magic on Friday nights.”

Take a minute to analyse that.  He just met a girl.  Who has said NOTHING about liking anything like that. And that’s one of his opening lines. 


I loved it. I admired it.  That, to me, was very brave.  Because, I often have a hard time reconciling that part of my personality with how I’m elsewise perceived by people.  And I always have.  I can say maybe it’s because I only grew up with boys who played video games, or maybe its’ because I never had another girl friend really who played until high school.  But it’s something I really enjoy, and it’s silly to pretend I don’t.   

And before you think, Devon, this really isn’t a post about your experiences in Australia, I will say that one completely freeing thing about being here, is really being able to just be as geeky as I want and how many more geeky experiences I've had here.  So I’ll keep watching my Thursday Night Star Trek: TNG’s, and catching Good Game every Tuesday (when they’re not reviewing ONLY FPS games) and Good Game SP on Saturdays with a fake robot.  And maybe when I come back, I’ll be able to embrace this part of myself fully and without reservations.  And maybe….just maybe, I can go as a Moogle next Halloween. 

Silly how a 5 minute meeting and exhibition made me think a little bit more about myself.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

If I'm binturong, I don't wanna be right

After the first guest marathon was over, we took a tiny holiday to the Sunshine Coast.  Before you start asking me where that is, that’s the name of a town, not a geographical location.  So besides sunshine and….uh…coast, what’s there you ask?

Oh…just this:

Yup.  You can’t live in Australia and love animals so so much unless you go to Australia  Zoo, aka, the Steve Irwin Zoo.  Shawn and I decided we’d pretty much just build our whole trip around visiting the zoo, but we were still going to take a few days up there just to decompress.  (Seriously I was so fully of crazy at this point, and our next visitors were looming on the horizon).

The first thing we checked out when booking our trip was what animals can we pat that we can’t pat anywhere else.  First we decided to check another animal off of Australian Native Animal Bingo and snuggle some Tassie devils.  We also booked Binturongs because who the heck doesn’t want to get close to an animal that LIGITMATELY SMELLS LIKEBUTTERED POPCORN.  And then, there was some option to pet Red Pandas and since I am not at all obsessed with them one bit, we reluctantly decided to book that.

So cute  Completely reluctant to hold this.
I am SQUEALING  TWISTING my arm to book this encounter.

Anyway.  The real purpose of our trip was not just to see the Australia Zoo but to pat that stupidly cute red panda and live some dreams.  Clearly.  

The first day we flew in, I just wanted to enjoy a bit of beach time.  But even though we were significantly further north than still blustery Melbourne, it was so windy and chilly on the beach that after getting sandblasted, we just ended up heading back to the hotel.  Our ‘hotel’ featured a Sizzler next door, which Shawn was insanely excited about.  Many meals were consumed at this Sizzler during our stay.  What can I say, I’m married to a man who loves a buffet.

Our next two days were planned for the Zoo.  

The first day we wanted to get a feel for the zoo, which really is not that big. So we booked our animal encounters on day two.  (I call this devon's most idiot move ever....more on that later.)  The zoo included the incredible SALT WATER CROC SHOW!  What is weird about going to a zoo that you watch on tv is that…well you start to recognize things.  Like.  The animals.  For instance, I knew several of the crocs housed at the zoo.  Because I had seen them on TV. Animal celebs.  Ridiculous.  (but oh yes, was i so excited to see lawn mower destroying Agro)

The croc show was really impressive.  Seeing crocs jump out of the water several feet in the air is just really crazy.  (and drives home the fact of not going near the waters edge in Northern Australia).

You want that to eat you?  No?
We also got a few bonus pats in.   They have animals everywhere so we were able to pat a hairy nosed wombat (cute cute!) an American Alligator (hello friend.) and a KOALA.  This is especially cool because the state of Victoria does not allow you to touch koalas.  It’s the only state in the country that doesn’t, which makes it hard to check it off your bingo card.  They just hang out in this area and you can go up and give them a little pat.  We ALSO got our picture taken with one in my arms.  Side note: they smell like eucalyptus which I sort of equated to Christmas type smell.  Delicious.

Camera shy?

Loves it more than me.

First up bright and early on Day 2 at 10am was red panda time!  I spent some time picking out my outfit and doing my hair that day.  After all it’s very important to look good when meeting a red panda.  We were with two other people and headed to the exhibit.  I was pretty much trying to play it cool at this point, but with adorable little pandas staring at me from the trees, it was hard to keep in my excitement.  

Most of you know what a big deal this is to me.  I mean, I love the red panda.  I talk about them pretty much always.  And I wanted to find out if they really smelled like dryer sheets which is what I imagine all fluffy things smell like. (or should)

So then most of you will also understand that when I tell you this is the day that my soul was crushed, I am not exaggerating.

Our keeper first off was an awful person.  Due to the weather (or extreme hatred of this keeper) the panda boys would not come out of the tree.  We stood patiently waiting while the keeper gave somewhat futile attempts to get them to come down.  She called their names, clacked her ring on the food bowl, but after what was probably 2 minutes of trying, started laughing (please note, I’m trying not to cry at this moment) and said “oh well!”

Our alternative was that we could come back at 2pm and try again.  This is all well and good for someone who was NOT patting binturongs then.  I explained this to her (and also note, these experiences are not exactly cheap) and she said, well then you’re going to have to choose.

With a sob (completely heartbroken, i would have crumpled on the ground if i wasn't going to make a bigger scene) I made my way back to the information desk with Shawn.  Our choices were bleak because i am a complete idiot and booked our encounters on DAY 2, we had to do this today. So....Take a chance on pandas who probably would not come out of the tree, OR try binturongs, which Shawn was really looking forward to.  What do you do?  Shawn was very insistent I live my dream (and angry at the woman on my behalf), but it’s such a hard decision.  Back at the desk, I explained the situation to the woman and asked what she would do.  She said to me “Oh my, you just look so disappointed!”  (you can’t hide soul crushing defeat) and then became an angel.  Since we didn’t want to take the chance on pandas (I decided binturongs were probably more of a sure thing), she said "well before we make the decision, let's see what I can do for you" and called up the binturong keeper.  Shawn and I were the only ones in on that session, so they moved it to 1pm so that we could make both that encounter and try for pandas again!   This was the nicest thing in the world.  I didn’t have to take a chance on missing out on two animals and could give pandas another go.  I had decided that even if they didn’t come down, I’d still been able to make the effort and not think ‘what if’.

Binturongs were great.  The first thing the keeper did was say “do you know they smell like…” and shawn and I both finished “BUTTERED POPCORN!”  I think she was impressed with our animal skills.  A fun fact, the males smell more strongly of popcorn than the females.  The two in the enclosure were a brother and sister.  And they were extremely food motivated.  We were feeding them bits of melon and they were crawling all over us.  The girl binturong was using her claws to pull us closer and scratching up our arms, but we didn’t care.   I mean look at our joy:

Nom nom.  

Work for it, Binturong.

After that we ran to red pandas.  And I told Shawn Y’know that thing with the binturongs was such a great experience that it would almost be okay if the pandas didn’t come down.

Which was good.

Because they didn’t.

This time I managed not to sob, because I was still riding high on the binturong encounter.  And I had the Tassies to look forward to.  She did offer to let us pet elephants or get a refund.  I went for the refund.  i've already gotten my VIP elephant experience, thank you.

Featuring weird winter hat hair!
We headed over to Tassies and had quite a crowd.  We had lots of rules for the Tassies, like FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DON’T LOOK THEM IN THE FACE OR THEY WILL BITE YOUR FACE OFF.

Fact: "The Tasmanian devil has an exceptionally strong bite for its size, generating a force of over 553 N (124 lbf).The jaw can open to 75–80 degrees, allowing the devil to generate the large amount of power to tear meat and crush bones sufficient force to allow it to bite through thick metal wire”. For those of you who enjoyed my Tasmania post, you saw them take down 1/2 a wallaby, fur, meat, bones in all.  

We did not want to that be our faces.

The cool part was the keepers were great, and were really fascinated about our choice to be in with devils.  They raised these girls and it really came across how much they loved them.  They even let us use our own camera in the enclosure.  (note, the zoo is kinda crap becasue even if you spend a ridiculous amount of money, they still charge you for your photos.  BY ENCOUNTER.  $50 per encounter.  You'll note, we didn't get their photos).  Amazingly in this encounter, we got to hold and play with the devils, and give them cuddles (not too many cuddles).  While we were holding them, they licked our arms and had really rough tongues.  So that was pretty cool.

Faces intact, all around!

Playing "fetch"


Our last day there we just relaxed.  Saw a movie, drove around.  It was nice just to spend time chilling out instead of playing host to guests.  Which, of course, is exactly what we did the day after we arrived home.  I also made the decision, whenever my mom visited, we were going back to the zoo.  by hook or by crook i'd be patting these pandas!  

To recap.
Heartbreak.  (tick)
Popcorn Animals make up for it. (sort of)
Tassies don’t bite my face off (score)
CROCS. (Yikes)
Koala. (christmas)
Some stuff in the Sunshine Coast. (sizzler)
The end

Before you leave, friends......

Are you keeping up with Devon’s Australian Animal Pat Bingo Card?

So Far:

·        Kangaroo
·        Emu
·        Koala
·        Tassie Devil
·        Enkidna
·        Southern Wombat
·        Hairy Nosed Wombat
·        Dingo
·        Wallaby
·        So.  Many.  Birds

·        Binturong (south east Asia)

Still missing for completion bonus:

·        Northern Wombat
·        Quokka
·        Quoll
·        Platypus
·        Bilby
·        Possum
·        Salty