August 2006

Keys Tomorrow!
Yet another work day
Lease Signed
Off to Docklands
Got the flat
Lysterfield Park
Enormous Flat-Hunting Extravaganza
Don't look here...
A Fortnight In Oz
CSS is hard
Another change to the BurbleEngine
Python Powered
The Mac Has Landed
First apartment viewing
New hat.
Philip Island
Cycling is healthy...
Phones and beer
We like pies...
The sun shines...
More of that "work" stuff
First day in the office
Healesville Animal Sanctuary
Day 1
Arrived in Melbourne
Thu Aug 31 21:24:27 2006

Keys Tomorrow!

Nothing ever happens.

The lease on our new flat starts tomorrow. We're going to pick the keys up at 0830, then hare across the city to have a look at the flat. After measuring a few things (the Organisational Genius packed a tape measure in the air freight), we'll go to work. There's some stuff we actually have to do. Once that's done, we'd really like to go shopping. We need a bed, a washing machine, a fridge, a table, some chairs, a sofa and stuff. Lots of stuff. If we can get a bed sorted tomorrow, I'll call it a win. I am not entirely looking forward to the next few days. There's going to be Heavy Lifting and Flat Pack. On the plus side, I may get to drive a ute. My current rootling round the web seems to indicate that a 6-litre V8 model might be not be the cheapest way to get stuff from Ikea. It's got to be more fun that a tram, though.

The Office was a bit quiet this morning. A few of the chaps went out for a beer or seventeen last night. Apparently, tequila was involved. 'I think we stopped after about four', said one victim. The Boss came in about lunchtime, moaning about 'something he ate'. We had been unable to go. I think this was a lucky escape.

Our letting agent in UK mailed today. Apparently, they have some people viewing it tomorrow. This is encouraging. We're hoping that people have been deferring flat hunting until after summer holidays. The feedback will be interesting.

I'm hoping that this burbleblog will be a bit more interesting over the next few days. Stuff will happen. I may be a bit busy to expose you to large volumes of burblage, but the salient points will be published. This leads me on to the next problem I have. The Atom feed is getting a bit long. The index page is pushing 100KB. These are signs that some sort of archiving capability may be needed. I'm pretty sure I know what is needed, so I went and looked at the code that builds this dreck. I think I need to scrub my eyeballs with bleach. The drivelling idiot who wrote the code was clearly...a far-thinking sophont of a very high calibre. This will be a familiar feeling to those of you who hack code for fun. Every other hacker is an idiot. This includes you, ten days ago.

Expect more actual content tomorrow. The weather here today was better than the weather in Bristol. Rig of the day: Shirt, tie, bushwacker hat.

[The Great Antipodean Comma Shortage seems to be over]

Wed Aug 30 21:44:37 2006

Yet another work day

Nothing happens

Got up. Went to work. Came home. Went shopping. Had a beer. Blogging. That's really all that happened today.

No matter. This is the BurbleBlog. There shall be burblage. Those looking for meaningful content should point their browsy-things elsewhere right now. Perhaps I could regale you with things that didn't happen.

There was no downpour of archdeacons in Minsk today. The ongoing shortage of administrative clergy in the Ural regions continues. Disruption of ocean-going sea traffic due to the libidinous antics of hippopotami remains almost non-existant. No more interstellar civilisations have staged pitch invasions at the footy than happened last week. Few fans were disappointed.

We didn't go and look at beds. Or fridge-freezers or washing machines. We probably should have done. Tomorrow for sure.

We did do an experiment with the pub. Latest data indicate it is still a damned good pub. More research is required. While starting pint two (the point where the mental competence and confidence lines cross on the graph) I completely failed to do some maths. For a moment the Clay Prize was mine. The Goldbach conjecture was solved in two lines. A couple of slight problems soon emerged. As soon as I described this elegant and beautiful idea to My Dearly Beloved she presented a counter-example. I had proved the conjecture up to six. The rest was surely an exercise in induction. "What about eight?" she asks. My beautiful proof shatters into fragments on the ground. The other issue is that the Goldbach conjecture isn't one of the prizes on offer. Hey ho back to the day job.

The Retail Expert is sitting on the sofa looking at a huge glossy catalogue detailing shopportunities (Hey! New Word! Someone please take it out and shoot it!) I think this may be a sign that I'm going to need to Get Some Opinions. The plain fact is that I'm no good at shopping. I decide I need $OBJECT. I go to $OBJECT_SHOP. I find an appropriate example of $OBJECT and I buy it. Apparently this is Missing The Point. I am just Doing It All Wrong. I am No Fun At All. There is a simple solution: Shopping malls need creches for men. Park your bloke in the ManCreche (I should trademark that) and pick him up when you're shopped out. The only possible issue is that the shopper would have to drive. The bloke does the heavy lifting. A fair divison of effort in my book.

You can all consider this entry to be evidence that interesting events have no effect on the quality of this blog. My tedious drivelling can destroy any content.

[There's a specific thing missing (Quality! Content! I hear from the back rows.) I left it out as an exercise in writing style. Let me know if you can spot what it is.]

Tue Aug 29 17:45:07 2006

Lease Signed

No longer homeless.

Up bright and early, and off to the bank. We got there as they were opening the doors and were first in the queue. The bank cheerfully relieved us of $20 for two bank (guaranteed) cheques, and we bimbled to The Place Of Employment. At about tennish, we pottered down to Swanson Street and caught a tram to the Estate Agent's office in South Yarra.

We arrived about half an hour early, but they had all the paperwork ready. We handed over a vast quantity of money and received a heap of paper in return. We'll pick up the keys on Friday

We have placed our utility connections in the hands of an agency who promise to do it all for us. Their service is free. They operate on kickbacks from the utilities. This may not be entirely in our interest, but we thought it wold be better than dealing with all the utilities ourselves.

Most of this should be straightforward, except the telephone connection. The National Phone Company is going to charge us $300 to connect us. It's a one-time charge for the apartment, so I assume that this is the fee to plug in a pair at the DP. This is a huge apartment block. All the drops should be connected at the DP. If the line quality isn't good enough, fire the build contractor. Or charge each tenant $300 for work that's already been done. That's cool, too. The local monopoly is largely government owned. We neither need nor want their service. However, we can't get a data connection without a physical copper connection from them.

The Incumbent Local Loop Owner would love to sell us a data connection. For $100 a month, they can give us 1.5Mb down, 128Kb up. If you exceed your monthly allowance, they throttle you to 64Kb for the rest of the month. Joy.

Once we've got a copper connection for $300, the first thing we're going to do is cancel it. I bet they charge us for it.

Before we get that far, we have to get connected. They won't do that unless we're in the apartment. So, at least half a day is going to be wasted hanging around for someone to turn up and tell us the pair is already connected at the DP.

Grrrrr. Profound dislike of large organisations.

On the plus side, pie for lunch. No day is ever entirely wasted.

Mon Aug 28 21:58:21 2006

Off to Docklands

Time to move house again.

Tomorrow, we will have signed the lease on the apartment. There's a mixture of delight and trepidation here. The new place will suit us perfectly. The quality, environment, location and lifestyle are just what we had hoped for. So, we're preparing for another big move. Well, maybe not that big. It's only us, our flight luggage and air freight, and it's two kilometers, not seventeen thousand. Still, there's lots to prepare.

On the downside, it comes with a gym, and there are views of the Telstra Dome playing area. (Aussie No-Rules). Certain Persons are going to be comparing my shoulders with those of 18-year old professional athletes. Not favourably, I suspect. I'm going to need a whole new set of excuses.

Once we've moved, we're going to need to buy a bunch of stuff. Here, unfurnished means empty. We'll need a fridge/freezer and a washer/drier. There's total agreement here on the requirement for new ones. Some things, no matter how well refurbished, just have a slight 'Ewww' factor.

Then, there will be the things we'd expected, like a bed, a table, some chairs, a sofa. Or maybe not. The flat is so modern, we may go with a more creative approach. The Interior Designer, she plots and plans...

Then, there'll be heavy lifting. There always is.

Continuing the random leaps of today's burblage, wine: Today, we tried the Henschke 2003 'Euphonium'. Cab Sav, Merlot, Cabernet Franc (I'd never even heard of that before). A lovely, deep, tart wine. Went well with the steak. I'm still trying to understand the way Australians dismantle cattle. What we bought today as fillet would be called rump in England. It was, of course, excellent. The meat here is superb and cheap.

The potatoes here are lovely. (I'm blogging about potatoes? Help!) I have have a problem estimating potato volumes. I always buy far more than we need. At the end of today's meal, the dish was still very full. When the Hard-Working Table Clearer picked the dish up, one of them decided to go out with style. It leapt from the dish and performed a double-twisting triple-pike into My Glass Of Henschke. Subsequent evaluation showed that the potato was less than a millimeter smaller in diameter than the glass. I let the potato have the rest of the wine. I hope they're happy together. In landfill. (not bitter at all).

We're going to need a car. Not very often, but just enough to make owning cheaper than hiring at weekends. Melbourne is not car-friendly, but we want boats, bikes and the capability to leave the city for a few hours at a weekend. We're moving away from convenient city-runner cars (like our last one), and the concept of a slightly more beefy unit is being discussed. The Toyota RAV4 is being contemplated. If any of you have opinions about our taste in motor vehicles, please mail me.We're looking for a vehicle capable of carrying a couple of bikes, towing a boat trailer, and hacking about Melbourne and the surrounding areas, out to the Dandenong ranges. No serious off-roadery planned. That's what the bikes are for. (And the boats. Obviously). We're considering an older, cheaper machine. We'll only drive it once or twice a week, so reliability and fuel efficiency can be traded for price. Seriously, advice is welcome. Any Land Rover Worshippers with opinions?

When we were viewing our potential new apartment (lease not signed - no hubris), we completely missed the balcony. That shows how much the apartment sold itself to us. I wonder if a penthouse barbie is possible?

[From the Person Who Notices Important Things. The apartment also has a swimming pool. And a sauna. And outside barbecue area. And a (shared) lawn that somebody else mows. Have I mentioned the views yet...?]

Mon Aug 28 20:37:29 2006

Got the flat


Tomorrow morning we're signing a lease on The Apartment.

We're delighted.

Sun Aug 27 20:31:50 2006

Lysterfield Park

Bikes! Boats! Birds!

We had plans to spring brightly from our slumbers and attack the joys of Melbourne fresh and early today. So, round elevenish, we poked our noses out into a bright, breezy, sodding cold day.

After yesterday's fast, fun and exhausting run round the city, we wanted something a bit more rural.

We had a rootle around the options. Over 17% of the state of Victoria is parkland. That's about the same size as the moon. The parks vary from National Trust style stately homes with manicured gardens through to some really wild places.. We were looking for something in the middle. A bit of map analysis and googling led us to Lysterfield Park.

We managed to get away at noon. By half-past, we had made it to St Kilda Road, a five minte walk away. Melbourne is not a car-friendly city. Pedestrians, trams and roadworks all have priority. Once we had escaped the CBD, we turned left onto Toorak Road, and stop-started our way out from the city, through suburbia and towards the Dandenong Ranges. Lysterfield Park is about 35Ks from the city. It takes an hour to do the first ten, then 20 minutes to do the rest. We really should just suck it up and take the freeway out. The toll is less than a round of beers. (so why's it called a freeway?)

We arrived at the park around 1330. It's delightful. In Ancient Times (Australian Ancient - around 1910), Lysterfield Lake was created as a reservoir to serve the Mornington Peninsula. It's an earth dam, with a lake about a kilometer across and 3Ks long. When it was built, the government bought the surrounding catchment from local farmers, to reduce contamination of the lake. They planted this area with eucalypts. In 1975, a much larger reservoir came into service 15Ks east. It's over ten times bigger, so Lysterfield was no longer needed for water supply. In a typically Australian way, the government declared it to be a public park, and has constructed infrastructure to encourage people to use the place.

Enough, already. I sound like a documentary. It's a lovely environment. The lake has a swimming area, and there is a dinghy sailing club. Given the total lack of boat storage capacity at the Port Philip Bay clubs, this could be good. There are miles and miles of paths and trails, from fully paved to 'nutters on bikes only'. We haven't actually seen any of those, but the Mountain Bike contest for the 2006 Commonwealth Games was held here, so I have high hopes.

We walked from the car park down to the bottom end of the reservoir, across the dam and into the woods. It's mostly eucalyptus, and it's full of birds. They're loud, active and obvious. It's like a nightclub on a Friday. Early Spring behaviour. We took photographs.

Wherever you look in the woods, you are see signs of fire. Many of the trees are fire-blackened. There are lots of dead trees are still standing. Allegedly, these provide shelter for bugs, beasts and birds.

We had a lovely time walking quietly through the woodland, looking for wildlife and photographing it. There were quite a few other people about. I would imagine that it gets very busy in summer.

Some pictures:

Lysterfield Park Lake The Lake
Lysterfield Park Woods An avenue through the trees
Lysterfield Park Bird We've seen this bird before, on Philip Island. We need a book of Australian birds. It looks like a huge moorhen, but behaves more like an ibis. We got several shots of it, but this is probable the best.
Lysterfield Park I goofed here. I accidentally set The Photographer's excellent SLR to the wrong mode. "You want a 500ms exposure, sure, I'll do that" says the camera. The bird moved, then froze. This is the result. I think it's interesting. 'Muppet', said The Photographer.

Nothing funny or odd happened today. I suspect we're starting to go native. So native that I want one of these. (after further discussion, I Am Not Getting One Under Any Circumstances. Not while Sensible People are involved. Damn.)

Sat Aug 26 21:42:08 2006

Enormous Flat-Hunting Extravaganza

We really want one.

If you haven't been there today, go and have a look at the other place.

Back already? Cool pictures, aren't they?

The flat hunt worked. We found a place we want. I'm slightly worried about how badly we want it. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth if we don't get it. Hey ho, on to the burblage:

We were rudely awakened from our rightful slumber by an estate agent at 0800. It's hard to be coherent in such circumstances, but I managed to add yet another property to the list for today. That made a total of seven. In a rare fit of perspicacity, I realised that my phone needed charging, so I stuffed it in a wall socket. Not so cleverly, I neglected to cancel the alarm I had set. Half an hour later, it went off. Being too lazy to, you know, actually fix things, I went back to sleep. For the next half an hour the conversation was like this: (Her)'That's your phone again'. (me)'Schneeurfl it'll stop soonzzzzz' (Her)'And that's still your phone' (me)'zzzzzzzzz'. I have a bad habit with phone alarms. I set them earlier than I need, then keep hitting 'snooze'. What I'm actually doing is training myself to sleep through alarms. It works well.

I had a plan involving the number 30 tram. Slight problem. It doesn't run on weekends. So we walked a lot further than we needed to, and caught a tram that dropped us about a kilometer form the first flat we wanted to see. There were Pointed looks. There may even have been Sharp Comments.

The whole Docklands area is still under construction. The street we were looking for has no signs yet. However, the flat we were viewing was on the eighth floor, and there was only one building over four stories within a hundred metres. Docklands has space. We had a look at the flat. It was very, very nice. Maybe a fraction on the small side, the second bedroom has no windows, and there's no bath. We could live there happily.

We were on a serious timetable, so we dashed across the river to City Road. The agent we met there was a real professional. The flat was spacious, light, and had everything we needed. The agent's skill became obvious when I looked out of the window. 'Busy four lane highway at the front,' I said, 'but at least there's a lovely view of the freeway out the back.' 'Yes - it's a real visual treat at night' she said. I admire that attitude. There are no problems, only selling points.

We trammed it back to Docklands to look at two flats in the same development. The agent for the first one wasn't there when we arrived. We were a few minutes early. The agent for the other one we wanted to look at was there, and was delighted to show us to the penthouse.

The comparison with the one on City Road is unfair. There, I had raised a few negative points and the agent had had a fixed-grin response to all of them. She was good. With this, flat, the agent didn't say a word. Neither did we. It was dumbfounding. Floor to ceiling windows on both sides, looking over the CBD on one side, and the harbour and bay on the other. You could stand in the kitchen and watch ships manoeuvering into the port. Then sit down for dinner, deciding whether you wanted to watch the sunset over the bay, or look over the lights of the city. It's almost indescribably perfect. It's also the most expensive of the seven we had planned to see. Certain Persons appear to have good taste. The price includes a gym and a rooftop swimming pool. Naturlijk.

We filled in the application forms and handed them to the agent. Our sneaky hope is that anyone else applying will take the forms away, fill them in and post them - by which time we will have a signed contract.

After this huge success, we went for a coffee. Well, that was the initial plan. It segued into a tiny little beer. We had another good stroll round Docklands in the sunshine. We're convinced it's where we want to be. If we don't get this one (which we will), we'll keep looking here.

We had an appointment with another agent at 1400. When we went to their office, nobody had any idea what was happening. Vague commitments to set something up were made. We weren't disappointed.

After strolling around some more, taking care not to turn round and point at 'our' flat every ten paces, we decided to go and look at another one on the list. Trams again, followed by a slight error on my part. I mistook a '/' for a '1' on our carefully-documented schedule, so we wasted some time looking for 17 Riverside Quay, rather than 7. Once we had that sorted out, we found the building. By the simple expedient of looking up. It's the tallest residential building in the world. (well, it was until those me-too types in Queensland topped it). It's about 90 storeys. The flat we were looking at was on the twelfth floor. I suspect that is the lowest floor with apartments. It was lovely. The views aren't so good as the other one, but it was the size, style and quality we're looking for. The agent had another, similar one available on the 62nd floor. When he mentioned the price, we decided not to bother looking. I can only assume that each floor costs an extra $5 a week.

Then we went for a beer. I'm detecting a pattern here.

Shopping, gym, cooking, beer, blogging. Well, that's how I got here today.

I'm thinking about posting some of our recipes here. If only to remind us of the stuff that we cook, and maybe the wine we drink. It would probably bore My Valued Reader, so I may not. Also, most of our recipes are 'Fry up some stuff in a pan, add meat and a liquid, stuff in oven, go to pub, delicious', so there may be a limited value-add, as we say in whiteboard land.

Did I mention that The Flat has a good view of the footy ground? Or is that altogether too Australian?

Sat Aug 26 21:20:47 2006

Don't look here...

...look over there.

Much to report. It's all been done (with pictures) over at The Other Place. Off you go, then.

Fri Aug 25 23:01:30 2006

A Fortnight In Oz

No worries.

Very little of interest happened today, so I thought I'd try and give a summary of our first two weeks, before the strange becomes the mundane.

The trees here are different from European ones. No shit, Sherlock, I hear you say. But it's an almost constant reminder that we've come a long way. The plants smell different, too. You can find youself strolling along a street, and suddenly you get hit by a huge waft of Jasmine. It can be intense in a way you have to experience.
Birds and Wildlife.

Pigeons: Check. Sparrows: Check. Beyond that, the birds here are different. The local gulls are (I think) Silver Gulls. They're small, wingspan less than a metre. A pair of proper Bristol Garbage Gulls would eat the lot in a morning. There's a breed of pigeon-sized black and white birds that are almost as annoying as EuroPigeons.

Sometimes you look up, and see something weird, like a Galah (very common) or an ibis perched on a tree. It's odd.

There are so many tragic stories of ecological catastrophe caused by alien species being introduced here. I won't depress you with a list of well-known victims. I'm not aware of a single non-Austral species being exterminated by an Austral one. If the Australian Magpies ever decide on a long-haul holiday, Europe is doomed. That article says 'medium-sized'. Yeah, for a truck, perhaps. Those beasts have beaks that can smash concrete, a wingspan of a metre, and an insatiable appetite for chips. Be afraid. H5N1 may be your only protection.

On a sadder note, during our epic hike around Phillip Island (there's nothing there - don't go), the Observant One pointed out a very, very dead animal by the road. "I know it's dead, but What's that?" she asked. It was an ex-kangaroo. Sad, but weird.


It's cold, damp and wet. In August. Today was 10 degrees. It's not fair. On the plus side, we'll be calling you on Christmas day to recommend brands of sunblock.

Tomorrow, we are planning to view six apartments. The logistics are astonishing. Guess who planned that?

Fri Aug 25 22:21:49 2006

CSS is hard

stay where I put you, element.

Those of you who have been here before will have noticed that I have painted the site a delicate shade of dung. Formatting has happened. A list of links has drifted over to the right. This has been achieved using cascading Style Sheets (CSS). Ignoring the whole manure shades, it is the modern, spiffy way to specify the layout and style of a website. It takes a bit of attention to the markup of the page to make it work well.

The Visual Artist focuses more on content than markup. I spent some time earlier trying to help her with the layout of her place. I couldn't make it do the (eminently reasonable) thing she wanted either. CSS has no 'Put the <DIV> down, walk slowly away and nobody needs to get hurt' option. It needs one badly. Come back <TABLE>, all is forgiven.

Fri Aug 25 12:11:06 2006

Another change to the BurbleEngine


Each post now has it's own page. There should be links to them over there -->>

Lines of code spent: 35. Value added: 0.

Thu Aug 24 21:55:34 2006


drizzle, fog, rain and beer

I'm not sure whether I detest all-day meetings or drenching drizzle more. We had plenty of opportunity to compare them today. Only a frog with an insatiable appetite for buzzwords would have enjoyed it.

We escaped from the meetings at lunchtime, and dashed across town to Docklands, on the west side of the city.

We took a tram, and stopped at the the end of Bourke Street (actually, it's at the far end of the street our current apartment is on - about 2Ks away). The sky was grey, it was drizzling, and the whole area looked lovely. The docks there still handle small ships, but are mostly marinas. Huge amounts of residential blocks have been thrown up recently, and more concrete was pouring while were there today. There's a vast amount of street art and sculpture. The buildings are individual, quirky and fun. We went to the estate agent, and picked up the keys to an apartment we were interested in. It's on the third floor of a 20-storey block. It was all a bit beige, and a bit small. We could live there, but I think it would be a bit confining. However, we liked the area. It has wide open piazzas (why does that sound so much better in Italian?), bars, restaurants and shops. The docks are full of boats in marinas, and there is, allegedly, a dinghy club. It's a ten-minute tram ride to work, a ten minute walk to the restaurants by the river, and there are cycle paths everywere. It really feels like an area we would be happy in.

I got a bit mugged at work, and had to go to a meeting with The Customer starting at 4:30. This did not please People Who Have A Sense Of Work/Life Balance. So she went for a beer with a colleague, while I did the work thing. Astonishingly, I escaped before 6, and was able to join them at the EuroBierBar for a swift half.

Regular readers will know where this is going. The Hofbrau Dunkel is excellent. So was the chicken breast marinated in beer. I didn't make it to the gym. Again.

It looks like the weekend weather is going to be rubbish, so we're planning to look at as many flats as we can this weekend.

I had planned to eat a pie tomorrow, but after two days of eating out, I suspect there would be Pointed Comments. Maybe next week.

Also, some changes to the css around here.

Wed Aug 23 22:09:39 2006

Python Powered

Atom too

This blog is now Python powered. Regular readers may notice that we now have an Atom 1.0 feed. It's not verfy useful. Mostly, it's there to show I'm not running this from a one-line shell script any more.

Wed Aug 23 20:53:00 2006

The Mac Has Landed

Sorted for hats

The airfreight was scheduled to turn up this afternoon (that's not true - it was scheduled to turn up last Monday). To make sure that there were no more unexpected hitches, The Apple Faithful decided to stage an afternoon vigil at the apartment. Even though I was skipping lunch (largely out of fear of The Scales, which were in the airfreight), I went back to the apartment with the Mac Worshipper at lunchtime. We planned to buy an 802.11g USB adapter, since her laserlike beam of hatred towards all things Windowslike has caused the wifi on her work laptop to fry.

Walking into the apartment, the grey, overcast clouds parted, and a ray of purest joy descended on the True Believer. The Mac was already there. In it's custom-built packing crate. Nailed in. Firmly. Moments later, we presented the excellent reception staff with their oddest request of the day. "Hello. We need a USB WiFi adapter, and a hammer." Odder still, the reception manager was able to advise us on both problems.

Half an hour later, armed with a brand new claw hammer (and a wireless thingy), we had the Mac up, running and network connected. The G5 shaped hole in Certain Person's lives has been filled. She's hacking on it as I burble.

Surprisingly, there were other things in the consignment, including my old bushwhacker hat. Since I dropped 57 bucks on the new one, it's been cold, cloudy and overcast. My hope is that the irony of the old one turning up will satisfy the weather gods, and we'll have a decent weekend.

We had two options for property viewing this evening. Either an apartment in Port Melbourne, or a house in Elwood. Because we already know what Port Melbourne is like, decided to look at the house. In the end, we didn't go in. We caught the tram from the CBD to Elwood. It took us a good 40 minutes. The house is about a 10 minute walk from the tram stop, and another 10 minutes from the beach. We arrived about 30 minutes before the viewing, so we had a good stroll around Elwood. It's a charming, pretty suburban area. Lots of one and two storey buildings, lots of character. It would be a good place to live with children. I'm sure many people do. On the downside, it would mean two hour's travel a day, and there are no decent pubs, bars or restaurants. The house was a detached (by three feet) sprawling bungalow, of the style that is common here. It looked huge. We didn't waste anybody's time by looking closer. The area Simply Isn't Us. We saw another property we had been considering from the tram. Again, it's just too far out. The good news is that we now have a clearly defined area that we'd like to live in. Tomorrow, we're going to look at something in Docklands. At the weekend, we've got a few more open viewings planned. In other news, flat hunting in the evenings is playing hell with my gym schedule. I think The Scales must have been damaged in the journey. It's the only explanation.

We hopped off the tram just by Flinder's Street Station, and strolled back along the South Bank. A meal out is the smallest celebration for being reunited with The Hardware Of Choice. We had a happy potter inspecting menus before selecting an Italian-style place. The food was superb, the service was fun, fast and friendly, and the wine was (of course) excellent. She selected a Pumpkin Ravioli to go with the delightful Pinot Noir, and I had a Penne Calabrese (salami, peppers and chilli) with my very good Shiraz Cab Sav. The restaurant is right by the Yarra. We had a lovely view of the river, and the water sculptures. Every 75 metres or so, there is a rectangular block of textured steel, standing about 15 metres high. Water flows down the faces of these, creating a whole visual, aural, climate experience (can I have an Arts Council Grant now?). We could see about four of these sculptures from where we sat. Imagine our surprise when they started belching gouts of flame. I kid you not. In the evenings, they periodically stage a choreographed fire show from the tops of these structures. This culminates in vast fireballs, 5 metres across, rolling up tens of metres into the sky. It's a fantastic way to waste energy and taxpayer money

That's one of the lovely things about Melbourne. You can see it in the art, architecture, and infrastructure. If there's a safe, sensible, cheap way of doing a thing, the Melburnian attitude is 'Eff that mate, let's do it big, scary and spectacular. Vast belching flames in a public thoroughfare? No Worries. She'll be right!'. It is truly life-enhancing to be a part of this place.

In other news, the BurbleBlogger relies on your ineterest in this drivel to stay motivated. All I need is to see your browser requests in the logs. It keeps me burbling. That or the beer. Anyway, Click Early! Click Often!

Tue Aug 22 22:34:58 2006

First apartment viewing

Airfreight tomorrow

Unsurprisingly, more work today. I phoned a couple more estate agents about properties. One viewing, that we were told would be at the weekend, is now listed for tomorrow. The receptionist at that agent had suggested we look at the web again on Thursday. More evidence that incompetence will always beat malice.

Another decent-looking flat turned up with a public viewing scheduled for 5:45 today. We planned our day around that. Tram tickets purchased - check. Tram stop identified - check. Journey time researched - er, well, not really. But it can't be slower than the bicycles we rode there on Saturday, can it?

It turns out that trams in the rush hour are a lot slower than bicycles. However, we left a time buffer that allowed for a winter assault on Moscow, so we arrived in Port Melbourne with twenty minutes to spare. We strolled down Bay Street, the local retail centre, and had a look at the general residential environment. We're not very impressed. The sea front is lovely, but when you go back a couple of hundred metres, the area becomes a bit tawdry and seedy. Docklands is looking more tempting.

We arrived at the doorstep of the flat a few minutes early, and hung around with a couple of women who had arrived before us. The atmosphere was one of polite but intense competition. The flat is still occupied by the current tenants, and the viewing was limited to 15 minutes. The tenants were there, cheerful, helpful, and hating every second. We had a good look round, and didn't like it very much. On the plus side, it had two balconies. You could throw things to each other, or something. On the down side, it's on the second floor, there's no lift, it faces directly onto a busy four-lane commuter run, and it's a long walk to the beach and the tram stop. We could live there, but we're hoping for better. Also, a note to Estate Agents: Port Melbourne is not the new name for everything north of Elwood. Specifically, if it's a 20-minute walk to the Port Melbourne tram, that's Albert Park. No charge for this advice.

Pickle Street, Melbourne Don't want to live here

Later, we had a good rootle on the web, and we're going to widen the search to apartments in Docklands, and houses in St Kilda or Elwood. Port Melbourne seems to have a high level of artificial scarcity. Plus, we failed to find a decent pub there. My natural sense of North may be screwed, but if I can't find a good bar in half an hour, the region has a problem.

The agent we spoke to assuaged some of our worries about being Eurogeeks. Apparently, it shouldn't be an issue. I'll believe that when it happens, but it's good to hear.

I've hacked together some slightly more sophisticated stuff to build this blog. It is now nearly as good as cat `ls -t *.blog`. Once I'm convinced that 250 lines of code can do as much as that, we'll start using it for real. This one, however, was generated the old way. That's one of the things I love about software. In this case, the 'old way' is less than two weeks old.

Mon Aug 21 22:12:56 2006


...and no success at flat hunting

Work again. Long but necessary meeting, followed by a bit of flat hunting. Well, that was the plan. Over the weekend we had a good rootle round the web, looking for flats in Port Melbourne. We identified six candidates. Either we have an astonishing talent for randomization, or there are too many estate agents here. Six properties within a kilometer of each other, six different agents. So, six phone calls later. One property has a viewing this weekend, one is already let, the landlord of another may want to sell instead, and I was promised callbacks on the other three.

So far, I have had one callback, arranging another viewing on Thursday week.Not impressed. If we'd done this in the UK, they'd have been working a lot harder to get inside our wallets. We spoke to some of our colleagues later. Apparently, estate agents make a lot more from sales than from letting. I suspect we may need to be a bit more assertive. Sufficiently so that it becomes easier for them to find us a flat, than to keep putting up with me being pushy. Never a pretty sight. It's either that, or try charm. Either way, I expect some very unhappy estate agents here soon.

It was actually hotter here today than it was in Bristol. 19C here, 17C in Bristol. It's forecast to plummet to 9C by Thursday, though, so the smug grins may yet freeze in place. Some People remain unconvinced of the lack of correlation between temperature and ultraviolet insolation. However, with my pasty-white Northern European skin, and the general reduction in hair volumes, I have been encouraged to invest in a hat. Proper Bushwhacker job. AU$57. Not bad. My last one cost AU$75, I think. I would have waited, except I can't remember whether it's in the air freight or sea consignment.

The Organisational Genius managed to get me to fill in a tedious form, which I've been procrastinating about for a week. She also sent an email to the shipping company at this end, enquiring about our air freight shipment. It's been waiting at Melbourne Airport, held by customs, for a week. It turns out that customs want evidence of our visa status. We've provided this, but it's bloody annoying. Customs could have talked to immigration, who gave us the visas. The shipping management company in the UK could have provided the evidence. The shipping company here could have phoned us. If we hadn't called, this could have gone on for ever. A single phone call would probably have saved a week's delay. Again, not impressed.

After work, I dashed over to the supermarket and picked up the makings of a Pasta Bolognese. I want my cooking gear. We're getting bored of things that can be made with one crap knife, a six-inch chopping board and a frying pan. Then, we went to a rather decent bar with the team from work. They have a lovely range of EuroBeers, including some favourites like Leffe, Warsteiner and Schoefferhofer. We happily gubbled a couple of these while chatting to the team. It's a very good bar, and if we ever feel homesick for Europe, we can go and drown our sorrows there.

So, a busy day, but less productive than we had hoped. On the plus side, two huge business opportunities present themsleves: An estate agency service specializing in rental would kick serious behind here, and a shipping agent capable of joined up thinking would make a fortune.

The Serious Photographer keeps taking lovely pictures. Until she has the proper tools, she's not posting the good ones. In the interim, I have been granted permission to post a few more. The full image should be reasonable, if not exactly friendly, for a dial-up download. 200KB or less is the plan

101 Collins at night Our office at night
Mon Aug 21 20:30:46 2006

New hat.

BurbleChaz in a hat Got me a new hat.
Sun Aug 20 22:09:15 2006

Philip Island

Hot Seabird Action

If you look at map of Australia, you'd think that Melbourne is right on the south coast, next to the ocean. This is not entirely true. Melbourne is at the northern end of Port Philip Bay. To get to the ocean, you have to drive all the way around the bay. It doesn't look too far on a map. Things rarely do, to a European.

We really wanted to see the Southern Ocean, so we decided to bimble down to Philip Island. We planned our route in some detail. It started with 'Turn left from the car park, drive 250m to Flinders street..." and continued in that vein.

Execution of the plan was fairly straightforward and went like this "Left, straight, left, Oh poot, they've closed the bridge. We must now find an alternate route, and yes, that is 30 tons of tram approaching from behind. No pressure.". Except the word may not have been 'poot'

The Navigator did some excellent ad-hoc routing, while the Driver (me) gained us some thinking time by driving down blind alleys.

After two more diversions around road works, we escaped from the city into sprawling suburbia. We pointed the car in a generally southern direction, and drove through Dandenong and Cranbourne towards the south coast. At one point, the Navigator pointed out a pawn shop, with a sign saying 'Items bought and sold'. I mis-parsed the sentence. 'Porn? Second hand?'. There are some thoughts you wish you could unthink. I am happy to share this one with you.

Once we were clear of Cranbourne, about 40Ks from Melbourne, we were both thinking that we must be nearly there. The next sign disillusioned us. 90Ks to go. To an Aussie, this probably seems trivial and obvious. To a European who has only looked at the large-scale maps, it's a surprise to find that Melbourne is effectively 80 miles from the ocean.

It takes a certain amount of bravado to switch on the Cruise Control of a car of the general quality of our Nissan Nasty. I suspect I may have done it without warning the Non-Driving Pilot. It worked fine. Driving an automatic in clear roads with Cruise Control engaged is dangerously lazy. You start getting bored with the simple task of steering the thing, and start looking out of the windows, playing with the stereo and wondering why your navigator gets so agitated when you start to snooze. Cruise Control is now high on our list of toys for a new car.

Philip Island is separated from the mainland by a lovely bridge. Once we were across, it took us a while too ralise the scale of the place. It's about 20Km across.

The island is also a testament to the lack of imagination of the English. It has villages called Newhaven, Rhyll, Ventnor and Cowes. Cowes is on the northernmost side. The others are where you'd expect them, if you've ever seen a map of the Isle of Wight.

Philip Island is probably lovely in the summer, if you want a proper English beach holiday with fish and chips, candy floss and too much sunshine. In the winter, it's all a bit depressing.

We went to the far south west corner, where the marketing schematics indicated that there might be some wildlife. We made a huge mistake, by trusting the schematics (the sort that show how easy it is to get here, while omitting any link to reality). We parked in the abandoned vastness of the World Famous Pengion Parade Visitor Attraction Car Park. (No cameras, dogs or fun permitted). This facility manages customer interaction experiences (at $17 to $70 a go) with a colony of Australian Little Penguins. Apparently, these dudes spend the day fishing in the sea,, and walk back ashore at sunset every day to get some well-earned snoozing in. The staff there were helpful, friendly and not expecting people to turn up so early. They sold us a couple of bottles of water, and advised us that we could indeed walk to the end of the peninsula. They failed to mention that we could also drive there.

My built-in North Detector has not yet been calibrated for this hemisphere, so I was almost as confused as Other People while trying to locate a path described on the marketing schematic. I became more confused as we wandered along the edge of the island. The area is open clifftop moorland. Every 100m, a vehicle track has been pushed through. Many of these have road names, signed better than they would be in central Melbourne. Half the roads have 3-phase 11KV distribution. The others have 3-phase 415 transmission. There is the occasional beach hut. The place has power infrastructure for a small city. Puzzling. I suspect government funding.

Once we'd hiked 3Ks to the end of the peninsula, we found another huge car park and visitor centre. This one was undergoing major rebuilding. We dropped $2 in a telescope, to see if we could see some seals on one of the offlying islands. We could. Then the $2 ran out. $2 for a minute (maybe 40 seconds) of telescope time is beyond mean. We were not impressed.

We strolled round the boardwalk at the end of the island, through a breeding colony of seagulls. There were thousands of them. Two weeks ago, we were watching a gull chick fledge in Bristol. Today, six months the other side of the planet, we were watching Hot Seagull Action, and many birds sitting in eggs. The boardwalk goes over the breeding grounds, and you are within a couple of metres of mating and nesting birds.

The Excellent Navigator drove the car part of the way back. She agrees that Cruise Control is spiffy, but it's still lipstick on a pig when applied to a Nissan Nasty.

In other news, Team Hobbyhorse won the regatta. Huge result for the whole team. Well done Hobbyhorse!

Sat Aug 19 18:42:06 2006

Cycling is healthy...

...and helps burn off breakfast.

Before I reach full BurbleMode, I thought I'd show you a picture of the office. I haven't put pictures up before, because the More Visual Person is planning to do a whole picture blog thing at her place. Also, I'm lazy. You can click on any pictures here for the full thing. If that doesn't work, you could try complaining. Won't do you any good, but you can try.

Office Building We work on the 27th floor.

We are both well over the jetlag, but for some reason we are still waking up at a reasonable time in the morning. So, we were up and about today with a chance to go out for breakfast, rather than the lateish brunch, maybe lunch, that was our old habit. Give us a week and normal service will be resumed.

So, before ten o'clock we found ourselves sitting in the (cold) sunshine at a cafe by the river ordering a Croque Monsieur and a Toastie to help balance a long black and flat white (Australian coffee is excellent, but confusing). When one thinks of a toastie, one does not normally imagine the plate I was presented with. If there has been a glut of eggs on the world market, I can assure you that the crisis is past. It took ten minutes of determined mining through delightful, fluffy scrambled perfection before I could see the edges of the plate. As usual, we shared our breakfasts. That strange sound heard in Europe last night was caused by my arteries clanging shut at the sight of the Croque Monsieur.

We strolled down from Federation Square to the river bank path, where we hired some bicycles. I say strolled, because that's what we did. The Normally Navigationally Challenged One pointed out that we could have trotted down some steps in a tenth of the time. This set the navigational theme for the day. Hey ho.

We wanted to have a closer look at some of the areas that have been recommended to us as areas to live. We pedalled down towards Port Melbourne, which is an up-and-coming trendy area a couple of Ks from the city centre. It is half residential, and half huge working port facility. However, the grotty port operations are well separated from the trendy apartments. There's a good beach running all along the coast of Port Philip Bay here. It starts at Port Melbourne, and runs down through St. Kilda to Elwood. Here's a map for those with bandwidth to burn.

The person hiring the bikes out had given us an excellent map, so I stuffed my nose in it and proceeded to get lost. Fortunately, the One With The Common Sense just read the signs. We found the beach after about 20 minutes gentle cycling. Port Melbourne is lovely. It's got everything we could possibly need. It's about ten minutes by tram from the city centre, it's got pubs, bars, shops, restaurants, apartments and houses. And it's on the beach. The water is astonishingly clear for a place so close to a city of 3 million. If we can, it's where we want to live.

After a good rootle around, we cycled along the path by the beach. This led us past a couple of yacht clubs, including our current favoured candidate. The clubhouse and boat storage are on the beach, and the facilities look excellent. We pottered on down to St. Kilda. We'd be happy to live anywhere along there.

We went far enough south along the beach to find places that, while OK, didn't really compare to Port Melbourne and St. Kilda West, so we headed inland to Albert Park (where the Formula 1 Grand Prix is held in March), There's a large artificial lake in the middle of the park, and adinghy club was racing. They must have had about 50 boats launching. Interestingly, there were a significant contingent of Laser 4.7s, which may be a sign that it gets windy here. Local knowledge needed. There's also a place where you can hire sailing dinghies, including an RS Vision. It's AU$55 an hour, which isn't exactly cheap. We're probably better off just buying our own.

Everybody knows that Australia is upside-down. Less well known is that it's all in photographic negative. The swans are black:

Black swan with cygnets First this year.

One of the parents was rootling up grass from the lake bottom, and dropping it on one of the chicks, so they could all eat it before it sank. Almost too much cuteness.

We headed back into the city, and dropped the bikes off. We'd been out for about three hours. After a bit of a rest, we hiked over to Queen Victoria Market to see what it's like. We didn't get there until about 1530, by which time a lot of it was closing down. Executive overview: It's huge, you can get anything from meat to trinkets, but it's a bit too far away to carry anything back. We'd need to take the tram. Incidentally, have you ever considered what the need for an executive summary implies?

If someone asks for an executive summary, they are trying to imply that they are too busy to comprehend the full picture, and just want the important facts. This is, of course, rubbish. If a decision could be made with only the 'important facts', then that is all that would be in the report. If a decision can't be made without understanding the details, then an executive summary just leads to decisions being made by the uninformed. What a request for an executive summary really means is "I'm too stupid or lazy to understand this, but I don't trust you, the person with the knowledge, to make a decision". I'll leave you to decide whether spending hours making a decision based on an executive summary is a mark of laziness or stupidity. Unless you want the executive summary.

Back on topic. Except this blog doesn't have one. On the way back from Queen Victoria Market, we went shopping at the supermarket round the corner. One wonderful, if depressing, aspect of food shopping here is the meat. We spent several seconds debating whether we should buy rump steak or fillet for our stir fry. We decided that we couldn't bear to hack a fillet steak into strips, even if it would have been cheaper than buying about a cow's worth of rump steak for less than the price of a beer. The rump steak turned out fine.

Having cycled for three hours already, I went to the gym and spent some time on an exercise bike. Mostly, this was to assuage the guilt brought on by breakfast. I hammered it a bit, and my legs feel like they've been hit with sticks. Certain Persons suggested that they could have achieved the same outcome in minutes, and at little charge to myself. I think she was joking.

We went to the pub across the road for a beer. they have a wood fire, which is the only place the Delicate Tropical Flower can get even half-way warm. Electric blankets are being considered. They were showing a footy match between Fremantle and St. Kilda. We saw the first half. The match was rather one-sided. Fremantle wer up about 53-13 at half time. It's a hard game. the field is about the size of Canada, and physical violence seems mandatory. It's a wonderful spectator sport. I'd like to see some more.

I've just looked back to the post from a couple of days ago, where I mentioned that cycling, boats and forests were on the agenda for this weekend. Two items knocked off, and we're thinking ocean rather than forest for tomorrow. Partial result secured.


Fri Aug 18 23:10:18 2006

Phones and beer

Not a complete waste of time

We have finally managed to acquire mobile phones. If my own kidneys had telephonic capability, I would cheerfully have removed them both with spoons rather than go through this. It would have been cheaper, less painful and considerably less messy.

If you want a bank account here, you stroll in to a branch, and they start opening accounts until you make them stop: 'How about one for the gun running? Would you like better returns on the drug money?". Setting up banking here is not a stressful thing. Getting a mobile phone is a different story.

We dropped into a mobile shop the other day to ask what we would need. One of the pre-requisites is a bank account. Since we didn't have one yet, we decided to come back once we had them. We should have been more specific, The full list if things needed to get a mobile handset in Australia are:

  • Passport
  • Credit Card
  • Australian Driving License
  • Evidence of address
  • Eye of Newt
  • Chaudron (Tigers preferred)
  • Blunt knife
  • Spare organs (previous item will be used for extraction if needed)

It seems we spent the whole day sorting out our phones. First, we had to go and get some evidence of where we lived. Then, we handed over passports, credit cards, debit cards and bank details. After a 20 minute wait, we went and got some lunch. 25 minutes later, we had passed the intercontinental credit check. Because it would have taken another 40 minutes to get handsets, we went back to work.

Eventually, we went back and picked up new handsets. Mine is a Nokia N70. It is so smilar in design, style and capability to my 6680 that I can't tell them apart.

Once we had put our spiffy new toys on charge, we blundered across the road to the pub. It was a lot busier than it has been during the week. After a few minutes, we joined up with some people from work. This was fun, but I suspect we drank a bit more than we would have done without the team.

Anyway, my new Australian mobile is: +61(0)430013520

On the plus side, we both passed credit checks. This may (or may not) make renting a place easier. Now we've got a bank account, mobile phones and a hire car, we're hoping that flat hunting will be at least possible.

Go Team Hobbyhorse!

Thu Aug 17 21:58:25 2006

We like pies...

...and beer

To those of you who read this, and happen to have a birthday today, Happy Birthday!

As I mentioned yesterday, there are signs of Antipodean Lurgy in some quarters. My immune system took one look at the unfamiliar virus and went 'Oooh look - new friends - can I play with them?', and then proceeded to crush its new playmates to death. Others were not so fortunate, and spent the day with a bit of fever. Sorry, allow me to clarify. Spent the day with the worst fever ever, peaking at around 80C, and still went to work. Apparently, 'You Men Are All Wimps', or something.

Our bank cards arrived in the post today, so we strolled down to the bank at lunchtime to get them activated and to set up internet banking. Mostly, this went smoothly. The Lurgy Victim spent about twenty minutes on the phone to a call center located on one of the moons of Saturn, trying to get them to do something other than transfer her back to Bangalore again. Stress, fever and unhappiness were present in full measure. I picked up the phone, and had the card activated in about 30 seconds. Either I am unnaturally lucky, or victim of a hugely sophisticated scam.

After banking, it was time to grab some lunch. We were on our way to a generic chain sandwich shop, when we passed a pie shop. Sensible People had one filled with chicken and leek. I had a Spud Delux - beef, mash and cheese. The pastry they make is a thing of joy and beauty. It's like an aerogel made of butter. The energy content is about the same as rocket fuel. You can probably get fat just reading a description of it.

I didn't go to the gym. I went shopping instead. Then we went to the pub. Pies, idleness, food and beer. Probably not a good long-term plan.

Sometimes, one needs comfort food. We made a stew. There was some confusion at the supermarket checkout over a swede. The operator had never seen one before, and his colleague on another till had only seen the word written. I felt like the middle one of the three monkeys.

Now we have bank accounts, the Phone Geek wants us to get phones tomorrow. This is an excellent plan. Unfortunately, it means I am expected to have opinions about handsets. Of the last four handsets I have bought, three were on the recommendation of the Phone Geek, and one turned out to be a bad mistake. With this history, I really think my opinions should either be discarded, or used purely as a contraindication. As far as I can tell, you have eleven options with mobiles: You get a PDA like a blackberry, or a large-screen phone like my current Nokia 6680. Otherwise, you choose your phone by opening method (slide, clamshell, keypad on front) and colour (black, silver, hot pink). Beyond that, handsets are indistinguishable. A new SIM for my 6680 would do me fine. It may be a crap phone, but it's my crap phone.

Our office is on the 27th floor, and has carpet to ceiling windows. This afternoon there was an astonishing rainbow over the city. The Serious Photographer reached for her camera. The locals were not impressed. Apparently, epic rainbows aren't unusual here. That implies clear skies, bright sunshine and torrential rain are common. Is this a good thing?

Still no hat, but no serious sunshine either. Tomorrow, the weekend begins. There are plans involving bicycles, yacht clubs and forests. One out of three would be a success.

Happy Birthday! Go HobbyHorse!

Wed Aug 16 20:49:21 2006

The sun shines...

...so I need a hat.

Work stuff caused us to go to different places this morning, but we both escaped from Death by PowerPoint around noon. We used our mobiles to vector in on a joint lunch solution (sorry - buzzword poisoning) at a very acceptable food court in a retail complex. The temperature outside was sufficient that The Physics Challenged One (who refuses to believe in sunburn below 25C) raised the idea of a hat for those of us whose skin pigmentation is a bit on the non-existent side. Spiffing idea.

The food was pretty good. Mine even had detectable levels of chilli in it. Once we had finished, we went looking for a hat. I had seen a shop that had hats as we looked for our lunch venue. As I steered us in that general direction, there was a slight detour while a shop selling tourist gear had to be thorougly investigated. After a remarkably small amount of rootling, a very nice sweater was identified, going for $55. This seemed like a reasonable price, until we realised that everything was half price. $27 for a good sweater was clearly too good a deal to resist. She looks lovely in it, too. Once this transaction was complete, I was shopped out. This state never ceases to astonish the Retail Expert. She knows me well enough not to try too hard persuading me to shop beyong my limits. Apparently, I am no fun whatsoever. The shop with the half-price deal had some nice hats, too. Maybe we'll go back tomorrow.

I went to the gym after work. Pedal pedal I went, for 350 calories. That should have mopped up about half of lunch. I have developed a slightly worrying attitude to food. Now I know how much energy a given amount of food represents, I am scared to go to supermarkets. I find myself standing in the bread aisle and shouting "You fools! Do you know how much of the city would be destroyed if all this food blew right now?" Fortunately, few foods contains significant amounts of oxidizing agents, so the number of cities destroyed by retail explosion remains small.

After attaining the Sweatiest Person in Melbourne award (the gym has no ventilation at all) we did some cooking. Pollo alla Cacciatore, which translates roughly to "Pot of chicken and beans". Even with our limited tools here, this was showing sufficient promise that we stuffed the saucepan in the oven and went for a beer.

You know you are truly blessed when you are in a pub, with a pint of beer gently coming towards its end, and your wife is reviewing the beer menu, and trying to persuade you to let her buy you another one. Just for research purposes. The house pale ale is excellent. The IPA is like a very good English beer, served too cold. It all is, here.

The Hunter's Chicken turned out beautifully. You can't go far wrong boiling stuff for two hours (don't try this with omelettes). The Pinot Noir (Yarra Glen 2003) is also well worth another go.

I am pleased to note that I continue to waste taxpayer-funded resources in UK. Someone from the police just called to ask for some more details about the theft of my bicycle's wheels. I'd be astonished if they turn anything up, but she said she was going to look at the CCTV. I really, really hope they get the nasty little vermin.

The Mac Hunger is getting stronger in the Apple Faithful round here. If Australian customs don't release the G5 soon, there's going to be a major new purchase. In the next couple of days, I expect. What, precisely, is the benefit of air freight if the government then keep their hands on it for six weeks?

As the (very few) who have read this far will have noticed, this should have been titled "Nothing happens - again". There was, however one more positive thing - our health insurance documents have arrived. We can now get sick with impunity. This is probably just as well, since we are both starting to show signs of a cold. NO NO NO it is NOT because it's cold here. Although it is a bit on the coolish side. "So, why is it called a cold then?" she asks sweetly. Sod modern virology, sometimes I think the germ theory of disease is on a loser with Little Miss Commonsense here.

Best wishes to Team HobbyHorse, who are facing gales and thunderstorms today. It's better to be in here wishing you were out there etc.

Wed Aug 16 18:57:16 2006


It has been brought to my attention that the BurbleBlog may not be entirely defect free

One of my many readers has spotted a problem. If I get any more of you, I'll need two hands to count you all. Anyway, some of the entries are appearing in the wrong order. I think I know why, and will endeavour to fix it. For the geeks amongst you (OK, the geek) the entire source code used to generate this page is here:

cat 'ls -t *.blog' > index.html

I think this hits the sweet spot between capability and complexity. Anyway, it costs less than a dollar and it's called the BurbleBlog. What are you looking for? Quality?

published from an Etch-a-Sketch Plus with Ethernet Option

Tue Aug 15 21:12:30 2006

More of that "work" stuff

In which not much happens

To work again. Fun with crashing routers and kernel corruption. Some positive sessions doing handwaving about data migration. This is not quite as interesting as it sounds.

A colleague of ours arrived today from New York. 21 hours flying, and she came straight to the office because her hotel wouldn't let her check in. Get a better hotel, we said. We've now worked with her on three continents. When you consider that we work in an industry that exists to provide effective cheap long-distant communication, this is a bit of a worry.

Investigated the Australian mobile phone market a bit. Dropped into a couple of shops at lunchtime. All much the same. I did some research on coverage. Basically, it's excellent in Melbourne, and drops off rapidly as you leave for more rural areas.

Also, we did some rootling around on the web for yacht clubs. PMYC is going to get a closer look this weekend. They sail Lasers off the beach in Port Philip Bay. This is reckoned by some to be the finest dinghy sailing in the world. Port Philip Bay is about 20Km across. The sea water temperature in summer is 20C, the sea breeze gives around 15Kts and the sharks only rarely eat people.

Some pictures of our Enormous Adventures are going to be appearing over the next few days. I may even put some up here.

We are both delighted with the outstanding performance of Team Hobbyhorse in the regatta yesterday, and wish them well today. Looking forward to pictures of the hound Cholmondeley (well, I am anyway. Others may not be).

Wine: Cartwheel 2004 Semillon/Sav Blanc from Western Australia. Fiery, peppery, nettles, elderflower. Pretty damn good.

Gym: Exercise bike: 30 minutes, average power output 140 watts. Average cadence 104rpm. So I was allowed some beer.

There's a microbrewery pub 200 metres from the apartment. They have about six home brewed beers. They're all excellent. The Amber Ale is a lovely malt-powered delight. The IPA is more hop-driven and drinks like a lighter English beer. think of Exmoor ale served cold. The Golden Ale is slightly malty, and has powerful sweet honey tones that appeal to Those Who Drink Beer in Sensible Amounts. The beer measures here still confuse me. They have the familiar pint (which isn't actually a pint, I suspect), the smaller middie and the pot. A pot is a glass of about 250ml, and suits Those Who Put Quality Before Volume.

I'm expecting little to happen tomorrow, too, so I may have to start telling outrageous lies. In the meantime, Go Team HobbyHorse!

Mon Aug 14 23:21:07 2006

First day in the office

Well, someone has to pay for this.


Today, we went to the office. It's on the 27th floor of a beautiful modern skyscraper. The atrium has some astonishing art, including a water feature that would house a family of whales. The coffee area includes a fridge full of beer and a full set of optics. Neat.

We turned up at about 0845. Some of the keen types had already been, and set off to a meeting with The Customer. One of the managers (a really nice bloke) showed us the facilities (including the bar). We couldn't log on to the network until we had the Super Secret Password, and the only known bearer was in a meeting with The Customer, so we went to do battle with The Host Government to get some paper put in our passports.

I spent ten minutes in a phone maze, and fifteen seconds on hold trying to arrange an appointment for this. When I got through I said when we had arrived, mentioned the visa subclass, and the bloke I was talking to finished the sentence for me. 'So, you want us to put a stamp in your passport. Drop by any time.' 'Would now be OK?' I ask. 'Hang on - yeah there's not much of a queue'. So off we go. After a slight bit of navigational confusion we turn up at the Government office. The queue is four deep. It takes two minutes. I start saying why we're there, and get my sentence finished for me again. We take a number and sit down. Forty seconds later, we're called to the desk and our passports are stamped. They pay way too much for government here.

On the way back to the office, we drop in to a new government-run citizens advice office, to see if we can get any advice on pitfalls and traps when renting. We are almost tackled by a woman, eager to hand us more literature than you could eat in a fortnight. She seemed upset that we spoke English and weren't victims of inter-ethnic warfare. Australians - pay your government less. Please.

Since we are being promised lots of lovely meetings for the afternoon, we slope off early to see if we can work out how to open a bank account. Having taken advice from the locals, we go to one of the big high-street type banks. 30 minutes later, we are the proud possessors of three shiny new bank accounts, containg a sum total of AU$0.00. Delighted. This will make life so much easier when it comes to renting a flat

We've been looking at various properties online, and today I phoned an Estate Agent. The receptionist was, I am sure, a lady whose youth was either in tha past or in the closet. We didn't get on very well. I think I upset her by mentioing we had just arrived in the country. She assumed we wanted a furnished holiday let. Then she tried to get all superior. I, of course, Am Not A Toff At All, Despite What Some People Say. So I didn't display any proper behaviour at all, because I'm in Australia, and it's an egalitarian culture. I think that's what upset her most. I'm scared to phone back now.

After a certain amount of systems stuff and joyous meetings, we sloped off after a ten hour day. This is not a sensible precedent. Shopping next, followed by a few minutes in the world's nastiest gym. There are no free weights, the weight machine is designed to break your spine, and I stuffed the cycling machine on level 20. That felt good.

Went to a pub just across the road. It's a microbrewery, run by a large brewer. We had a couple of beers each, and each found something we liked. We'll be going back there again.

Wine: Tempus Two Hunter Valley Shiraz 2003. We thought we were buying a $23 bottle. It rang up as $13. It was probably lying in a cellar we drove past on our honeymoon. Most adequate for $12. The Wine Expert says she'd pay around GBP10-11 for it. I agree. Did we tell you about the Heathrow tasting?

Heathrow, T4, one of the BA Business lounges. The Wine Expert gets two glasses of red. Asks me what I think. I snort and slurp. One is clearly a harsh Cab Sav, so I place it as Californian. The other is a fairly assertive Burgundy. I say so. The WE is astonished. One was a Cally Cab Sav, the other a Chateau Neuf du Pape. Since we have plenty of time before the last free flight to Oz, I get a couple of whites for the WE to try. She nails them both in ten seconds. Chilean Sav Blanc, and a buttery Burgundy Chardonnay. Hence, she's the Wine Expert, and I'm the BeerHound.


Sun Aug 13 21:30:50 2006

Healesville Animal Sanctuary

Wombats are cute

We had an elaborate plan for today, involving bicycles, lunch, and other virtuous things. What actually happened involved animals.

We wanted to hire some bicycles and do a bit of sightseeing around Melbourne, followed by a longer-range sortie in the car to look at some areas to live in. Due to various factors, including jet lag, breakfast and the overall Sundayness of the morning, we failed to be entirely ready to go at 0900 sharp. So we abandoned the cycling thing and went to plan B.

After some perusing of brochures and maps, we grabbed the car and bimbled gently eastwards along route 34 in the general direction of Healesville Animal Sanctuary. The Designated Driver (DD) found the first part of the trip, leaving Melbourne, considerably less stressful than the Designated Navigator (DN) did. The major cause of the DN's stress was, I suspect, the DD.

Anyway, we had a reasonably uneventful trip about 60Ks to the animal sanctuary. The DN did a fantastic job, and the DD did more than enough to keep the DN alert and focussed.

The animal sanctuary is a fantastic place. It's a huge area of natural forest, with various areas you walk through surrounded by howling, hooting, screaming young apes with their parents and pushchairs. Once our mental filters screened them out, we started to notice the wildlife. All the animals are native Australians. Koalas are cute but boring. Emus are elegant and graceful and look like a disapproving maiden aunt. Kangaroos spend most of their time chilling out and looking like they're waiting for a top-up of Pimms. One of the highlights for me was a fantastic facility they have inside a building. It's a complete, huge aquarium for platypus. We saw two of them swimming, diving and seeming to play. They were very active, and it was a joy and a privilege to see them in a (faked) natural environment.

We also witnessed what may be the only recorded instance of a wombat awake. They have a couple if common wombats (vombatus ursinus - how geeky is it to remember that?) When we first saw them they were (in separate enclosures) snoozing. No surprise there. Then, incredibly, one of them woke up, went for a stroll, rootled around and....went back to sleep. The other one was woken by its keeper, who entered it's area to do a presentation about them. It woke up, took one look at him, and ran (yes, ran - fast) as far away as it could get. Seeing as how he hand-reared it from an early age after its mother was run over, this seemed ungrateful, at least. The common wombat, however, is a solitary creature, and at around 24 months goes all teenage, starts listening to odd music, gets pierced and tattooed and eventually leaves home. This one was going through that stage. They plan to release it into the wild soon.

The excellent display of birds of prey was either enhanced or marred, depending on your viewpoint, by a magnificent wild wedge-tailed eagle turning up. Two of the birds scheduled to display flew, one of them reluctantly. They didn't try their captive wedge-tail, because it would have led to fighting and death, which upsets the children. The osprey, however, took of and hared away from the wild bird. The falconers explained that this wasn't through fear - the osprey, a female, was just doing a mating diplay. She's much faster than the eagle, and is disappointed when he can't keep up. Because it's early Spring here, she's been displaying to falcons, owls, ibises and, on one memorble occasion, a fish she had caught.

Then we drove home and discovered that:
  • everybody goes shopping on Sunday
  • some pubs don't open on Sunday
  • the DN is a truly exceptional improvisational cook. Prawn stir-fry

Wine: Saltram of Barossa 'Next Chapter' 2004 Semillon Sauvignon Blanc. Excellent, deep yet crisp, rich, nutty, buttery.

Sat Aug 12 19:27:18 2006

Day 1

(Yesterday was day 0)

Our apartment has no double glazing. Because of this I can inform you from first-hand experience that they party long and hard in Melbourne. Last revellers shut up at 0430, first tram is before 0600.

We went to pick the car up. It's a Nissan Nasty or Honda Horrible or some such. No remote locking, no electric windows, 60,000Ks on the clock. Hey ho.

Next, we went to buy a serious outdoor adventure coat for those who feel the cold most. Got an excellent one. As soon as we bought it, the sun shone brightly and the temperature rose five degrees. Result.

Found a perfectly adequate supermarket five minutes from the flat, and bought the makings of a meal. Food seems to be quite cheap here. Also, there is a pretty reasonable booze shop there.

After some people had topped up on snooze, we went for a walk down along the Yarra, and came back via the Aquarium. It's excellent. they have all sorts of cool cephalopods, lots of fish, and a huge environment containing some very large (~3m long) sharks. The engineering is almost as impressive as the biology. For me, though, the highlight was the ctenophore exhibit. They have a load of realy beautiful jellyfish happily swimming actively in tanks. The circular verically mounted tanks are around a metre across or larger, and maybe 150-200 mm thick. They have a slow circulating current, and the jellyfish swim actively against it. I've never seen ctenophores in captivity before. Very cool.

Then, off to a microbrewery for a beer (only one - honest) and home to cook.

Beer: James Squire Original Amber Ale

Sat Aug 12 13:19:27 2006

Arrived in Melbourne

Business class is great

We arrived in Melbourne at about 0500 local time this morning after over 20 hours travelling. It was dark and cold. We didn't feel too bad, though. The Qantas crews had taken excellent care of us on both legs (London-Singapore, and Singapore-Melbourne). Business class is just so much more pleasant than economy. The seats were totally adjustable, from upright to completely flat and almost horizontal. We both managed to get a lot of good quality sleep. The food was, well, very good airline food. Eating fish on a plane is probably a tiny bit too optimistic. The beef was a little on the rare side. It's not fair to compare it to a restaurant, though. It was more than adequate, and the presentation was good. The wine was excellent, particularly the Shiraz-Grenache-Viognier that I drank (a lot) of.

We heard about the chaos at Heathrow when we in Singapore. It looks like we missed that by less than six hours. I hate to think how we'd have felt on a twenty-hour flight with no carry-on at all. The customs and immigration teams were efficient and professional at Melbourne. We got through with no problems much faster than we had expected, and were met by a driver, who took us to our apartment.

The apartment is on the fourth floor. It has two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen and a living area. It's spacious, and has everything we could need.

We decided not to grab any sleep early in the morning, and instead went out and grabbed a coffee and a bite to eat. Once we'd done that, the day was warming up a little, so we went for a walk down to the river. We had a stroll through a park, then along the riverbank for a bit. After a bit, we went and found the Victoria Information Center, and bought another map. The one we had been using in the Lonely Planed guide is excellent, but the book is a bit to awkward to carry just for the map.

Next, we bought a one-day metcard from a street kiosk, and hopped on a tram to St. Kilda. After a twenty-minute ride, we go off and went for a walk along the beach and out on the pier. The views back towards the city are lovely. We hiked around St. Kilda for a bit, trying to get a feel for the place. It's still high on our list of places to live.

After getting a tram back, we went to the apartment for a bit of a snooze. Waking up after two hours was difficult to the point of pain. Eventually, we attained verticality again, and went out for a bit more of a look around and some food at a newly opened Wagamama. This was followed by the main evening snooze.

I think we're going to like it here.

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Last modified: Thu Aug 31 22:46:12 AUSEST 2006