Archive for June 20, 2010

Assorted News 30 – Back again, Free Video Surveillance… :)

Assorted News 30 – Back again, Free Video Surveillance… πŸ™‚

In this edition:

a quick dehydrated newsletter! The story’s on the blog.

Assorted News:
I’m Back πŸ™‚

General Ramblings:
Free Video Surveillance with Skype or iSpy…

Growth and Limits.

I’m Back πŸ™‚

There’s always a stack of catching up to do when you go on holiday and then come back. Fortunately I’m almost caught up with the work load.

For those of you who want to know how the American experience went, you can find it at

In short, it was an interesting holiday, but a bit rushed; and with a few relatively spectacular dramas along the way…

Free Video Surveillance with Skype or iSpy…

As most of you know, Skype is program that lets you call other people from the computer, and if the person at the other end has a camera you get to see them as well.

If you’re going traveling and you just want to be able to check on the house or dog; or in my case the goldfish with the giant lump on it’s side; you can leave a computer running with Skype set to auto-answer.

Here’s some other ideas…

Perhaps you’d like to know if your dog misbehaves during the day when you’re out. Perhaps you’d like to know who came to visit while you were out. Perhaps your into ornithology and want to know what birds have been to visit. Or perhaps you want to know who’s nicked your firewood. Maybe you’re planning a new career as a Bond Villain.

In any of those cases, you might be interested in the free program called iSpy. It lets you hook up multiple cameras to multiple computers, and monitor them all from one computer. In addition, it can be configured to record only when there’s movement detected. You can specify areas to watch too so that the wind blowing the trees doesn’t trigger a recording.

It’s amazing what you can do for free these days with computers. Recording studios, home publishing, home theatre, photo development studio – we’ve come a long way since DOS 2.0!

iSpy is free, and open source, from
Skype is free from

Growth and Limits…

For those of you into sustainability you might like to have a look at – some interesting points in this mathematical lecture.

Sorry it’s such a short newsletter – a few customers have had some big mishaps this week and time is short! The blog post, however, makes up for it!

Old Editions
You can find old editions of this newsletter on the CCC Blog.

You can also subscribe or unsubscribe at

The American Experience…

The American Experience…

Having just returned from a two week holiday in the USA, it’s likely many people will want to know what it’s like over there. So, here’s the story in all it’s comedic glory πŸ™‚

Assorted photos of the trip can be found at

Getting There…

The four flights…

Armidale to Sydney.

We traveled from Armidale to Louisville, with an overnight stay in Sydney. The first flight was with QantasLink, and was as good as they always are.

You step onto a baby plane that seats 48, get in the air, eat a snack and the next thing you know you’re in Sydney. You marvel at how a 7 hour drive or train ride is so slow in comparison.

Sydney airport was it’s usual friendly self, and it wasn’t long before we were lost trying to find the Formule 1 Hotel. The GPS knew where it was, but it was raining making the short walk an annoying prospect, so instead we jumped into a cab. He was surprised at this very short journey, but appreciated the significant overpayment of his bill in compensation for our apparent silliness.

The Formule 1 Hotel is about 5 – 10 minutes walk from the airport. Next to it are a Maccas, and a Krispy Kreme. Pricing is good, the rooms are slightly dated now and a bit boxy, but comfortable and mostly quiet. Krispy Kreme does some good healthy food surprisingly. Maccas has free WiFi as usual. (Krispys claims to have it, but it refused to work.) The Krispy Kreme carpark can flood to the height of your shoes in places turning a power-walk into a power-squelch!

Sydney to Los Angeles

L.A. International Airport.
Where those big Jet engines roar.
L.A. International Airport. 
I won't see you anymore...>Susan Raye – 1971

This was a 13-14ish hour non-stop flight. That’s a long time to sit still. You’ll see a day and a night come and go through the windows. You’ll be fed copious food every few hours. You’ll probably have free movies and free headphones. (In my case, Simpsons Movie, Top Gear, Cars.)

When you board, you’ll be given a form to complete stating where you plan to be staying in the US, who you are, what you are, when you fell out of (or were cut and pasted out of) your creator and what town you were in when that happened.

The food and environment seem designed to fill your bladder to capacity every two to three hours. Fortunately the lady in the aisle seat suffered the same fate so we soon sync’d up.

The Airport from Hell?

LA International Airport seems to be a somewhat chaotic mess designed to confuse any would-be terrorist. Unfortunately this design applies also to the unsuspecting weary traveling public.

When the aircraft taxid to the gate, we were unable to get off. According to the crew, the customs people hadn’t arrived yet and might have slept in; and they were not allowed to open the doors until they arrived. After about 10-15 minutes, they showed up and we started the long walk to nowhere…

The walk to customs was a fairly long one, through corridors whose only signs were those on intermittent doors stating “No Entry” or similar. There were some changes in levels. In places, there were flat metal plates on the wall with “TELEPHONES” printed above in large metal writing – the phones themselves having at some previous time decided there were greener pastures elsewhere.

When you reach the end of this trek, you encounter a large room with queues of people. The wall closest to you is populated with people struggling to complete the last of the fore-mentioned paperwork. A serious looking lady directs people to join any queue. Older signs above the queues suggest what type of passenger should in theory be in that queue. New flat screen TVs hang in front of some of these signs, obscuring some of them. Passengers anxious to make connecting flights shuffle nervously. A small kid can be seen sleeping on his jacket on the floor as the queue progresses slowly.

When you reach the admin dude, you give him your paperwork and your passport. You place your hand on a glass screen that takes images of four of your fingerprints. You also stare at a camera that snaps your weary image – or your eyeballs, not sure which. 0wn3d.

The dude asks you where you’re going, who is this you’re traveling with? How do you know them, etc. All the while they do it in a specially trained ‘look into my eyes’ fashion.

You now proceed to collect your luggage – even though you’re getting on another plane shortly – and carry it with you a short distance until you reach a crowded atrium where there are rows of luggage stacked three columns deep to your right and a new column haphazardly growing to your left. A man asks where you’re going next and takes your bag dumping it with all the others. and then you walk forward out the glass doors …

You’re now standing on what looks like a relatively abandoned public street. In front of you what appears to be a large car park. Above you, a motor way or ramp. There are no signs here.

To your left you see a reasonably well dressed man with a folder, who asks you where you’re going next. “Atlanta, with Delta”. “OK, take this lift to level 3”. “Thanks”. “Would you like to make a $20 donation to such and such childrens charity?” (WTF? Is this guy an employee or some well dressed stray street thug?) Right now I don’t care about orphans. I want to find out Where TF I am going next. [Hands the guy $5AU, declines receipt.]

After reaching the third floor, you step out; and before you you can see a crowd of people in a queue, proceeding to a multi-bay security screening / xray setup.

At this point, we have 5 or 6 hours to kill, so we look around this area for clues as to what there is to do / see; but shortly into this quest a severe bossy woman repeately says “join a queue. Join a queue. Join a queue.” She won’t take any questions, just “Join a Queue.” [Gesticulating madly.]

Resigned to our fate, we join said queue and it’s just the usual laptop-out-of-bag, shoes off, metals in tray, jacket off happy dance that soon becomes routine. Not a big deal for me at all, although I am surprised to find I get through unscathed as my aluminium belt buckle fails to trigger the alarm. (I forgot it was even on.)

Then it’s the mad rush to collect all the bits at the other and and restore them to their original locations. Wallet? Check. Laptop? Check. Jacket? Check. Shoes? Step in them, we can tie them later…

Then it’s off to watch as Val does the Knee Replacement dance for the guy or gal with the stick. They even seemed fascinated with bras having a metal lining! She then collects her gear and it’s off to find a snack and the next gate. I settle for a mango smoothie but find myself unable to drink much of it. She finds a coffee or some such, and some sweet snack.

I’m tired now. We both are. It’s too early to see what gate the flight’s going from. It’s not on the board yet. So, I suggest we find a dark corner and attempt to sleep.

In preparation, I fiddle with the Nokias to set alarms on both, after first figuring out what time zone we’re in. I then plug my ears with the earplugs normally reserved for those occasions when the Belgrave Cinema plays the movies too loud.

(Side note: In a pinch, AAA batteries make OK earplugs but if you fell over with them in, I’d hate to think of the consequences! They look weird too, but if you’re front row at an IXL@Sound event, you need them.)

I recall my childhood days of sleeping on the bus and train on my two hour each way daily commute. My laptop bag, although not as high as my old vertical school bag, suffices as a head rest as I lean forward with it vertical on my lap, arms folded above it; and I sort of drift off into a strange sleep where you can hear in perfect but now muffled surround sound the sounds of the world around you. Distant construction work as they rebuild some of the tiled roof. The occasional thunderous roar of the coffee machine to your left. Further left, the guy near a powerpoint playing with his laptop’s multimedia capabilities. To your right, the sounds of people discussing where their flight is going from. Kids running around. Dot matrix printers in multiple gates springing to life almost simultaneously.

3 hours pass, and I am surprised to find that I have actually slept. The crowd has gathered in this area, and their flight begins boarding. I check to find what gate we’re actually meant to be in, and arrange to move to it. Nearby, there are some large ornamental marble piers that hold up the roof, and two asian girls have sprawled out asleep thereunder like a modern sacrifice. Ironically their sacrificial position on the stone floor is probably the most comfortable sleeping position to be had in this area.

Los Angeles to Atlanta

Five Hours Sandwiched
Between the Rapper and the Army Guy
Something I will not forget
From now until the day I die.*

* dementia permitting!

Val and I were a bit late to realise that long before your flight, you can log on to the airline’s website and select your seat positions. However, we were relatively lucky; and this was the only flight in which we were not together.

Instead, to my right is an army guy. He seems friendly enough, but years of military training seemed to have left him a bit jumpy. His left leg initially bouncing repeatedly up and down like some nervous disorder; but eventually it seemed to subside.

Shortly after he becomes very excited, as to my left approaches someone who is apparently a famous Rap artist. He’s dressed appropriately for his profession, has the signs of wealth including a MacBook Pro, Blackberry, copious Bling, black outfit, etc.

I would have been much happier had I been next to either of these two, but being between them meant I had to be privy to the entire conversations about how the army guy loves to blast his beats, how he’s his biggest fan, etc. They’d yack about different guns, different wars they’d been in, what the girls were like, all that sort of stuff. The rapper briefly quizzed me on what I knew of Australia and what opportunities existed there for obtaining the kinds of products I’m not knowledgeable about. He soon worked out I was benign and useless for his cause.

Despite this unusual (for me) company I reverted to sleeping on the tray table as they fiddled with the entertainment systems and the rapper penned more lyrics on his blackberry.

As landing time approached, a boarding pass was autographed; and while we stood waiting to get out of the plane, I’m sure I heard one of the crowd behind say he’d just done four years in prison. Fortunately it seemed the only item I’d lost in this flight was my packet of chewing gum.

Atlanta to Louisville

This final short flight on a smaller, more comfortable plane was pleasant and uneventful. We arrived at some time in the late afternoon and met our hosts.

Our hosts were long-time friends of Val, whom I’d never met. They are a happy oldish pair in their ’70s.

After a brief look at some paintings in the airport, we continued on to what was to be the first of many chain eateries – a place called Frischs. Then it was off to a nearby Motel for a well-earned rest.

Rather than continue in a chronological diary fashion, I’ll now switch to a different style of documentation…

The Differences

America and Australia have some similarities, and some differences.

Getting Around

Wrong side of the car.

This is probably the most immediate difference. In America, they drive on the right side of the road, as opposed to the left side in Australia. As a result, the steering wheel / driving position is opposite to what we’re used to.

The reason for this is apparently because we are more fond of stabbing passing people than they are!

“In the past, almost everybody travelled on the left side of the road because that was the most sensible option for feudal, violent societies. Since most people are right-handed, swordsmen preferred to keep to the left in order to have their right arm nearer to an opponent and their scabbard further from him. Moreover, it reduced the chance of the scabbard (worn on the left) hitting other people.”

“In the late 1700s, however, teamsters in France and the United States began hauling farm products in big wagons pulled by several pairs of horses. These wagons had no driver’s seat; instead the driver sat on the left rear horse, so he could keep his right arm free to lash the team. Since he was sitting on the left, he naturally wanted everybody to pass on the left so he could look down and make sure he kept clear of the oncoming wagon’s wheels. Therefore he kept to the right side of the road.”

Fast Roads

America generally has better roads than Australia. They have many “interstates” that are a bit like our freeways – three or four lanes each way. I had prepared for the trip and loaded most of the US maps into the Nokia E51. The average speed on these seemed to be around 115kph, with a peak of 135kph.

Whackable Mailboxes.

We spend much of our journey in the country areas of Kentucky and Ohio. So we could see the countryside, our hosts took us mostly on older routes rather than on the interstates.

The smaller country roads are much like what you’d see here in Australia, with the slightly alarming difference in that the mailboxes were almost flush with the side of the road.

Most of these were of fairly basic plastic construction, bearing the telltale ‘flag’ that the owner can raise if they want the postie to collect mail from them. It would be so easy to stray slightly out of your lane and take out an entire gathering in rapid succession.


Many American cars do not have the amber flashing indicators that are mandatory here in Australia. Instead, the brake light on that side of the car flashes. This makes for a more simplified rear light design on cars, but lessens the visibility of turning. Since many don’t bother to use them anyway, it’s a moot point.

Cheap Fuel

“Gas” over there is about half the price we pay here in Australia. Hence the lack of desire to conserve it. It seems at least one in three vehicles is a SUV or Large Ute.

The toilets. (Commodes)

There is a thriving ecosystem of different breeds of toilets in this country, each with their own unique personality.

Many of the older models are based on a design of ‘get it all spinning real good so it whirls magically and quietly away’.

Smaller, more recent models took a slightly different tack. In addition to the merry spinning method above, they had a ‘I mean business’ outlet at the bottom front of the bowl that would force water backwards at the same time.

The most modern ones were somewhat more dramatic, relying more on a brute force noisy sudden rush of water that would cause even the air around you to be drawn to it’s doom.

Many of these newest models are automatic flush ones, so as soon as you move away from them a bit, *WHOOSH* and it’s gone. Never mind that “it” could also happen to be your mobile phone, your wallet, or anything else you accidentally might have dropped in. (I didn’t.)

The aim for the most modern American bathroom appears to be to touch as little as possible.

One big downside for us males that like to stand before the throne is that almost the entire surface area of bowl is covered with water, so those of us who don’t wish to sound like a draught horse have very little space to aim for. In the end, sitting was easier.

The Maccas

Why am I mentioning MacDonalds so soon after the toilets? Well, because they played a critical role during this holiday. We did a lot of traveling, and when you’re traveling with older people, the need to “tinkle” as it’s called over there becomes a two-hourly or even more frequent event. 50 cent seniors coffee was almost as popular, but I suspect it might be a symbiotic relationship. I preferred the Hot Fudge Sundae instead, for it’s apparently magical powers to be a cheap snack yet not cause kidney failure or dairy-related travel sickness.


Food at Home

For the first half of our stay, we were in Kentucky. In addition to our two forementioned hosts; also resident was her mother, a spritely 93 year old lady who was alternately armed with knitting needles, a newspaper, or an elongated orange and white cat.

When you are around someone that old, it’s natural to look for possible indications as to what has kept them alive for so long…

What they refer to as Sausage and Biscuit,
We’d call Rissoles and Bread Rolls.

This lady’s breakfast of choice was somewhat surprising. It consists of something similar to two rissoles, and two strange bread rolls, all covered in a white sauce of sorts.

The ‘sausage’ taste a bit more like sausage meat than rissoles. The ‘biscuit’ is a strange bread roll, in that it peels apart in multiple layers.

It’s a rather filling breakfast.

Her other meal of choice was a ‘bean salad’ consisting of multiple types of beans, pretty much by themselves.

They all grew up on farms, so they probably had a healthy upbringing food-wise as a result.

Of course, this is relativly atypical of what we perceive as the common American diet. We ate out almost every day I was there so I didn’t really get to form an opinion on what home meals were like. The couple I did have, and remember, were mostly terrible pre-processed over-spicy products such as ‘buffalo wings’.

I didn’t really pay attention to the supermarkets, but Val assures me that there was very little fresh food available. Salad stuffs (lettuces, etc) were pre-packaged in plastic bags, with raw vegies hard to find. I did become a chain-eater of baby carrots however πŸ™‚ Apples however were plentiful.

I was surprised to find just how prevalent High Fructose Corn Syrup had become. After seeing this movie – – Sugar – The Bitter Truth – it seems to be a valid explanation for why so many Americans are overweight. (In short, corn is subsidised over there, so it’s cheaper than sugar. So they make a sugar alternative from it. It functions the same as alcohol in the body except that it doesn’t affect the brain and muscles so the effects are less obvious.) It was hard to find products without it.

Food in America is generally quite cheap. Cheaper than we’re used to in Australia. Eating out is also surprisingly cheap. If a meal gets over $15 you must be eating something posh.

Food On The Run

In Australia we have MacDonalds, Red Rooster, Subway, Hungry Jacks and KFC. That pretty much rounds out the remaining viable food chains.

In the US they have somewhat more stores. These include names such as Cracker Barrel, Frischs, TGI Fridays, Burger King of course, MacDonalds, KFC, Subway, Olive Garden, Pizza Hut, and more…

One of the strange things about America is how spread out it is. One of the first places we ate was at a Pizza Hut. Where it was positioned, it was almost like a store on a hill in the middle of nowhere. Cars are a necessity here.

The ‘all you can eat’ self serve salad bar is still alive and well in the US. (It’s demise in Australia is something I grieve – even the Servies dumped theirs a year ago.) This is good as it allows you to create your own meal in many cases.

The best of these eateries, IMO, were The Olive Garden and Cracker Barrel. The Olive Garden is a relatively posh restaurant with a Greek bent to it. Cracker Barrel on the other hand, is a combination restaurant and nick nack shop, with country-style meals.

Lemonade (aka Sprite / Schweppes / 7up) doesn’t exist as ‘lemonade’ there. I asked once for it, and ended up with something akin to lemon cordial. I never found a correct moniker for this product, and don’t know if it exists at all.


This is something that takes some getting used to. To me it sees a bit immature as it’s like playing the Easter Bunny every time you eat somewhere. The idea being that you leave about 15% of the value of your meal, in excess of the meal price, available for the waiter/ess to collect. (This doesn’t apply to MacDonalds however.)

It tends to mean that the waiter/ess will show a greater desire to make sure you’re happy with your meal, but in many cases you can tell that this is feigned interest.


Shoppers are well catered for in most cases.


Wal*Mart is a funny store. The far left is a typical supermarket, with aisles of products just like you’d expect anywhere; but the remaining 3/4s of the store consists of something more like what we’d find at K Mart. Clothes, Electronics, Car supplies, etc. The front of the store also has an optometrist / frames supplier, and a chemist.

Wal*Marts are generally identical in almost every way; which can seem strange when you drive for six hours, then enter another Wal*Mart and feel like you’re back where you started.


Other stores were JC Penny, Meijr, Radio Shack, etc.

JC Penny is a weird ‘girly’ store where the staff are out to chat to you as much as possible and help you get the stuff you want. That is, where stuff = clothing, perfumes, etc. I was wholly out of place here.

Meijr is the same as out Myer – if you can still find one that is.

Radio Shack is a crappy version of our Dick Smith.

The prices…

Prices again are generally fairly cheap. However, they are deceiving. The price on the product is not the price at the till. Only when you get to the till do they add whatever tax they are meant to add on that day.

The Sights

Most of our trip was aimed to be drives along country roads, so there were few traditional sights to document. It was interesting to see the difference in house and farm designs there, as well as the different types of terrain.

Niagara Falls


Well, it took two days driving to get there from where we were; and it was not what I expected. I had imagined something a bit like our Ebor Falls – you know, drive a few ks into the scrub and arrive at a waterfall. Instead it’s more like someone had cut a wide channel through the middle of Sydney and planted a waterfall there. Both sides were flanked with high-rise buildings and snaking motorways!

Niagara Falls forms part of the border between USA and Canada; so getting from one side to the other involves passport checks. Our hosts didn’t realise this was the case and received a mild roasing at the Canada border and a somewhat more severe roasing at the USA border. This shocked them somewhat, but they commented that being 70 years old, they weren’t expecting to ever come back. (There’s something strange about holidaying with old people – that thought is probably always there in their mind…)

The Canadian side was the better side view-wise. The US Side was a confusing place to get to. I also learned that people waving to usher you in a certain direction on the road were often not doing so for your benefit but for theirs. (Trying to encourage you to take certain paid parking places, etc.) On both sides you end up paying $10 to $15 to park the car.

I was a bit slack at taking photos this trip. There are a few photos at


Ohio was an interesting place to stay. Where we were was fairly rural. The house we stayed in had four levels – two on each side overlapping, and with a basement. The basement seemed to be a wise choice given that occasionally bad weather can make it a handy place to go. It was funny to be able to sit out on the verandah and watch the clouds circle casually overhead rather than simply going in a straight line.

The Trip Home

20 hours in the sky
Body Temps are running high
When it seems your partner’s about to die…
A stressful trip was had by I

(And it was worse for her! but I’m writing πŸ˜‰ )

There’s somthing magical about the last two hours of an eight hour sleep. During that time, your immune system kicks in to high gear and your brain finishes defragmenting. The rushed nature of our holiday meant I often had 6 hours or less, and was unable to avoid succumbing to a cold or flu that had been hanging around since the flight to LA. One week in and I had to take two days of rest before resuming holiday travels; and at the peak of this I woke up one night suddenly with perhaps the strongest fit of the shivers I’ve ever had – full body suddenly shaking madly in an attept to raise it’s temperature.

Unfortunately for Val, she entered this stage during transit home.

The flight from Dayton to Atlanta was relatively uneventful. No complications at all really. I was avoiding food however, having had a bad reaction to the two hour drive preceeding immdiately after eating cereal.

The flight from Atlanta to Los Angeles was also relatively pleasant. We had exit row seats so there was more space than normal to stretch out. However, Val was starting to get more unsettled. Coming up was another 4 hour wait at LA Airport, and by the time we landed she had a huge headache, sore ears, and was running a temperature. She looked terrible.

On landing, we went off on a quest to see if there were any kind of medical facilities. The answer was no. However one store stocked headache tablets, etc, so since Val was now no longer able to talk, I purchased what looked promising, and then we proceeded to find our air port.

By now I had noticed that her skin was turning yellow in some places.

The Tunnel Of Love?

Now we’re back in the ‘confuse the terrorist’ airport. We were in terminal four, and needed to get to terminal five. By now we were somewhat behind the travelling crowd having spent time sussing out the [absense of] drug stores. (What we call Chemists, they call Drug Stores.)

We followed the signs that said “Tunnel to Terminal 5”

Soon we were in a remarkably long tunnel, probably 400 to 500 metres in length, straight through.

As we approach the half way mark, a concertina-style door starts closing briefly 50 metres in front of us, while a distorted female voice says something that we can’t work out. Then it starts opening again, so we continue. A few steps more and the door starts closing again and the voice now louder starts shouting again. After six recitals of the message I work out it says something along the lines of ‘Please step out of the yellow security zone.’ (Then repeats it in some other language.)

The voice seems adament this time. The door stays shut. By now four more people are just starting at the beginning of the tunnel, frozen to the spot while they too try to work out what’s going on.

We’re not standing in the painted yellow security zone, but we turn around anyway and start walking back. The other people have already chickened out. The voice stops, the door opens. We turn again and start towards it. This time it doesn’t attempt to close on us; so I summise that they had either managed to get someone to check on the cameras in the tunnel, or the camera above the security zone had belateldly recognised our faces; decided we were relatively benign, and allowed us through.

It is strange to be in a tunnel when the doors seem intent on closing you in…

So, here we are back in the same terminal that we were in two weeks earlier. The same one with the sacrificial asians – this time removed. I leave Val to sit and smoulder away under the departure monitors in order to wander off to the nearby Maccas and the free WiFi that this usually proffers. This one didn’t and I had to shell out $8 to get online and confirm our final Sydney to Armidale leg online.

Getting online wasn’t entirely easy either as they needed a post code in addition to the credit card details – and this had to be a US ZIP code. I copied the one from my GPS for the town we were first in, and it accepted it.

Booking confirmed, boarding passes saved as a PDF, I returned to Val. By now we knew what gate the next flight was at, so we proceeded to that area and again attempted to sleep. Didn’t work this time.

13 hours is a long time.

After two and a bit more hours, we were finally on board the final flight home. Here we were given customs forms to complete. Since we had jelly beans in a bag somewhere we declared food.

On this flight, Val had the window, I had the middle, and a fancy-looking Italian woman had the aisle seat. (Val assures me she was German, I don’t know for sure.)

I Am The Walrus!

By now we’re both tired, and surprisingly for the first four hours we get some sleep. I adopt a new position – laptop bag on top of the tray table, jacket rolled up on top of the laptop bag, my arms over the jacket, head on my arms, and the airline-supplied travel blanket over the top of me, like a sleeping Middle Eastern with a head covering.

I had a sense that my olfactory system was still a bit on the blink. This was confirmed a few hours later when I awoke and looked at Val. Both nostrils now each grown a two inch long bright yellow/green stalactite.

Fortunately my travel blanket tent saved the rest of the aircraft occupants from this unfortunate sight. The thousands of years of stalactite growth was hastily destroyed.

By now Val was back into the hot/cold cycles that such illnesses throw at you, along with a sick feeling and a repeated need to use the toilet.

This was a bit of a problem for our Italian friend who was fortunately very obliging. On one such occasion she proved to be hard to rouse from sleep. I found that I was acrobatic enough to be able to clamber and stand on the arm rests to get over her without waking her up. (Dunno how she would have reacted if she had woken up to find me hovering above her!) I left the rousing to Val this time after having alarmed her somewhat the first time by stroking her arm in order to wake her up. (This stroking I later realised was rather ‘affectionate’ in nature since I was absent-mindedly sick and sleepy.)

In the end, Val ended up spending an hour or so standing up / resting against the galley near the dunny bays, repeatedly making use of their refuge. The flight seemed to go on for ever. I did manage to watch GhostBusters 1 and the second half of some other movie about a homeless guy who became a rugby player. Val casually plugged away intermittently at assorted ‘life’ documentaries.

Almost the entire flight is in darkness as we are flying into the night.

Sydney at last…

At last in Sydney, it was an easy trip through customs, then to find the bags, and finally to follow the signs to “QantasLink Domestic Transfer” which was a great feature. There they check in your bags, perform yet another security scan of your luggage, your boobs and your knees if you’re Val; and your laptop and other electronics if you’re me. Then they take you on a bus to the terminal next to the one you need to go to. (A short walk gets you to the correct terminal.) From there, they then repeat again the knee replacement happy dance scan, and at last it’s a matter of waiting for the final flight home.

Armidale at last…

While in LA I used my SoftPhone with Exetel VoIP to call some friends in Armidale, to see if they could check Val in with her doctor. They were surprisingly able to do so, so after collecting the car; it was off to the doctors. Then, a quick spot of shopping. Then collecting the Molly the Collie, then home at last!

So overall, the journey was interesting, and it was good to see another way of life. Also, they say that the adventure’s in the journey, not the destination!

It was interesting to see how the other side of the world lives. As I was only with one family and didn’t socialise with other people there I never really got to form an opinion of how the people lived.

I was in regional / rural areas for almost all of this trip, so I never really experienced a full-on city experience. Niagara was probably the closest I got to a city experience.

Most of the areas were open-planned, and houses were surrounded by generous amounts of greenery. It seemed like a huge rural urban sprawl really – everything is a long way apart. However continuing growth seems to be rapidly threatening this way of life, as I am reminded by this video.

But there’s nothing quite like going away to make you appreciate what you have at home! Simple food, stable climate, stable and familiar home, currency that doesn’t look like it was printed on an inkjet, your own job, and your own time πŸ™‚