Slice Of Life

Slice Of Life, is a Weblog (BLOG) that I write, in which I try to tell some sort of story about something, or someone in my life. Sometimes it's happy, sometimes not, sometimes informative, sometimes...... HA, gotcha, did ya think that I was going to say not? Don't know me very well, do ya? :=) I will try to update the BLOG from time to time, whenever I can.

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Location: Chandler, Arizona, United States

My personality is outgoing, I use to be a wallflower, until I realized that it was all the outgoing people that were having the most fun. It was a tough conversion, but nobody I know today would even remotely consider me to be a wallflower. Basically, when I was young, my parents taught me that if you work hard, you can accomplish anything. I haven't quite found the "anything" part to be always true, but it has inspired me to always try to do, and be, my best.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Australia Day 11 – Sydney

Day 10 was a travel day to Sydney. We are staying at the Sheraton And this Hotel is the nicest one of all. All decorations seem to either be in marble, or wood. Very nice.

Today, we took a tour of the city sites of Sydney. We went all around town, seeing such sites as the Royal Botanical gardens, Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair and Kings cross. We also took the “Group Photo” at the harbor, with the Opera House behind us. I need to scan it into digital, before I post it on my Photo Web Site.

The best part of the Tour was the Opera House. You may know it as the Sydney structure that looks like sails? It turns out that when they made the original design for the roof, there was actually no way to construct it. In other words, it looked good on paper, but was physically unable to be built! The started construction on the Opera House, with no way to put the roof on! They eventually solved that problem, by using a design, that sliced up a circular ball into sections, and used that as a model. The interior is unique, because in each of the 3 halls, there are no roof support columns to obstruct views, the outer walls of the structure bear the entire weight of the roof! One other super treat, was that there was going to be a symphony concert that night, and when we got to the concert hall, the musicians were tuning up, so we got to hear a demonstration of the outstanding acoustics of the Opera House! Too bad they wouldn’t let us stay for the rehearsal.

Afterwards, we toured famous Bondi beach, which from the stories told, appears to be Australia’s version of Malibu California. You know, beautiful beaches, beautiful people, and multi-million dollar homes? All 3 seemed to be true. Afterwards, we took a harbor cruise, where they served us a buffet lunch, and we got to see a perspective of Sydney not available any other way. That night, the group went dor dinner and drinks, and afterwards, a smaller group of us went out dancing. The vacation is coming to an end, AND I’M NOT READY TO GO. Hummmmm, I wonder what the Semiconductor Engineering Employment situation is like here? Just kidding…… Almost :-)

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Australia Day 9 - Cairns - Kurandu

Today, we took a trip into the mountains above Cairns, to a village called Kurandu. There is a rain forest preserve up there, and the rumour mill had it that it was a place to go. They have this old narrow gauge railroad that was built up into the mountain, way back when gold was discovered in the area. They have restored the railway, and now they run an old time train up there to the rainforest preserve.

We gathered at the station, and took the train into the mountains. Along the way, they tell you the story of how the entire railway was built by hand way back in the early 1800's using pick axe and shovel. It was pretty amazing, because not only were there multiple bridges spanning deep gullies, but there were also 18 tunnels that were dug out of the granite mountain. Try doing that with a pick axe.

When we got to the town,there was a short walk up to the shopping area, where most of the people hung out, but I decided to take my little tourist information map, and go do "The Conservatory Nature Walk", "The Jungle Nature Walk", and "The River Nature Walk". During the walk, I was sort of glad that I did it by myself, since I was able to be really quiet, and saw animals and birds that I most likely would not have seen with a large noisy group.

One of the nice things, was that to get back down the mountain, they had what they called "The Skyrail" It was an overhead cable car system, sort of like those 4 person pods that you see at the ski resorts? Doing it that way, allowed me to get a birds eye view of the mountain rain forest from above the trees,it was VERY cool.

At the bottom, we visited the Aboriginal cultural center for the tribes in the area, The local people put on a dance demonstration of aboriginal dances that was fabulous. Then there were demonstrations of Aboriginal Medicine, and a lesson on how to throw Aboriginal Spears, and Boomerangs.

I said a lesson, because the spear actually has a separate hooked throwing stick device, that hooks into the back end of the spear, then we throwing the spear, you lay the spear across your last three fingers, and grip the spear between your thumb and index finger, and use an overhand throwing motion much like a baseball, snapping your wrist at the point of release, and following through.

After they showed us how to do it, and they threw a couple of spears at the 3 hay bale targets, with the kangaroo paper targets on it, they said "OK, who wants to go first". ARE YOU KIDDING? I jumped up, along with 3 other guys, and we all lined up on the firing line. I was paying real close attention, so I got the throwing stick and the spear set up the way they showed, and aimed t the closest bale, which was about 20 meters away. All I was thinking was.... "Please Please at least just let the spear fly a little ways in the right direction, and also don't let me lose my grip on the throwing stick, hit somebody with it, and embarrass myself". I tried to think about throwing a baseball, with the only difference being the arm follow through goes across your body, and so I whipped my arm overhand, and snapped my wrist on the release and followed through the way they showed. The spear flew through the air, and HIT THE CLOSEST KANGAROO TARGET DEAD CENTER!!! Wow, I couldn't believe it!! Everyone watching behind me from the tour group cheered and clapped, and the rest of the day, the folks were calling me "Spear Chucker Tom", and suggesting that I should hunt for that night's dinner. Oh, but that's not all....

They then took us over to the boomerang throwing, and taught us how to do that, then they gathered us inside this chain link screened in hut, and one by one, we stepped out in front of the shed to throw. For a right handed, you hold the boomerang like a number 7, angle it at about 1:00, and throw across the wind. Again, snapping your wrist at the moment of release. The wind was coming from the North, so the throw direction was east. The first guy tried, but he held his boomerang at 12:00, so it want straight down into the ground. I was up second, and when I lined up and threw, the boomerang flew in a large circular arc, sailed around to my left, and HIT THE SHED RIGHT BEHIND ME with all the other people in it. One of them said, "Hey Tom, what, were you trying to aim at us"? I said..... ummmmmm, yeah, right, that's EXACTLY where I was aiming


Anyway, after we got back to Cairns, we went out to dinner along the Esplanade, which is the main waterfront drag. They have these fig trees along the promenade, and these giant fruit bats live in the trees, they have wing spans of ~ 1 meter (~3 feet), and they are kind of cool to watch soaring around in the sky with the sun setting behind them, since they stay high in the trees, and don't want to have anything to do with people. I had Filet Mignon Steak, and "Mash" (mashed potatoes) and I drank way too many "VB" (Victoria Bitters) beers......

Man, I'm having a GREAT TIME :-)

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Australia Day 8 – Cairns - Great Barrier Reef

Yesterday was the check out from the Hotel and the flight over to Cairns. There wasn’t much to say really, so I’ll skip that. Our group is staying at the Hilton, which is right on the waterfront. The view from my balcony, is the bay itself. We took a ship out to the Great barrier reef this morning. The ship first stops at a place called Green Island, then we went on to a floating platform that the company has, right on the edge of the Reef. The ship was a large catamaran, so even though it was one of the fastest ships I’ve ever been on, it was also entirely smooth. The ship can hold ~ 350 passengers, and after we dropped off some people 50 minutes into the trip at green Island, there were ~ 200 of us for the remaining 50 minute trip to the reef.

The Reef is Spectacular. I’ve snorkeled in such exotic locations as Martinique, and Cancun, and I use to think that Cancun was the best snorkeling I’ve even done, but this place is FAR superior. We snorkeled around for ~ 2 hours, then we had a buffet lunch spread that was way better then I thought it would be, then there was another hour of snorkeling before we headed back. I have never seen so many different varieties of Coral, displaying varied colors of green blue, purple, orange red, brown, and several more colors I probably forgot. There were also so many fish in the area, that I thought someone must be throwing food into the water. Nope….. These fish seemed to be pretty much oblivious to us. I’m guessing they have seen us “weird” Human type “Fish” previously. The only ones that seemed to pay me any attention were some fish I named Zebra Fish. I’m sure that wasn’t their real name, but they were snow white, with vertical black stripes, and several of them swam up to me when I snorkeled by and they seemed to be curious more then anything. It was GREAT.

That night we dined at a restaurant called "Rattle 'N" Hum", it was great. You chose your meal from the menu, then went up to the counter where you ordered, they gave you a small pager, and when your meal was ready, you went back and picked it up. From what I’ve heard, this was the happening restaurant in cairns, and the food was delicious. One unusual thing, was the men’s toilet. Yeah, in Australia, they don’t call it a “men’s Room” or a “Bathroom”, it’s a toilet. The doors to the toilets said “Chicks” and “Blokes”. Yes, I figured it out. The urinals were the troughs that I’ve seen around here instead of the individual ones more common in the states, but the unusual thing was, that there was what at first appeared to be a Fish Tank in front of the urinal, with glass, water and plants, until I looked closer…… The toilet room was dimly lit, as well as the restaurant, and when I looked closer through the tank I could see……. Our table in the restaurant. One of the women who suggested I should “Check out the “Unusual” Men’s Toilet” waved at me! Of course, me being the NOT shy person that I am, I waved back. I don’t think anyone could really see much anyway due to the dim lighting :-)

Anyway, that woman at our table, and of course the entire table, thought it was hilarious, and hey, I can take a joke as well as anyone else. Apparently most of the table of 10 or so people had previous knowledge about the men’s toilet “unusual design”, except me of course, so the whole table had a great laugh at my expense, until……. That same woman asked me if I liked the view I gave everyone, and I said…… “It didn’t matter, because that window WASN’T LONG ENOUGH ANYWAY”.


There’s an old saying…… He who laughs last, laughs best. And I didn’t really mind at all having the last laugh, along with the rest of the table :-)

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Australia Day 6 - Outback – Ayers Rock (Uluru) Part 2

Today, we went back to Uluru, to do the 2 hiking trails around the rock. Since it had rained yesterday, and early this morning, the climbing path to the top was closed due to slippery rock. Looking up at the climb, I’m not sure that I would have done it anyway, since the incline appeared to be steep, in excess of 15 deg angle, and there was a chain rail imbedded in the rock to pull yourself up, so it wouldn’t have been an easy climb to begin with.

The day was slightly overcast, with occasional breaks in the clouds to let the sun through, but the rain mostly stayed away today. One very good thing about the overcast clouds, is that it kept the temperatures very cool, and mostly kept the flies away. One thing I did not mention, is that this area around Uluru has a high infestation of insect flies. I even took our tour guide recommendation, and purchased a fly net, that is like a fine screen net hood, that you slip over your hat and head, and it has an elastic at the base that makes it snug around your neck. This at least prevents the flies from your face, and out of your eyes and ears. There were still quite a few flies around, and since our guide said they were limited in number due to the cool temperatures, I would not like to see what the numbers would be like when they are numerous.

After that, we went to the Uluru-Kata Tjuta Cultural Center, which has lots of information and museum telling the stories of the local Aboriginal people in the area. It also has the normal gift shop to purchase a type of art work the Aboriginals call Dot Painting. They can make elaborate paintings, by using a small brush, and painting just dots very close together to make the pictures. There were even 8 Aboriginals sitting on the floor in various areas of the center actually doing the painting. I couldn’t get any pictures, because taking photos of these Aboriginals is forbidden by the Aboriginal tribe. Something about capturing their souls.

Of course, there is always somebody who can’t follow instructions, and there was a big controversy when a German tourist tried to take their picture. All of the aboriginals started yelling and screaming at her, and although I don’t understand aborigine I can pretty much guess what they were saying wasn’t nice. Their tour guide rushed out of the shop, and they took away her camera, and erased the picture in front of the Aborigines, to show them. They waved their arms indicating that the tourist should leave, and she was made to go back to her bus. I gathered she claimed that she didn’t know, but our guide mentioned the no pictures rule at least 5 times, and there are signs everywhere with a picture of a camera, with a red circle around it, and a red line through that camera, so I’m not sure how she would not have known. I felt a little sorry for her, but hey, my feeling is that this is their country, and if they have some rules, then the guest should follow those rules.

After lunch, we went to visit another set of rock formations called The Olgas (Kata Tjuta). This is a formation of 36 massive rock domes, that to me was more impressive then Uluru. It had rained again, and so there were waterfalls coming off the rocks, and apparently this is so rare to see this, then even our Tour Guide was taking pictures. Then we went over to the bus viewing area, to view the sunset, and we had another Champagne party while we watched the clouds form around the top of Kata Tjuta, while the sunset made beautiful rays through the cloud openings. Afterwards, there was a buffet dinner included.

Tomorrow, we fly off to Cairns, and The Great Barrier Reef.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Australia Day 5 - Outback – Ayers Rock (Uluru)

Today was a 4.5 hour bus ride from Alice Springs to Ayers Rock, which the local Aboriginal people call Uluru. One of the things that really strikes me about the Outback, is the color of the dirt. It’s Sedona Red. Yes, right, just like the colors of the dirt and rock formations in Sedona Arizona. As a matter of fact, the Outback countryside looks allot like Sedona, except there’s no Saguaro Cactus. Otherwise, it would be almost identical.

One of the things they warned us about, was that the Outback this time of year was “Dry And Hot”. Of course I asked “How Hot”? Do you want to hear something funny? They think that 95F is hot! Hehehehehehe, in Arizona, in the summertime, we call that “A Cool Summer Day”. Anyway, it doesn’t really matter, because since this morning when we headed out for Uluru, it’s been raining. Yup, that’s right, what was supposed to be the hottest part of the trip, instead is rain. Fortunately, it is only raining off and on, and it seems to stop raining every time we stop. Lucky huh?

Anyway, we made our first rest stop ~ 2 hours into the 4.5 hour bus trip, and it was at a Camel Farm. Yup, I said camel, you know, those desert animals with the hump? Guess what? For $5.00, they offered a 5 minute camel ride, and you know me, if there’s a new experience to be had, I’m going to do it. So, now instead of Tom, you can call me Camel Jockey. It was kind of fun, and I got a friend to take lots of pictures, so you’ll probably have the opportunity to have good laugh when I post them at the end of the trip.

Uluru was fantastic, even though we didn’t get to see the planned sunset over the rock. It’s hard to have a sunset, when there’s no sun. However, it stopped raining again, just when we got to the site, so the tour guide and bus driver went ahead and set up our Champagne and snack party that we had scheduled, and we all had a toast to the rock. It was still fun.

Afterwards we visited this restaurant for dinner, where you pick out what meat you want from a display, Beef, Chicken, prawns, Fish, and then you go over to where they have this long line of Grills et up, and you grill it yourself! The dinner included corn on the cob, and baked potato, so I threw the corn and potato on the grill and roasted them too! Along with the grilled onions, and salad bar, it was a great dinner, not to mention the musician who played guitar for dinner entertainment. I must admit, that along with the champagne, and the beer that I drank at dinner and afterwards, this was one of the times I was glad that there was a free shuttle bus transportation back to my room :-)

Tomorrow we go Hiking around Uluru. Weather permitting, of course.

Australia Day 4 - Outback – Alice Springs

This morning, we departed Melbourne Airport, on our way to central Australia, otherwise known as “The Outback” It was a 2 hour flight, but due to the time changes, I rolled back my watch 1.5 hours, so we landed only 0.5 hour after takeoff. One thing I need to watch, my primary luggage bag weight is now 31 Kilos, and the maximum bag weight is 32 kilos (whew). I think that I’m going to need to dump some of those hotel soaps and shampoo tubes I’ve been “acquiring”

Alice Springs itself is quite a bit more modern then I expected. With a population of ~25K, they have a large mall, and even a K-Mart! There is quite a large Aboriginal population, and one thing that I couldn’t help noticing, is that hair dyeing appears to be quite popular among the local people. The aboriginal people are quite dark skinned, and it was shocking to me at first to see blonde haired Aboriginals! I thought maybe it was some sort of genetic thing at first, but you know how it’s difficult to achieve natural looking red hair color with dye? It’s a dead give away on the Aboriginal people too :-)

We had a little free time to wander around the town of Alice Springs, and they have all the usual stuff you would expect, like a McDonalds and a KFC Chicken place. One interesting thing, is that they have Burger King here, but it’s called Hungry Jack’s. The restaurant colors and corporate symbols are identical, so I know it’s the same burger place. The story goes, is that before Burger King came to Australia, someone registered that name, hoping to squeeze BK for lots of money when they got here. In the USA, that’s called extortion, and Since BK refused to pay ransom for the name, they simply changed the name, and the person who registered it, ended up with nothing. Good.

Anyway, the tour today, was visits to the Alice Springs Historic Telegraph Station, which use to provide telegraph communications signal boosting from the mainland, that was very interesting, and also to the Royal Flying Doctors Station, which provides doctors and medical treatment to fly to remote areas of the Outback that don’t have Hospitals, as well as the “School Of The Air”, which provides Streamed Satellite Classroom Education instruction for children of people in remote areas. They have live interactive classroom education, where the remote students CAN Log in and have 2 way communication with the Teachers. Pretty Cool, huh? We also visited Anzac Hill, which provided panoramic views of the area.

That night, I attended a show of Aboriginal Dancing, and dinner, which if it were Hawaii, would be similar to a Luau. There was a huge 3 course dinner and during the show, they asked for male volunteers to demonstrate their “ability” at making music on the traditional horn called a didgeridoo. Guess who was one of the people who went up on stage (hehehe). You know me, I’m not shy, and after a short demonstration of how to do it, the 3 of us each took turns. It was hilarious, since we were amateurs, we sort of sounded like sick elephants :-) When they asked the audience to clap for each “performer”, I’m pretty sure I got the biggest applause, and no, it had noting to do with the dozen or so other people present at the show from my tour group. Anyway, that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it

Tomorrow, off to Ayers Rock (Uluru).

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