Sunday, 26 September 2010

In praise of neighbours

I find myself embarrassingly beholden to other people nowadays. People in Marburg are very similar to the residents of Lake Woebegon with beautiful women, strong men and exceptionally smart children. It all leaves one feeling a little lacking sometimes.

My special area of incompetence is dealing with snakes. I go all stereotypically girly and stand on chairs (although I generally do not scream). We had a snake inside the house last week. It's the first time we've had a snake in the house although we have had snakes in the roof, the yard, the paddocks, the shed…

I picked up our recycling box to take it outside and there was a snake underneath. I didn't identify the type -- I was trying not to hyperventilate at the time. I was home with the kids so I stood on the aforementioned chair and called my neighbour. He actually was busy and declined to rescue me. I do understand that other people have commitments other than rescuing me so I was prepared to sort something out myself as long as that didn't involve going near the snake. I got a big stick and stood guard. At some point Mr Blithe would be coming home. I just didn't want the snake venturing into any other part of the house.

A few minutes later I heard a vehicle pull up in the driveway. It was my lovely neighbour. He had been in the shower when I called and did actually have a meeting to which he was already late. Nonetheless, his kindness prevailed and he took care of our visitor for me before proceeding onwards.

I don't really care if he told everyone he had to rescue me and that I was standing on a chair. At least I didn't have to deal with the snake.

Remember what I said about Marburg residents? Another neighbour told me that all I needed was a mop and a pillow case -- the mop for the snake to wind itself onto then the pillow case for transport outside. She wouldn't be standing on chairs. How can I measure up to these people?

Frivolity aside, I am deeply grateful to the kindness of my neighbours. I'm working on being a better, stronger, not-standing-on-chairs kind of person. Until then, thank you.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Keeping busy

I'm having a stall at this year's Black Snake Creek Festival (October 9) in bustling downtown Marburg to try to promote my business through concrete examples of publishing and digital pre-press. Several people have asked me "So just what is digital pre-press anyway?" I of course, assume that everyone needs it, if only they knew what "it" was. I would illustrate contract research and grant applications as well, but I don't want send any potential clients into irremediable stupor.

I'll have greeting cards, journals, and postcards as well as hopefully answers to people's questions (and plenty of business cards to hand out).

I'm sharing the stall with a sister-in-law who sells charming children's clothes, toys and gorgeous fabric bunting and a friend of hers. (Sharing a stall with her and her friend, not my sister-in-law selling a friend of hers. It's late and the English it is so difficult -- don't be so picky.)

If you're in the area, come by and see us. You may find out what occupies my late night and early morning hours. Did you know that the light from the monitor of a 27" iMac precludes the need for room lighting? Another fascinating fact from the person behind Folly's Antidote.

If you're not in the area, I'm adding a shopping cart plugin to my website. It's not yet operational, but I'll announce when it is up and running. I'm waiting to launch it till I actually have stock in hand. I can't make any promises though about what you'll find out there.

Friday, 24 September 2010

In praise of mothers-in-law

The horrible mother-in-law is the stuff of legends. I even have a plant in my garden called "mother-in-law's tongue." It is flourishing by the way.

On the other hand, I cannot praise my mother-in-law highly enough. She is competent, calm, totally unfazed by my children (after all she brought up five of her own) and never openly critical (of me at least). She plays endless games of Scrabble and Uno with the children when even one game is enough to drive me to distraction.

When she comes to stay I stagger out of bed at what I consider an early hour to find her sipping her morning tea and calmly playing round two or three of Scrabble with Blithe Boy. She squashes the children when necessary, defends them and cuddles them, makes dolls clothes, tackles my mending pile, rearranges my garden and folds my laundry.

Lest this all seem one-sided, she tells me that she enjoys not having to make any decisions, or meals or work out when she has to be at places. I try to believe her and make her frequent cups of tea. And she loves being with the kids who return the affection wholeheartedly.

I have yet to be scolded for the demolition job I did on her precious rose bushes that she consigned to my care. How was I to know that I used the herbicide container to spray the roses with white oil (and herbicide as it turned out)? I did however, get three iceberg rosebushes for my upcoming birthday, with the comment that they are "quite hardy."

I try not to cry with joy when she announces that she'd like to come stay for the school holidays. Thanks to her I may not have blogged this week but I have spent three full days at work and broken the back of the current research project. Somehow research projects tend to drag out forever when you spend a maximum of three hours at one time on them. I've also spent the equivalent of a day working on Folly's Antidote. I feel as if my working life is vaguely on track and I'm almost at a point where I remember that I like my children.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Curiousity, heroism and buses

I almost ran into the back of a bus today. I was leaving campus and the bus pulled out in front of me. This is not what caused my almost collision. It was the ad on the back of the bus. Advertising a local university (not the one whose campus I was leaving) it proclaimed: "The university that believes every student is a hero."

I was puzzled by this. Perhaps having taught at university and therefore being a tad cynical about the actual mechanics of teaching, my first thought was that believing every student isn't heroism, it is naivety. Then I realised that it was one of those statements that depended on pacing. It was saying that it believed the students were the heroes, not the university. Still, for all those advertising dollars, I think that they could have come up with a less ambiguous statement of their support of and for students.

At this point I paused to brake...

It was, however, a nice illustration of the wonders of the English language. And I did notice it, so if attention was the measure of success, it was a successful ad. Too bad I am not in the market for a university degree.

On the subject of cynicism and universities, I noticed that members of the tertiary education union at a different university from that advertising above, will exercise their right to strike by not answering emails and telephones on a particular day. Given the average response time to emails and phone calls at universities, I wonder if a) anyone will notice and b) if this is the most effective way of removing one's services. How will I be able to tell on the given day whether it is strike action or a typical day on campus?

I think that I had better simply concentrate on my driving.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Why I live where I do

Sometimes I have the perfect answer to why I live where I do when it would be so much easier to live closer to work opportunities, or wonderful stores, or cultural activities.

I walk into my living room on a spring evening and see the night sky, the dark hills, city lights rimming the horizon, circles of water dotting the gully and hear this.
[432kb wma file download]


This is the first time I've tried linking to an audio file. Let me know if and how it works.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

A decision

Seventeen days after the election, Julia Gillard and Labor are back in power. After days of speculation Bob Katter announced today that he was throwing his lot in with the Coalition. That left two independents. I was fairly certain that they must be going to announce in Labor's favour as if the independents had been unified, they would have announced their decision together. I had to do the afternoon school run after a quick last minute check before leaving work that nothing had been announced.

Hauling school bags and cranky children in from the car, my mobile phone beeped with the message "Julia wins." No I don't have Labor on my alert team. It was Mr Blithe knowing that I was away from my computer and that the radio in the car hasn't worked since the car was garaged without the antenna being retracted (twice). The advantage of an old car is that you don't have to worry about it. The disadvantage is lack of automatic doodads that save you from things like this.

So what now? ABC has a nice article outlining what happens once the independents decide. I also like Annabel Crabbe's analysis of why she thought Julia would prevail. Now to see what happens now that both major parties can express themselves a little more bluntly.
I suspect it will be less kiss and more tell.

Did I mention that I love politics?

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Panic setting in

It's official…I am a geek. I have suspected as much for some time but I have finally reached the conclusive point. I now have so many different email addresses, blogs, twitter and assorted password protected things that I maintain that I can't keep the login names and passwords straight in my head.

Usually I am fine with the login names but put in the wrong password. My suspicions were aroused when I started hesitating during that vital tab from the login to the password. Then I began fumbling my typing. Then I started getting error messages. Once I was even locked out of an account for 20 minutes.

I'm choosing to believe that it is geekdom attained rather than senility encroaching. And I am making a list for myself. A proper list. One not stored on a computer. A printed out list stashed in my offline files. Otherwise I might forget my computer login and lose access to my entire life.

Right now I'm not sure that that would be a bad thing.