Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Losing a Friend

One night in 1989 we were eating dinner when there was a knock at the door. There mum who first answered it found the girls from a few houses up with a box of their grandma's cat's kittens. They thrust a kitten into my mum's arms and said "you'll take one won't you Mrs Smith?". Everyone around the dinner table agreed that this would be a good idea, and so Tabby came into our lives. For a number of years it was possible to see a family resemblance in a number of the neighbourhood cats, as their owners had also received that knock at the door. A feisty cat, all claws and teeth at that young age (Some of her siblings were even more fowl tempered), she soon showed her sweet nature with her favourites (me included), and in later years she would actively seek out a comfortable lap to sit on.

Tabby's name derives from Tabitha, itself a play on the word tabby. (With all that long white fur we always thought there was some Persian in her blood somewhere) At the time we got her we also had a Budgie called Sam, and so we unintentionally carried on the Bewitched theme for pet names.

This morning Tabby passed away aged a little over 19 years old, a fair age for a cat. Over the past few days she became weak and went off her food. Last night it became apparent that she probably would not last the night. We made up a comfy bed near her food bowls and said goodnight. This morning we found her lying peacefully in one of her favourite sleeping spots on the carpet in the dining room.

R.I.P Tabby

A recent photo of Tabby, November 2008.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Clocking Off

It was a real pain and yet so easy to get to work today. I didn't have to worry about buying/validating tickets, and there was hardly anyone around. Thanks for the free ride Mrs Kosky that was a nice present. I felt like I was going to work on a Saturday, as the street where my workplace is was unusually quiet. The only crowds I noticed were at the fish shop, where everyone seemed to be buying prawns.

I only ended up doing about an hour and halfs worth of work, but we were told to charge a full day in our timesheets anyway, no complaints there. At 11:30 we had an informal lunch with chicken and salads, unfortunately it ran out all too quickly and many people who turned up late missed out altogether. Someone came to the rescue and ordered Pizzas.

I spent about half an hour playing a game on the computer after lunch. I was playing Portal: the flash version which is quite a good version of the full PC version of Portal. Eventually I decided enough was enough and I left work for the last time this year, but still filled in a days worth of time in my time sheet. (naughty? No we were instructed to do so. Who am I to argue?)

On the way home I finished off my Christmas shopping at Westfield Doncaster, and found it strangely relaxed. No one was really in a hurry or in much of a frenzy, it was good to see. While there I bought my last present, for my mum. I aslo bought myself a small present. Need for Speed Undercover for the Wii. I also bought 2 six packs of imitation Corona from Safeway, and four limes. The limes were unusually cheap, the ticketed price was 99 cents each, but they turned out at 50 cents each. Looking at my docket, I think the fruit shop I went to must give out random discounts. I was lucky.

From there I got the bus home and have just finished wrapping all the presents for tommorow. I think I will now go and play with the present from myself, before wrapping it up and giving it to myself again tommorow.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Festivus Drinks

I am actually amazed /ashamed I can remember so much. I only nearly vommited once....

Friday night was Christmas drinks with some of the people from work. Only six of us made it, well not everyone was invited, it's a bit of an exclusive club actually. One went early leaving 5 of us. We started upstairs at the Corner in Richmond. That was an interesting place, and for a while I thought I had violated the dress code for not wearing my cowboy hat, fairy wings or checked shirt (in any combination). There must be a tear in the fabric of space and time at this place, because pretty soon there was a line for the men's toilets, but there was none for the women's, it was really strange.

Hopping in a taxi in Swan Street we made our way to the Imperial in Spring Street, me and my mates traditional pre/post footy pub. More general drinking antics occurred. There we found people parading around a cardboard cut out of their company's CEO, I got to shake his hand. The only bad thing to happen was someone knocked a beer over onto the chips, so there were soggy beer flavoured.

At some point we left and headed down Bourke towards that fake brittish pub on the corner of Exhibition. It was full and they wouldn't let us in, or somethign like that. So instead we went to the Portland Hotel in Russel Street. It was here that I revealed to my colleagues just how bad I am at pool, even sober I'm no good, but this was just embarrassing.

On the way home I stopped off for some much needed late night nourishment at Hungry Jacks and still managed to make it to Flinders Street in time for the train, which was waiting patiently for me. I found a nice quiet seat on my own and proceded to listen my iPod. Then out of nowhere a large group of very happy, yet very drunk people descended on my oasis. AF ew of them were very rowdy, singing "Let's dance to Joy Division" by The Wombats (the rest looked rather under the weather). It was at this stage that one of the girls commented to me "you can write about this in your blog". Unless she reads my blog and recognised me from my photo on my blog, she doesn't know how correct she was. After they all got off at Westgarth, it went quiet again.

So there you go you go girl on the train, you got a mention on my blog.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Is GPS a lost Cause?

Full article here. It is the first couple of lines that interest me though...

Drivers have been warned not to rely solely on GPS navigation units to find their way around after two Norwegians following their GPS's instructions were shot at by suspected drug traffickers in a Rio de Janeiro slum.

It is believed the drivers had set out to find a bottle shop in downtown Oslo.

So they set out in Oslo to find a bottle shop and their GPS led them to a Rio de Janeiro slum? That is one long drive, no doubt they passed numerous bottle shops on the way. I'd be taking that GPS unit back to the store for a refund.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Green for the company

The company I work for has recently gone "green", they created a series of "webinars" for staff on climate change and various other environmental issues. A further part of this drive has been to change all the screen savers on company computers to be a blank screen, and to encourage people to turn screens and computers off overnight. I admit that I used to leave my computer on overnight and just turn the screen off, at weekends I used to turn it off. Now it gets turned off every night. I think most people do turn their machines off every night, except if they need to run a process overnight, which in my area does happen quite frequently.

Soon all PCs are to be replaced with laptops, or so I gather from the questionnaire that was circulated recently. Sure they are more energy efficient, but I actually chose a desktop. The current desktops we have seem to struggle (well mine does) and I doubt a laptop will be much better. I suspect I will get one anyway due to the companies one size fits all IT policy. Either way it doesn't bother me.

The thing is, I see so many things wrong in my workplace in terms of energy wastage (and wastage in general) it's not funny. The building I work in heats up too much, in both Winter and Summer. There is something seriously wrong with the air conditioning and no matter how many times they fix it, it never gets any better. Being a modern (probably mid-late 1990s) glass and concrete building I suspect it is not properly insulated or ventilated either. On our floor we have large floor to ceiling windows facing north and west, which are definitely tinted, but I'm not sure if they are double glazed. Either way, it gets really hot and bright in the warmer part of the year. The only covering are some flimsy Venetian blinds to that have very poor insulating properties. What would make the biggest difference in my opinion is better insulating blinds and the ability to open windows for some natural ventilation.

As for water wastage, we have toilet cisterns that continually run even though a plumber has been in to change the washers and things. Some kind person printed out some signs telling us how to flush them so they don't run. Of course these instructions don't work, and I usually end up fiddling around until it stops. Most people just walk out without checking. On one occasion I resorted to turning off in one of the cubicles. Soon enough our sign writter had put a sign up saying there was no water and that a plumber was on the way. I think I went too far, but surely the tap is the first thing you would check if there is no water?

Really the whole building needs better maintenance, and even renovation as it is quite poorly designed.

Building Bridges

Click to make bigger

Last Saturday I went and had a look at the new rail bridge that is being built over the Merri Creek between Westgarth and Clifton Hill. In the photo above you can see the extent of the new bridge so far. They had just installed the second girder the day before, and at time of writting it is expected the third girder should have been put into place. Behind you can see the brick piers of the existing bridge.

The aim of the project is to duplicate the rail line between Clifton Hill and Westgarth, which means building a new single track bridge next to the existing one. Progress is going well so far, so much so that Government is claiming that it will open 1 year early (I read a quote of Kosky saying this the other day but can''t find an article or press release at the minute). The cynic in me says that they (the government) add generous padding to projects like this on purpose just so they can make such claims to look good. But yes, after nothing happening for the first 8 months of the year work is now speeding along fine.

This machine was running up and down the track
with the old bits of rail and putting them in a neat pile.

On Saturday the Epping and Hurstbridge lines were shut down to allow some track work to take place at Clifton Hill and Westgarth. At the Westgarth end they installed a new set of points, while at Clifton Hill they removed the centre track, which ran between the 2 platforms, as it was not used very often. Also they appeared to connect the overhead to the new stanchions, which have been getting installed lately.

New points being installed at the end of the new bridge at Westgarth.


Bits and pieces at Westgarth.


During the shutdown they also took the opportunity to install some news sleepers on the curve leading from Dennis station to Westgarth station.


Workers installing new sleepers.


Dumping the old sleepers into a truck.

While this was happening buses were replacing trains on the Epping line between Epping and Victoria Park, and between Heidelberg and Victoria park on the Hurstbridge line. From my experience the train-bus and bus-train transfers were quite smooth, there was an over abundance of staff at loading points and they even created a temporary bus station at Victoria Park. For the Heidelberg run there was the option of an all stations or an express bus. It is amazing that they can plan for special occasions like this so well, and yet day to day operations are ordinary at best.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

A practical use for LEGO

LEGO Mindstorms that is.

Flushing the toilet...




Less practical, but really cool is using an iPhone and web app to control a LEGO robot.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

New modus opperandi: City Loop

As most people will be aware by now 2 or 3 weeks ago changes were made to the way the Epping/Hurstbridge and Werribee lines use the city loop. In peak times the Werribee line has been removed completely running direct to and from Flinders Street via Spencer Street. At non peak times and on weekends and public holidays it operates as normal.

The Epping and Hurstbridge lines have been altered to run in a clockwise direction during the week, direct to Flinders Street before going around the full loop, and anti clockwise around the loop direct to Parliament on weekends.

I for one am in favour as it makes my life for about half the week much easier. I no longer have to travel to Parliament, change to a Northern loop train to get to Flinders Street and then get my Belgrave/Lilydale train from there. The alternative was to travel the whole way around the loop which could take nearly 20 minutes if you got halted a few times on the viaduct between Southern Cross and Flinders Street. Often changing at Parliament was the difference between catching a train and not...

Now I go direct, sure there is sometimes a bit of a crawl between Jolimont and Flinders Street, but that is to be expected when there are only 2 platforms that my train can use, plus conflicting moves with trains on the Burnley Group going the other way. Actually that last part is probably the most contentious issue, as both the Burnley Group and Clifton Hill groups now vie for one piece of track from opposite directions if platform 14 at Flinders Street is occupied. That part really sucks. In general my connections are much smoother than they used to be.

I don't really like the arrangement on weekends though, as I used to like getting off at Flinders Street on a Saturday morning and walking up through the city to where ever I needed to go. I guess I will learn to live with it. From my understanding it is run this way to keep the outbound track from Flinders Street to Jolimont in working order and to keep train drivers knowledge of this track up to date. On the first weekend of this operation I recall the confused expressions of other people on the train as it went into the city loop.

It all seems to have bedded down rather well now, although I understand the Werribee line pax are still having issues with transfers to loop trains at North Melbourne and Southern Cross.

Voting Over

So I voted earlier this morning. All but two of the candidates were at the polling booth. I voted using my own preferences. I have to say that I think that there are definitely "stooge" candidates in my ward (no names sorry). I have a feeling that life for the Banyule council will go on largely unchanged. Of course the biggest disappointment is that there was no sausage sizzle.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Council Elections

Like Daniel, I live in one of the few councils (Banyule) that still insists on attendance voting, and again like Daniel I like the whole ritual of voting (I swear I thought of this before I read Daniels post). I like running the gauntlet of the how to vote cards, collecting one from each offering. Then playing the waiting game in line before, having a go at electoral role lotto. Once in the booth I study the how to vote cards to see where allegiances lie, then I generally vote by the order of my own preference. After the voting papers are numbered and checked I slam dunk them into the appropriate boxes and dump the how to vote cards in the bin (I hope they recycle!). I then stride victorously into the cold hard light of day to enjoy the spoils of voting. A sausage in bread, democracy done. It's all part of the ritual.

As for the candidates in my ward. There are 8 candidates in total for Bakewell. Of those 8, only 3 have bothered to send out election material.

Peter Mckenna (Liberal)

The sitting councilor for Bakewell, as such his views are well known. He is pro development but with appropriate checks and ballances. As such he is for the Greensborough town centre project. Generally he seems pretty even handed and not a bad representative to have.


Michael Paul (Labor)

The next most high profile candidate, his views are also well known. He contended the last election and frequently sends out flyers or writes to the local paper complaining about something that the council is doing. He lists one of his aims as completing a local bicycle/walking path, which I would probably use. Again he is for "sensible" development, but seems somewhat against the Greensborough Project*. (specifically the premature closure of the old Greensborough pool)


Leonard Saw (Ind)

I think he has contended most recent elections at all levels of government as an indepenent. The causes he is passionate about are mainly issues affecting veterans and pensioners, which are very relevant to the area, as there are many ex-servicemen/women who live in the area, but as such he never attracts the mainstream vote.

The remaining candidates are unknowns apart from a small blurb in last weeks Leader. Party affiliations include one Green and one Labor.

I know who I am voting for, but I'm not saying here.

* The Greensborough Project which was given the final go ahead not so long ago is a total redevelopment of much of the land in the Greensborough Business District. It involves mostly council owned land, such as the Swimming Pool, car parks and council buildings, and will recreate the public space in Greensborogh, including a town square, new aquatic sports centre, government services offices, plus retail, commecial office space, new cinemas, as well as multi story car parking. Sadly public transport seems to have been forgotten, Greensborough is crying out for a decent bus/rail interchange, because as it is the buses are spread out across 3 termini, only one of which is near the station.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Album Art

Last week I bought the double compilation of Paul Kelly's Greatest Hits Songs From the South Volumes 1 and 2. Tonight I ripped it to mp3 in iTunes. Finding album art for volume 1 eleven or so years after it was released is no problem but Volume 2 released a few weeks ago is nowhere to be found, not even after searching on the net. iTunes initially had trouble importing the track listing, but persistence in hitting the "Get CD track names" button won out. The Album art is a big problem as I like to "see" what I'm listening to and I'm a big fan of album art. As a last resort I think that I will have to scan the front of the booklet (the CDs come in cardboard folder rather than a regular crystal CD case which is nice).

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Update Update

I promise I will start working on the promised Adelaide rail/transport post, but for now a short update.

Last night I went to a friends birthday in St Kilda, at a pizza restaurant bar type place situated in the old St Kilda station. The food was good and cheap ($5 pizzas), alcohol was okayish pricewise, the doof doof music was terrible. At a table near us were seated the winner of the moddeling show hosted by Jenifer Hawkins on channel 7 and all his friends. Boorish " metro" types in fluro T shirts and wierd haircuts. That guy is probably set for life though, can have any man/woman he chooses, and will rake in millions. Good luck to him.

The view out my front door

Right now it is raining in Melbourne, although most people probably noticed that. There is also the occasional hail shower. At one stage the hail was so thick on the ground it looked a bit like snow. I haven't seen hail like this for years. It's not in much of a hurry to melt away either, and is still sitting on the ground nearly an hour since the first shower (although as I said it has been topped up occasionally).

Looking up the street

Our rain gauge was emptied this morning just after it started to rain, and was reading about 15 mm after the first hail shower. Not sure how accurate it is or how much the hail floating in the top affects it, but I suspect it is actually a bit less than the reading. The near by Viewbank weather station does not seem to agree either.

Hail floating in the rain gauge

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Adelaide - Day 3

(backdated to the day)

Mercure Grosvenor
North Terrace, Adelaide

I rose not so early, after a very good sleep, showered, dressed and headed to a different nearby cafe to yesterday for some breakfast. Having finished my Ham and Cheese Croissant and juice, and found out what horse I had in the work cup sweep (#2 Master Orielly, I'm still not sure where it came) I headed off for the Adelaide Central Market. Walking with the hordes of office workers I followed my nose through a number of back streets and alley ways following before emerging opposite the market.

The Adelaide central market is not so much like the Queen Victoria market, but more like the suburban markets such as Preston market. All the usual stalls, butchers, fruit, deli, bakers etc plus clothing and souveneer stalls. While walking around I also stumbled into Adelaide's China town which is a lane way next to the market.

Check out time was 11AM so it was time to head back to the hotel pack up my things and check out. As my flight wasn't until later in the day I left my bag in the hotels storage room.

Adelaide Station/Casino exterior


Not the best photo, as it was quite difficult to find photograph,
but it gives you some idea of the scale of the main hall of the old station.

It is now the main hall of the casino.


Looking up

I am not at all surprised that this building sent the state
bankrupt when it was bult in the early 20th century

After getting some photos of the hotel and railway station I took the circle line bus around the CBD. This like the tram was a free service (the tram is only free in the CBD), and serves much the same purpose as Melbourne's city circle tram, giving commentary about various attractions and landmarks as you go. It was a good way to see parts of the CBD I hadn't covered by foot, and actually made me realise the city is bigger than I thought. All up the circle line took about 30 minutes for the full lap.

After that I decided I had better get a Jet Bus timetable to plan my trip to the airport later in the day so I went to the Adelaide Metro shop. All I can say is that the shop is so much better organised and staffed than the Metshop in Melbourne.

One thing I noticed was a battle of chocolate shops happening on the corner of King William Street and Rundle Mall, between Haigh's and Darrel Lea. We have both of these in Melbourne too, in fact Andrew made a post about the Melbourne Haigh's outlet with "the tapping man last week.

In the red corner we have Haigh's chocolates...


And in the blue corner we have Darrel Lea

At lunch time I headed to Rundle Mall. While there I had a look at some of the shops, and had lunch in one of the food courts. I also bought some stamps and postcards to send to my niece and nephew, which I wrote out a bit latter. I found a nice quiet spot on North Terrace in a small strip of park that runs along side the road in front of Government House. It was one of those spots that you could sit all day and just watch the people, cars and buses go past.

I walked onward past the State Library, past the Museum to the Art Gallery of South Australia. It was here I spent my last hour or so of my time in Adelaide. The gallery has quite a good collection (not that I know anything about art), with lots of Australian paintings, probably the most famous (to me anyway) being Tom Roberts A Break Away!. Also of note was a Jim Bill Henson photograph in the contemporary section. After seeing it I fail to see what the big deal is about.

By the time I left the gallery it really was time I started heading to the airport, so I returned to the hotel to pick up my bag and made my way to the nearest Jet Bus stop. I waited nearly 15 minutes and then scored the after school rush 1 or 2 stops down the street. It seemed to take forever as we stopped at nearly every stop. I need not have worried as I arrived at the airport with over an hour until my flight. There was no check in queue to be seen and I got to quick check a pretty good seat.

With some free time my first port of call was the Coopers ale house. It was there while watching some subsequent races on the TV that I realised that I had missed the Melbourne cup. Oh well. After having only one Coopers Sparkling Ale. From a bottle as they had none on tap! $$$... I thought I'd have look around the terminal.

I was quite surprised by how big the terminal is, which all airlines share. For international flights it appears that they close off sections to allow for the customs etc. Since I have come home I have realised that the airport is featured in the latest Jetstar ad on TV.

Adelaide Airport, very brown... earthy perhaps?


Looking the other way, this is the part that gets
closed off for international flights. The duty free shops
are currently closed.

I walked all the way down to the Tiger gate where a flight was unloading and was about to load. I was glad I wasn't flying on that flight, the lounge was full of screaming kids (no offence intended to any parents who travel with kids).

Singaporean Tiger, her distinctive stripes are not
visible from this angle.

Then past the Virgin Blue gates.



While I was in the Coopers bar with all the suits a flight had arrived from Sydney, and soon flew back there.





In the mean time the plane that I would fly to Melbourne on arrived from Darwin.

My ride home, a 2003 vintage 737

The flight itself was quite uneventful. I managed to take a few more photos during the flight, but sun glare made it quite difficult towards the end. I'm unsure as to wether photos are allowed during take off and landing, cameras aren't specifically mentioned on the saftey card while video cameras are. What category does a digital camera come under?

I decided to take some photos during take off anyway.


As we turn toward MelbourneI got a good view
of Glenelg and the Airport

Also illustrates how dry Adelaide really is

We had just past the Grampians when we began our decent.

Spoilers deployed at the top of descent, the Grampians
are the greenish lumps towards the horizon.

We flew past Maldon and Castlemaine and for much of the latter part of the flight another aircraft was visible just ahead of us.

The aircraft that we are following flies over Mount Macedon

After turning on to our approach for the runway I realised I could still see the Grampians in the distance. I thought I took a photo of them, but I'm not sure now as it was really hard to see the LCD screen in the glare. I think the Grampians might be just to the right, out of this shot...

The tops of some hills that may or may not be the Grampians
stick out above the haze.

From here our flight path took us over the towns of Lancefield and Romsey, and eventually to the runway.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Adelaide - Day 2

(backdated to the day it happened)

End o' the line at Grange

Day 2 saw me rise relatively early. After wondering where the people were on Sunday I soon discovered that in fact there are people in Adelaide, they just don't all go to the city on Sunday. After breakfast at a nearby cafe I made my way to the railway station for a day of travel on public transport. $8.00 bought me an all day ticket for travel anywhere in Adelaide by bus, train, or tram.

During the day I made the following trips:

-Grange by train
-Terrace to Terrace on tram
-North East Busway
-Tonsley and Brighton (Norlunga Line) by Train


Tram at South Terrace
(damn I cut off the pantograph...)

On the O-Bahn, the driver doesn't need to steer while
on the busway track.


End o' the line at Tonsley.

The main concourse of Adelaide Station


After I got back from Tonsley and Brighton I decided to go for a walk by the River Torrens (SA ligo here). Being late afternoon there was a lot of activity, rowers rowing, people feeding the swans, joggers, cyclists etc. It was just good to sit down and watch the river for a while.

Adelaide's Festival Theatre

Swans and Cygnets on the River Torrens

River Torrens and part of the Adelaide skyline
The Hyatt hotel and convention centre to be exact

Nice green parks surround the Torrens near the
university and Botanic Gardens.

On the way back to the hotel I decided to have a look in the casino. I see no joy in playing pokie machines, but on this occasion I decided I would spend $1 and see what would happen. Choosing a 1 cent machine I played slowly, loosing cent after cent 1 by 1, until I had 50 cents worth of credit left. I then bet the lot and won $1.50 worth of credit. Taking that as a sign I immediately cashed out my 2 x $1 coins. Ben 1 - Casino 0.

After relaxing in my hotel room for an hour or so I got the tram down to Glenelg. Having intended to be there at sunset, the tram ride took a smidgen longer than I had anticipated and by the time I got there it was after 8pm. The tram ride itself was very smooth and the new trams were quite comfortable. Adelaide residents should be proud of the work that has been done to bring the tram up to modern standards. I hope the rest of their plans for the tram system come to fruition.

Glenelg is a bit like Manly in Sydney, and a bit (lot) less crowded. It is still very nice. There are quite a few hotels and apartments along the beach there and I think it would be a good place to stay when visiting Adelaide. I walked out to the end of the jetty where there were a number of people fishing. Catch of the day appeared to be crabs which they were catching in nets baited with fish carcases. There must have been a plague of crabs as they seemed to be baiting them and just throwing them in before pulling them out again with a crab or two inside. There were a couple of people half heartedly jigging for squid, but that seemed more like an exercise to do while waiting to pull out the next crab net.

Glenelg Mosley Square


Glenelg Pier

By the time I was on the tram back to the city it was well and truly dark, so I could not see out the window. All I know is that we stopped at only a few stops an the way back compared to every stop on the way there. My hotel bed was very inviting after long day spent out and about in the city.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Adelaide - Day 1

(Backdated to the day it happened.)

I had a noon flight out so took it easy in the morning. Strange for a Sunday in that there was a traffic jam getting on to the Greensborough Bypass from Grimshaw Street. Some smart alec had set the right turn arrow to only show for about 1 second before turning yellow and then red, it took at least 4 sequences to get around! The rest of the run to the airport was the usual drive along the Northern Ring Road and Tullamarine Freeway.

Having just flown around a mass of cloud

The flight was fun, there were lots of big cumulus clouds around and we were dodging a few larger ones for a good 10 minutes over western Victoria. This was at our cruising altitude of 33000 feet, with the heads of some clouds extending at least another few thousand feet above us. The seatbelt sign got turned on when the turbulence became a bit stronger. As I said it was fun.

My trusty steed, QANTAS Boeing 737-400 "Strahan"

Soon enough we flew over the Coorong, Lake Alexandrina, the Fleurieu Peninsular and over the Gulf of St Vincent to line up for landing at Adelaide airport. After snapping a photo of the plane and collecting my bag I set off to find the the JetBus bus stop. This proved to be more diffucult than I imagined as there was no signage at all. Eventually I found it hidden away at the end of the departures level. The bus gave it away. As I only had a $50 note which the driver wouldn't change for me, I had to go and buy a drink to get some change and wait for the next bus in 15 minutes.

After a quick 15 minute trip to the city I was navigating on foot to my hotel in North Terrace opposite the railway station casino. Called the Mercure Grosvenor, it was an older hotel that has been recently refurbished (I have since found out that my mum stayed there years ago). The room was small but more than enough for my needs, it even had an LCD TV with a selection of Foxtel channels for free plus the usual crappy pay through the nose per view movie channels.

Yes I had been laying down on the bed before I took this photo.

Having settled in to my room I decided to hit the town and grab something to eat. I made my way to Hindley Street and then on to Rundle Mall. Rundle Mall is much like Melbourne's Bourke Street Mall, only it is about 3 times as long. Along it were all the usual shops that you find nearly anywhere else, not really that interesting. By the time I got back to the hotel I was hot and sweaty and decided to have a shower and then relax for an hour or so. I ended up watching episodes of Ren and Stimpy, Sponge Bob Squarepants and the Sarah Jane Adventures on Nickelodeon.

Some pigs who just can't help themselves...
Rundle Mall at night

It was getting past dinner time before I decided to go looking for a meal, but didn't really like the offerings and ended up going on a massive walk through some of the seedier parts of town. Being a Sunday night however all the strip clubs were closed (not the reason I was there, but an interesting observation none the less). In the end I bought a Pizza from a shop around the corner and took it back to my room. Nothing like eating pizza in bed!

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Wasted Space: Kill all the pokies


A few weeks ago I read that the ground floor of the old mail centre on the corner of Bourke Street and Spencer street (above) will be turned into a pokies venue. The up side is that the number of pokie machines in the CBD will not be increasing, with Tattersalls instead downsizing a few other venues and moving the machines across.

The problem is that pokies are a waste of space. Despite what the ads on TV say they are not fun. Not once have I seen anyone playing on a pokie machine even come close to cracking a smile. Surely there is a better use for this part of this building?

It is a weird looking building though. As far as I can tell, the upper floors are used as offices. It is the sort of building that would be good to convert into an art gallery or museum. How about something really fun like an indoor ice skating rink?

Stripteach?

Yes you heard me. News today of a teacher in Hungary stripping in front of students and being caught on camera doing it. This is just creepy. I could not think of one teacher from my school that I would have liked to see strip like this, except perhaps the hot young student teacher doing work placement. At the very least this sort of thing should be after hours, extra curricular.

Also notice list of suggested viewing provided by YouTube after the clip finishes, interesting...

Direct link to video

First post of November

This post has no rhyme nor reason other than to bring in the new month.

Tuesday is Melbourne Cup day and I will be returning from a short interstate trip that evening. At work I entered the cup draw/sweep thing and got whatever horse will be in barrier number 2. As far as I know the barriers haven't been drawn yet. I really am not at all interested in horse racing or gambling but thought I may as well go in it. I'm in the $5 draw which has a first prize of about $75 (there are also a $1 and $2 draw). As they say, you have to be in it to win it.

My interstate trip is to Adelaide of all places. It is not quite Australia's least favourite holiday destination, that honour goes to Canberra. when I booked the flights about 6 weeks ago I was trying to get a good deal to Queensland, but all the really cheap flights were already sold. So instead I picked somewhere I hadn't been in a long time. That place just happened to be Adelaide.

I last graced (if you could call it that) her wide streets (I believe King William Street is the widest CBD street in Australia) in 2002 when I did a triangular rail journey from Melbourne-Adelaide-(Broken Hill)-Sydney-Melbourne. I stayed in the YHA hostel in Adelaide and met some interesting people, strangely most people in my room were Australian. There were this young English couple though who I got talking to. For some reason they told me that I was the friendliest Australian they had met on their trip, and that up until that point they thought Australians were stuck up. Mind you they had only been to Queensland, Sydney and Melbourne, and I still wonder who exactly they had been mixing with until that point (perhaps I was the first Australian they had really talked to), or if they were trying to butter me up for some free accommodation or something.

This time however I've opted for more luxurious accommodation, a 4 star hotel no less. Although if the reviews on trip advisor are anything to go by the place should be condemned. The hotel is in an excelent location and has recently been refurbished, so I'm actually looking forward to it.

While in Adelaide I plan to ride the tram to Glenelg and perhaps some of the train lines too. Other than that I'll probably wander around the CBD. Oh I always forget about the O Bahn bus, I should go for a ride on that too. I should try and find some more places to go before I leave.

The first few days of November will be pretty busy for me, but I have no idea what the rest of the month will bring.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Weekend Adventures

First on the agenda on Saturday morning was watching my niece and nephew at Little Athletics. I only stayed for about an hour and a half but managed to see each of the kids run in a race. They were both lucky enough to get medals, a silver and a bronze, for their efforts. The theme for Saturday was relays, so all the races were relays,but there was also some discus throwing going on as well. A well aimed discus nearly took out a video camera that a parent had set up on a tripod, but the parent was able to deflect it.

In all the Little athletics looked a lot of fun, it made me wish I had been inclined to take part when I was a kid. Forget the olympics, little athletics is where it is all happening. My mum offered to take me once or twice, but I was never interested in such things. I wish she had pushed me a bit more maybe.

Saturday afternoon I was off with Mike to a friends barbecue in Little River. The birthday girl, J and her husband M built the house last year and it was the first time I had been there, so that was interesting. They have a lot of land, a large house and a big shed to go with it. Did I mention that the house was big? I think it's a 4 bedroom house (or 3 bedroom + study), but every room is very large. They even have room for 2 fridges in the kitchen. They still need to build the verandah though.

As for the party, J hired a jumping castle and even mowed a cricket pitch for the obligatory game of cricket. I had a go of the jumping castle but it seemed a lot more difficult than I remember. I did something to my arms and they've been aching ever since, so I've decided that jumping castles are more trouble than they are worth, or for kids only.

Mike and myself ended up staying the night (Mike didn't feel up to driving), I got the last spare bed while Mike got the couch, a fair deal I think. In the morning we drove back to Melbourne.

For the rest of Sunday I watched some TV, did a bit on the computer, and caught up on some much needed sleep.

Hello Blog

Hello Blog.

I know I've been neglecting you lately so I'm just leaving a note to say I haven't forgotten you and will make some real posts soon. My adventures have been a bit thin on the ground lately. Actually I should post on what I did on the weekend for a start...

Ben

Monday, October 13, 2008

Jury Duty

Last month I had to attend jury duty. The thing with jury duty is that you sit around in a lounge area with over 100 other potential jurors in the rather nice county court until they draw a jury pool for a trial. It's quite boring, but stressful not having any idea what is happening. On the first draw of 30 people they got to 27 before drawing my name at 28. As luck would have it (or not) I went all the way and got to sit on a trial jury. In hindsight that was lucky, because the trial I was assigned to was rather short. The others starting that day going for longer, one much longer.

The formalities and processes of the court are fascinating. Not at all like Boston Legal (or anyother american TV show) though, which is a good thing. In fact the first thing they tell you is to forget everything you've seen on TV. The one thing about the court that stood out for me was that the way the judge and barristers spoke was extremely formal and precise. There no mistaking the meaning of what they were saying.

The jury is looked after by a person known as the judge's tipstaff, or "tippy". They are not allowed to know anything of the deliberations, but look after the practicalities. While court is in session out tippy was seen to be doing crossword and sudoku puzzles, as well as looking after the items of evidence when necessary.

Due to confidentiality I can't reveal anything about the case. In fact I'm not sure what I'm allowed to say, so it's best not to say anything.

At the end of it you get a cheque for your service ($36 a day up to 5 days, with a higher rate after 5 days) and an exemption from jury service for 3 years. That payment is not as bad as it seems as your employer is required to make up the difference between the jury payment and what you could reasonably expect to be paid for the days work you miss.

As I said it was and interesting few days.

Perth Notes

I wrote this over a month ago but never actually posted it. I might post some of the more interesting photos latter. We left for Perth and on the 29th of September and came back on the 1st of September, a really quick trip. What follows is my account of the trip...

It was a quick trip: we left on Friday and returned on Monday. The purpose was for a few mates and me to see Collingwood play Fremantle on Friday night. If you follow the footy you'll know what happened and know that that was the lowlight of the trip. The rest of the trip was fantastic.

One thing you notice is the amount money over there. A fairly basic house, perhaps a bit run down, goes for over $500,000. Most of the main footpaths are paved with brick pavers, and there is much new development. The area surrounding the Subiaco railway station reminded me of a utopian city.

The public transport system (Transperth) is clean, fast, safe and frequent. There is an overwhelming presence of transit police and revenue protection staff, and yet they are friendly, courteous and non threatening. I don't think we waited more than about 10 minutes for a train ever, and when they did come they were clean. The only signs of vandalism were scratched windows.

The public transport ticketing system is an interesting one. They have a smartcard system that works. We didn't use those though and just bought cash tickets. From what I can tell the ticket machines are the same ones that will be installed here when the Myki system finally gets underway. The fares themselves were fairly reasonable, $3.50 bought a 2 zone ticket that was valid for 2 hours, that is what we used to get to Fremantle.

On Saturday we caught the train to Fremantle and visited the Fremantle Gaol and the Little Creatures Brewery. We did two tours of the gaol, a basic one, and the great escapes tour. We learned a bit about prison conditions through the years and various riots and escapes, and basic prison life. It was an interesting way to spend the afternoon.

Little Creatures Brewery is fantastic, if not a bit pricey. Basically it's a beer hall in the middle of a brewery with pipes and vats and things all around the seating area. Being a Saturday afternoon it was packed too. It's not dark in dingy, very open and light, right on the foreshore of the Indian Ocean. I recommend a visit when in Fremantle. This was the most "Melbourne" thing I saw over there, apparently they have a place in Brunswick Street Fitzroy.

One of my friends suggested we find a Sizzler restaurant for dinner. And so we did. We took a train to the northern suburbs and walked about 1-2 KM through deserted streets until walking into the entertainment hub of Innaloo. Yes I ate at a place called Innaloo. We lined up for about 15 minutes before being seated and began to raid the salad bar. Brought back old memories, except this time I was able to have some self discipline unlike my visits to Sizzler as a kid.

On Sunday the plan was to go to Cottesloe beach and join the famous (it only registered vuguely for me) Sunday session at the pub. I think we were a bit early, but we got see a capoeira demonstration and had fish and chips for lunch. Back in Perth we walked from the Mount Lawley train station to our hostel (instead of walking from the city) and hung around there before returning to Mount Lawley for dinner. We went to the Flying Scottsman hotel for their $10 Pizza and Pint night. The freshly made pizzas were great and the pints were crisp and cold. Sitting near us were Muph or Plutonic from the hip hop duo Muph & Plutonic.

Monday we flew back. At check in we were told that the in flight entertainment wasn't working. Two of my mates managed to score a $10 newsagent voucher as compensation. Somehow they managed to play a movie anyway, which was good, a shame it was Indiana Jones which I had already seen. On this flight I managed to fly on a type of aircraft I've never been on before, the Airbus A330. This aircraft, an A330-200 registration VH-EBJ "Margaret River" was only delivered in May so it still had that new plane feel about it.

That's it really

Monday, September 29, 2008

Perth to Melbourne

This weekend I made a video of my flight back from Perth nearly a month ago.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Hopping Mad

So I arrive home from work tonight to find people stretching nets across the road. As it turns out there was a Kangaroo in the wilds of suburbia. The wildlife rescue lady chased it around with a tranquilliser dart on a pole for a while before it hopped into one of the nets and they were able to capture it. It was quite exciting, but you could tell the poor thing was terrified. AFter it was captured someone had to lean on it Crocodile Hunter style until the could inject the sedative. Soon enough the Kangaroo was out of it and they were able to place it in a big sack type thing for transportation.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Away

Hi,

I've been away from my blog a bit lately. Don't know why, I just have. Well I did just return from a weekend trip to Perth yesterday which was cool. There's a fresh post in the oven about that. I just need to sift and stir the photos into the mix. Number one highlight was eating at Sizzler, oh and visiting a place called Little Creatures in Fremantle.

Still being on Perth time I slept right through my alarm this morning and didn't wake until nearly 10am. I didn't go to work today, and I don't care. The joys of being a contractor. I think I'll start looking for a new job soon anyway.

So today I spent the day playing around in iTunes and printing Super Mario stickers. Tonight I've drinking Strongbow Cider while I've been ripping the last of my CD's into iTunes, a bit of a flashback, being the 1998 and 1999 Tripple J Hottest 100 compilations. The current song I'm listening to is Intergalactic by the Beastie Boys. Here is the video:


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Redundancy: Better Homes and Gardens, and Fairfax

If you don't know, Better Homes and Gardens is a lifestyle show featuring a number of "experts" on various home and garden matters. So you have cooks, crafty people, home handymen, gardeners, vets and the host, former swimmer, Joanna Griggs. On the surface it would appear that Joanna Griggs area of expertise is TV presentation, which she does an OK job at, even if she is a bit grating at times. In reality she is utterly superfluous to the function of the show. They justify her role by giving her one or two small crafty projects to show the viewers, but you can tell that it's not really her thing. The truth is that she could easily be replaced by the home and garden experts taking turns to introduce each others segments.

Then there is today's announcement that Fairfax is letting go of 500 employees to save costs. My immediate response was to ask just what exactly is it that all these people are doing that they can actually afford to get rid of them. 500 is a lot of people doing not much at all.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Noisy Neighbours

Living near an active military establishment has it's advantages and disadvantages. I am talking about the Simpson Barracks in Macleod/Watsonia which is less then a kilometre across a small valley from my house (If I look out my window I can see it now).

Probably one of the biggest advantages is the large area of bushland that has remained relatively intact. My primary school had a tree planting deal with the army nursery (yes the army grows plants too). The Army took us in the back of some trucks (like in the movies) a couple of times to plant seedling and the like. The Army also let our school grow seedlings in the nursery for planting in the school grounds. That was great fun, but these days I don't think you could get away with it.

The biggest disadvantage is the noise. You get used to the short and frequent bursts of gun fire when they occasionally have target practice. Right now they are firing something rather large, like a mortar or a canon. I'm expecting something through the window at any moment!

The Australian Army school of signals is based there, so I wouldn't imagine much shooting is on the agenda, just enough to be competent with a weapon if it comes to that sort of thing.

I seem to recall there is a shooting range that is shared between the Army and a gun club, perhaps an army gun club.

Most frequently though we hear the sound of music. Being home to the defence School of Music you tend to get lot of that. Concert bands, marching bands, buglers, bagpipes, drums you name it. Throughout the year they put on a number of free concerts. The twilight ones almost always end with fireworks in time to the 1812 overture.

Probably the most intense noise ever was the almost constant throb, drone and scream of Black Hawk and Huey helicopters (it depended how far away they were flying) during some sort of training exercise about 10 years ago. It was pretty exciting at first, but it went on for about a week. The Black Hawks came back during the commonwealth games in 2006, I think they were based at Essendon Airport instead of the barracks.

I should mention that the biggest disadvantage was that this was one of Australia/USA main communications bases for listening in on the Russians, so vaporisation in the face of all out nuclear war was a given, the graffiti near Camberwell Station left over from the 70's says so. Actually my mum used to tell me that too when I was little. A really comforting thing to tell your children... Thankfully they moved that capability to a better location in northern Western Australia somewhere.

Overall it is pretty peaceful, with short periods of extreme noise. There are no complaints here.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Evolution





Mouse over to see the evolution of the 737 from Original to Next Generation

The first image is a 737-200, the later a 737-800. The most obvious external differences are increased length, a different tail fin, winglets and different engines. Less obvious changes to the newer model include a redesigned wing and complete electronic systems. In fact there is very little in common between the two, but for the general shape of the fuselage (which itself dates back to the 707 and 727).

The different shape of engines comes from the move to "high bypass" turbofans resulting in larger engines overall. In order to accommodate the larger engines and stop them dragging on the ground some components were shifted to allow for the distinctive flat bottom. The modern engines are much more efficient and quiet.


The Boeing 737-400 (above) belongs to the generation that sits between these two aircraft. The Generations are, "Original" for the 100 and 200 series, "Classic" for the 300,400 and 500 series, and "Next Generation" for the 600, 700 and 800 series.


Mouseover code from Terrys Playpen.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Sandblasted





I couldn't decide which one to include so I included both. I like the comment in the second.

One of my aims in life is to visit this beach and get sandblasted, too bad if the landing is a bit short.

This is of course the island of Saint Martin in the Caribbean. The airport is Princess Juliana International Airport. An interesting fact about St Martin is that the island is split in two. One side belongs to the French, they call it Saint-Martin. The other side belongs to the Netherlands, the side that has the airport, where it is called Sint Maarten. The Netherlands side is part of the Netherlands Antilles, while the French side makes up the larger part of the Collectivity of Saint Martin, which succeeded from the French Department of Guadeloupe in 2003.

If that's not interesting enough, the island has it's own bi-lingual anthem, O Sweet Saint Martin's Land, that is sung in both French and Dutch.

I don't think there is any chance that Airbus A380 aircraft will serve the island. As it is they runway is barely long enough for 747s and all aircraft need to perform a u turn at the end of the runway as there isn't enough room for a taxi way.

Edit: This video proves it is more exciting from the beach, plus shows the U Turn at the end of the runway.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The Melbourne Shuffle

You Tube is full of videos showing people doing the the Melbourne Shuffle, this one shows you how to do it. I'm really uncoordinated, so I don't think I'd better try it.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

The order of the day was to see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and then see what happened after that. I wanted to see it at the cinema, not on DVD. After waiting so long I had exactly one option open, Greater Onion Union at 11am. So I get there at about 10:30 and find the whole place in darkness and the doors locked. So I walked up to Safeway at QV to get something to drink and a packet of peanut m-m's.

When I arrived back at the Cinema it was about 10:45, the doors were still locked and the lights were still turned off. There was a couple sitting on a seat opposite the door and a guy sitting on the step. I sat down on the step too. Over the next 10 minutes a steady stream of people arrived. Eventually the lights went on and someone unlocked the doors. We all filed in and made a queue at the candy bar/box office.

I was the first one in the cinema and so had squatters rights on the best seat. I chose one 3/4 of the way towards the back dead centre. Everyone else that came in after me, only 5 or 6 people, (I think the rest were going to Momma Mia whic started at the same time) sat in the rear couple of rows. This is a big theatre by todays standards, straight out of the 70's with black vinyl seats, crimson red curtains and big glass chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. I quite like it actually. There are no cup holders, but the seats are comfy. You just have pick one that hasn't split down a seam on the cushion. Cinema 1 at Russell Street is a national treasure.

Greater Union in Russell Street is where I usually go when I see a movie on my own. The reason? Because no one goes there. It's almost like a private screening. I don't really understand the stigma attached to people going to see a movie alone. What do you do? You go and sit in a dark room and watch a movie, that's it. It's not like you need someone to talk to. The first time I did it alone, I was quite apprehensive, since then I've been OK. Having said that I have only ever been to four films on my own (including today).

As to the film itself, I liked it. Indiana Jones got up to his old shenanigans, albeit after a shaky start. Harrison Ford is still Harrison Ford, playing Harrison Ford, predictable but good. He even threw in the classic line "I've got a bad feeling about this", a reference to the two Star Wars trilogies. The star of the show was without a doubt Cate Blanchett, who stole the show with her brilliant but cheesy Russian/Ukranian accent including all the "wubble u's".

Moving on in time from the original 3 films, the backdrop of the cold war made a brilliant raison d'ĂȘtre for the plot of the film (as opposed to Nazi Germany 20 years earlier). The action was fast paced, with never a boring moment, in fact the over 2 hours long film flew by. The special effects for the most part weren't noticeable, except for the really obviously physically impossible (in this dimension anyway) parts. The stunts were as you would expect from Indy. As usual there was a good assortment of creepy crawlies, but for some reason, fewer booby traps. The nice quick and tidy ending with the hint of a sequel(s) left me wanting more.

Overall I would give it 3.5 stars. Just good clean fun.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Out and about

Last week I had a day off work and while I was out and about doing un-work like things I happened to see Bumblebee 1. Bumblebee 1 is one of the 5 tram's that Yarra Trams has borrowed from it's sister company in Mulhouse, France. These 5 trams are Citadis trams like those already used in Melbourne, the main difference being that they are longer (5 segments as opposed to 3), have styling differences, and not to mention they are very VERY yellow. I think they look great, that yellow really stands out from the grey of Melbourne in winter, and the other grey trams. Two thumbs down to Yarra Trams for painting all the trams grey and white, one thumb up for sticking with the yellow on the borrowed trams.


Bumblebee 1 turning into Bourke Street from Spencer Street

After I had finished my business in town I had a few hours to kill so I decided to go for a train ride somewhere. That somewhere turned out to be Sunbury, so I boarded the 1515 service to Echuca. What impressed me was the utilisation of the rolling stock. It was a six car V/locity with three 2 car trains. At Sunbury the 2 rear carriages were dropped off, and a further 2 were to be dropped off at Bendigo, with the remaining 2 cars continuing on to Echuca. At each of the intermediate stations the cars that were dropped off were to form return services to Melbourne. Passengers were advised of which cars to travel in to reach their destination in numerous announcements throughout the journey. To me this seems like a brilliant use of rolling stock.

VLocities at Sunbury.

When I alighted at Sunbury I noticed that there were a large number of people standing in the aisles of the first 4 cars. There was another VLocitity waiting in the siding at the end of the platform that I gather was dropped off the previous Bendigo train. After waiting for a few minutes the Bendigo and Echuca portions continued on, and the two remaining sets coupled to form the return to Melbourne. Soon enough I was on my way in a very sparsely occupied 4 car set. In all there were probably about 5 people in the 2 car set I was in. On arrival back at Southern Cross this train formed a Traralgon service and there were many passengers waiting.

I guess my point is that I like the idea of using and dividing/joining multiple units to make the best use of rolling stock. While the return to Melbourne was void of passengers it was immediately used for a service to somewhere else where there was demand. Two thumbs up to V/Line.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Impressions of Eastlink

So on Sunday I went for a cruise down Eastlink to see what the fuss was about. The trouble was there were a lot of other insane people doing the same thing. There was a traffic jam just before the tunnel entrance (in both directions). I'm not sure what caused it, I suspect there was some sort of wave effect going on.

The verdict?

It's quick. Starting from the Eastern Freeway it gets you to the Frankston traffic jam way faster than taking Springvale Rd. All up it took us about 25-30 minutes end to end, and a total travel time of about 1.5 hrs Mornington to Greensborough (that includes 20-30 minutes stuck in the Frankston traffic jam).

One thing that I noticed is a weird resonance in the road that causes subtle vibrations that make your voice go wobbly if you go "ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh". Probably a conspiracy with suspension/tyre manufacturers and fitters and or orthopaedic surgeons to increase business.

On the environmental front I noticed there was much landscaping involved, with several wetlands located along side the road and the Dandenong Creek. No doubt these were put in place to soak up any pollutants seeping into nearby waterways. As for noise pollution, they have installed noise barriers along much of the length of the road. These aren't your normal everyday concrete "stone henge gone mad" noise barriers. These are of the bright and colourful left overs from the 70s, see-through orange and green noise barriers. I'm sure some residents of Dandenong North now enjoy some of the most beautiful green sunsets you can see on earth.

Overall, I think if it is your business to drive around, then the $5ish one way toll would be worth it, both in time and fuel savings ... For now.

That said, I don't support the building of more motorways (free or toll) the money could have been better spent upgrading Melbourne's public transport network. Supposedly there is space in the median reserved for heavy and light rail, I won't be holding my breath. I also believe that room was reserved in all the entrance/exit ramps for bus stops, again, keep breathing. The bicycle path alongside is a token gesture.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Q. When is a toll road not a toll road?

A. When you ride a motorcycle apparently

I find it hard to swallow that today a large group of motorcycles is travelling along Eastlink in protest of the tolls for motorcycle use of the road. What don't they understand about the term toll road? Although they take up less road space than a car or truck they are still using the road, and should still pay to use the road.

This from a group that already gets free parking, and is largely immune to road congestion anyway.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Ebay Annoyances

I buy stuff on ebay occasionally. My annoyance is not with ebay itself but rather with people who I shall call micro-bidders. Micro-bidders are those people who make bids on items that are only a few dollars above the current winning bid. I have to admit that this is what I did when I first used ebay. Micro-bidding is time consuming and I believe it inflates the price of the item too high, mostly through petty bidding wars that develop from a win at any cost attitude. Great if you are selling, but annoying to other bidders.

Fortunately, as I'm sure most people realise, ebay will bid on your behalf. All you need to do is pick a price and as other bidders make bids under your maximum bid ebay will automatically bid for you. Once the maximum bidding goes above your maximum bid you are out of the race. If you wish to go on, enter a new bid, otherwise give up. Ebay has made the function available, use it.

To get the most out of this function you should do your homework first to see what similar items are going for and use that as your benchmark (indeed shop around elsewhere as sometimes the prices people pay on ebay are too high). When the item comes up again, bid early and make it your maximum bid. If I'm a bit desperate I will add a bit to my maximum bid, say 5 - 10%. If you get outbid so be it, but there is also the chance that you will win the item at a much lower price.

A trick I use to fool the micro-bidders is if they are really active for a particular item is to make a bid of an unusual amount. By unusual amount I mean instead of bidding a flat bid of $56, bid $56.37. I have won a few auctions by the skin of my teeth using this tactic. It is funny to look at the bidding history after the auction and seeing that the last bidder that tried to outbid you made a bid of $56, if they had gone $1 higher they would have won. The best bit is that you still get the item for a $56.


Moral of the story, micro bidding is annoying and can drive the bidding too high. Know your limit, stick too it, and bid smart.