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The universe is closed today . . . We'll be back after lunch.

The universe is closed today . . . We’ll be back after lunch.

The day before I leave Australia and in baseball parlance, I hit a double. It could have been a home run, but for one little detail . . . The Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium was closed due to upgrades being installed and wont re-open until March or April. The Planetarium runs regular shows in the Cosmic Skydome for public and school groups, observing sessions in the observatory and occasional public field nights.

The original Zeiss star projector was removed from the Cosmic Skydome during the upgrade in 2010 and was placed on display in the foyer in early 2012. A replacement optical star projector will be installed in the Cosmic Skydome and as I said earlier, that wont be complete for 30-60 days. The Planetarium features the 12.5m Cosmic Skydome (hemispherical planetarium theatre) with a recently upgraded, state of the art, digital dome projection system; an observatory containing a permanently mounted Zeiss 15cm refractor and a Meade 20cm “Go To” Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope; extensive photographic and model displays in its Foyer and Gallery including the 1969 Moon landing with a replica of Neil Armstrong’s space suit, the Space Shuttle, and Mars expeditions, as well as a free mini-theatre featuring a regularly updated Space Telescope Science Institute web feed.

You can still look in the sky though . . .

You can still look in the sky though . . .

Damn. I am a big, big “cosmic star” buff and even have a telescope in my living room for looking at the moon and universe. No smartass, it’s not for spying naked women in the adjacent condo complex.

I bet you can eyeball women in Sydney with their telescope.

I bet you can eyeball women in Sydney with their telescope.

I was looking forward to climbing Mt. Coot-tha, visiting the Brisbane Botanic Gardens and the aforementioned planetarium. All three are located in the same general area, in the suburb of Toowong. I guess two out of three isn’t bad. Mount Coot-tha is also a suburb of Brisbane. The suburb does not house any residents though. It features a number of “bush” tracks (trails) and the one I selected was a nice hike, except it was really muddy in a few places due to the inordinate amount of rainfall that Brisbane has received this week. In fact, it rained on me during the hike. Par for the course, eh? Seriously, it was quite refreshing, as the temperature seems to go down when it rains here.

Kerry and I.

Kerry and I.

Kerry.

Kerry.

What else? Yesterday, I gained a couple of new friends – Kerry and Gareth.

Gareth at probably the "prime" location for receiving WIFI reception in the entire %$@!& Chill Backpackers building.

Gareth at probably the “prime” location for receiving WIFI reception in the entire %$@!& Chill Backpackers building. This spot is where all the “kids” party and it is NOISY!

Gareth was about to "pound the pavement" for an accounting job interview.

Gareth was about to “pound the pavement” for an accounting job interview.

Kerry, just moved here from Melbourne and is originally from the West Coast of the South Island, New Zealand. She only arrived in Brisbane the day before and is planning on making this her home. Her and I met earlier in the day at another event and we chatted afterwards. We decided we were both hungry and decided to get lunch together. We found an excellent open air restaurant at the Queens Mall. This place had the best salad I have had in Australia since arriving here a couple of weeks ago. If you are reading this Kerry, thank you for a wonderful day! I really enjoyed chatting with you!

"Merv" was the Botanical Gardens tour guide. His knowledge about trees, plants, and flowers was impressive.

Gareth is from Ireland and he has an interesting background, i.e., he has traveled quite a bit himself, having spent time in the United State (Cape Cod, Mass. and Madison, Wisconsin); Philippines; Thailand; Vietnam; and a couple of other foreign countries. He is here on a work visa and is trying to find work as an accountant. He is also staying at the same place I am – Chill Backpackers, so we have been chatting each day and decided to have dinner together last night. We took the train to an outlying district of Brisbane, where ethnic food (Indian, Vietnamese, Chinese, Thai, etc.) rules supreme. The area has a sort of “edgy” feeling to it, quite unlike the “touristy” area I am located in. I liked it.

Related to a pineapple. That's as much as I know.

Related to a pineapple. That’s as much as I know.

We found a Vietnamese restaurant that we both suspected would rock. Why? The place was packed and there was a wait of 15 minutes. Those are always good signs. Our intuition was correct, as again, I had a meal (dinner this time) that was one of the best I’ve had since arriving in Oz. We started with Spring rolls and I had a combination veggie noodle dish. My meal came with a lot of seafood, including calamari, large shrimp, octopus, mussels, scallops, squid, and some sort of fish (Cod?). It was delicious!

Similar to the last plant, but with a more elongated pineapple like fruit.

Similar to the last plant, but with a more elongated pineapple like fruit.

Unlike most Asian restaurants in the U.S.A., this place recognized that people liked to relax and enjoy their meal. Consequently, we weren’t served one minute after our order was taken. As a result, we must have spent approximately 2 hours plus there . . . Primarily, cracking each other up with our personal stories; as well as comparing notes about U.S. culture, politics, sex, etc.

Basically, we decided that the U.S.A. is on the cusp of insanity on a variety of subjects. Insofar as my trip is concerned, I am much safer here on vacation, then I am back at home. I discussed some friends of mine, who told me to be careful and safe when I went on this round the world trip. Gareth cracked up when i said that and responded, “Did they mean not to visit Australian movie theaters or walk by the elementary schools?” I said, “No, they meant I should pack a gun.” HAHAHA!

This tree attracted my attention due to the trunk.

This tree attracted my attention due to the trunk.

You really had to be there to understand this “black humor” (or maybe not). I got even with him when I discussed his Irish Republican Army and their dislike for Brits. He indicated that everyone dislikes the British and root against them whenever a sporting event features them and Scottish, Irish, Wales, or crown colony teams. Pick your sport, because it doesn’t matter. He points out that most people he knows even root against them when they play the French or the United States.

I saw this tree while hiking Mt. Cooth-tha

I saw this tree while hiking Mt. Coot-tha. I think those spikes are some sort of “protective shield” the tree has developed to protect itself against pests, e.g., birds, insects, etc..

He asked me a lot of questions about U.S. politics, especially our House of Representatives. He wondered why they still were the ruling power in that legislative branch? When I mentioned that Republicans were allowed to “draw” the district maps and I specifically mentioned, “gerrymandering,” he immediately understood that word and said, “Ahh, I get it mate. It’s the Golden Rule, those with the Gold, get to make the rules, eh?” I said, “yeah, something like that.”

A type of fig tree. Adam and Eve would have a difficult time covering up.

A type of fig tree. Adam and Eve would have a difficult time covering up.

It’s fascinating to hear someone’s opinion of your country. I think I’m a very open-minded person, so I wasn’t offended by some of the perceptions he has about us. If you can’t laugh at yourself or where you came from, then there is something wrong with you in my opinion. Besides, I am from San Francisco – the home of “open-mindedness.”

A famous Boab tree. I saw a much bigger and wider tree at the ANZAC Memorial in Brisbane a couple of days ago, but it was raining hard and I couldn't take a photo. They store water, which is used not only by the tree, but animals and insects as well during drought conditions.

A famous Boab tree. I saw a much bigger and wider tree at the ANZAC Memorial in Brisbane a couple of days ago, but it was raining hard and I couldn’t take a photo. They store water, which is used not only by the tree, but animals and insects as well during drought conditions.

Ironically, I recall the same thing when I spoke to people from New Zealand; and especially so, when I visited South and Central America last year.  You’ll have to admit that we have some crazy ideas about guns, politics, religion, and sex. If you don’t, then people from other countries definitely think we do.

I thought this was a type of bamboo, but I could be mistaken and it might be a type of palm.

I thought this was a type of bamboo, but I could be mistaken and it might be a type of palm.

That last subject (sex) elicited more laughter, especially when I said that you essentially have to promise marriage to a woman in our country, if you expect anything beyond a kiss. OK, OK . . . It’s not that bad. Nevertheless, we do have a “Puritan” like streak or background that hasn’t completely been assimilated by other ethnic and cultural groups. However, he nodded his head vociferously up and down, when I told him that it was almost as if I was given the “key to the Candy Store” when I was in the Air Force and stationed in England. Grin. In short, we both agreed that the U.S. is a bit more uptight about sex than Europe.

A Japanese garden. The Japanese typically have small plots of land, so they try to use materials that give the illusion of space. Bonzai trees, water, and rocks are usually part of any garden they create.

A Japanese garden. The Japanese typically have small plots of land, so they try to use materials that give the illusion of space. Bonzai trees, water, and rocks are usually part of any garden they create.

So between mouthfuls of Vietnamese cuisine, I was mostly laughing. By the by, I have to listen carefully to Aussie accents, not to mention New Zealand and Irish ones too. My brain is usually a nano-second behind what is being said, thus I really have to focus listening to the person I am speaking with, as well as eyeballing the person’s lips. For whatever reason that I still haven’t figured out yet, It all sounds funny coming out of their mouth. 🙂

Japanese garden.

Japanese garden.

I probably wont post for 3-4 days, not knowing what to expect in Thailand, insofar as WIFI and internet access. So should this be my last post about Australia, I just want to say that I eventually ended up really enjoying this country and everyone I have met here has been gracious, kind, and patient with me. Two weeks is obviously insufficient time to explore a land as large as Australia. I don’t believe in regrets, but if I was to change anything about my trip, I would have probably alloted another couple of weeks to go to the Gold coast and dive the Great Barrier Reef. However, I can always come back, right?

While hiking, I spotted this lizard between those 2 large leaves. Click on the photo - as you can with all these images - to zoom in. These guys were all over the place and frequently, quite large.

While hiking, I spotted this lizard between those 2 large leaves. Click on the photo – as you can with all these images – to zoom in. These guys were all over the place and frequently, quite large.

Here are some more pictures of my Australian adventure . . . See ya on the flip side in Bangkok, Thailand. 🙂

Interesting frond.

Interesting frond.

A building that was used to grow ferns and other tropical plants, that wont grow in Australia's sub-tropical climate.

A building that was used to grow ferns and other tropical plants, that wont grow in Australia’s sub-tropical climate.

Roof of this botanical gardens building.

Roof of this botanic gardens building.

Cactus and other "dry" species you might find in Arizona.

Cactus and other “dry” species you might find in Arizona.

Pond.

Pond.

Turtle sun bathing. A half hour later, there was a down pour of biblical proportions.

Turtle sun bathing. A half hour later, there was a down pour of biblical proportions.

A tree with multiple personalities. OK, OK, would you believe a tree with multiple trunks?

A tree with multiple personalities. OK, OK, would you believe a tree with multiple trunks?

Water lily.

Water lily.

Beautiful flowers.

Beautiful flowers.

Elephant sculpture. No idea why it is on its head. LOL.

Elephant sculpture. No idea why it is on its head. LOL.

Kurilpa bridge over Brisbane river.

Kurilpa bridge over Brisbane river.

This bridge tripped me out. I have no idea if this is some sort of suspension bridge or what. I read where it is called a "tensegritty" cable stay design, whatever that means. This bridge won a major architectural design award in 2011.

This bridge tripped me out. I have no idea if this is some sort of suspension bridge or what. I read where it is called a “tensegritty” cable stay design, whatever that means. This bridge won a major architectural design award in 2011.

The light was quite interesting, with the sun in the background, so I took this picture.

The light was quite interesting, with the sun in the background, so I took this picture.

One last shot of the Kurilpa bridge.

One last shot of the Kurilpa bridge.Ku

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