Knights Ridge “eco retreat”

The house

We went for a weekend away up to a place in the Hunter Valley billing itself as an “eco retreat” and it was pretty great! We were able to bring Beanie along too, which he loved. Kristina had the great idea to get one of those extendo-leads so he was able to roam up to five metres away and smell all the smells while still remaining technically on his lead.

The whole place is entirely off-grid: electricity comes from solar plus battery storage (though they also included instructions for how to start up the backup generator in case anything happened), the toilet is a composting one, and water is all captured from the rain and stored. They did have a somewhat anaemic ADSL2 connection though, so I don’t know if you count that as still being entirely off-grid. 😛 There was zero mobile phone signal though, the whole time we were there our phones said “No service”.

The place was decorated in quite the rustic style, with all sorts of old bits and bobs around, but it was all totally clean and dust-free.

Sitting
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There was no electric kettle, only an old stovetop one, and you don’t realise  how spoiled you are until you remember just how damn long it takes for a kettle to come to a boil on a gas stovetop!

Putting a cuppa on

The whole place was completely and totally silent in terms of any sort of human noise, the only sounds were from the trees and birds, and it was absolutely delightful. Sunset down the shallow valley that we were in was quite nice too.

Spotlight
Sunset

At dusk we saw a couple of wombats, though Beanie had to bark at them probably because they were low and had four legs and so looked somewhat dog-shaped, but we also saw some kangaroos! Beanie was absolutely fascinated by the kangaroos, we were watching from a goodly distance and he was sitting there absolutely laser-focused on them.

A distant kangaroo!
The kangaroo is the little tiny spec right in the middle where the field starts turning into the side of the valley.
Intently watching the distant kangaroo

My only complaint with the place is the number of bugs that manage to come in at night! Only about half the windows have flyscreens on them, so we had to run around and mostly close the place up once dusk arrived. All in all it was extremely relaxing, though. A++ would relax again.

The full album of photos is on Flickr.

The spiritual successor to SimCity, Cities: Skylines

I first played the original SimCity Classic back in the early 1990s on our old Macintosh LC II, and absolutely loved it. Laying out a city and watching it grow was extremely satisfying, and the sequel, SimCity 2000 was even more detailed. I played a bit of SimCity 4, which came out in 2003, but the latest entry in the series, titled just “SimCity“, by all accounts sucked. The maps were significantly smaller in size, and it required an internet connection and was multiplayer to boot.

It’s actually possible to play SimCity 2000 on modern machines and I definitely got stuck into it a few years ago. This is a screenshot of my most recent city!

Screenshot of SimCity 2000, zoomed out and showing as much of my city as possible.

If you’re wanting a proper modern SimCity 2000-esque experience though, Cities: Skylines is what you’re after. It came out in March of 2015 on desktop, and was ported to Xbox One in April of 2017 and they did a damned good job of it, the controls are all perfectly suited to playing on a controller as opposed to with a mouse and keyboard.

The level of detail of the simulation is fantastic, you can zoom all the way in and follow individual people (called “cims”, as opposed to SimCity’s “sims”) or vehicles and see where they’re going. There’s a robust public transport system and you can put in train lines (and buses, and trams, and a subway, and in the most recent expansion called Mass Transit, even monorails, blimps, and ferries!) and see the cims going to and from work, and how many are waiting at each station and so on.

We recently upgraded to the Xbox One X and a shiny new OLED 4K TV (quite the upgrade from our nine year-old 37″ giant-bezeled LCD TV!), and it makes for some very nice screenshots. These are from my largest city called Springdale, currently home to ~140k people!

A trip to Queenstown

Last week we finally got around to visiting New Zealand! We’d been meaning to go for a good couple of years now, but never actually did it. We started small and visited just Queenstown and surrounds, and were only there for three full days.

We flew in at night on Saturday night, and the descent in was rather long and bumpy which I guess is to be somewhat expected when it’s surrounded by mountains. We went into Queenstown for dinner first, and had one of the best burgers I’ve ever had at The World Bar.

The place we were staying was about 15 minutes drive from Queenstown, but because it was night time all we could see was brilliant yellow leaves on the trees at the side of the road where the headlights were lighting them up. We woke up the next morning, and holy crap, the view!

The Remarkables, morning light

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We went up the Skyline Gondola which has a hell of a view over Queenstown itself.

The view from Skyline Queenstown

Next we drive up to Glenorchy, which is about an hour away. Lunch was surprisingly delicious beef noodle soup from a Chinese restaurant there (there are a lot of Chinese tourists around).

On the road to Glenorchy

Kristina

Orange

Glenorchy Wharf

We spent the afternoon wandering around Queenstown Gardens and Queenstown itself. This was definitely a fantastic time to visit, the air was cool and crisp and all the leaves were changing and everything was bright yellow.

Sitting

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Secluded

Smokey

Dinner was whole baked flounder with shaved fennel and orange from Public Kitchen and it was absolutely magnificent, cooked to total perfection. The “whole fish” bit was slightly off-putting because it’s literally that, a entire fish, eyeballs and all, sitting on your plate staring up at you but I pretty quickly got over it. 😛

The morning view the next morning was even better than before.

The Remarkables, morning light 2

We paid a brief visit to Arrowtown, though there wasn’t a whole lot there and it was mostly tourist shops.

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We then drove up to Wanaka and took the obligatory photo of the tree there.

That Wanaka Tree

The drive itself had some great scenery along the way too.

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Winding road

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Dinner was at the Pig & Whistle pub, I got the dry-rubbed steak with veggies and red wine jus and Kristina had chicken and mushroom pasta, and they were both absolutely incredible.

The final full day we were there, we drove two and a half hours up to Lake Pukaki. As before, the drive itself was quite scenic too.

Stopping at Tarras

Lindis Pass

The lake itself is amazing, it’s this crazy neon-blue colour. The first two photos don’t really do it justice, but the third one is exactly how it looked even in person.

Lake Pukaki

Lake Pukaki

Lake Pukaki

We drove a little further north along the western edge of the lake to get a bit closer to Looking towards Aoraki / Mount Cook, which was looking very dramatic with its peaks covered in clouds.

Looking towards Aoraki / Mount Cook

Overall it was a fantastic trip, we definitely want to go back again but we’re thinking we’ll fly into Christchurch next time and drive around further in the north of the South Island.

The full photosets are here:

More miniatures: Warhammer 40,000 edition

Warhammer 40,000 used to be quite the complicated affair, lots of rules and looking things up on different tables to check what dice roll you needed for different effects, and needing many hours to finish a game. The 8th Edition of the game came out last year, and was apparently extremely streamlined and simplified and seems to have been received very well. Since I’d been doing well with Shadespire, I decided to get the 8th Edition core box set as well, and had almost exactly enough in Amazon gift card balance for it! It comes with Space Marines, as always, but the opposing side is Chaos this time. 7 Plague Marines, a few characters, a big vehicle, and about 20 undead daemon things. I decided to alternate between painting a handful of each side at once, so as not to get bored, and have gone with Space Wolves (big surprise, I know) as the paint scheme for the Imperial side.

Space Wolves Intercessor

There’s another five of these Space Marines but they’re all identical apart from the poses so I didn’t take photos of all of them.

The Plague Marines are all unique though, so I’ve been taking photos of each of them, my first batch was four of them.

Plague Marine 1

Plague Marine 2

Plague Marine 3

Plague Marine 4

My mobile painting table has been a great success, but after the first batch of Space Marines I realised I was getting a sore neck and back from hunching over towards the miniatures as I was painting them because everything was too low. Another trip to Bunnings, and lo and behold…

Painting table from the side, showing the two vertical blanks to give it some hight

Problem solved!

I also realised the other day why I was enjoying painting my miniatures a lot more now than I used to… it’s thanks to being able to combine my hobbies of painting and also photography. 😛 I can paint the miniatures and be happy with my work, but then also take professional-looking photos of them and share them with the world!

Finally, some actual miniature painting

So despite having gotten the back room set up for miniature painting over three and a half years ago, I hadn’t actually done any of it since then. 😛 I also realised I hadn’t actually taken a photo of the setup.

I bought Games Workshop’s latest game Shadespire early last month, it does have miniatures to paint but only eight in the core set, and it’s a board game where the games last about half an hour or so versus the multi-hour affairs that are traditional Warhammer/Warhammer 40,000 games. I figured that with the holidays around and time to kill, and not having the prospect of endless amounts of miniatures to paint, I’d give it a go. I’m pleased to say that I clearly still have the painting skills!

I’ve finished five of them so far, so only three to go, and took some proper photos of them with the full external flash/umbrella setup.

Blooded Saek

Angharad Brightshield

Targor

Karsus the Chained

Obryn the Bold

(I’ll admit that I cheated slightly and didn’t actually paint any of these in the back room, however… during the week and a bit that I was doing them, the weather was really hot and the dinky little air conditioning unit in the back room wasn’t remotely up to keeping things cool, so I ended up bringing all the paints and bits inside and did them at the dining table).

The game Shadespire itself is really neat as well. I’ve only played a handful of games, but rather than just “Kill the other team” you also have specific objectives to accomplish as well. Have a read of Ars Technica’s review of it, they’re a lot more thorough and eloquent than I could be. 😛

Christmas 2017

Christmas and Boxing Day this year were pretty great. My sister and her husband and kids were able to make it up from Nowra again, so we had the family Christmas at my parents’ place with everyone. My niece Arya, now three and a half, is GODDAMN ADORABLE. She’s totally happy to just go off and play by herself, and there wasn’t a single tantrum the whole time we were there either. Lily and Scarlett were happy to hang out with each too and got along very well.

It was interesting to see that Scarlett’s reading is definitely not at the same level as Lily’s was at the same age… Lily was eight when I posted this but she was absolutely tearing through pretty much everything, whereas Scarlett was struggling a little to read the jokes inside the Christmas crackers.

Beanie was terrific, he mostly just wandered around keeping an eye on what everyone was doing and didn’t bark once. Arya was a afraid of him to begin with, because he was so excited to see someone vaguely at his height that he kept jumping up on her and trying to lick her face! My sister’s dog at home isn’t one for jumping, so Arya wasn’t used to that. She got over it eventually, though, and was able to sit down and give him scritches.

Showing Scarlett how to Minecraft

Pennie, Mark, and Arya

AHHH A DINOSAUR BOOK!

Beanie amongst the Christmas paper

Snuggles with Aunty Kristina

Sitting on dad

I’ve been a bit stuck for what to get for Christmas and birthdays of late, so I’ve asked for mostly just books. This year’s haul:

So that should certainly keep me occupied for a while!

We went back over on Boxing Day for mum’s birthday, and went down to Collaroy Beach in the afternoon. It was completely overcast but the weather was otherwise glorious… temperature in the mid-20s and a lovely breeze. There were more photos, of course, and I gave the 135mm lens a good workout for once!

Waving from the kiddy pool

Posing

Strutting

Playing in the sand

Getting splashed #1

Even cheesier grin

Getting splashed #5

A holiday in Perth

We went to Perth for a week last week, and it was damned lovely! A friend of mine, Mat, who I’ve known for over fifteen years and originally met through the now-mostly-defunct Everything2, lives over there and was able to offer some advice on places to eat at and suburbs to stay in.

We arrived on Saturday and stayed in a house in Highgate, which is about a 10-15 minute walk from the city itself. Less than a block away is Hyde Park, which is lovely, and so green (Perth has had like a month or two straight of rain, versus the next-to-none that Sydney’s had).

Path

Gazeebo

Departing

There’s a bunch of street art all around the place as well, and lots of interesting buildings to take photos of (full album is here).

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Five

High Grounds Coffee

On Sunday we visited Fremantle, to check out the markets there and hopefully get a view of a sunset over the ocean (something we’ve never seen given both Kristina and I grew up on the east coasts of our respective countries). It was indeed getting very nice, but sadly the clouds moved in right as the sun was getting low to the horizon.

Down the street

Ferris wheel

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Playing

Lighthouse

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Fremantle is the main cargo port for Perth, so there were the giant cargo cranes there and also a massive submarine in dry-dock (have a look to the right of the second photo)!

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Cranes

Monday was spent first at the Western Australian Botanic Garden and then wandering Northbridge and the CBD itself.

The Garden is massive although there’s a lot of just regular bushland as well as flower beds.

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The Swan Brewery Co. Ltd.

Northbridge was neat, there’s a lot of laneways and little alleys, and most of them have art on the walls, often on a very large scale.

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Small steps

Dragon

Sugar glider

Goat

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Those last two would have been probably four stories high!

We wandered through the CBD itself as well, had dinner at Durty Nelly’s Irish pub (highly recommended, the food was incredible), then continued wandering after night had fallen.

Spring

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Gothic windows

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Stairs

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On Tuesday we visited Rottnest Island! We made the mistake of taking a bus tour, which was filled with loud, obnoxious, racist boomers, and we only stopped to actually get off the bus twice. Otherwise we were driving past all this wonderful terrain and the occasional quokka, and everyone was snapping shitty photos out of the bus windows.

Thankfully that only lasted an hour and a half, and we were able to go visit a colony of quokkas that were all of about ten minutes from the main buildings on the island, and OH MY GOD they are adorable! They have no natural predators on the island so they were pretty well unafraid of people and we were able get up super-close to them.

Smiling

Round

Mine!

Gnarled

The water around the island is crystal clear.

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Tuesday night, we had dinner in Northbridge at a Mexican restaurant called La Cholita, and holy crap if you’re in Perth you need to visit it. The food is amazing.

Chopping

Kristina and Mat

Taco and sangria

Afterwards we went for another wander around the area and snapped some photos.

Mat's ridiculous icecream

Waiting

Meat Candy

Wednesday was spent briefly at the Araluen Botanic Park (briefly, because Kristina’s legs were massively hurting from crouching down and getting up constantly on Tuesday while we were visiting the quokkas and the Botanic Park was filled with lots of hills), and then a leisurely wander through East Perth.

The weather starting turning a bit crap on Thursday, so we visited Mat’s sister and her boyfriend on their rural property and just hung out there with their horse Archie and hilariously uncoordinated Maremma sheep dog Iorek, then went back and played some Diablo III.

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Iorek the Maremma sheep dog

I can’t believe how well-timed the trip was, we booked it back in July and the week before the trip was almost non-stop rain and it’s now back to raining again for the next week! There would have been so much we wouldn’t have been able to see if the weather had been awful.

A photographical upgrade

Last Wednesday, we upgraded from our trusty Canon EOS 7D to a brand-new Canon EOS 5D Mark IV! It’s a hell of an upgrade in terms of basically every single aspect… the 7D originally came out in 2009 and the 5D4 was only last year and is full-frame to boot, 18 megapixels versus 30, and the 5D4 also has the insanely awesome autofocus system from Canon’s flagship ~$8k-for-the-body-alone EOS 1DX.

I fairly obsessively tag my photos on Flickr so it’s easy to find things, and the final tally for photos taken with the 7D is 2641!

The very first photo taken was of this flower at my parents’ place, when I got our original 35mm f/2 lens for my birthday in 2010 (the camera and lens are not mine alone, both Kristina and I share it equally, but getting the lens for my birthday was a handy way to not have pay the entire cost of it ourselves :P).

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It’s difficult to pull only a handful of favourite photos out of twenty-six hundred, but these would definitely be amongst them, in many cases more for the memory than any particular quality of the photograph…

Kristina being nibbled by a horse on our first wedding anniversary—
Horsey Nibbles

Meerkats warming themselves at Taronga Zoo—
Warming glowing warming glow

Dan looking right at a well-placed “Look right” sign—
Dan is waiting for a bus

Kristina looking stunning with our ring-flash—
My beautiful wife

Lily writing her name—
Writing

The train tunnels at Wynyard—
Into the tunnels

Lily feeding the lorikeets—
Feeding the lorikeets

A toothy grin—
Toothy grin

Christmas excitement—
Excitement

The first photo taken in our new house—
Tedison's new home

Kristina being extremely nudged by a calf at Featherdale—
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My very first photo of Beanie when we got him—
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Nanny at Christmas hugging one of Lily’s presents—
Nanny hugging Lily's pillow pet

Beanie in the office—
In the office

One of the several actresses we got in at work one Halloween, who were done up as zombies and CREEPY AS FUCK—
Zombiegirl #3

Kristina cracking up at how ridiculous Beanie is—
Cracking up

Lily and Scarlett’s matching bears at Christmas—
New bears

Family photo—
Family photo!

The fantastically creepy decorations and lighting for the latest Halloween at work—
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Playing around with coloured gels on our flashes with Adam and Stacey—
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Beanie playing with his best friend Leo—
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The extraordinarily epic storm aftermath we had—
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A photo walk we did at work one lunch where we had some volunteers to do a pseudo-modelling shoot—
Marlene

Leo and Beanie zooming down the hall—
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Wandering around Barangaroo before going to the Maritime Museum—
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We sold the 7D to friends, so it’s definitely going to continue on in a good home. It was an absolute workhorse, I didn’t think to check the shutter count before we sold it but it never once gave any sort of trouble whatsoever. Meanwhile, we’ve already started taking new memories with the 5D Mark IV and I’d say we ought to get at least 10 years out of it if not more.

Back to Tasmania

We went back to Tasmania again last week, and it was pretty great!

Where last time we stayed in Hobart for the whole trip, this time we drove up to Bicheno first, which is about a two and a half hour drive north of Hobart. The accomodation itself (the “Diamond Island Retreat”) was not great, the house was built in probably the 1970s and had clearly had next to nothing done with it since. The kitchen was terrible and the two frying pans were both quite burnt and scratched up, and there was zero internet access (at least in terms of wifi, thankfully there was plenty of 4G reception). It was completely clean and tidy, at least.

That being said, the location was amazing. This was the view from the back deck –

Diamond Island

You could walk down the paddock and down to the beach, which had some of the whitest sand I’ve seen. The first sunset was pretty epic as well.

Sunset

Reflections

Walking

More patterns

They do “penguin tours” right near where we were staying, there’s a whole section of land that’s restricted to the public and they get lots of penguins living and breeding there. We went during the decidedly off-season and so only saw a couple of penguins, but one of them waddled its way up the beach and right past us to its burrow! The other penguins we could only see in the distance down on the rocks near the beach. The tours are done after the sun has set and the guides have special torches that emit really yellow light so as not to hurt the penguins’ eyes. During the breeding season you can apparently see upwards of a hundred penguins all coming ashore to feed their chicks.

There’s a few other things to do around Bicheno as well, one is Freycinet National Park which has some epic hiking trails through it (neither Kristina nor I are hikers so we opted to just go by what we could reach by car).

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Cape Tourville Lighthouse

Then right up the road from where we were staying is Douglas-Apsley National Park, which is the same deal as Freycinet with the hiking, and requires a good couple of kilometres of dirt road to get to the carpark.

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(There’s a few more photos from each in the photoset).

The last bit of Bicheno we saw was East Coast Natureworld, a big wildlife sanctuary and conservation area.

Esther the wombat

Emu

Lazing

Ostrich

Don’t ask me why there was an ostrich there, I don’t know. 😛 The baby wombat at the top is named Esther, and she was just sitting there in the keeper’s arms dozing while the keeper was talking. They also do conservation and breeding for Tasmanian devils there, and we got to see one of them being fed which was pretty neat!

Feeding Dennis the Tasmanian Devil

Nom nom nom

After that, we drove back down to Hobart and spent the rest of the trip just wandering around some more.

The side path

190

Up the hill

Mirror selfie

Lit from below

Aurora Australis

Grafitti

Happy doggo grafitti

Under construction

Docked

The huge orange ship is an icebreaker

Aurora Australis is an Australian icebreaker. Built by Carrington Slipways and launched in 1989, the vessel is owned by P&O Maritime Services, but is regularly chartered by the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) for research cruises in Antarctic waters and to support Australian bases in Antarctica.

And it’s quite an impressive sight in person!

We also went up to Mount Nelson, which is the next-highest mountain in Hobart, but unfortunately they were doing hazard-reduction burns (basically controlled bushfires) so it was really smokey and you mostly couldn’t see anything. 🙁

Despite that, all in all it was an excellent trip.

iPhoneography

Both Kristina and I upgraded to the iPhone 7 last month, I’d heard the camera was good but I took it out for a spin last week when I went on a lunchtime photo walk with some co-workers, and man. I can see why the point-and-shoot market is dying! I processed all these photos in Lightroom on my iMac so it wasn’t solely done on the iPhone, but even so, I’m incredibly impressed.

It’s not going to replace a full DSLR setup in low-light or shallow depth-of-field situations, but where I’d be wandering around during the day taking photos at f/8 anyway…

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Final enkitchening, and concert

We had the tiler out this morning to put the backsplash in, and the kitchen is basically finished now. The bits above the cupboards still need painting, but in terms of every day use, it’s done, and looks brilliant! The plumbing and electrics were all hooked up yesterday, and you have no idea how delightful it is to actually have a dishwasher now after three-and-a-half years of not having one.

We’ve not used the new induction cooktop properly in anger yet, but we made pasta last night, I put the “Boost” mode on, and it took the water from cold to a roiling boil in five minutes flat. I also seasoned the stainless steel frying pans that we bought from IKEA and had written off as being useless because they stick (apparently seasoning is essential) though they’ve not been put to the test yet. The only casualty in the change to induction is the wok, which despite having a fridge magnet stick to the bottom of it, isn’t sensed by the cooktop. Kristina did a bunch of reading and the best type to get is a carbon steel one, so we’ve got one on the way.

Backsplash 1

Backsplash 2


I also saw Lacuna Coil live last night, for the first time in seven years (due to them not having toured here in that long), and they absolutely ruled. They played all the songs I was hoping for. 🤘 I saw them back in 2007 as well, and was a fair bit closer then but with a significantly crappier phone camera (and also a far far higher tolerance for shitty photos, evidently). 😛 Irritatingly, I had to leave half-way through the last song or I was going to miss the last train home due to there being trackwork this weekend. I’m currently running on about five hours of sleep because I didn’t get home until just before 1:30am, and woke up at 6:40am because the tiler was coming. Note to self, don’t schedule things early on a Saturday morning in future.

Lacuna Coil 1

Lacuna Coil 2

Lacuna Coil 3

Lacuna Coil 4

Lacuna Coil 5

The Enkitchening, Part 3

The benchtops were installed today, and the sink and cooktop put into place, though neither were hooked up.

You guys, it’s starting to look like we have a real kitchen now!

Benchtops 1

Benchtops 2

The cooktop was about the same size as our previous one, perhaps slightly narrower due to not needing the control knobs on the side, but it looks hilariously smaller since the benches are so much larger.

Partial enkitchening

The kitchen people were finished with the cabinetry today so we’re back at home!

And OH MY GOD, they have done an unbelievably good job. The kitchen looks amazing and they haven’t even put the benchtops on yet, nor done any of the tiling for the splashback (the blue and purple stripes in the picture are tape that they haven’t taken off yet).

Partial kitchen 2

Partial kitchen 1

It really shows up how shitty the old kitchen was (compare how this unfinished kitchen looks to the old one in my last post), and how utterly wasteful with space it was. There’s a bit less floor space than the old one, but so much more storage!

Photos

On a lark I did a Google search for “virtualwolf”, and once I got past the first handful of pages (links to main things like my Twitter, Flickr, etc.) I was fascinated to discover just how many of my photos were being used in news articles and the like. I’ve always obsessively tagged my photos so they’re pretty easy to search, but a couple of years ago I went and changed the licensing on most of them to the Creative Commons “ShareAlike” license. The thought process was mostly, I’m never going to earn any money from my photography and have no desire to anyway, so why not! Flickr has the ability to search for images with specific licenses, so I suspect that contributed a lot as well.

There’s quite the range of subjects—

It’s pretty gratifying, really.

Hunter Valley farm stay

Kristina and I went up to the Hunter Valley for a long weekend last weekend. We stayed at a place called Hunter Hideaway Farm, and it was mostly nice but… a bit odd.

We arrived at about 2pm on Saturday, and there’s a long dirt road leading to the house that winds through fairly dense trees and bush. The lady that runs the place with her husband does ceramic sculptures and had put some of them on the trees and along the side of the dirt road as you start to get closer to the house. I understand the effect she was going for but it ended up just coming off as really creepy… a distinct “Someone who is insane and is going to kill you lives here” sort of vibe. It was even worse coming home after dinner when it was pitch black.

After that weirdness, we had just gotten inside when we heard a dog barking. We looked out the front door and there was a fairly sizeable dog barking loudly and in a very unfriendly manner at us. The husband rushed up and grabbed a hold of the dog’s collar, saying that the dog isn’t friendly and they weren’t expecting us yet (despite check-in being at 2, and why on earth would you have an unfriendly dog on a place that constantly has new people in it?!). After that he hauled the dog off into their house, but all of this was a slightly off-putting start to the vacation. The place had a kitchen in it, but it also had a sign saying that you needed to wash and clean and put away everything or there’d be a charge. I can understand not wanting people to leave the place as a complete mess but the sign was worded very passive-aggressively and really rubbed both of us the wrong way.

The view from the second story was pretty nice though.

View from the second floor

The farm itself is an actual working farm, they breed Angus cows and have some horses and a couple of ponies as well. One of the horses was very derpy, which was great, but the ponies were completely uninterested in people and apparently were also prone to biting.

AWW YEAH!

Ponies!

Neither of us drink wine, so we were mostly interested in the food of the area, but the first night’s dinner was underwhelming. It was at the Royal Oak Hotel and was recommended by the farm stay people but mine just wasn’t hugely flavourful and none of the flavours that were in Kristina’s dinner went together. The sheer distance that everything was from everything else was a bit annoying as well, not that that was entirely unexpected.

Saturday night’s weather was totally clear and a new moon as well, so the view of the stars was incredible; standing outside looking up at the Milky Way is always humbling.

The second day was spent doing some more wandering of the property in the morning (during which time that angry dog was out again and came running at us, but we just stood still and the wife came out and apologised and called him back, saying that he’s normally tied up—so maybe keep him tied up then), going out and buying lots of really nice cheese and chocolates, then relaxing and reading books in the afternoon. There was another, much friendlier, dog there that seems to have been a neighbour’s dog, and she was wandering around with us but mostly just running everywhere at full speed. There’s also an extremely picturesque lake that the cows enjoying sitting in and drinking from.

Running

Drinking

Sunset brought some really nice light and some great photos. The switch out of daylight savings was perfectly timed because we could admire the sunset and then go out to dinner, as opposed to all the gloriousness occurring while we were out.

Grasses

Horses running

Sunset

Sunday night’s dinner was amazing. We went to an Italian restaurant called Lillino’s, and it was one of those meals where just everything was perfect and it needed absolutely nothing—no extra salt, no extra parmesan, nothing. If you’re in the Hunter Valley you really need to go eat there.

It was definitely nice to get away from everything and spend some time relaxing and taking photos, but overall we’re not going to bother going back to the Hunter Valley, it’s not really our thing (and the farm stay was weird).

Tasmania, and LiveJournal to WordPress

So I’ve finally ditched LiveJournal and migrated it all over to my own WordPress site. I wanted to keep blogging things, but where people might actually read them. 😛

We decided to scale down our ambitions with the five-year anniversary trip, as Kristina is currently contracting and so would be losing out on quite a lot of money, and so went to Tasmania for five days instead. We’d heard great things but had never actually been before.

We stayed in the Hobart Art House, which was fantastically close to everything. We rented a car from Budget, and specified “Suzuki Swift or similar”. A Swift would have been fine, but instead we got a 1.2-litre Nissan Micra. It’s the most gutless car I’ve ever driven, and to get up the hill to where we were staying I had to put my foot all the way down to the firewall, and even then it still struggled.

At the bar

Day 1 was wandering around the Salamanca Markets, burgers for lunch at Jack Greene (their beef and blue cheese burger is amazing), then some more wandering until dinner at Monty’s on Montpelier. Their website says “fine dining” and my god, if anything that’s underselling it. The food there is absolutely incredible.

Cliffs

Day 2 started with a three-hour boat ride around the south-eastern coast with Pennicott Wilderness Journeys. According to the tour guide it was one of the calmest days they’d seen this year, but unfortunately that didn’t help because about half-way through the trip I got horribly sea-sick, though thankfully (barely) not to the point of throwing up, but it meant I was mostly sitting there feeling absolutely miserable and not even being able to look at any of the scenery. Kristina was suffering as well, so in hindsight the whole boat trip was a terrible idea. It redeemed itself with lunch at Port Arthur Lavender (again, incredible food), then dinner at Rockwall. One of their specials was a coffee-rubbed wagyu, and it was definitely the best steak I’ve ever had. It was pretty much falling apart in my mouth, it was so tender.

The other side of the lookout

Day 3, we went to Bruny Island. The “attractions” there were rather over-hyped, but the scenery is absolutely stunning. It’s like a tropical island in places, the clarity of the water is unbelievable. The afternoon was spent walking around the streets around where we were staying and checking out all the old houses, then dinner was at Mures. Mine was quite tasty, but Kristina’s risotto was crunchy, and even after she sent it back and got a new one, it wasn’t brilliant. She got a cold seafood tasting platter afterwards though, which was REALLY good.

Looking down to Hobart

Day 4, the last full day we had, we wandered around the botanical gardens, had lunch at Blue Eye (in keeping with everything else, the food was excellent), then went for a drive up to Mount Wellington. On the drive up, there was someone in a van who was doing 40km/h in a 70km/h zone and kept drifting over entirely into the other lane. It was terrifying! Thankfully there was a solid section of broken line on the road where I could overtake them, and the little Micra managed it surprisingly well. Mount Wellington itself was absolutely incredible, I’ve never been up a mountain where there’s alpine foliage before, and it felt like an entirely different world. Dinner was at Don Camillo, which was quite tasty but not on the level of some of the other restaurants.

On the last day we walked around Salamanca Place again, and had lunch back at Rockwall before heading to the airport. Our own car is only a 1.8-litre 2000 Corolla, but it was pretty funny feeling like it had a whole lot of grunt driving back from Sydney airport after having spent five days driving the Micra around. 😛

All in all, Tasmania was excellent and we’ll definitely be back!

Woah

Today is Lily’s sixth birthday! That’s crazy!

This weekend isn’t our weekend with her, so we’re going to do a birthday thing next Saturday and will then go over to mum and dad’s for a birthday dinner on Sunday. Should be good!

I took this photo of Lily last weekend.

Smile!

Speaking of photos, Lily’s been running around with our old point-and-shoot camera, I’d gone through all the photos and picked out the good ones, and we sat down last weekend and actually edited them together, and here they are! Quite funny. 🙂

Merry Christmas!

For the first time in I’m not sure how many years, I actually have the period between Christmas and New Year’s Day off work! We don’t get very many issues logged at work so we only need one person on, and one of the guys on my team offered to work over that period, so huzzah!

I picked up Lily at midday for our regular Christmas lunch, and dropped her back at around 5pm. Christmas itself was very nice, I took a few photos and am seriously happy with them. kungfupolarbear bought me Halo 4, which is by all accounts a brilliant game, and my parents bought me a Paul C. Buff Extreme Silver PLM — basically a very fancy reflector umbrella that you shoot a flash into and it produces really amazing quality light. I’ve not given it a proper go yet, but I’m very much looking forward to it!

In other news, we got the unit in Waterloo that we were looking at on the 15th! We go in to sign the lease on the 2nd of January, and have removalists booked for the 12th. Walking to work is going to be SO GOOD. \o/

And with that, my photos!
Excitement

Kristina

Mum

Nanny opening a present

A beautiful smile

Full set is here.

How things change

So I took Lily to her swimming lessons this morning (long story, the short version being her mother is back to be being flaky and Lily’s grandmother asked if I could bring her to swimming as they were going to be away), and while I was there I saw one of the guys I went to high school with. He was one of the “cool” kids, always smoked, acted all tough, just generally a jock (obviously I had nothing to do with him even in high school).

Now he has two daughters that he brings to swimming and is driving a Kia mini-van. If he’s happy with his life, more power to him, but the contrast between him in school and now is just highly amusing to me.

Our saga with the car is finally over, thank christ. Though unfortunately we didn’t get up getting any money, the insurance dropped the claims due to the lack of evidence either way, which is pretty much what I was expecting when the useless fucking witness never actually showed up. We just need to get rid of the old car and get the old plates swapped over to the new one, and it’ll be bloody well done.

In other news, we had our Melbourne Cup shindig at work at the start of this month (the 6th, specifically), and I’ve been borrowing a colleague’s Canon EF 135mm f/2L lens (for the non-photographers: it’s a very well-regarded and high-quality lens, and is especially good for portraits). I brought that along to the do, and got some photos that I’m really happy with. I’ve had three or four people at work use my photos as their Twitter avatar or the avatar on our internal wiki! 😀 The photos are here.

I had a heap of people complimenting me on them after I blogged about it at work, then had someone ask me if I wanted to take photos for the last Atlassian User Group (I couldn’t, due to already being busy that night), and someone else ask if I could take photos for our next ShipIt, which is at the end of this coming week! (I’m going to do that one, since it’s during the day).

We’re going to buy one ourselves, though not until after we’ve moved. We’re looking at trying to find somewhere around Waterloo, and if we don’t have any luck there, the lower north shore (St Leonards or thereabouts, and further south). Turramurra (where we are now) is a pretty useless suburb, my commute to the city isn’t bad but kungfupolarbear has an extra five minutes on the train and then another fifteen minute walk to get to her work.

And lastly, I was mucking around with DSLR Remote today, and got two photos that I’m really pleased with!

Lily and me

Self portrait

\o/

Boston!

kungfupolarbear and I spent the last two weeks in Boston, for her 30th birthday!

The flight there was horrific though… from Sydney to San Francisco there was a toddler who spent almost the whole flight screaming (and then proceeded to scream the whole way through customs too), so we got basically no sleep. United had kept bumping our connecting flight up, so we ended up with a two-hour layover, customs took bloody forever to get me through and then the TSA were a bunch of cunts and decided to take forever as well. We were literally running to the gate at the end and made it with about five minutes to spare. kungfupolarbear‘s friend Jen picked us up from the airport and we started our trip at midnight with a cheese steak from a greasy diner nearby (we stayed with Jen for the first two nights and for the last one) which may have been the greatest food ever. In fact, it’s making me hungry just typing this. 😛

The very first day we went shopping and bought a heap of stuff for extremely cheap (compared to what we could get them for in Australia). The next day Jen dropped us off at the place we were staying, which unfortunately turned out to be shit. We’d rented a room through AirBnB, and the woman who was living there was a weirdo. It had good reviews, but I have no idea how or why. The bed was broken in such a manner that unless both of us were lying in it, both sides were sitting at an angle and you’d almost roll out of it. Also kungfupolarbear had a weird reaction to the food or all the high fructose corn syrup in everything or something on the second day, and spent the night throwing up. 🙁 Fortunately there was a 24 hour pharmacy five minutes up the road, so I made a couple of trips there and she was pretty well recovered by the next night.

Despite the shitness of the place we stayed in, it was in a really good location. It was about half-way between Davis Square and Porter Square, both of which have a bunch of coffee shops and restaurants and such. They’re also on the train line, and it was all of about five stops from Porter to get into the actual city of Boston. I wish there was somewhere affordable in Sydney that was similar to that area. Newtown area is probably closest, but without the “affordable” part (also without the cleanliness, heh). There’s a coffee shop in Davis Square called Diesel Cafe, and we’d often go there at night just to sit around and be out of the house.

The weather was brilliant, it was humid as hell the first night we arrived, but after that it was a great temperature and not humid for the rest of the trip. We had a couple of occasions where there was about five minutes of light rain before it blew over, and that was it. We timed the visit really well, as everyone was saying that the weather had been utter crap for weeks beforehand, and the university students were only just starting to move in while we were there (the 1st of September is the big move-in date), so all the coffee shops and such generally had plenty of space available. It’s funny how compact Boston is compared to Sydney. We’d put together a list of things we wanted to see over the two weeks, and got it all done within the first week!

Second day we wandered around Harvard Square and the surrounds, and then the day after we went into some of the older parts of the city. The full photoset is here, there are some of my favourites.

Houghton Library

Harvard Square

Boston Public Garden

Trinity Church

On the first Friday we went into the North End, which is basically the Italian part of the city. It’s absolutely filled with Italian restaurants, and all the streets are narrow and windy. We picked a restaurant almost at random, and HOLY SHIT the food was mind-blowingly awesome! Got some good photos too.

Cobblestones

Near Paul Revere House

Prince St

For kungfupolarbear‘s birthday we had brunch with one group of friends, then dinner at Red Bones with another group followed by bowling. It was a pretty awesome day all up!

On Sunday we went to Rockport. We’ve been there each of the three times I visited Boston, and I love it! We had amazingly delicious crabcakes and stuffed clams from a shop that actually does the fishing of them out of the water too, and got a bunch of photos. It’s just such a photogenic place!

Patriotic

Motif Number 1

Untitled

Untitled

We also revisited the Boston Public Library on the last Tuesday we were there, and got some vastly-improved pictures compared to last time. After we were done with the library we walked down to the Charles River Esplanade and just sat in a shady spot enjoying the weather. A++, would relax there again.

Flags

Untitled

Looking up

Untitled

Squirrel!

River crossing

Rogue canoe

Wednesday we went to the MIT Museum, and man, it was so cool. There was an exhibit of Arthur Ganson’s “kinetic sculptures” that did all sorts of interesting things. They made for some good photos too! After that we wandered back up to Harvard via Massachusetts Ave before meeting up with tattooankh for dinner.

"Machine with Roller Chain"

"Beholding the Big Bang"

"Machine with 23 Scraps of Paper"

Circuitry

Hotel Veritas

Towards Harvard Square

Thursday was two of the Boston Harbour Islands, Georges Island and Spectacle Island. kungfupolarbear hadn’t ever been to them even while she was living in Boston, so it was new to both of us! Georges Island was definitely the more interesting of the two. There was a big military fort, Fort Warren, that had been built there in the mid-1800s for the defence of Boston Harbour, subsequently used as a prison during the Civil War, and finally sold by the military after World War II. You can walk through almost all of it, and there were a number of tunnels through it that were totally pitch black where I had to use the light on my phone to see where we were going.

Spectacle Island was less interesting, though there were some good views. It was basically a big park on an island. After that we had a wander through Downtown Crossing again, then met up with friends for drinks and pool.

Boston from the harbour

Kristina

Parade ground

Line of benches

Cannon emplacements

Bridge and Boston

The gazeebo

Shining on Boston

Down to the gazeebo

Evan, Madeline, Kristina, Dan, Pat

And then finally on Friday we wandered some more through Downtown Crossing and hit up Quincy Market!

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Old State House

Living statue

Quincy Market

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The Freedom Trail

We stayed back at Jen’s on Friday night so she could drop us off at the airport on Saturday. We had breakfast on Saturday at the same diner that we started with the night we arrived. Bookended by diner!

All in all it was a really great trip despite the initial sickness and the awfulness of the place we stayed. I love Boston, and we’re going to try to go back again sooner than three and a half years! We’re also going to try to go in October so we can get some autumn weather in, and also so we don’t have to worry about finding a place to stay that has air conditioning.

Oops

Nearly two months without an update! D’oh. I’ve completely forgotten to even look at my friends page for the past few weeks. 🙁

Work has been going very well. At the end of October we launched a whole new platform for our hosted offerings, called OnDemand, and it’s been very well received by everyone. There’s been a massive uptake of it, but our support load hasn’t exploded.
The three of us in Hosted Support are currently sitting next to the other two hosted platform teams, which is really nice. We can just turn around and ask questions, or we know immediately if something’s going funny.

Speaking of work, we had an awesome Melbourne Cup Day lunch last month. Everyone dressed up and we left work at 11am and went to this really nice venue on the harbour. We had absolutely delicious food, plenty of beer and wine, and it was all paid for by work! I brought the camera and gave it a good workout, and got a bunch of great photos. In fact, this particular one was used as a presentation slide by one of the CEOs in the last all-hands meeting we had! 😀 (It was the “Questions?” screen, so nothing major, but I was pretty chuffed).

We’re currently twelve days away from moving house. We were wanting to stay in our current place until we saved up enough money to buy a unit, but it turns out the owners want to move back in. They had a baby and had just moved closer to the city while she was pregnant, but the douchebag real estate agent neglected to mention any of this when we signed the lease originally, and assured us that it’d be fine to renew the lease when the time came.
The new place is in Turramurra, about ten minutes closer to the city than where we are now. It’s a bit bigger than our current place, and it’s actually an investment property. The owners wanted to make sure we were going to be staying a goodly while before they agreed to get flyscreens installed (there aren’t any right now), so that’s a good sign.
We’ve done a reasonable amount of packing already, and not having to de-mould every goddamn thing in the place is making it so much faster.

I completely forgot to mention that we went down to Melbourne for the weekend on the 9th/10th/11th of September, and it was great! We stayed in a really nice hotel on St Kilda Rd so were able to just wander up to Flinders St and get to wherever. And oh, the food! Man, both kungfupolarbear and I would be SO FAT if we lived in Melbourne.
I’d been there once before to visit Xenex but that was many years ago now, and I don’t even recall what we did. 😛 It was so different to Sydney and I can’t wait to go back. Naturally, I took heap of photos. 😉

A friend of Kristina’s came over from the US and stayed with us for a week. The ENTIRE TIME, the weather was absolute rubbish. 🙁 We went up to the Blue Mountains and literally couldn’t see anything. I’ve never seen fog anything like it.
The shitty weather has pretty much continued since then, and it’s feeling more like we’re going from autumn into winter, rather than already being in summer. Supposedly it’s meant to be a cool wet summer, so I’m not holding out any hope of the weather improving. 🙁

Lily starts school in about two months! 😮 And she’s turning five in May. Holy shit. I have no idea where that time went, it’s crazy. She’s doing really well with her letters, she knows the whole alphabet, and I set her up with WriteRoom and my old iBook G4, so she can spell words from her books and see them right on the screen. She actually asks me if she can “do letters”, which is good! I just looked, and my Lily set on Flickr has 226 photos in it. 😀 It’s fun looking through all the old photos and seeing her getting steadily older.

The family. Also, photos.

We went over to my parents’ place last night for dinner, and my sister and her boyfriend and their adorable little girl were there. I certainly gave the new lens a good workout, and got some really good photos. It was really nice to hang out with the family (my sister lives down in Nowra, which is a good three hours drive away, so we don’t see her very often).

Me? I'm not doing anything. No sir.

Hmmmmmmm.

Smile!

The precious is here!

The new lens (35mm f/1.4L) arrived yesterday! And holy shit I can see why people rave about L-series lenses (for those not in the know, L-series lenses are Canon’s absolute top-of-the-line insanely high-quality lenses). It’s absolutely amazing.

kungfupolarbear and I met up for lunch yesterday, then wandered around the garden sitting area just across from my work and took some photos.

Seriously, just wow. It focuses extremely quickly and totally silently, and the bokeh is just stunning. I could go on for ages, but I’ll stop now. 😉 kungfupolarbear assisted with getting the cropping right on those three pics… she really has an amazing eye for what works and what doesn’t. I can look at a photo and see that the cropping doesn’t look good, but specifically why, and how to fix it, often eludes me. 🙂

Then I took another photo tonight, with the flashes.

Lifeless

So yes. LOVE. 😀

Holiday!

The stop-over in Oberon ended up being unnecessary, as it was quite a bit closer to Bathurst than we realised. The place we stayed at was clean, but that’s about all that could be said about it. The bed was exceedingly uncomfortable, and poor kungfupolarbear ended up with a very sore back from it.

BUT! The farm stay more than made up for it. We got there a bit after two in the afternoon on Sunday, and the weather was absolutely perfect. The owner, Elaine, was really friendly, and we had free rein to go around and say hello to all the animals. They had horses, a pony, sheep, chickens, and alpacas, though we didn’t see the alpacas. There was also a very friendly border collie, who absolutely delighted in all the attention we gave her.

We fed the horses and the chickens, and kungfupolarbear got to feed the lamb and hold a chicken! I had relatives who had a farm when I was growing up, but kungfupolarbear has never had the farm experience before. It seriously should be something everyone gets the chance to do.

Tonight we went and saw UNKLE at the Sydney Opera House. Given they’re an electronic show, I was surprised at how much electric guitar and rocking there was. It was quite good though.

And now, it’s time to collapse into bed. Before I do, here’s a couple of my favourite photos from the farm stay. The full set is here.

Baaaaaaaa

Barcoo

I am going places

The stubbiest pony in the world!

Relaxing!

On Sunday afternoon/night we went up to Dreamwood International, which is a very fancy name for a little B&B about an hour’s drive away from us. It was so nice, though. The owners were really friendly, the place was absolutely spotless, and when we got there they had freshly-baked scones with fresh cream and home-made jam waiting for us!

They breed border collies, golden retrievers, and alpacas. We got to play with the border collies, and went for a walk with the owners as they were feeding the alpacas on Sunday night. They are such ridiculous-looking animals! kungfupolarbear got a few really good shots of them. My photos were mostly of the border collies.

We timed it very nicely, too… on Sunday the weather was nice and sunny, but yesterday when we woke up it was all wet and dreary. All in all it was a really nice and and relaxing weekend. We’ve had a five day weekend due to Easter Friday and Monday, and Anzac Day falling on the Monday as well (Anzac Day is a public holiday too, so the public holiday from Easter Monday got pushed over to Tuesday). \o/

Blargh

Naturally, naturally, right before a five day weekend I’m coming down with a horrendously sore throat. OF COURSE. I bought Betadine sore throat gargle and hopefully will be able to nip it in the bud before it turns really bad. :\

In happier news, since we have a bunch of photographer-type people at Atlassian, we organise semi-frequent walks to just go out and take a bunch of photos. We had one today at lunch where we wandered up to The Rocks, and I finally managed to break my photographical drought (the last photo I’d uploaded to Flickr was over a month ago)! \o/