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Monday, June 28, 2004
Feeling pretty weatherworn this morning after a few days of ups and downs. Coming to work has, to my great lack of surprise, completely failed to cheer me up.
Polly and Gray were in town over the weekend, so we got together on Thursday night and had a good old-fashioned wine and chat night. They’re about to pull up stakes in Grafton (turns out it’s a bit too much of a racist, homophobic, rednecked backwater for them) and relocate to wherever. They tend to travel about until they find somewhere they want to live and then just settle for a while. I envy them their sense of freedom, but I really don’t think that would work for me. I crave familiar things…
Saturday morning we did some hardware shopping. The new sander is fabulous. I can’t believe I just wrote that sentence. Then the usual mad frenzy of cleaning in time for our open house, which Fiona abandoned me to manage solo while she went off to her cousin’s baby shower (bearing a gift of a toy power tool set, which she assures me is exactly the kind of toy she would have loved when she was growing up…).
The open house it self was a bit of a mixed blessing. On the one hand, we had quite a few people through the house and expressing interest – though no offers yet – but on the other hand, one of them was a thief. She (I’m pretty sure I know which person it was, just as I am certain that the name and number they left was false) took a bottle of Fiona’s perfume, some not-cheap skin butter and a few other small trinkets. Nothing major that we know about, but expensive enough that their replacement will sting.
We didn’t discover that anything was missing until the next day, which was just as well, otherwise it might have ruined dinner on Saturday night. We went out to Dijon to celebrate our birthdays (hers yesterday, mine tomorrow). It was very pleasant, thanks for asking, and would have been much less so had we realised how much the weekend was going to end up costing. Grrr.
When we found out I actually felt quite sick. Not so much because I felt responsible because I was at home at the time and should have done something (shoulda, coulda, woulda) and not exactly because it was some great violation of our privacy – you kinda get over that after having strangers into your home every weekend for five or six months. The real reason was that I was really conscientious and attentive to everyone that came in, and that without exception everyone responded well to my big attempt at customer relations. And it sickens me that at least one person was lying to my face, pretending to be interested in the house and asking questions about the location and possible renovations, and that I didn’t for one second become suspicious. It didn’t even cross my mind that someone was looking me in the eye knowing that they had just ripped me off. I will allow myself that I got a very negative vibe about the person that I am now sure was responsible, but I put it down to being annoyed by her weird comments and unusual nosiness (“Why did you pick these colours? I’m a pinks and blues and purples person myself.” Yeah, I just bet you are, you flake). In retrospect, I find her entire ‘performance’ (that’s really the only word for it) to have been ridiculously attention-grabbing, entirely the antithesis of what I would have expected from a practised thief.
Come to think of it, I suppose that might have been the point. Doesn’t make me feel any better though.
So anyway, we discover all this on Sunday, much too late to do anything constructive (apart from resolve always to have one of us hovering around on each floor to make sure no-one is comfortably out of sight), so we sigh and then go to do our usual renovating. And then halfway through the day it belatedly occurs that we now know of at least one person of larcenous proclivities who knows where all our good, expensive stuff is kept (“Oh, someone got married recently? I just love Waterford crystal, don’t you?” Looking back, it was almost compulsively blatant. Great, now I feel like even more of a frigging tool!). So gripped with paranoia we rushed back home and packed up everything light and portable and valuable – crystalware, alcohol, DVDs, other non-cheap stuff – and bundled it all over to the new house. We figure it’s safer there since (a) all of the doors lock there and (b) Fiona’s deceptively scary-looking brother Alastair spends most of time there.
So by Sunday night we were pretty exhausted, partly from renovating (the laurels accorded to the Power Sander Above the Head Workout are not overstated) but mostly from stress. Fortunately, Jimbo’s birthday gift (the Pirates of the Caribbean DVD), a bottle of wine and a homemade butter chicken made most of the pain go away.
Tell you what, though. I am really over trying to sell this house. Someone just buy it, for crying out loud!
This morning I have learned that the breakup of my section at work is essentially a fait accompli, and that the area which will now be responsible for managing this project does not want me to be transferred along with it. While I can’t help feel a little rejected by this, I’m not that worried. What does concern me is that once again I will almost certainly be flung into some random job in which I have not interest and probably no aptitude. That, and the project that I have been working on will, if the current approach is held, fail on such a colossal and spectacular scale that everyone who ever had anything to do with it will be permanently tarnished. Oh, except, that is, for anyone that might have been responsible for the mess in the first place. Their arses are covered, you betcha.
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Friday, June 25, 2004
Great headlines from The Onion
In this week's issue: Cast, Crew Of Troy Begin Disastrous 10-Year Journey Back To Hollywood
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Wednesday, June 23, 2004
Ugly comments go live
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Looks like the comments are working, although I may need to find a slightly less inelegant way of formatting them. Feel free to make suggestions using the "Post a comment" tag below. Hoo-hah!
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I've actually bothered to look at the Blogger Settings, and I've tried turning the comments on. These may very well last about as long as it takes to type this.
Edit: Nope, doesn't seem to have done anything. Suggestions? Andrew? Bueller? How about now?
Harry Potter and the Prisoner
We watched it last night with Linda, Jacqui and Alastair. It's a really good movie, which is more than can be said of either of its predecessors. Wasn't too sure about the first ten minutes or so (and am reasonably happy with rumours that they are planning to cut all the Dursely family scenes from the next one), but the rest of it was funny, scary and actually moved at a brisk pace.
Plus it had a preview for the next Spider-Man movie, which has me squealing in unrestrained fanboy paroxysms. And a preview for the Garfield movie, which may represent a new low for the American film studio machine...
...the skies above are blue.
Now all I have to do is sell a house so I can afford to own the damned thing. Likewise this and this and, oh look, a whole bunch of stuff.
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Tuesday, June 22, 2004
Towards a more sportly lifestyle
Big little brother Smoothie has employed his occasional non-child-wrangling spare time to organise us into a Thursday night multisports competition. Multisports is basically a round robin tournament of indoor team sports - netball, soccer and volleyball. It looks a bit like we may now have something approaching the requisite number of players (and with some effort may actually get to the point where we have enough reserves that we won't be completely dead by half-time). Should be fun, especially as I am pretty dire at soccer and have never, to my uncertain knowledge, even touched a netball (but I fancy I still recall at least the fundamentals of volleyball).
Disappointing but unsurprising house news
We must have jinxed it by getting our hopes up or something. The woman who half-made an offer on the house on Saturday decided to recant after two days' consideration. The deciding factor was apparently that the house isn't north-facing, which is true enough, but I daresay was not the sole point over which she was wavering. Oh well, back to the Saturday morning cleaning routine.
Doom and gloom
Three word summary of the atmosphere at work. With this heaped on top of the stress of not selling the house, my daytime morale could be better.
Fiona finally got her job confirmed as a permanent position (Executive Level 1) yesterday, which at least secures her income and makes it possible to breathe a little more easily. She's quite relieved - even though the panel was somewhat well informed as to her ability to do the job, she didn't really feel she performed well at the interview. But it's all okay now, because she is officially Powerful and Influential.
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Monday, June 21, 2004
Monday again? Meh.
Managed to spend a lot of the weekend being reasonably excited because someone actually made us an offer on the house on Saturday. But by Sunday night sanity had prevailed and she told us she needed a bit more time to think about it. We haven't given up hope completely (I'm all aboard with the nauseating waves of doubt that come with any decision to spend vast sums of money) but while she makes up her mind, we're back in a familiar and uncomfortable life-on-hold mode. That's the mode in which we try not to cook or otherwise disrupt the tidiness of the house in case the prospective buyer needs to drop in at short notice and have another look.
Until the house is sold, we are also trying to minimise spending on unnecessary luxuries, which means that I am not yet in a position to pick up the Sluggy Freelance game about to come out from Steve Jackson Games. Curses.
It's Tiff Hamilton's birthday today. Since she almost certainly won't look at this blog, I'll send her an email. But I thought that you would like to know (where "you" is understood to be someone that may very well have never heard of Tiffany Hamilton).
I'm getting a definite "consider where you might like to be transferred in the future" vibe at work. It looks pretty likely that my section will be rolled up and handed to a different area, and I may or may not be expected to be part of the package. What am I suppose to tell them, when the vibe becomes an actual question? I don't have any particular desire to be working anywhere, let alone know where I'd like to be placed. I guess I need to think about coming up with a more realistic request than "give me a package and you need never hear from me again".
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Thursday, June 17, 2004
Some other snippets. These actually are short.
Jimbo's just called to say that, while he still hasn't heard from the nightclub that he applied for a job at more than a week ago, his Jobsearch pimps have picked him up a month's work helping to move a Repco store from Phillip to Fyshwick. Should be lots of driving and carrying stuff involved, and maybe helping to fit out the new store. Which is better than a kick in the guts (like the previous job he was offered through such channels, which was working the seafood counter at a Woolworths deli, slightly dubious given his highly allergic reaction to touching crustaceans).
I got about 600 words written on the novel last night, which I am using as a clear signal to myself to Get Back Into It. If last night is anything to go by, it shouldn't be too hard...ah, but I fear I am getting ahead of myself there.
My director just came past to tell our little work team that we need to have a Discussion first thing tomorrow. Yes, she capitalised it when she said that. It looks like there might be some sort of news about Our Future.
In other not-necessarily-unrelated news, this week marks ten years in the public service for me, which means I now have three shiny new months of long service leave to my name. I'm probably also just forty years away from a gold watch or something.
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Short sharp reports
Just like the incessant fireworks heard in the ACT over the Queen's Birthday long weekend, here too are some briefly illuminating flashes of no significance:
- Roleplaying - Phenomenon was pretty good, although Friday night registration was even more chaotic than is usual for such affairs. There were a couple of cancelled games, but fortunately we also enjoyed several very good ones, including the Lake District Ladies Needlework and Adventure Society game (written by my NaNoWriMo friend Stuart Barrow, for which he deservedly won Best New Designer). It was great. I got to play an overbearing Victorian matriarch and pick on cultists and foreigners for three wonderful hours. The Mayhem over Manhattan game was also amusing, although it basically consisted of three hours of shouty improv not unlike theatre sports. And there was a GURPS game about fantasy troubleshooters, which went swimmingly until the evil wizard and his demon buddy showed up, at which point we started rolling really badly. That was fun too.
We'll probably go back next year, but if we do we will need to try to arrange to have a full team, because we were frequently thrown off our stride, if not held back completely, by the random players who filled up the spare players slots (though admittedly, Cameron and (I think) Mike, the two outrageous nutbags that joined us for Mayhem, were excellent value).
- House - took some time off roleplaying to assuage my guilt and help Fi finish removing wallpaper glue from the house. It's all gone now. While Al and I discovered the skin-rotting qualities of immersion in water-and-sugar-soap-and-glue, she went hardware shopping and cashed in on a half-price paint sale to come back with something like fifty litres of various ceiling and wall paints. Now, we paint.
- Work - after taking Tuesday off to sleep off what was essentially an exhausting weekend of hard labour, scheming and screaming and general low-level stress, work has continued to be a source of little satisfaction. The big meeting upon which we had pinned our hopes of some vital decisions being made yesterday ended with nothing resolved and most of its participants in a bad mood. Meanwhile my team remains largely in a limbo of non-progress. I am seriously considering taking some leave and working on the house soon (and may well do so no matter what decisions finally end up being made).
- Musicality - Andrew has submitted several Spit songs to the Mperia web site, at the urging of the belligerently wonderful Warren Ellis (via his proxy, Der Simonster). I notice Warren has yet to feature Spit on his own page, but I'm sure he's getting through the Mperia slush pile. In other news, Spit eagerly await the outcome of the Triple J Unearthed competition. It's only a matter of days before Apple Sauce starts its high-rotation tour of the airways. God help you all.
Thursday, June 10, 2004
Sound bites for a content-wary generation
No, I have no idea what inspired that heading, except that I'm too lazy to write long rambling narratives about what I'm up to, so instead I'm going to take advantage of HTML's monstrously versatile Unordered List function:
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- Glimpses of reno hell - With Jimbo and Alistair gamely chipping in, we attacked the first phase of the renovations on the weekend, stripping wallpaper off the wall in the two upstairs bedrooms. I kept getting wallpaper under my fingernails, which I can cheerfully report is a lot like being tortured with bamboo spikes (now that the bleeding has stopped). Next stop - sanding, spak filler, scraping, sugar soap and paint, in that order (I think).
- Windoze - To our profound disappointment, timber sash windows turn out to cost a sodding fortune. I mean, actually a fortune - we got quote for upwards of two thousand dollars per window when we made a couple of calls yesterday. We're not even sure that that included installation, and insect screens are definitely extra. Yargh. I think a little more research is in order. Fiona was so shocked by the prices she's talking about doing a course and learning how to make the damn things ourselves. I'm dubious about that, but I have to admit it would be kind of cool to know how to make a window.
- Work - Becoming increasing tiresome. I've heard this morning that there is apparently a secret plan to dismantle the section and transfer me to the IT area. I don't expect to be consulted as to whether I want to work in the IT area. My casual scrutiny of the Commonwealth gazette just got upgraded to "extreme interest". If the rumour is true, it will certainly be the straw that slips this dromedary's discs.
- Selling is hard work - A handful more people have looked at our house, but not bought it or made us an offer. Maybe something smells bad? I can't understand what else the problem could be. Anyway, we learned last night that, contrary to information passed on by helpful-but-uninformed sources, recent legislative changes in the ACT due to come into effect on the 1st of July require us to do basically of the legal footslogging in the sale of the house (contracts, inspections, compliance reports etc etc). I am sullenly resigned to the inconvenience, whereas Fiona is blazingly annoyed, because we were also responsible for all of that as purchasers. In other words, we're paying all these expenses twice, unless...
- Cook those books - we're going to see an accountant this afternoon to assess whether we can actually afford to keep both houses, even though it seem unlikely that we will be able to realise any tax benefits from doing so. If we can, and can still afford to renovate (costs of windows notwithstanding), we'll probably do so, as it will give us a head start on our property empire. Or duchy, perhaps.
- This book ain't gonna write itself - so, what is it, 63 days or so until the Athens Olympics opening ceremony? Since I've been back from Queensland I've haven't written a word. Mostly I've just been incapable of anything when I get home from work, and the weekends have been full of house stuff. But I have a deadline, and I work best to deadlines, right? Right? Oh, hell, this is going to be a grind...
- Long weekend, lotsa roleplay - of course, I'm not helping matters by devoting the entire weekend to attending the local roleplaying convention, Phenomenon with ChrisT and Jimbo. Apart from Al's extremely intermittent D&D game, this will be the first roleplaying I've done all year. I suspect I'd be looking forward to it more if work wasn't making me so tired and cranky all the damn time. And if I wasn't feeling just a teensy bit guilty that I'm planning to spend three days chucking dice and putting on hilariously bad accents while Fiona will be sanding, scraping, painting etc etc. However it remains to be seen whether I will feel guilty enough to ditch a session or two and help.
Thursday, June 03, 2004
Work's bothering me again
So my hyperactive, anarchist ex-PDS colleague Liam, who cunningly flew the coop a couple of years ago to pursue esoteric cultural studies in Sydney, blew back into town this week for a conference on said esoterica (he showed me the topic of his presentation, but in my profound ignorance of his entire field of academic expertise, I didn't understand a word of it). But we've chatted over the odd lunch, dinner and after-work pint this week. Naturally the subject of working in the Canberra public service, and in the Government's overseas development program in particular, came up once or twice. Those discussions, which occasionally hit a rabid fervour bordering on hysteria, reminded me of everything that I don't like about working for my current employer. I realise I'd managed to numb myself against the constant, buzzing anger that comes from working in an environment that tirelessly rejects innovation, disdains unconventional behaviour and marginalises anyone failing to conform with the traditional approaches (whatever they might be this week).
Not that I could remotely claim to be any of those things, certainly not with respect to my current job. I've never been passionate or ambitious enough to feel too stung by any perceived failure to climb to greasy pole here. But I have seen too many intelligent, enthusiastic and committed colleagues become embittered and fall by the wayside to doubt the poisonousness of the atmosphere.
I've got to make it through another two weeks to achieve a particular milestone that will make me feel happier about leaving. And then I think it's time to start taking another look around for a real career.
Pauses in optimistic anticipation
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Fiona was interviewed for her own job this morning. While there is a reasonable level of certainty surrounding this process - she is the incumbent in a successful managerial spot, she essentially redesigned the job herself, she wrote its selection criteria and her boss is on the selection panel - she still feels the stress of having to compete or be out of a job. Stress tends to manifest itself as crippling muscle aches in her, and yesterday she was almost completely incapable of using one arm because it hurt so much. Today is probably not much better, but at least it's over now.
Jimbo went for an interview of sorts at Fi's old club last night, to try to secure himself some bar training and hopefully some casual work. Fi strongarmed him into a haircut to complement the occasion. It looks pretty good. He said the interview (basically just a chat with Fi's old workmate Mauro, who's a manager at the club) went quite well. So again, we're just waiting to see whether anything happens.
Nobody has bought our house yet, nor even offered to do so. It's still too early to panic, but we realise that we are getting close to the point where we will need to get in tenants to rent the place and help us pay off the mortgage on the new house.
But I remain reasonably optimistic that all these things will work out for the best.
Wednesday, June 02, 2004
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By the way...nobody likes any bastard that watches the Firefly DVD's without me. You know who you are. And I can't watch 'em until I sell a house and can afford to order things off the internet again...
By the way...much as I am loathe to wish the state of employment on anyone, good luck to Mistah Toad and Jimbo on their respective Quests for Salary. Jimbo's undergoing Follicular Surgery this afternoon, at Fiona's insistence, because his hair is beginning to look a bit Hobo Chic. It definitely calls for intercession by experts.
By the way...I still can't get my home email to work, so until I puzzle out what the hell I've done to make it go wrong, send stuff to this one instead.
A bunch of stuff that happened
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Back from the trip to Queensland and back at work now. Too much going on to spare time for complete sentences or coherent paragraph structures.
Work has progressed exactly not one iota since I left. Mired in blatant office politics, technical progress at an utter standstill, everyone expecting that the project will be spiked or started over or "rebased" (a particular euphemism commonly used in this agency). All I care about is that I have 12 days until they owe me three months' long service leave.
The wedding was fabulous. The Marsh girls all looked desperately glamourous, of course. Susan looked very Charlize. Nick looked...well, a bit shell-shocked, actually (as well he might). Didn't get nearly enough time with Nan and Bee or anyone else I haven't seen in years.
We stayed with Ev, who seems to be doing pretty well. The band is back together, which is great. Even better, they sound fantastic. I suppose the competition for Triple J's Unearthed competition is pretty tight, but I entertain the fanciful notion that they sound better than half the crap bands that make it through. Got an unexpected thrill from hearing that drummer Paul's kids love Apple Sauce, which I regard as something of an archetypical Spit song... Ev's still better than me at tennis.
We now own an extra house. Had the housewarming party last weekend, and found that the new place can hold a surprisingly large number of people before it would start to feel crowded. Which is all according to plan. Al's moving in at the moment. Jimbo may come in sometime in the next couple of months, depending on whether he gets bar work in Mawson. Fi and I are waiting to sell our other place first. No bites yet. It's looking increasingly like we may have to rent it out for a while and try again later. This is not ideal, as we would very much like to get rid of the kitchen before we have to use it.
Writing is going badly. This is the longest string of letters I have put together since we left for Queensland. I still plan to have another 10,000 words written by the end of the month, although it is becoming difficult to see how I will achieve this particular goal. Some sort of massive freeform stream-of-consciousness typing binge will, I predict, be in order.