Friday, August 25, 2006

Look, Ma! No hands!

Yesterday afternoon, my son says to me, "So Dad, are you ready to try surfing?" In less than three minutes, the fellows were loading boards on the car and I was walking around in a wetsuit. Now, I have not ever surfed and the three other guys in the car are half my age. To say that I was a bit anxious is not overstating the case. We drive down to the beach, park on a curb, and the guys leap out of the car. "No, Dad, leave your clothes in the car. Yeah, and your glasses, too. Did you take off your ring?" I am beginning to wonder just how violent this experience will be.

The guys are carping because the water is "flat and choppy." That means that the waves are low and they break frequently. I do not realize that this means I will have to paddle like a madman. So they leash me to the board and Greg escorts me into the surf. It is cold. Really. It is winter here.

First obstacle was sucking down a mouthful of salt water trying to jump over a breaking wave. Makes me feel queasy. But there is no time for that; I have to get on the board now and paddle hard to get beyond the breaks. They have already told me that when I feel the board catch the wave to immediately jump to my feet, be sure to line them up on the center of the board, and stand up. All in one move. Before the board shoots out from under me.

Well, friends, this is the best I could do. That is me on one knee and one foot. Greg watches behind me. As soon as the wave dies and I fall off, he encourages me to get back on and paddle out again. I am exhausted. But the next wave is coming up. "Hurry, hurry, Dad! Paddle!" Boom, I get knocked off the board. "Get back up, Dad! Come on, push. Here, I'll turn you around."

When the next wave comes, I try to stand up and I feel the board slip out from under me. It goes one way; I go the other. Not one fiber of one muscle in my body has any strength left. I call it quits for the day. What do you expect from a guy who spends almost every day exercising his fingers (well, six or seven of them) on a computer keybord? But at least I got up twice. And I didn't die.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

We're going to the zoo, zoo, zoo. How about you, you, you?

There are several zoos in the Sydney area, though none are very close to the heart of town. Today we went to the Featherdale Wildlife Park. It is not massive, but the variety is good. There is only one crocodile, but he is huge. What is most striking is that many of the animals are wandering around loose in the park, so you can pet them or take their photos very close and they don't seem to be bothered. We petted a napping koala as well as a wombat and several kangaroos and wallabies. The cassowary, pictured above, gave us a stern look. These birds are actually capable of killing a human.

OK, I guess it would not be fair to talk about the kangaroos and wallabies without showing you a photo. Here is one of a mama wallaby with a joey in her pouch. We also saw a kangaroo with her joey's legs sticking out of the pouch. The resulting photos are too difficult to decipher, unfortunately.

Oh, yeah, we went to the Sydney aquarium as well (yeserday). Besides lots and lots of fish, there was a walk through tank with rays, turtles and sharks. Here is one now. Sorry the photo is blurry, but you get the right impression.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

News from down under

Our flight from Big Flat City to DFW was cancelled, as we learned ten minutes after boarding was supposed to have started. So there was a tense couple of hours as we waited on standby status for the next (and final) flight out. The DFW to LAX leg as well as the LAX to Sydney leg had to be rescheduled. And we had to wait to see if any of this would work while sitting in the Big Flat City airport.

OK, suspense is over. The very helpful airline employee brought us two tickets with the explanation: "They haven't shown up yet, so you get the tickets. I am going to hide now." When we got to LAX we called our son in California to ask him to call our son in Australia and let him know we would arrive at about 8:00 AM instead of 6:00 AM. It worked out for everyone.

Sorry I didn't get a photo out the window as we circled Sydney. The photo posted here is taken from the back deck of the house where we are staying. The name of this area is Palm Beach, if that gives you any clues. On Wednesday, we are invited to be in a sailboat race across this expanse of water. I will let you know.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Parting shot

Tomorrow afternoon, Cat and I leave for Australia. We are very excited, and perhaps a bit nervous, given the recent travel restrictions. New Zealand Air was boasting about increased traffic since they have a route from NZ to the UK via Asia. Don't have to fly through the US.

Here is the last Madison cow for a while. It was hard to decide which shot to choose, but this one seems the most beautiful and whimsical. I can't believe how much time the artists spent on these cows. The photo below is taken closer up. If you click on it to enlarge, you can really see the details.

OK, I promise that I will try to post a time or two while down under. There are bound to be some interesting photo opportunities, although it is the end of winter there, so the flowers may not be plentiful.

Friday, August 11, 2006

And they have a sense of humor, too

This one is called "Half and Half." Even the platform on which it stands has been halved. Click on the photo for a better view.

Half and Half, you made me laugh.
I thought that I might have a calf.
Folks walked by and heard me cry,
"See how this sight doth please the eye!"

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Esspess-chally for Mindy

How could I see this cow and not think of the Princess of Everything (and then some)? (For those of you who do not know Mindy, this is not a slam.) There was a piece of electrical conduit going up one leg and I suspect that the cow's crown lights up at night. This fine creature is on the plaza outside the Wisconsin state capitol building. Now, friends, you just don't see anything like that here in West Texas's Fake Cow City.

Have I mentioned the trip to Australia yet? As you may remember, our younger son plays in a band located in the Sydney area. Cat and I are going for a visit this month. And we are very excited. We have started stacking stuff in one bedroom so we can estimate the luggage requirements. Did you know that flying from West Texas to Sydney takes nearly an entire day and night? I'm going to start paying attention to those sleeping pill ads on TV.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Another cow

What interested me about the cows in Madison was the willingness to really spend time on them, transforming them from predictable to, well, art. The shadow this one casts is nice, too. Click on the photo to see it bigger.

The conference that I attended focused on distance education. About a year ago I got an email from a guy who wanted to teach online for my university. His email said he had gotten his Bachelor's degree from us decades earlier and now that he had his doctorate, he felt he wanted to give something back. I clicked on the link to his website and was startled to see the cover of his latest book--startled because it is in my bookcase at work. This guy is a nationally known expert in online education. Well, it did not take me long to sign him up to teach for us.

At the conference, several people, including one of the keynote speakers, commented on how important this guy's books are to the study of distance learning. And when I went to one of his sessions (yes, he was there), I got to shake hands with him for the first time. He introduced me to other folks as his boss. It was way cool.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

I'm baaaaaaack!

The next several days, I may or may not report on the Wisconsin trip--depends on spare moments. Over all, the trip was beneficial. The hotel was not horrid, though it was loud. One of the coolest things about the conference was the variety of people there. In the first workshop, I sat next to a woman who lives in Switzerland and works for the UN. In the same session was a guy who is setting up online training for a major manufacturing company, several people from the UK, and a number of administrators from seminaries and Baptist schools.

The building in which we met was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and is three blocks from the state capitol building, which is absolutely gorgeous. And, Mindy, they have plastic cows there too! Here's one now.

I will be replacing the (evidently) menacing eyeball with a flower picture every so often. These were all taken in Madison WI. And below you will find a shot of the capitol building taken from the steps of the convention center. Click on it to see it bigger.