Saturday, November 27, 2004

I'm In Australia !
Deanne and I decided to surprise my Mum and Dad by sending me on a two week to Australia ! It's just me, though, because Deanne has so much responsibility at work with her promotion to Product Line Manager. I haven't been back home since we emigrated in July 2000, so there will be a lot of catching up to do with friends and family...and lots of baby names to learn !

The trip itself went smoothly, starting with a 5.25AM flight out of Florida, then to LA, then Tokyo, then Melbourne. I had to go via Tokyo because that's all that was available. It wasn't too hard to pass time on the flights - I had two seats to myself on both of the long flights (about 12 hours each) and I had a good book and good movies to watch.

When the taxi dropped me at Mum and Dad's house around 10 AM I left my bags by the front door, knocked, and stepped around the corner. He answered and I waited a few seconds, then slowly stepped out to see his stunned face, mouth wide open. Big hugs and a few tears and laughs later we settled down and had a little drink and waited for Mum to come home from her weekly bridge game. She sometimes goes to lunch afterwards, but thanks to Dad's cousin Rose (who knew I was coming) inviting herself over for lunch she had made sure Mum would be here to see me nice and early.

When she got home and beeped the car horn so Dad would open the garage for her, Dad, Rose and her husband Ray all went outside to say hello. Instead of lifting the door though, Dad just hit it and said "Open Sesame !" She looked at him like he was crazier than usual, but when he hit it again, the door slowly lifted to reveal a set of skinny hairy legs...then khaki shorts...then a blue and white baseball shirt...and then me ! The car lurched forward as she was so shocked that she'd tapped the accelerator instead of the brake !! "Whoah !" says Dad and Mum just stopped the car, got out and gave me a big, big hug. It was really nice to be able to surprise them both - thanks Rose and Ray !

Australia hasn't changed much since I left, of course, but it was interesting to see what I'd forgotten that I'd forgotten. The soft curve of the blue taps in our bathrooms, the earthy, salty smell of the creek behind our house, and how closely packed all the houses are in our suburb. Everything looked a little smaller than I remember too, but it seemed cosy and comfortable to be home again. I'm very happy to be back for a while.

I went back to Westgate Concert Band, a community band that I was involved with for more than ten years. I turned up un-announced, as it gets a good reaction and there were a lot of wide eyes when I walked in. But it got better ! They were just about to rehearse a vocal duet from Phantom of the Opera, "That's All I Ask of You", but the male singer hadn't shown up. No sooner had I sat down to listen to the band rehearse than conductor Roy Hamilton put the music in my hand and said "Can you sing that ?" Wow...two minutes after walking in after four years away, I've got a microphone in hand and warming up to sing a duet ! It went really well, with harmonies and everything - what a great way to walk back into band ! Roy said afterwards he'd just been wishing I was there because it was the kind of song that would suit my voice...and then I walked in :) ! I said hello to everyone afterwards, of course, and played trumpet in the second half of the rehearsal. It's a great feeling to be part of a group again, musically speaking, and I was surprised at how quickly everything came back to me. I'm going again next week and hopefully some of my old friends who weren't there this time will be there.

In the afternoon I helped Dad get set up for his show at the golf club, and met all his friends there - very nice people indeed. He's got a nice setup for doing a show; karaoke machine, speakers, amplifier etc, but Mum and I were feeling too tired to make it to the actual show. But he's doing another one today in Yarraville, so Mum and I will be there for that one. We also stopped by to see my Uncle Percy and Aunt Carmen in their beautiful new house. He's doing a really nice display of Christmas decoration, so watch out for when you drive by !

Lastly I want to thank my wife, Deanne, for her support in getting me to Australia for this visit. She's got a lot to take care of while I'm away and I really appreciate what she's doing for me, Mum and Dad.

I'll start calling some friends today and organizing lunches, dinners and large amounts of drinking (in at least one case) to catch up.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

In front of the Statue of Liberty on a lovely Sunday afternoon. Sadly we couldn't get inside but it was a cool place to be anyway. Posted by Hello

As you can see, we spent the weekend in New York. That sounds mighty jet-setting of us, but it actually the first vacation we've had for a couple of years. Deanne needed to be in the city for a day of training this week, so we decided to make some time and went up early to take in the sights and sounds of New York. There are more pictures on my buzznet account (see the "Pictures" area on the right side of the page) if you'd like to see.

It's a great city; you can really feel the energy of the city as you walk around; every shop seemed to be open all the time, and there was a theatre, or skating rink, or outrageously hip and colourful shop around every corner. It's definitely well-suited to using the public transportation system and just plain walking - there's not much parking space available, so you're better off not trying :) The weather was cool enough to let us wear nice jackets, something we can't enjoy in Florida, but not so cold that you wanted to be inside.

We saw a musical called Dracula on Saturday night, visited the Statue of Liberty on Sunday afternoon, dinner in Little Italy, and the Rockettes at Radio City Musical Hall that night. The first show was not really my thing, but the staging was exciting and the guy playing Dracula was excellent. The Rockettes were perfect - a great show for anyone who remembers Christmas as a child sees it.

Personal highlight for me though was seeing Eric Idle of Monty Python ! Yes, he was walking down 6th avenue and I recognized him right away, said "Mr Idle, it's a pleasure to meet you and thank you for everything you've done, I've enjoyed it all." or something like that. He nodded and smiled at me, but didn't stop - he looked like he was hurrying to get somewhere. He's the main force behind the new Holy Grail musical is opening in a couple of months; perhaps he was organizing some aspect of that ?

So there it is, my weekend in New York City - an immense and exciting city.

Breakdancers in Battery Park. These guys were still going when we got back from our visit to the Statue of Liberty - a long days dancing. Posted by Hello

Times Square advertising Posted by Hello

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Election and Horror Music
It's been a heck of a couple of weeks at Casa ClarkSmith. Deanne voted in the election, of course, and waited in line for 7 hours to do it ! She was going to be out of town on the day, Tuesday November 2nd, and Sunday was the only day she could do it. I dropped her off at noon and went to the library; "wait about 90 minutes then come and get me" was the plan. When I returned she had barely moved, so I went home with the promise to return with food at 5 pm when the doors were locked so she could eat something. I came back as promised, got locked in and we didn't leave till 7 pm. The people in line were very nice though and I think they were mostly Kerry supporters. We talked about life, the universe and everything and I spent a lot of time with a lady who is the editor of one of the sections of the Palm Beach Post. She said she'd never met anyone who thought quite like I did :) She's an artist too, so I talked about copyright law, the Creative Commons, Larry Lessig and Janis Ian and I promised to send her an email with more information and links that I find interesting.

Sadly, President Bush was re-elected in a total bloody surprise to me. I have a lot of faith in democracy and for a couple of days it was pretty shaken by the idea that so many people actually believed what this man told them. But after some reflecting I came to the conclusion that he appealed to that part of their minds where facts didn't apply and nebulous things like faith and morality were more important. Oh, and of course its not a secular morality as in "how can we make life better for more of our fellow citizens via healthcare and better wages", but instead the religious morality that is more concerned with "protecting marriage" by making sure gay people don't have the chance to set up a normal life for themselves. And lets ban abortion as soon as we can load the Supreme Court with conservative judges who'll reverse Roe v. Wade."

The silver lining, if there is one, is that President Bush will have to clean up his own mess and can make no excuses for the misery that is to come. It'll be him that history blames; it's just a shame that the massive deficit he's racking up for future generations can't be avoided, just so he can make evangelicals feel good about themselves.

Musically I'm finally getting down to business ! I downloaded the free version of Acid Express to record my keyboard playing and make loops so I didn't need to actually play correctly for more than 30 seconds :) I used Audacity to generate a click track, and sent my client the music he'd asked for; a reworking of "Ghost" without the drum track.

DSS contacted me and asked if I was ready to begin the next phase of the ROI software, which I suspect will be eating up a lot of my evenings and weekends for a while. I said yes, of course, and mentally noted how many projects I'd better finish (like the music above) before I get stuck into it again.

It's dinner time, then I'll go and see if DSS has sent the specifications for the software.