Not To Be Trusted With Knives

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Items I Knocked Off My List of 101 Things To Do List

I set a goal to knock 16 items off my 101 things to do in 1001 days list during 2016 and while I failed spectacularly at doing that, most of the 5 things that I did were pretty awesome. In level of increasing awesomeness, they were:

21. Get rid of the fake trees my condo’s previous owner left on my balcony

This one wasn’t awesome, but I am glad to have it done. When I bought my place, the previous owner left these gaudy fake trees in extremely heavy pots on my balcony, claiming they were part of the condo because they were tied with twine to the balcony railing. They were ugly and they took up valuable room on my balcony, but the aforementioned extremely heavy pots stopped me from getting rid of them until I got a message from my strata that they would be power washing all the balconies and everything had to be taking off our balconies during that time.

35. Go for a ride in a float plane

I spent some time on Salt Spring Island this year and on one of the trips, I took the float plane back so that I could spend one extra night there and then just fly into Vancouver for work in the morning. Super fun.

47. Go to Newfoundland

Visiting my 10th of 10 Canadian provinces was a milestone this year. Not that many people can say that! Plus I went to an awesome conference and got to hang out with my sister!

43. Go to NYC

I <3 NY. We had such a good time and now I want to go there again!

37. Present at a conference at an international location (not including USA)

Definitely the highlight of the year was my trip to Australia! The conference was fantastic and I really enjoyed all the places that I went!

So while I didn’t knock a large quantity of items off my list, I’d say that the quality of the ones I did do were A++.

My current 101 things to do in 1001 days is slated to end on April 9, 2017 and I’ve only achieved 34 (!). I should probably take a hard look at the remaining items to see which ones I can feasibly do in the next 3 months. Surely I can do better than 34/101!

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Blogging at 30,000 ft

The following was written on a plane earlier today.

I’m on my way home from my whirlwind Christmas holidays and realized that I have to do 9 blog postings in the next 2.5 days to achieve my goal of publishing 116 blog postings in 2016. So I figure I better get writing! I have a few year-end blog postings that I typically do that will fill out a number of these, including:

  • Year in Review
  • Items I Knocked Off My List of 101 Things To Do List
  • Books I Read in 2016
  • New Foods and/or Drinks I Made in 2016
  • How Did I Do on My 2016 Goals?
  • Goals for 2017
  • Favourite tweets
  • Nerd Stats 2016

So I just have to write all of those, plus this one, and mission accomplished!

I guess before I get cracking on writing all of those, I can tell you about my whirlwind Christmas holidays! We arrived back at my sister’s after our four days in NYC on the night of Dec 23. Happily, we got in earlier than expected, as we had whizzed through security because we got TSA-Pre clearance so we made it to our gate before the previous fight to Toronto had left and we were able to get three seats on that flight. This meant that we got home before my niece and nephew had gone to bed, so I didn’t have to wait until the next morning to see them!

The next day was Christmas Eve and we woke to pancakes that were made by my nephew, Thomas. He got a cookbook from the school library on the last day of school specifically so he could make those for everyone and they were delicious (I should add that Thomas is 5 and a surprising good cook (and baker) for his age.. with a wee bit of assistance with the stove part). After that, we mostly just lounged around, though I did wrap my presents and about eleventy billion trips were made to the grocery store for various things that we remembered we needed (as the stores would be closed the next day!), each thing being remembered only after the last shopper had returned to the house. I should note that I didn’t make any of those trips because it was cold outside and I am a delicate west coast flower. Christmas Eve dinner was a cornucopia of appies – crackers and breads and spreads and jalapeño poppers and shrimp thingys and chicken fingers and various things wrapped in various pastries and we were all stuff to the gills will deliciousness.

Christmas Day was as Christmas Day should be – awaking early to see what Santa had brought for the kiddies and what everyone had gotten for each other and the biggest winners of the present getting were my niece’s three guinea pigs and my cats. That is not to say that the rest of us were deprived, as we spoiled each other rotten, but the fluffy members of our family got some pretty sweet gifts. My mom made fritattas and a hot potato salad for breakfast (I was supposed to help, but she got up at the crack of dawn while I was still in dreamland1, so my contribution consisted of the sophisticated work of toasting English muffins and crumpets.). My sister made an amazing turkey dinner and for dessert we had individual-sized banoffee pies made by my mother and I (I actually did help make those!) and they might now be on my list of top desserts ever2. There may also have been a PokéWalk3 before dinner for my niece, my nephew, and I, as I figured that I should probably leave the house at least every other day. It was cold, but worth it.

On Boxing Day, we were supposed to go to my Aunt Wendy’s place for an open house, but a combination of icy conditions and that fact that all of us had a pretty nasty cold (that we didn’t really want to give it to the various babies who would be there) kept us away. Boxing Day consisted of lounging, building Lego things, playing various games, and eating our weight in leftovers.

On Dec 27, my mom, sister, and I went to the spa for pedicures (a Christmas present to us from my mom), followed by lunch with my Aunty Eileen and Aunty Lynn. That evening me and Nancy met up with Dr. Dan, Rick, and Rob, another guy we’d all gone to high school with that Dan keeps in regular touch with but who I hadn’t seen in 20 years. We stuffed our faces with Mexican food, drank margaritas the size of our heads4, and then went to another restaurant and stuffed ourselves with more drinks and desserts.

Yesterday Nancy, Jeff, Madeline, Thomas and I went to see Rogue One. I won’t say any spoilers in case you haven’t seen it yet. My mom is not a Star Wars fan, so she stayed back at my sister’s house and made a trip to the bakery, because clearly we hadn’t food shopped enough! That evening, Sarah and Dave and their munchkins came over for dinner. Their munchkins seemed to have a pretty fun time playing with Madeline and Thomas and I had a pretty fun time catching up with Sarah and Dave!

At some point in all of that, Nancy, Jeff, my mom, and I found time to watch the first season (all 10 episodes) of The Man in the High Castle5. Or as we called it “The Man in the High Tower”, “The High Man in the Castle”, “The High Man in the Dark Castle Tower”, and “Professor Plum in the Library with the Candlestick Holder”6. If you haven’t seen it, you are missing out. I can’t wait to watch season 2, which I only just learned existed yesterday.

And now, it what feels like a blink of the eye from when I left, I’m on a plane back home! It’s always so sad to say good-bye to my family, but I am excited to see my kitties. I have a suitcase full of presents for them.

  1. You may notice a trend in this blog posting of my being a lazy SOB on my holidays. []
  2. Alongside chocolate amaretto cheesecake and espresso cupcakes with mascarpone cream. []
  3. Where one goes on a walk for the expressed purpose of catching Pokémon. Yes, I am still playing PokémonGO. []
  4. That may have been just Dr. Dan and I. []
  5. A TV show on Amazon Prime that is based on a Phillip K. Dick novel, in which the Nazis and Japan won WWII and the story is set in a post-war America in which Germany and Japan control the eastern and western parts of North America, respectively. []
  6. For some reason we kept screwing up the name of the show. It started with someone accidentally calling it “The Man in the High Tower”, and then we all started screwing it up like that and it escalated from there. []

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I <3 NYC

Hey, remember that time I said that my sister and I were going to take our mom to New York City for her birthday? Well, that trip was Dec 20-23 and we had a pretty amazing time! Of course, 4 days is really only enough time to scratch the surface of the Big Apple, so while we had an amazing time, we clearly have to go back because there were so many things we didn’t get to do!

We stayed at the Hudson Hotel, which was lovely and had a decor that I would characterize as lots of textures but barely any light.

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Cool texture in our elevator at the Hudson Hotel, NYC

On our first night, we had a bite to eat at the Hudson Common (their beer bar) and then went for a walk, whereupon we stumbled upon a Christmas market! Given the recent attack at the Berlin Christmas market, there was high security at the one we stumbled upon, include police vehicles lining the road in front of it and cops with assault rifles guarding the place.

Drinks at the Hudson Commons:

Drinks at the Hudson Hotel

Fish tacos1:

Fish tacos

Duck fat fries:

Duck fat fries

On day 2 we set out to see a show. We’d been told when we got our tickets to see the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular that we had to arrive an hour in advance of our 11 am show to get through security so we grabbed coffee and a bite to eat on our way and headed to RCMH. We went through the security, which included one person who searched your purse and then another person who searched you with a metal detection wand, and then we got to the guy who scanned your tickets… and it turned out we were there on the wrong day! We actually had our Christmas Spectacular tickets for Dec 22 and for Dec 21 we had tickets to see Wicked at 2 pm2! So we went off for a walk and stumbled upon the Rockefeller Centre Christmas tree. I was less than impressed with the tree itself (though perhaps it looks better at night).

Me and my Mom at the Rockerfeller tree

Me and my sister at the Rockefeller tree

But I was impressed with the people soliciting donations for the Salvation Army3, especially these two guys who were really giving ‘er:

I had wanted to go skating at Rockefeller, but the lineup was too long, so I just took this picture instead:

Rockefeller Skating Rink

I also saw this:

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“Wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of thy times”

I felt like I should take a photo of that before it gets taken away, given recent events in US politics.

We stopped in at a pub for lunch:

Lunch in NYC

Then went to see Wicked!

Wicked playbill

Wicked was fantastic! They had the understudy playing Elphaba (a.k.a., The Wicked Witch) and she was incredible! I didn’t know anything about the play other than that it was a re-telling of the Wizard of Oz from the perspective of the Wicked Witch, who maybe isn’t so wicked after all. It had a cool story, fantastic performances, and the costumes and sets were amazing. Here’s what the stage looked liked before the show started (no photos allowed during the show):

Before the start of Wicked in NYC

And here we are waiting for the show to start:

Mom, Nancy, and me at Wicked

That night we went for a pre-dinner drink at Ascent:

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My sister had a Manhattan Mule, I had a Rossini Bellini, and my mom had The Trifecta.

and then the most amazing dinner at Porterhouse, where we started with the burrata (we may have dug right into that so fast we forgot to take a photo:

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My mom had the Porterhouse Porkchop with a glass of Sancerre:

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My sister had the filet mignon with a Malbec:

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and I went for the chili rubbed rib eye, also with a Malbec:

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On Day 3, we went to see the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular! We moved expertly through the security line, having done it all the day before, and got inside with plenty of time to spare4

My sister, my mom, and I at Radio City Music Hall

The show was pretty spectacular. The precision with which those dancers dance is amazing! The music was fun and there were a variety of different acts, including, among other things, a very cool instrumental version of the 12 Days of Christmas where the number of Rockettes dancing represented the number of days of Christmas and We Three Kings with actual camels.

After the show, we walked to the MOMA, but the lineup was so long that we weren’t able to actually go in and had to make do with just checking out the gift shops. I bought myself this lovely necklace:

Necklace I bought at MOMA

On our way, we passed by Trump Tower:

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We were on the opposite side of the street, but anyone who wanted to go right in front of the building had to go through a security screening. And apparently Trump wasn’t even in town – I can’t imagine what it’s like when he’s there.

Next up was dinner at Bar Boulud, including delicious cocktails:

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Salmon for my sister:

Salmon

And my mom and I both had scallops:

Scallops

After dinner my sister had an Elixir au Chocolate, which she declared the best drink she had ever had:

Elixer aux chocolate

And we all shared profiteroles for dessert:

Profiteroles

On our fourth and final day, we decided to walk to the High Line Park, and along the way we saw Times Square:

Times Square

and my mom met her favourite snowman, Olaf:

My Mom and Olaf in NYC

and the New York Times:

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and Madison Square Garden:

Times Square

and the big post office:

Post office NYC

and we may have stopped for a treat at Doughnut Plant:

Doughnut Plant

The High Line Park is a park built on an old elevated train track:

High Line Park

High Line Park

High Line Park

High Line Park

High Line ParkAnd with that it was time to head back to the hotel to grab our bags and head out to the airport!

As you can see, while we saw quite a few things, there is a tonne of stuff that we didn’t see! Clearly, we need to go back!

  1. We also had truffle and parmesan popcorn, which was amazing! []
  2. Thankfully we didn’t have it mixed up the other way around and show up for a 2 pm show to find out we’d missed an 11 am one! []
  3. I was conflicted about liking this, given that the Salvation Army is an anti-LGBT organization and I also hate that song (which I refer to as the “I love you because you have low self-esteem” song), but it was very entertaining how much they were into it. []
  4. In addition to all the security that we’d seen the previous day, on this day we also saw the bomb sniffing dogs walking through the venue. []

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I Went To The Land Down Under!

So I’m *finally getting around to blogging about my trip to Australia and Hong Kong, a mere *77* days after returning from said trip. I’m trying to think of a way that (a) won’t take me eleventy billion years to write it all and (b) won’t bore everyone to tears. Oh and (c) I can piece together from the few notes I took down on my trip and my photos. And to add further complication to my writer’s dilemma, I went on this trip with my then-boyfriend, but after we got home, we split up (Long story short – a big trip together is a good test of a relationship and while he is a good guy, we discovered that we just aren’t compatible enough). So my blog postings will be full of “we did this” and “we did that” and it’s now a historical “we”. Ok, with all that out of the way, I guess I’ll just start with the writing and see what happens!

The genesis of the trip was that I had an amazing opportunity to attend a conference in Perth. And I figured that if I was going to fly for 18 hours to get somewhere, I wasn’t just going to come right home after a four day conference. Especially given that I hadn’t taken a proper vacation in 3 years and had a big chunk of vacation time to use. So I decided to extend the trip to include:

  • a few days post-conference to check out the area around Perth
  • a few days in Byron Bay to go surfing (booked *before* I got my hip injury that made me barely able to walk, much less surf!)
  • a few days in Sydney
  • a couple of days in Hong Kong on the way back (since we had to stopover in HK, it seemed like a good opportunity to check it out)

Shortly after booking all the flights and accommodations, I learned that my friend Tanya was moving from Toronto to Melbourne! If only I’d know, I’d have gone there; but it worked out because Tanya and her husband Greg made the trip up to Byron Bay to hang out, which was super fun!

Travelling

This trip was by far the most flying I’ve ever done! It consisted of flights:

  • Vancouver to Hong Kong – 12.5 hours and 10,281 km
  • Hong Kong to Perth – 7.5 hours and 6,043 km
  • Perth to Sydney – 4.5 hours and 3,280 km
  • Sydney to Ballina – 1.25 hours and 612 km
  • Ballina to Sydeny – 1.25 hours and 612 km
  • Sydney to Hong Kong – 9.25 hours and 7,402 km
  • Hong Kong to Vancouver – 12.5 hours and 10,281 km

That makes a grand total of 48.5 hrs and 38,511 km of flying!

To make things even worse, I was severely debilitated by my hip injury. Like, I was limping so badly that at almost every airport we went to, when they saw me approaching the security line up they’d pull me aside with a “right this way, ma’am” and take me through the quick line up, because I was clearly too injured to be standing in any sort of line up. Fortunately, on the way there, the flights weren’t full so I was able to get up frequently to stretch.

Perth

Perth is the capital of Western Australia and with ~2 million people living in the Greater Perth area, it’s fairly similar in size to Vancouver. And though it’s a big city, it’s remote from other big cities, with the majority of the people being on the eastside of the continent. While in Perth, in addition to the conference, we did a bus tour to the Margaret River valley (a wine region), took a train out to nearby Fremantle (a port), and took a trip to Rottnest Island, which is off of Fremantle.

Cool Things in Perth

  • The Bell Tower at Elizabeth Quay:

Bell Tower in Perth

  • This bar (we didn’t actually go there, but couldn’t resist taking a photo of it due to the name):

The Lucky Shag Pub

  • The fact that transit is FREE in the Central Business District of Perth. Seriously, you just get on and off the buses as you please.

Central Area Transit in Perth

  • King’s Park – a really big park (sort of like Stanley Park) and it has cool fauna that is native to western Australia. I went for a walk (er, a limp) around there and saw lots of cool plants and fortunately was not killed by any of the deadly animals I am told live in Australia.
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All the trees in Australia are shaped like they should be in a haunted Disney forest

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This plant is called Kangaroo’s Paw

    • Beer and Beef Festival. It would have been better if it hadn’t been unseasonably cold and rainy – and they didn’t have any heaters or covered areas, but there were some decent beers and tasty food.
    • I caught the Pokémon that you can only catch in Australia on my first day in Perth!

I caught a Kangaskhan on my first day in Australia!

Things I Saw on the Margaret River Vally Bus Tour

  • Fiona Stanley Hospital – it just opened a couple of years ago and was named after the woman who discovered the link between insufficient amounts of folic acid during pregnancy and neural tube defects in babies (and thus is why we now fortify our grains with folate and see far fewer neural tube defects!)
  • Harvey Camp #11 – a World War II internment camp for Italians (I didn’t know that Italians were interned in Australia during WWII)
  • Tuart Forest National Park
  • Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse, where the Indian and Southern Oceans meet.
  • The Busselton Jetty
  • Bootleg Brewery – we had lunch and a flight of beer here. Craft brewing in Australia just doesn’t quite compare to the craft beer scene in Vancouver – but some of the beers were quite good and the food was great!
    Bootleg Brewing

    I was representin’ New West with my Steel & Oak Brewing hoodie on at Bootleg Brewing.

    Sadly, there were no dog picnics:

Bootleg Brewing

  • Sandalford Winery – sampled some wine here.
  • Mammoth Cave – this place was awesome! Just an absolutely beautiful cave. Also, because we were on a bus tour with some older people, it could go up and down the stairs slowly (thanks injured hip!) but didn’t hold up the crowd.
    Mammoth Cave, Western Australia
  • A kangaroo. I only got a glimpse of it hopping along the side of the road as our bus whizzed by at dusk, but it was the only kangaroo I saw in all of Australia!

Things I Learned on the Margaret River Vally Bus Tour

First of all, the tour guide told us a few things that I looked up later and found out weren’t true. So I’ve looked up stuff that I wrote down on this tour to see how much of it was true:

  • There are bull sharks in the Swan River.
  • The Noongar people, who are the indigenous people of the south western part of Western Australia, have an origin story where the Swan and Canning Rivers and other features of the land were created by The Wagyl, a giant snake-like creature that slithered around, creating the  shape of the land.
  • The “coat of arms sausage“, which we ate at the Bootleg Brewery pub, is so called because it’s made of the meat of kangaroo and emu, the two animals on the Australia coat of arms.

and how much was false:

Fremantle

Fremantle is a port city at the mouth of the Swan River. We took a train there, mostly because I wanted to visit the prison! The prison is a museum now and my friend Martha had told me it was well worth checking out.

  • Fremantle Prison was originally a prison for, and built by, convicts shipped over from England. At first England just shipped over petty criminals – like bread thieves – but over time they started slipping more dangerous criminals – like rapists and murders – onto the convict ships. Once England stopped shipping its criminals to Australia, it became a regular prison (i.e., for local prisoners).
Untitled

Entrance to the prison grounds

Freemantle Prison

The prison yard

  • The cells were really, really tiny and convicts/prisoners stayed in them for much of the day. In later years, they knocked down walls to make the cells double this size, but they it got crowded again and so they put in bunk beds and made two prisoners share the double sized cells.

Freemantle Prison

  • In later years, they let some of the prisoners paint in their cells:Freemantle Prison
  • The only place that wasn’t tiny and dark was the chapel, which had big windows and a high ceiling so as to feel open and bright. Threatening to revoke one’s time in the chapel was a good way to keep prisoners in line.

Freemantle Prison

  • We got to try out going into a solitary confinement cells, with the tiny window closed up and all the lights off. Prisoners would be placed in there for 23 hours a day, with 1 hour of exercise which consisted of running back and forth across a small yard. The walls on each side of the yard had placards with numbers and the guards would yell out a number and you’d have to run to that number on the opposite wall. And repeat. For an hour. And then back to your cell!
Freemantle Prison

Behind that second door is a solitary confinement cell.

  • Here’s where you’d get flogged, if you were given a flogging as punishment:

Freemantle Prison

  • And if you were sentenced to death, here’s the gallows where they would hang you:

Freemantle Prison

There was a big riot in 1988 and the prison closed in 1991, and shortly thereafter became a museum. What you see in the prison is pretty much what it would have been like right before it closed – very bleak.

Other fun facts about Fremantle (the city, not the prison):

    • The Noongar name for Fremantle is Walyallup.
    • The locals call it Freo.
    • Little Creatures Brewery is there – they make pretty good beer.

Little Creatures Brewing

Little Creatures Brewing

Wearing my Steel & Oak hoodie at a brewery again. It was unseasonably cold in Western Australia and that was the only hoodie I brought!

  • Here I am breaking the law in Fremantle. #ThugLife

Freemantle, Western Australia

Rottnest Island

Rottnest Island is 18 km west of Fremantle and is home to the cutest animal in the world: the quokka! Quokkas are small marsupials – about the size of a small house cat. They live almost exclusively on Rottnest (there is a very small population (~400) on the mainland), where there are between 8,000-12,000 living on the 19 km2 island. Having no predators, these adorable little guys are super friendly and will come right up to you (mostly hoping you will feed them, which you shouldn’t because they can’t digest people food and it makes them sick). They are considered a vulnerable species and it’s against the law to even touch them1, unless you are Cookie Monster. I really, really wanted to bring one home as a pet but (a) it’s illegal and (b) I think the cats might try to eat a quokka if we had one.

Quokka

Quokka

Quokka

  • Getting a selfie with a quokka is a trendy thing to do. Here’s some lady doing so with a selfie stick.

Rottnest Island

  • I’m too cool for a selfie stick, but I got an amazing quokka selfie2 the old fashion way (i.e., holding the camera):

Quokka selfie!

  • This little quokka showed up in the restaurant we had lunch in and was tugging on my pant leg as if so say “spare a french fry for a hungry quokka?”

Quokka in a restaurant

Other fun facts about Rottnest Island:

  • It was named by a Dutchman who mistook the quokkas for giant rats – it means “rat nest island”.
  • The locals refer to Rottnest Island as “Rotto”.
  • The original Noongar name for Rottnest Island is Wadjemup.
  • No one is allowed to live on Rottnest unless they have a job that requires them to work on the island outside of the hours that the ferries run. For example, if you were a baker at a bakery, you could live on the island because you’d need to do your baking very early in the morning, but if you were a cashier i that bakery, you’d be required to ride the ferry to and from the island every day to get to work.
  • The island was at one point used as a prison for indigenous people. It was also used as a location for a reformatory for boys.
  • A large part of the island was de-forested as people who settled there were unable to farm, due to the poor soil, so they made their living by harvesting salt from the salt lakes, which required fire, which require cutting down trees. They are now trying to re-forest it3.

The tour guide on the Rottnest Island ferry, like the Margaret River bus tour guide, told us a few things that were just not true. Notably, she said that the government of Western Australia spent $26 billion developing Elizabeth Quay in Perth. According to Wikipedia, the government spent $440 million and then got back $134 million from selling property to developers. The tour guide on the bus told us that “quokka” is the Noongar word for “food”, but I have been unable to verify this through my extensive Googling4.

Byron Bay

As previously mentioned, the Byron Bay portion of the trip was booked with the intention of going surfing, but due to my injured hip, I was barely able to walk and so surfing, along with its required jumping up and balancing on a surfboard, was not a thing I could do. Byron Bay was beautiful though and I had a great time hanging out with Tanya and Greg.

Highlights of Byron Bay:

    • The beaches. So lovely.
      Byron BayBeach in Byron Bay
    • The ibises:

Ibis

  • I found a giant dead jellyfish on the beach. Until I found it, I had forgotten that I should be worried about getting stung by a jellyfish!

Jellyfish I found on the Beach in Byron Bay

  • Although I couldn’t go surfing, I decided to go body boarding instead. I figured since I’d be lying down on the board, my hip would not be required. What I didn’t think about was how powerful the currents would be and just trying to walk out, and then swim out, to catch a wave was really, really not pleasant on my hip. On the plus side, the water was very cold, so it helped numb the pain!
After bodyboarding

Here I am after body boarding. I look like a drowned rat.

  • Here’s a sign I saw *after* I spent a day and the following morning body boarding. It warns you that you’ll probably die from the rip current unless you follow their instructions5.

Byron Bay

  • Speaking of the dangers of the ocean, we found out after a day of playing in the ocean that a surfer was attacked by a great white shark at the next beach over from our beach right at the time we were in the ocean. The next beach over was ~20 km away, but that’s really not that far for a shark.

Newspaper article about shark attack

Newspaper article about shark attack

  • Cape Byron Lighthouse. Visiting lighthouses was starting to become a thing for me, so of course we had to check out the big one in Byron, the aptly named Cape Byron Lighthouse6.

Cape Byron Lighthouse selfie

Most easterly point of the Australian mainland

  • This tree. I seriously love this tree.

Byron Bay

  • And this tree:

Cool tree

Sydney

Highlights from Sydney:

  • The Opera House, of course. It’s really beautiful. Didn’t get a chance to see an opera, but did go check out the building.
    On the Ferry to Watson's Bay
  • Mad Spuds was a lovely place for breakfast. The owner was super friendly!
  • While out at a pub, we had a lovely chat with some locals who sat at our table, since we were just two and were at a table for four. They were a mother and son and, if I recall correctly, her other son lives in Whistler.
  • There were a few different option for touring around Sydney Harbour: you could take the public transit ferry, which is less expensive, or you could take one of the private guide tour ferries. We chose the latter because we were told that the tour guides would provide commentary, so we could learn about all the stuff we see. Big mistake. The tour guides barely said anything, so we totally wasted our money. Also, as seemed to be a trend, the tour guides (when they did bother to talk) just make stuff up. For example, they told us that Shark Island got its name because it was used as a quarantine island for animals, and any of the animals that didn’t make it, they just threw in the water and it attracted sharks. Wikipedia tells me that it got its name because the island is kind of shaped like a shark.
  • While on the harbour tour, we passed a few different locations – Fort Dennison (they had a lighthouse) and Shark Island, but we decided to check out Watson’s Bay, mostly because it shares a name with my cat. But I was really glad, because it was beautiful there. There was a cool cliff walk and I got to see Signal Hill (my second Signal Hill of 2016) and another lighthouse (I’d lost count of lighthouses by this point). There was actually a second lighthouse at Watson’s Bay that we could have gone and seen, but my limp made for slow walking and to get to the other lighthouse would have taken so long that we’d have to catch for a later ferry, so we decided to skip it to head back to the city.
Watson's Bay Cliff Walk

Cliff walk. It made me think of the Cliffs of Moher, but way smaller.

Signal Hill at Watson's Bay, Australia

Signal Hill at Watson’s Bay.

Macquarie Lighthouse

Macquarie Lighthouse

  • Luna Park has the creepiest freaking entranceway of any location ever.
    Luna Park's entrance is the creepiest clown ever
  • We walked over the Harbour Bridge – we didn’t do the walk where you actually go up top – that costs tonnes of money and also ever since the Edgewalk I’m kind of afraid of heights. Even just walking at bridge deck level freaked me out a bit.
  • The Rocks is an old area of Sydney – we did a walking tour so as to learn some history of the area. The Rocks was the original area of colonization in Sydney. It’s only been recently that Australia has come to accept its history of convictism (they didn’t even used to teach it in schools) and didn’t always persevere historical site. The Rocks is now, however, heritage protected7
  • The only spider I saw in all of Australia was in a restaurant called Il Barretto. It was large… not larger than the largest ones I’ve seen in BC, but that’s still big enough. I started to freak out a bit and a waitress asked me what was wrong. I said, “There a giant spider on the ceiling!” She glanced at it and said, “Meh. That’s not a giant spider” and then walked away. We had just finished dinner, so I just got the hell out of there.

After Sydney, we headed to Hong Kong for a couple of days, but that’s going to be another blog posting!

  1. Plus, they are wild animals so you could actually catch diseases from them! []
  2. Fun fact: My selfie, which I posted to Flickr, was included in a Buzzfeed article! Props to Cath for bringing that to my attention! I decided to take it a step further and put it the Wikipedia page for quokka []
  3. The tour guide told us a story about how a bunch of volunteers spent a weekend planting 200 tree seedlings but they didn’t realize that when they put up the fencing to protect the seedlings from hungry quokkas, they accidentally fenced in two hungry quokkas, who proceeded to eat all 200 seedlings. And now the put individual fencing around each individual seedling! []
  4. Where by “extensive” I mean I scanned the first page of Google results and didn’t see anything. []
  5. This reminds me of the time I injured my toe on rocks in the ocean in the Dominican and then saw a sign that said “beware of rocks”. []
  6. Aside: Everything in Byron Bay seemed to be named Byron. Byron Bay Brewing. Byron Surf Shop. Cape Bryon Lighthouse. They aren’t very creative with naming stuff there. []
  7. I’m pretty sure I learned a bunch more stuff, but I can’t find where I put my notes from that tour! I’ll update this post if I ever find them. []

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NYC

Hey, remember yesterday when I said of my mother: “Who knows where her world travels will take her next?” The answer was me and my sister. We knew where my mother’s world travels would take her next because we’d already booked a trip to take her to New York City as her birthday present! We wanted to do something extra special for her extra special birthday and we figured that her first trip to NYC would fit the bill1. She’s never been to NYC before and it will be all decorated up for the holidays, so that’s pretty cool. I’ve also never been to NYC before, so it’s also kind of a gift to me too! I also think it’s cool because my sister went to NYC for her 40th and now my mom is going for her 70th and it will also be just weeks before my 40th!

We’ve got tickets to a couple of shows (Wicked and the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular) and reservations for a couple of fancy dinners (I can’t remember where. My sister booked them because she’s the good daughter who does all the work of planning and suchlike.). We are very excited to see the big Christmas tree and the big skating rink and Central Park and countless other NYCesque things! If you have any suggestions on must-see/must-do things while we are there (keeping in mind we are only there for 3 days), let me know!

  1. The recent thing that happened south of the border made us a bit less excited at first, but I would like to point out that Obama will still be the president while we are there, so there’s that. []

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1,120

So it’s taken me three weeks, but I’ve finally gotten all the photos from my Australia trip uploaded1 – all 1,120 of them!

Here are some of my favourite ones:

Quokka selfie:

Quokka selfie!

I caught that Australian-specific Pokémon before I even got to my hotel in Perth:

I caught a Kangaskhan on my first day in Australia!

Didn’t actually end up going here for a drink, but couldn’t resist taking a picture of the sign at the Lucky Shag Waterfront Bar:
The Lucky Shag Pub

Absolutely no dog picnics at Bootleg Brewery in Western Australia:
Bootleg Brewing

Mammoth Cave in Western Australia was amazing:
Mammoth Cave, Western Australia

I saw a lot of lighthouses on my trip, of which this was the first one:
Lighthouse in Western Australia

I did actually go to Australia for a conference. Here’s proof that I went to it!
Conference nametag selfie

These toys were used in an activity in a workshop that I went to:
Little toys used for an activity in the pre-conference workshop I went to

I’m not even sure what to say about this one:

Freemantle, Western Australia

Just living the thug life, where “thug life” = disobeying signs in low risk situations:

Freemantle, Western Australia

This little house on Rottnest Island, Western Australia, had the name “Stark” on it. When I saw it, I yelled: “The king in the south!!!”

The King in the South!

This building in Perth had cool colour lights and the lights were changing2:

Perth, Western Australia

Sign at a Mexican restaurant in Byron Bay:

Hilarious sign

Found this dead jellyfish on the beach. Until I saw it, I had completely forgotten hat I should be worried about being stung by a jellyfish!

Jellyfish I found on the Beach in Byron Bay

I’d been to the most easterly point of North American in June, so going to the most easterly point of mainland Australia seemed like a thing to do:

Most easterly point of the Australian mainland

I like the trees in Australia – then have interesting shapes”

Byron Bay

Cool tree

Sydney Opera House:

On the Ferry to Watson's Bay

Can’t sleep. Amusement park will eat me. (Luna Park in Sydney):
Luna Park's entrance is the creepiest clown ever

At the Peak in Hong Kong. The view wasn’t as spectacular as it could have been that day due to cloudiness/smogginess/smoggy cloudiness:

The Peak

Hong Kong is big. This photo really doesn’t do it justice:

Hong Kong

The whole photo album, should anyone actually want to look at all 1,120 of them, is on Flickr.

  1. Mostly because I’ve been too busy with other things, like catching up on work and my other work. And I had to find some spare time to get rid of duplicates and photos that turned out fuzzy, and then edited them to do things like tone down shadows or turn up the brightness so the photos looked good. And then upload them all! []
  2. I got a video of it, but haven’t uploaded it yet. []

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I’m Back!

I’m back! (Actually, I have been for almost a week!) I have so much to blog about from my trip but I’m afraid I won’t be able to get to the big blog postings for a while as I’m teaching a new course this semester so that is going to take up most of my outside of work time. But I figured I could jot down a few quick thoughts on my Skytrain ride to work1 so that you at least know that I made it home in one piece. (And then I haven’t gotten around to actually taking this posting off my phone and putting it on my blog until now!)

Some things they don’t believe in in Australia:

  • Coffee makers in hotels or AirBnBs. None of the three places we stayed at in Australia2 had a coffee maker3. It’s not like they don’t drink coffee there – several of the Aussies that I met described themselves as very proud of the high quality coffee in Australia and how it is so much better than North American coffee. I guess they figure that coffee making is best left to the professionals.
  • Diet pop. Especially Diet Pepsi. A few times when I ordered a Diet Coke, I was asked “Is Coke Zero OK?” (No. No it is not.) And a couple of times I got “We are all out of that.” Given that an individual size bottle of pop cost $4, I guess it’s not that bad that I didn’t drink very much of it there.

Some things that surprised me in Australia:

  • I only saw one kangaroo (and even that was just a glimpse of one hopping along the side of the road as the bus I was on whizzed by). I also saw zero crocodiles, koala bears, and venomous snakes. Apparently movies have lied to me that such creatures are all over Australia! (Mercifully, I didn’t see any truly enormous Aussie spiders – I saw one rather large one on the ceiling in a restaurant on our last night in Sydney, but it wasn’t bigger than ones I’ve seen here). So I’ve official seen as many kangaroos in Toronto as I saw in Australia!
  • It was freaking cold in Perth. I mean, I knew it was technically still winter when we arrived (we were there for the first day of spring), but I wasn’t expecting it to get down to just 4 degrees overnight! Everyone there did say it was unseasonably cold, but it’s not like it’s usually 30 degrees there in the winter. I guess I had thought of Australia as just being hot all the time – as silly as people thinking it snows all year round in Canada, now that I think of it!
  • The toilets did not flush clockwise as taught to us all by Lisa on the Simpsons. In fact, all the toilets seemed to flush in a random chaotic pattern, not clockwise or counterclockwise. I can’t believe an animated TV show led me astray!

Anyhoo, there will be more to come on my epic trip, but I make no promises about the timeliness of such postings!

  1. Because I’m all about efficiency and also there no cell phone service on parts of the track which means I can’t play Pokémon. []
  2. Nor the place we stayed at in Hong Kong! []
  3. One place did had a French press, so at least there was that. []

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In the Sydney Airport

So now I’m in the Sydney airport, waiting for a flight to Hong Kong1. My gate is disappointingly devoid of Pokéstops, so I’m actually going to try to get some work done. But the TL;DR version of Sydney was: it’s a lovely city, we got to see numerous lighthouses2, caught many Pokémon3, walked all the kilometres4, and I’ll blog about it all in more detail when I get home.

  1. We decided that rather than do another 20 hours of flying in one day, we’d break the flight home up by stopping into Hong Kong on the way home. Neither of us have been there before, aside from our brief layover on the way to Perth. []
  2. As I’m apparently on an unintentional worldwide lighthouse tour this year – having been to lighthouses in St. John’s and Salt Spring Island prior to this trip, then ones in Western Australia and New South Wales on this trip. []
  3. Including several new ones that I didn’t have before. []
  4. My hip is considerably better than it was at the start of this trip, though I’ll still need to do some work on it when I get home. []

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At the Ballina Airport

Now I’m at the Ballina1 Airport. I have much to blog about, but I think that will have to wait until I get home, as I’m having far too much fun sightseeing and Pokémon-ing and whatnot to spend my time on my computer. But probably the most exciting thing about our time here was that there was a great white shark attack at the beach over from the beach we were boogie boarding at2 – they are big beaches, so it was about 20 km away, but I’m sure a great white could swim 20 km no problem3. The least awesome thing was the two giant cockroaches (like about 1.5 inches long) that showed up in our kitchen yesterday. Apparently having a banana on the counter was not a fantastic idea4. Also, we didn’t see a single kangaroo here, despite driving through a “kangaroos next 5 km” area twice5. The best part of the trip was that my friends from high school Tanya and Greg joined us – they are currently living in Melbourne and came out to Byron Bay to hang out, which was super awesome! But I will blog about our adventures more later – looks like it will be time to board the plane soon!

  1. Pronounced Bel-in-ah, and not Ba-leena, like I assumed before I came here. []
  2. My injured hip wasn’t up to surfing, so this was the next best thing. []
  3. Don’t worry, Mom, we didn’t see any sharks and we are leaving now! []
  4. Thank the FSM that this happened on our last day and not the first day. Neither of us slept well last night, even though Andrew killed them both and we took the banana and the garbage can outside. []
  5. But during the day, so they were probably all sleeping. []

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In the Perth Airport

I’ve been in Australia for an entire week and haven’t yet blogged anything! Usually I’d blog from the airport while I wait to leave on a trip, but when I was in the Vancouver airport waiting for my flight to Perth, by way of Hong Kong, I was frantically trying to get a reference letter done for a colleague and also had a slew of other work to do1 Preparing to go away for 2.5 weeks takes *a lot* of work – you basically have to do all the work you would have done during the 2.5 weeks before you leave. Hence, no blog posting.

Now I’m in the Perth airport – having completed the first part of the trip: a conference2, plus a few days of seeing the sites in and around Perth3, I’m now waiting for a flight to Byron Bay, by way of Sydney. It’s 11:15 pm Perth time as I write this, which means it’s only 8:15 am back home in Vancouver. It’s very strange to have lived a whole day when everyone back home is only just starting their day. We’ll fly through the night, then have a few hours layover in Sydney, followed by a flight to Ballina airport. Then I’ll get to try my hand at driving on the opposite side of the road than I’m used to. Wish me luck!

My flight is boarding, so I gotta go! See you on da flip side.

  1. E.g., lecture notes and slides for my course, putting together a CV for thing I’m applying for (Not a new job, in case you were wondering), etc. []
  2. Which was awesome! []
  3. Also awesome. I’ll blog about it all in more detail later. []