Sunday, June 3, 2007

May email reading period update

The long-awaited update, people!

After a tremendous start (like, 52 submissions on the very first day), May 2007 delivered on its promise and broke records.

Total number of submissions: 499;
Total wordcount: about 2527900;
(Which brings it to about 5060 words per story on average.)

Number of male submitters: 329
Number of female submitters: 150
Meaning I'm not sure about the sex of 20 submitters (who only used letters for their first names, like J. Doe, or have a sex-ambiguous first name, and one who is deliberately ambiguous about it).

I've read somewhat over 200 of these stories so far (more responses to go out tonight), noting that my trip to Australia -- while very enjoyable -- slowed things down. This is unfortunate, but originally it was planned for April, so that I would start the email reading period refreshed. Then it got delayed by a month...

So bear with me while I go through the last 299 submissions.

Hobart and the Aurora Australis

The last week of May I was in Hobart, Australia. I like Hobart: a certain rough-edged charm, a centre where everything is within walking distance, and excellent beer (can anybody say Cascade Pale Ale?).

I stayed at the Grand Chancellor, which was not very busy -- so I could sleep quetly at night -- and charged some 20 to 27 Aussie dollars for breakfast. Oh well.

I was giving a training to people of the Aurora Australis: this Antarctic ice breaker is driven by our CPP (controllable Pitch Propeller). As a service engineer I've done several dry-docking repairs/inspections on that vessel for our propeller (in Fremantle and Auckland), so I know the vessel quite well. It was also good to see some familiar faces, and I had a great time.

The Thursday after I left P&O Polar (who own the vessel) were going to charter the vessel for another 8 years to the Australian Antarctic Division, so the atmosphere on board (there was only a skeleton crew, as it had finished its Summer expeditions) was fine.

I had dinner in the renowned Ball & Chain Grill and the Customs House Hotel (where I had goodbye drinks with the crew on the last evening), and lunch in several cafés. Food is always very good in Hobart.

I also tasted some Tasmanian Whisky in the Lark Distillery. The had three of their whiskies for the tasting in their café: two of their single malts, and one cask strength single malt. I did quite like the cask strength single malt, and thought shortly about buying one bottle.

However, they charged 125 Aussie dollars for a 500 ml bottle (about 75 euros, or 90 US$), which I found rather steep. A few months back I flew to the UK, and at Schiphol 700 ml bottles of 18 year old Highland Park were on sale for 54 euros (for both EU and non-EU passengers).

I'm sorry, but even the normal price for the superb (and superior) 18 year old Highland Park (and the Lark single malts had no mention of their age, BTW) is 70 euros, which is still cheaper than the Lark cask strength. So I decided to give it a pass (and I always wonder why the whisky isn't cheaper at the source: but it isn't in Scotland, nor in Australia).

Nevertheless, I had a good time in Hobart.