22 June 2007

Cold weather

We just had the coldest June day on record, or something like that. Cold, here in the tropics, is of course relative (a Minnesotan would laugh), but the high was somewhere around 15C and it rained off and on too. Every store in the area sold out of space heaters several days ago (except for some large, expensive ones) -- this was a "hot" topic on the local evening news. It's not too bad indoors, but I am wearing my outdoor jacket and my hiking boots as well as long pants and several layers of shirts and sweatshirts. I've dug out every blanket and quilt I can find and put them on the bed; good thing we have cold-night camping gear! I even managed to find in my hoard of stuff a long-sleeved, warm nightgown, though if this keeps up I may opt for sweatshirt-and-sweatpants in lieu of winter pajamas.

13 June 2007

Australian National Science Fiction Convention

Eric and I flew to Melbourne on 6 June, a few days before the Australian National Science Fiction Convention being held there over the Queens Birthday weekend of 8-10 June. We had a great time catching up with old friends, attending book launches by old and new friends, and wandering around part of Melbourne. One night I gave a demonstration of OpenOffice.org to the Victorian group of the ASTC (Australian Society for Technical Communication). In the process of answering some questions, I discovered some changes in the user interface that I hadn't noticed before. (I've only been using v2.2 for 10 days or so.) Fortunately they were not changes that I should have written about in the books I had just published. Some days I could walk reasonably comfortably, but other days I couldn't (arthritis). I have an appointment with an orthopaedic surgeon next month to discuss surgery, but in the meantime walking is not fun. However, we did wander around the city a bit and discovered a small museum in an old (historic) building that had been preserved when a new modern shopping centre was built around it. In the museum was a display that I had never seen before, but Eric says he saw something similar in the movie Minority Report. Instead of a touch screen, it had an area in front of the display where you waved your hand to point at choices (hold for a few seconds to activate the choice) or move sliders around on the display. It didn't seem to work very well (or maybe I was too quick in my movements or something), but in general it was very cool and fun to play with. I also got to the Birkenstock store and bought a pair of sandals with a heel strap, to supplement the ones I have that don't have a strap. The latter are great for indoors, but I can't drive or walk any distance in them because they often slip off. I learned that I could send my old sandals to Melbourne for repair or to have the sole replaced when the tread is too worn. These shoes cost a lot, but they seem to last forever, and their arch support is very good (a requirement for me). We stayed at the Hotel Grand Chancellor on Lonsdale Street, not far from the convention hotel, the Rydges. The hotel room had broadband (at a price), so I used it a bit. As is typical of too many hotels, the room had very few electrical outlets, and those few were poorly located. Even though there was a desk with a decent lamp and an ethernet cable, it had no spare electrical outlets anywhere nearby; the only ones were behind the bed, which is along a different wall, some distance away. Considering that everyone these days wants to charge a mobile phone (if not a laptop computer), this is definitely user-unfriendly! I could have unplugged the lamp to plug in the laptop, but I didn't want to be hassled with climbing under the desk all the time. So Eric bought a cheap 4-outlet powerboard from an office-supply place at the corner. We usually bring a powerboard with us, but this time we forgot.