Damned computers…

30 10 2008

While I’ve been away, somehow my internal network has lost connection to the server, and I can’t access it from outside either. The PC Guru guys are on it, but some things will have to wait until I get home on Sunday as my husband hasn’t got the confidence to do some of the server stuff. They think it’s due to a Microsoft patch applied a few weeks ago to plug a security hole, as they’ve seen these symptoms before. Here’s hoping their solution works…

Update 3 November 2008: Seems it wasn’t anything to do with software on the server — the network card had died! There was another in the machine, so once I activated that with PC Guru’s help, everything worked fine. Another network card is on order as a spare in case this ever happens again.

Melt in your mouth

30 10 2008

For a long time now, my American friend Char has sung the praises of Krispy Kreme Donuts, but whenever I’ve been in the US recently, there hasn’t been a KK that was easily accessible. I’m not a big fan of doughnuts anyway, so have never gone out of my way to hunt them out. Kirsty, from Brisbane, has also sung their praises, so with their recommendations ringing in my ears, I was chuffed to find a Krispy Kreme shop close to the hotel. I even went across the road to get one! And OMG. They are delicious. So light and melt-in-the-mouth! The server recommended I start with the Original as I’d never had them before, but having now had that one, I’d be keen to try vanilla, cinnamon, and others!

So Char and Kirsty – thank you for recommending them to me. I’ve changed the way I think about doughnuts as a result of that one light and fluffy experience late this afternoon. Man, they’re good!

Sydney: Days 1 and 2

30 10 2008

I was glad I was here to work – my first two days in Sydney were wet: almost constant rain on Wednesday, and occasional rain today. It’s meant to be 36C tomorrow (HOT!), so I guess the rain will go and I won’t need my light coat. (I packed the coat at the very last minute — the weather reports for Sydney were mild, but the reality was that it was a bit cold, so I was glad of the coat.) And black is obviously the ‘new black’… everyone in the streets was in black clothing. It looked quite depressing.

Work consisted of some doing and lots of informal meetings with Linda, my boss. We got some things sorted about which day of the week I’ll work for them, and the scope of work for the next few weeks. Linda and I had breakfast, lunch, and dinner together on Wednesday — we had a lot to discuss and to catch up on! ;-)I haven’t seen her since a trip to Brisbane nearly a year ago.

Breakfast and lunch were in the food hall below Australia Square (where the office is). I got a bacon and egg breakfast for $8, which was an awful lot cheaper than the $29 breakfast at the hotel! Linda’s coffee cost $2.50 – much cheaper than in Perth.

Dinner on Wednesday night was in the Cockle Bay area of Darling Harbour, at a restaurant called Adria Rybar and Grill. Linda and I both had one of the rotisseried roasts – Linda had the lamb rump and I had the pork. Unbelievably tasty. I don’t know what they rotisseried/marinaded the pork in, but the flavour was infused all through the meat. It was absolutely delicious. Linda said her lamb was wonderful too. I had three really thick slices of pork, with no fat at all. And some veges. All for $25, which considering the location and the quality of the meal was an absolute steal. Linda and I shared a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc from the Marlborough region of New Zealand. Fruity nose with a nice crisp finish, but I can’t remember the name of it.

Dinner on Thursday night was by myself at the Carrington Restaurant in the hotel. It’s decorated very like a ‘gentleman’s club’, with Chesterfield sofas, dark wooden furniture, heavy curtains, dark carpet, crisp white linen napery, etc. — even a live piano player! I had Tasmanian Salmon ($35) with a Rocket and Blue Cheese Salad ($10.50), and a glass of Peter Lehman Cabernet Sauvignon ($10.50). The salmon was perfectly cooked for me (i.e. it had no raw bits in the middle of the very thick round of salmon), and it was very nice.

Getting to Sydney

30 10 2008

The drive to Perth on Tuesday was uneventful, though getting up at 5:00am less than two days after daylight saving time started wasn’t funny (4:00am in ‘God’s time’). I made it to my hairdresser on time and got the cut and colour done in time to get over to Wendy’s house by noon where I was leaving the car. Wendy drove me to the airport, and without any luggage (I packed light this time!) and with a preprinted boarding pass from my home printer, it was straight to the Qantas Club for me.

Some observations in the Qantas Club:

  • The ratio of men to women was about 10 to 1, which seemed much higher than usual.
  • The days of people dressing up a little to fly are LONG gone (and I’m glad they are); everyone seems to dress casually for comfort, including the guy in board shorts and thongs.
  • I might need a new phone ringtone 😉 Everyone with a Nokia seems to have the default ringtone, including me, so when one phone rings nearby, half a dozen people reach for their phone!
  • Internet access was spotty. I tried two terminals (they have LOTS now, which is great), and couldn’t access my email from my server or the webmail from my ISP, and my Gmail was doing some strange things. I later found that not being able to access the mail from my server was due to another issue… More on that later.
  • Workmen were doing noisy things with power tools on the plasterboard ceiling close to where I was sitting.
  • The soft drink post mix was out of order.
  • And what’s with stockings (knee-hi’s) these days? Nothing to do with the Qantas Club, but it was there that I noticed the brand new ones I’d put on that morning already had small holes and ladders. Not impressed at the waste of money.

The flight
This would’ve been one of the best flights I’ve ever been on with Qantas! It was a 747 so it took about 400 people. But only about 100 or so were on the flight, which meant that pretty much everyone got a 3- or 4-seat row to themselves! The most I saw in a 3-seat row was two people. Pushing up the arms between the seats and you could really stretch out! Excellent. And there was no competition for overhead locker space or armrest space. Sweet. I only had carry on luggage, so even the baggage carousel at the end would’ve unloaded quickly and people would’ve got their luggage nice and easy. We were served lunch – chicken chaseur for me.

Because it was a Jumbo, even in Economy we got in-seat screens, with several movies and TV channels available to choose from. I watched ‘Meet Dave’ with Eddie Murphy. A few laughs and no swearing – at least not on the ‘modified for flying’ version I saw. Then I watched an interesting and foot tapping doco on Ian Gillan of Deep Purple fame. We left on time (or even just a tad early) and arrived early. As I said, one of the best flights I’ve been on with Qantas.

The train trip in to the Sydney CBD
I decided to catch the Airport train into Sydney, and then, if necessary, catch a cab from the station to The Menzies, the hotel where I was staying downtown. Well, the train was an eye-opener. It was filthy, old, and very tatty. Lots of badly painted-over graffiti, scratchings on the windows (why do they DO that?), rubbish on the floor. Not a good introduction to Sydney for a tourist or traveller. And there were no announcements of upcoming stations until after we’d passed Central. Too bad if you had no idea where you had to get off as it wasn’t until you were stopped at a station (maybe 30 seconds) before you could see where you were. I continued on to Wynyard. According to the map I had, The Menzies was a block or two away, but in fact it was directly across the street from the station, so that was handy.

The room
The Menzies is a tired old lady, showing a few wrinkles around the edges. At one time it was one of Sydney’s top hotels, but not now. It’s nice, but nothing more. It’s also expensive (nearly $300 a night, corporate rate), but you’re really paying for its location. The room I was in was an Executive King, so I had certain expectations of its size and facilities. Only some of these were met… The bed was big and comfortable and the linen was silky smooth; the shower was hot and the water pressure was good; and it’s location was just around the corner from work. These were the critical things I look for in a hotel room and all were met. But there were some things that didn’t meet my expectations for the price and the ‘Executive King’ status. For example:

  • No drawers for underwear etc.
  • Small wardrobe hanging space – enough for one person with carry on luggage, but not adequate for someone with a suitcase of clothes, nor for two people.
  • Very dated tap fittings from the 70s and 80s. The rooms have been refurbed, but some things weren’t touched, like the cracked and broken tap handles.

    Broken tap fitting

    Broken tap fitting

  • It was impossible to adjust the air conditioning.
  • There were only two power outlets in the room – all bedside tables were screwed into the wall (!), and you couldn’t access the power outlets used for the bedside lamps.
  • The only internet access was expensive wireless ($13.20 per hour). Wireless wasn’t an issue for me, but if you didn’t have a wireless laptop you’d be stuck as there was no data port.
  • The bathroom had one tiny towel rail – had there been two of us in the room, we would’ve had nowhere to hang the second towel. I hung mine over the bathroom door as the single towel rail was filled with extra towels.
  • It took me about 5 minutes to figure out how to flush the toilet! It was operated by a power switch on the wall of the bathroom. Go figure. Once you know, it was easy, but there were no instructions on where it was or how to use it. I’ve never seen anything like it.

    Switch to flush the toilet!

    Switch to flush the toilet!

  • The vanity area in the bathroom was right beside the toilet and the only place where you could put your makeup, toothbrush etc. was on a narrow edge right above the toilet bowl that you had to reach to get to. There was a real danger of your toiletries falling in!
  • Very long black hair on wall of shower recess that was there for the entire three night stay… those who know me, know that my hair is never more than 3 inches long!
    Hair on shower wall