Mar 14
Clubbed to Death
icon4 Mar 14th, 2009 | icon2 Science, Travel | icon3Comments Off

In recent months Rach and I have been visiting rainforest sites along the NSW coast to collect data for her PhD. During these trips, wherever we happen to find ourselves, we dine out at least one night at the local bowling club.

To complement Rach’s studies of rainforest plant ecology, I am undertaking my own research comparing attributes of bowling clubs in coastal towns from Byron Bay to Bega. The preliminary title for my study is “Bowling club traits along a latitudinal gradient”.

As data collection for my study I am scoring each venue based on their provision of what I consider key attributes for any bowling club:

  • bistro and/or Chinese restaurant with cavernous dining area
  • confusing or misleading entrance signage
  • Keno, including availability of sharpened pencils at each table
  • a pre-1970s portrait of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
  • separate “low-rollers” gaming area
  • chocolate wheel
  • menacing or intimidating bar staff
  • photograph behind bar of obscure “local legend”
  • wide range of ancient liqueurs
  • gold-lettered honour roll of bowling champions
  • signs warning patrons to control their bad language and/or unruly children
  • prize/trophy cabinet
  • Friday night meat raffle

Below are some of our initial observations from a selection of the clubs we have visited.

Currarong Bowling & Recreation Club

It was while sitting in this club that I first had the inspiration to conduct my groundbreaking research. Upon entry to the club, the expected sign-in book was nowhere to be found. I proceeded directly to the bar, where I was greeted with a stern look and gruffly asked, “You a member?” (Clearly, I was not a member; the barman probably knows every member of this tinpot club by name.) I answered in the negative, and was directed to sign in at a small desk, hidden from view by a large pot plant.

This club had the smallest chocolate wheel I have ever seen. It was approximately the size of a medium pizza, and had about ten numbers on it. The small size of the chocolate wheel was offset, however, by the largest seating area of any club outside of Las Vegas. There was enough seating to accommodate the population of the town of Currarong twenty times over. And that’s not including the separate dining area attached to the Chinese restaurant (the sludgy food was below average).

The selection of ancient and dusty liqueurs behind the bar was staggering. Most of the colourful liquids had long since separated into their constituent parts: water above and a yellow, green or red glutinous mass below.

Greenwell Point Bowling & Sports Club

“The club with the million dollar view”. If you can find it. Following the road signs we found ourselves driving for kilometres through quiet suburban streets, only to be deposited into an alley behind the club, which ended at an open paddock and chain link fence, beyond which was the club’s car park, with easy access from the main road we should’ve stayed on ten minutes before.

The main recreation in these parts is fishing, and the bigger the better. The walls of the club were adorned with photos of beefy blokes with their enormous catch hanging forlornly alongside. It was here that Rach discovered that during the day spent crouching in rainforest her belly button had become infested with tiny orange “chiggers”.

The meat raffle here was a winner – we walked away with a tasty prawn platter which was quickly devoured the following afternoon.

North Beach Recreation & Bowling Club (Mylestom)

This club has brought the concept of the 2 AM lockout forward six hours to 8 PM, an idea which has spread to other clubs we visited. Seriously, if you choose to enter the club after eight o’clock in the evening you have to knock politely on the front door and asked to be allowed inside. Luckily we arrived early and grabbed a seat before the Friday night meat raffle crowd arrived.

We sampled both the Chinese restaurant (so-so) and the pizza (pretty good), although our dining experience was marred by the large number of unsupervised children who ran between the tables. When a gang of tweenage girls began a jazz ballet routine next to our table – seriously affecting the digestion of my chicken and cashew nuts – we decided it was time to head back to our accommodations.

Port City Bowling Club (Port Macquarie)

This club gains points for having an incredibly confusing entrance. A large sign directing you in from the road actually leads to a car park for the adjacent tennis club. From there you must walk past the tennis courts, through a gate, around the bowling greens and enter via a back door, into an empty room at the very rear of the club.

The bar staff, however, were verging on friendly, and the bistro menu was wide-ranging. The Queen’s portrait was a little too recent for my tastes, but was prominently placed for easy viewing. The meat raffle was among the most professionally organised of any I have had the pleasure to witness. Rach and I walked away with a selection of lamb products that were cooked the following evening on the communal BBQ at the Lighthouse Beach Holiday Village.

At around 8:30 pm a local singer named Tony Ward began to perform. He sang and played guitar to pre-recorded backing tracks, while wearing a selection of comic glasses, waistcoats and hats. We stayed for one song. Upon trying to leave by the same door which we had entered we found it locked, and had to detour out the front door, down the darkened side of the club, through a fence, past the tennis courts (again) and finally to our waiting vehicle.

Pacific Palms Bowling Club

A pleasant place for a bowling club, nestled among tall gums in a quiet bushland setting. As we sipped our beers on the back terrace we watched two local foursomes play a few ends on the well manicured greens.

The barman on duty resembled a modern Ned Kelly; the tip of his ZZ Top-like ginger beard dragged on the bar, permanently stained from long-term exposure to Tooheys New dregs. While he poured my beer we had a brief conversation comparing the relative merits of Pacific Palms with the nearby metropolis of Forster. Pacific Palms wins out, I was assured, owing to its laid back atmosphere and lack of electronic traffic signals.

The bistro here was a definite winner. The menu was large with no less than eight specials, including the exotic sounding osso bucco. During our meal we were delighted to witness the arrival of the local drug dealer – underpanted arse hanging out of his too baggy shorts – who proceeded to order up big at the bistro for himself and his two molls. For their entree they ordered not only a dozen natural oysters but another six Kilpatrick as well.

Mar 13
Book Learnin’
icon4 Mar 13th, 2009 | icon2 Science | icon31 Comment »

Rach and I recently took out a subscription to Science magazine. According to their website, Science is the “world’s leading journal of original scientific research, global news, and commentary”. Who am I to argue?

You see, Rach is currently doing a PhD in plant ecology, and I have a couple of pieces of paper from universities myself – including a science degree – so we felt a subscription to one of the world’s most popular and prestigious scholarly journals would not be out of our intellectual league.

Last week we received our first issue in the post. I couldn’t wait to get it out of its plastic sleeve. All that new scientific knowledge just waiting to be ingested into my otherwise dormant gray matter. But as I started flicking through the articles a terrible realisation hit me. I had grossly overestimated my own intelligence.

Let’s have a look at Vol. 323 No. 5917, which is the first issue we received in the mail.

The cover is pretty. It has an illustration of what looks like a cell membrane, above which two proteins are engaged in some sort of molecular dogfight. (Imagine machine gun noises and the sound of a Messerschmitt spiralling to earth in a roaring fireball.)

OK, turn the page. It’s an advertisement … at least that’s what I think it is. The text promises “research products for the study of important signal transduction pathways”. All right! Riveting stuff. Below the text is a list of about a hundred alphanumeric codes (e.g. FGF-R4, KHS1/MAP4K5) the cryptic meanings of which are utterly beyond my knowledge or understanding.

The ads on the following pages are equally mystifying. “The WAVE Bioreactor, with its novel rocking motion, is a fast and efficient system for inoculum propogation” … “Improved transfection” … (Huh? What the fuck is “transfection”?) “You need the best electroporation technology available, but you also want the ability to transfect primary cells with a flexible system. We understand.” Great, because I certainly don’t.

Most of the articles are in the same vein, only much longer and more complicated. Oh, hang on, here’s one about truffles. I’ll come back to that one. And here’s one on plate tectonics, that’s something I have a vague understanding of; better bookmark it.

The articles in Science cover the spectrum of scientific disciplines, everything from cell biology to applied physics and engineering. Nobody could fully understand every article. Perhaps I should be happy to have an interesting article to read about truffles. (Hmm, must be almost dinner time.)

On the other hand, maybe I should’ve kept my subscription to Metal Hammer instead.