Australia :: June 1994 - March 1995

Subject: Log of the Computer Mis-Adventures
Date: February 13, 1995 10:26

11:25 Perth, West Australia-Australia :: 12 FEB 94

It's rather cool today, only 34 degrees-Celsius. A nice ocean breeze suggests perhaps it's a day for Scarboro beach.

Yesterday 6 poms, 3 canucks and a Dutch woman attended the inaugural AFL (Australian rules Football) game for the Freemantle Docker's expansion team. I've seen games played on telly before but this was the first live game. A bit of a yawn, really. Queenslanders deride AFL as "aerial ping-pong". An apt description. There is no "offside" and players appear to run all over the field at will, usually stooped over attempting to scoop up the bouncing oblong ball. If one player manages to pick it up they often kick it up field immediately. Since it's unlikely that anyone will catch it on the fly, the same scene will be repeated, often resulting with an opposing player corralling the ball and booting it back the other way.

Should a player manage to accidentally kick the ball through the uprights at one end of the field, a man in a funny white fedora, white jacket and black pants steps forward, pretends to draw two six-shooters from his hips and immediately shoots the player. He then merrily waves two white flags at which point the player's team is awarded a goal-six points.

Inexplicably, they don't sell beer in the stands, and you can't bring any of your own in.

A 250ml bottle of spring water costs $2.

Anyway, it's good to be back online. Gayla was clever enough to log her experiences while putting my bad situation right.

< Thanks to notepad's really neat .LOG
< feature, here are some of the exciting
< things I got to do for you. I am sure
< I forgot to type in some of the
< things. Let me know when you get back
< together. Oh yes, I found out that Rob
< Church is happily working in CA. He
< asked about you. He can be reached at:
< "Robert Church" <>
< More later, I am in at work on a
< Sunday. Yuck!!
< Hugs and a kiss,
< -Gayla
< _____
< .LOG
< For Patrick's Computer Mis-Adventures
< 9:20AM  1/13/95
< Sent email to Rene about the stolen
< computer. Sent mail out to the FRIENDS
< alias to inform them of the "Lapse
< in Communication". Asked for
< help in restoring the system.

The ordeal started for me on the 11th, at about 9:30 PM Victoria time, after being in transit for some 48 hours or so. Upon arrival at Melbourne International Airport, I beelined it for a phone booth, pulling the computer from my bags to look up Katrin's number. The next morning, when I opened the bag again, I noticed there was no computer in it.

How dreadful. How embarrassing. How stupid.

Over the next three days repeated phone calls to QANTAS, the Federal Airport Commission and the police went for naught and it became apparent I'd have to replace the computer. I hope the finder drops it in the bathtub while it's powering up. I especially hope the finder's in the bathtub at the time.

So began the familiar series of long-distance calls and courier short-comings that I experienced last August in Brisbane while replacing the defunct PCMCIA modem. But there was a $4000 dollar twist on this one. Although the computer's insured I'm a little reluctant to claim it. Next year I intend to purchase a trailer, load all my electronics in it and go on the road. This will require a new commercial insurance policy. Having dealt with several insurance companies I know the blighters can be real bastards about insuring "high risk" individuals, loosely defined as anyone experiencing an "insurable loss" within the past five years. Although I've never made a claim myself, I once joined a roommate's policy after he'd made a claim. Seems that in the insurer's mind it amounts to the same thing.

< 12:20PM  1/13/95
< Already received three offers to
< help with this. Jim Cash, Markus
< and Tracey.

Perhaps the primary advantage of living through a crisis: learning that you do indeed have loyal friends.

< 8:52AM  1/16/95
< Asked Stephan to bring Patrick's keys
< etc. with him when he next comes up
< from Seattle. Jim Cash dropped the
< stuff off to him. That should help keep
< things together!
< Before I was awake. Sunday January 15
< Frits called and said he could bring
< the backup tape down with him on
< Tuesday when he came into town for
< COMDEX. He also asked
< about some clothing
< items Patrick left. We arranged that he
< drop off the tape at my apartment.
< Shoot. I'll be out at a movie Tuesday
< night. I hope Frits calls again and
< sets a specific time.

It's no real surprise to me that I left the computer at a telephone booth. From this passage alone it's apparent that I leave a trail of belonging's wherever I've been.

< Tuesday Jan 17
< Jim and I decided to go to COMDEX
< for the afternoon. I completely forgot
< about Fritz and the tape until 6:30
< when we were relaxing at a pub. After I
< got home from the movie there was a
< phone message from Fritz 7:20pm asking
< me to call him back-but he didn't leave
< a phone number. I tried Mrs.
< Swinkels, but no answer.
< 9:36AM  1/19/95
< Jim called. Frits called and arranged
< to drop off the tape before Jim left
< for school at 9:30 or buzz the manager
< to drop off the tape. He was not yet
< there when Jim had to leave. Jim left
< a message with our landlady to let him
< in to deliver a package.

By this time the computer I'd ordered from V-Com had arrived at the shop. A Toshiba T3400CT, basically the same computer I'd lost but with a colour display and 80 MB less disk space costing $400 more than the original. Rene, my account manager at V-Com, was waiting for the backup tape. He'd already loaded the 4MB expansion RAM I'd purchased before departing. That RAM was supposed to be in the now-presumed-stolen computer but, fortunately, an 11th hour mix-up had resulted in the wrong RAM being shipped to V-Com so it couldn't be installed before I left Vancouver.

< Wednesday Evening

< Frits delivered the backup tape. I
< found it inside the door. He must have
< put it through the mail slot Wednesday
< Morning. Frits still has Patrick's
< clothes and other items left at his
< place, but there is no time constraint
< on that!
< Talked to Rene and arranged to drop
< the backup tape off at VCOM.
< 8:39AM   1/20/95
< Traded Rene the Backup tape for the
< floppy drive last night. I even saw the
< computer. It looks good! He will
< restore it and send the computer to the
< Australia address. He has still not
< received the cheque, but will process
< and send ASAP.

The cheque. This is an interesting sub-story.

Katrin works for the Australian Trust for Conservation Volunteers, which means that every week she drags a group of volunteers into the various National Parks dotting the Australian countryside where they spend 7 or 8 hours a day clearing trails, planting trees, digging pit toilets, erecting fences or any other thing the park rangers have cooked up for them. Sunday, the 15th in Australia (Sat the 14th in Vancouver) I would be joining Katrin on a sojourn into the "Australian Alps".

I'd lost the computer on the previous Wednesday and started the process of replacing it on Friday. Saturday I talked with Rene and selected the Toshiba T3400CT which he then ordered. He would be able to install the RAM, restore the backup tape and ship the computer by the middle of the week, Wednesday the 18th, with any luck. (HAH!) However, he wouldn't be able to ship it without first receiving payment, in full, including the shipping cost. Sunday morning he still couldn't tell me what this cost was to be.

Tuesday I dropped Katrin and her crew off at the trail and, armed with Mastercard, Amex, cheque book, and $20 phone card, drove the 50 or so curvy kilometers to the typically bush town of Omeo. Calling Rene and Russell, my financial advisor, ate up the $20 phone card.

Rene still didn't have a shipping cost and the computer had not yet arrived. But it was due the next day as was the backup tape from Whistler. He suggested that $4,050 would cover the total damage.

Russell assured me there was no way he could arrange a transfer of funds from my account to Rene's. Uh-oh.

The ANZ bank across the street said while they couldn't cash a cheque they could take a $4000 dollar cash advance through my Amex and wire the funds either to V-Com's office or directly into their bank account. $10 into the second phone card I managed to get both V-Com's full address and their account number. However, when I returned to the bank, ANZ claimed that they couldn't get the cash advance, and neither could Commonwealth Bank, whom they'd just contacted, the only other bank in town. Uh-ohh

I asked about using my Midland Walwyn Mastercard. "No go, but Commonwealth Bank deals with Mastercard. Why not go try them?"

On the way I call Rene, but he's gone for the day. I reach Gayla and tell her of the difficulties, explaining that I'll either have the money in the V-Com account that day or express post a cheque and just accept the shipping delay it's going to incur. An express posted cheque might make it to Vancouver by Friday PST but is most likely to spend the weekend with Canada Post. This phone call just about chews up the rest of the second $20 phone card.

Commonwealth bank could help me out. "No worries!" And it was with a gleeful smile that the teller went about arranging the advance. Only to give me that look counterfeiters must get when they're caught passing bad money.

"Sorry, it's been refused and we're requested to contact your bank."

<shivers> Uh-ohh.

Multitudinous phone calls followed trying to track down the difficulty. Hey, cash advances aren't supposed to affect the account balance on that particular card.

Another teller becomes involved and starts trying to grab smaller amounts. By this time we're figuring there must be some limit on cash advances. Sure enough, $1000 is accepted, just after I suggest if there's a limit, it's likely to be daily, or weekly. As it turns out I'm right. I've now gotten $1000 of the $4000 needed, which does me a fat lot of good. I'm not going to spend the next three days driving 2 hours return to Omeo accumulating the needed cash.

We try calling an Amex Travel office in Bangor, about 1.5 hours away, but they can only arrange emergency cash of $1500, once a month.

Oh well. Nice try, I say. " I'll just walk over to the post office and express post a cheque. It'll take about the same amount of time and cost me only $10 rather than the $30 wire fee and 6 hours of driving. So just give me the two receipts for the $1000 advance and the cancellation and I'll be on my way."

You know that rock-and-a-hard-place look you get from people who've done something they can't reverse? After a flurry of phone calls to 'credit card central' and furious typing at the credit card terminal, they still can't wipe out the $1000 transaction. I end up leaving with $100 cash and $900 in Commonwealth Bank traveler's cheques.

It's now 12:15 and of course small town post offices are closed for lunch.

At 1:01 I sell the defunct original phone card for $2 to the friendly man at the post office. He'd earlier sold me its replacement. Many Australian's have a passion for collecting phone cards. He cheerfully helps me post the cheque for $4050 that may someday result in a computer arriving in Melbourne.

On the way out of town I buy a takeaway burger and chips with a coke.

I'm tempted to use one of the $100 traveler's cheques.

< 10:59AM  1/23/95
< Rene Called. Received cheque thought
< he needed a driver's license number. I
< asked him if wasn't from Midland
< Walwyn (sp?) the investment place. He
< acknowledged and will pass the check
< on for processing. The backup was
< supposed to be restored on Saturday.
< He has not yet sent the machine.

No, he hasn't sent it. I call him almost immediately after he finishes with Gayla. He also tells me that the backup was restored on Saturday and then adds in an offhand way that he's "got a couple questions to ask the tech." If I'd been listening more carefully I would have understood this to mean "The tech was supposed to restore the backup on Saturday but I don't know whether he did."

The tech did not restore the backup on Saturday.

Nor was he able to successfully restore it on Monday even, apparently, with Rene's help. Tuesday PST, they shipped it anyway.

Tuesday Oz Time I drive down along the Great Ocean Road to catch up with Katrin and her new crew in Portland where they're erecting fences. The Great Ocean Road is Australia's answer to California's Montecito Highway north of San Francisco. A great drive along some stunning ocean scenery.

< 9:43AM  1/24/95
< Rene called. Backup was mostly restored. 
< There were some corrupted files.
< Don't know how much was actually 
< restored, but Rene has already sent it 
< off. Said that it looked like there was a 
< partial restore then he tried to
< re-restore it and some files were 
< corrupted. Cheque was ok. Don't know how
< much it was going to cost to ship until 
< he gets the bill. Patrick should
< receive it on Friday or Monday. I'll 
< have to go back to collect the backup
< tape at some day soon.

I had told Rene in no uncertain terms, when I'd ordered the computer, what was on the backup tape and what was absolutely necessary to restore. A "partial" restore would be no good, but that's what was on its way. Of course, I didn't know that yet. I was expecting a working computer to arrive in Melbourne within 1 week. I shoulda known better.

< 11:47AM  1/24/95
< Rene called me again. Needed the
< Australian phone number for the shipping
< bill. I gave it to him. I need to pay
< him $61 to cover the shipping cost of
< $131. Patrick only included $70 for
< shipping. I'll call him and drop by
< Thursday or Friday evening on my way home.
< 10:42AM  1/25/95
< Rene called late last night to confirm
< that the computer had been picked up
< and was on its way. It should get there
< within 4 to 7 days.


< We got our phone bill last night. Looks
< like Patrick made a few long
< distance calls and used directory
< assistance. It added $10 to the bill. Jim
< thinks he should pay. I don't know...

Patrick thinks he should pay too.

< 5:58PM  1/29/95
< I stopped at VCOM on my way home Friday
< night. Paid the $61 in shipping and
< received the backup tape. Rene was very
< talkative.
< -----

< Gayla Boritz      "Caffeine is the little
<                    dose of fear with which we
<     inoculate ourselves against
<                   the monstrous terror of
<                   what we are doing to ourselves.
<                   That's the real coffee madness."

<                     - Clifford Scholz"

I keep telling Gayla she should give up coffee. Like most addicts she claims to be something of a "social drinker."

Gayla's log ends here but a few events have been transpiring behind the scenes.

I arrived "home" from Portland on Friday the 27th to find that the computer hadn't arrived yet. No surprise. However, I call Rene Monday Oz Time (he works on Sundays) . . . just to make sure. That's when I find out about the backup problems, and that the computer was not shipped until Tuesday. Oh dear. Rene calls Gayla to arrange for shipping the backup tape. He then tells me that Purolator Courier assured delivery of the computer within 4-7 days, depending on my proximity to an international airport. Great! I think. Melbourne International Airport's just half an hour away.

Katrin has the week off.
We sit around the house all day Monday. No computer.
Tuesday, No computer.
Wednesday, No computer.

This is getting ridiculous.

We plan a trip to Wilson's Promontory park and leave Thursday.

Friday, from the park payphone, I call Rene from the park to have him track down the package. He discovers that as of Friday it's "in hand in Sydney". Seems it had arrived in Sydney the previous Friday (Oz Time) and had taken an entire week to clear customs.

Great! I think. Purolator oughtta be able to overnight a package from Sydney. Not taking any chances, I ask for the waybill #, so I can call Purolator directly if necessary.

We come back on Sunday. Katrin goes to work on Monday.
I sit around the house Monday. No computer.
Tuesday? No computer. Hmmmm.

I try to call Purolator. There is no Purolator Courier office anywhere in Australia. I call Rene and ask him to track down the organization that Purolator uses down under. I also call Gayla and get the Federal Express waybill # for the tape, which was also due Tuesday.

Are you counting up all these phone calls?

Wednesday morning, just hours before my flight to Perth, I get the answer from Rene: Airborne Express. Mike McKay at Airborne tells me the package has NOT cleared customs. It was posted from Sydney to Melbourne on bond and is awaiting processing from their custom's broker in Melbourne, and has been in this state since at least Tuesday morning. Their office is next to the airport, and customs is just downstairs. I arrange to pick it up and clear it through customs myself. I call Fed Ex too. The tape is to be delivered that day but they can't guarantee a time. Their office is near the airport as well, so I arrange to pick it up.

Here's how the ordeal ended, exactly one month after it began. . .

< From: Patrick M. Jennings
< To: Rene Gauthier
< Subject: It works.
< Date:  February 10, 1995 18:35
< Hmmm.  I think your tech mighta
< messed up a bit.  In any case,
< something very odd appears to
< have happened.
< Please, please, PLEASE demand
< a refund from Purolator:
< First, I finally had to pick
< up the computer from Airborne
< Express, just a few hours before
< departing for Perth.  It had
< never cleared customs but had
< been forwarded from Sydney to
< Melbourne under Bond.  When I
< called Wednesday AM, the
< paperwork was sitting in the
< inbox for Airborne's Custom's
< Broker, with no promises as to
< when they'd get to it, or even
< whether they'd be able to clear
< it.  I borrowed a car and
< drove 30 minutes out to their
< office, right next to the
< airport, picked up the papers,
< walked over to customs
< (fortunately, housed in the
< same complex as Airborne)  and
< spent 45 minutes clearing the
< computer myself.  (This required
< signing some documents assuring
< them I would take the computer
< out of the country when I left,
< thus avoiding the 25.2% tax on
< imported computers).  Then I went
< back to Airborne and picked
< it up.  (Incidentally, Mark McKay
< at Airborne was as pleasant
< and helpful as possible, given
< the circumstances.)  Then I had
< to find out where FedEx's office
< was...
< I'd called FedEx in the morning
< as well and managed to get
< them just before the truck left
< the bay with the backup tape
< in it.  They couldn't guarantee
< a delivery time before noon,
< and I had a flight to catch in
< the early afternoon.  The guy I
< talked with (an operator in
< Sydney) lead me to believe their
< Melbourne office was in the same
< complex as Airborne Express
< and Customs.  Guess what???
< Sorry, the string of good luck is
< broken-it is not in that complex.
< That's OK.  Call them
< back, find out the street
< address, get directions from the
< very friendly and helpful customs
< people and head out on the
< short 15 minute drive to pick it
< up.  Guess what?  The tape
< was actually there!!!
< It took exactly 1 week less for
< FedEx than for
< Purolator/Airborne.  Please,
< please PLEASE demand a refund.
< Airborne even failed to overnight
< the package from Sydney to
< Melbourne.  They never bothered
< calling to explain the delay.

< And Mark McKay, though polite
< and helpful, never bothered
< apologizing for the extreme
< nature of the delay.  We were
< promised 4-7 days "depending
< on proximity to an international
< airport".  It took 2 weeks,
< and Prahran is within 40 minutes
< of Melbourne International
< Airport.  The package was in Sydney
< within 3 days.  It took 7 working
< days, not including the two
< weekends-to move the package only
< so far as the Airborne
< Express airport depot in Melbourne,
< where it sat for more than 24

< hours in the Custom's Broker's
< inbox.  Without my taking
< active steps to track the package
< down, who knows how long it
< would have languished there?  I
< was forced to delay my
< departure for Perth for a week
< due to this incompetence.
< Grrrrrr  [Flame off]
< With all the packages in the
< passenger seat, I drove back into
< town to return the car.   Once in
< town, with the car safely

< parked, I opened the box to make
< sure everything was there,
< and started up the computer.
< Guess what????  It actually 
< booted!!!
< Time was running short so I
< picked  up the Air Shuttle back to
< the airport and boarded the
< flight to Perth and 38 degrees
< Celsius.  The next day I tracked
< down an outfit called Doctor
< Disk which, for $150, quite
< pleasantly restored the backup
< tape to the hard drive.  Guess
< what????
< No problems encountered at all!!!
< In fact, though I wasn't
< promised the computer until the
< next morning, they had it
< ready by COB!!!
< I spent the rest of that day,
< and much of the next slowly
< piecing together all the
< software.  The T3400 CT came loaded
< with Windows for Workgroups 3.11
< while the backup was of a
< Win3.1 system.  So rather than
< replacing the WfW3.11 with
< Win3.1 I've been editing
< progman.ini, copying application ini
< files into the windows directory,
< fixing up win.ini, progman.ini
< system.ini, copying down application
< DLL's, updating fonts . . .
< you get the picture.
< As for the problems experienced by
< your tech, I've got a couple
< theories.
<  1>  Did Gayla give you just one
< tape, or a whole box of
< them?  See, when I first booted
< the computer there were alot
< of empty directory trees in my
< C: root that belong on one of
< my computers, the desktop system
< to be precise, but that
< absolutely should not exist on
< the Toshiba backup tape.
< Hmmmm.  I think what mighta
< happened is he mistakenly tried to
< restore the data from one of the
< other tapes.  It's just as
< well it failed.  Had it been
< successful, he'd have potentially
< wiped the proprietary Toshiba
< 3.11 off the system, and
< installed a partial vanilla
< 3.1 desktop system on the
< notebook.  Could have been
< disastrous.
<  2>  The tech at Doctor Disk
< dismissed Colorado drives as
< "plastic".  He says the Connor
< drives are much more reliable.
< It did not surprise him that
< a Colorado drive failed to
< restore a Connor tape.
<  3>  Doctor Disk restored to
< a Linux system and
< transferred the data via
< LapLink.  Perhaps the Colorado's
< interface with the Toshiba's
< Printer Port is a little wonky.
< Anyway, everything's working
< now, except that I'd forgotten
< that my WINTAX directory is on
< my desktop system.  I guess I'm
< going to have to ask Gayla to
< drag the box out of storage and
< put that directory on disk and
< send it to me.  Sigh.
< Still, I seem to have all the
< other important things
< operational, and the colour
< screen's real nice too.  And if

< you get a refund from Purolator,
< can you make it payable to
< Gayla?  Thanks.
< Thanks for your efforts.
< Patrick.

And here, just to finish the story, is Rene's response.

< From: Rene Gauthier
< Organization:  V-Com Computers
< To: Patrick M. Jennings
< Date:          Fri, 10 Feb 1995
< 10:54:33 +1100
< Subject:       Re: It works.
< Purolator has promised a full refund!
< So, it is good
< news all around!
< In response to what Gayla had given
< us: one tape with many empty
< directories although it did say
< Toshiba or T3400 on it.  It was good
< that you were able to find someone
< to restore the tape there.
< Lately, I have been loosing
< confidence in Colorado and Purolator.
< I had another package arrive a day
< late and cause me no end of grief.
< {Actually two days late as I always
< add a day when speaking to my
< clients.}
< She must be some friend.  She paid
< the extra $60. for the freight and
< has come down here 4 times to try
< and get everything to you.  We have
< spent at least an hour on the phone
< and sent several E-Mail messages
< back and forth.  I would be
< honoured to give the $131. directly
< to her.  However, it will be hard
< work to convince accounting to make
< the cheque out to someone else,
< but I will manage.
She's the best of friends.
< Next time, it goes FedEx!
< Happy trails!
< Sincerely,
< Rene Gauthier,
< Account Manager,
< V-COM Computers
< 3104 SE Marine Drive
< Vancouver, BC  V5S 2H4

Before adding my tagline, I'd just like to thank everyone who helped.


Patrick. -- Responses Sought --


Power feminism encourages us to identify with one another primarily through the shared pleasures and strengths of femaleness, rather than primarily through our shared vulnerability and pain.
  graphical element Naomi Wolf
Fire With Fire, [p. 58]

Hmmm. Guess that means I can't be a power feminist. - p