Thursday, November 30, 2006

Seven miles from Sydney

When Arthur Phillip, captain of the First Fleet, first saw the beaches of Northern Sydney, he named them after the confidence and manly behaviour of the indigenous people who lived there.

On the ferry to Manly beach
Now Manly, with its classic Norfolk Island pines and its sun-drenched beaches, is one of the most popular beaches in Australia. Not as famous as Bondi, maybe, but a nicer experience all around. Sydney Ferries once advertised Manly as "Seven miles from Sydney, a thousand miles from care", and it certainly lives up to that reputation. Danger, Strong Current

We took the ferry to Manly last weekend, a leisurely ride of about half an hour, with gorgeous views of the Sydney skyline and the yachts in the harbour. When we arrived at the beach we had a bit of a cold breeze, and several stretches of beach were marked as having dangerous currents. But the beach volleyball games were in full swing, kids were playing on the beach, and there were plenty of people splashing around, and surfers looking for the perfect wave...

Dipping her toes in the waterSand delivery

At the north end of the main stretch of Manly beach, there is a large rocky outcrop. Our map showed us a smaller beach on the other side, and we decided to try and scramble over the rocks to get there, rather than going the long way around.

Through the wormhole

It was a bit of an adventure, and at one of the spots where we thought we would get well and truly stuck, we came upon a tunnel bored through solid rock, just for scramblers like us, with a graffiti label: "The Wormhole".

And on the far side there was our reward, Freshwater beach, another lovely stretch of sun and sand...

Freshwater Beach

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Congratulations, Tuku!

Congratulations to my little brother, who just joined the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, as an Assistant Professor in Electrical Engineering!

Tuku joins IIT-D

It is a big move, and we're all very excited. On the plus side, this was a long term goal of his, and it's a fantastic opportunity. On the minus side, he apparently needs official permission if he wants to "contract plural marriage"... What will the paperwork czars think of next?

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Our trip to Orange

Last Monday and Tuesday Shami had a two day pulsar meeting in a town called Orange, about a 4 hour drive West of Sydney. We were excited to finally get out of Sydney, and see a bit of the countryside. The adventure started when we rented a car, and experienced driving on the *wrong* (as in, not the right!) side of the road. Shami did all the driving there and back, and did very well. On Monday, I took the car out all by myself and tried my hand at driving here. It was a challenge, but it went well. I explored the town, and went to the local botanic gardens. One of the hardest things to get used to is that you must look up to your left for the rearview mirror!

Heading to Orange
The countryside was mostly dry, rolling hills dotted with cows and sheep.

Heading down the Three Sisters
We drove through the Blue Mountains area, which has been designated a World Heritage site because of its amazing biodiversity, and stopped at the town of Katoomba, which has a famous rock formation called the Three Sisters. There are steep steps leading down into the valley below, and gorgeous views all around.

The Three Sisters at Katoomba

Kangaroo and Wombat Crossing
We were hoping to see a kangaroo, or perhaps even a wombat. Unfortunately we saw only roadkill-roos, but at least we enjoyed the kangaroo and wombat crossing signs. In the Australian countryside, they are about as common as deer crossing signs in upstate NY, but seemed so much more exotic to us.

Finn and Rose at Orange
On Tuesday I went to an amazing playground with Laura Beth and Finn, and Steve and his twin girls, Rose and Xyla. I did a double take when I noticed this plaque. It turns out that this fantastic playground, in a small town in Australia, on the other side of the Earth from home, was designed by a company in Ithaca! In fact, when I first moved to Ithaca, I used to run with a designer at this company. It really is a small world...
Australian playground, designed in Ithaca!

Saturday, November 11, 2006

A day at the beach

Our friends Karen and Wynn, who are both astronomers, are visiting Sydney. It is a working trip for them, but there is always time for some fun too! On Saturday we went to the coast and walked a couple of kilometers north from Bronte Beach, through Tamarama Beach, ending up at Bondi Beach. These crescent beaches have wonderful clean and powdery sand, and they are separated by beautiful rocky cliffs and shores.

Walking by the ocean
This month there is an ongoing exhibition called Sculpture by the Sea, with whimsical pieces of art dotting the walk along the beach. Between the exhibit and the gorgeous warm spring day, the walking path was bustling with people.

Group on the beach
We started out at Bronte Beach.

Shami at Tamarama
Shami posing in front of Tamarama Beach, the smallest of the beaches we saw today.

Ice cream truck
It was such a warm day the ice cream truck melted!

Crosswalk sculpture
Australia uses just a pair of disembodied legs on signs used to mark pedestrian crosswalks. Here are the crosswalk legs, made into an oversized sculpture.

Bondi Beach is one of Sydney's largest and best known beaches. It is very popular with swimmers, sunbathers, and surfers.
Bondi Beach

Meghan in the water
We all had fun getting our feet wet. Next time we'll bring our swim suits and try some body surfing!

Friday, November 10, 2006

Vertigo: U2 in Sydney

It's on... After a cancellation in March, U2's Vertigo tour comes to Sydney's Telstra Stadium today.

Concert tickets

At Telstra stadium
(Later update:) Well, that was a great concert, even from our seats at nosebleed altitudes. It was a full-house crowd of 70,000+ at Sydney's Telstra Olympic stadium. Beginning with references to Sydney in "City of Blinding Lights" and ending with a didgeridoo player on the final encore ("Kite"), U2 kept the crowd electrified.

Crowds assembling for U2 A few bits from the set that stuck in my mind: The concert started in the rain, and Bono sang a few lines of "Here comes the sun" as the showers ended. "Sunday Bloody Sunday" was dedicated to the memory of the Bali bombings, particularly resonant here in Australia, with a plea not to become the monsters we are fighting. And there was "The Saints are Coming", marking Hurricane Katrina's impact on New Orleans.

U2 in concert
(Cameras were forbidden in principle, so the only pictures we have are small fuzzy ones from my cellphone camera...)

Sunday, November 05, 2006

An early Christmas?

Opening boxes
We've now spent over a month and a half in our new apartment at Rozelle, and we've managed rather well with just what we squeezed into the five suitcases we brought on the plane with us. But we've been waiting anxiously for the stuff we shipped from Ithaca by surface mail almost three months ago, even as our memory of what we packed in those boxes faded away.

So it was a real surprise and quite an exciting turn of events when ten of our boxes finally showed up at our door. Opening each box and rediscovering all the things we'd packed away in early August felt like an early Christmas!

Of course, now we need dressers, and shelves, and more storage space...

Opening boxes