Archive for January, 2005

Doing the homework

Sunday, January 23rd, 2005

As I have already mentioned, what the relocation TV shows don’t show you is the sheer grind of getting to grips with the bureaucracy involved. Of all the tasks so far, finding a discernible path through the labyrinthine convolutions of the immigration regulations must rank as the most frustrating. In this topsy-turvy world, rules change can and do to accommodate governmental policy changes and shifts in employment demographics, often leaving the émigré back at square one. This is a world where skilled manual trades-people and key workers rule, their tertiary qualifications and experience making them valuable assets to be encouraged and assisted. Likewise, applicants in certain high-tech professions and artistic high flyers are also keenly sought. Middle of the road folk like me, who have good solid business experience but no degree, have to plough their furrow through slightly tougher ground.
The main obstacle to migrating to any desirable destination is gaining enough points to submit an Expression Of Interest to an immigration authority’s pool. From this pool, a selection are chosen for qualification to apply for a work permit and/or permanent residence. Like their US and Canadian counterparts, the New Zealand Immigration Service is fairly strict and selective about whom they wish to welcome – too much say some, who point to the recently tightened language requirements as proof of bias. Those with family ties can apply through the Family Stream, others with significant assets can apply in the Investor Category but many seek to make the move as a Skilled Migrant, gaining entry with provable skills and experience that are in short supply in key areas. However, establishing whether one falls into any of the numerous Skilled Migrant categories requires one to navigate through a complex net of web pages and regulations. The Standard Classification of Occupations, Occupational Registration, Registration Authorities, Immediate Skill Shortage List, Long Term Skill Shortage List, Panel Doctors and the all-important Points Indicator and Expression Of Interest are just some of the documents the potential émigré must become familiar with.

Last year, after repeated calculations and rechecking of facts, we were pretty much convinced that we didn’t have enough points to qualify for the Expression Of Interest, let alone residency and came close to giving up on the idea. It was in this frame of mind that we visited a New Zealand expo in London with the intention of simply confirming that we didn’t have a chance of qualifying. My memory of that day is hazy but I recall that it seemed like a never-ending parade of glossy stands and scripted pitches. Many stands were aimed squarely at attracting the doctors, teachers, scientists and accountants most regions needed to maintain the social infrastructure. Another handful promoted particular regional development areas, drawing the crowds with enticing promotion videos and it’s-oh-so-easy seminars.

Mixed in amongst these were the battle-hardened recruitment agencies, some specialising in particular professions or business areas, others casting a broad net to find candidates for specific positions. One such recruiter took a keen interest in me and asked a great number of questions, jotting down my details and answers. Another gave me a card with a generic email and said to send my details for consideration. A third said he couldn’t help but gave me a name of a colleague in Auckland who might be interested. By the end of the day, I had handed out scores of CVs, completed many application forms and smiled at everyone I’d talked to. Tired, hungry and drained, we left the function and dragged ourselves into a TexMex restaurant nearby. Over chicken wings, fajitas and beers, we tried to make sense of the day and work out what, if anything, we had achieved – we were none the wiser we we headed home to pick up the kids. However, and to cut a long story short, from these inauspicious introductions I have now made good contacts with some leading recruiters in the major cities. With these good folks, I have been through telephone interviews to establish suitability, discussed career history to provide candidate credibility and kept regular contact to keep interest high and options open. In return, they have provided honest feedback, helpful advice and, in one case where recruiter is a recent migrant themselves, photos of their own emigration.

The general consensus is good; each is confident that they can place me in a middle management role in New Zealand. With operations management experience, documented successes in productivity improvements, not to mention training qualifications & experience, I apparently stand a good chance against local candidates. Furthermore, having experience of working in the US market as well as the European markets is apparently also in my favour. However, best of all, the recruiters have been able to allay some of my concerns over qualifying for permits and residency. It would seem that the most likely route to achieving our aims would be for me to secure a sponsored position with a large employer, enabling me to work initially under a shorter term work permit, with a view to applying for permanent residency for me and the family at a later date.

With Christmas out of the way and the southern hemisphere holiday season winding down, these recruiters fully expect to be able to generate some interest in the coming weeks and months. So the ball is now in my court, for it is highly unlikely that I’ll generate any interest, let alone secure a position, unless I show commitment and interest myself. Which is why, in exactly 28 days, I shall be enjoying a Sunday lunch with my family before heading off to Heathrow to catch that Emirates 747.

Looking for No.8 wire

Sunday, January 23rd, 2005

The lack of posts here is a pretty solid indication that my mind has been on other things in recent weeks. Rather than launch into a long and rambling explanation here and confuse matters, I decided to do so elsewhere. Looking for No.8 wire is that elsewhere and the first post, The Lure Of The Land Of The Long White Cloud, says it all:

”In four week’s time, all being well, I’ll step blinking from the air-conditioned cocoon of an Emirates 747 into the warm afternoon sunlight of Auckland. Ahead of me will lie a three week road trip across New Zealand, from Auckland in the north to Dunedin in the south – a trip in search of future opportunities for myself and my family.”

If you like what you read, there’s a link in the sidebar here or a feed for return visits.

my lo-fi ears are listening to He’s Simple, He’s Dumb, He’s The Pilot/Grandaddy

The Lure Of The Land Of The Long White Cloud

Saturday, January 22nd, 2005

Land_Of_The_Long_White_Cloud © KATHLEEN SHEPHERD Gerymouth Camera Club

In four week’s time, all being well, I’ll step blinking from the air-conditioned cocoon of an Emirates 747 into the warm afternoon sunlight of Auckland. Ahead of me will lie a three week road trip across New Zealand, from Auckland in the north to Dunedin in the south – a trip in search of future opportunities for myself and my family. Eighteen months ago, after years of idle wondering and speculative talk, we decided that we would take a serious look at the possibility of quitting England to build a new life elsewhere. Though a variety of destinations including Australia and Canada have been considered over time, New Zealand remains the favoured destination.

Some of the motivations behind this decision are complex, individual and will not be explored here but, in general, I suspect that our reasons are not so very different from many would-be émigrés. Despite it being our lifelong home, we have become increasingly disillusioned with life in the UK and the grind of living in Central London. Property and property prices are one key factor. Over nine years, we have transformed a near-derelict council flat into a warm comfortable (if small) family home. Somewhere along the way and in an effort to recoup the considerable sums we had spent to make the place first habitable and then comfortable, we waived our political consciences and bought the flat. The local housing market is fairly buoyant thanks to the proximity of Canary Wharf. However, this and the fact that a new 21 storey luxury development 500m to the south will rob a fair amount of our south-facing daylight means that we are caught between Scylla and Charybdis – too cramped to stay but too expensive to go. In order to afford a decent-sized family home, we would need to move to move to areas that, whilst they might desirable or suitable, do not have the requisite employment opportunities to fund a family of six. No matter how hard we work, it would seem that we can’t build and maintain the kind family life we want here unless or even if both of us hold down full time jobs. And therein lies the rub. Dedicating every waking hour away from the kids working is self-defeating if the purpose of the exercise is to spend more time with them and provide them with an improved quality of life and better opportunities.

Phrases like ‘improved quality of life’ and ‘better opportunities’ are all well and good but what do they really mean in our case? Our hopes for our family’s future are not grand, expensive or fanciful, rather they tend to be simple ones defined by values we hold to be worthwhile. Our overarching desire is to provide our children with a safer, happier, more secure daily life than we can offer them living in a small flat in London’s East End. In real terms, this means that we are looking to raise them in a community that is less threatening and where they can be lead more independent lives; to live in a cleaner, more cared-for local environment that has more offer in the way of pastimes and pursuits; to explore and enjoy the outstanding natural beauty that a country like New Zealand has to offer and to experience life from a new perspective that will challenge as well as confirm our values and beliefs. Beyond these fundamentals, there are less tangible elements that cannot be denied as contributing factors: the expectancy and thrill of undertaking a leap into the unknown, the making of a deliberate move from the familiar and a change in circumstance that many would shy away from or simply not entertain.

Over the months, we have talked through the myriads aspects of emigration, first as a couple late at night when the kids were in bed and later, as a family, across the dinner table or in the car. During these conversations and after, we have given much consideration to exactly how such a move would affect each of us, balancing pros against cons, benefits over drawbacks and assessing the impact on our lives and those of our extended families. I believe that we have approached this task from a different angle than most do, in that we looked into the more difficult emotional issues before moving even considering the more practical aspects of moving half way round the world. The logistics of packing up a home and transporting it some 13,000 miles is nothing when compared to discussing the impact of such things on the 80 year old grandparents of our children. As for the more mundane tasks, it is strange but no sooner had we made the decision than a rash of ‘reality’ shows about families relocating suddenly appeared on British TV. There is no denying that these shows have a great entertainment value, such the woman who moved to Oz only to remark ‘It’s too hot here…and the money’s all funny’, but they are more akin to holiday shows, tending towards the rosier post-relocation aspects of emigration rather than the whole process. In my experience, they could never prepare one for the sheer amount of research and information gathering that is required when one doesn’t have TV researchers and professional relocation specialists on hand. But that’s another post.

For those wondering about No.8 wire, a brief explanation can be found on New Zealand Tourism Online’s Kiwiana page.

Spyware sermon

Thursday, January 20th, 2005

“What’s the biggest threat to business networks in 2005? Front-line IT managers and security firms increasingly peg spyware as public enemy No. 1.” Spyware: IT’s public enemy No. 1: ZDNet

Dearly Beloved

Having lost most of my day to a sudden spyware/trojan infestation of my laptop, I’m inclined to agree with the above.  Despite the efforts of our outsourced IT helpdesk not to mention my own beforehand, the battle is lost and a rebuild is scheduled for as soon as possible.  On my home PC, I browse with Firefox (only ever using IE for Windows Updates) and I cannot recommend a better course of action to take than getting a decent browser, firewall and anti-virus combination setup on your PC.

For those wishing to embrace this ‘holy trinity’, the cost of doing so is as follows:


Firewall price: £0.00/$0.00

Get Firefox!

Browser price: £0.00/$0.00


Anti-virus price: £0.00/$0.00

Add an hour of your time to read the install/help files, get familiar with the applications and tweak them to suit and you will have made it a lot less likely that you’ll get spyware.  Add SpyBot, Ad-ware and Reg Cleaner to your no-cost shopping list and you’ll then have the means to clean out the stuff may be lurking there already.

Here endeth the lesson.


Two into one – well, almost

Saturday, January 8th, 2005

After a troubled relationship lasting a few months too many, this weekend sees me saying goodbye to the damnable SPV E200 smartphone and saying hello to a Handspring Treo 600 thanks to my boss, who was just as sick of my phone crapping out during calls as I was.

As a long time Palm user, the Treo is a phone I can get to grips with easily and so far the indications are good. However, with my own Tungsten T3 and a company Treo – the former with all the data and apps I need/want and the latter without – I faced a quandary. If was to use the Treo as anything other than an over-specified phone, how was I going to migrate or copy the masses of contact numbers, memos, tasks and calendar data from my T3 to the Treo? Even leaving aside third party applications, simply syncing the Treo with my existing T3 Palm Desktop setup was not possible because whilst the T3 and the Treo share a similar heritage, they are different beasts under the skin. The Treo uses the old style core PIM applications (Date Book; Address Book; To Do List; Memo Pad) while the T3 uses the newer incarnations (Calendar; Contacts; Tasks; Memos) and,whilst each flavour can read the same underlying database, the synchronisation conduits are different. What is more, I use two computers pretty much daily – the home PC and work laptop – so I need to ensure that I can use both the T3 & Treo with both.


So, for the gadget geeks amongst the readership, here’s the line up of the kit involved and how I have set up the core PIM applications so far (after a day’s trial and error with a few backups and reloads):

  • Work laptop running W2000 Pro & Palm Desktop 4.1.4*
  • Home PC running W XP & Palm Desktop 4.1.4*
  • Tungsten T3 + cradle
  • Treo 600 + cable

After an abortive attempt to load the Orange/Handspring-supplied Palm Desktop over the existing 4.1.4 version, I backed up my T3 user profile files and uninstalled all Palm-related apps and folders and then reinstalled the latest 4.1.4 version of the desktop from Palm Source. Once I had restored the relevant files and had everything back to normal, I did the following:

On work laptop:

  1. Hotsync’d T3 to Palm Desktop 4.1.4.
  2. Backed up T3 to SD card and Palm folder to my second hard drive.
  3. Updated all my contacts, correcting mistakes in all the data fields that the Treo would use for its phone contacts and added international prefixes to all numbers (an irksome task but I’ll be travelling soon so worthwhile).
  4. Reviewed and tidied all my memos.
  5. Reviewed and tidied my calendar.
  6. Reviewed and tidied my tasks.
  7. Created new user profile for the Treo in Palm Desktop, so I now have two Palm profiles:
    (a) Bignoseduglyguy
    (b) Bignoseduglyguy Treo
  8. Replicated all (a) tasks categories/colour coding in (b).
  9. Replicated all (a) memo categories/colour coding in (b).
  10. Replicated all (a) contact categories/colour coding in (b).
  11. Replicated all (a) calendar categories/colour coding in (b).
  12. Saved memos, contacts, tasks and calendar data.
  13. Exported memos (.mpa), contact (.aba) and calendar (.dba) data from profile (a) to Windows desktop using the Palm Desktop ‘File | Export…’ option – taking care to ensure all private records were visible and that ‘All records’ was selected for memos and contacts.
  14. Imported memos (.mpa), contact (.aba) and calendar (.dba) data to profile (b) from Windows desktop using the Palm Desktop ‘File | Import…’ option.
  15. Opened HotSync Manager’s Custom function and altered the conduit actions for the (b) profile to ensure that the correct ones for the
    Treo (Date Book; Address Book; To Do List; Memo Pad) were enabled and, more importantly, the OS 5 conduits (Calendar; Contacts; Tasks;
    Memos) were set to ‘Do Nothing’. (In my case, I also set all my other applications like Life Balance, Bonsai etc to ‘Do Nothing’).
  16. Conducted HotSync with all relevant conduits set to ‘Desktop Overwrites Handheld’ to upload all the imported data in profile (b) to the Treo.
  17. Conducted a second HotSync with the T3 to check profile (a) still syncs OK.

On home PC:

  1. Created new user profile for the Treo in Palm Desktop, so I now have two Palm profiles:
    (a) Bignoseduglyguy
    (b) Bignoseduglyguy Treo
  2. Replicated all (a) tasks categories/colour coding in (b).
  3. Replicated all (a) memo categories/colour coding in (b).
  4. Replicated all (a) contact categories/colour coding in (b).
  5. Replicated all (a) calendar categories/colour coding in (b).
  6. Opened HotSync Manager’s Custom function and altered the conduit actions for the (b) profile to ensure that the correct ones for the
    Treo (Date Book; Address Book; To Do List; Memo Pad) were enabled and, more importantly, the OS 5 conduits (Calendar; Contacts; Tasks;
    Memos) were set to ‘Do Nothing’. (In my case, I also set all my other applications like Life Balance, Bonsai etc to ‘Do Nothing’).
  7. Conducted HotSync with all relevant conduits set to ‘Handheld Overwrites Desktop’ to upload all the imported data in profile (b) from the Treo.
  8. Conducted a second HotSync with the T3 to check profile (a) still syncs OK.

As for actual use in the very near future, the T3 will be the main PDA and the Treo will primarily be a phone but will have a second copy of all my basic PIM data. In time, I will move across as many of my favoured applications as the Treo’s memory and my SD cards will allow, to allow me to use the Treo in much the same way as I use my T3. Although I would like to move to one device, I’m not buying a new set of peripherals just yet. Who knows, if I like using an integrated solution enough, I might just migrate to my own 650, but that’s one for the future.

*Latest version downloaded from PalmSource as used with my T3 and NOT the bundled one supplied by Orange, my corporate service provider. This is because the bundled desktop i) has Treo specific add-ons and ii) it ‘moves’ Treo-incompatible T3 OS5 specific apps to a folder on the desktop when it ‘up(down)grades’ your setup. Caveat Emptor.

my lo-fi ears are listening to Luka/Suzanne Vega

Letting off steam

Tuesday, January 4th, 2005

Upon arriving home, I went to the kitchen to make a cup of tea and was greated by the sight of the iron sitting in the ½ full washing up bowl in the sink. What is more, it was full of pink stuff. Knowing better than to assume anything, I called SWMBO to enquire as to whether the iron was there for a reason or had been thrown there in a fit of pique. It is being descaled, I was told, and yes, she had followed the instructions.


A few minutes ago I set up the ironing board and partly filled the iron to press a shirt for work tomorrow. A veteran of previous ill-advised descalings, I decided to test the iron on a tea towel first as invariably the thing spits limescale and brown sludge after such treatments. However, even I was unprepared for the hissing, gurgling and emission of noxious fumes that preceeded the enormous bang and foot-long sparks that leapt from the thing as it died, expelling one last wisp of smoke. Having reset the trip switch in the consumer unit and combed my hair flat again, I pondered on which shirt in my wardrobe is least creased for tomorrow’s meetings. Having checked the stove thoroughly, I’m now off to cook chili whilst assessing whether SWMBO’s skills have any military application, like descaling WMD perhaps.

363 to go…

Sunday, January 2nd, 2005

Are you a reveller, a resolver or a rejecter?  Julian Baggini, in a short piece for The Guardian, argues that it is the whole year that counts, not just how we see it in.

my lo-fi ears are listening to Do You Have A Little Time/Dido

Holiday Redux

Sunday, January 2nd, 2005

Though I suspect I will remember this Christmas and New Year’s Eve for two weeks of coughs and sneezes, I thought I would jot down a few notables for my future reference, if no one else’s.  The most notable gifts were the Christian Aid ‘Just Gifts’ given to myself and the sprogs by SWMBO.  Between us, we got four goats, a pair of crutches, a stethoscope and 18 hours of computer training, all of which were actually delivered to folks around the globe who really needed them.  Although we have been house-bound most of the time, The Incredibles was a notable big hit with all four sprogs who, like sprogs the world over, are now playing at being Incredibles and debating over who is the strongest or stretchiest.  Meanwhile, back in the safe harbour that is our sofa, Bill Bailey: Part Troll proved that, with or without his extraordinary talent for musical parody, he is one of the funniest people on the comedy circuit.  For those not convinced, try watching the video clip where he turns the BBC NEWS theme tune into a rave mix.  During breaks where us adults sought food and drink, Anita and Me, Mean Girls and Pirates Of The Caribbean had the sprogs spawled on the sofa until we surgically removed the remote and isolated the power.  Talking of sustenance, without a doubt, the cups of tea made by sprogs and delivered to the side of the bed/sofa were noteworthy.  If tea doesn’t count, we had friends over last night and we rustled up my Chicken Piri Piri served with a chilau (explained me & others here) which we followed by SWMBO’s raspberry and white wine syllabub and washed down with a Shiraz and Vinho Verde.  The thought of walking into the office again in just 34 hours is simply too much to bear.

my lo-fi ears are listening to Firesuite/Doves

Africa to send aid to Britain

Saturday, January 1st, 2005

The annual trawl through newly-released documents at the National Archive has unearthed a truly surreal story that turns current news events on their head.

“Today, 21 January 1974, the people of Kigezi District donated one lorry load of vegetables and wheat. I am now requesting you to send an aircraft to collect this donation urgently before it goes bad. I hope you will react quickly so as not to discourage Ugandans from donating more”

“And so it was in December 1973 when Her Majesty’s diplomatic staff in the Ugandan capital of Kampala telegrammed London to pass on an offer to save the UK from financial ruin from General Idi Amin Dada.”

BBC World

H is for History

Saturday, January 1st, 2005

A meme pastime to while away the Bank Holiday hours.  Type each letter of the alphabet into your browser’s address bar and see what it offers by way of a snapshot of one’s recent browsing history.  In my case, the alphabet spaghetti lines up like this:

A is for Amazon
B is for this blog
C is for Concern’s Christmas appeal
D is for
E is for Evan Williams
F is for Furl
G is for Gmail
H is for Hackney Cyclists
I is for Ian’s Messy Desk
J is for jkOnTheRun
K is for Keeping Found Things Found
L is for Londo Metroblogging
M is for Matthew Good
N is for BBC News
O is for Online Conversion
P is for Palm Source
Q is blank
R is for Recruitment Plus NZ
S is for Snip URL
T is for Tower Hamlets Wheelers
U is for Texas Pot Roast
V is for NZ Poetry
W is for wURLdbook
X is for Xeni
Y is for Yeti Sports
Z is for zefrank

What this all means or says about one I’m not quite sure.

my lo-fi ears are listening to You (Chairman Hahn ft. Aceyalone)&artistTerm=Linkin Park”>Wth>You (Chairman Hahn ft. Aceyalone)/Linkin Park