Wednesday, August 21st, 2002:

I was mightily impressed by the Smithsonian when I was in D.C. a couple of weeks ago, but I’ve now a new favourite — The Powerhouse Museum, the museum that gives you chocolate!

It wasn’t just that the place was around the corner from my hotel (although it seems that almost everything is); the PHM is a museum of social culture, perfect for someone wanting to find out more about its Australian variant. For example, did’ja know that Australia was where the world’s first feature film was produced? Other exhibits include a valuable treatise on sustaining the environment, with a corner devoted to WTO protests!

One thing I hadn’t mentioned about my arrival in Sydney was the delousing of our plane before we could leave it. Under the watchful eye of a government official, the flight attendants walked down each aisle with spray cans — not aerosol, I hope! But after watching the news and seeing just one of the weird diseases endangering the country’s citizenry, I can see why they freak so much about bringing in foreign food and plants.

Oh yeah, the chocolate… The PHM also has an interactive lab for invention and experimentation. In the section on taste, there’s a video presentation on the different kinds of chocolate and how they are made. Every couple of minutes you’re invited to touch the screen and hold your other hand under a plastic tube, for free samples!

I spent the rest of the day on rails, circling Darling Harbour in the Monorail, then transferring to the CityRail line to pay a sunset visit to the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge. I could see the silhouettes of no less than four groups in various stages of scaling the summit, half of them held up by someone near the top chickening out. I capped off the evening with a visit to the Star City Casino. Aussies are no less enchanted with gambling than the rest of the world, and the apparent legality of sports betting might help explain the popularity of “footy“.

I’ll find that out firsthand Friday night; it seems that some old friends in Melbourne are — ahem — flying me in to see them!

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