The sun is out!

Magnolia tree in bloom

The sun is out and it's lovely! After the usual long and dreary London Winter, the spring has finally arrived. The trees are blooming, daffodils are breaking through the grass and our basil, chive and dill window boxes have finally sprouted.

Holly and I went for a little ride around our local area, checking out the local parks. They're quite lovely, actually, and even have hills! You can see the photos here.

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We wuz robbed

We got broken into on Monday night and a heap of our stuff was stolen. They broke in while we were out for only 35-40 minutes and my guess is that they had a key because they knew they could get in and were watching us.

Fortunately they didn't steal much that was totally irreplacable, apart from the photos on the film in one of the cameras and a couple of months' emails on my craptop. They have, however, decimated my DVD collection, the Kevin Smith collection particularly hurts. I think I'll stick to the vastly cheaper downloaded DivX to get my collection back.

Bring back hanging, I say!

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A forgotten public institution

Yesterday I joined up to our local library. It's been years since I've belonged to a library. Probably the last one was the university library just after high school. I'd forgotten what glorious places they are and how much time I'd spent in my school years inside the things.

Libraries have come a long way since my last visit. I guess they've had to compete with the Internet for their core research usages, no longer being the only place to easily find authoritative information. In fact, most libraries can probably only give a certain type of source: authoritative, well-researched and biased in a specific, officialish, way. The Internet, on the other hand, gives a broad range of views, from the lunatic fringe to the conservative and sober.

But this library has got with the times. it's open seven days a week, has Internet access, DVD and CD hire and a comfortable atmosphere. I'm impressed!

Most importantly, this will save me a fortune in books. I've been exclusively buying books for the last decade or so, so this should make things a bit cheaper. Course I'll still end up buying the latest cyberpunk sci-fi novels, but for more run-of-the-mill stuff, it should be good.

Right now, I'm reading about the Spanish Civil War.

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Spring is coming

Well the days are getting longer and it's getting warmer. The daffodils have been poking through the last few weeks. It's quite amazing where they come through, mostly they're not planted but just poke through grass lawns and verges. They're everywhere! Blossoms are also appearing on some of the earlier flowering trees. Wahoo!

The change in temperature has been quite dramatic. A couple of weeks ago it was absolutely freezing. Riding my bike to work in the mornings, my ears would really ache from the cold wind whizzing past. Now it's getting so warm that I get to work all sweaty and I've started sometimes swapping my skiing gloves for my half-finger cycling gloves on the warmer days.

Bring on the Spring, I say! I have lots of plans for this Summer and can't wait.

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Moved in, just one problem

We moved house over the weekend. The new place is fantastic: large, bright, airy and clean. We chose the place for those reasons. There's one rather major problem though: the central heating doesn't work. Ack!

Those of you back in Sydney might not realise quite what a problem this is, so I'll just point to the weather forecast. Note it's going to be -4 degrees on Friday. Big problem.

Fortunately there is a heater in the lounge room, so we've spent our first two nights on the sofa bed. Not ideal but at least we don't freeze! The landlord is sending a plumber around today. Good thing too.

So we're moved in. Enjoying the new place and having our own pad.

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Flat is go, heating and all

Well it took a bit of hassling get everything right but we now have our flat all kitted out. Yay! Considering it's going to be -4 degrees tonight, I'm pretty glad we've got the heating going.

We've had some problems with our landlord. The heating, hot water and shower were all broken when we moved in. The agent for the landlord who handles maintenance has been incredibly rude and uninformative. Fortunately she is efficient at least and it's all now fixed. The problem with renting in this country is that all your rights are basically tort law. If it's in the contract, you have the right. If you want to enforce it, you have to take the landlord to court. Unhelpful.

Regardless, the moral of the story is to put everything in writing, which is what we'll be doing for all future communications with the lovely Linda.

So the flat is all set up. We have a nice big lounge room. The phone was connected yesterday, though ADSL will is still a bit away. Last night we put up a bunch of our posters, turning the horrible watercolour prints in the landlord's frames around and putting ours over the top. Very nice! The Critical Mass tenth birthday posters Gabe gave me look very nice.

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We found a new place to live

Holly and I have been hunting around for a new place to live for the last couple of weeks. We've decided it's time to live on our own, adult-like, the already-noisy road outside our bedroom window is about to become a boundary road to Ken Livingstone's new Congestion Charge, giving drivers a five pound incentive to drive past our place instead of into Central London, and my one hour each way commute was wearing me down.

So we've been hunting around for a one bedroom flat at a reasonable price. No easy feat in London, believe me. We've seen a lot of squalid, dark flats in dodgy areas and even been mislead by dodgy estate agents and shown bedsits (sorry, "studio flats" in the lingo).

We made an offer on an excellent property last week but our offer was rejected -- it was well below the asking price but as much as we could afford. Finally on Saturday we found a nice place.

The flat is really large, bright and clean. See the photo above to see the lounge room. The only down side is that it's in Zone 3 and an Australian ghetto. That means we'll have ready access to Tim Tams, Vegemite and Twisties but will also mean we have even less chance of meeting locals.

Still, the reason so many Aussies live in this area is the reasonable prices and relatively good transport links. For me it's incredibly convenient to work: a short three kilometre ride. For Holly it's about five clicks, so closer for her too.

Good news for those of your outside London is the large lounge room with fold-out bed. Yes, we'll have room for dossers.

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Bleurgh

Feel like shit. Holly brought home the gift that keeps on giving: a cold. Yucko. Off work today and about to go back to bed.

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Globalisation isn't working

I thought globalisation was supposed to mean prices were the same around the world. No more of these ridiculous price inequalities. Well not in electronics, they certainly aren't!

I'm looking to a digitial camera and a work colleague showed me the one he just bought in Malayia for the equivalent of £350. Beautiful camera! Of course, the price in the UK at the cheapest available price, it's £500!

Australia isn't looking much better. Even at wholesale prices, the similar Canon camera is more than it costs in the UK even! Insane.

The problem, of course, is tarrifs. Now I don't have a problem with tarrifs, per-se. The problem is that they're applied differently to different importers.

If you're Canon, you import at well below wholesale price, and pay taxes accordingly. Then your "local distributor" (a division of your company) takes their profit cut. Then they sell it.

If you're Joe Net User buying it from the US and having it posted to you, customs apply a 20% "lift" to the price on the invoice because they assume you got it at wholesale prices. Then the shipping company charges you a fee for processing the import duties. Ends up you pay the same price as you'd pay locally, which is just how they price it in the shops.

So how about some equal application of tarrifs? Hell, get the Amazons of the world to collect it for the EU as a whole, but they'll be sourcing from a lower initial price. That sounds like the kind of globalisation I'd like!

Homeless?

Well after weeks of dicking us around, the landlord of the flat we intended to move into next weekend has finally given us no option but to not go ahead with it. Every communication with him has seen a week or more pass before we get any response. He tried to stiff us with a £250 "professional cleaning" fee while sticking us with a six month lease, when we specifically wanted twelve months. Grrr. If someone takes two weeks to get back to you on something that is in their interest, can you imagine what they'd be like when the boiler stops working?

So we're gonna be homeless in a couple of weeks. I've managed to negotiate an extra week with our current flat, and then we'll stay with John and Anne for a week. We're then in Australia for three weeks, and will find a new place to live when we get back to London.

It was a nice flat, but not worth the hassle. It was also at the very top of our price range, and we weren't going to be there for the first three weeks of the habitation anyway. So really, we're saving quite a bit of money this way.

The sucky part is that we'll have to live out of boxes for a while, and move house twice. Better than moving once, then having to move again in six months, though.