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January 27, 2003

Water and Fire

Well, a fine good afternoon to you all, and a Happy Australia Day for yesterday! It's my second working day on annual leave, and I just did a quick dial-in to work to send John Tuggey some stuff. However, I fully intend to not use my laptop again for the next fourteen days (except in case of emergencies). After all, Jillian has come all the way from the States to see us!

We crawled out of bed at five thirty on Saturday morning to pick Jillian up from the airport. Her plane arrived at seven thirty, and thankfully she was able to get through customs within half an hour. We stopped off in Hornsby on the way home for some breakfast at the Café Florence, then spent the rest of the day getting Jillian settled in. I set up her digital camera's CompactFlash card reader on my PC, and we're using it to store her photos on until we can burn them onto a CD for her. We also sat her down and forced her to watch A Knight's Tale! We seem to be doing that a lot...

Yesterday was our big day on the water - Jillian had booked three tickets on the restored barque James Craig, which was taking part in the Australia Day Tall Ships Race. We had some great views of the harbour, although it was a high smog day, and plenty of photos were taken (especially of Rusty, the cute little Ship's Dog); I'll see if we can post some in the IMAGinewS Photos facility. The ship's third mate provided most of the entertainment, filling us in on the history of the James Craig (including her restoration) and singing some traditional sea shanties. Also aboard was the man who got the restoration project started in the early seventies - in fact, yesterday was the first time he'd set foot on the ship since the initial attempts to float her hull thirty years ago in Recherche Bay, Tasmania! Jillian got to help raise the top-sails, and we wound up passing under the bridge four times, but unfortunately, the James Craig came dead last in the Race.

We took dinner at the Blackbird Cafe at Cockle Bay Wharf. Jill was hoping to catch the Australia Day fireworks, but as we were all exhausted, we decided to trudge wearily home on the train and catch them on the TV. We were expecting it to be doubly big this year: on New Year's Eve, there are two lots of fireworks, one at 9.30 PM so the families with kids can see it, and another one bang on midnight. Due to fire concerns, the 9.30 show last year was cancelled, with he fireworks to be used for Australia Day. As it's been a very hot few days recently, there were fire concerns once again (in fact, a total fire ban has been declared for two weeks) and the Australia Day fireworks were also called off. It was a good thing we didn't linger in the city.

On the general topic of fires, those of you who don't keep up with local news will probably not know that we currently have bushfires raging in five states, with Victoria the hardest hit at the moment. There are several fronts burning in northern Victoria, and there are fears that they may join up into one huge, 120-kilometre-long front. To all of you in the general vicinity of a fire, we send our best wishes, and once again, we say a big thank-you to all firefighters, volunteer or full-time.

We've just had a nice big brunch, put together by Vickie and Jillian, and are going to head off to Hardwarehouse for a while. Jillian's hoping to find a tap fitting that will work with the adapter on the portable dishwasher Dan and Leslie gave us. I also gave Nick a call to see if he would like to come over; he would, but he has something of an earache at the moment, so he's lying in, in the hopes that it will pass soon.

The rest of the week will be fairly busy. I'm putting Madam Lash in for a service at Kmart Tyre and Auto, and we're going to have a big shopping day while we wait. On Wednesday, we'll be charging off to Taronga Zoo, and on Saturday, we're catching a show called Incognita in the Opera House fore court. The Black Talon players are also going to be popping over for a Board Gaming Night, but we still need to nail a date down for that.

Anyway, I'd better go; there'll be more news posts in the next few days!

January 18, 2003

Pre-Orders and Preparing for an Arrival

Morning all! It's a scorcher up our way at the moment - which is doubly aggravating, as we're going to be having a day in the garden! We're hiring a ute from Kennards at eleven, and we'll be loading it up with garden waste, our queen-size mattress and a whole heap of the boxes we used to move in and taking the off to the tip in Ryde.

I splurged on MechAssault for the Xbox on Thursday. It's good fun so far, if a little difficult; I'm on the third mission at the moment and I've failed about four times. That'll do me for computer/video games... until mid-March, when TRON 2.0 and Freelancer arrive. I've already got a pre-order on TRON 2.0 at the Electronics Boutique near where I work.

Nick dropped over on Thursday to demonstrate the collectable card game that he is a demonstrator and tourney organiser for: A Game of Thrones. Vickie and I played it, and it seems pretty good, although it was about ten o'clock by the end of the third round and I was ready to crash. I also sat him down for some multiplayer MechAssault, which was a blast.

The parts for Trish's PC finally arrived yesterday afternoon, and I spent the evening gutting her PC and putting new parts in it. Basically, the only thing left from her previous configuration is the case. As today and tonight are going to be pretty flat out, I imagine I won't be able to get back to it before Sunday, or maybe even sometime next week. That's a pain, as I was hoping to do most of it on the nights of last Tuesday and Wednesday and have it back to Trish today. With Jillian's arrival a week away, I'm going to have to try and get it done by Sunday evening, so we can spend next week getting the house ship-shape.

January 15, 2003

Third Time Lucky, but Fourth Time...

For those of you wondering that my rants are so un-rantlike, here's one for you:

To: sales@adelong.com.au
Cc: Vickie Bowman; info@adelong.com.au; richard@adelong.com.au
Subject: Very Dissatisfied with Lack of Service (Order 402369)
Sent: Wed 15/01/2003 8:00 PM

Hello, Adelong,

Last Friday, I faxed an order through to William Wang for some parts. He had quoted me a price two days beforehand, and when I called him that day to check he'd received my acceptance of the quote and credit card details, he told me the parts would be delivered on Monday or Tuesday of this week.

Yesterday lunchtime, the parts had not arrived. My partner Vickie had stayed home so that we could make sure they were received and stored safely in our house. I called Adelong and, after trying to speak to someone in sales, I wound up at the head office number again. The receptionist was able to give me my order number (which had not been provided to me at any time prior) and told me that the parts should be arriving sometime yesterday or today.

Once again, by this lunchtime, the parts had still not arrived. I called Adelong and was asked to be put through to sales. The phone rang for quite a while, was picked up for a split second and immediately hung up. I called back and asked to be put through again, this time successfully. The sales rep looked up my order and told me that there was a delay in getting some of the parts in, that the order would be arriving between today and Friday, and that if the parts had not arrived by Friday lunchtime, I should call and check.

I find this level of service unsatisfactory. I was not informed of any delays prior to my own following up, which meant that while I was at work, my partner has had to remain home for the past three days to accept the delivery. Although she works nights, this is still a problem as she would like to be able to leave the house to do needed grocery shopping. Our house is located on the corner of a busy main road, and as we have been burgled once before, we are leery of allowing $1,400+ worth of computer parts to remain on our front porch where it can be seen by passers-by and easily stolen.

I had also experienced similar levels of unsatisfactory service in previous orders with Adelong. The first was raised with Don during mid-2000 (order 208053), and although delivery was made in the end, there were several delays due to parts of a standard upgrade bundle not being in stock, and, when the parts arrived, not being compatible with each other.

The second order I placed (number 214405), also with Don, was in November 2001. It was for a new 19" monitor and other parts (all advertised on the Adelong website). Don could not get the monitor in for over a week, and I was eventually told it was no longer manufactured. I cancelled the order and purchased the same make and model of monitor from Harris Technology.

Thankfully, my third order, placed in October 2002 (order 227870 for two new processors and motherboards) went well, but I made sure to ask whether all the parts I was purchasing were in stock at the time. I am regretting that I did not make the same confirmation this time, and am simultaneously dissatisfied that I should even have to.

While I understand that the delay is caused by circumstances beyond your control, I ask that you clarify the exact nature of the delay, and that if you cannot deliver my order by midday, Thursday January the 16th, please call me and then ask the delivery company to hold the delivery until Friday January the 17th so that my partner can comfortably leave the house.

I can be reached on: [Contact details for myself and Vickie snipped]

The total of orders I have placed with Adelong comes to over $5,500. Of this amount, under $1,300 worth has actually been delivered in a timely fashion. If you wish me to take my business elsewhere, I will do so.

Rob Farquhar

Thankfully, at 8:10PM, I got a call on my mobile from Julian at Adelong Computers. He told me that there was a backlog of deliveries at the Auburn warehouse, and that the goods would not be delivered tomorrow, but that they would be first thing Friday morning.

Still miffed, but at least satisfied that Vickie can leave the house.

January 12, 2003

Babysitting and Building Adventures

Morning everyone! Today's going to be a big housework day today. On my front, the lawn needs mowing and the car needs another good wash (and I still need to book her in for a service). Vickie's going to be tending her garden a bit, I think, and probably going crazy on the inside of the house. We need to squeeze a shopping run in there somewhere; we're getting low on fruit and a few other things. On top of those, we also have to watch 3000 Miles to Graceland today; it has to be back at Video Ezy by eight.

I forgot to mention on Wednesday: When Vickie and I went shopping on Saturday, she suggested that I get my eyes tested. I've always been rather hesitant taking turns across roads and on T-junctions; it simply looked like cars were a little closer than perhaps they were. So I went in for the tests, and the optometrist reckons I have a very, very slight short sightedness. It's so slight that he reckons any prescription he could write me for it would get laughed at wherever I tried to get it made up. It's good to know that it's there.

Vickie's been having problems posting our Christmas photos on the IMAGinewS group at Yahoo! It keeps telling us, whenever we click on "Add Photo" or "Create Album", that "The briefcase or file you are seeking does not exist." Bloody frustrating, and we have no idea why it's doing it. Now all we need to do is find a support e-mail address... and Yahoo! doesn't seem to put it in an easy-to-find place.

Neverwinter Nights' Aurora Toolset has been fun to fiddle with. I've been worked through the Toolset and Plot Wizard tutorials, and just finished most of the Extra Credit stuff. I think I have area assembly down, but scripting is still a bit of a maze - if you look at the default heartbeat script for NPCs, it's filled with nested IF statements, and I'm just a novice at programming! I have no idea what all the Get commands are referring to. Oh well, I suppose if I ever needed an excuse to learn programming in C (Neverwinter Nights' NWScript is C-based), here it is.

I faxed the order to Adelong for Trish's PC on Friday; I should have the parts by tomorrow or Tuesday. I also bought her PowerDVD XP 4.0 Deluxe, so she can watch DVDs on the 17" screen she'll be getting.

Last night was good. We wound up going in an hour early to keep the kids occupied while Lesley made the huge Chinese dinner that Dan wanted for his birthday. We got stuck in at around seven, and I wound up driving Dan and Lesley in their car to Hornsby so they could see The Two Towers. Dan's kids were very good while they were out; Gabrielle only needed changing once, and after that, they both slept soundly. Vickie and I were naughty - we did all the washing up. I did sit Vickie down to watch the first couple of episodes of SeaChange, which she'd never seen. She was sort of impressed, but she did note that it needed to warm up a bit more (which it did in later episodes).

I've had a reply to my offer of the 100 megabit Ethernet hub, for which I'm very thankful. We'll see how things go.

January 08, 2003

Totally Two Towered Out...

Good evening everybody! We had a nice, fun, not-quite-relaxing weekend. I can't particularly remember Saturday morning, probably because there wasn't much of it; I got up at about eleven. We fossicked and fiddled for a while (none of that sniggering I hear, thank you) until we eventually left for Hornsby to get some shopping out of the way. We shopped, we returned, we got changed and then I took Vickie out for dinner and The Two Towers. Nice dinner at the Blu Water Grill, although the service left something to be desired. After dinner, we met up with Mandi, and after a minor panic with cash and tickets, we got seats close the front, but thankfully not too close that we had to crane our necks. It was great. If you haven't seen it, do so right now. I don't care if you're reading this at work and you have a deadline to meet within two hours; get up out of your seat, go to the nearest cinema and watch it. It's that good.

Sunday was an interesting day - as I was rather burned out, Vickie had suggested that Sunday be an Away from Computer Day. From when I got up in the morning to when I went to sleep in the evening, I did not turn on my PC once, and neither did Vickie turn hers on. We got quite a bit of housework done, so it was a worthwhile, productive day, and I'm glad of it. I'll probably do it again. Sometime soon. Ish. (Withdrawal symptoms? Boy, you should have seen me; arms wrapped around my PC, hissing at Vickie, "You can't take me away from my precioussssssss...")

Dan dropped over on Monday evening to pick up his HERO System rulebook; he wound up staying and chatting for a couple of hours, while we showed him Neverwinter Nights and various movie trailers. I also finished The Butlerian Jihad. I will say this about Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson's Dune prequel novels - they may be a tad commercial, but they have good characters, and they're well paced, something that at times you couldn't say about Frank Herbert's original novel.

On Tuesday, I started in on the third book Vickie gave me for Christmas: The Spirit of Peace, a selection of quotes and anecdotes from the Dalai Lama. I'm not sure whether they were translated or whether the Dalai Lama actually wrote them in English, but it's gloriously well presented on large gloss paper with lots of gorgeous photographs of Buddhist temples, monasteries and monks (mainly Indian), not to mention the Dalai Lama himself. As I got a little bored later in the evening (after washing up and folding laundry, of course), I gave Nick a call, and he popped over for a couple of hours, most of which was spent playing the Halo campaign co-operatively.

This evening, I got in an hour ago after leaving Mum and Dad's. Dad is in England at the moment, seeing to the details of Grandad's effects. I popped over and gave Mum a hand by washing the dogs (who were, needless to say, thrilled to see me until I started running the laundry sink tap); I also showed Mum and Trish where some of the more fun documentaries on the Fellowship Of The Ring Special Extended Edition DVDs were (you know, the ones with Billy Boyd and Dominic Monaghan having a ball - doesn't Dominic do a pretty good job of impersonating his fellow actors?). I also finished The Spirit of Peace on the way to Pymble to pick up the car from Vickie, so I'd better get stuck into another book to ensure the Activity Monitor isn't full of blank entries. I got Blackwood Farm, an Anne Rice Vampire Chronicles novel for Christmas, but I've been sort of putting it off - I read up to The Tale of the Body Thief several years ago, and I was getting annoyed at her pacing (or lack thereof) within the first few chapters of The Vampire Lestat. Still, this one might be somewhat better. Hopefully...

What's up next? Well, Nick's mentioned doing something gaming related on Friday night. We're popping over Dan and Leslie's on Saturday evening; we're going to be taking care of Emily and Gabrielle while they wander off to see a movie (probably The Two Towers). It's Dan's birthday on Saturday, you see.

My aunt Trish has finally decided to go ahead with getting her PC upgraded. I'll probably be buying the parts on Friday; if so, they'll likely arrive on Monday, and I'll spend Tuesday and Wednesday evenings next week getting it all set up. I managed to get another solid quote out of Adelong Computers, and I'm getting Vickie and I a PC case fan each in with it. I'll also be taking Trish's old kit away, which we'll probably use in the PC we've been building for Vickie's eldest granddaughter in Melbourne. Young Brook's family is doing it tough at the moment, so a new PC is a bit out of the question. The problem is that young Brook needs one for her schooling. With the parts I get from Trish, plus what's been cannibalised from our various upgrades over the past few years, we'll be putting together a P3-500 with over 256 megabytes of PC100 RAM, a 20 Gigabyte hard disk drive, a TNT2 Ultra graphics card, a SoundBlaster AWE64 sound card, a 15" monitor and running my old, legitimate copy of Windows 2000 Professional (latest Service Pack and all, of course). With OpenOffice on there, we should be able to get all the basics covered off, and I might scavenge my stock of older games for good stuff to install. The only problem is how to get it all down to Melbourne. I suppose we could drive down sometime - hoping, of course, that Madam Lash can stand the strain...

Speaking of Madam Lash, she's nearing this year's rego, so we're going to have to get her in for a service soon. We want to ensure she's in tip-top condition when Jillian arrives, so that'll be sometime in the next week or two.

And finally tonight, is there anyone out there who could make use of a generic four-port-plus-uplink 100 megabit Ethernet hub? I can't use it with our cable modem, as I was planning to (you have to have a 10/100 megabit hub for that), so I want to flog it. As I bought it for $125, I'm willing to part with it (barely used) for $60. Anyone interested?

January 03, 2003

Analyse This

(yawn) Evening all! It's been a bit of a long day for the ol' Bob F. today. As I had a lot of analysis work to do, I decided to have a work-from-home day today. I needed to go over some large lists of assets and figure out how many were due to be replaced under my company's contract with our client. It took bloody hours, I tell you. I started in at eight thirty, got my e-mails and routine items out of the way, then got stuck into the first of the big lists. It was actually fourteen separate lists of assets that needed checking, and I couldn't put them into one big one as they were all organised slightly differently, and the people who sent them through wanted them back arranged as they were when they were given to me. In between some other issues that cropped up and an hour for lunch, I wound up finishing at seven PM - and even then, I hadn't done everything I'd wanted to. Still, at least what was left over was comparatively small; barring any incidents, I should be able to knock the remainder over on Monday.

We're still on track for dinner and The Two Towers tomorrow. Mandi asked whether she could come along to the movie, but after we said yes, remembered she had something that might get in the way. We'll see what happens tomorrow night.

Nick was hoping to start off his funky Hot Seat GM idea this weekend. Unfortunately, with the abovementioned plans, I couldn't make it along, although I have the feeling it's still a go-er for everyone else he invited anyway. Best of luck to yez all, but why you bother even trying to make it fun without moi is incomprehensible. ;-D

Anyway, I have a nice tomato soup cooling on the table, so I'd better be off. Catch you all soon!

January 01, 2003

Happy New Year!

Good afternoon everyone! Here's hoping you all had a great New Year's Midnight last night/this morning. What did you all get up to? And what are your New Year's Resolutions for this year? Mine are:

  • Spend as much time as possible loving Vickie.
  • Spend as much time with our friends as possible.
  • Relax.

And I think everything else I want to do just flows on from those...

As Vickie was working last night, we decided to have New Year in. Before she went to work, Vickie put a selection of nibblies together (Thank you, sweetheart!) for anyone who turned up - which turned out to be Gav, Cameron and Linda. We played a fair bit of Chez Geek, and when Vickie got home, we turned on the TV for the Sydney fireworks display.

Vickie's working this evening as well - she quite understandably didn't want to miss out on the Holiday rates, especially with Jillian coming. We're also going to see about finally seeing The Two Towers this coming Saturday.

The trend of loaning me RPG books has continued lately; Gav loaned me his Star Wars: Power Of The Jedi Sourcebook (it was one of his Christmas pressies). It's a good read; although it has the usual plethora of new classes, races and equipment, it also includes some great material on the history of the Jedi Order and how the Jedi Code is interpreted for a Jedi's life. Good, solid stuff for a campaign!

On the campaigning front, the Heavy Gear campaign is still being formulated, although the miniatures-buying is being put off until March.

I'm also still playing around with the Neverwinter Nights Aurora Toolset. I've completed both the Toolset Tutorial and the Plot Wizard Tutorial, and have been fiddling with the areas created therein. The one-page scenario summary in the Toolset Tutorial contains plenty of hooks for further development, and I'm toying with the idea of expanding the Tutorial module into several areas.