Sunday, July 29, 2007

end of an era


inner Melbourne laneway

I guess from tomorrow it'll be "Brumby is silly".

Friday, July 27, 2007

family first will love it

Another attempted strike against nulliparous pagan whores. A Labour dimwit wants to give parents extra voting powers - a vote for each child.

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

inside my head

I am so out of sorts that I don’t know where to begin. I am beyond chocolate consolation. The cats all have colds and are sneezing in a sad, feline kind of way that makes me feel useless. I am hibernating. I must finish my BAS. I need to find a new accountant. My current one is very nice and shows me her newly reconstructed breasts (think cancer, rather than erotica, unless you have a mastectomy fetish). The house is a mess. I haven’t put the vegetables away from the morning market shop yet. I didn’t buy enough produce to last the week. I wanted to ram the tourists who stopped in their tracks in the busy dairy hall. I am not feeling patient. I over slept in a fitful, unfulfilling slumber. I dreamt I was a human target in a shooting contest. If all the cyclist in The Tour are doped, how can you believe in anything anymore? That thought bought to you by someone who is not the slightest bit interested in sport. I have, however, been known to ride a bicycle. Sedately.

Right now I am anything other than sedate. I have an itchy brain. I did manage to find the little blade thing to scrape off last years rego sticker from the windscreen and replace it with a new one which has pictures of nice birds on it. Two small victories in a scattered day.

What’s for lunch?

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

blogging from work

I feel guilty blogging from work - even though I am self-employed.

There is always something else that needs doing if I have a client-free moment. There is the BAS (tax) due in a couple of days, assorted admin, bill paying and other riveting things. Because of the potential time wasting aspect of all things net based, I've decided not to have internet access at work. See there is still a ludite lurking inside of me after all!

However, when the laptop takes a trip into the workplace through the wonders of blue tooth and a densely packed building of mostly self-employed people...the free surfing is just too delicious to ignore.

But what to do with stolen blogging moments? Do I comment at long last about the horrendous things this government is doing in regards to civil rights, using the terrorist excuse? Make a pithy 'Rudd is just a younger version of Howard' statement? Mention that even arch conservative Andrew Bolt has said it's time for the PM to stand down (not because he's failing, but because of his success - WTF)?

Nope - I write a post in praise of the people who don't safeguard their wireless connections and leave their network open to people like me. To those generous, or just not computer savvy, people out there - I salute you :)

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Friday, July 20, 2007

clutter

I was at home yesterday lying on the couch feeling a bit sorry for myself. I tuned into Oprah for a diversion, hoping it wouldn’t feature adrenalised stars jumping on her couch. Fortunately I hit gold. You might mock Oprah but I find her story (from abuse to self awareness) inspiring. I believe she uses her wealth ethically and sometimes her media leverage goes beyond just promoting her pals – to actually motivating and educating her audience of millions.

The show du jour looked at emotional clutter. I have a bit of a passion about clutter. I’m great at clearing other peoples but pretty slack at tackling my own. Really, if you want some help – just start with something small that you can achieve. Forget tackling a whole room first, you'll just end up exhausted with piles of crap all around you in a new order and no idea what to do with them. A bathroom cupboard is often do-able. Pull out all the stuff, chuck the things past their expiry date, work out what doesn’t belong there and return it to its true home. With what is left – take the crap you were given for presents that are just not you (we all have the bath bombs or cakes of soap that we feel disloyal not keeping but would never use) – re-gift them, pass them onto a charity or freecycle, or throw them out if you think no one else on earth would use them. You should be left with viable, usable things. Containerise (what a wonderful word) the stuff that has spilled out of packets, clean the shelves and repack the cupboard in an orderly way. Simple.

My favourite guide for such things is Karen Kingston’s “Clear your clutter with Feng Shui”. Ok you can take or leave the feng shui and definitely skip the last few chapters about internal cleansing (colonic anyone?) beyond that is the good stuff. She gets to the nitty gritty of why we hold onto rubbish and more importantly gives you permission to move on from it. My personal favourite is about bad purchases. I for one have bought clothes on sale that are not the right size or colour, or will ever really suit me, because I loved them and they were on sale. A Marianna Hardwick simple floor length dress for a few bucks? Why not. I don’t wear long dresses and certainly not in burgundy velvet – but it was a Mariana Hardwick and it fit! Kingston points out that holding onto such stuff represents failure (ultimately it was the wrong way to spend my money) rather than success (of snagging a supposed bargain). Gifts are another sacred cow to be tackled. If someone you love gives you something hideous or just inappropriate you hold onto because it feels disloyal to let it go. It’s like saying “I don’t love you” when really it’s just, “I love you, but someone else will love this in a way I never can”.

I am still to find a workable technique for my hoard of paper based stuff. Though last year I released a whole filing cabinet full of papers, of now out of date research papers that have been superseded with newer studies and available digitally. An archivist friend made a great suggestion – the ones that you can’t really justify keeping but are afraid of throwing away – scan them. I found when I asked myself – ‘do I think this is important enough to go through the monotony of scanning it?” was sufficient reason to chuck most of it! But the suitcases (yes plural) of handwritten letters and birthday cards I refuse to part with. I know I’d regret the loss of any personal ephemera. While a gardener friend was able to find liberation in composting her old diaries, as embarrassing as they are – I want to keep those words.


Back to Oprah and her latest find - Peter Walsh - both their sites have a plethora of his decluttering tips.

Ok…I’ll hang up the clothes strewn around my bedroom this weekend…honest! And that Hardwick number, maybe someone could take it up for so it is a wearable length?

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

...and it's only Wednesday

This plus this and a case of raging pain at bedtime that could be this (I sincerely hope it was just indigestion) - does not a happy woman make.

Hope your week is shaping up to be more fun!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Go – but where?

Things must be tough in Sydney if the Council’s latest scheme is any indication of things to come. A new campaigns just been launched urging city residents to pack a Go Bag, in case of any looming emergency (natural or manmade). With maps, torches and running shoes as essential items in the back pack (which look eerily like the same ones those London transport bombers were wearing) it seems like the harbour city is all geared up for – what? An evening at Opera in the Park?

The Go Bag features a small bottle of water and while it advises having coins or a phone card because the mobile phone coverage might be down, it suggests you have atm cards for money – from what, the electricity dependent network. Hmm, do you really believe these guys have thought things through here? Further lateral thinking suggests you bundle your moggy up in a pillowcase and carry her to the meeting point in one of the designated parks. Yeah – right!

This false preparedness smacks of a New Orleans stadium disaster waiting to happen.

Coming from a country that is rife with natural disasters every good kiwi has an earthquake stash at home. The New Zealand kit suggests at least 3 litres of water, per person, a day, appropriate dried or canned food and a primus or bbq to cook on.

If the wee baggie is a sign of things to com in this country, perhaps a few earthquakes in NZ aren’t so daunting after all.

Monday, July 16, 2007

blogosphere meets reality

So, I was in Bali...and talking to a French woman who's paths we had crossed a number of times in the previous week. We were talking about politics, as is our want and for some strange reason - workplace relations in our different homelands. She started explaining some of the intricacies of the French system and I had a lightbulb moment and said "Oh yes - I know about that, I've been following a blog..."

In union we both said "Petite Anglaise" and smiled.

Two people from opposite sides of the world, meet on a tropical island and read the same blog!

I love it!

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

i told you jogging's bad for your health

it aint easy being green II

Ok it started innocently enough musing on the locality of the food I ate. I asked all my favourite stallholders at the market, “Where are the potatoes from”, “What fish is from Victoria” and “Do you know where the tofu maker gets their soybeans?” It was interesting. Obviously the cute little organic zucchini at $12.50/kg, came from far away (Queensland). The closest coffee grower was in the Atherton Table lands (half a continent away) and despite being the most expensive (and not organic) the growers are subsidised by the government. I didn’t ask about the rhubarb that currently stews in the pot but figured it is a winter ‘fruit’ so it hasn’t come too far.

But the journey between keyboard and market was a minefield. Why stop at food? My lovely herbal hair products come from interstate, the NSW made conditioner claimed its avocadoes are Australian grown but what about everything else in it? The luxurious cotton towels and sheets also claim to be manufactured in the country, though not locally, but where did the cotton come from and if the fibre originated here – what about the ridiculous amount of water it takes to grow it?

See what I mean.

Is it ok to be small scale green? Mostly organic, Australian sourced, local where possible – a few luxuries (chocolate? No cacao beans in this part of the world) and keep nagging the not boyfriend to put on a jumper before cranking up the heating?

…or am I just deluding myself?

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Sunday, July 08, 2007

Torture

Two takes on the US use of torture in Iraq.

Listen to the BBC World Service program “The Interview” with Tony Lagouranis, former US army interrogator in Iraq. He shares the ‘enhanced interrogation techniques' sanctioned by the defenders of democracy and how they were told they were exempt from the Geneva Convention.

Now here how Bush was shamed by the brightest highschool students in the country.

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Thursday, July 05, 2007

crime pays

The Middle East is crucial to Australia's strategic and economic future, Prime Minister John Howard said in a major speech outlining his Government's foreign policy direction.

In an address to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute in Canberra today, Mr Howard highlighted the fight against terrorism and the need to secure a major oil supply as reasons to stay the course in Iraq.(The Age)


Hot off the Press, the PM’s little speech this morning about why we need to keep troops in the Middle East.

And what did he come up with? Terrorism and oil. Though what he perhaps meant was the pursuit of oil justifies us invading another country under false pretences and leaves us open to terrorism or perhaps makes us a terrorist. After all one bad deed attracts another. It has been shown pretty conclusively, it is only our actions in Iraq and Afghanistan that have made us vulnerable to possible terrorist attack.

So, no mention of weapons of mass destruction. No talk of saving a nation from a murderous dictator. Finally he spits it out – we need oil for our continued economic viability. As if stealing gas from the East Timorese wasn’t enough, “our future” gives us the right to invade another country, kill the locals and steal their resources.

Now, imagine if all the money we put into our defence presence in the Middle East*, the millions we’ve found under the mattress to bulk up ASIO, ASIS. the Federal Police and other agencies in the name of homeland security – was spent on renewable resources. Imagine if we all got a decent rebate to put in a water tank, solar panels and energy saving devices. What if a chunk of money was thrown at solar, wind, tidal and non-fossil fuel or nuclear power generation? Don’t you reckon we’d have set ourselves up for the future and had a bit of spare change left over to work towards racial tolerance and peace as well?

*in March 2007 this was estimated at close to $3 billion

Update: 6.7.07

In my insomniac state last night, the number 2 news item on the BBC World Service was the Nelson/Howard double act on Iraq. It's made the British papers as well. It's amusing that Howard is blaming Nelson for the oil slip up, when it was the PM who was happy to bring oil into the equation in his speech yesterday morning, as quoted above. Later in the day, on 2UE, he was in damage control "A lot of oil comes from the Middle East - we all know that - but the reason we remain there is that we want to give the people of Iraq a possibility of embracing democracy." The democratic liberation of fuel reserves perhaps?

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Wednesday, July 04, 2007

On the cheap

The first decade of adulthood branded me in a particular way. From 18-28 I worked full time for less than 2 years in total. The rest of the time was spent studying (a 3 yr B.A. then later another 4 year full time course) and travelling. While other friends had been building a nest, I’d been living on the cheap – using milk crates, salvaged planks and bricks for bookshelves, sleeping on borrowed mattresses and then finally buying my first futon. I lived in shared houses with dozens of people over those years. My most worldly possessions were a coffee grinder and a Le Creuset fry pan and pot. I guess even then kitchen equipment was more of a priority than what I sat on.

Apart a 6 months stint in a well paid job at 19, having taken a semester of study to follow my heart to Sydney, every penny was counted. A cup of coffee in a café was a luxury and had to be worth it in taste, company or time bought to write. I never ordered a juice with a meal, it seemed such an absurd luxury to drink anything other than water if it threatened the budget or could otherwise be spent eating better food. Likewise, a movie didn’t need popcorn or a bucket of drink to make it enjoyable.

After a while, such things became second nature. By the end of my 20’s I was probably even poorer than the beginning, being in debt and slowly setting up a business. While backpacking again, all this came back to me. There is something about the culture of travelling that way that makes you loose perspective. When someone wants to charge you 20c more for a bottle of water, you feel ripped off, you bargain to get a room for $1 less a night. Spending time in a society where everything is bartered skews your perception of value.

Back in Melbourne I’ve been to the sales to buy warm jumpers, bought books and gone out for food when I could have cooked it myself. The cents gained on market transactions forgotten. In one day I spent more than I could have lived on for a week in Indonesia. It is all relevant. But the ghost from my past has been awakened. Here are some tips on living on a budget, made easy in a city like this.

Love the libraries - I think I’d stand at the barricades and fight for the continued existence of free libraries. I remember the tiny, 1 roomed library of my childhood, the joy of being allowed to choose a book or two, the reverential atmosphere – it reeled me in hook line and sinker. Now I have a couple of local libraries to choose from. Not only can I borrow dozens of books at a time, there are dvds, magazines, free internet access, local history and cosy nooks to loose yourself in for an hour – deliciously warm in winter and air conditioned cool in summer.

Cheap nights at the movies, discount cards, public radio subscriber concessions – why pay full price, when you can see the same movie for half the price? Even better there were a few years when I had friends working in every art house cinema in Melbourne, which usually meant free movies. The Beat and other freebie magazines, as well as local radio also had giveaways.

Half tix – likewise for live entertainment, a quick whiz into the city on the bike meant the same show for less.

Speaking of the bike – not owning a car for those years made life a lot cheaper. Even now I see my vehicle as a ridiculous luxury that just gobbles up money to register, insure, feed and maintain it. A bike, a good pair of shoes and a multi trip tram ticket still gets more use from me.

Name brands or generic? My weakness is food and some things I’d prefer to go without than go generic – mayonnaise for example, if I don’t make it, it has to be Thomy. Mineral water however is a different story.

Asking myself do I really want/need/must have it? It’s taken me a long time but I finally realised that if something isn’t the right colour, size or cut – getting 80% off isn’t going to make it feel any better to wear. Discounts sometimes hoodwink us. If I’ve been in a shop a week before the sales begin and there’s nothing in the store that I desperately want or need – I just walk by when the seductive red banners are raised. The psychology of ‘the bargain’ can sometimes makes us blind to our real needs. A bookshop with “20% off everything” is another matter! But unless I’m travelling I now rarely by fiction. A once off read is best for the library but non-fiction is an investment to be reread.

Freecycle – wasn’t around in my lean years but we did hunt in packs in op shops, down laneways for discards and through the streets the night before hard rubbish collections. I’ve given a heap of stuff away on Freecycle in the last year and I reckon it’s all good karma.

Picnics – I was the picnic queen in the warm months and now am down to organising a scant 1 or 2 a year. A simple way to gather people together, sharing food, enjoying the great local parks. Very cheap and lots of fun.

credit cards - Apart from the obvious of not using them when you can't pay them off in full at the end of the month, it's the sneaky little extra charges that pile up when you use the card instead of cash - taxis, paying for parking and a heap of other 'slot machines' take a percentage on top of the few dollars you are paying for. It can add up over a year. Of course they are useful to brandish at a new purchase and then ask "Any discount for cash?", especially in a place that accepts the higher merchant fee attracting Amex.

What tricks work for you in the lean times?

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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

winter

This is what my evenings have come to: dinner and telly, then to bed with a hot water bottle, a purring cat and Phillip Adams.

Ok that's it, I'm officially middle aged now.

NB back from his extended time in Bali in three more sleeps...the cat won't be quite as happy as I am about it.

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Monday, July 02, 2007

last word on the holiday

Part two of the Indo holiday is all about food. If you want to get your mouth watering, pop over to the food nazi, for a rundown of eating and drinking in Bali and the Gili Islands.

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Sunday, July 01, 2007

the numbers game

While the logistics of who's killed how many in Iraq remains controversial, with vast disparities between the official and unofficial body count, no one seems to be denying what is going on in Afghanistan. The civilian death toll for June alone stands at over 200 killed by coalition troops. Despite the UK being under it's own attacks, the local media has found time to report such wearying news, unlike the apathy in our local press.

But the "good guys" killing the innocent doesn't sell papers. Let's have more Paris Hilton being released from jail. Now that's what I call news.

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