31 05 2008

I read an interesting snippet on someone’s blog the other day. It’s stayed with me. I guess I might be contemplating this one for a while…

“We are not humans having a spiritual experience, we are spirit having a human experience.”

Stop the recline!

30 05 2008

Here’s a cool gadget—a ‘knee defender’, available from here:

You attach it to the arms of your fold-out tray table on an aircraft and it prevents the person in front of you reclining their seat, thus protecting your knees and your laptop’s screen/lid from suddenly shutting! Seems these devices are legal…

Thanks to Joe for showing me one of these and explaining its use.

Here’s how they get hooked

29 05 2008

One of the companies I work for listed for the first time on the Australian Stock Exchange on Tuesday. The opening share price was $1 a share. Many employees took advantage of the opportunity to get an allocation at that price, with no broker fees etc. Some already had employee share options which were converted to tradeable shares. I was able to buy some at this $1 price too.

Well, on the day of listing the price jumped to $1.18 per share! It seems the Australian offices were very hyped (I know of one office where they ran a ‘book’ on what the closing price would be on Day One—typical Aussies!)

In these days of share market doom and gloom that was pretty phenomenal and represents an 18% return. Not bad! Today the price is hovering around $1.16.

So how do you get hooked? Well, like others who had purchased shares at $1 each, I was interested to see what the first days would bring, so I went on to a share market site and found myself clicking ‘refresh’ a few too many times that day to be classed as a casual observer (*laugh*).

The ones who are really smiling though are like one of the ladies I work with—she has over 1m tradeable shares converted from all those she and her husband garnered in the 20+ years they have both worked for the company. An 18% return on $1m is some $180,000. Not a bad income for one day!!!

Update 5 June 2008: Little more than a week after opening, the price is now $1.25.

The things you learn

29 05 2008

This year’s Trivia Night at the AODC conference contained a “What is it?” round. This was a series of extreme close-ups or distance photos, with multiple choice options. One that has hung in my brain for a while was this image:

Piglet squid

What is it? And is it real?

Well, it’s a piglet squid, and it *is* real! Seems these critters are found in the ocean off Nigeria. Very strange…

South by southwest

24 05 2008

No, not the conference in Austin, Texas!

Catching up on the past few days…

On Tuesday evening our friend Dave arrived from the US, via the AODC conference on the Gold Coast, the 3-day Indian-Pacific train trip across Australia, a 3-hour coach trip from Perth to Bunbury, and a 1 hour car trip with my husband to our house. After he’d had a decent shower and checked his email from the past four days, we dined on my “Seven Mules” pumpkin soup (an Australian favourite he can’t get easily in the US) and my husband’s favourite—lamb burgers. Lots of talk, laughter, and catching up!

Wednesday was a GORGEOUS autumn day. Sunshine, a few clouds, no rain, no wind. By late morning we were off to the Donnelly River Holiday Village so Dave could experience the kangaroos and emus ‘up close and personal’. They didn’t disappoint. Because there was almost no-one there, the kangaroos decided we might just have some food for them (we didn’t), so they hopped on over and got very friendly with us. It was mostly the females and the young ones, then the male ambled over to keep an eye on his ladies. While all this was going on, a couple of emus were checking us out too, but they aren’t quite so cuddly or friendly! More photos… (BTW, the entire village is up for sale—36 cottages, store etc. all for $2.9m!)

We headed back to town and out to our block of land which Dave was mightily impressed by. Of course, the green grass and blue sunny skies helped. We also popped in for him to meet some neighbours who have just moved in to the rammed earth house they’ve been building for the past two years or so.

Next stop was The Cidery where we sampled some ciders and had a light lunch. Dave’s a big cider fan so this was on the ‘must do’ list for him.

After checking out the main street of town, picking up the mail and some groceries, we headed back to the house to enjoy the peace and quiet and watch the birds. Late in the afternoon we popped in to the Bridgetown Hotel for Dave and J to play some pool, and to have one of their delicious meals.

Thursday dawned wet and windy. By late morning we were on our way to discover more of the southwest of our fine state. But the rain meant that outdoor activities were off the list (not that any of us were that keen anyway…). We had a long lunch at Jarrah Jack’s brewery in Pemberton, then hit the road around 3pm. Below are the Honey Tempura Prawns from Jarrah jack’s.

I thought it would take about 90 minutes from there to my sister’s place near Yallingup, but it took more than two hours. We arrived at the farm after the sun had set but there was just enough light to find the keys! Over by the dam was a family of kangaroos, so Dave got to see them jumping around in their natural habitat.

We had a really big storm come through on Thursday night, and being so close to the coast (less than 10kms), it was very wild and woolly at the farm. Dave slept in one of the upstairs bedrooms and he thought the roof might blow off at one stage!

On Friday we drove out to Canal Rocks where the ocean was absolutely ferocious—but majorly spectacular.

Then we headed south again to Margaret River, stopping in at Vasse Felix and sampling some of their lovely wines. Lunch was a delicious 100% Wagyu beef burger for each of us at Settler’s Tavern in Margaret River, then we scampered to the car in the rain and headed north again, through Cowaramup and out to Cape Naturaliste. The aim was to show Dave some of the spectacular wild scenery on this part of the coast, but unfortunately, you can’t go to the Cape Naturaliste lighthouse these days without being on a paid tour, and it was too wet and windy to negotiate the 400+m walking trails to the cape. Bunker Bay is now closed off with commerical developments and you can’t get access to the beach without walking. Eagle Bay and Meelup were almost impossibe to see because of the heavy rain, so this part of the trip was very disappointing for me as these were some of my favourite places in the region. Lots of driving but with not a lot to see or do because of the inclement and inhospitable weather.

We stopped in to see my parents briefly, then headed to Bunbury for Dave to catch the late afternoon coach back to Perth for his midnight flight to Sydney then his long flight on Saturday to LA. We only got to achieve a few of the things I had on the ‘things to do and see’ list. The rain and storms on Thursday and Friday, and the later starts than expected meant that I had to remove a few items from the list. No matter. For me, it was a nice break from work and a chance to catch up with Dave outside the confines of conferences; for Dave, it was an introduction to our little part of the world; and for J, it was an opportunity to drive to places and share some beers and wines and music information with a mate.

Most of all, though, it was a chance to spend some quality time with a good friend. Thanks Dave—next time you’re in Oz, perhaps we’ll do the Ghan train trip from Adelaide to Darwin together!

I’ve been blogged!

21 05 2008

O.M.G. I received an email this morning from the people telling me that their editorial staff have rated this personal blog at 8.5, which is “Great”. I went in to the list of personal blogs and found this blog at #70 of some 12,000 blogs. How cool is that!

But what was most interesting was that I was one ‘ahead’ of Molly e. Holzschlag’s blog. Those in the HTML/CSS world are probably very aware of Molly, who has written several books and spoken at numerous conferences and is an all-round guru in her field. In fact, I even have at least one of her books: The Zen of CSS Design.

The cynic me says what are these ratings for—just an ego trip? But what the hell. I was pleased to get the rating and being listed on the fourth page of has increased my stats markedly for today.

BTW, you can click the button on the sidebar to add your own ranking of this blog.

Oh, and the editorial ranking? Here’s what the email said: “We evaluated your blog based on the following criteria: Frequency of Updates, Relevance of Content, Site Design, and Writing Style. After carefully reviewing each of these criteria, your site was given its 8.5 score (out of 10).”

Coach or train?

17 05 2008

Coach or train?

That was the dilemma. The train to the Gold Coast took 90 mins from central Brisbane, so I expected the return trip to the airport to take a tad longer. The train fare was about $10, but then you have to factor in the cost of the cab to the train station. My experience the other day showed that was around $25, making the total cost around $35. The alternative was to get a cab from the hotel to the bus station, find the bus that went to the train station, and get there in time to meet the train. Doing that would’ve been cheaper but I’d have to have been up at 5:00am and getting all this sorted by about 5:30am. And did I mention that I had a bag, a small backpack, and my laptop bag?

So I investigated the door-to-door offerings of some of the coach services. Their prices were much of a muchness (about $39 per person one way) and were comparable to the cab/train combination. But the advantage was that they pick you up from your hotel and drop you at the airport. I decided on one of them and booked the fare on Thursday. The coach picked me up a minute or two later than the 6:30am pick up time, so that was good. But then it did something I wasn’t expecting – it continued to collect people from their homes! I don’t know of any service in Perth or Bunbury that does that, so I think we could learn a thing or two from the Queensland tourist industry. While it was a little annoying waiting for people to come from their homes (and for the driver to find the locations – he had no sat nav as his wife said he didn’t need it… WRONG), once we finally got on to the Motorway the trip to the airport was quick and easy. We got to the international terminal at 8:15am and a few minutes later we were at the domestic terminal. All up the coach trip took an hour and three quarters, which is probably about the same as the train trip (not including the time taken to get to Nerang train station from Surfers Paradise).

So having experienced both modes, which would I choose if I had to do this again?

Well, it depends! It would depend on how much luggage I had, whether there was just one person or a couple or family, and how well I knew where it was I wanted to go.

With a reasonable amount of luggage, the coach service probably wins hands down as the driver loads and unloads your luggage for you, whereas if you take the bus to the train, you have to deal with your luggage yourself. Also, there may be issues with luggage on the train if you are travelling at peak commuter times as the train is a commuter train, not one designed for people and luggage.

If you had a family, the public bus/train option is much cheaper, but probably a lot more hassle with luggage.

If you were a couple or single with little luggage, then the public bus/train option would be the best and cheapest.

Anybody with luggage or who was living or staying in a private residence not close to the bus or train station – and without an easy means of getting there – would be best served by one of the door to door coach services.


13 05 2008

Checked out of the central Brisbane hotel this morning then took a cab to my new client’s location. Spent three hours there helping the tech writer with some of her issues with Author-it. Then a cab back to the city to pick up my bag and head to train station to catch the train to the Gold Coast. The train ride was about 90 minutes, but NO food/drink vending machines etc. on board and NO toilets. Hello people – this is a 90 minute train trip and many Gold Coast residents and visitors are over 60… My seat smelled like stale urine – at least until the air conditioning kicked in properly. I then caught a cab to the conference venue as I had no idea about the buses etc. Train fare to the Gold Coast from Brisbane: $9.40; cab fare from the Nerang train station to the hotel: $25!!!!

My hotel room is up with the high-flying birds. I’ve got a little balcony and windows to two aspects (can *just* see a glimpse of the ocean from one window). But if I stand on the balcony or close to the bedroom window (pic below) and look down, I get dizzy. The people below look like ants. The views are fab. I’ll post some pictures soon… Here are some pictures.

Caught up with some conference friends from the past few years, then, after Joe’s intro session, a bunch of us went for a terrific meal at the local Malaysian restaurant nearby. We sat outside on the pavement – the weather was beautifully balmy. I had a delicious and spicy curry chicken laksa and a couple of glasses of house red (the only choice of wine by the glass).

But it was the schmoozing and catching up that was fun! There was Dave (US), Mick (Melb), and a new Dave (Syd), Joe (US), Penny + Tony (Melb), Sarah (NZ), Teresa (Syd), Colin (Melb?), Matthew (UK), and a few others whose names I don’t know yet. Lots of talk, lots of laugh, lots of shared accomplishments and horror stories.

Swimming with my own fish again – love it!

The conference proper starts tomorrow at 9am, so I’d better load up the pics and get some shuteye…

More Asian food

12 05 2008

Today was my last day working with my main Brisbane client for the next week. I do some work with a new Brisbane client tomorrow – just 3 hours consulting, but there’s possibly more consulting work with them later. And then it’s off to the Gold Coast for my conference later tomorrow.

But tonight I went to Wagamama with M, my boss. We both had the Chilli Chicken Ramen. Good stuff too! Very tasty, and it appeared very healthy as there were lots of fresh ingredients and little fat. And just the right amount of heat and spice for me. Wagamama is predominantly Japanese in style, but there was little evidence of raw fish, the one thing I don’t like about Japanese cuisine. I’d go again. I know from TFP’s blog that there’s at least one in Perth, so maybe the next time I’m in Perth for any length of time, I’ll try to get there. Oh, and I’d already ordered a glass of wine before I saw the apple, mint and lime juice, which sounded delicious. Next time…

Not so happy feet

11 05 2008

Today (Sunday) was ‘being a tourist’ day. After calling my Mum to wish her a happy Mother’s Day, I left the apartment around 9am and wandered down to the Eagle Pier markets. I bought three mandarins and a small gift for D when he visits (hey, big spender!). From the markets I walked along the Brisbane River past the City Botanic Gardens, across the Goodwill Bridge, and along the Southbank area. It was a really nice walk – very pretty and the weather was just gorgeous. Warm, balmy, sunny, and pleasant without being too hot or humid. The only problem was the lack of public restrooms anywhere along the way – it was Southbank before I came across any.

It’s a while since I’ve walked for nearly two hours straight, so my feet were sore! My last stop before heading back was the Queensland State Library where I got allocated a free hour’s access to a computer in the “Info Zone” and used the State Library’s account to do some family tree research on And I found out some extra bits of info about a family mystery that may help add some more pieces to the puzzle! So it was a very productive hour… and my feet got a rest for a while.

I walked from the Library back over the Victoria Bridge, down the Queen St Mall and back to where I’m staying with a stop-off at an Indian stall in the food court to grab a bite to eat for lunch. The ‘regular’ size was a bit more than I could eat for lunch, so I had half and may have the other half for dinner tonight. Originally, my immediate boss and I and a couple of others were going to go out for Indian on Friday night, then that got changed to Sunday night, then I heard from her while I was in the Library and it looks like it’s not on at all as she can’t make it.

I thought of doing the ‘City Sights’ hop on/drop off bus tour this afternoon, but decided that my feet needed a rest, and so did I. I also have to prep for my conference presentation on Thursday. And I need to write emails to family in the US to share with them the pieces of the puzzle I’ve found!

Update: More Indian! J called late in the afternoon to see if I wanted to join him for Indian. Is the Pope a Catholic?! Of course! We went to Chutney Mary’s in Wickham Tce. I doubt it’s ANY relation to Chutney Mary’s in Perth… The food was OK, but the service was really quite bad. Two of the items we ordered were off the menu that night (we weren’t told this immediately), and one of the items we ordered the server got wrong. For what we got and the poor service, it was expensive.