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I Still Call Australia Home:

: Mon 19-Dec-2005 12:00 PST

It's been only days over 14 months since I boarded a plane and moved away from everything I had grown up with. Not just a little move either, but across an ocean to another continent. I'm certainly enjoying life over here, quite thoroughly in fact, but there are many cultural things I miss. Visitors from home have ventured over and it's been nice to see a familiar face. Nothing can compare to the real thing though, so it's with great joy that I'm about to embark on my first trip home since I moved. It's going to be quite a whirlwind tour. I think every day has now been booked in an effort to see as many family and friends as possible in the short time we'll be there. It won't be all hard work though, we are planning on diving the HMAS Brisbane and the shark tank at Underwater World. It's been a year since I've scuba'd too, so I'm looking forward to a little potential narcosis. That, and I plan on indulging in all the Australian only cuisine that I've got a hankering for.

I'll be back on the 6th of January, so stay tuned for a potentially large photo album and I daresay a couple of posts. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all!

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A New Chapter Begins:

: Fri 25-Nov-2005 23:00 PST

I believe for most people, there are distinct periods in their lives, each period being distinguished by a major change of some sort. Your childhood years, leading into your first day at school for instance. For me at least, this is how I reflect on my life thus far. Using that rationale it also means that I've just begun a new chapter. My previous chapter would be defined as the period where I moved away from Australia, everything I know and have grown up with, to come live over here. What has now changed that warrants such a distinction? After quite a lengthy process I'm now gainfully employed! I started on Monday, and from all indications it appears that once again I've been extremely lucky job wise. The people I work with all seem great, the management has been very supportive and the firm as a whole appears very friendly, well organised and a positive place to work. To top it all off, the salary and benefits package is quite generous. I've not yet had a job I haven't really enjoyed, and it seems like that streak is set to continue. *touchwood*

Coming from a year of leisure, with only house spouse duties to intrude upon doing whatever took my fancy, returning to work has been somewhat of a shock to the system. I can see my caffeine intake increasing drastically, in proportion with my daily amount of sleep decreasing. With the trip back to Australia looming in under a month, it's going to be a little difficult to establish a routine, but I'm sure next year things will sort themselves out and I'll be able to find the time balance work with everything else I've enjoyed in the past year.

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A Real Winter?:

: Tue 15-Nov-2005 18:45 PST

Given the bitter disappointment of last years Winter-that-wasn't, I'm really hoping that the forecast for the coming Winter is accurate. All signs indicate that this year will see a return to something at least closely resembling Winter. The temperature has dropped remarkably in the last couple of weeks, to the point where there has been quite heavy snowfall across the Northwest. I took the opportunity and ventured to the Summit during the week, to discover that the temperature had increased by a degree or two, and what had been snow was now just rain. It was still fun to hit the slopes for the first time this year, and I'm hoping it's the sign of good things to come. Of course, the cynic in me is convinced that while I'm home in Australia for Christmas it will be powder day after powder day, but I'll accept that if it means a nice, long, snowy Winter. That, and I'm looking forward to some sunshine and scuba, so I doubt I'll care too much. ;)

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Oregon Road Trip: Portland, Columbia River Gorge :

: Sun 13-Nov-2005 16:45 PST

Multnomah Falls We spent two nights in Portland and managed to fit in quite a number of activities and local attractions. Advice to first time visitors: if you're going to drive make sure you have a good map. Portland is a maze of one way streets and the Oregon map we had didn't show Portland at individual street level, so navigation was interesting for a while. During our stay we visited Queen Bee Creations, Powells City of Books (literally a whole city blocks worth of bookstore!), the Portland Saturday Market, the Portland Japanese Garden and wandered about downtown. Be sure to check out the Oregon photo gallery for photos taken at some of these locations. I must make particular mention of the Japanese Garden, as it was quite amazing. It is set over 5.5 acres and incorporates 5 different garden styles. Due to the time of year, it was enhanced by the Fall colours, adding to the remarkable beauty and tranquility of the garden.

Once we had finished in Portland, our final day involved a short drive out to, and along, the Historic Columbia River Highway which followed the Columbia River Gorge. Besides being quite a nice drive in itself, there were numerous waterfalls to be seen, so of course we were going! Thanks to the 2 weeks of steady rain there was plenty of water flowing over each of the falls we visited, although thankfully most of the day was sunny and quite pleasant. The Multnomah Falls are the most well known of the falls, and none of them disappointed. I'd have to lean towards the Bridal Veil Falls being my pick of the day, due to their layout and relative remoteness.

We had hoped to take in Mt St Helens on our way home, but the fading light and return of heavy rain made it an unpleasant prospect. So that will be a future Summer activity. Despite the somewhat inclement weather, it was a great little trip and I got to see a new area of the US, which is always of interest. If you haven't already done so, I invite you to take a look at the photos from the trip.

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Oregon Road Trip: Oregon Coast :

: Sat 12-Nov-2005 00:05 PST

Skip straight to the photos or please continue reading below.

Entering OregonRain. I feel that is an appropriate place to start when talking about the 4 days Ilana and I spent travelling around the top corner of Oregon. She had a few days off work, so we thought we'd take advantage of the free time and do some sightseeing. Sightseeing in the Northwest in November as it turns out, can be quite wet. Still, despite the often torrential downpours it was a great little trip.

We barrelled down the interstate until we hit Olympia, rolling to a brief stop in front of the Washington State Capitol before heading westwards towards the Oregon Coast. For the unaware, Astoria has been the location of many films (Kindergarten Cop, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III, The Goonies, Short Circuit, Come See the Paradise, and Free Willy I and II) and this was our first stop. Thankfully there was a brief respite from the rain and we got to see most of the locations before it returned. Be sure to check out the image gallery and see if you recognise the landmarks. We decided to push on a little further after Astoria, and ended up spending the night in Seaside, a popular summer tourist destination and the end point for Lewis and Clark's historic overland journey to the Pacific Ocean. I believe it's the first time I've seen the Pacific from the 'other' side since I've moved.

It was briefly sunny the following morning, giving us time to hit Cannon Beach, the location of Haystack Rock as seen in The Goonies. By the time we had finished breakfast the rain had returned and we were unable to see the nearby Tillamook Rock Lighthouse. There are numerous lighthouses spread along the Oregon coast, but thanks to the weather they were not to be seen. Next on the itinerary was the Tillamook Cheese Factory. They're quite a large cheese producer (we eat their cheese) so it was a fun place to stop. They were actually producing the type of cheese we get while we were there, which was a nice bonus. Also nice was getting to sample all sorts of cheese. The Special Reserve Vintage White Extra Sharp Cheddar, aged 2 years, was particularly tasty. I've had trouble in the past with cheese slicers literally falling to pieces after minimal use, so what better place to get a new one than a cheese factory? I'm happy to report that the Osti cheese slicer now in my possession works like a charm. The torrential rain stopped while we were inside, allowing a quick Wallace & Gromit style 'Cheese' photo outside, and we were on our way to Portland.

Check back soon for the conclusion of the Oregon Road Trip, covering Portland and the Columbia River Gorge.

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MSTT Presents Decade :

: Wed 26-Oct-2005 12:00 PDT

DecadeMicrosoft Theater Troupe proudly presents: Decade. All the good stuff from ten years of Microsoft Theater Troupe musicals.

In 1995, Microsoft Theater Troupe performed our first production in a conference room on a set that had to be broken down after every show. Since then, we've grown in size and scope, we've moved to larger premises and permanent sets, we've performed nine more musicals and eight plays, entertained our audiences, raised thousands of dollars for charity and had a wonderful time doing it all.

In ten years, we've put on stand-out shows like "Guys and Dolls", "Little Shop of Horrors", "Grease" and "Pippin". Each musical had songs we loved, songs we liked and songs we were contractually obligated to include. For our Fall Show, we're recognizing our first decade by remembering our very favorites of the very best.

Join the Microsoft Theater Troupe as we celebrate our first ten years. Join us as we present the best songs from ten incredible musicals.

Six performances only
Fridays and Saturdays, October 14th to October 29th
Building 31 Cafeteria
8pm Curtain
Profits benefit Red Cross Katrina Relief

For reservations and information:

So that's the official spiel. The show has been well attended so far and it's been a lot of fun. I've been helping out behind the scenes again; assisting with set building, being stage hand and some house management. The cast is massive, with many of the regulars plus a lot of new faces, so I've gotten to meet all sorts of new and interesting people. Needless to say, the cast parties have also been quite monumental. The final two performances are this weekend, culminating in a closing night / Halloween party at the UFC. Mark took some great photos during the final dress rehearsal that I will endeavour to upload, with his permission. Hopefully I will also have some Halloween party photos to display, although some serious work will be required to top Grampy's previous Homecoming costume effort.

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