Field of quilts

30 09 2007

We took a drive through the backroads today to go to Boddington. Why Boddington? Well, the local Arts Council in this very small community had their sixth annual “Field of Quilts” exhibition.

They hold the exhibition in a field near the town hall and string up the quilts as though they’re on a washing line. There were heaps of quilts flapping away in the sunshine (and the rain showers), and even more in the hall. Some quilt vendors had stalls selling fat quarters, notions, and other goodies, but I didn’t buy any. Even my husband appreciated some of them—he’s been taping Simply Quilts for me whenever I’m away, and he takes out the ads, which means he has to watch the show! He’s obviously learned something because when I talked about the ‘stained glass’ effect created by black bias fabric used on some of the quilts, he knew what I was talking about. And he pointed out the stippling on some quilts, ‘cos he’s seen me do it!

The exhibition is just that—an exhibition, not a judged competition. Anyone can enter their work. If the visitors want to, they can vote for the quilt they think is the best and the winner gets a $250 prize.

Unfortunately, my camera’s memory card is playing up at the moment, so I got maybe one photo (which I’ll share if I can get it to download…).

It took longer to get to Boddington than I thought. I expected it to take about two hours, but it was closer to two and a half. We did a big loop going up the inland backroads, then back on Albany highway and cutting in towards to coast. (Reason: It’s a long weekend and none of the little towns—including Boddington—had a fuel outlet open. Go figure! So we had to get on to Albany Highway to get fuel at Williams.) So it was about a five hour drive, plus an hour or so at the quilt exhibition. A gorgeous spring day, marred by a few rain showers. The pastures and crops are looking magnificent! And there were lots of wildflowers on the sides on many of the roads, with the best display on the Collie to Williams road.

Where we went:

Drive to Boddington

The only bummer of the day was coming across a motorcycle accident on the Boyup Brook to Mumballup road, near Noggerup. Police and ambulance were in attendance, but unfortunately there was a silver foil blanket over the body on the side of the road. I’ve never seen that before, except on TV. It’s very different when it’s real. A very sobering wake up call. May he rest in peace.

Orange math

30 09 2007

I bought a 3kg bag of fresh, juicy, sweet Harvey oranges on our drive today. And as soon as I got home, I zested four of them. I popped the zest into an ice cube tray and hope that it freezes OK. If it does, I’ll pop out the cubes tomorrow and put them in a zip bag and back into the freezer.

The math:

  • One medium-large orange yields approx 4 teaspoons of zest
  • Two medium-large oranges yield 1 cup of orange juice

Hint: The juice tasted FANTASTIC! It could’ve been that the oranges were really fresh and sweet, but it also could’ve been because I juiced the oranges after they’d sat out overnight on the kitchen counter – I hadn’t refrigerated them, and I think that having them at room temperature really enhanced the flavour. Yum!

Connection issues sorted – I hope!

28 09 2007

The Gurus at PC Guru have been a godsend – again! I’ve written about them before, but yesterday they finally got something sorted out that’s been an issue for over a month and that my ISP’s technical support said was a faulty router/modem or perhaps a dicky phone line, amongst other things.

For the past month or so I’ve had intermittent connection problems – some websites (like Google!) wouldn’t connect; I was getting “Access is Denied” messages when I tried to FTP changed web pages to a client’s website and my own; some of my RSS feeds weren’t coming through; and most recently, Microsoft Live Messenger wouldn’t connect. All through this other services worked fine – Skype, email, most websites, VPN, etc.

I had spent hours on the phone with iinet‘s tech support and some time with the guys at PC Guru – mostly bouncing off them the random ideas that the various iinet people came up with. After many days, being shunted from one support person to the next (and having to explain the issues EVERY TIME [don’t these people use a tracking system????] ) and doing pings and trace routes and all manner of things, someone finally suggested that the modem (I have a router) was faulty and that they’d send me a test modem. Another week went by. Then a phone call to say that it’d be another week…

Just over a week ago I got the test modem. And guess what? The problems were the same whether I was using theirs or mine! I did about 3-4 hours of isolation testing and various configurations of phone line, filters, modems, routers, phone cables, servers, PCs, laptops, etc. Frustrating! I was just glad that I’d worked in tech support myself for some years and realised why I had to do all these tests, as well as having enough knowledge to be able to do all this stuff. My husband or my Mum would’ve been way out of their depth, and my Dad would’ve thrown everything in the bin and given up on the internet and computer forever!

Anyhow, after reporting the results of the isolation tests to yet another tech support person at iinet, this one suggested that maybe it was a patchy phone line and that he’d lodge a fault with Telstra. Next day I get an SMS saying they’re closing the call! No fair – it’s not fixed!!! So I call them back and ask them not to close the call. This new person asks about the problem… so again I go through the whole raft of issues. To say I’m heartily sick of telling this story by now would be an understatement. But this time the person I’m speaking to offers up something new – she suggested that Bundle 1 of the issues was different from Bundle 2! Bundle 1 seemed to be fine now, and she said that the Bundle 2 problems appeared to be somewhere between my system and iinet.

So back to the PC guru guys with this latest ‘idea’… (they must’ve been getting sick of hearing me too!). Aaron agreed and said he suspected that something had got screwed in my ISA Server’s firewall settings (no, I don’t know what an ISA Server is either, or how the settings got screwed – perhaps one of those insidious Microsoft Auto Updates??), and that I really didn’t need ISA Server for such a small network and how about we uninstall it? Well, I still had a week’s work to do, so we arranged for him to call me yesterday morning.

Long story short… after 3.5 hours on the phone with Aaron with him doing some stuff remotely on my Server and me doing stuff while the connection was reset, and fiddling with the proxy settings, everything is now working 100%!!!! Yay! This has been a long and arduous journey – I just hope it lasts.

Lessons learned from this:

  • If your support desk has a call logging system, USE IT. Document the issue in detail so the customer doesn’t have to repeat the issue time and again. That gets old real quick and doesn’t give customers much confidence in your tech support. It’s called “customer service” people – and that’s NOT an oxymoron, though there are days when I think it is.
  • Listen to your customers and don’t assume they are dumb.
  • If there are multiple possible reasons why the symptoms are occurring, don’t just insist that only one thing is responsible unless you know for certain that that’s the case. If I’d believed everything the various iinet people told me, I’d have paid out for a new router that I didn’t need, and incurred a Telstra call out fee for a fault that didn’t exist. And I would’ve still had the problem.
  • If you have good people to help you out or bounce ideas off, use them – and recommend them to others. They are worth every cent you pay them. (Thanks PC Guru!!)
  • Thank those who helped you and let them now how things are going a few days later. And also let those who worked on the problem at various stages know how it was resolved – hopefully they’ll add this to your customer notes and to their own knowledge base so they can learn from it as well. (Yes, I’m about to send those emails…)

Oh, and read Pamela Slims’ excellent post on “Your company brand is only as strong as your technical support“. The title says it all really.

Melbourne trip

25 09 2007

Our quick trip to Melbourne to watch the AFL Preliminary Final had some other features:

  • The VirginBlue flights were uneventful, and the leg room was much more than on Qantas. Staff were very pleasant.
  • We got to visit my Mum’s sister and her family on Friday, then have lunch with my cousin and her husband. I hadn’t seen any of them for about 10-15 years, so that was good!
  • The rental car was an electric/petrol hybrid—a Toyota Prius. After getting used to the start up/shut down procedure and the lack of noise (!!!) it was a great car to drive. And incredibly fuel efficient. We did 200kms and when I filled the tank before returning the car to the airport, it took only 6 litres! That’s 3L per 100kms. Normal vehicles run about 9-10L/100kms, and 4WDs are upwards of 12L/100kms. The lack of noise was a little disconcerting at first. When you are idling (like at traffic lights or when you first start the car), there is NO engine noise, so it seems like you’ve stalled, except all the dash lights tell you otherwise.
  • The toll road charges are HORRENDOUS! $11 per calendar day whether you use the roads or not. No wonder Victoria can afford such great sporting and arts venues.
  • We walked for about 2 hours around the Yarra on Saturday morning before going to the airport. The weather was absolutely brilliant and Melbourne shone like a Christmas bauble! Photos are here…

Melbourne in the spring

All over for this year

25 09 2007

<sigh> Collingwood were just *so* close to winning the Preliminary Final against Geelong. Had there been another 30 seconds in the game, it could’ve happened—it was *that* close. Collingwood were scrambling for possession on their 50m line when the siren went… and it was all over. Geelong won by 5 points, and history will show that that’s all that matters. Geelong now play Port Adelaide in the Grand Final this Saturday, and if they win, it’ll break a 44 year drought of not winning a Grand Final.

Now, let’s look at the positives…

  • Our hotel was just a 200m walk from the MCG and on the same side as the entrance gate we had to use. Can’t get much closer than that!
  • Our seats were in the premium seating area just behind the city-end goals, and were very comfy, not like those bone shakers at Subiaco Oval!
  • We sat with the Collingwood ‘family’—parents, siblings, wives, girlfriends, children of the players, plus those in the team who weren’t playing (you can tell who they were by their ‘uniform’ of dark suits and black and white striped ties).
  • The MCG is a FANTASTIC venue! Much shorter and rounder than I expected (compared to Subi which is quite long and oval). Walkways, bars and food areas, toilets, etc. were all neat and clean and well-finished. Unlike Subi which is a grey concrete disgrace.
  • The crowd was officially 98,002 (Mum and I reckoned we were the “2”!).
  • Despite the size of the crowd, the noise didn’t sound any louder than the crowds at Subi. Unlike when the Eagles or Dockers play at Subi, the crowd really wasn’t into any chanting, except sporadically. That was a surprise. However “Coll–ing–wood” is such a hard word to chant, unlike “Freee—oooh!” or “Eeeeaa—gles!”
  • The weather was kind. Friday was patchy cloud for much of the day, with a drop of rain about 2 hours before the game. It was bit chilly at the MCG, but my Dockers scarf and a light coat was sufficient.
  • Because it was the footy, Mum and I indulged in a “Four’n’Twenty” pie each, plus a bucket of chips! “Football, meat pies, kangaroos and Holden cars…” as the song goes!
  • My nephew kicked 3 of Collingwood’s goals and was their equal highest goal scorer. Gotta be happy with that! Two of the goals he kicked put Collingwood in front, and the final one put them within 5 points of victory. But it wasn’t enough…
  • Photos are here…

Was it worth it? Absolutely! Even despite the loss.

 Some of the 98,002 crowd

MCG before the game


19 09 2007

I’m SO excited! Even two days out from the game…

An hour ago I spoke to my nephew – he’s got our tickets sorted for Friday night’s Preliminary Final between Geelong and Collingwood. We just have to pick them up on Friday morning and we’re done.

I asked him if he was nervous and excited – he sure is! He will be playing his biggest game *ever* in front of his biggest crowd ever. Some 90,000+ people are expected at the MCG. The biggest crowd he’s played of before this is around 50,000.

He said that in some ways this was going to be a better game than the Grand Final as the MCG will be filled with supporters from the two Victorian teams, whereas the Grand Final is packed with people who aren’t necessarily supporters of the teams that are playing. He has a point! The roar of the crowd should be deafening. Of course, the Grand Final has all the atmosphere and hype and everything else. And just to play in a Grand Final is a privilege reserved for very few. However, to play in a Preliminary Final is pretty damned good too and we are VERY PROUD of him. Of course, if they win on Friday night, then he *will* be in a Grand Final (if selected…).

I was doing some calculations on this the other day… (yes, I need to get a life!) For round figure purposes, let’s assume there are 20 million people in Australia (I think it’s closer to 21M, but I’m not counting!). Only 16 teams are in the AFL. Each team has a squad of 50-70 young men. Of those 50-70, about 22 get named in their playing side any one week, and only 18 are on the ground at once. So for your standard weekend footy games during the season, only some 300 (round figures) guys are playing at the highest level – out of a total population of 20 million. To even be one of the chosen ones in an AFL team during the season, you’ve got a 0.0000144% chance! Now, by the time you get to the preliminary finals (the week before the Grand Final), only 4 teams remain – some 72 players. To be one of the final 72 in the Preliminary Finals, the chance is now 0.0000036%, and by the Grand Final, only 36 are left – 0.0000018%. Infinitesimal!!!

This will probably be my last post until it’s all over and we’re back home. I pick up Mum tomorrow morning and we drive to Perth to catch the flight to Melbourne. We’re not home until early Saturday evening. Bounce down is at 7:50pm Melbourne time, Friday night. Can’t wait!!!

And yes, Suzanne, this is the same nephew we all saw playing in Launceston 18 months ago. The drive from Hobart may have just been worth it! 😉

Wiki ‘suicide missions’

17 09 2007

I’m currently reading Wiki for Dummies, and came across this delightful piece in Part III, Chapter 9:

Don’t go on wiki suicide missions

Wikis don’t have magical powers. They cannot create camaraderie where none exists, nor can they streamline an out-of-control operation. They are not powerful information magnets, nor will they make your team better writers, more organized, or more intelligent. In short, without a strong guiding hand, wikis are useless.

Wikis cannot promise instant returns or unbelievable creativity. Wikis allow users to quickly and easily update and upload information. Wikis are no substitute for holding a meeting, contacting your team members, or doing hard work yourself.

I couldn’t have said it better myself!