Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Cool Wall (Part 1)

Time to learn a bit about the place I'm staying in - the I-house.

Every room has a little whiteboard outside the door that you can put your details on and people can scribble shit on - like notes and stuff. Most people's change from day to day - it's basically like a RL version of twitter/fb status/msn status. As a result, this makes it extremely cool to follow and stalk various people's boards. There are a few stereotypes.

This week's stereotype: The I-house (Village) Bicycle Wall

It is very cool to advertise you're room mate's availability:


It is even cooler to write the name of that girl from that party that night 10 times on the list below the advertisement. Yes, someone does have a reputation...

This week's bonus: My Wall

Currently someone who still finds gay jokes funny has vandalised my wall. At least they appreciate my new indoor boots:

http://store.nike.com/index.jsp?country=US&lang_locale=en_US&cp=usns_CSE_081109_ShoppingCom&l=shop,pdp,ctr-inline/cid-1/pid-240872/pgid-222201


You Know You're in Berkeley When... (Part 2)


You see people chained up in orange jumpsuits with masks over their heads.

There are always protests going on at Berkeley. Yesterday these guys were sweating it out in the heat over war criminals.

Today there was a huge protest from the students over the school fee increases (30%). I think I know who to blame for that one...

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Rock


That's the shower room. There's only a bar at about belly height between you and sodomy.



'Broadway' - between cell blocks B and C


I'm so tempted to watch Clint Eastwood's Escape from Alcatraz after checking out the Rock. Or maybe the modern version with big Nick Cage and Sean Connery. Nah fuck it I think I'll just watch Assault on Precinct 13 with Ja Rule and Lawrence Fishburn. Way better prison fiction. Or maybe just re-runs of Prison Break.

'Welcome to the Rock. Please walk with your back's to the wall.' Is the first thing an inmate hears. I wonder why? I found out when I saw the shower room...

The whole place was pretty interesting, especially the history behind it. Al Capone was housed here, and so was the 'Birdman'. There have been 8 murders, out of I think 30 something inmates who have attempted to escape, only 5 have been unaccounted for. 3 of them were the famous 'fake head' escapees. These guys made fake heads out of soap bars, paint, and their own hair. They used those as dummy's in their cots and made their way to the roof by digging through the air vent at the back of their cell (see the picture). They used spoons. They even sewed together a 'raft' out of raincoats to cross the bay to San Francisco, and made a paddle out of kitchenware. Smarter still, they brought an accordion with them. So they could you know, jam out when they got home free. Nah it was actually to pump up the raft (smart eh?).

They are unfortunately, presumed dead since the tide on the night they left should have pulled them out under the Golden Gate bridge and into 'bloody triangle' which is where all the shark attacks occur here. I was still pretty impressed.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Cheesecake Factory


The cheesecake factory has an awesome view over union square. You can see Saks Fifth Ave and Victoria Secret.


This is about the point where you die if you're a diabetic.


I know. I had to have steak. I was CRAVING steak. 700g ought to do it.



Today a few of us went to SF for the Alcatraz night tour, but during the day we went to the Cheesecake Factory in Macy's for lunch. These guys are meant to have world famous cheesecakes. Yes, I ate some, it was damn good. What I found pretty interesting was the fact that they showed the number of calories in each slice - I don't know if that's smart, but I guess most American's can't add up properly anyway. Well regardless, the most potent cheese cake was 'Stefanie's Ultimate Red Velvet Cheesecake' ~1500 calories per slice. That's 3/4 the recommended average adult daily intake. In one slice of cake.

What I also found funny was the fact that they have 'low carb cheese cake' - which was like only a tiny 500 calories per slice. And no I did not get that. We shared 2 slices between 3 people - it's that rich you can't have much more. We had the cookie dough caramel and the peanut butter one. I did take a picture of the menu so you can see all those photo's when I put them up on facebook if you're interested. Take care not to drool on your keyboard.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Mannn...I'm so tired - Mexican Independance Day



I've included my shaker there for size reference.


The awesome thing about living in a residence hall is that you get buffet meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It's not always that good, but usually there's something you'll find to your fancy. The downside is that the average freshman gains 15 pounds (~7kg) in their first semester.

Yesterday was Mexican Independance Day and our dining hall had a special Mexican theme for lunch and dinner. It was pretty good, but the Mexicans I know say it was not authentic. But who cares when you can have unlimited churros the size of rulers (yeah eat shit San Churro)! Plus the normal dessert bar which is there every night (and usually supplemented with specials) has all the different sauces, dips and syrups that you could want to shove those greasy, filthy, long, Mexican churros into.

I also threw in some snaps of the Sather Gate, which leads to the main courtyard on Berkeley campus - Upper Sproul Plaza.

You Know You're in Berkeley When... (Part 1)



You see a parking lot reserved for NL.

And there's actually a car parked in it.

NL stands for Nobel Laurette. There's actually enough of these guys still living and in the area to justify the University saving them parking spots. Apparently if your crazy smart and you work for years and years to make a discovery, and then wait years and years again before you're recognised for it, you end up driving a Toyota Sienna wagon.

Oh and for the law people - look what I found: Our friend Bristol-Myers Squibb!

Stay tuned for more instalments of YNYBW. Oh and if people are actually reading my blog - comment please so I know I'm not just talking to myself - and it'd make me feel nice and warm inside.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Touchdown (in more places than one)!



Gameday 2 rolled around after only one week. We were home again, this time hosting another unranked team, Eastern Washington. I feel like I didn't really explain the little customs of what goes on in the Stadium last time I wrote about the football. So here goes:

It's all about crowd support. You get in early, get good seats, listen to the pre-game banter and watch the team warmup. There's one or two guys hooked up to the PA system, who are paid to fire up the crowd and lead the chanting and cheering. The marching band comes out first, playing its customary tune with the 'Grrr Rah!' chant and then the team comes out after much epic music.

One of the cool cheers we do is the Student-Alumni echo. Basically Memorial Stadium is split up into 2 end zones (where you score touchdowns) and the 2 main stands (along the length of the field). One of those is the student section and opposite that is the alumni section. So the students yell 'Go!' and the alumni echo back with 'Bears!'. See video on facebook :).

Anyway this time around I got to the game early so I had awesome seats, and seeing the players up close was pretty impressive. Watching the game was also much better, and you can hear their helmets clash and the pads crunch from the tackles. Our team has arguably the best running back in the nation - Jahvid Best. He's apparently got a sub-10 second 100m in full gear, and he is fucking fast. This game it was pretty amazing to see him run a 60 yard touch-down (which got chalked out 'cause he apparently stepped out of bounds), and then see him run again the very next play with 15 seconds of rest. We've also got a sick defender named Syd-Quan Thompson. He is referred to in chants as 'Sick One Thompson'.

The other custom we have at games is crowdsurfing in the student section after a touchdown. What? Did I crowd surf? Well did we score a touchdown?

Hell yes we did - 59 to 7 thrashing how could we have not? Was a dumb enough to bring my camera along for the 50m surf to the top of the student section? Yes. See Video.

OK the enthusiasm started dying down towards the end, but after a while it just feels about the same as being stuck in the middle of the M-City D-floor. Oh and I got close enough so you can see our cheerleaders this time. Enjoy!
video

Friday, September 11, 2009

Are you smarter than an.....American?

We've all heard of 'Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?'. And we are all aware of how appalling the general knowledge and IQ of some US citizens. But someone finally did it. Yes I've had some bad ones so far, like someone arguing with me over Steve Irwin's nationality (he's British apparently, and no it is not too soon anymore). Of course you all remember the cheerleaders.

But this one is unforgivable. It must be brandished all over the web. OK my blog will do.

Today in Chem lab, after people got curious over my accent, I quickly explained I was from Australia. Then my lab partner said something to me. It went something like this:

Me: Yeah, I'm from Australia.
Lab Partner (she can remain anonymous for now): Oh ok, that's so cool!

5 minutes later...

Lab Partner: So do they speak English where you're from?

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Roll on you Bears!






Yesterday was the first game day of the Cal football season. We played Maryland at home. We smashed 52-13 or something close to that. The atmosphere was amazing, and Berkeley was buzzing the whole day. Pre-game parties are known as tailgates here, but its pretty much what you would expect for a big sports day. You drink before, you go to the game and cheer like crazy, and then you go out and celebrate after (or drink the sorrows away...but not this time).

Of course people go nuts over American football here, and I think it gets a lot crazier than the AFL grand final (not that I give a shit) despite only being at the college level. I've got student season tickets, and the student section is just wild. You're on your feet yelling for about 3.5 hrs. You do get to sit down at half-time, which is a good thing since half-time entertainment is the best. That's definitely one plus about sports in the US, the entertainment is hell good. The marching band was awesome, they did a montage of Chilli Pepper's hits.

The gay thing about US sports is that everything is commercialised to the max. There would be breaks in play so that the TV commercials could run. On the bright side there was some pretty interesting video playback on the 'big' screen during breaks, and not just replays. They had little segments on the players in the Cal team such as: "who eats the most".

The game itself was pretty damn entertaining. I'm not into rugby or anything but watching a bunch of +250 pound dudes sack each other or our star running back make a 60 yard touchdown is worth it.

You can see all the photo's on fb (http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=100045&id=764974345&l=c9e12c22dd), and some videos too (http://www.facebook.com/video/?of=764974345#/video/?id=764974345). The atmosphere is going to be even more crazy for USC and the big Stanford game, and I can't wait. Having said all that, nothing even comes close to the Kop in April, and I'm not being biased, I'm just being honest. Bring on 2010 South Africa!!
video

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Sorrority Bid Day & Soccer Fail :(


Above: Various sisters out in force to deliver bids

RUSH!!! And no I don't mean bombsite B in de_dust2. I'm referring to what all non-US universities miss out on - the weird and wonderful world of frats and sorrorities. Put simply, rushing is the process where new members try out for a Greek society. At the end of rush, the brothers or sisters will 'bid' for you if you're successful. Some people get multiple bids and can choose which frat/sorrority to join.

This is not the same as what we think is 'hazing'. In fact hazing is technically prohibited, though that's probably a bit of a lie. Once you've accepted a bid, you're basically their bitch for however long 'pledging' takes. Once you go through pledging, you finally become a fully fledged bro or sis. Apparently the worst pledging on campus is at a particular frat and involves having to drink in an ice-tub till you yack on each other.

Girls and guys have it way different. Guys just rock up at a frat, say they are rushing, get into the party and if you hit it off with the bro's then you probably have a good chance of getting in. Girls however, have a huge complex employment type process. There's registration, interviews, house openings etc , you can't go to frat parties or go on facebook and its all very formal. A few of the girls I know at I-house are rushing.

I myself tried to convince a few of the other internationals to rush with me, but to no avail. So I went with one of the girls (this is necessary to get into parties) and rushed a couple of frats. Just went to their mixers, bbq's and parties during rush week. And YES, true to form, the first frat I went to was Delta Upsilon aka DU (yeah I'm nostalgic about my CS days). Then there was Theta Chi and Lamdas, but really I don't think the whole Greek thing is for me, but it was fun, and its good to get to know people for later on when you want to get into parties.

Anyway, the significance of today is that it is officially the end of rush for the Sorrorities. The sisters have put out their bids, and the lucky girls are all now going off on a one night retreat with their new sisters. Yes, they are very big on this (the pics don't do it justice, you should've seen their houses). Each Sorrority rented out a huge bus to take them all to wherever they were going, so they can bond and give presents to each other and whatever else your imagination wants them to do...

On a completely separate note, tonight was also phase 2 of Cal Soccer tryouts for the top club team (not the college team) and I was cut tonight. Damn I played shit, and getting through first round is no consolation, and the fact that only a handful of guys got through to final phase doesn't mean shit either. Oh well I think I need to lift my game before I get back home.

Having said that the quality of football (soccer) here is actually slightly better than back home, though I'd say our Canning Social Prems would still be a good match.

Stay tuned for the first Cal Football (American) game day this Sat :)