Saturday 29 December 2012

Little fish has moved!

We've just moved house, and no little across-town move, either. We've gone from Sydney to Geraldton - on opposite sides of the country. The reason for this is that my job has moved to Geraldton, working on a new radiotelescope there. I actually get paid to work on radiotelescopes - yes, be jealous. Not only do they pay me a good wage, they also kindly offered to pay for the move, so all of our belongings were packed up and put into a shipping container - minus a few select bits.

First is my LPG bottle, oxygen cylinder and fire extinguisher. The removalists won't take gas canisters, so none of them made the cut. Same with much of my paint (no flammables and no aerosols). Oh well.

So the neat thing about Geraldton is that, unlike Sydney, housing is actually pretty affordable (sure, house prices have doubled there in the last few years, but that's starting from a really low base). So we're likely to end up in a nice little place on a couple of acres quite soon, complete with chooks, a dog to keep them in line, and (this is the really cool bit) a shed.

Yeah, I'm gonna have my own shed. How cool is that. Somewhere where I can set up the frame building stuff permanently, and tool up properly. With a proper spray booth, and a proper pedestal mounted vise, and grinder, and maybe even my own lathe and mill.

In the meantime, we'll spend a year or so in a comfy rental place while we find the perfect shed house.

We started our trip by buying up big on camping gear. I camp pretty regularly, but it's cut-down toothbrush camping. My tiny tent isn't really suited to both Perry and me. Perry isn't a camper, so I went with pretty big car-camping kit. A tent we can stand up in, big thick sleeping mats. Even a fold-up table.

I bought a rack to put some of the stuff on the roof, along with my favorite bicycle, and we filled the car with stuff, including our fish in two 20 litre buckets.

Here's a photo of the car on our very first day, packed to the gunnels and ready to go:

I'm the only driver in the family, so we took it pretty easy on our trip, with heaps of breaks and relatively short days. The first day was a quite short one, on account of supervising removalists in the morning, from Sydney to Canberra, where we hooked up with family. Next day we drove across to Hay, in south-west NSW. We stayed in a little caravan park in Hay, but in a pre-booked cabin. It was rather nice.

So on day three we did the drive across to Adelaide, where we stayed for two nights, catching up with one of Perry's friends and looking around the city. Our accommodation in Adelaide was pretty ritzy - a cabin with its own bathroom and everything, and just a stone's throw from the beach to boot.

Day five had us drive to Ceduna, where we pitched our tent for the very first time at a caravan park. Perry did pretty well on his first night of "doing it rough", but didn't like sleeping in a sleeping bag (my bags are down, and really too hot and snug for the conditions). I offered some advice for getting more comfy, by opening up his bag and using it as a blanket. Me, I like to be snug. Of course we had to take a photo at Kimba - allegedly half way across.

Day six was the Nullarbor. A distance of some 500km and stopping in Eucla, a few kilometres into WA. Unfortunately there aren't really any other options - the next town (Norseman) is a further 700km. The drive was almost surreal. The towns get further and further apart, and there is just nothing in between. We stopped a couple of times to look out over the great Australian bight. They need a picture of the water off the bight for the dictionary entry of 'azure'.

So at Eucla, we paid for a campsite and went to pitch our tent. turns out the ground is compacted gravel, the consistency of concrete. After bending a peg we gave up and paid for the world's most dire room. Put it this way, I slept in my sleeping bag, for fear of bedbugs in the bed. And the shower only worked once I put a $1 coin in, after which it cut out while I still had conditioner in my hair. Aargh! Oh, and diesel here is 50c/litre more expensive than in Ceduna.

We wandered out to look at Eucla's one tourist attraction - the ruins of a building down near the shore. Apparently it used to be a telegraph station, but shifting sand dunes half buried it so they moved the town a couple of kilometers further inland as a result. Very post-apocalyptic.

Oh well, it was character building. It made us rethink the rest of the journey though. We were originally going to stop in Norseman (another town with a dodgy reputation) and then head to Perth via Kalgoorlie, but instead drove straight through to Esperance, to get out of the desert.

Esperance was just divine. So much so that we stayed there a couple of days to recalibrate. Here's Perry reading the paper post-dead-tree, having adapted very well to living in a tent:

Our final stop before Geraldton was in Bunbury, where Apple maps lied to us about the location of the caravan park :)

So now we're in our lovely new home, with plenty of space for all our stuff, great 4G internet reception (who needs a fixed phone with a $300 connection fee when you get 9mbps on 4g). We've even got ducted airconditioning and really good insulation to get us through the hot Geraldton summers. And as a bonus, the beach is just 150m away.

Alas my garage is not properly unpacked yet - I really need to buy some shelving and cupboards to organise all my stuff. It'll be a little while before I'm back to building frames.

Wednesday 17 October 2012

Paypal and ebay (or why I'm currently chewing my own leg off)

Apparently I’m a money launderer. Or a thief. Or an ebay scammer. Paypal aren’t sure which, but as long as they’re able to keep my money they’re happy to run through the list.

It all started because we're moving house. Yay for us! Even better, we're moving due to a shiny new job I got to Geraldton WA - clear across the other side of the country to a place where we can actually (gasp) afford to buy a house. What's that you say? A member of gen-X owning property? Yes! Cop that, boomers!

Anyway, that's not what I'm ranting about. Before the move proper (which is even paid for by my employer - how good is that?), I thought I'd clear some of the clutter around the house. I made a little pile; of motorcycle parts, camera bits, and even a bed from our spare room, took photos, and chucked the lot on ebay. Given that it's all basically junk that would have gone to the tip otherwise (except for the bed, which had some value) I stuck $0.99 start prices on everything to make sure it, well, actually sold.

Thirteen items in all. Good stuff. Ebay had helpfully pre-filled many of the fields in for the sales listing for me, making the job of putting stuff on easier. A couple of days later, everything was listed.

Only there was one small, teeny problem, which I didn't notice until people started paying for the stuff. It had somehow picked up my work email address for the paypal section. Annoying. Oh well, it's only the first item of thirteen. I can just fix the other twelve up, and then worry about the first one later.

Nope. It'll let me revise all sorts of things on the listings, but refuses to let me correct the paypal email address. After some thought, I figured I'd just go with the flow and create a new paypal account using the correct email address, then once the debacle is done with, kill it off. After some frustration while it refuses to link my bank account to the new paypal (apparently it's already linked to my normal paypal account - who'd have thought!), I manage to get it going.

So now the ebay annoyances start. I'd put local pickup on things, because it always costs a small fortune to post stuff, and it's a pain trying to find boxes and packaging. Not to mention that some of it is bloody heavy (like the bed and my 9kg motorcycle forks). Those I put up for strictly local pickup, and made sure that the listing said that, both in the listing itself and in the postage options.

Sure enough, someone from Melbourne buys the forks anyway, and sends me a request for an invoice, with a little note on it that says "I checked on the Australia post website, and it says they're acceptable". Not to worry, thinks I, I'll just cancel the transaction and offer to the second bidder (with a discount).

Nuh uh! Ebay won't let me do that without permission from the buyer. He of course declines the cancel request, and I'm left having to find packaging for the bloody forks, pack them, and lug them down to the post office. Not only that, I'd also offered them to the second bidder, and now get to look like an idiot. I put an extra $10 handling charge on the invoice for our hero in Melbourne just to let him know I wasn't happy.

Okay, so after a couple of days everything's packed up and shipped (only the bed went to a local pickup, and they even paid with paypal). At the cost of $128. This is funded out of my pocket, because every single buyer paid with paypal. My paypal balance says $1040, which is pretty cool.

So then the real fun starts. I eye a towbar for the car on ebay - local pickup (he's in Sydney, I'm in Sydney, all is good). It'd be a useful thing to have, I could even get a bike trailer and tow my motorbike with my car. I buy it for the offered $750, and pay with paypal. It's kosher, the buyer of my bed did the same. Paypal however don't like this. They're the taker of money, not the provider. They freeze my account and send me a nasty email.

So now, after reading through copious quantities of guff, where they say there's a problem but don't say what it is, I think they might want invoices. For the crap around my house. Do you have invoices for the crap around your house? Or is it because I'm an ebay scammer (but apparently all the twits sending me messages trying to get me to end auctions and sell stuff to them for a pittance aren't). Or was it money laundering?

More likely they're just offended that I might try to actually make use of the money in my account, which I had mistakenly thought might, well, be my money.

So now I've graciously mailed off a pile of my stuff to people all around the world, at a cost of some $128 and maybe five hours work. And what do I have to show for it? Nothing. Thanks guys! Next time I'll just take it to the tip. The tip fees can't possibly be that bad.

And for the poor guy who thinks I've bought his towbar? All I can do is apologise.