30 August 2005

I Want To Dialogue With You About Utilising Resources

If that sentence made sense to you, you've been spending too much time at the office and I recommend you take a mini-break; Port Macquarie is quite nice. Alternatively, you could take a week off work with horrible stomach problems, but I don't recommend that so whole-heartedly.

I don't know about you, but as I look around my office I see signs of brainwashing everywhere. There's slogans on posters and sticky notes and every kind of promotional gizmo you can imagine. Mission statements, value statements, customer service charters, visions: all encouraging the harmless office serf (that's me) to become one of the crowd, blend in and toe the company line. Does that sound familiar? Yes, I fear my company, like so many large corporations, is actually a cult. Consider this:

* Cults separate you from the rest of society... companies make you work so many hours you never see the rest of society.

* Cults make you wear unattractive outfits... Companies make you wear unattractive outfits too, except on casual day, when they make you wear casual unattractive outfits.

* Cults want all your money... Companies want all your intellectual property.

* Cults make you chant... Companies make you answer the phone the same way every time.

* Cults teach you to clear your mind of all independent thought... Companies make you attend meetings.

Spooky, no? Of course, I'm not saying my company is a cult. Now if you'll excuse me, apparently someone has put free drums of Kool-Aid in the break room.

16 August 2005

On Attending My First Conference

Last Friday I was off to Sydney to attend my first-ever conference. Few of my friends have corporate jobs (mostly teaching, nursing, trades etc - real skill and caring needed, two things I will never have) and so they were under the impression that attending a conference was somehow glamorous or at least exciting. You're probably way ahead of me on this - it's not. For a start, read the phrase "business travel" carefully. Also, few of the world's corporate high-flyers travel to conferences on CityRail (but how else was I going to get there, really? I wanted to get the XPT, but there wasn't one at a suitable time. At least the company paid for my train fare).

So it was in slightly less than a chirpy mood that I arrived, and did the rounds of meet and greet. There was also a major concern to my mind - our company's Sydney offices are located in the Australian HQ building of a major American company, with the logo prominently displayed, in the centre of the CBD. Call me paranoid, but sometimes I can't help worrying about terrorism. On top of that, although it suprises alot of people to know it, I can actually be very shy sometimes and having to make endless small talk, in a business environment and under management scrutiny, was very difficult for me. (And, she reports bitterly, there weren't even any sandwiches).

I won't bore you further with the details of the conference itself. You can get the drift of it from any Dilbert book, or just imagine fifty bored admins slumped in chairs hearing "Core changes to customer focus...drone, drone...paradigm reorganisations of strategic alliances drone, drone..." Suffice to say that by the end of it, I don't think hearing the words, "You've won $15 million on Lotto!", would have been as welcome as, "Okay, we're finishing an hour early today..." I could barely restrain myself from pumping my fist in the air. It meant that I got a chance to do some shopping. I immediately headed to Lush, as I badly needed some Fresh Farmacy. It's the only thing that has ever worked on my alternately dry and oily, and always ugly and red, skin. It's so good that I was planning a trip to Sydney solely to get some; now I won't have to. After that, I tried buying other stuff, but I felt so self-concious in my business attire - like I said, I'm more at home in an amusing t-shirt and stripy socks and carrying a tattered backpack - that I went home.

And I have had enough of trains for a while!

Sunday I headed along to town to see the much-vaunted Market St Markets...which are supposed to "revive" the Newcastle CBD. Now, few people could wish this to happen more than myself, but I just don't know if these markets are the thing to do it. I found them pretty standard market garb, and there weren't many stalls. Certainly nothing I'd consider worth making a trip to town for, and I enjoy both markets and trips to town. I fear that the Newcastle Alliance may have to think of something else.

We finished off the weekend with a cleansing ale at the Brewery. Much talk and laughter.

Finally, I've made the decsion to grow my hair long again. It seems to have stopped falling out, and is getting quite thick again, so I should be able to manage it. Long hair just suits my clothes and my general style more, and I found it was actually easier to look after - just tie it back, rather than having to worry about washing and styling it every day (I washed my long hair as often as it needed it, in case you're thinking I'm a soap dodger. But it did need washing less). Also - and all my own research has found this, even though they may initially deny it - most guys do seem to rather prefer women with long hair. I realise that this is a sweeping generalisation, but there it is. At any rate, these days I need any advantage I can get.

Anyway, what they hell? If I don't like it, I can always cut it again. Even if I am doomed to spend the next few months looking very, very shaggy as it grows out. Must resist temptation!

10 August 2005

The Holiday Post



Town Beach, Port Macquarie...this was actually taken at about 2pm, although it looks like early morning.

Okay, I've finally gotten it all together...culled from my notebooks, camera and memory, here's my account of my holiday (this may take awhile to read, so you might want to get a drink before you settle in...but did you expect anything less?).

Newcastle was looking a bit sad under a grey, drizzling rain as I boarded the XPT for Port Macquarie via Wauchope on Thursday afternoon. On a mid-week afternoon, out of season and with school in session, I'd expected the train to be half empty, but to my consternation I had a seat mate. So I sat, squashed, for about an hour, till I got up to visit the ladies and realised that everyone was bunched up at the front of the carriage, to make life easier for the on-board staff, and the rear carriages were empty. So I grabbed some seats to myself, sprawled out, and settled in to enjoy the journey. The train journeyed inland up into the mountains, before heading back towards the coast. We passed through Maitland, Dungog (I considered visiting my old friend at the museum there, but sadly there wasn't time), Gloucester...and by now I badly needed a cigarette. A beer wouldn't have gone astray either, but there was only lite beer available on the North Coast services for some reason - regular beer being freely available on all other Countrylink train services. I decided just to forgo this, and the on-board meals, and wait till I arrived to get a drink (it wasn't easy!).

Eventually the train arrived in Wauchope, and I took the connecting bus for the 30 minute journey into Port Macquarie. It was dark by now, and the grey drizzle at home had turned into a rather steady rain, but I didn't really notice as we pulled into PMQ itself. I hadn't been there since 1995, and then with my parents, so my memories were a bit hazy. Anyway, the place looked far livelier than I expected, especially for a wet winter week night. I was pretty tired though, so I got myself a huge serve of deep-fried seafood, an even larger quantity of white wine, and retired to my lodgings for the night.

So on Friday morning, I set off early to explore the town centre. I grabbed some breakfast, had a wander and checked house prices in estate agents windows. There were quite a few interesting shops, and I was amazed to discover several shops that sold Goth clothing. In particular, I was very taken to discover a full skirt made of variegated layers of velvet, most unusual and not the kind of thing that you'd find in Newcastle. Then I checked the price tag. $275. $275?!? I couldn't believe that Port Macquarie could support a market for that kind of thing. But I did buy a very inexpensive corset, and also some jewellery.

All this was very well, but I wanted to get a feel for the "real" Port Macquarie, so I went into the town visitors centre to see what was on offer. I paid little attention to the brochures for camel rides, waterskiing and rainforest tours, but immediately was drawn to the literature from the Historical society. There was a well-mapped and easy walking tour of the town historical sights, so I set off on that. It took me up the hill from the town centre, towards the beach, where I stopped at an overlook that was the site of the town's original cemetary, where I spent a few suitably reverential minutes of reflection. Only four headstones remained, and three of those were too weathered to be read. I took a photo of the fourth, but it didn't come out.

From there, I walked down to the beach, but it was too windy to sit and soak up the sun, so I decided to walk along the breakwater past the river back into town. Along the breakwater, I discovered something wonderful. It was lined with large flat rocks, and each of them had been decorated by a group of visitors or locals, with pictures, messages, welcomes or whatever else they wanted. Most of them were dated within the past three years, and there was suprisingly little graffitti. Here are some of the rocks I managed to photograph:

This rock says, "It has better to have loved and lost..." etc, etc. Sometimes I think I would have preferred the never-loved part.


I'm not sure what this is meant to be, but it's cute.


"Got Nothing to Be Thankful for? Check your pulse!" I bet the people who painted this rock drink a lot of herbal tea and play the bongos.




This is meant to be Sami Lukis, former Today Show weather host. I have to admire the effort, if nothing else.




I love this idea...seems like a much better way to remember a friend than putting an ad in a newspaper which will just get thrown away.

These rocks extended the full length of the breakwater, about 2km, and you didn't even notice how far you'd walked because you were too busy looking at them. There was one in particular that creeped me a bit...it was a couple describing how they'd been married at the headland one sunset, with bats and dolphins around. I had a dream only a few weeks ago that I was attending a stranger's wedding at sunset, on the coast, with dolphins in the water and bats in the air. But the thing is, this dream was very recent, and this stone was painted in 2004 on occasion of that couple's second anniversary. Spooky.

Back in town, I decided to visit the local historical museum. I didn't have such high hopes after the Dungog museum - which basically looked as if three local men had cleared out their sheds after fifty years, put all the stuff in one room, and called it a museum - but the one in PMQ was wonderful (but then, I'm a sucker for this stuff). Anyway, I was particularly taken with the displays of antique dolls, replicas of the town in convict days, and an exhibit of bridal dresses and the brides of the local area throughout time. The museum even provided a rack of child-size wedding dresses, so little girls could dress in replicas of what they'd seen, which I thought was a wonderful touch.

By now, my never-reliable energy levels were beginning to droop, so I went back to the flat for a nap, before getting some dinner and - foolishly - deciding to give the local nightlife a try. I say "foolishly" because on my stroll through town earlier that day I'd only seen two buildings that may pass for clubs, and they were both labelled, "nitespots". Nonetheless, I wandered into the closest hotel, however right away realised it was a mistake. I was the oldest person there. And I mean I really looked like the oldest person there, even though I often get asked for ID at home. That was something odd I noticed about PMQ - there were hardly any people in their twenties. Lots and lots and lots of retirees, quite a few families with kids, what seemed like an abnormally high number of teenagers, but the whole time I was there I saw barely anyone my age. I guess unless you worked in a shop or in tourism, or had a trade, all the twenty-somethings from PMQ had had to leave to get work in the cities. Also, there's no university there, which might otherwise keep people in town a while longer. 

At any rate, I left the pub without a drink, went back to the apartment, and finished off the wine in front of Big Brother Up Late.

The next day I nursed an appalling cheap-wine hangover, and basically crashed out in front of the TV. I know that was a waste of time and I should have done something more interesting to write about, and I'm sorry.

Anyway, it was with quite irrational excitement that I boarded the train home. Even that short amount of time away was too much for me. I wonder if there is some sort of prize for the most homesick, home-bound person on Earth? But of course there couldn't be, because no one nominated would want to travel to the awards ceremony. It's a pain, really, be being so attached to home and reluctant to travel; it basically means that, unless I get over it, a career in politics is out. But is it really so wrong to just feel happiest and most comfortable at home with Xander? On the train that day I kept thinking that every turn of the wheels was bringing me closer. But that novelty wore off fast, and I spent the trip doing puzzles (I wrangled a seat to myself again...though may I just say, those tray tables are a bitch to write on, and more so if you're left handed). 

I did notice one interesting thing on the way home...the number of people who came out of their houses to wave at the train, not just kids but people of all ages (though once again, no twenty-somethings, and few teenagers this time). I hadn't seen this happening on the journey north, as it was dark before we really got into the boondocks. Anyway, I'll refrain from making any condescending lefty comments, and just say this: Will someone please give these people something to do?

08 August 2005

Cubicle Sweet Cubicle, I've Returned From My Trip

Yes, sadly, I have returned from my holiday in Port Macquarie (or PMQ) to the joys of...the office.

Sometime this week I'll get around to doing my complete "Holiday Post"...trying to convert my 15+ pages of notes and diary entries, and a camera phone memory's worth of photos, into a legible blog entry! For now, since I have a heap of work I missed to catch up on, I'll just do a quick list:

Things That Happened, Cheat Notes:

  • It was raining when I arrived in PMQ, which wasn't what I'd had in mind. The skies cleared up the next day, but there was still a chilly wind, so I didn't get to the beach much.


  • I did, however, get to the historical sites of the town. That sounds dull, but I love that stuff, and the set up in PMQ was wonderful.


  • My camera phone stood up to the task of capturing scenery remarkably well.


  • I forgot to get any souvenirs.


  • Surprisingly, I bought some great clothes...there were a few shops full of great Goth-style clothes, some very expensive (I wouldn't have thought that there'd be a market for the stuff up there) but I managed to get some bargains (I always do!)


  • I picked up a cold on the train...all that recirculating air (why do I always get sick when I travel?!?


  • That's all I picked up...I'm too old for that kinda thing anymore. The nightlife wasn't my cup of chai tea.


  • To be honest, I missed Xander so much that it threw a bit of a dampener on my mood the whole time...all I could think of was how much I wanted to hold him. When I got home, he would not let me out of his sight!
  • 04 August 2005

    This City's Made Us Crazy And We Must Get Out

    Just three more hours until I'm off on my little holiday. I really, really need it right now. I've been sort of losing it lately - without going into detail the past few months have been pretty difficult and draining. I've been finding myself crying at nothing, and losing my temper when it's totally unjustified. I've heard that a change is as good as a holiday, so I tried parting my hair on the other side, but it didn't help. I knew I needed to get away.

    So I've booked to visit a town a few hours up the coast. I can't go far, because I don't have much money, but in this place I've got free food and accomodation, so all I needed to pay for is the train fare. And those nightmarish trips to Sydney aside, I do actually like going places on the train. Hard to believe, from the same parent company that spawned CityRail, but Countrylink is generally pretty good. I can even have beer as I watch the countryside slip past! (I just hope I can last 4 1/2 hours without a cigarette).

    Of course, going away meant that last night I had to do that thing I loathe above almost any other: packing. I hate it so much that I contemplated just buying new clothes when I got there, and giving them to charity when I left. However, I feared that I wouldn't be able to buy the kind of clothes I like where I'm going. So, with much malice, I dragged out my carry-all. I hate that thing. It's quite high-quality, black leather finished in suede, but it's like a reverse tardis; it looks huge on the outside (and weighs a tonne) but it actually holds bugger-all. I put a small supply of t-shirts, underwear and some toiletries in there, and still I had to jump on it and swear alot to get it to shut. Or close. Or do whatever luggage does when it isn't open. And then I could barely pick the thing up. Lugging it on and off the train is going to be some fun. I'm also bringing my back pack. It was quite a sight this morning when I dragged my luggage into the hall: my fancy leather hold-all next to my scruffy back pack, which is covered in buttons espousing my left-wing political views and taste in music. The hold all says, "Yes, I am a professional in my late twenties", but the back pack testifies to the sloppy student I still feel like.

    Xander put up a great fuss about me going; he could tell I was leaving, and whinged and clung to me like crazy. But I figure it's better that he's alone for a few days and then I come back relaxed and happy, rather than having his Mummy as a psycho hose-beast. Anyway, he'll be well looked after, I've arranged good house-sitting (so if you're planning on breaking in whilst I'm away...don't!)

    Me being me, I'm brining my notebooks, sketchbooks and watercolours. There's supposed to be spectacular coastal scenery, as well as good whale sightings. Mostly, though, I'm looking forward to getting away from the office, traffic, noise and crowds...just lying on the beach in the sun (fulfilling a winter-long-held obsession) and puttering around somewhere new. I'm also told that there's an internet cafe in the town, so hopefully I'll be able to bring you a mid-holiday post from my diary. If not...I'll see you when I get back!

    03 August 2005

    NSW, We Have A New Premier

    Ah, New South Wales. They said it was God's own country, but we knew Bob Carr wouldn't be Premier forever. And now, he isn't anymore. After ten long (long) years, he resigned last week. It's said that he wasn't pushed, that he was just tired of the job. Some say it was due to the stress surrounding the miserable failures of the state Health and Transport systems. But those problems weren't Carr's fault; nothing was his fault for the ten years.

    I actually really liked him. Some said, "How can you trust a guy who doesn't drive or have kids?" But I have immense respect for anyone who doesn't drive. The car is - by far - the greatest environmental menace the planet has ever or will ever face. People who say that they "care about the environment" and drive, make me want to laugh, or throw up. Unless you live in an isolated rural area, no one needs to drive. Public transpot in your area not so hot? Then do something about it, and getting in your car isn't making it better. What really annoys me are the people who complain about the war in Iraq, and drive; the invasion of Iraq was to get the oil for your cars, so get the bus or face the blood on your hands.
    Harsh, yes, but someone's got to say it.

    Anyway, now we have a new premier...the outstandingly colourless Morris Iemma. Who's first act as Premier was to abolish a small tax on rich people. My heart bleeds. Oh, I don't know if you noticed, but after Iemma was the only candidate for the position of Premier following Carl Scully's withdrawl from contention, the media all referred to him as "Premier-elect". No he wasn't! A "premier/PM/President-elect" is a leader who has been voted to the office and not yet sworn in. Morris Iemma didn't become Premier Elect until he was voted in by the Labor caucaus yesterday. Up till that point, he was merely "Premier to be". And after the vote, the media then referred to him as "Premier". No, he doesn't actually become Premier till the swearing-in today.

    The media (and world) are full of fools, whose problem is they don't read my blog.

    *Looks back on what I've written* Gah, I'm an angry woman! I think I really need to go on my little holiday (and it is a real holiday - I'm leaving the city for a few days), which officially commences in 24 hours and 35 minutes...

    01 August 2005

    Snappy Nomenclature

    This morning whilst I had my tea, I watched Seven Sunrise. I don't normally switch it on, because frankly I find the sight of co-host David Koch too hard to bear so early in the morning. But, this morning I wanted to briefly get the news headlines. So I watched the news, then continued through the weather. The program's weather man (I can't recall his name, but he's a young blond, Andrew G, himbo type) was doing that act so typical of breakfast TV news-magazine shows; traveling around "the real Australia", putting the over-excited "local characters" on the show, and generally boring anyone with an IQ above room temperature straight back to sleep.

    Well, this morning Mr Blond was visiting a resort in the far Northern Territory, describing the facilities, rooms and the celebrities who've stayed there (Princess Mary and Prince Frederik, Kylie, and some other womens'-magazine fillers). I was kind of half-asleep myself, and not really paying alot of attention. Until that is, the host began describing the "best suite at the resort", the $2,500 per night...Chamberlain room. I thought that I had heard wrong, but no, he repeated the name. Without saying whom it was named after. Which led me to inevitably wonder...could it have been named for Michael and Lindy?!? Okay, so it's been 25 years since Azaria went missing, so maybe no one is particularly sensitive to the reference. Still, I find it amazing that someone could name an area of a NT outback resort anything to do with "Chamberlain".

    Unless of course, it was named after Neville Chamberlain. Maybe a search of the room would reveal documents dated 2000 about his meeting with Osama, who bears the West no grudge and who is a man we can easily negotiate with.

    The mind boggles.