Sunday, July 31, 2005


Maybe it's because I'm Australian, a country where we have to attend elections. Yep, it's a $50 fine if you don't get an attendance mark at an election. Ooooh, it sounds so very totalitarian doesn't it? Indeed, I was fined for failing to vote in the local council elections held on August 2nd 1986. I didn't vote because on that day I was in Canada but my excuse was found to be inadequate (I should have done an early vote or applied for a postal vote).

A second failure to vote in the Victorian State elections held on November 30th 2002 was excused because I moved to the USA on November 17th 2002; that was deemed acceptable!

It's often mischaracterised as compulsory voting when in fact it's nothing more than compulsory attendance. Once they mark your name and hand you the ballot it stops being compulsory because, of course, the ballot is secret. No one is allowed to watch what you actually mark on the ballot. Indeed, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries the secret ballot was also called the 'Australian Ballot'.

If you've ever watched the actual counting of an Australian vote you'll never doubt that it's honest. Scrutineers from each party represented at the seat paw over the ballot in an embarassing fashion.

Tonight we went out to dinner and ten pin bowling to celebrate my other step daughters birthday. Shelby is now 21. I get on pretty well with Shelby, much better than I get on with Morgan, probably because Shelby and I don't live under the same roof. And over dinner talk turned to politics. Not so much who supports George W Bush vs whoever the Democrat pretender is. It turned on the question of who actually votes. And the kids dad (a man half a year younger than I am) proudly averred that he had never ever voted in a US election.

Uh huh. Maybe it's because I'm an Australian and we have to vote or pay $50 for the failure but man oh man, how many generations have died to establish one man one vote? I'm not blind or stupid; it's not really one man one vote but the principle still stands. I can't imagine letting an election pass in which I didn't vote. Indeed, one reason, one compelling reason, why I want to become a US citizen is because I feel disenfranchised. It was very difficult, last November 2nd, to drive past the polling places knowing that I could not vote. If I'm going to live here I'm sure as hell going to want to vote for the people who run the place!

I came 2nd of 7 in the bowling. One strike, 7 spares. Not bad for someone who's bowled maybe 7 times in 51 years! :-)

A lesson in democracy

I've just been watching this movie[^]. I, as a prospective US citizen, choose not, at this time, to comment too much on the overall thesis. Yes, I'm being paranoid but don't forget the PATRIOT act[^] act has just been renewed. I'm still trying to decide if it was a bad idea to borrow I am Cuba[^] from the Phoenix Public Library! Great movie BTW!

One thing that really struck me in the Michael Moore movie was the section where he deals with the 'fact' that almost no one who voted for the act had actually read it. I quoted the word fact because I don't know if it's true or not; just because it's in a documentary doesn't mean I believe it. On the other hand, having tried to wade through the act as written I can well believe it.

In 1975 I became a member of Turtle Video - a government funded community video project based in Altona though they didn't take long to move to Williamstown. The title, 'Community Video Project' is a lot more grand than the reality turned out to be, as is so often the case. I know Heino's been waiting a while for me to start writing about that grand failed experiment; I've been trying to work out how to cover the whole subject.

Anyway, one Friday evening in mid 1975 Heino and I and a few others of the gang (Robin, Garry, Dave, Keith, and Graham are the ones who spring to mind) were 'participating' in a committee meeting. Again I quote the word because what we were actually doing was being in the same room as the meeting, smoking and arguing amongst ourselves. Suddenly we became aware that a vote was being conducted and, without any further thought, we voted in the affirmative.

Imagine our chagrin when we discovered that what we'd voted for was a ban on smoking during committee meetings!

Saturday, July 30, 2005


At Easter of 1963 we went camping close to Echuca, on the Murray River. At the time my step father was rather newer to the lark than I am now; he was where I was about two years ago. Of course he had certain advantages; back then no one thought twice if the responsible adult administered the curative slap.

I don't remember much about that camping trip if the truth be told. My sisters were put to bed in the boot (trunk) of the family car, a 1960 Holden Sedan. I don't remember where I slept. I suspect it was the backseat of the same car. I do remember making the surprising, at the time, discovery that some Australian trees are so heavy the wood doesn't float in water. Well I didn't know so it was something of a shock when the carefully prepared battleship I'd made sank at its launch! The analogous discovery, that some rocks float, was made in 2000 in New Zealand.

Apart from those memories I recall the lamb chops and sausages cooked over a real camp fire and being forbidden to dive into the river. The latter probably saved my life; I couldn't swim and the Murray is notorious for it's underwater snags.

And one other memory. I got into an argument with Mum about something or other. I honestly don't remember what the something was apart from it having something to do with comic books. Maybe it was whether Superman really wears his underpants on the outside.

One thing led to another and the argument transformed into a bet with a stake of ten bob! Riches beyond the dreams of avarice to a 9 year old. Looking back on it I see where Mum was coming from; anything to shut me up! The odds on my being able to actually finance the debt if it went bad were astronomical.

So we returned to Melbourne. And off I set for the Footscray Library to obtain proof that I was right and Mum was wrong! If I were doing it today I'd already know that the library would be closed on Easter Tuesday. Thus, arrived at the library and finding it closed, I cast about for other ways of proving I was right, she was wrong and that ten bob was mine!

My solution? I stopped at a corner milkbar and asked the woman behind the counter to write the word 'yes' on a piece of paper. She did and I proudly presented it to Mum when she got home from work. Not surprisingly, Mum was rather less than convinced and I'm still waiting for that ten bob!

Friday, July 29, 2005


Way back, on Tuesday December 8th, 1987, when I was a geek, I was at a coffee shop in High Street Prahran one night, chatting up a young lady.

I was a developer back then, working on some Unix application or other. And I was geeking it up like all good geeks do. Having this young ladies attention and prompted by some questions I was describing the process of maintaining a large application and expatiating, at length, on just how difficult it sometimes is to track down and eliminate a bug.

She looked at me and asked the killer question. 'If it's so hard to get rid of the bugs why do you put them there in the first place!'

I STILL don't have a good answer for that one!

Thursday, July 28, 2005


Remember the end of 1999? Doomsayers predicting the end of the world as we knew it? I remember reading in a newspaper that the US would be monitoring New Zealand and Australia as we passed through midnight, on the grounds that at 20 and 18 hours ahead of California respectively, they'd get some advance information on what problems might occur.

At 11 PM that night I was running a trivia game on my own chat server. My own in the sense that the server was sitting two feet to my left. I used to get great ping times with the server that close! The game was proceeding wonderfully (I know how to work a roomful of trivia players) and, as midnight crept closer, we were joking around about how close we were to the Y2K problem. The temptation to stop the chat service was irresistible; I stopped it at the stroke of midnight and restarted it about 10 seconds later.

As history has shown nothing much happened that night and I certainly don't imagine that US authorities were even monitoring my chat server but one or two of the American players did seem to believe something had gone seriously wrong!

Purple wallpaper

In 1973 I was looking for a place to live. Some wierd stuff was happening with my step father; wierd enough that it made sense for me to live elsewhere than under his roof. Now, 32 years later and being in much the same position as he was the wierdness makes a lot more sense than it did then.

So I went looking for other places. Boarding houses didn't appeal. I worked, at the time, for a TV repair shop close to Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne and we occasionally made calls to fix broken TV sets in various boarding houses near the racecourse; most of the boarders were trainee jockeys and I knew I wouldn't fit into that society.

A house was out of the question; that left a flat. I can't, at this distant remove, remember typical flat rentals. I do remember looking at a rental house in Newport a couple of years later that was A$100 a month and thinking it was a bargain and I once rented a converted garage behind a house in Altona for $20 a week so I imagine typical monthly rentals might have been in the order of $75 a month. Somewhat beyond my means in 1973.

Thus I siezed upon an ad in the local paper for a 'bachelor' flat in Ascot Vale, within walking distance of where I was working at the time. Made the appointment; turned up and inspected.

It was brand new and they were renting out for the first time.

Each flat was a single room with a pretence at two rooms by means of a couple of brick incursions into the space, each incursion about a foot long. Communal showers and, worse, a communal kitchen. There were 8 stove/oven combos and 32 flats so that meant that 4 flats shared one stove. Given that the entire complex was targetted at 'bachelors' can you imagine what those stoves would have looked like after 6 months?

That was bad enough but this was the early to mid 70's. Each flat was carpetted and wallpapered identically; in purple! Purple carpet and purple wallpaper!

I have some wonderful memories of the 1970's but that flat ain't one of them!

Oh, I passed on the opportunity to rent and endured my step father for another year.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

An arms race

The other night I was rummaging through my laptop carrybag when I found the hair net I wear when I'm on site in Baguio. Without thinking too much about the matter I slipped it on and promptly forgot about it. Truth to tell, long hair can be a bit of a nuisance in the hot weather and it was rather pleasant not having the odd strands of hair adhering to my forehead.

When the call to dinner came half an hour later I was still wearing it as I sat down to eat. I was the first seated; when Andrew sat down he glanced my way and 'ewww' 'ewwww' as he noticed the net. A moment later he snatched up a pair of jeans hanging over a chair back and put them on his head. Smartarse! He should have known he wasn't going to win that exchange!

He smiled smugly, certain he'd put one over on me. Uh huh. I excused myself long enough to go to the bedroom and grab a pair of (clean) underpants, which I was wearing over the hair net when I returned. My wife started laughing and Morgan announced that this was getting too wierd for her!

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Well, that was a waste of time!

I haven't disappeared off the map, nor am I in deportation proceedings. I wasn't too worried about that as it happens. If you're on this side of the US Border it seems difficult to be deported unless you've committed some heinous crime. That's the subject of a rather (to my way of thinking) vicious debate here in Arizona. Some think anyone on this side of the border who doesn't have documentation on them should be subject to deportation on the spot, others disagree. I'm definitely a member of the disagreeing camp but as a non citizen my opinion doesn't go for much. I'm looking forward to the time when I can tell someone who craps on me from a great height for having the effrontery to express an opinion on US politics that I am, in fact, a US citizen but that moment is still some time off.

So I fronted up at the BCIS office here in Phoenix with a question/information type appointment. Phoenix BCIS is much much improved if the horror stories I've heard are anything to go by. I've mentioned those before[^] and so it proved again today. Well, at least in terms of getting 'face time' with an immigration officer. No standing in line at ungodly hours. Just the usual gamut of security to get into any government building these days followed by a wait in an airconditioned room.

Eventually my number pings up on the board and I explained the situation. And she looked at me and asked what I expected her to do about it.

You see, the local office is part of BCIS (Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services), a division of the Department of Homeland Security. But the people who shunt me off to secondary inspection at immigration in any US airport are part of ICE, (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), also a division of the Department of Homeland Security. As she explained it to me, my green card is valid as far as BCIS is concerned and they can do nothing for me with regard to ICE.

So I put the burning question. What do I do, or who do I deal with, to resolve this. The answer? Become a US citizen and then all the problems will go away.

I'd cry if I wasn't laughing. Isn't that just so typical of beauracracy?

Monday, July 25, 2005

If I disappear off the map

it'll be because I'm in deportation proceedings from tomorrow (July 25).

Seriously, I've decided I've had enough of the greencard SNAFU so I booked an appointment with INS for tomorrow.

I'm hoping that presenting a valid Australian passport containing a 2 year temporary greencard stamp plus a 1 year temporary extended greencard stamp, Australian Driving License, Arizona Driving License, official INS Notice Of Action and current greencard will convince them that I am indeed the person entitled to hold that greencard and get them to cancel out the old greencard.

Actually, apart from the first time[^], in Detroit, it hasn't been too bad. Indeed, the last time I passed through immigration, last week, it took all of 5 extra minutes but I can't help thinking that eventually I'm going to run into a serious problem if I don't at least try and sort it all out.

At the least, I can imagine that someone tagged with a possibly invalid greencard will have problems convincing the powers that be that it's a good idea to grant a citizenship application.

So if I post tomorrow night you'll know that I got out of the building alive and not in custody. If not...

Some things just can't be resisted

When I was at Unisys Australia and supervisor of the system admin team we got ourselves into the habit of going down for a smoke every so often. Our route from our office to the lift took us past an area of the floor occupied by some programmers who were hidden behind closed doors. As we passed, usually me in the lead, we'd knock, in turn, on the door as we passed. For the first week or so they'd open the door but it didn't take them long to cotton on.

Whether they opened the door or not, we'd knock as we passed. This went on for some months and then there was a team reorganisation. The original team moved to a different floor and a new team took over that office. We continued the knocking, laughing as the new team answered the door time after time after time.

Eventually Trevor had had enough. He cornered me (as the obvious ringleader) in the photocopy room one afternoon, demanding that we stop knocking as we passed. What could I do? With a challenge like that we had to knock harder and louder! A week passed and Trevor challenged me again. This time with threats to take it to a higher power. Uh huh. I leaned against the door during the conversation and knocked. It was cruel of me I know, but watching his choler rise as I knocked was much too much temptation.

From Hell

A phrase that could aptly be applied to the week, at least from the point of view of work. How else would you describe being called in at midnight Wednesday for a 5 minute registry tweak? Or being called in yet again late Saturday afternoon?

However, it also happens to be the movie[^] I've just watched.

The movie's based on the theory of Sir William Gull (physician in ordinary to the royal family) being the Ripper, to protect the Royal family from the scandal of Prince Albert marrying a catholic girl. Pretty good movie actually - I've seen it more than once.

Thankfully it didn't dwell too closely on the actual killings. Enough to convey the horror of what was done but not to the extent of being revolting (had it been so I doubt I'd have stayed to the end). Somehow the thought of watching someone being carved to death doesn't strike me as being entertaining...

It sticks pretty closely to the known facts of the case except for two departures right at the end for dramatic impact. If you know the case at all (and if you stick to the classical canon of victims) you know the last victim was Mary Kelly. Well in this movie everyone thinks she's the last victim but she gets away and another girl is butchered in her stead. If you've ever seen that photograph[^] of Mary Kelly as she was discovered the next morning you can imagine that it would be fairly easy to mistake almost anyone of the right sex and physical size for the presumed victim. Well, it could have happened that way!

The second? They show Inspector Abberline dying shortly after the last Ripper murder. Hmmm, that'll be news to his family - he died about 1929 (40 years later).

As you'll guess from the foregoing, I've been a bit of a student of the case for years. Not just the Ripper case actually; I've read much of the literature about the well known (and some not so well known) murder cases. I don't know why, though I speculate it might have something to do with this[^]. Whatever, I believe it's a harmless interest though my second wife did think it somewhat morbid. Mind you, my second wife had some strange ideas at the best of times.

For the record, though to substantiate the belief I'd have to study the Ripper case again to marshall all the relevant facts, I lean toward the belief that the Ripper was Montague J Druitt[^].

Sunday, July 24, 2005

A grasshopper

walks into a bar and orders a drink. The bartender looks at him and says,

'you know, we've got a drink named after you'

and the grasshopper says,

'ok, make mine a Kevin!'

*boom boom*

Thursday, July 21, 2005

You wouldn't be dead for quids

Which is an old Australian saying meaning you wouldn't want to miss that!

I think you'll all remember how much I enjoyed my chances to visit, on the company dollar, Nice, France. Indeed, I wouldn't have been dead for quids!

One of my colleagues had to visit Nice last week, at the same time that I was in The Philippines. Lucky bastard! But he tried everything he could think of to avert the dire necessity of travel. When he discovered he couldn't; that he was the one who had to go and no other, he then did everything he could to minimise the time he had to be there!

Of course this post reflects my biasses; if I was offered the chance to go, once again, to Nice, I'd be on the plane tomorrow, bumpy flights into and out of Phoenix or not! So I found it a trifle difficult to understand why he was so adamantly opposed to travelling to the French Riviera and when I pressed the issue I got this priceless quote 'Everything I could ever want is in the US'.


There's much to be admired in the US. Prime Rib, a Phoenix sunset whatever the time of year, Asian car makers buying their way into the market by offering insanely long warranties, Chili's Bar and Grill during a baseball game, the reverence Americans display at a flag raising. You get my drift.

But there's also much to be admired elsewhere in the world. Again, my biasses on display. Perhaps it's because I'm not in the country of my birth but when I first even heard of the possibility of being sent to France I wanted to be sent there. Likewise with Japan, Korea and The Philippines.

Should I end this post by noting that, by his own admission, when he was there he ate thrice at the local MacDonalds? Nah, I won't end there because another of my colleagues shook his head in disbelief at that news. My other colleague being a military brat (his own words) who looks 100% the clean cut American College Kid, calls everyone Sir (man that embarasses me) and who spent half his childhood on various US military bases outside the US. He positively drooled at the idea of being within walking distance of a French Patisserie again.

No, I'll end this post by saying that I am eligible to apply for US citizenship 31 days from now, on August 20, 90 days before the third anniversary of becoming a Legal Permanent Resident. My application goes in on that day because I've already chosen to be a part of this society and it's the next step. I'll never stop being an Australian - I'll be that strangest of animals, an Australian-American. Look out, world :-)

Getting acclimated

We're into the warm now. Each day we're getting around the 108-112F (42-45C) range and the midnight temperature isn't far shy of 100F (39 C). I know the midnight temperature because I'm STILL watching MASH reruns when I'm at home and they display the time and temperature at the bottom right of screen.

Of course they don't specify exactly where that temperature is measured but I suppose we all accept weather reports for a region and behave as though the temperature were uniform.

That temperature range is a trifle higher than the usual range measured in Melbourne but not outlandishly so. As I think I've related previously, when I moved here my wife was convinced that the summer here would be more than I could cope with. And, in 2003, my first summer here, it was almost more but I'm a stubborn bastard and I wasn't going to give in and admit I was finding it a trifle too warm for my tastes!

But now, two years later, I find that temperature range quite comfortable. Phoenix people love to boast about how hot it gets here, always adding 'but it's a dry heat'. Indeed, two or three weeks ago they were reporting the humidity on the radio at about 3 or 4%, which certainly does qualify as dry heat. But according to[^] we're now at about 42% humidity.

So, as I say, I'm finding it quite comfortable and that's fully dressed. With a teenage step-daughter in the house that's the only way to be outside the shower :-) Indeed, I'm finding it so comfortable that, last week when I was in Baguio, eating dinner at the Verandah Restaurant, Baguio Country Club (which is, strangely enough, on the verandah of the building) I was shivering in temperatures I imagine were somewhere in the 65F (20C) range. Gawd knows how I'm going to cope in Melbourne, 2 months from now at the start of the Southern Spring!


2005. Is it (phonetically) two thousand AND five or is it two thousand five? Where I come from the and is part of the phrase but not here. I had a long argument, via email, with the woman who is now my wife back in 1999 on that very question. As I've said before, we're wierd like that!

Eventually she prevailed and I conceded, based on her arguments which I no longer remember but which probably involved reference to some obscure 18th century British/American dictionary, that it may be gramatically correct to say two thousand five.

Makes no matter though. It still sounds odd to these ears to hear someone on the radio say two thousand five; I keep wanting to hear that and in there...

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Arriving at Phoenix during the Monsoon

As you might have gathered from my previous post, I'm home again. Amazingly this is the second time I've returned on the day planned, on the flight booked at the commencement of the trip. If this keeps up I might enjoy travelling more!

It was the usual litany; the long drive from Baguio to Manila, fly Manila to Singapore, then a long long flight to LA, wait around for quite a while and thence to Phoenix. It was somewhat better this time because I now qualify as a Star Alliance Gold Member, which gives me access to the Singapore Airlines Raffles Class lounge! Well swipe me, as Tony Hancock used to say. But you can't say no to free snacks and wine. Well I can't!

The flight from Singapore to LA went quite far north this time; far enough north that you could see, on the horizon, a narrow line of eternal sunshine marking those parts of the planet where, this time of the year, the sun doesn't set.

Flying to Phoenix was somewhat different. As we made the turn from the Pacific back toward Phoenix I was fascinated to see the almost full moon wheeling across the sky! I'm a trifle confused about the route we took because at one point I could see the moonlight reflected on a lake far below. This wasn't the Pacific Ocean; we'd already turned around and crossed southern Greater Los Angeles and were over one of the dark areas between LA and Phoenix. Yet there, far below, was a vast flat sheet of water. My wife thinks it was the Salton Sea.

Then, maybe 120 miles out of Phoenix, we started the descent, through a vast plain of clouds lit up by the moon. Quite an unearthly sight, punctuated by flashes of lightning. A few bumps as we passed through cloud banks, smooth when once again we were in clear air. And then came the announcement; a monsoonal storm was passing over Phoenix Sky HarboUr and we were in a holding pattern. Quite the bumpy holding pattern, zig zags of lightning seeming close enough that I could touch them if I could only put my hand through the window.

Then we were cleared to proceed. More bumps as we came in from the southeast. The seatbelt lights were on and the cabin crew were securely strapped in; a sure sign that bad weather is expected. We flew past the South Mountains and descended low over the city; my guess is no more than a couple of kilometres up. Turn left and then right and descend through more bumps. I had no idea where we were; those flashing red lights on the South Mountains looked much to far away for us to be approaching a landing and I was trying to decide if we were going to pass by the airport and do a 180 and then, suddenly, there was the landing strip and we were down, wing wobbling close to the ground and then swinging up again. A bit of a bang and we were down!

As we turned into the taxi lane I could see a second plane landing and another on its approach. Suddenly rain cascaded across the taxi lane, driven by squalls that rocked the plane from side to side. The plane still on approach aborted, swooping away to the north.

Leaving the plane, on the air bridge, I felt that familiar blast of heat. Welcome to Phoenix!

Words to the wise

If you're on a long haul flight and you're tempted to take your shoes off remember to put them back on before you stand in line for the dunny!

I didn't and, when my turn came, I took one look at the floor and decided there's no way I'm going to step into that mess wearing only my socks. Alas, I'd already spent ten minutes in line and no one behind me was going to wait while I went back to my seat to retrieve my shoes. To make it worse, after I'd ceded my place in the line, retrieved said shoes and made it half way from the back of the line to the dunny we hit turbulence and we were all sent back to our seats.

I hate having to cross my legs! :-)

Sign of the times

This morning my driver dropped me at Manila Airport at the ungodly hour of 3:35 AM. We left Baguio at 11 PM and that's the fastest we've ever covered the distance.

We have different agendas of course. Mine is to travel from Baguio to the airport and arrive early enough for a smoke or two, but no earlier, before checking in for the flight. Check-in time is 5:30 or thereabouts.

His agenda is to cover the distance as fast as possible. We pay a flat rate of 5000 pesos each way and since our drivers live in Baguio that means they do the trip twice for each once we do it! Why would he want to take 16 hours to drive there and back if he can do it in 10 hours, given that he's paid the same amount no matter how slowly he does it? Since I understand that I don't attempt to get him to slow down even when it's apparent I'm going to arrive much earlier than I want to!

Thus I was at the airport way too early. I stood outside for a while smoking but, to be honest, I don't much like Manila Airport. It just doesn't feel safe, especially on the outside of the security checks leading into the building itself. Vehicles entering the airport have to pass a security check which consists of a torch shone in the face of each passenger and an examination of the contents of the boot (trunk) and glove box. Not once have my bags been checked!

So there I was outside, smoking, when someone walked up dragging a suitcase on wheels. He dumped it and walked away into the crowd. And, as the minutes passed, I found myself getting more and more apprehensive of that damned suitcase. No sign of the guy dragging it. It was about 1 metre away and if it blew up I was in the direct path of the blast. London on my mind. So I took the last puff on the ciggy and backed away from it. I even drew it to the attention of an airport security guy, who shrugged his shoulders and wandered away. If it had been LA Airport I'm sure there'd have been a SWAT team in the blink of an eye.

I see no news of a terrorist attack at Manila, which is good news. I see no news of a plane blasted out of the sky, which is also good news. But on the other hand, are we letting them win by default? As I stood in the queue to enter the building, passport and valid ticket for today at the ready, I glanced back and saw the guy collect his suitcase. I don't know where he went or if he boarded a plane. What I felt was that maybe I'd overreacted. You may disagree but it sometimes seems as we're sacrificing way too much in the way of liberty in defence against what? The faceless persons no one could identify ahead of time.

We've managed to turn the airport into a security nightmare for the average traveller. Do we now do the same for buses and trains? And then, when they're tied down, then what? Taxis? Private cars? Supermarkets and movie theatres? Public parks and museums? (Oh wait, that's already happened at the Smithsonian). Where does it end? Do I spend the last 20 years of my life weakly smiling again and again at some underpaid security guy in the hopes that I'll be allowed through that metal detector unmolested?

Or do we dig our feet in, accept the risks and say, in effect, don't treat me like I'm a terrorist? These aren't just empty words. I do accept the risks. If I chose not to then I'm effectively saying I'll never ever visit my home country again; I'll never travel farther from here in Phoenix than I can drive. But then, to be consistent, I'd have to refuse to drive because of the statistics. And then I'd have to refuse to leave the house and so on and so ad absurdum.

When I read about the two minutes silence in London last Thursday I have to admit that my eyes watered. And when I saw some of the photos of ordinary British people defying terror my eyes also watered. I agree with the sentiment.

Two weeks ago I had a beer with Vern (political blogger - his link is on the left). As a patriotic American who doesn't support the 'War on Terror' he has some interesting things to say. But one thing we talked about was the policy on dealing with terrorist kidnappings. We both agreed on the non-negotiable stance whilst also both agreeing that such sentiments are easy when you're sitting in a bar in Phoenix. I could say the same about what I've just written. Easy to say and think now that I'm on the ground; I don't know how I'd react if I were on a plane being hijacked.

Hmmm, this didn't end up at all where I'd intended to go with it.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Two negatives, three positives

Monday November 26 1990.

The day started out badly. Melbourne had unusually heavy rain that month. The roof in our rented house leaked and I was startled out of my sleep about 7 AM by a loud crash. Half of the plaster ceiling in the hallway had crashed down! Scared the crap out of our cats. Both Manny and Kafka (just out of their kittenhood) hid under our blankets, staring wide eyed at us in wonder. We gave them loves and calmed them down.

Later in the day I went to Discurio (at the time the best shop in Melbourne for Classical Music recordings). There I had the good fortune to discover a recording of William Wordsworth's Second Symphony. Yes, William Wordsworth, great nephew of the poet.

Mid evening on the same day I attended a performance of Mahler's First Symphony at the Melbourne Concert centre. Excellent performance but not the best I've heard; that honour is reserved, for the nonce, for the Monash University Faculty of Music Orchestra. I was lucky enough to attend their performance of Mahler's first in late 1979 and it was a knockout performance. There's something about seeing one's friend as leader of the Orchestra...

After the concert we ate somewhere in Lygon Street. Food eaten and a bottle of good Australian Red enjoyed we went home, to discover we'd been burgled. A broken window leading into the bedroom (the front room of the house) might have given it away. And, horror, they'd nicked our VCR, a Sony Betamax.

So I thought to myself, thought I, they've stolen a Beta VCR. It will have no street value, so they'll just dump it. Which thought led me to wandering the back lanes of Carlton, Melbourne, around midnight. I didn't find a dumped VCR but what I did find, maybe 12 doors from our house, was another burglary in progress. Two young guys standing out on the footpath while a third was kicking the door in. By the time I noticed the third guy it was too late to turn around so I just kept on walking.

If you ever meet me in person you'll understand that I'm just not built for fighting. At school I only won one fight in my entire career; he was smaller than I am and I was lucky that he called 'nuff about half a second before I did!

So I kept on walking, right past my own front door and around the corner. If there are people around willing to kick in someone's front door I really don't want them to know where I live especially if I'm about to call the police on em. So I snuck home via the back lane and called the police. 3 or so minutes later I saw the blue lights flashing and the sirens wailing and at least two of em were caught!

So let's do the tally.

Negatives: Ceiling crashed in, VCR stolen.

Positives: Found a new symphony I liked, heard a wonderful performance of one I knew, and I managed to walk, unscathed, past a bunch of dickheads who were captured for burglary.

Ah, but we're not quite done. We had insurance and I thought this was a wonderful opportunity to switch from Beta to VHS. Not that I really wanted to but if the world decides that it should buy VHS even if it's not as good as Beta and if the world decides that rental videos shall only be VHS then one has to compromise.

My insurance company had other ideas. They paid the claim with a voucher to the Sony Shop in Melbourne. The voucher was good for one replacement VCR. Which I got. A Beta VCR.

I got a good 12 years service out of that VCR so I'm happy. And I got a new symphony out of that day, so again I'm happy. Life is what you make of it and you only get one try; I choose to take the good and run with it.

Begging for it

A couple of years ago I was standing in line at the local supermarket. Back then I had no job but my wife did so naturally it fell to me to do the cooking and shopping etc. No problem - I enjoy cooking though I fear I drove the family mad in my attempts to do Australian cuisine rather than American.

So there I am, standing in line and it comes my turn. The woman at the checkout was new to the job but about my age. She picked up on my accent and asked me where I was from. When I told her I was an Australian she said 'I hear it's pretty primitive over there.' Sigh...

I make no apologies for what I said next; some people are just begging to have their legs pulled. I said 'yeah, we only got electricity last year.' She nodded sagely, secure in her belief that the USA is the best country on the planet...

Friday, July 15, 2005

Making it boot faster

In the mid 1990's I was made supervisor of the system administration team for a large project undertaken by Unisys Australia. Not that I had much to do in the way of supervising; the team were excellent and the last thing they needed was micro management. Heino, as one of the three on the team, may differ but that's how I remember it.

We had about 300 people on the project; of those maybe 200 would have been programmers. I use the word programmer out of charity; of the 200 maybe 150 of them would have been out of their depth. Working exclusively in 4GL's can do that!

So one day I happened to be watching Chris, the senior system administrator, booting a users PC. He was holding the Num Lock key down. Curious, once we were back in the safety of our office I asked him why. 'Oh', he said, grinning, 'I tell users that holding Num Lock down makes the PC boot faster'. 'Uh huh' I said.

But sure enough, I found that lots of users were holding down that key during boot! Sometimes I'd ask them why (particularly the programmers). They'd gravely assure me that it halved boot time! Some people will believe anything!

So, if you ever meet someone who holds the Num Lock key down during boot, now you know where they got it from!

How many times do I have to demonstrate this???

Marc was amazingly close to the mark in his response when I wrote about having to travel to The Philippines yet again. When I arrived at the customer site this morning it was to discover that everything was working as designed.

It seems that someone assigned the same IP address twice. Not just any IP address; no sirree bob, that'd be too easy. It had to be the one assigned to a headless PC in our system. The process it runs has no user interface - it's just there. And, as I was on the road between Manila and Baguio, their network people noticed that it had dropped off the network and investigated, found a duplicated IP address and reassigned it. So far so good - they have systems in place to notice these things. (Let's not ask why they don't use DHCP in a network of thousands of systems).

So, as already noted, it was all up and running when I arrived this morning. Annoying but there you have it. Except that this was just the start of the annoyances. Because nothing would do but that I demonstrate, once again, the entire system from go to whoa. The exact same demonstration I did on June 23rd this year. It takes a couple of hours in total, which isn't too bad, except that I have to wait a couple of hours for machine 1 to be available and then wait another couple of hours for the second machine to be available and then yet more time for another machine to be available.

That's this customer in a nutshell. Loud yelling if something doesn't work quite right but when you spend the 40 hours to get here suddenly the machine that isn't quite up to the mark is essential to production and they couldn't possibly interrupt production to allow time on it.

And no amount of explanation could convince the customer that he was wasting my time. If they were paying cold hard cash for the waste of time it wouldn't be quite so bad but this is a warranty job and no, I have no say in whether it's judged to be within the scope of the warranty or not.

So all I could do was grit my teeth, smile the insincere smile of the poor bastard caught between a rock and a hard place and do the demo again.

I wonder if I'll have to demo it again next month if someone duplicates the IP address again?

Thursday, July 14, 2005

The Baguio Country Club

When I'm in Baguio I normally stay at the Manor Hotel, Camp John Hay, but they're fully booked and didn't get my reservation in time. It's my own fault; I emailed someone asking them to book instead of phoning the hotel in person. A good thing, methinks, that I no longer email a request to someone else to book my driver; I do that in person. Not having a reservation at the hotel is one thing; being left at Manila Airport waiting for a driver who doesn't arrive because he didn't know he's wanted is another thing entirely.

So I'm staying, for the nonce, at the Baguio Country Club (BCC). A nice enough place but I thought places like this had disappeared around about the time Queen Victoria died (as it happens this place was founded 4 years after Her Majesty passed away).

I'm a 'guest' and they never let me forget that I'm a humble subsidiser of the 'members'. I can be standing in line and a 'member' appears and suddenly I get preempted. Now I know how a lower priority thread feels!

Even booking in here was frustrating. As aforementioned, I thought I had a reservation at the Manor so up there I fronted. Shrugs and profuse apologies; no room for me tonight. They suggested I try BCC. So over there I go and they ask me if I have a reservation. So far as I knew I didn't. Ah, do I have a membership? Nope! Thinking this was a polite fiction rather like the fiction that goes with getting a drink in the City of Richardson, Texas, I offered to join. Indulgent smiles but no dice. To become a member probably involves being nominated by an existing member and not being blackballed. So with the polite shrugs and apologies aforementioned they ushered me out the door just as my driver disappeared into the night. But I'll give them their due, they didn't leave me there to wonder what I was to do next; they rang the gate and turned my driver back!

Then came a confusing series of conversations held mostly in Tagalog between my driver, his boss and the people here, partly on the phone, where it was established that I had in fact been booked into here. This is where the polite fiction returns. My 'member' sponsor is in fact the young lady working behind the counter. When my reservation at the Manor proved unobtainable a reservation was made for me here but no one told me so the people here thought I was an unexpected supplicant. Now I very much doubt the young lady working behind the counter is in fact a 'member'. I might be wrong but it sure feels like chicanery.

Chicanery or not I actually like the place. The showers have reasonable pressure and the hot water didn't run out. The food is about a hundred times better. The room is nicer and there isn't an insane pianist at the bar belting out muzak favourites at 10 decibels too loud! On the other hand, they don't have wireless internet but given the cost and the difficulty of signing up for it at the Manor it hardly matters.

They both have Gato Negro Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile as the house red wine but it's actually a pretty nice drop for the price.

I leave you with two quotes, both from the voluminous hotel guide in the room. Every hotel has one of these; usually a compendium of local advertisements, instructions on using the phone, church locations and the room service menu. This one is more thorough than most; it has a set of house rules. I like this one!

'Carrying of firearms:

The carrying of firearms within the Club premises is limited to the Club security guards and Presidential Detail accompanying the President and the Vice-President of the Philippines and those authorised by the Board of Directors.'

I suppose that's one way to advertise the extent of one's clientele! Doubtless there's some restriction on saying 'President Gloria Macopagal Arroyo is a member' so they snuck it into the house rules.

The other quote is even better. It goes...

'Should you wish to take this compendium as a souvenir, please call the Housekeeping for a new copy at a cost of Three Thousand Pesos (Php 3,000.00) only. Thank you.'

I think I have better things to spend US$60 on!

Kamikaze aeroplane charters

There's a charter aeroplane place along the road from Manila to Baguio calling itself the Kamikaze (Divine Winds) whatever (I didn't catch the last part of the name). Dunno about you but the word Kamikaze in there doesn't inspire me with the least desire to give em a try!

As you approach Urdanetta, a small town fairly close to Baguio, you see a sign warning of the imminence of Hugo Boss. 'Hmmm', I wondered, when I saw that sign. 'what's an upscale suit maker doing out here?'. It turns out that whilst it is indeed Hugo Boss it's a restaurant. Go figure!

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

It's Heinos Birthday

Unfortunately, I don't have any embarassing stories about his birthday, at least none that don't involve getting an 18 year old drunk and making him throw up.

So I merely note that he's getting a trifle long in the tooth at 45 years old today.

Happy Birthday mate!!!

From a long way above the Pacific Ocean

I just discovered that Singapore Airlines provide 110 V AC power, at each seat, for laptops, during flight, at least on their Airbus A340/500 flights. Possibly not a discovery I should have been allowed to make! :-)

Because, having discovered this I feel like I just have to use it. You know the deal. If they put a big red button before you and the instruction 'do not push' you'd push it wouldn't you? Thus with access to power. Alas, this laptop, whilst otherwise excellent (it has a DVD burner and a great screen) lasts about an hour on batteries. It's not so much a laptop as a portable computer.

I've just had an excellent dinner. Yeah, it's airline food but it was about a thousand times better than anything served up in a fast food 'restaurant'. How very unnatural, then, to eat it in an environment where just ten centimetres away is a world completely hostile to mammalian life, passing by at about a thousand kilometres an hour.

Unfortunately, even though Singapore Airlines is progressively introducing internet access on their flights (doubtless at an inflated price) they haven't got it working on the LA to Singapore flight yet. I know, I tried and my wireless can't see an access point.

So I'm posting this from a 'laptop access' point in Terminal 2 of Changi Airport. Gotta hand it to the Singaporeans, they certainly know how to throw money at an airport to make it attractive to travellers!

Sunday, July 10, 2005

I knew that

I am 5% Idiot.
Friggin Genius
I am not annoying at all. In fact most people come to me for advice. Of course they annoy the hell out of me. But what can I do? I am smarter than most people.


I promise I'll stop with the quiz posts...

I solved the problem

of how to prevent Andrew milking his sunburn any longer. You'll remember I posted three nights ago about his sunburn. He's now a slight pink but he's been wandering the house shirtless and whining about how it burns, somewhat in the manner of a vampire drenched in holy water.

Earlier today he emerged from the unholy sanctum known as his room, shirtless. In an instant I whipped off my own. Ewwww ewwww was his response.

He responds well to ridicule; a few weeks ago he was doing the gangsta thang, trousers pulled so low the waistband was halfway down his bum. I'm sure you've seen teenagers doing that - the crotch of their pants at about the level of their knees. So I responded in kind. A man of 50 or so wearing his pants in that style looks even more ridiculous! He hasn't done it since!

Thus today with me shirtless. To underline the point I promised that if he appeared at dinner without a shirt on I'd take my trousers off. It worked! He knows I'd do it!

No dear, the other Birmingham

Whilst driving home from the Public Library this afternoon I heard on the news about the evacuation of Birmingham. So as I walked in through the door I mentioned the fact to my wife. She asked 'but why would there be bombs in Alabama?'. My reply was as captioned! :-)

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Two weeks

seems to be about the maximum length of time I get to spend at home. Uh huh, I'm going back to The Philippines again, Monday evening. This time it's to investigate what changed in the system or network configuration to make the software I left running successfully two weeks ago stop working. Since software doesn't go off and the hardware still seems to be working that only leaves a configuration and/or network change. Well that's the theory.

Things were changing by the hour today. At noon I was going back to Baguio City, at one I was going to Japan, at two both trips were in doubt (yeah, like I believed that :-) ), at three France was being kicked around, at four Japan was back on the agenda and at five they finally decided on Baguio. This time I dug my heels in; I'd promised to be here Sunday for another family outing and the boss reluctantly agreed I could travel on Monday.

Let's see where I end up middle of next week. The way things change at the office it could be Iceland!

How American am I?

You Are 23% American

You're as American as Key Lime Tofu Pie Otherwise known as un-American! You belong in Cairo or Paris... Get out fast - before you end up in Gitmo!

Not very, it would seem!

Thursday, July 07, 2005


You might have noticed that when I wrote about our trip through Northern Arizona this past weekend I made no mention of Andrew or Morgan (hereinafter known as the little bastards). That's because they weren't with us. Their father and they made the trek to Palm Springs to visit their grandmother and thence to Long Beach, California.

I can't honestly say I was sorry; sometimes I need a break from them. This being a step-father isn't all it's cracked up to be. It's not like the little bastards are going to show any gratitude to some old fart who's going to give them a hard time about cleaning up their rooms, turning off the lights and expecting them to do their homework!

They came home today. When I walked in through the door after a day at the office I could scarcely believe my eyes. Andrew walking around shirtless is not a sight one wants to behold if only because he still has a flat stomach. And both of them one or two shades more red than a well cooked lobster.

So Andrew made a song and dance show of the whole thing. He's sunburned and he wants to be sure everyone within whining distance knows about it. I fear I was somewhat unsympathetic; sunburn is akin to a hangover in my book, self inflicted and deserving of about the same amount of sympathy. None! I could understand if he'd been brought up in arctic climes but this is Phoenix, the land of 330 days a year sunshine. I cannot believe it possible that anyone can be almost 14 years old here and not know that prolonged exposure to sunlight in summer without sunblock causes burns.

Thus, when it came time to clear away after dinner he tried the 'I'm sunburned ploy'. I tried it myself, many years ago. Got the same reply he got. I suppose this means I've become my own worst nightmare, my own step-father. And doubtless he (Misery Guts) had similar thoughts when he was unsympathetic to me; and his father and his father unto the nth generation...

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Cheeky buggers

We had some new oven shells delivered last week. These are large metal boxes maybe 10 feet tall, 10 feet wide and 8 feet deep. They come from Taiwan packed in wooden crates and wrapped, inside the crate, within metal/plastic foil.

So today they were uncrating one of em. Being that large one of the guys, a Mexican, was standing on the top helping to prise the sides of the aforesaid wooden crate apart. Today it was about 110°F and bright sunshine. Standing up there on top with the metal/plastic foil in place it must have been considerably warmer. So out I came for a smoke, lurking in the shade beside the building. The Mexican guy spots me.

'Hey mate, it's bloody hot up here' he said, in a very credible imitation of my accent. Geeze, now even the Mexicans are making fun of me :-)

Don't look at em

When you're in Navajo Country they're at pains to advise that the Navajo consider eye-contact to be rude. Listen to the tourist info on AM radio and they'll warn that a Navajo will look away or at the ground whilst paying full attention.

Good to know but even so, it's hard, having grown up in a society that equates staring with attention to overcome that prejudice. Thus, when we stopped at a tourist trap inside Monument Valley to buy some Indian Fry Bread (delicious I might add) we were talking with one of the traders. It was disconcerting to hold a conversation with someone who wasn't looking at me! Try it sometime. As an experiment I tried exactly that at work today; it was amusing to see the efforts they made to gain my attention; not realising they already had it.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005


We've just got back from a short tour of Northern Arizona. We'd originally planned to take in The Painted Desert but it kinda grew from there. First up was the meteor crater. There's a shot of it in my latest gallery, here[^] but I fear it doesn't do it justice; there's only so much you can do using a cheap point and shoot camera. It's also a trifle expensive to visit but I imagine if you've got one of the very few well preserved craters around you can pretty much charge what you want.

We left Phoenix late and so we only made it as far as a tiny town called Holbrook. As a town it's much like it's namesake in Southern New South Wales. It doesn't have a submarine but it does have a motel that takes the Indian (Native American) theme to an extreme. In retrospect I wish we'd stayed there; as it was we chose possibly the worst Best Western in the world. I kid you not, the room had tincture of mens room perfume. I also couldn't resist taking a shot of the Navajo County Sheriffs (sic) Posse building (Home of the Hashknife Gang). I have to assume hash had a different meaning in those days!

Next morning we took off to The Petrified Forest. You can only look at so many rocks that look like trees (or is it trees that look like rocks). Or at least that's how my wife felt about it. You enter at the southern entrance with the prospect of 25 miles or so of winding rural road ahead of you. We stopped at the visitor centre about a mile in and did the 1 mile walking track. Interesting stuff. Then we moved on to the next stop and did the 1 mile walking track. Moved on and took the side road to Blue Mesa. At this point my wife decided she'd done enough walking so I was left to walk it alone.

Awesome walk. She missed the best walk of the whole trip! See the photos. The walk goes downhill a few hundred feet and then you're in an almost dead landscape of dried clay hillocks. The shadows of crows flying overhead waiting for you to peg out and, at one point, I saw something perched on a hillside that at first I thought was just another piece of petrified wood. But it seemed somehow odd that there would be just one piece alone and so it proved, for as I got closer I could see that it was what I think was a Gila Monster.

We moved on and, coming over a gentle rise, there was The Painted Desert. I took some shots but they don't really show it so I haven't posted them. To be honest, it was a little disappointing but now I can see why they lump it in with The Petrified Forest. On the other hand, that first glimpse over the rise is worth seeing.

From there we went East and then North to Canyon De Chelly. I'd never heard of the place before but it was definitely worth a visit. Not for those of us who are scared of heights; there are one or two viewing points where I found it difficult to get closer than my own height from the edge. But one can't take decent photos that far from the edge so I forced myself closer.

We'd already gone further than we'd planned but Monument Valley was enticingly close. My wife has driven past the area (where driving past is defined as within a hundred miles) more than once without having the time to take the detour, and I've seen this movie hundreds of times[^] so it was a given that I wanted to see in real life what I'd seen in a brief section on the big screen. I wasn't disappointed!

I'm not great at estimating size when I'm being dwarfed but those monuments must be hundreds of feet high! We'd timed it just right, arriving about 4PM with another 4 hours of daylight to go. There's a dirt trail, driveable by most vehicles, of 17 or so miles that takes you right down through them. The area is right on the Arizona Utah border; indeed, to enter the park you have to drive through a mile or so of Utah state; I could feel the alcohol restrictions closing in on me. Just kidding!

I can't find the words to express just how beautiful and awesome that area is. All I can say is that if you are within driving distance it's something not to be missed.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Think twice before hitting send!

Back in 1992 when I worked for Unisys I kept getting cc'd on emails from one R Simpson. It was mostly irrelevant rubbish. After a couple of months I'd had enough so I wrote a snippy reply something along the lines of 'please remove me from your email list - I have better things to do than read your insane rants'.

My finger was poised over the send button (this wasn't a Windows system) and then suddenly I remembered; 'R Simpson - isn't he the CEO?'. I think I did the fastest delete of an email ever!!!

8 bucks

Half a year or so after I started working for Hewlett Packard Melbourne the annual report for FY 1979 was distributed to we workers. Among the many interesting tidbits of information were the salaries paid to the highest of the high. One figure really caught my eye; it was the salary paid to the CEO. US$499,992

Possibly I was inspired by a recent rereading of Norman Lindsay's[^] 'A Curate in Bohemia' where the hapless Bunson regrets the obdurate refusal of his editor to raise his weekly stipend from 3 and ninepence to 4 shillings.

Being a mere 8 bucks short of the half million a year seemed perverse in the extreme so I thought I'd do something about it. I wanted to start a fund whereby 800 of us could donate one US cent and do the CEO proud. Strange to relate, I found it impossible to interest even 10 people in the project.

My Norman Lindsay collection is one of the very few things I brought with me to the US.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Buying an overcoat

In June 1998 Heino and I were lunching in the city. We both worked for Unisys at the time; me as a long time employee, Heino on a contract that just kept being renewed. We, along with Joe, made it quite the lunchtime ritual. We had our standard route from the office on Collins Street, through the Block Arcade and thence through the Royal Arcade and across the Bourke Street Mall to Myers, ending up at the lunch counter where we'd buy whatever roast meat roll tickled our fancy that day.

On that particular day, which I fancy was probably June 10th (I know it was a Wednesday) it was more than usually cold and the wind made it feel a lot colder. On the way to Myers we'd passed a mens clothing shop in the Block; they had overcoats on sale for $50 each; an absolute bargain. We'd even stopped and fingered the fabric before letting hunger get the better of us.

Now you have to understand that we had quite the ritual going by this time. We'd been doing this for a year and a half and our return route was out of Myers, across the Bourke Street Mall aforesaid, through the Royal Arcade, thus rewinding our steps so far. But when we got to the Block Arcade we'd turn left instead of right and ended up at the Australia Arcade. We'd so ritualised it that we lit a cigarette under a particular sign in the Royal Arcade knowing that we'd be stubbing the butt out at a particular ashtray in Collins Street.

Upon entering the Australia Arcade we could either go right or left. Which way didn't really matter because we'd just do a circle through the arcade and exit via the same entrance. so we came up with a way of deciding, one you'd never guess in a million years without knowing us. We waited until we were on the escalator that took us down to the food court in the arcade and halfway down I'd ask 'which side did you dress today'? The answer determined our turn! Strange to relate, we mostly turned to the right!

On the way back on this particular day we missed the entire ritual. Those overcoats were on our minds! The fact that a particularly attractive young lady was the salesperson had nothing whatsoever to do with the purchase!

The newish car continued

We collected our newly purchased car, after it's first bout of repairs, yesterday, Wednesday morning. Well, I was at the office; my wife collected it. I don't know what work was done but they claimed it was upwards of a thousand bucks worth. I'm sure they're quoting retail but of course it didn't really cost them that much unless you're talking lost opportunity costs.

When I got home the first question my wife asked was 'should I be worried about the 'check engine' light being on'?

By sheer coincidence I'd been listening to something on talk radio that very morning where the amazing (to me at any rate) statistic was quoted that 20 million people are driving around the US with the check engine light on. I'm not sure I believe the figure's that high but I certainly don't need a talk radio statistic to think that maybe if that light is on and the car's still in warranty that it might be a good idea to take it back.

So it went back this morning. This time it is, apparently, the catalytic converter. We were given the choice, drive it around until next week and take it back for the repair or take a loaner car. My wife rang to ask what I thought was best.

Now this is a big weekend coming up in the US - Independence Day next Monday and we're going to spend the weekend out of town, just the two of us, driving through Northern Arizona and the painted desert. I've seen it from 11 Km up and it looked amazing; I'm sure it'll look just as amazing at ground level. Total mileage will be somewhere between 1 and 2 thousand miles.

The decision was really a no-brainer; would you rather clock up 1500 miles on your own car or a loaner? It helps that the loaner's a really nice car; some Mitsubishi model I'm unfamiliar with but quite luxurious.

I reckon we've eaten up all the profit on our purchase for the dealer. That'll teach em to check future cars a little better methinks!

There's a hint there by the way; I'll be out of town this weekend so no posts. But I hope to have some local colour to write about next week, and some photos to post.