March 31, 2018

Evil Twig

You know the old superstition that bad luck comes in threes?

First, one of the riders in our group broke his chain. [Fixed.]

Flying down Old Santa Cruz Highway, it sounded like I'd suddenly caught a piece of paper in my wheel. Strange, I didn't remember seeing anything like that on the road.

I slowed and stopped. Nothing there. Maybe it came loose. Maybe it was a leaf?

I started rolling again. Something wasn't right. Was something rubbing? Another cyclist pulled up behind me. He spun the rear wheel, listening. “Oh look, it's flat.”

I pulled out a fresh tube and set to work. There was a suspicious cut in the tire—all the way through. Which, sure enough, corresponded to the hole in the tube. “This is weird,” he said, as he folded the old tube. “Feel that? There's something inside the tube.”

As we loaded our bikes at the end of the ride, a minivan pulled up and dropped off a solo rider and his bike—which he proceeded to load into his car. Evidently he'd needed to hitch a ride back, unable to recover from his mechanical issue. (It comes in threes, I tell you.)

Our group of four had cycled a mere 18 miles (with 1,905 feet of climbing and more than our share of breakdowns).

Back at home, I sliced the tube and pulled out ... a piece of a twig, similar in size to the shaft of a pencil and roughly tapered at one end.

That pierced a tire? And tube? And lodged itself inside?

Off with both Mavic Yksion (Comp) tires, on with the Continental GP4000S tires I trust.

March 23, 2018

Daylight Bonus

With a forecast for a dry day, I eagerly prepared for a long-overdue bike commute.

Then I woke up, groggy, to a chilly morning (37F). As the minutes ticked by, I doubted I could make it in time to get cleaned up before my first meeting of the day. [I've starred in this movie before ... ]

If I'm tired now, how would I have the energy to bike back home?

💡 But wait! That's it! Take the shuttle now, bike home later! 💡

With no time to waste, I showered, ate breakfast, swapped the street clothes I'd packed with my bike gear, and dashed off to catch the early bus. [I did forget my water bottle. And evidently I'd neglected to replace the spare I keep at the office ... sigh.]

I made it (barely). The bus caught me as I raced to the pick-up point. Our oh-so-thoughtful driver greeted me: “I was trying to figure out who it was!” she said. [Not my usual folding bike.]

How did I forget about this option? During the dark winter months, I take the shuttle home if I bike to work. With daylight savings time in effect, there is no good reason not to do the reverse when early morning meetings make it impractical for me to bike to work. [I am not now, never have been, and likely never will be, a “morning person.”]

The ride home felt delicious! [Well, except for the obvious reminder that I need more saddle time. Ahem.]

March 10, 2018

Australian Museum

Crossing through Hyde Park, I happened upon a small flock of Sulfur-crested cockatoos that were poking about in the grass and mulch at the base of a tree. Having met them only as pets up till now, it was a treat to see them just being wild birds.

I was headed for the Australian Museum—another recommendation from a colleague. The entrance walk features reproductions of some famous fossilized footprints of indigenous people dating back 20,000 years.

In a natural history museum, there's no telling where I'll end up. Rocks and minerals. A captivating exposition about feathers and wings in the bird exhibit. Did their ancestors leave any trace on this land?

Yes, dinosaurs roamed Australia, and the museum has a cast of a Muttaburrasaurus.

So much to see! So much to learn! And never enough time.

All too soon I would begin the long journey east across the Pacific, returning home.

Till next time ...

March 4, 2018

Bondi to Coogee

My colleagues had a few suggestions for how I might spend my weekend. Manly Beach? [I'd left my swimsuit at home.] The Blue Mountains? [Maybe next time, with a plan.]

The Bondi to Coogee Walk seemed ... just right. With Google as my navigator, I found the bus to Bondi Beach (and, later, the bus that would return me from Coogee).

Alluring tide pools drew me away from the walk—well-worth the detour. By chance, there was a blue dragon (sea slug) in a pocket of water. Venomous [need you ask?], because it preys on the dangerous Portuguese man o' war, collecting and concentrating the jellyfish's venom. [Yikes.]

A few beaches featured seaside swim clubs, which seemed popular.

Even on this overcast day, the waters of the South Pacific Ocean were a dazzling aquamarine.

[Bondi blue, actually.]

The geology of the place is a planetary-scale reminder of human insignificance.

Weathered sandstone, hundreds of millions of years old.

It will remain, long after the monuments of the curiously-located Waverley Cemetery have been reclaimed by the sea.

After 4 miles with several interludes of steep stairs to climb, I was tired. Rightly tired. Back to work, tomorrow.

March 3, 2018

Taronga Zoo

Visiting Taronga Zoo was high on my list of things to do in Sydney, and not just due to this week's preview at the office. I was excited at the chance to see as many of Australia's unusual creatures as possible.

The ferry ride, past the Opera House, was a bonus.

I don't remember the last time I've visited a zoo. I do remember seeing my first bald eagle decades ago, at the San Diego Zoo, and how sad I felt that it was standing on the ground, confined. Now that I recognize the role that modern zoos play in the conservation of endangered creatures, I saw this family of Western Lowland Gorillas in a different light.

It was a warm day, and the animals were coping with that as they naturally do: they sleep. Koalas, of course, mostly sleep (as much as 20 hours per day).

A curious wombat emerged from the cool of its den.

There was one big bird that was completely unfamiliar to me: the cassowary.

Some opportunistic locals roamed free.

I had no idea there were native crocodiles. I'd heard about Australia's spiders and snakes, but not about the dangers of the platypus: An egg-laying mammal with a beak like a duck and a tail like a beaver; the males have venomous spurs on their hind legs.

Towering giraffes, towering buildings.

And a towering Aermotor (Australian-style), in the farmyard section!

A foraging wallaby hopped across a footpath, while the kangaroos lounged in the shade.

It's all happening at the zoo.

March 2, 2018

A Day at the Office

In a most peculiar concurrence, my daily route to the office connected me to my roots half a world away.

Here, along the waterfront, the Australian National Maritime Museum had mounted an outdoor exhibit on the container shipping industry: The Box that Changed the World.

An exhibit chronicling the industry that employed my dad, from its earliest days through the last of his days.

I wonder if he understood how revolutionary the indusry was? He didn't talk about it.

I think he would have enjoyed the exhibit, and he'd be awed by the massive container ships of the 21st century.

My workplace is very different. Very different. It so happened, for example, that folks from the zoo stopped by and brought some of the local fauna along. [What lucky timing!]

Not only could we observe and learn about the animals, we could pet them, too! Directionality is key with the echidna.

The fur on the ringtail possum was impossibly soft.

And all those spikes on the bearded dragon look intimidating, but its skin was really supple.

Someone generated a visitor badge for Zippy the tortoise, much to the delight of the zookeepers.

The short-beaked echnidna, though, was the crowd's favorite as it explored the room, waddling and poking about. A mammal? That lays eggs?!

March 1, 2018


My body was saying “Okay, I know you did something here, I'm not sure what, it's some kind of trick you've played on me” ... but I wouldn't call it jet lag.

Having successfully run the visa gauntlet, I have made my first trip to Australia (to work with our local team).

I discovered it was a lovely walk along the waterfront to the office in the morning.

And a lovely walk back to the hotel at the end of each day.

One of the first things I noticed was the sound of birds I'd never heard before. I was excited to spot an Australian White Ibis perched overhead. My colleagues laughed. “Bin chickens,” they scoffed. Like the Silver Gulls (but far less aggressive), they have adapted well to feeding on our scraps.

I spotted the occasional Australian Magpie, and a pair of Masked Lapwings one day when small piles of compost were being spread on a grassy field. I never did find the source of the unusual calls, though.