Brisbane Day 3 – Australia Zoo

I had the honour of meeting up with my good friend Andrew who lives here in Brisbane. Andrew and I attended the same church in Karori, and we became good friends.

Andrew suggested we meet up at the South Bank Piazza, and then go to dinner. So we did. Andrew introduced me to his girlfriend Greta, who is very nice. We had planned to go to Decks, but it was closed, so we went to Mum and Neil’s regular, The Plough.

We ordered food. Andrew and Greta got pretty standard food, but seeing as I could have steak anywhere in the world, I tried something local and ordered the Barramundi, which is a fish dish. It was good.

Andrew invited me out with Greta and himself to Australia Zoo the next day. It sounded like fun, and spending time with a good friend is always neat πŸ™‚

We got to Australia Zoo after a 1.5 hour drive in Andrew’s car at about 10:30am. Through the admission gates and we learned there was the main show starting at the 5000-seat Crocoseum at 11am.

Pre-show entertainment was going, with a guy in a gorilla suit walking around having fun with the crowd. After being seated for only about 15 minutes, a guy in a banana suit started sneaking around, trying not to be noticed by the gorilla. Hilarity ensued as the gorilla started chasing the banana man off stage.

An announcer came out and told us that yes, Steve Irwin the Crocodile Hunter would be doing the croc show today, along with his wife Terri. That was a pleasent surprise!

Then the gorilla emerged from the stage doors being chased by the banana πŸ™‚

First up was the snake show, where we saw (from a distance) the various snakes that Australia has, along with some exotic snakes. We even saw an albino constrictor! A keeper came past all the seats in the arena and gave those who were daring enough the chance to pet a snake — wow! They feel really smooth and scaly.

Next was the tiger show, and two of the cutest tiger cubs, only 2 years old came out and played with the keepers, which was cool.

Next was the free-flight bird show, where lots of amazing birds flew back and forth across the arena to keepers who were roaming the crowds. I got heaps of photos of the brightly coloured macaws.

Then was the moment everyone was waiting for, the Croc show, with Steve Irwin. But first we were treated to a skit with a lookalike Steve and Terri pair, along with a generic cameraman. I was wondering why they weren’t putting a feed of the cameraman’s camera on the big screen, when suddenly the cameraman fell back into the croc pool (which was empty) and I realised that it was a prop camera, which gave me a chuckle πŸ™‚

The real Steve and Terri came out, and started wisecracking about the elephants, and Terri compared the elephant’s trunk size to that of Steve’s. LOL. I think Terri really wants a third child, Steve… πŸ˜‰ The croc show was pretty neat, with Steve demoing how easy it is to attract a croc, and getting the croc to do some deathrolls. That was cool.

After the show, Andrew, Greta and I had lunch, then walked around the rest of the zoo, meeting kangaroos and koalas up close — so close we could, and did, pet them. We also saw many other animals: emus, native australian birds, wombats, snakes, cassawaries, foxes, and camels.

We couldn’t see any dingoes in the dingo enclosure. I was disappointed that they didn’t have any platypus at the zoo. πŸ™

All in all, an exciting day, and a very hot one at that. Highly recommended.

Natcoll and the land of PSP

After an incredibly short interview process I’m now employed as a tutor at Natcoll Wellington until the end of the year. They have me taking practical labs in Macromedia Director 4 days a week and a theory class once a week. The work is pretty fun, and the class I’m taking are neat. My fellow tutors are good value, and seem to be really switched on with their specialties, and enjoy a lot of the random internet entertainment I do.

Everyone in my department (apart from the course co-ordinator) owns a PSP. So I figured I should make the most of it and bite the bullet myself. Mind you, it wasn’t cheap :/ Anyway, I got the PSP value pack, a USB cable, a 1GB Memory Stick Duo and the game Mercury, and I have GTA Liberty City Stories preordered.

I also bought a UMD Movie of Steamboy, which is a great anime film — you should see it if you get the chance. But I don’t think that the PSP is a great delivery platform for a two-hour movie, unless you’re stuck on a plane and are sick of playing video games.

Also, hooray for Homebrew! After upgrading from 1.52 to 2.0 and then downgrading to 1.50, I got a Genesis/Megadrive emulator running on there!

And OMG PHEAR LUMINES. That game, once you get into it, is intense. You go into it all relaxed and you come out of it all tense and powered up. I love that game.

Web Surrentials ’05

Sitting here at home now thinking back about the last 5 days, It’s just sinking in. It’s surreal that I was in a lecture theatre full of my industry peers and leaders learning about the latest and greatest in web standards, and that I got to socialise with them many of them.

I mean, taking Eric Meyer for example, hearing the world expert on CSS talk about his field in the morning, meeting him and having a conversation with him after lunch, getting two books he wrote signed by him that night, hearing him talk again the next day, and then go out drinking with him and our new-found buddies and some of us end up at a nightclub in Kings Cross… THIS STUFF JUST DOESN’T HAPPEN! And it wasn’t just Eric either, it was Molly, Tantek, Doug Bowman, John Allsopp, Jeffrey Veen, Derek Featherstone, and so many more! It was so much more than an honour to meet these people; hanging out was a mindjob.

What’s weird at first is that the “big stars” are approchable and friendly in real life, they want to know who you are, because they know you know who they are. This is in comparison to many people in the lime light in other more fame-focused industries (music, movies, but not microcode) who are less likely to give you time of day than have a conversation with you.

As much as this will sound like I’m blowing my own horn or that I’m kissing up, the most humbling thing to discover at the conference was that some of these “big stars” had heard about “the guy who was fundraising through his blog to get to we05” and that when those individuals and I met, they had a suspicsion that I was that person — I didn’t have to tell them. These people knew kinda who I was!

So when I get home and discover that Molly and Tantek have left such generous comments that I have a grin from ear-to-ear, how am I supposed to react?

Really, it all comes down to respect: I could have an unhealthy respect for them bordering on holding them as idols, but one has to remember that they are just regular people. As the famous Bruce Dickenson once said “Easy, guys… I put my pants on just like the rest of you: one leg at a time. Except, once my pants are on, I make gold records.”

And when I think about it, and as hard as it is for me to get to grips with it right now, in reality, they are my friends and colleagues in this industry. Now to keep those friendships alive! Hey Tantek, I’d be keen to see the photos you took on your Matrix tour…

Mind you, he also said “I got a fever! And the only prescription… is more cowbell!”, so I won’t push that metaphor πŸ˜‰

UPDATE: I guess the other side of the equation can happen too: » Moments of Doubt and Glory

Fear the CSS Brace!

Today at WE05 was awesome: More visionary presentations, more hilarious photos!

After more legendary presentations from Molly, Eric and Derek, I attended the Ajax session by Tim Lucas. I found myself wanting a bit more, but it was still VERY good.

Lunch came around, so I caught a cab to Found Agency. I got to meet Zak, the guy I talked to on the phone just over a week ago. He showed me around his office in Bondi Junction, and gave me a very in-depth insight into the world of SEO and Pay-Per-Click marketing. Basically, there is OMG HUGE money to be made — seeing some of the Google Adsense windows brought it to life. He also described something called A-B Testing: serving up two identical ads going to slightly different convert pages, observing the difference that the slight difference made, and deciding to keep that change. Zak said that click through conversion can be increased phenomenally just by iterating through this every 1000 clickthroughs.

I also learnt that there are three types of “SEO” people: Super Affiliates (those who partner with a company who wants to sell something and enter into a huge referral rate in the hundreds of dollars per customer), Pay-Per-Click marketeers (those who manage their adwords and search terms they appear on) and Hybrid marketeers (those who do both).

I also learnt that Google doesn’t really like what some Super Affiliates are doing sometimes, and that the Super Affiliates are listening to what Google has to say, including the rel="nofollow" microformat. It becomes obvious to me that the ones comment-spamming blogs don’t really know what they are doing; shooting themselves in the foot when it comes to Google.

I spent so long talking to Zak that I was late for the 2:15pm sessions. I really wanted to see Cameron Adams’ Javascript and the DOM session too. Oh well, there’s always the podcasts.

Thank goodness I made it back in time to catch Tantek’s Microformats session — fascinating stuff. I guess I already knew about XFN and rel=”nofollow” but I didn’t know that these were called microformats. Yay for learning! πŸ˜‰

Then Jeffrey Veen got up and did yet another PHENOMENAL session giving us all the boost we needed to go back to our jobs and do this stuff we’ve been learning about. I’m totally pumped. I’m gonna go out back and kick that tree.

For some reason, because I was that-guy-who-did-the-blog-donation-box-to-get-to-WE05, I was given a collectable WE05 belt pouch for a digital camera or iPod or the like. Sweet! Thanks people!

The WE05 afterparty was at The Pumphouse in Darling Harbour. Putting my Flickrazzi hat on, I caught some hilarious moments of the presenters on NVRAM and have put them up on Flickr for all to enjoy, namely Doug Bowman dancing, Eric, John Allsopp and Mark Harris doing the WWW, Derek Featherstone getting drawn into a pint, Tantek searching for Wifi at a dance club, and Eric giving Doug in his patented “CSS Brace”

Tantek tells me that I can probably go find many of the places where scenes from The Matrix were filmed here in Sydney; something I was hoping to do, but didn’t realise actually how easy it will be — 10 minutes of Google Searching apparently… hmm…

I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here in Sydney. Will I be back for WE06? Heck yes!

Oh, and don’t forget to keep the middle of May 2006 free in your calendars — a web conference in New Zealand is being planned, and you will highly desire coming along… but more on that later… πŸ˜‰