Sunday, 15 June 2014

Sedentary Society?

I was reading an article which says that Australians are becoming less and less likely to move interstate for school or work or anything really.

It was one of those things that was both surprising and unsurprising.

My family is one of the ones that has moved for work before.

I was born in Melbourne, my family relocated to Canberra before I was 1, stayed there until I was about 8 (long enough for my brother and sister to be be born in the same place), and then moved to Coffs Harbour. We stayed there long enough for me to finish primary school, then moved back to Victoria in time for me to start high school.

And there we stayed.
I got to complete high school in one place, my sister got to attend both primary school and high school in one place, while my brother finished primary school and then went through high school without another shift.

Each of the moves had been prompted by my father's job, when new positions or promotions became available.

There was a point when I was in high school where we might have moved to Tasmania but Dad either didn't apply for the position or didn't get it.
At the time I was glad because I was a stubborn teenager who wanted to stay with my friends.
Now I'm kinda wondering what life would have been like if we'd made that move as well.

The thing is my father had a job in the public service.Even before the advent of the internet they had a pretty good listing of jobs that was available internally so you knew what was available.
I assume you either interviewed locally and a report was passed on or you were interviewed by phone back when that was the only sensible option*.

And THAT is the point my brain got all hooked up on initially when I read the article.

'How the shit are you supposed to get a job in another state?' I thought.

'Are you going to bung along your resumes, then go on some kind of interview roadtrip?'

'What kind of employers are going to be comfortable hiring someone who isn't local?'

'What if you get there and you don't like the town?'

These are all thoughts that, as a person who has friends who interview for jobs in other countries and then bugger off overseas when they get them, I was a bit surprised to find myself having.

If they could do it back when all job postings were by newspaper and employment agency then obviously they can do it now, we just don't.
Maybe because there is a part of our brains that is still rattling along, unobserved by the conscious mind, still thinking this shit.

'How the shit are you supposed to get a job in another state?'
Search for jobs in your field online and apply for them, durr.

'Are you going to bung along your resumes, then go on some kind of interview roadtrip?'
Well what with these magical advances in technology, any employer willing to hire someone from out of state would be willing to interview you by ye olde phone or videoconference over Skype or Viber or another similar program.

'What kind of employers are going to be comfortable hiring someone who isn't local?'
Well some employers would be fine with it, others wouldn't.
A lot of government organisations, chain businesses, or big companies that have offices in more than one city would think of it as business as usual. If you have the qualifications and are willing to relocate, then you're a good candidate.
Some towns or cities that need more people from various trades, or more medical professionals and the like, hold information events to attract anyone qualified to do the work and willing to up stumps.
There are some employers who wouldn't consider it but they would for the most part be smaller businesses or in industries that have a certain kind of turn over.
You wouldn't expect to apply for a cafe job on the other side of the country and have the owner excited to Skype you for a casual position.

'What if you get there and you don't like the town?'
I am very aware this is a question you ask yourself when you've never been in proper economic difficulty.
You've never had your back to the wall and been looking down the barrel of 'do I pay the rent or do I buy groceries?'
If there is work available locally and you're just a bit bored and looking for a change you may not be that thrilled about the idea of moving to a town/city/state you've never visited before and decide against the idea.
If the shit is heading for the fan and you've got a chance at this distant job I expect you take it and worry about whether your prospective new home has a bowling alley or a place of worship of your choice later.
There are people who move purely because they want to experience life in different places, to get more experience.
There are also people who move wherever they need to in order to support themselves and their families.
If you've got the luxury to be in the first category then good for you.
If you're in the second category you probably find this whole discussion a bit frivolous.
If you're partway between the two... good for you, you're probably very level-headed and making the best out of your opportunities.

This topic has been in the public eye recently with Prime Minister Abbott answering questions on the lack of work available for young Tasmanians and what this will mean with harsher welfare benefit criteria by saying “If people have to move for work, that’s not the worst outcome in the world … for hundreds and hundreds of years people have been moving in order to better their life,”.

At the time this comment was met with outrage which I joined in with in a vague sort of way, waving my fist at the car radio and muttering imprecations, but now I can see that most of that anger came from a possibly subconscious reaction of 'what if they don't want to?' or 'why should they have to?' the answers to which in previous generations would have been, respectively, 'tough titties' and 'because they want to eat'.

It's amazing that in a time of faster travel and easier communication in many ways we are becoming more rooted to our physical locations.

It's hard to believe it could be a fear of the unknown, seeing as so much more information is available to us these days, but are we coming less adventurous as a result?

Have we decided that being able to see things virtually rules out the old saying 'if you never ever go, you'll never ever know'?

Or maybe, like me, everyone is thinking of moving about as something they'll do 'later' but because we never apply any proper thought to it, later doesn't come and all of a sudden we'll be in that age bracket who are less inclined to move at all.

Whatever the reason it'll be interesting to see how trends develop in the future.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

The Russian Bride

I went to a party on the 31st of May and I am still in shock.

Not because the party went off like something you read about in the papers and tut tut when they talk about it on the radio.

The party was for a friend's birthday and she decided to have a 1950s theme so we all turned up dressed appropriately, faces and hair gussied up, made cocktails, ate edible versions of tragic 1950s party nibbles and enjoyed some period appropriate music until everyone got drunk enough to put on Amon Amarth, Puscifer, Tool and Korpiklaani.

The thing that shocked me is that one of her friends who had casually mentioned he'd be bringing a guest, turned up with a lovely young girl who essentially seems to be a Russian mail order bride.

He had told literally no-one that she existed.

He hadn't said he'd met anyone online, that someone was moving in with him or that he had suddenly turned into the kind of guy who tells his friends that his girlfriend* isn't allowed to drink because he's told her she's driving...

He's closer to 40 than not, she looks like she's around 20 and speaks English with hesitation.

She didn't seem cowed or shy exactly but she wasn't actively engaging in conversation, rather responding when asked and content to stand around and observe otherwise.

He didn't hover over her like a hawk all night but him swanning off to talk to other people and leaving THE GIRL NOBODY KNEW EXISTED who doesn't speak very good English with a bunch of loud, tipsy strangers isn't much better behaviour.

I had actually seen him down the supermarket with her once a couple of months before, said G'day in passing, gotten a Hello back from him and a smile from her and wandered on thinking 'I guess he's got a girlfriend?'
If it hadn't have been for that encounter absolutely nobody would have any idea how long she'd been in the country.
And that's just when I saw her.
For all we know she's been here since his last visit to Russia** and he just hasn't seen fit to mention it.
The last visit to Russia that we know about was late last year, in case you were wondering.
What if she's been here this whole time?
Just... sitting about his house...

The thing is he's always been shit at sharing news.
You find out he's due to have knee surgery a week or two before it happens because he makes a throw away comment about taking time off work.
You find out he's going overseas because he says something about a VISA.
But moving a human being from one country to another and possibly having to sponsor them legally?
And moving them to a shitty country town with nothing going on, and not introducing them to your friends*** so she possibly has no social circle?

The friend whose party it was thinks he said she's over here teaching Russian but I don't know where or to whom or even if this is an accurate recollection as the problem with 1950s cocktails is that the party started at 6pm and everyone was stinko by 8:30pm.
Luckily they slowed down, eased off to lighter mix drinks and didn't wreck themselves but there were a lot of lapsed memories that evening.

It is a very weird situation to find yourself in.

He was acting as if nothing was wrong but getting a bit stubborn if anyone asked him why he wouldn't let her drink.
Her English is functional but not very complex and if he's the only person she knows, she mightn't be willing to risk getting him offside if we start asking her if she's OK or happy.

Maybe they're having a perfectly good time together, it's hard to say, but the situation seems creepy.

So I guess now we know she exists we'll have to try and work out what the hell is going on, who she is to him and make sure he's treating her right.

I can imagine wanting to start a life in a new country and being willing to shack up with somebody to make it happen but moving to a small town in central Victoria and spending most of your time in the house of a man who barely talks doesn't seem like a great reward for your bravery.
Better than actual abuse - which we don't think is going on - but yeah, not the cream of the crop of promised lands.

He's always been a bit NQR in some social situations but even people who have known him since high school are stunned.

And so now we're questioning everything we know about him.

So now that we know those who know him best are going to try and get the two of them to come to more days/nights out, get to know her better and ask him what precisely the deal is before we all die of curiosity or start stalking them around the place to make sure she's OK.

Because she's a total sweetie and we would throw him over in an instant if we thought he was treating her badly.

*We assume, for all we know they're married...

**He's been two or three times and had never really said much about the trips even when pressed and now we're worried we know why.

***Or family? We have no idea if he's told his family...

Saturday, 31 May 2014

And It Goes On And On

Well we've gotten to the end of the week without any more solid information.

The supervisors (not contract staff themselves) have been assuring us that things won't be as bad as all that and that it'll be people from the other areas of the contract that will be let go, not their staff!

Yes, yes, thanks, so helpful.

We go through flurries of discussing the possibilities (cut hours but not cut positions, positions cut from one role but not another, the odds that people already part-time will be in more danger or safer) and then periods of not wanting to talk about it at all.

The question of whether or not this might be a bit of a rattling to keep us in our box or to get people to quit under their own steam has been asked but not answered.

I have in fact gathered my courage and applied for another job:
a) just in case, and
b) just because I'm freaked out about the future doesn't mean that I'm not still bored with the lessened amount of work on offer, because I am.

I'd been chatting to an old workmate around the time this whole situation broke and it turned out that there was a 1 year contract opening where she worked to cover someone's maternity leave.

Now a 1 year contract isn't ideal in a number of ways (eg, the bit where I'd be having to do all this again in a year's time just when I'd really gotten used to it, a bit of a salary cut) but it is:
  • work in my field
  • with a reputable company that would look good on my resume
  • being vouched for by someone I've worked with before who knows the kind of work I've done before
  • a chance to remember how change works without having to worry I've committed myself to an ongoing position that may turn out to be awful
Thursday I refreshed my resume which mostly involved updating the formatting, making it look a bit more professional and jamming in all the things I've learned since the last time I updated my resume a year or two ago.
That went OK and I felt pretty good with how it looked by the end of it.

Then I sat down and wrote my cover letter.
This was a bit trickier as I am pretty terrible at talking myself up. At first I can't think of anything to say and then I put in way too much detail but then have trouble trimming it down because it makes me sound good.
By the end of this I thought I could walk on water and was qualified to become dictator of a small country because it made me sound really quite good.

Then I had an hour and a half conversation with the friend who told me about the position, got her impressions of working there, what the workload and people are like, how she thought I'd find the place, what to remember for the interview if I got one.
I felt a lot better about my chances after this because job ads always make it sound like they're looking for someone with four degrees and mad juggling skills which isn't always what the position requires.

But then I hit a sort of wall of Thinking About This, felt kind of emotionally drained, and then got a phone call from my Dad who wanted to know how the process was going, was very encouraging but also suggested this was a good time to think about what I want to do in the future and what my long-term goals are.

No, Dad! Bad!

The thing about my long-term goals is that very few of them are to do with work.

Most of my long-term goals look like this:
  • travel a bunch
  • get better at things I find interesting
  • eat delicious food
  • maybe get some nice snogs with a lovely man
I don't have a vocation or any passions that lead me towards particular fields of work.

I want steady employment in something mentally engaging where I can contribute but don't have to be in charge.

I don't mind responsibility but I don't want to be leading the way because I am not ambitious.

I'll brainstorm the shit out of ideas for the people who are in charge but I don't want to have 'come up with ideas for the company/business/workplace's future' as one of my key tasks.

So yes, I do need to think about that shit but right now is not the best time for that.

I just ended up curled up on the couch, eating chicken nuggets and watching Archer like an adult while I ignored reality on the surface and pretended the undercurrents of my mind weren't wailing 'Argh! Change and decisions! Either you'll get the job and have to change now or you won't get the job and you'll either keep your boring job or get canned and be unemployed! Argh!'

Friday morning I woke up, remembered The Fear, got to work anyway, pootled around, submitted my application (which my friend who had name-dropped me to her boss tells me her boss had asked about) and freaked out some more.

No matter what happens in the next month I won't be in dire straits.
I have savings, somewhere to live, a supportive family and won't be in the desperate position some people would be in.
I had just forgotten about this particular brand of my own anxiety because I haven't had to deal with it for a while.

I get notoriously nervy around big decisions because I am terrified of making the wrong one and ending up in the shitty storyline of the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure that is life.
But making no decisions can often dump you there anyway.

Oh, and Friday evening I got an email asking to set up an interview for next week so the 'What If...?' train has started building up steam in my brain and is barrelling along down the tracks 0_0

So either:
  • I'll get a new job and it'll be lovely and a good intro to the next phase of my life.
  • I'll get a new job and it'll be OK and I'll just have to get a new job in a year when it ends.
  • I'll get a new job and it'll turn out to be stressful and horrible, leaving me extra put out because it'll be shitty AND involve a long commute (I'm not moving to a more expensive area for a year's contract when my next job might be elsewhere), then have to get a new job.
  • I won't get a new job and will have to stay with my boring job while looking for another new job.
  • I won't get a new job and will be out of work and will have to look for another new job.

So yeah.
Flipping out about things that most other people have to deal with more often.

I know I'm not the only person who gets anxious about this kind of stuff and I'll eventually get better at dealing with it as I get the opportunity but right now I'd rather like to go into some nice soothing denial but honestly can't.

Time to be an adult or some shit like that.


Saturday, 24 May 2014

Change Ahead

Damn damnit.

Real life you are ruining my weekend!

At work a group of us are technically contracted to our workplace by an outside employment agency.
I say technically because we found out about the job independently or through people we knew, interviewed with the people who run the place, were hired and then signed a bunch of paperwork with the employment agency because they were the ones who were technically running the contract and paying wages for these positions.
The contract for these positions used to be renewed every three years for a three year period.
Two years ago management decided instead to renew for one year with two options for renewal.
Last year they signed the first renewal.
This year we've been told there's to be some more negotiating.

They told us this on Friday afternoon because that's what we all needed to hear before two days without any additional details!

Work has been slowly down steadily for the last two years and as a result they've decided the amount of hours they're going to contract the employment agency for is lower.
They of course don't know how much lower or anything helpful like that.
All they know is that they will probably end up with more positions that people and a few of us may not have jobs come the 1st of July.

Thanks for the heads up, incredibly well-organised and thoughtful management people! This is sarcasm!

We've all known for a while that this was probably coming considering the amount of work we were getting now compared to the old tempo but they obviously knew this too, they've probably been planning for it.

What would have been nice would be if they had let us know at the start of the year that this was a strong possibility and given people longer to assess their finances and look at whether they wanted to continue on here or look for work elsewhere.

Now, considering how I know these things are handled*, we'll probably be told how many positions are being lost a week or two before it happens.
Some of us have a bit of annual leave saved up so we'll have a few weeks of pay to survive on if that happens, others do not.

They've said that it should hopefully only be a small reduction and for all we know it'll be more along the lines that a few people have to work 4 day weeks or 6 hour days but until we know everyone is nervous and on edge.

I've been working here for 7 years now so I have been a bit bored and looking to move on but I was hoping for the time to look for something appropriate before then.

I've no reason to believe that I'm one of the people on the chopping block but it doesn't do to assume yourself entirely safe either.
That just leads to heartbreak and panic if you find out you're wrong.

This whole situation combined with the fact that there's only one year left before the entire contract goes up for tender again means there's only one year of guaranteed work before there's possibly even greater changes in the works.

This has prompted a lot of thinking, some panicking, some panicked thinking and some long overdue updating of my resume.


I hate unexpected change.

I'm no so great with planned change either but this?  >_<

*I'm not saying it's been a bad place to work, for at least 5 of the 7 years it was pretty excellent. The last 2 have been dull because we've had less to do. The bullshit here comes in from the fact it's an organisation that has a lot of red tape and bureaucratic bollocks and it gets snarled up at times when it would be particularly handy if it didn't :-/

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Put It On The List

Time for another installment of Magic Future Garden That Will Have The Space And The Environmental Conditions To Support All These Plants (And Which I Hopefully Won't Kill Through Ineptitude)!

The previous installment can be found here.


Lovely colours and they bring in various birds.

Dwarf river wattle (or Acacia Cognata)

I just like the look of these, they fill their part of the garden nicely and look soft to the touch.

Woolly bush (or Adenanthos sericeus)

 But not as soft as the woolly bush which Mum and I call 'huggable Christmas trees'. These are lovely and very hardy.

Kangaroo paw

These are bright when they flower and as natives will deal with the odd year of shitty weather better than some other plants.

Pimelea ferruginea

Pretty as hell and apparently they'll bring in the butterflies.

Mulberry tree

We had one of these in our backyard in Coffs Harbour and I remember sitting on the fence amongst the branches picking ripe berries until I gave myself a stomach ache. Totally worth it.

Ornamental grapevine

I'm more interested in the look than whether they produce grapes or not. Growing your own grapes that turn out right, rather than bitter, is a bit of a crapshoot but having a nice vine that you can put across a trellis or use to shade you from the sun is a better bet.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Dear God, Why?!

The family dogs have been happily living in a new dog run since the end of last year.

They get to spend most of their time in the dog run because of their unfortunate love for pulling things off the washing line (primarily Apocalypse Pup) and their unfortunate enthusiasm for killing blue tongue lizards (primarily the Labrador of Doom).

The thing about the dog run is that is has a few gum trees in it.
It has a few dips and bumps and strange topographical features.

This means that when Mum has gone in to the run* she has only been able to tidy the parts of it that she can get to safely.

So for Mother's Day this year I decided that my good deed for the day was to tidy up the dog run.





You guys.




There were three key areas which I was calling The Elephants Graveyards of Poop.

The dogs had of course chosen to locate these pooptopias in the weirdest parts of the enclosure.
Places my mother would not be game to fight her way through to.
Behind the various clumps of trees or near the little drop off.

I picked up somewhere around 10 to 20 kg of poop**.

Three reinforced garbage bags and some very unlucky disposable gloves sacrificed their lives to the cause.

I also found several toys that the kids from the house behind us had lost over the course of the last 5 months, the remains of what must have been the more delicious of the toys that the kids from the house behind us had lost over the course of the last 5 months, a stash of bricks from a building project that probably took place about 20 years ago, and the treated pine palings from our old pool fence which was taken out about 15 years ago at the same time as the old pool***.

The palings were the most startling thing to find, they were piled up under a drift of eucalyptus leaves so thick that given a few centuries archaeologists would be identifying them as a specific historical strata that could tell us a lot about the local culture.

I also had to spend a bit of time with a shovel digging out the area behind the gate because there had been some sediment creep and it had become impossible to open the gate further than about 70 to 100 cm**** wide in recent months.
Now there is a nice flat area to swing the gate open over which hopefully won't give the dogs 'diggy' ideas.

So at the end of the process I had thrown out:
  • more poop than I have ever wanted to see or handle in my entire life
  • old bones that had been hidden but which were no longer safe or delicious
  • bits of dead toys and scraps of material
  • palings from the old pool fence which we can't burn because arsenic!
I had also tidied up and put away:
  • a bunch of kindling that had been thoughtfully dropped by the eucalyptus trees
  • actual chunks of good quality firewood that I expect my brother had forgotten he had chainsawed up out of larger bits of eucalyptus tree
  • old palings from our wooden perimeter fence which wasn't treated pine so we can burn it
  • a huuuuge pile of leaves
By the end of the afternoon I was sweaty, dusty and being followed around by two very interested dogs who thought the whole situation was very strange but hey if I wanted to collect their poop and put it in a bag who were they to protest?

Of course, this was just the beginning.

Next weekend I have to go back in there to burn the  metric butt-tonne of leaves, have another rake around and make sure we don't have any more archeological layers of extra items hidden in there.

And the gum trees are trying to increase their numbers which will only lead to danger and sadness so there will be a sapling massacre which will then have to be turned into more firewood and stacked up neatly with the rest of it.

Then, smoky, dirty and exhausted, I'll probably take the dogs for a walk.
Because I am a masochist apparently.

*Which doesn't happen as often as it could because the dogs get really extra excited about this kind of thing.
There is Five Minutes Of Frantic Bouncing when you let them into the main yard, try get them ready for a walk or join them in the run. No matter how we try and train them out of it, their excitement will not be tamed!
**That's 22 to 44 lbs of poop, for you Imperial scum!
***The pool was an above ground construction which was murdered by a tree from the yard behind us. The tree's roots grew up under the pool and pierced the pool lining and the whole thing went the hell remarkably quickly.
****27 to 39 inches or 2.3 to 3.3 feet, whichever makes more sense to you guys.

Sunday, 4 May 2014


I went and saw Michael Bublé in concert yesterday and that man is ridiculous.

He has a voice like velvet dipped in honey and he says the filthiest things.

It's glorious.

That mix of romance and smut is just perfect if you ask me.

Especially because I like to imagine various nannas and stuffy folk of various generations turning up to listen to the nice young man sing to them and being absolutely scandalised when he says things like "I like to think of the concert like it's a date, we start off nice and slow and romantic, me here and you as some kind of hermaphroditic entity, so we start off nice and smooth and sweet and by the end of the night... dirty sex in the back of my car."

I like the fact that the concert I saw before this was a double header with Queens of the Stone Age and Nine Inch Nails.
Some people have specific genres that they like to lurk in but I'm kind of all over the place.
Different music for different moods or for different reasons.

Metal for when I'm feeling energetic or sometimes when I'm feeling kind of shitty and antisocial.
Shit like Sigur Rós if I'm feeling kind of dreamy and thoughtful.
Michael Bublé if I feel like some powerful ballad action.
Lyrically irredeemable pop for when I'm exercising or driving or bouncing out of my skin*.

The sorts of jazzy torch songs Michael Bublé sings always make me feel like I should be walking through a big city in winter wrapped up in a warm coat and a scarf.
I've no idea why, the mental associations I make with various locations, words, songs et cetera cannot be explained.

The concert was opened by American vocal group Naturally 7 who perform entirely without instruments, achieving a sound that boggles the mind a fair bit.

And now here's a slew of videos of my favourite  rhythm and blues/jazz type songs that Michael** sang on the night.

And then this video because his reaction face is just priceless :-D

*You can pry my right to listen to Call Me Maybe out of my cold dead hands. Especially the chat roulette version, that shit is hilarious.
**We're on a first name basis after our big polyamorous concert date.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Wait, How Do You... Everything?

From the things I post you would probably think I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about the collapse of society.

I don't really, it's just very interesting, much more interesting than the complex and ultimately impractical structures and devices I design when I'm bored.

Anyway, the collapse of society!

So, society has collapsed!

The EMP has knocked out all our technology or the zombies have sent us into a panic or a disease has wiped out 70% of the Earth's population or I guess aliens?

The point is shit has gotten real.
No-one is manning the power stations.
The chain of supply has been interrupted.
We're on our own.

Keep calm!
What first!?
We have to be smart about this!


I guess loot it?

Everyone else is looting it!
And even if we do manage to loot it, it'll eventually run out!
OK, uh...

How do you grow your own food?
How do you preserve that food?
How do you make your own materials?
How do you make your own clothes?
How do you build your own house? One that doesn't rely on all the shit we don't have any more to function properly!
How do you source safe drinking water?
Does anyone know how to make penicillin?


And there's no electricity because the zombies ate all the power plant dudes or the tech is all fried because of the EMP aliens, so we can't check the internet.


Everyone else got here first!
Some people cleared out all the reference books and some people wanted to burn the fiction section to stay warm in winter and then there was a big fuck off battle between the cultureless weenies and the booklovers!

If only I had compiled a survival library before this happened!
Survival for Dummies!

Society hasn't collapsed yet!
It's not too late to squirrel away a reference library of helpful instructional tomes to keep you and yours alive in the challenging years to come!


OK, they probably don't have 'How to make Penicillin for Dummies' but that's where you have to branch out and get books like this!

I grabbed me up a copy of this recently and while I haven't actually got it behind glass, it is sitting there calmly reassuring me that I will have some idea of what to do should the world as we know it end*.

And while I can't say that I am putting together a 'How to Everything for Dummies' library with assorted references and instructional texts, I can't promise you I'm not.

Also this is why we should make sure that local government doesn't shut down our libraries.
We'll need them when the shit hits the fan.
But we probably shouldn't mention the zombies in our letters to our local members of parliament... People get weird about stuff like that.

*Realistically I know what I would do is panic and die or get gathered up into some hey-feudalism-so-great-let's-try-that-again! warlord's harem or something.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

You Ain't From Around Here, Are Ya?

When I was younger my family lived in Canberra for a good few years and then Coffs Harbour for for a few years after that.

For non-Australians that means we lived in the Australian Capital Territory* (which is inside New South Wales**) and then coastal New South Wales for the first 11 years of my life.
Formative years.

Most of our other relatives lived down in Melbourne. In Victoria.

We only saw the aunties, uncles and cousins a few times a year but every time we did we ended up with a small child regional dialect stand off that was ridiculous in how seriously we took it.

The thing is, after living in Victoria for 19 years since then, I honestly can't remember which state uses which of the following terms.
I just know that I was using the right ones and my cousins (and then high school classmates) were using the wrong ones.
Because they're dumb and stupid***.

Anyway, for your edification, here are some state-specific names for very important thingies.

Prep vs Kinder


In Australia you have a year before school where you go to a sort of childcare to get used to the idea of school, your first year of school, then grades 1 through 6 and those are your primary school years. After that you go to high school for years 7 through 12 and voila! You're finished with basic schooling!
The important thing is what people call those initial two years because they use the same names but switched around.
In one state you attend pre-school (preps) and then your first year in primary school you are in kindergarten (kinder).
In the other state you attend kinder and then your first year in primary school you are in preps.

Now, it should be obvious here who is right and who is wrong.


Hair Ties vs Pretties


In one state you secure your hair with hair ties, in another state you secure your hair with pretties.
Well lah-di-dah pretties! Your hairdo is sooooooo fancy now that it's being safe guarded by a pretty!
It's a hair tie, guys. It ties your hair.

Bubblers vs Drinking Taps


I honestly can't remember which one I used to say at school but I assume it was drinking taps because bubblers sounds so stupidly cheerful and effervescent like they're trying to make drinking water this wonderfully uplifting experience.

Potato Cakes vs Potato Scallops


This one is nice and simple.
These right here are potato cakes.

These are scallops.

And these are scalloped potatoes.

Nice and straightforward.

Bathers vs Swimmers vs Togs


We say bathers.
I am not opposed to the term togs, it is a fun word, it's fine.
I refuse to say swimmers. Swimmers are sperm. Bleh.

For all I know I'm using a mix of terms from one state and terms from another based on how much sense I think they make, rather than staying true to the terms of one state.
Because I'm adaptable and flexible like that.
Except when I'm not because other people are wrong and stupid.

*Usually referred to as the ACT
**Usually referred to as NSW
***I mean, they also put tomato sauce on their fish and chips instead of vinegar so bleh bleh!

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Car Gazing

I don't need a new car, I don't even really want a new car.

My good old Holden Berlina station wagon is hanging in there just fine even though I think it's almost old enough to get a driver's licence of its own.

But recently I've found myself kind of fascinated by some of the little 4WD thingies getting around the place.

I tend to judge cars by a specific set of criteria
  • What shit can you fit in them?
  • How sturdy/reliable do they seem?
  • Do they have a reasonable amount of clearance? (None of that low-rider scraping your bumpers coming out of the driveway bollocks)
  • ... Are they a nice colour? *coff coff*
Now with my station wagon it has a few handy features for those with weird random priorities.

My car looks like this except this weird teal-green-blue colour that no-one can agree on.
  • The boot is big enough that you* could put an appropriately sized foam pad down in the back and sleep there if you were on the move.
  • It has a roof rack for carrying other shit.
  • It has enough space in the rest of the car to store stuff you move out of the boot so you can have your on-the-run/keep-moving-to-survive/OK-maybe-you're-just-on-a-roadtrip nap.
  • It's been reliable enough the whole time we've had it even though it hasn't had to do a lot of off-roading or anything.
Yay my big dorky car!

Anyway, the two cars that have been noticing around the streets recently are of a completely different style.

They are:

The Jeep Wrangler


The Toyota FJ Cruiser.

Now neither of these vehicles has a lot of storage space.
Even with my bitty body I'd have a bit more trouble curling up for a nap.
There's no roof rack.
They only have two doors, even though they may have more than two seats.
But I keep looking at them.
I don't know why.

Maybe I'm envisioning myself bouncing across the landscape on the way to save the day (or on the way to run away from something that is trying to prematurely end the day).
Maybe it's something about the shape.
Maybe it's the fact that I can't stop sniggering every time I see a 'smurf' coloured one driving around.

Blue body, white hat!
No idea.

I mean it probably isn't going to lead anywhere but look at the little things!

And if I did end up getting one for whatever reason and becoming one-of-those-douches-who-has-a-4WD-and-doesn't-need-one at least I'd be one-of-those-douches-who-has-a-4WD-and-doesn't-need-one-but-can-still-fit-into-a-normal-size-carpark-and-not-take-up-a-ridiculous-amount-of-space.

*If you too are 5'1''

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Laptop Update!

It works!

It's a miracle!

They took it apart, left it to dry over the weekend, cleaned it with magic elf elixir, left it to dry some more, put it back together, tried to boot it up and were - they told me themselves - quite frankly shocked when it did!

After cloning my hard-drive they ran it through some memory tests and stress tests which it passed!

There is evidence of corrosion and yes I've probably shortened its life* but it's working just fine at the moment.

I don't know what I did to deserve this reprieve but I do know I am going to be a hell of a lot more careful about where I put things :-/

So in summary: Yay!

*I'm sorry, baby, I'm soooo sorry! :-(

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Time For The Slow Clap

Because I'm a very special kind of genius, at approximately 10 am on Thursday morning I knocked a full cup of coffee with my hand and sloshed a good quarter of it onto my laptop keyboard.

I'll pause to allow you time to make the appropriate series of faces (i.e. oh no! --> you idiot... --> you poor, dumb idiot...).

All done?

Well I hope that didn't wear out your face muscles because I'm not done.

As I was flailing around trying to right the coffee mug and swearing inventively at myself... I knocked over a glass of water.

Right onto my laptop keyboard.


Feel free to proceed directly to 'you idiot' and stay there this time.

On the upside, it washed the coffee out of my laptop.

On the downside... laptop full of water.

At this point my brain finally joined the party.

I switched my laptop (which was still miraculously on at this point) off, pulled the battery and stood it on its end to let the water run out.

Knowing there was nothing else I could do, I just had to sit there cursing my own name until the end of the day at which point I took it to the computer shop and - shamefaced and penitent - handed it over to see what can be done.

Seeing as Step 1 is 'take it apart, clean it and then leave it to dry for a few days before even thinking about putting it back together and seeing if it will reboot' I have some suspense and plenty of time to feel like an idiot ahead.

If I've wrecked it I'll only be truly mad at myself if I also lose all my data.

If it's still working by some miracle I will have shortened its lifespan and learned a fairly valuable life lesson the hard way.

But the most important thing to remember here is that I'm an idiot :-P

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Sometimes My Brain Is A Jerk

I can't remember most of the dream but the bit that stuck with me was that there was something drastically wrong.
Something was going to happen and it was going to endanger people across the galaxy or make life on Earth impossible or plunge people into endless suffering.
The point is there was a very real reason that a bomb had to be set off that would destroy the entire world and I was the person who had to do it.
So here I am, in front of a bomb that looks like the sea mine shown in Hot Fuzz, pressing a couple of buttons on its face to start the countdown.
As little red numbers flicked and counted down I thought 'No-one else  knows this is about to happen, so they don't have to be scared, they can be happy right until the end and then they'll be safe' and 'At least I won't feel anything, I'm standing right next to it, it'll be instant and then I'll be gone'.
Then there was a bloom of light and then darkness but I was still there.
Nothing floating in nothing.
Just thinking 'I'm sorry. Good bye. I love you. I love you.'

The worst part was how real the emotions felt.
I had this peaceful moment before I pressed the button where I thought 'All those things I thought I would have time for, I guess I'm not going to get do them now' and just let it all go.
So now I know what it feels like to realise that you're going to die before getting to experience certain life events, along with wanting to call loved ones to say goodbye but knowing that it would make it harder for you and scare them so it's best to just remember the last conversation you had with them instead.
Not to mention the annihilation of the planet.

Needless to say, I awoke feeling more than a little messed up :-/

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Online Isolation

This year I decided to quit Facebook for Lent.

I was raised Catholic but I'm not particularly religious* and don't often observe Lent but it's a handy time to consider your behaviours and indulgences if the mood takes you and I had been spending faaaaar too much time staring blankly at social media.

It isn't as though anything particularly Earth-shaking was happening on Facebook, there weren't many people posting huge life events and the stuff they were sharing ran from interesting and/or amusing to repetitive and/or boring.
The stuff that was happening on Facebook wasn't the real problem, it was the 'maybe something interesting will happen, better keep checking' impulse.

This impulse first manifested itself earlier in my life as 'maybe the next music video on Rage won't suck so much' and could lead to sitting up until 2am until I realised that the odd video that I enjoyed wasn't really worth the shit ones I was sitting through to get to them.

So when I really took the time to notice that I was wasting an inordinate amount of time checking, hitting refresh, and scrolling about on Facebook just in case something of note happened I figured this was a good chance to stop with that shit and have a crack at actually doing something myself.

Some people reacted with surprise when I said I was doing it, warned me I'd miss out on things, said they wouldn't be able to do it themselves and then looked sly so I know when I log back in there will be hundreds of notifications awaiting me because everyone I know is a bastard.

Other people, who have militantly resisted joining Facebook, took me into their arms like a long-lost loved one who had escaped a cult and spoke to me soothingly of how much bullshit I'll be freeing myself from and how I'll no longer be providing free market research for an unloving corporate monster.

The reaction that really stunned me was when people found out that I was still using Twitter.

"But that's CHEATING!" they cried. "You might as well not have bothered!"

Uh, no, I gave up Facebook because I was wasting time waiting for it to produce results.
Twitter is interesting and a lot quicker to flick through, harvest and step away from.

Besides, it was like telling people you're giving up coffee and then having them incensed because you're still drinking tea and hot chocolate.

"Next time," they declared, "You should give up the whole internet! Do it properly!"

Give up the internet for 40 days?

Yes, I'm sure I could but it would make life a lot more difficult in some fairly key ways.

I do all my banking online, phone books are no longer physical, research for travel or restaurants or events or even my work would be made almost impossible.

It wasn't so much that they thought I should give up the whole recreational aspect of the internet that took me aback, it was the fact that they already assumed that was what I was doing.

As if giving up Facebook meant giving up the internet.

As if Facebook was the internet.

I hadn't known until then that that's the way a lot of people see it. That Facebook is the only part of a vast sea of information that they have regular and intimate contact with.

It's both fascinating and a little bit worrying.

I know I am missing out on a few things because once people have announced things on Facebook they forget to say things in person but it's made conversations a lot more engaging because when I talk to people now they have news to share which I haven't heard, even if they have to be prompted to remember I won't know it yet.

When you're on Facebook you have a lot of conversations that go:
"Hey, what've you been up to?"
"Oh well I've got that new job."
"Oh yeah, you put up that big post about it."
And that's it.
Because you already know.

I've sent and received a lot more text messages and emails since I've been off.

People have casually mentioned how much more effort it is remembering to forward things separately if they want to share with me, not in an accusatory fashion, but in surprise as if they hadn't realised how much they depended on Facebook to inform people, to arrange meetings and events, and even as a primary medium for private messages.

Apart from ease of communication, I haven't particularly missed it, and I have really enjoyed how much my being absent from it has bugged some people.

When I go back I think I'll be a lot more casual about it, at least I hope I will be.
It might take a few deliberate reminders to keep me from falling into old ways.

In the meantime I'll enjoy the next... 28 days of freedom and prepare myself for the ridiculous deluge of tags and posts that the assholes I lovingly call friends have carefully curated for me in my absence.

And I'll have to work out whether I want to suppress or foster the urge to write smug posts about my time away, partly as revenge for all the tags they'll have accosted me with and partly because, like everyone I know, I am essentially a bastard.

*My beliefs in marriage equality and assumptions that a divine being would have better things to do than keep a list of things he doesn't want you doing to each other's fun bits keeping me from embracing organised religion too closely.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Market Madness

Last Sunday I ended up helping to run a stall at the Camberwell Market.

I mean, I wasn't snatched off the street and put in charge of it or anything but it was pretty close.

My friend Spooky's sister had finally got herself geared up and booked a spot at the market but just days before her market debut been told she had to work the weekend. This led to her springing the opportunity to run a stall at the flea market/swap-meet-y gathering on Spooky on the Friday.

Spooky had a bunch of clothes she was trying to get rid of so she said yes.

Neither of us had any idea what we were doing but meh, that's half the fun right?

So the night before the market she packed some rolling clothes racks into the back of her car along with a whole mountain of clothes which were carefully bagged by price, made sure she had enough change, got an early night and then got so wound up about the whole situation that she woke up at 1:30 am and couldn't get back to sleep.

As her 'yeah why not' assistant I slept allllllll the way through until the late hour of 3:15am, at which point I rolled out of bed, fed the pets, remembered to get dressed, had a cup of tea and then rolled myself into her father's 4WD when she pulled up the front at 3:45 am looking a little bleary eyed and manically enthusiastic.

First fun part of the day was the 4WD.

It's a Renault Scénic* which her father quite liked about it when he first bought it.
He liked it less when it started needing expensive repairs and imported spare parts.
Sooo he didn't do/import them.
This means that it struggles in 4th and sings you a song of exquisite pain the entire time it's in 5th, so we weren't exactly burning down the highway.

We'd left with enough time to allow for some traffic and other vagaries of fate which meant that even with the poor crippled foreign car we turned up at the market location at 6:15 am, which we figured would be plenty of time to set up our paltry offerings for the market's opening time of 6:30 am.

Yes and no.

Yes because our set up really did only take about 15 minutes once we got to do it.
No because everyone else** had turned up at 5 am, the place was a jam of cars and people wrestling with trestle tables, and some incredibly dedicated shoppers**** were already browsing the wares being unpacked.
They were having to use torches to do this because it was still dark because it was 6:15 AM IN THE MORNING!

So we wrestled the dumb dumb car to our spot, confirmed our assumption that we wouldn't be able to park AND display our wares in the space allocated for our stall was correct and immediately crapped up some more as we tried to set up.

The boot had been completely crammed, so I jumped out, pulled out a few things on top so Spooky could see and then stood there to help usher her back into the car park spot that comprised our stall location for long enough for us to unpack everything before she went to park the car in the assigned area.

This seemed to be going pretty well until the bit where I realised she couldn't see me as she ignored my waved warnings and bumped into a card table with four milk crates of records on it.
Luckily she didn't do this hard enough to damage the table or dislodge the records but we did immediately decide to just unpack with the car sitting in the aisle and get out of the way as soon as possible.

This took us all of three minutes but a market regular still took time to explain to us how because our car was there other people couldn't drive by.
Honey, they wouldn't have been able to drive by while Spooky spent 7 minutes wrestling the weirdo Renault into the spot and then had to force her way back into the flow of traffic to park it elsewhere either, so shut up.

All our stuff was safely in a big pile in the middle of the stall space, Spooky jumped back into the weirdo car to go park it and I stood guard.
And a couple of the 'he always seemed so quiet, never would have guessed' early shoppers came by and tried to browse a bunch of canvas bags of unpacked goods with their torches, one fellow sidling up to me to ask if we were selling any jewellery, another hopefully checking if we had any leather bags.

10 minutes of standing around feeling like bit of a berk as the snooty regular lady occasionally gave me as much of an uppity look as the low light levels would allow and Spooky was back.

Put up clothes racks, pull out clothes hangers, put clothes on hangers, put price signs up, set up our bean bag chairs because we're high-powered professionals and want to flaunt it, and we were ready.

And yes we sold stuff.

That is a thing that happened but it was nowhere near as interesting as just watching the people.

Some of these folks were clearly on a mission, others floated around the place as if they weren't quite sure how they had got here or why they were even outside of the house but how lovely, a market just happens to be here!

A lot of people brought their dogs which had Spooky scurrying off every 10 minutes to go beg to pat them while I stayed to keep an eye on things.

There were people who bought all their clothing at the markets who were clearly rocking the look.
There were people who did the same but with much less successful results.

There was a guy dressed like the lovechild of Cohen the Barbarian and a wizard.

I just googled 'Camberwell Wizard' and here he is!

Found at Andrew D2010's Flickr stream (you have to be signed in to see)

The day we saw him we was wearing royal blue with a bit more leather and honestly looked like he was going to offer to sell you a magic lamp at any second.

Some of the marketeers who I decided to rebadge as 'lifers' obviously knew a lot of tricks of the trade to run their stall smoothly and get customers interested but just as obviously were miserable people.

There was a fellow having what seemed to be a passive-aggressive snipe at a woman I assumed was his wife every time there was a lull in customers, there was the aforementioned snooty lady, there was a woman selling 'vintage' toys who wanted $10 for a low-budget electronic hand-held game that wasn't really worth $10 when it came out in the 90s and certainly not now when it was missing its battery cover and she couldn't actually remember if it worked or not.

I guess a certain amount of manning the barricades and you'd get sick of the looky-lous and the people expecting quality goods for almost free but it seemed a bit sad.
Sure they're running it like a business and probably hit up all sorts of markets on the regular and every market can't be a bustling Disney fantasy of cheerful traders and excited patrons***** but it's a nice atmosphere if you can take the time to appreciate it.

In contrast the fellow whose records Spooky had endangered spent the day popping in to give us little bits of advice, ask us how we were going, make conversation and warn us about the 'lifers'.

At the end of the day - well, by 12:30 pm which is when the market closes - we'd made enough money to cover the cost of running the stall, the petrol getting there and lunch and probably not a lot more but it had been a hell of a time.

What made that end of the experience even better was the fact that all the lifers were so efficient that 10 minutes after close they had packed up entirely and were gone, leaving behind only memories and the echoes of their crushed dreams.
This meant that when Spooky brought the car around to pack up we had plenty of space to park and had everything squared away within 10 minutes and could head off with the crippled Scénic.

Leaving the market presented its own challenges as some people's stalls looked like they had exploded by this point and it was a bit tricky weaving your way out without driving over any of their valuable crap.
The lifers who had been on our other side had almost driven over a shoe rack in our spot when they started casually pulling out without looking.
It was as we pulled up to the exit that Spooky realised - in the warm light of midday - why the record man had almost ended up short some records.
The rear vision mirror had been tilted down.
What with the blackness of the wee hours and the crammed condition of the boot when we'd driven in, she hadn't been able to tell that the mirror wasn't actually framing the rear window the way you'd ideally like it to if you're trying to use it not to cause a traffic incident.

Whoops :-P

If you were more organised, did some reconnaissance to see what competition you were up against and turned up wearing your game face I'm sure you could make a reasonable amount of money out of the enterprise; but then you might risk turning into a joyless lifer and I much preferred the people watching, dog patting, and boggling at people who ummed and ahhed over whether they really wanted the nice shirt that was in the 'dollar bin' rather than just buying it because it COST A WHOLE DOLLAR!******

We probably won't do it again but I'm certainly glad I said 'yeah, why not!' when she asked me.
The memories we've now got were definitely worth the time it took to form them.

The early morning is a strange and almost unreal land, disassociated from normal life, and in this case it actually did contain a wizard!

*What on Earth is that accent doing there? I mean really?
**All the long time marketeers*** at least
***Shut up, I'm calling them that, it's more interesting than 'stallholders'.
****Overenthusiastic weirdoes
*****That was the medieval fair that my brother and I stumbled upon in Luxembourg when we were travelling in 2006. Best fair ever.
******The people shillyshallying were not responsible impoverished folk on a budget, they were uni-aged kids wearing $200 sunglasses and $5 clothes. I'd guess that's how they can afford the $200 sunglasses but that's just conjecture.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

I Aten't Dead

*Sidles back onto the internet*

Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeey guuuuuuuuuuuuys...

So, OK, I might have gotten a bit carried away and spent... wow... 13 months reading stuff on the internet instead of doing anything else on the internet.

I found a few blogs whose archives I tore through, which led to other blogs which led to collections of short stories that led to collections of longer stories that led to stories long enough to consider books and of course I had to read all of them as well and all this was liberally interspersed with trying to get all the way back to the first post of several tumblrs and some people post so much stuff to their tumblrs that by the time you wake up the next morning the page number you were up to the day before is now showing stuff from four days ago and you aren't so much catching up as being buried alive...

I became straight up obsessed with 'finishing'.

Finishing each blog, each tumblr, each author's selection of stories, each set of stories in a particular genre or collection.

All of it.

I have no idea where it came from.

I haven't been obsessed with anything like that in years and never for that long.

I would have read millions of words worth of fiction and non-fiction while at the same time reading nothing that could be added to my Reading List.

I achieved very little else last year.

Didn't watch many TV shows or movies, did no sewing or drawing, tried fewer new recipes, didn't keep up with my Italian, did very little knitting.

Just made a concentrated effort to READ THE ENTIRE INTERNET!!! 0_0

But I think I'm OK now.

I honestly had a 'the fog lifted' moment and almost full on Ebenezer Scrooge 'You, boy, what day is this!?' style noticed the rest of the world.

Enthusiasm for and interest in other things came flooding back in.

I hadn't by any means felt myself to be depressed, just mysteriously fixated to the exclusion of all else.

The crazy thing is that the entire time I was staring slack-jawed at the pretty screen, I was taking notes for things I wanted to write and projects I wanted to start but popped them to the side because meh, I'd get to them later when I was done.

So now that I've blinked myself awake like Rip Van Winkle I'm going to start posting again.

I'm also going to try post things for all the ideas I had but didn't use and post them up listed when I would have posted them if I hadn't been in a trance state.
These I will clearly mark as backdated posts because I very definitely was not anything approaching productive during that time and I'll not pretend otherwise.

So, yes, hello!

I am in fine health, I've had no negative life events, I just drifted away like a beagle who has locked on to a scent and have now finally found my way back.

I hope you've all been more engaged in the world than I have and look forward to seeing what you have all been doing while I was in my zombie-like state.

And because you can never have enough Nanny Ogg or Granny Weatherwax...

(I swear, if I could find these for sale I would snap them up faster than you could say 'MINE!!!')