Friday, December 26, 2008

On the road Yamba!

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After packing up at the caravan park we picked up some rolls for lunch in Nambucca Heads then got back onto the Highway- Sam drove the 3 hours....while I slept :) Today was sweltering! We've had the air con on everywhere we've been.

I couldn't help stopping at the Big Banana in Coffs Harbour, even though it seems to get smaller and smaller every time I see it! Sam and I got an ice-cream and joined the queue for our 'standing in front of the big banana' photo.

We stopped off at some electrical/tech places to see if there was anything worth getting at the boxing day sales- but didn't see anything worth getting.

I'm currently typing this post from our studio cabin. Thankfully we have air conditioning as it's still very humid! We've just had tea (I had thai and Sam had......yep you guessed it....a chicken burger!) and we're watching 'The world's fastest Indian' which is about a guy who sets out to break a land speed record- played by Anthony Hopkins. I'm going to keep watching, so I'll finish up now

Until next time!

Delicious Pancakes and Dunked in the Pacific

I slept in today- then made pancakes with maple syrup for brekkie. It was very hot, so again, we slathered on the sunscreen and headed down to the beach. We went down to the surf beach- there were quite a few people in the water, escaping the heat.

Sam encouraged me to brave the they weren't very big at all.....and I was going alright until I endured an almighty wave dumping! Sam said he felt my limbs hit him as I tumbled past him. I'm sure it happens to everyone when they go swimming but it kind of put me off for a while. I must have hit my jaw and head and swallowed a fair bit of sea water so I recuperated on the beach while Sam stayed out a bit longer.

We headed back to the caravan park for a bbq lunch which Sam cooked and then back to the beach for another swim. I think today is the first day I've really felt relaxed- it usually takes me a couple of weeks to feel like I'm on holidays. Sam really seemed relaxed today as well.

Overall- a lazy and relaxing day- the way holidays should be!

Early Awakenings for Courageous Cliff Climbers

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Savahn encouraged us to make an early start this morning and tempted us out of bed with a delicious hot breakfast (Zac got the same treatment when he stayed here!) We were away by 7:30 and I drove about 3 hours to Forster/Tuncurry. Sam who doesn't really do early mornings- slept all the way until we stopped for a break. We propped in a town for some morning tea. I had a delectable piece of macadamia slice and a pot of lady grey tea. The interior of this place was impressive, with plastic walls that had been painted and textured to make it seem like a really old homestead kind of place......I realise when I say “impressive” and then follow it with “plastic walls” that you're probably rolling your eyes...but trust me, it was effective :)

I took a detour from the Highway and followed a tourist road. We ended up at an interesting looking beach. Because we had quite a bit of time we decided to do some exploring.

Sam had climbed up a high spot on the rocks and followed him with some hesitation, as I was wearing thongs and I am pretty much the biggest scaredy cat I know!......I'm even scared of swings!.....So no, I don't think I'll be going on the Giant Drop!

There were some truly spectacular views over the jagged cliffs and onto the rocks below as well as out around the coast on the land.

We got into Forster and had some lunch- but after a message from mum about Carvan parks being closed on Christmas Day we phoned up a place in Nambucca Heads and drove the extra 3 hours that day.

After getting into our cabin, we stocked up on some food for tomorrow and watched carols on TV and the movie- Ever After.

Central coast and the shark encounter..........

We had the day to play with, as we decided to stay another night with Avrim and his daughter Savahn (Margaret had already left by this stage). After slathering on sunscreen we went into the town and had lunch at Italian restaurant- I had a beautiful homemade lasagne with salad. We then went down to Putty Beach and had a swim. We'd probably been swimming for about an hour when I saw a fin......I was pretty sure that it wasn't a dolphin.......I started wondering if I'd just imagined it but.we got out of there fairly quickly. Some surfers who were just about to head in said that another lady thought she had seen a fin in the water and we were glad we got out when we did!

We had a chicken wrap for tea then headed back to the house that evening. I sat out on the verandah reading a magazine and watching the impending storm. It was very humid and the thunder rumbled, lightening flashed and rain pattered down. It wasn't a heavy storm, but I was glad we weren't still out there swimming!

Savahn and Avrim again kept us entertained with stories of nursing (Savahn- who is Sam's cousin by the way- is doing some kind of practical course in nursing). Avrim is a teacher and seems to know something about everything- I could have listened to him all night- he has a great sense of humour and a lot of life experience.

Stunning Sydney Sights.....pity Sam deleted all the pics.............

Before I write anything, I'd like to apologize on behalf of Sam......these posts are late......... and as you can probably tell....I've ended up writing sorry if my writing is starting to get a little monotonous!

After checking out of our Penrith cabin, we left the car in a side street- took one last longing look at it in case someone had stolen it by the time we got back, and raced down to the Emu Plains train station. Sam had to sprint over to the nearest ATM at the pub and we just caught our train. It was an hour's journey on a double decker train- we sat up the top level with a dubious group of bikies....but they were harmless enough.

We swapped trains at Central Station and pulled into Circular Quay. It was swarming with tourists- I hardly heard an Aussie accent! Sam's idea of a successful trip would have been to literally step off the train, look at the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge and then get back on the train and go home!.................I would have liked to have gone on a ferry to Manly- but alas.....Sam didn't want to. Lol, it was funny when we got to Central Coast and his aunty said “Now, I'll tell you something you really shouldn't miss is to catch a ferry to Manly and wander around” Hahaha....he at least had the decency to blush :)

It was a fairly hot day- we took our GPS around with us in the city, as we were looking for a pair of sneakers for me. It was harder than we thought, as we didn't really know anything about the city but eventually we found a place and bought some.

Sam rang his rellies in the Central Coast and they kindly offered to have us stay for however long we wanted to. Aunty Margaret flew to Europe the next morning, Sareet was already in Paris, Uncle Avrim was sick and Savahn was working it was fairly frantic, but lovely to meet and catch up with some of Sam's side of the family. (Sorry if anyone who actually knows how these names are spelt are offended........I know how to pronounce them....but not spell them!)

Margaret and Avrim cooked us up a beautiful bbq and we sat around listening to Avrim's traveling stories. Lol, he has a real gift in story telling and kept us entertained with his tales of coming out from Israel as a young guy and camping on people's property, teaching Israelie dancing to groups of randoms, being threatened with a few guns in USA etc....

Aunty Margaret wanted to give us a tour of the Central Coast in the evening, but by the time Avrim had stopped.......we got a night tour :) She took us around the the coast, pointing out her dream houses- if you were a beachy kind of person, it would be the ideal place to live I think.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

worshiping with the penrith epc-ers....

Today was a lovely time of fellowship with the people in the Penrith congregation of the EPC. We were greeted at the door of the church by David Dole (one of the elders) and we worshiped in some kind of a 'communal church'. As in- everyone in the area seems to rent it for their own church services- the EPC had the 1:00 and 6:30 time slots booked.

The singing was a bit different to what we were used to- some of the tempos were different and we struggled to keep up as they set a cracking pace! But the people in the congregation said they really appreciated having some parts sung in church and just generally having people to visit.

We watched a sermon by Pastor Connors on DVD- it was about putting on the belt of truth as part of the armor of God. A really timely reminder to us about being consistent in reading solid Christian literature and valuing the means of grace.

For anyone planning to come through Sydney COME AND VISIT THE PENRITH CONGREGATION!!! They would desperately love to have some visitors- the majority of the congregation is actually young couples at the moment. Some of them are thinking about coming to the Easter Camp in Tassie, so those of you in the Apple Isle may just get to meet them without coming to Sydney just yet!

We were invited to lunch by David and Ella Dole along with Luke and Sarah Robberts. Sam and I got another glimpse into life with babies (they each had one)- full on but beautiful :) ....and no Granny that's NOT a subtle hint! :D

Sunday night Sam and I decided that we really should be trying to get fit and some resolving has been done....see how it goes :)

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Cricket, caravan parks and coastlines

Kiama- This would have to be one of the prettiest spots I have ever laid eyes on! For me it had the perfect balance of spectacular coast line, interesting shops, friendly locals and lots of touristy things to do. We stayed in a 'Big 4' Caravan Park- the weather again looked fairly showery, so we opted for a cabin. It was an impressive caravan park with a huge reception, swimming pool/rock garden area, cafe/kiosk etc...

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For the first time our trusty little GPS failed us....before we ended up at 'The Big 4' we'd been searching for a place...that landed us in a winery car park- lol, someone asked where they could buy one of these types of GPS's :)

While Sam sat and watched the Aussies in the cricket, I drove down the main street of Kiama. I was impressed that they seemed to provide everything you could want/need but still retain the 'quaint small town' feel.

In the morning we packed up and headed back to Gerrengong Markets...after much persuading by me! They were fairly small- we bought some garlic cheese and again got caught up talking to a local photographer! I had some absolutely delicious Chinese dumplings...............Sam had chips and gravy :D

We drove back up the coast to Kiama and visited one of their main tourist attractions- the blow hole. There were two sections to it- firstly you came up to the bit where it blew all of the water into the air, then you walked down to where the waves all gathered in pressure on the other side of the tunnel. Sam scampered around the rocks and got some great shots!

The rest of the journey we meandered up the coast to Penrith- stopping at a little cafe/deli in Gerroa- According to all of the awards on the wall it's got quite a reputation, but we had no idea it was even there when we pulled in! We had a burger each and Sam got an iced chocolate. The cream on it actually tasted citricy- sour almost. Sam mentioned it to the guy who insisted that he'd made the cream that morning.....which he may have done, but it was still off!

We're getting quite good at the retired old couple thing, with our thermos and cup of tea stops! Because the weather was still showery, I wore my awesome pink raincoat that mum and dad bought me in Scottland. Lol, the funny thing is that when I wore it over the top of my blue striped skirt and had my hair all over the one side of my head....I looked distinctly like “Helga the German Skier from the 80's”.....

The couple from Brazil we met in Mallacootta had recommended a little point....that I can't remember the name of. We drove in....realised it was a national park.....paid $10 entry, then got excited when we saw signs for lots of little 'villages'. The thing was that their idea of a 'village' consisted of some naval base housing commission places that all ended in a bunch of dead end roads and and a turning circle. We went on a couple of very short walks where Sam got bored and decided to stir me............things got a little heated :) .....................

The whole thing was rather disappointing! The view from one of the lookouts was spectacular though!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A bob cut (not bob CAT) and a bird cage....

May I please explain.... Yesterday, after leaving Mallacootta in drizzling rain, we ended up in Bega for our next stop. We visited the Bega cheese factory, but didn't buy any cheese- just nibbled on the free samples :) I seem to remember all sorts of interesting cheeses there from when I visited as a child- chocolate, coffee, fruit flavours- but there were only about 6 basic types.

Despite Sam's reservations about the 'Best Western' Motel chain (credit card details being stolen from past clients) we booked in for the night- we decided it was worth the money just to be somewhere dry!

'The pizza man' provided tea- some of the nicest we've ever tasted. The guy cracked jokes and chattered away the whole time we were waiting....I think Sam was glad to get out of there! The tent needed to be cleaned down and dried off, so we used the old towels to dry it off in the bathroom, then draped it over the chairs in the motel....Sorry, no photos from yesterday!

Today Sam and I were due for haircuts (here's the bob cut reference)....Sam had a trim which was fine, and I thought “Why don't I just get it all chopped?”...So I did....I was envisaging something slightly longer...but oh well, I'm getting used to it! My poor husband on the other hand had these choice quotes 'That looks terrible' and 'You look middle aged'. Thanks. For. The. Support. Darling. :D He'll get used to it too....when it grows!

The drive from Mallacootta to Bateman's Bay was very pretty- lots of rolling green hills and a smattering of tourist towns with eclectic boutiques, emporiums, old lolly shops (the shop not the lollies...) and antique places.

We stopped for a coffee in a little town that I can't remember the name of.....sorry factual people! The place that we had our coffee was a quaint old train carriage that had been turned into a cafe.

I am also the proud owner of a small metal bird cage with a metal bird. Lol, I asked Sam if he'd mind if I got it as he was walking out of the shop- He said “You decide based on your conscience...” Trying to guilt me out of it..... Hahahaha my conscience said “I wholeheartedly support this purchase” Thank-you conscience :)

We are now currently in Bateman's Bay- staying in a cabin at one of the caravan parks. A few minutes ago it was absolutely bucketing down- hail, thunder, lighting- the works. Well, we're going to venture out into the storm to hunt and gather our evening meal.


Sigh...for those interested in the Facts...not just my's the map :)

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Evangelism - sort of.

Evangelism, for Christians, could be described as sharing a great secret with someone - sharing with others the hope that lies within you. Not forcing it down their throat - but, through your words and actions sharing, encouraging and enlightening someone about something you truly believe.

Well, this isn't a story about Christian evangelism, but GNU/Linux. Hahaha, some of my viewers are rolling their eyes already - yeah, you Zac.

I was recharging my laptop batteries in the camp kitchen of the camp site we were staying in. A couple from Peru were there and were interested in how I was getting internet access (I was browsing Slashdot at the time). I then excitedly described how all I had to do was plug in my mobile phone into the computer and that Ubuntu Linux then automatically configured it to work.

They thought that was very cool. I felt cool anyway. =D

A while later (I was still browsing the net) the girl asked me was operating system I was using - she loved the default Ubuntu 8.10 wallpaper. I then explained to her that I was using a free operating system called Ubuntu Linux and that it did everything I needed so well. She was immediately intrigued and asked me what it was. I proceeded to explain in more detail what Ubuntu Linux was (including Ubuntu's meaning) and the main (obvious) benefits that it gives (free, secure, easy, pretty). I also told them that it was very easy to give it a try. She (and her partner) were impressed and asked me where they could get it - I proceeded to give them Ubuntu's website URI.

Then, very interestingly, she asked me why she hadn't heard of it before. I told her that it doesn't have direct advertising and that most of its promotion comes from word-of-mouth. I proceeded to tell her that there was about 10 million current users and that major PC manufacturers were bundling it with their computers in some countries (not Australia yet =( ).

I then encouraged them to give it a go. The lady then asked me if she could check her email on it and I obliged. She didn't find it hard at all to operate, and was impressed with the look and feel (I didn't ask her - she told me). She then proceeded to tell me that she had to get an illegal copy of Windows Vista and that she was having problems with it (viruses and wouldn't run her older software).

Anyway, we talked some more small talk and they wen't to pack up their tent and leave. At this time I had a brain-wave - I don't get many brain-waves during hayfever season. I realised that I had an Ubuntu 8.10 live CD on me. I grabbed it and went outside to find them again - thankfully the guy was taking photos of the seaside at the time right outside the camp kitchen. I gave him the CD and told him that he could boot off it and test Ubuntu Linux without affecting their computer. He was very thankful and asked me if they could have Vista and Ubuntu Linux on the same machine. I then told him that Ubuntu Linux could do this and would actually encourage this as the default option. I also gave him some avenues of help if he got stuck. He was a very happy customer.

Anyway, I guess the thing is that through my public use of my computer people noticed that it was different and asked questions. It was very cool.

It was obvious to me that people haven't heard of Ubuntu Linux - but that many people needed something better than their current operating system. Hopefully Ubuntu Linux can fill that need for them.

Anyway - I thought it was cool. So what, I may be a bit nerdy - but I have a passion for this GNU/Linux based OS.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

magnificent coastlines and multi- cultural meetings

After a disrupted night's sleep (due to Sam's asthma and my stomach aches) Sam and I stumbled out to breakfast with Ma and Grandpa. I know it's only the start of the trip, but Sam and I both reckon seeing my family at the farm was definitely a highlight. They're such relaxed, friendly warm people. We had the royal farewell from Ma, Grandpa. Mal and Merk, and headed off into 'the great unknown'. CD playing, isn't this great.....5 minutes later Sam's eyes are swelling up due to hayfever and it's time for a get out the tablets.

We passed through lots of rain-forest and bushy patches- we were surprised at how green and lush the countryside was! Sam really seemed to love the VICTORIAN scenery- yes Sam, I shall be quoting you on this :)

Sam and I stopped just outside Lakes Entrance at a lookout and just as we were coming back to the car we saw a guy doing oil paintings out of his van. His face was brown and leathery and he typified 'the Aussie bloke'. As we talked to him, we heard about his troubles selling paintings in Lakes Entrance. As he said 'It's hardly the cultural capital of the world is it...' The actual works of art were amazing- he was obviously talented, but lacked marketing or exposure. So, he had plans to head up to Sydney where he had some 'contacts'. Apparently one of the guys he was going to meet up with used to exhibit his work with Pro there you go!

Ok- as I'm writing this, I realise it's mostly going to be about the people that we met, as.....I'm a people for those of you who just want the route we traveled, check out the google maps in previous posts.

The painter recommended a place called Cape Conran. Sam took a fair few photos. Here's some of the interesting rock formations

....and some strange human formations too......

This little cove actually reminded us a lot of Tassie- very pretty and peaceful.

After going through some more towns, we ended up in Mallacoota which is where I'm typing this blog post. Lunch consisted of a chicken burger for Sam and a falafel burger for me from a little cafe in the town. We got a powered tent site with a view of the water. Sam wanted the power so that he could hook up the laptop cord. For a while we had the cord stretched out from under the tent to the power point...but soon gave up on that idea as it started raining. It hasn't been the nicest weather- a bit grey and showery....but hey, that's where movie watching in the tent comes in handy!

We've just come back from the camp kitchen- a great set up with everything you could want for free communal use....i may suggest free food in their visitors book for next time.....It was a truly multicultural affair with people from Ireland, England, Sweden, Brazil, Peru and Sydney in there while we sizzled our sausages. There was a really nice couple who had come over from Brazil to do their masters degrees- one in International Business and one in Human Resource Management. They'd been studying in Melbourne and are pretty much doing the same kind of trip as us- heading up the East Coast for 3 or so weeks. I wouldn't be surprised if we run into them again at some point.

Well, the rain is pattering on our tent and it's the kind of sound you could easily be lulled to sleep I may just finish up now and do just that. Oooooh and one more thing- we paid for our tickets to London/Paris in June 2009 this afternoon on the it's finally real and happening! Sam keeps reminding me to live in the moment and enjoy focusing on this trip and our beautiful sunburned land shall be my priority now :)

Good night!

Monday, December 15, 2008

The journey has begun. =)

Its the end of the first day of our holiday. We drove a lazy 150 or so kilometers to a little town called Cowwarr. Some of Rachel's rellies live on a farm here – from her dad's side of the family (Stewart).

When leaving Melbourne, we bought me a waterproof raincoat in preparation for wet weather. I've never actually owned a raincoat before, so its really cool to now own a good quality one.

We snapped a few photos with my mobile phone on the way here (camera batteries were dead) but they didn't turn out very well. The most interesting shot we got on the way to Cowwarr was a huge coal powerplant. You kind of need to be there to appreciate the colossal size of the thing.

On getting to Cowwarr we had a great lunch with Rachel's grandparents (Jim and Pat Stewart) – the nicest folks you'll ever come across. We had a good 'ole yarn about various things and some great belly-laughs.

The land here is a lot dryer than in Tassie. Mal and Megan Stewart (who own the farm here) are dairy farmers and own about 400 acres of property (all very flat). They have 300 cows on the property (looking to make that 400 soon). Talking to Mal about it, he said it has to be one cow per acre – any more and you'd be pushing the land. Below are a few choice photos of the farm.

Here's a classic 'Sam Duff' moment: I was diligent in making sure we had packed the camera and the power cords to charge it too – then just today as I went to download some photos onto my laptop for this blog post I realised that I'd forgotten to bring the camera's USB cable...... Never fear, I can still remove the SD card from the camera and stick it into my laptop – but its a pain.

Tomorrow we're going to travel to Mallacoota, a six hour drive. We'll be leaving Cowwarr at about 9:30am and stopping at a few places along the way. Below should be a Google map of the route we'll be taking.

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Hopefully by tomorrow we'll be into the full swing of holiday mode – with some better photos too =)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Holidays! Yay!

I've arrived in Melbourne after a long night on the boat. The seas were pretty calm and my 'recliner' seat was at the back of the ship so I didn't have any trouble with sleeping. I'm pretty sure I snored loudly – I can usually tell if my throat hurts (like when you scream - lol).

Its overcast and rainy here in Melbourne. The weather isn't very conducive of a jolly holiday attitude. Hopefully it will clear up a bit.

I'm parked outside a cafe near Melbourne's dock waiting for Rachel's plane to arrive before I head off to the airport to pick her up. I'm going to have to trust my TomTom GPS to guide me there – gulp. I'm kind of hoping that it doesn't lose a lock on the satellite during my trek through the city or I'm stuffed.

Aaah, lots of unsecured wireless networks around me. Just like home. It makes it easy to pop online and check your email 'n stuff. I'm kind of hoping that Australia will follow the USA's lead and open up the current TV wireless spectrum for free wireless access in the next few years. Good old Google pushed for that in the USA, I hope they can do the same thing here!

And no, I'm not currently logged into an unsecured wireless network. I'm using my mobile phone plugged into my laptop for Internet access. Its actually really cool, I just plugged in my phone into the laptop with a USB cable and Ubuntu Linux instantly told me that I could use my phone for Internet access – it then proceeded to take me through a very short and intuitive wizard that set it all up for me! I've had no problems with it so far. Very cool. I'm telling you right now – Vista and XP have trouble doing the same thing. Linux 1 – 0 Windows. =D

After I've picked up Rachel we're going to head around to her parents house and 'crash' (David and Robyn Stewart). We're staying there for the weekend and attending Sunday church services at the AFC (Australian Free Church). It will also be handy to get some good music for the trip from the Stewart's resident music guru: James Stewart. I still have yet to hear him actually finish listening to a single song.

Anyway, I'm going to get some more sleep before Rachel's plane arrives.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

a call for more hours in a day

I think we need to lobby mother nature to add more hours into each day.

I haven't posted in a while for various reasons, most of which is because I have been so busy at work.

One of the downsides to being the IT Manager (I call myself that....I'm actually the only IT guy here) of the real estate agency I work for is that I have to do everything - given the general lack of computing skills in this office. That includes anything from desktop publishing to brochure design to telephony solutions to building a website to system administration (and *all* the stuff in between).

Lately, I have been busily designing and implementing a new website - very hectic indeed! Also, I've been busily researching replacement telephony solutions for our aging and costly proprietary one - Asterisk is looking really good! On top of that, managing 6 servers with critical applications (PDC, Intranet, DB's, etc) and over 20 desktops and laptops makes life overly busy - especially when you consider the extra maintenance that dear old Microsoft products require.

Thankfully most of the servers are Unix/Linux (save the PDC) making that side of things very easy and automated - they even SMS me if something goes wrong. =D

But yeah, long story short - I've been very busy the last few months. Unfortunately, this isn't going to let up any time soon. My next big project is to completely re-design the company Intranet. Currently, most of our business data (CRM) is hosted on the other side of Australia - needless to say, we've had huge issues with it. So it is my job to build a real estate specific CRM application that does everthing we need - from property management to contract processing to client management. Its a very large job indeed - especially for one developer to do. I've been given a solid year to work on it - but considering all the other jobs I still need to do, I think its going to practically take longer. BUT - I'm going to enjoy doing it. I love programming. I love solving logical puzzles and creating awesome software.

You know, it would be really cool to create this project in the open (FOSS) and create a server + client-side KDE4 interface to the real estate CRM! It would fill a hole in the FOSS landscape (namely, no real estate specific management tools - openrealty isn't CRM, its just for displaying listings). That would give management another really nice reason to start using Linux on our desktops (althought with KDE4 on Windows.... =P).

Anyway, what about KDE's websites? Well, I've been tinkering and playing with a few ideas - I have a Drupal installation with a nice KDE4 theme running here at work on a research server. But I haven't had time to really get deep into the general clean-up of all the sites. I plan on changing this soon. I have four weeks of holidays just around the corner (15th Dec), and while I will be travelling up the east coast of Australia with my very beautiful wife, I will find some time to get some work done on KDE's websites too. More meetings, more action! =)

Congrats to all the fellows working on KDE 4.2 - I'm suitibly impressed! You're doing a brilliant job - keep up the awesome work!