« January 2005 | Main | March 2005 »

February 27, 2005

33 Minutes

You're not going to believe this - I didn't - but the SciFi Channel has posted the entire first episode of the new Battlestar Galactica series - plus four deleted scenes - as a streaming Real video over on their website.

So if you missed out last week, and you have a nice, fat broadband connection, here's your chance to catch up! (If you don't have a nice, fat broadband connection, just head over a friend's place and borrow theirs!)

It also looks as though they've started including deleted scenes for some of their other episodes as well!

February 22, 2005

First Cairns Job!

Newsflash: Tomorrow morning, I'll be going into the Centrelink Cairns call centre to start two months (two weeks' training, six weeks' work) as an enquiries call centre operator. From what I've been told, it's eight until four, five days a week, at around $20 an hour (including tax, I think).

If it doesn't lead to something permanent, it's definitely a local job for my resume! Thanks to Leanne at CHR for getting me the work!

Oh crap - I have to get up at six AM again, don't I?

February 20, 2005

Moving In: Here's to Karl

At the end of all this, if there’s one person I absolutely have to give props to (aside from my love and wife Vickie, of course, for all her hard work in getting me to help her get the place in order), it’s Karl. I will admit, I’ve always been intimidated by Vickie’s son. He’s three years older than I am, a wiry little bugger, very down-to-earth and good with his hands. Sometimes I envy the relationship he and his mum have; they’re both very down-to-earth and practical people, they both love tools and hard work and they both trade well-meant, humorous barbs with ease, something I simply have no idea how to do. From the first, he’s been more than willing to help get this place back in order, and has been pretty patient with me as I try to keep up. A more solid cat you’ll never find, even if I’m still not quite entirely comfortable around him.

I guess challenges come in all forms, eh?

Moving In: The Local Dice-Rollers

Things are also looking up on the gaming front, as well. A few days before the move, Gav handed me $20 for the purposes of buying alcohol for a fellow member of the RPGnet forums, Scott Lette. Gav had wanted to run a Conan roleplaying game module at a local con this year, but didn’t have time to write one; Scott bailed him out with one he’d written earlier. We had Scott over for a steak lunch Sunday week ago, and I gave him two six-packs of Hahn Premium that I’d procured with Gav’s $20. Scott’s a gamer, but he’s also writing a few works at the moment, and will be heading out of state soon on a writer’s retreat, so he’s not after any serious campaigning at the moment.

Before we moved up, I established the Cairns Roleplayers Meetup Group in the hope of attracting any local gamers, and after I got our computers back up and running, I discovered that I had two members! Our first meeting was this Thursday gone at the Green Ant Cantina, and it was pretty good. We met three new gamers; partners Margot Medek and Paul Storm, who enjoy White Wolf’s World of Darkness game lines, plus their friend Sean, whom I think is doing a bit of Cyberpunk at the moment. Scott also came along, and we got some good tips on finding gamers from all four (you can find a group photo at the Meetup Group’s web site), including trying our luck at James Cook University’s local campus. I was hoping to try the nachos that Margot recommended, but Vickie and I were the only ones to eat from the big bowl of chips we ordered, so we went home full anyway.

I’ll probably wait until the job situation is bedded down a bit before seriously looking at getting a regular gaming group together, but it’s nice to know there are some local gamers willing to get together regularly!

Moving In: The Great Job Hunt

After a week or two of settling in, I started looking for a job in earnest. One of the major local papers, the Cairns Post, includes Career One’s job listings for the area, and I’d been perusing the Career One website since before we left. I’d tried applying for a traineeship at the Cairns Courthouse, but didn’t hear back, so two Tuesdays ago I went for an interview at one of the local corporate recruiting firms. My big goal at the moment is to get something similar to the administrative work I was doing at EDS, but it looks as though that’s not likely at the moment, as Precruitment hasn’t called me since the interview (I did make a follow-up call myself last Tuesday and will again the day after tomorrow).

A day after my Precruitment interview, I got a phone call from the Courthouse; it turns out that, while I didn’t make it to their short-list for the traineeships, I was being considered for some temp work. I went in for an interview two Thursdays ago; things seemed to go well and I was told they’d be making their decision this Friday gone. I’ve not heard, so it looks like I missed out there, but we’ll see.

Speaking of this Friday gone, I also went for an interview at another employment firm. I went in, handed in my resume and was given some forms to fill out, and as soon as I was done, I was told one of their officers had a temporary job they reckoned I’d be a good fit for! We spoke about it; it’s call centre work, but it pays well, and it’s a foot in the door of an organisation, not to mention local experience. The officer said she should get back to me on Monday, and if things went well, I’d have an interview on Wednesday and with any luck be working by Monday week!

There are also a couple of TAFE jobs that look very interesting, one of which looks to be a good fit for my skills and pays pretty darned well. I have to phone them up about the position, and will do so tomorrow. Here’s hoping…

Moving In: The New Kitchen

One of the things that happened to our Gordonvale place while we were living in Sydney was the near-wrecking of a kitchen thanks to a burst water line outside the house. It wouldn’t have been a problem had the tenants closed the kitchen window before going out as standard rent conditions specify; because they didn’t, the water came gushing through the kitchen window and saturated all the chipboard cupboards and worktops.

Thankfully, we’ve got a cheque from the insurance form for the damage, and we’ve spoken to the cabinetmaker who provided the company with a quote. For an extra two grand, he’ll re-design the kitchen instead of just restoring it to its prior condition, so we’ll be getting new cupboards and a decent pantry. We’ve chosen colours and handles, and he’ll be coming over on Wednesday to knock the old fittings out and install the new ones.

In preparation, we’ve been taking all of the old wallpaper off the walls. The glue-paper between the wallpaper and the walls has been giving us a little grief, but thankfully, we’ve discovered a fairly easy way to get it off the wall that involves a paint-scraper and a spray bottle of water. We’re also planning to tackle the dining room, but that’s not quite as high a priority.

We’ve also taken off most of the wallpaper covering the front wall of our living room as well; we’re planning to give the kitchen and living room a new coat of paint (the kitchen will be white, while the living room will be some form of beige, I think).

Other renovation plans including installing a decent wall between the master bedroom’s walk-in wardrobe and the computer room (the current divider is just a flimsy sheet of wood).

I know several of you have been asking for photos of the current place. I'll take a couple of the front tomorrow morning, once I've had at the front lawn with the whipper-snipper. I think Vickie would probably kill me if I tried taking photos of anything inside before we renovate!

Moving In: TrackBack Spam

Since we got our PCs up and running after moving in, I’ve been clearing out heaps of TrackBack pings from Vickie’s website. They’ve all been spam of the usual kind, whether help with poker or supposed help to poke her, if you get my drift. I had the feeling a few months ago that sooner or later the comment-spammers would get around to hitting trackbacks; I’m just sorry they did so while we were away from our PCs for a while.

I’m lucky that TrackBacks aren’t working on my site for the moment. I think I managed to stuff up my site’s TrackBack PERL script, and I’m thinking of upgrading to Movable Type 3 as a possible fix; I’d prefer my site was working 100%, even if I closed some of its features off.

What it's meant for Vickie, though, is that I've disabled TrackBack pings for all of her posts, and switched off TrackBack ping availability on new posts. I don't think she's ever had a legitimate ping from anyone bar myself, but it's disappointing.

Moving In: They Glow Blue!

A week after we moved in, I felt confident in actually doing something with our PCs. Vickie’s son-in-law, Paul, runs a small IT business in Cairns, and loaned us a 17” monitor while shopping for a good price on a 19” for Vickie.

On the day I got the PCs up and running, I left my PC on all day, with a paused game of Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War running while we were out. A while after we got back in and I started playing again, the PC crashed and wouldn’t even get past the IDE drive search sequence when I tried to re-boot.

As my PC has been giving me grief ever since I last replaced the motherboard, I figured the most recent mobo had finally decided to call it quits. I called Paul about getting some parts, then decided to cannibalise some of my stuff as Vickie’s floppy disk and CD-ROM drives had also decided to stop working. Unfortunately, I got very frustrated as the CD-ROM drive had become stuck inside Vickie’s case, and I managed to damage Vickie’s motherboard while trying to get it out. So I called Paul again and told him I needed two motherboards instead of one.

Paul found Vickie a new motherboard, a used unit from a friend’s PC that came with a faster processor. I managed to get Vickie’s PC working with my DVD-ROM and CD burner, but unfortunately, the brand-new 19” LG monitor that Paul delivered decided to commit suicide not half an hour after being unpacked and set up. Vickie currently has my 19” monitor, and the LG has been picked up and returned. Paul loaned me the 17” again in the meantime, but is currently in Sydney, and although he organised a new monitor to be couriered up before he left, I’m not sure what’s happening with it. I’ll have to give his outfit a call on Monday morning.

On the plus side, he did loan me a couple of sticks of PC2700 256MB SDRAM. I tried putting mine in Vickie's PC with her existing 512MB stick, but they seemed to conflict with it; symptoms included the odd pause-during-startup woes I used to have in Sydney. So they're elsewhere for the moment.

Also, as heat is a major concern up here, I bought a couple of extra eight-centimetre cooling fans for my PC (installed at the top of the rear panel) and a twelve-inch fan for Vickie's PC installed on the left-hand case panel, directly over her processor's heat sink (I had to drill some holes to mount it) as AMD Athlon processors tend to run quite hot. The thing is, as Dick Smith was the only easily-accessible parts place at the time, the only decent fans I could buy were cold-cathode lit ones. Now, both of our PCs glow blue through the venting grilles when they're turned on!

Anyway, we’re all up and running on ADSL, which is rather frustratingly slow when you’re trying to stream video or download something sizeable (it took several hours to bring down a 400+MB demo of the Star Wars Republic Commando PC game a few days ago), but still much faster than dial-up. I was hoping to get four sticks of DDR400 512MB RAM (two for Vickie, two for me) but Zelda’s recent vet bills and my current joblessness have put paid to that for the time being.

By the way, if you or anyone you know could use a working Telstra cable modem, with power supply and instruction manual (I can even throw in a spare RJ45 network cable), can you let me know?

P.S.: Republic Commando rocks.

Meet Zelda

Zelda Out The Back

Yes, everyone, this is the gorgeous Doberman pup Vickie's son Karl rescued and gave us! We thought she was around four months old due to her size, but the vet reckons she's anywhere from one to four months older, due to her complete set of adult teeth!

Anyway, she's a wonderful little (well, not so little) dog, and is extremely well-mannered and quick to learn. We've done all the necessary barring actually registering her, which I'll sort out tomorrow.

Rob and Vickie's Big Trip North

This will be a long one, so I’m breaking it up over multiple posts.

We were planning on the journey from Sydney to Cairns taking two to three nights, and at first it looked as though we were on track. We spent the Thursday night after the removalists had turned up and the frantic clean and tidy we did on the now-empty house at Fraser Road at the Ascot Motor Inn on the highway. After breakfast, we met with the man who ran the real-estate agency for the final inspection, and aside from some dust spots we’d missed (on top of a cabinet and in a wardrobe) things went well. We finally finished up around midday, and found out the new tenants were moving in bare hours later. We went up the highway to just outside Newcastle, then headed northwest. We made it all the way to Narrabri, and stopped in at a nice motel with a good restaurant (best garlic bread I’ve ever had).

We pressed on the second day, and I got to see quite a bit more of country New South Wales. Even through we were a few thousand kilometres northeast fo where the movie was filmed, I started feeling like we were in Mad Max country. Something about those empty two lane country roads over rolling hills, I suppose. Maybe also because we actually turned off the air conditioning and wound the windows down; it felt a little less like we were in a cocoon or playing a Road Trip video game.

Damn, this country can be a broad, flat place. I don’t think I’ve ever been anywhere – aside from ear the sea – where there aren’t mountains or trees to get in the way of the horizon. You realise at moments like that that the Earth is curved, and that everything else drops away behind and below that broad, flat line. Some great country, although it’s easy to get bored with if you’re not driving. (Thankfully, I drove for most of the trip; as much as she hated not sharing some of the load, Vickie wound up with blurred vision and pains quite quickly when she got behind the wheel.)

As the light started to fade, we pulled into a town called Taroom, near the south side of the border. We stopped at the first motel we saw – by that stage, my lower back was killing me – and got a room easily. This time, we made sure we got a breakfast menu in quick smart. (We did a lot of lunches at Macca’s on the way up. Did you know almost all of the northern New South Wales and Queensland branches sell Frozen Coke?)

We got a fairly early start in the next day, and by mid-morning we were over the border. You could see Vickie visibly relax and cheer up; she even yelled “Yes!” at the sight of the Welcome to Queensland road sign! Once again, it was a Macca’s lunch, at Rockhampton this time. As we approached the town, we could see the clouds pressing in, and made the decision to stop in Mackay rather than try and press on all the way up to Cairns.

Even if we’d tried to make the rest of the journey in one hit, the decision had been made for us. It started raining halfway between the two towns. By the time we got to Mackay, visibility had dropped phenomenally and I was running the wipers on maximum speed just to get a glimpse out of the windscreen. It was the worst rain I’d ever driven in, and we definitely decided to stop at the first motel we found. That was the Mackay Motor Inn. I remember it well; the overnight stay we’d planned on wound up being stretched to three nights. The rain had flooded almost all northbound roads out of Mackay, and it was at least a couple of days before even four-wheel drive vehicles could get through. There are definitely much worse places to be stuck for a few days, though. We finally felt safe leaving Mackay on Australia Day, and thankfully, there was almost no water on the roads (aside from a broad patch on the way out of town, where I very nearly had my first experience with hydroplaning).

The rain did indeed close in again as we continued north, but never in enough volume to prevent safe driving. Vickie started seeing familiar mountain ranges in the early afternoon, and as evening moved in, we finally spotted Walsh’s Pyramid, the large, conical mountain that dominates Gordonvale. We arrived at our place around half past six, had a quick look around and then bunked in with Vickie’s son Karl and his wife Jodie. That was, of course, where we met the Doberman pup that Karl rescued, who became our new pet, Zelda.

Vickie’s post on her web log chronicles Zelda’s story, as well as our wrangling with the real estate agent the next morning over the state that our place got left in by the last tenants. I won’t go into it here as I rally don’t feel like digging around in that angst again. The removalist truck arrived around midday, and we spent the better part of a week getting everything unpacked and where we wanted it.

We had our digital camera with us, right there in the glove box, for the entire trip. Of course, we didn’t take a single picture.

February 11, 2005

Rest In Peace, Mr. President.

“I had my chance, I made the best of it, I’m highly satisfied, and… trying to find a dignified way to get off the stage without bumping into the furniture.”
- Ossie Davis, “The Making of Bubba Ho-Tep

Ossie Davis, an actor distinguished for roles dealing with racial injustice on stage, screen and in real life ... has died at the age of 87.
- Yahoo!News, Friday February 4th, 2005

We’ll miss you, Ossie.

February 09, 2005

All Moved In!

Hi everyone! Just a quick post to let you know that Vickie and I made it North safely. We've only just had our ADSL connected up this very morning, and have both been cleaning phenomenal amounts of mail out of our inboxes - most of it notifications of spam comments and, in a new twist, spam TrackBacks. My weblog tells me I have 556 comments, and I don't even have that many postings. So we'll probably be doing a bit of cleaning up.

Anyway, more news soon!