Byron Bay – February 03, 2008

A belated Happy New Year to all – I hope 2008 has started well for you. My apologies for not having written in some time. With final exams in December, heading to Toronto for Christmas, and then starting my fourth semester in January, it’s been a busy few months.

We had a good visit to Toronto over the holiday. It was great to celebrate Christmas with family and friends we had not seen in a year. In the past few weeks since we returned to Brisbane, Anna and I have jumped back into school and work, and still found time to visit the Sunshine Coast, QLD and Byron Bay, NSW.

Byron Bay weekend

Anna and I celebrated our third anniversary in northern NSW. We stayed outside Byron Bay at a very comfortable B&B. The rainy weather held off until after we arrived on Friday night, and our host Tim showed us around the house.

Slaying the dragon

Anna and I were awoken around 3:30am by the sound of a mozzie (mosquito) buzzing around our heads. It was hard to hear anything over the general sounds of nature from outside the window – frogs, crickets and the like – but any camper would agree that a mozzie’s buzz is pretty distinctive.

After a few minutes of denial – that is, me swatting aimlessly at him in the dark – he seemed to go away (out of pity?). I tried to get back to sleep, while Anna got up to use the bathroom. She had barely closed the door when a shriek filled my ears.

“There’s a frog in the toilet!” she gasped, “and I nearly sat down on it!”

Sure enough, a good-sized green frog had made its way into the bowl – whether it swam in or hopped, who knows? But he was much bigger and far more sinister than a cute green tree frog.

Just how do you get a frog out of your toilet? I decided that the best way would be to trap him in the small rubbish bin – it had a flip-down lid – and then to put him outside. But rather than using my usual diplomatic approach – talking him into the garbage can – I would have to go in after him. I pulled the plastic garbage bag over my hand and reached in for froggie. Plop! He wanted no part of my plan, and jumped from the bowl’s side into the water. The last I saw of him was a leg swimming away.

I flushed … twice.

Byron Bay & Cape Byron

On Saturday we explored Cape Byron and the lighthouse (built by the federal government in 1901, just after Australia’s Constitution Act was signed). The lighthouse is still an operating site, though it has been modernised and requires no operating staff./p>

  • The Cape Byron Trust adminsters an Indigenous Land Use Agreement (map) registered in 2001 over the recognition of native title rights in the land and waters around Byron Bay. It was signed by the federal, state and local governments, and the Arakwal people (a sub-group, tribe or estate group of the Bundjalung nation).

The town of Byron Bay has grown considerably since Anna last saw it in 2000. It was very busy with locals and tourists, browsing the shops, having a meal and trying to stay out of the rain. Geez, did it rain!! It was a common sight to see people climbing into their cars from shin- or knee-high water at the curb.

Byron was an interesting cultural melting-pot — city slickers enjoying lattes and tapas, hippies and yogaists, backpackers and surfers. Nevertheless, everyone comes to Byron to relax and have a good time. If there’s something about Byron which needs improvement, though, it is the entertainment: The buskers we saw were truly awful!!

On Saturday evening we enjoyed a fantastic meal and views over the Byron area at Fig Tree Restaurant, not far from town. The steak and mahi mahi were outstanding, and the chocolate fondant was lucious. If you have a chance to try the Bleasdale malbec 2003 (red wine), we highly recommend it!

After breakfast on Sunday morning, we headed south along the coast road to Ballina. The countryside and sea views were beautiful, even in 90% humidity.

It was a very enjoyable anniversary weekend!

Aussie update – Aug 23, 2007

1/3 of the way there

It sounds crazy, but I have reached the one-third progress mark on my law degree! That’s two semesters down, and four to go. In the Sept-Dec semester, I will tackle Criminal Law B, Land Law, Remedies, and Obligations.

I am now enjoying 3 short weeks off lectures and assignments during the semester break. My to-do list includes creating a website for Bond’s Law Students Association, and writing the annual newsletter for my Scout troop in Toronto, amongst a number of other errands.

Anna started work with the Queensland government earlier this month, and is really enjoying her projects.

We’re getting wet!

The southeast Queensland region has received significant rainfall over the past several days. From Sunday we have had steady rains and high winds, and the forecast calls for wet weather through Friday. The rain is great news for the garden, and more importantly for water dams. Rainfall since Sunday has ranged from 70mm near Brisbane’s Wivenhoe dam to well over 300mm at Coolangatta on the Gold Coast. It isn’t drought-breaking, but the rain is very welcome towards easing the situation.

All good, right? Well… A solar-powered water heater can be very environmentally-friendly. But the cloudy weather has brought unwelcomed cold showers to our bathroom! A few months ago, Brisbane started level 6 water restrictions – these include a per-person consumption target of 140L per day and a limit of 4 minutes on your shower.

I think the local government has seriously missed out on an opportunity to save more water: A ban on water heaters. We are really good about adhering to the 4 minute limit, but I certainly get out that much faster when all the water is running cold!

Why are books so expensive in Australia?

As mentioned, I’m working on a new website for the Bond LSA. I went looking for a book about the site’s content management system: The same book costs CA$47.99 on Amazon.ca — or a staggering AU$107.95 at my local bookshop’s website. WHY??? I can’t figure it out, but I certainly didn’t buy the book (from either source). On Tuesday I did buy a copy of Mens Health magazine (Aussie edition) for AU$8.50. ACK! And before you say “shipping costs”, I checked already – It’s printed in Australia. If anyone has the answer, please share!

Perhaps the taxes on books are a means of paying for the investments in water infrastructure going on around the country. Either way, finance minister Peter Costello’s budget surplus of AU$17.3 billion (for the Jun’06-Jul’07 tax year) is impressive — that figure was some $3.7 billion higher than anticipated at budget time. About $2 billion arises from lower than budgeted spending, which encompassed lower welfare payments due to strong employment growth, and $1.7 billion from higher tax receipts.

Scouting’s centenary celebrations

On 1-Aug-1907, Scouting’s Founder Robert Baden-Powell blew his kudu horn on Brownsea Island at 08:00 to open the world’s first Scout camp. Wednesday, 1 Aug-2007 marked the centenary of that, and was observed by “Sunrise” ceremonies around the world.

Scouts Queensland celebrated the occasion on Saturday, 4-Aug with a big parade through Brisbane city. Scouts from all over the state came to Brisbane for the parade, fun and games, and a special presentation of the Brisbane Gang Show. The lord mayor Campbell Newman presented the Keys to the City of Brisbane to Scouts Queensland, and the Australian parliament has declared 2008 the “Year of the Scout.”


ACK! Redheads could be extinct in <100 years

This month’s National Geographic magazine reports that under 2% of the world’s population has naturally red hair, and that because of intermingling, redheads could be extinct within 100 years – and perhaps as early as 2060. There were a number of news stories on this topic in 2005, but the topic has resurged in the last few days on the NG report.

Scotland has the highest proportion of redheads at 13% – while the USA’s mere 2% makes it the lowest. The problem is that just 4 percent of the population carries the red hair gene, MC1R. Because the gene is recessive, it is diluted whenever carriers have children with people who have the stronger brown hair gene.

Of course, my own red hair may be gone far sooner than 2060.

If you care

“Musician” Justin Timberlake recently announced his concert tour of Australia, including a stop in Brisbane. The teenage girls must be thrilled. Tickets for the October show go on-sale tomorrow via Ticketek.

Personally, I’m disappointed to have missed The Cure when they were in town on 8-Aug (on account of exam studying). But the Powderfinger / Silverchair show titled “Across the Great Divide” rolls into Brisbane on 31-Aug, so there is solid hope yet for decent music.

My photos have moved

Yahoo! is shutting down its Photos service in favour of Flickr (which Yahoo! bought some time ago). As a consequence, my online photo albums have been moved to a new home. If you have bookmarked the old location, please update your Favorites/Bookmarks links now.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/shunwicks/sets

In closing, Anna and I are enjoying the winter months in Brisbane. Fresh food from the farmers market at West End, plus some good red wines, have meant for terrific meals.

Here’s hoping the summer has been a good one for you, with plenty of fun and relaxation. If not, then get your bum out from behind that desk and head for the beach!!