Gold Coast redux

Ruby and I went up to the Gold Coast last weekend for a break away from Sydney.  We’d booked some cheap tickets with Tiger for $20 each one-way, i.e. return tickets for 2 people Sydney to Gold Coast for the princely sum of $80 in total. Getting to and from Sydney airport and Coolangatta cost more than the flights!

Just like the last time we were in the Gold Coast (back in 2006) the weather was absolutely terrible. It rained every day we were there, although Saturday had nice weather most of the day. At least it wasn’t overly humid.

The thing about the Gold Coast is that there really isn’t a huge amount to do unless you want to do the theme parks. So we went to a theme park on the Sunday. Ruby likes rollercoasters and I hate them. She loves to torment me by making me go on them with her. Luckily (for me), she didn’t feel so well after our first ride on the Superman rollercoaster, so that ended up also being our last ride of the day.


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Sleep deprivation

Seriously. Not enough sleep. I feel constantly tired.

Such a busy week this week. We got back from Perth at 6:30am on Monday, and went straight to work. I was chain-drinking coffee all day, which barely kept me awake. The killer was my economics lecture after work from 6-9pm. I was definitely nodding off, but after a mid-lecture coffee (they supply instant coffee with sugar and fresh milk, both of which I have when drinking instant coffee), I managed to struggle through it all.

The kicker though was that when I got home (after deciding that I couldn’t be bothered spending 8 minutes to heat up a Lite n Easy microwave dinner) I then proceeded to lay in bed for about 2 hours before I could fall asleep.

Damn coffee.

Anyway, today (Tuesday) I went to yoga after work, which was actually a pretty good session. I put it down to the lower humidity, which meant I wasn’t as fatigued, although I still sweated buckets as normal.

Tomorrow I have class (accounting).

Thursday I’m taking Ruby for a surprise.

And then Friday to Sunday we’re off to the Gold Coast.

I’m not quite sure when I’ll get time to read my notes for Monday’s lecture…

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Brunch in Surry Hills

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been trying out various brunch places in Surry Hills. So far we’ve hit about 10 of them, and for the most part they’ve been very good. Prices are also generally pretty stable – between $40-50 for two people. One of us will be sure to post something up once we’ve gotten together enough inspiration to write a few words to accompany the photos.

Where to go tomorrow?  Not to worry, we still haven’t exhausted all the possibilities yet…

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As I’ve previously blogged, I’m going to try to blog more often, as it really helps me keep track of where I’ve been, and what I’ve done, and importantly, when things happened, for future reference.

Another thing that helps me a lot is my paper diary.  I started off using a paper diary in 2009 which worked really well.  For 2010 I also used a diary for most of the year.  Somewhere along the way I switched to using my iPhone as a diary.

When I was using a paper diary, many people asked me why I didn’t use an electronic diary.  They were quite surprised that I was using such a primitive method for keeping track of appointments and dates.  My response is that I like the tactile feeling of a diary, and the fact that I can see at a glance what’s happening that week (I use a weekly view diary), and can quickly see what’s coming up.  On the iPhone, the built-in diary app is useless as it doesn’t have a weekly view, and the monthly view is useless.  There’s a list view of events, but it doesn’t give a good sense of time.

I’ve had a brief play around with the iPad diary app, and I think it may work better for me, but until I get an iPad, I’ll stick with my paper diary thank you very much.

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Christmas 2011

“So this is Christmas, and what have we done?”

I can’t believe it’s the end of 2011 already.  It’s been a very eventful year for me, spread out over three continents.  This time last year I was in London, enjoying a small Christmas gathering with friends, in the freezing cold.  I was at T’s house with R and C, eating lots, and playing mah-jong until the early hours, then at R’s house, eating junk food, baking, and watching Glee.  Ruby was in Singapore, spending a hot and humid Christmas with her family.

Right now, I’m also enjoying a small Christmas gathering with friends, but in the moderate and humid heat of Australia.  Ruby and I are spending Christmas up with our friends L&P in Newcastle (the one in Australia a few hours drive north of Sydney).  We’ve spent the last couple of days chilled out at home, watching some traditional Christmas fare (Invader Zim’s Christmas episode, Nightmare Before Christmas, and Love Actually), eating (roast turkey for Christmas lunch, roast lamb for Christmas dinner), and drinking (Hendrik’s and tonic mostly).

The difference a year makes.

January to June of this year I was in London, July to September in Australia, Hong Kong and China, and since September I’ve been in Sydney.  I was working in London up until a week before I left; my last day at work was June 24.  I haven’t worked since then.  In addition to working during the weekdays, I was travelling almost every weekend.  I managed to cover a lot of ground: Bruges, Berlin, Paris, Florence, Bologna, Cinque Terra, Pisa, Krakow, Budapest, Cornwall, Copenhagen, Lucerne, Interlaken, Barcelona (again), and Granada.  I flew out of London for the final time on July 3rd.

I was in Perth for my parent’s 60th birthdays (their birthdays are within 9 days of each other, and in fact, they met in primary school!), and then flew out to Hong Kong, where I spent the next 2 months.  In Hong Kong I applied for my permanent residency (which I didn’t get, but I did get my Right of Abode – more information here), travelled into China, and just generally chilled out.  I made new friends, finally met people I’d only had phone calls and emails with from work, and caught up with old friends that either live in Hong Kong now or were passing through.  I also got to spend more time with my uncle and aunt in Happy Valley, catch up with other uncles, aunts, and cousins, and generally wander around Hong Kong.  Had a few drunken nights, ate lots of good food, and sweated heaps in the hot and humid Hong Kong summer.

I finally had the good fortune to be able to travel up to Beijing, where A and C were kind enough to put me up for two weeks in their apartment.  It was a great chance to catch up with A, who I hadn’t seen in years, and just chill out in one of the most up-and-coming cities in the world.  Later that month, I was again in luck as Mum and Dad finally retired, and to celebrate, we organised to participate in a tour of Shanghai, Suzhou, Wuzhen, Hangzou, Nanjing, Wuxi for 9 days.  I really liked travelling with Mum and Dad, and although this was a traditional Chinese tour (i.e. the type where there are numerous compulsory “shopping stops”), the shopkeepers weren’t too pushy and going for the hard sell.  We also had fellow travellers who were easy to get along with, which always helps.

On September 23rd, I flew out of Hong Kong.  I was sad to go, as I really did enjoy life in Hong Kong.  After all, I wasn’t working, and spending my days as a free man, eating, drinking, travelling, and just socialising – what’s not to like?  However, I was also really excited to be returning to Sydney and to Ruby, who had been in Sydney since April, and to catch up with all my old friends.

Initially, I thought I’d be able to find work within a month, but it wound up taking almost three months before I was able to find a job.  In the meantime, I was able to keep myself busy being the house-husband, cooking, cleaning, and doing the laundry.  It was also a good period for Ruby and I to get used to living together again.  I always had something to keep me occupied and I was never bored.  I was also able to take a brief trip back to Perth to help out a family friend with some IT issues for her business.

So 2011 has been a very busy and transient time for me.  It’s definitely been a year of change.  I’ve had lots of time to think about life, and I’ve worked my way through different thoughts, ideas, and opinions.  I’ve had six months off work which has drained my savings.  However I think I’m in a much better place now, and it feels like I’m making a clean start.  I know though, that 2011 will be a year that I will miss very much.

Right now, I’m sitting on L&P’s couch, typing away this blog entry while everyone else is watching Mushi Shi, enjoying the air-conditioning and G&T with lots of ice, quite content with life.

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Health insurance

The other thing I was shopping around for today was health insurance.  For those people that find technology complicated, I have the same feeling towards insurance policies.  It’s just impossible to compare apples to apples, and while the insurers do tend to use the similar vernacular, the implementation of their benefits aren’t so clear cut. For example, many insurers have preferred providers for which they have contracts with.  It’s not clear whether these providers charge more, or whether it’s better off going to another provider that charges less, although they aren’t a preferred provider, and thus the insurer may pay out less in benefits.  The paying out of benefits is also confusing, as they all pay out different limits, and at different percentages.  Bupa (ex-MBF) has even more confusing ideas, which, although they sound good, make it hard to compare with others.  There is the idea of loyalty bonuses, so that each year you stay with them they will give you higher maximum benefit limits, and also pay out slightly higher percentages.

Anyway, perhaps it’s just that I’ve been very tired today, walking throughout the city, but after I got home and started looking at the brochures, my brain just switched off.  R was amazing though.  Despite a full day’s worth of work, she was still able to comprehend what was going on in those damn brochures at 10pm.

I’m sure I can decipher them.  Tomorrow.

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We’ve been meaning to buy a GPS for a while now. Although we don’t own a car in Sydney, we do make use of the excellent GoGet car share service. You join up as a member, put down a $500 deposit, and pay your membership fee, either $0 or $29 per month. You then pay an hourly rate for taking out the cars ($29 plan has cheaper hourly rates). There are thousands of cars all parked in dedicated bays dotted around the city.

Anyway, back to the GPS. It’s been many years since I left Sydney (left in December 2005) and so although I recognise a lot of roads, and have a general feel for the direction I should be headed in, I don’t know exactly how to get to various places. Back in 2005 I relied on maps. Now it’s 2011 I think it’s time to get a bit more modern.

Today I spent a good part of the day deliberating whether to get a physical unit, or buy the TomTom app on iPhone. HW loves his TomTom app, and I also love the idea of having one less gadget, so I was already leaning towards it. However, I was on the verge of buying a Navman My60T which is an older model, for $128 from Harvey Norman. I mean, it’s $128 for a GPS! Crazy! In the end I decided against it, as it only came with 2 years worth of map updates, and they cost a lot of money, versus the iPhone app which has free map updates. If the Navman had 3 years of maps, then I’d likely be playing around with it right now instead of blogging.

The iPhone TomTom app costs $74.95, plus a dashboard mount cost me $15. However Harvey Norman also had 25% off iTunes giftcards, so $80 of iTunes credit cost only $60. Thus in the end my iPhone TomTom setup will cost me only $75, which is great!

Oh, and with regards to power, we’re lucky enough to already have a couple of cigarette lighter adapters, so no need to buy another one, but figure in about $25 for one otherwise.

I still haven’t downloaded the app, but I’ll report back how it all performs.

Now we just need some places to go…

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Back in Sydney

Back in the day, when blogging was all the rage, I maintained this blog quite religiously, most notably between 2003 and 2005.  These years happened to coincide with when I was living in Sydney.  I found this blog to be a great way to disseminate photos and writings of what I was doing to my friends everywhere, including back home in Perth.  This was before Facebook.

After I moved to London in 2007, Facebook was starting to get popular, and I was updating mainly on Facebook.  Having everyone linked together was an amazing thing back then, but something we now take for granted.  As a result, I didn’t really blog much.  Every so often, I’d post something on the blog, saying that I’d start more regularly update, but just like commitments to go to the gym, they fell by the wayside, and this blog remained desolate and empty.

Well, now I’m back in Sydney.  I’ve been back for almost two months now, and as I’m still unemployed (boy the job market is tight out there!) I do have a lot of spare time on my hands.  Mind you, my last day of full-time work (who am I kidding, any work) was June 24, almost 5 months ago now.  Besides from finding a job, keeping the house clean and tidy, and cooking for R, I’ve also started picking up a few things to occupy myself.

For a start, I’m trying to get back into playing the piano.  Our housemate is also a pianist, and we have a gorgeous old upright piano in our living room.  I’ve been practicing my scales and re-learning some pieces that I enjoy.

Something else I’ve been trying to do is some more baking.  This is a double-edged sword however, as both R and I are trying to lead a healthier lifestyle, and me cranking out sugary and buttery treats just doesn’t jive with that goal.  As a consequence, I’ve limited myself to baking just once per fortnight, and in addition, I give away most of my output to R’s colleagues and our friends.

I’m also trying to learn some new programming languages.  This has been somewhat of a challenge as I’ve not been able to sit down in one place and concentrate for a long period of time.  (Have I developed ADHD since I’ve been off from work?)  I’ve downloaded and started exploring a bit of Ruby on Rails and Spring.  I’ve also wanted to play with iPhone development (Objective C), but as we don’t have ADSL, it’s not been possible for me to download the 3GB+ XCode package which I need.

Apart from all these, I’d also like to get back to writing.  I used to do a bit of writing, and while I’d never claim to be a novelist of any calibre (or even a mini-novelist), I do enjoy pounding the keyboard and putting coherent thoughts together.  Resuscitating my blog seemed a natural way to do this.

And you never know, perhaps now I’m back in Sydney, the city will inspire me to be more regular in my writing.

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Been getting into baking recently, as it’s so therapeutic. It’s very rewarding, when after a nice session of putting ingredients together and applying some heat via the oven, you end up with very delectable baked goods!

The only downside here is that I’m sure to put on weight; after all, it’s hard to resist the temptation of freshly baked goods!

Keep up with my new baking habit here.

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It’s September, which for me is the month of travel. So far Ruby and I have spent 9 days in France, and just now a weekend in Prague. On Friday we’ll be spending 3 days in Munich for the craziness that is Oktoberfest followed by 6 days exploring Austria.

I’ve been in London now for almost 3 years. I’ve been wanting to come to London since about 2002. I had grand visions of working for lots of money to support taking weekends to go travelling. I thought, yeah one year of doing that and I’ll be satisfied, then it’d be time to come home to Perth.

Well at least I’m doing the travelling part now, albeit later than planned, with one year stretching out to three. The thing about travelling weekends to discover new cities I’m finding is that it’s hard work. You work your normal Monday to Friday (and normal these days means about a 10 hour day as standard) then fly out after work on Friday, get into the new city late because your cheap no-frills airline flight got delayed, get a few hours sleep then wake up early Saturday to do a full day’s worth of exploring and walking around. That night, buggered after all the walking and feet developing blisters, try to find that restaurant recommended in your Lonely Planet guide that is supposedly good and won’t rip you off too much, attempt to decode a foreign menu while hoping to hell the staff speak enough English to not have to resort to the point-and-hope-you-get-something-edible method of ordering, then find a bar/pub, and have a few drinks to unwind (flipping to the language section in the LP guide to see what the local word for ‘beer’ is). Finally go back to the hostel/hotel for some sleep, then wake up the next day for a repeat performance on Sunday, topped by figuring out how to get to the airport (try and navigate the foreign public transport or play the game of avoid-getting-ripped-off-by-the-cab-driver). Get home late on a Sunday night, sleep, go back to work again for another week.

Sure it’s tough, but hey, I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a weekend. Except possibly sleeping. Ah, sleep, the golden elixir I crave so.

At least this week it’s a short week – we’re flying out Friday morning to Munich.

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