Wednesday, August 31, 2011

To survive we need to structure life as games, no really we do

You can sit and bemoan how much time kids, and adults, spend playing games online or you can start taking a close look at why and what it actually does to them. That’s my theory anyway even if I have to fight hard to get my own daughter to close the lid on her Nintendo DS so we can have dinner in peace.

There are many reasons for why people spend a lot of time gaming online and one of them is that game worlds are better than real life. For one, in the game world winning and succeeding is entirely possible and the feeling you get when you have an “epic win” is pretty incredible. In the game world you have every chance of succeeding and you know it.

Unlike a lot of the time in real life, in the game world the challenges you face are always matched to your level. Your mission is on the verge of what you’re capable of so it stretches you but you can always achieve it if you try hard, and as you try hard you get to learn and develop more skills. In the game world it’s not possible to feel like you can’t achieve because it’s set up to get you to the next level even if it seems hard at first. If you at first don’t succeed you change tactic and you try again until you do succeed.

Online game communities are collaborative problem solving environments that make massive resources available to game players. People get together with common goals and they’re prepared to help each other to achieve those goals. In these communities there are always characters and people who are ready to help you with your mission, and they’re ready to work with you to do so.

In the game world you never sit around with nothing to do, there’s always something that needs doing. No one is unemployed in a game. Everyone has a function or a task to complete. It’s impossible to feel useless.

In the game world you have a sense of purpose. There’s a story behind why you’re there and why you’re doing the mission. You have a clear sense of why you’re running around killing monsters or hoarding crystals. You’re working towards a goal and you know why you’re doing it at all times. The rules don’t change suddenly or if someone else is in a bad mood. You don’t have a new boss who comes in and changes your direction. Your purpose is clearly defined and you know what’s expected of you.

In the game world you get constant positive feedback. You get +1 strength. You get +1 intelligence. You level up.

In the game world you get the satisfaction of being on the verge of an epic win all the time.

But it’s not all about fun and games. The game world actually teaches us some really important lessons about how we can help solve the problems of this world. It shows us that humans are capable of cooperating with a common goal in mind and that there’s a lot of people out there that are really good at problem solving together.

Not only that but your average online gamer is a person driven by optimism and extreme motivation. The average online gamer has the desire to act immediately to tackle a problem and it’s combined with the belief that there’s a reasonable chance of success all the time.

Your average online gamer is part of a large social fabric. We like people better when we’ve played a game with them even if we’ve been beaten by them. It takes trust to play with someone. We trust that they will spend time to play with us, that they will follow the same rules and that they share the same goal, and that they will play the game until it’s over. As a result we build stronger relationships.

In the game world we experience blissful productivity. We play games because we’re happier working hard than just sitting around relaxing. We’re optimized as human beings working hard if we’re given the right work. Obviously problem solving rates high for satisfaction or there wouldn’t be so many people playing games to entertain themselves.

In the game world you’re attached to awe inspiring missions and you make a difference. You’re out there saving the world and being a hero. Gamers are self-motivated individuals full of hope who like to cooperate with others and who believe that they have the capacity to change the (game) world.

People are leaving the real world for virtual worlds. It’s a mass exodus. Gamers can achieve more in the virtual world and have greater satisfaction. They can have stronger social relationships. They get more positive feedback. It stands to reason that we need to make the real world work more like the virtual world to tempt people back into it. We need to create a better world out here and we need to get people involved.

Not only that, we have all these powerful problem solvers already out there who are really skilled in problem solving so why aren’t we making use of them? These people who already have hours and hours of experience in problem solving and they love doing it.

Imagine if children were taught like this, if education was problem solving and involvement. What would they learn? Would they become better human beings? Would they get better at solving problems and cooperating with others? Would they feel better about themselves? Would they grow up less depressed and anxious?

It’s annoying to admit, because I’m no gamer, but I think they’re onto something and we need to learn from what’s happening here. It may be the only way we can save the world in the end. Imagine if you gave people access to a game in which they had to solve world problems with allocated resources. What would happen? Could we actually get some really good solutions to how to stop famine in Africa or to other problems that could be solved because the resources are actually available to do so? I don’t know. What do you think? Don’t you think it’s worth considering? I’m just saying.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Marina Cano's picture of an elephant having a dust bath. 

Just stare at it for a while. Immerse yourself in it. 

Absolutely stunning picture (and it demanded a new background).

Monday, August 29, 2011

A very good day is today

I'm a habitual creature so when Monday night comes along I like to have my dinner then wind down for the night. After all, I get up again at 4.15am to ride to work so I can miss the traffic and get home early in the afternoon. And with "ride" I mean on my bike and not on the dead horse because it's dead, remember?, and I'm no flogging it any more.

Today is an auspicious occasion for me but even more so for my daughter. My daughter, whom I call Bee here, has learning difficulties and who had a terrible time in primary school attends a public selective school (= bunch of very smart kids) in the support unit (= bunch of kids with various problems that mean they just don't make it in normal school).

If primary school was hell for Bee, high school has proven to be close to awesome. At a time when the hormones are kicking in and she sighs at basically everything her mother (me!) says because that's what you do when you're 13 years old, school is fun and she loves going there. She's catching up in reading and maths, which is unusual for support unit kids once they reach high school, and life is generally a lot better.

But tonight is even more special because tonight she's receiving an award for a piece of art that will hang in the newly created permanent art exhibition at the school. For Bee, who wants to be an artist, this is hopefully a small stepping stone even if she never turns out to be the next Picasso or Rembrandt.

So I will go without my early night tonight, and I will take photos and a friend will film, and we will cherish this most important day and burst with pride. It's a good day. It's a very good day!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Door knocking

I don't know what it is that's going on at the moment but there seems to be some sort of increase in people knocking on our door to sell us things. I told you about Crazy Eyes already trying to sell me some Jesus. I wish it had ended there.

See, I still live in a time when I lived in Redfern. Mentally I mean. In Redfern police presence is not all that uncommon and no one likes to have them knocking on your door. You can be a saint and still worry about that kind of door knocking business. Redfern was the suburb Pizza Hut wouldn't deliver to in the 90s. We used to have to lie and tell them we lived in neighboring Surry Hills but they figured our little scheme out so no more Pizza Hut for us which was probably a good thing.

I will illustrate with an example.

When I was 24 years old, still young, beautiful and still relatively fresh to Australia, one night there was a knock on the door. I was alone at home since husband #1 was still at work. I opened the door only find myself confronted with a very tall policewoman being backed up by a very short policeman who sort of hovered in the background.

The policewoman looked very stern and certainly sounded like she was accusing me of something when she demanded to see my 15 year old son. I could have laughed but I chose to the maths instead because the policewoman looked like there wasn't much in this world that she could possibly find amusing. So, in an effort to build bridges and start a line of communication I offered "I don't have a son" thinking, because I had done the maths that it would be bleeding obvious that I didn't have a 15 year old son.

She wasn't going to be fooled by my feeble attempts to deny my son's existence. Oh no. She demanded to see my 15 year old son again and I again told her that I didn't have one. She proceeded to ask me where I was hiding him. I countered with asking why she thought I had a 15 year old son. She retorted telling me that he had been seen sitting in front of our house. I made a comeback proclaiming that so did a lot of teens. She topped that with that saying she wasn't looking for the other teens, she was looking for my 15 year old son.

I failed to find anything to say other than that if she was so sure I had a son could she please go inside my house and find him because I would really like to meet him. It was at that precise moment I noticed the hovering short policeman in the background trying his absolute best not to laugh audibly. He had done the maths, obviously and now he was really enjoying listening to the conversation. It was probably when I was looking at the very amused short policeman that the penny somehow dropped for our tall policewomen and she came to do the maths too. I was simply too young to be the mother of the teen she was looking for. She quickly excused herself and they left. I was left childless.

You would think that after all these years I would have gotten over this little episode and come to think of police as my friends and stopped fearing people knocking on my door but I haven't. It is for this reason that I always mess up my hair when I get home at the end of the day. That way, when I open the door, the unsuspecting door knocker will automatically think that it's quite possible that I'm insane and be more likely to go away quickly. Should they prove to be of the useful variety I can always smooth things over by being my usual charming self. It's easier to start low and works yourself up. People are more likely to want to get relieved to find that you are not a complete nutter despite all the initial signs pointing to it than they are to believe that the charming lady who opened the door is one. This is especially the case if she didn't turn nutty until after you told her that you wanted to sell her something. It's my theory.

I'm just saying.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

In which I stop flogging the dead horse

There comes a time when you realize that being at a crossroad is more about the need to stop flogging a dead horse and not so much about choosing a new direction. Your direction is fine. You just need to stop flogging the dead horse. The horse is dead. It doesn’t care. You’re just wasting your time and energy. Time to stop.

There are things in life that you shouldn’t persist with even if you stubbornly still think that they seem like a good idea. You know, when you sit there and tell yourself that there’s still hope, that “they” will change, that “they” will come around or see it your way. You have to weigh up the pros and cons. You have to ask yourself hard questions like “What’s in it for me?” and be prepared to admit that there’s nothing in it for you. Then you have to make the decision to stop flogging the dead horse. The dead horse isn’t going to change. It doesn’t care. It’s dead.

It’s not easy, I should know, I’m a seasoned dead horse flogger. The dead horses in my life that I flogged for too long and that still stand out in my mind the most are my two marriages. I should have flogged the husbands not the marriages. The result would have been different. Still, no point in having regrets about how you did things in the past. The proof is in the pudding and this is new pudding. It’s not dead horse pudding, not anymore.

As you can probably tell I really haven’t quite decided on a course of action yet. There’s not an exact plan of how to go about things except for giving up on flogging the dead horse. I have however eliminated the option of keeping the status quo. It’s been a pretty big step for me because in the past I’ve always been fearful of what lies beyond letting go and very much kept to the better the devil you know type deal. I want more for myself now; I want a lot more for myself.

Putting a higher price on yourself is really important and I think it lies at the pinnacle of being happy. You can’t go on compromising to the point that you sell yourself short every time, where it starts to become a chore to give rather than a joy. When you start feeling irritation and anger all or most of the time you need to stop. There’s much to be said for changing perspectives and expectations, and there always needs to be an element of that because it really pays off in a lot of situations, but I think it needs to go hand in hand with letting go to make room for new better things.

Or horses.

Horses that aren’t dead.

Maybe one should even switch the horse for a pony.

Y'all, smörgåsbord!

So, I’m reading this blog this morning in which the person who writes it was a tad upset about us non-Southerner-of-the-North-American-variety are using “ya’ll”. Apparently it’s not spelt that way, it’s spelt “y’all”. I’m happy to say that I’m now that little bit more educated. Thank you. It’s nice to learn something new.

However, I just can’t stop using the expression. I don’t want to go cold turkey on this one. I mean the blogger I’m talking about may be a really nice and cool person, and a popular blogger and all, but I still want to use the expression. I like the expression “y’all” (see, I spelt it right there) and I will continue to use it but I will spell it correctly from now on. Maybe. Unless I forget. Or make a typo. Out of habit. Or something.

The main reason I will continue to use the expression is because I like it and because it’s kind of like I’m making fun of my second husband who was from the South, USA. Making fun of him makes me feel less crappy about having wasted all those years thinking he was going to work out as a husband or for choosing him in the first place. It’s a personal thing. I think of it as therapy. Making fun of him without him knowing it. Which is not the same as talking ill of him behind his back. The intent is different, you know.

Also, I will continue to use the expression “y’all” (see, again I spelt it correctly) because I’m a little upset, continuously and a lot, over the widespread usage of the word “smorgasbord”. It’s not “smorgasbord”, it’s “smörgåsbord”. It’s not even pronounced “smorgasbord”. I’m just saying.

A friend of mine’s father is a linguist and we had this discussion one day about new words and new ways of using words. I’m not a fan of all this new corporate jargon that constantly pop up and so I was moaning and whining about people bastardizing the English language, a language that isn’t even really mine because it’s my second language (hence the whole “smorgasbord” v. “smörgåsbord” upset). Mr Linguist listened patiently to me and then finally said “Languages are dynamic and evolve all the time. They are living, not dead. They evolve to suit the needs of those who use them.”

I agree. I'm just saying. Y'all.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The kindness of strangers

You know who you are and you both left me lifelines in the form of offers to message if I need. I really appreciate it. You have no idea just how much. I just wouldn't know where to start you know.

I love you both, in a sisterly sort of way you understand, for being so lovely. I can only surmise that you belong to a tribe of very good people.

So, thank you. When I find my words I may take you up on the offer.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Crazy Eyes

I just remembered Crazy Eyes. The other weekend we were sitting on the deck out the back having a quiet chat when we heard the doorbell. The doorbell in our case is a bell that hangs on the outside of the house with a rope that you yank to make the sound. Very classy. Anyway, it rang. Instead of making my way to the front door via the inside of our house I decided to just mosey on around the outside of our house and come up the side. When I turned the corner into the front yard I found a tall Caucasian guy and a small Asian guy standing there staring at my front door.

Obviously completely thrown off kilter by my unconventional way of conducting the customary meet and greet it took them a while before they composed themselves but when they did the Caucasian guy shoved a brochure towards me accompanied by the words “We have a gift for you.”

Anybody with half a brain knows what that means. You’re face to face with a Jesus freak. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against religious folks it’s just that I really don’t like people who thrust it upon me, their religion that is. My thinking is that when it comes to religion anyone who needs it or wants it generally finds their way to a place where it’s at. It’s not like there aren’t enough churches around. It's not like they hide, This is why I never quite understood the whole door knocking approach when it comes to "spreading the good word". You're just going to be up against a whole lot of people who don't want it or a whole lot of people who already got it. I can't imagine there being a lot going on in the grey area in between.

As for the brochure, my hands never left my pants pockets as I calmly said “No thank you.”

I looked up at tall Caucasian guy only to catch his eyes changing into what I would call crazy eyes. It wasn’t hard to tell that I had just been classified as, and this was completely independent of the faux pas I had made by coming around the side and not greeting them in the door like normal people would, Satan’s own little harlot. “Are you sure,” Crazy Eyes asked. I could feel my own eyes narrowing as I replied “I have my thing. You have yours,” and as he was about to argue I continued “Fair enough? I think it’s fair enough, don’t you?’”

I think it is fair enough and I think that not wanting these people to come to bother you on a sunny Sunday is a fair enough thing too. I don’t need to be saved and I’m certain that anyone who does need saving in that way know how to find their way to a church to facilitate their saving. I don’t need saving. I don’t need Crazy Eyes. I need peace. I'm just saying.

Monday, August 22, 2011

In which I rant and rave about the quality of the crap we're fed

One of my pet peeves is how we let businesses and companies get away with making outrageous claims when they want to sell us something. It’s apparently OK to claim that only ten hours of exercise can get you the perfect body on the cover of a book. Now I think there’s a reason for why said book is lying there all alone in the communal kitchen at my work waiting for someone to own it. It’s so we can laugh at that foolish claim and silently pray for the person who was either dim witted or desperate enough to pay for it the in first place. I hope they bought it on sale.

I’m not a subscriber to the idea that it’s OK to produce any kind of crap just so you can earn a quick buck. I find that kind of thinking quite appalling. I used to think of the 80s as being the age of excess but I think we’re living it right now because there’s not a gadget you can buy that last longer than three days past its warranty.

We have this hot debate at work being technical writers who not so secretly desire to become world famous novel writers and be able to live off it comfortably. I’m of the opinion that I would gladly take a pay cut if my works were of some literary quality whereas an esteemed colleague thinks it’s OK to write crap like Twilight because it sells.

I want to make something very clear to you. It’s never OK to write anything that even remotely is of Twilight quality. It’s so poorly written and the characters are so awful in it that it makes me want to gouge my own eyes out for fear of having my poor mind corrupted. It’s great for Stephanie Meyers that she’s been able to make a quick buck off the travesty that is the Twilight saga but it’s sad for the world that that kind of crap sells en mass. People are reading it for god’s sake and it’s readily available. If you’re too lazy to read you can even get the abridged version DVD (if you happened to miss it in the cinema). There’s no excuse for producing that kind of shit and I don’t regard making money as being an excuse to produce anything like it.

But I’m a freakin’ communist who believes that we should all do our best to contribute to this world which is probably why I spend so much time being anxious and feeling like a failure.

It irks me to see all the sale spiels and garbage they throw at us every day. You can try to avoid but it’s there, in your face on websites and billboards and in bus shelters and newspapers and it’s probably infiltrating your home as we speak so when you come home tonight there will be a small advert flashing in front of you in the mirror as you’re brushing your teeth. I’m not being paranoid, I’m just saying.

I keep getting the letters addressed to “the Entertainment Lover” from Foxtel. Well fuck me. If I wanted entertainment that’s the last place I’d look because I seem to recall that before cancelling them when I moved last year I swore they would never get my hard earned money again because there was nothing, NOTHING, to watch on any of the channels they offered anyway. It took me almost a year just to hook the TV up to the free to air channels, that’s how traumatized I was.

But it’s the making claims that are impossible that really gets me riled up.

As I was sitting in the Strudel Baron café yesterday with some friends, a place that despite of its name won’t sell you individual servings of strudel, you have to buy one or two feet of the stuff which is a bit much even for a strudel lover like myself, I was looking across the busy landscape that is Victoria road and spotted a sign claiming that the place there had the “best coffee in the Universe”.



Even if we were to completely ignore the fact that there is such a thing as individual taste it’s a pretty big claim to make there Spunky. It’d be hard to prove you wrong unless I whipped across the road right now to test a cup of your best joe and should I find that you indeed had the best coffee I’ve ever tasted then that would raise the questions about all the other coffee in the Universe that I HADN’T tasted. This would be quite a dilemma for a pedantic little creature like me.

Anyway, it’s harder to get good service than good coffee and I can tell you that after I did actually whip across the road to get some of their sourdough bread I found that they were suffering from a case of poor service and that it kind of killed any desire I had to find out whether the claim about the coffee was true or not. Plus I was already full off really good meat pie that I had in lieu of a foot long strudel.

I think we need to do away with hard sells and start making sure we get some good quality stuff offered to us at reasonable prices. We’re all so worried about how we’re going to get along in retirement and all that (because they make us worry about it with their friggin’ ads) that we don’t get to enjoy ourselves. Enjoying ourselves should be the priority. That and not buying or reading anything Twilight.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Still at the crossroads but feeling better about it

I have the flu. Yes, it seems that every year I have to do the tango with some virus and every year I wonder why I don't have the sense to vaccinate against it. I don't know. What can I say? I have high hopes for my immune system's ability to fight off viral invaders and I choose to put my faith in it. The result is the I get the flu.

Cross roads? Yes, I'm still there and I don't have a bloody clue which way to turn but I found that when you sit there and go "WTF life?!" there are people who reach out to total strangers and offer to lend an ear. It's nice you know, just knowing that such people exist. Interestingly for me more and more people like this are coming into my life, what with the breakdown and all, but more interestingly for me, they are women.

I and women have always had a precarious relationship. I've always found it hard to make friends with them because they can be such bitches. Thinking like that is confusing if you are one too (and by that I mean either woman or bitch). I always found it easier to get along with men and I have now begun to suspect it was because I found that they were easier to handle because I could get away with playing the girl with them. You know, a small dose of "help me, I am a mere woman and I require manly assistance" can get you very far at times. I don't like admitting it but I think that's the game I was playing.

But now, it appears, it is the age of the sisterhood and that's really nice. It's nice to explore this new avenue because it means that I now have more potential friends to make and keep as mine. It's nice because I'm a woman and it's nice to talk girly things sometimes. I'm in engineering and lord knows that's a field that really lacks women. I need more girls around me. I need more bantering, nattering, laughing and crying girls.

Perhaps that feeling of being at a crossroads is just about feeling my way through new territory because boy, oh boy, have I had to feel my way through new territory this weekend. Sometimes life turns around and bites your ankle in a way that leaves you no choice but to start moving and thinking about what's next. What is next? Well, I guess that's the question.

What do I want next? Ideas are beginning to form but a lot of them lie so far out of my comfort zone that I don't even know where to start. Maybe it's like eating an elephant. You just start where it looks good and slowly work your way through it, over weeks, months and perhaps even years before you finish that sucker clean off.

Sometime you get to that point, a turning point, in your life where you're ripe to change direction and try something new. A lot of the time you don't because you get afraid and you think it may not work out. But what if it does? So what if it doesn't! For me it's writing and it's writing about things too private and secret that I will have to go into territory I haven't even begun to explore. I'm beginning to feel like I'm ready. If I can just get over my fear.

Added later:
Isn't that what most of our challenges are about, getting over fear? There are so many fears that are imagined and like I said in a previous post one of my major ones is to be alone and without love. So much of my life has been spent in search of acceptance and of finding a place I feel at home. So much time has been lost because I've feared losing what little I had. I've held on to things, situations, people when they were all so wrong for me. It takes me a long time to let go but once I do I very rarely miss it.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

I'm so freakin' lost right now

I'm so freakin' lost right now. I've ended up at a cross road again and I just don't know which way to go. I hate it. I like plotting my course and having some sort of idea or feeling of where I'm heading but that's not even close to where I'm right now.

I feel like I'm really too old to get this lost. I feel like by now I ought to have a complete handle on my life and be able to cope with whatever pops up in a completely professional and self-assured manner. Alas, that's not to be.

So while I battle with what right now seem to be huge existential problems and I realize that I'm above all completely shit scared of being alone and unloved I'm trying to pretend that this doesn't sound like I'm going through some sort of bout depression again. It sounds, feels and smells like depression to me. I'm on meds though for god's sake and granted it's for anxiety but it's an SSRI so I should be cruising.

Why am I not cruising ya'll?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

I long

There’s so much crap going on in my head that there’s very little room for me. I’ve gone from not being able to sleep from wanting to sleep pretty much all the time. If I had my way I’d be sitting here right now with my feet on my desk, my office chair tilted back in a way that completely contradicts all OH&S regulations, my resting head at some impossibly angle completely defying medical science while snoring away happily. Apparently that kind of thing is frowned upon and since I work in an open office it’d be impossible to hide. There’s under the desk but I’m not all that fond of the carpet we have in our office…

I need a little rest. Perhaps I need more than a little rest. Right now it would be completely OK to take a long break and sod off right out the city I have come to feel less and less happy about living in because of the rudeness of the people in it and the bloody noise that won’t even stop. Recently I realized that there’s not a day going by when I don’t here sirens. It never used to be that way. Either emergency services used to speed quietly through the city in the past hoping that people would see them even if they weren’t making a racket or the inhabitants of this fair city have found infinite more ways to hurt, threaten and kill themselves and others.

I’m not sure it’s even Sydney’s fault or even the people who inhabit it. It’s just that I’ve come to the realization that this place just isn’t pleasant enough for me. The constant running around and the constant noise is beginning to slowly drive me up the wall and it’s fraying my nerves. I long for a more quiet existence, one that’s simpler and that moves at a slower pace.

You see, I grew up in small town, nestled in a Swedish pine forest that was scattered with freshwater lakes in which little yummy fish live. I grew up close to such a lake and even though pollution from what was then referred to as “the Eastern Block”, because this was when we still had the Cold War (why was this war the Cold War I’ve always wondered), made the lakes acidic and therefore the crayfish very uncomfortable but it was still very idyllic. In winter we skated on the ice and fished the lake. In summer we swam and fished the lake. It was all very simple. (I have of course almost forgotten about how long the darkness lasts when the rains start in September, and then October's winds and more rain with the customery drowning of the landscape in November's sleet as the days become shorter and darker…until that one day in spring after an eternity in darkness a small flower breaks through the snow to let you know that spring will spring very soon.)

I spent half my life in that place by the lake nestled in the forest and the rest I spent here in the hustle and bustle of the big city. My soul longs for the old way of life where I don’t have to worry quite so much about time. Time has become my enemy. Now I don’t have time to read a book. Then I used to count how much time I had to read a book and I would plough through one in just days and lose myself completely in a story created masterfully seemingly just for my pleasure. If I got bored with reading I would knit jumpers or draw. Are we sure that the days aren’t in fact shorter now than they were 15-20 years ago? It certainly feels like they are.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Japanese Sencha

My favorite taste in the morning is the delicate flavor freshly brewed Japanese Sencha tea. Use water that’s not boiling, you don’t want to burn your tea, and let it steep for only a few minutes. Enjoy hot or pour it over ice for a refreshing cold drink.

It’s my favorite.

Monday, August 15, 2011

We're moving forward

We’re moving forward

We're changing

The clock ticks, we fear dangers, real or imagined, but we choose to be blind to what’s really going on around us

We live in a world where over-consumption demand production of gases that kill

As poison liquids spill from pipes and into drains it’s not the companies that explain why the fish are dying or why we can’t let our children swim for fear of sickness or death

Yes, we’re moving forward towards the unknown, we worship change, we build empires on industries that threaten our existence in ways that no one wants to talk about

The clock ticks, we buy now and take stock later as temperatures rise and pollution make the skies heavy and acid falls on us as rain

We abuse and yet refuse to contemplate our actions

We complain that life is not how it used to be but we move forward

We turn our backs on that which feeds us and sell it down the drain for a TV set and a new pair of shoes not because we need them but because we reason that we deserve them

We do not listen

We are deaf to the cries of others

We gouge and guzzle the bounties of our Mother while another mother wonders if her child will live through the next hour

Not the next day

Not the next week
Not the rest of her life

Just the next hour

We aspire to be kind, forgiving and compassionate

We admire the successful who possess none of these traits

Our greed, for what it’s worth, has brought us to this point

We’re moving forward

The clock ticks

We're moving forward

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Creepy Wayne

I really shouldn't tell you about Creepy Wayne, it's talking ill about someone who can't defend themselves, but I have to. I have to tell you about him.

The first time I met Creepy Wayne was when we had just moved in where I live now. That was less than a year ago. I was sitting on the front step with a friend who was having a cigarette when Wayne unceremoniously joined us and sat down with us on the ground like he was joining a hippie sit in that we were having. He introduced himself as Wayne the owner of the house next door. It was a fair enough thing to do I suppose. I thought he was a little odd but since he wasn't around much I kind of put him out of my mind.

About a month ago Neil who lived in the house Wayne owns moved out and Wayne moved in. He went to great lengths to flag us down not long after he moved in to tell us about it. I kind of felt like he wanted us to cheer or something but in truth I kind of miss Neil who was quiet except for the daily afternoon routine of throwing his beer bottles into the recycle bin. Judging by the sound Neil really like to have a beer or two. Or three. Or four. Maybe even five.

I still didn't pay much attention to Wayne until we took the cats to the vet the other Saturday and he approached us in the afternoon to ask if the cat was OK."Why?" I asked. "Oh, I saw you putting the cat cage in the car with the cat in it to take it to the vet so I assume something is wrong with it." I replied that we had taken all three cats to the vet for a checkup and all was fine.

It's the fact that he had paid such close attention to what we were doing that got me and that's what's earned him the name Creepy Wayne. It's also that often enough I'll be in my drive way or in the yard and his head will pop up over the fence and he'll start a conversation about something that's happened on our side of the fence. It's like he knows better what's going on at our place than we do.

There seems to be an endless array of things that Creepy Wayne has to fix on his old fibro home, a home that he's told us he will knock down in two years time to build a duplex to sell. He's always out there. It makes me feel like he's out there so he can see what we're doing. Like we've got our own spy or something.

I just went out to get some ice cream and there he was again. This time he was looking busy doing something in his electrical box but I just know he was watching. Creepy Wayne probably doesn't even sleep...

Relationships - woman

“What women don't understand about men is how dependent they are and how they look to women for guidance. I think women should really think about that. The best advice I can give about making a relationship work is to make sure you're not full of shit, and to do the right thing, unselfishly, instead of making everything about you.”
Rosanne Barr

I used to hate her but I find now that I really love to see pictures of her. She's become this late fifties vixen that I really, really like.

It's like she's gone from being this almost grotesque being who seemed to loathe herself to almost becoming the woman she was meant to be all along. I don't think her journey was an easy one at all. She's probably smarter than women "should be" and she's most definitely has more a smart mouth than women "should have".

I need to see more women make this kind of transformation. It's inspiring.


I loathe going to the dentist. I loathe it because I turn it into an anxiety fest and I usually end up with a migraine as a result.

A few weeks ago a tooth of mine broke which is when I remembered that my dentist had told me two years ago that I better do something about it or it will break. I didn't do anything about it. It broke.

I had to go. No ifs or buts. I had to go. Or walk around with a tooth that you could hide a year's supply of food in without even knowing it.

A friend recommended his dentist and he told me that this dentist is really good. I had nothing to lose. I went to that dentist. It was really hard to get an appointment. It's a good sign that. Lousy dentist always have lots of empty time slots for you. Good dentist are hard to get an appointment with.

Wednesday last week I went. It was in the middle of the day and it was hot as hell. It's mid winter here but the weather does as it pleases so it was hot as hell. I arrived at the dentist and I walked into through the door and there's the dentist in front of reception reading a magazine all casual like. He grinned as though he had been caught doing something naughty, like dentists aren't supposed to read time magazine or something.

This dentist insisted being called by his first name which is kind of neat. He also looks like a dentist should. If you wanted to make a movie that had a dentist in it you would want him to look like Richard the dentist. If you wanted to make one of those ads where you say "This is Rob. He's a dentist so we can't show you his face." you wouldn't use Richard because you would want to show Richard's face or it would just be a bloody waste. You'd change the storyboard for the ad.

Richard's tall and all smiles and tells you everything he does so you don't get surprised by water, air, drills and other crap dentist pull to do their thing to your teeth. And yet I ended up with the second worst migraine I've ever had last Wednesday. Because I really get that worked up about going to the dentist that I can't cope with it and the heat and everything.

I barely got home. I had to stop to vomit in a public toilet and I sat on the train nearly getting arrested by police because I looked like I was jacked up on heroin. I'm fairly certain that's what they thought. They were looking at me funny.

I had to go back last Wednesday to do the rest. Other teeth. More teeth. Cleaning. Fluoride. The lot. Because I told Richard the dentist that we may as well before I chicken out again. I wasn't looking forward to it. I cheated and took half a Xanax to try to not get all full of anxiety and get a full on migraine. Again. This time the cops would have arrested me for sure. You can't get away with being on a train jacked up on heroin twice. I think. I don't really know for sure because I don't do that sort of thing.

Now it is possible to still fret while on Xanax. Apparently. You just have to work harder at it.

I started out working really hard at being full of anxiety. An hour later I had to ask for a toilet break because when I'm nervous I pee a lot. Luckily Richard doesn't mind his patient taking toilet breaks.  Half an hour after that I was catching myself falling asleep in the chair because I had relaxed so much. I don't think it was only the Xanax. The man, the dentist, had achieved the impossible. While hammering away at my teeth he actually made me feel like it was going to be OK. He may have used voodoo or some other witch doctor magic crap. Or maybe it was the comic relief I got from his extraordinarily clumsy dental nurse whose favorite trick was to drop the suction thingie on both me and her resulting in the only words I really heard from her being "Sorry! Oh, I"m so sorry!".

Either way, I don't have to go back to the dentist for like forever now and I have much cleaner and whiter teeth. That makes me smile a lot more. Not all dentist are bad.

Friday, August 12, 2011

If things are not working out as you planned, you need to change

It’s easy to feel like you’re the victim of some kind of Universal conspiracy and that no matter what you do you’re just not getting to where you want to be or getting what you want in life. It’s easy to blame feeling dissatisfied or discontent on other people. It’s easy to start to feel powerless and like you can’t do anything about the circumstances you find yourself in.

You can always do something about your circumstances. If you live in the Western world and you live in a democratic country you really have lot of room to do it. If you live in the Western world you have so many opportunities available to you and that's a lot more than most people in this world have. You may not feel like you are but you’re bloody lucky. You're one of the fortunate few who really can make choices about how you live your life.

Sure, there are restraints too on what you can do but if you sit down and think about it those restraints are more likely to be tied in with the beliefs you hold, beliefs that are more than likely rooted somewhere in the past and tied in with something you were told or that happen to you as a child. Time to evaluate and let go perhaps?

One of the things I have noticed about people who are successful at enjoying what they’re doing and life in general  is that they’re not afraid to change tack and to step outside of what seems safe and normal. Most people would say they take risks but if you really look at it the risks aren’t really that big.

There’s a huge difference between risking your life and risking a career that you have built over a decade or so. We, in the West, are so programmed to hold onto belongings, jobs and relationships out of fear of losing out that we forget that sometimes we have to tear things down completely in order to be able to move on. We have to really make changes to become more successful and even more importantly to feel better about ourselves, maybe even to feel happy, content and a lot less stressed period.

Start taking risks. Be a bit daring. Start with something small like wearing different colors or clothes, or getting a brain new haircut. Start saying hello to people you don’t normally say hello to. Treat your partner differently, especially if the relationship is strained, relax a little about it, and stop holding onto things, beliefs and habits that don’t make you happy. Do a stock take to check what in your life you really want to keep and what you really can get rid of. Decide to make a small change in one area of your life just to see what will happen. You may be surprised just at how much of an impact it will have not only on you but on those around you as well.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

It’s not me, it’s you

You know when you’re in a relationship and you just can’t quite put your finger on it but you’re just not as happy as you should be. Something’s making you feel a little insecure. The other half isn’t complimenting you anymore and he/she’s not making the moves he used to. He/she suddenly spends a lot more time in front of his computer and a lot of the time when you come into the room he/she closes whatever he/she had up. He/she wants more time to himself/herself. He/she’s not sharing his shit with you and you’re not sure what’s going on.

Is you feeling like there’s something odd going on a sign of that the jig is up or that you’ve basically begun to bust him/her at some two timing game? I’m inclined to say yes.

I don’t know what makes people stay with people they’re not all happy with but I think it’s possibly the most unfair thing you can do it someone. I think that staying with someone if you know you don’t feel for them how you know they want you to or how you’ve led them to believe that you do is simply cruel. I know it’s an ego thing for some people to two-time their other half and get away with it but it’s a cruel thing to do. If you’ve given the impression that you’re not going to stray and you do it, even if it’s just you starting to chase potentials on the internet you’ve just joined the clan of liars. I don’t think there’ any ifs or buts about it if you’re hiding it.

Why lie about something like that? Why not tell someone the truth? I don’t know how many times I’ve heard the excuse that the person not being honest doesn’t want to hurt or face the anger of the person they’re lying to. I think that’s cowardly to be honest. I think it has got to be the lamest excuse ever used.

At the basis for all relationships lie honesty and if you can’t be honest why bother keeping the act up? I think it was Seal who said about his relationship with Heidi Klum that first and foremost they are friends because people generally treat their friends better than they do their lovers. Weird isn’t it? One would think that you would be more careful with your lover who has after all given their heart to you. Or, am I just being naïve? I don’t think I’m being naïve when I say I actually agree with Seal, I think we treat our friends better than our lovers.

I may be a little too advanced in age to believe in true love and all that jazz but I still want a relationship where I actually come first and where I’m valued and not lied to. It’s not too much to ask for, is it? Are there actually men out there who are capable of talking about their feelings and being honest? If there are I would like to meet them, or him. I somehow don’t think it’s an unreasonable ideal to hold onto. I don’t think it’s wrong to want that.I do think it’s wrong to hold onto something you know doesn’t feel right for you. If it doesn’t make you happy you need to let it go. If you’ve tried to talk and tell the other person what your concerns are and they’re not being addressed or they refuse to talk to you at all I think it’s safe to say that you need to cut your losses and move on. It will hurt but I think you’re doing yourself a favor in the long run.

Monday, August 8, 2011

It’s not you, it’s me

I’m tired. I feel like I need to put a large distance between me and humanity because humanity has drained me of my last bit of energy. Unfortunately space travel of that magnitude still eludes us and if it didn’t there’d be other bastards out there (in space) and I would bump into them.

I was at the hairdressers on Saturday and not only did I disappoint my hairdresser by not cutting my hair this time instead only opting for color but I had to sit through listening to this extremely inane woman’s conversation. It makes me sad upsetting my hairdresser because she’s so nice. It makes my head hurt listening to extremely inane conversations.

My hairdresser is young and smart. She quickly ascertained that I was in a mental death state, got me a cappuccino and a tiny muffin, and left me skulking with a Madison magazine while the color was doing its thing.

The inane conversation woman, another middle-aged hair dresser, middle-aged is now dangerously close to being where I am whether I care to admit it or not, was happily droning on and on about TV programs, coloring and other things that made my brain want to explode. I lacked the energy though, fortunately. I was left trying to figure out why people like that seem so much more content with life. They’re so blissfully unaware of what goes on around them and how little sense the things that come out of their mouths make. They have no need to analyse anything or everything for that matter. They just do. They just flow through life while their mouths endlessly narrate their lives in the worst possible way. I envy them. They’re just so much happier than I am.

So I’ve decided that I need to change tack and make like a Zen monk. I need to come to the full realisation that the frustration I feel over others’ inability to make (the right) decisions, treat me like I have a brain despite the fact that I’m a woman, show people respect in general and be a little more tolerant over all, and all that other stuff that tend to make my blood simmer, if not boil, is not about them but about how I react to what they do.

I know right. I’m a bloody genius. Or not. Never mind. Because.

I’m going to learn to take the agro out of dealing with others by turning the other cheek, not being so emotionally invested, trusting that people are doing their best and generally enter each day after having taken a full dose, or maybe even a double dose, of I-don’t-give-a-fuck.

I’m going to enter each day reminding myself that the world won’t capsize and sink just because I don’t feel incensed over this, that or the other. It’s time, high time, that I learn to relax and allow whatever the hell is happening to just happen.You can’t control it all but you can try, right? It’s the trying that creates stress and a feeling of not fitting in. Sitting on your front porch watching the world go by knowing that’s all you need to do is a nice change for someone like me. It’s going to be hard though. It’s going to be hard as hell.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Certifiably Insane

Fred Nile, the man who makes me want to rip out my own eyes so that I can never, ever read anything he’s written ever again, but then to play it really safe I would have to also poke sharp objects in my ears to make sure I go deaf for fear of hearing him speak, Fred Nile is truly exceeding even his own stupidity limit, and believe me his quota is massively exceeded already, with this latest little gem:

Early this year saw a change in Australian schools that I personally welcomed. Scripture classes has been part of what the schools offer for I don’t know how long with the only alternative for kids who aren’t of a Christian persuasion being left to basically do nothing for a lesson every week. There were no alternatives offered at all. Beginning of the year new legislation allowed schools to offer “ethics classes” in which kids are taught values but without any religious alignment. It’s great to see this offered because in many cases if you don’t agree with having your kid go to scripture the alternatives were (are in some cases) so poor that you didn’t really have a choice.

Fred Nile. Every Sydneysider knows who he is. According to Fred there shouldn't be a choice. According to Fred if you're not wanting to send your kid to scripture you are probably in league with the devil or you're one of them pagan Greens. Wow. Because all Greens are pagan (and probably vice versa.

Fred Nile, who is, if I’m to be kind, a Christian zealot, and who’s basically in opposition to anything  non-Christian (and with non-Christian I mean anything that's not insanely Christian) drives me bananas and his latest rant just confirms to me that the man is completely bonkers.

I’m sorry, I’m so bloody intolerant when it comes to people like that. I do believe the world would be sooooo much better off without them.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

In which I talk about what I think one should look for in a good technical writer

So my recruiter and I aren’t really looking for the same thing in candidates, that much is clear. I’m not going to let that stop me. I’m going to find someone who suits me and who fits in with my master plan, and who has a chance of getting along with my other team members. Most of all I’m going to look for someone who can write well. Also, I’m going to have to work with this person, hopefully for a long time, so I want to have some sort of common ground with them. Could we have a conversation if we got stuck in the lift together or would it just be really awkward?

I have interviewed two people so far, two very different people, and the difference between them really highlights some of the things I tend to a look out for when I’m out to hire a technical writer.

Writing examples is a good indicator of how good a technical writer is but you have to be a little careful. Did they lay out the document themselves or did they work with a template? Did they write the document from scratch or was there an existing document that they used to work from?

One reason I google potential candidates is to find evidence of writing activity. Blogs, for example, can tell you a lot about a person’s writing style and passion for writing, and also about the person. (But, this is also why Spilling Ink is not associated with my real name because I wouldn’t want a potential employer to know that I’ve suffered a breakdown, for example. Spilling Ink is my playground where I vomit out things that happen to be in my head.)

I’ve struggled with whether I should administer a writing test when candidates have made it through the first interview and I think it’s a good idea to do it. The problem lies in what kind of test it should be. I’m currently working on some ideas I have and I will hopefully come up with something that makes sense should we get to that stage.

If I’m to employ someone as a writer in my team I’d like to see some enthusiasm. Enthusiasm gets you far especially when there are obstacles involved. I’d like to know that a writer who’s going to work for me is passionate about writing and a lot of the time you find really good technical writers among people who just can’t help themselves, they’re people who just have to write. Evidence of random writing activity is great.

If you’re a budding technical writer start a blog, it’s free, and start writing about anything really but write about things that know you can show to a potential employer. If you can include instructions somehow (even if it’s a cooking blog) it’s even better.

I interviewed someone once who had a cooking blog that they brought print outs from. They brought that and print outs from a site I had found googling where they write a dumbed down tech type blog. That showed me what I needed to know. They can write, they can do it simply and they know the value of adding a picture here and there. They have potential and this is even though they have zero experience in the technical writing field. This person was trying to break into technical writing and was the best candidate I’d seen in a while.

Technical knowledge in a field can be great if you’re a technical writer but I’d take good writing skills and a passion for writing over that any day. It’s much easier to teach someone how something works and get them to describe it in a way that makes sense to others than to work with a writer that somehow can’t get it together with the writing or who has some really bad writing habits.

Having said that, some writers are really good at sourcing information but they are somewhat clueless as to how to present it. These people can be great as what I call “skeleton writers”. They’ll get you the basic information in a very basic way so you can pass it on to someone who can pad it out and make pretty. They have their uses. If I can have one of each I’m set as a manager because then I have an all-rounder team to work with. It’s very rare to find both of those skills prominent in one person in my experience.

That's not all of course but it gives you some idea.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

In which my search for a technical writer continues and I drill down on some things

My search for a technical writer continues and I’m familiar territory where my view of what makes a good writer is completely different from the view of the recruiter I’m working with.

My recruiter is cute and camp. And British. All recruiters are British. It’s part of the conspiracy, in my head anyway. It may not be part of the conspiracy (and it’s hard to tell because I don’t actually have a definition for the conspiracy as such). It may be due to some weird tendency to recruit a lot in Great Britain. I don’t know. All I know is that in the land Down Under the matchmakers of the corporate realm are, without fail, British. It’s fabulous because that’s my recruiter’s most favourite word. Fabulous!

There are three important things in my mind that I look at when I recruit and they are:

#1 Cover letters
A cover letter can be a really good way to introduce yourself to a potential employer but you have to be careful with what you write.

One candidate sent his resume through with what the recruiter thought was a sterling cover letter. I couldn’t get over how little it actually told me even though it was a full page. It was full of corporate jargon and the first paragraph (four full lines) was made up of one poorly constructed sentence. I was not impressed.

If you can’t get the cover letter perfect it’s best to leave it out. It’s the first impression I’ll get of you as a writer and if you’re looking for a job as a technical writer I need to know that you can simplify while not making people feel stupid. You have to hit the mark somewhere between impressing the people who like to see you talk corporate bull (recruiters and managers) and people who like to see you be able to translate things into simple easy to understand language (technical writers and users).

#2 Resumes
Layout. This is where you show me your awesome skills and your attention to detail when it comes to presenting information.

Yesterday I looked at one resume where the applicant had used Word to make a table with four columns. The dates were in the left column, the roles were in the next, the company names (together with helpful little explanations like “IBM is a leading computer company” – like HELLO! I’m not stupid) and the key achievements in the right column. The result was too little space to fit in long words so they got cut off sometimes leaving only the last letter of a word on the next line.

I’m not letting this person near my documents, thank you very much. If it doesn’t come naturally and you still want to be a technical writer make a point out of learning what is good layout and what is not. It will get you jobs that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to get.

#3 Interviews
I have no clue what the recruiters ask potential candidates when they first make contact with them. I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t really care.

One of things I really find hard to deal with when I interview people is when they try to present themselves as something they think you want them to be. That registers immediately with me as if they’re trying to hide something, as if they’re being deceptive.

Not every person you meet will know how to read body language but you can bet it registers subconsciously. In my opinion, you’re far better off being too honest, being too passionate about something and get too talkative than trying to second guess me and what I want to see. Be honest. Be yourself. Most people prefer it. Most people don’t like trying to figure what game you’re playing.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Men do. Women get done.

Ever since Crystal Harris dumped Hugh Hefner a few days before their intended nuptials, I’ve been trying to figure out why it is that weeks after the event, there’s still pictures of Hugh Hefner and her in the online publication that masquerades as a newspaper but also does a fine job as doubling as a gossip magazine that I read?

Why, oh why?

There’s a fascination with Hugh. I’ve heard it lamented that he’s living every man’s dream and I know lots of men who’d gladly pat him on the back if they could (and especially if it meant that there was even the slightest chance that they would get in on the action ‘cause we all know that those 20-year old bimbos are gagging for it).

Personally I think it’s all a bit sad and I think it’s sad because I know, as well as you more than likely do too, that it’s not every girl’s dream to end up with a guy who’s about 60 years her senior. There’s nothing remotely attractive about a man in his eighties to a girl in her twenties except perhaps the opportunity to get a free shot to stardom.

The girls the Hef hangs out with don’t mind using their assets for business purposes and the industry they’ve chosen to be in is one where they will be completely and utterly objectified. I’m down with that. It’s their choice. Power to the girls – I can’t help feeling that in some way they’re beating men like Hugh at their own game but it doesn’t make Hugh Hefner look any less pathetic to me.

It’s an interesting topic, the objectifying of women. Turn on any video hits show, watch a few music vids and you soon realize that the lines between how men and women are portrayed are distinctly drawn.

The man sing and rap. They wear clothes. They’re the subjects. They do.

The women gyrate, titillate and flaunt. They wear hardly any clothes. They’re objects. They get done.

If you’re to believe this social snapshot women have nothing to offer but looks and the looks are used for one thing and that’s to attract a mate (like Hugh Hefner?!).

It’s fine to want to look good but I can’t help but to feel a little stifled by the weight of material that shows women as just being valuable if they do. And with every year that passes I feel a little more stifled. I was about to say that women are not allowed to grow old with the same dignity that men to but then I thought of Hugh again. If men grow old not being able to pull the kind of chicks the Hef does at 85 even when they’re in their 30s and 40s perhaps they feel a little stifled too.

That aside, what we need are more female protagonist and preferably not ones that sound like the Australian prime minister when they speak. Sorry Julia, your voice drives me insane and I know it’s shallow of me to think less of you because of the way you sound when you speak but you have a way of speaking that curdles milk. I can’t help but wonder what other heads of state think when you open your mouth. It may be an interesting negotiating tactic, getting people to agree just to shut you up.

I’m not ready to let my thirteen year old out in a world where there are not enough female role models to firmly set in her mind that women are just as good as men at "doing". I would hate to see her have to play the pretty game especially since I suspect that it would more than likely make her want to vomit. It’s sad though that so long after the rise of feminism we haven’t got any further, we’re still supposed to be pretty and that’s about it.

Me, I was never pretty and I never could shut up. I’d probably been better off as a bloke.

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