Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Things I Learnt In 2008

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

This past year has been a big one for me. Several major aspects of my life changed in 2008, most of them of my own choosing. Life teaches us valuable lessons and here are a few of the most important ones I learnt in 2008:

1. Your 'dream job' might suck

For years, my 'dream job' was a role at a Borders bookstore. Early last year, I scored myself a part time role in my local store. What I expected to be a dream role turned into a whole lot of hard work with little pay-off. It may have been working in a bookshop, but it was still a retail role and I never realised - retail is a pain! Therefore, don't assume that what looks like a 'dream role' is any better than your current job. It might actually be worse.

2. Outsourcing can be great, if done right

I work for an outsourcing company. In my role, I get a unique perspective on the merits and pitfalls of outsourcing aspects of your business to another company. I can honestly say - outsourcing can be a good thing, but it can also be a very bad thing. Haphazardly outsourcing departments is bad, a company must be smart about the things they outsource. I'm reminded of Qantas - as soon as they outsourced their maintenance, their resplendent safety record was muddied by numerous incidents.

3. You really should listen to other people, particularly your mother

For years, my mum has told me that I should see a naturopath. I have been in poor health for quite a while, but I dismissed her suggestion of seeking natural therapy. Recently, I discovered I have food intolerances. Had I gone to a naturopath, those intolerances would have been discovered, potentially sparing me years of feeling seedy.

Happy New Year everyone!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Put Your Hand Up If You're Surprised

Tuesday, December 30, 2008
One of today's biggest new stories is the impending downturn in Australian tourism. The story can be found here. Experts have predicted a $500 million fall in revenue. I have one question - is anyone surprised? The media made the announcement as if it was some astonishing revelation. Surely nobody was shocked by this? 

I struggle to believe that anyone in Australia hasn't heard that we are in a financial crisis. Wouldn't most, if not all Australians think: "Hmm, I expect there'll be a downturn in business, including my industry." Isn't it common knowledge that we are in for hard economic times? I've heard that sentiment repeated numerous times.

If this story is any guide, yes - there are quite a few people who haven't thought about the repercussions of a Wall Street wipeout. There are a lot of people, some in tourism, who will be genuinely shocked by this news. Isn't that amazing? Surely, Australians are not that ignorant?

This story could have spotlighted a number of industries - hospitality, financial services or retail and the outcome would be the same - a huge fall in revenue. It's glaringly obvious - when the world is in a financial crisis, there isn't as much money changing hand. We need to brace ourselves for this - we need to hunker down for the winter ahead. Gather your chestnuts, people. It's gonna be a cold one.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Don't Believe the Trailer

Sunday, December 28, 2008

My dad and I went to the cinema yesterday and saw the remake to "The Day The Earth Stood Still". Both of us are fans of science fiction, so we know a good sci-fi flick when we see it. Unfortunately, this wasn't one of them.

The plot is somewhat similar to the original - an alien emissary is sent to deliver an important message to the human race. We don't exactly welcome this visitor with open arms and destruction and mayhem ensue. I think the movie started with a really good premise - what appears to be an invasion is actually an intervention. However, this movie takes the initial good ideas, throws them on the ground, beats them with a large stick and then throws boulders on them. That's how badly they messed this up.

There are several problems with this film. Firstly, they turn it into a Greenpeace sermon. It's as if this movie director thought we needed to be told - again - that we are destroying the planet. Secondly, instead of focusing on the action and intrigue, this film veers into the drama genre. About halfway through, the film becomes about the relationship between Klaatu and the son of the female lead, Jacob. This seems like laziness on the part of the writer/director - soopy, unbelievable drama is easier than developing tight, suspenseful action. Did they even consider the target audience when they made this movie? Thirdly, it wasn't an enjoyable movie to sit through. I did not feel entertained or moved or excited, it was too pedestrian and predictable and bland for that. Suprisingly, this film was quite anti-American. Several times, the American policy of 'shoot now, ask questions later' is shown to be foolhardy. 

I will admit, some things in the film were kinda cool. Seeing the modern update of GORT was intriguing. Some of GORT's defence mechanisms had me going "Oooh, ah!" However, you can't hang a movie on cool little tidbits. After seeing a large proportion of average movies at the cinema, I ask myself - why do I even bother going?

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Oh Wow! Thank You! *cough, cough*

Saturday, December 27, 2008

It’s a universal complaint that can heard in almost any lounge room in Australia on December 26th. While sitting in front of the TV, belly full of ham, roast potatoes and pudding, someone will complain about a gift they were given the day before. The question that is always asked is simply: “Why did he/she think I’d like that for Christmas?”

Don’t you love it? That look on the person’s face as they rip the paper off the present. As they catch a glimpse of the item underneath, they momentarily give away the fact that they are disappointed, confused and unhappy. That expression is quickly followed by a smile, ear to ear, and a hug and a kiss to the giver. Why do we put ourselves through this each year?

My immediate family are generally good at picking gifts. It was a bit touch-and-go one year (my mother almost bought me an electric toothbrush) but I’ve never had a profoundly bad gift given by my parents or my siblings. I can’t say the same thing about distant family members. One relative has continually upped the ante, year after year. He started up his own business, making gourmet food products. Slowly but surely, he has replaced dollar value presents with his self-made food items which cost him very little to produce. Bear in mind, I’m talking about obscure things like jams and sauces. Hardly something I can get excited about…

Like everyone else, I have relatives who I see only a couple of times a year. I’ve noticed that these relatives tend to give generic, gender-specific gifts, for example, all the adult men might get a deodorant and aftershave pack. This is acceptable – it’s too hard to buy individual gifts for every person. However, a few times my distant relatives have picked out something especially for me, and most of those times, my thought has been – you really shouldn’t have. Recently, a relative gave me a book about stamps which related to Australian history. She was so excited by it, because she knew I liked stamps. The truth was, I had liked them a decade ago, but that passion fizzled out about the same time I stopped reading Famous Five novels.

If you speak up and say you don’t like what someone has given you, you’ll be considered terribly rude. However, if you don’t speak up, it will keep happening year after year. What can we do to solve this most universal of problems? I propose that next year, we have a bad gift honesty armistice. For one year, everyone who receives an undesirable gift can inform the giver that they made a bad choice. No-one is allowed to get offended or hold grudges against the receiver who speaks up and offers their opinion. Wouldn't that be great? 

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

It’s Not About The Presents

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

I remember being a child and going along to church around Christmas time. The preacher would always make a point to inform us that Christmas is not about presents. “No,” he would say, “it is about the birth of Christ and as Christians, we should celebrate that event with joy.” I get the impression that most kids are told something similar, whether it comes from a religious slant or not – that Christmas has a higher purpose than gifts. It’s about coming together, helping those left fortunate and generally being a good human being.

This year, my immediate family are putting that to the test. We aren’t giving each other Christmas gifts. Shock, horror! “You can’t mess with the present tradition!” I can almost hear my ten year old self shouting from the deep recesses of time past. 

My mum and I talked about our present-less Christmas day. The question was asked: “What should we do to make this special?” My mind turned back to a memorable Christmas when I was ten or eleven. I vividly remember that at 11am, before the big Christmas lunch, my mum served us Asian nibblies. We had spring rolls, curry puffs and money bags with a thai curry sauce. They tasted amazingly good. I remember that the day felt incredibly significant because of that one meal. Christmas lunch was always special, but this added another layer of specialness on top! 

After relaying this story to my mum, we decided to have an Asian feast on Christmas day. This year, we will have a HUGE Asian-inspired meal, shunning the traditional leg of ham for something decidedly different. If I can somehow relive that joy of that extra-special Christmas with the Asian nibblies, I’ll be satisfied, with or without gifts.

Not That Into Christmas

Is it just me, or is Christmas kind of average this year? Most years, there will be a subtle yet definite lead up to the Christmas week. The holiday is almost upon us and yet I don’t feel that usual sense of anticipation and glee. 

Am I getting old, or is everyone else feeling the same way? I’ve noticed that fewer houses are decorated for the season this year. Instead of the usual intense displays of Christmas lights, nativity scenes and decorations that adorn many houses, only a few motivated souls have bothered to decorate their property. Has the Christmas spirit evaporated? Or are some people still excited by this time of year?

I could be wrong in this, but it feels like the majority of people are ‘over it’. Perhaps the doom and gloom of the financial crisis has stolen Christmas’ thunder. Or maybe, just maybe, people have grown weary of the short-lived joy of giving gifts to people who already have everything they need? 

Monday, December 22, 2008

Gosh, Don’t I Feel Stupid Now?

Monday, December 22, 2008

In my very first post, I talked about how difficult I found Wordpress and that the steep learning curve turned me off blogging for almost a year. In that post, I talked about the apparent simplicity of Blogger. I was excited by the prospect of an intuitive, easy-to-use service which allowed me to focus on writing instead of wrestling with it to do what I want. Unfortunately, this excitement was short-lived. After posting my first blog entry, I discovered that the body text was very, very small. It was so small that I almost had to squint to read complete sentences. I knew that I needed to fix it, because who’s going to have the patience to read a blog that looks like it was formatted to be read by mice, rats and other small rodents?

I had downloaded a new template and I suspected it was set to display text ridiculously small. I searched online to find the correct line of code to edit in the raw HTML (something which I know a tiny, little bit about). This took a long time, because I couldn’t seem to find the right block of code to edit. I managed to edit everything else, but not the body text size. Next, I tried to change the text size in the Page Elements tab. This allowed me to change everything except the body text size. Finally, I tried to edit the post itself. The text had been copied from Textedit on my Mac and for some reason, the text pasted by default as small size. I quickly changed the text size and hallelujah! After an hour and a half of tinkering, my blog was finally readable.

In my first entry, I mentioned that I have no interest editing CSS and HTML. I don’t enjoy all that mucking around, I find it tedious and boring. However, I was determined to make my new template work. Now that I look at it, I realise that I started with the most difficult solution and worked backwards to the most simple. Isn’t that odd? The problem was, I expected the problem to be more complicated than it actually was. This simplicity thing is going to take some getting used to.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

100% Gluten Free!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

For most of my adult life, I have been very, very tired for no apparent reason. It doesn’t matter how much sleep I get, I always feel lacking in energy. I’ve made attempts to increase my energy, trying vitamins and herbal supplements. None of them have had a lasting effect. Unfortunately, being tired was affecting my social life. I couldn’t be sure from one day to the next whether I would have enough energy to go out with friends. I might agree to go to the movies and then have to cancel on the day because I was so overwhelmingly tired. This wasn’t your average, I-need-a-good-night’s-sleep-but-I-can-soldier-on tired, this was profound exhaustion. At times, my mind was so unresponsive that I couldn’t concentrate to drive. I sold my car because I would rarely, if ever drive it. Being on the road was too much of a danger. 

Recently, it all became too much and I decided to do something about it. I had assumed that I was just stressed and needed time to recuperate. I dropped back to working two days a week but after a month of this, I was feeling worse. After researching on the net, I decided to try going gluten free. This means eliminating all wheat, rye, barley and triticale (whatever that is) from my diet. Also, after having a noticeably bad reaction, I’ve decided to cut out oats as well. 

I’ve been avoiding wheat for a few weeks and have been gluten free for three days. I haven’t seen amazing results yet but I feel better in some ways. It’s a difficult change to make but I’m staying positive. If my fatigue improves dramatically in the coming weeks, I’ll continue gluten free indefinitely.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Squeaky Clean, 100% New Blog!

Friday, December 19, 2008

This will be my second attempt to maintain a blog. My first attempt was going excellently for a couple of weeks. I was inspired to write my quirky little observations of everyday life. However, I quickly became frustrated and gave up. As someone who has little patience for difficult technology and software, I lost interest when my blog service didn’t allow me to use a specific image. I could see the filename on the list of images, but I could NOT work out how to make it display on the blog.

I know this sounds mildly pathetic, but it was enough to turn me off blogging for almost a year. When I use a piece of software or crank up a computer, I just want it to WORK. Is that too much to ask? The significance of my frustration is the fact that I had been blogging with Wordpress.

Anyone who has been blogging for a while knows that there is an ongoing debate between lovers of Blogger and Wordpress fanatics. I Googled “Blogger vs Wordpress” and read through the most relevant results. Some of them compared such things as CSS editing and scripts. That’s fantastic for the techno-savvy, but I just want to know: which one is the easiest? Which one will allow me to write an entry, upload a photo and not HAVE to worry about inconsequential things like CSS editing and scripts?

A friend suggested Blogger because of its ease of use. He finds that Blogger is simple, while Wordpress is involved and unnecessarily complicated. I know there are enough Wordpress fanatics who will vehemently disagree with me. Go right ahead. One day, when I get a bit more interested in blogging, I may join you. But for now, I want to concentrate on writing blog entries, not wrestling the blog service to display one lousy picture.