With Blackjack and Hookers "I'm going to write my own blog. With blackjack. And hookers."

23Aug/130

Where The Forest Meets The Sea

View from the Top

View From The Top

We were picked up from our hotel at 7:45 this morning (ouch), headed north: to the Daintree. As I mentioned earlier, I had been up this way before, but eighteen years is a long time, and my recollections were relatively vague. Today was, needless to say, quite different.

The Billy Tea tour groups are small: there were twelve of us, in four family groups, on our bus, with an eccentric frenchman as guide. There was a couple from the Central Coast (north of Sydney), a trio from Los Angeles, and a family of five from England. I was really impressed with that family: three teenagers, and they were interested, engaged, and full of intelligent questions, both with regards to what we were seeing, but also other topics that came up in conversation. They got along with each other and with their parents, and interacted well with the adults. We didn't travel as much as a family by the time I was that age, so it's difficult to compare, but I very much doubt we would have been quite that positive. I don't know.

Leaves

Leaves

The trip was really well designed, with stops every hour or so - short stops at lookouts, and longer stops for a cruise down the Daintree River (we saw a crocodile!), for a walk through the rainforest, for lunch, and for a swim/tropical fruit tasting/billy tea and damper afternoon tea. There was a second tour bus with people doing the same trip as us, with some intermingling, but for the most part, it was just our group of twelve-plus-Frank-the-tour-guide-- which was nice. It felt much more personal than yesterday's trip, because we actually got to talk to people.

Ferns

Ferns

The Daintree is, unsurprisingly, beautiful. Cape Tribulation reminds me (unsurprisingly) of Jeannie Baker's 'Where The Forest Meets the Sea'. We were out of mobile reception for most of the day and that, too, was really quite awesome in a way. Annnnnnd there was a stop for ice cream on the way back (did you know that wattleseed ice cream tasted like coffee?), and that was nice too.

It's been nice being able to use my camera properly again, too. I admit, I get really lazy: I have a fancy digital SLR, and yet I use it on manual more often than not. It bothers me that I do it, but it's just… easier. And yet, today, I found the manual setting just wasn't good enough to deal with the different light conditions, especially when we were in the depths of the rainforest; it tended to heavily over or underexpose, leaving my photos generally useless. As a result, I basically had no choice but to start playing with settings again, and it was, I admit, really quite fun. I won't claim I really knew what I was doing, but I was able to get a few good shots, and some others that have come out quite nicely with a little bit of post production.

Flowers

Flowers

I do wish my eye sight was better, though. Even with glasses, I have a lot of trouble determining when my shots are focused, when I use manual focus; I just can't see properly. That means I generally stick to auto focus, but sometimes the camera simply cannot cope with it, and gets confused, and then I have to suck it up and hope that my manual focus attempts come out more or less acceptably.

Sadly, I did not manage to get any good shots of the big crocodile we saw - or any of the fauna, really. Plants are easier: they mostly only move in the breeze. (mostly)

Beach Debris

Beach Debris

It was a long day, and I'm pretty tired now. We got back to our hotel a little after 6, and almost immediately headed out for dinner-- yes, we actually ate out tonight, something we've done surprisingly little of thanks to our room's kitchen. We still only made it as far as the hotel's restaurant, but that was a good choice: I had the barramundi fillet and a glass of riesling, and Rohan had a three cheese and truffle oil gnocchi with a glass of pinot grigio. We followed that up with strawberry cheesecake and a botrytis riesling for me, and a chocolate brownie and a grappa for Rohan.

I am thus, now, tired and full, and feeling pretty content.

22Aug/131

Nostalgia (and Green Island)

I was last in this part of the country in (I think) 1995(1); eighteen odd years now. We stayed up at Port Douglas on that trip, and I remember a surprising amount of it: I remember the hour-long coach trip from the airport; I remember snorkelling out on the reef; I remember visiting a wildlife park and getting a bat caught in my clothes; I remember attempting to bike along the beach in to Port Douglas and the wind making it really hard going; I remember catching the sky-rail up to Kuranda; and I remember the four-wheel drive safari we went on… though probably the most memorable part of that, for me, was that we saw some of the places where 'Ocean Girl' was filmed. Oh, pre-teens.

Green Island Beach

Green Island Beach

Actually, the 'Ocean Girl' thing felt really important for good reason. We were living in the US still at this point, and that particular tv show was just about the only 'Australian' thing that was easily consumable; it was on cable TV, and I watched it semi-regularly. It made me home-sick, like many things did - which was funny, of course, because I only barely remembered living in Australia by this point. 'Ocean Girl' felt like part of my identity as Australian, and that made it important.

For me (I can't speak for my siblings), it was important to feel like I belonged. By this point in my life, I was happy enough at school and had friends and everything, but I had this mentality that Atlanta wasn't home, and that it would never be home (none of this, I'll acknowledge, made news of our move back to Sydney any easier; but that was especially so because of the year that followed this particular trip). Our trips back to Australia and New Zealand were all about belonging for me: they were all about coming home.

It's funny, but it sort of feels like I still have a thing about going 'home', despite the fact that I do live in Sydney, now, and it is home. We revisit a lot of places I've been to before. Last year it was Hawaii, a place I'd been to some eleven years previously. Before that, it was New Zealand, twice, and while on both trips we saw things I hadn't before, we also went to places I had.

Feeding Frenzy

Feeding Frenzy

And so it is with this trip. We're staying in Palm Cove rather than Port Douglas, but there are certainly similarities. I'm pretty sure the rainforest safari we're going on tomorrow is the same one I went on, eighteen years ago… though I strongly suspect I will enjoy it rather more this time (even without the 'Ocean Girl' tie in).

Today, however, we went somewhere I hadn't ever been: Green Island. Green Island is a coral cay (that is, it was formed from dead coral, and is constantly changing in size and shape as a result) roughly 25-30km off the coast of Cairns. It's a great spot for scuba diving and snorkelling, as well as glass-bottomed boats and semi-submersibles and so on. Rohan had no interest in getting in the water, so we settled on the latter two, plus some walks around the island (and some cocktails over lunch).

We opted against the buffet lunch served on one of the boats that brought us over from the mainland, and I'm glad of it-- the smells hanging around on that boat afterward were not terribly appetising. Our lunch, in contrast, was delicious (and yes, the cocktails were too). There's actual a hotel out on Green Island, and a very exclusive one at that: $600 a night, ouch! It must be beautiful and peaceful at night, though, after all the day tourists have left; it's an absolutely beautiful spot, if a little too remote and isolated for my tastes. Lunch was delicious… but eating in the same restaurant every day of your holiday would get tiring, at least for me.

Low Tide

Low Tide

The bus that was supposed to deliver us back to our hotel, after we got back to the mainland, forgot to drop off a couple of people, which led to a rather circuitous trip, and rather longer than it needed to be. It was interesting to see some more of the other beachside areas… but we didn't get home until 6:30, and after leaving home at 9:45, it was, honestly, a very long day. Tomorrow is liable to be even longer, but at least I'm prepared for that.

Rohan is presently cooking dinner, while we listen to a 'Doctor Who' audiobook, with all the windows open and a beautiful breeze wafting through. I have no complaints with the world.


1. I want to say it was 1995 because I'm pretty sure it was our last trip back to Australia before we moved back in 1996. I think we went up to Cairns right after our visit to Sydney, and that it was during that visit that my dad found out about the possibility of our move back. I may, of course, be misremembering: this is, after all, nearly 20 years ago. Regardless, I was probably around about 11 at the time. (top)

21Aug/130

Welcome to Palm Cove

It's been a long couple of months. A long two years, really: two years since Rohan started working on Towncraft, his iPad game. It's been out for about a month, now, and is doing really well… but there's still an awful lot that needs to be done; a busy few months to come. Months ago, we agreed that we'd go on holidays after the game came out. We'd hoped, at one point, that we'd be able to go back to Seattle (so that Rohan could go back to PAX Dev), but for a lot of reasons, that wasn't possible. Instead…

Well, we settled on far north Queensland. Relaxing, not too far away, with interesting things to see and do. Perfect.

And here we are. It's just a short trip - Tuesday to Sunday - but I'm already feeling more relaxed. The hotel wireless won't connect from my computer (and anyway, it's super expensive), so that's even more reason to largely disconnect. I'll tether via my phone on and off, but there's no compulsion to just sit at the computer, and I kind of like that.

Palm Cove at Dusk

Palm Cove at Dusk

We're staying in Palm Cove, which is roughly halfway between Cairns and Port Douglas. It's the most relaxed of the three-- I'm pretty sure it exists pretty much only as a tourist destination, but it's small, and delightfully peaceful as a result. We've got a one bedroom apartment with full kitchen in one of the resorts, with views out over the glorious swimming pool; the beach is just around the corner, just barely visible between the other buildings. It's idyllic.

We arrived in the early evening, yesterday, so today is our first real day. Dinner last night was at a local pizza restaurant (delicious); after that, we hunted down the local 'supermarket' (it's basically just a corner shop) and bought necessities: bread, eggs, avocado, tomato, and so on. And then wine and beer at the bottle shop. We'll probably venture further afield today, to a bigger supermarket, but really, it scarcely matters.

Rohan's making breakfast at the moment, and after that, we'll probably go for a swim. It's winter here, and that means it's a balmy 22 degrees at 9am, with a high of 29 later in the day. Which is… awful, I know. Just awful. My life is so difficult.

Today's our 'let's just relax' day; I'm booking some things for later in the week, but for today, we're just going to take things as they come. I pulled a muscle in my neck last night, so I'm hoping taking it easy will help ease that (and in the meantime: ice and ibuprofen, oh yes).

2Aug/130

Career Open Source Software Fiddler

I've basically been in Louise-heaven all week, at work. We've (finally!) launched our new library management system, and I've been knee deep in the wonderful, glorious, utterly delightful mess of preferences and features, all needing my attention. This is the first time I've been part of a move this big; certainly, we moved from one learning management system to another, and that was a big project, but the library system has so much data, and our new system has so many possibilities. It's been great.

I'm not really a great librarian, when it comes down to it - not in the traditional sense. I'm not all that fond of customer service; I'd much rather hole up in my office and get stuck into something without the interruptions that actual patrons bring. I like losing myself in things, and playing with stuff until I figure it out. I'd much, much, much rather play with something until I work it out than be trained in it.

But all of these skills rather nicely set me up for what has ended up being a big part of my job, especially now that we're moving towards open source solutions. I get to play with these things basically to my heart's content, and I have basically full control over them: if I don't like the way something displays, I can dig into the code and change it. Open source is amazingly flexible, and I'm incredibly excited to be getting to mould all of this into what we want it to be.

We're really lucky that I can do that. I mean, sure, it's completely possible to hire someone to do all of that configuration and manipulation for you, and it's a perfectly valid way to do it. But I think there's an advantage to having those skills in-house: it's so much more immediate, and so much easier when the person doing the work already understands the organisation's specific needs. I ended up getting some things working that our paid support people couldn't, and it's not because they're not competent, but because I'm already comfortable with how things are set up on our end.

No one taught me these skills, for the most part. I just learn by doing - by poking at things until I make something happen, or by googling until I see what someone else did, and modify it to my own needs. I'm perpetually frustrated by people who realise that they don't know how to do something, and just… stop. Why would you stop? Sure, maybe you don't want to go fiddling with code (I won't deny I've caused myself problems by doing that, and I now have a reasonably good idea of what I'm doing), but… giving up is just stupid.

I'm really lucky that I'm allowed to do all of this. In a lot of organisations I wouldn't be allowed to touch the servers, let alone take responsibility for some of them. We're pretty nimble in that way, and that makes my job much more interesting.

The end result of all of this is that we no longer have a support contract for our learning management system (Moodle), because I administer it. We're not going for a formal support contract for this new library management system (Koha), because I will do much of it - we're simply going to have pre-paid support hours available for occasions when I do need the backup. So… it's all mine, mwahahaha!

Of course, this makes things more complicated when I go on holiday, for example, and I'm not sure what will happen if I leave the organisation at any point, but… for now, it's fun.

In the meantime, however, I have this wonderful new library system, and some really appalling data. There are thousands of records that need to be deleted, and thousands more that need edits, and I know what I'm like: I won't rest until it's all perfect.

It's a bad thing that I'm still thinking about my data at 6pm on a Friday, isn't it? It's the weekend. Let it go, self. Let it go.

Filed under: Open Source, Work No Comments