Friday, 30 January 2009

European Trip

I'll be spending the next couple of weeks in Europe. After leaving Singapore as the last trace of Asian culture, my experience was a bit of a cultural shock. Kindness seems to vanish, everyone is so busy, serious, in a rush, nervous... Quite contrary to what I'm used to in Australia so far.
According to the news, Australia is having a very hot season, together with the bush fires. On the other hand, here we're expecting some snow with a hope of having a decent skiing season. So far the temperatures are above zero and the winter often resembles the one in Australia. :)

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Record Heat in Melbourne

See ABC's news story about once-in-a-century heat wave in Melbourne - here. Seems I left for Europe just in time.
Three days in a row with temperatures close to 40 is something that makes one feel as if being in an oven. It is often worse to be inside of a house than outside. Unless it is air-conditioned, in which case it can be felt on the electricity bill, too.

As for the Europe - I traveled in a short-sleeved shirt. It is not that cold. The temperatures are above zero and I'm hoping to see some snow in the cities towards the end of the week.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

My First +40

I was riding a bicycle today at lunch break. This was just around 13:00 and I went back just before 14:00. I experienced hot winds at +40 degrees Celsius. It is an interesting experience, similar to cold windchill factor. Just as, in cold weather, the wind makes it colder, here was the opposite. The wind made me feel as if someone threw a hot towel onto my face and arms. Now I can only imagine what it's like in the tropical climate. I just love Melbourne air because it is quite dry. If it wasn't it would be quite unbearable.
Today's temperature graph looks quite interesting...


Friday, 16 January 2009

JustMobile, Details

JustMobile is the mobile phone service provider I chose as my main (and only) service provider in Australia.
The fact that I can talk to people worldwide, including back home in Europe, for the price of the local call beats all other deals for me. The only difference to an ordinary call being that sometimes it may take a couple of seconds longer to connect.

Terms and Conditions for the prepaid plans (39 and Cap). For details on credit expiry, rates, and prices check Appendix 2. It lists all the details about the plan.

To recharge online, go either to JustMobile recharge page, or use a provider like Mobux. Recharge vouchers are available in mostly any store selling the prepaid vouchers. I found them anywhere I happened to ask.
Providers like Mobux may offer a certain discount for earned points and also can add points to other referral programs, like RewardsCentral.

No Resolution to Gas Deal as of Yet

The Russia-Ukraine gas row still has not been resolved, it appears. The past several days were confusing, at best, in regards on what is happening to the gas supplies to Europe and Balkans in particular.
Economist provides some background information on the underlying situation. Also, a communication with some of my Russian friends enlightens the bareness of the whole gas situation between Russia and Ukraine. The whole gas network was built long ago when the circumstances were quite different. It was not meant to work under current circumstances and hence the confusion as to who owns whom. The gas network is a bit more tricky to provide quantification of the resources flowing through and is, obviously, easy to manipulate by either side.
For now it is still unclear as to what happens in the Balkan countries. Some central heating systems operate on heating oil. There is also some gas flowing in the pipelines. Serbia has arranged some gas to be supplied from Hungary and Germany. It was meant as an emergency measure at first but now it seems the supply was extended until January 20. Some of that gas is shared with Bosnia, thanks to President Tadic - a Serbian president who was born in Sarajevo, Bosnia.

The results of this issue are scary, at best. All the countries in the region have issued warnings that electrical power grids are under stress and the special attention is required to keep them up and running. Heating, despite having some gas, is not adequate and the temperatures being constantly below 0 do not help at all. At the same time, the air pollution is sky-rocketing because of use of alternative, cheaper and dirtier, sources.

I will be traveling to the region next week. If the situation does not change I'll have an opportunity to share some of the suffering with people there. :) All I can do is try to accumulate some of the heat we've recently had in Melbourne, with temperatures going up to 38 degrees Celsius. What a world.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Australian Open, 2

Today on a lunch break I passed by the Rod Laver arena and the nearby tennis courts. Full again. This time it's the girls playing. The weather is great. This morning it was only 16 degrees. Down from 37 just two days ago. Hopefully they won't have the summer heat similar to last years' one.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Australian Open 2009

Yesterday the first players arrived to Melbourne, it was in the news. Today they play some warm-up matches. I saw about 12 tennis courts and they were all full. They were playing well. I don't know who is who but those I saw were playing excellent (according to my standards :).

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Melbourne Weather

Now, this is real Melbourne weather... Pay attention:

From 13 to 37 in a day!

The Best Job in the World

Tourism Queensland offer $150,000 island job to swim, snorkel

That's Australia mate...

$150,000 offered to an Island Caretaker for 6 months adventure at luxurious Hamilton Island, at the heart of the Great Barrier Reef. Swim around, feed the fish, take photos, write a blog, interview people, clean a pool, get some tan... This is the job description. The downside is - the standards skyrocket. Where to go for holidays later or what to accept as the new job after the one like this?!

More details about this initiative - here.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

No Heating in the Balkans

First I read some hints about heating in the Facebook profiles of my friends. Then I heard the news about Russia reducing gas delivery to South-East Europe. And then it stopped altogether.
The temperature in the Balkans is down to -12 and the lack of natural gas causes lack of heating. Hospitals, schools, industry, homes... No central heating and, in some areas, no warm water. The situation is scary, no matter how short it would last. It reminds me of wartime issues with electricity, gas, water...
It is sad to realize what a place the Balkans area has become in the eyes of the world. At the same time, I understand this is a show for Russia to bring a point across to EU but it is sad that people over there have to suffer (again and again).

Thursday, 1 January 2009

New Year's Fireworks

The New Year's fireworks in Melbourne was the best I have seen so far. Fifteen minutes of constant flashing in the sky on all sides. Fireworks sites were set up from the Botanical Gardens, through Melbourne Park, Yarra River, Eureka Tower, towers in the Northern bank of Yarra, and Telstra dome. The scene was amazing.
I have a few photos but the fireworks mode was just a night mode, in fact, and the photos are blurry.