16 November 2011

A trip to the doctor

I had the first part of my class 3 medical yesterday, part of the requirement of the ATC job.

There are three types of aviation medical in Australia. The class one is for professional pilots, those that fly for airlines, charter companies, ag pilots, etc. The class two is for private pilots and those learning to fly. I used to have one of those, but it expired about five years ago, since I haven't flown a plane for years and couldn't see the point of renewing it. The class three is for ATCs.

Anyway, the medical was in the city. I don't go into the city very often these days since I left my old job over three years ago. Boy am I glad I don't work in the city anymore.

The medical involved filling out pages and pages of questions on a form and then a few tests by a nurse. I swear the form filling took longer than the actual examination by the doctor. I did the usual reading of the eye chart, had my blood pressure taken, got weighed and measured, and had to do a colour vision test. All stuff most people have probably done heaps of times throughout their lives. There was a hearing test where I sat with a set of headphones on and pressed a button each time I heard a beep. I could also hear the air-conditioning and the occasional car door slamming, which meant the test conditions weren't exactly ideal.

The one test that I'd never had done before was an ECG. I'd expected this to be a stress test on a treadmill or exercise bike, but all I had to do was lay down and have sensors stuck to me. Now, I have a fairly hairy chest. The nurse put the first two sensors on my chest, then decided there was too much hair and she was going to have to get the clippers out. So she ripped the first two off. I nearly jumped off the table, something that isn't easy to do when you're lying down. I now have a weird looking chest with bald patches between the nipples.

Another test that isn't part of the class 3, but is a requirement of the job was a drug and alcohol test. This, as you can imagine, is simply a case of peeing in a jar. There are different reagents in the jar that test for different drugs, like cocaine and marijuana. I learnt long ago not to go for a pee just before having a medical. You end up standing in the gents for a hell of a long time if you do. Trust me, I've made the same mistake twice before, but not recently.

The rest of the medical was fairly straight forward. The doctor checked my eyes, listened to my lungs, made sure all my joints were working, etc. Then she gave me a referral for blood tests and an ophthamological exam. The blood tests are to check my blood sugar and cholesterol levels. The eye test is a bit more involved, to the point I won't be able to drive after it, so Donna will have to go with me. I've had the same test done before a few years ago, and it's not pleasant.

Once all that's done and I have my certificate from CASA that'll be the final hurdle. It'll then just be a case of packing up and moving to Melbourne.

05 November 2011

ATC the journey

I thought I'd give you a quick run down on what's involved in getting an ATC job here in Australia.

Back in July, I put in my initial application via the Airservices Australia website. About three weeks after that, I got an email inviting me to do an online test. This was a bit like an IQ test, it involved recognising groups of numbers and letters, mental arithmetic against the clock, and some written comprehension stuff. I wasn't sure I'd done all that well with numbers and letters thing, but three weeks later I got another email congratulating me and inviting me to book a time for a phone interview.

Well, the day of the phone interview came around, it was booked for 3PM. 3PM came around and no call. 3.10PM came around and still no call. By about twenty past I was starting to get a little worried and was typing up an email to find out if anything was wrong. I'd already checked my resume to make sure they had the right number. Then the phone rang. It turned out the building in Canberra that the HR person who called me worked in had been evacuated. False alarm.

Again, I didn't think I'd done all that well. Some of my answers were a bit feeble. The next morning though I had another email, this one was inviting me to a day of interviews and assessments. A whole day.

If you get this far you're doing well. Someone on my assessment day said that they had around 1800 applicants originally. They only get 6 people in for each assessment and they had 3 days of assessment in Brisbane that week.

So, on the third week of September, I rocked up at Brisbane Centre, right next to the control tower at Brisbane Airport. I'd been there the week before and taken a wrong turn, ending up at the domestic terminal. I did it again this day as well, but still got there in time.

The six of us introduced ourselves and sat around chatting before the assessments started. It turned out I wasn't the only one that had taken a wrong turn on the way. The good thing about this kind of selection is that we weren't competing against each other. If we were all suitable for the position we'd all get in, so in a way, it would be in our interests to work together.

We were then introduced to the assessors, some were HR people and the others were experienced ATCs, then we were each given a timetable for the day.

My assessment started with a couple of computer based tests, including a rerun of the one I'd done at home, to make sure I could do it under different conditions and also to make sure I hadn't got someone else to do the test at home.

Then I had a bit of a break in the lunch room, after which I went upstairs and did the simulation exercise, with one assessor giving me instructions and scenarios that I had to deal with and the other taking notes. Then it was back to the lunch room.

Then came the group exercise, to see how we worked as a team. We must have worked pretty well together, since we apparently got a lot further through it than most groups.

Next was a one on one interview. This was a behavioural interview in the STAR format. Basically it's situation or task, action, result. I was asked about different situations, what actions I'd taken and the result of those actions. Stuff like, give me an example where you provided good customer service. Really easy to do when you work in a supermarket.

The last bit was a briefing exercise. Basically I was given some paperwork with information on it, given 20 minutes to prepare, then I had to do a 10 minute presentation.

If my descriptions are a bit vague, that's because we were asked at the beginning not to divulge too much of the assessment process, lest we give other applicants an unfair advantage. I know some applicants don't listen to that and tell others what goes on. I suspect it's more the unsuccessful applicants that do that though. Kind of a case of sour grapes.

Anyway, at the end of the day I was told I should hear something in about 4 weeks. Well 4 weeks came and went, I hadn't heard from my referees to say they'd been contacted, which would have been a sure sign I was a contender. Then on Wednesday my mobile rang while I was at work. When I got home I checked my messages and the missed call was from Airservices Australia. I rang back, but because of daylight savings down south, my call went unanswered.

I emailed my old boss the next morning to see if he'd been contacted. Before he got back to me, I got confirmation that I was in. Then my old boss replied saying, "I meant to let you know..." It turns out he'd been contacted by, not only Airservices, but also the Bureau of Meteorology. So it seems I might get an offer there as well.

So there you go. It took about 4 months from my initial application to getting an offer. I've heard of people having to wait 18 months, so I'm pretty lucky that they've streamlined the recruitment process.

All things going well, I should have an office with a view in around 18 months.

03 November 2011

The right stuff

Remember my recent post about an office with a view?

Well, it seems that several people involved in recruiting at Airservices Australia believe I have what it takes to become an air traffic controller, because this morning I got offered a job. I start on the tower course in May next year.

This means I'll be spending most of next year living in Melbourne, we'll be moving down there just as it's starting to get cold in May. Once I finish the academy training, I'll get posted to a tower somewhere in Australia (we have 28 towers around Oz) for on the job training, then I'll be a fully fledged ATC. I could be the person, when you go on holiday, that lets you land at which ever airport I end up working at. I could even conceivably be the person that gives permission to land to all sorts of royalty, presidents, etc, even John Travolta who flies his own 707 and often comes down under.

Not that I'm going to let the power go to my head. I could end up here.

13 October 2011

The balloon has gone up

I'm not actually sure what that phrase means, I think it has something to do with a situation getting serious. In my case, it has to do with watching a weather balloon being launched at Brisbane airport this morning.

As well as my application to become an air traffic controller, I also have an application in to become a meteorology observer. I have an interview coming up soon, so this morning I went out to the met station at Brisbane airport to see what the observers do.

Around 9am every morning (and again at 9pm) they send up a weather balloon with a radiosonde attached. The radiosonde transmits temperature and humidity data, and the balloon is tracked by radar to get the wind speed and direction at different altitudes. At 3am and 3pm, smaller balloons are sent up without the radiosonde, just to get the wind data.

Above is the balloon ready to be remotely inflated with hydrogen. The reflector is just alfoil stuck to styrofoam and the radiosonde hangs underneath.

If you look closely, you can see the radiosonde hanging below the balloon. It ascends at around 1000ft per minute, so it disappears from view pretty quickly. The radar tracks it automatically until the balloon bursts at around 35000 ft or higher.

The round building above is where the balloon is inflated and released from. The warning light with the yellow sign flashes when the balloon is being inflated, because the hydrogen in the balloon is so flammable. The observers ring the control tower to let them know they're about to launch, but at night the guys in the tower can see the light flashing and already know why they're ringing.

Observations are taken regularly using the gear shown in the photo above. There's stuff there to measure soil temperatures, evaporation rates, air temperature and humidity, cloud heights, horizontal visibility and even a glass ball that burns a piece of paper to measure the amount of sunlight per day. The white thing about a quarter in from the left of the pic is a laser that measures the cloud height.

The round thing above is what they use to measure evaporation rates. It's covered in mesh, probably to stop frogs breeding in it, and they top it up each day to see how much it had evaporated. The thing near the bottom left corner of the pic has five thermometers in it to measure soil temperature at different depths. The thing to the left of the evaporation tank (or pond) is the glass ball that measures the daily sunlight.

Everyone has probably seen the white boxes that hold thermometers, there's one in the middle of the above pic. There's also a couple of rain gauges there. The brown thing near the middle of the pic is actually a museum piece that used to measure rainfall rates on a rotating paper chart.

If I end up getting a job with the bureau, I'll be trained how to use all this gear, and could be doing the job anywhere in Australia, that includes Australia's Antarctic stations, Lord Howe and Norfolk Islands. Or I could end up working at Brisbane airport.

Fingers crossed, the interview is on the 24th.

12 September 2011

An office with a view

How would you like to work in an office with a view like the one below?

That's the view from the tower at Brisbane International Airport, looking west toward the city. I used to work in the city, and all I could see out my window was the walls of other buildings. It's not hard to guess where I went for a visit today.

A couple of months ago, I applied for a job as a trainee air traffic controller. I've gone through the online test stage and the phone interview, and next week I have a full day of interviews and other assessments. If I'm successful there, I'll have a full year of training in Melbourne ahead of me, before returning to Brisbane to finish off my training as an enroute controller. Today I paid the control centre a visit to get an idea of what's involved in the job.

I could explain what goes on at Brisbane Centre, but the Air Services Australia website does a better job of that.

Even though I'm applying as an enroute controller, I still got to spend about an hour up in the tower, and what a view.

Above is the view across Moreton Bay out toward Moreton Island with a couple of Virgin Blue 737s.

The domestic terminal. The international terminal is to the right of the tower.

Off in the distance, behind the refinery, is Wellington Point, where I sometimes paddle the kayak. The big sandy bit is on North Stradbroke Island.

Port of Brisbane, where both my brother and my step-son-in-law work.

SMC, or surface movement control. This is the guy that tells the aircraft where to go while they're still on the ground. To the right of him is a co-ordinator, and to the right of him is the aerodrome controller, the guy that tells aircraft where to go when they're in the air, when they aren't talking to departures or arrivals. I say guys, there are women that do these jobs too, it's just that none were in the tower while I was there.

If you were on an Air New Guinea flight departing Brisbane around 11am today, this is your plane.

If you're ever offered the chance to visit a control tower, I'd highly recommend it, even if it's just a little regional airport. If you're considering working in ATC, then you'd be mad not to organise a visit if you live close enough. In the three hours I was at the airport I had the chance to chat to about nine different people about their jobs. You just don't get that sort of information from chatting to someone on an aviation forum.

I'll keep you posted on my progress through the selection process, however, it may take some time.

25 August 2011

New boat

I've got a new boat.

Well, almost. It's not quite finished yet, but I should hopefully be paddling it by next weekend. but this is what I've been doing for the past month or so.

It's based on the traditional Greenland kayak design, what the Inuits built from driftwood and seal skins, except this one was built from materials I got from the local hardware store and a guy in the states.

The frame is made from Western Red Cedar, that I got from a local supplier, and Tasmanian oak and pine from Bunnings (the local hardware). The skin is ballistic nylon, the stuff they used to make bullet proof vests out of, I got that from a guy in the states that teaches people how to make traditional kayaks, or if you prefer, Qajaqs.

A couple of people have suggested to me that it would be easier to buy one. I've spent a bit under $500 in materials, and almost 80 hours labour so far. To buy a commercially made kayak, with the same performance, custom made to fit me, that I can lift with one hand and put on the roof rack of our Subaru, would cost probably four or five thousand dollars. Even taking into account the time I've spent building it, I'm ahead. And I have a few people that have been following the build asking me where can they place their orders.

It's been probably the most rewarding learning experience I've ever had, and I compare that to my university studies. It's combined learning new skills, planning the different stages of the project, overcoming problems, and getting back to basics. There are no nails or screws on the kayak, it's all held together with dowels and lashing, the same way kayaks have been made for thousands of years.

Anyway, the finished item won't be the same colour as in the pic above, I dyed it this morning, and it'll be given a few coats of poly-urethane (not really traditional) to make it waterproof, but I'll have the satisfaction of knowing I built it myself, and there are several other people that want me to build them one too.

Oh, and if you're used to paddling plastic kayaks, as I am, this one will weigh under 15kg when it's finished, that's for a 16 foot kayak. I'm used to lugging a 33kg kayak onto our roof rack. I can lift the Greenlander up with one hand and carry it on my shoulder.

If you're interested in the building process, I've been blogging about it here.

14 August 2011

Home made tools

The mixer tap in our kitchen has been leaking a bit just lately, so I finally got around to pulling it apart today to find out what size cartridge we need to fix it.

I've never fixed a mixer tap before, and when I went to pull it apart, I discovered the biggest spanner I had, at 1 inch, wasn't big enough. So I went down stairs, grabbed a couple of off cuts from the boat I'm building, and a bit of rope, and made a pipe wrench. It worked surprisingly well.

I was a bit disappointed that Donna didn't jump up and down and say how clever I was, but I guess she's just so used to my genius, that it wasn't any surprise to her.

If you're knew to this blog, the above is sarcasm, the bit about genius is anyway. I thought I was clever.

12 July 2011

New Blog

I joked in my last entry about creating a new blog, just about kayaking. Well, since I'm in the middle of making a paddle for Donna and I wanted to document the process, I figured I'd go ahead and create another one. I'm also planning to build my own kayak, so the blog will also follow that. It probably won't be an ongoing blog, once the kayak is finished I don't plan to post anymore entries, unless Donna says she wants one too, or someone else asks me to build them one. That may change though, we'll see how it goes.

Anyway, if you're interested, have a look at A DIY Kayak.

10 July 2011

A new paddle

This blog seems to always be about kayaking just lately. Perhaps I should start another blog, just on that topic.

But seriously, as I mentioned in my previous post, I'm using a borrowed kayak at the moment, so I can go out for a paddle by myself during the week when Donna's at work. To buy a decent solo kayak I'd be looking at a decent amount of money, or I could build my own for around $300, or even less depending on the materials.

The hard part is getting the right materials. I could go to our local hardware and buy some cheap pine, but getting pieces that aren't full of knots is a problem. There's also the fact that most of it isn't long enough. So until I can find the time to drive out to Ipswich and buy some decent Western Red Cedar from here, I have to make do with working on little projects and relearning all my old woodworking skills from when I was at high school.

Sticking to the kayaking theme, I wanted to make a couple of Greenland paddles. To that end, I managed to find some decent timber from a timber yard nearby.

Two days later, here's the result.

As you can see, it's not like a Euro paddle, what most people would consider a "normal" kayak paddle. It has narrow blades that aren't staggered, and it's all one piece. The main reason paddles have staggered, or feathered blades is to reduce wind resistance on the blade that isn't in the water when you paddle. Because the Greenland paddle's blades are narrower, wind resistance isn't so much of a problem. Because the blade itself is longer than those on a Euro paddle, you still have a decent amount of surface area in the water for paddling. These paddles are really meant for endurance rather than power or speed. After all, once you get a kayak up to cruising speed, you don't really need to paddle all that hard to keep it moving.

The paddle is basically carved out of a solid 4x2 (or really a 95mm x 35mm). As you can see from the next picture, there's a lot of kindling removed from the blank piece of pine.

The original piece of timber I found was twice as wide as I needed, so I got them to rip it down the middle, so I had two pieces. Naturally, when Donna had a feel of the finished product, she was keen to have one of her own.

That's hers on the left, waiting to be carved. Now that I've got the third coat of Linseed oil on mine I'll get started on it.

If they ever break, we'll have no shortage of cricket bats.

25 June 2011

Winter Down Under

It's winter in Australia at the moment. In sub-tropical Brisbane, that means generally good weather and clear blue skies. We get our rain in the summer.

Earlier this week I picked up a kayak on loan from my niece Katrina and her husband Tony. It's been sitting under a tarp in their backyard, unused since Tony bought a new kayak for their tour business. I've been looking around for a kayak I can take out by myself while Donna's at work during the week. I can paddle our two-seater single-handed, but at 33kg it's a popped shoulder waiting to happen getting it on and off the car by myself. The Old Town Nantucket is no light-weight at 27kg, but with a bit of forethought it's manageable, just.

As Donna's been on leave this week, she suggested I take the Nantucket out while she's there to help me load and unload if need be. Kind of a trial run. So I loaded everything into and onto the car and we drove to Wellington Point, about five minutes from home.

Once I was in the water, Donna sat in the car reading "Southern Exposure" by Chris Duff. It's about his solo circumnavigation of the south island of New Zealand in a sea kayak.

Just off Wellington Point is a little island called King Island. It's only really an island at high tide, at low tide you can walk out to it. From where I launched it's about a two kilometre paddle. About half an hour after setting out I was on the beach on the island. I would have got there quicker, but I kept stopping to look at the soft corals on the bottom. The water was so calm, I could see the bottom all the way there.

Off in the distance between those two trees is
Wellington Point, where I'd set out from.

Once I got to the island, I pulled my camera out of the waterproof bag, put the lens cap on my lap and took a couple of photos of the bird life and the beach, then got out of the boat. I took a few more photos of the kayak, then switched off the camera and went to put the lens cap back on. That's when I remembered I'd put it on my lap. I looked in the kayak, hoping it would be in there somewhere, but it wasn't. Then I saw it floating in the water behind the boat. Needless to say, it made the trip back separate from the camera.

These little guys didn't even realise I was there
till I got out of the boat.

Somewhere in there, there used to be a house.

My lens cap.

Back at the car, Donna was engrossed in the book she was reading. She'd just got to a bit where the author was having difficulty landing due to rough seas and a rocky shoreline. That was when I decided to call her on my mobile to tell her how peaceful it was out on the island. She wasn't able to get to her phone in time to answer it, and by the time I tried to ring again, she was trying to ring me. She had visions of me soaking wet, having fallen out of the boat, so she decided to come looking for me. I could hear the relief in her voice when I finally got through.

By the time I got back to the car, Donna was standing on the boat ramp wishing we'd taken out our double kayak instead. I don't think she'll make that mistake again.

11 June 2011

15 minutes of fame

Okay, it wasn't really fifteen minutes and you'd only know it was me if you knew me personally, but I was on the tele recently.

A couple of months ago, my niece Katrina told us one of the local TV shows was doing a segment on their kayaking business and they needed a few volunteers to come along for a paddle on the day. Well I jumped at the chance, not so much because I wanted to be on TV, but it was an opportunity to go for another paddle, and also to see how the show was made.

So on the day I met everyone at our launch site, we spent about an hour on the water, followed by a nice morning tea of tea and muffins while we chatted with the crew.

When the show was aired about six weeks later I was surprised to see they'd filmed me in closeup in a panning shot as I paddled past the camera boat. And I'd spent all that time trying to avoid getting too close to the camera in case it looked like I was trying to get my face on TV.

The video is now online, so if you'd like to watch it go here.

I've watched it so many times, that it probably adds up to 15 minutes now.

21 May 2011

I'm Still Here

Apparently, at 6pm local time*, it was judgement time. It must be true, because a TV evangelist said so, and this is someone that makes his money from knowing all about God and stuff. A shit load of money in fact.

Well, I was at work at 6pm, and not one of my colleagues disappeared in a heavenly tractor beam. What does that say about the people that work there. Or maybe it's just we fillers that are heathen.

I must admit though, around 5:45 pm I heard a voice from above say, "It's time to go Ivy." I was half way to my knees*** when I realised that it was one of the service staff being paged to the back door where those that had finished for the night were being let out of the store.

Not that it would have happened, but I would have been really pissed off if I had be taken up tonight. I would have missed this weekend's episode of Doctor Who. Which reminds me of that episode where all those little smiling blobs of fat where taken up to the space ship.

Sorry if I've offended anyone, but if there is going to be a judgement day, I'm pretty sure it's not going to be predicted by a TV evangelist. I'm also pretty sure the TV evangelists won't be among the chosen.

* Gotta love the local time bit, nice touch. It's like explaining how Santa Claus** can get all around the world in one night.

** I wonder if Santa and God use the same list... and check it twice.

*** Not to pray for redemption, I was filling custard on the bottom shelf.

16 May 2011

What are the workers doing today?

Okay, that's a bit unfair to those that had to go to work today, especially since I had to go to work this evening anyway. But, while a lot of people were at work this morning, Donna and I were 'yaking it up.

Those of you that are regular readers, especially those that are smart enough to subscribe to this blog so they don't have to keep checking back, will remember that we bought a kayak a couple of months ago.

Well, while I was at work on Saturday night, Donna checked the tides and the weather, and decided we were going kayaking this morning. I'm not going to argue with that, especially since I've been itching to go for a paddle for a couple of weeks. I haven't been out on the water since the 17th of last month, that's four weeks ago.

Our intention was to get up nice and early, ahead of the high tide at 8am, drive out to Wellington Point, shown here on Google maps, paddle out to King Island, which is the sandy bit to the north of Wello on the map, and cook up a nice breakfast of bacon and eggs on a portable gas cooker on the beach. Well, it was a bit bumpy when we got to Wellington Point, plus the fact that we didn't get up as early as we'd planned, so didn't have the gas cooker, eggs or bacon with us. So we headed to Tingalpa Creek instead. Tingy is where Donna and I had our first experience of kayaking together, and it's also where we tend to paddle if it's too windy elsewhere, since it's pretty well sheltered. Actually, it's the only place Donna has paddled so far, we need to get out more.

As you can see from the picture below, it was a really nice day for a paddle. That pic was taken as we headed east toward Moreton Bay. We turned right before we got to that channel marker you can see. You probably can't see in the pic, but there's another kayaker way off in the distance. Those clouds were starting to look quite spectacular, from where we were, but didn't amount to much, I thought we might have got some rain from them this afternoon, but we didn't. For those of you that know the area, you could see Manly Boat Harbour off to my left from there.

After we turned right and headed back up the creek, we noticed a few birds soaring around looking for a feed, mostly Brahminy Kites, but we were lucky enough to see an Osprey (see below) up close, plus a couple of kingfishers. Not to mention the odd fish that jumped out of the water nearby every now and then, and the ever present herons and cormorants (also known as shags).

Now if you think I'm having a bit of a dig at the poor buggers that were at work this morning while we were out being at one with nature, you're partly right. But while those poor buggers were on their way home from work, I was on my way to work (for a three and a half hour shift). I did however take every opportunity to mention to my colleagues that I had a lovely morning on the water.

And here's the been there, done that piccies, just before we had a nice cuppa, put the 'yak up on the roof rack and went home. If you're wondering, it's a Q-Kayaks Sprite II, made in New Zealand.

By the way, I took a GPS with us and our top speed was 8.1 kmh, that's not bad for something that's arm powered.

And now for a shameless plug.

If you live in Brisbane, or the Redlands, or you're coming here for a holiday and you'd like to have a similar experience, then check out Redlands Kayak Tours. I'm biased, since my niece Katrina and her husband Tony own the business, but they'll give you an experience you won't forget in a hurry. Hey, they got Donna and I into kayaking, so they must be doing something right. In fact, we bought the kayak off them.

23 April 2011


Have you ever had one of those dreams that seems so realistic you can't remember in the morning whether it was a dream or it really happened?

I had one just like it last night... Apparently.

I work in a supermarket as a filler in the dairy section. As a casual, I usually get a call in the morning asking me to work that evening. If it's not a big load, they don't need the whole team on, so sometimes I get the evening off. If I'm lucky, I sometimes even get two evenings off in a row.

Our store is closed over the Easter weekend, except for today, Saturday. So if I don't work today, that's four whole days off in a row. I don't think I've had that many days off in a row since last September.

Anyway, I woke up this morning and thought, "Damn! I've got to go to work tonight".

I distinctly remembered walking up the back stairs yesterday afternoon and Donna telling me that work had got the load figures for today and I was working. Not that I mind too much, since it's double time and a half today, and the customers would only be in the store for a third of the shift before we closed at 6pm.

Something was nagging at me though. I hadn't heard the phone ring, so how did Donna know I was working. Also, no-one would have been at work yesterday, so how would they have got the load figures. When I checked the phone, the last call from work was on Thursday morning.

But I could remember so clearly the conversation I'd had with Donna yesterday, so I was pretty sure I was working tonight. Then Donna said to me, about half an hour ago, "Work haven't called yet, maybe you've got the night off."

Yes!!! It was a dream. I don't have to work till Tuesday, and it's double time and a half then too. Although, it's not too late for them to ring yet. Fingers crossed.

21 April 2011

2 Billion

If you live in a Commonwealth country, and probably a few other countries as well, you've probably seen in the news that 2 billion people are expected to watch the upcoming royal wedding on TV.

Now, think about that statement for a moment, something your average journalist is not capable of doing. The population of this world we live on is around about 6.7 billion at the moment, might be even as high as 6.9 billion. A recent survey in the states, that's the US of A, recently found that only about 30% of Americans plan to watch the royal wedding. The rest either couldn't give a monkey's, or don't know who Will and Kate are (don't you mean Will and Grace?). What's 30% of 6.7 billion? Ooh yes, it's about 2 billion.

Now if you do a quick Google search on how many people on Earth have access to TV, I did it this afternoon, a very, very rough estimate is that about a sixth of the population are so cursed. One sixth of 6.7 is about 1.1. If you don't believe me, do your own research. The reason these sort of myths abound is because people won't do their own research.

Another statistic I came up with today, is that around 99% of Americans have access to TV. I'm pretty sure that no other country in the world has that kind of saturation. Most so-called developed countries are in the mid to high 80s. So saying that 30% of the world's population is going to watch the wedding is really stretching it. If we extrapolate the 1.1 billion figure, as someone has obviously done with the US survey results, we come up with a figure of 330 million people planning to watch the royal wedding. As I said, that's really stretching it, but that's still a sixth of what they're news media are reporting.

If you want to use another statistic, Donna says she wants to watch the wedding up until Kate arrives, but that's it. So that's 50% of the population in our household, does that extrapolate out to 3.35 billion people watching it until Kate arrives?

Don't get me wrong, I wish the happy couple well. If I watch any of the coverage, I'll be counting how many times some idiot journalist quotes that 2 billion figure.

I should mention here that I studied journalism at university, so in some way I'm qualified to call some journalists idiots. I resisted the urge to graduate. I should also mention that I twice picked up the TV remote instead of my calculator to do my sums, so if my calculations are out, it's because Alan Davies was on the tele and distracted me. He's always on the tele these days. That said, I'm not that far out.

10 February 2011

Cheap Chinese Knock-offs

When we first took our kayak out for a paddle, we took a small pair of binoculars with us. They're a nice little pair that we've used all over the world since Donna got them about five years ago. There's so much birdlife around our waterways, you'd be mad not to take a pair with you.

Because the pair we have is not cheap, we figured it would be a good idea to buy a couple of cheap pairs that we wouldn't worry too much about if we dropped them overboard. To that end, I logged onto eBay and had a look at a few. One set in particular was a pair of Tasco 8x21 with a buy it now price of just under $10 a pair. Tasco are a pretty good brand, they were just the sort of thing we were looking for, so I ordered two pairs, including postage for less than $30.


They finally arrived yesterday, but they won't be going out in the kayak with us.

This is the pair Donna took out of its packaging.

We grabbed a pair each and sat out on the back verandah to see how well they worked. It didn't take long for me to realise that my pair wouldn't focus properly. I could focus on some trees about 50 metres away, but adjusting the focus knob didn't change the focal point, it just went completely out of focus. By this time, Donna had already had a quick play with hers and put it in its pouch, remarking at the time that it didn't fit very well. I grabbed hers to see if they were the same as mine, and as soon as I removed it from the pouch one of the lenses came off in my hand. Shortly after, the focusing knob broke as well.

As you can see from the picture, there's no Tasco logo on them, that's because they're a cheap and nasty copy of these. In fact, they're not even marked as 8x21, they're marked as 10x25.

Am I going to try and get a refund? No, it's not worth it. I won't be buying binoculars that I haven't tried in the shop from now on though. Oh, and the person I bought them off, that's the first time I've ever given negative feedback on eBay.

31 January 2011

You bought a what?

A boat.

Not a big one, a kayak to be exact.

Donna and I have been thinking of getting a kayak for a while. We live so close to the water here with so much opportunity for fishing and boating, that it's a wonder we haven't bought one years ago.

Our niece Katrina, and her husband Tony, told us recently that they had a couple for sale, one of them was a two-seater Q-Kayaks Sprite II. They've also just recently started up a business called Redlands Kayak Tours, doing guided kayak tours in our area, with everything included, even afternoon tea.

What better way to try before you buy, than to do a tour in the boat, especially since neither of us had kayaked before. So, with Wednesday being a public holiday and none of us having to work, we met up with Katrina and Tony and Katrina's mum and dad, Carol and Ray, for a paddle up Tingalpa Creek.

Tony took the above picture for their website at our turn-around point, around 3 kilometres upstream from where we started. That's Donna and I in the double kayak in the middle, Ray on the left and Carol on the right.

By the time we got back to our launch site Donna and I had already decided to buy the kayak. We're now looking forward to lots of exploring on the water. As Ray said on Wednesday, kayaking is the best way to get out on the water, it's cheap, you don't need a trailer as the boat can be carried on the roofrack of your car, you don't have to pay registration, there's very little maintenance to do, and while it's not being used you can hang the boat from the roof of yor garage or sit it on a couple of padded trestles.

If you live in Brisbane or the Redlands, or you're planning on visiting, why not look up Redlands Kayak Tours and come and explore the southern Moreton Bay. It's also a great way to try kayaking if you're thinking of buying one and haven't done it before.

17 January 2011


When the flood waters started to recede last week, there were reports in the news that Bull Sharks had been seen swimming around the streets of Goodna, a suburb of Ipswich. They're often reported a fair way up the Brisbane river, even under normal conditions, and Goodna is on the Brisbane River.

I'm starting to think the reports may have been more than just rumour, after we came across this out the back of my step-daughter Jess's house in Ipswich during the clean up.

She and her husband live next to the Bremer River, which runs into the Brisbane River, and ended up with about a foot of water in their house.

I don't think it's a Bull Shark though.

13 January 2011

The Water Recedes

The flood waters are receding now. Thankfully they didn't get as high as they did in '74, not that that's any consolation for people that have lost everything this time.

As I wrote in my last post, my step-daughter and her husband evacuated from their house in Ipswich on Tuesday morning. The Bremer river that runs past their house was predicted to get up to 22 metres, which would have been over their roof. It got to 19.4 metres, so hopefully there isn't quite as much damage there as we were expecting.

They originally evacuated to Jess's dad's place in Salisbury, a suburb of Brisbane. Yesterday morning the water started to come up at Salisbury as well, so Jess and Brett are now with us, high and dry with their animals.

Now, when I say animals; as well as our dog, cat, cockatiel, 16 lorikeets and 3 chooks, we now also have another dog, 4 more cats, 2 more chooks, several fish, a baby kookaburra, a turtle, a blue-tongued skink and last but not least, Cookie the scaley-breasted lorikeet who's sitting in our dining room imitating telephones and laughing at his own jokes. Jess and Brett are wildlife carers like us, hence the kooka and the turtle. They mainly do reptiles, so thankfully they don't have any snakes in care at the moment, else they'd be here with us as well.

It's good to see that people are pulling together to help out, like I knew they would. Jess and Brett have been getting calls with offers of help. We've also had calls from people that don't personally know Jess and Brett but know they've been evacuated.

12 January 2011

It doesn't rain, but it pours

Back in 1973, my Mum, Dad, brother, sister and I upped sticks and emigrated to Australia as 20 pound poms. It was a huge undertaking for my Mum and Dad, going to the other side of the planet, with three young kids. Mum and Dad bought a small house in Sherwood, in the suburb of Brisbane about 3 months after we arrived and Dad managed to score a job in a local factory, things were looking good.

Six months later, this was the view down our street. Those two houses to the left of the power pole were our next door neighbours. You can't see our house because it was completely under water in between them.
Welcome to Australia.
Mum and Dad had been thinking of moving down to Canberra, since we had family down there. The locals in Brisbane were so good to flood victims that they decided Brisbane was where they wanted to stay. These were the kind of people we wanted to live with, and rightly so.
After the flood, the government built the Wivenhoe Dam, not only as a supply of drinking water, but also to help prevent future floods in Brisbane and Ipswich.

We'll never have another '74 floods we all thought.

As I write this, the Bremer River is at 16.9m. If it gets to the predicted 22m, my stepdaughter's house on the banks of the river will be completely under water, just like Mum and Dad's place in '74. If you saw their house a couple of weeks ago, you wouldn't believe the water would ever come up that high.

The Logan River, which is about 300m from the bottom of my brother's back yard usually is now at over 14m and lapping the back fence. Laurie reckons that if the river gets to 22m there, they'll be inundated as well.

Even though I was only nine years old back in the '74 floods, I still remember what the people of Brisbane, those not flooded, did for the victims of the floods. It brought the whole city together.
We lost pretty much everything we'd brought from England in the floods. Weaker people than my parents would have chucked it in and gone back home, but Mum and Dad stuck it out. We had mud in our ceiling once the water receded, and I'll never forget that smell, something I suspect I'll be experiencing soon when we help Jess (my stepdaughter) and Brett (her hubby) clean their house.

When it comes right down to it, as Brett said, the stuff in your house is just stuff. They got all their animals out, and their wedding photos, memories, etc are all on a hard-drive that Brett rescued. Jess's wedding dress is still in the house, and a lot of funiture they've bought and the renovations they've done since they moved in a couple of years ago wil quite possibly be chucked out. They'll miss that stuff for sure, but if this year is anything like '74, this disaster will hopefully bring the community together.

And to think, a couple of years ago we were in a drought and the Wivenhoe Dam was at around 16%, it's now at about 170%