Thursday, December 30, 2004

DEC - Tsunami Earthquake

One of my good friends Matt has posted an excellent summary on the bad part of knowing people from around the world, I've been 'lucky' in that I don't directly know anyone affected by the tsunami.

This post really has no substance, there's a few things I could say about the political rumblings going about the lack of warning to Sri Lanka and India, but to be honest it's not worth the breath. My condolences to those who have lost, and my desire that those still searching find those they care about alive and well.

If you're in the UK go to the DEC - Tsunami Earthquake site to donate (or direct to whichever charity works best for you).


Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Updated some Photos/Movies

On the website:

I've changed some of the photo folder names so that they're now in the order that I actually visited the places (I may change them again in the near future as I look into how I've organised them), as a consequence some of the photo's that I've linked to on this blog, may not actually work..

So until I get around to fixing them, bad luck :-P (not really, but just so you know it is on my list, right after learning Portuguese)

Now some people have had difficulty viewing my photo's so I thought I'd try and put down a couple of easy steps on how to view them (the image to the left shows my expanded photo's):

  1. Go to (wait for list on the left to finish opening)
  2. Click on the Biscuit link (this will expand everything under Biscuit)
  3. Click on the little Next to Photos (this will expand the list of photos)
  4. Click on any of the locations you'd like to see photos of (and then wait for them to appear on the right)

And that my friends is how you view my photo's, for some spectacular scenery I recommend the Rockies for me making a fool of myself check out New Orleans or Newfoundland :-)

Oh and I've now uploaded some movies as well (though I haven't yet linked to them on to grab them they are:
  • The Chase a 9MB file showing Matt up to some antics in Scotland.. Very amusing.
  • Vancouver fireworks with music Footage of some of the spectacular fireworks from Vancouver, with a bit of a sound track I added (couldn't remember what the actual soundtrack was..


Saturday, December 25, 2004

Old coding thing (from C days)

So if you're not a geek (and for those geeks reading, yes I actually know some non-geeks) I'd recommend skipping this post and going onto my Merry Xmas and some thoughts post.

Was reading a post from The Old New Thing on BOOL vs. VARIANT_BOOL vs. BOOLEAN vs. bool which is an interesting post about the origins of the different boolean standards (and if you've ever had to write code to talk to a dll written in another language you'll understand why I found this interesting). But this reminded me an old C technique which was commonly used to handle menu's (I'm talking text based/command prompt age here, none of this funky mouse stuff)

How C handled booleans
If you've read the link above you'll now know that the original BOOL was defined as an int with two possible values (0 = False, 1 = True).

Now C to see if something was False simply does (x == 0) and True does either (x != 0) or (x > 0) // I can't remember which one it is Which meant that if you wanted to be creative in your functions what you would do is return instead of a boolean you'd return an int, allowing:

if(int x=ShowMenu())
princ('You picked menu /n', x);

Ok that's probably not making much sense, but the point is that if you return 0 it meant fail an if check, any other number (or positive number) would be 'true' and so...

Why old menu's used to have 0 as the Exit Menu option
You now should have a good idea where I'm heading here, but to continue... Dos, BBS, Unix (generally text based applications), would usually have a menu that kinda looked like:

2. FTP
4. MOO

So you'd simply press the appropriate key matching the menu option you wanted (sorry for boring the crap out of coders here, but some people are not used to these old menu's they've only ever used Gui's). Anyways it was a fairly common standard that if the menu used numbers as their accepted characters 0 would be the exit code. Allowing:

1: Pine(); break;
2: Ftp(); break;
3: Telnet(); break;
4: Moo(); break;

Basically you never had to explicitly code to handle the Exit case, as it was inherently handled by the if() and while().

It's still around!
This particular 'standard' has followed us today by people who call API functions (that return 0 if it fails, and maybe a href if it succeeds) like so:

if setRegValue("HKEY_USER", "Software\Microsoft\Excel", pstrFieldName, pstrValue) then
msgbox "Successfully updated value"
end if

For backwards compatibility you can still compare int's to a Boolean in most languages (even if the language no longer uses int as it's boolean underlying type)

Here endeth the lesson.

Merry Xmas and some thoughts

Well there I was reading my favourite web comic on Xmas eve (as in tonight) and this strip was the latest one: Questionable Content: Another Kind of Ninja

Why have I travelled? (the long version)
Now this particular episode (you'll need to read the strip to get this next paragraph or so methinks), it reminded me of why I went and got married, and no doubt many of you are still thinking I was insane to do so. But it all comes down to what Marten says in this episode, it's about being willing to make stupid (and sometimes serious) mistakes that take your life in different directions, I would of rathered to of moved to Lismore, gone and got married than stayed and constantly wondered "What would of happened?"

Now for quite a long while after that particularly large decision came crashing down in a heap I was unwilling to actually take any risks (I can see some of you already agreeing with me here), I was only choosing the conservative path, staying with the norm.. But at the same time I was telling myself (almost mantra like) "I don't regret trying" "I don't regret trying" "I don't regret trying" and it's true for me (just as with Marten), that was closure enough for me... Though I didn't mind hearing what some of my friends said about my ex (more because of their friendship and desire to protect me, than because of the specific things they said).

But then over time I healed I started to consider taking risks and get out there and see the world (always been a dream of mine), but still I wasn't willing to lose what I gained (a house, a job etc...) But then a combination of things occurred, I went on a 'personal development course' that a good friend recommended* and came to realise only I was holding myself back, and started to try small things, take small risks, and guess what? I survived, the world did not come crashing down!

Then at the start of this year I read a small quote "The future is that time, when you'll wish you had of done, what you aren't doing right now." and it gave me pause (not the cat kind, more thinking music time) and so I asked myself "What will I regret not doing in a years time" and the answer was easy, it was that old dream of mine, to travel the world. So within 3 months I had:
  • figured out where I wanted to start
  • bought the tickets (one of the scariest steps)
  • quit my job (exhilirating to do when you've got no plans to get another job!)
  • organised my sister to rent my house from me (took nearly 3 goes to get that sorted)

and by mid-June I was on my way, taking one of my biggest risks (even though plenty of people do) and just going with it.

A mere nine months later I'm in London, having just started a new job (only a 3 month contract though), and looking forward to finding out where I shall go next. Still telling myself that if I'm afraid of doing something, that's ok. But not to regret not trying it. (of course there's still plenty of times I regret not doing stuff, but I'm getting there)

Summing it up
Well that kinda went on longer than I originally intended, and probably reads as totally self absorbed. But I've been asked on a miriad of occasions "Why did you move to Lismore?" "Why did you get married at 21!?" "Why have you travelled?" and so that was another attempt to try and explain why I've gone and done those bizarre things, and why I'm here now.

Merry Christmas!
So now, because it's nearly 11pm on Christmas eve, here in England, I hope everyone has a pile of presents at the foot of their bed, under their tree or in their stockings and that you have a fantastic Christmas! :-D

Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year!

Now go out and smile, people will wonder what you've been up to.

* The personal development course was a Landmark course.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Annoying scammers (who I'd like to string up)

Some of you may of noticed a while ago that a very strange post appeared on my blog, and then disappeared (this would of been around about the 27th November), for those that don't know what appeared on my blog was:

"CHINA METALLURGICAL IMPORT AND EXPORT COMPANY Dear Sir/Madam, We are an import and export company searching for representatives in Canada, America and Europe who can help us establish a medium of getting to our custumers from Canada, America and Europe, as well as making payments through you to us.
If you are interested in transacting business with us,contact us through.
TEL: 0085230140977
Subject to your satisfaction you will be given the opportunity to negotiate your mode of which we will pay you for your services as our representative in Canada/America and Europe.
Thanks In advance
Managing Director,
Mr.Roy Xand."

Now basically as far as I could tell some a-hole briefly took control of my blog to post this scam (it's a variation of the now famous Nigerian 4-1-9 Scam) to try and basically get you to give them your bank details so that they can steal your money (and not give you anything!).

Anyways, I thought I'd let everyone know that this is what happened, as soon as I'd noticed I did 3 things:
1) changed my password (in case that was how they got in)
2) removed the post
3) reported the incident to the blogger support

oh and emailed a couple of insulting letters to the supplied email above (not happy Jan!), so there ya go. Now you know what happened there, and also (if you didn't before) watch out for those kind of scams!

Take care,

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Been a while..

Ok, it's been a while since I've posted anything, and some of you may be wondering if I'm still alive and kicking it.. Well here's a post to let you know what I've been up to:

Well as some of you know I've been looking for work here in London, and been having some hassles tying it all down, but it looks like it's all finally sorted (I won't say definitely until I've got the contract in my hand!) But in the meantime I've been doing a small-ish data-migration job for Redgum, nothing really interesting to non-geeks (hell most geeks find data migration boring!) so I won't go into the details, other than to say what started off as a simple couple of days of work, turned into 2 weeks of occasional frustration.

Social Circles
Well I've been slowly getting out there and meeting different people and getting up a bit of a social circle.. Even if most of them are met during the course of imbibing alcoholic substances (Matt seems to think I'm a bad influence!) but it's good fun having a few people to catch up with over the weekends (and occasionally during the week as well).

Also included in that is that I finally caught up with the two English guys I met on the tour through the Rockies of Canada, being jamie (the one on the left) and Nick.. Not really the most flattering of photo's (I think it makes them look like a white wannabe rapper and a swedish 80s porn star)

So hopefully going to catch up with these 2 and a few others for New Years Eve.. Should be a bit of fun.. Even if it isn't one of my traditional bbq's.. :-)

Reading news and blogs
The other thing I've been really getting into, is actually reading the news and keeping track of whats happening around the world (it's actually surprising of how easy it is to lose touch as you travel around!), one of the blogs that Matt put me onto is a nice one called: Neopoleon and there was one recent post where he was reviewing a new handheld pc "HP iPaq 6315 - The honest review" and he had an interesting use of this relatively-new technology...

The other place I've used one, but where I didn't receive any questions at all, was a clothing store in Las Vegas. Aydika and I were shoe shopping, and we found a fabulous little pair of casuals that she wanted. I was down and ready to get them, but she encouraged me to go online with "that phone thing" (that's what she calls the iPaq) and check out online prices for the shoes. I was hesitant, as I'm sort of an impulse buyer, but I figured in the end that she was making sense. So, I went online and found the shoes at nearly 40% off what the clothing store was asking for them. I walked the iPaq right up to the manager, showed her the lower price, and asked if she'd match it. She did.

Well, I thought it was interesting.. Anyways, soon (I keep saying that don't I?) I shall post some more of what I've been up to, including a bit of this quite fun weekend. Hope everyone is well, happy and looking forward to a fun xmas! Go out there and be Merry!


Saturday, December 04, 2004

Remember the Secret Policeman's Ball?

Well last night, myself and little Matt were out and about in London town, and found out that there was a special viewing of Remember the Secret Policeman's Ball - 25th Anniversary
A fundraiser for Amnesty International

Which can be viewed on the 9th December (here in the uk): BBC - BBC Four Documentaries - Remember the Secret Policeman's Ball?

Probably the main thing that grabbed my attention was that Rowan Atkinson would be appearing on stage to answer questions after the movie... Quite interesting hearing him debate the fine line between racial (and degrading) jokes, versus being free to criticize and question ideas and ideals.. Particular when this got onto the distinction between race versus religion, where Rowan has expressed concern that religion (which to him falls in the idea/ideal category), is becoming a taboo subject for comedians...

Myself I would of liked to know his (and the other panel members) thoughts on "The majority of industries in the world are governed by certain ethical, moral & legal constraints. Whereby study (and sometimes discussion) of particular areas is not to be allowed. Why is it that comedy should be free from those constraints and not other industries?"

Though I did like it when he put it as: A joke either works or it doesn't. If the audience laughs you can continue down that line, if they didn't laugh.. well there's your line. (obviously para-phrased)

But anyways, good movie, would love to see Rowan back on stage at some point... A fun night out.


Friday, November 26, 2004

Slashdot | User-centric GUI Design Explained to All

Ok, Slashdot is a very good site and recently had an article about the debate of User interface design.

Now this is something I have a few thoughts on, and while some of it will no doubt be expressed slightly incorrectly due to the amount of alcohol currently in my system (just refer to my last post for proof of said).. Ok enough with the caveats here it is.

Game designers like ID Software or Blizzard have all learnt a valuable lesson, called immersion (and these companies are by far not the only ones), whereby the user (or in this example the gamer), totally forgets the outside world and loses himself in the game.

From Kushner, David. Masters of Doom. New York: Random House, 2003.
Because [Carmack] was a craftsman engineer, 3-D was the obvious step for him. Three-dimensional graphics were the holy grail for many programmers as well...The idea was to make the player feel as if he were inside the game. Though Carmack was not aware of it, he was joining a pursuit that had begun thousands of years before. The dream of a realistic immersive, interactive experience had consumed humankind for millennia. Some believed it to be a primal desire. Dating from 15,000 BCE, cave paintings in Lascaux, in the south of France, were considered to be among the first "immersive environments," with images that would give the inhabitant the feeling of entering another world. (80)

Now there was a lesson to be learnt from ID, as if memory serves (can't seem to find a weblink about it) Doom actually was on more pc's than Microsoft Windows, now this was a lesson (and this is my own threory not supported by any other information) that Microsoft wasn't going to fail. Now aside from changing it's marketing strategies, what else has the infamous Microsoft done?

Well to me part of it is applying the usuability of Doom (and all good games) to every microsoft application. That usability is not about making it fun to use, it is quite simply (and if I remember correctly this a quote from John Cormack, if not I'll claim ownership): "Make it so the user no longer things 'how do I shoot that monster' instead the user will just shoot it".

Put another way, if you as the user has to think for too long about "Ok, I want to change this text to Bold" before being able to get it, the user interface needs to be reworked. Now obviously there will be some training required (particularly as most business applications are significantly more complex than the average game in terms of what the user wants to do at any point in time [or are they?]), but to me the user interface of any application should follow some fairly straight forward rules (and I'm probably paraphrasing a microsoft guideline here):

  • intuitive interface: namely that if I am using the application for the first time (dependent on knowing the skill ie: if I'm a doctor using a medical application), I can easily come to grasp with how to make my way around and do simple things.
  • don't restrict the expert user: Basically this means that as a user, when I use an application for a while I would like to be able to find quicker ways to do what I do frequently and maybe do some more advanced stuff (ie: in excel rather than just creating a bar graph, maybe I'd like to use data from 3 different worksheets put through a mean algorithm)

Now both of those points are difficult to implement, but I think the second is more so unless you have a cohesive plan... For example:
ID Games: You start with a basic setup of your character (set keys and so forth), can start shooting straight away... Eventually you find you prefer to have certain commands tied to certain keys (you use the menu to adjust), then you find you'd like other modifications (keys or otherwise), and so you can use the console (activated by '`') to gain access to a lot more features (usually undocumented).

Microsoft: There is the primary window with the toolbar allowing you to do what you need/wish to do... Eventually when you hit slight issues (formatting in Word for example) you want greater control, and so you discover the extensive menu options (with keyboard shortcuts as well!), so you find you can do complex stuff with a couple of key-clicks! (Yay for you!), and ultimate of ultimate, if there's really something specific you find yourself needing to do, you can create an add-in, using a programming language (VBScript) to customise how you use the microsoft application...

Ok, I think you get the idea there, both successful companies where they support the progression of the user from Beginner through to (and in some cases beyond) Expert.

Beginner to Expert
A lot of very worthy applications out there only support one type of user on that spectrum, either limiting the application that only simple tasks can be done (or that more complex tasks take too much interaction for an advanced user), or that you have to spend 5 days reading the help file just to find out how to save a file. Both types of users are important!

Immersive/Intuitive Interface
If the user (particularly after using the application for a while) has to frequently search for how to do something (either by looking up the help file, or by searching through menu options), there is something wrong, I'm sure that out there are some heuristic research telling us what the limit is, but you get the point, I shouldn't have to think "How do I bold this text?" I should justBold this text.


Hugs Are Good for Your Heart

Ok, the article itself doesn't actually give you much info:
Hugs Are Good for Your Heart

But I gotta say hugs are good, they're my favourite way of greeting friends and family, though with some it just ain't what they want/appreciate... But for me it's the best, you get to feel all warm and fuzzy inside, along with wanted and liked by those around you. And bonus by getting this feeling you give the other person the same in return, simply by returning the hug!

And it can just be a friendly hug (though the other type are good too, for a different reason), but there's something different about having a friend you feel comfortable enough to hug as opposed to just talk.. Though it's difficult to say how to cross that boundary..

So my advice today, go and hug someone close to you, they'll probably appreciate it. :-D

Here's a big virtual hug for you too.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

One of the coolest comics of all time

Ok for those that know me from back in Aus, you'll probably recall that I read a lot of comics (well not really that much in recent years), but anyways a good friend Dan put me onto this cool comic:

Questionable Content which is absolutely hilarious!

For example one of the earlier strips featuring the underwear ninja that is one seriously funny concept, love it!

Oh and for anyone who likes comics check out:

oh and if you use rss feeds, checkout: Tapestry it has a whole heap of webcomics in rss form (as most of them don't seem to provide rss feeds) Thanks to Fish for sending that link through to me.

Keep having fun!

The Inslaw Affair | Gadgetopia

Ok, huge fan of this news site (use their rss feed, to read their stuff though).

Usually very geeky news items, about new technology and gadgets (hence the name I'd say), but this one reads like a proposal for a new Dan Brown or Michael Creaton book:

The Inslaw Affair | Gadgetopia

Have a read, it's cool. Bit sad for the company Inslaw (as they're still bankrupt), but interesting for the rest of us!


Sunday, November 14, 2004

My photo's are up..

For those that are interested, I think all my photos are now up on the web... To look at them check out:

Basically on the left hand side is a tab for Biscuit, just have a look under there... at the moment the photo's don't have any info, but I plan to 'slowly' update most of them (that and re-arrange the order of the folders so that it's in the order I visited them)... That and go through them to find the best ones to post on here, while telling you about the remainder of my trip...

See? I'm getting there, slowly... :-)

Oh yeah, and looks like I've lined up a job! Yay! Money! :-) I should know for sure on Monday (the offer is there from the company, just waiting for the agent to finish negotiating how much for)

Till next time, enjoy yourselves!

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Cryptography thoughts

Following is an incomplete piece I started to write on one of the missing elements of modern cryptography, I'll leave it up to you as to whether it is a necessary or irrelevant part of cryptography. For me it's just something I've been interested in for a while and recently while reading The Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson (highly recommend it!), it got me thinking about this topic. Comments and questions are welcome.

Information Theory in Cryptography

One of the original rules of cryptography refers to making the message indistinguishable to it's background (namely if you can't see it you can't break it), back in the first & second world wars this meant making the messages appear as white noise.

White noise refers to making encrypted information indistinguishable from its background, which is fine when the communication medium is radio signals (also known as static)

A technique used to accomplish this was for 2 albums (of random noise) playing at either end of the line, so that the signal would appear to be random noise as it was sent through the air, but at either end the records would cancel each other out, and only leave the actual communication (be that 2 people talking, or an actual data stream). This technique actually served 2 purposes, being encrypt live communication (the 2 albums were in essence the encrypt & decrypt keys), as well as to hide (or mask) that stream to sound like the background it was traveling through.

But in today's era of computers and the internet what was white noise for radio transmissions is not white noise for the PC let alone communication between PC's. In fact by keeping with the current format we're advertising that we have an encrypted file, something to be focused on to 'crack'.

There's lots of different ways to crack encrypted files (some straight forward approaches to cracking: brute force, only secure as the key, social engineering, technology improvements, etc...)
Note: A lot of the current techniques for encrypting depend upon it being unfeasible to crack, ie: that a brute force approach will take years to find the key, even using the latest technology.

What can be done?
To answer that we need to answer what is the background of files on a PC and/or in communication?

On the PC there are 2 types of backgrounds:
• standard files (part of the file system)
• Unallocated blocks of the file system (random 1's & 0's)

For communication between PC's there's really only 1, as any one who has access to all the packets of data can re-create the full 'data block' which is for our purposes the same as a file.

Given that info there seems to me to be the option of creating methods for 'masking' data (preferably already encrypted as added security) to look like a standard file, obviously easier said than done, hiding the data in unused sections of the files is easily spotted (virus checkers do this on a routine basis).

Some possible techniques:
• Alterating a master file without breaking the format rules (con that need master file to unmask)
• Creating a program file using standard rules (con of unusual to transmit, possible execute and cause crash)
• Create human viewable file, ie: picture, text, audio (con complex rules to conform to to be truly hidden)

As a general note though, these techniques because of their very nature make it hard for us (as users) to realise that the file we’re looking at is not actually a thesis on cats moulting, but is in fact a masked (and possibly encrypted) design of a revolutionary can-opener.. This of course meaning that, the ease of use which is now starting to really appear in computers, is made more difficult with this masking technique… One possible solution is to only apply it when transmitting the file…

Question for the future
An alternative method is to look at how a pattern can be identified in terms of finding a file (whether or not it has been encrypted) perhaps the answer for communication is to have a constant stream of random data, in essence replicating early radio communication. [obvious problems with bandwidth and pollution of networks though..]

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Chat to Mark & Mail-to-Blogger SUCKS!

Heard from mark a very cool friend of mine who has created his own blog Ravensdarks Rants who’s favourite movie or one of at least is the cool movie Underworld (there was a picture linked, but it's been moved)

He’s doing well, which is very grand, even if he is currently coming up to exams for uni (Good luck dude!)

Actually this is mainly a test of the Mail-to-Blogger stuff that blogspot has recently implemented, to see if I can easily create the post in an email and nicely link to web pictures and so forth… Mainly as I’ve been having difficulties getting into blogspot (been really slow creating and editing posts), so would be much nicer if I could just email the posts in…

This’ll do as a test post, as well as was cool to catch up with my friend Mark! Even got an email from the ever elusive Judd!

To you all, take care of yourselves and enjoy everything that life has in stall for you!


Addendum: Well this was originally a test of the Mail-to-Blogger thing, which I had high hopes for, but about 2 days after I sent this email, I got an email saying

"Your message could not be posted because of the following reason(s):, Invalid Content Type

Not a huge surprise on the Invalid Content Type, as I was using Outlook 2003's inbuilt html editor (which is basically the word editor set to produce html), which doesn't exactly produce nicely formatted html.. But you'd think it'd be ok? since it is all standard html anyways! Actually on that veign I change my mind, it should of just saved it as a draft to let me edit, not just sent a response back saying invalid content!! I mean it was still just text, it wasn't as if I had an imbedded binary file in there!! (the picture was not even an attachment, it was a properly linked pic that's already up on a web site!)

So that blows out that nice idea of using email to post blogs! Argh!! Oh well, I'll have to just login and update manually instead.. Actually these last 2 posts have been surprisingly fast to connect and publish, maybe they're now on top of those server issues that they've been having?

By the way, I do think the rest of blogger is cool! Just this latest service has a few issues to be dealt with (like actually putting up a post in a timely manner, and some smarts on handling slightly unusual text)

There is some hope in the world (maybe)

Just read this article on The Age that makes me wonder if maybe there is hope for us as a human race..

Americans sick of being Bushwacked

For those that can't read the article (now that the age has introduced subscription), basically as soon as it was announced that Bush had won the latest election, thousands more people checked out becoming citizens of other countries..

From the article:
Before this week, there was a daily average of 20,000 hits to the website of Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

Last Wednesday, according to the department, those online visits soared to 115,000, just from the US.

To me this means that are that many (at the least) people interested in living in a better world where war (and the people who seem to want to pursue it) do not exist, or at the least are opposed.. Hopefully there are more people who stayed in the US that actually want to do something about changing it in that country (not just moving to somewhere it ain't supported)..

Well that's my 2 cents anyways...

Oh yeah, I will get back to what I've been up to on my travels real soon


Saturday, October 30, 2004


So there I was leaving the country of Maple Syrup, Ice Hockey (even if I didn't make it to a game), Bears, saying "eh?" at the end of every statement, Poutine and lot's of fun... and heading to the

Land of the brolli
And I got to experience the reason for this name on my very first day in London. Walking through St James Park and I got caught in a downpour (middle of Melbourne winter type downpour), and due to the complete lack of shelter (as I'm sure anyone who's been to St James Park is well aware of, and the trees don't count), I got nicely soaked...

Though you know? It was a good start to my Britain adventure, was fun to get rained on (and it wasn't that cold) and all part of the travelling experience (particularly in Britain).

Chill out time
As I was staying with friends (thanks Andrea & Mark!!!) I was able to chill out and relax for a week or so.. Mmmm... Was good to do so! Got to hang out with Andrea's friend (Anthony) who was crashing there for a few days, so also did the typical museum jaunt (trafalgar sq, royal museum, tower bridge, etc...)

Now for those who know her, Kirstyn has been in England for quite a while now, and had a little flat down in Brighton (which was perfect for her and her boyfriend Mark), so I obviously had to go down and visit her.. :-)

So Kirstyn used all her vast local knowledge and showed me:

  • The Pavilion: Which was some kind of royal summer home, made out to look very Asian, quite nice. Not allowed to take photo's, but I took a couple anyway (though they came out quite blurry).
  • The Brighton Pier: Very similar to Santa Monica pier actually, given that they both have carnivals on them.. Actually was fun to just sit and catch up on lots of stuff!
  • The local Walkabout: hmmm... My first time in an Australian themed pub in England, and I think there is a reason why we were the only Aussies there, tack-o-rama!

Matt & Fish
As you may of guessed, my first few weeks in England were all about catching up with people, which actually was a lot of fun. So next on the list was Little Matt, who I knew was going to be in London at some point, but about 3 days after I arrived there, I got an sms "Guess where I am?", so alcohol here we came!

Of course Fish (also known as Paul Fisher) & his lovely wife (I can't believe you're married!) Lydia (who's name I hope I spelled correctly) have been in London for nigh on a year now, so it was out to dinner to celebrate Matt's b'day (ah the little tyke).

Changing plans
Now by this stage, I had organised going to see my relatives (or at least one branch of them) who live near Liverpool, however Matt put forward an enticing invitation to go explore the Highlands of Scotland with him. While I felt bad changing the plans with the relo's I couldn't miss out on that opportunity! So after some quick checks of some ways to get there, I was on my way to Edinburgh!

Next: The joys of travelling domestically around the UK, and the insane MacBackpackers!

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Out of communication

Hi Everyone! (hi doctor nick)

Well it's been quite a while since I've updated the blog, so for those that have been checking up on where I've been and what I've been up to.. My apologies. For the rest, well you're probably not going to even read this are you? ;-)

A brief overview (before I do some detailed posts), I'm here in sunny England, arrived on the 15th August, have gone up to Scotland for a few weeks and then to visit all the relos around the Manchester/Liverpool area...

I actually intended to settle down for a bit after that and actually start looking for work, instead I head off to the Netherlands for a couple of weeks :-)

Now I have started that whole searching for a job process, argh!! So mundane! But it needs to be done, fingers crossed I've had some positive feedback so hopefully I'll be earning some english pounds in no time!


Monday, September 27, 2004

Vancouver Island Part 2 (Tofino)

Tofino is a small little .. ah .. village about half way up the west coast of Vancouver Island, beautiful little place, with a population of around about 1,000. That is until summer when with the tourists bombarding the town it increases to a population of about 3,000.

Luckily I got to Tofino towards the tail end of the tourist season, and so it wasn't quite as busy as before, though the locals were well and truly over all these tourists coming in. Though it was a really nice place to chill at, kind of place where quite a few people I met had arrived for a short holiday and ended up staying all summer.

Like this guy who had rocked up to Tofino for a weekend back in March and ended up living in this shed (with no electricity or running water).

So there I was finding I liked the fact that the hostel was by the sea (as in about 10 meters) and just feeling like chilling out when I found out there was a group of 3 canadians in my room who bring it upon themselves to adopt me for our shared time in Tofino.

Which included seeing:

Half moon cove: a fantastic little cove south of Tofino where I got to see a bald eagle fly down and pluck a fish out of the water directly in front of me.

Whale watching tour: where I didn't actually see any whales, but had a blast of a time!

The whale watching boat: Lots of fun!

and finally here for everyone's entertainment is me in the life vest/thermal suit that we wore on that whale watching boat! I think I kind of look like the marshmallow man from Ghost Busters!

So that was Tofino, it was a nice relaxing time, met some interesting people got a wee bit wet while speeding through the fog banks, but enjoyed myself nonetheless. After that it was back to Vancouver in preparation for heading to 'ol blighty the land of the perpetual cloud, Britain. And I was looking forward to it, I'd enjoyed Canada, and I have to say my favourite place of all was Nefoundland. One day I might be back, problem is there are so many places out there to see!

Till next posting

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Vancouver Island Part 1 (Victoria)

Having seen the cost of travelling to Vancouver Island using the standard Greyhound buses (I think it was around $50-) I decided to go the el' cheapo option of pt'ing it (pt for those who don't know refers to the public transport system, usually only slightly more expensive than walking)..

Turned out to be a bit of a journey (3 buses and a ferry ride) but a heck of a lot cheaper to get to Victoria, BC (In all about $15-) as well as a being a bit of an adventure all of it's own, especially when a couple of the buses wouldn't stop for me...

But once I arrived in Vancouver I got to see some fantastic scenery including for some bizarre reason (though slightly more understandable than the pandas in Washington, DC) a whole bunch of randomly painted killer whale statues on street corners... ;-)

But one thing that was very cool about arriving on Victoria aside from the beautiful weather (I actually got sunburnt!) was I had made it! I have actually been to both ends of the Trans-Canada Hwy, all 7,762 (I think that's how long, feel free to correct me though) kms of it!

Though I do feel like a bit of a cheat as I didn't actually travel the full length of the hwy, there was that short flight from Halifax to Calgary (though I had gone overland from Toronto to Halifax)..

Left: Start of Trans-Canada Hwy at St John's,

Right: Other end of Trans-Canada Hwy at Victoria,
British Columbia

Most of my time on Vancouver Island seemed to spent lazing around and enjoying the beach (I fell asleep while sunbathing and hence the sunburn), but while I was there I'd developed a chest infection (cough, shallow breathing and all that), so considering I had to soon fly to the UK and knowing this could effect the flight for me I sought medical attention.
I ended up going to a Chinese medical practitioner, and I received my first ever acupuncture!  Some simple info for everyone:

  • It doesn't hurt

  • I actually felt better after it (though that could of been more from the
    nice relaxing atmosphere and massage)

  • I had 7 needles in me while I was lying on my back

  • About 8 needles while I was on my front

  • 2 of those needles where in my ankles

And that my friends concludes my experiences of Victoria, BC...  Coming
up next is Tofino (a very funky town!)

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Small update

Hi everyone!!

Sorry for being so slack on putting any posts together, haven't really got one together at the moment (in terms of what I've been up too), but I thought I'd just let everyone know that I am alive and well, and still having a blast..

Been travelling around Scotland for the last week (or so..) and surprisingly the weather has been grand to me! :-D But out in the Hebrides at the moment, which means that most of the hostels don't even have net access...

Anyways, I'll put up a post very soon about my wandering around:

  • Vancouver Island
  • London
  • Brighton
  • ... and various places around Scotland

I will add that I'm tempted to just work in a hostel up here for a few months, won't save any money, but it's been nice and relaxing! :-)


Monday, August 23, 2004

A marmot that I met at the top of the hike (at maligne lake)

Maligne Lake where I hiked up 520 metres in elevation (over a 11km hike)

one of the tall ships at night, in Halifax

Calgaries strange indoor gardens!

A friendly squirell in the Rockies (on my first day)

Sunday, August 15, 2004


The Weather
Well when I got off the train in Vancouver (after a most enjoyable ride with Jamie from the tour), I found the weather overcast, and in fact quite wet... It reminded me of home.. ;-)

So for my first day in Vancouver all I did was find a decent supermarket and get supplies for the next few days and sit back and admire the rain pouring down... But that was ok. I felt like having a chance to just sit back and relax after the hikes through the rockies..

Jericho Beach to Downtown
Now if your staying out in Jericho Beach you'll know that to get to downtown there's really only one option (a 40min bus ride), that is unless your like me... Who decided just to wander along the beach enjoying the sand, surf and sun (which was now actually out!), so much of a wander that I made my way around the bay (all 13+ kms of it) climbing over rocks and generally enjoying myself and up into China town... Was good fun actually (and I slept well that night!)

And while in downtown I got to see some wonderful things:

  • Ming Garden Really nice place that I can't actually remember the name of, gorgeous though! Small but really interesting...
  • Worlds thinest office Not really that interesting, but funny story as the guy who built it did so because the council kept on taking back the land from him, so he built an office on what was left, 1.8 metres wide 2 or 3 stories high...
  • Stanley Park Nice place, I think it's bigger than Central Park (New York), really cool especially with the beaches all around... :-)
  • Final of the Fireworks competition And it was impressive!! I think Sweden was the one who won! Yay for them! ;-)

Next I'm going to try and post up a couple of photo's that I think people will quite like... Hope you enjoy!


Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Rockies - Part 2

To continue the saga of the Rockies, well not too much of a saga thus far...

Day 3: Collaseum walk
Today we were given a choice of climbing either Baldie or Collaseum (sp?) and we all agreed on going the longer (but less steep) mountain... Both rising up around 500 metres.

It was a fairly nice walk through lots of trees, except when relatively close to the peak I slipped on some scree rolling my right ankle... And as most of you know OW!! Not a nice feeling, but luckily I was wearing my hiking boots, I didn't do any damage to the ligament, and I had my ankle strap in the backpack..

Also it meant that I seemed to provide a great excuse for a few other people to rest up with me at a spot with a great view (luckily I'd done it just around the corner from a great resting spot!) while the others continued along the ridge to the summit of Collaseum.

So as you can imagine that was a bit of a downer, but the day was salvaged at the rustic hostel we stayed at that night (I say rustic as there was no running water, including plumbing..), where right beside a glacial stream there was a proper japanese style sauna! Fantastic! I was even able to convince a couple of other people to join me (and got thanked for it afterwards), so relaxing and refreshing to soak in that heat, jump into the glacial stream and then back into the heat again... Followed by getting dry in front of a lovely warm fire! :-D

If you want to visit this hostel (aparently there's great rock climbing nearby) it is Rampart HI

Day 4: Athabasca glacier ice walk
Well today we had the option of going on either a Snowcoach* ride or a hike on the icefield itself...

Most of us went for the hike, and all I can really say is WOW!! This would have to of been my favourite part of the tour, and yeah it's an extra charge, but seriously worth it! I swear the stream flowing on the glacier (aparently at 0.8 degrees celcius) looked like awesome waterslides! :-) And feeling the chill in the air as you walk on all that ice! At the bottom of the hill all you need is shorts and t-shirts, about 20 minutes into the hike I was glad for the long pants, jumper, beanie, gloves & waterproof jacket. :-D

Just do it!

* Thanks to some guy for posting up pictures of the Athabasca Glacier that I could point to.

Day 5: Saying g'bye
Well because of my plans to head to Vancouver, I and Jamie decided to hop off the tour a day early so that we could catch the train from Jasper (the tour was heading back to Calgary the following day, and the train only runs 3 times a week).

But before we headed off I got to spend a nice relaxing day out to Maligne Lake, but instead of hiking around it we caught a boat ride out to 'Spirit Island', so named not because of the First Nations (known more commonly as the Native Indians), but because a famous photographer/painter (I'm not sure which) won a competion with a picture at this spot, and titled 'Spirit Island' when asked why? He responded "It captures the Spirit of the Rockies"... And so the island was named.

And that was goodbye for the Rockies and a cool bunch of people that I had the pleasure of meeting, and off to Vancouver and Vancouver Island to relax and enjoy before flying to the UK.


Sunday, August 08, 2004


Well when I got to Calgary and started chatting with the guy behind the desk at the HI, he highly recommended a very affordable and enjoyable way of seeing the Rockies: True North Tours

And I gotta say, it was well worth it! If you want a fun way of seeing the Rockies and actually getting out there to do some reasonable hikes (you can choose different levels), go with these guys!

The Group
Well what to say about the group? Other than that Joel (the guide) was a very excellent dude, who straight away got chatting about the dilemma of protecting the wilderness, and having a job bringing people into the wilderness (good luck on figuring that one out!) and the rest of the people made this a truely remarkable experience, thanks Jamie, Nick, Jess, Mette & Louise in particular!

Day 1: Lake Louise
Ok, I have no idea how to really describe the beauty of this place, it was absolutely gorgeous... Words really don't describe it.. So I'm going to pinch an image off one of those tourist sites:

After a short stroll around the lake, we got to sit back and enjoy a brewski in the Chateau bar, looking out the window at that wonderful view!

That night, I found that Glenfidich in Alberta only costs: $40-, but decided to split the cost of a Jameson's with Jamie instead...

Day 2: Marine Lake
The following day wanting to try a harder hike (rather than the flat stroll at Lake Louise) myself and a few of the others went on a 11 km hike up Larch Valley trail, for an increase of elevation of 520+ metres...

Not having as much energy as Jess (who's from the Swiss alps) I wasn't up for going the extra 200 metres elevation to the crossing over to Paradise Valley (aparently that's where some Grisly bears hang out...)

But I was glad of the time to just hang out, walk on some nearby ice and take some beautiful pictures of the sorrounding mountains, even got a nice closeup of a marmot crossing my path.... :-)

That night at a hostel that I've forgotten the name of, we got to have an ol' fashioned BBQ followed by Smores, and a jump into the hot tub... :-D Now that's the kind of roughing it I like!

Ok, I'm going to leave the rest for another post, I could write so much about each day, but trying to summarise and yet pass on the feeling of wonder for each day... That's hard to do... Suffice to say, I think I took well over a hundred photo's of the mountains we climbed or drove past.... :-)

Thanks Joel!

Rant about Broccoli

What is it about Broccoli in America?!?! This is something I've been meaning to get off my chest for quite a while so now is the chance..

The Size
Basically as far as I can tell the US has an obsession with everything BIG, with the exception of vegetables (I had to ask for more lettuce at Subway!)... Broccoli on the other hand seems to come under a rule of it's own. I actually saw several meals being served that had Broccoli on the plate, but was it a small portion nooo it was the whole bloody head, the size of the one you buy at the supermarket to last a family of 4 for several meals!!

Where no Broccoli has gone before and please let it never go again
I have seen broccoli in just about everything, but the number of pizza's (particularly in New York) was quite disturbing, seeing a lovely cheese coated salami pizza with Broccoli on it is just plain wrong!

A possible reason
I have brought this topic up with a few people in my travels with the obvious question of huh? being foremost in my mind... And this is so far the oddest (but strangely compelling) reason I have come across so far:

In a statement relatively early on his presidency George Bush (Sr) made a statement to the effect saying "I'm the president and I'm not going to eat any more broccoli" you can even purchase a GB doll that says exactly that!

So the theory goes that as a bit of a backlash against GB's dislike of the humble broccoli Americans start to add it to everything and (as only they know how to truly do well) eat it to excess... Luckily GB (jr) doesn't seem to mind these little vegetables...

If anyone has some odd/bizarre theories on the American obsession with Broccoli please post a comment...


Saturday, August 07, 2004


What to say about Calgary? Too be honest, not a fan of the place from a tourist perspective... There's a few things to see, but it just didn't grab me... Particularly as it's just not that friendly, though that could of been more the dodgy area of town that the Hostel is located in.

What to see?

  • Devonian gardens is a really surreal place as it's a garden with ponds, fish, tortoise and all the usual garden stuff 'cept it's on the 3rd floor of a massive shopping mall... Literally you've got the usual shopping mall music piping through the garden and through the glass walls you can see the shops right next to these plants... bizarre!
  • Prince's island nice little island that takes about 30 mins to walk around and admire, bit of nature amidst the concrete.
  • Kensington I didn't find this until very late in my stay, and if I'd rocked up here first I'd probably have a different opinion of Calgary, very funky area with lots of cool shops.

And that's it.

Only stay there the weekend, though I have heard that it's actually a really cool place to live there as the various communities are really nice, but as a tourist you don't get to see that...


Tall ships and friends

Well my last post was about Newfoundland, and what I got up to there, so this one should be about Halifax, eh? Excuse the ramble that shall no doubt be part of this post, am very tired and trying to stay awake (it's only 3pm), also Halifax seems sooo long ago... But here goes *shake* *shake*

The setting sun
After having a great time in Newfoundland it was time to leave St John, unfortunately the only bus from St John to Argentia (which is the ferry terminal, as in there is nothing else there) leaves at 5pm, and considering the ferry doesn't actually leave until 11:55pm that leaves an awful lot of time to watch the sun set, also a good chance to play around with all sorts of ways of taking photo's of said sun setting... ;-) I'll have to post some of them up (I think I took about 30)

Interesting characters
Aside from travelling back to Halifax with Gavin (who intends to find some work there) I got to meet a couple of interesting characters on the way down, one in particular standing out.. A certain young lass who I only chatted to for about 30mins (never found out her name), who it turns out had arrived in Nth Sydney to head to Louisburg because she is an Underwater Archaeologist a proffession I had never heard of till now... But makes perfect sense.

She did offer to give us a lift to Louisburg and was contemplating dropping us off in Halifax, 'cept I don't think she fully understood the geography of Nova Scotia:

  • Nth Sydney to Louisburg: 45 mins
  • Nth Sydney to Halifax: 5+ hrs

Fully appreciated the offer though!

Tall Ships
Well onto actual halifax, I was lucky enough to be in Halifax on the day the Tall ships started arriving, aparently it only happens every few years or so, and so it's quite a big event with lots of tourists rocking up, and plenty of opportunities for people to hope on these Tall ships from around the world... Was actually quite interesting, and I hope that the guy I met in Newfoundland who was heading to Halifax in order to stow away in a Tall ship made it. :-)

More people!
This re-visit of Halifax (even if the other one had been ultra brief) was highlighted by the cool people I met in the hostel, most of them through the lovely Annemarie who is planning on staying even longer in Halifax (good for you!) so a big Hi everyone! to all that I met in Halifax!


PS: Don't worry about going to the Citadel in Halifax, the one in Quebec City is much better!

Sunday, August 01, 2004

St John cont... (whales & mile 0)

Ok, to continue...

Other than the exciting time of Jen's b'day not much really happened on the Sunday as it was pouring down with rain, and most of the day was spent recovering, particularly by Dane and Marcus! ;-P

Wandering the town
Now on my last day after getting up quietly so as not to wake the still slumbering gang (who probably wouldn't of woken with a herd of elephants!) I started to wander St John on my last day, having a look at the:

  • mile 0 sign being the start of the Trans Canada Hwy
  • labrador and Newfoundland statues Didn't actually realise this is where those dogs have originated from..
  • the harbor admiring the harbor of St John, it is actually quite spectacular, and there's lots of signs about the history of the place along the waterfront.

Labrador & Newfoundland dogs

Signal Hill
This was all before starting my walk up the Battery (so named because there was a military batter for protecting the harbour), with a really nice hike up to Signal Hill a thouroughly cool place... Particularly as it was really misty and quite chilly... Added to the atmosphere.

Thoroughly beautiful place though!

While wandering along the path back down from Signal Hill, I kept hearing this Thump! ... Thump! coming out from the ocean, so at the next clearing I looked out to sea where I could see this foam as though something big had landed out there... And then what did I see? Two whales jumping up out of the water!! (I think they call it breaching) absolutely spectacular!! Went on for about 15 minutes! :-D

Not great resolution, but there's one jumping!

And that was the piece-de-la-resistance of my trip to Newfoundland... (by the way it's pronounced New-fen-land), fantastic place, the most friendly people I have ever met, and I wish I could spend longer there! One day I shall go back, and see if I can just spend a month or so making my way around the island... :-D

Now I am in Calgary and about to head on a Rockie adventure tour, so I may not get net access for about a week, in which case hopefully I'll be able to find another place (like here) where I can actually load some piccies up for everyone to see... (Big kudos to Dan for setting it up so I could load those up!)

Take care of yourselves everyone, and I hope you enjoyed this latest addition!


Ok, now to post a wee bit on the the Newfoundland trip... :-) Now that was a fun time!

The Ferry
For those who have been on ferries this part you can probably skip, me however I'd never really been on ferries before and so was actually quite enjoying the journey.. It's about 14hrs to go from North Sydney to Argentia (which is literally just the ferry station), followed by a 2hr shuttle ride to St John.

I was really surprised at how roomy and how much stuff was on the ferry, you don't need to get a cabin or bunk bed as the seats in the tv area recline and are actually quite cumfy, even if others found them not comfy enough to sleep on... They've got a decent-ish bar, games room, theatre, tv rooms, cafeteria, the works... :-) Finally got to see 'School of Rock' and some other movie I can't remember the title of (something about child-hood stars)

St John
Ok, this place is hilly! And considering that the hostel is up the top, and the shuttle drops us off down at the bottom, dang that was a walk! Added to the hostel is on Young St, which is not on the lonely planet map, and most of the locals don't know where it is... So after a long and sweaty uphill slog I and this other Aussie Marcus (that I met on the shuttle) made it to the hostel, and a needed shower, ahhh... :-)

The Gang
At the hostel I got to meet some great people who I proceeded to get into mishief with for the rest of my time in St John... They are:

  • Marcus A bit of a nutty Aussie I happened to run into on the shuttle.. Have you found that number yet?
  • Jen A full on party machine from Toronto, lots of fun though, particularly as it was her birthday over the weekend!
  • Dane A Canadian from Jasper who I'd previously met in Halifax. What were those girls name again?
  • Gavin Another Aussie from Brisbane who enjoyed a good drink and chatting up every female in uniform (not that I blame him, they seem to love the accent!) Hope you've found some work in Halifax

Cape Spear
Well on the first day in Newfoundland after that refreshing shower, we (being the gang 'cept for Dane), were able to talk Bill (the Newfie manager of the hostel, and a great guy) into driving us down to Cape Spear and showing us a bit of the local area... Now Cape Spear for those who don't know is the most easterly point of Nth America, and has one of the oldest lighthouses in Nth America (may even be the oldest..), it's also a great look-out point with some spectacular views! Jen tells us she even got to see some whales off the coast, but I saw none... :-(

Well I'll only mention this the once, but let's say the locals and us (being the gang) did enjoy to partake in the amber liquid, and we did... frequently... and at length... ;-) And much merriness was had by all! :-)

Ok, given the length of this post, I'm going to continue Newfoundland on another post... Where one of my personal highlights (a whale sighting) occurred, I'll also see if I can get a piccy up!


Saturday, July 31, 2004


No that's not Australia, I didn't suddenly get back home... Instead there is a small town on the northern tip of Cape Breton, with a population of about 26,000...

Saying goodbye to Annemarie
Well even though it was only going to be for about a week, I said g'bye to Annemarie who it has been absolutely fantastic travelling around with for the last month and a bit, to go explore Newfoundland while she tried to drum up some work for herself.

No hostels
Well Sydney doesn't actually have any hostels and so I decided to treat myself (and it was quite pricey) to a night in a B&B, where I met this great older couple Bill and Debbie (from Calgary) who treated me like there son (who's aparently the same age), took me out to dinner, took me to Fort Lousiburg and dropped me off at the ferry after making sure I'd had my first taste of Tim Hourtons (the chain, no institution of Donuts, coffee and sandwiches)

Fort Louisburg
Such a really cool place to go to... How to describe? Basically it's a replica of the original Fort (well 1/5th of the fort) with all the staff in period costumes and doing it in character somehow not being tacky... Very cool place to visit and see how the people of the time would of lived... Even down to the staff using the tools of the time do minor repairs to buildings!


Next is Newfoundland!

Friday, July 30, 2004

Halifax (in part)

Ok, I'm actually now back in Halifax after having a fantastic trip up to Newfoundland (Fantastic meeting you, Jen, Marcus, Dane & Gavin!!).. But before I get to that, I need to get to what I missed out on Halifax (hopefully I can stretch my memory back that far)

Maritime Museum
I know it has the word museum in it, but this was surprisingly good! It's right near the waterfront, and I think it's Tuesday night you can get in for free... (yay!)

Had a very informative (and dare I say it, moving) presentation on the 1917 (not 100% sure on the date) of the Halifax explosion, basically an ammo vessel (bucket loads of powder) collidied with another ship, sparks.. fire... ship abandoned.. floats to the pier.. largest man-made explosion before the nuclear bomb.. 1900 people dead.. Most buildings destroyed. And to cap it off, there was a sudden blizzard the following day.
One of the first and biggest contributors to Rescue and assistance efforts was Boston, and to this day Halifax sends Boston the biggest and best christmas tree as a thankyou.

The other really interesting one (for ship-wreck buffs), is the titanic info as Halifax was one of the main places that launched rescue ships for the titanic and there's quite a few relics in the museum.

The Rest
To be honest, I can't really remember what else I got up to in Halifax, though I do remember having a great time, especially with 2 Canadians who drove straight through to Halifax from either Ottawa or Toronto (can't remember which!) something like 40hrs straight driving...

I think the not remembering might of had something to do with the amount of time I spent at the Split Crow pub... Which along with the usual excellent Irish pub atmosphere, had a great band by the name of The Hair of the Dog, was very cool hearing some excellent local songs about Nova Scotia!


Saturday, July 24, 2004

Halifax, Nova Scotia

Well I'm actually on a ferry heading to Newfoundland at the moment (fantastic that they've got free net access on here!!  but only 3 pc's 2 of which are broken, so can't spend the whole night on here..)

Anyways, I was going to describe some of Halifax and what I've been up to since my last posting...

Canadian buses
Rock!!  :-)  They are fantastic compared to the US buses, plenty of room I can almost stretch my legs out, and a real comfortable ride!  :-)  That and nice bus drivers rather than the traditional (though not always) grumpy US ones...

Halifax drivers
Ok, this is going to be a little odd, but the most unique experience of being Halifax?  is the drivers...  I'll paint you a scenario..

There I am between 2 streets about to cross the road where there is no pedestrian crossing, basically the same as going to cross commercial road...  So I do the usual, I step up to the edge of the parked cars to wait for the traffic to clear, but wait a minute here, the cars on this reasonably busy road (and this is the biggest Canadian city east of Montreal, so bigger the Quebec City), stop to let me cross the road!

And that was not an isolated incident, like I said a little odd...  But fairly unique...  Not surprising though when you meet a few locals and find out how friendly and helpful they are though.

Halifax itself
Is a nice place, but you're going to have to wait a while, there's a bit of a queue appearing behind me so I'm going to have to jump off for a while... Hopefully later tonight when everyone's asleep I can jump on again (assuming I'm awake!)

Take care everyone, and a big thanks to Bill & Debbie (who I met in Sydney, NS)

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Last night in Quebec

Well what to say?  The Quebecians (though I think they spell it differently and it's pronounced Kebec...) are a damn nice bunch, and I thouroughly enjoyed my time there...  (could of done with a few more days and a bit less rain actually...
Musee de Civilization
Was pretty darn cool, there was something about the way the different exhibitions were setup that made them really interesting..  Though the highlights were:

  • Asterix & the Romans a really fun way of presenting the history of the Romans, Gauls and various other tribes/civilizations talked about in the Asterix comics...  And Meow and Polly have now had a photo with Obelix carrying a Menhir.
  • Sand sounds kinda odd but they had this intriguing exhibit about sand, including a funky little video of clay animation...  :-)
  • First Nations basically the local aboriginies, though the main ones I looked at were to do with the Inuit (which have actually increased in population since Europeans have arrived), including the building of an Igloo..  Dang they're quick (but you'd want to be in that cold!)

Final night of the Summer Festival
Was very funky!  :-D  some really cool bands playing, I climbed up on the old city wall and had a great view of one of the main stages (though I wasn't alone with some very hippy Canadians).
And seeing the jazz marching band get going and actually have the crowd moshing in the street (to Killing in the name of!)  ;-)

Sunday, July 18, 2004


Well I'm now in Quebec City and it's Fantastic! let's see what to say?
Arriving into Quebec provence  so before montreal
I noticed that as soon as we crossed the border from Ontario (which is bilingual, particularly Ottawa), the signs switched so that French was now on top and English on the bottom, just an odd thing to notice, but there ya go...  And also just about every sign is in French, except for stop signs which seem to alternate each intersection "Arrete" "Stop" "Arrete" "Stop"...  ;-)
Unfortunately I can't remember the character number to but the little ' above the e in Quebec and Montreal, so my apologies to those who notice that...  ;-)  Leaving behind the wonderful Nat and Frank (who so graciously showed us around town and let us into their homes, Thankyou!), we caught the bus to Quebec City....
And I thought Montreal was beautiful, this place is great, love the who hilly area with the windy paved streets and not having any trouble with the locals (being arrogant), except for one guy who was trying to sign us up for a french book club...
Ok some sights:

  • Quebec is the only walled city in North America (though there may be some in Mexico?) looks really cool seeing them.
  • The Citadel (the largest fort in Nth America) was actually really interesting got to see the changing of the guard, just like watching the beef eaters in London (from what I remember), also quite interesting place, Meow & Polly have had a photo with one of the guards as well.  :-)
  • There a really nice Promenade (I think it's called the Terrace Dufferin) which follows the line of the cliff, so that you can have a great view of the river and city, nice at night!
  • Boutique de Noel, which was the biggest and loudest store (amongst 4 or so) for selling Xmas related paraphenalia, so bizarre I had to take a couple of photo's.
  • Little alleys all over the place, including one that seemed purely setup for people to sell their paintings and photo's...  Even to having their own little lockers (sized for paintings) on the walls of the alley.
  • Summer festival at the moment here, some very cool acts including a sort of jazz walking band, who amongst other things played "Killing in the Name of" & "Seven Nation Army" :-)
  • Aux Anciene Canadians (I may of slightly stuffed the spelling) is a fantastic restaurant where we got to try some traditional food, including a maple syrup pie... Not quite as good as a beaver tail, but definitely up there! :-)

Ok, I think that's it so far that I've seen... It's kind of hard to keep track of everything since I last posted, keep remember (and then forgetting) various things I wanted to post up after the fact.

But on the morrow I'm looking forward to seeing the Musee de Civilizations which is aparently one of the best in Canada, and currently has a special exhibit on Asterix and Obelix cool! :-)

Brief interlude in Ottawa
One thing I just remembered, I ordered a Hoegaarden in this little pub off Rue Elgin, in Ottawa (called "Woody's"), and it was massive could hardly believe it, I litterally could only fit my hand half-way round the glass... So there ya go, got a photo of that with Meow and Polly to give a bit of perspective, which most likely when I get to the UK I'll be able to post up.

Take care of yourselves

Friday, July 16, 2004

Toronto, Ottawa & Montreal

Well made it up to Toronto and it was quite impressive, nice place and fun to see.  We caught up with friends of Annemarie's, being Nat (who Annemarie travelled around with on Contiki) and her boyfriend Frank (golf fanatic from Newfoundland).
They were kind enough to give us accomodation in Toronto and drive us around to a few places, including just '4 blocks' from the beach, which turned into a nice 2hr walk (actually I did enjoy it) through the theatre district, getting to see where the Toronto film studios are..  :-)
And for those who know of Toronto's big attraction, yes I went up the CN Tower (the world's tallest freestanding structure), was really cool with the glass walls on the lifts and the glass floors on the viewing deck..  :-D  Even got to watch a bit of a baseball game going on below us.
Ottawa & Kingston
So on the way to Ottawa (where we got to spend a night with Nat's cousin Jason, who had just come back after a 7 mth surfing holiday in Aus), we quickly went by Kingston where Nat lived for a while, looked like a pretty funky uni/prison town (yep you read that right).
The capital was nice to see, though my own personal highlight was seeing the Stray Cats of the Hill a cool little area where these doll houses have been converted into houses for stray cats, it's right next to the parliament house, nice little quirk.  :-)
What can I say?

  • Best fireworks seen so far!  (not sure what it was in aid of though, something to do with an annual fireworks competition?)  Kicked 4th July in New York!
  • Bastille De Notre Dame cool looking architecture.
  • Poutine strange local dish, basically chips, gravy and cheese curd...
  • Beaver Tails aparently originated in Ottawa (but we ran out of time), absolutely delicious, kind of like a flat doughnut with your choice of toppings (for me, Nuttella and Banana)
  • Underground City really large underground shopping mall, basically used in winter to beat walking above ground (by the sound of it), 29kms of corridors, very massive.

I think that kind of sums it up, and to add that it is gorgeous, I quite like!  Looking forward to seeing France and comparing these 'french' influences...
Take care everyone,

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Niagra Falls

What can I say about this place other than, go see it! Really, it is fantastic!

The Falls
We went on a ride on the Maid of the Mist (the boats that go up to the Horseshoe falls) and while I was expecting some tackiness, I was pleasantly surprised, no tackiness... It was just awesome to be on a boat not far from where the falls land and feeling the mist spray up (good thing they give out complimentary raincoats, we needed them!)

I now want to go to the falls down in Argentina (can't remember the name of them), and also to Victoria falls in Africa... Simply awesome.. I was seriously surprised out how much time we spent just walking along and admiring them... (don't even have the words to describe them)

At Night
If you head to Niagra, make sure you do stay one night (you probably don't need more than that), and make sure it's a Friday or Sunday night... As they have fireworks (better than 4th July in New York) on those nights... Got some gorgeous photo's of the falls lit up at night as well... They have some great big spot lights on the Canadian side that they shine onto the two falls so that you can see them so clearly... Ah, I could really see why so many regard Niagra as the place to go for a honey-moon. :-)


Salem (witches and pirates)

Well for a very short ride on the train (about 40 mins) we got to Salem (about 17 miles north of Boston). Small town, got a fair bit of tackiness (particularly when it comes to the history of the witch trials), but it's actually quite cool.

Witches Dungeon
Given the name of this place, it was surprisingly the least tacky... Had a replica of the Dungeons of Salem where the 162 people accused of being witches were held (was built to hold up to 40 prisoners), really good source of information presented in an entertaining but not too tacky a way... The trials lasted for 13-15 months (we got told 2 different figures), and there were 19 executions, 5 men, 13 women & 2 dogs were hung. Aparently the dogs were accused of giving the girls the evil eye and thought to be witches in disguise.

Witches History Museum
Don't bother, tack-o-rama... The guide seemed to have some detailed knowledge but sheesh the place was full of crud, concentrating more on ghost stories than on the history of the trials...

Pirates Museum
Was really cool, got to listen to an entertaining guide as he told us about various pirates and privateers who operated out of/around Salem.. Including the only known female pirate. All sorts of interesting pirate stories including one who was caught (several times) and put into jail in Boston, but kept escaping... The local police thought it was magic as there was no tunnel, no bent bars, nothing... The mystery was eventually put to rest when it was found out that the jailor was actually the pirates uncle. :-)


Boston (Red Sox and Freedom Trail)

Well it's been a few days since I last posted, and boy do I have a few things to talk about... :-D Though I'm going to put them in seperate posts simply so I can keep track of them.

Freedom Trail
In Boston there's this trail that you can walk (aparently it's just under 3 miles), that goes past a lot of the historic sites in Boston and with lots of plaques and various tours wandering along you can learn about the history of the place... We only got about 1/2 way along the trail but that half was actually quite interesting.

Right from the cemetery where they have the bodies from the Boston Masacre (regarded as the first deaths from the English soldiers during the revolution), showing the changes over time of the gravestones, they started with symbols depicting death (skulls, skeletons, etc..) and then over time gradually changed to symbols celebrating life (cherubs, flowers...).. Well, I found it interesting!

An odd fact is that upon the invention of lawn mowers that particular cemetery they re-arranged the grave stones so that it'd be easier to mow the lawns (without moving the bodies), so that bit of dirt most likely ain't the guy who's name is above it.

Red Sox Baseball
I got to see myself a real live game of baseball!! :-D cost $20- and was only in the standing section, but dang it was fun... Actually seeing the whole atmosphere of the place, right from the vendors doing the "Peanuts, get your peanuts here!" and throwing them to whoever held up their hand, through to the crowd singing along to Take me out to the ball game. :-D

For those who want to know, it was Boston Red Sox vs Oakland Athletics. Red Sox won 11-3 (that's what you call a thrashing).


Thursday, July 08, 2004

Trip to Boston

This'll be just a short one as nothing really new to report, as the only thing we've done is caught the bus to Boston... and a quick wander around to get our bearings here...

Hopefully going to see:

  • A Red Sox game
  • Salem

But we'll have to wait and see...

There is one really American thing I would like to point out though... I saw a 24 hour, Drive through... drum roll... Dunkin Donuts yep you read that right, they actually have 24 hour drive through Dunkin donuts out here!!!

That and lots of squirels... Maybe there's a link?


Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Central Park, The Terminal & The Guggenheim (Last day in New York)

Well yesterday was my last day in the Big Apple (as in I left there this morning). And it was a nice relaxing day, not too much running around, it's good to relax and just chill out for a while.

Goodbye to the Swiss
Well it was literally Michael's last day, which was kinda sad as it's been good to travel around with him and learn all sorts of odd facts, like that Russia has a different width for their rail tracks or that you can actually travel as a passenger on Cargo ships.

So Bon voyage Michael, hope the Atlantic crossing is much smoother than the Pacific one was.

The Terminal
Well after saying 'bye myself and Annemarie (due partly to the effects from July 4th celebration) decided on taking it easy, so we went and saw a movie... The Terminal and you know what? It was a damn good movie, thouroughly enjoyed it... and I think it was based off a real story (perhaps someone can track some details down and post them?)

The basic plot:
A man (played by Tom Hanks) from an Eastern European country, speaking very little English arrives at JFK airport to find out that while he's been in the air, his country has had a revolution and 2 effects have occurred... The US has revoked all visa's from his country, and the borders to his country are now officially closed. Meaning he can't go home and he can't enter US soil... So he has to wait in the international terminal for quite some time...
It's a bit of a romance comedy, but I highly recommend it. :-)

I believe it was based off what happened to a guy in Paris airport who if memory serves had to stay in the Terminal for over 3 months... But I'm not sure of that (could be an Urban Legend)

The Guggenheim (and some chess)
Well not wanting to go back to the hostel straight away (and still having a few hours of sunlight) I decided to wander through Central Park and see if I could actually find these elusive chess players (I've seen them in movies!!!) I did actually find the Chess & Checkers pavilion, and I gotta say, Dupont's Circle in Washington was much better... It mainly seemed a hang-out for the homeless, though there were a few players (and dang they were fast!! Watch out little!)

After leaving there I wandered up for another look at the Guggenheim (as the previous day we'd decided to give it a miss, being skint backpackers), I arrived just as they were closing the doors, but through some creative begging I got a couple of minutes to look at some of the exhibits (I like!), before being kicked out, to the Museum store, which was open for another hour or so... My favourite display was this one with hands (but I won't bother describing it :-P)

Anyways, this post has mainly been for my own benefit to keep track of what I've been up to, but if you enjoyed reading it or any of the posts please let me know, you can post Anonymously (so you don't need to create your own blog), just need to click the small Post Anononymously button at the bottom of the Post Comment page (don't bother creating your own blog).

As always, hope everyone's well, take care from:

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

WTC & Fahrenheit 9/11

Well on July 3rd we went and had a look at ground zero... There was a certain atmosphere to the place, very sombre but yet with a sense of ... drive... I don't know if that really sums it up, and it could just be me, but that's the feeling I got from it...

You've probably already heard in the news back in Aus but on July 4th they've laid the first cornerstone of the new Freedom Tower at the ground zero site...

After that, and rather aptly we went on to see Fahrenheit 9/11 and it's a damn good movie! Thouroughly enjoyed it, found it informative and interesting but I'd have to say it does have a definite Propaganda feel to it, even though I do agree with the message. By that I mean that there really is no doubt that it is aimed at getting Bush out of office (which is a good thing in my opinion.

Anyways I wanted to write more on that this post, and to give everyone some insight as to my impressions of the movie, but time is nearly up! D'oh! So I'll just say go see it, it's worth it. Also it was really good to see how full the cinemas have been here in the states, and the reactions from people seeing it. Hopefully it'll have an effect.

I can see why GW wanted it banned.


Sunday, July 04, 2004

New York (The BIG Apple)

So here I am in New York, and it's actually a damn cool place, I like! Went for a wander around Central Park on the first night before catching the Subway up to an 800 pc (yes you read that right) net cafe... $2.50 ph! Sch-weet! :-)

Been trying out the local delicacies like pizza (by the slice), bagels with cream cheese, Krispy Kreme donuts (donuts with extra sugar!), and about to go have a look around for a hot dog vendor... Now that's what I call immersing myself in the culture! Hopefully the amount of walking we've been doing has balanced out the amount of fat and sugar I've been consuming, but when in Rome... ;-)

Well so far we've seen:

  • Times Square Seems a lot bigger than I expected, but yet doesn't cover that much area...
  • Wall Street One word, claustrophobic it was tall, and cool to see but, seriously it's just alleys around here, not roads.
  • Statue of Liberty Nice, it was pretty cool to see, though nothing really interesting to say about that.
  • Ellis Island The island that most of the immigrants to the US went through, at one stage catering to 11,000 + people per day. Only 1-2% got rejected, usually because of illness (both mental and physical).
  • Empire State Long queues but the wait was worth the view, particularly as we had nice clear weather... Hopefully got some cool shots..
  • Central Park BIG! And actually like a forest in the middle of this urban jungle, I can totally understand why they say don't go walking there at night... Haven't found where the chess players hang out yet...

So that is my New York experience thus far, though it's been really cool traveling around with Annemarie, Frodo (Helen from NZ), and Michael (a cool Swiss guy who has nearly circumnavigated the globe in 6 months without flying!)

Take care of yourselves.


Friday, July 02, 2004

Liberty, Mummers Museum & Italian Market

Well on our last day in Philly (which I still reckon is a really nice place), we decided to wander around to see the Liberty Bell and it was actually quite interesting reading... (though it's a lot smaller than I thought it'd be)

Religious fervor
From reading the various comments it was actually quite interesting how reverent Americans get towards this bell, but I also think it's pretty cool that they have a symbol that inspires them about Liberty and Freedom.
Though I gotta agree with Annemarie who pointed out it was like 'The Carbon Rod' from that Simpsons episode... :-)

Mummers Museum
Was smaller than I thought it'd be and not really about the origins of Mummers (as in guys wearing masks performing plays), but more about the New Years parade of the Mummers that they have here in Philly. Aparently there's $95,500.00 prize money up for grabs! Interesting in an odd kind of way... But don't go out of your way for it.

Italian Market
So much hype, so little substance! I was expecting something on the scale of Queen Vic, especially as one of the pamphlets described it as "The biggest open air market in the country"... Maybe the r in country wasn't supposed to be there? Seriously I think the Box Hill Sunday markets are bigger... But still I bought myself a $4 pair of Nike thongs (aka: flip flops) :-)


The Amish (how to get there)

Ok now this is going to be a slightly boring post, as I just want to put somewhere up actual details of how to get to see the Amish, since most of the tourist books (including lonely planet), and the various operators seem to have no clue!

First off, Philadelphia is probably the nearest big city to the Amish (obviously they're not exactly city folk so a bit of travelling is required). When you get to Philly, you want to go to 30th St Station go to the Amtrak building and buy yourself a ticket to Lancaster which is on the line towards Harrisford it's about $13 one way.

When you get to the Amtrak station sit back and wait out the front (in the shade) and eventually (they run about every 15 minutes, and it's FREE!) a 'Trolley' will arrive, basically it's a bus built like a tram/street car. Catch this to Duke St bus stop (don't worry you'll recognise it).

Yes you read that correctly, you need to catch a number 13 bus to Intercourse it's a county out East (I think) from Lancaster (about 30 mins), and you will start to actually see some Amish related merchandise and shops. And there ya go, you'll be able to see some real live Amish folk wandering around, and you may of even caught the bus with some of them (aparently they can ride in automobiles, just can't drive them).

Getting back
Just do the reverse, just do a bit more planning than we did, and not have to run to the train station because you've missed the last 'Trolley' and only arrive at the station with 20 seconds to spare!

The End
That's more detailed instructions than I found in any of the tourist guides, they all had great info about the area, but no info on how to get there, other than to say 'Pennsylvania Dutch Country'... (where the F is that?!?)

Thursday, July 01, 2004


This'll be another quick post, as I only have 9 minutes left! Argh!!

In Philadelphia at the moment, and you know what? This city is really nice, I could see me living here.. It's just a really nice place.. :-)

Czech plum brandy
Quick experience to relate, ended up having a few shots of some home brewed plum brandy with a cool guy from Czech republic, nice stuff too, smooth and 52%.. :-)

Yes they do actually live like that, very insular, and actually call all other people the English. Interesting tour (by buggy), though the guide was not very forthcoming!


Some extra info/odd facts

Considering some people have asked "What's with the crocodiles?" and there's some extra stuff I missed out on saying earlier here goes:

Santa Monica - Movie reference and nutters
Forgot to mention that Santa Monica pier is quite famous because it's where they filmed Lost Boys a fantastic movie!

As well as Annemarie seeming to attract a few religious nutters, one in particular who came to california because Jesus told her to go there and star in a religious movie (unfortunately she was too late for The Passion) ;-)

New Orleans - Crocodile explanation & Size of Meals
The croc story:
On the tour the guide was talking about the various animals in the crocodile family ('gators being one of them), and mentioned that the Salt Water crocs of Aus are the largest and most aggressive.
To which a fellow traveller commented that he'd been to Aus and there'd been an attack in the news.
The guid upon hearing this told us "Yeah, according to the Aussies I've met it's mainly been tourists who have been swimming where they're not supposed to be."
Annemarie quickly piped up with "Yeah, that's part of our immigration policy." Cracked up the guide and everyone on the boat! (but you may of just had to of been there)

I was going to wait until I could get a photo up, but to give people the size of the meals here, on our last night in New Orleans we went out for a nice 'lite' dinner, a soup and some salad.. And I could not finish it! It was MASSIVE!!! I mean seriously, a soup and salad beating me!

Washington - Coolest T-Shirt I didn't buy
Saw a t-shirt at the Spy Museum:

My Friend went to Iraq,
looking for weapons of
Mass Destruction.
And all he found was this
lousy T-Shirt!