September 2006

AFL Grand Final
Corporate Hospitality
The Ghost Tram
It's just protein...
Tickets Please
Yet again, nothing happens
Gusting 11
Vic Market!
Fast Cars and Good Beer
Running and Hacking
A Wine Review
Howling Gale
Lysterfield Again
Huge Expedition
Back to the Mountains
Nothing ever happens...
Motoring Plans...
Got the Gas-Guzzler
Linksys setup for iinet
Deer shoot
Bought a car
Almost done
Moved in
Power at last!
Technorati Link
Almost ready to move
Sunset photos
Energize this!
Too much retail...
Heavy Lifting
The flat is ours
Sat Sep 30 20:14:33 2006

AFL Grand Final

I seem to have acquired a rhinovirus

My entire day has been coloured by a frequent need to sneeze. Messily. That is probably more than you need to know so I shall leave the rest to your imagination. (achoo)

We pottered over to Vic Market again. I bought some prawns and half a cow while the less morning-aware had a coffee.

It was a lovely, bright, cold day, so we hired some bikes and rode about 12kms to Dight's Falls. It's a lovely, spot, and I expect we shall be doing the picnic thing there when it warms up a bit. We took some photographs.

The AFL Grand Final was happening everywhere. You couldn't move in the CBD for people in team colours. It all seemed very good natured. We watched some of the match on the big screen at Waterfront City (coincidentally, not unadjacent to the pub), then went home for the second half. Sydney Swans just failed to make an exceptional comeback from 24 points down. West Coast Eagles held on more by luck than skill to win 85-84. No more footy until March.


Fri Sep 29 22:28:41 2006

Corporate Hospitality

AFL Grand Final Parade

We turned up early for the Ghost Tram today, and had a look at the timetable. The driver was standing there having a break. He noticed our general state of puzzlement, and tried to help us understand the timetables. Apparently, it's complicated. We already knew that, but it's good to have it confirmed by a professional.

Tomorrow is the AFL Grand Final, held at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Today was the parade. Large parts of the CBD were closed for this, including Collins Street past our office. We watched as groups of fans coalesced into huge crowds lining the parade route. The company that we lease our office from laid on lunch on the 50th floor. We stared down on the procession through floor-to-ceiling windows, and sipped the occasional refreshing beverage. Worryingly, I was well off the team pace in this regard. One was enough for me. My colleagues did their part admirably, so honour was preserved.

Some pictures are up over there. It's Sydney Swans versus West Coast Eagles, for those who didn't know.

Looking forward to the monster beerfest AFL Grand Final tomorrow.

Thu Sep 28 21:35:36 2006

The Ghost Tram

Where the hell is the number 31?

Again, nothing happened, so I thought I'd bore you with more thrilling tales of public transport. There are two tram stops outside our front door. One of them is well-served by two tramlines (three if you count the City Circle free tourist tram). All the trams here take us along Flinders Street, and drop us about 200m down the hill from work. The other one is served by The Ghost Tram.

The tram stop has a timetable for line 31. No tram has ever been seen displaying this number. Occasionally, a tram bearing a 109 or a 112 is seen at this stop, and we have caught a couple to work. The route appeals to our natural laziness. The total distance we have to walk at each end is less than the height the lifts take us. When returning from work, no tram 31 is ever displayed on the electronic message boards, although timetables are posted. Sometimes, seemingly at random, a 109 tram will, instead of turning off for the wholesome delights of Port Melbourne, continue straight along Collins Street to our flat. It's all very puzzling.

Tomorrow is AFL Grand Final Parade. The Grand Final itself is on Saturday. According to the locals, the rate of beer consumption is likely to reach satisfactory levels. I shall do my small part to assist.

Wed Sep 27 22:43:54 2006

It's just protein...

...so stop protesting

We dined out this evening. Other People had the very excellent fish in beer batter. Light, fresh, clean and delicious.

I had something else.

Lazing Kangaroo Hello, dinner

Stop being so self-righteous. Low fat, low cholesterol and high in essential taste.

It was wonderful. Served almost raw. I may need to eat more.

Tue Sep 26 22:52:26 2006

Tickets Please

Fun on the trams

We were happily bimbling along Flinders Street in a tram this morning when it was boarded by ticket inspectors. This is the first time we have seen any in the six weeks we've been using the trams. We were slightly disappointed when our proffered tickets were ignored. Instead, the inspectors homed in with laserlike precision on three people without tickets. We were impressed. There are three possible theories here. Either they have enough experience to spot a dodger in seconds, or they just ignore people proffering tickets, or everybody here travels without a ticket. I don't propose to carry out the research needed to test these hypotheses. I can't afford the fines.

Mon Sep 25 22:53:03 2006

Yet again, nothing happens

a few pictures

Nothing happened again, so I thought I'd post a few pictures. We start with a blowhole on Philip Island.

Blowhole Blowhole

Next, a pair of silver gulls. We were there in the middle of the mating season. Unfortunately, I have been Absolutely Forbidden from posting those pictures. Sorry, but you'll have to get your hot seabird action elsewhere.

Silver Gull Pair Gulls

And of course, the obligatory sunset. This one from today.

Another sunset Sunset again

There was a beautiful sliver of a crescent moon just after sunset. We don't really have the tools to do astronomical photography, so you'll just have to look out of your own windows.

Sun Sep 24 11:43:24 2006

Gusting 11

It's better to be in here wishing you were out there...

We're sitting in our apartment as a storm rages outside. My respect for the engineers who designed our floor-to-ceiling windows is growing all the time. The local weather stations are reporting gusts above 50 kts. We can see the rainstorms coming in from the north west.

Storm Squall
Squall Rain and hail

We watched three ships coming in to the harbour. First in was Maersk Tokyo, a large container ship. She berthed in about 20kts, before the storm really got up. Next in was the brand-new HMNZS Canterbury. She arrived in Australia about a month ago from the builders, and is here to receive her military fit-out. Not wanting to scratch the shiny new paintwork, she was helped in by two big tugs. Finally, ANL Bass Trader, a geared container ship that works between here and Tasmania. The ship handling was brilliant. She came right up the river, turned and went into the dock astern, almost directly upwind. She was helped by a small tug, but turning her in over 40kts must have been quite exciting.

The wind seems to be dropping now, and some blue sky is appearing. It's been blowing hard for five days now. I'm hoping that now the sun has crossed the equator it may calm down and warm up a bit.

Sat Sep 23 23:09:11 2006

Vic Market!

Cheap, fresh food

We are still trying to work out the best way to do grocery shopping. There are out-of-town supermarkets, but they are all a long way to go for a quick shop. There are a few supermarket mini-stores in the CBD, and two reasonably large ones - one at the QV shopping centre and one at Melbourne Central Station. Since none of these actually meet all our fussy requirements, we decided to do what the locals recommend. We went to the market.

Queen Victoria Market is huge, and sells everything from hammers to hoummus. You can get almost anything there, if you know where to look, can cope with the noise and are not afraid of pickpockets. Like most markets, it opens and closes early. This does not accord with our normal Saturday behaviour.

We hauled ourselves out into the harsh light of dawn slightly before elevenish, and pottered over there. This was not our first visit - only the first time we've been there while food is still on sale. It's a hypnotic experience. The meat and fish area has about 50 stalls selling fresh protein, some of it still putting up significant resistance. Stall holders shout their wares, deliveries are made, animals are dismantled and people are relieved of cash.

We came away with the finest piece of rump steak I have ever seen (1Kg - $8), and a couple of fish. Bream of some description.

After the shopping, we took the Gas Guzzler for a spin in the general direction of Brimbank Park. We hadn't refuelled the Guzzler since Torquay. Since then we've driven it along the Great Ocean Road to Apollo Bay, back to Melbourne, out to Lysterfield Park, and home. The fuel warning light came on as we reached the end of the tollway. Tension mounted. We diverted from our original flightplan, and went looking for a fuel station. After ten kilometres of increasingly strained conversation, almost leading to personal comment (yes, I know I should have filled it up earlier), we found three within 100 metres of each other. I have never been so happy to fill a vast, enormous capacious tank. Astonishingly, the beast seems to have done 42mpg (14.9 Km/l). I may have to stop referring to it as the Guzzler.

The park has interesting topography. The river loops through it in a great horseshoe, and has left ridges and troughs as it has crossed the plateau. Melbourne's international airport is about 3kms away, so the general area must be pretty flat. The park has lots of signs warning of snakes, so mostly we stayed on the wide tarmac paths. We did manage to find a few rougher bits, and saw our second wild animal - a rabbit. Oh dear. If I'd been better armed, the dinner menu would have been different. There are some pictures over at the other place. Go and have a look. I'll be checking.

We cooked the fish the easy way - wrapped in foil, with a lump of butter and a slice of lemon. Bake for 30 minutes at 200C.

About to cook a fish Inspecting the produce
About to eat a fish Looks good

Served with asparagus, courgettes and Turkish bread. The fish is very mild, almost to the point of blandness. Next time we may try something a little more assertive. The wine is Taylor's 2004 Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc. Meaty, grassy, with a clean, ice finish. Would have again.

Fri Sep 22 23:27:10 2006

Fast Cars and Good Beer

Still blowing a gale

After I'd been to the gym (again), we went for a potter in the general direction of the pub. If an 86 tram had turned up as we passed the stop, we'd have taken it to the other pub. The tram wasn't waiting when we got there, so we pottered on to NewQuay, interested to see what all the noise was about. Loudspeakers were being used. Commentators were hogging microphones. Our quiet neighbourhood has been invaded by an event again. Today, it's the Rally of Melbourne. They have a vanity stop here before going back to the mountains for the proper start of the next section. We did get to see and hear their outrageous machines, which was cool. Some pictures are over at the other place.

The local bottle shop made us an offer we had couldn't refuse. Five bottles of Erdinger Weissbrau (one of our very favourites) for $20, with a free glass thrown in.

Wine: sticks Yarra Valley 2004 Chardonnay. Exceptional, cheese-like, tempered tart gooseberries. Glossy finish. Buy again. Bargain

We have a bunch of plans for the weekend. Whales and koalas are competing for our attention. Whatever. So long as it comes with chips.

and we were feeling lazy enough to take the tram home - 1 stop - 300 metres

Thu Sep 21 22:22:55 2006

Running and Hacking

also, a very decent merlot

I went to the gym again this evening. I would like the record to show that I have been for four consecutive days. How much does a chap have to do for a beer round here anyway? I wanted to have a play with the cycling machines, but they were all in use. With some trepidation, I started up a treadmill and started running. I hate running. After a few minutes of loud music on the iPod, I started getting in to the rhythm of it again. It's fun to watch how fast you burn energy. It's still running, though. Hate it.

After a couple of miles (and 300 calories), I'd had enough, so I stopped. I still hate running.

I've been thinking about the software that publishes this dreck. I had a happy hack this evening playing with Python 2.5, the ElementTree XML library, and the Atom Publishing Protocol. I have a fairly good understanding of what APP is for, and have bashed out a Python wrapper for it. Once I've built a few more components in the toolchain, I plan to rebuild this blog completely. If I get it right, neither of my readers should notice anything happening at all.

Dinner: Fajitas (with added peri-peri). Wine: Taylors Clare Valley 2004 Merlot. Light, fruity, assertive yet gentle. A bargain for $17. Will drink again.

Still hate running.

Wed Sep 20 21:56:35 2006

A Wine Review

good food, too.

Nothing happened today. Well, there was a military coup in Thailand, but this log does not concern itself with that sort of thing, other that to say I'm fairly sure it wasn't my fault.

We're starting to have some thoughts about our wedding anniversary. One option is to potter over to Adelaide, then have a rootle around some vineyards. We had thought of going to Tasmania, but as far as we can tell, there is absolutely nothing there.

We bought some lamb steaks this evening. They were about a quarter of the price they would be in the UK. Food here is cheap and excellent. We had a bottle of Wolf Blass Yellow Label 2004 Merlot with the lamb. It's a light, fresh, charming wine - like a burgundy, only more vivacious. Will drink again.

In Geek News, Python 2.5 has been released. This site is mostly built on Python, so some geekery may ensue.

Tue Sep 19 22:56:51 2006

Howling Gale

Weather continues changeable

At lunchtime today, the weather was lovely. 20 degrees, gentle breezes, sunshine. This is exactly the weather we've been looking forward to. When we emerged blinking from our four-hour meeting, it had all changed. The temperature had dropped and the sky was filling with ominous clouds. We bought some food, and trammed home.

I went and did virtuous things in the gym. Heavy things were lifted. We had agreed to meet for a swim afterwards. Just as the heavy things felt lifted enough, the Aquatic One drifted down, and we hopped in the pool. It was already quite windy. After a few lengths, it started to blow properly. The pool is in an acceleration zone between the towers of the building. I would guess we were getting 45kts over the water. It was picking huge lumps up and throwing them at us. We had six inch waves in a 25 meter pool. It was fun for about half a length, until I realised I couldn't actually breathe. Three lengths later, we both climbed out. Dry and frozen in four seconds flat.

After dashing out to the bottle shop for emergency supplies, I checked the Bureau of Meteorology. There was a severe weather warning in place - winds up to 100km/h. Cool.

We sat in the Observation Area, surrounded by meteorological ferocity, and gradually consumed the emergency supplies.

Mon Sep 18 22:41:59 2006


...heavy things lifted, too...

I went to the gym after work. This makes me feel better about the beer consumption. Well, it reduces the Negative Comments about the beer consumption a bit. The gym here is open, airy, well equipped and too small. At 6pm, it's busy. Still, I lifted some heavy things for a bit. You'd think that our recent Ikea experiences would give me a free pass on this, but no, I have to do the lifting. I feel doubly hard done-by. Ikea should be an excuse for beer even without hefting the flat-pack.

As I left the gym, I dipped my toe in the pool (literally). The water is warm. Very warm. I pottered back up to the apartment, and found the Aquatic One ensconced in the viewing corner. I demonstrated the temperature of the pool to her by using a hot tap.

So, we went for a swim. On the roof. In winter.

It's a lovely pool. 25m long, four lanes wide, and hot enough to cook a lobster in. It's between the gym and the roof garden on the fifth floor. Swimming in the sky is fun. The Elegant Swimmer did 20 lengths. I snortled and splashed my way through 16. I am not an elegant swimmer. We'll be using the pool a lot.

Food: Sirloin Steak and Ratatouille. Sauce: Peri-Peri. Wine: Tenet Estate 2004 Shiraz. A decent, fruity wine. Light tones, a summer fruit base with a nice, short tart finish. Would happily gubble again.

Sun Sep 17 23:25:13 2006

Lysterfield Again

We got wet

After yesterday's monster expedition, we really wanted a day doing nothing. When we woke up, the sun was bright and the sky was clear, so we decided to go to Lysterfield Reservoir Park again. I even checked the weather forecast. Fine, becoming cloudy later. No mention of torrential thunderstorms at all.

We tried a new route today. Rather than fighting through the city to get to the freeway, we forked over $10.65 for the toll, and took the tunnel under the city. It's a fantastic bit of engineering, and knocked about twenty minutes off the trip.

We parked the car at Lysterfield 40 minutes after starting out. Not too bad for 52km. There were a couple of small dinghies sailing on the lake. Lucky sods. The place was also seething with mountain bikes. Luckier sods. The bike tracks here were used this summer for the Commonwealth Games. That should do for us, then. I didn't realise how much I miss biking until I saw other people doing it. I'm going to buy a bike as soon as I've worked out where to keep it. Then, we're going to get a boat.

We rootled around the lake paths for a bit, then turned off and walked along one of the bike tracks for a while. Despite Searching Looks from the Other Party, I didn't get very lost at all. I always knew where we were. Mostly. Well, sometimes.

The sunshine became more intermittent, and the sky to the south gradually darkened. We took a detour down a nature path just before fat, heavy drops of rain started hitting our hats. By the time we got to the end, the rain was bucketing down. We were walking briskly across the dam when the lightning started. Perhaps not the best place to be. We hurried back to the trusty Guzzler before getting too badly drenched or fried.

We got back to the city in time to get some food, and pop in to Ikea. Again. We now have all the soft furnishings we can physically fit in the apartment. Once again, I declare my intended aim of Never Going To Ikea Again Ever For Any Reason.

We drove back on the CityLink toll road. Since we'd paid for the tolls, it seemed like a good idea. We certainly went faster than we would have done down Victoria Parade. I'm not convinced we saved much time. We went through the tunnel under the city, and were expecting signs to Docklands, or at least the Telstra Dome. As we emerged blinking from the netherworld, we were whisked straight onto another toll road, without even the ususal 'Lane ends in six feet' sign. Fortunately, our apartment building is fairly prominent. We navigated back by pointing the Gas Guzzler at the target and intimidating other road users. I think this could become a habit.

Food: Chicken stir fry. Having butchered several chicken components here, I would be terrified to meet an actual chicken. I think there has been interbreeding with the emu population. One chicken breast would feed a family for a week.

Wine: Jamiessons Run 2005 Chardonnay (Limestone Coast). Sharp, blackberry, nutty, tart. Excellent. Drink again.

Sat Sep 16 19:03:44 2006

Huge Expedition

The Great Ocean Road

...In which gas is guzzled, scenery is observed, and an automotive alarm is solved by the application of thermodynamics. Also, penguins!
The Plan

Anything called The Great Ocean Road has to be worth a good look. The start of it is about 100kms from home, and there's a good road most of the way. Our aim was to poke our noses down the road for a bit, and maybe capture some scenery on camera. Because of the distance involved, this meant an early start. I crawled out into the crepuscular cold to get some coffee. We don't keep coffee in the apartment. It's quicker and cheaper to get a take-out from one of the shops that is actually a greater distance vertically than laterally. The customary long black and flat white woke us up enough to leap into the Gas Guzzler and start on our epic voyage.

Docklands to Geelong

The Better Driver was at the controls for the first bit, from Docklands to Geelong. This entailed the ususal stress negotiating the approach to the Western Gate Bridge and on to the freeway.

Signage here is beyond incompetent. It's abusive. There is no possible way to get from our place to the freeway unless you already know the way. Once on the freeway, a visitor or more tentative driver might choose to stay in the left lane, particularly after observing all the 'keep left' signs. That doesn't work. As you approach a junction, the lane markings become solid 'Do Not Cross' marks up to a kilometer before you know which lane you are meant to be in. Too late! That left lane you chose has just become the country road to Nowhere Bay (23km - no U-Turns).

The freeway was busy, but quick. Australians don't speed much, so all the traffic thunders down the freeway at the same speed. As the road gets busier, the distances between vehicles becomes smaller, but the speed stays the same. Lane discipline doesn't happen here at all. If you are in the middle lane, and doing 1km/h less than the maximum speed, you will be passed by other vehicles, on both sides, at the same time. They will then swerve across lanes in front of you, narrowly missing a multi-car pileup starring you.

We turned off the freeway in Geelong to do some shopping. The cable we bought for or new TV doesn't fit the wall socket (we had a co-ax/co-ax cable, we needed an F-connector/co-ax cable), so we hoped to get one in Geelong. The Pilot Flying decided that managing The Vast Charabanc in aggressive Saturday shopping traffic was no fun, so I took over. She was right. When everyone is focussed on grabbing the last parking free parking space in the city, courtesy is sadly lacking. So I drove the barge to the roof of a multi-storey car park.

Twenty minutes later, we were back at the car and ready to leave, except for one slight problem. On the little-used, pristine concrete surface of the car park, there was a huge pool of liquid. Under our car. Yesterday, at Mount Dandenong, The Observant One had pointed out a bit of liquid where we had parked as well. I moved the car, let it stand for a bit, and had another look. No sign of a leak. Puzzling. The size of the pool we had seen was significant. Over 50ml. Worrying. Is there an oil seal failing? Coolant about to dump? Hydraulics letting go?

Cogitation and Thermodynamics

We need a bit more fuel, so we fire the motor up and start making the sort of decisions that can lead to catastrophe. "What's the worst that can happen?" (brake failure on a clifftop switchback). "If an oil seal blows, is it under warranty?"(No idea. Let's get going.)"Should we head back now?" (Yes. But that's no fun.)

We drive for less than a kilometer to a filling station. I have a look underneath. The car is pissing liquid from right under the engine. About 1ml every five seconds. If this is a vital fluid, the car is close to catastrophic failure. Engineering is called for. It's a big car. I end up lying underneath it, wearing one of my favourite t-shirts investigating the dripping fluid. It's not oil (relief). It's cold. Puzzling. It's odourless. It is, in fact, cold, clean, odourless water. Dripping from under the engine. Lots of it.

Having established that it's not anything I understand right now, I declare the problem irrelevant. My best guess is that it's coolant overflowing from the reservoir under back pressure. Dip stick has been checked, fluid levels checked. Lots of thinking done. Here is a vehicle, new to us, clearly leaking water of unknown origin, so we decide to take it on a scenic drive 100km from a garage. Smart. At least we were carrying a few litres of water, in case it was the coolant reservoir.

As we pottered down the road, two more hypotheses were raised. Coud it be fuel? (Nope. Tasted it. Petrol has more nutty, meaty tones.(KIDS! note - never taste petrol - it only gives you gas.))

The second hypothesis was far more interesting. Could the cold side of the air conditioning unit be pulling water from the air? I was so astonished at this brilliant insight from the Pilot Not Flying that I turned and stared at her in slack-jawed amazement. Until she started screaming about oncoming traffic and other trivia, anyway. We tested the hypothesis. If we turn the aircon off ten minutes before we arrive somewhere, no dripping. If we leave it on, then stop the car, vast torrents gush from beneath. I wish I'd thought of it.

The Great Ocean Road

We drove south from Geelong to Torquay. This is a rare example of a town in Australia that not only shares a name with a town in England, but could be swapped without a single inhabitant of either town noticing. From there, we went on the the Great Ocean Road.

In the early 1920s, the Australian Govenment was faced with the problem of a large number of young, unattached men returning from being abused as expendable cannon-fodder in WW1. The Great Ocean Road became the solution. There was no economic driver for it. There is still no need for it. If the purpose was to keep an army of trained, motivated young men who knew how to manage weapons away from the seats of Australian Government, then it worked well. Australia has the worlds longest, largest and most impressive war memorial. It joins two places of no note whatsoever, it's 260km long, and the scenery is stunning.

Apollo Bay

The one problem with driving the Great Ocean Road is people who want to go faster. It twists and turns, often there are views you want to appreciate, and it is mostly too narrow for safe overtaking. We were passed three times today. Once by an idiot in a hire car, and twice by the same bright yellow Ferrari. It didn't catch us the third time.

The first time it howled past us with that unmistakeable Ferrari tone, it turned off immediately into a side road. Pointless, but at least I got to hear the V12 howl.

We pressed on towards Apollo Bay, and I wasn't too surprised when I saw streaks of yellow in the rear-view mirror again. On the first safe straight, I made some room, and backed off a little as the howling V12 chortled past again.

Imagine our sorrow when we rounded a corner and saw the blue flashing lights. The Ferrari driver was being asked to fill in some forms for the local constabulary. This was in a 50kph zone. I wonder what speed was on the radar. Schadenfreude is not socially acceptable. Snicker.

We stopped in Apollo Bay. It's almost half way along the road, and is after the very twisty bits. It's a pleasant little town with a heavy surfing influence. A bit like Braunton. We had a potter round, ate a sandwich and had a look at the harbour.

The Photographer had a great time with the seabirds, particularly the cormorants, which seem to be almost deliberately photogenic. The highlight was a young penguin hunting in the harbour. Photos of all this are in the usual place.

The Journey Back

The Penguin Spotter piloted the Gas Guzzler back up the Great Ocean Road to Torquay. I then bimbled it back up the M1 to Melbourne. Apart from the usual psychotic lane discipline of the local drivers, and the Kafkaesque street signage, the last leg went smoothly.

Beer at Our New Local included the best fish batter ever, and free t-shirts all round. Bargain.

Do look at the pictures.Whenever I get more traffic, There Are Comments. Also, we have a couple of videos to post. Once we've got bandwidth issues sorted, we'll post some links.

I think I might need to rename The Gas Guzzler. In 280kms of city driving and mountain climbing, it gave us 10.5km/l, which is slightly over 30mpg. I think we did better on today's long trip. We did exactly 400km on (a smidgin more than) half a tank.

Sat Sep 16 00:37:17 2006

Back to the Mountains

Wildlife spotted

We had a day of holiday to use up, so today was the start of a long weekend. After doing some admin stuff, we had a bite to eat at the QV foodcourt. I took some criticism for starting my daily food intake with beef vindaloo. It didn't go well with coffee.

After lunch, we fired up the Gas Guzzler and headed eastwards, leaving a belching cloud of emissions behind us. After an hour of raising the global temperature, we stopped at the summit of Mount Dandenong.

We walked through the forest for a couple of hours. I didn't spot anything worth mentioning. The Observant One found lots. Parrot-like birds with bright red plumage were everywhere. She found a tiny lizard as well. I was focussing on wombat fewmets (of which there were many), when The Best Observation Ever was made.

At the edge of the path, an echidna was rootling about. It was looking for a snack, and wasn't much perturbed by our resence. Once or twice, we got too close to it. Whenever it felt stressed, it tucked its snout onto its chest and hunkered down looking spiky. Afrer a few seconds, it would get up and start hunting worms again.

We watched it for about 30 minutes, before it did some serious climbing and moved out of sight. We were privileged to see it. Pictures here.

Thu Sep 14 22:16:46 2006

Nothing ever happens...


We over-optimized the tram planning this morning. Two trams left within minute of each other as we watched helplessly from the wrong side of the street. Once the lights changed and we got to the tram stop, we had a six minute wait for the next one. The birds squawking in the trees are bright green and red parrot-like things. The trees are fully mature palms, ten metres tall.

The locals say that if you don't like the weather here, just wait ten minutes. It started out dull, grey and mild. Around lunchtime it cheered up and got quite warm. Now it's windy and cold. The weather forecasts here seem almost random. The Met Office in the UK gets abuse for their forecasting, but their Australian equivalent just gets ignored. The problem is in the geography and oceanology. I imagine weather forecasting for Perth is relatively straightforward. Most major Australian cities are on the south and east coasts, which makes it a bit harder. To the south we have 2000 kilometres of Southern Ocean, reaching from Antarctica to 32 degrees south. To the north we have a vast baking continent. Melbourne is at the downstream end of the 3000km long interaction zone between the air masses over these hugely different environments. Currently, it makes English Spring weather look dull and predictable.

Our sea freight should arrive in Port Melbourne in about ten days time. It will probably take two weeks to clear customs and quarantine. Until then, we're still camping out a bit. We've bought one reasonably decent knife, but we're missing our razor-like Sabatier tools. Somehow, a meal cooked in an Ikea saucepan isn't the same as one cosseted in our Le Creuset.

Burblage level: Sufficient. Wine: Brokenwood Shiraz (McLaren Vale, Padthaway) 2001. Charming, assertive, spicy, peppery. We've never had a Brokenwood that did less than delight.

With any luck, something might happen tomorrow, and I can entertain you with more implausible exaggerations and outright lies. Failing that, there'll be pictures.

Thu Sep 14 00:01:57 2006

Motoring Plans...

...because we can

We haven't taken the car out since we bought it. There's no real need to have a car here at all during the week. The public transport is excellent. Even if it weren't, our flat is a thirty-minute walk from our workplace. But, we're looking for any excuse to play with our new toy. Fuel is cheap (compared to Europe), we love the car, and we want to play.

We're taking Friday off to potter back out to the Dandenong Ranges. Apparently, I am Not Allowed To Take Our Shiny New Car Off Road Whatever Happens. Some people are no fun.

On Saturday (or, possibly, Sunday. Flexibility is good) we're planning to guzzle a vast amount of fuel. We're going to reprise the trip to Geelong, then continue on to Torquay (I kid you not), along the Great Ocean Road. This was built in the 1920s, mostly as a way of absorbing the labour of soldiers returning from the first world war. It is a typical sign of Australian exuberence. It goes from one small city to, well, nowhere really. But it runs along a fantastic bit of coastline.

We don't plan to get to the end of the road. It's 236Km long, a bit too far to do in one day. I'll be surprised if we get as far as Otways Ranges. Half the fun on a trip like this is the planning. The other half is abandoning your plans and following your nose. Some People would suggest I find this easy.

In other news, I went to the apartment gym today. Heavy things were lifted. Repeatedly. Wine of the day: Rouge Homme Limestone Coast Shiraz Cabernet 2003. A well-balanced blend, with deep fruit coupled with a lightly oaky tart finish.

Wed Sep 13 01:18:25 2006


...view from our apartment...

Too lazy to blog today.

Sunset Sunset over the harbour

ADSL2+ is quick

Internet Speed Test We broke their web page

We're actually getting about 12Mb/s

Tue Sep 12 00:35:31 2006

Got the Gas-Guzzler

Bang go my eco-credentials

Today would have been perfect without the fire alarm. Although it changes the chronological order a bit, I'm starting with the muppet who set of the fire alarm on the ninth floor this evening. We trudged down eighteen floors of claustrophobic concrete stairs to be told it was caused by some young lads goofing around on level nine. We're hoping eviction notices will follow. This actually soured a really, really good day. Grrrr. strong words.

Skipping over the productive work stuff, I did the following before lunch:

  • Dropped off the Nissan Nasty. "Did you like it?" asked the drop-off dude. "No". "Was it too small?" "No. It was a Nissan". "Yeah, we're phasing them out".
  • Arranged a cheque for the car
  • Researched car and home insurance.
  • Bought car insurance and home insurance for $1000 less than expected. The price spread here is astounding. The insurers I've selected are not the cheapest, just the cheapest who answer the phones.
  • Ate a pie. No, that was lunch. The list ends here.

Later, we took a train to Car City, and picked up our new car. We did the paperwork, and took poseesion of the Gas Guzzler. We drove it 400m to the nearest filling station, and topped up the tank. From 1/4 to full is 40 litres. Hell, it's cheaper than filling up the Yaris in the UK.

On the recommendation of a Local Colleague, we drove it out to Mount Dandenong. This gave The Less Psychotic Driver a chance to get used to driving this vast barge without the stress of the city. Once we got to the summit (around 630m, 2000 feet), we stopped and took some photos. Most of these will appear over there soon, but I've been allowed a couple.

Our new car The Gas Guzzler
Lake from Mount Dandenong Forest destroyed by the Gas Guzzler today

On the way home, the very excellent people at iiNet texted me. ADSL has been connected. Unfortunately, they had sent the details to me by email. Which I couldn't get, what with no net access and all. After a bit of goofing about, including one call to find out my password, we have broadband. Megabits and megabits of it. Well, 12 when I last looked. Enough. Plenty, one might say. Now, if I can just make the router do Wifi at the same time as ADSL2+, all will be well with the world.

Mon Sep 11 23:39:18 2006

Linksys setup for iinet

Tedious geek drivel

I've just got my Linksys WAG54GS Wireless ADSL2+ router to connect to iinet, our Australian DSL provider. I'm posting the details here for my own reference as much as anything.

UK splitters/filters don't seem to work. Maybe an ADSL2+ thing. I'm directly connected, with all phones in the flat unplugged. Experimentation will follow.

The router is a Linksys WAG54GS. Firmware is 1.00.08. The configuration is:

EncapsulationRFC 2516 PPPoE
Qos TypeUBR
Username{my username}@iinet.net.au
Connect On Demand99 Minutes

Sweet, sweet 12Mb connection. The ATM stuff in there is almost certainly irrelevant, because it's PPPoE. My firmware is wired to work with BT ULL, so I'm just happy I didn't need to reflash it.

I recommend iiNet unreservedly. They have excellent service, excellent staff, and It Just Works. Well, it works after I faffed about with my modem settings a bit.


Sun Sep 10 23:14:15 2006


Much accomplished

We came to a couple of disturbing realisations today. The coffee from the shop downstairs is better and cheaper than we can make, and we spend more shopping for ingredients than we would spend eating out. City Living does not encourage good habits.

We checked out of the seviced apartment today. We had a great time there. Even after just a month, it still felt like leaving home. Again. Also, more heavy lifting.

The Absolutely Final Move Ever Really I Mean It only took us a couple of hours. We're getting too good at it. This left the afternoon free, so we did as little as possible for a bit.

Then, we went to Queen Victoria Market and had a good rootle round. We bought a birthday present that I really, really must send soon. It's going to annoy the recipient's family wonderfully. It's amazing what ten thousand miles of physical separation does for ones sense of social responsibility.

Then, we drove to Geelong. Soft 'G', emphasis on second syllable. Unless The Locals are winding me up again. Our sole reason for going was to get out of Melbourne for a few hours. It's the first time we've escaped for three weeks. It's at the start of The Great Ocean Road, on the west side of Port Philip Bay. We had a potter round the sea front. It's a very pretty place. We'd have spent longer there if it had been warmer. It's about ten degrees here, and the wind is a vicious southerly.

As we negotiated our way from the end of the freeway onto the road home, we were nearly caught by a lovely practical joke perpetrated by the local highways authority. There's exactly one sign saying 'Docklands - Left Lane Only'. The sign is 100 metres after the last point at which you can legally change lanes. I'm starting to think that the psychotic swerving and appalling lane discipline exhibited by drivers here is caused by long-term exposure to the sadistic joke that passes for a highway signage policy.

We braved the freezing gale to discover yet another pub that doesn't open on Sundays. So we took the tram all the way across town to our favourite, and drowned our sorrows there for a bit. Home, then, for a Hunter's Chicken (excellent - still need a source of smoked paprika), and a bottle of Jester 2004 Shiraz. Lovely, deep, rich, with a fair blast of oak. Will drink again.

I am about to try publishing this via 3G. The Phone Geek set things up for me, so it should all work.

Sat Sep 09 22:26:21 2006

Deer shoot

...lost to a girl...again...

There is an excellent pub here. It's good enough to justify the eight minute walk in the freezing cold. The atmosphere is good, the food is great and the beer is outstanding. They even have video games. Therein lies the problem.

For the rest of our tenancy here, whenever I suggest I might want a decent draught beer, the Sharpshooter will say: "Cool. Do I get to beat you at the shooting game again?"

Sat Sep 09 16:57:54 2006

Bought a car

...I wanted the purple one...

When I was last in the presence of reliable net access, I did some serious research on the current offerings of the local motor trade. On the excellent advice of The Locals, we went to Car City. This is a single huge area where about 40 second-hand car dealers do their best to part one from large lumps of the hard-earned. We had a good stroll round, and located most of the cars we had shortlisted. These included Toyota RAV4s, Honda CRVs and a beautiful plum-coloured Land Rover Freelander.

We kicked a few tyres, sat in a lot of cars, and generally tried to look as though we knew what we were doing. Then we went and had a bite to eat. Making decisions of this size should not be done on an empty stomach. Whether a butter-drenched ham and cheese toastie was actually required is, perhaps, questionable. We came to the following conclusions:

  • 3-door RAV4s are smaller than a Yaris
  • 5-door Honda CRVs are lovely. Particularly gold ones.
  • I really, really like plum-coloured Freelanders

So, we took the Freelander for a spin. I loved it more and more. 2 litre turbo diesel. High-end leather trim. The sweet sound of the fuel pump. Wussy brakes. Smooth, light, assertive steering. Fantastic driving position. Fuel pump still there.

The Key Decision Maker had a go. Hated it. It felt, heavy, big, unwieldy and altogether too masculine. She drove it beautifully, including a three-point turn and lots of small suburban roads. Gradually hated it less. She started to appreciate the sheer quality of the beast.

We took it back, and left it with the dealer for a bit of a think. It had a sticker price of $17000. The car was built in '98, and registered in '00.The book price for trade in was a lot lower. Almost $6000 lower. That's a bit more than a set of alloy wheels. Also, no intercooler, as far as I could tell.. When i was doing my research, I discussed this with the locals. Australians see Land Rovers as British cars, and lump them in with Rover, MG and all the other rubbish. My theory was that we could arbitrage this erroneous thinking. I suspect that, buying privately, we could have done. However, there was no way the dealer was going to cut us the $4000 of slack we would have needed.

After a bit of a think, we decided to look at something else. There were a few to choose from, so The Quality Hound decided to start at the top end.

The car we tried next was on our shortlist as a price highwater mark. On the web, it was listed at $20000. A gold-coloured 2002 Honda CRV Sport. The Team Aesthete loved it. We had some doubts about even trying it. We were not going to pay that much for it. A couple of things made us have a go. Firstly, the sticker price had been dropped to $19000. The Less-Skilled Negotiater reasoned that they wouldn't want to drop again after that. I pointed out that this indicated that they were in a price-dropping mood, and wanted to shift it. Also, it's gold.

I drove it out of the yard and started to try to find fault with it. The gearbox is a bit clunky. There's no reassuring hammering from the fuel pump. Er. That's it really. Then the City Driver had a go.

She loved it. She felt confident, in command and relaxed from the first moment. She loved the smoothness, the finesse, the overall quality.

Because she's wonderful, she kept persuading me that she could learn to love the sweet, charming, plum-coloured Land Rover, but I knew where her heart was.

We stopped for a while and had a chat. It went back and forth for a while. Surprisingly, the Freelander was only mentioned when she tried to persuade me to indulge myself. The main question was how much we would pay for the CRV. We decided on a figure that we could afford comfortably, and would leave us with enough free cash for essentials like rent, food and fast dinghies. I was not optimistic that I could negotiate to that point.

We took it back, and had a chat with the dealer. We explained that although we liked the car, it was really over our budget. "So, how much would you buy it for?" This is where I Do My Bit. The Key Decision Maker does not enjoy haggling. I love it.

I named a price so ridiculously low that I thought it would cause apoplexy. He didn't meet it. He named a figure $200 higher. We asked him to leave us to discuss it, so he did. Five minutes later, we signed a deal for the car.

We're delighted. We're going to pick it up on Monday. We're getting a car that we thought was out of our price range for a number that we can afford without stress. It's such a lovely, civilised, pleasant, refined gas-guzzler.

I still wish it was plum-coloured.

Fri Sep 08 21:56:24 2006

Almost done

Car shopping tomorrow!

We're almost done with the move. After work today, we went to the serviced apartment and packed all of our clothes into forty-seven jumbo-sized bags. We took as many as we could carry on the tram to the new place. I left the Nest Builder there and took the car back to the serviced apartment. You can actually (very, very nearly) see the serviced apartment from our new panoramic penthouse. There's an interesting perspective effect. As you look along the street towards the CBD, the buildings get higher the further away they are. This gives the impression that it's about a five minute walk. It's actually quite a bit further.

It took me over forty minutes to drive the car back. The baggage had been breeding in the intervening hour, but I managed to cram it all into the huge boot of the hire car in two spine-crushing loads.

After a not-entirely-authorised right turn across some tram tracks (nearly being demolished by a tram), I was back at the new place in five minutes. Rush hour here is intense, but quite brief.

We had some fun looking out of the windows at torrential rain squalls. The temperature this evening is about 5 degrees outside. The squalls bring gusts of 30 knots. A good day to stay snuggled up inside. So we went out. We have no food yet. After a chicken chilli burger (full rush achieved), we spent some time dodging freezing rain squalls and scoping out the surroundings. It wasn't long before even we old Scandinavian hands decided it was just Too Damn Cold, so we whiffled back home. I spent a surprising amount of time trying to persuade the climate control system that eighteen degrees is not the appropriate point to wind up the cooling. I suspect this battle will take a while to win.

Tomorrow, we're going shopping for a car. The Nissan Nasty goes back on Monday. Car dealerships have a fundamental flaw in their business model. You need a car to get to the forecourts. The people with the most pressing need for a car are thereby prevented from ever getting one. This approach is common across almost every industry we've done business with here. The DSL provider advises you to check your order on their website. The mobile phone company asks for an alternate phone number. The banks, on the other hand, don't ask much. But then, they don't do much either. Except charge $6 a month for stealing your money. It turns out that the error they had attribuded to the Thai restaurant was the bank's mistake after all. On their current form, I am going to assume that everything - up to and including the current foul weather - is the bank's fault until they've proven otherwise.

So, car shopping tomorrow. We've decided on a few models we'd like to have a look at, and The Locals have advised us on a place to start looking. There will be tyre kicking, sharp intakes of breath, tutting, incredulous appeals to common sense, protestations of poverty and, with any luck, a deal agreed. I'm looking forward to it.

The Smug Geek has managed to get a 3G data link from her laptop, so I may be able to publish this tonight. I'll certainly report on our progress with cars tomorrow.

Thu Sep 07 23:16:09 2006

Moved in

much heavy lifting

We're in. I'm writing this sitting at our dining table, looking out over Victoria Harbour and the Yarra. I can see across Port Melbourne, and out over Port Philip Bay. It's stunning.

On the downside, no ADSL. The public wireless is unusably flaky, and my computer won't talk to my phone via Bluetooth. Next week, this should be fixed. In the meantime, I can blog, but posting may be deferred until the morning.

The flat has been habitable since the power was connected yesterday. We needed a few things before we could actually move in, so we went shopping at lunchtime. There were a few impulse purchases. We could probably have gone a day or two more without the toaster, for example.

The end corner of the living space is fantastic. We sat there looking out at the world this evening. The weather here is cold, wet and windy. It's fun to sit inside in the warm, watching rain squalls run in from the bay and cross the city.

After all the heavy lifting to get enough stuff here to make the place comfortable, we didn't want to cook, so we walked all the way down to the other end of Docklands. We found the other James Squire pub right at the end. They do a lovely Weissbier, not unlike am Erdinger. I'm going to have to start going to the gym.

On the way back, we stopped off at a modern Italian place where I had an excellent spicy pizza, and Those In Need Of Comfort Food After A Long Day had a truly excellent chicken burger. All for less than $45. Delighted.

The bottle shop downstairs sells James Squire's Golden Ale. This is probably a bit too convenient. I only bought it because the Connaisseur of Beer likes it. Honest. The wine selection is pretty good, too. During our trek through the freexing rain today, we found another wine shop that looks good from the outside. There's also one just the other side of the station, so we're both looking forward to a bit of an explore soon. Once we've finished moving. Again.

Looking around the new flat, I have no idea where we're going to put the see freight. This place is considerably bigger than our flat in Bristol, so this is a bit of a puzzle. If we can live without it for a month, did we really need it? (simple answer - yes - we've had enough of cooking with crap knives).

We're going to look at cars this weekend. Toyota RAV4 and Honda CRV are on the list. We've shipped a lump of money over from the UK for this. For once, the Exchange Rate Fairy smiled upon us. We did about $800 better than the last time. The Locals have, once again, given us excellent advice on where to start our search. It should be fun.

There are lots of other things I should be blogging about, if only to remind myself about them later. For example, the shocking ineptness of our bank. Three serious errors affecting account balances in two weeks. Compare with none in fifteen years in the UK. Or the astonishing measures that the local DSL provider will take to prevent anyone ever actually becoming a customer. Then there's the blundering misdesign of our mobile phone provider's website. It took the Phone Geek twenty minutes to work out how to log on to see her own account details.

We're so happy to in our new place, that I don't have the energy to snark about it all. Yet.

Wed Sep 06 21:26:56 2006

Power at last!

Happy day! Happy us!

I take it all back. CitiPower are wonderful. TruEnergy are, at least, capable. We have power at the new flat. Now, we can move in. Five days late.

The day started with a howling gale and horizontal rain. We went to work on the 27th floor, and could barely see the ground. It was just like England in September. We had planned all sorts of productive things at lunch. Going to the flat, buying essentials, eating lunch and so on. We ended up going to the bank.

My bank account had stopped issuing beer tokens from the ATM. This is, obviously, a crisis. The charming lady at the bank (I think it was her first week) couldn't work out why. She had to phone people. After some financial forensics, the root cause was discovered. The excellent Thai restaurant we went to last week has charged us twice for the meal we had. Not Happy. Expecting grovelling apology. We also raised the small issue of bank errors. In fifteen years of banking in the UK, I have had no bank errors. None. Zero. Here, we've had three in two weeks. This does not inspire confidence. Bank statements will be perused carefully.

We went to the flat after work. I flipped the breakers to the on position, the clouds parted, the sun shone and all was right with the world. Well, actually, a light bulb came on. Proof that we had, at last, been connected to the grid. The flat looks wonderful with the lights on. The environment management system started working. The temperature came up from freezing to pleasantly warm in five minutes. The balcony lighting is delightful. We like the place more and more.

When I unpacked the microwave, I realized that we had a problem. I couldn't find anywhere to put it. We bought a table-like thing from Ikea to put it on. It is the one piece of Ikea stuff with missing bits. Today, the Spatially Aware One had a look at one of the cupboards. 'Try putting the microwave in here'. 'Not a hope. It'll never fit'. 'So why is there a power point in here then?'. I swear the spacetime fairies have remodelled the whole place. The microwave fits neatly and has a power supply. So, we're up one partially-built table. Hey, ho.

I also found the source of The Smell. The flat has had a slightly noisome odour in some places. The downpipe provided for grey water from the washing machine has no trap. Whiffy is the word. I'm going to see what can be done with duct tape. Failing that, I'll get the landlord to put in a proper trap. Exactly how is something I would cheerfully leave for an Advanced Plumber.

I suspect that there will be heavy lifting tomorrow. It's worth it. The flat is wonderful, and we're nearly done. Once we're in I'm going to write a definitive guide - 'Moving to Melbourne - how not to do it'. I consider myself the expert in this field.

Wed Sep 06 09:26:45 2006

Technorati Link

...pitiful attention seeking

This is to see whether Technorati will index this worthless nonsense. Technorati Profile

Tue Sep 05 20:54:02 2006

Almost ready to move


I may have been a teensy bit curmudgeonly yesterday. Maybe not. We get to find out tomorrow.

Kevin the Electrician is a man of his word. At 0725 he turned up at the flat, gave the electrical facilities a good staring-at, and issued a certificate. The Slightly More Snoozlish One pottered down about 0930, and took the certificate to a place with faxing facilities. I had to stay in the freezing cold flat waiting for the Telstra guy to turn up, and the Last Furniture Delivery Ever I Really Mean It This Time to be delivered.

I phoned helpful, charming, powerless people at the energy supplier to see if they could find the fax. Dialogue by Franz Kafka:

  • Them: Which fax did you send it to?
  • Me: The one you told me to send it to yesterday.
  • Them: Ah. Probably the wrong one.
  • Me: (insert strange noises)
  • Them: It's OK. I can probably find it. Over to Hold Hell you go, Victim. I mean, Valued Client.
  • Me: <chews own nose off>
  • ---Intermission with Hold Music---
  • Them: We've sent the fax to CitiPower. But it might not have been high enough quality.
  • Me (after some possibly intemperate thoughts): So, what does that mean?
  • Them: Well, we may need you to send it again.
  • Me (breathing deeply): How will I know?
  • Them: Well, if your electrical supply comes on tomorrow, you don't need to send it again.
  • Me: ??????
  • Me: Couldn't you, perhaps, phone me before we go round this sordid loop again?
  • Them: We will. Just like we did on Friday.
  • Me: (spluttering noises) You mean, just like you didn't on Friday?
  • Them: Is there anything else we can do to help?
  • Me: Well, as a matter of fact, I think there is.....<insert detailed biological description>

So, we'll have power tomorrow. That, or a Crime to Shock Australia. Involving fully energized electrodes. I'll even pay for the electricity consumed.

To be fair, I could have driven this a bit harder. I should have spent the weekend hassling people by phone, paying an electrician, finding a fax bureau, chasing the fax receipt, building a generator with my bare hands and solving world hunger. But I had shopping to do. I want to send money to these idiots in exchange for energy. Begging to do so was never really in the plan.

On a more positive note: Telstra Guy turned up, connected the pair at the DP, tested every point, and left on time. $300, but the landlord's going to pay that. The furniture delivery turned up, so we now have a bed and the world's best dining table. The building facilities guy intercepted the delivery, directed them to the delivery entrance, and gave us sole use of the lift. He's a really helpful bloke.

Our next challenge is buying a car. More drivelling about this soon.

Mon Sep 04 23:36:40 2006

Sunset photos

Off you go...

Pretty Pictures! Click Here!

Mon Sep 04 22:27:32 2006

Energize this!

(in which nothing gets energized)

Hatred is a complex emotion. Literary types have tried for centuries to depict it as a reflection of love. This is another reason why Arts Graduates commonly become morose on learning their true earning capacity. There's no margin in being stupid, vapid and pretentious. No animus here, you will observe. I am reserving the bile for the utility companies of the great state of Victoria.

We wanted our gas and electricity turned on last Friday. We asked a company called Utility One to coordinate the whole thing. As far as I can tell, they are a an outsourced call centre who force the least competent, most expensive utility companies on you, then slope shoulders if there's a problem. I won't use them again.

On Saturday, we have gas, but no electricity. I phone Utility One. They advise me to phone the energy company, TruEnergy. They answer the phone, are polite, friendly, charming and almost completely useless. Just like Utility One.

The apartment is so new that the one across the corridor still has the builders in, putting up walls and other trivia. The real villain of this sordid tale of woe is City Power. I would give you a link, but I don't think they've developed that far yet. They are the local monopoly that actually owns the copper. They've decided that our brand spanking new apartment has been unoccupied for over twelve months. Well done, chaps. Because of this, they require a Certificate of Electrical Safety. When our charming, friendly, powerless pals at TruEnergy tried to get City Power to commission the service at the meter, City Power told them they couldn't. TruEnergy then decided not to bother informing us. Not good enough. I am Very, Very unhappy. I intend to continue saying bad things about them for the forseeable future. They have the need and opportunity to Make Me Happier. They should do so. I shouldn't have to go begging for compensation.

I want to forget the pain and anguish of chasing down the answers to this. I really, really don't want to get involved in the whole tale of nausea. I just want an electricity supply at a new apartment, with a meter installed, in a first-rate city in a first-world country.

So, people involved in this story whom I don't hate include: One TruEnergy person I spoke to today who actually talked some sense.

People I do hate:

  • All the other people at TruEnergy who fobbed me off with half-truths, evasions and a total failure to own the problem.
  • City Power, Melbourne, Victoria. Hate, hate, hate.
  • Origin Energy, for hiring the most fatuous, half-witted, moronic people ever to master the art of picking up a telephone handset. (Hello! It's a potential customer! Sarcasm may not be the appropriate response!)
  • Ikea. Natuurlijk.

Moments before chewing my own knees off with frustration, the managing agent for the apartment put me in touch with an electrician. He's going to bimble round early tomorrow (0730 early), check the place, issue (we hope) a totally unnecessary certificate, and we can move on from here. I find it a lot easier to trust someone who answers the phone "Hi, Kevin here." than "ThankyouForCallingTruEnergyMyNameIsTracieHowMayIHelpYou" (and that after ten minutes in a phone maze.)

If the protagonists in this story feel i'm being unfair, they could, perhaps, connect my XXXXing power supply. Then, I'll get all reasonable again. And switch my supply away from them as fast as I can. Hate.

The flat is looking a lot better. When you're on hold talking to customer services, whacking the hell out of nails with a hammer is strangely calming. "There's a loud noise in the background. I can't hear you". "Hang <bang>on<crash>a<thump>moment. Ok, done. What were you saying?"

I recommend it.

Sun Sep 03 21:48:24 2006

Too much retail...

...too much flat-pack

The flat-pack furniture we opened yesterday specified a fearsome array of tools for its construction. It turns out that this was largely a ruse to obfuscate the lack of crucial components in the kit.

We took a tram to Queen Victoria Market to see if we could find a hardware merchant. First, we acquired a coffee from a stall. Despite some hygiene issues, the coffee that came out was (apparently) quite spiffing. Alertness levels went from 'snoozing wombat' to 'retail tiger' in four minutes.

We found the tool seller, acquired the tools and were back on a tram early enough to rearrange our day for retail.

We drove down the toll road to the Biggest Retail Extravaganza In The Entire World. It's actually called Chadstone shopping centre. I can imagine the marketing meeting: "Hey, it's in Chadstone, it's a 'center' where you can 'shop'. Let's call it...". Morons. "Vast Cathedral of Commerce", "Colossal Cavern of Choice", "Melbourne Monument to Mammon"....See? I could have done marketing. If only I'd got the grades. Unfortunately, I got As, not Fs. I could be doing 'Product Positioning'. If only I'd never learnt to read...

The mall is vast. Huge. Colossal. We bough some stuff. Bulky stuff, so I took it back to the car, while Other People continued to swoon in delight at the whole retail opportunity. This mall is so large that I became temporarily unsure of position. It took me twenty minutes to find the car. Next time, I'm taking the GPS.

Unfortunately, we didn't find anything better than Ikea furniture. So, being sensible and pragmatic, we went back to Ikea for some more abuse. They were happy to dish it out...

Enough whinging. The apartment's starting to look like ours. We love it.

Sat Sep 02 21:37:00 2006

Heavy Lifting

Lots of stuff shifted

This morning I crawled out of bed a lot earlier than is my habit on a weekend. I had to go to our new flat to wait for the promised delivery of white goods. I strolled most of the way down Bourke Street, before being overtaken by a tramline-cleaning vehicle. I hopped on one of the four trams being held up by this, and saved myself maybe five minutes getting to the flat.

I had just sorted the junk mail out, and was about to start asking questions about the continuing lack of electrical power when the delivery guy turned up. He did an excellent job. Stuff delivered, in packaging, exactly where I wanted it. To put this in perspective, we had ordered a fridge-freezer, a washing machine and a microwave to be delivered last night. Fourteen hours later, and it's in our flat. The Good Guys (what a cheesy name) will be getting more business from us.

The Retail Expert had stayed behind. She was going to shop for soft furnishings and necessary basics while I waited for the delivery. When I phoned to tell her that the delivery was done, she had only recently finished her very close perusal of the pillows in the hotel. Breakfast was still under way. I spent the next hour unpacking white goods and moving it into position. Fridge-freezers are heavy. Washing machines are heavier. The really tedious bit was dumping the packing material.

Once I'd done that, I took a tram back to the flat, so I could do some email stuff. The Retail Expert had not had much success. Melbourne CBD is probably not the best place to look for furniture.

We took the car down to the new place, and made a few measurements. The kitchen has no place for a microwave oven, so we needed to work out what to do about that. Various other little things need working out. While we were there, a bloke from the building's management returned a phone message I'd left yesterday. He came round and helped us find the main electrical panel. I had spent 20 minutes earlier searching for it. It's behind the library door. I hadn't even noticed there was a door. Whoops. He couldn't help us with the electrical supply mystery. The supplier admits that it seems to be odd, so we'll get them to look at it on Monday. Friday is a silly day to start a lease. Nobody is there to fix things over the weekend.

So, with some unexpected time, we went to Ikea. Apparently, this is the biggest one south of the equator. It's about half the size of the one in Bristol. Some serious shopping took place. I don't recall all the details. The heaviest package I had to lift was 32Kg. Off the shelf onto the trolley into the car out of the car to the lift along the corridor into the room. Far enough. Five packages.

After delivering the goodies to the flat, we realised that we didn't have all the tools we need for assembly. The sun was setting, and there's no lighting in the flat, so we gave up for the day. We're a whole Ikea run ahead of the plan.

Because of the heavy lifting, I was allowed some beer. James Squires Rum Porter. Strongly recommended 1-pint beer. Dark, rich, caramel, nutty tones. The Beer Connaiseur hated it. It's one of those beers that legitimately causes strong responses. You couldn't like it 'a bit'.

Thence, to a truly excellent Thai restaurant on Southbank. We checked spice levels with the staff, so we each had an excellent dish, without any chilli overload.

Tomorrow, we're going to try to find the tools we need to build the Ikea stuff. Some fighting words have been spoken about a trip to a mall, too.

Shopping is not my favourite thing. I'm no good at it. Fortunately, I am being led by a world-class shopper.

Fri Sep 01 23:21:48 2006

The flat is ours

Too much shopping

Early this morning, we picked up the keys to the new flat. Well, it would have been early, except we took the tram. One would think that a tram leaving town in the morning would be quicker than on entering. One would be mistaken. I can feel a rant coming on.

We went to the flat to check we still liked it. We would be a tiny bit screwed if we don't.

It turns out that there are effectively two balconies and an entire room that we didn't even notice before we commited to renting the place. There's another space that we might yet dub 'The Entertainment Room'. The Visual Artist will be sharing some of this with people later. The important point is that the apartment is bigger and more flexible than we thought. We love it.

After work, we went to a furniture mall. We scoured about ten shops selling furniture. I was so good. I didn't even complain about being shopped out for ages. After the first hundred beds, they all start to look the same. The first one you see with a built-in beer-holder (I kid you not) looks like a must-have.

We ended up with various options and combinations. Our favourite was to buy a bed, matress, table and two stools from one shop. They could give us the bed immediately, but the table would have to wait 2-3 weeks. They wanted us to pay two seperate delivery charges of $60 each. Actually, what pissed me off was that the junior shop assistant kept us waiting for fifteen minutes before the manager refused to cut us any slack. So we walked out.

Unhappy from this failed negotiation, we decided to do the white goods, before going to our second choice for a bed. We identified a washing machine, fridge and microwave that we wanted in about ten minutes. A salesdude took the details, promised delivery tomorrow, and knocked $150 from the listed prices. If they actually deliver, I am going to say lots of nice things about them. The experience so far has been good.

There was one slight glitch. Apparently, the cards that we use to access our money, in our accounts, only let us access $1000 a day each. This is farcical. I tried to lay down $1375, and the card says no. The staff at The Super Efficient Store have seen this before. I lay down $1,000, and The Really Rich One pays the rest with her card. From exactly the same account. This is, obviously, stupid. We're going to have to bully our bank into giving us a proper credit limit. 'But it's for your protection', they will chant. No it's not. It's to maximise thir sodding profits. My money should be available to me, whenever I want, in whatever vast, gouting gobs I want. Protection by a bank? I want protection from a bank.

Happy with the ultimately successful outcome of this transaction, we move into Misunderstanding Mode. remember, if you will, that we've just looked at several thousand pieces of furniture in ten shops. The Interior Architect wants to see a table again. 'Take me to the other glass-topped one' she says. I take her on the most direct route to a glass-topped table we both liked. 'Not that one, you idiot. I want the other one'

I had entirely forgotten the other one. Apparently, I am No Good At All at shopping.

I navigated back to the table she had in mind. It's lovely. They had a beautiful bed on serious offer, too. We took the difference and spent it on a better mattress. This is probably a very good decision.

We've exchanged a lot of money for a lot of stuff. None of it is really fun stuff. Once we've got this all sorted, we can get the cool toys.

If I sound jaded, it's because I've seen too damn many bedroom ensembles. The flat is unbelievably fantastic. The views are astonishing. The lifestyle will be amazing. We're looking forward to turning it into our home.

email BurbleChaz

Last modified: Mon Nov 6 11:56:11 AUSEDT 2006