Friday, March 28, 2008

The biggest slug ever

This was sliming its way across my kitchen floor. The strangest bit is that its slime tracks were coming from under my stove, not outdoors. Yikes.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Words in context

Sorry to be getting so political here, but it is bothering me and this helps. Here is a quote from Ambassador Peck (former Ambassador to Iraq and member of Reagan's terrorism task force), a month after 9/11 and obviously in line with what Jeremiah Wright heard:
The difficulty that we face is that I support -- because I understand how democracy works -- we have to go out and do the sorts of things we are doing. So we will mercilessly, viciously, effectively attack and destroy all kinds of symptoms. When the rubble has settled and the dust is gone, the disease is still going to be out there untouched. Because we don't want to look at why, why it is that all of these people hate us. It's not because of freedom. It's not because Brittney Spears has a belly button or because we export hamburgers. They hate us because of things they see us doing to their part of the world that they definitely do not like.
And, thanks to google, I also found this interview with Peck from October 21, 2002. Worth reading on the fifth year anniversary of this stupid war.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Watch it.


I've posted so many pictures of the weekend that they don't all stay on the front page. The start of the show is actually under "older posts" at the bottom of the page here.

Cool tree

This was from the very beginning of my walk.

Geologist heaven

The rocks here are amazing.

Echo Point at dusk

Some more dusky pictures from Echo Point to the rest of the valley. Pretty spectacular, no?

Bushwalking III

I ended up at Echo Point, which has a famous view of the Three Sisters. The bottom picture is actually from the side of the Three Sisters. I guess you could say this is the left-most one in profile....

Bushwalking II

I walked on this trail from c. 5:30-8:00 pm, so one of the best parts was watching the light change each time I reached a new rock outcropping with views of the cliffs.

Bushwalking I

After Leura, I walked on a trail (4, 5 K? whatever that means!) along the cliff that runs alongside Leura and Katoomba. I started just past the Gordon Falls and walked past the Leura Cascades and the Three Sisters and ended up at Echo Cliffs. I took far more pictures than I can post here, but you'll get the idea... These are from the first part of the hike.


You can tell people are self-conscious about being responsible in a drought. Most houses had signs posted to explain away their lush gardens....

Beautiful corner

Just outside the gardens, there was this wonderful corner with a wonderfully run down house and barn. Plus some great trees.

These pictures remind me--one of the things I love about Australia? New South Wales? is the ubiquitous corrugated iron roofs. I think they are beautiful in a rough sort of way and they are fabulously noisy in a rainstorm.

Everglades Gardens

On Sunday I went on a long walk in a huge loop through Katoomba and the neighboring town, Leura. The hotel was close to the border between the two, and I started out with a swing through Leura in the hopes of exploring the Everglades Gardens. I got there just as it was supposed to be closing, though the gate was open and no one turned me away. So I took a quick peak. I nowhere near gave it justice, but did get a taste. In addition to the beautiful gardens, there was a theater group rehearsing Midsummer's Night Dream for a Shakespeare in the Gardens production next weekend. Fun.


The Blue Mountains are a bird paradise. There were huge flocks of cockatoos everywhere, and constant LOUD bird noises. Sydney is just a warm-up act in comparison. I did manage to get some pictures of this pair, a new-for-me type of lorikeet (I think).

Monday, March 17, 2008

Expectations management and culture shock

I had in many ways a lovely weekend in the Blue Mountains, but I came home a night early. The purpose of the weekend was to revel in luxury and creature comforts for a little while, and the hotel just didn't measure up. I don't know if it is a product of Australia not having the critical mass of the filthy rich (a mass in the US that just got a bit smaller--when will people (yes, Bear Sterns, I am talking to you) learn to diversify their labor and capital?), but the hotel was adequate but not luxurious. In other words, the bed was uncomfortable (pillow-tops have yet to make it up the Great Western Highway?), the water pressure bad, the breakfast unappetizing and cold, no comfortable chair to sit in in the room, convoys of trucks carrying industrial raw materials going by under the window of my room with a view (the view was beautiful).

So I checked out early.

I did go to the spa and had a lovely massage et al, but it too had been oversold. I think I would have enjoyed it much more if my expectations had been set properly: the pink clay milk bath was a bubble bath in a spa tub designed for an in-home spa to fit in your normal domestic bathroom--so not really enough room to stretch out in, nor really deep enough. And details were missing--no hook on the bathroom door for the robe they gave you, bad music choices for the piped in music (who wants a beat at a spa????).

Having said all that, the Blue Mountains are gorgeous and dramatic. I'm sorry not to have taken the family there when they visited (y'all will just have to come back, you hear?) and I had a wonderful, long dusky bushwalk the first day. I'll be posting pictures of it later.

I suspect, though, that bushwalk set me up for my bad attitude later--I was exhausted and sore and hungry when I got back to the hotel and it was unable to properly minister to any of my needs....

Saturday, March 15, 2008

A fun weekend

Tomorrow (Sunday) I am going to Katoomba, in the Blue Mountains, for two nights here. On Monday, I have The Works scheduled at 10 am. I plan on bringing hiking boots, camera, journal, and my never-ending (and fabulous) novel, The Systems of the World. I can't wait!

Not so fast

The last post about cooler weather? Not a trend. The past few days have been warmer and sunnier than most of the summer. It will officially be fall next week too! At least I got two loads of laundry washed and dried today, even though I started late.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Contemplating a conversion

The air is noticeably colder these days. Who knows if it is a sign of seasons turning or just more of the spectacularly unusual weather we've been having this year? But it does put me in mind to contemplate the upside-down seasons here and the great travesty of the Australian calendar: there isn't a single holiday between June 9 and October 6. Not one. And the 9th is the Queen's birthday, and really who cares? Even she is probably just as happy ignoring her birthdays these days. So winter here is a bleak, unbroken string of 5 day work weeks. (NB: Winter in Sydney can't fairly be described as bleak, though the days are short and it can get chilly.)

Anyway, I am contemplating converting to Wiccan or something so that I can at least get excited about the solstice.

(NB2: I am going to spend the month of June in Santa Fe, so really, this year at least, I can't complain. But come on, Australia, you should come up with some excuses to take a few days off. You're good at that.)

Water is stronger than stone

How is this for erosion?

Manly Bay

Spiders, North Sydney style

I saw this spectacular collection of huntsman(?) spiders on the Manly to Reef Beach walk on Sunday. The picture doesn't capture how big these guys are, but believe me, they are!!