Sunday, November 25, 2012

Thanksgiving Elsewhere

Thanksgiving comes around every year in the U.S. and we go to our relatives or friends houses, or invite everyone to our own home. We talk, catch up on things because we don't always see each other as often as we'd like to. We laugh, we watch an American Football game, and then sometimes a movie. But I think we forget that Thanksgiving is basically about being together, and no about doing things out of habit. Being away at Uni at the moment really gives me that perspective. I live on campus with international students from everywhere. Different cultures, different beliefs, different customs. And yet, Thanksgiving rolled around and more than 50 people showed up for dinner, board games, and to spend time with each other. No, Thanksgiving isn't usually celebrated in Australia, but the student village tries to take note of the different cultures festivals, and observed holidays, which is how I found myself sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner with fellow students from everywhere. Everyone is different in language, culture, colour, background and yet everyone was getting along. Laughing, teasing, talking, joking and playing cards or board games. There were exactly three Americans, including me and everyone else probably originally just showed up for the food, but ended up staying a lot longer than they anticipated. Felt like a huge family get together to me, where no one had seen each other in a long time and given that everyone tends to coop themselves up in their rooms to study I guess it could be said that they hadn't. It was fun, and it really captured what Thanksgiving was supposed to be about. Yes, I know; it was supposed to boost the economy way back when... And they couldn't figure out what day to put it on.. but that's no longer the point. Its become a holiday about being thankful that you have friends and family, and that was certainly evident on the opposite side of the planet from where the holiday originated. :)

Hope you and yours had a wonderful Thanksgiving, even if you don't observe the day. ;)

Monday, November 12, 2012

In a Purple Tree

Alrighty. As you may have noticed I've been missing from posting blogs for... possibly a month or more. That would be due to the fact that I'm not here on a pleasure trip (although I would love to do that. Just a long trip and travel around Australia), I'm actually here to get a BA degree and possibly find a job somewhere in the world after that. So I've been studying, taking exams, completing assessments, getting migraines and generally trying to survive a different type of school environment. It's not all bad. I've also attended several really good stage performances and hung out with really cool people. Tried new foods too. :) 

So... anyway, in the small area outside my window, there used to be a giant stick of a tree.... And then, spring came around and the stick turned into this. Its a Jacaranda tree, and they flower first before they get all their leaves in. There's another tree on campus that was covered in fire red flowers when I first got here, and every bird in the area was all over it, eating nectar or the flowers themselves. It's totally covered in green now, so all the birds moved on to other flowering trees. Which means I've got an aviary in this tree. I see almost every type of bird in it... although they usually fly away before I can get the camera ready to go. Just as a note of interest, both these pictures were taken from my room. I love my camera! The close up ability on it is really cool. I know, I know. Every photographer out there is going,"Yeah, yeah.... there's a lot of cameras that can do that...." But honestly, this is cool for me. 

Okay, onward. Since I really haven't gone anywhere, I figure I'll just show you what comes to me! And that means a lot of birds. Sorry. I'd show you other things, but.. no one really wants to see the cockroach I found on campus right? Or the grocery store I shop at? Yeah... thought not. 

This, is a Red Wattle Bird, and he's a honeyeater, which means that he doesn't eat honey, but eats the nectar from the flowers. Handsome little stinker isn't he? Actually this could be a she, it's difficult to tell with the birds here because most species sexes look like each other. Anyway, it was checking out the stick tree in September, but no luck. The only reason I knew he was out there was because he makes a sound like a mini-shotgun being racked. *Ka-Chack* Not a pretty sound, but very identifiable. The first time I tried to photograph him he flew off as soon as I got back to the window, so when another one came back later I snuck back to the window with the camera and got this shot of it, which I thought was pretty good! It's holding still, and not hopping around in the branches like a monkey, so you can really see that red-brown eye and the red wattle that it gets his name from.

.... and then, it saw me! Or the camera more specifically. I'd gotten sneaky and had lowered the shade on my window, so only a slit was left where I could rest the camera. Of course it freaked out and flew off after making alarm calls. I guess the camera reflected or something. It only freaked out when it saw a camera, but not with me just watching it. Camera trauma in the past? 

I'd see a Wattle Bird in the tree from time to time checking things out, but they never stayed long. The tree wasn't flowering much, and I suspect it had things it needed to do. Like eat. These are fairly common birds here in Perth, and throughout most of the south, wrapping all the way back around to the southern eastern seaboard. Their main diet is nectar, as I said, but they've also been seen eating small insects off plants and in midair. These aren't terribly small birds. They're probably a bit bigger than a Stellar Jay from back home. 

We see a lot more of them now that the Jacaranda tree is blooming like mad. And there is the wattle bird doing what it does best. Eating nectar... and in this case, clinging to the tree for dear life. The reason the picture is blurry is because there was a storm going on that day, so it was pouring rain, and it was -really- windy. With the tree swinging around in the wind, and the rain pouring down the window, it's amazing that the picture came out at all. This was in mid-October, so the tree is in full bloom currently. Although with the past few storms it's flowers have taken a bit of a pounding, but the birds don't seem to care.

And then there is the monkey routine where is hang upside down on perilously small branches to reach what it's after. It also gives you a nice shot of the little yellow tummy. Again, sorry about the blurry picture, but I love the colour pattern and the yellow patch. And the bird being a complete and total clown while getting his lunch. Looks like it's 6 in the evening there, but it was more like noon when I took it.  Believe it or not it was blue skies and warm 20 minutes later. 5 minutes after that there was another monsoon. Crazy weather, but I certainly enjoy the feathered neighbors. Even if they are camera shy. I've got more photos of birds... and since I've only got one exam left, maybe I'll actually be able to go somewhere and take pictures of ... oh, I don't know, perhaps a landmark??? It's a thought I'm seriously considering. 

If you want a little more information about the Red Wattle Bird, you can look on here.

Anyway, I'm back for a bit, although not sure how much time I'll have. I've got some friends who want to drag me around to see things, which will be cool for picture taking, but probably not so cool for actually having the energy to blog! But I'll do my best. :)

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween... again!

Okay, so I've been just a bit busy with end of semester stuff and haven't had the time or the energy to get on my blog and update everyone. Hopefully starting next month I'll have a little extra time to post pictures and tell stories. Granted most of the interesting stuff is few and far between, and the pictures are mostly of birds that are in the Jacaranda tree outside my window. How do I know it's a Jacaranda tree?? Well... lets just say that it gives itself away in spring, and spends most of the winter masquerading as a giant dead twig sticking out of the ground. Anyway, I'll get you pictures so you can see. I suspect however they they won't do it significant justice.

So, right now back home its my favorite day of the year! Halloween! The other holidays are nice and all, but I truly love Halloween. The weather has turned cool and crisp, fall leaves are being shuffled along the ground in every direction, and there's this sense of anticipation. I can also breath during the fall, because all the pollen is gone and I am not dealing with allergies that make me sleepy. Which is probably why I feel so alive in the fall. That's my best explanation. Anyway, above is my pumpkin from last year. Usually I get more creative, but I hadn't done a traditional jack-o-lantern in a really long time, so... out came the triangles and the goofy grin. I like him. 

  Happy Halloween! 

P.S. I had little spinning pumpkins, but they ceased to spin, so I removed them when they became nothing but boxes inhabited by questions marks. Apologies. ;)

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Aglet Nibbler.

A couple of weeks ago, while I was sitting at a bus stop in Joondalup this little fellow decided to pay me a visit. Actually this isn't the same bird. But he's a good stand in. This, in it's broadest name, is an Australian Ringneck. The name is something of a catch all for 4 sub-species of parrot that live in Western Australia... and probably other parts of Australia, but I hadn't really investigated that deeply into it. I tried looking him up in a bird book, but he didn't quite match with the Port Lincoln, or with the description of the Twenty-eights. Which means I was hunting down what he was online. Apparently he's an intermediate, which means he's probably an off-spring from a Port Lincoln and a Twenty-eight. (I can't remember the last time I used so many hyphens.) It's a result of habitat destruction. In other words, these birds moved into the city, because where they used to live is gone. And now that they don't have their normal stomping grounds, the social structures of the sub-species are starting to merge. This is the result. I'm guessing there is probably quite a bit of variation in colouring from nest to nest.

Anyway, I didn't get the best resolution because he was really far away. If you enlarge the picture it's pretty darn fuzzy. Ah well... did the best I could. So, back to what I was saying about the bus stop. I was sitting there reading a book. Shocker; I know. As I'm reading I saw this parrot fly down and land in a nearby scrubby tree. There aren't any wild parrots were I live so he become the object of my undivided attention, which he noticed because he started staring right back. To my surprise he flew down from the tree, landing about 10 feet away from me, and then ambled up to my shoe with a swagger that would have made John Wayne proud. He peered closely at the aglet on my shoelace, and like a 2 year old who has encountered something new and exciting, stuffed it into his mouth. The nibbling continued for about 2 minutes, the whole time he's got his head cocked looking up at me as if contemplating my existence. I was certainly contemplating his, so I didn't bear a grudge. Although I was becoming concerned that he was going to eat the aglet, which would leave me with an unraveling shoelace and the bird with an impacted crop. Neither of which sounded appealing.

Thirty seconds later he dropped my shoelace, stared at an approaching student, and decided he'd had enough fun teasing the human and left. He didn't go too far. Just across the street to a big old tree and was joined by several more similarly coloured individuals of the parrot persuasion. I'd say they were all the same, but I couldn't tell from the distance I was at. And alas; no camera. Curses. For those of you worried about the state of my shoelace, it suffered no damage, although there may be future psychological issues from having experienced a parrot mouth.

Yes. I just anthropomorphized a shoelace. :)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Morning Window

Several weeks ago, I think I threatened to put up items that I can see from my window. It's all 5th floor view up here, which makes it easier to take pictures of things. It also helps that I have a really nice camera now that lets me focus on items of interest from varying degrees of distance. All the bird shots were taken from quite a ways off.

Anyway, back to a morning photo. It's nothing impressive, but I sure do like the colours. :) This was taken just as dawn was breaking. I've got two windows in my room. One faces directly east into the sunrise every morning and I get some spectacular shows when I'm up early. Which is 3 times a week, and sometimes more if I'm feeling masochistic. Otherwise I sleep in when I can.

At night, it's a different story. Especially when it's clear skies and there's a full moon. It lights up the entire area; more so than I remember it doing in the states. I don't think we're closer here. Maybe it has to do with atmosphere. We may never know. Pictures like this make me really love my camera, and I feel a need to apologize to it for not take it out and using it. Homework, readings, essays and projects take first priority however.

In fact I'm procrastinating a bit here with this blog entry. I don't really want to write up and 1000 word essay on logical fallacies. :P But who knows, it might be fun inventing examples for a few of those. If you learn these you will never been able to watch public political debates without either laughing hysterically, or becoming depressed. Depends on your point of view I guess. Up to you. Actually that 'either/or' boarders on a Black and White fallacy. Which basically means that you only have two choices or decisions possible and no other option. Keep in mind though that anything is possible, so try thinking outside a box a bit. :)

Friday, August 24, 2012

In a Tree....

Right outside my window is a big tree. It's not tall enough to reach my window, but it does fill quite a lot of space even without leaves. Currently it's winter down under and most of the trees that lose their leaves have dumped them some time ago. This particular tree did something similar, as it's nothing but a large log with tons of twigs, sticking out of the ground at the moment. All those twigs however provide wonderful places for all manner of birds to sit. Or hide. Or, when there's a storm, hang on for dear life. Or spend all freaking night singing... Here is a picture of the culprit. If you want to hear what he sounds like, try this link. Australian Magpie . Normally I wouldn't care if he was singing or not, because it's gorgeous... but not at 2:30 a.m. and not when you've only been asleep for 45 minutes. The link doesn't really do him justice as he's extremely loud. I mean loud. REALLY loud.

People opened windows and told him to shut up (I'm ad libbing, because the actual phrases used were not truly fit for the ears of mere mortals.) and at some point a shoe was thrown, and is now hanging in the tree, swinging gently back and forth. Meanwhile some extremely stressed student is contemplating, to paraphrase David Tennant while portraying Doctor Who in the proper first episode of season three,".... looking daft with one shoe." My apologies if that made no sense.

In case you're interested they're about the size of a raven. Not a small bird. They are also extremely smart. Just as smart as these I'm willing to bet. This, is the Australian Raven. They're about the same size, but the Raven is all black and he's got a little beard. Well, more like a little tuft of feathers that look like a beard than an actual beard. That little tuft puffs up when they call, and the call is quite mocking. Apparently it changes from place to place. In Sydney, it's a mocking HAAAH Haah Haaaaaaa... Here in Perth, it warbles quite a bit. Try clicking here to hear what they sound like. Sorry, it's not all that great a recording, but it's the closest I could find. The Ravens here, tend to warble a bit when they call, so it sounds mournful, rather than mocking. This particular Australian Raven spent most of the day sitting up there during a storm. I have no idea why he didn't go somewhere more sheltered.

And since I'm rambling on about birds I've seen in the tree outside, I might as well show you this one too. This is a Singing Honeyeater, and is by far the most dull coloured Honeyeater I've seen so far. I really have to go and take pictures of all the different kinds that are crawling all over a tree on campus. Everything eats off that tree... Anyway, this little guy and friends took refuge in the tree during a windstorm that was howling so loud that it was setting off the neighborhood Kookaburra family. Took me forever to figure out what it was because it doesn't really have an bold markings like it's relatives, plus it was hunched up, so it didn't look like a Honeyeater. It looks more like a thrush, and if anyone has a different answer for what this bird is, please don't hesitate to correct me. I was going on what I found in a birding guide I got from the library on campus.

Just one more, and then I think I'm done for today. My food is getting cold. This next one is a Black Faced Cuckoo-Shrike. Again, I could be wrong, but that's what it appears to be to me. The link I attached to the name was really the only one I could find, so, I'm not sure what they sound like. The one in the tree was pretty quiet too. It spent it's time scratching like there was no tomorrow, but it might have just been grooming. It didn't appear to health issues. Maybe he/she was just enjoying a good scratch.

I think I'm going to have to invest in a bird book, because the one I got from the library wasn't in good shape when I got it, and it appears that traveling home in my backpack hasn't done it any favors. Oh well. I'll take it back to the library tomorrow and see if they slap me with a replacement fee. They didn't on the last one I found falling to pieces, but two times? That's probably pushing it. My poor poor pocketbook.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Tale of a Double Yoke Banana

There are many mysteries of life out there in the world. Kookaburras that love a good windstorm. A local duck that can't get enough of basil flavored noodles. A ring necked parrot that likes to play with the aglets on my shoelaces while I wait patiently for a bus. However, the very last thing I ever expect to see was this.

Yes, I know, it's a banana and I can hear your mental gears slowly beginning to turn, wondering,"Why in God's name, is she posting about a common fruit? She's in Australia. She could be showing the world any number of amazing things and yet, she picks a banana." But before you really get going about the travesty of fruit upstaging other things of startling colours (no, I did not spell that wrong. I'm in Australia. That's how I'll spell it while I'm here. I shall observe 'proper' English... and because I got scolded by my C&DT teacher...) and variety, I would have you examine said tropical fruit closely. Please note that it is rather oddly shaped, as if perhaps that, inside that lovely yellow skin, there may be something unwholesome going on??

Lets open the convenient natural zipper that bananas come equipped with and expose the truth. Now, I've seen things doubled up before, like eggs. Sometimes a chicken will decide to hold up the whole laying process for a day, and two squishies end up inside one hard shell. Its the miracle of the chicken. One egg, two yolks, although I do pity the chicken that has to pop that sucker out. Ouch. Neat party trick, but the consequences to the old egg chute can be problematic.

Enough nonsense. Back to the matter at hand. When I went shopping I found this among the bananas and got it just to see what was inside. Here is the truth revealed. Yes inside was a double yoke banana! And they were delicious! I had them with oatmeal, fried apples, brown sugar and some cinnamon sprinkled on top just to be sure I had a good case of indigestion by the time I got to class that morning. Actually I'm kidding about going to class afterwards. It was a Wednesday and I stayed home to work on a project for one of my classes. But the bananas were still really good.

In all seriousness, generally when I find a veggie or a fruit like this, they don't taste good, but this one (two?) was very sweet without tasting like it was going bad. Really good with the oatmeal hodge-podge, and thus it must be recorded somewhere for posterity... Not that any self respecting future generation is going to look at this blog. I can hear them now,"You want me to look at a blog?! Are you trying to make me look totally uncool?" That's assuming they're still speaking a language that I can understand.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Little 'bots.

Yes, I know, I haven't been posting, but I'm coming up on a crunch time for school. I've got assessments coming up that need to be done in two weeks. Before you ask, yes, I have started them, but they're intensive for me, because I'm attempting to do a good job, without having even the barest glimmer of what the expectations are. Oh, it's been fun! I can tell you that much.

So, I shall leave you with a picture I took. I'll have to go hunt down something really random, because I haven't been able to go picture taking. Too much school work, and not enough time to run around exploring. So, I'll have to leave you with this to tide you over until I can do a longer post.. which may or may not be soon.

(Sorry. I know the picture isn't all that great.)

I found this little guy in Paddy's Market, all the way at the back and to the right. The stall was the last one on an end which was difficult to see because it faced the opposite direction. To tell the truth I was looking for the bathroom. They moved things around in there, and a lot of the little shops were gone. Kinda sad actually. Some of the newer vendors are -really- aggressive about getting your attention, and it changes the feel at Paddy's. Anyway, I was about to go right on past, but I saw the little robots! Who can pass up a little robot with bendy arms and legs, and little jewel eyes! .... okay, so a lot of you are saying,"Who would want that thing?!" Well, I would. He's got a little zipper tab on his front and everything. I have yet to attach him to my backpack, because I'm afraid I'll lose him somewhere, or he'll get chipped. The black paint you know. Mustn't scratch the paint.

The stall purveyor spoke very little English, and I speak absolutely no ... um... I'm ashamed to say I have no idea what dialect he was speaking. He must have been quite new to Australia. We ended up using a note pad to draw little pictures to each other when it came to actually buying a little robot. I've haggled before in Paddy's, but never using a note pad and pen. It was actually kinda of fun. :)

Anyway, in the end, I got a little black robot with sparkly eyes, bendy arms and legs, and a rather bemused smile. The stall owner got $5.00. I figure it was a deal.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Outdoor Pet Store...

Where I'm from most pet stores have parrots of every make and model. They run the gambit from black and grey to bright scarlet, and usually they're sitting in a cage looking remarkably bored. They squawk loudly to see if you'll jump. The locks on the cages are thoroughly inspected by hooked beak and tongue, carefully checking for a way to get the doors open. Not all the parrots do this, but I've seen quite a number of the larger smarter parrots pulling the squawk trick, and the lock inspection. And generally, they're alone in their cage. Not always, but it seems to be the way of things in a pet shop.

So, imagine you go to a place were a lot of those parrots live wild. They ALL flock. Almost never do you see a species of parrot alone, and this covers all the ones I've seen. Everything from Budgies to Cockatoos have a group, depending on species. Some are small groups, some are large, and they are everywhere you go. It's like walking around in a outdoor pet store where no one has to buy a bird. Everyone enjoys their antics (there are exceptions of course).

But it's really cool to open the shades in the morning at dawn and to see a bunch of these.

Sorry about the picture being a bit small, but it was all the way on the other side of the bowling fields, and the camera just barely focused on it. This is a Galah. I don't ever remember seeing one at home at the local pet shop. They're about the size of an African Grey Parrot. Sort of on the small side, but very smart and agile. Usually I see them in flocks of 5 to 8, and they spend their time looking for food, playing and generally goofing off. Like a pack of teenage boys who are up to no good.

He does look like he's up to no good. In reality the flock was looking for standing water on the tops of the buildings so they could take a bath. They must have found some up there, because there was an awful lot of splashing going on for a while. :)

I should just start up a once a week thing on a certain day.

"Things I Can See From My Window"

... jeeze... now i feel like a peeping tom..


Friday, August 3, 2012

Scales, with a Few Feathers

I did give you all fair warning that there would be even more unasked for photos of the wide world of critters here in Australia right? Sorry to those of you who live in Australia and are getting bombarded by the familiar. Hopefully I'll be able to move on soon into something much more galvanizing, such as what my semester looks like, and whether or not I'm going to die a horrible death, smashed beneath a giant workload, and garnished with expectation. That actually sounds a lot more exciting than I had anticipated. Ok, never mind that, we're moving on to other things I found at the Wildlife Park in Sydney... which wasn't getting nearly as much attention as it deserves. However, if the moved the House of Wax next door, I'm not sure anyone would go down to that end of the wharf at all. My apologies guys, but you're not in the best of locations. :/

One of my downfalls has got to be lizards. Catching lizards as a kid was one of my favorite things to do during summer and into fall after school. I've never had a pet lizard, at least not one that I got from a pet store, but I did have a lot of wild ones, that I kept for a while and then let go. If I had been able to get one from the pet shop in the states, I probably would've ended up with a Bearded Dragon. These are Bearded Dragons in their uncorrupted form. That is to say, these are what they're supposed to look like color wise. Look at that green! Beardies love to do something else.. no, not eat. They seem to love standing on one another. Because it's not just the one doing it.

Hmm... well okay, apparently they moved before the picture was taken, but there were two more here that were standing on the heads and bodies of others. It was kind of amusing, until apparently someone had had enough, and then the lizard fight was on! Unfortunately, like the Bilby these guys move really fast, and all I got were comet shaped green blurs for all my trouble trying to catch them at their antics. Which means you'll have to settle for the 5 that were left when the tiff was done. That's alright though, because I've got other lizards to show you. Some are small and kind of on the docile side, and others will gladly eat you. :)

This little Frilled Lizard is not one of the "I will gladly swallow your entire carcass" variety. He will stand his ground, he will puff himself up, he will flare his little beard, and if you chicken out he'll chase you, but that's about all he'll do. Keep in mind he's fairly good sized (12 in.), so if he decided to bite you, you're going to get a healthy pinch. I can still remember a certain famous person getting his nose pinched pretty good because he got too close to one that was a very bold little fellow. All that aside, a Frilled Lizard is going to run like hell rather than try and face you down. The one I met at the park was very laid back, but then he'd been handled all his life.

This on the other hand WILL gladly eat you, given the chance to do so. But generally they'll stay clear of you if you look healthy and dangerous. Even then, if desperate enough, it's a bit of a question as to what decision it'll make. This would be a Goanna. Six feet of really sleepy Goanna. They are quite large, and in broader terms fall under the blanket term Monitor Lizard. They're a smaller, less lethal, cousin of the more infamous Komodo Dragon, but without the super deadly saliva, or at least not quite as potent. If you encounter one, I suggest leaving well enough alone, unless you really want to part with your skin. Yes, ladies and gentleman, this is one of those creatures that you should just enjoy from a distance. There is also another Goanna cousin, though distant....

... the Salt Water Crocodile. This picture is somewhat misleading. It makes him look sort of on the small side, but the reality is that he's nearly 16 feet long. He would probably have no qualms about hauling you into his pool, rolling you around until you drown, and then he'll stuff you in some convenient corner until you're soft enough to eat. It's nothing personal. It's just what he does for a living. He was enjoying his sunshine that day though and was acting fairly placid. He's not alone in there. If you go around the side he's got some Archer fish in there with him... Archer fish about the size of my head. Whether or not he uses them as potato chips, I couldn't tell you.

The Croc had other more colorful neighbors. These little guys are all over the place in Queensland (I saw gobs of them when I was there last), and apparently we've got some here in Perth. Rainbow Lorikeets... And their incredible streams of poop! You'll see a flock of 20 go shooting past screaming and talking to each other, and you make the mistake of stopping and staring up. Which is when you get hit with precisely aimed shots of bird diarrhea, because that's what happens when a bird's entire diet is made up of fruit and nuts. Actually this is a she and only 4 months old. She was very affectionate and left the keeper's shoulder before she shot a stream of bird poopy straight into the Croc's pond. He didn't seem to care much, but then things such as bird crap is beneath his notice. The fish all made a beeline for it though. No idea, why. I decided not to ask. Heh. :D Some things you're better off not knowing.

And there were also... these... where'd he go... He was very hard to photograph, as he was eating, and fit neatly inside the cup when his head was doing sifting through the seeds. I'm sure most of my friends who have had birds before are very familiar with this particular bird... and in one case I know she can't stand the noise they make. Here, they're all over the place in the warmer climes.

Like I said he's hard to see. I had dozens of photos with only the very top of his little grey/brown head. This is a Zebra Finch and I got him in mid chow-down on some seed. They're really cute to look at, but when you have oh... say 50 of them all making a 'meep meep' noise, it gets tiresome very quickly. Also sort of deafening with them all going about it at once. But when it's just a few pairs in a large enclosure they're actually pretty darn cute peeping out of the brush at you. Even the lorikeets were somewhat fascinated with all their hyper-active movements through the shrubbery. Lorikeets are big enough so they have to climb through the bushes like monkeys. The finches just hop around in there like it's a jungle gym during lunch time.

Anyway, this concludes this evenings broadcast of Scales and a Few Feathers.
Please join us next time, when I present birds! And quite possibly ONLY birds!
Considering I've been taking pictures of birds like mad here, it's pretty much my only remaining venue. :D

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

You Can't See Me!

Personally I thought he was terribly obvious, but I probably should've taken the picture standing aways from the tank, so everything else was visible as well. In any case, I bet you can spot the fish who is absolutely positive that he's invisible.

"Seriously. I'm completely undetectable. Right?"

Having said that, I know where the mouth is, but I'm not sure where his eyes are. I thought I knew and then I swear something else blinked instead.
It was sorta creepy on many levels.

Sorry this is so short, but it's late here and I have to get up at the crack of dawn tomorrow for a course induction. Which sounds like a horrible medical procedure, but is in fact an introduction to the course I'm taking for my B.A. and yes, I am shaking in my rubber booties. Basically tomorrow I get to find out if I made a horrible mistake or not. :D
Go Me!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

... Mostly fuzzy

So, there may have been a bit of a lie there at the end of my last post. It's mostly fuzzy right? As tattered as it is and all... It is still sorta fuzzy, with 6 little insect legs, big multifaceted eyes and some antenna. I'd say it's pretty too, but we're not in a good season for butterflies down here, considering that it's winter. Poor thing...

Ah well. *sighs* Anyway, I did see a name for this, but managed to totally forget it in the two weeks since I was there. Several small panic episodes after looking at course outlines have pretty much erased any type of knowledge I might have had concerning things I actually care about, with extreme prejudice. There are several small tombstones standing in the spaces where I used to have knowledge and I'm sure that brain cells come to mourn the destroyed hole upon which the knowledge once grew. My brain is really becoming a very messy place.

Eh... apologies. Sometimes my mind likes to hike some some lovely morose trails without me. Anyway, here we have a Koala. Probably one of the most recognized marsupials on the planet. They're cute and fuzzy, and everyone wants to hold one. And then they do hold one... and find that the fur is quite coarse. Soon after this, the human discovers that Koalas have claws, which are very sharp and good for gripping trees. Not so good for gripping people, because people bleed. Next, while trying to figuring out how to tell the keeper they don't want to hold the Koala anymore, they discover that Koalas don't smell very good. ... and in my friend's case, Koalas aren't very particular about where they go to the bathroom. Yes, I love Koalas... from a distance with a telephoto lens. I was pleased to see these Koalas from a distance, and there was a large pane of glass between us. Thrilling. Apologies to those whose image of Koalas I've just ruthlessly crushed. For future reference, I tell it like it is, not like everyone wants to hear it. Thank heavens I'm not a fortune teller, I'd have that job for a week and then I'd be known as the crazy bag woman who lives in the untidy clutter junk at the end of the alley. Not because I was bad at my job, but because I was 'honest'.

Next up, on the fuzzy tour, was a Wombat. I'm not going to tell you much about him, because he wasn't doing anything except pacing relentlessly along a small section of the wall. My guess is, that his inside bedtime enclosure has a secret entrance hidden in the fake rock face, and he was desperate to get into it. He/she was not in a good mood, then again, I don't know wombats that well, so it could've been just fine. I've been around animals all my life though, and to me, he looked very stressed, but I don't know why. It was daytime, and they tend to do most of their activities during the night, so it could've been as simple as that. As for holding, being around or touching a wombat, I know nothing, so those of you who love these good sized critters are safe from my tendency to rip away rose colored spectacles. Until, that is, I end up being around them, and I'll let you know if they're something you may want to avoid for one reason or another.

This is a Rock Wallaby... I think. Some of the pictures on the information boards didn't match what was in the enclosure, so I am making a wild stab in the dark here. This was one that didn't look like it's placard. Going on that assumption these little guys are really timid, and really endangered due to habitat destruction, and other much more annoying reasons such as guns and the invasive species that were introduced along with them. Mostly I'm referring to dogs... Pets they might be, but they still have that niggling persistent need to go rip something to shreds when they see something small and furry running/hopping away from them. With smaller species of Roos and Wallabys, cats can be worse. ... I should just be saying,"And this little guy was so cute! Look at him sitting up there on the rock sunning himself like mad. He must really have it easy."

In the largest enclosure (that you can actually walk in to some degree) you have the James Bond of Roos. All he needs here is a martini and he's set. This is a Red Kangaroo, and yes, I can tell you without any doubt whatsoever that it is a 'he'. There is a photo of him standing up, but if I published that one, I'd have to put a warning at the top of the post. Something like,"Parents please cover your children's eyes when you get to the section about the Red Kangaroo, as they have absolutely no shame." And they don't. Anyway, it's a boy!! I decided to just show the one where he's leaning in the sand, in the sun, getting ready to lay down some line from a bad movie. I'm not sure what that line might be, but I'm sure it would be bad. I wasn't able to get a shot of him with his eyes open, but I assure you, he looked like some sleazy pick up artist from an 80s film.

At the nature place, where all these pictures were taken, they have a nocturnal area for all the creatures that you'd never normally see during the day. This for instance is something you probably haven't seen before. Yes, it's a god awful picture, but be thankful my camera got him at all. May I introduce you to the Bilby. He's very cute (yes, I actually used the word seriously) and he's very hard to capture on film, as he moves really fast. Those of you who have seen Jack Rabbits? They move that fast. Anyway, I caught him eating under a bush. Everyone else was distracted with the billions (exaggeration) of hopping native mouse type critters. There were a lot in there with the Bilby, and yes, they were cute too, but they moved faster than the Bilby, so all the pictures looked like white blurs. I could've submitted them to a UFO place as photographic evidence of extra-terrestrial life. Which might be true, as I'm not sure they weren't levitating over the sand.

Unfortunately, I don't really have anymore pictures of the fuzzy kind, so you'll have to make do with feathers and scales. Like this little fellow below. This is what Bearded Dragons looked like before humans got a hold of them and started breeding for color traits. They're still one of the most amiable little lizards I've ever met, and one of the most curious.

I couldn't tell you why his jaw fell open when I went to snap a photo. But it did. I don't think I had anything to do with it though. A lizard below him puffed up, and I suspect that this is a threat pose to let the other one know he's not leaving his perfectly lovely spot near the heating lights at the top of the enclosure. Not without a knock down, drag out fight that is.

Next time I'll have to show you scales and feathers. :) It won't be as bad as all that.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Since I was there...

Sorry about the underlining. Blogger is pitching a fit. Actually it could just be my fault. I was messing with the HTML, and I don't know the language as well as I should.

... *sighs* now it's normal again....

Going from previous posts from long ago, you may have guessed that I really like aquariums, so whenever I get a chance to go to one, I go. Since I was in Sydney, I figured I might as well go to the Sydney Aquarium, and see what was new. There was a lot that they had changed, or removed, but some of the favorites were there, like the Platypus (which I couldn't get a picture of because there were too many people standing in the way) and the big underwater exhibits that you can walk through. Those I've been through before, and I didn't go early like I should have, which means I would've been stuck in a tube with a bunch of other people.

Sadly, I have had my fill of people. When I say that, I don't mean I hate them. I just mean that I can no longer set aside their bad manners, rudeness, letting their children do everything the giant signs tell them not to... etc. Its nothing personal... but it makes my skin crawl to be in a room with more than 20 people. Lots of you are now shaking your heads and making 'tut tut' noises and thinking I should just let it roll off my back. You need to have some sort of emotional shielding for that and mine are quite gone.

Fish on the other hand are another matter. They stay in their aquariums, and
swim back and forth, occasionally chasing one another, and then forget why they were chasing the other fish. IF they even do any chasing at all. Its relaxing to watch them. So I found myself down at the Sydney Aquarium (um, prices have gone up... a LOT) walking through and attempting to snap shots of fish and other critters I thought were interesting. You may or may not find them interesting.

This little guy... alright, so he wasn't all that small, but it wasn't huge either, is a Leopard Shark. At least that's what the label on the tank said it was. There was a Leopard Ray in here too, but he was hiding in a dark corner, and I didn't want to use the camera's flash on him. Plus it's posted everywhere they you aren't supposed to use flashes in the aquarium. A lot of these fish are light sensitive. Anyway, I liked the Leopard Shark mostly because he didn't look like a shark, and then there was the cute little smile he had most of the time. I've seen that same look on rays before, in fact one of the cutest things I've ever seen was someone feeding a ray at the pet store I use when I'm at home. They actually feed their fish. Shocking, I know. This was the first little smile I'd seen on a shark that didn't inspire fear. Not on my part, but on the rest of the masses, generally there is either the urge to run, or the much more masculine approach,"What the HELL is that?!" "I have no idea, but let's kill it!" Inspiring, no?

I should also say that females are usually no better when it comes to smaller creatures of the
unlovable variety... insects for one tend to meet their end via a shoe, or some other heavy unyielding object. Speaking for myself, unless it is actually inflicting harm on my person, I haven't got a problem with it, and generally speaking, the only reason something that small is doing me harm, is because I did something to it first. This of course leaves out mosquitoes, fleas, ticks, and other similar natured creatures. Those get no sympathy from me, and will meet a swift end, and its usually not death by shoe. I tend to be a bit more vicious. However most females would have a difficult time smashing this... I couldn't find the tag for this, but I'm guessing it's a rather large cousin of the common spider, except this is MUCH larger. This thing was the size of a Basset Hound, and probably weighed more, given all it's armor. It's probably some type of Lobster, but I'm guessing.

Lets see if I can leave you with something cute to think about, but it will probably still have too many limbs for most people's taste. And no, I don't know what it's called, but it's probably a small shrimp or crab, but I'm leaning towards crab, even with all the little whiskers.

Although, I have to say upon closer inspection, that might very well be a large shrimp. Or not. I wish it hadn't been so crowded the day I went, but school was out, and everyone was on vacation to guess where? I will try and get the names of the ones I missed, but don't hold your breath. Anyway, that's as cute as I'll get for today. Next time around I promise that the critters will have fur or feathers... possibly scales, but they may not be cute.


Friday, July 20, 2012

Not my favorite flight...

Okay, here's what happened. The Southwest flight from Sac to LAX was a dream. We even got there early. Which I guess is good, but it made the wait for the night flight longer. So I arrived at LAX on Thursday the 5th at about noon. My night flight wasn't leaving until 10:10 p.m. So, I basically hung out at LAX for a really long time. Hours later the flight is finally ready to board... and we waited. And waited.... and waited... Around 10:45 p.m. it is announced that the plane we were supposed to take to Aus had been grounded by the mechanics. There was some serious icing damage to the electrics in the wings (we didn't find that out until later) and the flight had been rescheduled for the next morning at 9 a.m. They had to wait for a plane to come in from Australia. So they put us up at hotels for the night. I think I got stuck at the Crown Regency??? It was after midnight by the time we got to the rooms, and we were all exhausted and annoyed. I got maybe 45 minutes of sleep, then woke up with a rash all over my forearms and the right side of my face. Apparently I'm allergic to whatever they washed the pillow cases in. It was fun. I thought at first that the place had bed bugs, because the rash initially presented with pinprick red dots. But within a half hour I had full fledged hives. It was great. I finally fell asleep on the couch around 4:30, and the wake up call to get us back to the airport came in at 5 a.m. Not a happy camper.

We all got checked through security. Again. And then we got loaded onto a plane. And were told that the flight was waiting on three passengers to show up at the gate. We waited for 20 minutes. Then were told that the passengers had been found! We cheered! Then we were told the passengers had decided to take a different flight to Sydney... and we'd be delayed another 20 minutes while their baggage was located. We groaned. Eventually we got off the ground. Smoothest take off I have ever been privileged to experience. We climbed up to about 25,000 feet before all the alarms in economy class went off. Fire Alarms. Some of us were alarmed. Sorry. Bad pun there. Actually lots of us were a bit freaked out by this, especially when the lights dimmed down to nothing, then blinded us when they came back up. Then off again and one again, and the alarm is going and the kids are either laughing or screaming... Then the alarm stopped, and the lights went back to normal. The stewards were still rushing around like speed addicted ferrets however, so we all knew something was up. The captain came on over the intercom a few minutes later and apologized to us all for the delayed flight, all three delays, and let us know that the plane was just fine, but that there was some sort of electrical fault with the economy cabin. *sighs* So, for the next six hours we got to deal with lights dimming and brightening, extremely loud music getting blasted through the intercom, the entertainment computers on the backs of the seats going down without warning and lastly (which didn't really affect us) the off duty area for the stewards had no air conditioning. Which meant that the poor stewards couldn't get away from us for 15 hours. We only had to deal with 6 hours of electronic weirdness. The stewards got to deal with 15 hours of severely irritated and pissed off passengers. What made it worse, was that it was a day flight. You can't just sleep and wake up in the morning. We got into Sydney a full 11 hours later than we were supposed to. It was great. Honest.

From the airport I had intended to just take a shuttle into North Sydney so I could be dropped off at the place I was going to stay for a week. Except by the time I trudged out of customs, I didn't want to bother with trying to figure out how to use a shuttle, let alone try to hail one. So, I went for what I did know. Which was the train system. I got a week pass for Trains, Buses and Ferries from the ticket counter. I love that all I have to do is get a pass for a week. Saves a lot of time and money. Then I took the elevator down, climbed on a train to Town Hall, and got off at Circular Quay. Got on the Ferry to go to North Sydney, and got off at my stop. The only hitch I had was that I had completely forgotten about all the stairs. Heh. Fortunately a very nice gentleman who was going out with his family helped me all the way up to the top of the stairs. From there I was able to just roll everything to the top of the street, take a left, and then up to the Lodge. I checked in, went up to my room, with the help of the front desk clerk, and pretty much just passed out. I was totally exhausted. I only got about 45 minutes of sleep on the plane, and then I was awake. I think I watched most of the movies they had on the flight. And TV shows. Given that I hadn't been sleeping well even before I got on the planes, I think I was awake for almost 3 days straight. I've done it before, but it is not something I am willing to repeat in the future. Although, given my track record, I probably will end up pulling marathon days again.

I'll get back to the second Sydney adventure soon. :)

Thursday, July 19, 2012


Judging from most conversations I've heard from parents who have sent their kids off the college, and from conversations I've heard from said kids, they
don't eat very well. They live on fast food, or potato chips, or most famously, 3 minute ramen noodle packs. As an alternative they may choose to go with cup o'noodle instead. However, all that is packed with something I have difficulty eating. Wheat/gluten. Which means, when I came here, I knew I'd be cooking for myself for the most part. Yes, I have found a couple of things that I can eat from the local on campus cafe. But it's only one thing. Green Chicken Curry. It's what I had for dinner on Tuesday... and then for lunch the next day.

So, it doesn't look green, but it sure tastes like green curry and it's got a healthy amount of veggies in there with all that rice. I got rice to go with it when I bought it. Originally I went down to the cafe to get Hot Cocoa, but ended up coming home with dinner! Anyway, it is very very good, and I will probably be getting more when I'm too exhausted to stand over a burner with a pan or pot.

Believe it or not I've only grabbed take-away once since I've been here... ok, that might be a small lie on my part. There was the smoked salmon sushi that I got for lunch the same day I got curry, but that was only once... twice. There was lunch in Perth this afternoon too...

Anyway, for the most part I've been cooking!

This was dinner on Wednesday!

It took less than 20 minutes to make and it was absolutely scrumptious! I didn't pick up the recipe from anywhere, but you can probably find something similar online I'm sure. This made two servings easy, so you could technically make it, and set half aside for lunch or dinner the next day. Easy to reheat in a frying pan or pot. Or if you MUST, you can use the microwave.
For reasons I will not go into, I'm not a fan of the microwave.

If you'd like to make this yourself, it's fairly simple. Here's what you'll need:

Chicken (whatever make and model you want)
Capers (preferably in their vinegar juices)
Green Beans (however many you want... within reason)
Garlic (one section should do)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Sea Salt in a grinder
Lemon (one should do ya)

I used boneless chicken thigh fillets, but you can probably do this with any piece of chicken you want... although I suspect that it turned out so well, because I was using the brown portions of the chicken. Breast or white parts may dry out kinda fast. Anyway, I went with thigh fillets off a chicken. 4 of them. In Aus they pack these critters up in little boxes which is darned convenient for marinating things.

First of all, during the afternoon put your choice of chicken pieces into a bowl, or use the little tub they came in, and dump in some Extra Virgin Olive Oil, a healthy load of fresh squeezed lemon, and ground sea salt, then cover it and put it back in the fridge and leave it there for several hours. Don't wash the chicken! I know everyone says to rinse it, but you'll be cooking these little suckers at some fairly high heat, and trust me, if you do the cooking correctly, it kills all the nasties that may be lurking in your chicken. If you don't cook the chicken right then... Just cook the chicken until it's white all the way through.

If you cut open your chicken and you see PINK; IT'S NOT DONE!

When you feel like cooking dinner, put a frying pan on the stove top, and dump in some Olive Oil. I usually just put in a splash, but you can add however much you want. Then get the garlic clove, put it on a hard surface, and use the flat side of a large cutting knife to smash it. This does two things. It shoves the garlic out of its wrapping, and it opens up the insides of the clove. Don't do anything else to the garlic after you crush it. Just take the wrapping off, and put the soft stuff into the pan. Then turn on the heat, up to medium heat or so. My stovetop has 6 settings. I set mine of 4, so maybe that's medium high??? Anyway, let the pan stand for a bit, and get out your green beans.

Wash off the green beans, then cut off the ends, and chop the remaining portion of the beans in half. You're not using the ends, so you can toss those. (sorry, I had to say that because someone is going to use the ends, and not the bean if I don't.) Then set them aside in a bowl for later. Also you should cut your lemon in half at this point, if you haven't already done it. Your pan should be relatively hot now, so go ahead and put your chicken into the frying pan. It may not immediately sizzle, which is alright. You sort of want these to slow cook for a bit in with the garlic.

When the chickens looks like it's turning white on the bottoms and side, get a lemon half, and squeeze the heck out of it over the chicken pieces. Then add salt, and flip the chicken over. It'll probably sizzle this time, and possibly spit at you, so be careful. Then add about half the bottle of capers to the pan. You want the juice in there too, so don't freak if you end up with that in there as well. Move everything in the pan around with a flipper or spoon, or tongs or whatever.

Just let it cook. When the chicken looks like it might be done, carefully cut open the biggest piece of chicken and see if it's white or almost white inside. If it is, then add your green beans, and use the second half of the lemon at this stage on the entire pan. Keep everything moving in the pan from this point on. Stir, or flip, but keep it moving. When the green beans start to look a little like your fingers after too long the bath, your dinner is done!

Hope you enjoy!

If you're wondering what type of wine would go well with this? I have no idea. Sorry. This is what went with my dinner. I'm really not into alcoholic beverages.

Anyway, whatever you have with the food, the dish is best enjoyed while it's hot. I know this because I had 4 mouthfuls of it while it was hot, and stopped because I knew I'd inhale it if I didn't stop there. So, I emailed Mom the recipe, and then went back to it while it was warm. STILL good, but it was better when it was hot.