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Heavy Plant

Walk past a "Heavy Plant" warning and wonder vaguely if the trees thought it was for them; if whoever put it up had enough imag...

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Weekend body boarding

When we moved from our last pad we bought a fair amount of kit from Loopy Lou, our affable but bonkers landlady. This included 2 used but serviceable body boards. Naturally as we live on a pretty good surf break we have been trying them out.

Maroubra bay from aboveThis is an enterprise not without its' hazards as the swell off the ocean comes straight into Maroubra. It gets fairly big and there can be a lot of white water to get through (if you have google earth installed on your PC click on the image to get go to the place marker).

The Sunday before last we had a great afternoon mucking about in the surf which was a fairly consistent 2-3 feet. Due to the physics of waves one in every few is much bigger than the waves around it having been amplified. This means that fun 2-3 foot waves can frequently include a 4-5 footer that can catch you completely unawares. The usual side effect of not spotting this wave until it's a bit too late is that you get completely wiped out by it. Just as you are recovering from the near inevitable drubbing the waves behind the monster normally hit you (they say here that it's the fourth wave that kills you, I have only ever been hit by 2 at time but I am not gong to get complacent). Whilst this sounds terrifying, in practice you don't actually have much time to be scared and self-preservation takes over.

We had had 2 good hours of catching waves pretty easily and not getting hit by anything. At about 5pm the waves started to get a bit bigger but I hadn't really noticed. In fact I didn't really notice anything more than a bit of a bumpy ride until I reached the beach and turned round to see Emily get sucked into the top of a 5 foot wall of water, which then fell on her. The two waves behind it predictably did their worst and she got out of the sea hyperventilating and shaking. Game over.

Unperturbed this Sunday we went out into a much bigger swell with 2 guys who've been doing this for 16 years or more. Using a current to get behind the breakers we soon found ourselves in what Coastalwatch described as a 3 foot swell. Beg to differ, by about another foot. Whilst this may be an illusion created by the fact that when you are in the trough of a wave it looks twice as big as it is, it was a pretty convincing illusion.

This was fun for a while, even restfull, watching big blue and green mountains roll underneath you. I will confess to being a bit scared by how far out we were but soon realised that we were pretty safe, as far as shark bait goes. Catching the first wave in proved pretty easy, the damn thing was so powerful you didn't need to do much to get it. Em got hit by it, and then the two behind it. It is a reassuring testament to human resilience that she got out of the water in one piece. Scared but otherwise unhurt. It took us a while to pluck up the courage to go back in.

This time Emily catches the wave, then gets hit. I get hit twice and then catch a wave. This time though there is a difference, the lifeguard is watching. The net result is a bollocking for not knowing what we're doing (exacerbated by our English accents no-doubt). It's a fair cop guv'. That night lying in bed I can still clearly feel the waves rolling under me. Closing my eyes results in flashbacks of breaking waves. Not the most restful night's sleep I've had. Still, I would happily go for an hour or two of it now. It's 3am and I'm supposed to be playing tennis at 7.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Busses

Sydney's busses are pretty good. They are well used and generally reliable. During rush hour they are crowded to the point of bursting but at the weekends and during even slightly off-peak hours they revert to the normal status of bus networks everywhere i.e. sinkholes for the hopeless, the disenfranchised and the truly strange.

The hopeless largely manifest themselves as people who don't know where they're going or which bus they need to get there. They resort to stopping every bus that comes past to ask exactly the same set of questions, receive negative answers and be told they need to get a different bus. This absolutely exasperating if you have any kind of desire to reach your destination at all. It is only the hung-over look of the people attempting this that holds me back from bellowing at them to stop wasting everybody's time and read the bus timetable handily displayed at the stop.

Other forms of public transport have their nutters but they simply don't have the strength in depth of bus nutters. I'm not just talking about people who mutter a bit and aren't particularly socially able. I'm talking about people who are genuinely odd. There is a guy who gets the bus from Maroubra who must be an urban Witch Doctor. He is probably six feet tall, even before putting the boots on. Naturally he dresses head to foot in black and is covered in totally artless tattoos (spider's webs, inverted pentagrams, you've seen it before). He also wears dreamcatcher earings (black), a skirt (black) and has the habit of starting conversations with people without warning and whether they happen to be there or not.

Perhaps busses are treated as territory by odd people and they feel that they have to patrol their routes regularly. Maybe they are some kind of staging area or display ground for a contest in who can be the strangest. If they are, the prize in the heavyweight class has to go to the lesbian couple whose combined weight must be 200kg (a bit over 30 stones). One of them is clearly an avid sports fan, I have never seen her wear anything other than AFL shirts and necessarily loose fitting jeans. She too is covered in tattoos whose locations probably had more to do with the relative sobriety of the wearer than actual choice.

She has rather fetching haircut with a plaited rat’s tail at the top and shaved sides that makes you think she aspires to being an Amazonian Indian. Though I doubt the rainforest has quite enough lollies for her. Her partner is by far the larger of the two. If she wishes to exit the bus she has to do so without turning around as attempting this manoeuvre in the narrow gangway of the bus would wrap her nameless flabbier extremities around the interior of the bus, potentially smothering fellow passengers. She is otherwise remarkable in that she seems to dress entirely in second hand clothing. Presumably the off-casts of people who have now become thin. Just how many obese lesbians must there be out there to generate a second hand clothes market?!

None of these people are particularly intimidating or scary but there is one passenger that everybody fears. She joins the bus between Maroubra and Coogee. She is docile and keeps herself to herself not even muttering. Sadly she reeks to high heaven of some noxious chemical quite clearly designed to repel the inevitable infestations to her unsanitary person. Her long grey hair is stained a revolting yellow, her clothes cannot now be dated, warped as they are by her lumpen form. Should smells one day become visible this woman will be trailed by an acrid choking green-brown trail.

She seems to be totally unaware that the cloud she lives in brings tears to the eyes and may well be hazardous in poorly ventilated areas. Whenever she is on the bus I find myself wondering if her olfactory sense failed before the smell, or because of the smell. She lives in a scentless world where everyone mutters and coughs behind her back. My sympathy goes out to her, kind of.

The real reason most of these people have to get the bus is, because of whatever reason, they should not be allowed anywhere near a car. In the case of the last passenger because she would suffocate very quickly being entirely oblivious of the toxins building to deadly levels in the air around her. The two lesbians would take hours to get into and out of the car; in fact I doubt that anything without sliding doors would even work for them. The Witch Doctor who talks to absent friends is also liable to stop to allow them to cross the road making him a deadly hazard to other road users. These are people deemed by society to be too strange to drive.


Post script
The part of me that enjoys antagonising idealists (i.e. my brain) wants to point out that the bus is by far the cheapest way around any city and as such, broadly speaking it represents the social underclasses. It will probably go on to point out that trains, whilst nearly as affordable, are slightly more expensive and travel further afield to far more affluent suburbs. After that it will hopefully run out of ideas as the last thing the world needs is a tongue in cheek Marxist theory of commuting. Fin

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Spam

Normally I don't get spam but a few emails seem to be creeping through the net recently. I thought I would share the one below as it has a kind of Haiku like poetry to it:

here mischievous beautiful motor? here slow did. love mischievous friends am letters companion?
reply make wife slow bought.
slow is different nothing goes.
beautiful sandwich immediate leader. reply rich yours am? we make anybody least off.
companion here turning he shining.
I suspect it is piece of oriental spam (sweet 'n' sour? spam in black bean sauce?) may have been translated using a crap piece of software.

Maybe I should think up a reply:
here forlorn motor none. mischevious rental driving. already least off. easily companion shining. innadequacy beckons strongly.
improved sin wife no. all bought before.
fast is better everything passes.
reply blog rich are.
beautiful breakfast eventual domination.
It'll do for the moment.
I am sat at home waiting for people to take away the washing machine, I'll think of something good to write in a minute....



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Friday, February 10, 2006

Linkdump

To add fuel to the fire of my burgeoning addiction to the internet I have added a new function to the sidebar; the linkdump.

In this section I will be posting all the stupid little random links I come accross in the course of dossing about on the internerdwebnet that I find amusing but that don't warrant writing about. It took me a while to figure out how to make this work and it still needs a little fine tuning but I'm pretty happy with it. New clickables are always good.

Unfortunately it also means that I will have to find a new development project to keep me entertained. Hmmmmmm.... tabbed sections, you say? A bit complicated, but I'll work it out.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Landlords:two:Oz

Moving to Australia has meant a return to dealing with landlords, and to be fair, our first experience was fairly easy. All we had to do was deal with a nutty Californian lady who could talk about anything until coherence and subtlety were distant memories. Pretty easy really, especially as she was quite happy to join you for the odd glass of vino whilst she did so. Our current landlord is a different matter entirely.

Whilst trying to rent the place from him we turned up to look at the flat at the time allotted. The estate agent rings on the intercom. No answer. The estate agent tries again:
Landlord: “Er, I’m sorry I got a bit drunk last night and I’ve got a child here at the moment. It’s just not convenient, can we do it later?”
We exchange axious looks of the 'Bloody hell, that’s bit more than dodgy' type. Estate agent looks suitably sheepish but keeps his cool admirably. We are assured that Landlord is not actually a pederast but slightly ditsy and has forgotten to mention that the child’s parent is also there, he hopes.

We struggled through contract negotiations with Landlord during which he tries to bypass the estate agents and manage the property himself. Having learnt that Landlord is a bit useless. We are having none of it and refuse to talk to him until he goes through the agent. After we had managed to sign a contract, about 3 months after we first saw the flat, we are provided with one key. The keys to the building are restricted security keys and can’t be copied at just any corner store. They also include a smartcard that gets you through the front door and up in the lift. We have exactly zero hope of getting these copied. There are 2 of us, there are two names on the contract, we work to different schedules in different companies in different places and do different things outside of work. It is profoundly difficult for us to organise our lives round one key. We call Landlord and ask for another key:
Landlord: “Oh, oh yeah. Of course you’ll need that won’t you?” Yes. Yes, we will. "I’ll bring it over on Thursday."
I leave work early on Thursday to get home in time for Landlord to bring the key over. Landlord fails to arrive. I rearrange for him to bring the key over at the weekend. Landlord fails to arrive. On Monday I call Landlord and then the estate agent:

dataphage: "Landlord has failed to provide us with a key, which means we can’t access our post to sign the inventory you’ve sent us. I have suggested to him quite strongly that he drop the key off at your branch office in our building. Perhaps you could ensure that he does given that he has failed to do so twice this week."
Estate agent: heavy sigh "I’ll talk to him."

I get a flustered call from Landlord assuring me that the key will be left at the office 10am Tuesday morning as arranged. A strange feeling of unease comes over me on Tuesday morning. This grows until I can no longer restrain myself from calling the branch office.
dataphage:"Hello, has our landlord left a key for us?"
Branch office: "No, there’s no key been left here." A note of curious laughter enters Branch office's voice "Who’s your landlord?"
I give Landlord’s name.
Branch office: Unhelpful snigger
They have clearly dealt with him before and no longer have to. I call the estate agent's main office and explain the situation:
dataphage: "If I am to be able to collect the key I must leave work in next 15 mins and it is not where it is supposed to be."
Estate agent: heavy sigh "I’ll talk to him. Don’t leave work until you hear from me."
Three quarters of an hour later I get a call from estate agent: "We now have the key. Oh, and by the way we close in one hour." I am at least a 40 minute bus ride from their office and I’ve just missed the last bus that would get me there in time. A scream of rage escapes my lips and my colleagues give me a look of the kind normally reserved for axe weilding loonies. I charge out of the building pausing only for a brief tirade against the slowness of the lift. I flag down a bus and find that I won't actually have to threaten the driver as it is going in roughly the right direction. To my chagrin it is doing so at the speed of an off-peak city bus in heavy traffic. Eventually I get to roughly where I'm going and have to run for 20 minutes to make it to the estate agent's office in time. Landlord's name is mud, although I find many varied themes on mud most of them far less polite.

Imagine my joy then when the washing machine and the steel shutters on the front of our balcony break. I call the esatate agent who calls Landlord. Landlord's first reaction is to call me.
Landlord: "The washing machine is still under warranty from the shop I bought it from."
dataphage: "...and..."
Landlord: "Well, why don't you go there and get them to come over and fix it?"
dataphage: "Which shop is this?"
Landlord: "Oh you know, the second hand appliances shop on, er, what's the name of that road now.... You go up Maroubra road, take a left at the roundabout, then take a right, and then a left I think, er... and it's opposite the supermarket in that little row of shops hidden away a bit, you might not be able to see it from the road. I'm afraid I can't remember the name of the place."
dataphage: "Do you have any paperwork for the warranty?"
Landlord: "Er, no."
dataphage: "A reference number?"
Landlord: "Er, no."
dataphage: "A contact I can speak to?"
Landlord: "Er, no."
dataphage: "A phone number?"
Landlord: "Er, no."
dataphage: "Right so let me be completely clear about this. You would like me to go hunting around a part of town I don't know, for a shop that I don't have the name of, in a place it might not be, to ask someone whose name I don't have to fix my washing machine for free with supporting with paperwork I don't have?"
Landlord: "I'd better go down there and sort it out."
dataphage: "And the shutters?"
Landlord: "You'll need to speak to the Building Manager. His name is Mark."
dataphage: "Mark what?"
Landlord: "Er..."
dataphage: "Do you have a phone number?"
Landlord: "Er, no."
dataphage: "Do you know where I can find him?"
Landlord: "He's sometimes at the office downstairs at about 8:30. Sometimes."
dataphage: "I leave for work at 7:45"
Landlord: "Oh."
I have to put up with this dipstick for at least the next 11 months.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Landlords:one:UK

It appears I am forever cursed to have inept and daft landlords. They have become a recurring theme whenever I have to rent property from someone I don’t know.

My first muppet landlord experience was, as it no-doubt is for most people, with the owner of our university digs. Dave, Ben and Chris (Bryce too if you read this) you may be forgiven an involuntary shudder when I mention the name Simon Whittaker.

Being at University in the small west-midlands town of Alsager was tough enough without being troubled by idiot landlords. For a start there were the locals who were almost universally hostile until you had either been a regular in their pub for at least a year or allowed them to gatecrash your party. Even then there were a few I wouldn’t like to meet on a dark night, or even on a summer’s afternoon come to think of it…

Mostly though the difficulty I experienced living in Alsager was the general feeling in that time there passed more slowly than in the rest of the country. We were there from 1996-99, the dot.com technology boom and subsequent bust was about to happen, it was just before the turn of the millennium, and the rest of the country was alive with a buzz of energised anticipation. In Alsager it was still 1976 and time shuffled forward in gloomy apathy and total ignorance of the progress in the wider world.

Our house wasn’t bad as far as student accommodation goes, we even had a suitable cupboard to hide Bryce in. The bugbear with renting it was the landlord. Simon wasn’t a bad person; he wasn’t malicious and didn’t do anything out of spite particularly. He was just a tit.

Take as an example what happened when the oven gave up the ghost. We ring Simon and tell him that the oven is broken and receive the answer: “I’ll get my father in law to come round and have a look at it this weekend.” Fair enough. A week goes by and not a whisper from Simon. We ring again:
”Hi Simon. Can’t help but notice that the oven is still knackered and we haven’t heard anything from you.”
“Ah, yes sorry about that I’ll pop round this weekend and get him to look at it.”
Simon arrives on the Saturday morning, half an hour late. Simon collects rent checks and we talk casually pretending that there isn’t a pungent whiff of marijuana in the air. Half an hour later a venerable old gent in dressed in tweeds complete with matching flat cap rides his ‘sit-up-and-beg’ bicycle up to the front door and announces his presence. This could go one of two ways we think. This guy is either going to bring out an ancient Swiss army knife and rebuild the kitchen with it or install a Victorian wood fired cooking range. After a fortnight without an oven either one of these will be a bonus.

The venerable old gent removes his cycle clips, puts on his half-moon specs and fiddles with the controls on the oven. “Hmmmm”, he says, bends down and takes a look inside. He puts a hand in his pocket; here comes the Swiss Army knife we think. He takes out a handkerchief and stands up cleaning his specs. Simon asks:
“What’s wrong with it?”
“Well it it’s broken isn’t it.”
Oh for pity’s sake.

Simon had a habit of arriving unannounced and bringing his children with him. Thankfully as we had a Playstation we had a ready-made way of keeping them quiet and out of the interesting array of stoner gear that was artfully semi-concealed around the house.

It was when he brought around the baby that I think I finally gave up trying to be reasonable and discovered that I couldn’t stand the man. When collecting rent cheques and checking the house for damage you need both hands free. The activity is incompatible with holding a baby, so he gave the wretched infant to me! I found another reason not to have children that day: they’re bloody heavy. Fighting back the urge to rid the world of Whittaker’s progeny, and trying to suppress revolting speculations as to the bore and capacity of Mrs Whittaker I stood there struggling with the boss-eyed baby for about an hour. I was only relieved of one drooling freak by the other when it became abundantly clear that I had categorically had enough.

The last straw with Whittaker came when we were in the last term of our three years and were about to move out. The phone rang:
"Hello Simon"
"I’m going to send round some people to look at the house"
"That’s fine just let us know what day next week they’re coming round and we’ll make sure everything is ready."
"Er, in about twenty minutes…"
"WHAT?!"
"Er, um…"
"Simon you will note from the contract you signed that you are required by law to give us 24 hours notice before any visit. We have spoken about this before."
"Er, um, er…"
"We will do this just the once on the concrete understanding that we get at least a day’s notice in future is this absolutely clear?!"
"Er, yes um er…"
The doorbell sounds before I have put down the phone and 7 wide-eyed 18 year-olds are stood on our doorstep blinking in the sunlight. The house was just about big enough for the 5 of us. I have no idea how they fared with 7 people. We left them in no doubt as to what they are getting themselves into with Whittaker.

The second landlord …er… landlady was not a problem being a very houseproud and efficient person. Unfortunately the reason we were able to rent her flat in Stratford in East London was because she was moving to New Zealand. A fact which meant she left the management of the place to the local branch of Winkworth Estate Agents. These people managed to combine laziness, incompetence and ‘English as a second language’ difficulties in one disastrous package.

When the boiler broke it took three weeks of arguing with them to get it fixed. I don’t know if you have ever tried to do without hot water for three weeks but it isn’t much fun. Cold showers are not invigorating in February, they are life threatening. Naturally we refused to pay the rent that month and made the estate agents explain to the landlady exactly why. She wasn’t pleased and they eventually lost her business.

Winkworth did not cover themselves in glory and like most estate agents wanted to the minimum amount of actual management and still collect the money for it. A pity then that the plumbing in our upstairs neighbour’s flat began to leak eventually leading to the ceiling of our bathroom falling in leaving a hole into our flat you could easily have climbed through. Net result, we can’t use the bathroom for showers or baths, again. Whilst the insurance certainly covered this, the estate agents were so hopeless that we had to organise the vast majority of the work that had to be done on the place ourselves. By the time we moved from Stratford I had truly had enough of renting.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

In other news...

I've got a hangover so I'm not doing any work and I don't feel like writing anything good. Instead I shall be plumbing the depths of the internet for crap. It's going to be a long day...




Cartoon causes religious outrage.

Italian granny snatches jewelery. Sorry.

In case you missed this story: British Inteligence's most sophisticated surveillance technology is a rock. Q division are clearly running out of ideas.

The events of 11 September 2001 are all a big conspiracy. No, really.... Although when you read about what everyone was doing the day before you do begin to wonder a bit. They clearly knew that something was about to happen.

A collection of useless trivia, much of it untrue.

Pi to one million places, just in case you need it.

How to turn a room sideways. Bloody students.

Water bottle jet pack.

Don't try and cure hiccups with a gun. It might prove a little too effective.

There is now a new surgical option for ugly people. A genuine face transplant. Maybe that's what world class airhead Paris Hilton needs to be able to change her fixed facial expression.

Dinner ladies investigate what's in Superman's lunchbox:

There were just so many options for captions for this picture that I had trouble choosing one. Rejections included the disgusting 'Superman tosses dinner ladies salad'. Thank God I didn't publish that one.