31 December 2008

2008: The Year of Travel

It's hard to think that 2008 is actually over after today. It's so monotonous to keep saying it, but each year is flying by and I can't believe what amazing things have happened this year and still seem so recent in my mind!

Work for me continued with UWS in the Teaching Development Unit but it didn't come without further ups and downs including a change of job title after a successful application the role of E-Learning Media Developer, followed shortly by the threat of losing this position due to restructure and funding woes later in the year. It was even more interesting then that I became a permanent full-time employee whilst on leave! The good part is that I'm still in a fun and interesting role with an equally fun and interesting team of people and looking forward to the wonders that '09 will bring...

The biggest memories to take away from 2008 are from all the adventures and travelling that occured. Right back to January with a trip among friends to Dubbo (in a day) to the Western Plains Zoo to check it out. February saw my brother, Michael and I drive down with the EuroFordClub to attend the Melbourne Small Ford Sunday which was a great weekend. In April, for the Easter break while Mum and Dad were away in Singapore, Eleonor and I headed to Perth to check out the western city, see The Pinnacles and other sights and fly on a classic Qantas B747! The BIG holiday was quickly planned and arranged for October where both of us flew off (back home) to the UK to spend time on tour throughout Great Britain, hang out with Eleonor's brother Henry and my family and friends, then to head over to Paris for a few days. What an amazing trip, and we'll definitely be coming back in the next few years! Not to end it all there, I was back off to Perth again with Dad to spectate at the Red Bull Air Race in November!

I highly doubt 2009 will be able to compete with the adventures of 2008, but I'll be happy if we can fit the odd one or two in there somewhere!

In April we were visited by my long time e-pal Zoltan from Germany who was visiting Sydney as part of an orchestra. It was great to finally meet my friend in the flesh and hangout in the city for a day and even give him a taste of kangaroo! When we're in Europe Zoli, Stuttgart will be a destination in our itinerary so we can return the favour :)

I visited three live concerts this year which included Disturbed, The Pink Floyd Experience and Van She (a band Eleonor's in to). I continued to play out on the guitar to keep current as always. Disturbed's new album (prompting their world tour) was probably the highlight of musical releases in '08 with more hard hitting, head banging numbers like Inside the Fire and Indestructible to name a few.

With cars and planes, the Cougar gained a sunroof in January and went onto win the Best Mondeo/Cougar award at the Melbourne Small Ford Sunday event. For another year in a row I attended the Sydney All Ford Day but came away with just a smile on my face this year as there were fewer awards handed out. The Cougar has made it into the 2009 NECO Calendar where I believe she represents January (haven't received mine in the mail yet!)

Mike farewelled his beloved RX-8 recently as it was becoming harder and harder to maintain. I'm not sure if he 'saw the light' but the 8 was replaced with a Subaru Liberty which should run cheaper, chew less oil and fuel and be cheaper on the insurance wallet...

With aviation, I continued my flight training but have still not gone solo thanks to a lot of negative energy coming my way this time. Instructor changes, inadequacies, it was government documents earlier in the year, bad weather and general screwing around by flying schools doesn't help the issue. I've since started training at a different school and will see how we go in early 2009 hopefully to finally tick off that milestone and move on!

My diecast collection reached and quickly passed 200 models in January and I'm climbing past 300 by November! I've reached a plateau in my collecting (finally) and am only searching for the odd one or two rare 'grails' to complete my collection as well as any new releases which hit the market. I'm looking at downsizing in early '09 to palm off models that no longer fit my criteria!

Aside from all the flying I did to travel to London and Perth, as well as my own training, I was able to get down to the airport for more spotting and witness the arrival of Qantas' first A380. I continued publishing new video material I have recorded in my travels as well and sharing my photos with aviation enthusiast groups after gaining more confidence in my picture taking abilities and after acquiring my new camera just before heading to the UK.

Well done to TeamVodafone, the V8 Supercar Team I support as well as the Formula 1 team for winning their respective championships this year. The added sweetener with Lowndsie and Whincup taking a third consecutive Bathurst 1000 victory this year and a whole bunch of other awards in the 2008 season.

On a sadder note, the family farewelled Rex, our faithful dog in the Winter of this year after he passed away at the age of 14. We think he went peacefully and has his own 'patch' in the back corner of the backyard now. We gained a few fishies from our Uncle in a large fish tank which welcomes guests to the house at the front door now. Congratulations too to Dave & Kell with baby Jarryd born in March (just after my birthday) and Alan & Belinda with baby Cooper born in April.

With such an eventful year already behind me, it's exciting to look forward to 2009 and what's coming. I only hope that in a year's time I'm able to look back on the year with as much astonishment as I am today! Tonight the family heads into Milson's Point to finally witness the city fireworks from the balcony of my Uncle's apartment so another first to be ticked off that 'life list' that exists in my head :P

Wishing you all a great new year and we'll chat again in 2009!


19 December 2008

Years of Dedication

December brought about the end of the V8 Supercar Championship for 2008 and it was a farewell on many scales including retiring Holden (enemy) driver Mark Skaife and the last time the V8's would hold a round at the south-western Sydney track Oran Park.

Oran Park
I have fond memories of watching races at Oran Park. It was the first track I visited in 2002 along with friends armed with an analogue snapshot camera sitting at the final corner. Watching as Mark Skaife took the round and more points with which he would eventually claim victory of the season...

This year was different. I had witnessed the crowning of Ford champions before at Eastern Creek when Marcos Ambrose dominated in 2003 and 2004, but he was the driver of the team my brother had supported. I had stuck it out supporting Craig Lowndes since his defection from the Red Side and any team he drove for. So close we had come in recent years but 2nd place was getting boring, so it was with great relief I was finally able to cheer that my own team, the one I supported had finally claimed the championship crown - even though it was in the hands of Jamie Whincup and not good ol' Lowndsie. Well, beggars can't be choosers and Whincup was a deserving champion this year for sure.

Dad and I went to Oran Park for this occassion and although it was crazy weather wise, we experienced blistering heat in the sun and extreme downfall in the rain, it was a great day of racing entertainment. Although Holden's Garth Tander took the round due to some bad luck which befell Jamie Whincup, it didn't change the fact that Whincup had taken the #1 from Tander. Well done to Mark Winterbottom for a solid performance and backing up his 2nd placing in the championship. Well done also to Lowndsie for 2nd place in the round standings.

Next year will be different with the venue moving to the Homebush Olympic Site, unless the greenie, stuck-up, know-nothings get their way in abolishing the government's plans...

Year's end approaches... already!

06 December 2008

More Air

Continuing the hectic travels in October, there was no rest for the wicked as a week later I jetted off with Dad to the other side of the country for the Red Bull Air Race in Perth. The following documents that weekend adventure...

The Air Race was planned well enough that with our morning flight departure from Sydney we got into Perth just after 10am local time and had enough time to get to the venue and check out the action!

The event is planned in the form of a mini airshow over two days so we saw displays by a RAAF Hornet, the Roulettes and vintage warbirds amongst the heated competition of the Red Bull competitors.

Having vaguely followed the series in the second half of the year and being patriotic I was gunning for Paul Bonhomme, the British pilot who was fighting for the championship against Hungarian Hannes Arch. However, the latter merely had to secure a decent qualifying result, which he did, to claim the 2008 title. Nevertheless, the flying was cut throat, entertaining and unbelievable at times.

It was a great, fun filled weekend, made easier by the flight time and start/finish times of the event itself. Sadly it's now back to reality! Even sadder is that the Air Race won't return to Perth until 2010, so I'll have to wait a while before re-embarking on this adventure.

Ah well, the International Air Show is on in 2009 - there's my next aviation fix!

In other news, more up-to-date, I finally rejoined the world of piloting today with my first ab-initio training flight since early August! No thanks to delayed paperwork, instructor absences, bad weather, bad luck, holidaying and whatever else has worked against me, this was my first time behind the controls and had a reasonably impressive lesson recapping a lot of techniques etc and overcoming my rustiness.

Here's hoping we can finally overcome that certain milestone in my sights... If the planets align, the stars are right and destiny gives her permission, it just might happen!

Until the next entry, hope you're having a happy festive season so far...