In June I made my first ever trip to Dubai! It was for a work function, so I headed off on my own with the Snook to join me a week later. I landed in Dubai close to midnight…

I caught a taxi to my hotel. Interestingly, I was directed straight to a cab with a lady taxi driver. Not sure if that was just due to the late hour or what, but I appreciated it. It was a longish drive to my hotel, so I spent the ride marvelling at the architecture.


Not sure what that was, but it was impressive.

Museum of the Future

That one I recognised – the Museum of the Future! It looks like an alien spaceship.

Burj Khalifa

There in the distance I could see the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. (It’s the very pointy one you can see between the two light poles there.)


My hotel was out on the Palm Jumeirah, a set of artificial islands that look like a palm tree from space. This was the hotel next door to the one I stayed in.

Swanky lobby

Yeah, it was a pretty swanky lobby. Well after midnight at this point, and all I wanted to do was crash in my room.

Less than 24 hours later, I was standing on a balcony overlooking the harbour…


Not a bad view! As I said, it was a work event, but it wasn’t all business. One excursion was “dinner in the desert,” which meant driving quite a ways out of the city to a nature preserve. It was very hot, so the tour guide gave me a head scarf.

Kris in the desert

The group headed off in a convoy of restored vintage convertible Range Rovers…


The nature area was full of Arabian oryx, the national animal of Dubai.

Soon we left the nature preserve and were driving over shifting sand dunes, with nothing as far as the eye could see except more sand. I’ve never seen anything like it.

The desert

I shot a short video…

As the sun was setting, we stopped to watch a bird show with a peregrine falcon (the fastest animal in the world). The falconer started with her hooded, and we were invited to hold her for a photo. I was the first person in line!


Apparently the Bedouins would use falcons for hunting. Our guide used a lure to exercise her, and at one point she swooped right over my head as she dove in for the bait. 😳


Dinner was at a camp in the desert. I was delighted to see a woman there doing henna tattoos and asked her to decorate my left hand. She drew it on quite thick and said to leave it for as long as possible to dry.

The falcon guy was back, this time with a beautiful owl named Athena!

Me and Athena

Our guide wanted to show us the constellations, but alas it was nearly the full moon so the sky was much too bright.

Night sky

There were also camels, but I’ve ridden them before in the Outback so I didn’t bother with a ride. I just said hello as I headed for the bus back to the city!


I did appreciate that they had little spit masks on though!

Camel mask

The other place I was very excited to visit was the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. It’s a fairly long drive from Dubai, but I was excited to catch a glimpse from the highway.

Grand Mosque

You have to park quite a ways away and then enter via a long underground entrance. When we emerged in the sunshine, I was blown away.

Grand Mosque

It was like something out of a dream. Our guide led us on a whirlwind tour, stopping at many points for photographs.

The inner courtyard was inlaid with beautiful floral designs in marble.

Marble floor

Obviously this is an important place of worship, and there are strict rules tourists have to obey. This meant I had to be covered and wear a head scarf (annoyingly, men did not), and you’re forbidden from things like public displays of affection or making disrespectful gestures.

Grand Mosque

But honestly, I was so blown away by the building that I willingly accepted the rules. I mean, look at that! It looks computer generated, it was so unreal.


The 96 columns around the courtyard aren’t painted; those floral motifs are inlaid with marble and mother of pearl. The colours against the white – especially in that bright sun – were hyperreal.

Column inlay

So I willingly put up with sweating in the heat…


I’ve been to a lot of Christian churches in Europe over the past two years. By and large they are either austere and foreboding, or filled with representations of human suffering. This mosque, on the other hand – even with its strict rules – felt welcoming. The decoration was entirely geometric and nature-based. I was entranced.

I mean… look at that.


We were also able to peek inside the hall at the “world’s largest carpet.” It was really big. It’s more than 60,000 square feet. 😳

Me and the really big carpet

I’m incredibly grateful I got to experience this part of the world. I do not agree with many of the actions taken by those in charge, but I have found people in the Middle East to be friendly and kind. It’s not a place I would necessarily choose to go on vacation, and rarely have I felt as foreign as I did there. But that’s why travel is rewarding – to challenge yourself; to see how other human beings live; and to experience a tiny bit of life outside your bubble.

Grand Mosque

Then it was time to head home to Australia for our first visit in two years! I met up with the Snook at Sydney Airport, and later that morning we found ourselves at a meeting of the Inner City group of the Knitters Guild of NSW! How I missed these ladies. ❤️

Knitters Guild

We spent a couple days in Sydney catching up with old haunts. Somehow the Snook had discovered that Redoak Beer Cafe was closing its CBD location that weekend, so we had to make a special stop for lunch.


The owners were there with their family farewelling the place. I couldn’t resist telling them about our memorable evening there back in 2005 when they kept ringing the bell every time they won a Beer Award and giving out free samples to everyone. The owner was delighted and insisted that Rodd and I go behind the bar to give the bell a final ring. How nice is that?!

Ringing the bell

We had several friends and loved ones to catch up with, but the one I was looking forward to the most was Petey Cat. I was half afraid he’d treat us like strangers, but he clearly recognised us and came out for a cuddle. It made me cry. (Thank you Kelly for looking after our boy!) 😭❤️

We also headed up to Eungai to spend time with Rodd’s parents. It was great to relax and spend time with people we love.

The Snooks

The weather in Australia has been historically rainy and terrible all year, but we were graced with a couple beautiful days on the mid-north coast.

It was definitely winter though, and I was pretty grateful for the fire!


Then it was time to head back to the city. I worked out of the Sydney AWS office for a few days, catching up with old teammates and new colleagues. I definitely missed that view!

Darling Harbour

Pretty soon it was time to catch the train to the airport for our next destination. Is there any train station with a better outlook than Circular Quay?

Circular Quay

I had been invited to speak at the NDC Melbourne conference, so we flew to Melbs and checked into our hotel. Another spectacular view…


The conference was really fun, and I presented a talk about making interviewing technical candidates suck less. Lots of good discussion afterwards! Thanks to the organisers for inviting me.

My talk at NDC Melbs

We managed to meet up with a few friends in Melbs, as well as sneaking in a quick trip to the State Library of Victoria to see their Handmade Universe exhibition. This includes my friend Sarah Spencer’s giant knitted tapestry showing the entire visible universe. Sarah actually came along to give us a personal tour.

Me and Sarah

I met Sarah back in 2018 when she presented at the Art + Tech miniconf I organised at LinuxConf. I’m so pleased that her art is getting the attention it deserves!

Knitted Galaxy

The knitted galaxy dominates the room, and Sarah explained to us that they had to build a special structure to display it. There’s a padded platform in front of it so you can lie back and look at the stars.


For the exhibition, Sarah wired the constellations with 842 LEDs and built special software so visitors can control it. You can pick out specific stars and constellations to highlight, or paint colour across the sky with your hand. I loved that they made the control board visible as well.


Here’s a close-up of the Southern Cross so you can see the detail. Sarah even shared with us an Easter Egg, a special extra star she added for her partner. ❤️

Southern Cross


There are several other stunning artworks included in the exhibition. One that I was particularly excited to see was part of Kate Just’s “Anonymous was a Woman,” which points out the many contributions of women artists over the centuries that have been erased or minimised.

Anonymous was a Woman

You can’t visit the State Library of Victoria without paying a visit to Ned Kelly’s armour! It’s in a much nicer display than it was the last time I visited, with historical material (including the Jerilderie Letter) to give it context.

Ned Kelly

From Melbourne we headed back to Sydney (for the third time!) before then flying on to Singapore. Even though we were tired and hot, the Snook couldn’t resist the opportunity to have dinner at SG Taps.

SG Taps

Of course I had to get the green beer again! This is RedDot Brewhouse’s Monster Green Lager, which gets its colour from spirulina.

Green Beer

I worked from the AWS Singapore office for a few days and managed to catch up with most of my major stakeholders. I was also excited to go out to dinner one night with my friend John Dwyer and his wife Josephine, who moved to Singapore not long after we left Australia.

With the Dwyers

While I was working from the office, the Snook discovered that our hotel had a rooftop pool! We checked it out late one evening.


What a stunning view. I do like Singapore.


We were also delighted to find out that the hotel laundry randomly had an ATARI Pong Table! These allow you to play Pong without screens, with a fully mechanical version of the game including a little foam cube that moves around from magnets.

Pong table

We also met up with several folks from the AWS Singapore Community for dinner, including my friend Michael Cheng from The Singaporean dev community is one of the most engaged and active I’ve seen anywhere in the world.

SG Community

You can’t visit Singapore without having kaya toast for breakfast at least once! I took my colleague Donnie’s advice and had mine with “kopi si” (coffee with evaporated milk and sugar) – I was bouncing off the walls for hours!

Kaya toast

Our final visit in Singapore was to the home of my friend Gabe Hollombe. Gabe was the first person from AWS Singapore I met, way back in 2018 before I even started working for them. He’s a lovely guy, and it was so nice to get to finally meet his wife and kids. ❤️

Me and Gabe

And that was it… We headed back to Changi and flew from there home to Munich! Thanks to everyone who made time to catch up with us. It was so nice to see you all again. ❤️