101 things about me

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Regret is insight that comes a day too late...

The Queen of the Netherlands ship entered Port Phillip Bay just before 8am yesterday morning. Her arrival marks the imminent dredging of the bay, that for all their assurances, the government cannot possibly guarantee as environmentally sound.

Regardless of their continued talk, I don't believe them. I believe it is a disaster waiting to happen. I believe that it should not go ahead. I believe that the people who are elected to protect and support environmental issues (Peter Garrett, I'm talking to you) should be held accountable if they back down and allow this to go ahead.

Regardless of concerns from many quarters including transport, environmental, academic and community groups, I expect the dredging will go ahead.

Without doubt it is going to have an environmental impact on the area. Tearing up the ocean floor and dumping it elsewhere must have an impact. It is inevitable. There can be NO guarantees that all will be well.

Let us hope that in 10 years time (or 2 or 20) we do not look back and regret what has been allowed to happen despite our protests.

Picture from The Age website, 29/01/08. 'Regret' quote - anon.

Sunday, 27 January 2008

This is what I am scared of...

"This is..." is a new idea from Angela at Three Buttons. Each week there will be a new theme (nominated earlier in the week by a fellow blogger) and published on a Sunday. This Sunday is "This is... what scares me"

I have cheated a little, because I am about to tell you that I have now been cured of my biggest fear. Like many others I was once terrified of spiders. I am happy to say, I am now cured. Yes, it's true. There is hope for all arachnophobes. This was first posted in May 2007 and this is my story... read on, don't be scared...

Did Someone Say Spider?
As anyone who knows me (and anyone within earshot of my flat) would know - I have been terrified of spiders forever (well, for as long as I can remember anyway).

If there was ever a spider anywhere in the house as I grew up, it had to be removed before I went to bed. I became hysterical when a huntsman ran across my lap in the back of a friend's car. My response resulted in a screeching of brakes and an equally hysterical group of teenaged girls throwing themselves from the car as it was still drawing to a stop.

I will always remember the story of a childhood friend whose brother had strapped on his motorcycle helmet, only to feel the leg of a huntsman spider stretch down onto his forehead. The vision of one arachnophobic biker trying to unbuckle his helmet as 3 screaming women ran around him incapable of assisting, has left a lasting impression.

In my twenties, as I planned 4 months of travel in Africa, friends and family asked how I would cope with the spiders. I told them I would just have to deal with it. And so, on the night when hundreds of spiders ran across the ground as darkness fell across the Serengeti, I retreated to the truck. On the night I was meant to sleep in a grass roofed hut in Zaire, and half a dozen spiders and a few scorpions scuttled across the floor within minutes of the lights being dimmed, I slept outside. No safer in reality, but at least there was more space to run away if I had to!

Just last year, when I came across a huntsman in my kitchen one morning at 6am, and I had to get a neighbour to come and remove it with a vacuum cleaner, I finally admitted to myself it was more than a little ridiculous and something had to be done. It was time to meet the phobia head-on and deal with it.

Through some searching of the internet, I found Taronga Zoo in Sydney has a 'Fearless at Taronga' program. It is four and a half hours of education, talk, laughter, reality, hypnosis, relaxation techniques, NLP and confrontation. The team of Tooronga experts were given the responsibility of freeing a group of 12 arachnophobes of their terror of all things eight legged. With each one of us, they had a lifetime of fear to conquer. Without doubt, it was a big ask.

There were promises of handling huntsman spiders and even the possibility of holding a Chilean Rose spider (tarantula). When I enrolled in the course, I decided holding the Chilean Rose spider would be my main focus on the day and a measure of my success. There were no guarantees, but with a previous 100% success rate of ridding all participants of their fear, it had to be worth the trip to Sydney. It had to be done.

I arrived at Taronga with high expectations and I am happy to say I was not disappointed. This has got to be one of THE most amazing thing I have EVER done. For a life that has so far included seeing gorillas in the jungles of Rwanda, white water rafting in the USA and more recently a year that has included swimming with dolphins and jumping from a plane at 10,000+ feet, that's saying something!

I had a GREAT day. It was all I had hoped for and more. I could not believe the change across just 4 1/2 hours! As I said earlier, I had been terrified of spiders for as long as I can remember and to be totally freed from the paralysis of fear is incredible. I did all I had hoped. I held the Chilean Rose spider, a real tarantula, in my bare hands. I then caught huntsman spiders and held a couple, letting them run across my hands. Can you believe it? I can barely believe it myself. I now feel more than comfortable with a face to face encounter with a huntsman spider anytime in the future.

If you have shuddered as you read this post, felt a lurch in your stomach, the prickle of cold sweat has appeared on you forehead or you have even felt like vomiting at the thought of touching a spider, this program is for you. IF you are as terrified of spiders as I was, and you have managed to read this far, REALLY REALLY consider taking part in their next course. You would not be disappointed. All the team were fantastic, in particular Warrick (the zoo's spider expert and handler) and Sarah-Jane (hypnotist). The rest of the support team were really supportive too - and their enthusiasm was genuinely contagious.

I can honestly count it as a life changing experience. Really. This is no exaggeration. I actually held a Chilean Rose spider. A real, hairy, hand filling, live tarantula, in my own bare hands. Oh my God. It was amazing. It was the experience of a lifetime. If I can do that - I reckon I can do just about anything.

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Just call me Veruca...

While reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl (and watching the movie from an early age), I have always likened myself to the character of Charlie Bucket. Perhaps because owning a chocolate factory is a dream come true, but mostly because I was always the goody goody. His honesty won him the ultimate prize and I figured being honest could make all my dreams come true.

If I am totally honest, there are elements of each character to which I could relate though not necesarily admire. Whilst Mike Teavee was the least appealing character for me (anyone so obsessed with TV and technology was never going to be a fave) I had to admire his sense of adventure! Augustus Gloop's enthusiasm of chocolate alone won me over. Once his greed took over however, he just became repulsive.

Violet Beauregarde - well she was willing to try anything... and whilst greed also became her downfall, you had to admire her curious nature.

All of the children (and ALL of their parents) were pretty obnoxious really (even Charlie I'm afraid to say) but Veruca Salt was the ultimate in the horror child category.

Veruca Salt had no redeeming features (or rather none that anyone but her adoring father could see). The spoiled brat, she demanded anything she wanted and threw tantrums until her parents acquiesced to her wishes. You could hardly blame her I suppose, given that the method worked without fail, she used it consistently with great success.

Veruca's demanding self centred characteristics are traits I don't generally admire. But yesterday I said good-bye to Charlie Bucket and I embraced the spirit of Veruca.

I had made my decision. I wanted my new computer. And given that I had waited so long to come to this conclusion... I wanted it NOW! No waiting. NOW!

And... you guessed it (power to my inner Veruca)... I wanted it. I got it. I feel like I've won the golden ticket!

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Too young to die...

I'm not sure why, but somehow, when someone famous dies, it is almost as if the loss is personal. Maybe it is because we have watched them in movies, heard their interviews, sympathised with their loss of privacy or simply it may just be because they have touched our lives through their art. The death of Heath Ledger is one such moment.

To buy or not to buy... That is the question!

I desperately need to upgrade my home computer. It drives me crazy. It is a small ibook that has passed it's prime and whilst it has been a trusty companion, the time has come to bite the bullet and upgrade to something better. A computer that doesn't take 30 seconds to move down the scroll bar, a computer with a screen that doesn't cause me eye strain, and a computer that is agreeable and doesn't cause me cursing and undue stress.

I have been eyeing off an imac for a while now. I have to get an apple. It's part need (I work in graphics) and part desire (you've got to admit they have a certain street cred that pc's lack)... I find pcs clumsy and illogical (maybe that's just me) and new or not, a new pc would be headed very quickly through the nearest window!

You can argue with me on the advantages of pcs, I have heard it all before, but I will not be convinced. Call me stubborn. That's fine. But I am apple through and through.

I am very like my parents in many ways. Some things I like (they are both healthy, active and intelligent) and some things (like hairy legs) are not so good!

I am like my father - I am a procrastinator. I am like my mother - I am not good at spending money on myself. It makes me nervous. Put the two traits together and you will understand why it takes me so long to make a decision. Throw in being a Libran to boot and geez, I'm surprised I get out the door in the mornings!

In reality, I can actually justify the purchase. I will be able to use it for work. My work. The creative stuff I want to be doing more. I will be able to use InDesign and illustrator and play (and learn more) photoshop. I want to set up an ETSY store, but at the moment (apart from all my other excuses) my little ibook wouldn't cope with the extra workload. I will be able to listen to itunes at the same time as surfing the net! And I will be able to watch a movie clip without having to force quit or reboot. I will be able to store things on my hard drive instead of carrying them on a memory stick. What am I waiting for?

With a new computer I will be able to blog more easily without the nightly tantrums about wasting my time when I don't have time to waste! That alone would be worth the money. Just ask Mal. He retreats into the other room once the ranting begins and continues to take cover until I emerge with a few more grey hairs and an overworn apology.

It is time. Sigh!

Sunday, 20 January 2008

This is...

This is ...my favourite cup.

I bought it in London about 17 years ago. It is by an artist called Josie Firmin. She's still around (I have just done a google) but I like the mug I have better than all of her current work.

It has been through the wars a little. It has no handle and it has a couple of chips along the rim. Nothing 'cat'astrophic. Regardless, I couldn't bare throw it out. It now has a home in my kitchen holding another of my favourite things... pens. I have a supply of pens that will last me until I am well into my eighties (if I am lucky enough to still be around then).

"This is..." is a new idea from Angela at Three Buttons. Each week there will be a new theme (nominated earlier in the week by a fellow blogger) and published on a Sunday.

Come join in if you like.
The more the merrier!

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Armed and Dangerous...

Today as I drove to work, I saw my life flash before me.

I seriously believed I was about to be involved in a serious car accident. Two cars beside me were so close to colliding (a collision which would have involved me and possibly two or three other vehicles) and I am still astounded they missed each other. Thankfully for us all, the accident was avoided. Without going into details, I can say it was only a combination of hard braking, quick lane changing and a large amount of luck that saw us through unscathed. There followed loud greetings with horns from numerous vehicles in the vicinity and much animated gesticulation. It made my heart thump a few decibels louder I can tell you!

What scares me is that I share the roads with these people on a daily basis and not only are they putting their own lives at risk (and whoever is unlucky enough to be travelling with them) they are also endangering me! It continually astounds me that so many drivers are so agressive, so impatient and so incompetent.

And so here follows, a substantial list of some of the dangerous driving practices I see regularly on the road. This is my chance to get it off my chest... Feel free to join in by adding your experiences to the comments at the end of the post.

Bad drivers and what 'cheeses me off'
(Aussie term meaning what gives me the s**ts!)...
Dangerous lane changing - zig zagging between cars in heavy traffic at great speed with limited space (more often than not to little or no advantage)
Cutting across three lanes to avoid missing a turn off. Check the signs people.
Tail gating. The practice of driving at full pelt within feet of the car in front is crazy.
Does anyone realise that undertaking is actually illegal?
But then, what alternative do you have when the right lane (the fast lane for Australia) is blocked by some moron driving at 85kmph (in a 100km zone), refusing to budge!
Swapping lanes into the lane in front of me, and then slowing down.
Cutting into limited space between cars, when there is more than enough space after.
Overtaking on double lines (illegal in Australia and all other countries I have visited)!
Beeping when the lights have JUST changed.
Patience people! Patience!
Overtaking dangerously and then turning at the next intersection!

And then there's the tunnel. The speed limit is 80kms an hour. Not 65! What is it with people who decide (because we all know there are speed cameras in the tunnel) that they have to go at least 10km UNDER the limit? Funnily enough, these are often the same people who charged past earlier breaking the land speed record!

And speaking of that, don't you just love the people who INSIST on doing 80 on 100km country roads and then when the opportunity arises to pass - you guessed it -THEY SPEED UP! ARRRRGGGGHHHHH!!!!

Drink driving? Don't even start me on this one!
Get a taxi. Get a bus. Get a LIFE!

OK, I'm guessing you are sensing a little of my frustration by now. Certainly it is difficult to stay calm and be patient sometimes. But these are the times when patience and tolerance is required most.

And yet, how can you be tolerant of this sort of behaviour...

Just last week, as Ames was driving along the Geelong-Melbourne Highway to work, she noticed a fellow driver with a large book balanced on their steering wheel. Yes - believe it or not - this person was READING as they headed down the highway at 100kms an hour! Aye aye aye!

I have seen people putting on make-up and people getting changed! I know someone who eats his breakfast (a bowl of cereal complete with milk) as he drives to work as he is always running late! I have even seen someone driving at 100kmsph, eating KFC AND puffing on a cigarette (yuck) - yes all while in 'control' of a vehicle. I have no doubt if the mobile had rung they would have answered that too!

These people are out there. They share our roads. They forget their manners and they neglect the most rudimentary laws. They don't carry guns, they aren't crazy terrorists. These are people like you, like me, forget that the vehicle they are driving is as good as a loaded weapon. Breathe people breathe.

Drive carefully... and I will endeavour to do the same!

Monday, 14 January 2008

Quote of the Day

Our lives are not determined by what happens to us but by how we react to what happens, not by what life brings to us, but by the attitude we bring to life.
A positive attitude causes a chain reaction of positive thoughts, events, and outcomes.
It is a catalyst, a spark that creates extraordinary results.

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

The Big Tidy Up

Jennifer knew,
as well as you,
that everything
has it's place...
But she didn't care
a whit, a bit,
so her room
was a real disgrace!

So begins my favourite childhood story: The Big Tidy Up!
My mother could probably recite it word for word if I asked her. In fact, if I said the first few words, she would be impossible to stop until the end. The Big Tidy Up was almost definitely responsible for my need to declutter and my agitation at mess... but that is another story for another time!

I was lucky. I grew up in a family of readers. My mother read to me and my two older brothers every night before the lights were put out. Captain Pugwash was a favourite (for Mum and the three of us kids) as she drew us into a world of pirates and adventure. She always used the voices of the characters... hushed whispers followed by frightening pirates, always making us jump and squeal even though we knew exactly what was about to happen!

A little bull called Ferdinand who refused to fight, preferring instead to sit centre bull-ring smelling the roses was also a regular. I have memories of our introductions to Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy and the characters of Narnia and was a huge fan of Laura Ingalls and her family. These characters coloured my childhood and encouraged imagination and a love of literature for us all. My brothers' frayed copies of Catweazle and the Swallows and Amazons series still sit expectantly on the bookshelves in my parent's home too treasured to discard.

A few years back, when I was living overseas, I said to my mum (who was in the middle of a clean out frenzy at the time) that she could donate all my books to the local St. Vinnies with the exception of a few named favourites. The Big Tidy Up was high on the list.

It wasn't until earlier last year that my mother made her guilty confession. She couldn't find it. She had a fine excuse. As a teacher for many years it is possible that she took it to read to one of her classes and that was where it remained. Now, many years later, I do not expect to see it again.

But fear not. Surely rescue (Enid Blyton style) in the form of Amazon is just around the corner...

I typed in "The Big Tidy Up" and it offered it to me at the bargain price of (wait for it) $124. It has not been published since 1972! Somewhat in shock, I was not discouraged entirely. Whilst I had resigned myself to never turn those familliar pages again, I decided to recheck, only to find (Hurrah! hurrah!) that it is being re-published in 2008. Amazon has it available to preorder for $8.99!

I am expecting it's arrival not long after May 13, 2008! Hurrah!

So what are your memories of childhood reading. What were your favourites? Gems that you loved and could quote word for word. Stories that still make you smile...

It's the end of the world as we know it...

Last week-end I watched "I am Legend" and it has played on my mind ever since...

I generally avoid movies that stress me out with violence and in particular horror. I don't like to watch movies that have me alternately watching through my fingers and then holding my breath waiting for something terrifying just around the corner. And yet, whilst it is easy to concentrate on the 'horror' aspect of the mutant humans in "I am Legend" and the fear they instill, for me that was just the beginning. The plot, as I tried to recount it to a friend today, sounds pretty ludicrous. It is flawed in part and yet the real horror for me is it is not totally beyond belief. As I said, it got me to thinking...

What, in the name of medicine, are we doing? What are we doing, leaving so much power in the hands of our scientists and leaders? Can anyone of them be trusted? And if they cannot be trusted, what chance do we have? If we don't trust them, what chance do we have? Do we have any control over ANYTHING?

Imagine being the last person on earth.
The very LAST person on earth.
The last living human, with no knowledge of any other being.
No one to talk to, to see, to touch. Not another living soul.

Given similar circumstances...
Would I have the ability to survive, to be totally (totally) alone?
Would I retain the will to live or would I just give up?
Would my drive for life outweigh my fear of isolation?

Of what would I be capable in the name of survival?
When I believed there was no-one else out there, would I remain sane or lose the plot? Would sanity even exist?
Would I decide to live or make a conscious decision to die?
Would I live more bravely or more carefully?
Would my isolation drive me to a life of fear or a life of freedom?

How long would it take for the bindings of 'civilization' to fall away?
I suspect not long.

Would I search for possible survivors like myself, or would I wait for them to find me? Would I want to be found or would I prefer to selfishly hoard any means of survival, knowing that sharing them could weaken my own chances?

I hope I will never know. It was only a movie afterall. Fiction yes?
As I said earlier, it just got me to thinking..

Friday, 4 January 2008

Feelin' hot hot hot!

Melbourne is known by it's residents as capable of four seasons in one day. It is often erratic and unpredictable. Umbrella's are carried year-round by many locals, even when the weatherman has promised a fine day. It is currently summertime in Melbourne and true to form, we are being treated to lots of hot weather.

For those of you in Melbourne, you will know what I am talking about, but you will probably NOT be reading this post however, as you will most likely be down the beach or cooling yourself poolside. For those of you who are elsewhere (maybe even in snowy climes overseas) this is just a taster of what it's been like for a while now...

New Years eve was 42 degrees. At 37, there was no respite on New Years Day. No rain. No thunderstorm or summer downpour to clear the air. No such luck. It was relentless. It was so hot, we retreated gladly into my relatively cool flat with a few cold drinks and a DVD.

When we eventually reappeared it was to make an air-conditioned dash to the local Kmart where we purchased a pedestal fan (which by the way, at $14.95 is an absolute bargain!) to circulate the air at home...

As the coast-bound roads ground to a slow crawl, the beaches reached fever pitch and the city grew quiet, we decided staying at home was a good decision. Local retailers ran out of ice and many homes found themselves without electricity when the power companies were overwhelmed by demand.

While we stayed at home, down the coast a section of highway melted and travellers were diverted to single lane local streets where they crawled their way slowly to their destinations. People headed for the coast spent hours in their cars, battling with every other city dweller trying to escape. Finally they found their small patch of sand and then alternately cooled themselves in icy surf and baked (fried) themselves under the sun.

My flat, as I have said, is relatively cool. Whilst in winter it is tending more toward Arctic, in summer I forget my cursing. The benefits of its 1930's double brick and ground floor positioning is a blessing. For a few days at least, if we close out the worst of the heat, we remain immune.

The plumbing is not so protected from the heat however. By 11am the cold water tap is running at a temperature warm enough to do the dishes. By 1pm, laundry shrinks in a cold wash. If I want to clean my teeth without scolding myself, I have to get water from the fridge. By 3pm, when I flush the toilet, I notice steam coming from the bowl.

Leaving the flat is like taking a walk in a fan forced oven. It is intense. Nighttime brings a little relief. And then as the sun rises on a new day, it starts all over again. Yep it's official. Wherever we are, whatever we are doing, we're all feelin' hot hot hot.

Today is 35 degrees. Tomorrow is Saturday and the forecast is for another day of 37... maybe if we get going early enough, a trip to the beach might be in order.

Time for a cold drink... Cheers!