Book Review: Decision Points

A book on Decisions, though a little bit different to what you’re expecting:

516GjMMoPqL._SX300_

This book is Decisions by George W. Bush. Yeah, I read W’s memoirs. Mock away. Figured it would be a good read and a way to get an insight into what has shaped my new home in the last decade.  However the book was a little different than I expected.

In the first introduction W. tells you that this isn’t a normal memoir but follows the decisions that lead him through his presidency. As he puts it the book is about the decisions a President has to make that affects everyone. This was an interesting way to sell me a memoir but what the hell.

The book was actually very good in my opinion you got to see the way his thought process worked for the big decisions in the 8 years he was in office. Moments like the invasion of Iraq, the financial crisis, September 11 and more.

Sure he wasn’t the most popular president at times, often mocked in the media, treated like a dummie at times but I still think he did his job the best he could and did it openly.  Hell if I was in his shoes I doubt I would of done any better and plus if he was really that bad wouldn’t he of been impeached?

To be honest I am sure I will cop a heap of flack for saying this but it changed the way I thought of the man and I am sure that it wouldn’t harm my opinion of someone knowing that they did what they did with best intentions. I. not saying this book has made me a Republican but if I had to vote for him I might consider it.

This was a good read, something I think is good if you’re after something a bit different to the usual memoirs out there so it’s nice to have something different for once.

How to Make Me Nervous

Last Tuesday was a nerve racking morning. I have not had nerves like that since I was 17 (and that was a long time ago). Tuesday morning I had to take a driving test…. something I had not done since that day way back in 1999.

Unfortunately living in Washington State there is no reciprocity to Australian Driver licenses so it means I needed to get mine to prove residency and so I can do things legally over here. It was the last of my legal paperwork that needed to be done. Thankfully they give you 12 months of arriving to do this.

Licenses are cheap in WA (that’s Washington not Western Australia) compared to QLD. $25 for 5 years, what is silly is that as no reciprocity means I have to qualify as though I was a first timer. That requires a written and a driving test. The written test was pretty easy and similar to back home (from what I remember anyway as hell that was even longer ago I got my learners). The worst part about my written test was that I had to wait almost 90 mins all up to take a test that took 5-6 mins. Wait times for licenses here are huge I’ve heard of 3+ hours :/ but that’s a whole other story.

Once you pass your written test only then can. You request a date for your driving test, at a time convenient to the testing agency (Yay for more time out of work). There are less complicated maneuvers than the test I remember but I had to take it in. my vehicle. Crap. A driving test in the truck, Damn. Situation worsens, you have to parallel park (reverse park) as part of the test. Crap+++

I can drive the truck, I love the thing. It cruises effortlessly, has good pick up but it’s hard to park. Plus it’s new so I do watch every little bit to make sure I don’t scratch it at all.

Reverse parking the truck is another matter. Half the time I did the even try as I prefer to find a spot that I can easily get in and out of and if that means walking a bit further so be it. But it was part of the test so I have no choice really. Can’t do much about that at all. I suck it up and spend most of my free time Sunday practice parking. I think to myself, yeah I can do this.

Nope! Test day comes & things start out bad when I lock the testing official out of the truck before we even start. #fail. Then I put the truck in reverse to pull out from the curb, not drive. Damn nerves. But then the dreaded park which I totally botched. Not even remotely close. I kick myself, I was pissed I would need to take more time off to do it again etc, just annoying. But he passed me! Yay!

Maybe he took pity on me, maybe he didn’t instant fail me cause its not a big deal here, either way I didn’t care! I had passed.

So now I’m a licensed driver in the state of Washington. I am a legal resident of the USA. This is kind of a dream come true. I am a little bit more American now.

But I still can’t park for shit, at least in the truck.

PS David if your reading this, yes I can sit at the big boy table now.

PPS – Managed to recover this, thanks google!

Calm Before the Storm

It has been good to have a weekend at home, one where I am pretty much doing chores but chores need to be done and it feels relaxing.  I got to spend my weekend just catching up on life doing the menial tasks like cleaning, groceries, shopping, running errands like going to the bank, getting fuel, checking out the shops, going out to dinner and just cruising around in the truck.

But this is the last chance I will get for the next few weeks to relax like this.  I have had a chance to get all those little things done, and now its time for the bedlam to begin.  I have a busy couple of weekends coming up with more photo time, some fun, friends, food, shopping and my first game at Safeco field and my first Road trip in the truck.  Can’t wait!!

I seemed to of lost my last post during the week about my license, which is a shame.  But during the week I managed to pass my driving test and I am now a licensed driver in the State of Washington. I still passed my test even though I failed the parallel park (but what do you expect when I was in the truck).  I couldn’t believe how nervous I was for that test, man it was nerve racking!

Anyway I am going to go be lazy for the rest of the afternoon, cook some dinner, catch up on TV shows and just generally bum around!  o and lots of pics updated in the Expat folder (yeah caught up on that to!)

Expat Life

Sunburn that was totally worth it

Another Sunday afternoon, sitting in front of the computer, but this time though like the last few weeks I have been “working.” I have another 2000 or so photos to sort, select, touch up and just be shocked over. Yesterday was my first ever airshow here in the USA. Thankfully there was no real travel (apart from about an hour on the road in the truck, which was awesome cause I LOVE road tripping in it, its so effortless driving it) required as it was at the Joint Base Lewis McChord, just south of Tacoma Washington. Now what is a Joint Base, well its a mixed base of a US Army Base (in this Case Fort Lewis) and a US Air Force Bases (McChord Air Force Base) mash them all together and you get one epicly large area of space (one of the signs on the Freeway said “Joint Base Lewis McChord Next 6 Exits and considering exits are usually 2-3 miles apart thats HUGE!).

I had the best time, a new friend up here in Seattle invited me along. He provided the comfort and the company, I provided the transportation, so it was win win all around. I had a good time, i was like a little school girl, the squeeling, the big smile. O it was all to much. But It was the stuff in the Air we were there to see. Now there was 1 or 2 displays I had seen before. A B52 doing a pass. Just one. It came along slowly about 2000-3000Ft high, and just kept on going, straight over the field and didn’t look back. There was the Viper West Demonstration Team (F16) which I had seen at Avalon about 10 years ago almost. The B1 was also doing a flying display and I had seen that at Avalon as well. But thats where it all was different.

There was the usual Aerobatic displays from Extra 300s which make for a good way to break up the action at times but its usually the same. Rolls, loops, smoke, spins. There was the re-enactment displays that usually happen. This time around it was a Vietnam Era display. With an AH-1 Cobra, a Huey a O1 Bird Dog and an A1 Skyraider. All truly awesome as they recreated a typical mission from the Vietnam days in picking up a downed pilot. Pyrotechnics and all. Then came the stuff I had been wanting to see for so long. There was the US Air Force Heritage Flight. A number of years ago the US Air Force put together a display of a Modern Era Fighter with a WW 2 fighter as a tribute. It was so popular it became pretty much a standard affair. I have seen many a combination of shots but this show it was a P51 Mustang and the F16.

There was my first look at a Jet Demonstration team, the Patriots. Now back home we had the Roulettes from the RAAF. Don’t get me wrong, they are good at what they do. but to be honest a turboprop just doesn’t enthrall me doing loops etc. When you see the same manuevers done at high speed it just looks more awesome and I am sure is a lot more fun. So the Patriots were great, multicoloured smoke, loops, rolls, high speed knife edge passes. The only thing I didn’t like during it was the plugging for the advertisers. They are a commerical team so they have to make money, I understand that, but seriously every 2 minutes. Then the next big draw card for me was the B2. Yes thats right I said B2. A fully fledged Stealth Bomber. I had only ever seen photos or videos and they seriously do not do that thing justice. It does not look real. It looks so sleak, slim and it is DAMN quiet, I did not even hear a thing out of it when it was doing it’s passes.

But the #1 attraction for the day for everyone was the United States Air Force Thunderbirds. This is the USAF demonstration team. I mean seriously, you hear about these guys, you see photos, you see videos, you hear the stories. They do not prep you for the sheer awesomeness. But with awesome comes downsides. I was so dumb struck by some of the moves I lost chances for pictures, or there was times I was to engrossed in getting that perfect shot I probably didn’t appreciate it as much as I could of. But to be honest I still loved them. There was a couple of times I wish I had been quicker on the shot with the Knife Edge passes and stuff or the 2 sneaky passes where one of the solo aircraft comes out of no where to scare the crap out of everyone. The blast splits were fantastic and a lot of the slow roll formations were just sheer beauty and skill. But the Thunderbirds still impress me. It makes me want to find the Documentary I saw of them years ago and the one little line I always remember from that video I heard as they broadcasted it out to everyone yesterday “Smoke on Ready Now”.

There is a downside to the Thunderbirds though. When they advertise the Thunderbirds are doing a show. Your looking at a solid hour. But not an hour of flight, only about 25 mins of flight. The rest of the time is Ground displays with the pilots getting in to their aircraft done in formation (will get photos of that next time) and the Ground staff doing their precision work as well. Plus the story telling that goes with it. But it was still amazing. I am not complaining.

Lots of funny moments during the show with some anti government times by people during a swearing in ceremony (people saying they can’t follow the president, so obviously republicans there) and funny calls like during the Patriots demo where they listed one of the pilots real jobs (it accounted to being “show off, show off, show off, die already will you). By the end of the day I was totally sunburnt, tired, thirsty, hungry (skipped lunch) and did not care that I had to wait an hour for a bus to get out of the base. O and the photos were worth it… check em out

JBLM Air Expo 2012

Settling In

As I approach month #3 here in Seattle and after having been in my apartment for almost a month now, I finally feel like I’m settled.

I have the apartment to a level I am happy with, I have my routine pretty down pat, getting to know the short cuts here and there.

Next week I take my driving test (not looking forward to having to reverse park the truck) so that I have a Washington license, then I really will be a local. Trying to hunt down some cheap canvas prints as well is a bit of a mission. I’ve tossed up a Costco membership again as they seem to do them super cheap and have good quality with the reviews I’ve read.

All i
n all life over here isn’t bad. I haven’t been downtown at all lately but that’s cause I’ve been so busy or away and things look to be staying that way. Hoping to maybe go downtown for my birthday… maybe

Its… ALIVE!!!!

HAHA just like Dr Frankenstein shouted when he created his monster, I feel like that this afternoon now that I have created what I am referring to as my “Media Beast.” For so long now I had been running a Western Digital WD TV setup at home. It was fantastic for the videos that I “acquired” and was a great way for me to watch them on my TV at home. Well thanks to the upgrades in the Systems I went from an original non HD version, to a HD Version before I left Australia. Now that I am over here in the USA, I am taking it one step further.

Media Beast Phase 1 is now complete and this is my Living Room TV. The Main Big Screen (Sony Bravia LCD 40″ HDTV) doesn’t have Cable TV hooked up. I decided against forking out almost $100 a month for it over here. Sure this means I am limited to only Free to Air but to be honest, I don’t watch all that much TV anyway (well TV at TV times that is). More often than not I miss the shows I want to watch and end up having to Stream or Download (legitimately of course) or whatever. So Free to Air is fine (King 5 News in the morning for me before work, way better than Sunrise back home).

Well connected to the TV now is a Cheap Blu Ray player (no discs yet though) but then it gets nice. I picked up a cheap Soundbar for the sound system (it works, its nothing all that special) and then it gets creative. I picked up the newest version of the WD TV, the Live version. It comes built in with WiFi so it can stream Hulu and Netflix directly to my TV. But that’s not all. Before I left I had picked up some Seagate GoFlex drives and when I got over here, put them all together with the GoFlex Net which is like a little docking station that turns the portable drives into a Network Attached Storage Server. Not only does it mean I can access my Files on these drives from work, it feeds directly to the TV now as well!

So right now, the small drive connected directly to the WD TV Live is currently syncing some data across, but really once this is done, I will probably just share across the network my “Unwatched” folder and that way once Phase 2 (Smaller but similar bedroom setup) is complete I will have a fully networked Media Beast where I can watch anything I want, anywhere I want in my apartment or even on my balcony thanks to WiFi, Technology and being a Geek on so many levels!

Book Review: Assholes Finish First

A short book, long commutes and we end up with a book review very quickly..

thumb

The book is Assholes Finish First by Tucker Max. This is the 2nd in the string of Tucker Max books that I have ready (#2 of 4 it seems) and after having read this one I still have to say, I don’t know if the stories are real, but either way they are a damn light hearted entertaining and funny read.

For the moment I will be reviewing E books (as I don’t have any real books left to read over here) so it is a bit different and I feel quicker to read (although with this one it has sat almost 9 months or so partially read since the last time I used my tablet) so this booking being fairly short (175 pages on a 7inch screen). It was still a fun read for me though and distracts you from your every day life very easily.

Tucker Max books are filled with drunken stunts, sexual exploits and lots of hilarity if you like reading about Crass, Crude people (which I do obviously), so this is definately a book for you. I didn’t know until today that there was 2 more books available in the series, so now I need to look into getting 2 more. For a full run down on who Tucker Max is or what sort of book your in for, you just have to check out his site as why read it from me, when he says it better in his own words.

His stories are always good to distract me from my life, and this book definately did that. Highly recommended but only if your into his style of writing… otherwise you will probably be offended… actually.. definately offended. hah!

Impending Doom… or maybe not..

So like any Expat Aussie living in the USA the one thing you know before you even come over here is that the Health system over here is farked. I don’t mean its dodgy, it’s just retardly complicated and expensive… or is it? Obviously back home we Aussies are all used to medicare and the fact that you have the choice to supplement this with your own private health insurance. Over here things work a little different. The quality of care is just phenomenal. But if you don’t have insurance. Bend over and prepare to take it… royally! Things will not be cheap if you do not have insurance, I’ve heard of bills of several thousand dollars.

Now I was a little bit intimidated the last few days, my throat had been acting up and I knew what was coming, Tonsilitis. I get it several times a year, know exactly when its coming and now what the treatment routines are here. What I was not really looking forward to was the fact that I would have to navigate my way through the US Health system for the first time. At the moment my cover provided by work has not fully kicked in yet, so I have some stop gap coverage (at least that’s what I call it) that means I don’t have to empty my life savings into the health system. So I was covered. But here is how a visit to the doctors works over here.

1. First work out what doctors you can visit thanks to your insurer. Using all their online tools I finally worked out what doctor I can use, thankfully, it was the Medical Centre in the same building I work in. Convienient++
2. Make an appointment as usual, be totally suprised they can accomodate you within a matter of hours and at a time that will mean very little time off work out of the very little sick leave i get… (looking good so far)
3. Show up 15 minutes early to appointment (as instructed) and fill out the mass amount of forms and paperwork for a first time visit, hand over all insurance cards etc
4. Visit Doctor
5. Walk Away treated

Now 3,4 & 5 are vague because I want to explain some peculiarities and some awesome things that happened today. I was pretty much knowing going into this morning what I was gonna be diagnosed/prescribed. It was a given. However going through the process of first visit was totally different. The set up of the surgery at the Clinic I went to was amazing. The technology was well beyond what I was used to back home. The thermometer for my temperature was connected to the same device that monitored my blood pressure, heart beat etc and all fed directly into the computer! So easy, no hassle of juggling through the doctor going back and forward.

Then there is the Doctor. Or in my case, the Nurse Practitioner. Essentially a more qualified Nurse who handles the easy stuff like what I had today, they can prescribe, treat do all the crazy stuff. Not a normal nurse, but not a full doctor. Awesome++ Then once all was said and done, I knew what they were going to prescribe because I have been taking the stuff to treat my tonsilitis for as long as I can remember. It’s cheap, generic and works a charm. What I did not expect was the fact that I wasn’t given a physical prescription. I said to the Dr/Nurse “Ummm so wheres my prescription” with a reply “O its already at the Pharmacy you nominated, you should be able to pick it up in about 10 minutes” I hadn’t even intended on going down for several hours till my lunch break but to know I could just walk in, give my name, show some ID and away I could go with my drugs… Convienient! Then as I was leaving, I was expecting to have to sign bills, fork over credit cards etc to still pay something I mean we did back home. Nope no extra money, no “CoPay” as they call it over here. I could of just walked right on out. Awesome++ I could not believe how easy it was! I was essentially bulk billed thanks to my insurance. Something I have not had happen for what feels like forever!

Today just made me think, If you combined Medicare back home with the Technology and convience of today. That would be one amazingly good health system. I know it might be a one off situation but for those Doctors visits where its simple and easy like this. I may not be so dreading off ever heading to the doctor… A win for the US Health system?

Avgeek Goodies

3 Days, 400 something photos touched up out of a possible 2500. Not a bad ratio if you ask me. Since a day off on Friday was forced upon me (thanks Frontier… long story) I figured I may as well make the most of the time off and get stuck into all the photos I had failed to touch up since getting here. I had taken so many photos with the Paine Field Aviation Day, Spotting trips to Vancouver & Los Angeles, plus some spotting in Seattle at SeaTac and the Guppy assignment, it was about due (I still have approximately 300-400 Landscape photos to work on to from around town).

There was plenty of time spent both in front of the screen until late in the evening, getting everything done, but it was well worth it. I managed to get some really good shots, stuff that I had not expected to get, and a lot of stuff that is going to be regular to me now. Obviously now that I am here in the USA, gone are the Virgin Australia and the Qantas 737s, replaced with Alaska Airlines (for me anyway), United, Delta, Southwest & American. These will be my new staples, I will be hunting the specials that is for sure with these guys (knocked a couple off my list already). But then there are the rarer ones for me. Allegiant, Air Canada (at least south of the border in the USA anyway), Frontier (with their variety of tales) and all the International Goodies!

So rather than just talk about it… i give you some of the goodies!

From Los Angeles Airport Spotting
From Los Angeles Airport Spotting
From Los Angeles Airport Spotting
From Los Angeles Airport Spotting
From Vancouver Spotting 2012
From Vancouver Spotting 2012
From Seattle Spotting 2012
From Seattle Spotting 2012
From Seattle Spotting 2012

However rather than give you all 400 on one screen, here are the links to the folders, worth a browse, some really good shots in these folders:

Seattle Spotting 2012
Vancouver Spotting 2012
Los Angeles Airport Spotting

Book Review: Panzer Commander

Book Review: Panzer Commander

The last in my reviews of real books for the moment, as this is the last one I brought with me.

C360_2012-07-06-09-20-10

The book is Panzer Commander by Colonel Hans Von Luck. The memoirs of one of the more famous Panzer Commanders from WW2. He participated in just about every single Campaign the Germans had. From the Invasions of Poland and France, fighting with the Legendary Afrika Corps, to the “Eastern Front” with Russia, the defence of France and Germany and finally trying to battle the Russians in the final days of the War to try and defend Berlin.

This was a very interesting book. The first book I had ever read from the German perspective of the war. This is by no means a story about “Nazis”, but more about the every day german, who went to defend his country and do his duty. They were not all Nazis and this book does show you that side of the conflict. I was genuinely interested in this book, it was recommended to me by my tour guide in Normandy last year when I was touring the battlefields.

This book also follows the life of a German Prisoner of War in Russia. This is definitely something I had never read about before, I didn’t even realize that a lot of the POWs were not returned until the late 40s early 50s. That is astonishing to me and truly brought about a respect for these people who were captured and interned for so long (wether they be on either side).

This is definitely a book that I would recommend to anyone looking for a read about the War from a different perspective. The perspective from the German side shows that they to were just doing their job (for the most part) and not everyone was a crazy Nazi or anything like that. Definitely a book I would recommend!