Evening at Watsons Bay

I spent yesterday evening and afternoon at Watsons Bay.  It was absolutely beautiful.

View of North Head, Sydney

View of North Head, Sydney

We sat at the beach until the sun went down and then had dinner at Doyle’s.

City View from Watsons Bay

City View from Watsons Bay

At 8.30pm the restaurant dimmed its lights and we watched the lights go off in Sydney for Earth Hour 2009.

The Blue Mountains

Yesterday, armed with maps and Google directions, Christine and I set off to see the Blue Mountains.  I was impressed that we didn’t get lost as I didn’t have a lot of faith in directions like, “drive for about 53 minutes and then turn left at Yeaman Brce”.  I didn’t think that we would ever find the turn-off and I have no idea what “Brce” is an abbreviation of.  We actually made the correct left turn but not because of the directions.  Christine had been to Katoomba before and thought that it would be a good idea to go that way.

We checked into our hotel and spent most of the afternoon being pampered in the spa.  Thankfully, once we have finished, we decided to go for a drive before dinner as otherwise I would not have seen the Three Sisters as today the whole area is blanketed in fog.

Three Sisters, Blue Mountains

Three Sisters, Blue Mountains

Australian Wildlife

I would really like to see some of the animals that are found only in Australia.  When I was little I was fascinated by koalas and kangaroos.  Not quite sure that this was what I had in mind…

Christine Hugging a Koala

Christine Hugging a Koala

Scary Bugs

When people come to visit me in Tokyo we get to have conversations about earthquakes and tsunami.  Now that I am in Australia I get to hear about natural disasters and the threat from wildlife.

The sea looks so beautiful but I don’t know how I feel about sharks and jellyfish.  I do know that the thought of killer spiders made it hard for me to sleep last night.  Christine has told me stories of these deadly bugs being found near beds and in shoes.  This did wonders for my imagination as I could imagine them crawling about my bed in the dark.  Every time my skin tingled I feared that some creature was sharing my bed with me.

She has a chart – just in case I forget that tiny arachnids with white tails can cause horrific ulcerations to the skin or that the ones with red backs can kill.

Deadly and Dangerous Spiders

Deadly and Dangerous Spiders

2 Responses to “Scary Bugs”

  1. Jessica Marie Says:

    You had better warn Chastity before she sees this poster; it will traumatize her.

    I hope you survive the land of deadly beasts!

  2. karen Says:

    I’ll do my best. I’m trying not to get too paranoid about them.

I Am Not An Australian

I went out this morning to take some pictures of the beach and sea.  I also bought some groceries to make myself a light lunch at the apartment.  On my way back I was stopped by a couple of British men who wanted directions to somewhere.  One of them had pointed at me and said, “There’s a native we can ask”.    I smiled and told them I’d only been here one day and that I couldn’t help.

I assume that they thought I was native because I wasn’t wearing beach wear and I was carrying groceries.  But really I don’t look like the Australians in Manly.  The thing that sets me apart is my white skin.  I am so pale.  This is a beach resort where the streets are full of people dressed for water sports or a day in the sun.  Their skin is either red from sunburn or a golden brown colour.  I look as if I have never been out in the sun.  This is a look I will continue to have as I wear sunblock when I go outside.

That last time this happened I was in Tallinn, Estonia.  Maybe all the travelling I have done has taught me how to look as if I belong somewhere.  If only I could find a way to look more Japanese…

Manly Beach, Sydney

Manly Beach, Sydney

Sydney - Day 1

I used to tell people that I liked to travel but really I like to arrive.  The journey to Sydney wasn’t too horrible and I had been warned about the queues for immigration and customs.

I didn’t know what to expect but so far Sydney is beautiful.   My sister-in-law lives in Manly overlooking the beach.  The sun is shining and whilst I sit and relax I can watch the more energetic people outside.

Apartment View, Manly, Sydney

Apartment View, Manly, Sydney

3 Responses to “Sydney – Day 1”

  1. sis Says:

    Hello,it really does look beautiful sis. My kind of place.

  2. sarah mcdowell Says:

    awk karen your so lucky you have been everywere :O:O so not fair i was on ur blog so a faught id leave a wee comment miss u karen when u comming home come c me on the 1st of april and that could be the best present ever :):)

  3. karen Says:

    It is really beautiful. You would love it. Miles of beaches out there. And lots of people surfing, cycling, jogging, skating, and swimming.

    @Sarah – sorry I won’t be able to make your birthday this year. I’m sure you’ll still have a great time though.

    Miss you both too 🙂

Quiet Evening at Narita

I am always surprised by how few people there appear to be in Narita airport.  I’m sitting at the gate waiting for my plane to board and there are hundreds of empty chairs.  I can never decide if the airport is actually empty or, unlike airports like Heathrow, they actually have lots of spare chairs.

Looking at the airline statistics for 2007 Narita is busy enough.  More than 35 million people use it in a year.  It’s not as busy as Haneda airport, the other airport in Tokyo, which had 66 million people in 2007.

Cherry Blossom Time

Since I am flying to Australia in the morning I am probably going to miss seeing the cherry blossoms bloom.  It was rumoured that these would be open in time for today’s holiday but the predication date has moved to next week.  Marty and I went to Ueno Park today in the hope to see at least a few flowers.

Trees in Ueno Park

Trees in Ueno Park

We weren’t alone in our quest as the park was full of people trying to take pictures under the few trees that have started to bloom.  We even saw a couple of Hanami parties though most people will wait until the trees bloom.  The park will look stunning when the trees open but the beauty may be marred by the thousands of people who will party there and the large numbers of bins that are being put out the part to cope with the rubbish.

Bins in Ueno Park

Bins in Ueno Park

4 Responses to “Cherry Blossom Time”

  1. sarah mcdowell Says:

    bins ? i dont get it :S
    haha xx

  2. karen Says:

    Every year when the cherrytrees bloom lots of people go to the park to have parties. There will be thousands of people in Ueno park over the next few days. Instead of them having to take their rubbish home or leaving it lying around the park service puts out lots of large bins.

    The only problem with this is that having huge bins makes the park look less beautiful.

  3. Geoff Says:

    Neil and I were admiring two cherry trees in blossom after his swimming lesson on Saturday when at precisely the same time a nice gent came on the radio to inform us that the official tree in some shrine in Tokyo now had more than 10 blooms! What are the chances of that!

  4. karen Says:

    Not sure. But you were looking on the day that was predicated for the start of the season in Tokyo 🙂

    Maybe you just have an eerie connection to all things Japanese!

St. Patrick's Day, Japan

I don’t think I ever celebrated St. Patrick’s Day in Northern Ireland.  For most of my life it was not a national holiday.  I have no fond feelings of the day as it was a religious holiday that highlighted the divide in the country.

It’s much easier to celebrate this living in Japan.  When I tell people here that I am from Northern Ireland they assume that I am Irish.  I don’t often try to correct them as even I have difficulty in deciding if I am British or Irish.  To have to choose from either of those national identities feels wrong.  I am Northern Irish and a child of the Troubles.

The first time I ever attended a St. Patrick’s Day party was in San Diego.  This was also the only time I have ever eaten corned beef and cabbage.  Last year I attended my first St. Patrick’s Day parade – though this was in Tokyo.  This year Marty took the day off work and we went for a walk.  We won’t be eating potatoes, wearing green, drinking Guinness, or singing sorrowful songs.   Those are not the things that make us Irish, no matter what the Americans tell you.

Spring in Minami Senju

Spring in Minami Senju

4 Responses to “St. Patrick’s Day, Japan”

  1. Geoff Says:

    Good to know you’re all thinking of us on such a day! So in a spirit of reciprocity, we have a Japan season on BBC4. We got the film “Ping Pong” last night, of which I’ve watched half… which I guess accounts for “ping”. But better still is the small collection of interstitials based on Japanese phrases… see how many you can use tomorrow! 🙂

  2. Norwin Says:

    I haven’t written it up yet, but I have some thoughts brewing along similar lines. Because I’m just back from a holiday, I’ve been asked the “where are you from question” a few times. And I always answer Northern Ireland. Even though I know they’ll only hear Ireland, I can seldom bring myself to drop the Northern bit, because it’s important to me.
    Anyway, glad you had a nice day.

  3. Barbie Says:

    “or singing sorrowful songs”

    Now I have to correct you there, I’ve heard Marty singing Fairytale of New York!

  4. karen Says:

    Well we sometimes eat potatoes, wear green, and sing sorrowful songs. Just not on St. Patrick’s Day and not all at the same time 🙂 We never drink Guinness – though I used it to make Irish Stew at the weekend.

    We sang some sorrowful songs tonight if you count “The Blower’s Daughter” and “Chasing Cars”. And Marty and I did sing “Fairytale of New York” even though it’s not Christmas.

White Day Gift

Today is White Day – the day in Japan when men buy gifts for woman.  This follows Valentines Day when, in Japan, women buy gifts for men.   Marty and I buy each other gifts on both days.  This time we bought chocolate though I wasn’t expecting Marty to buy me so many boxes.

White Day Gift

White Day Gift

2 Responses to “White Day Gift”

  1. Norwin Says:

    Surely some mistake – they aren’t maltesers 😛

  2. karen Says:

    I have never seen Maltesers in Japan – I think I ate too many of them last year.

    Now I can eat too many of these little balls of chocolate mint goodness.

First Sign of Spring?

On my way back to the apartment today I noticed a young woman standing outside the local police box.  She was smiling sweetly and chatting to two policemen.  I couldn’t help but wonder if she was there to report her lost skirt.  From where I stood she looked as if she was wearing a coat, black tights, and shoes.

She wasn’t the only woman I saw today who was missing a skirt.  It’s not that warm yet but I get the feeling that mini skirts are back.  When the weather improves I may actually get to see some of the skirts but for now these are hidden somewhere underneath winter coats – or at least I hope they are.

3 Responses to “First Sign of Spring?”

  1. Stray Taoist Says:

    Errr. Short skirt. By phone box. Talking to police. Black tights.

    Did she have a pile of postcards in her coat? Was she sticking them in strategic places in the police box?

    My conclusions as to what this scene represents somewhat differ from yours… 🙂

  2. karen Says:

    That would never have crossed my mind!

    And the city is full of woman in really short skirts and black tights. I assume it’s something to do with fashion.

  3. Stray Taoist Says:

    Fashion, eh? That is something The Kids know about, isn’t it? My youngest knows of such things.

    I know it is degenerately sexist, and it was swm who first told me it, but with mention of short skirts and the first sign of spring, I give you:

    Oh dear. Rereading that, it isn’t even funny. Ah well, let myself down. Again.

Strange Words and Accents

I have found a new thing to be annoyed by in T.V. programmes, films, and books – words and accents.  I didn’t mean for this to happen.  Normally it’s the science, history, or geography that bothers me.

I can’t watch something that’s supposedly set in Paris when I can tell it’s being shot at a sound studio somewhere in America.  Marty used to watch Alias and I thought it was awful.  Every week they went to a different fake location.

I can’t cope with your fictional story if your factual elements are wrong.  Singers shouldn’t sing songs that hadn’t been composed when your story was set.  Cities should be called by the name they were known by then and not the name we are calling them now.

Accents have bothered me before but usually only fake Irish ones.   I was watching Spooks recently and was driven mad by the fake American accent of one of the characters.  It’s strange how I can believe all sorts of conspiracy theories but throw in a fake accent and I can’t cope anymore.

Last night I watched the start of Season 4 of Bones.  It was set in London.  That concept made me cringe.  I imagined a room full of screen-writers dying to try out their favourite quirky British phrases.  I had to listen to people talk about “shameless rogues” and “wretched rags”.  Do real people actually say, “hells, bells, and buckets”?  It could have been worse.  Recently I read a novel where the main English character talked like a reject from a Carry On film or got confused and talked like an American.  (No old English man is ever going to talk about his luggage arriving “momentarily”).

If you want people to suspend belief and enjoy science fiction, fantasy, or even a crime thriller you have to get the factual things they can verify right.  I can believe in a vampire with a soul but give him a dodgy Irish accent and I start to doubt everything.

Floor Cleaning

I love the wooden floors in our apartment but I do tend to worry that they are never clean enough.  One of my friends joked that I should buy a pair of slippers with built in floor clothes so that I could clean simply by moving about.   And tonight I did just that.

Cute Floor Cleaning Slippers

Cute Floor Cleaning Slippers

4 Responses to “Floor Cleaning”

  1. Norwin Says:

    Those are fantastic!

  2. karen Says:

    They are amazing. I love them. Normally I don’t like wearing slippers but these make me want to dance over the floor.

  3. sarah mcdowell Says:

    you should get mum a pair haha! shed love them 🙂 xx

  4. karen Says:

    I imagine that Bunti would like them better than Mum!

Hospital Update

I decided to try a mid-week hospital visit this time in the hope it would be less crowded.  Instead of the 500 hundred or so people that are there on a Saturday morning there was about 100 this morning.  The only drawback was that I saw a different Doctor.

As I suspected, as I still spend a lot of time feeling exhausted, my medication needed to be increased.  I now have to spend another two months waiting for this new level to stabilize. Given how slow this process is I am not convinced that my hormone levels will be correctly adjusted in time for the summer conference season.  I am going to need to build in a lot of extra time to recover from the travel and the full days at the conferences.

Perl Needs Students

I’ve been reading about Google’s Summer of Code.

Google Summer of Code (GSoC) is a global program that offers student developers stipends to write code for various open source software projects.

The students who successfully complete the program will receive $4500 but the experience of taking part can be worth so much more than that.

When I was at university I applied for a summer scholarship in order to get £1000 (about $1400) for 10 weeks work.  I still remember how nervous I was applying.  There were only 10 places and the university had hundreds of eligible students.  My senior lecturer sponsored me to continue working on my final year dissertation project.  This was an application for the Apple Mac written in HyperTalk that showed connecting pathways in metabolic systems.

I got the place, finished the project, and decided against a career in biochemistry.  I spent the next four years working full-time and studying at night and just before I completed my  Masters I finally got the job I wanted – Junior Analyst Programmer.  It all seems like such a long time ago but I know that getting that scholarship made me realise that I had a chance at succeeding in computing.

One of the computing related things I do now is work for The Perl Foundation (TPF). TPF is hoping to take part in GSoC this year and  Jonathan Leto has posted a request on his blog asking the world-wide Perl Monger groups to encourage students to take part.

It’s impossible to know how many students use Perl.  But there is no doubt that we want to encourage students to both use and help develop the language.