Friday, March 30, 2007

More than I bargained for

On my way in to work I stopped at a new dermatologist to get a small mole checked on my arm. You would think this would be a simple task, but I had no idea what they would put me through.

First, this is a new doctor's office. So, first I had to sign over my identity to them (and my wife's and a friend - Mom, I chose you). Then I needed to fill out the history form, which they will no doubt ask me all again.

Fine, got it.

They then called my name.

The nurse took me into the exam room and took my vitals. Fair enough. Then she asked me to get undressed.

Excuse me? The mole is on my arm, can I just role up my sleeve? The nurse explained that the Dr. always does a full body scan before treating a patient.

I don't know about you, but I find the phrase "full body scan" to be anything but a good one. I would expect TSA to give a suspected terrrorist a "full body scan." Me, I was just hoping for a quick spot check.

OK, undressed it is.

I humbly asked, "do I get a gown?" I guess I was instantly transported back to the pediatric days of physicals and that open backed garment that was part of the routine.

The nurse's response: "Do you really want a gown? We usually give females gowns."

"Oh, I said. In that case, I won't need one."

But really, I was thinking - what the heck does that have to do with my question? The last thing I want is as much privacy as you give a chick. Whew, that was a close one.

So, now I'm sitting in my scivvy's waiting for this full body scan to begin.

Wish me luck. I think I need it.

--Ben

Emacs hack: ediff latest versions from CVS

Everyone on my team knows one thing - I sure do love my code reviews. The first thing I do to get the code review started is diff the changes the developer made in CVS with what was previously there.

For years, I've simply read the context diff to see what's changed. But recently (perhaps out of Eclipse envy?) I've considered using ediff, an interactive tool for diffing in emacs. Here's a sample screenshot of what ediff looks like:

The annoying thing about ediff was that I needed to type in the version numbers to diff. That totally slowed me down and made using ediff more of a pain.

Then it hit me - this is emacs. If I don't like something, I can write a bit of code to fix it. And so that's what I've done. The code below ends creating an interactive function named ediff-previous-and-current-version. In my .emacs file I've bound this command to Control-x v e. So now I simply open up a file, type key combination, and poof, I have an interactive diff of what's just changed.

Code reviewing was never so much fun.

(defun vc-buffer-current-version ()
  "Get the current CVS version of the current buffer."
  (vc-workfile-version (buffer-file-name)))

(defun vc-buffer-previous-version ()
  "Get the previous CVS version of the current buffer's file."
  (vc-default-previous-version
   (vc-backend (buffer-file-name))
   (buffer-file-name)
   (vc-buffer-current-version)))

(defun ediff-previous-and-current-version ()
  "Ediff the previous and current version of this file."
  (interactive)
  (ediff-vc-internal (vc-buffer-current-version) (vc-buffer-previous-version)))

(defun my-ediff-quit-hook ()
  "My own cleanup function, to make sure ediff is all pretty when done."
  (kill-buffer ediff-buffer-A)
  (kill-buffer ediff-buffer-B))
(add-hook 'ediff-quit-hook 'my-ediff-quit-hook)
Apologies to elisp hackers if I've butchered this code - please feel free to review it and make suggestions. I'd love to incorporate them.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Just a bit critical of the UN

My brother Dave sent me another video - this one about the UN. It's powerful stuff, and begins to demonstrate a perception of the one sidedness of the UN (or at least of the UNHRC).

Thanks Dave for passing this along.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Blackberry: White Screen of Death

As you know, I got my Blackberry Pearl at the beginning of the New Year. I have come to live with the memory leak, just pulling the battery every few days, and all in all, really love the phone.

Imagine my dismay when Saturday night, while minding my own business, I look down, and the phone has a white screen and the hourglass is turning round and round, as it does when it boots up. Fascinating, as I had not powered the phone down or up, nor had I removed the battery. It had done this trick all by itself. The problem was, it was never booting. It was just continuously showing the hourglass. So, I did what Bill Gates has taught us all to do, and figured I would pull the battery to reboot. Unfortunately, the white screen with the hourglass turning round and round never yielded to the familiar wallpaper background of a picture of Ben and me.

So, I called T-Mobile customer service. I was extremely impressed by first-level Blackberry customer support. I didn't have to wait till support tier 4 until I spoke to someone with a technical clue. The rep told me my phone was basically in an infinite reboot loop. The only fix was to reinstall the Blackberry operating system which would wipe the phone completely. Had I done a backup? Silly question, of course I hadn't done a backup. It's a cell phone. I've had it for 3 months. Anyway... he told me what software to download and install on the Blackberry. Unfortunately, the install failed 3/4 of the way through. We tried 6 more times, and then got the hint that it wasn't going to work. They would have to send me a new phone.

I was extremely bummed, because we all know what a pain it is to go through new phone setup. My new phone came and it already knew what Gmail account I had setup. That was promising. Everything else had to be done from scratch. Contacts could be synced from Outlook. I re-downloaded Google talk, Gmail, Google Maps and tried to put all my bells and whistles back to how I liked them.

The only problem was that IM took me to the Blackberry browser and gave me a 404 error instead of taking me to the IM client. So, I called T-Mobile support again. They told me they were having a known issue with this, but there was a work-around. She sent me an email with a link that I could click on right from my Blackberry to download software. We installed it and I was in business. That is two helpful first-tier T-Mobile Blackberry support folks. I am impressed!

The phone is almost back to how I like it. I will tell you what I have already done... that's right. I have used Blackberry Desktop Manager, and performed the first of many backups to come!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Winter is gone

How do I know winter is gone? It's 80 degrees upstairs in the house.

And the sad part, Shira's loving it.

Oy, let the complaining-about-how-I-can't-breathe-in-here begin! Gonna
be a long summer, I can tell.

--Ben

Ayers does Passover

Gosh I love Ayers Hardware (703-538-5678, 5853 Washington Blvd, Arlington, VA). This little store has everything!

It's like a Target, Wal-Mart and Home Depot all rolled into one, but with employees who care. I know I've blogged them before, but they are doing such a good job, I can't keep myself from doing it again.

Today's mission: find a variety of odds and ends to fulfill a Passover shopping list. From shelf paper to a cork screw, I found all the items I needed.

I asked the clerk - apparently the store has been open since 1948, and under the same ownership since the late 70's. He said their sales took a dip when Home Depot opened down the street, but recovered when people realized the kind of service they were going to get there.

This is clearly one business that is winning by not taking shortcuts.

--Ben

Review: In A Sunburned Country

In A Sunburned Country is one of Bill Bryson's travel books about Australia. With a trip to Australia coming up, I decided to rent the book for the subject matter, and because I was hoping it would be a fun read.

The other books I've read by Bryson have always been funny, and with 40+ hours on an airplane, I figured I'd need a few laughs.

How right I was on all accounts.

The information in the book was accurate, relevant and quite interesting. And best of all, it was laugh-till-tears-streamed-down-my-face funny. Seriously, Shira thought I was suffering from some sort of medical condition, I was laughing so much. What a great antidote to a 13 hour flight.

I just love Bryson's books in general, and this one is no exception. The adventures he gets himself into are just priceless.

I could go on and on about how much I enjoyed this book and what a terrific writer Bryson is. But, I'll spare everyone and just say this was a 10/10 and that you simply must read this book.

--Ben

Monday, March 26, 2007

Seth on Shortcuts

Here's more great wisdom from Seth Godin.

There are some airlines that spend all their time dreaming up ways to lobby the government and others that spend all their time making flying a better experience. There are restaurants that dream up ways of charging more for bottled water, and others that work hard to create an experience worth bringing a group to enjoy.

He makes an excellent point: rather than trying to take a shortcut to success, try something a bit different - work harder, and provide a better product/service/experience/etc.

This is a message we simply don't hear often enough. Well put Seth.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Passover - The real dirty work begins

Today Shira and I spent quite a bit of time preparing for Passover. Today's main activity was to take every bit of food out of the pantry, clean it (the pantry, not the food), chuck some of it (like the cans of evaporated milk, best used by 11/04), and decide which of it can be given away to unsuspecting people at work. All this to reduce as much non-kosher food in the house as possible.

As you can see from the attached photos, the first step of the cleanup process involves making a gigantic mess.

Keep in mind, we don't just clean stuff up and get rid of food that isn't kosher for Passover, but swap in an entire set of dishes, pots, pans and utensils that are just used on Passover. We do all these changes for a mere eight days. Then everything is put back for the next year.

To think, for the last three thousand years my fellow Jews have been turning their lives upside down for this holiday. This is clearly evidence that God not only exists, but has one heck of a sense of humor.

Coming Soon...The Onion

Here's some good news for DC area residents: The Onion will be available for pickup at newspaper boxes around town.

The one in the photo here is at Pentagon Row in Arlington, VA.

I love their tagline: Journalistic Integrity Comes To Washington, D.C. Nice.

If you have never read The Onion, drop what you are doing (after you finish reading my blog) and visit their website. The Onion is laugh out loud funny fake news. It really is clever stuff.

--Ben

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Barack Obama: President of MySpace

Numeric Life pointed out the following data that was shared about the popularity of presidential candidates on MySpace:

Barack Obama: President of MySpace

Way to go Barack! Even without adding him to my list of friends, when I visit Barack's MySpace page I'm greeted with the message Barack Obama is in your extended network. And I currently have two friends, so that's saying something.

I really do hope these numbers translate to support and votes.

I just requested to be one of his friends, so that should put his most recent friend count at 80,012.

The graph and data for this information is hosted on swivel.com, which looks like an interesting site in and of itself. If you are a data geek, it seems like it would be worth checking out.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Out to lunch

Had lunch with the team today. What a great chance to collaborate on ideas, build constructive team relationships and improve our cross functionality knowledge matrix.

Oh, and to drink beer and eat rich chocolate deserts.

Mmmm...collaboration never tasted so good.

--Ben

Ironic TinyUrl Humor

Note the message on the right hand side where the ads usually appear.

What does it mean that I not only found this funny, but blogworthy funny? Oy.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

$38 billion worth of PMA

On topic of deleting information that is worth $38 billion by accident an anonyous coward said:

I once deleted a file worth $38 billion. I was afraid my boss was going to fire me, but he shook my hand and laughed "Fire you?!! We just invested $38 billion in your education! We can't fire you after that kind of investment." And true enough, I never deleted a file worth that much again.

Point taken.

Thanks to Simon for pointing me to the original story.

Passover is coming

If this doesn't get you in the mood for Passover, I don't know what will. Shira and I are actually planning to do a bit of cleaning tonight...ahh, the joys of Passover.

This is probably the closest thing to a Jewish country music song I've ever heard.

Dave (as in my bro) - thanks for passing this movie on to me. Excellent selection.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Enconomy Plus is looking better and better

Sure, my Economy Plus experience was a bit tight for the 40+ hours we spent in the air. But at least I didn't have to put up with this.

Remember, it could always be worse.

Lightweight Image Editor

I've been impressed with how much mileage I've been getting out of my thumb drive lately. But, as I've quickly learned, its 1 Gig capacity simply isn't that big. So, I've started for looking for ways that I can free up some space.

First, I removed the pocket version of a Pocket Firefox. While exceedingly cool, I can survive a session of IE if I need to.

Next, I got rid of 7 zip. Again, it's a cool app, but most windows boxes already have a zip program, and I can usually grab one if I need it.

Finally, I thought about removing The Gimp, but I really like the idea having an app where I can crop and tweak images. But still, at 26 Meg, it was an expensive choice.

So, I poked around and came up with IrfanView. As Wikipedia says:

It can crop, resize, and rotate images. Images can be adjusted by modifying the brightness, contrast, tint, and so forth, and by converting them between formats. Many of these changes can be applied to multiple images in one operation, using batch processing.

And, it does all this and weighs in at about 1MB. Just what I was looking for.

I also added an app to the thumb drive: hugin. Hugin is used for making panoramic photos. This is something I'll actually use while away from my computer, so I thought it was worth the 31 Meg it costs.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Walking out without paying

I just picked up this prescription from CVS. It had a note attached saying they didn't have all meds in stock, so it was only partially filled.

So, what did the clerk do? She gave me the pills and told me to come back tomorrow to get the rest. And, oh by the way, I should pay then too.

I'm just shocked by this incredibly sane policy.

Best Buy doesn't trust me enough to let me handle a digital camera without being tethered by a security cable, and CVS lets me walk off with unpaid drugs.

Way to go CVS, you guys rock.

--Ben

Lessons from the Wolfpack

I'm most of the way through John Keegan's Intelligence in War: Knowledge of the Enemy from Napoleon to Al-Qaeda, and while it was a slow start, I'm really enjoying the section on WW II.

Keegan just got done discussing the German U-boat campaign. Here's a few things I learned.

First, the U-boat was actually an inferior weapon compared to those it was going after. Yet, it was able to use its one advantage - that it was effectively invisible - to beat a much more powerful enemy.

I guess that amounts to more evidence that small can beat the pants off big.

Next I learned that U-boats traveled in wolfpacks, rather than on their own like the US subs did. A key aspect of these wolfpacks was that they were closely controlled via a central authority.

The result of this grouping and control was that the U-boats could simulate a much larger presence. For example, they could string out to form a large net to find ships, or they could cluster together and simultaneously attack for a bigger impact.

In other words, small, when properly coordinated, can also be big.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Chill Music

Let's say you have a nasty case of jet lag from say a trip to Australia. What's a guy to do to try to relax and catch some Z's?

Well, listening to Chill Music is an option.

Chill music is apparently a cross between those soothing CD's you might find at Brookstone and techno music.

I've actually decided I like the stuff. At least when I'm in a jet lagged mood, anyway.

I've enjoyed Summer Chill and Astral Navigations so far. Though there are plenty more to check out. And most (all? some?) of them are free to listen to and even add to your mp3 player.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Photos from our Australia trip

Here's a collection of photos from our trip. Even if you've been following along on Ben's blog, this is a bigger (but not too overwhelming) and slightly more organized set.

As you know, we had a great time and can't wait to go back!

Australian Vacation

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Australian Vacation: The Trip Home

After an unknown number of hours of travel, Shira and I finally made it back to the good 'ol US of A.

Murphy's law was present in pretty much every part of the trip...

  • The only cab company in Canberra was having some sort of system problem that made dispatching cabs way more difficult than usual. When we finally got a cab, we drove to the airport listening to the exasperated dispatcher trying to get the cabs to do what she wanted, with little luck.
  • We arrived in Canberra and were put on an earlier flight - like we had hoped. They were even nice enough to put us on a flight due to board in 5 minutes (something that would never happen here in the US). When we got to the gate, we realized that she had told us we were on the earlier flight, but gave us boarding passes for our original flight that left in 2 hours. They were kind enough to sort it out at the ticket counter and call down to the baggage department to re-route our luggage (something else they probably wouldn't have done in the US).
  • When we got off the airplane in San Fran, Shira set her watch to what she thought was the local time, based on the "map" they show you for 14 hours and what the flight attendant announced to the airplane when we landed.
  • When we arrived at the gate to take off from San Fran we noticed that the board wasn't lit up. When we asked about it, they told us that the flight had left on time - about an hour ago. Oh crap. Turns out, the flight attendant and the map on the airplane was what was wrong. We dutifully set our watches to an hour off. When the customer agent rep suggested that it was our fault, not United's that we had the wrong time, Shira nearly took her head off. Luckily, we were able to get on the next flight by waiting on the standby list.
  • When landing at Dulles after a gazillion hour of traveling, we spent an hour and a half on the ground, first waiting for a gate, then waiting for a flag person to direct us to the open gate that was waiting for us to be led to it.
  • Because of the late hour, the weather and all the delays, there were way too few cabs for way too many passengers (about 200 cabs running instead of the usual 700). We ended up sharing a cab with 2 other people and debated with the cab driver how unfair it was that he was charging us as though he had just dropped us off and was not getting three fares for the work of one trip.

With all that said - the flights were painless and we made it home, which is the most important thing.

All in all, a super vacation.

Caption Me (Australian Version)

As seen in Canberra Australia, not far from this classic statue.

Friday, March 16, 2007

On the Road in Australia

They drive on the left side in Australia. Did this little fact keep my wife off the roads? Of course not! Here's a short clip of her demonstrating her skills...

Music by Astral Navigations - Driving when I shouldn't E.P.. Shot with my Canon SD630 and edited on the business center's computer with Windows Movie Maker.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Australian Vacation: Rare plants and a travel buddy

Today, on my walk over to the Australian National Botanic Gardens, I noticed another obvious tourist who was examining a map. I commented that she look like me over the last few days - and from there we struck up a conversation.

Turns out, I had just met Nicole from Switzerland. She was on a 3 month (yes, month) backpacking trip around Australia. She had no official plans that day, so we made our way over to the Botanic Gardens together.

To steal an Aussie phrase, this all turned out to be heaps (or, if you prefer stacks) of fun. I got to see odd plants and trees and learn about how Americans are workaholics compared to the easy going Swiss.

It was neat hearing about how she planned and executed a solo trip around a country which isn't her native language. It took a year of planning and 1 month in Melbourne at a language school to get prepared. Then she ventured all through Australia, mostly on the cheap.

Here are some snapshots from the gardens. Including one of Nicole (see, I'm not making her up...) next to some particularly rare specimen:

Australian Vacation: A view from the lake

View of the Lake

The above shot is actually my first attempt to stitch together a bunch of shots to make a panoramic photo. It worked out OK, though there clearly some blemishes in the photo. Still, I think it's a reasonable first attempt.

The photo is of Lake Burley Griffin which is located in Canberra. The lake is actually man made, and was created in 1963.

I find that date hard to believe because it shows just how new the capital is. Aren't things like the capital of a country supposed to be hundreds of years old? Guess not.

To created the above photo I used hugin and autopano - two cool applications that work some serious image voodoo to automatically stitch together photos. And they are both free.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Australian Vacation: Kangroo Hunting

On our way back from dinner last night, we asked the cab driver if he could suggest any places where we might see kangaroos in the wild. Around here, kangaroos are a lot like deer are in the US - they are a nusiance and a hazard to people and cars. Oh, and both can be found on various menus.

One big difference between kangaroos and deer - kangaroos can attack and hurt you, while deer simply scamper off.

The cab driver didn't just tell us about where we can find them, but drove us around a bit till we found this group of 'roos. It took us about 10 minutes to find these guys.

While searching for kangaroos the can driver took us to the top of a hill overlooking Canberra. I don't think the photo does the area justice - it really was impressive by night.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Australian Vacation: Telstra Tower Run

This morning I decided I would take a quick morning run over to Telsa Telstra Tower, the highest point in Canberra, Australia.

I estimated it would be about a 3 mile run there, and I figured the final push up the hill couldn't be that bad.

I was off by about 2 miles - it was a 5 mile run there, 2 miles of which were all up hill. Oh well, I survived and the views were worth the pain.

Telstra Tower Run comic

Caption Me (Australian Version)

Caption Me

As seen in an outdoor shopping plaza in Canberra, Australia.

Australian Vacation: Getting to know the capital

Today I took an overview tour of Canberra, the capital of Australia. The city was planned by Walter Burley Griffin, who was a student of Frank Lloyd Wright. The tour guide claimed that Walter was inspired by Washington, DC, and I believe it. As the photo above shows, there's a road which connects the War Memorial to the parliament house which has the same basic feel as the reflecting pool.

Speaking of the War Memorial, I should mention that it's a fantastic site to see. When I hear war memorial, I think about the Vietnam Wall in DC and the like. Touching stuff, but not something you can spend a whole lot of time at without getting it. When they say war memorial here, they mean a museum filled with World War I and World War II artifacts and lots of stories. It's remarkable stuff.

I can see why the tour guide claimed "it's the most popular museum in Australia, full stop."

The tour also took me to parliament house, where I got a tour of the House and Senate (terms and a concept they borrowed directly from our system, thank you very much). The big take away here was that Australians are required to vote. There's like a $70 fine for not voting. As a result, they get like 96% voter turnout at their elections.

Can you imagine if we made voting mandatory in the US? No doubt people would be protesting for their right to not vote.

I snapped this photo of past prime minister Sir John Gorton, as he's dressed pretty much the way I'd imagined an Aussie PM would dress. Kinda business casual for the job.

Tomorrow I hope to go back to some of the sites I saw today for a bit more detail.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Australia: More boats and a change of venue

Here are some photos from the National Maritime Museum. We ran out of time yesterday to see everything, so I went back this morning for a more in depth look.

I'm sorry, but any museum that features a boat made completely from beer cans automatically becomes cool in my book.

Here's Shira in front of her favorite part of the museum. Oh wait, this was the only part she saw today.

As a well balanced married couple, we know there are times when we need to do things together, and we know there are times we need to do things apart. In this case, spending a few hours looking at a museum we had already been to once just wasn't up Shira's alley. We did this one apart. Anyone wanna guess what Shira did while I perused the galleries?

This is us in the Sydney airport preparing to head out to Canberra to continue our vacation there. In the photo we are about to start watching a DVD of House, my favorite mystery show on TV. I also consider it to be the closest thing to a programming show on TV, as the entire episode is spent in the debugging process (whiteboard included!).

We landed in Canberra without a problem and so far all we've done is eaten and settled in. Tomorrow, the real fun begins.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Australia Vacation: More Sydney

Today, as part of our Australian vacation, we spent more time hanging out around Sydney. They have a really impressive market they hold on the weekends that made for some good browsing and shopping. We also made it to the National Maritime Museum. This was fun because we got to tour a destroyer (the HMS Vampire) and a sub (the HMS Advance).

Shira puts up with me and lets me tour these navy ships, even though they all pretty much look alike. But, I have to say I love to poke my way through them. Let's face it, my inner 10 year old just thinks this stuff is so cool. And as a computer guy, I just love to marvel at the fact that these ships were built without the help of a CAD program. Heck, just to think they managed to get the ship built without lots of MS Project or Excel documents blows my mind.

We had surprisingly good meals today as we managed to discover a really yummy pancake house and a totally out of the way sushi place which had a curious selection of vegetarian rolls.

And the weather? Hot and sunny. I hear there's a drought going on in the country - I'm awfully sorry about that, though it's making for excellent tourist weather.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Netcat Hack: Checking on mail status

While on vacation I've been keeping half-an-eye on my work e-mail by making use of the portable version of Thunderbird. So far, it has worked fantastically. I simply plug in my thumb drive to whatever computer I'm near, and click send and recieve and poof, I've got my e-mail.

Most of the e-mail messages I delete to get them out of the way from the stuff I actually want to read.

Then, this morning I had a terrifying thought: when I delete e-mail, it's not being put into the trash. That's kinda strange. What if it's actually deleting it off the server?! That is, I get back to the office and check to find out I've cleared out all my e-mail accidentally. Though part of me would love this, the other part didn't like this one bit.

So, what to do? Well, it occured to me, I can easily check on the status of my POP account by making use of netcat. By using netcat and skipping a mail client, I know that I'll be able to check on the exact status of my inbox, versus what a mail client wants to show me.

The next time I was near a computer, I plugged in my thumb drive, opened up a command prompt and ran the commands:

nc <pop-mail-server-name.com> 110
USER <username>
PASS <password>
LIST

Sure enough, all 500+ messages were there, just like I had hoped. Whew.

Australia: A bit of history

I had previously heard that Australia started off as a penal colony, but didn't know any of the details. Well, today, got the full scoop. I did this by perusing the Hyde Parks Barracks Museum.

The museum, as the name suggests, is housed in a barracks that used to be the residence for convicts way back when. In fact, the relatively small building held at least 600 convicts, and perhaps lots more. They have recreate the sleeping conditions upstairs by hanging hammocs up again. They even let you kick back and imagine what the prisonors must have felt like. Kinda spooky stuff.

So, yes, it's true - Australia started off as a penal colony. And here's the thing - while some of the convicts were really bad people, there were lots of criminals who did nothing more than steal a sheep or have a forged 1 pound note. Of course, at the time, these crimes could have gotten you the death penalty, so being sent off to Australia wasn't all that bad.

The museum lists a bunch of the convicts names and crimes. I had to feel at least a little bad for the guy who was sandwiched between the follow who had commited manslaughter and the guy who was in for house robbery. I feel bad, because his crime was "stealing a cap." Man that's tough justice. And yet, with all that tough love, I doubt the crime rate went down (though I don't know this for a fact). Can we learn anything from this?

After the museum Shira and I made a bit of a cullinary discovery: a vegetarian Thai restaruant. We were both pleased by this find. The food was OK (I'm not sure our choices were great ones), and I was just glad to be able to order veggie sausage.

Finally, here's the obligatory picture of us at the harbor, in the sunshine. Yes, it's another gorgeous day here.

Man I could get used to this vacation thing...

Bushwacking in the Outback

Today's Australian vacation activity was hiking in the outback and catching some of the sights that the Blue Mountains had to offer.

My photos simply can't do the scenery justice - it's like out of a picture book. Surprisingly (at least to me, anyway), we spent a good amount of time today in hiking around a rain forest. Who knew Australia had rain forests?

And here's a food tip...

Today at lunch we asked about what kind of pizza the snack shop was selling. "Crocodile" the clerk responded. We foolishly expected that to be some sort of euphemism for something like chicken and avocado pizza. When we asked what was on it, there was a pause for a second and then he replied, "crocodile." Oh, we'll pass, we said.

And when you see a kangaroo burger on the menu, that isn't some kids menu humor, they mean, just what they say. Apparently kangaroo meat is considered good stuff around here.

We did find one all veggie deli type place today named Zenergy - which was really tasty. Though, overall, we haven't been blow away with the food here. I think that's more our bad luck in choosing places than their bad offerings.

And the weather? We got a few thundershowers, but luckily, one happened while we we were eating and another while we were on the train. The other time spent hiking was all blue skies.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Kangaroos, Koalas and Dingos, On My

Today, Shira and I made the trip out to Featherdale Wildlife Park. It was a great way to see lots of Australian wildlife - from Kangroos to exotic birds. The park was more liberal than most zoos we've been to, allowing you to freely interact with the kangroos and other animals.

Reall cool stuff. A must see if you make it out here.

Oh, and should I mention that the weather was perfect again today? It was. Gosh, I could get used to this vacation thing.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Australian Vacation: Sydney

Shira and I are finishing up our first day in Australia, and we spent it touring around Sydney. It was loads of fun. Sydney turns out to be a really accessible city, as we were able to both walk it and make use of a ferry.

The city has a really western feel to it. If you ignore the accents and the fact that they drive on the wrong side of the road, you really would think you were in some random city in the US.

Oh, and did I mention that it was sunny and like 75 degrees here?

Here are some random snapshot I took today - plenty more to come at the end of the trip.

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