Wednesday, October 30, 2002

when you're trying to buy a house, agents who stand to make thousands from you fall over themselves to sell, sell, sell.
when you're trying to rent, and they stand to make, oh, tens of dollars, you can't get them to return your calls.
funny, that.

Willa is your source for all things semi-spooky: Halloween-themed fonts and screensavers, sites and games.
There isn't much original content, but the links are clearly the result of some serious trawling of the Web.
And this will be the blog's third Halloween, so the archives are full of goodies, such as links to Web cams in allegedly haunted houses.

The Ludwigs/Halloween

The Ludwigs profess to be obsessed with Halloween, and have all the latest news: "OK, here is a cool idea for creating talking skulls with your own soundtrack," for example. The focus seems to be on creating Halloween props for decorating entire houses in the spooky theme.
There's lots of stuff on lighting, and "yer basic floating lantern" but, more importantly, there is a link to the archives of the Halloween mailing list, where Web-goblins discuss gothic candelabra, and otherwise normal Americans swap tips on how to turn their front yards into a miasma of fog.

Silver Blog
Cecily isn't quite as Halloween-crazy as some other bloggers; she has just put up one extensive post on Halloween resources, with comments from readers on the feasibility of a "moth" fancy dress. Look out for the link to the Kodak guide to carving faces into pumpkins so they'll photograph well.
Her main blog is divided between her (currently bleak) personal life and her photography, much of which is black-and-white. That part of the blog is named Silver Halide, but the "silver" of the main site is a reference to the colour of Dorothy's shoes in the original Wizard of Oz story.

Haunted Bay
The seaside town of San Francisco doesn't seem a terribly spooky place, but Haunted Bay manages to make it appear just a little dark and threatening.
The effect is spoilt a bit by the pumpkin weigh-off (though a 532-kilo pumpkin might scare some people).
If you happen to be over that way, Haunted Bay lists events in the area, and the right places to buy your giant pumpkins.
Reviews of new "haunted" attractions and other Halloween-related news appear regularly.


Once a year is a fairly infrequent update rate, but at least it's reliable.
Each Halloween, Catanna posts photos and details of her outfit and that of her husband's; first it was the Sun and Moon (which most people mistook for a Roman look), then an over-the-top rendering of characters from the musical Cats.
This year they're working on a Braveheart-fairy theme; can't wait to see the blue face paint! If you'd like to emulate the look, there are links to online stores where the pair buy their stuff.

Federal agents put guns in the faces of four Australian children aged between four and 17 years during raids aimed at weeding out Muslim extremists, according to a teenaged girl whose family was raided.

Completely disgusting. Whether they were "Australian children" or otherwise.
what to do when you come in early and, as usual, the Loud Talkers are blathering about their renovations etc at twice the necessary volume, but you don't feel like blasting your ears with Courtney Love to drown the sound out?

why, play Ani, of course!

Tuesday, October 29, 2002

Monday, October 28, 2002

meanwhile, I am so totally cool and zeitgeistish.
have bought the #1 album; Elvis's 30 #1 songs.
think I'll track down some of his early records. such a sweet voice.
this is so outrageous I can't even get outraged about it.
the lovely three-bedroom Edwardian house with the horrific orange kitchen?
the one with offstreet parking and a yard for Bilbo?
the one a short walk from the beach and the cafes in Elwood?
that was $295 a week, and therefore cheap?
that I spent at least THREE HOURS chasing, counting going to the agent yesterday morning,driving down there at lunchtime, applying for, faxing, not to mention our scouting trip on Sunday?

the ($%#@!**! owners have sweetly received our application for a six-month lease (which I understood they had no obligation to accept) and told the agent that they've rethought, they want $500 a week. That's FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS.

now, it was a bit underpriced, maybe $50-$60, but $500 is a joke. the agent says she won't list it at that.

I hope it sits there empty for six months, they end up having to drop back to $340, and they lose all the money they would have got from renting it to us. fuckers.
the two items in my handbag I need the most: the credit/debit card and the Swiss Army knife. every girl should have both.
bummer. just when I've got the hoses set up right on our garden, they bring in water restrictions.
so we will only be able to use them before 8 am (hah!) or after 8pm. I accept the need for restrictions, but it's not like we actually live there and can just pop out and turn them on at 6.30 am or 9pm.

if we just have to stand there and hose, it will take forever. and use the same amount of water. it has to be done at least once, probably twice a week as the weather gets hotter or things will die. we're only doing the bare minimum as it is.

we have a timer, but the existing fitting is frozen to the only tap, so can't put it on. situation calls for a monkey wrench.
currently sitting up very straight and walking around like I have a pole strapped to my back and head.
another big back-cracking session, but neck still hurts; and the point was made to me that the underlying problem, being tension and poor posture, would make it recur endlessly.

and I really can't keep having headaches like that. no. no more.

Sunday, October 27, 2002

this headline is just plain embarassing.
is house
is good
is orange kitchen
is I don't care.

now we can only hope they'll let us have it for a six-month lease. a better policy would probably have been to lie and then just find someone to take it over when our place is done.
goddam blogger. third try at this post (in Word Pad this time)

my life currently resembles a Boomtown Rats song:
Monday? headache
Monday? headache.
I think it's been four out of the past five. today's did start yesterday, but all the same, I am pretty much over starting every week unable to focus, let alone think.
icepacks and kidney-wrecking drugs can only take you so far.
husband says natural remedies are better. that will be lying down in a dark room, then? I wish.

(ps: very exciting; my wonderful phsyio has had an appt come free at 9.30 tomorrow

on the upside, have identified the impossibe; a three-bedroom Edwardian house with LUG and polished floors a short walk from the beach in Elwood for under $300/week
inspection is at 1.30, and in absence of husband, who really would prefer a funky art deco flat, intend to apply for lease if it's as good as it looks from the outside. yard for dog takes priority, says me.
and no, I'm not posting a link to the obscure, non-local agent where I found it on the Web. it's MINE, do you hear me, ALL MINE, Moriarty!

also good: finding an all day cheap car spot. with five hours on the meter. bonus.

Saturday, October 26, 2002

I like the little things I find on the site of

they're some web designer types, but they play with the medium.

if you go to their page and click on demonstration #8, "untitled", you can change the way the virtual painting in their office looks; the page is projected on a real wall in Melbourne.
good blog title: inflatable doll.

I'm sure it's been done.
yes, it's essay-writing time and as usual, anything resembling Deep Thought hurts my brain and brings up some strange questions.
like why are (some) men happy to have sex with inflatable dolls (and even inflatable sheep, forsooth!), where women wouldn't bother?
why do men not care that their cartoon women, like the chick in Final Fantasy have no soul?
and is it OK or not, if you like your fantasies to be about real people, like say Daniel Day-Lewis, to put them into compromising positions they would not adopt in RL? is there any difference, as I've about as much chance of having sex with Daniel Day-Lewis as the average geek has of scoring the star of FF, ie, zero?

if you have any answers to these questions, which swirl around the topic of intersubjectivity and what makes interactivity feel interactive, keep them to yourself. I'm confused enough already.
a day of house and flathunting in Elwood, by the sea.
houses cost a fortune.
flats are within our price range; if we don't tell the agents about our secret dog, it will be fine.

there was one cheap house; it was "under offer" but I left my number anyway. stupidly did not turn the phone on, though, and now we might have to go back there tomorrow to look at it. husband not so keen, but I think a yard would be much better for Mr B the fluff king. though a big flat and two walks a day will not really hurt him for six months.

Thursday, October 24, 2002



He's exceeded 2000 posts on his blog and he's still going strong. Yes, Geek is a geek with stamina.
Not all his posts are comprehensible to the average computer user, of course, being aimed at people who actually know what's inside their beige boxes:
"CodeMeister, the machine I was planning on using, is having some technical difficulties. You see, I foolishly put the buggy 6GB in it, thinking tossing it on the slave position would solve the problems. Well, it now holds my Red Hat install, as well as my Win 2000 Pro install. Sadly, it also holds my Grub bootloader, which I cannot boot without. Needless to say, my computer is mega fubared, and I highly doubt I will be able to get my files, saved games and other stuff off the drive. I may, though, install the two Linux distro's still, at 2GB each."
If you understand that lot, then you're probably a kindred spirit.
In the spirit of the early Internet, Geek wants information to be free and is angered by anti-Internet radio laws in Britain and has something to say about the redesign of Wired magazine's Web site, too.
Naturally the blog itself runs smoothly; posts are even classified by type so you can just read the ones about Linux if you choose.

Formerly V2.1, this blog sees the world from a very geeky point of view.
A shelving project isn't just "I built some shelves today" but occasion for a detailed description of piece sizes, tool brands and the exact order in which things were done.
And, of course, there is always room for improvement.
As there seems to be in his fitness; after a day's exercise he complained that "THEN to make matters worse the X10 unit did not want to turn on the kitchen light so I had to do it MANUALLY!" (the X10 unit being an automatic sensor switch).
Sometimes we get to hear about his work, which is enjoyable when he's tweaking computer networks, not so much when he's playing "copier repair guy".
Whatever the task, this is one geek who attacks the problem doggedly until it's fixed.

Rambling Geek Blog

"I want to be a mad scientist, but I don't have the degree, creds, or experience to sign on with a good position."
Instead, Owen rambles geekily on his blog, paying little or no attention to outdated concepts like plot or reason.
He rarely mentions actual technology, preferring instead to blog about geeky topics, like his idea for a fast-food restaurant ("Neutrino Burgers and Quantum Shakes"), how much he loves his favourite soft drink, and occasionally focuses on his body hair for good measure. Geeky enough?

Kermit the Blog
He loves his Mac. He posts links to really cool new hand-held computing toys. He muses on whether the iPod should support image display: "At first I thought 'What a useless feature. Why would I want to look at pictures on my iPod?'." I can see myself, strolling through the mall, when I'm suddenly overcome by an overwhelming urge to see my dog's face! Thank goodness I have my iPod with me! Crisis averted!."
He cares, really cares, about the way the crew of the Star Trek series Enterprise behaves: "It ticks me off that our early space explorers are the 'ugly tourists'."
He lists his top sci-fi movies, and complains about not having one toy that will do everything for him.No doubt about Dave's geeky credentials. No doubt at all.

(channelling James Brown)
I feel good!
the new place is on a busy road. this sucks. so I slept in a spare room down the back of the house, by myself. which means I actually slept well for a change. which means my brain is actually ON today!
whoo-hoo. look out world.
see, this is what blogs are good for.
this Canadian man was injured in Bali; brought to Melbourne. his friend kept this blog for him. he died last night.
the burns units at the melbourne and Perth hospital have been working hell for leather ever since it happened. a friend of mine went to school with a girl who died two days ago.
the burns operations have to be done in 36 degree heat because the patients can't regulate their temperatures. every time I have contact with drs and nurses in hospitals here, I marvel at their near-uniform patience and care. in this case it's saintly; these burns victims are very hard to save.
after September 11 there were very few patients for the hospitals.

there's 110 comments on the final post on this blog.
my column for next week is on Halloween blogs. wonder if I should scrap that and do this one. it's an amazing thing.
and I'm very worried aobut the smaller goldfish. fish don't travel very well. I expect he'll be an ex-fish in the morning, and there's nothing I can do about it.
yet another moving day. what is there to say about schlepping suitcases in and out, driving up and down Warrigal Road?
the less the better, really.
so here we are in Mt Waverley, me wishing I was in Elwood instead.
oh, and husband goes away for 3 days on Monday. just as mother-in-law arrives to this normally empty house.
she's lovely and all, but I don't want to live with my own parents...

Tuesday, October 22, 2002

Stolen from Doonesbury
via blogdex.
nine of the 13 root DNS servers went down this morning. and Louis Touton says "these things happen"
not they don't. they shouldn't. if they all crashed, the Net wouldn't collapse. but things would get slow and messy. that's why there are 13 of them.
headache gone. but it left behind a crick in my neck that means that if you come up behind me on the left, I have to turn my entire body like Lurch to look at you. so looking forward to spending the day working on a keyboard with this going on. and the lovely Michael, who can fix it, is not at work until next week. blagh.
"for those of us who truly appreciate giant pumpkins"
a desk that turns into a bed. I want one. no, two. three.
housework can be strangely soothing.
I mean, if I had nothing else to do, ever, and a nice house, what luxury it would be to simply potter all day, rearranging fruit and weeding the garden. by some definitions this would be wasting my life.
but it only galls me when I'm conscious of what else I should be doing. when it's the main game (like now, as we prepare to move out of this house-sit), it's not entirely unsatisfying. of course I don't have kids messing things up. the husband is fairly good at that anyway.

bike ride report: a storm brewing, warm evening, bright grey sky and a ripper of a tailwind. top speed; approximately 32km/h. took me about an hour and five to do a ninety-minute ride. wheeee!!

Monday, October 21, 2002

links and average rents for rentals in Melbourne. this will be useful when plotting my escape from Mt Waverly, where I nearly grew up and where my husband wants to incarcerate me for the rest of the time it will take to renovate the place where we used to live, and maybe will again. one perfect day.
can I just say, right, that if I ever find the so-and-so who invented the migraine headache, there will be blood on the floor.
I mean, they hurt. they really hurt. it’s like a small ball of throbbing pain behind my left eye is radiating out across my whole body.
and the slightest bright light, loud noise or sudden movement makes it dance and pulse.
came home from class early. I’d thought a swim might fix it, but maybe the pool wasn’t cold enough. thank God for good ol’ American superstrength over-the-counter painkillers, icepacks so cold you lose all feeling in your forehead, and husbands willing to dig their thumbs into the base of your neck.

Saturday, October 19, 2002

trying to work; mental block about the last tv show site for my column.
wondering if my Vicnet ISP account is dead, and if so, why they keep hosting me.
spent the day socialising, then working hard to try to stop the garden at home from dying.

Friday, October 18, 2002

I like this: a telemarketing "counter-script".
via Hoopty. you know where he is.
after reading this Wired article about artificial sight (complete with some rather excessive phrasing, methinks), I had some fairly trippy moments. because it is an amazing thing, all those reflected light beams being converted into cool phenomena by electrical current. if you think too hard about how you're seeing the table in front of you, its texture and colour, it will start to seem not quite real. a bit like an image conveyed by computer.

Thursday, October 17, 2002

useful metaphor; that feeling you get when you have just closed the front door behind you. with your keys inside.
and why this isn't # 1 on Blogdex, I cannot imagine.
you can tell I'm meant to be working on uni stuff, can't you?
a page about common phrases, which Batgrl would love. via Unadorned, a meetup blogger who is now in Montreal and has a lovely elegant design. unlike this site, which has lovely elephant design.
what else can I waste time on?
even though I know I have lots of people coming here whom I don't know, I still find it slightly disconcerting when someone I don't know - in this case in my own town - links to me. she looks cool enough. also links to grumpygirl, has an ezine project. I suspect we are connected somehow through the local blog meetup. still, am I funky enough for such company?
the red cross's Bali appeal site.

Wednesday, October 16, 2002


New York Fashion Blog
This blog is a manifestation of a new trend - commercial entities setting up weblogs to attract audiences.
In this case it's the fashion website Its writers contribute snippets about their glamorous clothes-obsessed lives and offer peeks behind the scenes at New York fashion shows.
It even includes some genuine bitching about seat allocation at the shows: "Shalil Upadaya, who was the center of attention by the paparazzi a year and a half ago (solely because he came decked out in outlandish outfits in black and white and animal prints ... all of his own design), has absolutely NO press credentials, and is not even a fashion designer ... is not only allowed into the tents, gaining access to almost every show, but gets a GOOD seat to boot!"
Only on a site like this could you find the phrase "important necklines" used without a trace of irony.

Gina Snowdoll
When someone lists their hobbies as "Music ... Playing guitar, and making music. Transvestism" you would expect a blog out of the ordinary.
Given "Gina Snowdoll's" interests, it's no surprise that she adores David Bowie and cried at his London concert. For the serious clothing bit, click on the link labelled "Tales of Crossdressing". There's a lot more to it than descriptions of what was worn ("long elegant velvet black dress, and pointed suede stilettos with gold straps"), but enough to qualify as an unusual fashion blog.

Wanna be girly? This blog invites trivial obsessions of all kinds: bags, hats, jewellery shoes, it's all grist to the personal-adornment mill.
Some of the posts read a bit like ads, but close-ups of Tina's latest home-made handbag redeem those a little.
And sometimes well-aimed ads are what readers want anyway, as every glossy magazine knows; you can find sock sites, Web shop sales and the odd second-hand designer bag through this blog.


Commercial blogs seem to abound in the world of fashion: SheSheMe is the fictional story of an archetypal fashion victim, loosely based on the lives of the mostly female team behind the site.
She buys $400 shoes (that'll be in US dollars) and cannot concentrate on conversations with attractive men because of her obsessive clothing-related thoughts.
Be warned: most of the hyperlinks in the daily posts are to sites selling the products that feature in each post.
It might tide you over until Sex and the City returns to TV.

tenant letter, bowdlerised for privacy: bet this goes down like a ton of bricks. lease is up February 10.


Dear M,

Please find enclosed a cheque for the materials used for installing the stove. The invoices you provided total $260.74, including GST, which was applied at the cash register. If you need copies back, I can provide them. If there were other materials, please forward invoices for those, or if that's not possible, a statement of materials and cost.

If you decide to resubmit an invoice for labour costs, please itemise hourly costs, dates of work etc.

Please also advise me, in writing, if an electrician was engaged to carry out the actual connections, as I requested. I'd like a receipt or written notice from the electrician, if possible; if an electrician was not used, the wiring will have to be professionally examined.

I'd like to outline the reasons why I believe I did not engage you formally to carry out this work. I believed we made an arrangement that was mutually agreeable, partly at your instigation.

As you may recall, I contacted you about getting access to the property to check stove cavity dimensions. We then began a conversation that day, and on the day I purchased the stove, which developed into the agreement I believe we had.

There were a number of factors, in no particular order, that led to my belief and I'd ask you to consider.

You expressed a disinclination to having workmen in the property, and a preference to do the work yourself . During an earlier formal inspection visit, the matter of bathroom tiling was discussed, and you and (L). indicated you would rather do it yourselves. You had already carried out (unauthorised) works on the flat, involving attaching shelving to walls, which led me to believe you were open to doing such work.

We discussed my paying for materials specifically, with no mention of labour. I mentioned I'd need the original invoices for tax purposes, which to me implies that the arrangement was for me to reimburse you, not pay you as a tradesman. Your company and business were never mentioned as a vehicle for this work. In fact, I didn't even know its name until yesterday.

Other parts of our conversation - I said something like "if you want to do it yourself, that's great", and you certainly said something about wanting it to be done properly, as opposed to how it might be done if I employed a third party - led me to believe that doing it yourself, at your leisure, was what you wanted. No quote was given, or hourly labour rate discussed.

Shortly after the arrangement was made, you requested a further one-year lease, reinforcing my impression that you were simply committed to the property. On that basis, I instructed (agents) to reduce the proposed $10/week rent increase on the lease to $5/week.

You participated in the purchase decision on the actual stove, and I certainly believed we were making an arrangment to fit your needs, rather than me "employing" you. I would point out that some of the work, eg the fan-hood, was due to your requesting such a feature.

If I had not believed you had made the offer to do the work, I would have found a different solution to the oven problem. I probably would not have employed a skilled furniture maker such as yourself, but would have bought a simpler appliance, found an older secondhand oven that fitted the cavity, or employed a commercial kitchen company or carpenter, or similar. I certainly would have obtained several quotes. A total of nearly two and half thousand dollars is well outside the budget I had for that repair, and as you're aware, the flat needs further work, most urgently the bathroom retiling and shower membrane.

Whatever you may believe, I would not have "expected" anyone to work for free. I genuinely believed an offer was made. It's not unusual for landlords to pay for materials and tenants to do the work, as I've done myself in painting a rented property. I can't quote the exact words, but I'm certain that when we were walking back from Retravision to the property on the day we chose the oven, I was aware of the possibility of a misunderstanding of this nature and said something like "do you want me to pay you something for this" and you declined. Obviously I can't prove that. As I said on the phone, I wonder that you would assume I'd authorised an open cheque for this work. While, as you point out, you said you'd keep it as cheap as possible, I believe (I may be wrong) I remember asking what materials might cost and receiving an answer that was reasonably low, and nothing like the total invoice you've presented me with.

This is what my (electronically datestamped) journal notes from December 28, 2001 say, in part. :

"I can report a (fairly) satisfactory solution to the Great Oven Dilemma.
I have a mortgage on a flat ... It's about 35 years old, and so are all the fittings.
so, inevitably, it needed a new oven. the tenants had complained, so I went shopping at the sales. turns out that they don't make ovens that size any more - the space available is way too shallow.
damn, bother, etc. So I called the agents, who gave me the tenants' number, hoping I could get in there and measure up and talk to them about whether they wanted to put up with cabinetmakers etc traipsing through, meanwhile panicking about the cost of all this.
turns out the guy who lives there is a furniture maker. I went to see him this morning, we stood in the kitchen, chatted, discussed, measured, discovered we have some mutual friends, wandered up to the whitegoods store, measured some more; the upshot is I've put a deposit on a reasonably cheap but good quality (on sale) oven and gas range, and he's going to take care of the fitting-it-in problem. then I only have to get an electrician/plumber in to install it all and pay for the materials. bonus!
the tenant is a pretty good furniture maker too, from the look of what he has there and the jobs he says he's working on; ..."

Nothing in the intervening period has changed the belief I held about our arrangement, until I received your invoice.

I regret the misunderstanding, and hope we can find a solution. If you choose to submit a further invoice or claim for materials, could you do so in the next two weeks please?

free Wallace and Grommit!
everyone else is linking to this, so I thought I would too. must read sometime. sure.
well, so much for this

almost a year later, I get the "receipts" - turns out the tenant has been assuming I'll pay him $700 in labor to install an oven. as if. obviously I can't really afford to be a landlord. we had a discussion where he accused me of expecting him to "work for free", where all I thought was that he didn't want workmen in his flat. there's a great tradition of landlords providing materials and tenants doing the work when they feel like it - normally it's things like painting, but in this case this is where his skills lay.
truth is, if I knew it was going to be 2 1/2 thousand, I'd have bought a cheap upright - or not fixed the oven at all, given the low rent it's bringing in. it wasn't worth a kitchen remake, which seems to be what he's done.
sigh. I've written to him - including, in part, that blog entry, how useful to have a diary! but expect he'll bill me again, I'll pay and I'll just sell the bloody thing next year. too much trouble. the bathroom needs work too...

Tuesday, October 15, 2002

wonder if this is working?

anyway, most annoying quote of the day was someone from foreign affairs who told a journalist that despite the US having issued warnings about going to tourist spots and clubs this week - and Bali being considered a high risk area as well - Australia's officials "didn't know".
sure, they may not have had a call from the FBI. but it was on their (US foreign affairs) frickin' web site, for frick's sake.
would it be hard to look at that every frickin' day or so?
and if a warning had stopped even one person from going to the bar that night?

Monday, October 14, 2002

well of course the US press are ignoring us. don't they always? so much for our good-friend status. has W even called little Johnny? probably not. no, all the US will do is use it as an excuse to bomb Iraq, inflaming the situation.
sick. according to Google, Hillary Clinton is the most beautiful woman in the world.
via some fishy page I stumbled across.
here's the math: if there are 280 million Americans and they lost 3000 people on September 11, and only 20 million Australians and we lost 150 or so in Bali - there are 220 missing - then September 11 killed about .00107 per cent of the US population, and Bali .00075 per cent. if it's 200 in Bali, which seems likely, it's .001, or almost exactly the same proportion.
jenny sinclair is a bubble-car that tracks its position with GPS and glows at night.

Sunday, October 13, 2002

I don't know what to say about what happened in Bali.
I didn't hear about it until I turned on the radio at 8 on Sunday night.
it's all so seems no Muslim country is now safe for Westerners. no way I'd be going to Morocco now.
and the victims interviewed on the radio this morning all had such Australian names: Gavin and Scott from Adelaide, talking about the smell and people missing bits. A 9/11 flashback if there ever was. is that smell the hallmark of this "war"?
batty always finds the weirdest sites: like the Prior-Art-O-Matic:
osama bin laden is a wastepaper basket that has sleek curves! It knows your name and responds to ambient light changes.

then I tested it on my household members:

jenny is a fizzy drink that sorts your mail, can disable electrical hardware and hovers three feet from the ground.
andrew is a CD-rom that hums incessantly, follows a target of your choice and produces 240v of electricity.
bilbo is like a normal airbag, but it can be used in zero-gravity.

strangely accurate, really.

Saturday, October 12, 2002

speaking of poetry (or not)
Google poetry generator (via Jill)
- elephant - a :: i'm
! danger love!
Blog Commonplace Commonplace Poetry is shampoo? with dickinson
syndrome is - McStyles? elephant i'm Mike's
Mike's Commonplace ...
(?) shampoo? --- with
mad (?)
is syndrome dickinson ---
:: danger ... orbyn danger McStyles?
help! I'm trapped in suburbia, surrounded on all sides by fierce lawnmowers!

A better fireworks display than the one we saw last night.
last night we went to see the fireworks.
and to quote a small child who was standing near us, they were "craptacular".
during the week we received a notice warning us to lock up our cats and dogs (funny, as we have no cats) due to a fireworks display off the Beaumaris pier on Saturday night.
so, we thought, fireworks. they're good. and duly had dinner nearby and went and stood on the clifftops at 9pm, waiting. waiting. waiting.
half an hour after the set time, when I was about ready to push the annoying whiny British-accented kids on our left over the cliff, there was a huge "whoosh" and it appeared that a fence had caught fire.
then some small sparks appeared in the sky, accompanied by popping sounds.
and I began to realise why, as Andrew said later, public-sector fireworks are the go. (these were apparently wedding fireworks for a reception in the nearby yacht club).
oh look, it wasn't that bad really. there were some cute little ones that exploded, then whizzed around individually like fish (or sperm, as one mature woman nearby noted). And some really loud bangs and flashes.
but worth rearranging our night for? and the half-hour wait? nah. craptacular.

Friday, October 11, 2002

see, this is what happens when you file nine days ahead of time. Sapphire Blue is alive, and snarky about it, too.
I might have to do resuscitated blogs. born-again blogs. or just plain snarky blogs. snarky. cute word.
a small ode to the marsupial which narrowly avoided killing itself under my front right-hand tyre as I left BQAGS (or is it BGS?) last night:
Suicide possum
wanting to die
suicide possum
I don't know why
suicide possum
how would it feel?
suicide possum
with you under my wheel?

(also for Patrice, who claimed to find poetry in my blog, and of course for uber-marsupial lover and victim of suicide roadkill, Batty)

The actual speech part of the night? Well, my old teacher mentioned my blog and Google in her thanks, so I can't say too much, as I expect I will be having Visitors.
But speaking to a room full of teenage girls - and being seated next to the actual headmaster - is not exactly relaxing, you understand.
and of course, teenage girls can't be told; the very idea is absurd.

here's my speech; it's got some reminder key phrases in capitals through it that I can't be bothered editing out right now. about to make a 35-k trek to see some friends across town - and to rescue my poor underwatered pot plants, which are no doubt 97% dessicated after a week without rain.


thanks/address: principal, Mrs O'Shea, teachers, parents and students.

Formalities over, I'm now going to ignore the staff and parents altogether and talk to the girls. I'm going to explain to you why your parents are completely wasting their money on your school fees.


Some of you might be expecting something like the Sunscreen Song, which goes "class of 97, Wear sunscreen. If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. "

In fact, that was a pretty good speech, and I wish I could give it.


But unfortunately, Patrice has asked me to come up with something original.

Actually, I'm still wondering why she did ask me to speak tonight.

-pay attention
-was like you

I suppose the point of guest speakers at school events like this it that they are neither your parents nor your teachers, the idea being that you might actually pay attention to me

And the point of asking an "old girl" to speak is that 19 years ago I was a student here, presumably just like you.

-what not to do?

So maybe I'm supposed to provide some insights into where you might go and how to get there; or perhaps I'm exhibit A: here's what NOT to do.

I'm not sure how good an example I'd make anyway. Most likely all of you were born since I was last here, although I notice we have a few things in common, including Patrice.


What I've done in that 19 years includes five years as a technology journalist on The Age, about the same time writing for inner-city Melbourne papers in St Kilda, Fitzroy and Melbourne city, a bit of freelance writing, picking up arts degrees from RMIT and Melbourne University, travelling to about 15 or 20 countries (the exact number depends on whether you count Wales and Scotland and overnight stops), working in shearing sheds, a couple of brushes with the law (all at least 15 years ago) and


That's just for context; this isn't about me. It's about you. Other speakers tonight and through your lives will remind you that you have obligations to the wider community, to give something back from your relatively privileged positions, but I'm interested in how you'll get yourselves into a position to do that.

- a bit girly?

Patrice told me the topic for the guest speaker at your annual dinner was normally something "a bit girly", often about the co-educational experience.

- not thinking about feminism/busy being smart

Feminism is not necessarily the first thing on your minds; and I'm very glad for you that it doesn't have to be. In fact, research – and my memory of school - suggests that most of you are probably too busy being smarter and more mature than the boys your age to even think about feminism, and you may expect that to go on being the case.

-not always enough

I hope it does, but you may also find that smarter and better aren't always enough.

-fight, give in or walk away

Being female can still mean you are treated differently in a lot of situations. When that happens, you have three options: fight, give in and conform, or walk away.

- eg papers vs TV/ ACA

Being female is one reason I'm a newspaper journalist and not on TV, where I would spend more time on worrying about how I looked than what I was reporting, for instance, as I discovered when I worked as a part-time researcher on A Current Affair at Channel Nine in the late 1980s.

Still, being female isn't the only source of existential difficulty; in fact it's pretty minor when it comes to the bigger problem of being yourself.

-2022: speaking to a dinner and what will matter. not what you think.

Incredible as this might seem now, in 2022 each of you will be a Grammar "old girl", 20 years older in fact, looking back at your 2002 self. And if you're really unlucky you may even be speaking to a new batch of students at a Krome House dinner about how you fared over that 20 years.

Whatever the people around you might tell you to do, or be, now, however much you might care right now whether boys like you or not, what you weigh now, what clothes you wear now, what your marks are now, ….. the only thing that will make that experience tolerable for you is to have been true to yourselves.

-fees so you can do what you want

Your parents have – I hope – stumped up Grammar's not insignificant fees for the right reasons – not so you can be a doctor or a lawyer, but so you have the greatest possible chance of being able to do whatever you want with your lives. And to that end you, probably pay a lot of attention to your marks.

- what marks can do for you

In HSC in 1983, as it was then, my end of year mark – now a TER – was the second-highest in the class. I was supposed to go straight to Melbourne Uni and do law or something. I didn't; I spent three years hanging around Ballarat driving my parents to despair. It took those three years to work out what it was I needed and understand how to get it. Actually, that's not true. I'm still working out what I need and how to get it.

-figuring out where to go

Some of you are very lucky: you already know exactly what you want to do with your lives. Fewer again know exactly how to get there and that they have the talent, intelligence and inner resources to walk that path.

Others of you are yet to figure out what will suit you best. You may be being bombarded with career choices, information on what people "do" in different jobs, what the pay is and how good or bad the working conditions are.

But before you even think about all that, or any other decision you're faced with, you have to know what shape peg you are. If you're an artist-shaped peg, the best marks in the world are still no reason at all for going to medical school. If you really care about people and are fascinated by biology and curing diseases, you need to find a way to work with that, even if your exam results aren't that good.

-girls in technology

One of the stock stories that I trot out when I can't think of anything else to write about, is the "why don't girls study technology" yarn. I've been writing it for nearly six years now.


It goes something like this: In Australia, women are hugely underrepresented in computing and communications technology work, and the "harder" or more objectively scientific the work, the fewer women you'll find. The numbers of women studying these subjects has actually gone down over recent years, while in equally left-brain fields, like engineering, the male-to- female ratio is now about 50:50.

- compared to overseas

This is a Western phenomenon; in countries like Malaysia, girls are actively encouraged to take up these high-paying, white-collar and in-demand roles, and they're very good at them.

- year 9 dropouts ... boys ... not looking too smart
It's also an age-related thing; in Australia, girls tend to drop out of computing studies around years 9 and 10 . I don't know how things are here at Grammar, but one reason for that happening is thought to be that the boys hog the computer labs, or that old chestnut, that "smart" girls aren't considered attractive or cool.

-don't let it happen here if that's what you want

I hope it doesn't happen here, but if it does, and if you think you'd like to spend more time programming, or learning to set up networks, or working out how to make databases do clever tricks, you should do it no matter waht. I'm not saying you should all go off and enrol in programming 101 tomorrow morning. If you find it boring, or just get much more excited about plants, dogs or architecture, by all means do that.

-same for everything; what gets you going?

The same principles apply; if it interests you, if it can make you stay up an extra hour to solve that problem or finish that piece of work, then it could be what you are here for. And if that thing happens to be a bit more domestic, like making your family your first priority, you're allowed to do that too.

- change your mind

And – here's a very girly bit – if you change your mind halfway through, that's perfectly fine too. It's still a woman's prerogative to change her mind, and it should be a man's too.

- attributions of success

Here's another random snippet of research I picked up somewhere: in general, when men succeed they take full credit, and when they fail, they blame outside factors. In women, it's the opposite: when they fail, they often blame themselves, while success is put down to luck or outside help. The result is not just stronger male egos; it's greater willingness to try scary things, because if they fail, it's not really their fault, is it?

- you get lots of help... school and family...and high expectations.

Being at Ballarat Grammar means you're getting a lot of outside academic help with your studies, and what's called pastoral support from your house. It's not accidental that the houses are divided along gender lines, either.

And whatever the ups and downs, you're getting a lot of help from your families – there's those fees again – but more importantly there's the home environment that lets you grow and study and most likely test yourselves out against your parents' standards. There's the expectations, too – positive in that they push you harder, but potentially negative if you feel you have to live up to something that isn't you.

- but it's still your life...light bulb joke

For all that help, your life is still entirely yours. Nothing I say, or your parents say, or the teachers say, is going to make any difference to who you really are.

It's like that old light bulb joke: How many social workers does it take to change a light bulb? Only one, but the light bulb has to WANT to change.

- art and definining your own success/potential.

- which fees can't buy

If you fail or succeed, it may be due to outside factors or not. When I was here in the early 80's, I studied art – I was terrible at making art but I enjoyed it – and one thing stuck with me. We were taught that although we might like or not like a piece of art, we also had to try to understand it from the point of view of the artist – what he or she was trying to achieve.

No one else could define that for them; it was their art, whether or not other people saw it the same way. Your lives are the same; when you're an "old girl" you'll find you care less and less about what other people think, but more about meeting your own standards and fulfilling your own potential, as you choose to define it.

Which is something no amount of school fees can buy; you have to do it for yourself.

- last year's VCE - St Kevin's - willing to do the work, and cared about his marks.

Last year's top VCE result went to a boy who was, admittedly, at St Kevin's college in Toorak; but he was on a scholarship and it took him an hour and a half to get to school every day. To me, that says he was willing to do the work that was needed, regardless of his circumstances. It also means that he must have cared about his VCE results an awful lot.

- ignore me, but trust me on the sunscreen.

And, as that song said, you should be careful about whose advice you take. so feel free to ignore me.

But trust me on the sunscreen

Wednesday, October 09, 2002


Sapphire Blue
"There is no drama. No blogger rivalry turned ugly, no broken heart, no creepy stalker guy with fifty-seven AOL screen names.
"I just really got to hate my website ... but as long as there was my nifty little home-built CMS there to make it just so easy to update, I would update.
"And then I would think: I really hate my website.
"And then a few days would go by, while I thought of tearing it all down, starting over nostalgic and wistful for 1999, just like everyone else. And then I'd do it again. So here endeth the vicious circle.
"When I come up with something I don't hate, you'll be the first to know."
This means we'll never know if Michelle continued to be able to say she'd seen every panda bear in the US, or if she ever got bored with the view of the Washington Monument from her desk.
You can still browse her picture gallery of cats (named Pixel, Garfield and Quaalude), crocuses and fireworks.

I Hate Married People
"Way too many folks I know IRL (in real life) are armed with browsers and basic information retrieval skills. Find my site they do," writes media personality Helen Razer.
So, as of late August, she has abandoned her lively blog and gone to "an undisclosed locale" which BlogOn is yet to ferret out.
If you come across a blog full of complex sentences and two long words where one short one would do, that'll be Helen. But don't tell any of her friends, admirers or former employers, all of whom seemed to cramp her style.

People are Stupid
With a name like that, and a subtitle reading "a steaming pile of bitter observations", you'd hardly be surprised that this blogger eventually quit. Even the person producing it could easily get tired of this tone of voice:
"Blogs are for losers.
"I've decided that I can think of nothing worth writing, and if I could, it would deserve a more noble place of record than the Internet. I do not wish to add to the stink of this toilet ... I've grown to love you during our short season together but really, I must go."
When blogging, he or she liked to paraphrase the New York Times' front page (blah blah blah) and post fake personal ads online for no clear reason except laughing at the responses.
He or she does have some redeeming niceness; a fondness for Beethoven to the point where one posts lists why each favourite is good, and ... well, that's about it in the niceness department, actually.

Damn the Pacific
This is more a blog with a broken heart than a dead one.
It was set up to support the Internet romance of a Melbourne lad, Stu, and an American girl, Lane.
Contributions to their air ticket fund and general cheering from the sidelines were encouraged by their out-loud online yearnings. Now they're "taking a few months off" and refunds for the planned second flight are being offered.
The archives have been taken down, but both Stu and Lane have blogs of their own, linked to Damn the Pacific.
It looks like they're coping OK.
it is now illegal to eat cats and dogs in Victoria, Australia.
will someone please buy me a pair of noise-cancelling headphones? or a gag? (for the loud subeditor on my left, not me!).
it's 9.20 friggin' am. the only reason to be here is to write in peace (and because I'm nicking off early to give a speech). why would I want to hear about his water tank?
I wouldn't.

oh well. if you can't have quiet, you can have Courtney Love at full volume.
I am .../doll parts/ doll eyes/ doll heart/

Tuesday, October 08, 2002

gratuituous demographic info for Victorian cities.
something else there should be a word for: entering a room and getting the distinct feeling that something really interesting has just happened. and that no one is going to tell you what.
but not very rationally, on further examination. yawn.
slashdot is talking blogging

Monday, October 07, 2002

if you're in Australia, you can email the high commissioner from Nigeria here to protest at the stoning death sentence of Amina Lawal. please use your real name.

links for other countries are here.
a list of transvestite and transgender blogs. just in case you were looking for same.
today's sighting: a genuine, non-ironic, pale-blue, short-sleeved, polyester safari suit, teamed with large yellow sunglasses. funny old bloke. he probably thought he looked way cool.
camgirl to read
blog title: contrary to popular opinion
must scan and upload my mirror project photo. it's 11 yrs old

I think I'd like to go to this next year. not many conferences have sessions about, and by, webcam operators.
octapod in new south wales. I've been looking for this.

Sunday, October 06, 2002

"The youth of Islam are preparing something to strike fear in your hearts and will target the vital sectors of your economy until you renounce your injustice and hostility."

what are they going to do? blow up all the fast food restaurants? interesting wording: "vital sectors of your economy".

heh. On Thursday I'm going up to my Old School (19 years since I was there) to give a talk to the assembled "girls" of the house I was in at their annual dinner.
Have tentatively titled it: "One day you'll be an Old Girl too, or why your parents are wasting their money on your school fees."
Am also quite annoyed I left the keys to our (real) house at the house-sit place, as I was vaguely and wickedly considering wearing my old school uniform, or at least the blazer, to the dinner.
my goodness.
while I've been tootling around having a very ordinary, regular weekend, Batgrl had to board her house up and evacuate to East Texas to get away from the cyclone. she has such an exciting life; not always in the ways one would wish for her, though.
too busy ticking things off my list.

a couple of random thoughts: the square face of Luigi, who once lived in our house, in a photograph we found there. his nameless wife beside him, skin shining and smooth as if it had been polished with olive oil; and mabye it had.

and the sad sock puppet who was accidentally put in the sock drawer, but couldn't complain because he was surrounded by pairs of socks that lived in fear of being chosen, until one twin valiantly went to the Other Side to save his mate from any further contact with smelly toes.

that'swhere all the odd socks go.

and memes in general as a possible topic of study: the slow way something like, say, painting Kombi vans in flowers and patterns spread, but is now recognisably a meme, compared to the speed and the vectors travelled of Web memes.

Thursday, October 03, 2002

oh dear. looks like they're not guppy eggs; guppies actually "give birth". they're probably snail eggs. we are about to be invaded. I was wondering why the snails hadn't eaten the eggs.
guppy breeding info.nice to know the parents will only eat one in five, if I let them get nice and big first.
I didn't ask to breed guppies. I rescued them from my nephew, and now there are eggs and I have to run around getting baby guppy food and God knows what else.
blogon. just when you thought I'd done the most obscure topics ever, it gets esoteric-er.
(note gratuitous Keeshond reference in last one. yes I am obsessed with fluffy dogs.)

Wendy's Knitting Blog
Do the socks match up? How do you attach a sleeve to a body? Can you avoid beggars on the subway by pretending not to speak English?
Wendy has all the answers. A self-confessed knitting nut, she details the pitfalls of patterns, then posts the results, which seem to be enormously helpful to her fellow knitters.
She's a wool hoarder, too: "I've probably got enough wool for two years' worth of projects. I haven't exactly inventoried it because I'm a little scared to."
Wendy muses on why so many knitters seem to have cats and offers links to quizzes where you can discover what kind of sheep you are!

The Red Sweater
Jamie and Eva, of The Red Sweater, blog about their progress in knitting and purling jumpers and in creating little linen dresses.
If you thought knitting was no big deal, have your eyes opened here: Jamie worries about finding a replacement for her "precious but discontinued Rowan Chunky Soft" wool, and notes that wooden knitting needles are still allowed on aeroplanes in the US.
Enthusiastic links to new sources of patterns abound and there are links to yet more knitting blogs.
The pair have a gallery section where you can see their work. But it's not for sale; this is strictly a labour of love.

Flaming Design

Trina doesn't just knit; she designs. She gets excited about scarves and hats, low-cut jumpers and multicoloured fabric objects of all kinds.
She links to artists who work in fibres and tracks down obscure knitting magazines.
Like most other blogging knitters, she's passionate: "I can hardly contain my excitement ... I found a yarn store in the UK, Bobbins, who sell (wait for it) Colinette yarn! And kits! And by mail order! I want, I want, I want. OK, breathe deeply."
In between her fabric work, she blogs about her travels in Britain, visits art shows and sometimes goes to the movies; she notes that Nicole Kidman knits in her latest flick.

So Much Fibre, So Little Time
Everyone's got to have a gimmick. In the case of Katherine, she not only knits, she spins her own wool. From her dog's coat.
The rather attractive results are auctioned off in aid of a dog rescue service and displayed on her site.
There are lots of details of her weaving projects, links to sites with music she likes to work to and the odd cute photo of the dog, who seems to have a lot of wool left over.
She informs us that next week (October 7-14), is Spinning and Weaving Week. Motto: "Spin Hard. Dye Fast. And leave beautiful warps."

Wednesday, October 02, 2002

have found another use for Google: typing in words I'm not sure of the correct spelling for, like arrivederci, and letting the engine correct me. also finding sites; just mailed another journo asking for a site he mentioned. he sent me back not the URL, but the keywords that would bring it up on Google.
a bit of advice?
when you get a contract, read the thing.
my loan restructuring with the bank was going fine. I wasn't rushing, but when I got around to signing the documents, I noticed a tiny dot point on page 7. "a/c # 97077097" (not my actual # of course). this is another loan altogether. this was the only mention of it.
turns out that yes, it did in fact mean they were going to take my restructured loan and pay off the second one with it. which would be utterly pointless and necessitate HOURS of fixing.
banks. love or hate them, you've got to hate them. It isn't just me, is it?
car parks at the beach in early morning; young women in track pants, ponytails bouncing, pushing their babies. men sitting in corporate cars, staring out to sea. pairs and triplets of blokes standing around the opened doors old Commodores, doing some illegal deal.

all of them choosing not to notice each other.

Tuesday, October 01, 2002

but it's not nice and quiet at my desk.
playing Courtney Love at top volume on my crappy headphones in order to drown out the sound of a work experience guy chatting to someone in NSW about eel breeding habits.
have stupidly volunteered to do a news yarn, which always fills me with stress.
it's nice and quiet in here.
maybe I won't rush to reinstall comments.
I'd be getting home earlier, if it wasn't for the sunsets.
most of my 25 k ride home is along the beach road bike path.
and so far, each night (this was the third I rode home) has turned on an amazing sunset over the bay and the hills on the other side.
the first two were great balls of fire sinking behind the hills.
tonight it was cloudier, fat Melbourne clouds with patches of blue.
about five minutes before sunset I came to a boardwalk high above an indentation in the dunes; the scrubby bush stretched about 75 m down a steep slope to the sea, forming a half-bowl shape
out on the water, a dozen black boats from supertanker to one-man dinghy were silhouetted on the gently rippling blue-grey water.
as the sun set, the cloud around it started to glow like the heart of a coal.
instead of one bright circle, the sun seemed to be flattened between the horizon and the clouds, forming a strip of flame and casting red shadows on the water.
it got brighter and brighter - I still have a residual black line on my vision from staring - and the circle of red cloud grew up and out.
another cyclist stopped further down the boardwalk, probably because I was staring out so intently.
cars drove past, glancing out. the boats were in the sunset, and I hope they weren't fishing.

eventually the grey started to take over again. instead of the red light coming through the clouds, it touched their underneaths and it was dusk.

I guess that happens down here every night.