archive for December, 2006

Focus Game Online

The Focus Game is now online!  I’ve finally gotten around to converting my Focus Widget into HTML and JavaScript.  The widget version has been downloaded over 18,000 times so far from the Yahoo widget gallery and received very positive reviews.

The point of the game is to maintain your focus for as long as you can.  There is a little mousing skill involved, but not much.  Really, it’s all about fighting the boredom and testing your attention span.  How long can you last?

Flickr Tooltip Previews

You might have noticed that I’ve added tooltip previews of my Flickr links on my blog. When you mouse over a link to a Flickr picture, it will create a little floating image next to your mouse cursor.

Here are a few samples: Frost, Half Dome, Rose, Crater Lake, Brussels.
I’ve tested on IE6, IE7, Firefox 2, and Opera 9 on Windows. If you find a bug, let me know. I’ve made the code available here: flickr_tt.js. It’s pretty easy to install, but you may need an API key from Flickr.

I’d love to hear your comments. Is it useful or distracting? Any suggestions?

Back from New Zealand and Australia

We made it back from our trip to New Zealand and Australia this morning. I didn’t sleep at all on the flight home, so I’m really tired. Since I didn’t have much access to computers while I was away, I had to take notes the old fashioned way — on paper! I plan on posting those notes under their corresponding local times, so be sure to check for older posts cropping up.

Related Posts:
Day 0 – Waiting at the Airport
Day 1 – Arriving in Auckland
Day 1 – Walking around Auckland
Day 3 – Walking Queenstown and BBQ Bus
Day 4 – Skyline, Queenstown, NZ
Day 6 – Queenstown to Sydney
Day 8 – Blue Mountains
Day 9 – BridgeClimb
Day 11 – To Heron Island
Day 11 – Island Day
Day 13 – Going Home

Going Home

Well, we’re on our way home now. Yesterday, we checked-out of the Heron Island resort and took the ferry back to Gladstone. We hadn’t made arrangements to get to our hotel from the dock, but it looked like we were in the right part of town. We found an info booth and got directions. Luckily, we were close enough to walk.

We went back to Bo Jangles for dinner where we had a nice BBQ chicken pizza. Gladstone is the largest port in Queensland, but there’s not a lot for tourists. All of the shops had closed by noon, so we were left to watch cricket in our room. This morning, we woke up early and took a taxi to the airport. Our flight to Brisbane was uneventful (I just read the whole time). Then, we got to enjoy the Brisbane airport.

We followed the signs for “International Trans” until they dumped us off at the curbside with no more information. Eventually, I found someone to explain that we had to take the train to the international terminal, and that it would be free if we showed our boarding passes. Well, it turns out that we also needed our itinerary, which we luckily had with us. After waiting on the train for five to ten minutes, it started moving. We had to show our tickets again getting off the train. Once we made it into the terminal, we made our way through ticketing, customs, and security. We bought a few souvenirs and heard and announcement to go to our gate (more than two hours before our flight) because there’s another level of security for our flight. By the time we made it down there, we found that they weren’t ready for us and that it would be another 15-20 minutes.

This time through security, I got to learn of the craziness that has infected US flights. They confiscated the alcohol wipes from my first aid kit (the same ones that were fine on every other flight). They couldn’t have had more than a few drops of alcohol between them, but somehow they’re dangerous. It’s too bad that I didn’t have a small zip-top bag, because for some reason that would have rendered them safe. The really crazy thing was that they were letting people through with huge glass bottles of drinking alcohol that they had purchased at the duty-free shop. They also confiscated the souvenir pens that I had just bought, but the other pens that I was carrying were okay. Jesse made it through with identical pens. The lesson here: security is completely random. I guess that’s how they keep the bad guys off guard.

Anyway, we’ll be boarding in a while and on our way. I hope that we can sleep and that our baggage makes it to LA.

Island Day

Today was pretty good. We took a one hour cruise on a semi-submersible boat along the reef edge. I’m not sure what the submersible part is; you just go below deck and look out big windows (think Disneyland’s old submarines, but with a better view). There were only four guests that signed-up, so we got a pretty good tour. We saw several types of coral (stag horn, plate, brain, etc…), and tons of fish. There were even a couple turtles that swam by. I tried to take a few pictures, but I don’t think they’ll turn out.

After the “sub” ride, we went on a guided walk of the research station on the island. It’s really pretty good sized and can accommodate over 100 researchers. It’s run by the University of Queensland and is focused on studying the biology of the reef and islands. At the end of the tour, we got to check out some animals in an aquarium and a touch-tank. The sea-hare was pretty weird. We also got to watch a sea-star flip over (it took a few minutes, but was still cool). Overall, it was a very educational morning.

After lunch, we took a nap and then went snorkeling. We only saw one shark this time (a blacktip reef shark), but we did see several rays. The fish here are really different from what we saw in Hawaii. There we saw a lot less variety and more schools. Here, there’s tons of variety, and not much schooling (at least where we snorkeled). Once we got tired of snorkeling, we watched the sun set and had dinner. Island life is pretty nice.

To Heron Island

Gladstone‘s not too bad. I imagined that it would be much smaller and not have anything in the way of restaurants. It was very hot though. We found a nice restaurant down the road from our hotel and had pizza, chips (fries), and wine.

Yesterday, we took a helicopter to Heron Island. I thought it would be about as far from shore as Catalina, but it’s got to be twice that far at least. The flight was really cool. We didn’t go straight to the island, but instead flew over several other corral cays and reefs along the way as our pilot pointed out features.

After arriving, we got checked in, took a brief tour, and were shown our room (which is great). It’s not extravagant, but it has everything we need and is quite comfortable (although, A/C would be nice today). We had lunch and then registered for snorkeling.

We found our way down to “Shark Bay” on the far side of the island and waded in. The tide was coming in, and it was just getting deep enough to swim. After a few minutes, we saw our first ray, and then some sharks. Most of them weren’t very big — maybe 3-4 ft., but a couple might have been a little larger than that. I’m really not sure. It’s hard to judge sizes above or below water. It was a little weird to be swimming with sharks, but they left us alone, and we left them alone. We swam some more out to the coral and found some pretty cool fish. One was white with brown horizontal lines that would be good camoflage in those waters. After our swim, we got changed and walked around to take pictures and waited for the sun to set. Dinner is by reservation, ours was at 8:00 — not long after sunset.

After dinner, we headed out to the helipad for star watching. Unfortunately, it had been canceled due to the weather (it was a bit hazy). A few stars were visible, but the haze really scattered the moonlight and made it hard to see anything. We did manage to find a few turtles that had come ashore to lay eggs, but it was too dark to really see what was going on.