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Thinking about Travel Lenses

shutterbug
After such a long delay what could possibly be so important that it prompts a post? Family disaster? Work insanity?

Nope - travel & lenses. Critical to the operation of the universe, no?

For those of you who aren't photo or tech geeks, feel free to check out now or wander over to our travel blog and read all about our recent trip.

Here's hoping someone is still with me :)

The background: next October, R and I are off to explore the wilds of Panama & Costa Rica! The central part of the trip will be a cruise, but either side will be several days (3 days in Panama, 4-5 in Costa Rica is the current thinking) doing more traditional travel things. To say I'm super excited would be an understatement, and I've already started gathering ideas (cocoa plantation! white water rafting! volcanoes!) and looking into learning Spanish*.

The other thing I'm thinking quite critically about is my photography gear. Having a DSLR means not only having more control, but also more options.

My current set up is:
1. a Pentax k5 body
2. 18-55mm kit lens
3. 24mm Tokina old school prime (which cost me all of £25, but behaves strangely in bright sunlight)
4. 70-300mm Sigma(thanks Dario!)
5. 150-500mm Sigma (double thanks, Dario!)

The one thing that I'm learning though now that I'm about 5,000 photos into my Pentax, is that I don't really change lenses much when out and about. I prefer to choose my lens and head out for the day. This is doubly true when I'm out in the country. Finding a stable, relatively clean, convenient place to do the lens switcheroo is a pain (don't drop the lens down off the cliff!), irritates R (hold this, cap that) and takes time away from enjoying what we're doing.

So yeah it doesn't really happen. And honestly, the vast majority if the time either my 24mm fixed or the kit lens works just fine. If you look at my photos on flickr you can see that most of the time I'm shooting landscapes, cityscapes or architecture. Not infrequently I'm up quite close for macro style portraits of objects, and only rarely would I need a long zoom.

Still, those times** that I *have* needed a long zoom and not had it or had to switch lenses for it (and so missed the shot anyway) have been super annoying. And considering that wildlife will be a major feature of next year's big trip, I'm nervous about missing quite literally once in a lifetime moments.

A long way to say - I think it's time for a new lens. After a good bit of research I’ve narrowed it down to three:
  1. Pentax 18-135mm (the one I really want is discontinued, 18-250mm)
  2. Tamron 18-200mm
  3. Sigma 18-250mm
Not having actually shot with any of them (and not likely to prior to buying since I’m the only one I know with a Pentax), and having balanced out all of the factors (including a very superficial twitter discussion), I think the Tamron is going to be the winner. Not only is it nearly $200 cheaper than the other options, but it is actually the manufacturer of the discontinued Pentax branded lens I really want. Considering that I’ll mostly be shooting outdoors in plenty of light, I’m not too worried about the relatively low minimum speed. The barrel distortion at the low end also doesn’t bother me too much either as I have the two supremely satisfactory lenses I already have cover it. It also seems slightly sharper in the test photos I’ve seen than the Sigma.

Thoughts from the peanut gallery? Anything else I should be considering that I’m not? What lenses do you use for hiking/travel?

*Latin American Spanish, of course which is not as easy as you might think in London.
**example from our most recent trip...

  • Stephen's mom: oh look! A seal!

  • Stephen to me: did you get his picture?!

  • Me: *bangs head against rock as I have the fixed lens on*



Yoga - new teacher, may challenge

yoga
tashar and austengirl asked how my search for a new yoga teacher is going. I mused about part of my dilemma in a comment on _ishtahar_'s real life blog a few weeks ago, but let's start from the beginning.

I've actually been attending my usual class with the new guy. It is just ok, but very tense. He always puts a cd on to "distract us from the gym sounds", and then proceeds to ignore it. This drives me bonkers, not only because it changes tempo several times during the class, but often it leaves me torn between his count and the music. Sounds stupid but I have trouble moving not in time to music and so this isn't a little thing.

He's trying really hard to be mindful of our existing practices while challenging us and pushing us out of our complacency. Still, his corrections make me uneasy and I find myself asking him not to correct me.

In her post on what to do about rude yoga students, Ish wrote:
But by far the worst thing that has happened to me was when I was covering a friend’s class at a gym. Suddenly, about five minutes into the class one particular student began to do her own personal practice in the middle of the room. I quietly asked if everything was OK. She told me she didn’t like “this kind of yoga”. Now, everyone teaches differently and not everyone welcomes the cover teacher with open arms but I do believe if you teach from the heart most people will enjoy it. Clearly not all though.

I said I was sorry to hear she was unhAppy and quietly asked her if they would maybe like to leave and come back the next week when the regular teacher returned.

She just carried on.

And I just carried on teaching.

She continued to practice throughout the class and throughout my relaxation session.

She was still going when I left.

I honestly didn’t know what else to do.

Even now, with many more years teaching experience behind me I’m still not sure I would know what to do.

Of course, we should all be practicing mindful detachment and letting these situations go. What can I say? We’re only human!
This made me wonder if I'm turning into one of "those" students:
I’ve been struggling with this too, but from the other side of the spectrum.

You remember my lovely long time yoga teacher handed her classes over? Well, it’s been something of a settling in process with the new guy (for the new teacher is male, unusually) and I struggle in maintaining the right balance between being open to new guidance and the insight a new teacher brings and listening to the wisdom of living 31 years in this body, over a decade of it including a yoga practice. He can’t be expected to know all the ins and outs of my body (like for example why I don’t bind in Marichiasana C even though I physically can – trying to retrain my spine to twist from the “right” spot). No doubt he thinks I’m a the worst student because when he comes to adjust me, I (so far!) frequently have a reason why that adjustment is not appropriate and ask him not to adjust me. No doubt he finds this really challenging!

But where does “body awareness/inner wisdom” become “ego” and so counter productive?


I'm still not sure I have an answer to that, but I'm thinking that the time has come to admit that it's just not working and go out to find someone else. Sigh. Fortunately, in London I have some options. I just didn't want to have to. Ah well. At least no one can claim I didn't give the new guy a fair chance.

On the upside, I've set myself a new challenge for May, inspired by a comment made on another yoga blog (I don't recall which one - will see if I can back track it) - One Downward Dog A Day. The idea being once I actually get on my mat I'll probably do more, but only have to commit to one down dog, which makes a daily practice seem more manageable. We'll see how we go!

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The Great Post Eating App

bubbles
It’s just dawned on me that my iPhone app has eaten 2 posts over the past week, so you guys are going to get a bit of a smorgasbord of what’s going on . . .

One was a post of gratefulness for a job that I don’t absolutely abhor - it is such a relief to have the kind of work where no one yells at you, the stress is limited in time and space and the work is interesting and varied. Such a relief.

In other job related news, I still don’t know what I’m doing about a training contract. It’s pretty much on hold while the visa stuff gets sorted out.

The other post that the app ate was an update and thoughts on the shows we’ve seen recently: Noises Off, Sevastopol opera premier, & the opera Jakob Lenz. The first we enjoyed very much - just as funny as I remember it being. The second was hit and miss and the third, well, let’s just say I’m glad we only have to see it once. Anyone want more details?

Since then I’ve seen Babes in Arms at the ever fantastic Union Theatre. Very feel good, and has tap dancing! Woo! I went with my new friend from twitter who is a proper theatre review blogger so I’ll link to her review when it comes out.

I’ve also started my steampunk costume for a ball at the end of May that the darling rabbitwarren has talked me into. These are the trousers. I think he shoes that marimbanlr talked me into at NY will probably work with it, plus some super cute stockings. I will probably also get a proper corset to wear with it, something I’ve wanted for a very long time. So will do shopping for that maybe on Monday. . .

Note to self: need to update you lot on the yoga teacher situation. It’s not good, it’s not bad it’s just. . .blah. More on that later.

I've also started Russian classes back up again in an effort to bring back some fluency to use for work

Any of the above you all want elaborated?

Update on Woodward

classic tea
So I've kept in touch with Mom mostly by text message over the course of the last week (holy cow, has it only been a week?! Feels like a lifetime), and things are progressing. Insurance adjustors arrived on Wednesday and were done by mid-Thursday afternoon. Stock is all re-ordered and so far the community itself is pulling together, at least that's what the outside can see. I have a sneaking suspicion from a few things Mom's said that there has been some sniping going on, but she seems to be dealing with it.

Thanks for your comments and good thoughts. It means a lot, not just to me, but to Mom. Long may her strength hold out.

What bizarre though, is how easy it's been to go back to "normal" life. Work is the same, the commute is the same, our flat is the same, London's theatre and (very tasty) food scene is the same. It could be so easy to just forget what's happened, put it to the back of my mind and go on, it's rather scary and comforting, all at the same time.

Still, on Saturday evening last week. Woodward residents probably felt the same. Best not to get too complacent.

It just doesn't stop

metaphor

The good news is that the memorial service went really well. Everyone was on their best behaviour and I got to reconnect with some family members I've longed missed. I didn't get to go up and say good bye to the mountain, but I hold out hope that can be done on another trip.

The bad news is that a tornado has levelled parts of Woodward, including the warehouse and offices for my mom's business (the place where it all started). So instead of flying back to Tulsa, she's off to Woodward to do damage control, quite literally. The upside is that with a few phone calls she's already located a temporary warehouse and rented a fork lift. Her three brothers are finding backhoes and dumpsters. Her business partner's wife is at the office pulling records for what inventory was supposed to be there. Sales Agents and brokers are making calls to customers and on hand to start going through the rubble. Her boyfriend is driving her car from Tulsa so that she can get home.

She's sending me home and I feel totally worthless, which I guess in the current circumstances I am. Part of me is glad she has such a huge network of people to draw on and help her get everything sorted out, but the other part wishes that she needed me.

So instead I'm sitting in the airport, looking at the mountains and feeling pretty worthless. But I walked away from that a long time ago and I guess I just wasn't prepared for this particular set of consequences.

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPhone.

Fun Things

Audrey
Right, so tomorrow morning we leave for my grandfather's funeral. I'm not expecting it to be much other than needless drama (did I mention his business is still tied to my mom's? oh yeah, and they still don't know what's happening with that yet - and that's just the start). Why don't we talk about something nice instead?

I've posted the narrative of our trip to Paris over on the travel log: Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Or just the photos, if that's more your thing.

We've also seen some lovely things lately. . .
Reviews, this way!Collapse )

And if that's all too much culture for you, on Monday we also took a walk in the rain with atticus_frog. Not the most auspicious start to our rambling season, but it was still nice to get out and about. Doubly so since we were supposed to be in Sweden and so it helped us to feel a little less isolated and sad. Since it was damp and I knew the paths would be muddy, I wore my old walking boots, which in turn reminded me exactly why I've shifted to five fingers. Only 9.5 miles and my joints hurt so much by the end I could barely walk down the stairs to our flat. :( The damp certainly didn't help, but it does serve to remind me that I need to make sure I have the right gear if I'm going to be able to enjoy mobility.

So that's a bit of a catch-up on the nicer side of what we've been doing lately. Now to hit the sack before it gets too late. Let this post be a reminder of the good things I have at my finger tips and to be grateful that we live our lives in such a way that this is accessible to us.

Kyrie Eleison

classic tea
So on Saturday, my grandfather died. It was also my aunt's birthday.

*sigh*

He'd been out of the hospital for about 2 weeks and apparently on Thursday started running a high fever. On Friday, Mom got the news that they were putting him in hospice. Mom and Aunt both made a mad dash up there and arrived on Saturday morning only about half an hour before he passed. I got the call about an hour later.

He was a difficult man to love and if the last few days are anything to go by, he'll also be a difficult man to mourn. But overriding all of this is the great relief that he is free of the misery and suffering state that he's been in for the better part of the past 5 years. I try to let that relief ground me and keep me from focusing on the worst bits.

The funeral is going to be sometime the week after Easter, so kinda glad I didn't buy those flights for a planned visit later in April. We're just waiting to hear on the actual day of the memorial service so that I can make the necessary travel arrangements. Grateful that we can afford it, and a bit bummed that it meant cancelling our trip to Sweden to see shazzerlive.

And I'm also just in awe of my mom. I spoke to her yesterday as she was flying back to Tulsa and she sounded exhausted. My step-grandmother and my grandfather had made no plans whatsoever and so Mom spent the whole weekend running my step-grandmother and aunt around to make them after the fact. . .on a weekend (when nothing is open). I very much get the impression that she's been the glue holding everything together for the past few days. I just hope she manages to get some rest and time on her own these next few days.

So, yes. Major horrible no good very bad time.

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Love My Life

fox - sophisticated
marimbanlr landed this morning and we are off to Paris tomorrow evening to celebrate his birthday. Because how better to celebrate your birthday than being in Paris? Heck, I just like being in Paris. Even better is getting to be in Paris with some of your favourite people! The ever fantastic ramy_fulaz and petite_chaton will be meeting us there too, so it kind of feels like a mini-reunion.

No real plans for what we're going to do as the weather forecast has been all over the place - it has, at various times, predicted rain, snow, sleet, sunshine, warmth, cold and cloudy. So, yeah, flexibility is the name of the game, me thinks. But no matter what happens, I'm sure we're going to have a really fantastic time.

A small fangirl moment

Audrey hat
Because. . .I've been interviewed on one of my favourite podcasts of all time - the Amateur Traveler! Squeee!!!! Yes, I'm on the show talking about our recent trip to Israel, so if you're done with hearing about it, skip it, but I'm super excited. I've been listening to this podcast for quite literally years now (all the way back to episode 70), so it's a big moment for me. If you want to listen, you can find it in itunes or directly on the Amateur Traveler website.

I listened to it just a few minutes ago, and was super nervous that I would sound like a total idiot, and while I do sound a bit like a ditz at times (that would be the nerves - no heckling!), I'm pretty pleased with out it turned out. Makes me feel a tiny bit like an internet celebrity, but it probably won't even last 15 minutes. Might bring some new readers to the blog though, which would be super cool.

And electrichobbit, he totally chose that picture himself! But hey, now you're kind of famous too!!

I also talk about it in less gushy terms over on the travel log, as I do have an image to keep up you know. :P

Did I mention super excited? (and just a tad embarrassed? but only a tad)



Spring?

gardening
The weather has finally gotten to the point where thinking about working in the garden doesn't fill me with dread. So I've been spending a little bit of time outside, keeping the early starting weeds at bay, tidying up some of the beds and generally just keeping an eye on things. As spring approaches, there is more and more to actually look at! My bulbs for example are all coming up.

Last week, the mini irises bloomed (and by this weekend were gone)
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weren't they lovely?

This week, the hyacinths are starting to come out! The daffodils are still a bit indifferent, with a few blooming here and there
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one small hyacinth

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daffodils thinking about blooming

And then there's this thing:
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Any one have any clue what that's going to be? Looks like an alien to me.

The strawberries all seemed to over-winter pretty well. New leaves are starting to come out and I'm hoping to have oodles of flowers (and so fruit) in another 8-10 weeks. If it freezes between then and now I might just throw a hissy fit. 

The rose is also starting to bud. I think it really liked the top dressing of not-so-well-rotted manure that we put on in November. Likewise the honeysuckle has already started going nuts, so that's good fun. I really hope it flowers this year.

Today I also started off some seeds: lobelia (going under the fuschias on either side of the bulb bed), foxgloves (going in towards the back of the garden where there isn't much light) and tomatoes. Yes, I'm going to try and grow tomatoes without a polytunnel or greenhouse. They'll be going in pots and I'll set the pots against a wall that gets a fair bit of sunshine in late afternoon. Watch this space for how that turns out.

Over the next few weeks and into early April, I'll be sowing the rest of the seeds, so that's good fun. I'll post more pics as my little seedlings get started.

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IWD

shoes foxy

Happy International Women's Day!

I've spoken before of the amazing women in my life from family members (my incredible mother, wily grandmother, strong & fun loving aunts & great aunts) to dear older friends & mentors (adrian_ilo's mom, Marcella, Dr. Johnson, my current boss) and contemporary friends, many of whom are reading this right now (or at least I hope you are). So, yes, you all rock. Thanks yet again for both helping to shape my identity as a modern woman and continue to share your disparate experiences of that with me. Our paths may have diverged slightly over recent years, but there is still much that can be done even in our very privileged existence to make the world a better place for the next generation.

How we do that is in no small part in how we make & live with the decisions in our own lives, but also showing respect for others in their decisions and empowering them to make the decision that's best for them.

I'd also like to take a moment to shout out to a few of the amazing men in my life who have also helped shape me into the woman I am today:

My father, even though he didn't understand the ramifications of his early support for my future dreams and aspirations. When push really came to shove, he stood behind me and for me. Not always liking the outcome, but in respect at least in part for my ability to make decisions and wanting me to be truly happy. Also for modelling a little bit what a truly partnership marriage might look like. While my patents played pretty standard gender roles, he loved my mom passionately and trusted her implicitly, both in personal as well as business judgement. He also treated her more like an equal than not. Seeing that modelled early on was really transformative.

adrian_ilo's dad, for having been there in my more difficult formative years and challenging me to continue to develop my less gender traditional skills and providing the support I needed to succeed. Also for talking my dad into seeing if not sense, at least some of the damage his opposition would cause.

And finally to my beloved raayat with whom I've created a marriage of equals that that makes us both profoundly happy. A marriage where we're free to be ourselves in a way neither of us ever thought really possible. In doing so we've created a relationship that thrives on communication and deep consideration for the other. "You, Me, Us" I love you sweetheart. Thank you for loving me back.

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPhone.

classic tea
So I've been meaning to post a bunch of fun/interesting things lately. Like the decision I've made about my law career, a review of another play and a piano concert, thoughts on where I am with quaker stuff. . .and then I have the kind of conversation with my family where everything just kind of falls by the way side.

My grandfather (dad's dad) is in the hospital. . .again. Details are really sketchy but numbers like 20% chance of survival have been bandied about and my mom says he has started saying his goodbyes. <insert favourite expletive here>.

Then today I get word that my uncle (dad's sister's husband)'s cancer has spread and is now very likely to be terminal. Double <insert favourite expletive here>.

And as upset as I am, holy mother of little apples I can't imagine what my aunt is feeling. Her father and her husband are both dying at the same time. I keep trying to put myself her in shoes and nearly have a breakdown each time. And she's trying to work full time so that she doesn't lose her insurance. I'm so worried about her, and really glad that my mom is close enough to provide her with comfort and love and what practical help Auntie L will let mom arrange.

So if you're inclined to praying, thinking positive thoughts or whatever, please send them her way. She needs it more than anyone else.

I'm trying to decide if going for a whirlwind visit will make things better or worse. In the meantime, I think I'll give raayat an extra hug.

Review - Sea Plays & Master Class

Audrey
Since coming back from Christmas/New Year's, I've tried reviving our hold habit of doing one "artsy" thing a month to give us a break from the normal routine and remind us as to why we're living here. :)

Right before we left for Israel, we went to see a trio of one act plays collectively titled The Sea Plays at The Old Vic Tunnels. Despite having been to the Old Vic several times, this was the first showing we've been to in the tunnels, which are exactly what they sound like - disused railway tunnels underneath Waterloo Bridge. The ambiance is amazing and I could see how this would really fuel some serious creative thinking. And they really used the space to great effect; the tight confines (even the very small audience was packed in cheek to jowl) mimicked very well the crew quarters of a World War I steam ship.

The show got off to a rather odd start with the first play Bound East for Cardiff a totally ill conceived attempt at mimicking a disastrous storm (worse than cheesy, it was simply bad - there's only so much running around screaming that's effective). The accents were bad (all three plays used dialect heavily and most of the actors struggled to keep them consistent) and the connections between the characters, strained and not in a good way. You just didn't buy the drama. Not one bit.

Fortunately, the next two In the Zone and The Long Voyage Home improved significantly. The timing was much better, and the accents had settled down a bit. More importantly you could tell the subject matter (classism) was something that the actors were much more comfortable dealing with. The absolute best one was Long Voyage because this is where the characters really came into their own, almost solely due to the performance of the older actors who were clearly established character actors. Raymond Sage as "Olly" was particularly good; you could really feel his sincerity quite deeply and the sudden turn for the worse was made all the much more heart wrenching by his pure good-naturedness.

So all in all it ended on a very poignant note and I left the theatre feeling very emotionally caught up in the stories, but still felt a little dissatisfied. I can't quite put my finger on why, but despite having the same set of characters in three very similar plays there was something about them that just didn't quite hang together as a coherent whole. Ah well.

Tonight we went to see Master Class. I've been wanting to see it since I first saw the posters back in December, so when lastminute.com announced they had tickets for half price, I instantly booked 2. Since these were effectively "left overs" we didn't have the best seats (not being allowed to choose them myself), and so were stuck three rows from the front and spent the night looking up at the actors rather uncomfortably. Fortunately, the show was amazing enough that I didn't notice the crick in my neck until after. Tyne Daly is phenomenal as Maria Callas, despite not being a singer herself. The play works well around this particular draw back through the heavy use of recordings of Callas herself. it sounds hokey, but is actually incorporated rather well. The young actors playing the students were likewise amazing, some ("Tony" and "Sharon" with truly incredible voices of their own. You really bought into their admiration and sheer exasperation at one of the world's most beloved singers well past her prime. The tension between Sharon and Callas was particularly well played and really gave you a deeper sense of Callas's weaknesses and vulnerability. The "Stagehand" provided some very welcome and well timed comic relief. All in all, a fantastic show that brought together the best of what each of these actors had to offer. Brilliantly, brilliantly done.

End of an era

yoga

Tonight I had my last yoga class with the teacher I've been studying with for the last six (? seven?) years. She's giving up all her evening classes to spend more time with her family - baby boy of 16 mos and hubby. I managed not to cry as I handed her a card and got my last hug, but really I'm totally gutted.

When I threw a little hissy fit on twitter last week after N made the announcement, Ish reminded me that really she's leaving me with a more profound lesson in vairagya/pratyahara or detachment/non-attachment.

And I'm trying to embrace that. As I've spent the last week reflecting over my time with N, I realise how much of my practice shows her touch. Not only in my asana work, but also a deeper listening and knowing of what is happening internally and where, in this moment, is the best thing next. She's made my practice less of something I do to my body, and more of something I do for my whole being - physical being, breath and will. A unified being.

So thank you N. I'll miss you, but will always have you with me. Namaste.

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPhone.

Israel & Jordan Trip

airplane
We have been having a fantastic time in Israel & Jordan so far, and I can't really believe it's our last day already! The plan so far is to try and see as much of the Bahai Gardens as are open (stupid storms), then head south to either a winery or another cute little ancient town and then hit Tel Aviv. Our flight tomorrow is super early (we have to turn in the car at 3:30 AM), and apparently Tel Aviv is a good city for staying up all night, which is fortunate.

I've been keeping the travel log up to date as we go (so much better!), and am getting a few dozen hits per day, so someone out there at least is reading them! Instead of cross posting everything and trying to backdate it (and so spamming LJ), here are the links for those who are interested:

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7
Day 8
Day 9

I'll probably post day 10 from the airport. [edit: which I did! Day 10 is here]

Very few pictures are included, except a handful from the Dead Sea taken from my iPhone, but! I've taken over 2,000 so far. I'll be uploading to flickr and back-filling into the posts once we're back in London. I'm super pleased with many of them, even in their unedited form, so there should be lots to share. In the mean time, electrichobbit has put his pictures up on facebook, so feel free to browse those too.

Also, you guys really must pester electrichobbit and raayat to provide the full story of Nabatos & Apocrypha. Just sayin' :)

Israel Plans & Pre Trip Thoughts

airplane
On Friday we are off to Israel, which will be our first to the Middle East.

One of the reasons we've not yet travelled to this corner of the world, and Israel in particular, is due to all the political upheaval and the rather complicated issues being hashed out there. I didn't want to go and unintentionally exacerbate the tensions, even in a small way. Fortunately, a friend of ours from OU (Branson - the same one we visited in California) has been there on a Post-Doc assignment for the past two years. Having someone who's been living there and has a better feel for some of the nuances of the overall situation will be a big bonus for us - it's also always more fun to explore a new place with friends!

When we were originally discussing the trip with Branson, I asked him "What's the one big thing you've been wanting to do and haven't yet?" Without much pause, he responded "Petra", which has long been a place on our bucket list too. Turns out, by far the easiest way to go from Israel into Jordan it seems is by the Eilat-Aquaba crossing. Then Stephen piped up that he would be keen to see the Negev Desert, which is in between Eilat and pretty much anywhere else. So we've built our trip around that. Our itinerary currently looks like this:


  • Day 1 - direct flight from London, landing around 3pm, Branson meets us at the airport, we pick up the car & drive to Eilat (~5 hours) check into hotel & crash

  • Day 2 - early, cross into Jordan and taxi to Wadi Mousa (nearest town to Petra). Drop bags at hotel & spend the rest of the day at Petra.

  • Day 3 - hike to the High Place for sunrise and then spend the rest of the day wandering Petra. At sunset, head back to Eilat.

  • Day 4 - depending on weather, we'll either spend the day splashing about in the Red Sea (with any luck snorkelling around some of the coral reefs or maybe swimming with dolphins) or if it's too cold, we'll walk along the beach (wiggling my toes in the Red Sea in lieu of aforementioned splashing) and then drive out to Mitspe Ramon. 

  • Day 5 - Hiking around Mitspe Ramon, taking in some of the nearby crater

  • Day 6 - morning, TBD (Negev Nature Centre? Some of the Spice Route cities?; in the afternoon, drive to our lodging near the Dead Sea & do some preliminary exploration

  • Day 7 - sunrise hike arriving at Masada and the rest of the day exploring the site & surrounding area.

  • Day 8 - if the weather permits, splashing about the Dead Sea; if not or in the afternoon if so, then another hike (Qumran Caves? Ein Gedi Nature Reserve? Nachal David Stream?) and/or (if I can talk the boys into it) maybe a few hours in a spa.

  • Day 9 - drive to Haifa (where Branson is based usually) & sightseeing in Haifa (Bahai Gardens!)

  • Day 10 - continue exploring Haifa and maybe take in a winery? Possible evening in Tel-Aviv? (will probably decide this on the fly)

  • Day 11 - early AM to Tel Aviv (if not already there), turn in the rental car and fly back to London


As you'll notice, nowhere in there did we mention Jerusalem. When I got my guidebook to Israel (thanks Mom!), it confirmed for us that Jerusalem would probably need at least 5 days to do it any sort of justice, which is half of our trip and would make seeing Petra and the other sites hard. Not to mention that Jerusalem is the epicentre of most of the dispute, so it seems easier to leave it out this time and to plan a separate trip to see it plus some of the holy sites.

It's also shaping up to be a very active/outdoors-y holiday, which we haven't had for quite some time, and are really looking forward to it. The sunrise hikes might just kill me, but I trust the boys will let me sleep in on a few other days to compensate.

The guidebooks (both heavily tabbed & scribbled in) that we're taking with us are:
DK Eyewitness for Jerusalem, Israel, Petra & Sinai
Petra: A Traveller's Guide

The weather so far is looking pretty good 20 C / 70 F for most places during the day, which is just about perfect. Nights will be colder, of course, so lots of layers included in our packing list.

Exciting times!

cross posted from the travel log

Travel Log v3.0 is live!

airplane
And it's finally done! we've successfully migrated our travel log (www.dragondream.org) over to blogger *and* managed to keep our domain - no faffing about with new urls or being grumpy that some random korean kids have our name.

Not much is posted yet, but I'll be adding the old posts over the next couple of days, plus of course our Israel adventure in TWO WEEKS! So excited I can hardly stand it. I've also managed to figure out how to post a map of where we've been to date as well as the first round of our "bucket list". The calendar of upcoming travels isn't quite working yet, but that should be active shortly. Any other features you guys would like to see, just say.

I'll be trying to cross-post over here so that you guys have easier access to the content, but having a blogger account also means that you can do things like - oh - add our travel log to google reader, should you so choose.

So yes, this should be much easier to manage from the road which means more updates and more memories captured in something resembling "real time".

Enjoy!

Tactical Pants & The Eaten Post

silly monster
So these apparently are "tactical pants" not nearly as exciting as the possibilities inherent in that phrase, no?

In a TOTALLY UNRELATED note - LJ has apparently eaten the post where I gave you guys a detailed break down of my current job and the options for advancement (previous notes on the job are here). I don't have the energy at the moment to type it all out again, but suffice it to say that there are some elements I rather like (training, answering questions from the business, working through problems on the fly) and others I'm not so keen on (email reviews, document retrieval & bundling), but I've got a really interesting combination of objectives for the year that will involve me doing more of what I enjoy and less of what I don't, plus a chance to explore a new genre of financial instruments. The "new" head of department is pretty cool - has her moments of failure to fully delegate, but on the whole her awesomeness far outweighs her less desirable leadership traits. There is also a mutiny brewing that I am staying as far way from as I possibly can. 

So that's my current job in a nutshell. Anything you lot are particularly keen to know?

Tactical Pants

silly monster
So, out of curiosity. . .say you are surfing the web and on one of your blogs (doesn't matter which one) you see a link in the blog roll for "Tactical Pants".

Before clicking, what would you expect to find? No googling, just the first thing that pops into your head.

Because R and I just about fell over laughing and totally forgot to record our riff on "tactical pants". It was awesome, you'll just have to trust us on this.

On being a prideful square peg

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One of the big decisions I have to make this year is if I am going to pursue qualification as an actual lawyer.

To recap, in these isles, you have to do a 2 year apprenticeship (called a training contract) with a law firm who at the end registers you as a qualified lawyer. No training contract, no qualification.

Step back another step and realise that most law graduates are around 21-25 and have very little real world experience. Therefore most of the application processes are geared toward these kinds of applicants.


I am effectively a square peg in a universe of round holes. Not to belabour the metaphor, but there are also considerably more round pegs for each round hole. A square pegs need not apply.

The frustrating thing is that when I talk to actual lawyers, they are very positive about my business experience and international education which they claim is a huge benefit. Then when I talk to the HR department who actually run the application processes they (at best) give me very confused looks and I have to justify myself. Applicants like me (even when encouraged to apply by the people who run the firms) make their jobs harder because they have to, I don't know, think a little.

There is a very sharp disconnect between what actual legal professionals say they want in terms of skills & background with what their HR departments are looking for.

So if I want to continue down this path I'm effectively going to totally revamp my application strategy and even still do A LOT of begging networking.

Oh yeah, and my visa would expire before the training contract would start and I only have about a 60% chance of getting it renewed.

On the other hand I have a job I'm good at, reasonably enjoy, serves a real need in the business, ties in fairly neatly with my ethics, that leverages nicely off my legal reasoning skills and I'm already well along the path for progression. The department head wants to keep me and even the Global General Counsel has said I have a place as long as I want to stay.

And is it really prudent at 31 to be starting again at the bottom of the pile, particularly if I have such a good thing going where I am?

But, but I still think I would be a great lawyer and past of me craves the admiration (and remuneration) that frequently comes with such a well recognised career. As well as the part of me that loathes admitting defeat. Surprise surprise - my pride is at stake.

But would it be worse to continue to try and continue to fail and in the meantime fritter away the progression that's immediately to hand - just there for the taking. Surely giving that up would be mad?

Or would I regret not qualifying forever?

I suppose this is just a long rambling way of saying I'm conflicted. But time is ticking and I really must decide soon.

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPhone.

Kites! Photos from NY

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The next (and last) set of photos for New Year's is now on Flickr!

A few of my favourites:
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IMGP0628.jpg IMGP0761.jpg IMGP0764.jpg

Unlike the last batch, the colour versions turned out beautifully (if I do say so myself). I hope you all enjoy them!

New Year's 2011/12

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New Year's 2011/12, a set on Flickr.

Via Flickr:
Post NY's lounging in Kati and Tony's back yard.

Ta da! The first batch of photos are now up on flickr from the annual NY gathering. These are in black and white because it just worked out better that way (total disaster with white balance - don't ask). I'm actually really quite pleased with them and hope you are too!

As always, I only post small versions to flickr, so if you want to full sized (around 10mb each) or prints (DON'T use the "order prints" function on flickr), let me know and I'll see what I can arrange.

Next set (kite flying!) available soon.

Photography Challenge?

shutterbug
So, I'm too late for this for Jan and Feb won't work. What about for March maybe? Anyone want to give it a try with me?

Plans, plans & more plans

airplane

The big reason I got my new camera now, is that raayat and I have decided that our next big trip is going to be to visit electrichobbit in Israel in Feb! Super exciting! Plane tickets are bought, plan is pretty much set (including a little wiggle room for some impromptu exploration), hotels are being scoped out and all I have to do is press reserve on the rental car.

This is one of the more exotic trips that we've taken for a while and over Christmas quite a few people asked if we would pretty please pick back up our travel log for the trip. This has forced me to totally reevaluate the current site, which my enforced sick leave has actually given me time to do properly for the first time in oh 3 years. Currently we have a hosted site that I've designed & "updated" using Rapid Weaver. This has led to a site which is admittedly pretty, but completely not feasible to update on the go, which kind of defeats the purpose of a travel log! It might work better if I was the kind of person who processed pictures and wrote content almost immediately on getting home, but, well, I'm not and I don't see myself turning into that kind of person anytime soon.

Time to do something different. 

We've since moved the email part of our dragondream domain over to google (I know I know evil empires and all that jazz), so the easiest thing seems to be to let go of our current hosted website and just start up a simple travel log over on blogger/blogspot using our dragondream moniker . . .which already seems to be taken by someone who seems to have tested the idea and then run. Lovely. Wonder if there's anyway I could get that domain off of him nicely?

So minus the name issue it looks like we're going to be up and running as "real" bloggers again soon. Not that I am planning on giving up on LJ - that blog will be travel only (probably plus the odd cool London adventure post) and this space serves a very different purpose. Also <i>family</i> will be the primary audience of the other blog and LJ is and always will be a family free zone. Because a girl has to have space to think aloud to her peoples and not worry about offending all and sundry. And you all have always been my peoples even if it has gone a bit quiet of late. 

So those are the 2 big plans - ISREAL! (first trip to the middle east!) and NEW TRAVEL LOG! Exciting no?

For those of you more interested in the ISREAL! aspect of the next adventure, I've added a shelf on goodreads with some reading ideas between now and then. . .which I suppose I ought to get started on eh?

Big Decisions

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What could prompt me to break such a long silence? Why a new camera of course!!

I think for anyone who's been reading me for a while knows, I'm a pretty keen amateur photographer. About 5 years ago, I upgraded my otherwise perfectly lovely Olympus point and shoot for a "bridge" camera in the guise of a Panasonic DMC-FZ50. The biggest reason I didn't go for a DSLR was because I was utterly baffled by the choices and knew that my photography still had quite a bit of room to grow. And let me tell you my little Panasonic and I really went some places and took some amazing pictures!

But, I was starting to get frustrated with it's rather noisy performance in low light and I wanted more flexibility that interchangeable lenses would give me. So now, the time had come for a DSLR, but which one? Cannon? Nikon? Something in the 4/3rds vein?

After much hemming and hawing I whittled my "must have" list down to the following:
  • lightest & smallest body possible (sorry Nikon)
  • intuitive menu system (sorry Cannon)
  • good low light performance (ie very little noise at ISOs above 1600 - sorry 4/3rds)
  • a decent range of good glass lenses (surprising how much good glass there is out there!)
  • took SD cards (seeing as I have a ton of them - sorry Olympus)
The one feature I was gutted to have to finally strike off my list was the rotating lcd screen on the back of the camera. I loved it on my Panasonic, but the DSLRs which offered it compromised too many of my other must haves. Ah well. We'll see if I come to regret this.

This left me with a really short list of exactly 3 cameras of which the clear winner was. . .a Pentax K-5 and the 17-55mm kit lens. The most amazing thing, of course, was that raayat decided to buy it for me as a late birthday/early christmas-anniversary present. *kisses*

It does everything I want it to do and then some and holy cow do I have a lot of learning to do! I have actually downloaded the manual and have been reading it in what little "spare" time I find. But so far I'm loving it! Great flexibility and beautiful control to give me just the pictures I see in my mind's eye. I still have a long way to go, of course, as I figure out all the features, but so far I'm super, super pleased. I've put up a couple of sets already with it over on flickr: my crazy family at Thanksgiving and a ramble near St. Margaret's-at-cliffe

My only complaint so far - and I can't tell if this is the lens or just me not having figured out the settings or both - is that the focus is not quite as sharp as I would ordinarily wish. It's not out of focus by any stretch, but it does veer more towards the soft side, which for portraits and the like is perfect (such as these two), but for some finer detail work (like these) it's less than ideal.

Now the really (not very) funny thing was that not 6 months before a friend of mine kuoirad had offered me his Pentax! Along with an assortment of lenses. C'est la vie. I knew the camera was long gone, but turns out that he still had the lenses and a pretty awesome flash. So I now have a Sigma 170-500mm F5-6.3 telephoto and a Sigma 70-300mm F4-5.6, the latter of which, oddly enough, has a "macro" setting at the 300m range. Bizarre, but hey whatevs.

So exciting times! And even more exciting is the event that spurred me on to buy it at this particular moment in time. . .but that's for next time ;)

update: I had stupidly forgotten that [info]kuoirad was on LJ (oops!) and to add that the early acquisition of my lovely new toy was due entirely to my beloved. Obviously I'm still not thinking quite as clearly as I ought! More rest for me, I suppose.

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