June 12, 2009

Food For Thought

So, what's been going on over the past month?

Well... Firstly I took a week off work, specifically because the house needed some painting and renovating, and Elsha and I were long overdue for a break. The house was sold with just bare walls with cream colour or what we later discovered was a very close approximation to Antique White USA (we discovered this at random). In order to bring some life to the house, we decided on painting a lounge room wall, a kitchen wall and the master bedroom wall in Davinci Red with Suede effect. The Suede effect just makes it easier for first time painters like ourselves to stick the paint on without worrying about brushstrokes.

Next, it afforded us some time to spend with some very special new neighbours. Several years ago I lamented about the resignation of Scythe, who was moving to a different company. Well, very recently, Scythe decided to uproot from England and move to Australia. And he now lives about 10 minutes away from us. How amazing is that. I just can't quite put into words how I feel about having such a close connection to my life in London just around the corner.

No post would be complete without a World of Warcraft update. Well, Scythe is playing too but destined to the lower levels. And learning quickly that the game has changed from its first incarnation into something smaller, at least at the lower levels. I'm currently running dungeons over and over for him in order to garner large amounts of experience points in a short amount of time.

Health-wise, I find myself struggling to overcome the usual winter cold. At the moment, the media screams daily about the on-going swine flu and with people constantly coughing and failing to cover their open mouths with their hands, I wonder if this outbreak is because of the breakdown of general healthcare that people take on a day to day basis.

One fact continues to surprise me. When I was growing up, people would often wash their hands before eating. Now it seems that eating with a knife and fork and not washing hands is perfectly fine for the majority. Even worse, how many people do not wash their hands before preparing food?

May 11, 2009

Goings on in the homeland

I've spent most of the afternoon reading up about how MPs in the UK have essentially fleeced the taxpayers - that is, the public they've sworn to represent - of their money and lined their own pockets with our money.

This is at the same time as introducing more and more 'stealth' taxes, presumably to aid in their above aims of fleecing as much as they can.

I'm just gobsmacked at the sheer arrogance of these people. What is it that happens when criminals steal money and then get caught?

Oh yes, they're made to pay it all back.

April 28, 2009


What is it with experienced drivers complaining about P Platers speeding? Although its occasionally true (we have no experience of speed), I find its almost the exact reverse.

Yesterday I sat in my car driving down the 70kmh dual carriage road whilst cars overtook me driving way past the posted speed limit. This is clearly against the posted rules of the road and had there been a policeman with a radar gun there, those speeding drivers would have been behind me all the way. Either that, or on the side of the road getting a ticket.

On Sunday I was at a party where people were talking about P platers as if they were all speeding madmen/women. Of course, they didn't mean me, because I drive fairly cautiously (I have to, the roads are all full of speeding experienced drivers).

Its odd, you know. As the old adage goes, people speed faster than you, or drive way too slowly than you. But of course, to them its the other way around - you drive too fast or drive too slowly.
Me? I drive at the posted limit. I'm not in a hurry, I like to get to where I'm going with as less stress as possible and, to be honest, who cares if I'm 10 minutes late.

This isn't London, after all.

April 02, 2009

The ever winding road

The journey [pun intended] that I started 6 months ago has finally come to an end; at least, the formal journey has, but the road of unofficial learning continues ever on.

Six months ago, I decided to finally suck it up and learn to drive. As I had previously blogged, I had no need to drive in London as the transport infrastructure is such that its easy to get around on public transport.

In late September I called up an instructor and asked for a lesson, explaining that I was an older and nervous and that I had never driven anything before - such was my reticence on driving that I hadn't done anything for nine months after I had passed my Theory Test.

The lesson was simply amazing; driving at 15kmh, I drove around the small roads and even moved around parked cars. By lesson three, I was going at 90kmh along major roads.

My instructor felt I wasn't entirely ready for my practical test and kept putting back my test time after time after time, even though everyone else I'd driven with had said I was fine. I was cautious, I looked before turning, etc. If anything, I only had a problem with judging distances (I've had this issue for as long as I remember) when making turns. But nothing that would impede my test.

After a long preamble, my instructor agreed to 2 pre-tests so that I could see what the final test would be like. The first pre-test ended with me driving straight (lane changing) through a dual-lane roundabout essentially causing a huge traffic violation that would have had me automatically failing. But as I did it, I knew what I'd done - and that it would never happen again; and thats when I fell to pieces and had to pull over to one side to recover.

The second pre-test was a bit better but the instructor took me out of the way of the test and I failed to slow down enough when coming to speed bumps - another automatic fail. What annoyed me the most there was that that road was not on the test, so I would never have failed anything. Sticking to my guns, I stubbornly asked for the test to commence.

On the 21st of January, I finally took the test. It lasted 30 minutes but it felt like only 10 minutes had passed. I made a few errors but overall I was happy with my performance, and when I was told I had passed, I was over the moon.

After that, it was a laborious 6 weeks to get my 25 Hours Supervised driving logged (a practice to stop teenagers from jumping in their new car and wrapping it around a tree or around a family) and finally on the 20th of March, I took my Hazard Perception Test.

The Hazard Perception Test is a computer exam with flash-based videos to determine if the learner driver understands what hazards actually are - from sand on the roads to a motorcycle concealed behind a turning truck, to knowing when to safely over take. The questions were fairly ambiguous too as on occasion not slowing down was the safest thing to do. Another 30 minutes of testing and I had passed. I finally realised that the Hazard Perception Test was not really evaluating my understanding of the rules of the road, but whether or not I had falsified the 25 logged hours of supervised driving...

I now drive a White Hyundai Accent car, air conditioning inclusive. Its not the fastest car in the world nor the prettiest. Nor the most kitted out.

But for all those failings, its MY car.

March 25, 2009

Silly Costumes

As Elsha pointed out today, she hates it when people dress up in a silly costume and then wander the streets looking for victims to de-purse of money.

Now, I will quite regularly donate to charities or funds that I think are quite deserving, like the Rememberance Day Poppy Appeal or Imperial Cancer Research or any of the similarly serious but deserving trusts.

What I will not do is be embarrassed into parting with cash as someone in a costume titters on in front of me. I just don't understand what they're trying to say. Is it ok to wear a silly costume and meander the streets asking for cash?

Not for me, at least.

Today in Perth it was Radio Lollipop Day, a day when the Perth Transit Authority is supposed to put on the radio in their buses and entertain everyone whilst their silly costume prats accost you for cash for kids in hospitals. Whilst the notion of giving charity to children in hospital is undoubtedly a rewarding one, today was an unmitigated disaster.

No radios on in buses but even worse, no buses. At the stop I normally take, I was left having to wait 12 minutes. Not a long time perhaps but try waiting 12 minutes during rush hour on Ealing Broadway in Greater London and you will soon imagine the type of crowd that developed here.
And of course these were people who were not dressed in silly costumes but just trying to get to work. No radios on in buses as people shoved and pushed their way onto a coveted place on the bus.

I'm not sure what changed this year but it was a far cry from the entertaining morning that we had last year, and if you base your fund raising around entertaining people, well then one must wonder if the people in silly costumes have any other tricks up their sleeves for next year.

March 22, 2009

Back and posting

I've just realised that I haven't written a post since January.


I've definitely started lots of posts but somehow their connectivity to topical issues always seem dated by the time I've finished.

Like the aborted post about how it was snowing in England and I how I was jealous. I had a post written up but by the time I had put my thoughts into order and bypassed co-workers watching over my shoulder, the snow had melted and England was back to working order.

Still. Here's a post. Saying I'm back.

I'm back.


January 29, 2009

The Driving Test

The Driving Test is perhaps one of the most important events in your life, alongside Marriage, mainly because it opens up opportunities for greater travel (at least in Australia).

In London, I was never really that interested in learning to drive because the transportation network was amazingly efficient. Not only did you have buses, ferries, 'tubes', trains and aeroplanes, you also had mini-cabs and taxi cabs. Add all these to walking and you have the ability to pretty much go anywhere.

In Perth, West Australia, you really do need to drive around, unfortunately, as the distance between landmarks and locations is so much greater. They do have a great metro transportation network but in terms of reaching the outskirts of the city where all the people live, a car just makes it easy by several magnitudes.

So, last year I decided to learn to drive. First off was the Theoretical Test, a set of 40 questions aimed at general rules of the road. Who has right of way when turning left onto a road, for example. Most of the questions are fairly self evident but some of them do get confusing.

Passing that earns you a Learner's Permit and you get to then spend your time driving around in a car with an L plate hanging off the back whilst either a professional instructor or a supervisor teach you how to drive. My first lesson was at 6pm and probably not the best time as the light was beginning to fade. Still, driving a half-tonne of metal on the backstreets around the house was amazingly fun but equally nerve-wracking. My hands were shaking when I finally got home.
Lesson after lesson constantly pushed the driving envelope until I was driving at 100kmh up the Freeway and learning about merging traffic.

Eventually though, given enough time and practice, you get to sit The Test. Here in Perth, you need to complete 3 exercises - Stopping For Shopping, Finding An Address and Retrieving Your Wallet - with the Examiner checking your surreptitiously checking your general driving skills.

Stopping for shopping is based around the notion that whilst driving you pass a shopping centre that you meant to have turned into. The exercise calls for you to turn the car around, drive back to the centre and find a spot to reverse park in; the other two exercises call for similar manoeuvers. Passing The Test requires that the manoeuvres are completed above a certain level and, unfortunately for you, that level is fairly high - at least 75%. Unlike normal tests, getting above the minimum mark does not guarantee a pass as the Examiner is likely to find that even though you have demonstrated that you can drive, your safety record is such that as a whole you are not safe to pass.

So I am pleased to say that the Wednesday before last, not only did I take the test (with much pressure from friends, family and co-workers) but that I passed with good marks. Of course, there were mistakes but these were of issues that I can but learn from and become a better driver. All I have to do now is log 25 hours of supervised driving and sit a Hazard Perception Test - a computer-based exam that tests my ability to recognise potential issues on the road and to adequately react to it.

I'm a bit surprised though by this final test. Why have this at the end? And why allow me to drive this half-tonne metal object around in broad daylight if my reactions are not adequate.

Still, I am glad to be past The Test and on my way to driving in West Australia.

January 06, 2009

A New Day, A New Year

Where to begin? 2008 is over and now we're prancing into 2009, a new year with new opportunities.

2008 was a great year for me. As I've previously blogged, Elsha and I got married, bought a house, and I began the long, slow path to getting a Driving License, something that will continue into 2009. New opportunities will include getting my Australian Citizenship sorted out so that I can come and go as I please.

I didn't post at Christmas primarily because I was having too much fun, so here's the present list:

- Nintendo DS Lite

This is a great present. I really like the idea of the DS Lite, that you use a stylus to interact with the game in some way. For years I had liked the idea of having a PDA but good games just aren't made for PDA's (or at least not the ones I've been looking at).

With the DS Lite came some games...

Transformers: Autobots should have been a great game. You get to run around shooting at things, scanning vehicles to add them to your repository of known forms, and then transforming into them and driving around. Except that age old problem of the boss. At the end of each section, there is a humongous fight where you have to smash your controller to death to get to kill the boss. In this case, I'm playing Bumblebee and I'm fighting Barricade (the police car in the movie), who just happens to have heatseeking missiles, whereas I get to have a pea shooter.

Star Trek Tactical Assault is a cool game. It mirrors Star Fleet Command for the PC, itself modelled on the Star Fleet Battles boardgame. You get to take command of a starship, and then you get to fight alien ships like the Romulans or the Klingons. Its great fun, especially when you realise that if you switch to Red Alert (to get your weapons charged up) the attitude of the enemy ships become aggresive. Stay at Yellow Alert and you run the risk of getting attacked versus calming the enemy down.

Sight Training is just that. Its a series of activities designed to increase your use of vision. Some of it is luck I find but its a good way of calming yourself down after frantically pressing buttons as Bumblebee.

The other two games I received were of the Final Fantasy variety, one a rpg and the other an rpg strategy game. I haven't really had the chance to get involved with those but give me time.

Dvd's next. I received a fair few and one set, arguably the best present of the evening, was especially well received:

I can't say much more about Blackadder Seasons 1-4 than what you probably already know. Its brilliant!

Next up was Season 4 Part 1 of Battlestar Galactica, the continuing re-imagined series I had watched with diligence so far. In the previous season, we had just discovered the 4 of the final cylon models, one is left to be revealed!

Another DVD I received was a Harry Palmer movie - Funeral In Berlin. I've been in love with the Harry Palmer movies ever since I was introduced to them by my eldest brother. He's so typically English and in sharp contrast to the Americanised James Bond. He even has to sign a form to get his "new" car. I love it!

In any collection, Transformers the Live Action Movie would be a gem even if it is overshadowed by my other DVDs. Its still a great romp though.

Other than the DVDs and the DS Lite, I also received some Dragon Car Covers for the seats of our new car and a car vacuum cleaner, which will come in handy seeing that some people never ever clean their cars.

I also received a World of Warcraft Calendar from a co-worker and it was a great present to get, and totally unexpected.

I'm sure I've forgotten something but hey, thats what the next blog post will probably be about.