Ahh NZ

Monday, 9 April 2018

A year ago we were in NZ. Those were the days..




St Helens Sunrise & Winifred's reserve

Sunday, 8 April 2018


It's rare that we get a day in St Helens when we aren't heading straight off to an orienteering event, but with nothing on today we were able to have a relaxed morning before we headed home.   I woke up early (as usual in post-end-of-daylight-savings era), and went for a nice walk along the foreshore where the black swans were gliding silently around and the early morning fisherpeople were catching fish from the jetties.

When we left a few hours later we stopped at the little reserve just south of Scamander that we've been driving past for 10 years.  It was great to finally get a chance to check it out! 





It was really lovely and I'd like to come back and go for a run sometime. We limited ourselves to about 20 minutes walking as Zali was waiting for us in the car as she has a jack-jumper bite on her foot which she has had a bad reaction to.



Taking a break

Saturday, 7 April 2018

While everyone else was either packing up yesterday's event or resting after packing up yesterday's event Clare and I snuck out for a nice walk at Binalong Bay..


Amusingly, I had a ding-dong battle with Clare today out in the forest, although it wasn't really a battle, it was more of a scrub-survivors-support-group.. let me explain...

Clare and I both started early so that we could get back ahead of the regular finishers. Clare left first and I started just over 2 minutes behind her. The first leg on our course required us to crash through some horrible thick tea tree scrub which I really didn't enjoy.  Clare had intended to take the same route but made a bit of an error, so I actually caught her up as she made a further error at the third control.  The next few legs were short, so it was hard for either of us to get away, but then we both made a mistake on a fairly simple leg, and I followed that up with a 2 minute mistake near the next control. This meant Clare was out of sight ahead of me (which I was quite relieved about) so I went about the next 3 controls on my own.  The next leg involved another thick scrubby gully crossing. There was supposed to be a taped route through it, but I couldn't find the tapes I just bashed through it, fighting and pushing through the bushes - it was nasty.  When I got to the other side I swore rather loudly with annoyance and relief.  I am not normally incited to swear while I am orienteering so it is evidence of how frustrated I was at not being able to find the marked crossing point, and instead having to bash through the cutting grass and scrub.

What I didn't realise was that Clare had attempted to cross the same gully just ahead of me. She had found, but then lost the crossing tapes, thus managing to get herself completely disoriented and stuck in the thick green scrub.  When she heard me swear she yelled out 'where are you I've got no f**king idea where I am'!

'I'm here!!' I yelled. 'Come to my voice!' - I stopped and waited for Clare to battle her way out of the scrub. It was clear she was totally disoriented as she immediately wanted to head straight back into it - she had no idea that we'd actually crossed over, she thought she'd just emerged on the same side she went in!   I set her straight on where we were and we headed off together to the next control, united in our dislike for that particular aspect of the course.  

The rest of the race was relatively uneventful. Clare pulled away a bit as we took different route choices and I was a bit slower.  Funnily enough we both ended up being amongst the fastest on the course for the day - I was 5th and Clare was 7th of the 65 competitors who ran course 4.  It was a tough day out but ultimately satisfying and it was nice to stand on the podium with Clare at the end of the 3-day competition (Clare 1st, me 2nd).

Maps... Maps.. Maps

Saturday, 7 April 2018

The third major job I had for this carnival was the preparation of all the maps.  Basically this meant liasing with each day's event organiser, then framing every course of every event within a nice template containing all the event logos and other bits and pieces like the north arrows, scale and safety information.   It was both fun and tedious.  And the funny thing is that when Jon originally asked if I wanted to do it, I said 'no way!'  Then Clare was approached to do the job by her dad - she said yes but then had to assist her dad do a zillion other tasks as he was both official event controller, and building a fence. So after a quick Adobe Indesign tutorial from Clare I offered to take over.  


And I'm glad I did. I liked the challenge of finding a consistent look for the event that used the colour schemes and fonts we were already using, and also finding the best fit for each of the 93 courses in the carnival - a3, a4, landscape or portrait.  I learnt a lot doing this - after taking 6 hours to do the courses for the first day, I got the other days down to just a few hours each.  It certainly helped that I was only working part time and was able to come home from work and spend the rest of the afternoon at my computer. 

Lovely Zali

Friday, 6 April 2018

This is a lovely photo of Zali, running to the finish on the aptly named Lovely Banks map.. (thanks to Warwick Moore for allowing me to use his photos)


Zali had a great 3-day event, She was 2nd on the first day, 4th on the second day, then she came from 11 seconds behind overall on the last day to take a strong victory by a few minutes. She excels when it gets tricky.

Jett also ran really well, improving every day then having a really good run when the going got technical on the last day. 


Easter Prologue Event

Friday, 6 April 2018

Aside from dealing with prizes I’ve had two other big jobs in the Tasmanian Orienteering carnival. The most important was organising the first event - called the Prologue'  I was officially “controller” for Clare which meant my job was to make sure everything was correct and fair with the courses and starts and control placement and everything else like that. Clare set the courses and together we basically organised the whole thing. To add some pressure the event was classed as a World Ranking Event for the elite athletes which meant we had an extra set of rules to follow and standards to apply.


Ultimately (and with much releif), the event was a success. We got lots of great feedback and after a year of planning it was great to see photos of people actually out on the courses enjoying our event.  


Paul lent us his tigers for the last control.

Two monsters on the couch..

Friday, 6 April 2018

Cakes by Zali

Friday, 6 April 2018

A few weeks ago, Zali spent more than a day working on birthday cakes for both Toby and Denny. Unfortunately I didn't get a good photo of Denny's cake but it featured 6 kittens and a vacuum cleaner.  Toby's was a book reading soccer player.





Autumn is here

Friday, 6 April 2018

Returning from an pre-orienteering carnival weekend a few weeks ago I stopped in Margate to run on the Nerinna Trail. I didn't have very long but it was delightful. The pond even had lily pads with lily flowers.


Melbourne Sprint Weekend

Friday, 6 April 2018

It's a few weeks ago now, but  we all went to Melbourne during the March Long Weekend to compete in the Melbourne Sprint Orienteering weekend. We had 6 races in 3 days and it was heaps of fun, although Zali and Jett did have a bit of a rocky start with some mispunches on the tricky campus maps.  The areas ranged from posh private school campuses to western suburbs colleges to inner city parkland.  Fun.

We even fitted it an escape room as well.


I managed to hold it all together to get a win in my age group which was cool. The prize was slightly unusual - a 'showbag' full of supermarket products, including 1 meusli bar, 1 up-and-go, some coles brand snakes and some coles pasta. hmm..  Still, winners are grinners.



Thursday, 15 March 2018

I like the fact that we live as close to the supermarkets and shops as we do to this. It's nice down here in Kingston.

The Whole Sorry Towel Saga

Sunday, 11 March 2018

The funny thing about this post is that i actually started writing it months and months ago but then I discarded it as I thought I was perhaps accusing someone of being a bit hopeless unfairly. Turns out I was right on the money though.

The Background 
Tasmania is hosting the Australian 3 Days Orienteering carnival at easter time. It’s actually an 8 day event split into two multi-day competitions - The Easter 3 Day and the Bay of Fires 3 Day.  

The Task
As my regular readers will know I’m fussy about prizes. I believe it’s not hard to create decent prizes for people who have spent heaps of cash entering and travelling to an event.  The best way to ensure there are good prizes is to put myself in charge of them, so I did.   With 55 seperate classes in each event I need to find something that wouldn’t break the budget. In the end I settled on towels with the event logo on them.  We’d received towels as prizes back in 2010 in Canberra and I really liked them.  We also have a great logo for this event as a smart person actually hired a graphic designer back in the early stages of planning. Combine the two and voila - prizes done!

The Debacle
So I got some quotes and settled on an Australian based international textile company.  Let’s call them Kimba. Here’s some of their blurb.

Kimba Towels offers a wide range of towel and textile products particularly to the corporate, resort, commercial, hospitality and promotional sectors. 

Kimba have extensive experience spanning some 25 years in the textile industry both as manufacturers and importers of towel and home textiles. 

Kimba Towels work with many international companies around the world to coordinate products for branding, launches and other marketing programs. 

Kimba Towels' staff have many years of experience in the promotional and commercial field and can assist clients with large and small projects.

.. sounds good - what could go wrong?

Initially I got quotes for beach towels for both events, but the sales rep emailed just a day later to say she had mis-quoted and it would be $1 or so per towel more ($16.50 each).  This company was still about $5 per towel cheaper than the others I’d investigated but in order to keep within my budget I decided to downgrade the BOF event to the smaller gym towels. Wanting to get a figure for the total cost quickly I rang the company for a quote for the gym towels.  It was 8.95. The next day I emailed my original rep for a quote for the same thing (to get it in written format) and she quoted me $3 LESS than I’d had over the phone from someone else - i.e. $5.95 rather than 8.95.  huh I thought to myself - I’d better lock down this price before she discovered the next mistake she’d probably made.

With the deposit paid (and the price locked in) I sent off the design. The company then created an ‘approved’ artwork form for me to sign.  Here’s the artwork I approved.



Three weeks later I got an urgent email from the sales rep asking me to immediately approve the sample print so they could print them all and send them with a shipment they had scheduled to depart China in a few days.  Exciting. Until I opened the attachment they sent..


It’s not super obvious but the logo has been enlarged to the edge of the towel - this wasn’t too bad for the A3Days towel (top)(although I preferred having white space around it), but for the BOF gym towel they’d actually stretched the logo so it reached the edges of the skinny towel.  This was not acceptable. I immediately got back to the sales rep who insisted that on our initial phone call that I’d asked for the logo to be as big as it could be on the towels.  That might have been the case but that wasn’t the approved artwork I’d signed off on, and it is NEVER ok to stretch logos.  So I refused at approve the sample print. The Sales Rep got really snooty with me but I stood my ground. Then she revealed that they had actually already printed the entire order - i.e. 270 towels - so they were all going to waste.  Despite the pressure being applied I held my ground and they agreed to reprint them.

The is when I wrote my original blog post noting similarities between the sales rep I  was working with for the towels and the sales-rep I worked with in 2015 when I needed 100 volunteers t-shirts printed. The t-shirt sales-rep kept forgetting our order and was always talking about embroidery when we had always wanted printing, and generally seemed to not remember anything. Despite being completely different people working for different companies, they were both similarly hopeless.  But I felt bad after writing it so I didn’t publish it.  

About 3 weeks later I got another call from the Kimba Sales Rep, again URGENTlY asking me to approve the artwork. this time they didn’t send me a photo, but just sent the original artwork that I’d approved.  That seemed to be ok - i.e. it was exactly the same as it was last time so I said fine. Presumably they then completed the print run and shipped off the towels.  That was one of the things about working with this sales rep - every single email was marked as URGENT yet I never got an acknowledgement when I immediately replied to these urgent emails.

Anyway - the towels arrived in Melbourne a few weeks later and the company rang up to ask me to send the payment for the final shipping from Melbourne to Hobart. I asked the accounts person to send me a photo of the towels before I paid  (just in case), and she opened up one of the gym-towel boxes and sent me a photo. It looked ok so I transferred the last of the payment and waited excitedly for delivery.

A few days later the boxes arrived. I opened them and decided they looked great - yay!  It was only a few hours afterwards that I realised they’d make a mistake - see the artwork vs the actual towel…


Yep. The big black word ‘ Tasmania’ was missing.  What a complete stuff up. How could the sales person, or whoever was in charge of my account completely fail to check the towels before they left China.  Duh.

Later on that day Jon came home from work and immediately noticed that they’d misprinted the black on the gym towels too - it had all shifted 2 cm to the left.  Aside from giving the text a messy left alignment it had also meant the little circle which was supposed to indicate where the event was being held, had moved from St Helens to Bridport. 

I rang the company and they immediately agreed to reprint the 170  A3 Days towels. After a further exchange of emails they reluctantly agreed to reprint the gym towels too.

A few weeks later (after storing the 11 boxes of dud towels under the house) I got a message from the Sales Rep asking if I wanted to buy the dud towels at a ‘special’ price given how much money they (Kimba) had lost. as I was still hoping to receive the final correct towels I didn’t want to send an email explaining that the loss of money was entirely their own fault and there was no way I was giving them any more money.  Instead I responded politely that as we were giving them out as prizes, we couldn’t sell off the dud ones as that would devalue the real ones.  I got no response but a week or so later the final and correct towels arrived.  Phew!

So Kimba, the company with “extensive experience spanning some 25 years in the textile industry both as manufacturers and importers of towel and home textiles.” had printed a total of 810 towels for our 270 towel order. They’d shipped 540 of these all the way to Hobart.  What a debacle.  All of it could have been avoided with some basic checking. The whole process started late in August 2017 and the final towels arrived  on about the 15th of December. It’s just lucky I decided to get started on my job early!

As a contrast to my dodgy Australian experiences, the sales person I am working with now to get 200 Tasmanian Orienteering Championship medals, and the person I worked with back in 2015 to do the 1000 cow-bells have been really good. They are both sales reps for Chinese companies (based in China) They acknowledge each and every email I send, and so far (although we haven’t received the medals yet) there haven't been any stuff-ups. I felt briefly guilty for going direct to China but one of the Australian places I got a quote from  (for about double the Chinese quote) mentioned that the lead time might be a bit longer as Chinese New Year meant a 2 week closure for the chinese factory.  So they were getting them done in China anyway.

Zali and I are now busily doing the final preparations for the prizes. It's a lot of work but quite fun. The dud towels will be given away to volunteers after the event, any left over will go to the dogs home.


Qantas Maths and Sod's Law

Saturday, 10 March 2018

It’s been a while since I’ve posted. To make up for it this post has lots of words..

I love to book holidays. Apart from the fun of researching cool places to go and things to do it’s also nice to lock in the trip so you’ve got something definite to look forward to.  As such I tend to book holidays nice and early so there’s the maximum look-forward-to factor, and also usually the  best bargains to be had.

One such instance of booking early is a trip Jon and I are looking forward to in Alice Springs this August.  My original idea was to do the Larapinta Trail Race, which is a 4 day stage running race based in Alice Springs.  I’m not massively into long running races but each stage of this race covered a stretch of the renown 223km Larapinta hiking trail.  I figured we’d be able to experience the trail without having to carry heavy packs, and we’d get to stay somewhere nice each night.    I discovered this race a while ago (before entries opened) so I signed up for the newsletter and waited patiently until I could enter us both.   I was thinking I’d be working full time by August so I wouldn’t be able to take more than a few days off work, so this race fitted in really well with that.  I was so keen I even requested and got leave approved for those dates.

So about 8 weeks ago I got an email informing me that the entries had opened - yay!  I headed on over to the website with my credit card in hand, only to discover that the entry fees (and shuttle bus fees) for Jon and I were going to be $1700.  Yikes. Once I’d factored in flights and that nice accommodation I was thinking of,  the cost of our 4 day holiday in Alice Springs would have been very close to $4000.  Too much. WAY too much. Dang.  I spent the next few days moping around disappointed.

Then I realised that the whole reason I wanted to go was to see Alice Springs and experience the West MacDonnell Ranges, which we could do perfectly well without doing the race.  In fact there are heaps of tour companies who will drop you off and pick you up, and the trail is really accessible for day hikes and circuits.   Since I’d already asked for leave I decided we would go anyway, stay somewhere nice, and hike/cycle/relax-by-the-pool as much as we wanted.  Once I added up lights and accomodation and car hire the total was still only $2700 and that included the extra day that I had decided i really  needed. 

So with new enthusiasm I got online and booked our flights - I got reasonable red-edeal flights on Qantas for $388 each way  per person ($1500 or so all up) leaving Hobart on Thursday morning, and returning the following Tuesday. Yay - holiday locked in and flights booked!  

About 4 days later we got an email from Jon’s nephew saying that the wedding date for their South Australian wedding was finally set.  For the Friday of our Alice Springs trip.  Arrgh!! First we thought we would just skip the wedding but after sitting on that decision for a few weeks we decided it just didn’t feel right. We really like Rory and Emma, and it’s a good opportunity to catch up with Jon’s family.  So then I investigated options for making it happen. After trying all the airlines I found the best option would be to fly to Adelaide on Thursday night on the new Jetstar direct flight, attend the wedding on Friday night, then go up to Alice on Saturday morning. Then we would just return from Alice Springs on Wednesday rather than Tuesday.  

So I booked the relatively cheap Hobart to Adelaide flights, then I booked the Adelaide to Alice Springs leg using frequent flyer points plus taxes (jhow come Qantas has so many taxes?). Then I just had to change the original qantas return flights. As I’d booked the return journey it all on one booking I would have to cancel the whole thing and start again (rather than just change dates), and because it was a red-e-deal that meant I would only be entitled to a voucher, rather than a refund, and of course when I went to use the voucher I’d have to pay a change of booking fee of $99 each person Ugg. Still I didn’t have much option so I went ahead and got emailed my $1500 voucher from Qantas. That part seemed easy.

Then I considered how to spend our voucher.  It is only valid for a year, so my fear was that we wouldn’t use it and the whole $1500 would be up in smoke.   So I decided that since I’d already forked out to book new flights, I’d try to minimise extra expenditure and use the voucher it to book our new return flight from Alice Springs. Our voucher conditions said it had to be used for a flight of equal or greater value so I accepted the fact that our new 2 x $388 fares would simply use up all the value of our $1500 voucher.  Definitely a loss but better than using up new money to book.

In order to use the voucher i had to call the call centre, so I found the flights I wanted on line (still $388 each) and rang them.  

Well it turns out Qantas aren’t happy for you to use your $1500 voucher on $740 worth of flights and keep the change - nope that’s not ok.  They really did want me to book flights for equal or greater value, which would have meant I’d have to book the fully flexible fares all the way home from Alice Springs.  Which would have satisfied the ‘or greater value’ clause - by $400 + the change of booking fee of $99 each.  So aside from using up the entire value of the $1500 voucher, I would have had to pay an extra $600 to book on the same flights. basically that would mean we would have spent  $2100 for the same flights as the $740 fares.  

Sitting here now I realise I should have just rung back later and booked return flights in the opposite direction and not turned up for the return segment - I did suggest that on the phone but the operator  didn’t seem to understand me and then claimed there were no flights from Hobart to Alice Springs that would make it work.  There must have been something.  humph.  So I hung up and moped around for a week or so, watching the cheaper flights disappear from the website. In the end I just booked the flights online with my credit card. 

So now I still have this $1500 voucher I can’t think how we are going to use before january next year. We can’t use it for kids fares and we’ve our other trips this year (cos I like to book early and all!). And Qantas is normally the last expensive resort anyway. sigh.

So the lessons I’ve learnt are:
- sometimes early isn’t great 
- Qantas sucks. I’m sure the other airlines are equally annoying though
- never book a return flight in one go - there’s no advantage in it if you have to change or get a refund it will be much worse.

On the plus side, i”ve still got a holiday in Alice Springs to look forward too, and it’s so far in the future the sick feeling I have in my stomach from  spending so much money on airfares will surely have dissipated by then! 

Mt Rufus Circuit

Sunday, 18 February 2018

The Sunday after the overland track race I got up early (which was easy as I had the camping mattress with the slow leak, so by morning I was just lying on the ground) and headed out to do one of my favourite day walks - the 20km Mt Rufus Circuit. I’ve walked it a few times in recent years but this time I wanted to loosely emulate my efforts from the late 80s when I ran the circuit with Clare. I say loosely as I was only planning on running the flat and downhill parts, the rest I was going to walk.  

The early morning weather was great - it was sunny but was low cloud around so as I got to the top of Mt Rufus (after 2 hours) only the tops of surrounding mountains were poking through the clouds. 



The rest of the circuit was fantastic. I just loved cruising down the ridge, through the weird sandstone outcrop then down a pandani filled valley before crossing over to Shadow Lake. From there it’s an easy 6k back to the campsite.   



By the time I got back, Jon had just about disassembled our campsite which was a pretty good effort for someone who had completed a run 4 times the length that I had, in just over twice the time. Impressive.

First day of school

Sunday, 18 February 2018

This is belated first day of school photos with the cousins. The high school going cousins anyway - Jamie has still got a few years left of primary school.


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