Some of you will know I’ve been a diver for many years, the more astute of you will know of my love of underwater photography.
So a little about my policy on gear.. I tend to choose a manufacturer after doing a bit of research and stick with it, for everything. Its called brand loyalty…
Photographic equipment, I went with Nikon, and have gear worth in excess of €25,000, underwater housings, Sea and Sea worth a not insignificant amount. Dive gear, Oceanic, even my computer gear, all Apple (and no I’m not a “fan boy”.). I have just found if you stick to a brand everything “just works”.
Well unfortunately it seems I was wrong to trust brand loyalty is not a great thing for some brands as they have no customer loyalty.
This, therefore, is the story of Oceanic. Regulators, BCD, computers (three of them), masks, fins, even wetsuits, all of which I have despite certain items being better with other manufacturers I was sucked in by the “lifetime warranty” initially, and the deal was sealed when their “medium large” size for the wetsuit fit me perfectly.
Oceanic – Australia
Without fail in Australia I took my gear back to Nautilus SCUBA of Brisbane an authorized service center/dealer for Oceanic and all was fine. I then moved from Brisbane to Canberra and found myself visiting Norm Green from Indepth SCUBA who is both a good friend and great dive shop though this is where my problems started. They serviced my regulators one year and some mixup resulted in the Warranty being voided because I had supposedly no serviced the regulators one year… of course this I balked at and persisted in chasing Norman over the issue and after showing receipts and numerous emails from him to Oceanic the Warranty was reinstated due to me keeping to the service records over the years (turns out it was a late submission of paperwork that caused the problem.)
Oceanic – Malta
Then in 2009 I moved to Malta, and searched out a local Oceanic dealer.. world wide warranty? Pfft! From day one they told me there was no world wide warranty and I would have to pay in full for all servicing and parts, so I did, even when I had to stop diving because of a bout of cancer… Every year the regs, computer and BCD was serviced.
8 years later I returned to Australia and went to Dive Jervis Bay to get my gear serviced … especially after getting wet and finding my regs started free flowing. After waiting months for servicing and repair I was informed that the regulators were missing 2 parts, one of which was a critical O-ring and, in the words of Dive Jervis Bay, I was lucky to be alive as the regs could have failed at anytime.
The battery died on my Oceanic OC1 (not the first time), so I took it to Dive Jervis Bay and asked them to replace, test and service it. A couple of weeks and a few hundred dollars later it was returned to me and I booked a dive.
30 seconds into the dive I found the computer going into “calibrate compass” mode and buttons failing, then the dreaded water droplets. Dive aborted, and waited the first dive out, second dive I went with a backup. On return to shore I gave the computer back to the shop and asked them to look at it, they said they sent it back to Oceanic.
Weeks later (6-8 weeks) I was informed the computer was out of warranty and it was a write off as they were an obsolete model and $1000+ would need to be paid for a replacement. I suggested they should reconsider, and several weeks later received the reply that no, that was that, new computer at $1000 or I should go with another manufacturer. In shop I was asked to consider the Suunto range.
Well upshot of all this, after months of asking for the return of my now dead computer it was returned to me, and finally tonight I got around to opening it up. To my astonishment I found the computer very obviously had not even been opened, as it was still full of water, and the reason for the flood was the seal on the battery cover was both damaged and had debris on it.
So the do’s and don’ts …
Don’t trust a world wide warranty particularly by Oceanic, it’s not, and it will be cancelled at the drop of a hat, even if it is not your (the consumers) fault.
Don’t trust authorized service agents (particularly in Europe) to actually safely service your gear, let alone honor service agreements.
Don’t trust the manufacturer or their authorized service agents to care about you respecting brand loyalty (they don’t give a crap, it’s all money to them.)
Do research what you’re buying.
Do research “authorized service centers” to see if they have mandatory training.
Do learn how to service your own gear so you can at least check the work done by the agent.
Don’t assume because you are paying top dollar for gear you’re getting top quality.
Don’t bother with brand loyalty, it used to be worth something, but nowadays its worth nothing, the only thing brands care about are the number of greenbacks you can give up.
So as I don’t expect to hear anything from Oceanic or any other Dive gear manufacturer, I’m now ridding myself of Oceanic stuff and going with what ever suits the purpose by which ever manufacturer I feel is not offering the best deal/value for money… Starting with a new air-integrated Computer.
So at the beginning of last year I made some resolutions… well not so much resolutions but goals (New Year’s resolutions tend to last only a few hours-days so I don’t do that…)
The …umm.. goals:
To cut down on Facebook usage.
Wish a ‘Happy Birthday’ personally not using Facebook.
Not to sit reading ‘Newfeeds’.
Not to post when I’m going to the toilet, or blowing my nose.
To cut down on helping others before looking after myself.
In past years I have run myself to the point of getting sick taking photos, helping people out, etc.
This year only doing stuff for people that look after me and are concerned with my health.
To allow people to join me in my life (share my life) rather than follow everyone else in theirs.
To treat everyone with the respect and attitude that they treat me (for better or for worse.)
To cut down the amount of time that I work (for my employer) to something closer to resembling the actual times/hours I am supposed to work (using the hours to look after my family and friends.)
So how did it all go? Well a mix of both success and failure, the easier ones were a complete success, the more difficult and controversial not so much. ie Facebook a no brainer, some took offence, some didn’t realise, some followed suit. Some people treated me with complete disrespect and bad (awful) attitude, but I couldn’t bring myself to return the feelings no matter how much I wanted to.
2015 In Review…
The beginning of the year began with a proposal just a few seconds into the new year… I tried to make it the stroke of midnight but this in reality was never going to happen, so it happened with the first minute of the new year. This I think is how everyone should start a new year… Not a proposal of marriage, but to start it with a happy note: Start in the way which you intend on going on.
I find in my life that no matter how hard you will try to keep everything on a positive note, there will always be those who try and spoil things, there will always be a negative, 2015 was no different. Within a few weeks we (Gabie and I) lost a bunch of friends. Some closer than others. Some didn’t like the fact we were getting married. Some didn’t like to see us happy. Some people just have to ensure everyone else is as miserable as they are in their lives. Some people are just unfathomable and are just better left to wallow in their own self pity. The result was after a great deal of stress and angst Gabie changed jobs to avoid someone who was poisonous in our lives, not to forget she hated the job.
After that little upset was dealt with, Gabie set her heart, with my full support, on pursuing an ambition of hers… To teach again. For this she needed a TELT (Test for English Language Teachers) course to begin the process and in February she took the course, she thoroughly enjoyed it, at least until the exam and the early start preceded by an anxious and therefore sleepless night. We found later, as I expected, she had passed it. We booked the TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) course so that she may continue with the dream.
Easter was the next point in the year when things happened and fortunately it was also good. We headed to the UK to visit my family, first my mother in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, then later my brother and his family in Mirfield, Leeds. My sister came for Easter Sunday dinner with Mum so Gabie got to meet her then.
The Easter trip was a really good one as we found a great hotel, the Holiday Inn, Leeds-Brighouse… definitely on the list of places to stay! (In fact we went back there at Christmas 2015 – more on that later.)
Next event was Gabie’s course, the May 2015 TEFL course and the resulting certificate (for those successful.) A potentially stressful time, but with the exception of Wedding plans I had managed to remove as many as possible sources of stress for Gabie, and this paid off as she also aced the course and got her certificate.
You’ll note at this point I haven’t mentioned a lot about me or what I have done, well that’s because there is not a lot to tell. After a number of court events the case against the bouncers that had attacked me was dropped because I couldn’t identify him as the attacker (when you’re attacked from behind and kicked in the back of the head it’s a tad difficult to identify the attacker) and it was obvious that he had friends as none of the witnesses – even the police witness – stepped up to identify him and the CCTV footage was mysteriously absent… apparently for the hour when the attack happened… apparently the system malfunctioned… as is often observed when its the staff being prosecuted.
On the work side of things I was not following my goal and was doing many many hours fighting to get things working correctly at the OS level, leaving me to blog a warning about FreeBSD particularly for production use…
So towards the end of May we had good news and bad news in the papers, first was Ireland who became the first country to approve same sex marriage by popular vote. The local papers reported on the problems in Swieqi started happening again, this time not only vandalism but also thieves… and again it was my CCTV video that resulted in the capture… Much to the annoyance of some people, but the residents were very happy which is all that matters.
July would mark one of my few photographic events of the year where I covered XMA 2015, it also marked the ‘full steam ahead’ on the wedding plans. It also made for a trip to Edinburgh, Scotland to visit the good people from ‘Your GP‘ who wrote medical reports that resulted (eventually) in me obtaining my GRC (Gender Recognition Certificate) which also gave me my new Birth Certificate…. all of which was a pre-requisit to getting approved for marriage in Malta.
August went with a blur, and was marred by an insult or two. Won’t go into the details of who here, but suffice it to say, if you’re invited to someone’s Wedding it is polite to either attend or at least say that you can’t. Similarly if you’re invited to a stag or hen night and you don’t want to deliver one of the biggest insults in Malta, you tell people you can’t make it, you don’t just not show up. Lastly for the wedding you don’t tell people you never received the invite “a week before and it was too late” if you’re going to show it to other people who might actually tell the happy couple two-three weeks before!!! Weddings in Malta are a personal thing and the bride side of the event is very very personal.
So September and the wedding itself, well what more is there to say…?
Well quite a lot, but not for this post. Things didn’t go according to our desire, but according to the wedding planners design, despite our being quite specific. The important thing though was we got married, and most of those people important to us were there to witness it.
Our honeymoon took us to Iceland, mainly chosen as a location as its spectacular and very difficult/expensive to get to if you live in Australia.
Iceland was rather different and brought some disappointments, it was very expensive for a lot less… especially considering it is ‘part of Europe’ .. the year before I spent less money on our holiday for more days in the Seychelles than our fleeting visit to Iceland where we seemed to spend all the time driving from place to place. What topped off the whole experience was getting back to Malta and having Europcar Iceland try and accuse us of putting a massive dent in the roof of the car and try to charge us an addition €3500 to have it repaired….! Worst part of the whole ordeal is that we had already read about various rental companies trying this on in Iceland, so we went with Europcar because we figured “Big well known name, will be reputable” … how wrong we were. Result was we informed the bank they had no permission to make such a withdrawal and told them to take us to court. They no doubt figured with me having photos of the vehicle before and after they would end up with a fraud charge in court and I haven’t heard from them since. My advice in all such cases, always get evidence, and always stand your ground. In most countries if you are innocent you can claim all costs associated with a lawsuit (legal fees, flights, hotels etc)…
So skipping to Christmas 2015, for the first time in many years, I did not put up the Christmas decorations, we knew we were going away and the house was a bit of a mess with everything that has been going on renovations wise so figured ‘why bother’. That said, lights went up on the outside of the house, though in a diminished set.
So at the end of 2015, despite haven attended court several times against both defendants, “Sean Borg” and “Xelinu” nothing has progressed, every time the case has been adjourned, quite literally. So I am no further forward in reclaiming either my truck or bike, though I have a new lawyer on the team. For those who have forgotten what this is about… A previous blog entry…
The ARMS saga is still going on, they finally just 3-4 weeks before our wedding decided they want to talk to me about the rates. They had to wait until I got back from honeymoon as I was way too busy to deal, and they agreed I should be on commercial rate but insisted only from the point of the March 2012 telephone call… some 18 months (and €15,000 later.) They have told me that if I supply paperwork on older forms than I have currently found then they will reconsider… I have so far found 8 forms of various different revisions (though plenty from 2011 and 2013) .. and have 3 more boxes of paperwork to review. The problem being there, is that there is half a tonne of concrete slabs in front of the boxes which was supposed to have been removed already.. didn’t stop them threatening to cut the power over Christmas, or adding nearly €300 in ‘other charges’ which in the fine print was for ‘legal services’… next thing for me is to charge them for the legal services relating to the fact they *still* are billing me on the incorrect rate and charging me interest on the invalid bill, and without a credit contract or credit control…. and they have the audacity to threaten me when they are illegally charging fees against an account they have failed to bill. (Note: a judge confirmed my case as stated in December 2013, they are trying to negotiate a change to that judgement.)
Anyhow so there you go 2015 in a nutshell, the only thing I haven’t covered is I’ve changed from doing 70(ish) hours per week for my employer to more like 45 hours per week this has had a *massive* difference… nothing new has been developed by me, my paperwork has been done when other things have gone the wayside, and visa versa. Finally with all the failures of the network most of the time I have had has been wasted trying to fix other peoples’ problems just so I can actually do my job. Good job the service I am responsible for is in my control and not the control of others or the entire service would be long dead and gone by now.
Lets preface this with the line: I hunt and shoot and would vote “NO” if I could vote…
I will still hunt and shoot even if the “NO” vote wins. Hunting and Shooting as I do takes a lot of skill and is very demanding. My weapon of choice is different from the average hunter though (which is what makes it a lot harder)… Here’s the results of my shooting:
Mark Sultana also shot a few and the Times of Malta posted the results of his hunting… (which if you click the photo you’ll see more and you will see the skill level is so high that when in flight getting the results is significantly more difficult.)
Oddly enough it seems there are many like me that enjoy hunting and shooting, and we can quite legitimately and legally hunt and shoot protected birds as well as non protected birds…
Pity the “YES” vote chooses to show people crossing fields with not a bird in sight, after all isn’t that what they are in favour of?
Pity the “NO” vote feels the need to post all the blood and gore of birds that have been blasted out of the sky being carried by tree huggers and the likes.
Pity the church (which seems to play politics here in Malta on items like Same-Sex marriage whenever it feels like it, yet) don’t seem to care that a “YES” vote means legitimising the killing of God’s Creations FOR FUN….
When it comes to voting on 11 April, don’t vote how people tell you to vote, don’t allow people to tell you how to vote, vote with your conscience… i.e. what you really feel is right, if that means vote “YES” then do it without worry, if that means “NO” then vote “NO”, the point of a referendum is to allow *YOU* to choose for yourself!
(And for those people whom their family and/or friends are being pressured into voting “YES” or “NO” just remember when it comes to voting, it is your choice, tell them what they want to hear, then when you get into the booth, tick the box *YOU* want to vote for. Remember, it’s YOUR vote not THEIRS!)
One would expect public figures to be the example, certainly in other countries those in public office, rock stars, actors and generally anyone famous has to set an example for others. Where the law is broken, those famous often get heavier sentences as an ‘example’ to others, indeed as a person who has worked for a customs office I was warned as part of my induction if I was ever caught in possession of drugs I would likely get the maximum sentence by any court etc.. Where laws are not broken but ethics are, jobs are lost, people are distanced from colleagues and the culprits are discredited. So the question is how does the Maltese political parties fair in this game of showmanship?
Well yesterday I had to fly back to San Francisco for my 3 monthly visit to ‘Head Office’ and I wasn’t looking forward to it. United Airlines are renowned for the worst service of any passenger airline, and traveling some 60,000 air miles per year, I have to say I have had my fair share of their awful service. However, my ‘travel dramas’ of the past were surpassed to my amazement and disgust by and incident at the very beginning of my journey… Happening right in the Malta International Airport (MLA).
I was waiting patiently in line for a checkin assistant to become available with at least one person in the queue behind me, and a couple of friends being served already, then an older man came up and stood near the desk. Thinking this guy was just after asking a quick question I did not challenge him, checkin continued and my friends started to move away, and to my amazement the guy stepped forward and put his suitcase on the conveyor belt and handed over his passport. I immediately called, “excuse me! excuse me! There is a queue here you know?!?!” to which the reply was, “I see no queue.”
I did not hear the reply, but my friends had, I repeated myself with the addition, “are you really such a rude person that you will jump the queue whilst there are others waiting?” The reply, came under his breath, “F’oxx …” (I did not hear the second word but am fairly sure it was “Ommock” .. Now for the benefit of the non Maltese speakers, “F’oxx” is equivalent to “Fuck” in English and “Ommock” is “Mother” (ie the term is “Fuck your mother”, which is used rather offensively instead of “Fuck Off”) .. I was outraged and turned to the checkin assistant who was a young girl and she said, “he’s Flypass”
Now Flypass members get preferential treatment, they get to use the business class lounge etc.. However, their privileges does not extend to queue jumping, and in the event that someone does have that privilege they are to use the ‘business class’ line, or wait to be invited by the assistant.
Remember me saying that I travel around 60,000 air-miles per year? Well, that’s around 20,000 ‘Flypass’ miles per year, I am known to Air Malta staff in Malta, Germany and the UK (though not this girl on the check in desk).. I was flying Premium on Lufthansa in this case, I am a Gold ‘Star Alliance’ member (Lufthansa Miles and More, and United Airmiles etc) I am a silver British Airways member and just 4,000 airmiles off being a Platinum Etihad member… I fly a lot, and have been doing so since 2009, I don’t enjoy it…. Not that it made any difference in this case the assistant still allowed him to continue and the poor people behind me had to wait for this ignorant twit.
Another Lufthansa staff member became free and checked me in.
I spent 30 minutes in the departure lounge wondering where the person had gone to, and boarded the flight on time, several minutes later one of the last people to board came into view, and who would it be, you guessed it, the rude person from checkin, and to my astonishment, he continued past my seat into the economy area and sat approximately half way down the plane… Yes folks, this guy was not even a premium class traveller…!
Incensed by finding probably the most rude, ignorant person in Malta, I formulated a plan. The plane landed and I jumped up and got off the plane as fast as possible, taking my carry on luggage with me, little did he know I would be waiting at the gate in Frankfurt with my Nikon D3s and F2.8 lens… Camera checked, turned on, set to highspeed shooting (9 frames per second).. he walked off the plane and one of the pictures was uploaded here.. My plan to name and shame him into better behavior… Give him an unwelcome 30 seconds of Internet fame… Little did I realise who “he” is…
Within minutes of posting the picture to Facebook several people messaged me to tell me it was none other than Mr Joe Debono Grech, a politician parliamentary candidate for Labour. Many describing him as a relic of the 80s, some stating quite clearly that my report about his conduct has made up their minds on which way to vote at the next election.
Personally I am shocked that someone holding public office would conduct themselves in such a manner that brings their party into such disrepute. Labour, not for the people, for everything they can get for themselves, is what comes to mind. Well Mr Debono Grech, I will not stoop to your level, I will not tell you to “F’oxx ….” I will not use my frequent flyer privileges to be rude and inconsiderate to others, I will be the example you obviously cannot set, and I pray that the people of Malta never have to suffer election of someone so ignorant in the future. I fully expect you to use your contacts to make my life hell, well do your worst is all I can say, I currently pay 4000EUR in income tax per month, I can claim most of those back with all the loop holes in the tax law, I choose not to! I put my taxes into the community for the benefit of all, I support local artists where I can, often at great cost to myself, and never charge a penny. I am polite most of the time (I am just not polite to people who don’t take ‘no’ for an answer) and I believe in the Maltese people and way of life. I was not born here, and I do not have relatives here. My only connection with Malta before I moved was that my father was stationed here in Malta during World War II.. I am 43 years old now, and I have never in my life seen *anyone* with a attitude as disgusting as yours, and I am just glad the new generation of Malta, whilst not following in as much tradition as many would like, are better behaved and respectful to others than yourself.
Oh and the right (Dis)Honorable Joe Debono Grech…. just for the record… you won’t be getting my vote either.
PS: I am learning Maltese, not because I have to – but because I WANT TO!! So yes, I could understand what you said to the assistant.