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23rd April 2014

puzzlement @ 8:12pm: Tragedy on Everest
People here may remember that during 2012 I was regularly posting pictures of Everest (Sagarmatha/Chomolungma) and its 2012 climbing season as a metaphor for the final push to finish my PhD.

I doubt I'll ever so much as see the mountain, but nevertheless having appropriated it as a metaphor for my own decidedly non-life threatening and unrelated personal enterprise, I acknowledge and mourn the deaths of 16 men on April 18:

Mingma Nuru Sherpa
Dorji Sherpa
Ang Tshiri Sherpa
Nima Sherpa
Phurba Ongyal Sherpa
Lakpa Tenjing Sherpa
Chhiring Ongchu Sherpa
Dorjee Khatri
Then Dorjee Sherpa
Phur Temba Sherpa
Pasang Karma Sherpa
Asman Tamang
Tenzing Chottar Sherpa
Ankaji Sherpa
Pem Tenji Sherpa
Ash Bahadur Gurung

(Per Nepali report and Alan Arnette.)

China Tibet Himalaya
Photo by Bernard Goldbach

More from synedochic and Jon Krakauer.

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22nd April 2014

sunflowerinrain @ 5:41pm: Tweet warble chirp bellow
The racket in the garden this morning was ear-hurting. It was like being in an aviary.

Love it.

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20th April 2014

sunflowerinrain @ 2:34pm: Be sure to wear some flowers in your.... tail
Noodles, being long-haired, often collects bits of plant as he wanders through the garden. He just came in with red flowers stuck in his tail. So pretty, but he removed them while I was fetching the camera.

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14th April 2014

sunflowerinrain @ 5:47pm: That was my dream, once
Someone with whom I share tea orders has almost completed the renovation of a Heritage (= Listed) mansion and the place is opening soon as a small hotel and tea-room, all on ecologically-sound lines. It looks marvellous. I'm so pleased for her, and so envious...

http://www.domainedelestuaire.com/fr/

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13th April 2014

johnsu01 @ 9:15am: Welcome to Barcelona

Within an hour of landing in Barcelona, I was pickpocketed by a pretty well-dressed gentleman who was so skilled at his profession that, on the shuttle from Terminal 2 to the train, he unzipped the wallet hanging across my chest at my side and extracted my ATM card and the 100 Euro I'd just taken out of the ATM machine. I felt nothing physically, but I did have a little spidey sense thing happen so I looked over at him -- he just stared right back at me. I didn't notice the wallet unzipped until after getting off the bus. It was not a crowded bus; there was a lot of space between people and I'm surprised no one else saw this happen either. Or maybe they did and didn't say anything. Or maybe he had some associates standing around him.

I guess by interrupting him I got to keep the rest of my credit cards, passport, and US dollars. Could've been a lot worse.

I was aware of the pickpocketing risks here, but I hadn't even arrived in the city yet. Be careful out there!

9th April 2014

sunflowerinrain @ 8:51pm: GOLD! GOLD!
Great British Railway Journeys in Sutherland. Happy memories of trips to Orkney; places I've been and things I didn't know. I love this programme.

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sunflowerinrain @ 1:30pm: Bye-bye palm, you didn't belong
Denis and His Tractor arrived this morning to tear out the fan-palm. He chopped off bits then tried to drag it out in chains, without success. I watched him leave and return with a pickaxe and a mattock. After much hacking of roots and many tries (and some trampling of peonies, to my horror) the tractor succeeded in hauling out the palm, and though a rose and the peonies have suffered a little, it doesn't look terminal; Juliet seems undamaged and that's the most important.

There are now two big holes: one where the palm was and one where the tractor dug in while pulling. I had a brief moment of wouldn't-they-make-lovely-ponds but I'm alright now.

There are a few photos, to be uploaded when I find the right cable.

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pfctdayelise @ 1:34pm: Montreal/Canada first impressions
So it's Tuesday night, I have been in Montreal for a full 48 hours and PyCon tutorials start tomorrow!

I flew over with Air Canada. MEL>SYD (Qantas), SYD>YVR, YVR>YUL. The flight from Sydney was delayed by almost an hour and I only just made it on to the last leg. I was rather surprised to find out that the domestic flight (almost 5 hours) didn't include any meal. Apparently that's standard for North America now, it would be nice if Zuji warned me about that. What a hold-out Qantas is in that regard. (Mind you the "meals" for MEL>CBR or MEL>SYD have always struck me as totally ridiculous.) I didn't really sleep as I had centre seats on both AC flights. I watched some Portlandia, The Mindy Project (why doesn't this air in AU?!), Big Bang Theory, a couple of Spanish films ("Three many weddings" and "I thought it was a party"). I also read 2/3 of an auto-biography, "Who says I can't?" by Catherine DeVyre, who it turns out is a Canadian-cum-Australian (which I didn't realise when I picked it up), and listened to the new Beyonce album and Yuna's "Nocturnal" and played some Threes. Anyway not-sleeping has turned out OK, I arrived in Montreal Sunday evening so sleeping then was appropriate.

I kind of forgot to think about organising money until the day before leaving, and NAB don't process travel cards on the weekends despite finding a branch open on a Saturday. So I bought a Travelex multi-currency debit mastercard at Melbourne airport. I'm pretty sure it is basically the same product. It's a bit less convenient though, as I can't change the PIN and if I lose both cards (or even just the PINs?) I'm kind of screwed. Anyway, it's working out OK.


The view flying into Vancouver was breaktaking. Kind of like the photo in this blog but the cloud was thicker and more blankety, and these snowy peaks were just poking up everywhere. Australia really doesn't have mountains to get that excited about.

I am staying at a studio apartment near Berri-UQAM station, walking distance to PyCon and several interesting neighbourhoods. I found it via airbnb, but the hosts have a website with a few properties, seem like they do it semi-professionally. It's a great little place, very European feel. It's super nice to stay in a place with a "homey" feel rather than a hotel! They also wrote a fantastic document which is an intro to the apartment and Montreal, with suggestions of things to do/see, which has been great.

First impressions/thoughts:
* Montreal is kind of drab and the buildings near the airport are square and boxy. A local told me that things don't start getting green until May and indeed many tourist services (eg bike tours, and Bixi!!) don't start until May, which sucks a little bit. There is still snow on yards, although mostly not on roads/footpaths, and it's always melting.
* Speaking of footpaths, I was surprised at how bad many of them are, with obstacles and uneven-ness and broken things to dodge. Would be such a pain to have a stroller or wheelchair. Reminded me of Buenos Aires where I had a similar impression. It is a hazard of being an older city than an Australian city, I guess. There is a reason we don't have water hydrants on the street!
* Related, it seems like every home and shop has stairs.
* Lots of terrace houses (?) in what I think of as "New York style" (a la Sesame St and Sex & the City :)), although obviously this style has wider adoption than my media consumption would suggest. Don't know why but seeing fire escapes amuses me :)
* The metro is so great. There also seems to be lots of buses.
* Lots of cathedrals/churches
* Quite a lot of construction
* Many intersections don't have pedestrian crossing buttons - they have permanent pedestrian lights which activate with the traffic. There is no aural signal though.
* There seems to be slightly more homeless people here than Melbourne, which is extra distressing given how cold it is.
* How great is it that Australian prices include taxes? Answer: It's so great.
* Quite a lot of Australian wine is available, although no names I recognise, and weirdly none of it specifies the grape type eg shiraz. So I feel like a wine snob! The most helpful is that some is labelled "dry red wine", but most of it just says "red wine"! For example this bottle from Notting Hill Vineyards: "expressive, flavourful", "full, robust palate with soft tannins", "slightly woody, berry flavour", "floral bouquet with hints of vanilla and berries" (according to their website it's a cab sav)
* Food is slightly cheaper (meals maybe $2-4 cheaper after adding tax).
* THE CARS DON'T HAVE FRONT NUMBERPLATES

Traffic on the right is turning out to be more taxing than "the French thing". Given I have no pretence to speaking French, I have no qualms in saying "hello" and then continuing in English. No one has given me any flak for it. But if I don't think about it at least a little bit, I constantly drift to the left on the footpath and thus have way more space negotiations with other pedestrians than if I just keep right. And of course I have no confidence jaywalking.

Yesterday I went walking in the Gay Village (or just the Village?), and Old Montreal. In the afternoon I had a nap, then went to meet [personal profile] bemusement and his sister and her partner (who he was visiting) for dinner at a vegetarian restaurant on the Plateau. (Near there I passed a small bar advertising a gig for the Jezabels, but sadly I think the show has been postponed. I also passed a cafe called "Melbourne".) The food was quite good. There seems to be quite a few dedicated vegetarian restuarants around; I might make an effort to try and visit them all. May as well!

I pulled out my tourist map and the locals became quite animated at the prospect of pointing out precisely where the best coffee was. [personal profile] bemusement, a Google employee, was quite bemused (as it were). "It's been a while since I've seen a paper map get so much attention", he said. After dinner I walked part of the way home down rue Saint-Denis.

I had some gatorade last night to try and cure my seemingly unquenchable thirst since arriving, as well as some red wine. One of them must have worked, because I slept about 12 hours but at least woke up not being constantly thirsty. :)

Today was rainy all day, so I only got around to leaving the house around 4. I went to the convention centre to register for PyCon (eee!!!) and then walked along rue Sainte-Catherine from Quartier des Spectacles to Centre-Ville. I picked up a Canadian SIM for $50 (well $58 inc tax) from Fido which includes:
* unlimited incoming texts (including MMS)
* unlimited outgoing texts, including international (not including MMS)
* basically 0 call dollars
* 1G data ($35)

Phone reception is basically only in Montreal, although they said I'd still be able to use data if I travelled elsewhere. So I think that's a pretty good deal. My number is 1-514-549-4836. Not sure if I have everything set up correctly yet because no one has replied to my texts, which maybe means they didn't receive them... *shrug*

For dinner today I went to another vegetarian cafe, which was OK. Then home to write this and drink all the red wine and check I am all ready for the tutes tomorrow! Tomorrow I have a day of tutes on machine learning. I hope this will give me enough background to diss ML with confidence. :P

One other thing that is happening, is that I ordered a laptop from Dell.ca! The model I wanted is not sold in Australia, for some shitty reason. So I ordered it the week before I came, to be delivered to my apartment address. But I slightly panicked and forgot to put the apartment number. Also, the owners told me they don't have access to the letter box. So today I rang Dell support and they told me they will update the address to add the apartment number and access code to the shipping company, as well as a note not to use the letter box!! I feel about 85% certain this will work out. 10% is still terrified my laptop is going to get handed to any random stranger in the building and 5% that it ends up in a depot and I can't claim it before I leave. It will probably be fine though. :o

Would have been better if it arrived _before_ I did the tutorials but hey, I'm not that organised, it turns out.

TODO: Attend PyCon, meet up with Evan, plan side trips.

8th April 2014

sunflowerinrain @ 8:10pm: Desperately Seeking Catsitter
I want to go to England for more than the 2-3 days for which the cats can be sorted easily. (Haven't met the new sprogling yet! What a sad grandmother I am.)

Anyone want a holiday in lovely sunny Charente Maritime with two adorable young cats?

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pfctdayelise @ 2:06pm: A 747 can play this album, but my Android smartphone can't.
So, it's been four months and it kind of seems like Beyonce has no intention of releasing her latest album on the Google Play platform.

How the fuck is it that my first opportunity to listen to this album is via my Air Canada flight?

How exactly do I be a good corporate customer in this situation?

And why exactly should I be bothered to when artists do stunts like this? She's not the first.

ps. I listened to it on repeat and it was so good.
pfctdayelise @ 1:06pm: Voy a vivir en España
So, last Tuesday I applied for a "language and culture assistant" program in Spain, and two days later I found out I had been accepted!

I found out about the program via a FB post from Spanish Australia which was reshared by my Spanish school, El Patio. It's run by the education department in Spain. Basically the requirements are that you have intermediate Spanish, and have a Bachelors degree or be in the last year of completing one. You are placed in a school (or two) and work 12-16 hours/week, for 700 euro/month, for September-May (the school year). You assist a teacher in English classes (or possibly other subjects, as there are some fully bilingual schools that teach other subjects in English) and maybe help supervise excursions, prepare some special lesson to teach about Australia (ugh!!).

You can nominate your three preferred regions out of Spain's 17 autonomous regions (+ Madrid). I put my top choice as Asturias, which I got. It's in the northwest, open to the Atlantic, near Portugal, beaches + mountains + "green" (ie above average rain). It's also apparently a bit more old fashioned/not hit by the tourist train as much as some other areas (not the Mediterranean beach lifestyle I imagine Europeans typically associate with Spain), and of course has amazing food including even some vegetables.

The only requirements are the ones I mentioned above, although "pluses" are if you have any teaching experience (which I don't), or experience living overseas speaking a second language (which I do). I haven't completed the Spanish language DELE exam, so I asked my school to write a brief letter stating how many hours I have studied. It is quite possible that having two degrees and being a little bit older were also beneficial to my application. I wrote a 300 word cover letter in Spanish (which seriously took most of a day and serious corrections from two better speakers than I) but they haven't done anything else to confirm the quality of my Spanish which I almost find rather strange... Doing the application was quite involved, there are a million accompanying documents which repeat a lot of information with about 90% similarity from document to document. So I feel like just completing the application correctly shows my keenness for the program :)

Spain runs this program for a number of nationalities, although the applications here are judged by the Australian embassy. So maybe they have a quota for different countries, although I don't know how they balance that against the numbers needed for each region. I won't find out for a while which specific school/town I have been placed in, although Asturias is not particularly large in area or population. You can nominate if you prefer primary/secondary/adults school; I nominated secondary or adults.

I found out the woman who works at reception of my Spanish school was also accepted in the program at Aragon (note to self: must learn how to type Spanish with a physical keyboard... far easier on my phone). Her Spanish is far better than mine, of course, which makes me wonder just what I've signed myself up for. But, I remind myself, challenging myself is exactly the point. I have been saying things to the effect of "I wish I could spend some time in a Spanish speaking country to really improve my Spanish"... hello lap, opportunity. I feel like my Spanish is already advanced past the point my Chinese got to in terms of expressing myself (although, I wonder if this is a conceit of verb conjugations!). But I really need to consolidate my vocab/lexicon and as always improve my listening. What better way than immersion.

The prospect of being able to visit European cities at nearly the drop of a hat is also not to be underestimated.

Not sure what I will do about work yet. I just signed a contract extension to the end of October, but that was going to be The Really Real End, at least at this point in time of funding. I could try to convince BoM to keep me part-time/remote, try to pick up some other part time/remote dev work, try to do English tutoring, or just live off savings. The first option is probably the most appealing, in that it's familiar/won't be too challenging, and I can keep up some programming. Oh and I'll have more income, that will be nice.

Funnily enough, Spain adopting the GFE was one of the initial triggers for me to start studying Spanish in 2011... :) However their agreement has been with the US and we've not heard from either of them about how it's going for quite a few years.

Anyway... that's all I know for now! I was thinking part of my trip to PyCon was going to be about convincing people to hire me, but I guess that can wait another year!
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