October 30, 2007

Pet Peeves Post #2: Shopping

Shopping is another one of my pet peeves. In fact, it probably rates very highly on my list of peeves. Why, I'm not entirely sure. Maybe it has something to do with the huge proportions of SHEEP/ZOMBIES that are out and about "shopping" at the same time as me. You know, the people that walk straight into you with their trolleys. or their prams or trikes. And then get annoyed that you haven't moved out of the way. Have you ever gone shopping and decided to not move out of the way of people? You end up having people walk into you because they thought you would move. Why exactly you should move instead of them is a big mystery. Even worse, and this touches slightly on the Slow Walkers post I made earlier, are people who walk side by side. In three's. Might I suggest that if you are out with you friends you walk in a triangle formation. Because walking side by side makes it hard for OTHER people to walk on the same pavement as you.

Or perhaps the reason Shopping is a peeve is because of the crappy customer service. For a long time now, I have worked in customer service, and at one point, it was on a shop floor. I've had people shout at me, people roll their eyes at me, all manner of things, so I understand that customer service is probably very hard to get right and fairly unrewarding. At the same time though that is what staff in shops are paid to do. Not talk to their work buddies or chit chat with friends pretending to be customers. I know it's boring and quite horrible, but please don't start talking about Big Brother when you should be serving.

Shops and shopping is about spending money. You have money, they have products. You need to use money to get products. They need to convince you to hand over money, you need to convince yourself not to. This is why generally when I go into a shop, I know what I am going to buy. When I walk into a clothing shop, I think to myself - "Aha! What I want is a shirt. Or 2 Shirts. I don't want trousers. Or socks. Or a hat. or anything else."

Very rarely, I won't know what it is I want and I will wander into a shop. This is how I found Knights of Dark Renown by David Gemmell. Or Johnathon Strange & Mr Norris by Susannah Clarke. It's not a coincidence both of those are books; I love perusing, meandering in and out of aisles', my head tilted to the left or right. But only in bookshops. Or perhaps when I am looking for a particular DVD. I don't peruse much when I am looking for a shirt.

The other problem, which thankfully doesn't happen in Perth, is that of heating. Shops in the UK keep their heating on, it seems, all year round. I'm not entirely sure why this is. Having heating on in Pubs is something I understand (because you get hot and you want something to drink) but not entirely sure why this should be the same in a shop. Perth has air conditioned shops in which you hide in because outside it is too hot. Going outside is a major issue, so you stay in the shop. And peruse, and possibly buy something. Having heating on in a shop in Winter is pretty good, but not when it's summer outside (although in the UK, summer tends to only last for about 2 weeks).

I find shopping tedious. I don't particularly want to spend my off-days trawling through shops buying things that I might not really need. Internet shopping, on the other hand, is a wonderful thing, although you do need to know what you want before you start shopping online. It's no use thinking "I want something, but I'm not sure what. Let me ask
Amazon or Tesco" because you're going to spend a long time searching the sites. And you would probably have a better idea if you were there in person, perusing.

Perth, unfortunately, does not have Online Shopping. Well, it does and it doesn't. All the big stores are represented online by websites but their products are not listed individually. Instead their 'catalogues' are scanned and displayed online. Here in Perth (not sure about the rest of Oz), the stores print out fortnightly specials and have them posted through your letterbox, the intention that you will sit at your table reading them and finding out which shops sell what stuff cheaply, so you will go there and buy them at that store. And quite possibly buy other things whilst you are there because you can't be arsed to go to another store and buy their cheap stuff.

October 28, 2007

One Year On

For want of a better date, today marks the anniversary of my leaving my old job in London and setting out on the adventure that would lead me to holiday in Singapore, settle down in Perth, West Australia, get a contracting job, leave that contracting job for a permanent job in Software Testing, leave that job back for the contracting job and then leave that job for another permanent job.

Many things have changed since that fateful day a year ago when I was presented with items and given a speech on how I'm a gamer (read "loser"), whilst others have stayed relatively the same.

I'm still in the same industry, at pretty much the same level I was 7 years ago (although it can be argued that I am a much more senior person through sheer experience). I'm still having to deal with shoddy management and, of course, working for a government post means I get to fulfill that role on a daily basis.

All in all, my quality of life has markedly improved. London is a cold, grey, dingy landscape with very little good things to say about it. Perth may be a small blip on the West coast of Australia but it happens to be a warm green land with white shores.

October 24, 2007

Whistleblowing

One thing I do like to do when I have some free time is to read other people's blogs. I like reading the casual ones about cats or people named after cats, but I also like to especially peruse the ones where people involved in an industry are dishing the dirt about their work ethics and conditions.

Like the Police.

I have read this blog now for a few weeks and I'm simply amazed, nay gobsmacked, as to what is happening now in England. I mean, really! Suicide Bombers being renamed to Personnel Borne Explosive Devices, so that suiciders won't feel they're being victimized.

"All of this has made me seriously consider whether I’m wasting my time in the police (I didn’t actually start this post with a rant in mind - it just happened). The vast majority of my time is spent dealing with shite, to nobody’s benefit whatsoever. You only have to read the myriad of police blogs to understand why we all get frustrated by the system, and to see why when you call the police you get such a slow response (there are enough police officers in the country - many more than half are sat on their arses in day jobs ticking boxes and sending snot-o-grams to the rest of us).

I joined the police for the clich├ęd appeal of trying to make a difference, to better society by making a stand against those I see around me who take liberties at the expense of decent folk. I earn much less money than I did previously, work longer hours (completely unsociable ones at that), I’m tired most of the time, I hardly spend any time with the future Mrs AC and I’m stating to ask myself “why?” All I seem to do is race around from one drunken unwashed fool to another. The names and faces are different at each job (within reason given our prevalence of regular callers) but the circumstances are always the same. The outcome always makes me think I’ve wasted my time in one way or another. Be it arresting someone and doing 6 hours of work on the case for the CPS to declare that due to there being no independent 3rd party witness, or CCTV coverage, that they aren’t prepared to take the case to trial. Or getting a case to trial, with the Brucie Bonus of a conviction, for the burglar (of multiple dwellings) to be given a 9 month supervision order (this happened to me recently and to coin a phrase I was “as cross as f**k”). I could list things like this until I am even bluer in the face than I am now, but I shall relent."

His words, not mine.

In fact, West Australia is now employing more and more emigrated police than ever before, and more and more people are taking up the offer.

October 23, 2007

A Night in the Life of a Level 70 Druid

On Monday nights you will normally find me at my computer playing World of Warcraft, generally on my level 5x Hunter attempting to get him up to level 60 and into Outlands where all the money is. Last night though I decided to waive that and try and do an instance with my main character, my level 70 Druid. Instances are the other name for dungeons.

In this case, I wanted to do one of the dungeons in Terokkar Forest. Since I have never ever done Mana Tombs, I decided to put myself down as LFG - Looking For Group.

The first group I get are a Warrior, a Mage and 2 Druids (one a healer, the other a dps feral), all lower level than me. This puts me into a different category. The dungeon is levelled at around 65 whereas I am level 70. So this gives me some ability to shrug off the damage I'm getting. Not much, because even though I'm 5 levels above, 2 or 3 monsters of 5 levels lower will be able to beat the living daylights out of me.

I ask the team, "What Role should I play? Healer, DPS Cat or Tank Bear?"

The Warrior pipes up with "Duh! We have a Tank, me! Play a Healer."

The Druid DPS comments "Duh! We have a DPS, me! Play a Healer."

The Mage shrugs and picks his nose.

The Druid Healer hugs me and says "Yay! Please help me!" In private he messages me with a "I'm so glad you're here."

The reasons behind this is that the Warrior and the DPS Druid have no idea how to play their classes and lack even basic knowledge of what to do to in a Dungeon (Don't wander around because it will aggro monsters. Don't think that you can dodge attacks, you will only make it harder for your team mates to help you. Don't shout at the Healer when he doesn't heal you, he's avoiding Threat so he doesn't die when you wipe from your stupidity).

After over aggroing the healer, Tank and DPS, I decide to switch my role to a Bear Tank.

Druids have the amazing ability to play a variety of classes - Bear Tank, Cat DPS, Tree Healer, Moonkin-Mage. The last two are specifical specifications which mean that if you choose either of them, you can only play in a very limited way with the others. But that's not to say that you can't play as anything else at all. I am a DPS Druid, meaning I excel when in Cat Form. I'm good in Bear Tank form, and only less than average as a healer or mage.

Anyway, I'm now Bear Tank. This now makes things interesting because I'm out aggroing the Warrior, and requiring less healing. He decides to quit, taking with him the mage, leaving us with holes in our group. After a few minutes, we get another level 70, this time a Warlock and a Hunter. Both classes use Pets, so this allows us to crowd control a bit more. But it would be better having a dedicated healer and a Mage, for the DPS. However, spending time looking for these classes will take longer than we have, therefore we make use of what we have and plan accordingly.

So we get back into the game. 40 minutes later we confront and take down the 2nd Boss monster. Hurray. Suddenly the Druid Healer decides to scarper (Sorry I have work to go to). So we replace with a Priest. Another 30 minutes later and we take down the 3rd and final Boss, in a battle that kills everyone.

2 and a half hours after I've started, I trudge off to sleep, Mana Tombs vanquished. At the back of my mind is the fact that if I had gone with my guild, we could have raced through in half the time with minimum casualties. General players don't know how to play their classes.

The Warrior was not taunting. The DPS Druid was not watching where he was going, and he didn't know what Innervate was. The Healer Druid did not heal entirely well but he was trying, so he can be forgiven. The Hunter didn't know how to leash his pet, which continuously aggroed as it raced to keep up with its master.

All in all, it was a fun night, but one that needn't have gone on for so long.

October 20, 2007

Hellgate: London Demo

The Hellgate: London demo has just been released by Flagship.

You can download a 1.45gb copy for free on the link above. The demo only lasts for 4 levels but you get to know your way around the game and the quests, and whether or not you'll buy it.

Hellgate has had mixed reactions so far. It's been compared to the Diablo franchise as its made by the creators of that game, but it's much more action-orientated.

There are 2 ways of playing the game, offline and online. If you want to play offline, you just buy the game and play solo content, if you want to play online, you have to subscribe. It's a bit like Phantasy Star Online was, but since I'm already tossing up between City of Heroes and World of Warcraft, I'm not sure I want a 3rd online game to occupy my time.

October 18, 2007

Pet Peeves: Slow Walkers

This is a post about one of my pet peeves. I have more than one but I'm not going to list them in any order or prioritize them because, quite frankly, they all annoy me in the same way. Please keep in mind though that Pet Peeves are not on the same order as Genocidal Wars. I'm quite aware that a lot of this happens as normal human behaviour and, whilst I am normally irate with them, I don't do things like attack people or call the police...

First on the list is: Slow Walkers.

Now, I am myself a fairly fast walker. I don't power walk but at the same time, I don't canter along. When I'm going somewhere or shopping, I pretty much know what I want and where to get it so I walk from A -> B in the full knowledge that if I take my time, it will only slow things down. So I WALK.

This basic knowledge seems to have left most people's minds; that if they walk at a reasonable pace they will get to their destination fairly quickly. You may be able to not use your legs much in a car but when walking, you have to use them. On the other hand, I can easily understand people who want to take their time. I take my time too, sometimes. Like, when I'm walking around a museum. Or in a cafe or restaurant. Or even at the gym.

Shopping? No. Shopping should not involve slow walking. Shops are there to strip you of your money, that is why you will never find down escalators pointed at the door. They want you in and shopping, with no clear avenue of escape. When I go into a shop, I have a fairly good idea of what I want and then I buy it. Then I escape. Quickly.

But I don't want to stray into another Pet Peeve, so I'll stay clear of Shopping for the time being.
So, imagine. You are walking quickly to the train station. You know that train may come early. Unfortunately the sheep and lemming population are all walking at the same monotone speed towards the train station, so you have to resort to weaving in and out of the crowd to get past them. When you say "Excuse me..." what you really mean is "FFS, get out of the way you zombies!" (I will let you ponder on what FFS stands for).


And if you think it's just me, had a read of this piece of old hat.

I honestly don't mind if you want to window shop. Or Chat to someone on your mobile. Or if you're walking the dog.

But either move closer to the buildings or closer to the road. Don't stand in the middle like a lost child. if it's good enough for driving in a car it should bloody well be good enough for pedestrians.

October 16, 2007

Stereotyping?

Whilst out shopping a few nights ago, Elsha was perusing baby clothes as we are now (again) Uncle and Aunty once more. I, of course, spent my time wisely checking out dvds and eventually came across a small copy of "Wild Palms" by Oliver Stone. I had the videos when they appeared on BBC 2 years ago (1990?) but threw them out when we moved to Australia. As it was quite a cheap price, it seemed good value for money, even if I never get around to watching it; I still have Team America, Forbidden Planet and Hitchcock's Rear Window to watch first.

Anyway, back to the baby shopping. Standing in front of a whole set of clothing, it occured to me - why are boy's clothes blue and girl clothes pink?

According to various websites, the blue used is actually quite a dainty, and not a strong vivid, colour therefore it's much more suited to girls. Pink, on the other hand, is a watered down red, and therefore much more standout-ish. This was very much the case before the 1950's. Boys were dressed in strong pink, girls clothed in dainty light blue.
Interestingly enough, whilst the rest of the Western world have adopted the boys = blue and girls = pink colouring, the Belgians have remained the same; that is, they are in reverse.

There are various theories posted on the interent about why this is - dyes in china being rarer for boys, an evolutionary preference for specific colours or just "because its always been that way"...

...if you have an answer, please let me know :)

October 10, 2007

Creating Chaos

This week, Transperth are adding a brand new line to the Perth Rail network, linking Mandurah, Rockingham and Kwinana, amongst other places to Fremantle, Clarkson, Armadale and Midland. As the city grows, it's probably a requirement that the rail infrastructure grows as well, to allow more and more people access for business and tourism.


This planning has been going on for well over a year, so it was already in motion when we arrived last November. The modifications that are happening this week have been carefully thought out over a period of no less than 3 months. In order to connect the new line to the network, the Clarkson line has to be disconnected from the Perth station. Theoretically, passengers on the Clarkson line should have to travel in to Glendalough where they can catch a bus the remaining way or continue to Leederville where they can walk for 25 minutes into the city.

Unfortunately, it appears that there was no organisation regarding the actual workaround for the passengers. On Monday, Elsha and I decided to get to the station for 5.40 and catch the earlier train so we would miss the deluge of passengers not knowing where to go. Imagine our frustration when the train we were on stops halfway between stations for an hour and a half.

That's right, not 10, 20 or 30 minutes but 90 minutes without a good explanation. Then, we manage to get to the next station where we can catch a bus to Perth City. Imagine more frustration when we get to the bus platform and discover that not only do the regular bus drivers not know where the rail replacement buses are but that there are no Transperth staff available.

Within 5 minutes, though, staff do make an appearance but confusion continues to reign. Do we "tag on" or not? Some people do, some don't. The Smart Rider system that was introduced in order to stop payment fraud unfortunately doesn't seem to work well, so with lots of people trying to get onto buses, the system began to throw out errors. "Don't worry about tagging on, just get on the buses!", we are shouted at by the Transperth Staff. We didn't "tag on" but what about those people that did?

So we left Joondalup at 5.40am and got to Perth city at 7.30am. That's normally a 30 minute journey.

The unmitigated disaster was quite obviously reported in the News that evening. It was made abundantly clear that the Transperth staff neither had any information as to what was happening nor was being organised in any way to handle queries, questions and issues. Or perhaps no one had forseen that the rail network would be crippled by signal failures that would bottleneck passengers onto buses on an already congested motorway system.

But they should have.

Passengers on other lines have retaliated to those stuck in the choas by stating that this will only be for a week and that the connection to Mandurah has to happen.

I'm not denying that, but is it too much to ask for organisation, sound business planning and keeping your customers satisfied?

October 09, 2007

A Memory of Light

I only found out about this now...

"Robert Jordan was the pen name of James Oliver Rigney, Jr., under which he was best known as the author of the bestselling The Wheel of Time series. He also wrote under the name Reagan O'Neal. He died September 16th, 2007
from complications due to cardiac amyloidosis."

October 05, 2007

Definitely a Pro

Yesterday I woke up bleary eyed and absolutely tired. Dragging myself out of bed, I made a coffee (which I then forgot about and only discovered when I came home), showered, dressed and walked out of the door.

So far, the above would be typically the same morning in London.

But, imagine my surprise when I feel the heat of the sun on my face. I look up, momentarily dazzled by the brightness of the sun and turn eyes even further upwards to see nothing but blue, blue sky. Not the deep blue of summer but the pale light blue of spring.

For the rest of my day, I felt energised and stress-free.

When friends ask me if I'm home sick, I should make them read this post.

October 02, 2007

Switching

I know I haven't posted in some time, that's mainly because I've switched jobs.

Previously I was working for the Government via an employment agency as a full time contractor. Now I'm working for the Government via an Outsourcing firm as a full time permanent member of staff; I'm not working for the same client, by the way. Different methods of employment, different government departments.

So equally, different procedures for everything. My first post had little in the way of procedure and a lot in getting staff out to resolve computer issues. My second and current post has a lot in the way of procedure and very little to do with getting out of the office. In terms of workload, I have moved from high to low, from 10 jobs a day to around 3 jobs a day, if that.

Unfortunately, this new role also requires a lot of knowledge regarding paperwork. I don't think I've ever worked in an environment where so much paperwork is required so that so little can be done. This has all been a rush to the head so I haven't quite been able to pen my thoughts. Instead I've taken to reading other people's blogs.