We’re back!

More photos and narratives to come, but we had a great time. This is the closest we came to the US the whole time:

Byron Bay

My body still seems to think we’re over there, judging by sleep patterns. And we’re both really ready to be back at work. Really.

Like I said, more to come.

Arrival at Sydney

The title here is a bit of a reference to Elizabeth Bishop’s “Arrival at Santos.” Bishop is usually appropriate to my state of mind
in travel, but even more so for this trip:

...Oh, tourist,
is this how this country is going to answer you
and your immodest demands for a different world,
and a better life, and complete comprehension
of both at last, and immediately...

Sydney is lovely from the air, and as punishing as I always fear the 13+ hours in the air will be, this trip was easy. We had a long layover in San Francisco (which is incalculably nicer a transfer than LAX) and a great flight across. The plane was only about half full, and the Qantas cabin crew could not have been nicer. (It never seems to hurt that the stereotypes about cabin stewards hold fairly true — as a gay couple asleep on one another’s shoulders, we always seem to get extra-friendly treatment.)

Qantas never disappoints — after dinner we were served hot chocolate and marshmallows, after which we both passed out. (In my case the Ambien might have helped as well.) We both slept something close to eight hours and woke refreshed to a nice breakfast and friendly chats with our new friends on the crew. The plane had a new state-of-the art video on demand system but with such a nice rest, three iPods between us (don’t ask!) and a bag full of magazines David only managed to get through one of the dozens of options.

The most touching kindness, though, was found in the customs hall on arrival. Countless times arriving back in the States — including after our wedding in Vancouver — we have had to, in one way or another, split apart or bureaucratically disavow each other. “Single,” not married. Made to queue in one line for citizens, one line for foreigners, with no exceptions for a unit that the US refuses to recognize as family. Seeing the signs in Sydney, we decided to press our luck in the line for “Australia and New Zealand Passport Holders and Families.” After a short wait, we walked up to a podium manned by a quintessentially Aussie-looking twentysomething bloke. He asked no questions of us and, not batting an eye, said “Welcome to Australia.”

And welcome we feel. Apparently this is how this country is going to answer us, our demands for a different world, and a better life, which I refuse to call immodest.

We’re here in Sydney awaiting our flight on to Adelaide, very much looking forward to three weeks away from work with David’s folks. We’ll try to post along the way, but if I post too much people at work might wonder about our “no internet in the outback” party line. In the mean time, we hope all of you in the northern hemisphere enjoy the last of summer 2007.

Places I have flown to

I spent some time wandering down memory lane at flightmemory.com, trying to remember the places I’d been to by air. Remembering the places you’ve been to is easy, but when there are layovers involved trying to remember how you got there is tricky. Anyway, I think this is pretty close. I’m sure there are a few places I’ve left off, and I’m sure I’ve missed or mistaken some stopovers here and there. And it doesn’t count places I’ve been to by train (many cities in Europe), by car (many places in Southwest and Northwest USA) or boat (mainly Alaska and some European cities I visited via ferry).

Places I have flown

(Click for a full-size view.) Counting the flights shown alone, I’ve flown 72% of the way to the moon and spent two full weeks of my life on planes. But each leg is only counted once, and I’ve crossed the Atlantic at least 30 times, the Pacific 10, and done Europe-Australia 5 times. So it’s probably safe to triple those numbers. Scary!

Flying is dangerous

… to your health, at least on American Airlines. I was flying from Seattle to Atlanta the other day, and I didn’t have time to get any food during the brief stopover in Dallas. So naturally, I was starving by the time I got on the plane for the second leg. Just a little snack was all I needed to tide me over until I got to the hotel, but American has stopped serving ANY food on the flight, not even peanuts with your drink.

You can buy a “snack” though, for $3. The only options are: cookie, chips, and M&M’s. (My flight back also offered trail mix, but I don’t think they had any at this time.) Hoping for something with oatmeal I can at least pretend is a little bit healthy, I choose the cookie. It’s a sugar-covered snickerdoodle monstrosity the size of a salad plate. I hate snickerdoodle. I send it back, and resort to asking for chips. At least I know I like chips.

Instead of the standard bag’o’chips, it’s a blue plastic canister the size of a can of tennis balls. Think Pringles crossed with a Big Gulp. It’s a huge can of Lays Stax or Flax or something. They’re vile. But I’m starving, so I eat a few of them, barely making a dent in the stack.

There’s nowhere to put this huge container as I’m cramped here in the middle seat, so I try and get the attention of the stewardess to give them back. (I probably ate 10 chips, making that snack 30 cents a chip. Yay.) While I’m waiting, I read the nutrition label. This “snack” they’ve handed out contains NINE HUNDRED calories. That’s HALF the daily calorie intake of most people. But at least, as the huge label on the front tells me, it has NO TRANS FATS and 20% LESS FAT THAN OTHER CHIPS. Somehow, that doesn’t make me feel better.

Next time I’m flying Alaskan.

Whistler introduces Peak-to-Peak Gondola

Coming December next year: the Whistler Blackcomb – Peak to Peak Gondola. Whistler/Blackcomb has always been my favourite ski resort, but the two mountains, while adjacent, are separate from the skiier’s perspective: you have to come all the way down to the base to switch from one mountain to the other. That will change with the new peak-to-peak gondola just announced. Each cabin will cross a span longer than four Golden Gate bridges wide in about 11 minutes, sailing over the valley floor higher than four Statues of Liberty. Sweet! Check out the video section for the views.

In case I don’t see you, Good Afternoon, Good Evening and Good Night.

Like the rest of you, the new year has brought many new time wasting activities that have kept me away from the keyboard. There have been very few techno things lately that I’ve had desire to blog about and with everyone else in the world blogging their collective asses off, I haven’t the time to try and compete.

That being said, I came across this article on Wired News in my morning ritual of coffee and RSS feeds.

“Somehow, some viewer relayed a call through Justin’s phone number to the San Francisco 911 and reported a stabbing.” Welcome to daily happenings of Justin.tv, the latest experiment in reality TV on the web. Visitors to the site see a small, low-resolution audio/video feed coming from a camera mounted on star Kan’s head

Ha! That’s a good pr… wait, WHAT? Did I just read that someone has mounted a camera to their head and is streaming it for the world to see? I quickly run over to justin.tv to find out. Sure enough, I see a live feed of Justin sleeping in the fetal position at 6:30 am PST. This is nothing new really… it’s been attempted before by many porn sites. But this is the first time I know of someone strapping a camera to their head and taking it with them everywhere.
History: Based out of San Fran, 4 friends decided that they could make some money by streaming one guys life 24/7. And it looks like it’s working. Justin Kan has only been live for 4 days and 9 hours (although they have been testing for a couple months) and has already managed sponsorship. No stats on how many people are watching Justin, but at one time this morning I counted at least 100 people in the 1st chat room. People watching have access to all that is Justin… dates, parties, bathroom visits, sex (if some girl is willing to have her face/body plastered all over the internets), etc. You can see his schedule for the day, read his blog, call him and even go back through archives at different meetings, etc.
So this begs the question: will “we” watch and why? Is this the same as reading US Weekly or any other media that attempts to bring us into the lives of other, albeit celebrities, people . But Justin isn’t really a celeb… so what’s the appeal? It brings up memories of the movie The Truman Show. Truman unknowingly had the attention of the whole world and thus the appeal of someone being genuine. But Justin knows he’s on so where’s the appeal? Could it be like a mullet or a car wreck? It shouldn’t be that interesting but you just can’t stop watching it. I don’t know what it is, but I’m finding it hard not to watch.

UPDATE: i never thought about txting him. since his phone number is posted on the site, you can txt him and INTERACT with what you’re watching.

Finally, those Mexico pics

Sorry for the egregious delay. These things take time… and the ability to look at vacation pictures without wondering why, why, WHY we came back!

colorida_pool.jpg

Seriously… why? David and I spent a week in Troncones, which is simply amazing. It’s rustic and off the beaten path, but features a dozen places where you can get a great meal and killer margaritas. And Casa Colorida, where we stayed, is nothing short of amazing and we can’t wait to stay there again. It’s just a short stumble down the beach from “El Burro Borracho.” In addition to cheap booze, El Burro serves a mean huachinango, the local specialty of red snapper fried with garlic, as well as an amazing ceviche.
The full gallery is here. Enjoy!

Beautiful World

My Aunt Helen in Australia sent me this amazing picture. Her words say it all:

Hi there friends, what a sensational planet!! How lucky are we…..this was taken on AUSTRALIA DAY 2007!

Fireworks, Lightning, Sunset, a Comet, and the greatest of Aussie icons, the Beach all in one image.

In addition to the obvious features in the photo, look between the two displays of lighting up the sky to see the third – McNaught’s Comet.

The photo was taken just north of Hillary’s Marina (W.A.), which you can see the harbour wall on the left with fireworks being launched.

Click on the thumbnail for the full glory, and happy (belated) Australia Day!

McNaught Comet, Australia Day

Update: The photographer is Antti Kemppainen, and according to the feature on Astronomy Picture of the Day, the photo is actually a montage of three separate photos to create the panorama.

Dancing around the world

I don’t know why I find this video so heartwarming. Maybe it’s because this guy got the greatest sponsorship deal in the world — after making a short video in 2005 of him dancing at the places he visited during a backpacking trip, Stride Gum paid him to spend 6 months travelling the world (including to my dream location, Antarctica) … doing the same thing. Maybe it’s because the music is so cool. Maybe it’s because he was a developer on one of my favourite video games of all time, BattleZone II. But I think it’s just because he dances with such endearing abandon.

Anyway, enjoy, and visit his site for all the details.