Friday, July 31, 2009

Fraser Island day

So, let's see. A lot to catch up on here.

No blog post yesterday, but I guess I can be forgiven for that as Cathy and I celebrated our fourth anniversary. And I think on those days, it's best not to spend too much time in internet cafes updating the world on how you vacation is going. This is the kind of wisdom you obtain with four years of marriage.

So on the big day we decided to do a Fraser Island tour. Because while Hervey Bay is turning into quite a little tourism town, the main reason to be there is to go elsewhere. We were weighing several different tours and then consulted with the guy who runs the hotel we were staying at. We had been looking at one tour, but he said that there would be 48 other people on the bus and that most of our time on the island would be spent herding us on and off it, and you wouldn't get to actually see much of the island. We'd been then looking at a tour that had 16 people on it. However, he pointed us towards a tour of the island from a Hummer. It was about $30 more each per person than the one we had been looking at. The tour was for four people. However, if you were lucky and no one else booked, you could end up getting the Hummer all to yourself for the day. So we took a chance, spent a few extra dollars (anniversary and all) and went with the Hummer tour.

Bingo. No one else showed up. So we had the Hummer all to ourselves for the day. Picked up at 7:45 am, deposited back at our hotel at 6 pm. Now, Fraser Island is bloody huge so we were only going to see a small portion of it. But what we did see was spectacular. Fraser Island is deeply weird in that it's a series of huge sand dunes that managed to grow four different kinds of forest on it. It absolutely looks like a place that shouldn't exist, but does. So we went and saw trees that they estimate are 50o-1,000 years old and passed through tropical rain forests. Then, after bouncing across the island (literally. We were travelling on old forest roads literally made of beach sand) we hit the beach on the east coast. A beach that posts speed limits. As it turns out, we were doing about 80 km/h at various points, which again was a touch surreal. We then hit a few fresh water creeks that were so clear it was startling (sand filters out the impurities), had lunch on the beach, then headed back inland to massive lake in the centre of the island. No rivers flow into it. It's essentially a big puddle of clear water.

And after all of that, a drive back across the island, where we had champagne and strawberries. In full view of the other tourists. Just to rub things in a bit, I think.

We then had supper at an Irish pub in town - Houlihans. I had the chicken with sun dried tomatoes in filo pastry....and a side of mashed potato. The mashed potato is the only think Irish about that meal, I think. But it was a good meal and a good day. It's only the second time we've celebrated our anniversary together and it was a good day.

Anyway, we're in Brisbane now. I'll talk a bit more about the town and how we got here tomorrow. Time for some supper shortly, I think.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

20 oberservations from the Bruce Highway - Airlie Beach to Hervey Bay

1. Where the bloody hell did all these campers come from and why are they all refusing to go faster than 80 km/h? We hardly saw any campers from Cairns to Airlie, but I can't go 5 km without having to hit the brakes and patiently wait for a spot to try and pass them.

2. There are signs every couple of kilometres telling people to pull over, take a nap and make sure you don't die while driving on this highway. Do Aussie suffer from sleep apnea or something.

3. Nice to see some universal truths still hold - no matter where in the world you go, truck drivers are still suicidal assholes.

4. I think the Queensland government could stand to invest a little less in road signs encouraging me to take a nap and a little more on "overtaking" (ie passing) lanes. Just went 100 km without one. In the meantime, dealt with several logjams of frustrated car trying to get are small caravans of trailers refusing to either pull over or go faster than 80.

5. The Bruce Highway is just one long kangaroo graveyard, isn't it? I mean, that's an awful lot of 'roo roadkill.

6. Oh look, a live one is crossing the road. Cool.

7. Ooops.

8. (Just kidding. He made it across fine).

9. Past a sign warning of a koala crossing. Cathy informs me if I pulp a koala that's grounds for divorce.

10. Listening to a string of radio stations all playing the essential 2009 summer songs. Oddly entertaining. Complete list is on their website. Make mental note to check it when I get home for iPod ideas.

11. Rather than go into Rockhampton to spend the night, opt to divert into Yeppoon, which is supposed to be nice, according to Lonely Planet.

12. Lonely Planet writer clearly on drugs. Entire town feels vaguely creepy. Nobody smiles and people look at you suspiciously. Keep expecting to turn a corner and find Stephen King sitting down and saying "Oh, don't mind me, I'm just taking notes for the next novel." Of course, I'm reading King's "Duma Key" right now, so that might be influencing the thinking. A bit.

13. Later find out that Yeppoon used to be booming because of an offshore resort, but it closed. Now the entire town has that shell-shocked feel to it. As if it keeps waiting for the hammer to fall.

14. Driving through Rockhampton and pass by an "Adult Superstore". I imagine something like Costco, but where you can buy bulk dildos. Laugh hard enough to veer into oncoming traffic, thereby scaring Cathy to death for the 196th time this trip.

15. Are the men in Queensland all premature ejaculators? I ask this because an ad advertising a nasal spray to help curb premature ejaculation is playing an awful lot on the local radio stations. And how the hell does a nasal spray help with that?

16. However, the radio ad that nearly gets us killed is for a body wax place, where an overly cheerful Aussie male explains "Why beat around the bush when we can tear it off for ya!" Laughing so hard Cathy demands I pull car over before I hit something.

17. When a car comes towards you flashing lights and a sign saying "wide load" and the man driving the car is frantically waving his arms, it's best to pull over. They apparently don't kid around with that wide load shit here.

18. Radio news tells us that eight people died on Queensland highways in the past 24 hours. Honestly, I'm surprised that many don't die every day. The road is too narrow, there are too many slow moving vehicles, coupled with transport trucks and not enough passing lanes.

19. Aussies really have run have names to call their creeks. Have passed no less than 10 Alligator creeks, and innumerable creeks called 13 Mile Creek, Eight Mile Creek, 14 Mile Creek, etc.

20. Hervey Bay is much nicer than Yeppoon. Tomorrow off for a guided tour of Frazer Island. Looking forward to it.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Music Max

I haven't talked much about the music around here. We've been listening to it pretty much non-stop rather than listening to our iPods. We've even managed to find a rare beast in the some of the rooms we've stayed at - an actual music video channel that plays music videos. It's called MusicMax, Australia's version of Much Music. As an added bonus, they've been doing a different Top 100 list every day of the week. They had one for the Top 100 Australian music videos the other day and it was surreal listening to all of this music that is considered classic by Australian standards that I had never heard of before. Alas, I missed the #1 video, but if I had to hazards a guess, I'm going to go with either "Jailbreak" by AC/DC, "Beds are burning" by Midnight Oil, something by INXS or "Down Under" by Men At Work.

Actually, in a moment of pure shock, when we were driving into Airlie Beach last week, "Down Under" actually came on the radio. I nearly passed out from shock. I would have bet good money that song was banned from local radio stations upon pain of death, but no, there it was. Amusing, really.

Oh, and the unofficial song of the trip has turned out to be a bit of a blast from the past. It's "You're the voice" by John Farnham. A bit of a shocker, really. However, he has a major concert tour happening here in September and the aforementioned video station has been playing ads for it non-stop. So the song is locked in my head. I remember the song from the 80s. Farnham was kind of a one-hit wonder in North America, but he's huge in Australia. So there we go, "You're the Voice" is an earworm that I haven't been able to shake yet.

I'm kind of hoping we get to see a band when we hit Brisbane or even a rugby game. It's just one of those things. I like all the tours and sitting on the beach and poking around on stores. But catching a good local band or even enjoying the spectacle of thousands of people watching rugby (which I still don't understand), would be nice.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Last day in Airlie

So today is the last day in Airlie Beach. Which is sad, because we've grown quite fond of the place. It's clearly a tourist town and there appears to be only two kinds of accommodations - either backpacker hostels or holiday apartments. We're staying in the later and Cathy is deeply sad to be leaving it. The price is insanely reasonable, we have a balcony and a view. I think Cathy is wondering if we can attach it to the back of the car and drag it off with us when we leave tomorrow.

Ah yes, tomorrow. Probably going to be my least favourite day of the vacation. Tomorrow is nothing but a run and gun down the coast of Australia. In other words, hundreds of more kilometres of sugar cane. We're trying to make it to Hervey Bay, the launch point to go and see Fraser Island. Alas, it's about an 11 hour drive away and I don't think we can get there in one day. I figure we can get about eight hours of daylight driving in tomorrow and that's it. And I simply don't want to chance driving at night in Australia. Yes, there's the matter of driving on the left hand side of the road at night, although I've gotten pretty decent at it by now. I no longer live in fear of roundabouts and yesterday I accomplished the small matter of parallel parking for the first time.

No, the problem are the kangaroos.

It seems right around sunset, and even after dark, the kangaroos comes out in force. This is not Australian joke. Several people have told me this, and they were dead serious. Kangaroo/car collisions are no laughing matter in these parts and we've seen numerous instances of kangaroo road kill (along with birds enjoying the road kill) littered on the side of the road. And the 'roos can do some serious damage to cars, so I've been told.

Australians are very serious on this point, you can tell. I think all the joking about the things that can kill you around here tends to mean that when they tell you about something that can actually happen to you, people brush it off as another Aussie joke. One guy on our tour yesterday joked there were no sharks in the waters where we were snorkeling because all the saltwater crocs ate them. The number of people that began paddling back to the boat because they missed the would not believe.

But no, I can understand things leaping out of nowhere and hitting your car. I grew up in Newfoundland. I've been lucky enough to not hit a moose, but I've seen my share on the side of the road and known people who haven't been so lucky as to miss them. All of which is a long way of saying we'll be finding a motel somewhere tomorrow night.

Still, if tomorrow is the worst day we have on vacation, then I can't complain too much. So far, it's been a blast.

Now if you excuse me, I need to go didgeridoo shopping. After consulting some oracles (ie friends on Facebook), I've decided that a high quality didgeridoo with free shipping back to Canada is better use of my money than jumping out of an airplane.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Lovely islands, not so hot about the boats

So today was the tour of some of the Whitsunday islands. Up again at 6:30 and not back to our apartment until 5:30. In-between we travelled about 150 km, hit a couple of islands, did some more snorkeling and hit one of the more spectacular beaches I've ever been to.

Understand, I'm not a beach person. Cathy's the beach person. The idea of lying on sand, which will take you days to get rid of, and slowly roasting like a pig on a spit in the baking sun is not something that appeals to me. I like the warmth and all, but if we're at a beach, odds are I'm under an umbrella or a shady palm tree. But Whitehaven beach is different. It's about 7 km long and the entire beach is made of silica sand. It's exceptionally fine grains, cool to walk on and not a total pain in the ass to get rid of later. Plus with the tides and currents, the beach was an interesting shape. We could also wade out for hundreds of metres and the water still wouldn't go above our waists.

(Cathy would like to add that it's important to note that the water was warm.)

So that was nice. The snorkeling wasn't quite as good as what we had near Cairns, but it was still fun. I had the same reaction, actually. I burst out laughing the first time a school of fish burst past me, swimming by in a flurry of blue. I've never really done something like that before. It was quite odd, but still good. I think if we ever moved to Australia, I would definitely pick up scuba diving.

(Cathy adds she saw a sea turtle and it was very cool.)

The only problem with the snorkeling and the beach was all the boat travel. It appears I'm just not built to kick around on the water. It's nearly two hours after I got off the boat and I'm still felling nausea from the day's travels. I didn't get sick, but I can't say I really enjoy feeling this dizzy and out of sorts this long after being back on dry land. Oh well, we'll figure something out if we ever move here.

Not sure what Monday will bring us. The original plan was to hit a few more of the islands, but in lieu of today's nausea, the idea of hopping back on boats is not entirely appealing. So it might be a day of sloth, either at a local beach or on the deck of our apartment. It's vacation, after all. No need to be going flat out all the time.

More tomorrow, including perhaps some pictures of Sunday's journeys.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Some Aussie observations

So, today was mostly a day of sloth, so there's not much to report. We got up, went down to the local market where we bought some postcards, some lovely pictures which we plan to have framed when we get home, and sat on the local beach. Oh, and we also took a quick drive outside of town because we wanted to get a picture of all the sugar cane. Why? Because I've bitched about the sugar cane, but haven't actually taken any photos of it. And this seemed like a good opportunity. So here's a picture of Cathy standing up beside some of it. I told you the bloody stuff is huge.

So instead, a few general observations about Australia so far.

1. There aren't many North Americans over here. So far we've run into one American couple who we chatted with on a bus. And we've run into zero Canadians. I'm not saying we're the only Canadians even in the Whitsundays. That would be foolish. But we've chatted with loads of people from Australia, plus people from England, Ireland, France and the Czech Republic. But no Canadians. Which is pretty weird and perhaps says something about the state of affairs back in the homeland.

2. This is my definition of Australian humour - if you took identical twins and separated them at birth, and then magically reunited them 50 years later, you might have an idea of the similarities between Newfoundland humour and Aussie humour. Dry, sardonic, occasionally self-deprecating and you can't always be entirely sure when you're being mocked. There's a fine line between laughing at you and laughing with you and the Aussies skirt it with skill. It's not entirely like Newfoundland humour, but the distortions are familiar. It's kind of fascinating, really.

3. For years I've mocked the Cavalier Z-24 and Sunfire Sports Coupes as "Baymen sports cars". That's because I've seen some baymen in ridiculously souped up versions of these very bland cars. It occurs to me that since they don't make them any more, I don't know what the new versions are.

However, if the car below ever makes its way back to North America, it's going to be an instant hit, I think. I remember these cars back in the 70s; the half car/half pick-up. The first time I saw one I thought it was just a well-preserved one from the 70s, but no, they are popular here. And I've seen some ridiculously done up ones, unlike this one, which kind of has practical uses.

4. I have no idea why the Whitsundays, which are about 700 km further south that Cairns, is considerably warmer, but I'm not complaining. Actually, when we leave here on Tuesday, it's promising to remain warm as far as Brisbane, which is reassuring. But the weather here is just lovely. Constantly in the mid-20s with a breeze to prevent things from getting too warm. Australia in the tropics during winter has a lot going for it. It's dry and the temperature is just right. Much warmer and it would be uncomfortable. Much colder and you'd find it chilly. Whitsundays are the porridge that's just right.

5. And finally, just to torture people in Nunavut, this picture I took from the market today. You know, I'd forgotten how good fresh fruit and veggies taste. I'm going to look at this picture later this year and weep, I just know it.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Keeping our Whits

So, we missed yesterday's update simply by getting too late to the internet cafe. Oh well, it happens. And we're on vacation, so we're allowed these sorts of things.

So we're now in lovely Airlie Beach. We are nowhere near Melbourne, so people should feel free to stop accusing me of stealing curling stones. It's a stunning place, what with the view out the harbour of all the Whitsunday islands. We've already been out sea kayaking this morning, which was a good thing as the wind has come up, meaning all sea kayaking for the rest of today and tomorrow has been cancelled. Saturday we're just going to lounge around town. Sunday we're doing a tour of several of the islands and Monday is still up for grabs.

I suppose I should mention something about the trip to here from Cairns, but honestly, it was a bit disappointing. I think I was expecting something a bit more like what we experienced on the Pacific Coast Highway back in '06. Driving down the coast with mountains on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other. But we never got that. We did get mountains off in the distance, but with maybe three of four exceptions, we hardly saw the ocean at all.

Instead what we saw was sugar cane. My god, the endless miles of sugar cane fields. There were times when it felt like it was never going to end. So yeah, about 400 km of sugar cane fields can get a bit monotonous after a bit. But the Whitsundays are promising to make up for it.

And now, as a bonus, the most touristy photo you're ever likely to see. We need to do some laundry this evening and so I threw on one of the t-shirts I bought a few days ago. I think the shirt, the Tilley hat, the shades and the brown shorts pretty much assure that I won't be confused as a local anytime soon. We figure the only way it could be more touristy is if I had my camera hanging around my neck and a Kangaroo leather hat on my head. But if you can think of anything to improve on the look, feel free to mention it in comments.

Oh, and also a few pics from sea kayaking this morning, just to give you an idea of what the place is like.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Driving on the wrong side of the road

So today was the big day....would I managed to successfully get the car out of Cairns and down to Townsville without running head first into a transport truck. And the answer is yes, we arrived safe and sound. Of course, there was the odd scary moment or so.

First off, we're driving some kind of Hyundai that I've never heard of before. An Indira or something along those lines. And, of course, it's silver. I'll never understand rental agencies and their fascination for silver cars. But anyway. The only hitch we had with the rental was that we were planning on renting a GPS unit to go along with the car, except they were all out. The road between Cairns and Brisbane is a straight shot with only a few detours, so it shouldn't be a problem. However, we already had one glitch today, so we'll see.

Anyway, driving on the left hand side is deeply weird and paranoia inducing. I swear to god it took about an hour for the muscles in my shoulders to unclench. Once we were on the Bruce Highway and I could just follow a car in front of me, all was good. But getting out of Cairns had its moments. Bloody roundabouts. Plus, I have the habit of drifting over to the left hand side of the road, which occasionally freaks Cathy out. Oh, and I also keep flipping on the wipers when I mean to hit the signal light. That's bloody annoying.

But we're in Townsville. Now, most of the trip has been well planned, but we didn't have a place arranged to stay here. We just figured we would wing it. Which was a bit of a mistake as we took a scenic tour of Townsville trying to find a place to stay. The lack of GPS was a nuisance. But on the up side, I can navigate in a city without causing mass havoc, so that's a good thing.

Tomorrow we're off to a zoo in the morning where Cathy is hoping to be able to hug a koala for a little bit. And then we're off to Airle Beach in the Whitsundays, where we'll be located for the next five days. Time to lay on a beach and do some sea Kayaking. Should be fun.

More tomorrow...

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Taking it easy

So, all quiet here today. We weighed a number of options. We thought about going out to Green Island for the day and puttering around, but it's a bit expensive and honestly, the thought of spending an hour or so on a hydrofoil given how choppy the waters were today was not an appealing notion. Besides, we're on our way to the Whitsundays tomorrow. We'll be doing plenty of island hopping over the next week or so.

We looked at going to a croc farm or doing a sunset cruise, but ultimately just decided that a day doing some twacking around the downtown area and hanging out at the lagoon was the best option for us. It's a doesn't mean we have to go flat out all the time.

We had been doing pretty good on buying stuff so far on this vacation, but we had a small break yesterday. It started when we were in Kunundra and I bought the boomerang. I also bought a nice t-shirt. Cathy bought a hand made pine apple. She has a fondness for these sorts of things. Then, last night, we hit the night market in downtown Cairns and hit on a store selling the Australian Outback coats. But this one also had a wool lining that could come with it. We'd been looking for a new jacket for me for awhile and this coat just seemed right. So there was another chunk of cash.

Meanwhile, Cathy and I continue to have a debate over a hat. Specifically, you can buy kangaroo leather hats here. I don't really need a hat. I have a pair of Tilley's as it stands - a standard travel hat and a black felt fedora. But this is a nice hat and does kind of go with the coat. Cathy's been giving me the "you can buy the hat if you want, but I can't possibly see any occasion where you would wear it." (I have friends laughing when they read this, I'm sure). And she's probably right. But I do want the hat. I've been resisting so far, but we'll see if I can make it the rest of the trip.

We're on the road tomorrow. We pick up the rental at noon, then head to Townsville, where we'll overnight. Then onwards to the Whitsundays for Thursday. I'm still looking the wrong way when crossing the street and roundabouts seem like an unnatural thing to me, so going down the Bruce Highway tomorrow should be a fascinating experience. I suspect I will be yelled at and cursed on a lot over the next few days.

More tomorrow, assuming I can find an internet cafe. And that we're still alive....

Monday, July 20, 2009

Rainforests and reef pics

So today was a bit more relaxing than previous days. No diving to the bottom of the ocean, no plunging barely controlled down a river. Instead, we took an old train to the Tablelands's community of Kunundra, which was nice and all. The community has essentially nothing but shops, but we spent a very zen hour inside of a butterfly sanctuary and I bought my first tourist-like item - a boomerang. However, rather than buy one in the innumerable tourist shops, I found a gallery specializing in aboriginal art and found a hand painted one that also listed the name of the artist. Which I like.

We then took the skyrail back down the mountain, making a couple of stops in the Daintree rainforest. There's something deeply gratifying and overwhelming being surrounded by that many huge bloody trees. You go so long in Nunavut without any trees, without any measurable quantity of greenery and then you find yourself just surrounded by it. It can be just a touch too much. But only a touch. Mostly it was just really, really cool. And yes, I hugged one. It was very nice.

Nothing much else to report today. We're still catching up on sleep. Not so much from partying, just that people in our hostel tend to get on the move starting at 5:30 am and they're not quiet. So trying to sleep in beyond that is impossible. That mean I think tomorrow is going to be relaxing and strolling around town rather than doing anything action-packed.

And now, because people asked for them, some pictures from our Great Barrier Reef adventure. Considering the pics were taken with Cathy's small Canon digital and essentially shot while the camera was in a ziplock bag, we're thrilled with the results. We both took the photos, so mutual credit,

More later...

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Not dead yet

So today was whitewater rafting. Cathy's done it a couple of times before, but I never have. So I was really looking forward to it, although booking it for the day after spending all day on the Great Barrier Reef was clearly not one of our smarter moves.

So after getting up at 6 am, being picked up at 6:30 and then spending the better part of the next two hours actually getting to the site of the river, we finally made it (on the upside, the view was spectacular. Sunrise lighting up clouds lingering on the top of a mountain chain called, no kidding, the Misty Mountains). And we had a blast.

The River is called the Tulley. The combination of this being dry season and the volume of rocks in the river meant that was more technical rafting rather than going flat out.

However, I still managed to end up in the drink.

Yeah, not entirely sure what happened. We were coming out the end of a rapid and I just lost my balance for second, the boat got rocked and in I went. Nothing too serious, I was back in the boat in less than a minute. Even managed to hold onto my paddle. But it was kind of mortifying. However, on the karmic balancing scale, I managed to grab people three times for the rest of the boat ride and prevent them from flying it. So that was good. We went down the river with a Czech couple and an Irish couple. The girl, Clare, was awesome because she was terrified the entire time and kept screaming and cursing. I think I learned new profanity today. Besides, cursing in an Irish accent is awesome.

So a good time, although we're both wiped this evening. Four hours of whitewater rafting will do that to you. And slightly pink. We've managed to avoid trashing our feet as in previous trips, but we're getting flashes of sunburn. Today it was our knees, of all things. The top of my head got singed pretty nice at the reef yesterday. And Cathy's back looks like it was stuck on a microwave on high for about five minutes. We're managing and really, a bit of sunburn is to be expected on vacation.

Tomorrow is a trip on a train and a skyrail up into the Daintree Rainforest, which will be nice and certainly not quite as draining. That just leaves us something to do on Tuesday. Not certain yet. Several people have suggested flinging myself out of a perfectly good airplane (no, they appeared to like me when they made the suggestion). But we shall see. Perhaps we'll go didgeridoo shopping instead.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Finding Nemo

So, I managed to not be eaten today. Which is good.

The Great Barrier Reef reminded me a bit like Venice, really. Unbelievably hyped to the point where you believe there is simply no way that it can live up to it. That it must simply be a tourist trap.

But in much the same way that Venice was one of the most astounding places I've ever visited, so is the Great Barrier Reef. Massively doubt. But my God, what an experience.

First off, my apologies but no pictures this evening. I'm at a different internet kiosk and unlike the ones I've been using recently, there's no way for me to load pics of a SD card and onto Blogger. So you'll have to wait and see the pictures we took. For that matter, I'm kind of curious myself. We put Cathy's little Canon into a water-proof bag. The camera was dry, but trying to operate it was a touch difficult.

The morning didn't get off to the best of starts. We were picked up a little before 7am and then there was the 90 minute or so trip to Port Douglas where we boarded our vessel. Alas, it seems I still suffer from a touch of seasickness. And yes, I know I'm from Newfoundland, but hello, I never go out on boats. I like the ocean, I just don't like being on the ocean.

Through dumb luck or stubbornness I managed to not get sick. We then arrived at the first of our tree diving sites for the day. And then after that...magic.

I had no problem getting around snorkeling. Most people were also given a floatation device along with the snorkeling equipment. So I had no problem floating on top of the water and looking at everything below. And it's everything you would hope for. Odd shaped coral in all manner of colours. Dozens of species of fish zipping in and out of the reef. And that was just the first stop. The second stop was even better and the third was pretty good as well.

I was thrilled, but Cathy's over the moon. She's dreamed of doing this for as long as I've known her and I imagine much longer than that. She's still bouncing around this evening, even if a junior boys rugby team is staying at the hostel this evening and making ungodly amounts of racket.

But no, an unbelievable day. Even the couple of small problems I had with the equipment - the boat supplied its own equipment and the visor never sealed properly no matter how many times I tried - along with a bit of sun burn and a small scrape from accidentally being pushed up against the reef were minor things.

Tomorrow we're off white water rafting for about five hours. We're looking forward to it, but I'm not sure it's going to be able to top today. But I'm always willing to find out.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Ah, warmth

Ahhh, now that's the stuff.

Yesterday was a travel day. After days of of chilled Sydney winter weather, along with clouds and spattering of rain, it was nice to finally arrive in Cairns. There was nothing really major to report from yesterday. Although I will say that checking in and clearing customs at Sydney airport was easier than any other airport I've gone through this trip or any other trip I can think of in the past 10 years.

The trip here via Virgin Blue was perfectly ordinary, although a touch of a shock after flying Executive Class with Air Canada. I think we might be spoiled after this trip.

We were picked up at the airport by the nice people at Bohemia Resort, which sounds fancy, but is just a slightly higher end hostel. We have our own private room, which is nice, but they did start cleaning the adjoining rooms at 7 am this morning. Which was a touch annoying, but really won't be a problem over the next few days.

Today was meant to be pretty low key. We headed into central Cairns, got some breakfast and then found the information centre to book some of our adventures for the next few days. One of the slightly annoying quirks about Cairns is that ordinarily when you see the giant 'i' on a sign, you take it for granted that it's a legitimate, government run information centre. Not so much here. Every second private broker uses the giant 'i'. However, thanks to Cathy's extensive reading of Lonely Planet, we knew where the government one was located and went there.

The other thing about Cairns is the sheer volume of things to do and adventures to go on is pretty overwhelming. We like to think we can prepare and plan properly, but I'm not sure how easy that is here. The reason for using the government information centre was simply this - I doubt we got the best deal possible when booking our adventures. But I don't think we got ripped off or taken to the cleaners. And if we like what we go through over the next few days, I doubt we'll care much about the exact dollar figures involved.

So what do we have planned? Saturday is our trip out to the Great Barrier Reef. We're going to the outer part of the reef and hitting three sites, so that will be good, hopefully. Sunday we're spending five hours white water rafting. Monday we're going on a tour of the nearby rain forest. And Tuesday I suspect we'll slip into a coma, but we also might do something else. We'll see.

We're also contemplating buying a didgeridoo. We just left a very nice shop that actually sold real ones and not the tourist crap you normally find. So we'll see. There's something about playing it and having throat singing accompanying it that sounds awfully appealing.

And now, off for some supper, I think. More later if I'm not eaten by sharks. Oh, and we've bought a bag for Cathy's camera, so with luck I'll post some pics from the reef over the next few days.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Night time

Did you know that Ugg boots were "created" in Australia? Well, I do now. And dear God, it's like a point of national pride that every third woman wears them. I think they must all get notices via email - "Today is the day you have to wear your Uggs. Don't bitch to us about it. It's just the way things are. Now go and put on the damn boots."

The second day in Sydney was much better than the first. Part of it, I'm sure, was simply getting our clocks synched on local time. We managed to stay awake the entire day and there was none of the mental scuminess that comes with travelling for long periods of time.

Today we also did one of the hop-on/hop-off tours. Part of me always feels bad taking a I should be an intrepid explorer of a new city, trying to find neat stuff and not just going to tourist traps. But we learned something when we went to San Francisco back in '06. Our last day there we did a tour and we wished we'd done it the first day. A good tour gives you a nice feel for the city, an idea of the distances between different locations, and whether or not some of the cool places to go, according to travel guides, are worth the time.

For example, a lot talk about how good Bondi Beach is. And I'm sure it is. I'm just not sure that July, smack in the middle of Australian winter, is the time to do it. There were people in the water all right, but they were all wearing wet suits.

However, we will go back to the Opera House, the Aquarium and several other spots when we return to Sydney next month.

Other than that, not much else to report. It remains pretty frigid with plenty of people bundled up to deal with the chill. Even people from Sydney appear to be pretty pissed off with the temperatures. Hopefully, it's just temporary and it'll be warmer next month when we return. We also found a very cool puppet store that we want to return to.

We're also dealing with the shocking return of night. It gets dark around 5:30 and after months of near constant daylight, it's a bit weird to deal with.

And finally, because you asked and because I'm writing from an internet cafe whose computers have slots for plugging in SD cards, some pictures from the day. We're off to Cairns tomorrow, so I'll try and write more from there then.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Down under

Well, I've already made Men at Work jokes on my Facebook and Twitter status. What's one more in my subject header.

So yes, we've arrived safe and sound. All things considered, remarkably smooth. After a four hour layover in Vancouver, we hopped on the plane for the 15 hour flight from there to Sydney. And I must say, if you absolutely, positively must spend 15 hours on board of an airplane, then Executive Class certainly is nice. I'm not sure, but I think the eight or so attendants they had taking care of the about 12 people in that section was overkill, but what do I know. And the food and beverages were lovely and all. But really, it's all about the pods. Those things are spiffy. We got in and as soon as the seatbelt sign went off, we reclined the seats back into a bed and promptly slipped into a 7 hour coma. By that time our bodies were telling us it was 4 am, so we were out like a light. Pity. We missed the salmon or veal course.

So far, so good in Sydney. From the time we left the plane until we were boarding our bus took 30 minutes, which has to be a record. The hotel is nice and all, but Sydney is a touch disappointing so far. Much like if you're in the heart of London you'll have the strain pretty hard to hear an English accent, it's pretty hard to find an Aussie one in this part of Sydney. But that's all right, we head out in two days to Cairns, where I imagine there will be more of an Australian feel.

It's also winter down here, so the sun sets early and people have absolutely no idea what to wear. We saw everything from summer dresses to winter parkas to, well, whatever the hell Japanese girls where when they go out (the awesome thing about them is they can absolutely pull it off. Nobody else could pull off ankle high lace boots with three inch heels, the scarves, the gloves and all that jazz, but they so can.)

Tomorrow's plan is still in flux. Might take a tour, might go down and see the Opera House. Hopefully the jet lag will be lessened. We thought we were doing well until we went back to the hotel around four to rest our feet. Then, when we woke up three hours later, we realized there was still some work to do.

More updates later.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Lounging around

One of the oddities of this particular vacation is that we're travelling in Executive Class. Now, I'm rapidly approaching 40 and this is the first time I've ever bothered to travel this way. For many years, it was simply impossible. I could barely afford a Canada3000 ticket, let alone an upgrade to Executive Class. I've friends that managed to get bumped up, but I've never been able to figure out what alchemy or magic they used to make that happen.

So I've been sitting in the back of the plane, occasionally in cramped conditions. During one memorably flight back in 1996 on board a Korean AirLines flight I actually passed out. Oh, and the flight back from the Domincan in '05. Not enough leg room and a few other factors...out like a light.

So this whole travelling in Exec class is odd. The nice, big seats with lots of leg room. Plenty of food and beverages. Service to the expense of other passengers (we were getting cups of OJ and water while passengers were still trying to get on board. Kind of embarassing, really).

And then there's the lounges you have access to while waiting for the flights. Nice comfy chairs, free snacks and beverages (including booze) and free internet access. The free booze is also kind of embarassing. I feel like I should be drinking it, but I'm not a drinker. And furthermore, I'm just drinking water. This is a long trip and I just want to keep hydrated and not mess around with booze or pop.

It's three hours until the flight heads out to Sydney, except, of course, my body is telling me its midnight. So the next couple of days are going to be interesting. We'll slepp on the plane and hopefully won't be too messed up when we hit Sydney.

And now, I shall go off in search of free soup.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Heading down south

So this is a bit of a test. As I write this we're still in Ottawa. By the time I post this Boo should be on his way back to St. John's via Air Canada Cargo, so hopefully he gets home safely. We're doing one last mad scamper around town looking for last minute stuff.

This is also a test of seeing how easy it is to do a blog post using the iPod Touch. Answer: Not the easiest thing in the world. I'm not use to doing the hunt and peck that comes with this kind of writing. So here's hoping for lots of Internet cages in Australia because I don't think I'll have the patience to do this on a regular basis.

Anyway, we're off to Australia. I'll see you all in a few days.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Full moon over Iqaluit

These pictures were taken Wednesday night. By pure luck I happened to glance out the window around midnight and noticed an absolutely stunning full moon rising over the city. It was reflecting a lovely orange colour from I assume the lights below. Being able to see a full moon at this time of the year is normally pretty hard, but it worked out well this time.

I was messing around with the bulb setting with the camera, which is why the lighting is so different. I set the camera up on a tripod in my apartment, turned off all the lights and then took pictures using different exposures. The darker ones I normally counted off about 15-20 seconds. The brighter ones were closer to 30. It's the first time I've really messed around with the bulb function and have the pictures work, so I'm pretty pleased.

Last Five
1. Lay it down - Cowboy Junkies
2. The lucky one (live) - Allison Krauss and Union Station*
3. Magazines - The Hold Steady
4. Time of your life = Matt Mays and El Torpedo
5. Kissing girls - Hawksley Workman

Friday, July 10, 2009

Last day

Your last day at work is always a deeply weird experience and today was no different. As it happens, two of my immediate supervisors weren't in the office - one was on vacation and the other was off sick. Plus, because this was a government position, there's actually quite a bit of work involved in cuing up your affairs. And even though I knew several weeks ago I was leaving, I magically managed to keep the news quiet to most people, so today was the day many found out I was leaving. I just preferred it that way; I didn't want to spend weeks explaining to people that I was leaving.

Still, that's three and a half years over and done with. It feels kind of weird. As I've said, I've no doubt I will find something else once we get back. I applied for a federal job yesterday that has some potential, even though I had to spend a couple of hours writing out answers to questions in the online application process. I wrote about 1,500 words, on top of submitting my resume, for this job. I honestly don't know if applying to handle nuclear materials would require quite so much writing.

My time with this job isn't my longest...that's still with The Express. I was there nearly four years. Departing from there was....almost a bit of a relief. I'd been uncomfortable with the paper for months at that point. Plus I'd known for awhile I was going, what with Cathy and I getting married and moving to Iqaluit. I was going to miss the people, but I was very clearly done with the job.

Before that it was three years with The Packet. Now that was a deeply traumatic experience. I remember being really upset when I was leaving. So was the staff. I'd been offered The Express job, which was more money and a chance to move back to St. John's. But I loved the staff at The Packet and Barbara, my editor, means the world to me. She gave me a break when I was getting ready to give up on journalism and helped me knock all the rust off the hinges of my writing and photography.

Actually, in a lovely twist, Barb contacted me the other day about doing some freelancing. See, this is one more reason why I love this woman.

But today, today was just....I don't know. It just felt like gradually slipping away. I guess it's the difference between working in an office with a half dozen people and working in one with dozens.

Anyway, that's over with. Now off to Australia and then to whatever comes next. As Cathy likes to remind me, I don't deal well with change unless it's forced upon me. So we'll see how I handle all of this over the next few weeks and possibly months. On the upside, if I start to lose my mind, you'll likely be reading some very entertaining blog posts. So there's always that.

Last Five
1. Unionhouse branch - Allison Krauss and Union Station
2. Girlfriend - Paul McCartney
3. Read my mind - The Killers*
4. C'est la vie - Bob Seger
5. Sucker row - Mark Knopfler

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Another obstacle overcome

As regular readers of the blog might recall I was taking swimming lessons last fall and early this winter. The theory being that this trip we would clearly be spending some time in the water. My relationship with water has never been a great one. It's not so much that I'm afraid of water. I've seen those people, who the mere thought of going into water freaks them out.

No, I have a very healthy respect for water and it's ability to kill me. Any body of water that can go over the top of my head has the ability to kill me if I'm stupid (not exactly an unheard of occurrance) and I'm always aware of that.

Anyway, the lessons went relatively well. I'm not going to be setting any Olympic records, but I should manage to prevent myself from drowning.

However, last evening was a new test. When we were out in Ottawa back in April, we bought a goggle, snorkel and flipper set at COSTCO. And a pretty nice one at that. However, I've never used a snorkel and flippers before. Or if I have, it's been a good few years. So last evening we went up to the swimming pool during the adult swim (no kids and only one other adult in the pool) and gave it a try. Much to Cathy's shock I did pretty well with it. I spent 45 minutes figuring out how to use it and get comfortable with it. I'm not graceful by any stretch, but I can get myself from one point to the other.

Of course, there's a big difference between splashing around in a pool and splashing around in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The pool is relatively calm. I'm going to have to deal with currents, waves and swells in the ocean. At the very least. I'm still hoping to avoid the shark thing. But for the purposes for going out to the Great Barrier Reef or doing some snorkeling around the Whitsunday islands, I imagine it'll do.

Last Five
1. Wake up, she said - Drive
2. Sonny's dream - Ron Hynes*
3. Happiness - Riceboy Sleeps
4. Rocky raccoon - The Beatles
5. Radioactive - The Firm

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Last minute

So yes, I missed blogging yesterday. Sorry about that. I was just in a strange head space when I got home from work and couldn't shake it for most of the evening. It's kind of strange spending your last week at work. And without getting into all the details, I never realized how much work was involved in leaving work. I haven't stopped most of the week trying to get thing wrapped up before I go.

And then there's the Australia preparations. Cathy's begun packing already, which might surprise some, as we're not leaving until Saturday. But I'm amazed she made it to Tuesday before starting to pack. I was talking to my father last night and giving him the last minute updates on the trip and he was amused at how structured everything is.

"You guys certainly planned this out a lot more then when I went to Australia."

I guess. Then again, we're going "only" for a month, whereas dad went for nine weeks. Give me that much time in Australia to wander around and I might play things considerably more loosely. And credit where it's deserved, Cathy is the one who insists on this level of organization. I'm not one to complain. If she wasn't as organized as she is, last year's lost passport fiasco in Italy would have been much, much worse.

So being so much as having most of our hotels/hostels booked, a rental car booked, knowing where the embassy is and that sort of thing, no problem at all. I hope to never have to go through an experience like losing my passport or something similar again, but if it happens, it's good knowing at least one of us has our act together.

It still doesn't feel entirely real that we're leaving in a few days. Probably too much going on at work to get in the proper headspace for it. But I imagine I'll get there soon enough on Wednesday.

Last Five
1. Breakdown - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers*
2. In my place - Coldplay
3. Soul of a man (live) - Bruce Cockburn
4. She's got her ticket - Tracy Chapman
5. Take me for longing (live) - Allison Krauss and Union Station

Monday, July 06, 2009

Power trips

It was like the Ghost of Christmas Past this weekend with the racket over running a power transmission line through Gros Morne National Park reappearing. I initially thought this was summer doldrums material. Just because it's summer, doesn't mean there isn't column inches to fill or minutes of air time that need to be occupied. As loathed as I am to admit it, the MUN president racket doesn't get as much play if it happened in February rather than the summer. Basic rules of media.

(Note: One wag in the comment section quipped about the CBC's ability to rewrite what the Telegram reported on Saturday. With due respect to the importance of the CBC to the national discussions, they are awful for it. When The Packet came out on Monday's, we used to turn on CBC Radio Wednesday morning to see which stories CBC Gander lifted from us without attribution. One reporter actually read the first four paragraphs, verbatim, from one of my stories. My editor told me I should submit a freelance claim.)

But no, there is some meat on the bones of this one. Dresden Elbe Valley in Germany lost its status after running a four lane bridge through it. Surely a less egregious violation than running 40-foot high power lines through the heart of the park.

So yeah, all right, there's a legitimate reason for this story. I just don't think there's a legitimate chance of this happening. The power lines actually going through Gros Morne, I mean. There's probably every chance the premier will try and get them put through.

I think this one has the scent of doing serious damage to the premier. Political historians can correct me if I'm wrong on this analogy. Someone in the CBC comments section called this Williams's Sprung Greenhouse. Close, but not quite. I think the analogy might be closer to Clyde Wells attempts to privatize Hydro. He was still a relatively popular premier at that time, came up with this idea, which was nearly universally loathed. And no matter how logically he tried to explain it, the people of the province never went for it. And the harder Wells fought, the more harm he did to his popularity and reputation. I believe towards the end he was viewed as an arrogant, condescending bully. Hmmmm, that sounds familar somehow.

I'm not saying the Hydro racket is what caused Wells to quit. There were many factors involved, I'm sure. But it certainly ended his time as premier on a sour note.

Hell, I've never been to Gros Morne and I think running power lines through it is a spectacularly terrible idea. Lots of people will. Lots of people on the Mainland will. And if Parks Canada steps up and says "forget about it, you're not running a power line through the park" and the premier falls back on his usual shtick - "Look at what the Harper government is doing to NewfoundlandLabrador. They're jealous of us and trying to harm us, etc, etc", well, I don't think that's going to fly nearly as well as the premier might think.

My curiosity isn't so much on whether or not this project goes ahead. I'm 99 per cent certain it won't. My curiosity is whether or not the premier tests his popularity and will against opponents of this idea. I'm curious as to how this polls. I'm willing to bet the premier already knows. And if that number is less than 80 per cent opposed, I'd be shocked.

Will he try and ram this through anyway? Time will tell.

Last Five
1. Calculation theme - Metric
2. Hallucinations - The Raveonettes
3. The limit to your love - Feist
4. No Kathleen - Ron Hynes*
5. Ragoo - Kings of Leon

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Still not gone

You may recall there was quite a bit of ice around Iqaluit back on June 29. Well, the wind has been shifting around a bit, so the ice was actually out of the bay for most of the week. Then it shifted again, and there was the ice, back again.

On the upside, the shifting ice, combined with an icebreaker, allowed the first vessel of the year in on Friday. It's a fuel ship. Still no ideas of when a sealift vessel will arrive. It's not a matter of the boat getting through the ice that's the big problem. It's making the inner bay clear enough of ice for the barges to be able to run from the boats to the beach.

I can see the vessels being able to get here anytime now. As for unloading them, well, that could take another couple of weeks.

Anyway, some pictures from our walk down the beach last night. All pictures taken between 8-8:30 pm on Saturday, July 4.

Last Five
1. 1979 - Smashing Pumpkins*
2. Trust me - The Fray
3. Movie scene - Ron Hynes
4. Wayfaring stranger (live) - Neko Case
5. Good morning, good morning - The Beatles

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Crazy like a fox

So it seems I might have underestimated Twitter in one regard. I found out Sarah Palin was quitting as governor of Alaska yesterday not by going to a news website or having an alert flash to me via email, but because I had a browser window open with Twitter running. And I noticed that Sarah Palin's name was magically climbing the Trending Topics list on the sidebar. I clicked on her name only to discover people reacting in shock that she announced she was quitting.

So there you go...a new experience in technology for me.

I suspect I was not alone in my first reactions - wondering if she had lost her mind, wondering if she was sick or if there was a major scandal brewing. And then firmly writing her off as a serious candidate for the 2012. How can you run for president if you can't even finish one term as governor of Alaska?

But, you see, this is why they don't pay me big bucks to do political analysis. Or why it's useful to have staked out intelligent analysts who can put things into perspective. I've read a lot in the last 24 hours....Andrew Sullivan has thoughtfully been collecting a bunch of it. However, the most intelligent view so far has come from Marc Ambinder. I think he's managed to nail it.

People mocked me last year when I said this wasn't the last we'd heard of Palin and that she was going to be a leading contender for president in 2012. Probably because the depth of the horror of the possibility of President Palin was too great to contemplate. She's always had her appeal and it would be wrong to underestimate it. However, let's not confuse "leading contender" with "chance in hell." I'm not saying she's going to win in 2012. If she does manage to make it so far as being the Republican nominee you're going to see a result similar to what Regan did to Mondale in '84. She might carry a half dozen states.

I'm not sure Palin knows what she's doing half the time. Others have pointed out the borderline incoherence in her speech yesterday. But there's no doubting the ambition and cunning. Often that's all you really need in politics to plow your way through obvious deficits in intelligence and vision.

I guess this is a glass half full observation, but Cathy made it and I thought it was worth mentioning. The wind for the past few days has been blowing from the west. That's meant the ice has been blown further out in the bay so it's not been quite so depressing to look out the window. However, the wind shifted last night and is now blowing from the east, which means there's ice back in the bay.

But as Cathy noted "at least it's blowing all the dust from the construction site away from us." That's my girl, always looking on the bright side of things.

Oh, and we're on Day 6 now of 12 hours a day drilling. On the upside, less than a week until we leave for Australia.

Last Five
1. All along the watchtower (live) - U2
2. Meadowlarks - Fleet Foxes
3. Life in Technicolor - Coldplay
4. Put your record on - Corinne Bailey Rae*
5. Monsters - Band of Horses

Friday, July 03, 2009

Drill, baby, drill

I mentioned in an earlier blog post that Deconstruction season was upon us, as old houses were being either destroyed or mysterious carted away. I found out later that some of those old houses were being dragged outside of town for the fire department to go and practice on. Which is spiffy and all, but the thing about Deconstruction season is that it leads right up to Construction Season.

And Construction Season is bloody noisy.

Basic fact about living this far north - pretty much everything is built on top of pylons. I don't know about the 6-story and 8-story buildings. There's some pretty solid rock up there, so they might be built on that. But everything else is built on pylons. Basements don't exist.

Why is everything built on top of pylons? Because much of the ground up here is permafrost. Yes, during the summer months, the top layer of soil is soft, things grow and the soil can easily turn into muck one day and then transform into the material for a dust storm the next. But dig down a little and - tada - permafrost. The ground is solid with frozen water mixed in.

Building on permafrost is bad. If you were to do the usual southern thing and dig a hole, put in a basement, and then the rest of the house, you will have trouble. This guy explains it pretty well, actually. No matter how well you insulate, heat will leak out of the building, melting the permafrost. Which will then shift, and then your very expensive house will begin moving in ways you don't want to consider.

Now, this guy suggests insulation and other tricks. And I'm sure some of that is done. But in this part of the world, it mostly involves drilling a couple of dozen holes deep into the permafrost, stick large metal poles into it and then build your house or whatever any where from a few inches to many feet above the ground. There's less chance of the heat from the house melting things, although it's not unheard of for houses to shift up here and for cracks to develop.

Here's the thing, though, drilling all those holes into the ground takes some time. Plus, it's not exactly quiet. Here's the machine they're using.

Looks quiet, doesn't it?

So why mention this? Because they're drilling right across the street from us. And they have been doing so for 12 hours a day since Monday. They normally start 7:30 am and wrap up around 7:30 pm. They didn't take a break for Canada Day and I have my doubts they'll be taking it easy on Saturday. Construction season in the arctic is short. You don't waste time. I imagine if it didn't involve them being murdered, they'd go at it 24 hours a day.

Now, I shouldn't complain too much. I'm still at work and I avoid most of the noise. Cathy, however, is home most of the day and I'm beginning to worry about her sanity. She can close the windows, which dulls the noise a bit, but the temperatures this week have been in the 15C range. For Nunavut is quite warm, which means the apartment turns into a sauna quickly. Open the windows and the noise is overwhelming. Plus, it's kicking up an ungodly amount of dust. We've dusted around the apartment three times already this week.

Hopefully they should be done by early next week. Of course, there's another area of construction nearby that I fear they're going to be heading to next.

There's nothing to be done about it, of course. And I do feel bad about it. Cathy normally spends most of her summer down south, but she's still around waiting for me to finish up my job so we can head out on vacation. Every other summer I've spent up here has been relatively quiet. Just bad luck this isn't one of them.

Eight more days until we leave for Australia. I think we'll both be more than ready to go when the date rolls around.

Last Five
1. Believe reprise - Sloan
2. You can call me Al - Paul Simon
3. The bends - Radiohead*
4. (Manifest) - The Weakerthans
5. Land down under - Me First and the Gimmie Gimmies

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Twits R Us

So I went and joined Twitter today. We'll see how that goes. Twitter was always one of those web applications that I thought would flare and fade away. It still may do that. Such is the nature of the internet. I have no idea what the success to failure rate for web site and applications are, but it must be catastrophically slanted. For every Google there must be tens of thousands who crash and burn. And even the successes you wonder how long they're going to be around for. Myspace and LiveJournal were big things several years ago. Now they're being slowly killed by Facebook.

And hell, I would have thought that Facebook would die off in a few years as well when the next big things comes along. But this is a pretty interesting article on how they're trying to go after Google. I don't think it will work, but then again, I thought rap music was a fad, so what do I know.

And we'll see with Twitter. I think it's going to get bought out by Facebook, Google or something else. But I don't know if I'll still be around to see that. Being on Twitter is kind of like blogging. Lots of people start, but few actually stick with it more than a few months. So we'll see.

So why did I start? Especially if I'm lucky to update my Facebook status once a day? Well, I think Twitter works best as a mobile technology. I'm not a person on the move a lot, but if you are, then I think it's a grand thing to be a part of. And in the next couple of weeks, I'm going to be pretty mobile.

I was pretty good at blogging last year while in Italy and we'll certainly try to do the same thing while in Australia. However, there may be times when we can't get to an internet cafe. And yes, we do have an iPod Touch we're taking with us, but I really wouldn't want to try and do a lengthy blog post on it. It is, however, ideal for doing a Twitter post. (I just can't call it tweeting yet. I just....can't). At least for the duration of our time in Australia I'll probably set Twitter up as a sidebar on the blog, just so people can know what we're up to.

So if you want to follow my madcap adventures, I can be found here.

Last Five
1. Greenland whale fisheries - The Pogues*
2. Lonesome blues - The Be Good Tanyas
3. Fast car - Tracy Chapman
4. I can't dance - Genesis
5. Resurrection - Robbie Robertson

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Canada Day

I'm sure I've mentioned this before, but it's Canada Day and so I shall mention this once more. Besides, if history repeats, traffic on the blog is going to be pretty slow today anyway.

Eight years ago today one of the more important events in my life happened. I got to watch one of my best friends become a Canadian citizen. It can be pretty easy to be cynical about Canada at times. The quality of politicians inhabiting the capital these days is certainly sub par. And if you live in Newfoundland you would think there's absolutely nothing worthwhile about the whole country given the rhetoric that comes from the premier.

But if you're ever feeling dispirited and down about our home and native land, I can only tell you that you should go and find the nearest citizenship ceremony you can, especially on Canada Day, and just sit back and watch. There's no way you can see people becoming Canadian citizens and not be moved. It's honestly one of the best ways I can think of to celebrate Canada Day.

As for the aforementioned best friend, that would be Dups. And the event, as recapped on this blog and in a CBC documentary I produced (God, look at all that extra hair. And really ugly shirt) would rank up there as one of the best times of my life. A couple of days of partying in Ottawa, capped by the ceremony.

I will mention two other things from that event that were important to me. Dups was literally hours away from having to leave the country when he found out he could stay. I was one of the people he asked to write a letter of reference to Immigration Canada and whatever I said must have been good enough to help convince them he should stay. It always meant a lot to me that he asked me to write that letter and that it actually worked.

Secondly, the unsung hero of that day was thousands of kilometres away and couldn't be there. In 2001 I was working for The Packet and was living on poverty wages. There was simply no way I could afford the $600 plane ticket, plus the cost of accommodations and meals. So when Dups announced he was going to the citizenship ceremony in Ottawa, I was depressed because I was going to miss it.

That's when my knight in shining armor, Melissa emailed and offered to give me several hundred dollars to help pay for the plane ticket. Not lend....give. Her only request was that I help someone else out down the line when they needed it. It remains, to this day, one of the single nicest things anyone has ever done for me.

I might have had a bad month of June, but Melissa had a worse one. So any good karma I have, I'm wishing it her way. And for that matter, anything else she needs to help get her and Hayden over the hump is hers.

And before this gets too maudlin, one last thing. To say Dups has lead an...interesting last few years would be an understatement. Dups is the brains behind the St. Patrick's Day Drunk Dial (um, which I won this year, but didn't say anything about earlier for fear my entry might upset someone. But to hell with it, I'm unemployed and in Australia in a little over a week, so fire away). And last week he launched his latest online project, the Tweet Rhapsody. It's essentially Dups trying to do a novel in a Twitter-like format.

I honestly don't understand how his brain works. I'm just glad it stayed in Canada.

Last Five
1. Girls in the summer dresses - Bruce Springsteen
2. Gone, gone, gone - Joel Plaskett
3. Running (live) - Allison Crowe
4. Civil twilight - The Weakerthans
5. You won't find me - Amelia Curran*