My Birthday Down Under

NOTE: I’m heading to the wine country of Barossa for a few days and may not have internet access, so I’m doing a very quick and sloppy post from the airport in Adelaide. My apologies. Bear with me, I’ll post when I can!

We arrived in Cairns on my 40th birthday to enjoy a day in this beachside Queensland town before boarding our liveaboard for three days of diving on the Great Barrier Reef.

Cairns is a really cute town, very navigable, and with a very vibrant young vibe. A total beach-bums paradise.

Deep Sea Divers' Den in Cairns
Our dive shop and boat operators, Deep Sea Divers’ Den in Cairns. They were awesome.

As a testament to its youthfulness, it has lots of hostels and backpackers hotels, like the infamous Gilligan’s. This backpacker’s compound includes an $18 a night hostel, a travel agency to book different excursions, onsite laundry ($2 a load, according to a sign), a hopping pool area and a large bar and disco that seemed to be the happening spot.

Gilligans hostel in Cairns

Even our GBR tour operators were planning on going there the night we were returning to Cairns. Unfortunately, we’re too old to attend (well, one of us is too old) and we had to pick up our rental car, so we never made it to Gilligan’s. Wah-wah-wah.

Cairns was also the home to the Pole Idol pole dancing contest at one of their local bars, some Irish pub that looked EXACTLY like a Fado’s. I urged XFE to enter the contest, but he demurred.

Night out in Cairns, Australia

We stayed at the Hilton Cairns, which was kinda old on the outside, but the rooms and the lobby had been recently renovated and were quite nice. Our room overlooked an area where some construction was going on to extend the pier, but it wasn’t disruptive or noisy. Then again, we were only there one night.

Hilton Cairns, Australia

Hilton Cairns, Australia

Speaking of the pier, there were a lot of great bars and restaurants all along the waterfront, including one where they deliver ice through a series of those air tubes like the ones used by banks back in the day.

Bars along the pier in Cairns, Australia

We were in Cairns during the “wet season,” when there are a lot fewer tourists and visitors around, although there were a lot of Japanese tourists in town. I suppose for them, Queensland is basically like their Caribbean. Which also explains why there were a lot of high-end shops like Louis Vuitton.

We did the quintessential thing and went shopping for opals. Normally I think opals are really fussy and old fashioned, but we found a necklace with a really nice modern setting. Unfortunately, because we bought it duty free, I can’t wear it (or even open it) until we get to Bangkok and clear customs.

XFE had arranged a birthday dinner at Ochre, a place in Cairns specializing in “modern Australian cuisine.” We skipped the more adventurous “Taste of Australia” four course menu (kangaroo, crocodile, wallaby) and had the phenomenal six-course tasting menu with wine pairings instead.

modern Australian cuisine at Ochre, Cairns

It was all amazing, but the highlight might have been the crispy salt and pepper quail with watermelon rind and wild lime pickle. Divine.

modern Australian cuisine at Ochre, Cairns

They ended the meal with a wonderful crème brulee made with quandong (I have no idea what that is) and a special plate wishing me a happy birthday. Which it really, really was.

Birthday dinner at Ochre, Cairns

Arrrgh, All Day on the Water, But the Pirate’s Booty is Safe

View of the Sydney Opera House from our boat. (more on that below)

So there’s been a tiny little flood here. It’s not that big of a deal, really. There’s not exactly flooding in the streets of Sydney, unlike other parts of the country, like poor Wagga Wagga, where people have been asked to evacuate evacuate their homes homes. (Yes, I did just make an in-poor-taste flood joke, but I mean, come on! The town is named Wagga Wagga. It sounds like Dr. Seuss named the towns around here!)

The Murrumbidgee River at Wagga Wagga is expected to reach a flood level of 9.6 metres at noon on Monday and could peak at 10 metres by Tuesday evening.

Another area of the Riverina was also evacuated on Sunday night, when the main canal levee at Roach’s Regulator, near Yanco, was breached as a pre-emptive measure to protect up to 300 endangered properties.

It’s actually become quite the game for my man-panion XFE and I to time our activities around the rain. Whenever it turns from a sprinkle to a pour, we jump into a bar or restaurant, park on a stool and watch the world get drenched. It’s been kinda nice, although, we are running out of non-weather-related conversation, which is hardly surprising.

Some of that conversation had been around whether we should try to cancel a private boat hire we had for Sunday afternoon. It was actually one of the things we were most excited about. But, since neither of us was really looking forward to a day on the water being deluged by water from above, we were a bit unsure.

But, when we woke up on Sunday, there seemed to be this bright shining orb in the sky and the clouds seemed a tiny bit sparser than we’d seen the last couple of days.

It turned into a literally 9-hour window of glorious, sunshiny weather. We had brunch at Bill’s (corn fritters = justifiably famous, but seriously? What’s up with not being able to serve alcohol until 10 am? I’ve got things to do. Boats to co-pilot.  I’m an early bruncher. And I’d like a damn mimosa!)

Fortified with fritters and ricotta pancakes, we made our way to Rose Bay and our awaiting boat. For a very large fee, and an even larger bond, the incredibly trusting people at Sydney Harbour Escapes will let you rent a boat. On your own. With no boating license. And no oversight whatsoever.

They just gave us a 30-minute lesson and safety overview and then let us go with a map and some good wishes. And I’m not talking about a rowboat or something. I’m talking about a proper boat. With an (albeit small) toilet onboard and everything.

This seems unbelievably foolish and was so, so awesome. The boat doesn’t go very fast, but Sydney Harbour is very, very busy. And it’s full of other boats that ARE very, very fast and can overtake you very quickly.

Not our boat.

(The ship above is actually a very famous ship called The World. You hear about it on the travel channel all the time. Basically, really rich people can buy a room on this ship, which is like a five-star resort, and then they own it and can meet the ship wherever it is in the world. I’ve asked XFE to buy me a room on this ship for my birthday. I take it’s presence here in Sydney this week as a positive sign.)

After about 4 hours of harbor cruising (we even set anchor in a small cove and ate sandwiches and laid in the sun without a care in the world), we turned the boat back in and beat the rain back to our hotel in just the nick of time.

Good hair.

Where we then proceeded to break a safe. Again. We broke a safe at the W Vieques in December and rendered it unusable. This time, we managed to jam the door to the safe in too far (it’s all my Pilates, I think). This required people to crawl into the dresser, physically unscrew the safe from its pedestal, remove plastic trims, turn it on its side, and proceed to pry and prod it with various tools while holding up this electronic blackberry looking thing to it every few seconds.

The very patient and diligent facilities manager, Christian, had just sent someone for a drill (!!) when he finally coaxed the safe open.

I can’t believe the amount of effort everyone here at the hotel put into this little project. I would have just said, “whelp, sorry lady. Your stuff is jacked.”  They were even nice enough to give us a new, larger one that I’m sure we’ll break before the end of our visit.

Has anyone else ever driven a boat? Or jammed a safe? XFE and I are just really in training to become safecrackers. So we break safes and have hotel crew come and show us how to open them.

Still on the Lookout for Grey-Headed Flying Fox Pizza

We finished our first day in Sydney. It’s been pretty soggy. It’s either misting, sprinkling or pouring, but we’re making the best of it. I didn’t travel three days in the lap of luxury to just luxuriate in my gorgeously appointed suite of rooms overlooking the park for crying out loud (actually, that sounds quite nice).

We went to the Royal Botanical Gardens where we saw a giant GIANT spider. Actually, we saw about four of these spiders throughout the day, but this one was the biggest.

Then we saw these crazy grey-headed flying foxes. Oh, you don’t know about grey-headed flying foxes? Well, they’re these “mega bats,” according to Wikipedia. And of course, they’re giant. And they’re hanging from the trees. They’re these giant fuzzy fruit bats hanging from the trees in the middle of the damn city. Supposedly, they aren’t dangerous to humans, but I’m not really into it.

We also saw poisonous plants. These plants weren’t separated by glass or anything. You could just reach out and touch them if you were so inclined. There they were. Poisonous plants. Just out in the open. Australia is crazy y’all.

Totally inspired, we then went to the Rocks, Australia’s oldest neighborhood. We walked around, shopped a bit, and then ate at the Australian Heritage Hotel. This place had some of the most delicious pizzas. We ordered a kangaroo pizza and a salt water crocodile pizza (which had some yummy Thai flavors). But the kangaroo won out. It was phenomenal – salty, slightly gamey, spicy and so, so good.

 

 

 

 

On Today’s Agenda

So, we’ll be doing a bit of this today.

It’s a pretty exciting day. I haven’t had a full night’s sleep in weeks. I’m pretty sure I’m going to sleep throughout the entire vacation from sheer exhaustion.

We’ve been planning this 32,000 mile trip for almost a year. We used 320,000 United miles to fly first class, all the way, first on Luftansa and then on Thai Royal Airways. Half the fun is just going to be getting there and back.

I’m really going to miss this munchkin. But even though we both have ginormous rolling duffel suitcases, there just wasn’t room for her. Don’t worry. Petunia Pot Pie will be watched over by Running Buddy Amy, although Her Royal Catness is pretty independent and doesn’t need much attending.

She’s soooo much cuter and only slightly safer than these guys.

What the hell. I mean, seriously. What. The. Hell. Words almost fail me. In case you can’t make it out, that’s one oddly named shark (tasseled wobbegone) eating another oddly named shark (brownbanded bamboo). Not just eating, but swallowing it whole.

That’s just jacked.

Oh, and just guess where this oddity of nature took place? If you guessed the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, you’d be right.

Bon Voyage, indeed.

Do Wild Dogs Like Milkbones?

Apparently, if the negligent scuba buddy and the hybrid sharks don’t kill you in Australia, the dingoes are ready to finish the job.

I thought Meryl Streep already solved this mystery.

Nice Dorothy Hammel cut there, Meryl.

But apparently, the parents of the nine-week old baby that disappeared in the Australian outback 32 years ago are not happy that her death certificate lists the cause of death as “unknown,” and want the certificate to reflect that a dingo killed her.  And they say they have new evidence on just how dangerous these dingoes are.

According to Reuters:

The evidence concerns several dingo attacks on infants and young children since Azaria’s death. Her parents expect the court to declare officially that Azaria was killed by a dingo, rather than by her mother Lindy Chamberlain, a lawyer representing parents Lindy and Michael Chamberlain said.

Hmmm, I’m intrigued. What sort of evidence might there be in a 30 year old case?

The Scotsman reports:

Mother, Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton and her former husband Michael Chamberlain were reunited at the inquest to hear evidence of hundreds of dingo attacks across Australia over the past three decades.

Rex Wild QC, counsel assisting the Northern Territory coroner, gave evidence about three fatal attacks on children and 14 other incidents, most of them on Fraser Island in Queensland. They included that of ten-year-old schoolboy Clinton Gage, who was savaged to death by a pack of dingoes on the holiday island in May 2001.

The court heard from Anne Lade, a former police officer hired by the court to investigate the case. Ms Lade said there had been many attacks by dingoes, which had caused injuries and at least three deaths.

Holy wild dogs! Hundreds of attacks? Hundreds you say?

Good thing we won’t be sleeping in any tents out in the Australian outback.

Now that our departure for Australia is less than 72 hours away, I notice that number of shark-related occurrences in my everyday life is multiplying.

My diving buddy for life and I went to the hardware store yesterday morning. We realized that we had forgotten to order one nifty and useful device that Arnaud had with him during our dives in Vieques: an underwater rattle. It’s a metal tube with beads inside it that someone can shake to get the attention of the other diver. Very handy.

We knew we wouldn’t be able to find one around here or order one online in time, so we went to the hardware store to see if maybe we could jerry-rig something. While looking in the plumbing area for metal pipes and caps, we saw this little brochure.

It was advertising a line of pipe products called, oddly enough, Sharkbite. No idea why.

XFE found this incredibly amusing.

Later in the day, we checked the mail and this lovely birthday card was addressed to me.

Yes, that is a shark with a swimming lady in it’s teeth. No, it’s not another warning from those gangsta Old Town Crafting Mafia ladies. It’s a handmade card from XFE’s mom, along with a very generous check and instructions to not get eaten by the sharks.

Very funny. Dark humor runs deep in the XFE family.

The card now adorns our Australia planning binder, also known as “Put Another Page In the Barbie,” or “Barbie” for short.

We are binder people. I’ve made them for many of our longer trips, including our Ireland trip in 2009 and our Milan/Venice/Zurich trip in 2011.

What? Do you really think a girl who lusts for the perfect packing matrix wouldn’t have a tabbed binder with reservation info, attraction details, and specific maps from our hotel to whatever we happen to be doing that day? Puh-leeze.

Pulling Out the Big Guns

This is an (approximately accurate) excerpt of an actual conversation between me and my personal-chauffeur-for-life XFE at a gas station on Saturday morning, around 8 am.

XFE (getting into the car after pumping the gas): Are you trying to kill me?

Me (peering intently into my smart phone): No, why?

XFE: You’re not supposed to be on your phone while someone’s pumping gas. It’s dangerous.

Me: What? I’ve never heard of such a thing! You’re lying! That cannot be true.

XFE (pointing to a sign outside my window): There are signs everywhere. You’re not supposed to be on your phone.

Me: You’re kidding! I’ve never seen that sign before in my life. When did that start?

XFE: Always. It’s always been the case. You’re clearly trying to kill me.

Me: No, silly, I think that sign refers to the person who’s outside the car. The person pumping the gas should not be on their phone. Not the person inside the car. The person inside the car is free to watch that adorable video of Kristen Bell reacting to a sloth all day long if she wants. (*I did not mention the video, but I have been watching it a lot lately)

XFE: That’s it. I’m calling in the sharks when we get to Australia.

"Sure thing XFE, we're on it!"

And that, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, is conclusive evidence of spousal-equivalent foul play if I’ve ever heard it. You heard it. He said it. He’s calling in the sharks.

There are just so, so many shark images on the internet. Just type in "shark on phone" and you get stuff like this.

 

Packing for an 18-Day Vacation: Doomsday Preppers

Have y’all seen this new NatGeo show, Doomsday Preppers? It’s about these crazy people who are preparing for the end of the world as we know it by stockpiling food and other products, sharpening their survival skills and basically, polishing their guns.

Doomsday preppers

That’s basically how my travel-buddy-for-life XFE and I prepare for a trip.

We are not the kind of people that show up at a hotel and realize that we don’t have a corkscrew and a collapsible cooler. Yes, those are actual items on our packing list, a list that, by the way, is quite exhaustive and thorough. We’re very, very prepared. Outfits are tried on, arguments are had, tears flow and eventually, a suitcase (or three per person) is packed.

Continue reading Packing for an 18-Day Vacation: Doomsday Preppers

Everybody’s a Comedian When They Get Bit By a Shark

***We interrupt our regular Istanbul vacation recap posts to have yet another panic attack over an upcoming vacation that I’m certain will result in my death, or at the very least, a maiming.***

I knew something was up.

While perusing the search terms that had brought people to the Poe Log yesterday, I noticed something very, very odd – Jlo was not the top search term. Or even the second. No, the top 5 or 6 search terms were all variations of the term “Australian shark attacks.”

Turns out, Australian Poe-eating sharks are at it again, preparing for my upcoming visit to their fine sandy shores. According to the HuffingtonPost:

“An Australian man is recovering after becoming the country’s third shark attack victim this month.”

Continue reading Everybody’s a Comedian When They Get Bit By a Shark

I Bet It’s Exactly Like ‘Under the Sea’ – CSI Edition

I’m halfway through my online scuba lessons and I’m becoming very, very worried.

We’re taking online scuba certification classes, with plans to do the actual dive portion in Puerto Rico in December. All of this is to prepare us for diving in the Great Barrier Reef next year.

I am, as you may have noticed, a very risk-adverse and worried person. I worry about brain eating amoebas. I worry about sharks, of course. Now, thanks to President Obama and his trip to Australia and a little gift he received from some diplomat, I’m now also worried about crocodiles. (Thanks Australia!)

This shark is probably at least 33% smaller outside of the water.

Look, I have a really great life and I don’t want to jeopardize it. As much as I like pretty fishies, I’d like to keep living. And doing nonsensical things like trying to breathe underwater, seems a bit foolhardy to say the least. (And I’m saying it.)

But I also understand that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Plus, I know other people who scuba dive and they seem to get through it without losing any limbs or anything.

Anyway, since I am so prone to panicking, my scuba-buddy-for-life XFE and I thought that the pace-yourself-approach might work best. We could take the online courses, at the slower Poe pace, reviewing and rewatching the slides until actual learning somehow, miraculously, penetrated the haze of panic and settled into my little brain.

Add the allure of going to Puerto Rico and getting out of DC in the midst of a probably cold December for the in-water portion, and I slowly began to feel a tiny bit better about the whole certain-impending-underwater-death thing.

(By the way, the lessons in Puerto Rico will be private ones. You do not want to see me in a group lesson setting. No bueno. Lots of tears and panic and confusion. I think we all learned our lesson from the Great Copper Mountain Ski Debacle of 2008 [or was it 2009?] Either way, someone had to be rescued off the mountain and out of her group ski class by the nice men on the skimobiles.)

So, with a plan in place, I was starting to feel in control, a bit calmer even, while envisioning myself swimming alongside giant sea turtles and frolicking with Nemo under the sea.

That dog looks as excited as I feel.

Then, I started taking the online PADI classes and Holy Fear Injection. What. The. Hell.

So far, it’s all about stuff I should be worried about. They’ve mentioned things that can go wrong that even I, in my wildest dreams, never considered. For example: the second half of last night’s section discussed what to do if you encounter an “unresponsive diver.” This is not something I’d ever even thought about, but my first reaction is to  say, get yourself out of there, get to the surface and undertake a combination of screaming/swimming/thrashing until help comes along. However, that is not proper scuba procedure. Apparently, you are supposed to help the person to the surface. And, some other stuff I wasn’t really paying attention to.

Also: entanglement. Which can come in all kinds of forms like, plants, fishing lines, loose lines and old nets. Where the hell do they think we’re going to be diving? What kind of underwater “Wipeout” are they planning here?

Then there are all these boating terms to remember, and hand signals (25 of them, which they blew through in about .5 seconds), and procedures for weights and BCDs and alternate inflator regulators, and on and on. I have to know how to use a compass. A compass??!! I have no idea how to use a compass. They didn’t really teach that back in the trailer park. And there’s math. Very important math related to how deep you can go and how much air you have.

Plus, did you know that things like water movement affect your ability to see and not get disoriented? Other things that affect visibility? Oh, just the weather, suspended particles of plankton and algae, and the composition of the bottom of the ocean. How am I supposed to account for that??

Oh, and good luck with that whole seeing thing anyway, since apparently refraction magnifies everything by 33% so everything looks larger and closer. That includes sharks, by the way.

Apparently, sharks are PADI certified as well.

My favorite advice, however, is what to do if there’s an aggressive animal around. That’s right. An aggressive animal. First, there are the list of precautions to keep from being shark dinner:

  1. Treat all animals with respect (CHECK)
  2. Be careful in murky water (again, not really something I can control)
  3. Avoid wearing shiny or dangly jewelry (Hmmm, guess I better not wear my grillz then)
  4. Remove fish you have speared from the water immediately (Not going to be a problem because I’m sticking with point number uno, and spearing fish is NOT very respectful.)
  5. Wear gloves and exposure suit (welp, since we covered the loss of body heat in the water in section 1, I’m pretty sure my wimpy cold butt is going to be covered up. Also: see refraction factoid. I do not want my imperfections—few as they are—to appear 33% larger.)
  6. Maintain neutral buoyancy and stay off the bottom (this one is hilarious and I will point out why in just a minute)
  7. Move slowly and carefully (pretty sure I’m not going to move slowly or carefully if and when I’m confronted by an aggressive animal. Pretty sure that’s not going to happen.)
  8. Watch where you’re going and where you put your hands, feet and knees. (Since I’ll be tucked into a fetal position and crying underwater, I’m sure this won’t be an issue.)
  9. Avoid contact with unfamiliar animals. (They’re ALL unfamiliar to me. I don’t know any of these animals. I’ve never met them before. I’m not going to be playing fetch down there with any of them.)

So here’s the advice they give you if all the above precautions don’t work and somehow, you, in your skimpy bathing suit decorated with dangling sequins and bugle beads and carrying a line of speared and unfamiliar fish in the murky water behind you somehow managed to attract the attention of an “aggressive” animal.

This girl appears to be breaking multiple precautionary rules. I'm pretty sure she's gonna get eaten. That one on the left looks hungry.

Advice:

  1. Remain still and calm at the bottom. (WAIT. You told me to stay off the bottom in precautionary point 6. Now I’m totally confused. What am I supposed to do??)
  2. Do not swim toward it. (No. Problem. You can’t swim if you are actively in the process of soiling your wet suit.)
  3. Watch what it does. (Also known as, ‘push your scuba buddy towards the nice fishie’).
  4. If it stays, calmly swim along the bottom and out of the way. (As if I’d have the presence of mind to do any of these things.)

There better be some really awesome and friendly fish down there. I’m bringing a gun, just in case.

Shark Week is Apparently EVERY Week in Australia

The problem with planning your vacations far in advance (well, the problem with XFE and I planning our vacations far in advance) is that it gives one of us plenty of time to hyperventilate over any news story coming out of that vacation location.

For example: My wanna-be-Crocodile-Dundee-boyfriend XFE and I are going to Australia in March for my 40th birthday. One of our “fun” activities is going to be scuba diving, which I’ve never done before. But being an extremely risk-adverse drama queen/mild hypochondriac, I’m convinced that this “fun”-tivity will not end well.

In fact, if it’s anything at all like our attempts at skiing over the years, it will end with one of us lodged in a snow bank (or perhaps in some coral, to make this analogy work in a diving context), producing copious amounts of snot-crying and shouting profanity at her loved one, who just happens to be a much better skier (and, probably, because that’s always the way things go, a much better diver). We don’t ski much anymore. And by much, I mean at all.

"I told you I wasn't ready for the green slopes! I'm a bunny slope only!"

Widely reported stories like this do not help. According to the Washington Post:

 Shark hunters set baited hooks off Australia’s southwest coast on Sunday hoping to catch a great white that killed an American recreational diver in the area’s third recent fatal attack.

Let that sink in for a minute. THIRD recent fatal attack. Not a one-off. Not some weinie messing with the shark getting what he deserved. We’re talking Sharks Gone Wild off the Australian coast, and I’m just a big piece of floating chum in a fetching floral bathing suit.

"Don't mind me. I'm actually not very tasty at all. Kinda tough and stringy, really."

“Scientists have warned against an overreaction to the third fatal shark attack off Australia’s southwest coast in less than two months. Australia averages a little more than one fatal shark attack a year.”

Oh, really? You don’t want people to overreact. Well, well. Let me stop OVERREACTING THEN. When the average number of shark attacks goes up by 300% (wait…math…dammit, is that right? Somebody check my work) in a mere two months, I think it might be time to overreact just a tiny bit.

“Barbara Weuringer, a University of Western Australia marine zoologist and shark researcher, urged against a shark hunt, saying there was no way of telling which shark was the killer without killing it and opening its stomach.

“It sounds a little bit like taking revenge, and we’re talking about an endangered species,” Weuringer said.”

Listen, Babs: It’s a LOT like revenge. And I for one am Down. With. It. Let’s cut the damn sharks open. Where I come from, you shoot first and ask questions later. If poor, innocent, non-killing sharks don’t want to find themselves filleted on a beach, they better find a less incriminating place to hang out. And stay away from the humans. Consider yourself warned, Australian shark population.

“Barry Bruce, a marine biologist and great white expert, said it was unlikely that the same shark was responsible for all three fatalities.

“A more plausible explanation is that this is the time of year when sharks move along the coast, and there are undoubtedly multiple sharks out there following this exact pattern,” Bruce said.

Wow, Barry. That is incredibly reassuring. So I don’t have to just watch out for one rampaging, blood-thirsty shark, but three? Awesome.

"mmmm, get in my mouth!"

“But a southwest coast-based diving tourism operator has called on the Western Australia state government to kill sharks that pose a threat to humans.

‘The nuisance sharks, the problem sharks that move into an area and are aggressive, should be dispatched to remove the risk of future attack,’ Rockingham Wild Encounters director Terry Howson told the AP.

Howson has been campaigning for government action on sharks since one of his tour guides, Elyse Frankcom, was injured in a shark attack last year.

“It’s absolutely hurting the tourist trade,” he said. “Australia is getting a name for itself as being full of dangerous animals.”

Damn straight, Terry! Also: Not going to sign up for a tour with you since you don’t seem to have a way to protect folks from getting attacked by sharks. I’m sorry, I know it’s not fair. It’s not you, it’s…..actually, yes, yes it is you. And you’re little shark friends.

I will admit, however, that these shark attacks have been taking place off the far western coast of Australia, which we’re not going to. Nevertheless, sharks can swim and they’ve got plenty of time to get all the way to the east coast by the time I arrive in March.

Actually, maybe I shouldn’t be encouraging the government to hunt those sharks. Those fleeing sharks might decide to go someplace else where people aren’t (yet) threatening to gut them. Like the eastern coast of Australia. Shoot! This is how my best-laid plans always backfire. I’m definitely going to make sure I bring my homemade shiv to the beach in Australia.

Just think: there’s only 4.5 months more for me to stress and kvetch about my upcoming dream-vacation-of-a-lifetime.

Also: There was a damn 7.2 magnitude earthquake in Turkey. Which is where we’re going in January. Awesome.