Wednesday, August 30, 2006

2006 - Where Shopping Is A Baffling Ordeal


I'm not in a good mood right now, and I'm especially cranky about supermarkets. Perhaps I'm just a little touchy, because I gave my MP3 player to my sister so she could put some new songs on it; however she can't drop it back to me and I can't go pick it up, so I was forced to do the shopping last night whilst listening to supermarket muzak. That's enough to upset anybody. However, it's not mainly what I'm complaining posting about today. There's just so many things to get angry and bewildered about in the supermarket these days.

There is too much stuff available in the shops today. You can't just buy "butter" anymore. My local supermarket seems to sell a different variety of sandwich spread for every individual who will ever shop there. There's varieties that come with or without lactose, cholesterol, animal proteins, salt, and omega threes; offerings that promise to reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes, and still more that boast they can improve eyesight and memory, all in any array of combinations you can think of (and afford - one of the brands on the shelf costs $8 for a standard tub size. I don't live in a high income area. Who and where are the people paying $8 for a tub of butter?)

It's not just endless variety the companies are trying to sell us, it's also bewildering complication. Yesterday I was trying to buy a box of band-aids. That was worse than the butter. There were shelves and shelves of dressings, including ones with silver for advanced healing, adaptable light-reflecting skin tones, dermatollogically tested comfort...I really started to lose it when I read a packet that promised "superior wound management". "Superior wound management?" I moaned wretchedly. "I don't have a degree in that! I just want a packet of ordinary band-aids like my mother put on my boo-boos when I was a kid!"

Despite (actually, because of) all that choice, you can almost never get what you want. When I say you can't just buy butter, I mean it. From the looks of my local supermarket, no one is actually buying all the complicated stuff. The spaces on the shelves where you might hope to find the basics are always empty; earlier shoppers have snapped it up, meaning you're forced to buy $3.50 a litre organically farmed milk with added amino acids, just to put something in your coffee, because that's all that's left.

On second thoughts, it is all a huge conspiracy by the supermarkets and manufacturers. The "normal" products were never there in the first place. It was just a trick to get you in, and everyone is having to buy the $3.50 milk and resenting it.

Saving my biggest gripe for last though...every time I find a product I really like, it promptly gets discontinued. This isn't exactly a new phenomenon for me; it's been happening my whole life (it's not restricted to the supermarket either - to this day, I refuse to buy any bath bombs from Lush, as a silent protest at them discontinuing the Bonnard bomb). I'm resigned to seeing products I've loved replaced on the shelves, never to be seen again (whilst somehow, year after year, people are continuing to buy Kraft macaroni cheese). If it was just me I could handle it. But lately I've noticed whenever I find a cat food variety Xander really likes, it gets discontinued as well. So not only do manufacturers hate me, they hate my cat as well. Gah! I really need a chai tea right now. Straight after I send the company that makes my favourite blend an email, begging them not to discontinue it.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Biff, Sniff


I know it's only Monday, but I'm sick of this week already. You try looking busy for nine hours a day when you only have about thirty minutes of tasks to accomplish. It's a lot more tiring than working hard. I shouldn't have picked the week before the major sales drive kicks off to start full-time hours again...this has "long week" written all over it.

I know what I'll do this week; I'll proactively intergrate dynamic strategies and add quality focus to the customer experience, all while valuing diversity! (Okay, that's what I did at work last week, but it's more of a journey than a destination).


Still, it is a nice change to get away from Xander occasionally. As Scott Adams
says of his cat, Xander thinks any time I don't spend on him is wasted time. It doesn't matter if I'm trying to re-shelve my books, paint my nails, cook, write, install a smoke alarm...he will meow, gnaw on my ankle, push my hand with his face, whatever he can to get me to pat him. Now this is fine in small doses, but a whole weekend of it can get a little...grating. (Can you get feline Ritalin scripts?)

Well, not only do I have a slight itch on my scalp (see the link!) I have to get the
Lingo Bingo cards ready for the meeting, so I'd better shuffle (that's what old people do when they can't split any more).

Friday, August 25, 2006

Friday Follies Return!


Yes, it's the long awaited return of the Friday follies, proving you can't keep a good woman down forever.

But we begin today with some sad news; overnight, the International Astronomical Union voted to remove Pluto's status as a planet. . So please take a moment to think of poor Pluto, in it's far-flung lonely corner of the solar system, sobbing to itself and saying "What did I do?" Now, I realise that the IAU probably doesn't do this kind of thing very often, but surely they should have known better than to dump Pluto right before the weekend? It means that Pluto will show up on the IAU's doorstep at 1am on Saturday, drunk and crying, "What do you want me to do? I can change! I still love yooooouuuuu!"

Anyway, on with the show, cram-packed with all the best links (I waste time, so you don't have to!)

  • Scott Adams has been spying on our meetings again, and turned it into another Dilbert strip.

  • It's what we all really want to know - where is Springfield?

  • Overheard at the office - guess who really did hear this?

  • It's not easy to be a hero, I should know.

  • Even Bug's Butt throaways are funny.

  • Cotard's comparitive geography

  • Rather proving my point about Tony Abbot

  • Blogger compiles collection of links that doesn't include You Tube!!!

    Okay, I know you probably haven't clicked on any of these. But please stop to admire the recent star of the
    Celeb-Kitty Circle. My proudest moment...
  • Tuesday, August 22, 2006

    Vacation, All I Ever Wanted


    There is a moment that comes when you know, you need a holiday. My life is a succession of these moments lately...

    • I loaded all of my groceries on to the checkout at the supermarket...and then added the entire contents of my handbag.

    • My mother came over with some food for me and I muttered "just add it to my in-tray".

    • I put out a dish of food for Xander's stuffed toy monkey, then put Xander on a shelf so he wouldn't distract the monkey whilst it was eating.

    • I boarded the bus and said to the driver "I'll have two sliced wholemeal loves please."


    You see. It's bad. It is that time of year; winter is coming to an end, airlines and hotels are cutting prices, and everyone - everyone - is going on holiday except me. Even my grandmother, who turns 80 this year, travels - we're talking here about a woman who visited Egypt in the months after the Luxor massacre.

    Not me. I haven't had what one would call a "real holiday" in nearly three years. I'd love to go somewhere interesting, meet new people, have new and fun experiences, watch TV in a different time zone! The problem though isn't money; for once I've actually got that. It's finding someone who'd actually be willing to go on holiday with me. I don't need looking after, but someone to keep an eye on things is a good idea, and besides, it might be nice to have someone to talk to instead of wandering around, talking to myself and scribbling in my note book.

    Some friends are starting to take pity on me, and we've discussing possibly looking at taking into consideration myself going along as a "fifth wheel" (I'm usually a useless tool when I travel).

    Looking at holidays has been fun. Cruises are very affordable at the moment - P&O cruises have acquired a reputation for being nothing more than drunken, out-of-control debauchery fests. I'm a bit worried about that actually - what if it's false advertising and it all turns out very tame? It wouldn't make much difference anyway; whenever I picture myself on a cruise, the only thing I see is myself standing at the buffet with a shovel, warning others to back off.

    Though getting people to agree on arrangements means that the closest I'll get to a cruise is by buying a magazine with "First shots of baby Suri!" Domestic tourism really seems like the best option. We can feel a warm self-righteous glow for "helping to create Australian jobs" (or that might just be the glow from nine daquiris) and anyway, it's such an uncertain world out there (figuring out those strange TV schedules).

    There is one major issue I always have with going on a holiday, and that's leaving Xander behind. But this time he's wishing I go with godspeed. Apparently, he's getting pretty hungry lately.

    Monday, August 21, 2006

    I Know A Man, He's Out Of Touch...


    Well, Tony Abbott (or the Mad Monk, as he's sometimes referred in Australia, with no affection whatsoever!) is at it again, sticking his nose in where it's not wanted and he doesn't fully understand. This time, he's weighed in on stem cell research.

    I'll admit that Mark Latham was wrong about many things, but he got it right when he said of Abbott, "The man is forty five years old and still hasn't worked out if he's a politician or a priest." There's precious few issues that Abbott won't put his theological spin on - not even research into potential cures for life threatening diseases and paralysing injuries.

    With parliament due to have a conscience vote this week on stem cell research, Abbott has
    popped up in the media, saying allowing stem cell research is a "slippery slope" to human cloning, that is relates to the destruction of human life, and that in any case, there's no evidence that stem cell research provides any benefits. Abbott worries that it's just "raising false hope" for disease sufferrers. He wants a full and immediate ban on the research.

    Well, let's just say that Tony's right about this. By that logic, all medical research should be halted so it doesn't raise false hopes (and this would have the added benefit of allowing the Lucas Heights nuclear reactor to be shut - those cancer patients won't need radiotherapy anymore).


    Then we'd also need to ban IVF, as often embryos are destroyed at the completion of treatment. This would also make Abbott happy, not least becasuse of all the tax dollars saved by no longer subsidising the program.

    And finally, there should be a full and total ban, making it illegal to be Tony Abbott. I'm sure that would make a lot of people whose loved ones are sufferring from currently-incurable diseases feel much better.

    Wednesday, August 16, 2006

    But We Should Emulate Barnaby Joyce!


    Last night that vanguard of investigative journalism, Today Tonight, took time out from their usual stories on The Neighbours From Hell, Girls As Young As Twelve Getting Pregnant To Cash In On The Baby Bonus, and Heartless Companies/Scam Artists Victimising The Elderly, to present a new expose: Porker Politicians. Yes, the literal fat cats in Federal Parliament setting a bad example for the nation. The ones they particularly focused on were Joe Hockey, Kim Beazley, and Amanda Vanstone. The show's recognised expert popped up, announcing in a voice faintly quivering with indignation, "Politicians are role models."

    No, I'm sorry. Any young (or not young!) person who uses
    Amanda Vanstone for a role model has much greater problems to worry about than their weight.

    ~~~~~~

    Sometimes I wonder if people simply need something to complain about.
    Today is a beautiful winter day, sunny and warm. Yet this morning as I stood at the bus stop I watched the cars go past for about five minutes. And just about every car that went by had its windows up and the air conditioning on, trying to create inside the car the pleasant temperature outside.

    And yet I'd guess pretty much all of the drivers have complained about high petrol prices! It's madness, but there it is.

    ~~~~~

    As a footnote to yesterday's post, I said that whatever the world thinks of America, we don't hate Americans. And I've seen another stunning reason why. On Monday night Major Michael Mori appeared on Enough Rope. Major Mori is the US Marine Corps defence counsel for David Hicks, still detained at Guantanamo Bay without charge after nearly five years. I thought I knew the full David Hicks story; I was wrong. Hicks's saving grace is the kind of man Major Mori is. I cannot possibly do justice to his eloquence and humanity, so please
    read his words for yourself.

    Tuesday, August 15, 2006

    What The Youth of The World Thinks Of America


    For non-Americans, thinking about America is like thinking about the weather. It's there, it's a fact of daily life, there's nothing you can do but accept it. So... what I've been wondering, is how the way young people feel about America has changed in recent years.

    When I was in my late teens and early twenties, around the turn of the Milennium, I went through that stage of life common to many young people: virulent anti-Americanism. Though I should just add, it meant something different then. First of all, we didn't hate Americans, or want to hurt them. Nonetheless, we hated what America stood for - the global bullying, the rampant cultural take-over, and all the other things that saw hundreds of thousands of people participate in anti-globalisation protests of the era. We didn't know exactly what we could do about it, but we didn't like America one little bit.

    Then September 11 happened, and everything changed.

    There was a global outporing of sympathy for America, everywhere - okay, citizens of other countries may have resented having McDonalds all over the land, but we respected freedom too. People were dead. This was more important. People all over the world wanted to do whatever they could to help. It was a stunning, unprecedented opportunity for America and humanity to re-establish itself.

    What was the American government's response? Well, first: "Go shopping." The main value of the culture that had been attacked was apparently...consumerism, so that's what needed to be defended first. As far as taking the chance went, it wasn't looking good.

    But it got much worse, of course. I need hardly repeat the sorry story of the last sorry few years...the Coalition of The Willing, pre-emptive aggression, "You're either with us or against us"...notwithstanding that maybe nations wanted to make up their own minds, that they thought that although "our way of life" does need to be defended, America was going about it in entirely the wrong way. Moreover, anyone who didn't agree hates freedom, is sympathetic to al-Qaeda...the usual tired lines.

    Few people seemed able or willing to examine the deeper reasons why America was attacked. Or to remember that, whilst the French were so denigrated for opposing the Iraq invasion, after September 11, the American embassy in Paris was innundated with floral tributes, people lighting candles, messages of sympathy. I wonder how many of the thousands of people who queued for hours to sign the condolence books at the US Consulate in Sydney turned up just over a year later to participate in the anti-war demonstrations?

    Anyway, how do young people, those who came of age after September 11, view America now? I really can't say; I'm on the other side of the idealogical youth divide now. Are they overwhelmed by the agression, heavy-handedness, mindless consumerism - more so than anything that took place before? Or like so much of the apathy in all Western society, do they not much care? Is it, in the end, all too hard?

    Monday, August 14, 2006

    We're Just Not People Persons


    Yesterday was a superb late winter day, cool with a sunny blue sky, so Boof, Funky and I loaded up the 4WD and headed to the Watagan Mountains for a picnic.

    After scouting a couple of locations, we settled on an empty picnic ground at a lookout, with a stunning view of Lake Macquarie, and settled down to tuck into our tabouleh and blood orange vodkas. The peace and quiet lasted for about three minutes, then the 4WDs started arriving.

    In the space of a few minutes, they pulled into the carpark, one after another after another, until there must have been about 30 of them. And these were real 4WDs, workhorses with bullbars and double mud flaps and (gasp!) gun racks, not the delicate little gold-coloured thing we arrived in.

    Soon the occupants of the vehicles spilled out. They were mostly dressed in...camouflage gear. "Oh dear," I said quietly, "You know what people like that want to do to people like us."

    But strangely, they didn't start cooking a BBQ, or shooting lefties and poofs, or even passing a footy around. They left their vehicles, wandered around the grounds for a few minutes, then all got back in and drove off. Obviously they were some kind of 4WD club, but I'm not sure what they were doing - on a lookout crawl perhaps? Or maybe we scared them off?

    Thursday, August 10, 2006

    Treacherous, untrustworthy, dishonest, sneaky, mean-minded, rascist, bigoted, pig-headed, short-sighted, tunnel-visioned, obsequios, bullying, stupid, vicious.
    - Words used to describe John Howard by former Liberal leaders he has served.


    A number of friends have remarked recently that I must be upset by the news that John Howard is staying on as PM to contest the 2007 election. I reply, "What are you, crazy? This is the best thing that could happen!"

    Because I want to see the little bastard lose.

    Yes, that's mean. But meanness has become part of the spirit of the nation over the past decade. Just picture the moment: Howard on the stage of the ballroom of the Wentworth Hotel, flanked by Hyacinth Janette and his creepy little offspring, conceding defeat. Cut to the gathering of the Labor party faithful, Kim Beazley claiming victory. Imagine that this nightmare was over.

    What act of celebration could possibly do justice to such a moment? Cracking open the expensive champagne you've been saving for the occasion? Running through the streets wearing nothing but a rainbow afro wig? Conceiving a child? (Actually, these things kind of naturally follow on from each other). I'm not sure and we're a way off that yet besides. But one can dream.

    *******

    The "heroes of the day" award goes to the Government MPs who are going to
    cross the floor and vote against the proposed migration bill, which would see all boat people trying to land in Australia sent to Nauru for processing. Petro Georgiou described the bill as "The most profoundly disturbing piece of legislation I have encountered since becoming a member of Parliament". You can read more of their comments here. Anyway, the vote on the bill is expected today; it remains to be seen whether the numbers will be enough to see it defeated. I'll let you know. Meanwhile, if any of those MPs are up this way, come and have a drink; it's on me.

    EDIT - 13:25. The Bill passed the Lower House. It still has to get through the Senate, though.

    Monday, August 07, 2006

    Now The Drugs Do Work


    A recent study has found that 17% of Australians admit having taken drugs at work. I have to admit I'm a bit sceptical about this. Ever since, I'm looking around the office wondering exactly who are the one fifth of my colleagues who are "flying on instruments." But unless someone has nine Mars bars for morning tea or proclaims "I am the owl!" whilst on the phone to IT, I don't think I'd be able to tell. Who are these people anyway? I've done some pretty crazy things in my time, but I've never taken drugs at work. It's wrong...to waste good drugs when you've got to work. (I don't doubt lots of people use drugs...after all, someone's watching The Uplate Gameshow With Hotdogs. But at work?)

    Anyway, we like the good stuff on the weekends too. Apparently Australia has the world's
    highest rate of ecstasy use per capita. If you're looking to invest in the stockmarket, the Chupa Chup company is my tip for the week. And Channel Ten has just cancelled Yasmin's Getting Married. If I was the network's head of programming, I'd replace it with The Swirly, Shiny Object Show.

    I hasten to add that it isn't me who is contributing to these statistics. When I swallow something to get high these days, it's usually a carefully selected fine wine. But I can understand. Australia has suffered through ten years of the Howard government. That's enough to make anyone turn to drugs.

    Thursday, August 03, 2006

    Love Hurts


    As I think I've mentioned before, I have an incredible capacity for injuring myself. Even when it doesn't seem possible, I can guarantee that I will fall over it, fall off it, cut myself on it or crash into it.

    I don't know why this always happens. A recent study by the University of Queensland found that drinkers are four times likely than non drinkers to injure themselves (they needed a study to find that out? If they'd gotten a few of my friends together with a couple of bottles of vodka, we could have proved the same thing in a couple of hours). But I barely drink anymore. All of my most recent injuries occurred when I was purely sober.

    Take yesterday afternoon...

    I was taking the garbage out, and pulled the front door shut behind me in a hurry to stop Xander from escaping. So much of a hurry I forgot to put the lock on the latch. Okay, so I was locked out, but the kitchen window was open, so it was okay.

    Or so I thought.

    The base of the window is 5 feet off the ground from the outside, with nowhere to get a foothold. And I don't have the strength in my arms to lift myself up. I was going to have to jump for it, and hope for the best.

    On the first try, I cut my hands on the nails in the windowframe. On the second attempt I made it...to land with my abdomen heavily on the window runners. "Oh my god, this is the worst pain ever!" I gasped, and set about wiggling the rest of my corpulence through the window. Somehow, I ended up in a semi-squatting position over the taps (the kitchen sink being right under the window).

    Well, having the taps jabbing into the back of my thighs made landing on the runners seem about as painful as chipping a nail. I screamed. Xander, distressed by the sight of me in pain and bewildered as to why I'd come in through the window when we have a perfectly good front door, began to cry the special wail he reserves for trips to the vet. I tried to extricate myself. Somehow, I seemed to be stuck. My life flashed before my eyes...all the exciting things I always meant to do, all the people I never told I loved, all those pizza coupons I never used. Finally I wrested myself free, leaped over the sink and tumbled in a heap to the floor.

    At least I have the scars to show for my little adventure. My hands are cut. My ribs are bruised. It hurts to stand up and it hurts to sit down and it hurts to walk and it hurts to breathe. But the most interesting bruises are on my thighs, which look like I've been on the recieving end of a particularly vigorous bondage session.

    So your sympathy would be appreciated. But first let me extend mine to you, for making you think about my thighs.
    Toot could take lessons...

    Tuesday, August 01, 2006

    What I Overheard...


    I overheard this mobile phone conversation in my office carpark this morning at 11:30am:

    Woman on phone: "Anyway, I'm leaving for the airport now, my flight to Melbourne is at 12:15."

    ------

    "No, I've got plenty of time, it's only 10:30"

    -----

    "No, it's not 11:30." (Checks watch). "OH SHIT!" (Dashes to car)

    And the thing is, this woman looked like the very proper sort who would never normally swear. Anyway, there's no way in hell she could have made her flight - it's about 40 minutes just to get to the airport from here.

    For more, check out Overheard at the Office.