Friday, January 27, 2006

New car!

Woohoo, we finally get our new car! We ordered a Toyota Prius (a gas-electric hybrid) before we left Australia - probably early-mid November, as they said it would be a fairly long wait.

It was supposed to be here a couple of weeks ago, but it kept getting delayed, and they said it now wouldn't be until March that it arrived. So about a week or two ago we called another dealership who we heard had a couple of cars available due to cancellations, and our new car arrives tomorrow!

By tomorrow night we should have some car pics up :)

Monday, January 23, 2006

Review of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell

I finally finished it - phew! It's funny, last time I tried this book, I think I gave up before the end of the first chapter. This time I enjoyed the whole thing!

The story is basically about 2 magicians in England, who are the only "real" magicians at that time, and how they bring magic back to England.

It does start a little slow, but it's a really enjoyable book to read. I love the feeling of being transported into a different world when I read, and Susanna Clarke's descriptions of the characters and the houses and cities are very vivid, and I must admit to having interesting dreams about Olde Worlde England and magicians!

A great book to start the year with!

The next book I'm going to read is "Last train to Alcatraz", an autobiography of Leon "Whitey" Thompson who served there. After he got out he vowed to never commit a crime ever again, and wrote about what life was like in Alcatraz. I bought it while doing the Alcatraz tour, and his story fascinated me. He only had a 6th grade education, and wrote the book without any professional writing help, so it should be a very true account of his life.

Phew - even more sightseeing! Alcatraz and San Francisco bus tour

Yesterday (Sunday) we met up with Tanya from Andrew's work again and went sightseeing again in San Francisco.

Tanya, Rick and I started the day off by doing a tour of Alcatraz which we really enjoyed! The history is fascinating, and you can almost feel what it would be like to be a prisoner like. It's kind of surreal to think that criminals that you've heard about such as Al Capone and Machine Gun Kelly were there just 50 years ago. To me, they seem like fictional characters that you saw on old time gangster movies rather than real life people who served their time in a place I was standing at!

After that, we went on a bus sightseeing tour of the city which was also very good. It was an absolutely perfect winters day with blue skies and a clear view and just a bit of a chill. I believe you don't get many clear San Francisco days (even when it's nice, it's usually foggy), so we were very lucky to be sightseeing on such a perfect day.

We finished off the day with dinner and a glass of wine at a nice Afghani restaurant near where Tanya was staying, and headed home after another full weekend!

You can see by the photos of the day here.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

More exploring and Segways

San Francisco Part 2

Last Monday was a public holiday here, so we met some lovely people from Andrew's friends and did some more sightseeing of San Francisco. We did the cable car thing again which is always fun, had some lunch down at Boudin Bakery, then wandered through one of the piers which advertised a free museum. It had weird and wonderful old time "stuff" that all needed quarters (25c coins for you Aussies) to work. There was old time music organs, strange bowling games, a circus scene where various things moved and played music when you put your quarter in, and many many many other things that I can't even remember now!

After that we took a tour on a fishing boat of the bay, around Alcatraz and under the Golden Gate Bridge and back again which was pretty cool. It was just a little boat that took a maximum of 6 people, had some old couch type seats at the front of the boat, and our "tourguide" (the boat driver) kindly gave us blankets to huddle under as it was quite chilly!

All in all it was a pretty fun day and I think it was getting close to 10pm by the time we got home! Photos from the day are here.

Monterey and Segways

Today we went to Monterey and hired Segways which was great fun! $20 per hour to hoon around Monterey which is very very pretty. Segways are very cool, you just stand on them, and when you put pressure on your toes they move forward, when you put pressure on your heels they go backward, and they can turn on the spot. They're very responsive, very easy to drive and a whole lotta fun!

After our Segway tour we had a late lunch (it was almost 4pm by this stage), had a quick look around the rest of the main touristy area, and headed back home. We'll definitely head back to ride the Segways again, but also to check out the aquarium there that is supposed to be very good and check out the rest of the town which was beautiful - it kind of reminded us of a bigger version of Berry, on the New South Wales coast.

More photos are here.

Sunday, January 15, 2006


We saw snow this arvo!! We went for an adventure today to the mountains to check out an observatory up there, which is also about the highest point, so the best vantage point of the valley. So it was fairly nice in the valley - 14 degrees, then as we got near the top (45 minutes of narrow, windy roads that had no barriers and went straight down into deep scary valleys) we noticed the outside temp according to the car was at 0 degrees. Then we got near the observatory and I saw some white lumps on the side of the road, and we realised it was snow! The further we got the more snow there was. I mean, it wasn't exactly thick, it was just a dusting, but it was enough to have a bit of a snowfight with, and it was enough to make Andrew very cold - he was only in shorts and a long sleeve t-shirt. Heh.

I took some photos which I'll put up on the website sometime soon.

First exploration of San Francisco

On Saturday, Andrew and his friend Rick who's over here for a week went to a SysAdmin "camp" that was on in San Francisco for the day and I went exploring. Above are just a couple of images from the day, the rest of the photos can be found on the America page of our photo website.

So we all caught the train into San Francisco, they went off and did their thing, and I went for my first real trip around the city. It was a wet and windy day and I hate carrying stuff so had left the umbrella at home, which meant for a cold and not quite so pleasant morning. I ended up having to buy a touristy nylon jacket which was fleecy inside and very cozy! It's actually a pretty nice jacket, and was only $20, so I can't complain.

Anyway, so we got to San Fran about 10:45, and I wandered around a bit. After an hour of walking around aimlessly in the rain, I finally decided to go to a book shop and buy a San Fran specific cheapie guidebook so I could figure out how the city worked and what I could do (I had about 4 hours before Andrew would be done). So I did that, and sat down at a sourdough bread bakery, and enjoyed a feast of clam chowder served in a bread bowl made of the much talked about San Francisco sourdough bread, while figuring out what to do.

Turned out there was heaps of things close by to do on a rainy day, so I started with buying a day pass for the cable cars to go exploring the city. I'd heard a lot about the hilly streets of San Fran, but it was great fun to really SEE them on a cable car to get a real perspective of what they're like. You get to hang out the side of a cable car (quite precariously...), and look right down the street and wonder how good the brakes are! To get an idea of how it looks, here's a map of the cable car routes which includes contour lines of the city.

I also went down to the Embarcadero where the Port of San Francisco is, had a wander around there, and then back to the cable car, and changed over to head down towards Fisherman's Wharf. It was a fairly long trip though timewise as the cable car stops at each street corner, and the amount of Saturday traffic makes things a bit slower. So by the time I got down to Fisherman's Wharf (where I had just enough time to buy my jacket), it was time to head back again to meet Andrew and Rick.

All in all it was a pretty good day, and now that I have a rain jacket, I'll be better prepared for future adventures :)

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Bunny video

It's so funny watching Maybelline (the bunny we're fostering) playing. We put some basil in a toilet roll, close the ends and let her throw it around until she gets the basil out.

The other day she got so excited by it all that she actually fell over backwards while throwing the toilet roll in the air.

So today I used the camera to video her playing with the toilet roll.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

DHL express pick up

Wow. I'm taking part in some aortic aneurysm research through the University of Texas, and got sent a saliva DNA collection kit to spit into and send back to them.

There was a DHL Express bag included in the pack with all the paperwork ready to go and a note saying to just call DHL to arrange a pick up time from my home.

So I just called them, and I kid you not, and I know I am prone to exaggeration, but DHL was at my door within 5 minutes of hanging up the phone.

Did I mention wow??

Monday, January 09, 2006

What's so good about The Gimp?

I've installed The Gimp onto my Mac for editing photos and doing cool stuff as I hear it's the open source Photoshop equivalent.

I just need to figure out how to use it! Can anyone tell me what useful features it has that I would want to use to edit photos, and if they know of any useful online tutorials?

I've gone through The Gimp's tutorials, but I've found them confusing. It tells you to do things, but doesn't give instructions on how to do it. It seems to assume you know where all the buttons are and how they work!

Maybe I just need to go through each tutorial thoroughly?? I guess my main question is - is it worth it??

I've got Nikon software called Picture Project that came with our camera that allows me to get rid of red eye, sharpen images, lighten dark spots in images etc. If anyone can tell me some useful features of the gimp, I'd love to hear about it!

Mmmmm shopping!!

Thanks Chris for the recommendation to check out Whole Foods Market which is an organic and natural foods supermarket.

It was a really cool shop! They had an awesome meat section with lots of fresh, tasty looking hams, legs of lamb, chicken, marinated meats, lunch meats and other exciting things that I haven't seen in Safeway. The fruit and vegies were all fresh, and the general range of food was fantastic and had a very similar range of foods that I'd expect to find in Australia, and much healthier than what I've seen in Safeway so far. They also have a great website with heaps of recipes on them which I'd like to try out.

I actually had a lot of fun exploring the shop! :-)

I daresay it's more expensive than Safeway, but I certainly wasn't looking at prices of things and being shocked at the price, I thought everything was fairly reasonable still.

We've been getting dinners delivered by Diet to Go over the last week or so in an attempt to eat healthy meals, and they aren't too bad, but there isn't as many vegies as I'd like in them.

So I think I'll go back to cooking and visit Whole Foods Market fairly regularly!

My blog colour!

Your Blog Should Be Blue

Your blog is a peaceful, calming force in the blogosphere.
You tend to avoid conflict - you're more likely to share than rant.
From your social causes to cute pet photos, your life is a (mostly) open book.

Cute pet photos?? I have no idea what they're talking about...

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Bunny foster mum

There was a message at the animal shelter on Wednesday asking if anyone could take a young bunny home for a few weeks as it was too young and shy to go to a new home at the moment. So I took the bunny with me. My job is to help socialise her, and keep her happy while she grows a bit and can be adopted out.

Her cage is in the dining room which we can block off with boxes from the rest of the house, so we can open her cage door when we're home, and that becomes her playroom.

At first she wouldn't come out of her cage on her own, hid whenever she heard us, and if I was near her she wouldn't come near me unless I had some basil - her favourite treat.

She now runs in and out of her cage as she pleases when the cage door is open, loves to race around the dining room, usually kicking her legs out when she gets excited. She'll come up to us when we call to her, she tolerates being patted, but doesn't seem to get any enjoyment out of it, and still often runs away if we try to pat her. She no longer hides in her hidey box in her cage if she hears us coming unless we do something quite noisy.

Her favourite game is when I crush some fresh basil and put it in an empty toilet roll, and close the ends. She throws it around, rolls it, chases it, and chews it until she gets her bit of basil out, and really seems to enjoy that game!

She's also toilet trained which is good, she's only been to the toilet on the carpet once, when she was first out, and it was only "number 2's", which are hard little balls and easy to clean up. I think that was just to mark her territory as she hasn't done it since. I also got her a little litter tray which she's exclusively peeing in now which is also good!

Anyway, so her photo is below, so if anyone in the Bay Area is after a cute rabbit, let me know! We've called her Maybelline, due to the amount of "eye makeup" she has on. :)

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Palo Alto Animal Services cat adoption

As I've mentioned, I'm volunteering a few days a week at Palo Alto Animal Services on the front desk and with the cats.

I've now set up a blog and I will have cat of the week to try and help find homes for some of the longer term cats at the Animal Shelter. So please point any friend and family in the Silicon Valley area to the website to help get the word out!

First cats off the block are Ricky and Lucy who've been there since August.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Book 1 of 2006 - Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell will be my first book of 2006. My aunt Glenda bought it for me for my birthday at the end of 2004, and I never got around to reading it. I did start, but the book is nearly 800 pages long, and the last thing I felt like doing in a gorgeous summer was sitting down and read a really long book! So I read a few chapters, put it down and never read it again.

It's by Susanna Clarke, and is her first book. It's won many awards, and is highly recommended and was even named Time magazines number 1 book for 2004. The book has been coined as an adult Harry Potter (as in aimed at adults, rather than a Harry and Hermione Mills and Boon....).

Glenda did say it takes a little while to get into, but once you do it's excellent. I remember last time starting it I was quite bored with it, but I'm now up to page 64 and enjoying it much more than last time! It helps that the last week or so has been very windy and rainy, and today I finally got a chance to curl up under the doona with a cup of tea and read, which is my favourite rainy day activity! It puts me in a much better frame of mind for reading!

I'll give a review when I'm done.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

New Years Resolution

Ok, so I never bother with New Years resolutions because if you want to do something, just do it, why should you wait until a new year to decide to do it??

I even said just last night that I thought new year resolutions were crap. But I was just thinking this morning that I need to read more, particularly of other genres. Andrew will argue that I'm quite a bookworm, but I really only stick to a few author's I quite like that are usually "nice" stories, plus the odd bestseller that's being raved about.

I think I might try a bit harder to just go and buy random books I wouldn't normally buy, and maybe see if there's a local bookclub I can join. Now's a good time as I'm not working so have a little more free time to sit down and read (I'll hopefully have more time soon once we've fully unpacked anyway!).

If anyone has any recommendations, please let me know!

Bringing the new year in with style!

We got invited to a new years party that one of Andrew's workmates was having. It was nice and low key, and we saw the clock tick over to 2006 while sitting in the hot tub. Mmmm it's a tough life :-)