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Today at least half the snow we saw yesterday was gone; instead there were semi-green fields - beautiful, and almost like a completely different park again from yesterday.  But there was still enough snow left to build a giant snowman!

Read more... )
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We still held out some hope that there’d be real, actual snow in the park itself.  It seemed that our hopes were granted beyond our dreams.  The entire place was just covered in snow, making some paths treacherous, and others just plain wet.  Everything, however, was beautiful.  We even saw a bear which stopped traffic for a bit—no photos or footage, though, as no one was quick enough on the draw to catch him before he disappeared into forest.

Read more... )
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Today was the day to do the more classic San Francisco sights: Cable Cars, the sea lions, Azkaban Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge, and Muir Woods.  The weather tried to do all it could to convince us to turn back, but except in the case of Alcatraz, we were steadfast.  The catch phrase of the day was one from someone yesterday, who told us “It’s like this all year round!” in the kind of voice that suggested that would be a good thing.  And we were looking at each other trying to to say: You’re kidding, right mate?  It’s frigging freezing!  We’re from Brisbane.  We tried our best, but we couldn’t pack clothes warm enough for this weather.  And no one here sells warm clothes, because it’s apparently spring.  Which means, by definition, it’s warmed up enough to put away all the woolens.

Read more... )
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We were pretty darn tired last night.  At one point in the very early morning, I decided to track down my watch and check the time in the light from the crack in the curtains.  It was 10am.  Oh.

So we dragged ourselves out of bed, managed to partake of the hostel’s free breakfast before it closed at 11am, and were on our way to cruise around Silicon Valley sign-spotting.  The Computer History Museum got, in our opinion, a 10/10 for awesome to warm the heart of any geek (a working Babbage Difference Engine?!?!!!!), while Google reported an unexpectedly low 0/10 for fun.

Read more... )
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So day one of our little jaunt began, as always, on extremely little sleep. 

Yesterday we made the decision to finally FINALLY take the plunge and, rather than struggling with printouts from Google Maps, purchase our own device, add on US maps, claim the duty back when leaving Australia, and have it available to the family pool for various trips.  Hubby’s never used a GPS navigator before, so he’s dubious.  I know better.  :)  So, we now have purchased a Garmin Nuvi 1350, which promises to keep us on track, at least in Australia.  He's known semi-consistently as The Colonel, in response to the rather pretentious British voice we chose for the directions after laughing ourselves sick at the absurd Australian accent that had come as default.  Honestly, it reminded us of the Google Maps April Fools Day prank.  :)

Too long, don't read - just look at the pretty pictures... )

Despite being light on sleep, however, once we’d settled in and chosen beds (Penski declined to sleep with Hubby in the double which would have let me have a bed to myself, which I thought was most ungentlemanly of him), we headed out for a bit of minor sightseeing and some clam chowder.  We ended up walking all the way from Union Square to Fisherman’s Wharf, through Chinatown and via Coit Tower (ie. the telegraph tower on highest hill around) which had seemed like a doable way to beat the post-flying stiffness at the hostel and stay awake/physically exhaust ourselves a bit. But after charging about trying to make it up the hill and down again before the sun set, we ended up very nearly falling asleep in our soup. If I'd had the clam chowder as well, we would have needed a lifeguard for the drowning risk.  Agatha, it seems, doesn’t like any kind of fish product, particularly after vigorous exercise.  I’m not usually much of a fish person, but I enjoy shellfish and crustaceans quite a bit, usually.  At the moment, however, it seems not.  Luckily I realised this early when I considered running to the bathroom to throw up while reading the menu, ordered something vegetarian that she didn't like much either, but significantly better than the obligatory spoonful of Hubby’s chowder.

We caught the tram back to our hostel, and slept all the way through to 10am the next morning in real, horizontal beds that were warm and soft and, after a 24 hour transit day + sightseeing, absolute heaven.

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I guess this may be the first many people have heard about it, but I'm off to Europe. In fact, I've already gone.

I've been meaning to update about many things in the last few weeks--my package from the US, my dubiously awesome Eye-Fi wireless SD card, my packing list, my itinerary, my struggles finishing this year's Mystery Festival before leaving, even the Storey Bridge Climb, which is actually mostly unrelated to my trip.

Unfortunately the conmbination of interesting and eminantly bloggable events has left me with a ridiculous dearth of time in which to actually update said blog. (Unlike usual, when it's the dearth of material which prevents regular updates.)

In any case, on May 8th, at 2:45, with all packages unpacked, wireless cards wired, packs packed, itineraries itineraried, bridges climbed, and mysteries--mostly!--solved, my cousin and I waved goodbye to Hubby and climbed aboard a flight to London for eight and a half weeks of non-stop-Hubbieless-partying backpacking through Europe.

Our itinerary, roughly, is one week in the UK, two and a half weeks on an organised bus tour of western Europe, three and a half weeks with a Eurail pass and no plans, and one week in Scandinavia.

At the moment, on the plane between Brisbane and Singapore at 9:00am London time on a day that's already been eighteen hours long, in a week that's been eighteen hours short on sleep, I should be writing the Mystery Festival. I should, and I have been, and maybe it's the lack of sleep, but damn this stuff I've already written is good.

I only wish I feel like I could write stuff half this good for the rest of it. I know it's in there--all I have to do is get it out onto paper. Some time in the next twenty hours.

That can't be so hard!

Can it?

Blogs on a plane! )
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So, finally to the real reason we'd gone over: TechEd, the major technical education conference for those using Visual Studio or other Microsoft development tools.

Of course everyone knew we were looking forward to the keynote: given by Bill Gates as his last speech as full time chairman of Microsoft. And yeah, it was pretty damn cool to see Bill speak in person. He talked a bit about history, a bit about himself, a bit about the future, but mostly about upcoming tech. He really is just a big geek, and I think that’s kinda cool.

Read more... )

Nearly done: all that remains is the Kennedy Space Centre, and home again. :)
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Last day in DC – we had to leave at around 2:30 to catch our flight to Orlando – and so the plan was to dash around a few of the Smithsonian museums.

Read more... )
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Fortunately, it seems that DC is not entirely deserted, because breakfast was much easier to obtain than any kind of sustenance the previous night. Possibly because our tour started from Union Station, the major crossroads of DC transport, but still, it was nice to see that the place wasn't solely occupied by lost tourists as we'd begun to suspect.

On with the tour though... )
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So we headed off bright and early to the High School Rugby Championships, and even though we were a tiny bit late, it didn’t matter because we still beat our client there.

Read more... )
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(Note: Back in Australia now and catching up on the days in between now I've got some time - may take a few days to catch up completely)

Leaving New York, today was another big driving day, particularly since Lily the Queen of Navigation took us through Maryland by mistake. Um... oops?

Fortunately it wasn’t quite as far out of our way as we’d feared when we first saw the “You are now entering Maryland” signs – we probably only lost half an hour in the entire operation, so we must have learned something from Indiana. :P The most notable thing about the drive, actually, was getting out of the flat country that we’d been driving through for most of the trip (with the exception of going through the Catskills in New York) to go over hills and under them, through them and around them, with big leafy trees and rocky crags all around. Easily the most beautiful drive of the trip.

Read more... )
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We set off with less urgency this morning on the downtown tour, expecting we’d have plenty of time to visit the three stops we had planned: Ground Zero, Liberty Island, and the United Nations building.

More photos than ever before )

Ahhh. I must say, touristy queues and hot-dogs we weren’t brave enough to try aside, New York is probably the place I’ve come across that I most kept thinking... you know, I could live here. I’m sure I’d get sick of the noise and the pollution (we’ve both got sinus reactions to the air), I don’t fancy having to dodge taxi-drivers for the rest of my life, but... yeah. I really liked New York.
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I’d been expecting to sleep badly – they call it the city that never sleeps, and the constant blaring of taxi horns and regular whine of a police siren hadn’t stopped during the time I was aware of it, but I guess it was just such a long day that I slept the sleep of the exhausted.

After an excellent cherry danish to go, we landed at the tour company we’d booked, and headed off on the first of the loop tours around NYC. This one was Uptown Manhattan, the highlight being Central Park, where we got off and walked around for ages before emerging only a fraction of the way further on. You hear about the size of central park, but the place is seriously massive. Interestingly enough, it was apparently a completely blank canvas when the landscapers came in to create it – just soggy marshland. Every tree, every hill, every lake, every rock – everything has been deliberately placed by the landscapers.

Aren’t you sick of pictures yet? )
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Today was the big driving day – seven hours according to our driving directions, more like eight or nine in actual fact. We wanted to set off fairly early to get a start on the distance, but had arrived too late at Niagara Falls the night before to do the attractions we really wanted to – Maid of the Mist and Journey Behind the Falls.

Both were pretty much everything we’d imagined. )
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Yesterday was a lazy day – we slept in, caught up on jetlag, read books, and caught up on internet/computer deprival on iviolinist’s unbelievably comfortable couches. If we ever actually purchase our own couches, rather than just stealing Hubby’s parents’ old ones, we now have a goal to aim towards. We also went along to iviolinist's church, which was fascinating being our first experience of a catholic service. We finished up the day by going to see Prince Caspian, which was lots of fun, particularly since I’d almost entirely forgotten the story and so wasn’t going “oh, they changed/left out/added this” the whole time.

It was very sad to say goodbye to iviolinist (and her couches!), who’s been a fantastic host, but it’s time to move onto the next legs of our trip. We set off at 8am to allow plenty of time for the border crossing into Canada and all the attractions therein – including an unprecedented opportunity to meet up with the most paranoid member of the Orion community: Gus.

Canadia! )

All in all a spectacular evening – tomorrow, Journey Behind the Falls and Maid of the Mist!
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So today’s big plan was to meet up with [ profile] rchevalier, who’s also in Michigan.

First of all, though, we went to the farmers’ market just over the creek from iviolinist’s, which was small but fun. We came away a jar of apple butter richer, so we have some apple produce from Michigan. Hurrah! (Although rchevalier was disappointed to learn later that we hadn’t establish the variety of apples from which it was made.) Still, now I can look up the recipe I came across a couple of months ago which insisted that while you could substitute other things for apple butter, there was really no comparison. Then I looked up what was involved in making it and decided... substitution will just have to do for now. :)

More travels and pics )
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After a somewhat jetlagged morning, we set off at about midday towards Battle Creek in Michigan, where [ profile] iviolinist lives, who’s putting us up for three nights while we acclimatise.

The way across from Chicago is around the bottom of Lake Michigan, taking us briefly through Indiana. Unfortunately, shortly after crossing the border we missed an exit and subsequently made the brave decision to make our way through back streets across to the highway we were meant to be on. It was just a couple of kilometers to the north, after all, so it couldn’t be too hard to find... could it?

After about half an hour of driving, however, we realised that we’d somehow got turned around and were in fact going not vaguely north-east as we’d thought for the past half hour, but due south. *facepalm*

How this happened, we must put down to the confusion of the small incident we had getting off the highway, when we realised that then road we were on was not, in fact, the continuation of our exit ramp, but as we’d gone through the toll booths had invisibly merged with the entrance ramp. This meant that even if we wanted to turn left, we should still remain on the right side of the divider. Fortunately, the lights were red for oncoming traffic, and there was only about two metres to reverse back to get on the right side of things, so we were out of the way before anyone (except perhaps the lady at the toll booth) noticed. Still, there remains some confusion as to whether we encountered a small wormhole that teleported us from one side of the freeway to the other, because the map does say that the names of the towns we were encountering at first really were on the other side of the highway to what we turned out to be.

More picspam )

To top off an awesome night, we went to the new Indiana Jones movie, which Hubby and I have been wanting to see. It was all quite unrealistic until the aliens came. :P No, seriously, it was pretty darn good, and we all enjoyed it.

Daylight savings (and the winter-summer crossing) along with the jetlag makes an instinctive feeling for the time rather difficult. We’re used to the sun setting at about 5:15, not 8:45! Fortunately, by the time we made it out of the movie theatre and it was almost midnight, and thus finally actually dark. Given the level of general exhaustion, it even seemed like the right time!
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5:15 in the morning is too early for anything, let alone the beginning of a 36 hour day, sixteen hours of which was spent sitting in exactly the same spot, and another eight and a half in queues of various description.

I did, however, finish off the Mystery Festival. One of my favourite characters (the mafia guy who threatens your stuffed toys if you fall behind in your loan repayments) has unfortunately been gutted (and not in a mafia sense, either), but the Inspector was very useful in changing the whole way everything worked. Not entirely thrilled with the results, but it's at least done. So I guess the answer is: yes, I can do a bodge-job if I'm kept to the task by the ticking down of my laptop battery and kept from getting distracted by being strapped in an economy seat for thirteen hours. :P

There was a section of turbulence for the LA-Chicago leg, which was quite fun indeed - there were people yahooing and so on like a rollercoaster - although the worst thing about the entire trip was that someone was leaning on the hostess call-button throughout the entire descent, so the bell was going "ding... ding... ding... ding..." AARGH!

By the time we’d arrived in Chicago towards the end of a very strange day, Macca's (or as we see on the signs over here “Micky D’s”) was seeming like a good option for dinner. A quintessential American restaurant, maybe, but perhaps not the best of plans on a stomach already vaguely queasy from flying. So, instead, we decided on barbecue ribs. :P Then we wandered around taking photos of the pretty lights.

Picspam! )

We’ve just crossed from winter to summer, and that’s why it seems so ridiculous to be freezing our rear ends off. We poor Brisbanites knew it was going to be cold, but we're such wusses at 10C! Hopefully it won’t get much colder than this, or we’ll have no jumpers left to put on on top of one another. :)
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G'bye everyone!

Plane to US leaves tomorrow at crack of dawn (ie. 11am, which is the crack of dawn when you allow for customs, etc.)

Software is not bug-free and Mystery Festival play is not finished. Have left a mostly awesome version of the former for the final preparation before the demo and the latter is about halfway done and I've at least got the story sorted. I'm planning to finish the play on the plane and email from [ profile] iviolinist's.

When *that*'s done, I'll be on holiday. Am I capable of doing a bodge job to get it finished? We shall soon find out.


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The White Lily

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