Australian Election 2007

Earlier today, all Australian citizens of age went out to the polling places to vote for their representatives and senators in Parliament. I say “all” because voting in elections here is mandatory (though some people find ways not to vote). Basically, the political party with the majority of representatives voted into Parliament wins the election and that party’s leader becomes Prime Minister.

This was the first time I have to vote for the Australian federal elections and I’m a bit excited and anxious. Excited because my vote will help decide who Australia’s next Prime Minister will be. Anxious because I’m not sure how elections are done here.

It reminded me about how chaotic elections are in my home country. In the Philippines, there are a lot of security measures that needed to be met on election day to ensure that no cheating occurs. Thumb prints are taken and black tough-to-remove ink is dropped on your fingernail as a sign that you already voted (and cannot vote again). Ballot boxes need to be chained and guarded by third party volunteers at all times or risk it being stolen.

Another difference between elections here and in the Philippines I’d like to note is that the elections here are held on the weekend. That means no free day off for us which is a bit of a bummer.

The polling places opened at 8am and closed its doors at 6pm. We went to the nearest polling place from our house at around 10:15 am. That’s right. We can go to any polling place in our area and we don’t have to be assigned to a specific polling place like in the Philippines.

Anyway, there was a queue when we got to the place. It wasn’t a long queue though and it didn’t take long before for us to get to the table with the lady with all the list of names of voters in our area. We told her our names and she looked it up in her thick binder. When she found our names, she marked our names with a pencil and handed us our ballots.

Each of us got two sheets of paper. One small green one where we have to rank the Representative candidates of different political parties. We have to put a “1” on the box beside the name of our first choice candidate. Then write “2” on the box of our second choice and so on. Frankly, I’m not sure why we needed to even rank them. I’m pretty sure simple “check” in the box for our favoured candidate would have sufficed. But I guess there is a reason behind the ranking thing. I’ll find that out later.

The second sheet of paper is a long white sheet of paper with a list of all the political parties and the names of senatorial candidates for each one. We have two choices here: we can either rank (again!) all the senatorial candidates (there are a lot of them!) or just put “1” on the box of the political party you wish to support. Since I don’t want to waste any more time ranking every senatorial candidate (and I don’t even know any of them), I just did the easier second option.

After that, we fold up the two sheets of paper and drop them in their respective cardboard ballot boxes. And that was it. No thumb prints, no ink on fingers. The entire thing took less than fifteen minutes. It was that painless. It was so easy I couldn’t believe it.

But here’s the even better part. Before Saturday ended, we already know the winner of the election! Unbelievable! Specially for someone like me who grew up with elections in the Philippines. I wish elections back home was this simple and organised. But I guess doing the same thing back home would result with a lot of unscrupulous people cheating the elections. That is just unfortunate.

Anyway, if you don’t know yet, the Australian Labor Party won the election and Kevin Rudd is now the new Prime Minister of Australia.

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Published in: on November 24, 2007 at 11:32 pm  Comments (6)  

Cost of living in Australia?

I found that the most common question asked by people I know who are thinking of migrating to Australia is how much does it cost to live in Australia. Well, I don’t have official statistics or anything so the only way I can answer this is to draw from my personal experience living in Melbourne.

Back when we didn’t pack home-cooked lunch to the work, we spend around $250 per week on groceries with the cost of eating out for lunch included. A lunch meal will generally cost about $10. It’ll probably cheaper at McDonald’s or Hungry Jack’s (aka Burger King) with their $6 burger meals that include chips (French fries) and drink. At selected Hungry Jack’s branches, you even get to refill your drink again and again. In the end, it will always be a lot cheaper to cook your own food than to eat out.

To save even more, instead of shopping at Safeway (called Woolworths outside Victoria, I don’t know why) or Coles, shop at Aldi instead. Sure, the selection of products is a bit limited at Aldi but those you can get there, you’ll get there a lot cheaper than the major supermarket chains. We would first buy our groceries at Aldi then go to the nearby Safeway to buy the rest of the things on our grocery list that we didn’t get at Aldi.

This $250 does not include transportation costs, clothing and utilities. We take the train so that’s $158 for a monthly full-fare Zone 1+2 ticket each. That ticket allows us to take any public transportation within Greater Melbourne. If you live closer to the city (within the Zone 1 boundary), you get to pay less. We only use the car on weekends and it costs us about $30 per week to have it filled with petrol (gasoline).

As for our utilities, our latest water quarterly bill was about $90. During winter time, our gas bill can reach up to $100 per month. Gas (gaas) is usually necessary not only for cooking but for heating homes, you see. Electricity bills tend to rise during winter too due to our need to turn on electric heaters and less daylight. Our winter electricity bill can reach up to $200 in a quarter. However, we are still aiming to lower our electricity, water and gas usage so hopefully, we’ll need to pay less in the future. We are doing this not only to save money but of course to help out the environment. Yeah, I just had to throw that in there.

If you are renting an apartment, you probably won’t need to worry about the water bill as the owner of the property usually pays for the water. So that’s one advantage of renting. Speaking of renting, a two bedroom apartment we rented in St Kilda East (an inner Melbourne suburb, about 15 minutes away from the city by train) cost about $1,200 per month (they will quote the rent in dollars per week though). Apartments will cost more if furnished.

If you are just starting out and you need furniture, go see Fantastic Furniture. They have the cheapest furniture packages that I know of. It’s not exactly the classiest furniture around but they definitely aren’t shoddy either. For $2000, you get a double-sized bed and matress, a dining table plus chairs, living room tables, bedsides (drawers), and a 51cm TV! You’ll probably need to assemble some of the furniture yourself though but I’m sure you’ll be able to handle it. That’s partly how they can sell it for cheaper. I bought my first furniture suite from them and I found the furniture to be sturdy and durable. And they don’t look too shabby either.

For the clothes and other spendings, you will get a better idea of how much things cost here by looking at the various department store chains’ catalogues online. Here are a few of the more popular chains of shops:
Myer
Target
Big W
Kmart

Now, you have to do the math (or as they say here, maths) and figure out how much money you need to bring with you when you fly to Australia. Be sure to bring enough money with you to last you six months here without a job just to be sure. Note that the cost I quoted above was for two persons living together. Utility bills might be cheaper if you are by yourself living in a one bedroom apartment, for example. It could be more expensive if you are a family of four, of course.

I hope this helps anybody wanting to know how much things cost here.

Published in: on November 21, 2007 at 12:01 am  Comments (5)  

Scaremongering

I just want to keep this short. The Australian Federal election is less than a week from now and the major political parties are coming out in full force with their political campaign ads. And the Liberal Party’s TV ads annoy me to no end.

Not once did I hear from the Liberal Party’s TV ads what their party is going to do for the country if they get re-elected into parliament for another term. What is their platform? Well, you won’t know it from just watching their ads. Instead, you’ll only hear scaremongering and mud-slinging from the ads.

Imagine if companies advertise their products in such a way. McDonald’s ads will only show how Burger King’s burgers are less tasty than theirs. Bunnings Warehouse ads will only show how Mitre 10’s shops are lacking in selection and how much more expensive their stuff are. Toyota ads will only show how Mitsubishi cars are less reliable. And so on. Ads that don’t help sell a product but only exist to try to dissuade you from buying a competitor’s product.

It makes the Liberal Party look very desperate. It seems like they think that the only way they can win this election is by making sure nobody votes for the other party. They claimed that 70% of the Labor Party’s people were union officials like it will bring about communism into the country. The funny thing is that the figure they quoted wasn’t even correct. I’ve heard on radio that the number of former union officials were much lower than 70% and Peter Costello acknowledged this, yet they continued to run the ad that claimed 70%.

Here is that ad: Watch in YouTube
Here is the transcript from the radio programme: Read the Insiders transcript interview with Peter Costello

This is my first federal election. I previously didn’t care one way or the other which party becomes the ruling party. But with statements from current Prime Minister John Howard saying that climate change doesn’t mean the end of the world, I’d rather go with Labor just to see him out of Parliament. In fact, climate change does mean the end of the world! John Howard may be too old to witness it first hand but what about the younger generation, HUH?!

It doesn’t help that I just hate scaremongering tactics because people tend to fall for them, more often than not. I feel like these tactics take advantage of people who are less informed. It feels like cheating to me, is all.

Anyway, I just want to vent out. Vote for anybody but the Liberal party, for me.

Here are some more of the Liberal Party’s ads:
Under Labor, who will run the economy?
Unions to Take Control of our Economy

Contrast those with the Labor Party’s ads:
The difference between Kevin Rudd and Mr Howard
Kevin Rudd’s vision for Australia

Published in: on November 20, 2007 at 10:01 pm  Comments (4)  

Art meme

In the art community of DeviantArt, there is a popular art meme going around and for good reason. It is very fun to fill out. But being an art meme, there is a lot of drawing involved in answering it.

Below is my answer to the art meme, created by Nyu of DeviantArt. It is shrunk to fit in the blog though so some of my smaller writings may not be readable. To view it in its original view, click on the image below to go to my DeviantArt gallery where the full size version is. If you load that page and the image is still small, click on the Full View link on the left or the small image to enlarge it.


Click to open in DeviantArt then click on small image to enlarge

Whew. Took me a couple of hours over a few nights to finish this. I’m glad it’s finally done.

Published in: on November 20, 2007 at 12:01 am  Comments (2)  

Finding a place to live

A reader whose family has recently received their resident visa has sent us an email with some queries on how to find a place to live here. This reminded me of the time when we were still in the process of moving here from Canberra and how we went about finding an apartment in an unfamiliar place where we don’t know anybody and we only have the weekends to drive from Canberra to Melbourne to view the listed properties. The move was difficult but not impossible and hubby spent a few weekends driving and sleeping in hotels.

Anyway for those who are just starting their search, hope these tips ease the difficulty of getting your own place.

  1. If it’s at all possible, get a street map of your target destination (Victorian map). This would not only help you in choosing where to narrow your search for a place to live, it would also be handy for the times when you need to find work, schools, parks, etc.
  2. A new migrant would probably not be in a rush to own a car and would generally be reliant on the public transport – this would include trains, trams and buses. The easiest and probably the fastest mode of transport (if it turns up!) are the trains. Study the network map for Melbourne and surrounding areas to see which areas have the service. Take note that there are two zones and fare levels within the network. Yellow denotes zone 1 while blue means zone 2.
  3. Although most train station names are also suburb names, not all train stations/stops are suburbs. For example, Balaclava station (Sandringham line) is in the suburb of Balaclava. However, there is no Aircraft suburb even if there’s an Aircraft station (Werribee line). To determine if the name is a suburb, try to find the name in this list of Melbourne suburbs.
  4. Once you have a suburb name or a postcode taken from the list of suburbs, you could now search for available rental properties at Domain or Realestate.com.au. Enter the suburb name and wait for the site to return a list. Both sites feature a way to view the available properties on a map (Plot properties on map link for Domain.com.au, View on Map tab in Realestate.com.au). Although the map is quite limited in what it shows, it is still a useful way for you to see how near the property is to public transport and parks. Click on the little houses/markers to see a short description and a thumbnail photo of the property.

    As an example, I typed in St Kilda East as a search criteria in Domain.com.au, switched to map view and clicked on a property in Blenheim Street. This ad is for apartment unit number 3 at property number 24 with 2 bedrooms, 1 bath and 1 parking spot. Located near the bottom of the map is the Balaclava train station while the solid lines on Carlisle and Chapel Streets indicate that tram lines run through these streets. This means that the property is very near public transport. Remember that being close to public transport could be a minus (noisy, a higher volume of people passing through and possibly traffic in peak hours) as well as a plus (easy to get to, numerous options to get away, cheaper transportation cost as you may not have to own a car until much later). Rent is listed as $280 weekly which would probably be paid monthly ($280/week x 52 weeks/year divided by 12 months/year = $1,213.33 monthly).

  5. To learn more about the location of the property, go to Street-Directory.com.au and enter 24 Blenheim Street, Balaclava VIC as the address. The map displayed would be quite detailed and you would be able to see train lines and stations as well as tram and bus routes. You would also be able to see that it there are a couple of schools, parks, parking spaces and a town hall nearby. Ticking on the For Rent layer on the left hand side menu of the page would also show all the rental properties being advertised in the area.
  6. If you’re curious, you could also learn more about the demographics of an area buying looking at the suburb’s profile. Local newspapers could also shed some light on the lifestyle of the people living in the area as well as the burning issues of the residents there. Typing “St Kilda newspapers” in Google, I found the area’s local newspaper – The Port Phillip Leader.
  7. Create a shortlist of properties you would be interested in and contact the agents to inspect the properties. Photos in the ads do help but there is no real substitute to actually being there and imagining yourself walking the streets everyday, envisioning your furniture in the space and seeing how you like the place.
  8. And finally, for those who are unfamiliar with the rental application process in Australia as well as their rights and responsibilities as tenants, have a browse at the renting section of the Consumer Affairs Victoria. One particular document to be found there is the especially useful guide for newly arrived migrants and refugees.
Published in: on November 19, 2007 at 7:52 am  Comments (1)  

Half a flush

A newcomer to Australia is usually surprised that the toilet bowls here are different from those found in most countries. And no, I’m not referring to how flushed water spirals in the opposite direction here in the Southern hemisphere compared to those in the Northern hemisphere. That is a myth, by the way. If the design of the toilet bowl is the same, the flushed water should spiral in the same direction regardless of hemispherical location.

I’m actually referring to the fact that toilets here don’t have one flush button or lever but two! That’s right, you have two options here. One for the full flush (usually indicated by a full circle) and one for the half flush (usually indicated by a circle with a diameter line).

A few people are confused by the concept of the dual flush system though. They are afraid of underestimating the amount of flush they need after going to the toilet (and consequently, leaving evidence of their usage). In case you are one of the confused, the half flush is for Number 1’s and the full flush is for Number 2’s.

Kidding aside, I think the idea of dual flush toilets is pretty clever, not to mention environment friendly. It boggles the mind how much clean drinkable water is wasted flushing down toilets. With this innovation, imagine all that water saved from using the half flush instead of the full flush. Here is a quote from the Australian Government’s environment website:

Studies conducted in 1993 simulated the estimated projected water savings in Australia, over time, of a 6/3 litre dual flush system compared with other flushing volumes. The study addressed total current population, projected population, total current number of households, projected number of households, number of toilets per household, and flush volumes in current use. The results of the study showed that water consumption from toilet cisterns (litres per person per day) has fallen from 55 litres in 1982 to 18 litres in 1993.

Data from the study clearly showed that, for Australia, the amount of water used for toilet flushing in the year 2020 was anticipated to be less than the amount used in 1991. This result was achieved even with a projected population increase to 26,707,000.

We’re lucky that we have dual flush toilets here, specially now that there is a water shortage crisis. If we didn’t, we could have run out of water a long time ago. Now, if only the flushless urinals take off in Australia, too.

Published in: on November 15, 2007 at 12:15 am  Leave a Comment  

Religious art

I started to draw when I was quite young. Some would say I was artistically-inclined. I believed even then that God had given me these skills for a reason and I felt that the very least I can do is to create art that could help strengthen and renew people’s faith in God. So, while I was still studying in a Catholic school, I volunteered to be one of the school-boy artists for our school’s parish church.

Our chruch had three main entrances and, if I recall correctly, there were at least two entrances with a big blackboard beside the entrance. Our job as volunteer church artists was to draw a biblical scene based on a relevant Bible verse for that week’s mass. We would letter the actual verse on one half of the board and draw the matching scene on the other half of the board using coloured chalk. We took turns at who gets to draw and letter on which board. I had to stay later after school to do this but I didn’t mind one bit. I believed that I was using my God-given artistic gift to good use and it felt good.

Studying in a Catholic school meant we have Religion classes. I didn’t mind. I liked the stories and the lessons I learnt during these classes. The other thing I like about these classes were the textbooks. They were very colourful and it had lots of art in it drawn in a particular style that I really liked. The style used was well suited for those Religion books, I thought. I even imitated the style when I drew on the Chruch boards.

Now that I’m grown up, I still feel that God is calling me to make religious-themed art. That’s why I had drawn a few artworks a few years ago that is related to the Passion of Christ. Sad to say, I haven’t drawn anything similar since.

After winning the Artist of the Year prize in our Company’s art competition, I start to feel God’s call again. And so, here I am again.

I already started to draw my version of The Annunciation thinking that it may be appropriate for this coming Christmas season. After thinking about it some more though, maybe a Holy Family portrait or scene in the manger work would be more appropriate. So I’m putting the Annunciation work on hold for now.

Coming back to the art style in those old Religion books, I was thinking that maybe I can imitate the style again for the thing I’m planning to draw for Christmas. However, I don’t have access to those very old textbooks so I have to rely on memory alone. Before anything else, I first wanted to try if I can pull of the style or at least come up with a style that has a similar feel to it. So, I drew this piece: The Tax Collector.

I originally drew this with a ballpoint pen on my notebook at work as a doodle to help me clear my mind during the large amount testing that needed to be done with the system. When I got home, I took a webcam photo of it then inked it in Painter IX.

The art style of those textbooks had strong lines, a bit angular and the people always faced straight towards the reader even when looking to the side (the artist just tilts the head and points the eyes in the direction of what the character is looking at).

Now that it’s done, I think it came out well. I’ll probably do some more trials before actually starting on the real piece I want to draw.

Published in: on November 14, 2007 at 11:01 pm  Leave a Comment  

Jolly Meatballs at Ikea

Are you originally from the Philippines but now live in Australia? Do you miss the taste of Jollibee burgers? Well, there is a place where you can eat something close to Jollibee‘s burger steak meal minus the rice plus fries.

If you live in Melbourne, Sydney or Brisbane, then you’re in luck because there should be an Ikea store near you. For those of you who don’t know, Ikea is a Swedish furniture megastore that sells inexpensive household items that has branched out around the world, including Australia.

They don’t only sell furniture and household knickknacks, though. They also have a restaurant that serves really cheap meals, too, to feed all the busy and tired shoppers. Our favourite meal from Ikea’s restaurant/cafeteria is the Swedish meatballs meal. It’s basically a dish with 10 pieces of meatballs served with gravy, some berry sauce and chips (French fries) all for $6.50.

I love the meatballs all by themselves but what is a bonus for me is that the taste of it reminds me of Jollibee’s burger steak meal (burger patty with gravy and rice), only better. So, for someone like me who misses the taste of homegrown fastfood, the meatballs meal was a welcome treat.

Published in: on November 9, 2007 at 12:53 am  Comments (8)  

Digital Paintings

I’ve been doing a lot of art stuff with my tablet and Painter IX lately (and consequently, not a lot of writing). I’m still inspired by the digital fantasy art magazines I’ve been reading lately. Made me think, “yeah! I can do that, too!”

Here are a couple of pics I’ve worked on over the past few days. Although I feel like my art skills are improving, I think I still have a lot of things to work on before I can consider myself ready for commissions.

Lili in Voyager uniform
This was originally based off a very old sketch I have in my old drawing book. I thought the sketch looked good so I scanned it in and added a bit of colour using Painter IX.

Lili d’Quellara is one of the female lead characters in a fantasy webcomic I used to make, Lovarian Adventures. To make it a little bit more interesting for me, I decided to make her wear a science officer’s uniform as seen on Star Trek Voyager, one of my favourite Star Trek incarnations.

Me in Atlantis uniform
I decided I need to change the small 50×50 pixels avatar I use on my online art gallery at DeviantArt as it is getting a bit old. That and the avatar I was using was actually a drawing I made of Fr Sephriel, a character from my old fantasy webcomic, Lovarian Adventures. I also want to have my avatar in colour this time, as opposed to black & white.

While doing the face, I decided to draw part of the body as well. Having just finished the Lili pic above, I thought that maybe I can put myself in another sci-fi show’s uniform. And so, I drew myself wearing the uniform worn by the science people in Stargate Atlantis.

For those of you who know me well, you may notice that I don’t look exactly like this but I hope the resemblance is close enough.

Published in: on November 8, 2007 at 12:18 am  Comments (7)  

Long way around

It’s the day before Melbourne Cup Day. A lot of people didn’t come to work to take advantage of a four-day-long weekend. I wasn’t one of them. It was actually quite pleasant to come to work when a lot of people didn’t. There’s less traffic and less crowding. And there were more fruits left in the fruit boxes this morning, too.

Anyway, come lunch time, I was raring to meet up with Raquel at Australia on Collins for lunch. Raquel microwaves our packed lunch while I hurry off to the meeting place and buy two orders of small steamed rice at the Chinese fast food counter. We do this often enough that the people working at the Chinese fast food recognises us and knows our order even before we make it.

I thought it was going to be an easy tram ride from the East end of Collins Street down to the Swanston Street tram stop (going down West). However, when I got to the tram stop, there weren’t any people. There weren’t even any cars along Collins Street. I thought that was odd.

I looked down toward the west end of Collins Street and it seemed like the road was blocked off. Darn. That meant I had to walk all the way to Oz on Collins which was two blocks away. I was pretty hungry at the time so I really could’ve used a tram just about then.

When I finally got near to Swanston Street, I discovered that the whole street was barricaded to make way for the Melbourne Cup parade going through Swanston. That also meant that there was no way for me to cross to the other side of Collins Street where Raquel was waiting for me with our lunch! Just what I needed, more delays.

I then walked north along Swanston Street’s east sidewalk looking for a gap in the barricade where I could cross over to the west side of the city. After a block and a half, I finally got to the end of the barricade. However, the barricade actually only turned into Swanston Street from Bourke Street. That meant that I had to continue walking west with the hope that the next major street won’t be blocked off.

One block later, I turned south and walked the block and half distance back to Collins Street. Thankfully, the parade has moved on and I was able to walk straight to Collins Street without further delays. When I got to Collins Street, I turned east toward Swanston Street. Another half-block later, I finally arrived Oz on Collins and had my lunch with Raquel.

Too bad I was hungry and in a rush to get lunch, though. I wasn’t able to stick around Swanston Street and take photos of the celebrities, the bands and performers that were in the parade.

Published in: on November 5, 2007 at 12:55 pm  Leave a Comment