The collection

Posted: February 12, 2008 in Uncategorized

Well, after spending my morning finding the Chinese consulate, then wandering around the Sydney University campus physics building while my visa processed, I now have a 1-year, unlimited entry Chinese visa, good for stays of 30 days at a stretch. Which means for the next year, I have the ability to enter three major, geographically disparate countries at will. It actually feels weirdly addictive, getting these huge foreign stickers in your visa with far-off expiration dates. I almost want to start going to other country’s consulates and see just how many I can get. “One year in Madagascar? Lay that sticker on me! How many more blank pages do I have?”

On a side note, the best description I can give of the Chinese consulate architectural style is “mid-80s communist Chinese”. As representative style goes, this building personified its application with amazing clarity. Located down a narrow back alley, the chunky cement buildings and the totally featureless wall enclosing the compound were all painted the same, flat, nondescript gray. This was serious gray, too; the kind of gray that, in a commercial paint store where the entire spectrum from black to white has been named, from “Scottish Highland Fog” to “Faded Black Velvet”, the label on these cans would say simply, “Gray”, and they would be on clearance. Inside, the color motif expanded to include the occasional white, brushed metal accents, and even some dark wood grain, but was still dominated by this unrelenting, uniform gray. But true to form, the entire place operated with ruthless efficiency, and despite arriving at the back of a lengthy line, I was done within 20 minutes, an unheard of speed for western government offices.

Also something worth mentioning, while poking around the Sydney U physics offices and labs, occasionally stopping to read the project summaries and most recently published papers posted outside the various offices, I found myself in a dead-end hallway leading to the roof access. Here, tucked back into rows of old, disused glass-fronted cabinets, was an impressive collection of ancient voltmeters and various unidentifiable equipment, some over 100 years old by the dates etched into them by the manufacturer. And, staggeringly enough, these cabinets were all left unattended and unlocked, seemingly forgotten. If I were less scrupulous, I’d have a hell of a souvenir. Similarly, while pausing in another hallway, I realized the big mass I was standing next to was not in fact a filing cabinet, but an old Cray supercomputer, seemingly left there disused and unplugged some time ago. Ah, academia.

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