Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Band Of The Week: super-mega-awesome feature... promise

Well, I didn't really feel like doing a proper Band Of The Week blog this week. So, instead, here's a few bands/artists I think everyone should check out.

Aamir al-Loki: Wonderfully odd self-described goth-pop. I'd put it closer to electronic rock, but goth-pop will do. Make sure to check out her new album Kill Your Demons. (Yes, I know I already wrote about her last week, but I'm just emphasising the point.)

Ahab: Funeral doom metal. I've never listened to doom metal in my life, but I'm pretty much in love with Ahab. Brilliantly atmospheric, plus their work's based on Moby Dick and whatnot. Someone on last.fm called it "whalecore". Made me smile.

The Damned Things: Pretty much straight up rock, with some melodic metal influences. Fall Out Boy + Anthrax + Every Time I Die evidently = a brilliant combination.

The Left Rights: Brainchild of Jimmy Urine and Steve, Righ? from Mindless Self Indulgence. Bizarre, crude, not all that imaginative, but good fun. Warning: may offend. No, seriously, may offend. I've seen the comments on some of their stuff.

Me And The Mountain: English, female-fronted rock. And if you dare compare them to Paramore I'm likely to kill you. Just because it's a female fronted rock band doesn't make it like Paramore. Besides, Me And The Mountain are shitloads better than Paramore. The debut EP Ruthless is due out at the beginning of February - should be on the iTunes store.

Get Scared: Post-hardcore type stuff. Or possibly rock with post-hardcore influences. Who needs this whole Black Veil Brides hype when you can have Get Scared and they're so much better?

The Blackout: More post-hardcore. Better live than on disc, so if you get the chance to see one of their gigs, take it. Although I warn you, it may mangle your knees. Check out their new track too - free download at the mo.

Last but not least, the wonderful Emilie Autumn, love of my life. Well, my musical life and she's a gorgeous woman too. Hey, a girl can dream. Ahem. Self-labelled "victoriandustrial", look out for the epic electric violin solos against industrial beats. On top of all that scrumminess is her voice. Eargasm, much. Seriously, go check her out. Hmm... maybe next week's band of the week can be for EA. Seeing as she's my favourite musician and all that and I don't babble about her enough. Mmm.

Anyways, go check them out, tell me what you think and pass it on.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Randomness: Downloading

I was going to write a post about the recent "rock is dead" crap. And then I got sidetracked and thought maybe I'd write about the X Factor and all it's associated bollocks. That brought me onto Biffy Clyro (who's track Many Of Horror got butchered by this year's X Factor winner) and that made me think about music downloading, legal or otherwise.

You see, I've now got a fair amount of Biffy Clyro in my library. Out of that, only 3 tracks were properly paid for. 4 tracks came from a free exclusive acoustic disc given away with Kerrang! last year and the rest I've taken from a friend. I am fiercely opposed to illegal downloading, so I should probably explain why I don't have a problem with sharing music with my friends. I know, if I give music to my friends, that at least I've paid for it. It's not like going on a file-sharing site and making it available for hundreds of people. That said, I was rather pissed off to find that most of the Biffy Clyro tracks my friend gave me are actually illegal downloads. My conscience kicked in and now I'm going to save up and buy them legally because I really don't like illegal downloads.

The reason I don't like illegal downloads is this. Quite simply, it's stealing. A lot of hard work goes into making music and so does a lot of money. What then, gives you the right to simply take it for free? An old advert they used to show in cinemas said "You wouldn't steal a computer, so why steal a movie?" or words to that effect. Surely the same applies to music? Just because it's not a physical entity (in the case of downloads), doesn't mean the same hard work hasn't gone into it.

Several people have said to me that they download illegally because they can't afford to buy it. What a load of shit. If you don't have the money to buy something, you don't steal it. You save up until you can afford it, just like you would with anything else.

I'm afraid I have to agree with all those people who have said that downloading has made music a disposable purchase. People hear a song, like it, download it illegally, listen a couple of times and never listen to it again. People expect to be able to get music free. And then when people like me point out to them that maybe the artist needs that money, they say they shouldn't be in it for the money. Let me say once again: a lot of money goes into making an album. You can't just magic it out of thin air. They have to make that money back somehow. And now, with the rise of illegal downloading, more money is actually made from touring and merch.

Ugh. In short, illegal downloading irritates the shit out of me, even more so when people try to justify it. And I'm going to leave it there, otherwise I'll just keep ranting.

Note to self: never ask a certain friend for music again. Just experienced another major problem with illegal downloads - the files aren't necessarily safe. Not sure what was wrong with it - no viruses found, could've been a corrupted file or something, but it crashed my laptop in exactly the same way said friend's laptop kept crashing last year. Hmm, coincidence much.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Band of the Week: Aamir al-Loki

Well, Band of the Week has been rather MIA the last few weeks. My bad. But it's back now - happy times all round! This week we have the lovely Aamir al-Loki, a solo project by a lovely lass I bumped into online.

Aamir al-Loki is a self-described goth-pop musician. Personally, I think there's more of an electronic rock influence than pop, but I can see the gothic tendencies - subject matter, tone and overall feel. I first checked her out some time last year when I asked for suggestions of new music on deviantART.com. I can't say I was all that enthralled at the time, but then I did just skim through the tracks available without really properly listening. I was also slightly put off by the somewhat silly artist bio. Then last week I was asked by the artist if I'd write a review of her new album, Kill Your Demons. Well, I needed some music to review for the group I run on dA, so I figured I'd have a look. This time I listened properly (you kinda have to when you're reviewing) and I fell in love. I downloaded the album within a couple of minutes of hearing the 30 second preview snippets, stuck it on repeat all day and the next day pumped out a glowing review. Said review has now been tweaked because no one wants to read my gushing about how brilliant it is. It is brilliant though.

That done, I had to download the debut album, It's Easier In The Afterlife. That's now going through it's fifth rotation since I bought it yesterday afternoon. I'm as much in love with that as I am with the new album. Now, instead of gushing some more about her brilliance, I'm going to attempt to explain why Aamir al-Loki is worth spending your money on.

Firstly, she has a voice which I would personally rate as one of the best I've heard recently. It puts me in mind somewhat of Emilie Autumn (who just happens to be my favourite musician EVER) - beautifully ethereal in parts and yet capable of turning harsh within seconds. The music reflects this, with hard electronic beats powering the tracks along underneath sometimes exotic sounding instrumentation. This is why I'm more inclined to label it electronic rock than goth-pop. Or maybe electro-goth. Can you have electro-goth or have I just made that up? Whatever.

I also love that there's so many little influences showing up. There's an instrumental track on Kill Your Demons called How To (Properly) Utilize Your Newfound Immortality. My first thought on hearing it was "this sounds like it's come out of the 80's". It's a lovely little chunk of synth-pop. I should have expected it really - I know she loves Tubeway Army.

What else to say? I love her. She's awesome. Go download her music now - (Kill Your Demons) (It's Easier In The Afterlife). Or if you're of the CD buying kind (which I would be if I had a CD drive, grr), and you live in the US, you can buy a physical copy of Kill Your Demons here. Check it out, let me know what you think and pass it on.

Assorted Aamir al-Loki links:

Recommended tracks:
From It's Easier In The Afterlife: My God, Guillotine, Myopia, It's Easier In The Afterlife, Let's Start A Cult
From Kill Your Demons: How To (Properly) Utilize Your Newfound Immortality, John 3:16, Romans, Khuda ke Bacchey, Kill Your Demons

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Seriousness: Queensland Floods

Band of the Week is coming in a couple of hours and I apologise for two serious posts in a row, but I needed to mention this.

As I'm sure many people are aware now, vast tracts of the Australian state of Queensland have been devastated by flooding in the past weeks. An area apparently 5 times the size of the UK and twice the size of Texas has been affected. Three quarters of the state have been declared a disaster zone. Given how huge the state is, that's an absolutely massive area. At least 30 people are dead, with another 61 still missing. 15 of the deaths are from this last week alone, after a huge wave of floodwater ripped through Toowoomba and the Lockyer Valley and flooding spread to previously unaffected areas such as Brisbane and Ipswich.

All in all, Queensland is having a rough time of it. Flooding in the last few weeks has ruined food crops - some farmers have estimated that they may have lost up to 95% of some crops. This is affecting even those areas not subject to flooding. I was in Cairns last week and the supermarkets there were having shortages because a) crops had been lost and b) there were problems actually getting the produce up to Cairns. Many roads have sections underwater, which is playing havoc with transport. Townsville, down the coast from Cairns, is having to bring supplies in by sea, despite not being directly affected by the floods.

It's not just Queensland, either. Flooding has been ongoing in parts of New South Wales since mid-December and Melbourne has had flash flooding in the last few days. Western Australia experienced floods in December too, when the Gascoyne River burst its banks. In my Travelling post, I included a picture of a sculpture named "Cow Up A Tree" because during flood events, cows can become stuck in trees. I thought it was quite silly at the time, but I just read a story from a farmer in Western Australia who has seen some of his cows stuck up trees. Not so funny any more.

But back to Queensland. The point of my posting this was to tell you a) about the floods and b) to tell you you can help. All you have to do is go here and donate to the flood relief appeal. Some people have lost everything and it's going to take a long time to put it right. The floods aren't over yet - new areas keep coming under threat and some towns are still underwater. Just this morning, I read that a town up the coast from me in Tasmania has been flooded. Not Queensland, but it does show that this flooding isn't over yet. A cyclone seems to be forming off the Queensland coast too, which is going to cause even more problems.

You know what got me though? The international coverage. The flooding started weeks ago. It's got progressively worse, yes, but it started weeks ago. I remember seeing Rockhampton inundated on the news before New Year. Obviously, the coverage in Australia has been ongoing since it began, but the international media only seem to have picked it up in the last week. And yet, when Europe and the US were having ridiculously cold temperatures and vast quantities of snow, it got covered on Australian news. So why on earth does it seem to have taken so long for everyone else to notice the floods. Let me repeat those comparisons again - an area roughly twice the size of Texas is affected. That's HUGE. How has there been so little coverage outside of Australia? Ah well, no point in complaining.

Weather's fun, isn't it...

Queensland Flood Appeal donations here.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Seriousness: vaccines

I have had it up to here with people scaremongering about potentially dangerous ingredients in vaccines. The latest is this: Flu vaccine contains mercury (via @TimMinchin on twitter). Basically, it claims that one of the flu vaccines used for children contains a type of mercury that some people think is dangerous. Please note: SOME people. So I did a little digging of my own. I've seen scaremongering like this before, particularly with regards to the MMR vaccine. The doctor who authored the research which suggested MMR was dangerous subsequently got struck off for his dodgy research and in my eyes and others is at least partly responsible for those children who died because he scared their parents into not giving them the vaccine (see HERE - yes, I know it's wikipedia, but all the relevant references are linked within that section).

So, onto this mercury compound, thiomersal,  in the flu vaccine. Even a quick dig through that ever unreliable site wikipedia is enough to say it's probably safe. The World Health Organisation reckons there's no evidence for it being overly dangerous (see HERE, there's a lot of stuff). I mean, they're the biggies of the health world, you'd think they'd check through the research properly and come to a justified conclusion. Apparently certain people think not and this gives them grounds to write scaremongering articles like the one linked above. In particular, the article suggests that the removal of thiomersal from vaccines in the US and Europe is due to its dangerous effects. Try again, love. These two pieces say otherwise and I'm more inclined to believe them than some shoddy journalist: Mercury, Vaccines and Autism and The US Food & Drug Administration's vaccine FAQs. I promise they're both easy to read. The point is, the removal was precautionary, because at the time there seemed to be some evidence that thiomersal could be dangerous.

So, coming to the conclusion that thiomersal isn't dangerous, at least in the low doses present in vaccines, why oh why do people feel the need to write articles that say they are? Because they sell papers? Well, yes. But you know what, I think people are genuinely scared. They hear one little whisper of a possible danger and not being the logical minded individual that some people are, they don't consider the overwhelming body of evidence and latch onto the one, dire example. That's what happened with MMR. One man wrote a paper containing manipulated evidence suggesting the MMR vaccine, given to almost every child in the UK, was a cause of Autism Spectrum Disorders, the newspapers got hold of it and suddenly parents are panicking. I doubt most of them read the original paper. There is no link whatsoever between any Austism Spectrum Disorders and the MMR vaccine. None, nada, zilch. Andrew Wakefield, the man who wrote the paper, was struck off in May last year (2010). Among the charges against him were 12 counts of abusing developmentally challenged children, i.e. those children with autism that he used to give (shoddy) evidence for his study.

Basically, everything about Wakefield's study was a load of absolute bollocks. Having said that, if the newspapers hadn't got a hold of it, maybe we wouldn't have had the problem we had. The paper would have sat in an issue of The Lancet (a medical journal) quietly by itself, perhaps provoking some discussion among medical professionals. Instead we got nationwide panic, vaccination levels dropping and a few years later, guess what makes a comeback? Measles, mumps and rubella. Measles and mumps especially and they kill people. The man sickens me.

What's really awful though, is that even though the study has been discredited and its author struck off, people still won't vaccinate their kids because they're scared. When I was with my relatives near Sydney at Christmas, I discovered that my mum's cousin isn't going to vaccinate her 5 month old little girl. Her older sister has a son with autism and the family seem scared that it was the vaccines that did it. Regardless of the fact that his older brother is fine, they're still scared. Now, I can kind of understand this, but you know what they're using as an alternative? Homeopathy. Yes. Homeopathy, this biggest load of bull the medical world has ever come across. There is absolutely no scientific evidence that it works. How can it, when the doses are so dilute there's basically no active ingredient left? The only effect you're going to get is placebo and I'm sorry, love, but that won't work against diseases. It hurt to see them putting their beautiful little girl at so much risk, simply through fear. I wanted to say something, but my mum gave me a warning look, like, don't upset them. Upset them? By all means, if it'll protect their daughter.

And at that, I am going to end, because I'm getting pissed off once again about something I can do nothing about. Suffice to say, all vaccines are stringently tested before use and if you do happen to come across something that claims a vaccine is not safe, I'd advise you to read up on it before you freak out. Things are not always as the newspapers make them out to be.

Saturday, January 8, 2011


Warning: epically long, rambling blog. Not that that's much change from normal...

This is what I've spent the last 5-6 weeks doing. The first 3 weeks were spent with my friend Paul and the last 3 weeks with my parents, sister and grandad. Much much fun. Many photos. Not necessarily good photos, but photos nonetheless. Feel free to ask what any of the pics are - it took so long to put them all in, I just couldn't be bother to caption them all. Have fun, my lovelies

Part 1: Tasmania
Paul arrives late Friday evening (26/11/10), much wandering down Macquarie Street trying to find him. Saturday is spent wandering into city, checking out TMAG (Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery) and doing shopping. Sunday follows much the same – wander into city, wander to RTBG (Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens), wander back, wander round, check out tourist information, go to cinema (Harry Potter 7, pt. 1). Monday slightly more eventful – book tours for Tues & Weds, wander down to Battery Point and raid the second hand bookshops (Classics fix: Metamorphoses, the Oresteia and the Theban Plays).
    Tuesday head out early to go on tour to Port Arthur and Tassie Devil sanctuary. Paul not v. impressed with Port Arthur, annoying guide on boat. Paul more impressed with Tassie Devil sanctuary – cute baby devils. Paul not so impressed with limited time at each place. I was happy just to go snap happy with the camera. Many pics.

    Wednesday another early start to head up to Wineglass Bay. Weather not brilliant, but still gorgeous. Wasn’t pleased with people stroking tame wallaby in car park. Not at all. Walk up to look out nice, but horribly unfit – not so nice. Gorgeous view, even with shitty weather. Paul almost took out some guy when he slipped on the wet rock. Silly boy. Lunch in Honeymoon Bay – again, gorgeous, many brilliant pics. Paul happy to wander round being an ecology geek. Happy times. Also, Letterbox cave pretty cool. Very well hidden, surprisingly big.

    Thursday early start again. Bus up to Launceston. Hit Launceston about 1pm, grab lunch, wander round, get bored, head to Tourist info, book bus and tickets to Tasmania Zoo. Still bored so head to museum place. Lots of interactive stuff. Awesomeness. Whisper dishes especially cool. Not happy that awesome gallery with dinos was closed, but interactiveness made up for it. Back to backpackers, tea, boredom. Went to cinema – Due Date. Very funny. Crash. Early again for bus to zoo. Zoo nice but small. Baby Tassie Devil, hand-reared, very cute. Paul insanely happy. Weather miserable. Bus back to town. Cataract Gorge. Weather much better. I moaned about the walking track, but views were amazing and walk back was much less strenuous. Didn’t realise I was so unfit. Bus back to Hobart. Rain in Hobart. Crash.

    Saturday… what did we do on Saturday? Presumably not much. Stayed awake all night because no point in sleeping because airport shuttle at 4am. Ugh. Paul napped. Lucky sod. Slept on flight, missed breakfast, but got brunch (quiche). No furbies allowed on plane. Giggles. Alice Springs boiling. Hostel nice, plus free wi-fi. Pizza for tea. Crash.

Part 2: The Red Centre
    Monday early (again). Drive to Uluru. Nice people on tour. Cultural centre = awesome. Uluru = spectacular. Kata Tjuta also amazing. Nice walk despite heat. Back to Uluru for sunset. Many photos. Aman already annoying. Vanessa already apparently perpetually miserable. Everyone else lovely.

    Tuesday stupidly early – sunrise. Gorgeous. Base walk amazing. Many photos. Guided walk with Rachel also awesome – love the stories. Drive to Kings Canyon. Pretties. Too hot. Swim. So nice. Campsite pretty cool. Upgrade again. Anand attacked by bugs, as always. Shithead with Paul, Stefan, Dana and Anand, much giggles. Sleep.

    Wednesday not so early. Kings Canyon walk. Heartattack hill aptly named. Beautiful views though. Pics galore. Stick feet in waterhole. Paul went for swim. Finish walk. Lunch. Back to pool. So nice. Dead, floating bugs not so much. Back to Alice. Fishcake & chips. Chat with Paul, Stefan, Anand, Asano, Misaki and Florence till fairly late. Sleep.

Part 3: Adelaide
    Thursday bus to airport. Flight to Adelaide. Nice chatty Aussie guy on flight. Chicken sarnies on plane for lunch. Yum. Adelaide much cooler. Only one night in hostel (cos Paul is silly) so book second night in YHA cos other is full. Introduce Paul to Dr Horrible. Watch Meet The Fockers. Crash.
    Adelaide Zoo on Friday. Giant Pandas (Paul more interested in reds, understandable). Many cute and fluffies. Many not so cute or fluffy but still awesome. Whole day at zoo. Surprised. Move to YHA. Find card for Moonlight Cinema. Bored so go. The Expendables. Not brilliant, but it’ll do for whiling away an evening.

    Saturday Tandanya – Aboriginal Cultural Centre (?). Very interesting. South Australian Museum – pinch free wi-fi. Bored. Head to Glenelg on tram. Tram quite expensive. Not much in Glenelg and too windy to lounge on beach. Grab Subway for tea and head back to Adelaide proper. Still bored as hell. Grab luggage and go to get Greyhound. Almost don’t check in. Almost lose ticket. Finally get on bus. Very little sleep. Ugh.

Part 4: Melbourne
    Melbourne at 6:30 on Sunday morning. Everything closed except 7/11. Tram to accommodation. Can’t find accommodation. Have to ask guy in motel reception. Find accommodation. Have to wake up RA to get into accommodation. Poor guy. Head back into city on tram. Have no idea where to get ticket for tram. Head to station. Get ticket. Wander city. Find gallery. Indigenous art very interesting. Paul decides to buy book about said art. Find live, free music in square. Lounge in sun. Get food. Home. Sleep.
    Monday, get week ticket for tram. No more worries. Book Great Ocean Road Tour. Book tix for Biffy Clyro on Thursday. Paul very happy. Disney exhibition at ACMI – amazing. Other gallery also interesting, but Disney pwns all. Lunch. No free music today, just some illusionist type dude. And a giant green wishing penguin. Paul insists on photo with penguin. Weird. More wandering. Chinatown is boring. Feet in much pain. Go to State Library for exhibitions but closed at 5pm, now five past. Lounge on grass. Discuss random shit. Head home on busy tram. Tea. Glee. Sleep.
    Great Ocean Road on Tuesday. Gorgeous views. Many hours on a bus. Early start. Much sleeping on bus. Koalas in tree – Paul v happy. Many photos. Argument with fallen dead tree. Scratch across right knee, coupled with existing blisters = uncomfortable right leg/foot. Drinks in nice pub/bar in city. Limp back to accommodation slightly tipsy. Happy times. Sleep.

    Wednesday… not much really. Went in the State Library to look at the picture book exhibition – pretty cool. Wandered round for a bit. Grabbed lunch at Pie Face. Internet cafĂ©. More aimless wandering. JB Hi-Fi – cruel. Lots of Deep Purple, so that’s Dad sorted for xmas. More aimless wandering. Tea. Night market at Queen Victoria Market was pretty cool. Got Amy’s xmas pressie. That’s two down, Mum (and possibly Grandad) to go.
    Thursday was immense boredom. Wandering. More wandering. Bought Dad’s CDs. Home. Lunch. Melbourne Museum definitely not so boring. Pissed that the Forest Gallery was closed, but I’ll just talk parents into taking me this week. Chicken Parma = scrummy. Home. BIFFY!!! Calling All Cars (support) were also fucking amazing. So much so that I bought a t-shirt. Gotta love self-decapitating teddies…

    Friday morning took City Circle tram. Not so great. Kinda interesting in places but generally boring. Lunch from Pie Face. Park… somewhere. Paul left for bus to airport. Expensive wi-fi in apartment, so head to Fed Square to pinch the free stuff. Boredom. Telly. Family finally arrives at gone 11pm, thouroughly jetlagged. Fun times.

Part 5: Melbourne take 2
    Family jetlagged. Apart from Grandad. Weird. Should not leave travel diary till 3 weeks after it happened. Cannot remember what we did. Erm... oh. Pizza for lunch. Then indigenous gallery at the Ian Potter Centre again. Then... park... possibly... Fairy Tree. Creepy. Still cannot remember...

    Sunday suspect was City Circle tram... yus... Queen Victoria Market too. Possibly. Then aquarium. I think. Probably. Penguins = total epic awesomeness. Also - sharks and turtles. Very cool. Feet in pain.

    Monday = Great Ocean Road take 2. Only went as far as Lorne. Saw a few Wicked campers. Love 'em. Loads more pics of pretty views.

Part 6: Phillip Island
    Feel sick Tuesday morning. 2 hour + drive down to Phillip Island does not help. Koala Conservation Centre does. Several cute fluffy sleepy koalas, including one witha joey. No snakes. Then down to the Nobbies. Many gulls. Have to pay to use seal cameras so don't. Mum becomes obsessed with small fluffy squeaky penguin. Tell her I'll buy her one for xmas. Happy Mum. Dad not so impressed. See small penguin in nest. Cute. Penguin parade = epic awesomeness. Many many cute and fuzzies. Funny watching them climb hill back to nests. 6cm legs not good for climbing.

    Wednesday = Churchill Island. Heritage farm kinda cool. Cute ducklings, plus a wallaby enclosure. Several cute wallabies. Nice walk round island - many photos. Family get sunburnt. Silly. Should remember to top up suncream. Oh, and a walk down Cowes waterfront in the morning. More pretty views.

Part 7: Mittagong and surrounds
    Flight to Sydney on Thursday lunchtime. Glad not in Uncle Les' car on way to Mittagong. Scary driver. Brant much safer feeling. BBQ for tea. Mandy already making an impression - never runs out of energy! Crash.
    Christmas Eve (Friday) spent with Mandy, sightseeing. Mt Keira lookout - padlocks on fence. Wanted to pinch the keys. Wollongong seafront for lunch. Pelicans on lamppost. Dad using camcorder more often. Down to Kiama to see blowhole. Didn't blow. Bushrangers Bay and Bass Point (?). Then to The Farm - beach. Wave jumping. Do not like spiky seaweed - attacks round the ankles and knees. Sea water up the nose. Amy loves it. Mandy's friend makes scrummy hummus. Tea in pub in Bowral. Yummy burger. Wine. Nice.

    Slightly hungover Christmas morning, but good nonetheless. Parents appear to have left The Book at home. Should not be annoyed but am any way. Can't help it. Gorgeous earrings though. Toy Story 3 from Grandad - will have to find some way to play it. i.e. external disk drive. Colleen makes way too much food, but it's nice food. Raspberry cruisers are yucky. Lime much better. Swimming again in the afternoon in some random friend of Mandy's outdoor pool. Awesome. Lunch leftovers for tea. Crash.
    Boxing Day with Uncle Les - Berrima and something else that I can't quite remember. Galahs everywhere. Coll stays at home - poor thing. Breakfast with Wayne, Ros and Guy. Guy's a sweet kid.

    Monday in Canberra? Yep. War Memorial gorgeous. Parliament not so interesting. Wooden wombat earrings - awesomeness. Stop at Big Merino on way back. Scary giant sheep. Tea at a Chinese in Bowral... or possibly Mittagong. Epicness - banquet type thing. Bit of everything.

    Tuesday... Blue Mountains, probably. Railway was brilliant. Nice walk in forest. Saw lyrebirds, but not mimicking. Cable car not so cool, but good guide. Skyway pretty boring other than view of waterfall. Walk back from Skyway instead of queuing again. Lunch at some point. Amy buys ridiculous amount of koalas for friends. Now stuffed in random places in bag. Spaghetti for tea with Coll's brother, his wife and Mandy.

    Wednesday family day. Fitzroy Falls and Kangaroo Valley. Nice pie. Awesome new shell ring. Mad fairy for Mandy's xmas tree. Bowral. Meh. Stop off to see Wayne on way back. Springy dogs. Tea at a pub in Bowral. Ciderrrrr.

Part 8: Sydney
    Drive to Sydney uneventful. No hangover - happy times. Hotel turns out to be a Masons Club. Ah well. Walk down to waterfront with Les and Colleen. Grandad walks back with Les and Coll, we head further down Circular Quay. Opera House steps. Pretties. Ice cream. Short walk through the Rocks. Not much there. Fail to find steps to bridge. Ah well. Bar for tea. Awesome burger. Park - giant bats. Sleep.

    New Year's Eve. First walk to bridge. Find bridge this time. Head up pylon - interesting museumy bit. Nice views. Claim space on Opera House steps to see fireworks at midnight. Fail to stop Grandad getting sunburnt. Silly man. Fireworks at 9, 10, 11, 11:30, 11:45 and finally at midnight. Epic awesomeness. Find out how hard it is to take decent fireworks pics. Hotel. Phone Paul. Crash.

    Taronga Zoo on New Year's Day. Grandad has another 'duh' moment. Zoo awesome but see no platypus. Cute baby elephant. Tea at 24 hour restaurant with free wi-fi. Email happy birthday to Claire. Hotel. Wine. Fizzy - not so good. Sleep.

Part 9: Cairns
    Sunday = airport yet again. On different flight to everyone else. Ages of boredom. Free wi-fi in terminal 2 though. Good stuff. Cairns hot and sticky. Wander round in flip-flops. Silly thing to do. Raid the tourist info. Crash. Again.
    Monday = chill day. Pool before breakfast. Book reef and rainforest days. Pool again. Supermarket and wander down to Reef Fleet Terminal. Tea. Pool again in the rain. Awesomeness. Hair does not agree. Condition the crap out of it. Happy again. Crash.

    Tuesday on the reef. Freak out first time snorkelling. Don't know why. All right after that. Semi-sub cool but can't see much. Glass bottom boat much better. Driver cool too - really into his stuff. Grandad spends most of day sitting on pontoon. Get feeling he's not enjoying it. Oh dear.

    Wednesday epically awesome. 4WD rainforest tour. Driver totally awesome and see loads of stuff. Almost end up with pet stick insect. Amy freaked over a (huge) spider but managed to walk past it. Well done her. Poor sibling. Wallabies made her happier. Lovely smoothie at fruit and veggie shop in Mareeba. Tea at Mediterranean place. Defeated by chicken parma again. Pack properly for first time in weeks. Crash.

Part 10: Back to Tassie
    Rude awakening at 3:30am for 4am shuttle to airport. Damn parents and their ability to get lunchtime flights when I have to leave at silly o'clock in the morning. Manage to stay awake long enough to get on plane. Feel ill. Think it's the tiredness. Fall asleep on plane. Watch some of inflight film. No idea what it is, but funny and sweet. Katherine Heigl. Will look it up. Wait in Sydney Airport for hours for connection to Tas. Mark offers to pick up from airport in Hobart. Awesome.