Documenting Problems That Were Difficult To Find The Answer To

Category Archives: Life

Learning to Drive Non-Synchromesh Heavy Rigid in Melbourne

You want to drive a truck and see that the most broad category of licence you can get in Victoria with a car licence is the Heavy Rigid category (you can’t just jump straight into a Heavy Combination or Multi Combination). Then you realise that you’ll have a condition (B) placed on your licence limiting you to synchromesh/automatic transmissions unless you pass your test in a non-synchromesh vehicle.

Right away you think you’ll do your course/test in a non-synchromesh vehicle. But what does this mean?

For the most part a non-synchromesh truck has what is called a “Roadranger“, “RR”, “Eaton Fuller“, or “crash box” transmission.

They will commonly have 13 or 18 forward gears. Pretty cool, huh? Yeah, well.

First thing my instructor told me was that whatever I thought I knew about driving manual, to forget it. Unfortunately I didn’t forget it. I spent the next two hours crunching gears and feeling like I did the first time, at the age of 16, I tried to shift gears in a car.

So what’s so hard about driving a Roadranger transmission?

The Clutch

The clutch has 4 (four) different positions!

They are:

Position Description
up neutral/driving
quarter down (light push) change gear
third down (heel on floor) vehicle stopped (e.g. at lights)
fully down (for at least 3 seconds) initial gear from neutral
Truck Non-Synchro Clutch Positions

Truck Non-Synchro Clutch Positions

This is pretty much the hardest thing to adapt to. I kept putting my foot to the floor which was wrong, wrong, wrong!

You start off by pushing the clutch “fully down”, counting to three, and then shifting into starting gear (3rd is a popular choice).

Then once moving you put the clutch down a quarter (light push) once the engine hits 1,500 RPM, pull the gear lever out of 3rd, lift the foot off the clutch, wait until the engine drops to 1,200 RPM (about a second), then put the clutch down a quarter (light push) again and slide the gear lever into 4th, lift the foot off the clutch.

That last paragraph is a hell of a lot to take in for an experienced manual vehicle driver. You don’t really need to use the clutch (“floating” gear change) – but you have to use the clutch to pass a driving test.

When you get to a set of traffic lights, once you’ve come to a complete stop, you put the clutch in about a third of the way (heel on the floor), and then change from whatever gear you’re in back into 3rd. Then wait until the lights change when you can pull the clutch out to let the engine bite the wheels and get them moving.

If you ever end up with the gear lever in neutral and come to a complete stop then you’ll have to push the clutch all the way in to the floor and count to 3 (three) before sliding the gear lever into a starting gear (e.g. 3rd).


Truck Non-Synchro Gear Shift Pattern

Truck Non-Synchro Gear Shift Pattern

That brings us to the easy part, the gears. Or, perhaps, better described by watch the tachometer!

Because you can’t afford to ever think about the gear alone. You get to pick a gear for a given road speed (Km/h) and engine speed (RPM). And there is usually one good choice and one or two poor choices.

Depending on the truck there is a magic range where the engine offers the maximum power – in my truck that was 1,200 – 1,500 RPM.

At the same road speed (in my truck) there is a difference of about 350 RPM between gears.


That means aiming for an engine drop of about 300 RPM when going up a gear (e.g. 5th to 6th) because by the time you’ve finished the shift the engine would have dropped another 50 RPM.

Thus the recommendation when shifting up (e.g. from 5th to 6th) is to take the gear lever out of 5th when the engine hits 1,500 RPM, and put the gear lever back in to 6th when the engine drops to 1,200 RPM.


Aim for an engine rise of about 400 RPM when going down a gear (e.g. 6th to 5th) because by the time you’ve finished the shift the engine would have dropped 50 RPM. This is achieved by revving the engine (it takes practice to do this smoothly without excessively revving) when the clutch is in the neutral (foot off the clutch) position.

Thus the recommendation when shifting down (e.g. from 6th to 5th) is to take the gear lever out of 6th when the engine hits 1,100 RPM, rev the engine up to 1,500 RPM, and put the gear lever back into 5th.

If you’re downshifting 2 (two) gears at once, e.g. when you’re slowing down for a turn from 7th to 5th, then aim for an engine rise of about 700 RPM.

Thus the recommendation when shifting down two gears (e.g. from 7th to 5th) is to take the gear lever out of 7th when the engine hits 800 RPM, rev the engine up to 1,500 RPM, and put the gear lever back into 5th.

Shift Summary

Direction Example RPM Change Out At Then In At
Up 1 gear 5th > 6th -300 1,500 wait one sec 1,200
Down 1 gear 6th > 5th +400 1,100 rev it 1,500
Down 2 gears 7th > 5th +700 800 really rev it 1,500

Like mathematics? You’re going to.

Rescue Points

You’re going to have some tough times. You’ll miss a gear because you got distracted. It might happen during your road test. It happened to me. When this happens you have to have memorised the trifectas mentioned earlier – remember, road speed – engine speed – gear.

This combination is different for every truck so get to know yours. They are called “rescue points”:

Road Speed Engine Speed Gear
20 Km/h 1,100 5th
25 Km/h 1,400 5th
35 Km/h 1,300 6th
45 Km/h 1,200 7th

What does this mean? You’ve forgotten what gear you need to be in. You look at the speedo. You see you’re doing 35 Km/h. So get the engine revs up to 1,300 (with the foot off the clutch pedal), then lightly tap the clutch and put the gear lever into 6th.

This necessarily means looking at the tacho when making gear changes.

13 or 18 Gears?

A 13 gear truck has the following gears:

Rev, Low, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 5 1/2, 6, 6 1/2, 7, 7 1/2, 8, 1/2

An 18 gear truck has the following gears:

Rev, Low, Low 1/2, 1, 1 1/2, 2, 2 1/2, 3, 3 1/2, 4, 4 1/2,
5, 5 1/2, 6, 6 1/2, 7, 7 1/2, 8, 8 1/2

Changing into a split gear involves half the rev change of a normal gear change (instead of 350 RPM difference a split gear only changes 175 RPM) and doesn’t involve any clutch use (usually). I’m not going into split gears here because you don’t need them to pass a driving test.


The non-synchromesh transmission is no walk in the park. My instructor described students that were full of bravado going into the course but came out with tears on failing their tests.

You’re going to have to listen to the instructor intently, accept their criticism, accept more of their criticism, and accept even more of their criticism. Because otherwise you’re just not going to get it unless you’re naturally gifted at it.

I enjoyed the challenge – but it was a lot more difficult than I had expected it to be.

How Do I Add A Medicare Service To MyGov With A Linking Code?

So you’ve logged into your MyGov website and you’re attempting to add a Medicare service using a linking code that Medicare has provided you.

You’re confronted with a webpage like this:

  Enter your linking code:

  Select one of the online services you want to link:

  Enter your agency reference number for this online service (no spaces):

Your linking code is straightforward. It is what you were provided with (e.g. G12345678).

The online service you want to link is “Medicare”.

The agency reference number, however, is tricky. It is your 10 digit Medicare card number and your individual reference number without a gap. But what does this mean?

Your Medicare card number is the 10 digits along the top of the card. The individual reference number is the single digit next to your name underneath.

Use the 10 digits from the top plus the single digit next to your name

Use the 10 digits from the top plus the single digit next to your name

So the filled out form will look something like (for this example card):

Entering linking information for MyGov and Medicare

Entering linking information for MyGov and Medicare

Good luck! And if you have a problem you’ll have to call Medicare (not MyGov) on 132011, it took my 19 minutes to get through to an operator.

Areas in Melbourne With No Overhead Wires

Here are some streets/areas that have no above ground electricity or telecommunications cables in Melbourne.

  • Kilsyth
    • Alpine Way
  • Mooroolbark
    • Partridge Way
    • Sherwood Road
  • Wantirna
    • Teddington Way
  • Croydon
    • The Range Boulevard
  • Croydon Hills
    • Nangathan Way
  • Lillydale
    • The Gateway

Monopoly Deal Sort Order

From a new pack the cards are (bottom face down to top face down):

* (Brown) Old Kent Road
* (Brown) Whitechapel Road
* (Light Blue) Euston Road
* (Light Blue) Pentonville Road
* (Light Blue) The Angel, Islington
* (Purple) Northumberland Avenue
* (Purple) Pall Mall
* (Purple) Whitehall
* (Orange) Bow Street
* (Orange) Marlborough Street
* (Orange) Vine Street
* (Red) Fleet Street
* (Red) Strand
* (Red) Trafalgar Square
* (Yellow) Coventry Street
* (Yellow) Piccadilly
* (Yellow) Leicester Square
* (Green) Bond Street
* (Green) Oxford Street
* (Green) Regent Street
* (Rich Blue) Mayfair
* (Rich Blue) Park Lane
* (Black) Fenchurch St. Station
* (Black) Kings Cross Station
* (Black) Liverpool St. Station
* (Black) Marylebone Station
* (Pale Green) Electric Company
* (Pale Green) Water Works
* (Brown/Light Blue) Property Wild Card
* (Light Blue/Black) Property Wild Card
* (Purple/Orange) Property Wild Card
* (Purple/Orange) Property Wild Card
* (Red/Yellow) Property Wild Card
* (Red/Yellow) Property Wild Card
* (Green/Rich Blue) Property Wild Card
* (Green/Black) Property Wild Card
* (Black/Pale Green) Property Wild Card
* (Rainbow) Property Wild Card
* (Rainbow) Property Wild Card
* Deal Breaker
* Deal Breaker
* Forced Deal
* Forced Deal
* Forced Deal
* Sly Deal
* Sly Deal
* Sly Deal
* Just Say No
* Just Say No
* Just Say No
* Debt Collector
* Debt Collector
* Debt Collector
* It's My Birthday
* It's My Birthday
* It's My Birthday
* Double Rent
* Double Rent
* House
* House
* House
* Hotel
* Hotel
* Pass Go (x10)
* (Brown/Light Blue) Rent
* (Brown/Light Blue) Rent
* (Purple/Orange) Rent
* (Purple/Orange) Rent
* (Red/Yellow) Rent
* (Red/Yellow) Rent
* (Green/Rich Blue) Rent
* (Green/Rich Blue) Rent
* (Black/Pale Green) Rent
* (Black/Pale Green) Rent
* (Rainbow) Rent
* (Rainbow) Rent
* (Rainbow) Rent
* Bank 1M (x6)
* Bank 2M (x5)
* Bank 3M (x3)
* Bank 4M (x3)
* Bank 5M (x2)
* Bank 10M

Airbus and Two Pilots in an Emergency

As a regular flier few things scared me so much about flying as the Air France Flight 447 disaster on 2009-06-01. For the first time in a long time a modern airliner by one of the top tier airlines in the world just went inexplicably missing. I had been flying that same day but after hearing that news I did not take any flights again for more than a year.

The subsequent report on that flight 447 was concerning. One major issue was that when two pilots were attempting to control the aircraft at the same time they were not aware that they were both attempting to take control. Unlike a Boeing aircraft in which the steering columns both move when one pilot makes a manoeuvre the Airbus sidestick control provides no physical feedback in the event the other pilot is also issuing commands to the aircraft.

A news report released by the BBC on 2015-12-01 about the AirAsia flight 8501 disaster that occurred on 2014-12-28 stated:

  • At another point, the two men appeared to be pushing their controls in opposite directions

It would be more reassuring to Airbus passengers in future if Airbus provided some warning or feedback when two pilots attempt to give opposing instructions to the plane at the same time. Especially when the lack of a clear distinction of pilot-in-command on these aircraft can, and has, resulted in the deaths of hundreds of people.

How Long Does It Take a UK Citizenship Application to be Approved?

I took the posts in this forum topic and processed them to produce the below graph that illustrates the number of days various people have had to wait between having the UK Border Agency (UKBA) acknowledge receipt of their application, and approve their application.

Please note this is just a sampling of citizenship applications. The data source is by no means reliable. And my process may have been erroneous. Use this information for entertainment purposes only – it is not to be relied upon!

2011 to 2014 UK naturalisation application approval times

2011 to 2014 UK naturalisation application approval times

Improving Your Success Rate By Re-Taking A Test

I was reading that the pass rate for a particular test was 60%. That doesn’t sound very high – and if I take that exam I have a 40% chance of failing that test.

But what if I retry? Or retry two times? What are my odds of passing in that situation?

Let’s take the example where the average pass rate of an exam is 60%.

Description Math
Let Ppass be the probability of passing Ppass = 0.6
Probability of failing first time is Pfail Pfail = 1 – Ppass = 0.4
Probability of failing two times is Pfail2 Pfail_twice = Pfail * Pfail = 0.4 * 0.4 = 0.16
Probability of not failing two times in a row 1 – Pfail_twice = 1 – 0.16 = 0.84
Probability of not failing is the probability of succeeding 0.84

So if you budgeted to take a test two times, not just once, then the probability you pass the first or second time is a much higher 84%!

You could also calculate what your probability of success is if you took an exam three times!

Here’s a table of exams and what your success rate would be if you undertook exams a different number of times:

Description 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90%
one attempt 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90%
two attempts 19.0% 36.0% 51.0% 64.0% 75.0% 84.0% 91.0% 96.0% 99.0%
three attempts 27.1% 48.8% 65.7% 78.4% 87.5% 93.6% 97.3% 99.2% 99.9%
four attempts 34.4% 59.0% 76.0% 87.0% 93.8% 97.4% 99.2% 99.8% 100%

The moral of the story is: don’t fear a tough-looking exam with a mere 60% success rate. Know that if you budget the time and expense for taking the test twice you increase your odds of passing to a much higher 84%!

What Is The Fee For A Citizenship Ceremony In The UK?

What is the fee for a citizenship ceremony in the United Kingdom? Turns out that it varies by council and can vary by day of the week, too. Then there are public and private ceremonies – where private ceremonies are often more expensive. In fact the Nationality Checking Service fees vary significantly, too, and the days and times you can do this also vary.

So, what do some councils charge? Note all information shown is best-effort and may be completely inaccurate, use at own risk only. This is not a comprehensive list and was compiled on 2015-01-01 from publicly available information from Council websites.

NCS is the Nationality Checking Service which you can use to submit your application via (they copy your documents so you can retain them).

Council Public Ceremony Private Ceremony NCS (Adult) Link Notes
Wandsworth unknown 100 50 link
Newham free 85 55 link
Hillingdon free unknown 60 link
Haringey free 100 50 link
Hounslow unknown unknown 60 link Group ceremonies are held on a weekly basis
Greenwich unknown 100 unknown link Public ceremonies are held every Thursday
Ealing free 100 50 Mon-Fri, 60 Sat link group ceremonies on Tuesdays 9.15am, 10.45am, 1.15pm and 3.00pm
Westminster unknown 110 57 link public group ceremonies every Monday morning
Kingston unknown unknown 60 link only 2 ceremonies per month
Richmond free varies between 54 and 428 unknown link
Croydon free 100 50 link
Kensington and Chelsea free 180 70 link Group ceremonies are held once a fortnight
Hammersmith and Fulham unknown unknown 45 link group ceremonies every Wednesday morning
Tower Hamlets free 90 55 link
Essex free 130 75 link Ceremonies are normally held every first and third Wednesday of the month
Merton unknown unknown unknown link ceremonies are sometimes available on a Saturday
Kent unknown 175 65 link
Hampshire free 150 70 link
Surrey unknown unknown 78 link
Leeds free unknown 80 link
Manchester free 100 unknown link
Wokingham unknown 120 63 link Group ceremonies are generally held once a month, on a week day, at 2.30pm
Oxfordshire unknown unknown 75 link
Slough unknown unknown 72 link Two group ceremonies are held each month
Wiltshire unknown unknown unknown link
Reading free 70 75 link

Old Math Riddle/Joke Explained

In Season 5 Episode 1 of “Highway to Heaven” an old math riddle was quoted:

Three sailors check into a motel. At the front desk the clerk charges them $10 each for a total of $30.

The clerk later realises the room price was $25 and gives a bellhop $5 to take back to the sailors as a refund.

On the way to the room the bellhop decides to pocket $2 for himself – and hands each of the sailors $1 each.

Now each sailor had effectively paid $9 each ($10 minus the $1 refund). Three times nine is twenty-seven – $27. The bellhop had the other $2. That makes $29.

Where did the other dollar go?

Mentally it seems like a real puzzle – the men spent $27 on the room. And the bellhop had $2. If you add the two numbers it does result in $29.

The problem is the sign. Spending is the opposite of receiving. Which is why you can’t just add the two numbers. If somebody receives $2 (as the bellhop did) then they technically spent negative $2. So the sailors spent $27 and the bellhop spent $-2 making a total spending of $25.

Let’s do it with algebra:

let sailor’s original $10 spend be s s = 10
original spend on room 3s = 30
refund of $5 3s – 5 = 30 – 5
bellhop keeps $2 3s – (3 + b) = 25
bellhop b=2 3(s – 1) – b = 25
rearrange formula 3(s – 1) = 25 + b
substitute constants 3(10 – 1) = 25 + 2
finalise 27 = 27

There’s no imbalance.

Smart Computers Are No Threat

Stephen Hawking, in an article dated 2 December 2014, stated that artificial intelligence could end mankind.

Now in all likelihood Mr Hawking is considerably more intelligent than I. However I do not believe that there is anything to be worried about with intelligent computers.

Society has a small number of more intelligent beings than the rest of the population. Yet they are of no threat to the existence of the less intelligent. Why is this so?

It’s All About Power

I believe wars and nature have shown us that the threat to existence is solely attributable to power. Humans have wiped out other animal species not out of intent but because they had the power to do so and didn’t restrain themselves.

Our national leaders are rarely the most intelligent of people – again they are often from wealthy families and get where they are because of the networks they have and the people who would benefit from their compliance.

In the school yard intelligent people are routinely targeted for physical assault by those with more raw strength.

Society often demonstrates power against intelligence in the form of strike action by unions who can disrupt society through coordinated action.

And gangs can change/destroy lives through the use of sheer force.

So What Can a Smart Computer Do?

Not a lot! Humans can pull the plug.

Of course if you network a large number of computers and attach them to electrical sources they control along with physically strong mechanical systems – perhaps portable systems (e.g. robotic drones) – then you have a realistic power threat.

But nobody will be that stupid, right?

Is Intelligence Then No Value?

Intelligence does have value. But, by itself, is not a replacement for raw physical or political power. Intelligence helps gain a slight advantage where two parties have equal power. But intelligence is not enough to wipe out or control another.

How Can You Be Sure?

I’m not. This is a personal theory with no scientific evidence to back it up.