House update

We have our first official design back from our architect! Latest floor plan below:

(click for larger image - also note, these were on A3 so I couldn't scan the entire page (including the block at the bottom of it), please remember these plans are copyright Room 11, just like the ones in my last floor plan post - there, that's the legal bit out of the way!)

Changes include:
* Some room sizes have been changed, e.g. the front bedrooms are longer, to allow for extra hallway cupboards.
* The guest bedroom has also been slightly increased in size.
* An additional alcove near the laundry for the chest freezer and beer fridge.
* A laundry chute from the kitchen to the laundry (which is a bit out of line at the moment - a work in progress)
* The pantry/master bedroom doorway area has been rejigged to allow for a small desk in the kitchen.
* Adjusting the western wall of the first floor to add some extra built-in space.
* Kitchenette in the home theatre.

The biggest change is of course the big "extra" room at the back of the ground floor. This came about when we were discussing future expansion capabilities ("just in case") and we thought it would be the best spot, and it was be easier to excavate while building rather than try to do it in the future (which would be pretty much impossible).

The trade-off of course is that of cost. Our architect has made it no secret that this is not going to be cheap - at least he is not setting us up for a big shock! We have therefore made the decision to leave the guest bedroom, guest bathroom, home theatre and the spare room downstairs totally unfinished (no plaster, floor, painting or electrical - just the plumbing fittings in the bathroom). Only the hallway and laundry will be completed (and obviously the garage will have very little work required in it).

One thing we have noticed is how well bedroom 4 fits our original "multi-purpose" room - its visible from the kitchen, out of the way of the rest of the house, has glass windows/doors between it and the rest of the living area ... but of course we would lose a bedroom. We'd need to: stop at 2 kids, or make two of them share a room, or get the extra room downstairs done... no, I'll stop thinking about that now!

I think I'll do a series of "before and after" house posts which include comparisons in areas between our current house and the new house. I think it would be a good opportunity to point out not only the good bits of the new house but the bad bits of the old house!

The Boy Eats!

Can it be? Is the small boy really SIX months old? Alas yes, it is true! Six months is a big milestone... time for solids! Say goodbye to tidy mealtimes (who am I kidding, we have a toddler) and ever-so-delightful exclusively breastfed baby poo and get ready for messy floors and messier nappies.

Of course it is inevitable, they do need to eat eventually, and he was showing all the signs... very interested in mealtimes, chewing at us, able to manipulate smaller objects into his mouth, nice strong boy able to sit up in the highchair, tongue thrust reflex well and truly gone, drooling up a storm ready to start digesting all that foody goodness and of course, trying to swipe food when it was left in close proximity. He even managed to steal a dried cranberry from his sister a few weeks back.. he sat there looking most impressed with himself as I prised it from his little fist.

So, being a lazy family we don't bother with purees... straight to grown up food. "WHAT???" I hear you ask... "but... won't he choke?" umm no, well at least it's not any more likely than a baby eating smooth mush, in fact there is reason to believe that a baby feeding him or herself is less likely to choke as they are controlling the rate at which food enters their mouth. It is a fantastic thing to watch... he will bite (well, gum - no teeth yet) off a piece of food, move it around in his mouth, chew then gag. Your heart is in your throat the first few times but you soon learn to watch for any signs that indicate that they may be getting into trouble. Soon enough a piece of food will emerge from the tardis. Seriously, I have no idea how some of these bits fit in there in the first place, but he has managed to work out that he has bitten off more than he can chew - literally - and out it comes. I love that we are teaching him to eat and participate in mealtimes without having to cook him special food, and without a gazillion ice cube trays taking up valuable freezer space.

So far he's had... avocado, sweet potato, pumpkin, potato, carrot, runner bean, snow pea, tomato, broccoli (the only thing he's consistently rejecting), steak, toast, a fruit bun he swiped from me one day, banana, mango, watermelon, peach, apple, pear and yoghurt. No reactions so far, but we're really not expecting any.. and the boy can EAT!

Some pictures for your viewing pleasure...

First solids... avocado on toast

First sweet potato and pumpkin... polished it right off

Mmmmm Steak!

Yes... I did this all by myself :-)

Bigger interwebs for Tassie!

There have been a couple of news tidbits about the National Broadband Network and general Tassie broadband news over the last week ...

By the way, this is my first post on the "broadband" category of this blog - it only took 2 1/2 months! I recognise that some readers are not technically inclined so I'm happy to answer questions in the comments if anyone has any!

The first one is the announcement of the locations for stage 3 of the NBN.  Where stage 1 and 2 were basically a few towns, stage 3 covers many suburbs in the major cities.

Unfortunately for us, the suburbs listed do not include Lenah Valley!  (They do include Glenorchy, but I wouldn't expect anything to be live until at least mid-2011, by which time we will - hopefully - be close to moving.)

View NBN locations - Stage 3 in a larger map

Areas in Hobart to miss out include anywhere north of Berriedale on the western shore, anywhere north of Geilston Bay on the eastern shore, anywhere east of Mornington/Howrah, the Moonah/New Town/Lenah Valley area, and anywhere south of the city (except for Kingston) 

The good news is that Internode's DSLAM deployment is well on track - most of them are live or pretty much ready to go live - a lot of their deployments here have been external to the exchange (i.e. the green cabinets that you see on the nature strip). people on Whirlpool have been sneaking up to them to see if they are making noise! Internode has 3 outages scheduled for the early hours of Tuesday and Wednesday morning this week related to Tasmania so the consensus is that it can't be far away.

As a comparison to the NBN map above, see below for an example (my estimates only!) of the coverage area of the central Hobart exchanges that Internode has their equipment in. (The others are located in Kingston, Launceston and Devonport.) I would have thought the NBN would target areas such as Austins Ferry/Granton, Lower Sandy Bay/Taroona, Old Beach/Otago, which are NOT covered by the upcoming DSLAM deployments!

View Internode DSLAMs in a larger map

Note - I know this doesn't include northern cities, or Kingston, or Netspace DSLAMs - sorry, a bit of systemic bias!

The third interesting bit of news is a combination of these two - Internode, iiNet and iPrimus have announced they will be partnering with the NBN to provide internet access over the new network when it goes live to homes in Smithton, Scottsdale and Midway Point in July. The best bit is this quote - "The ISP [Internode] will offer existing FTTH products on Tasmania’s NBN. Prices start at $49.95 per month for 5GB of quota. Internode also supports 100Mbps services geared towards business users starting from $99.99 per month." This is a pretty good sign that the retail plans available to residents of FTTH estates on the mainland will be the ones available via the NBN. The rest of the plans are available at Internode's website.

Of course I can't finish my first post about broadband without a plug for Digital Tasmania - a consumer action group, created "to give a voice to the views and needs of Tasmanian consumers in the digital age". Check the site for information on the groups aims!

Atheism - because it's logical!

Warning: If you are religious and thin-skinned then stop reading now!

Imagine there’s no religion.  (No, I’m not channelling John Lennon.)  Imagine that someone comes up to you and tells you that there was a man who turned water into wine, who walked on water, who rose from the dead.  Imagine that he told you that the earth was less than 10000 years old despite scientific evidence that it is over 4 billion years old.  You would think he was crazy.

So why is it that when a billion people believe it, it becomes acceptable?

Evolutionary biologist and outspoken atheist Richard Dawkins was on ABC1 program Q&A this week and as expected he ruffled a few feathers.  I’ve known who he was for a long time, but have never read any of his books or heard him speak until tonight.  He has quite a knack for phrasing his arguments in such a way that it is difficult to logically refute them.   But I guess that is the point – his arguments are that the rules of our society should be based on logic and reason.

He was seated next to Family First Senator Steve Fielding.  Family First is well known as a Christian fundamentalist party, although for some reason they don’t promote this fact very strongly!  Dawkins asked Fielding straight out, and directly "Do you believe that the earth is 10000 years old?" a.k.a. asking if he believed in creationism.  This clearly made him very uncomfortable and cagey.  "Look, different people have different views, and I think it’s up to each person to decide what they choose to believe."  Of course, it turns out he did (being an evangelical Christian), but the question is, why didn’t he want to answer?  Is he ashamed of his beliefs?  Did he have a sudden realisation that saying "Yes, I believe in creationism" sounds as ridiculous as "Yes, I believe in the Easter Bunny"?

Another point that Dawkins brought up was the brainwashing of children.  Kids of strongly religious parents are told “you are , that is the religion that you belong to”.  Forcing this sort of belief onto a child is wrong – they should be told “There are people called Christians who believe this, people called Jews who believe that, people called Muslims who believe the other” – and then let the child decide for themselves when they are old enough.  If this happens the child will realise that all these different belief systems conflict with each other and none of them can be correct!  I recall a story posted on a forum a few years ago (around the time of the last census) where the question on religion was being filled in, and the person’s mother refused to allow him to list himself as "atheist" – because he was christened a Catholic - and there was a $1000 fine for lying on the census!

I remember at chapel at school, halfway through a hymn, looking up and thinking "What the hell (no pun intended)?  There are a bunch of teenagers and grown adults here singing to a big invisible man in the sky, who no-one has ever seen, telling him how wonderful he is and that we are insignificant to him.  A room full of people doing this and no-one is questioning it?  Is everyone here completely mad?"

As for the link between religion and morality – why do some people need to base their behaviour on (using Christianity as an example) the promise of going to heaven or the threat of going to hell?  Wouldn’t a truly moral person not need to be bribed in this way?

Religion might have been useful in the dark ages when humans didn’t understand a lot about the world, and the leaders at the time needed a way to control the underlings… I'm sure at the time it worked well on the less educated.  Since then, however, we have developed this wonderful thing called "scientific method" – it lets you discover things about the world using observation, empirical evidence and reasoning!

Tasmanians are a funny bunch ...

Tasmanians have somewhat of an inferiority complex ... like the youngest child in a large family, you tend to get forgotten about.  A quick look through my (and my friend's) Facebook groups about Tasmania reveal groups begging for teams in the AFL and A-League.  There are groups begging for the Big Day Out, Foo Fighters and AC/DC to include us on their schedule.  There are those who want Krispy Kreme and Ikea to set up shop here, who want digital radio available here, paintball to be legalised, a Tasmanian venue as part of our World Cup bid .. even to complain that Tassie was omitted from My Kitchen Rules!

Sometimes there have been successes - the Basslink fibre optic cable is now going, bringing us cheaper broadband.  Bellerive Oval got their lights and hosted a sold-out international Twenty20 match last month.  Tasmanians got One HD eventually - a few months after the rest of the country.

In short, we want to be treated as an equal as the other five states!  Our population may be smaller but there are some services that need to remain in the state - we can't just hop in the car and drive to Melbourne whenever we want!

It was rather interesting news this week to hear that Professor Jan Gehl, an architect and urban planner from Denmark, has been hired by the Hobart City Council to design a new vision for the CBD.  He has previously done similar things very successfully for Copenhagen, London, New York, Melbourne and Sydney.  What a fantastic coup for little ol' Hobart to score his services!

Hobart certainly needs a bit of help - for those who aren't familiar with the area, central Hobart is kind of split in half - the CBD area and the waterfront area are separated from each other by Davey and Macquarie Streets - two one-way streets, four lanes each, which are pretty much the only route between the north and south of the city.

So, what is the local response to Professor Gehl's plans - all these people who want Hobart to have the services and facilities of cities four or ten times their size must surely be supportive of him, right?

The comments from the Mercury articles (1) (2) (3) tell the story.  Many are extremely supportive, but sadly there are some that are typical of the other half of Tasmanians.  Paraphrasing: "We don't want to be another clone of Melbourne or Sydney" Hmm, if you look at the cities that Gehl has previously worked with, they are all quite unique - not clones of each other!  "What do all the elderly people do if no cars are allowed?"  Whoever said cars were not allowed?  Gehl's designs generally encourage walking/cycling and discourage cars in the city centre - but 'discourage' is different from banning them!

This one really gets to me: "We are a small city, and we like it this way, leave us alone" - ah, no.  The reason so many of our young people leave for the mainland as soon as they are able is because Hobart (and Tasmania in general) is not big enough to be able to provide all the services that they are after.  Hobart is a capital city, not a rural village, and should be treated that way.  If you want to live in a rural area, perhaps you would like it more at Richmond, Huonville, Seven Mile Beach or New Norfolk.  Meanwhile, let's grow our cities - so one day we might get that Foo Fighters concert!

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