June 2006 Archives

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After the dive was a couple of good lazy days on the beach at the resort, a quick invigorating tour of Melbourne, and all of the sudden its near the end of the month and I'm back home up at 5am with jetlag and a tinge of sadness that vacation went by so quick.

Photos to come after I get some bills paid and get work rolling.

Tropical North Queensland

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With a beer here at the table, and soft Pacific breezes coming off the ocean, I'm so chilled out that even writing HTML is a chore. Here's the view as I post this sunny Tuesday morning in Queensland, halfway between Cairns (pronounced like the things tuna comes in: "cans") and Port Douglas. Towering date and coconut palms are all around, and the sounds of the ocean breaking on the black rocks and sand is calming.
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Charles and I travelled on Sunday afternoon from Sydney to Cairns for a stay at the Turtle Cove Resort. Its nestled on the coast between a world heritage rain forest and the Pacific ocean, has a private sandy beach, and feels quite secluded, especially as it's off season here. Even the off season is beautiful. IMG_4925.JPG
We've got an oceanfront room, and our luck with the weather has held out. The sky is crystal clear, the temperatures are balmy, and the tropical environment hardly feels like what one would expect of Australia, but as its 3 hours by plane from Sydney, completely understandable. Getting out of the city afforded us a view of the night sky and the southern cross for the first time. I was able to identify a few constellations, and the brightness of the milky way on a moonless sky left me astounded last night. Its a beautiful coast, and a fantastic place to enjoy it from.
Monday we woke early to see the sun rise from our room:
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We had an agenda aside from the sunrise though. The resort has a relationship with Haba Dive, a tour operator in Port Douglas, so that guests can do tours of the Great Barrier Reef, and the bus to the dock to catch their express catamaran to the reef was at 7:45am. We had no intention of missing it. Chaz and I are both certified divers, but the last time either of us dove was over a decade ago. During the bumpy 90 minute ride out to the reef, we got a refresher in the equipment and the dive procedures and hand signals that were were going to use on the dive. Haba took us to the Opal Reef, which is the green area in the navigation map below. They have a mooring a the edge of the coral that they back the boat up to, and let the divers and snorkelers at it. IMG_4945.jpg

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The water temperature is in the 70s, so wetsuits were in order for all, and us 'intro' divers were the first in. They had us go in, and get used to the equipment holding onto the mooring. They had us practice clearing our masks and our regulators, and they were quite the patient bunch with squirmy and nervous newcomers as well as people that had dived before. Of course the water was quite frigid, and the first time salt water got in my regulator, I had quite a retching fit trying to get rid of it. The feeling is horrid, but once I was past it, the reef and corals were there to be enjoyed. I think I was second in, and didn't have any problems getting down closer to corals around the boat as the other divers were joining us. The water was pretty clear, and there was an abundance of aquatic life around us from the first moment. A parrot fish came by picking off bits of something off the mooring line, and other fish were schooling in the shade of the boat. Charles got in and had some issues with buoyancy to begin with, but soon overcame that, and our dive leader took us on a tour around the corals at the edge of the reef.
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It really had been years since I'd dove, but floating along and feeling the currents and seeing the fish was thrilling. We swam along with brightly colored tropicals, above blue branching corals and countless anemonies. We'd go by large boulder-like corals that had blue creatures, what Charles called "Christmas Tree Corals" waving from their pores, and as we'd get close, they'd pull into their little retreats. The dive leader, Oskar, pointed out a couple of giant clams, and gave us a hands-on experience with a couple of the creatures of the deep. One of the creatures was some sort of spiny brown anemonie, that he picked up off the corals. He indicated for us to stroke first one side of its branches, then the other. As I stroked it the second time, the little feller grabbed back like a cat's tounge, and I about jumped out of my wetsuit. The other creature was far more disgusting. He picked up a sea cucumber off the floor of the ocean, and showed off its mouth and its underside. About the time the photographer came along, he started passing the thing around. It felt like 100s of little suckers pulling on my skin as it tried to move in my hand. Yuk.
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After our dive, we had plenty of time to snorkel around the reef, and that was great fun as well. They gave us a small lunch as they moved the boat to another part of the reef for our second dive. We had some issues starting the second dive, and Charles and I got out of the water before the rest of the divers. I was lucky enough though that Oskar was wiling to take me and another diver down around the boat again, for what was my best dive. I saw a sleeping white-tipped shark, a sea turle of about 5 feet in length, and an enormous grouper, in addition to the assortment of schooling fish and clams and amazing corals. It was just like a documentary on TV, with fish and creatures coming up and by, hardly bothered by us being there. We're gong to have to book some more diving trips to get back in the water more. The trip back was smooth, and we rode by a lighthouse on a coral cay, and into the dock after a long day. We had a terrific dinner and slept very, very well that night.
Tuesday we have some hot-stone massages planned, as well as some beach time in the sun. This is quite the respite from Texas and the world.

Friday in Sydney

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We got the obligatory photo with the Koala in yesterday at the Taronga Zoo yesterday. It was a fun ride over there on one of the Sydney Ferries, although it was a bit crowded with school children and japanese tourists. Our Koala was had its batteries worn out with all the prior tourists, so the photos (still to come) will show a grey smelly furball in the tree, but the thought counts, right? They also had a terrific bird free-flight show where native birds would do tricks including swooping right over our heads. They had the cockatiels, the lorikeets, cranes, owls, and a native wedge eagle that went 'off script' and hung out in the trees for a while before deciding to cooperate with the trainer.

The day was cloudless again, and we both got a little sun on our faces at the zoo and on the ferries. After the zoo we had a noodle lunch and a quick nap at the hotel before going out to do some nightlife in Sydney. It was a bit slow but still fun. I think we've gotten through the jetlag now.

Today we're going to wander Chinatown and some other parts of the city, not really with a plan or anything. The city is quieter, as its weekend now. We're in a nice slow vacation pace at this point.

Introduction to Sydney

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That was one really, really, really, long flight.
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I can smell the champagne in there..

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I barely slept last night. Our wakeup call was a bit early considering the anticipation we're both wracked with. Everything could go wrong: alarms, traffic, weather. We lucked out though. John gave us an easy ride to the airport, and we got checked in to the flight and to the lounge effortlessly. Our flight to LAX was smooth and bright, and we got into the Qantas First lounge where we're lounging pre-flight with professors and doctors and business people watching the World Cup on TV. We've had some salmon and some wine as a snack, and are doing a few calls. For both of us, this is the first time we'll have been on a 747-400, and its huge. Enormous. And we're right up front for the ride.

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Today's the first day of vacation, and tomorrow is the first leg our our trip to Australia
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Four days in Sydney, four days in Cairns doing some diving on the Great Barrier Reef, and four days in Melbourne for some city touring and socializing. Charles and I are both pretty excited about it, as it really is the first lengthy vacation we've both taken with each other. And we're both thrilled about taking Qantas First Class on the trans-Pacific legs. Sleeper seats, duvets, cotton towels in the bathroom, and of course, we have very high expectations for the food. I'm sure we won't be disappointed.



Yesterday was my 37th birthday, and Chaz pulled together a small surprise party. I thought his family was going to come by, but instead, about a dozen of our friends came by for hamburgers, beer, and tres leches cake. As much as I chat with my closest friends, somehow they were able to keep it quiet.

Its good being done with a project and on a trajectory for some time on my own. I've still got to balance the checkbook and get a couple of plug adapters, but I'll be ready for that plane in the morning!

Good to know

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Having worked there the past 2 months, I can see the necessity of an email like this going out.

There will probably still be pleny of emergency services calls those days.

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Riding along

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I rode my motorcycle with the Freedom Riders contingent in the Austin Pride parade last night. It was truly at night this time, which made for a much cooler time, relatively speaking. A few of the sport bikes overheated and were sidelined, but us cruisers fared well. While the community politics of the parade are surely important, what had me smiling the entire time was riding up Congress Avenue toward the Capital lit against the purple sky of a dimming sunset. Having the entire street all to myself (kind of) for just the short time, and basking in the warm evening with friends ahead and to either side as riders or as watchers, concerns and thoughts fell away and I felt totally in the moment of being at home in Austin. I'm pretty fortunate that I can live as I do where I do, and have the rich set of friends and neighbors and coworkers current and former to share this time and this space with.

This was also the weekend of the Republic of Texas Rally where bikers from all over the state invade. I can still hear them up and down I-35. As happened last year, a couple of the bikers joined our contingent, some accidently, some to show off their bikes. Hams.

The gutters are clean and the lawn is mowed: I exercised my command over the small fiefdom that is mine, and it bent to my will. Another empowering feeling.

This should be my last week in New York before preparing to go to Australia for the first true vacation Charles and I have had in a long time. More details on that to come. Right now I have to prepare for my 4:30am wakeup call to get to New York.

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This page is an archive of entries from June 2006 listed from newest to oldest.

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