Monday, 27 February 2006

Move Over - It's My Turn Now

Hello, it's Xander here. I've been complaining to Mummy that she never lets me post; after all this blog is supposed to belong to both of us! So she agreed, on the condition that I promise not to rite lik eths, because it really annoys her. I agreed, of course - I'm a very literate cat! Some may say that when I sit on Mummy's lap whilst she's reading, I'm just staring at the book with a glazed look in my eyes - but I'm thinking about the symbolism. Don't you get a blank look when you think about symbolism?

Anyway, you wouldn't believe the weekend I had. You see, it's been very hot this summer and though I am practically perfect in every way, somehow I picked up fleas. Mummy tried to get me with this awful white stuff she called "flea powder", but I was having none of it - that stuff really ruins the glossiness of my black fur! However, the fleas were seriously crimping my style, and Mum got tired of my desperate wailing for relief, so she decided to take radical action. But if I'd known the solution was going to be so much worse than the problem, I think I might have kept my mouth shut!

Mum had purchased something called "flea bombs" but I wasn't overly worried until yesterday, when her Dad showed up with the cat carrier and bundled me off to his house, all by myself, so she could set them off! I was highly insulted. I'm not a great traveller and I never go anywhere without Mum! Forget the brave face. I cried my head off during every single minute of this indignity. It was alright for Mum - although she said something about airing the place out before I could come home, she went to Myer with her sisters. Cheese caused much amusement in the entertainment section, by hiding all the Ben Lee CDs (she said she was "saving people"). Apparently Mum got very excited when she found out that celebrity hairdresser Joh Bailey is doing appointments at the beauty salon, but then decided that her hair wasn't good enough to be touched by him. I think she's being silly. Mummy is very pretty.

Finally and eventually, I was brought home. Mum asked her Dad if I'd left any unpleasant "suprises" behind at his house. I was quite annoyed by that - of course I didn't. What kind of cat does she think I am? (Well - it's only because I didn't think of it). When they were shopping, Cheese bought the Team America DVD. I should have been in that movie - I would have made a much better panther than any of them! And Mum got the Just Shoot Me DVDs. She should have gotten more Red Dwarf. Bet you can't guess who my favourite character is...

Well I am glad to be home now, and flea-free, but next weekend Mummy is going away. I'm very sad, even though she says it's only for a little while. I know who's fault this is...*hisses*...

EDIT: Now Mummy's not going away, but she's sad and that's much worse. Forget hissing! *Bites*

Slight Return

Friday, 24 February 2006

As I mentioned, I'm not going to write about work here for awhile. Partly because I feel like my job is taking over my life, but also because I want to get back to my old territory of disjointed political rants.

Of all of the Howard government ministers, Peter Costello can usually be relied on to put his foot in his mouth slightly less often than most of the others. He's not immune the poorly thought-out speech though. In an address last night, costello opnied that Muslim immigrants should embrace Australian values before being granted citizenship; dual citizens would be stripped of Australian citizenship if they failed to comply. Costello stated that Australia has one system of law (Aboriginal tribal law notwithstanding) and values, and those who don't like it should leave.

Which brings me to my two points:
  1. What the hell are Australian values anyway? Who decides? Alot of what is perceived as the Australian ethos is based on outmoded concepts anyway, the "outback mentality", an Australia that doesn't exist anymore, if it ever did (witness Howard's failed attempts at Referendum to introduce the word "mateship" to the preamble to the Constitution. Although the basic concept of mateship maybe a noble one, it is in itself divisive on gender grounds - and in any case is outmoded. Except for a certain small number of older men, no one in Australia actually uses the word "mate" to refer to each other.
  2. Even if these values are superior, or held to be so at the moment, they are not immutable. There is always room for improvement. To give just two, albeit significant, examples: until the 1970s Australia pursued an openly rascist immigration policy ("White Australia") and also forcibly removed Aboriginal children from their homes so that they could be raised in "white" society ("The Stolen Generation"). At the time, thse policies were seen as the Right Thing to Do. But times change, and a country has to change to improve as well. Australia cannot afford to seal itself off from new ideas and concepts, cannot afford to varnish now and call it good. One day, we may look back and see that we were wrong.

(Well, about many things we already are wrong now, but this isn't the post to go into that. Rest assured, I certainly will at a later date).

So I'm devising a new political rhetoric.

Non-problems need non-solutions! The politics of the bleeding obvious.

  • The Red Cross blood service is perpetually running low on blood supplies. 80% of Australians will require blood products at some stage, but only 3% are regular blood donors. Solution: if you've been an eligible blood donor, but haven't donated, you can't receive blood products.

  • There's a terrible kerfuffle at the moment about banning smoking in pubs and clubs. (Interesting, that anti-smoking groups want to ban smoking in establishments where adults go of their own free will, but don't seem much concerned by people smoking in cars where their are child passengers...makes you wonder who's health they're really concerned about). Solution: have smoking pubs and non-smoking pubs.

  • All those who whinge about dole bludgers taking the tax dollars they work so hard for, must implement a policy for their workplace to hire long-term unemployed.

  • And with all that's been said about abortion in Australia recently following the end of the ban on RU-486, the simple solution: Against Abortion? Don't Have One.

    Finally, on politics...I just can't resist this story. On Thursday, Tony Abbot was
    attacked by a psychiatric patient whilst visiting a hospital. I leave it to you for an amusing comment.

  • Blog Like You Mean It

    Wednesday, 22 February 2006

    I haven't been posting here much lately, and I feel strangely guilty, like I've been neglecting a child! There's a good reason though - I've been setting up a photo gallery. Here it is so far. There aren't many photos up yet, because it took me so long to get the HTML right in the tepmlate - but I'll be adding photos old and new into galleries over the coming weeks, so keep checking back!

    All right, now that you've had a look, I'm curious to know what readers think - should I change the look of the Pod to something similar to the gallery? I've always been rather precious about not changing my template here, but if I'm honest, this place is just screaming for a makeover. I'm just nervous because it took so long setting up that template for a new blog - imagine how long it would take for an existing blog like this (a huge exisitng blog like this) - and what if something went wrong and I lost everything? Still, I'm willing to give it a try - whether you like the Pod the way it is, think I should try a set-up similar to my gallery, or something different entirely, please leave all opinions in the comments!

    I've also created a
    Froogle Wishlist. Unfortunatley there's not a great range of stuff to choose from, especially when you're outside the US. (I really, really want that t-shirt though).

    Something that wasn't on Froogle, but that I do very much want...

    Yep, in America you can order personalised gallon bottles of Tabasco. How cool is that? If anyone's getting a hint, they do ship to Australia...
    Monday, 20 February 2006

    For reasons which will become apparent in my next few posts, I'm going to be taking a short break from posting about work related issues.

    And I can't think of a better way to say Sayonara to all that, than to point you towards the Dilbert Blog's
    advice for new graduates.

    I couldn't have put it better myself.

    And the winner is...

    Sunday, 19 February 2006

    Well, the winner of the 90s competition, randomly selected from all those who left an answer, is (drumroll, please!) BSE. A copy of the Stone Temple Pilots Thank You will be on its soon as I have a postal address (I was hoping the winner would be a Novocastrian! I'm stingy that way).

    Today I amazed myself. I took the Bather's Way walk to the Bogie Hole. Let me unhesitatingly recommend you to do so, if you ever visit Newcastle; it's gorgeous, with stunning ocean views. However, when I got to the Bogie Hole itself, well, I had no idea that access was only down a set of crumbling stone steps that end two feet short of the ground, and that the whole thing is under a overhanging cliff. Now I'm claustrophobic as well as being petrified of heights, so for me this was hell. I had intended to take photos, but I'm sorry, all I wanted to do was get out of there. But the thing is, the Bogie Hole was constructed by convict labour early in the 19th century to be the personal swimming pool for the commandant of the Newcastle colony. (Who wouldn't want their own chain gang to order the construction of anything you fancied?!?) Newcastle could hardly have been brimming with people at the why the hell didn't they build the thing somewhere a little more central?

    And Nothing's Really Making Any Sense At All, Let's Talk

    Thursday, 16 February 2006

    What a week it's been - and there's still another day to go! I'd half-planned to go to Sydney this weekend - art galleries, shopping, etc - but all I can see myself actually doing is watching DVDs whilst wrapped up in a doona.

    On Monday I had my first official work performance review. Naturally, I was wetting myself slightly worried, but it actually turned out fine. Okay, scrap the false modesty - it was outstanding. I received especial raves for my superb organisational organisation skills and systems knowledge. My rating is very high, so I can expect a nice little payrise in the next pay cycle! *Bows*

    So the bad news I was expecting turned out very well, but unfortunately on Monday I also received some pretty bad news I wasn't expecting at all. However, I determined that I wouldn't let it get me down, and I might have suceeded, had it not been for...

    Tuesday - VD wasn't a very good day. I know I'm one of the bloggers Omni was referring to - the women who feel jealous of their coworkers receiving flowers. It's not so much that I'm jealous, but consider this. Our office is right near one of Newcastle's biggest florists. Think of how you would feel if all day, a stream of delivery people arrived at the door with large bouquets for coworker after coworker, and knowing that it's never going to happen to you. Now let two things compound this - the fact that you're expected to admire each delivery, so as not to appear bitter; and the misguided sympathy of the other women who make consoling noises about your bare desk. Because really, it's not about the flowers (I'm not even all that keen on flowers!) it's what they stand for. Anyway, I think I handled it pretty well - I did take a few minutes time out in the ladies occasionally if I felt I needed it. Never let 'em see you, sweat I say. Or if they must see you sweat (unlikely, considering the glacial air conditioning in here) don't let them see you blubbing!

    Then Wednesday was a complete
    Murphy's Law of a day. Everyone in the office went to an off-site campaign launch in the afternoon, and I was supposed to go too. But the work kept piling up, so I had to stay in the office awhile longer to finish it all. As I was frantically working on the databases, three irate customers arrived in reception at once, who then became all the angrier when I explained to them that because no one was here to help them, they'd have to make appointments to come back another time. Then the couriers arrived before I had the courier bags ready to send, and as they waited impatiently for me to print the shipping forms, the copier jammed. (All this, I might add, the receptionist should have done before she left). By the time I arrived at the function centre, in a taxi I had to pay for myself, it was after 4pm, and I'd worked straight through without time for lunch. So you can imagine how pleased I was to discover that all the food and all grog except some port was gone. So I left, deciding that I might as well maintain the fun tone of the day (and the week!) by allowing my beautician to pour hot wax on me and rip out my hair.

    Well, that brings us to today...and there's still Friday to get through before it's the weekend. but I do have to consider a rather more horrifying possibility. What if everything had gone well for me this week? Now that's a truly scary thought...

    Look On The Bright Side

    Tuesday, 14 February 2006

    Although it would make me feel much better, I'm not going to whinge about being single on Valentines day. I'm going to reflect on the fact that there is one gorgeous guy who thinks I'm the most wonderful woman on Earth, makes me feel utterly adored every time I see him, and never looks at other women, leaves the toilet seat up, comes home late, or buys me cricket DVDs for my birthday. Yep...

    (Click on the picture to see other funny anti-valentines!)

    The Nineties Trivia Challenge!

    Friday, 10 February 2006

    Okay, I'm a Nineties tragic, so to celebrate my 400th post, here's some Nineties music trivia questions for you to sink your rollers into. Please leave answers in the comments, and I'll post the answers to each question as I receive them. Please - no cheating! There's not much I can do about it, but you'll feel like a cheap fraud.

    And yes, there is a prize!

    I'll draw one name from all the readers who submit a correct answer, and the winner will be sent a greatest hits CD from a big Nineties band (it's a suprise so far...)*

    Hey Girls, Hey Boys, Superstar DJs, Here We Go!

    1. In 1999, which song did Triple J listeners vote the best Australian song of the Nineties?

    You Am I - Berlin Chair. Rex was listening :)

    2. Faith No More drew criticism from animal rights groups for their treatment of which animal in the flim clip for Epic?

    A Fish. Well done Skye.

    3. In which US state did Jeff Buckley die?

    Tennesee - thanks Kitekat.

    4. True or false: These were actual lyrics from a big early Nineties dance hit: "I'm serious as cancer/When I say rythym is a dancer"
    Yeah, it's true. The band Snap! inflicted this upon us...the Nineties had lows that more than matched the highs.

    5. Which now-respected Hollywood actor was better known in the early Nineties as a sitcom star and some-time rapper with the hit Boom! Shake Shake Shake the Room?
    Will Smith - Skye

    6. The band 311 were named after the Nebraska state police code for which criminal offence?
    Indecent Exposure - Thanks BSE.

    7. Famously, the alternative title for Nirvana's In Utero was I Hate Myself and I Want To Die. But what was its other alternative title?
    Verse Chorus Verse - Skye

    8. Who sang lead vocals on the Chemical Brothers song Setting Sun?
    Noel Gallagher - Skye

    9. Which Australian band turned down a $250,000 offer from the Liberal Party to use their song Betta Daze as the theme song for the 1993 election campaign?

    10. In the "Britpop Wars", who made it to #1 on the UK singles chart first - Blur or Oasis? With which song?

    11. Name the 1994 "breakthrough" albums for The Smashing Pumpkins and Soundgarden

    12. Which mid-90s grrl band were named after a character in a well-loved Roald Dahl book?
    Verrucca Salt (after the character in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory)
    - BSE

    13. Crispin Mills of Kula Shaker is the son of which 1960s child film star?

    14. What band was the first ever winner of Triple J's Unearthed competition?
    Grinspoon. Kitekat again.

    15. Can't have a Nineties music quiz without the song which features these immortal lyrics: "He's reading Balzac/Knocking back prozac"
    Country House by Blur - Skye's rather showing off :)

    16. What was the last INXS album released prior to the death of Michael Hutchence?
    Elegantly Wasted

    17. NIN performed the song "Perfect Drug" on the soundtrack of which 1997 David Lynch film?
    Lost Highyway - again, Skye

    18. Name the lead singer of the Stone Temple Pilots
    Scott Weiland

    19. Okay, what are Scooby Snacks?
    Valiums! Thank you, BSE! (At last!)

    20. And finally, if you don't agree the Nineties were the greatest musical decade many fingers am I holding up?

    *Everyone's welcome to answers questions, but the prize is for Australian readers only. When I pick the winner, I'll get you to email me with your details. If don't leave a name, I can't give you the prize! Entry is not permitted for residents of the Xander and Nico house.

    Misery Loves...Vodka

    Thursday, 9 February 2006

    (And make mine a double)

    Normally I wait until Friday to have whine, but although we've only reached Thursday, I just can't wait any longer. Here's why...

  • I'm exhausted. Work is really getting to me. I mean, I know everyone says that they're a martyr doing the jobs of several people, but it is literally true in my case; this is our busiest time of year, and in years gone by, there's been five or six employees to do the jobs I'm now trying to handle on my own. It's pretty stressful, because I like to be good at what I do, and I just don't have the resources to do a good job at the moment.

  • Then again, I might be tired because last night Xander decided that the most confortable place for him to sleep was horizontally across my pillow. And as you can probably imagine, an eight-kilo cat takes up a lot of room in a single bed. But it was easier to leave him be than try to argue with him at 4am, so I spent the night curled in the foetal position at the foot of my bed. I've considered getting a double bed, but I'm sure Xander would just grow larger to fill that one as well.

  • Actually, as much as I hate to admit it, Xander's become a bit of a pill lately. He's whinging constantly - and being partially descended from a Siamese, he's got a very loud voice - clawing at the furniture, and jumping onto surfaces and knocking things onto the floor. Most annoyingly of all though, he's gone off his wet matter what I buy him, he won't touch it. Except for a slight variation, where I put out his breakfast, which ignores until he starts eating 30 seconds before I'm due to walk out the door. I'm left with the dilemma of: take his food away from him vs leave the dish to congeal all day. I swear he does it on purpose. Anyway, I hope it's just a stage he's going through (though he does seem a bit old to be going through "stages")...

  • Somehow, I misread the calendar, and was under the misapprehension that Valentine's Day fell on a Saturday this year. I only realised my mistake a few days ago, which ledd to the further, horrible realisation that for the fourth year in a row, I'll be the only woman in the office that doesn't have flowers delivered. The humiliation is too great to bear. I can almost hear my coworkers thinking "Ah, Nicola...nice girl...too bad she repulses men!" Eventually, one of the older guys will take pity on me and buy me some non-romantic flowers (e.g. sunflowers or lillies) but that's almost worse than getting nothing...I can't bear being pitied like that. You may be thinking, "Well why don't you just send yourself some flowers?". But I'm a terrible liar; I'd never be able to carry it off, and when caught out, would feel like a bigger loser than ever before, if such a thing is possible. I think I feel a sick day next Tuesday coming on.

  • On a rather more positive note, I've been putting together questions for a Nineties rock trivia challenge, and I'm almost done. So if you consider yourself a bit of a boffin, check back here - hopefully I'll have it posted tomorrow - and give it a go. There will be a prize for the winner! (Australian addresses only for the prize, though everyone is warmly invited to participate).

    A Life (More or) Less Ordinary

    Tuesday, 7 February 2006

    Best laid plans really are worth the half-written blog posts the server crashes on. On Saturday morning I rose bright and early, planning to go into Newcastle and take photos of the Bathers Way, newly re-opened after the removal of the Rather Large Rock, which crashed onto the roadway in 2002, and which it took Newcastle City Council three years to remove. Actually, it didn't take that long; they spent three years talking about removing it, finally decided on a plan to demolish it and remove the pieces, only to have it fall to bits when first grazed by a bulldozer when the engineers finally showed up. But I digress. Full of enthusiasm, I flung open the curtians on Saturday, looking forward to taking the joycam, getting some beautiful pictures of the Bogey Hole and the cliff above the ocean, and posting them here (of course!)...only to discover that it was raining.

    This was not good. It certainly didn't make me happy. As I've said, I've been feeling shallow and work-obsessed lately, so I wanted to do something a little more creative. With a palpable sigh, I resigned myself to visiting the art gallery instead, hoping I would find some inspiration there.

    Whilst Newcastle has undergone an amazing transformation over the last few years, many parts of the city remain in "eyesore" status. However, what is referred to as the city's "cultural precinct" is small, but really quite lovely, surrounded by mature fig-trees. (Here's a Newcastle history trivia aside for you: When Queen Elizabeth II visited Newcastle in 1974 to open the Cultural centre, the branches from the trees were lopped, so that when her motorcade went through, the birds nesting above wouldn't leave any "souvenirs" in her hair!)

    At the art gallery, I visited all the exhibitions on offer. As usual, there was some short films I didn't get, some glass etchings I have to admit I wasn't interested in, and some wonderful Australian paintings by artists such as
    Rupert Bunny which I lingered over for some time. However, the treat of the day (for me) was yet to come.

    The Lovett gallery, in the cultural centre next door, had an exhibition of the 2005
    Walkley Award Press Photographer of the Year winners. Unfortuantley, none of the photos are available on line so I can't share them here, but if you have a chance before 18th February, do try to get along to see them (or wherever they may be displayed in your hometown!). I found it incredibly moving.

    Thus inspired, I actually created several pages in my art journal over the weekend; especially remarkable since I hadn't touched it so far this year. But that's what happens in life. I've been so bogged down in my routine of office, supermarket, home - it's as though my mind is like a stuffy room, and it takes a shot of culture to let some fresh air in, and clear the creative cobwebs! Unfortunatley I've got another week of work now (and I left my chai tea at home - torture!) but if the weather is fine next weekend I will make my trip to the Bather's check back for some half-assed (not literally) photos...

    Take Your Mind Back - I Don't Know When

    Monday, 6 February 2006

    I didn't think it was possible. But finally, after over 20 years...

    I have found the Lost Song!!!

    The genesis of the story: when I was very little and we lived in Sydney in the early 1980s, we always seemed to go on long car journeys on the weekend, and so I heard an awful lot of radio. There was one song in particular I was very fond of, that got alot of air play at the time. I didn't know anything about it, other than it was a lush, piano-heavy piece. I didn't know any of the words (I was barely more than a toddler at the time) and apparently my father didn't have it on any of his records (no CDs in 1982!). Eventually, it dropped off regular radio play, and I forgot all about it for twenty years. But it must have remained in some corner of my sub-concious.

    Fast forward to early 2003...I'd been to lunch with a couple of co workers, and in the car on the way back to the office, the song came on the radio. I recognised it straight away, but unfortunatley they were chatting loudly, so I still couldn't make out any lyrics, nor the DJ announcing what the song was. And as they'd just treated me to lunch at Scratchleys, I really didn't feel I could say "Pipe down, I want to hear what this song is!"

    Maybe I should have, because since then, finding the lost song has become an obsession. A nearly impossible one, as I didn't know who performed it, the title, or the words. None the less, I've run literally hundreds of song lyrics searches for what I thought the words might have been, and listened to an awful lot of hits and memories radio. Knowing that the song must've been released circa 1981/2, I've barely ever missed a radio stations "Cold Thirty" from that era.

    No luck. And I'd basically resigned myself to the thought that I could well die without ever knowing what the Lost Song was.

    Until Saturday evening. I was just listening to the local hits n' memories radio station because I was waiting for the news, when I heard those distinctive opening bars...I started shaking, unable to believe my search was at an end. In a further stroke of luck, there was a blank tape ready to go in the stereo, so I hit "record"...and now the song is mine till the tape wears out. Anyway, finally aware of the words, I ran a search that worked...and now I finally know that the song is "Real Men" by Joe Jackson (I can't believe I didn't recognise his distictive voice earlier!). And now I can buy the MP3. Somehow. I don't know how.

    The song isn't as great as I remembered but I think it's still pretty good. And shows that even as a small child, I had good taste AND an awareness of gay issues (well, not really. Like I said I didn't know the words then).

    Anyway, there's four points to be learnt from this:

    1. Never give up on lost causes, a solution may come along when you least expect it;

    2. Toddlers were much better off in years gone by listening to real music, before the days of kiddie bands;

    3. Never promise your readers four points when you can't think of a fourth, and


    Advice From the Front Line

    Thursday, 2 February 2006

    Well, I've put in several years in the cubicle trenches now, and I've acquired quite a bit of knowledge along the way. I'd like to join a mentoring program for those who are just starting their "stuck in a carpeted box for hours on end" lives. Not many people can survive thirty years hard time in a cubicle, but I have plenty of strategies to share on how to make those thirty years fly by like twenty nine. Actually, maybe I should write them all up into a book, so people will have to pay for my wisdom. But because you've taken the trouble to come here, I'm going to share with you the best work avoidance/boss pacification maneuver I've developed so far. It goes a little something like this:

    Bring a large jar of hard candy into work (it has to be hard candy, as it takes longer to consume) and present it to your boss, placing it prominently on his* desk. Use an excuse like Xmas or his birthday if you have to. If you don't want to look like a suck-up, just explain to your cow-orkers that the candy is "really for everyone". This will please your boss and make you look like a generous thoughtful person, but that's not the good part. The good part is...your cow-orkers, having seen the candy, will use any excuse to go into your boss's office to get some. Your boss will be trapped in his office by these walk ins, and unable to roam the office floor bothering you; your cow-orkers will be in his office and not trying to palm their work off on you...and everyone will be on a permanent sugar high.

    I wonder what would happen if I used my powers for good and not evil? Anyway, if you try this, let me know in the comments how you get on.

    *I in no way mean to denigrate the role of women in management. But my boss is a male, so that's the reference I'm using. If you're intelligent enough to read this, I'm sure you can cope with switching the gender pronoun in your head as you go. I hope to be a manager myself one day; luckily I'll be able to see through these schemes.
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