Tuesday, April 24, 2007

0704242200 Real Estate Agents

The house is for sale and we have an inspection on Thursday at 5:30pm. We listed our house online with DIYsell.com and had the first call the next day.
Real estate agents are a mystery to me – I don’t understand how they justify their cost. We had an agent knock on the door and ask if we were planning on selling in the near future – I asked him what was it going to cost me to sell the house. He worked out that it would cost about $10,000.

“So that includes the legals and the conveyancing, all title searches and council approvals including an add in the local papers and a sign for the front yard?” asked me in a manner that must have seemed to him na├»ve and stupid.

“No, you will have to pay for the legal work, unless you do it yourself – and we charge and additional fee for advertising” was his smug answer.

“What does the $10,000 cover?” I ventured, expecting that a real estate agent was needed in the sale of a house. We do need real estate agents don’t we? Surely they are needed – don’t they have some legal powers like auctioneers? Nope. Not at all. Not even bleedin’ close matey. They are parasites.

“That is my commission” was his timid and slightly embarrassed answer.

“So I pay for everything that needs to be done, including advertising and then give you $10,000?”

“Yes, that’s right – but you can save $400 by doing the legals yourself”

I showed him the door, and then the driveway. He then tried to convince me that I should not only use a real estate agent, but that I should use him, as the best agent around, by showing me how much money he had taken from his last victims. One entry stood out among the others - $0.oo – it was from a colleague of his who could not be charged for “ethical” reasons.

For $10,000 I want it sold in 10 days with a penalty clause of $1000 a day.

He did not take up my offer.




Friday, April 20, 2007

0704201800 Two months to go.

Cantonese lesson on Tuesday night – I was wrong about Cantonese having one word for everybody else in the world. There is another prefix that means two or more people. “Dei” So a group of people would be “Nei dei”. My Cantonese class had to perform a small play to practice. First we had to write the play, then star in the play, write the theme song, sing the theme song… The group to which I belong decided to perform a parent/teacher interview. I was the child and had the only comedy line. “I live at home”. That is enough Cantonese for me for one week. I now have three months to learn enough to navigate, buy furniture and get a job in the telecommunications industry.
Cantonese for telephone is “Din Wah” it means “electric speak”.

My motorbike was sold today. In these days of scams, thieves, and blaggards it is hard to know who to trust. I must have rocks in my head to do this, but I sent my motorbike off in an unmarked moving van before the money has been deposited into my account. I believe that the bank will transfer the money overnight. Why does the bank do this overnight? Why does Santa and the Easter bunny work overnight? Why, in olden days, did the baker and the milk-man deliver overnight? The interesting question here is, where is the money – it left his account about 12 hours ago. The interesting question is interest. My dear wife, who is, as a matter of fact, and not just my biased personal opinion, a world class teacher, said that I was wrong to let it happen. She is right. I trust the guy. Tomorrow the money will be in the account and all will be well in the world. The guy that bought the bike called again tonight to see if all went well with the pickup. Apparently he is a boat salesman. He will be at the Gold Coast in May for the Sanctuary Cove boat show. His brother bought a K1200S today also. Same colour.

The packing boxes arrived. We now have a directive: everything we own goes in the box, the suitcase and a pocket. Everything else is sold, donated or chucked. No exceptions.

The carpet cleaner arrived today – I had forgotten all about it. All of a sudden I had to clean up the bedrooms of two teenagers, pick up my own things and shift all the furniture out of the lounge room. The stairs did not require any special attention. The house looks bigger with no furniture.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

0704151600 Can you send the bike as an email attachment?

I received an email offer to buy my motorbike. I think that it is a scam.

  • The email is from a hotmail account.
    They want the bike for an “expedition” in New Guinea.
    They want a shipping address with a phone number.
    They want to send a cheque made out by the US federal treasury who are , so they claim, funding the expedition.
    The bike will be picked up by a courier, so they claim.

It is obviously a scam but I would like to see how far they can go without actually getting the hardware. I will have to meet with someone at sometime during the transaction.

Friday, April 13, 2007

0704121900 Road Trip

No Cantonese lessons this week, but I did have to explain some simple Cantonese words to the family on the farm.
I like the way the Cantonese language has one simple word for “everyone else in the world”. Regardless of gender and number one simple word for: you, them, those, He. She, ya’all, everybody – one word - Nei.

My trip to Melbourne was a fabulous adventure. I decided to adopt a “free range” approach to the trip planning. I would simply head south until I saw some water. If it was the Tasman Sea then I would go right a bit, and if it was The Great Australian bite then I would go left a bit. It was not that relaxing in practice – I had to make decisions on the correct, most efficient route while in a strange town, at a roundabout, often with full laden semi-trailers bearing down on me, with their exhaust brakes growling and wisps of smoke emanating from the trailer bogies. I sat in the middle lane thinking – Newell or New England? I went through Sydney. Rain, night, lost, Sydney traffic – it was a fantastic adventure. While riding in the rain through Sydney traffic, I was reminded of what it is like to really want to go home. Home or relief was 1000km in opposite directions. I was at the half-way mark in Sydney when I finally saw reason and bought a map.

I have heard of the interstate rivalry between the Victorians and the New South Welshmen – I didn’t think that it extended to the point that the road signs in New South Wales do not even mention Melbourne. That is how I ended up in Sydney – I just picked a place further south - which is also how I ended up in Canberra - which in turn was instrumental in how I ended up in the Snowy Mountains.

The gloves that my mum gave me 20 years ago were perfect – the trousers that I wear in tropical Queensland were doing a great job of covering my nakedness, but that’s all. I arrived at a motel in the Snowy Mountains at midnight, and due to shivering uncontrollably, I must have looked like I was either drunk of having an epileptic fit. I could hardly sign the book. The room had no working heater. It had an air conditioner – yes I checked if it was reverse cycle – it wasn’t. The broken heater was located under the desk and when I tried to operate the thing it merely blew out a whisper of slightly colder air. I had a hot shower and went to bed.

NSW have an interesting way of ensuring that all travelers slow down to less than 100km/h before every town. They, that is the NSW traffic authority, do this by installing a speed camera on the road into the town. A traveler simply meanders through this at 80km/h then speeds up again when they have passed the camera. The Victorians have a far more diabolical scheme - they have two cameras at a known distance and average the speed between observations. This ensures that hundreds of kilometers are covered. I hate the Victorian system, but I love how its done. There is nothing a traveler can do to escape. When confronted with such a scheme, you might as well just stop and have a picnic.

There is a certain amount of preparation in every project, either in the design or the implementation. The free-range approach to route planning means that the preparation time is spent in the autopsy – how to avoid the same mistake next time. The instructions for the return trip were simple and easy, they were given to me by my sister who wants to be, or may already be, depending on who you ask, a truck driver – she said, “take the Hume then take the Newell”.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

0704041800. What colour is nine?

The Australians have a saying “what you miss out on at the swings you will pick up again on the roundabout”. The Koreans call this “Ying and Yang”. The French say “Some good, some bad”. The Chinese say “You bad boy – you go to jail”
I have 900 hours of sick leave at work and I quit in about 60 days. These seemingly independent facts will soon become relevant.

I arranged to work three day weeks with the aid of a powerful letter by a doctor. When questioned about this by a supervisor, I replied that it is personal. Within weeks of taking two days off every week I received a letter from the pay department saying they had audited my superannuation and I have been overpaid since signing an AWA in June 2000. They want the money back. Swings and roundabouts. Ying and Yang.

Easter holidays.
My long awaited life-long dream of riding a motorbike on a grand adventure will come true over Easter. The last time that I decided to ride a motorbike to visit relatives across an entire state and half way into the next one was called off due to bad weather. That was about 20 years ago. Back then, I was riding across the Moonby Ranges and it was freezing. The summer-weight and ventilated motocross gloves I was wearing were doing a great job of making me look good, but that’s all. I stopped on the side of the road and warmed my hands on the exhaust pipe of my Yamaha XT 600 and decided that I would have to do this on another day. A few weeks later my mum gave me, as a Christmas present, a great pair of leather touring gloves. They are gorgeous genuine leather with sheepskin lining. 20 years ago. The gloves have been kept in my sock drawer in 14 different houses since then. My secret plan was that “one day” I will wear them on my BMW touring bike and ride off for a fabulous adventure. It will happen on Friday.

Speaking Cantonese.
I don’t know how little kids can learn a language so fast. Kids can speak their native language better when they are three months old than I can speak Cantonese after six months. I can almost count to ten in real time.
Try this experiment at home – get some coloured pencils and write the word “Blue” in red, write the word “Red” in Yellow, write the word “Green” in blue - you get the idea. Now ask someone what colour it is. There will be a tiny delay while their brain processed the fact that the color is not the word. That is what it is like to learn another language – everything has to be processed twice. We did phone numbers in class on Tuesday. I kept thinking in Russian. My brain knew that I had to translate from English, but there was a half-a-second delay while my brain sorted it all out. The stressful part of the class is when we have to write our answers on the board. My approach is jump up with an answer that I know is correct and then appoligise for being out-of-turn. We had to introduce ourselves in Cantonese – I don’t speak to people that much in English. The next trick will be write the numbers in Cantonese and in a different color.