airports – a special type of micro/systo/eco/cosm

20 07 2011

On the road again…

Yep, heading home after a long week in Denver attending a conference and sitting in a bar at Denver airport killing time. I mean, what else can you do at an airport other than drink coffee or beer and eat. I suppose you could wander aimlessly wondering how you can spend that last $18 of local currency that’s not worth hanging onto. And it’s not worth worrying about the price because what else are you going to do?

Anyway, fairly easy trip in a shuttle out to the airport and then got changed into more comfortable travel clothes and packed the bag before checking in. Managed to get a window seat to LA and then and aisle on the jumbo for the 14 hour flight to Melbourne. I bought myself one of those travel pillows to wrap around my neck and will be very interested in how it goes. A few hours sleep between the movies will be very welcome.

Denver airport

Denver is a large airport and a significant domestic transfer hub and quite busy. Architecturally it’s special with a marquee type vinyl roof intended to reflect the Rocky Mountains. Actually looks a little like a Bedouin tent from the outside and provides a nice diffused light inside. So, people are busy eating fast food, hanging around, sleeping on the floor, browsing the stores, sponging free wifi (like me) and generally making the most of being captive in this closed system environment. Yep, there are rules and lots of security (particularly getting out to your departure gate), and I was impressed by the ‘ambassadors’ stationed around the concourses who seem to be retired people that answer questions and provide help if you need it.

I suppose the one thing everybody has in common at an airport is that they are all going somewhere – unless they are seeing someone off, or work there. There’s a mixed mood of excitement about heading off somewhere as well as one of frustration as the sense of movement is stymied by the processes and systems of security checks. I reckon fair enough, because I for one would like to be safe as I travel and recommend giving yourself some time between connections so you don’t get stressed.

Now time has been killed, and blog post written – might mosey off to my gate and then sit around to read my magazine and/or book as I’ve another hour till boarding. Oh, and hoping the new pillow will perform as advertised.

away for the weekend – heading North rather than South

11 04 2011

During the first weekend in April we enjoyed some time in Castlemaine in rural Victoria (rather than the usual trip down to Cape Otway). It happened to be the opening weekend of the (10 day) Castlemaine State Festival and we thought it would be fun to check out some of the local arts & crafts and get away for a few days. Very thankful for the perfect weather and it was fairly easy to walk around the town checking out what was on display. Amongst other things, found a large sculpture of a sitting Buddha made up of recycled computer motherboards.

Motherboard buddha

There seems to be lots of local painters, sculptors, writers etc. living in around Castlemaine and we managed to get around to see quit a few things on display in public venues as well as in their home-galleries. This meant a little bit of driving as some people live out of town. We didn’t get to see any performances (other than street buskers etc.) but great to see plenty of public activities and the farmers market on the Sunday. We also dropped into the local library and were amazed by a display of some of things that have been found in returned books.

Ex Libris Detritum

On the Saturday afternoon we caught the VLine train into Melbourne, and went to see play Café Scheherazade. This was a very special and enjoyable experience. We know the book by Arnold Zable, and have been to the cafe itself for a meal, so to watch this story performed (from the front row) was wonderful indeed. This was a lovely treatment of an emotional story(s), and managed to portray the complexities of the lives of those who have lived through the Holocaust and eventually migrated to Australia.

Fantastic that we could have some time out and be inspired by the beautiful countryside and the diverse creativity of people.




time for a holiday (with some adventure thrown in)

3 06 2010

a quick entry before we head off on a time of holiday travelling in Europe again. It’s been a very busy first half of the year and time for a much needed break away from the normal routines and demands. Heading off to the airport soon, and once we get through check-in and customs I’ll be sighing with relief and starting to relax. Looking forward to warmer weather and seeing some more of Italy (particularly Sicily) and a conference in Barcelona.

You can follow the journey at the Europe 2010 blog.

it’s a lot about people & connecting and reconnecting

24 11 2009

I have just returned from a trip to Queensland where I attended the Learning Technology Conference 2009 in Mooloolaba (you can read more about that here), I met up with old friends whom I hadn’t seen for 30 years, and caught up with some of my family in Brisbane. The weather was warm and not too muggy and I even enjoyed a swim in the ocean (where the water’s much warmer than what we have in Victoria).

The conference enabled me to meet some old friends (from last year) and also connect with some other friends who I’ve met on line, but had not yet met face-to-face. I also met some new friends with whom I’ll keep in touch online. It’s great to talk & share with like minds about what we do professionally. So, my Personal Learning network (PLN) has been consolidated and extended.

As well as ‘networking’ at the conference I was also able to meet up with friends that I hadn’t seen for thirty years! Great to hear about each other’s lives, marriage, work, children, travels, etc. etc. The best thing was that it all felt easy and natural, no pretence and easy laughs. Wonderful. Also catching up with closer family and being comfortable at my home away from home. It’s always nice to touch base, and get a sense of how live is going for them. Lots of food, stories and laughs as well. We are social beings and those connections between family and friends are important – good to be able to share, encourage and support others who are meaningful to us.

It’s not always fun to be away from home and the family, but I felt very comfortable when visiting, as my hosts were generous and kind. It does make a difference when you can feel at home at someone else’s place.

The travel was fairly straight forward with web check-in making airport procedures quick and it easy trip back – it was very nice to get home.

Oh, and did I tell you how easy it is to eat too much?

Home, Sweet, Home. Reflections on six weeks in Southern Europe

2 08 2009

It’s August already and we’re thinking about the approaching spring, doing tax returns, and wondering were the first half of the year went. It’s good to be back, but just back from six weeks of travel in Europe, I wanted to reflect on what we were able to see and experience while visiting (spending time in them, not just traveling through on the train) 41 cities in Italy, Croatia and France.

A few things stand out, new learning, the weather, the people, the places, the history, and the geography. I might tackle the first three in this post, and write about the others later…

I suppose as an educator, I realise that I have learned quite a bit without really setting out to so. It’s probably more about how open you are to being willing to spend the time understanding your surroundings. I’ve heard of tourists who come along for a package tour, fail to try to understand the local culture, customs and language, half listen to their guide, and spend a lot of time in their own company or with their friends. They go home having ticked some boxes (places they’ve visited and things they’ve seen), but have failed to broaden their understanding of their own place in the world and how the world might have influenced that. I’m not sure of globalisation has led to this, but I was struck on our short visit to Italy, Croatia and France by the local cultures that presented themselves, in contrast to the multicultural city, state, country that I live in. Even though Europe is getting smaller with the low cost travel and the advent of the EU, I’m so thankful that we have such a wonderful multicultural society and that we’re able to experience the ‘difference’ that provides (like food, customs, language), without feeling like a foreigner.

Well, the weather was consistent. Between 25 and 35 mostly, still and usually clear blue skies. Often there were storm clouds brewing at the end of the day, but in the six weeks they only turned into thunderstorms twice. On a few days it was much hotter but on the whole, it could become boring. By this I mean in contrast to what we experience in Geelong. We get the heat in summer, but it’s usually only there for a week before there is a change. Well, that goes for just about all the weather. And we get lot’s more wind. I only recall one day that was particularly windy and on those warm days when you are walking outside, a breeze would have been nice. Oh, and quite a bit of the accommodation we stayed in (when not air-conditioned) didn’t have a simple fan to help create a breeze on those (more then) balmy evenings.

I can say that after spending some time with them, I’m becoming endeared to the Italians, well most of them… Some (generally those in the tourist industry) who need to deal with people asking them dumb question all day, do seem to get a little annoyed by it all, and maybe should think about getting different jobs. We did strike a few who really didn’t seem to care and didn’t try very hard to help. We didn’t really notice a difference between the people from the North or South of Italy, but then we only spent a week in the South. Others seem genuinely happy to help and once they know you are Australian they like you even more. They do have difficulty telling anyone who speaks English apart and we were often mistaken for German or English people. Wendy worked out that if you said you were visiting from Australia, you are enjoying your visit to italy, and that you would like their advice – we generally got a favourable response. The questions you ask are very important in getting the information you want, so it’s important to ask a lot of them and try and be specific. The Croatians on the whole seemed happier and friendly, but there was a fair bit of pressure on us at times when people were touting for us to go on a boat trip or to have a meal in a restaurant. The old city in Dubrovnik was especially touristic but there weren’t enough of us around yet to satisfy all the services available. I was pleasantly surprised by the people in France. Because we made an effort to use their language when out in the cafes and shops, we generally got a good response. We met some locals and their were good to chat with but there is an underlying snobbishness if you aren’t a ‘local’ and have a mastery of the language. Not to worry, I felt comfortable enough in each country to get by and exist without having to employ the service of a translator. Amazing what a rudimentary grasp (of greetings, numbers and common words) can do for you…

maybe shorter, but more frequent posts could be made

18 05 2009

It’s May already and winter is fast approaching along with the middle of the year. We’ll be into June soon enough and that’s just fine because it means time for a break. Holiday break that is.

Yes, looking forward to spending some time in Italy, Croatia and France during June/July. Planning for this trip is well under way and the itinerary is coming together. I’ll be blogging of course, so bookmark this: There’ll be insightful commentary of our experiences as well as evocative images of the sights we encounter.

I’ll be posting up an itinerary and have created a Google map of the route we will be taking. We’ve some interesting places to see and amazing accommodation to go with it, but more on that on the travel blog.

a week away #2

2 07 2008

Up early for Wednesday the first day of the emerging technologies conference hosted by University of Wollongong. Went for a walk to the beach and up to the Towradgi Pool while the sun came up. Fantastic! Nice to watch the sky lighten and the cloud formations over the escarpment were amazing. Actually looked quite threatening as a bunch of dark grey clouds built up against the hills, but nothing as far as rain or storm eventuated.I felt that good I broke into a jog and kept it up for 1 couple of kms down the beach, decided to stop and turn back when I saw about 9 plovers all hanging around in one pace (having a meeting) above the water line – weird.

On to the conference (which wasn’t a large one – just the right size to feel comfortable and personable) and registration on the lovely ‘parkland’ campus. We’d checked the program the day before and decided on what we’d attend and managed to get to a few different things. The keynote’s by Tom March and Ron Oliver were both good and stimulated our thinking about what we do with technology and that we need to think about the type of learning we expect student to do. We were challenged to think about getting beyond the ‘tool’ (like, forget about the wiz/bang!) of technology and use it to focus on learning activities that are meaningful, relevant and authentic. …and the food was good too, my discipline held out, in that I only filled up my little plate once during lunches! It was full, but I only ate enough. So, Wednesday and Thursday fairly full off listening, taking notes, talking and making acquaintance, at the dinner on the Wednesday evening it was also nice to be able to chat with different people.

On Friday after the morning workshops (wikis, blogs, mobile devices, digital stories, Wacom tablets etc.) we left Wollongong and headed out south/west to visit the Illawara Fly. It’s built by the same people who did the Otway Fly and is a different experience as it looks out over the escarpment to ward Wollongong 50 kms away. Our visit means that Wendy’s now ‘done’ all the Australian tree tops walks!

Then back on the road and stopped at the Berkelouw book barn (a surprise for Wendy) just outside Berrima. Had a coffee and found a few books in this huge timber lined place with heaps of books which isn’t like your second-hand op shop. Then on to Yass to stop overnight and ate at the motel restaurant (phew – don’t normally eat huge pub meals like that anymore – too much cheese and cream!). A great sleep and away early with a MacCafe to get us started (after some muesli in our room). The Macca’s (just off the highway in the middle of nowhere) had 30 people in it at 7:30 am (not all getting coffee 😉 ).

Had to stop for some fuel in Chiltern (amazing little historic town) and then on to Beechworth and a wander round for a couple of hours. Had the obligatory pie at the Beechworth Bakery (I think they’re famous for being famous … so I won’t flatter them with a link to their establishment). We also topped for a drink at a cafe and met the ‘coffee shop nazi’ who wouldn’t let me take a photo of the cork screw collection and had a display of books with little signs saying “This is a private collection – Don’t Touch”, and with little chains strung acroos the shelves so you couldn’t take the books out anyway. So, no link to her establishment either. The legend of Ned Kelly keeps the tourist attraction alive, and heaps of boutique shops. Then via Milewa and Oxley (didn’t stop to buy any cheese or wine) and along the straight, flat road and back onto the Hume for a while before diverting to Benalla. Enjoyed a stop at the art gallery and an exhibition of James Gleeson (Uncertain Times), Ted May (The Face of Shakespeare) and the Sixth Lieca/CCP Documentary Photography Award Tour. All very different exhibitions and interesting ways of representing (aspects of) the world.

I fnished listening to the Wasp Factory by Iain Banks (which was “darkly comic, truly horrifying and well-paced, but most of all it’s expertly written and you’ll just want to read more and more”) before arriving back into Melbourne for pleasant dinner with Ash and home around just after 9 (in time to watch the second half of the game where Geelong thrashed the Eagles! )

Phew! another excellent trip…

a week away #1

30 06 2008

Thought I’d better write up what we did during our week away to attend a conference in Wollongong. Might do that in two posts so here’s #1

First stop Canberra, and went to the Jamison Trash & Treasure Market run by Rotary on the Sunday morning. What a hoot! A crisp, cool, breezy morning and a gold coin donation to get in. Lots of stuff out on the ground, trestle tables, backs of vans etc. Food & produce, trinkets, tools, chooks, books, knick knacks, second hand stuff galore… What struck me most was the multicultural atmosphere – if not leaning towards an eastern European flavour. Apparently the professionals come in before 6:00 am and snap up all the real bargains/treasures…

Before leaving a quiet inner city, we had a coffee in a very busy cafe in town said goodbye to Leo and headed off to Bungendore which has an amazing cluttered bookshop (the shelves so close together you couldn’t get past anyone). Lots of people around on a pleasant Sunday afternoon which gave the place a buzz and and even had to stop for a steam train. Then a bit further up the track another coffee and a gallery (some very nice Japanese stuff) and quick shop for supplies in Braidwood – which would probably be nice to spend some time discovering.

Stopped just north of Batemans Bay at Pretty Beach (Murramarang National Park) in a self contained cabin. We arrived as it was growing dark, taking the road less travelled through the bus rather than the long way round on the highway … and were greeted by a bunch of grazing Kangaroos! Well, they didn’t really greet us – just looked up, saw we weren’t a threat, and kept on eating. It was a bit blustery and overcast in the morning as we walked on the beach, but the wind blew the clouds away and the day cleared up. Saw a Sea Eagle and some interesting stuff (rocks, flotsam & jetsam etc.) on the beach – we were the only one’s out. Funny to see the kangaroos out so close to the beach.

On to Wollognong via the tourist drives to see what’s along the coast. Off the highway after Ulladulla (with a cute steel lighthouse covered in scaffolding and being repainted) to Sanctuary Point and then Vincentis and Huskisson at Jervis bay. Another detour off to Shoalhaven heads and along the Seven Mile Beach to Gerroa and back to the highway. Great to be able to slow down and see what’s happening to some of these sleepy little villages turning into rather nice retirement enclaves. Also nice to be on cruise-control and motoring along at 100 kmh missing most of the countryside. If you got the extra time – the tourist drives are worth it – even for the extra 30-60 minutes it might cost you. You never what you’ll find.

Next day on into the Wollongong Surf Leisure Resort and unpacking in our cabin before dinner with friends. Spent a pleasant evening catching up and enjoying Helen’s laksa. We borrowed their internet connection to work out how to catch the train to Sydeny the next day.

Train ($15.40) from Fairy Meadow (northern suburb of Wollongong) into Sydney an hour and 45 mins, stopping at Central station and then the City Circle to Circular Quay. Amazing to get out of the train and see a couple of icon Sydney landmarks nearly close enough to touch – well, close enough to put them in a good perspective. The Bridge, the Opera House and the Ferries all make for a bit of a pause and reflection. I’m not sure if this central aspect of the city and proximity of landmarks makes Sydney seem to be much tighter than Melbourne… Bumped into a service called Podfrey which turns the city into an art gallery where you can wander around following maps and watching video and listening to audio commentary on places of interest on your iPod Touch (or your own if you have the files). Looks cool – now how to apply this idea to an educational context. Wandered around the Rocks, under the Bridge, checked out the Garrison Church, up Observatory Hill for a rest and then back down to ‘the best coffee in Syndey’. A little hole in the wall run by a Macedonian woman that served good coffee and nice pastry to go with it. Then back on the train to Central and wandered up Parramata Rd to the University of Sydney to meet an academic Wendy had ben in touch with. Back on the train for the trip home loaded up with coffee and steamed pork buns – yum! Sydney in a day…

(ps. no rubbish bins at the train stations! took them away before the Sydney Olympics – you know why)

to be continued…

from Wollongong

20 06 2008

This morning I’m attending a workshop on wikis and blogs which is part of the ’emerging technologies’ conference that we’ve been at in Wollongong. Hopefully it will be good and I’ll learn something new about the technology and also about how you can teach /run a workshop (successfully or otherwise) to help others learn about them too.

This afternoon it will be ‘on the road again’ as we start our journey home. First stop the Illawara Fly tree top walk and then Barima (and a book barn) and hopefully all the way to Bright by this evening. Then the last leg home tomorrow with maybe a stop off in Melbourne.

Talk to you later…

listen to the falling rain

26 05 2008

Enjoying very much the sound of the rain on the roof this evening… I like the rain. There’s something about the noise of it (white), the wetness,, the drops and sheets of it, the capriciousness (and sometimes the downright pelting), the colour it brings to things, the puddles it creates, the way it cleanses, and the freshness it brings. Also acknowledging it’s life giving importance that it provides through water. I am glad we’re starting to get a bit smarter about the our use of our water and hope our leaders continue to encourage and support changes in the way we use it. Listen to it fall.

Was on the road for four hours today – trip to Warrnambool and back. Some amazing clouds (we keep a copy of The Cloudspotter’s Guide in the glove box) in the sky and rain/thiunderstorms as we left Colac for the last hour home to Geelong. The trip was reasonably uneventful except for when a truck and I decided to pass car slower car. We were behind a truck following a slower car when we got to a passing section on the road and I followed the truck past the car and thought I’d pass the truck… Had to get to 140 to do so, and thought maybe I shouldn’t have done that?! Yep, no sooner thought than the truck was up my clacker flashing hi beam and I was on 105kms p/h. Well, not very comfortable, so slowed and pulled over on a straight bit to let him past and watched in disbelief as he proceeded to pull into a servo 2 kms later (and only 500 mtrs in front of us)! WTF? I’ll give him/her the benefit of the doubt and blame it on the drugs they’d taken…

My friend Mark can tell you a good story about adventures on the road that make you stop and think for a bit. Makes you reassess the priorities.

Make the most of each day, and as Australian Story suggested tonight, when shit happens (everyone’s got problems), get on with it.