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Archive for March, 2007

HMSO Keep Calm and Carry On

Had an amazing dinner in Pimlico with Kate-o last night – just like we’d seen each other far more recently, with lots of giggles and a nice recharge in energy. She managed to share so many interesting ideas, and empathise with my my-accent-is-sometimes-unintelligible woes. Very recharging and good indeed – AND she bought with her (via the US, major brownie points) two tubes of Vegemite. Bless. True to form, we stood in the street trying to say our goodbyes for far too long. Total flash backs to our Thai dinners in Kirribilli, but with coats and the tube.
Kate/Rock reads my blog via her del.icio.us account, which is the parent of ma.gnolia, which I use – this is cool as it means I can see when she’s reading things (hello Rock!), but also means (and this is why you, interesting friend, should be sharing bookmarks through one option or the other) I can look at all the gorgeous, creative blogs she reads.

Keen for another hit of Kate this morning, I went looking through her links to find Hop Skip Jump, and from there this gorgeous poster. Although it is a reprint of an HMSO original during WW2, it is just as relevant for me today! It’s now on order, for just a few pounds, and will make a nice reminder in the morning. The trip to Ikea for a frame will require a few weeks until I have the strength – my nearest store is so popular that it’s dangerous.

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Crazy, I know: but the Eurovision people keep reading my blog entries at an absurd rate – more than 60 people read my blog everyday, and I am assuming they’re not all friends. I have written two previous entries on the Eurovision Song Contest – here and here, and they have certainly been the cause for all the traffic. I am starting to get offers from hosting companies, but am not keen to pay someone to broadcast my inane ramblings to the world until it is actually lucrative! Until all these fans of Big Brovaz, Liz McClarnon, Scooch, Cyndi start sending cash…

I am generally against censorship, but have had to edit out some nationalistic ranting because it is anonymous and hateful. I know that sunlight is the best antiseptic , etc, but I don’t want to turn this blog into a nutter’s battering ram for social change (to mix my debating metaphors…) UK Boy, who commented (with only pseduonym) on my original post continues to send in comments without revealing a blog or email address to me. His general gist is that Eurovision is another measure of English greatness (Poms – the Empire is dead) and that some Aussies who are popular here are rubbish, even if the UK sends them to the finals.

If you read my blog and are the sort of person who would list your nation’s Eurovision record as one of it’s Top 3 achievements, this is for you:

I, happylittlevegemite, would like to make clear that I no longer believe that the achievements of any nation in the Eurovision Song Contest has ever been particularly important or unimportant by any criteria devised by any person ever.

(Inspired by the silly quote here.)

If anyone wants to make a public comment, try dealing with the approval of Israel’s entry, and keep off the Gina G knocking, alright?

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[Apologies to grammar/language types for the title – I promise that’s it. Remember who owns a tool kit baby.]

Am sooooooooooo excited to be off in about an hour to meet the amazing Kate (aka ‘Rock’, my former debating partner, something of a dreamboat, my better half, one of my favourite people to talk about almost anything with), who’s in town for a conference (English PhD – one of my coolest besties…) – so just a quick post. (Note I always start entries like this, then produce hyper-linked essays of intensity. You know you love it.)

A Couple of Times in the Last Few Days when I have Really Irked People

I thought I was starting to get the whole thing sussed. (I have been reading up on the English and carefully observing the odd rituals of Pommy etiquette, or so I thought.) No. Suddenly I find myself losing composure with the English Business meeting, as my crap-meter seems hyper sensitive. Now that I’m no longer a by-the-hour mercenary (Consultant), I can’t seem to tolerate meetings that go nowhere, include irrelevant players and have no point. I am really trying to just stay quiet, but can’t seem to turn down the music.

At internal meetings, I wait as long as I can, then just directly ask whoever called the ruddy thing for relevant action items, and when they can’t name a single thing my opinion is required on, I leave. However with other people, I find my blood boils as we talk rubbish and meander around issues. Everyone else is so polite and seems not to mind, that I feel obligated to either die quietly or cut in and make it all stop. Is this how Americans feel, as the more direct and rude in most environments? No wonder they all stay at home.

Also, people seem to find my emails a little direct, because they refer to contract documents and set deadlines. Not ready to change this yet, but not sure where I’d even begin. I also cut off a guy today who started making rather unsubtle references to porn (during a meeting) today – he looked quite miffed. In Australia, someone who was that coarse would be a redneck, but this guy was a bit of a pin-striped suit, so am not yet able to predict. Missing my useful stereotypes – such an efficient way to deal with people!

I also like to refer to my Project Director Warren as ‘Waz’, our CEO Murray as ‘Muz’ and the difficult Project Manager who sends me irate emails, in deadpan, as ‘my mate’ – all gold material, all wasted.

Clearly a very frustrating day at the coalface!

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Cockroach, German

There is an article in today’s SMH that argues changes in Sydney’s cockroach population are due to global warming, or as the spin doctors have so cleverly re-branded it, climate change. I am not a environmental skeptic on the whole business (easy now, Gore Army) but feel this is a sign that the whole thing has got ridiculous. I for one will not be accepting climate trend evidence from a ‘naturalist’. As soon as someone tries to tell you that the lack of public toilets, late running of the tube, World Cup results, etc are caused by carbon emissions, run.
My eight years living in Sydney were a journey of cockroach phobia treatment (having never seen one before I moved to Sydney), then local population decimation through scientific principles. If this construction thing hadn’t worked out, I think I could kill them for ‘Straya. In fact, the absence (touch wood) of cockroaches Chez Moi is probably one of the blessings of a cooler climate?

I always thought it was a cute quirk that cockroaches from Asia could be named after a common historical foe – the Germans call them Russian cockroaches. (Both of) my English readers, might be interested to learn about the Stras/Devon sausage, a related Aussie peculiarity. Apparently it’s a highly reliable way to identify where an Australian hails from, but the general point to the story is that the processed meat (‘Strasburg’/’Stras’/’German sausage’) that lots of parents inflict on kids (in a sandwich with some tomato sauce) was renamed during WW2 as good little Aussie battlers were refusing to eat it. I think the fact that children will eat hideous processed pork because it’s called ‘Devon’ (also ‘Empire Sausage’ in parts) is the real story, but a nice historical link between nasty meat and freaky little breeders.

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Funniest moment at work over lunch time, talking about places in Melbourne that have names borrowed from the UK – Box Hill, Surrey Hills, Eltham, etc. From there the conversation moved to places named after explorers, and common names in Australia. Russel, who I work with, assumed that the most common names in Australia would be Bruce and Sheila – laughed so hard I nearly cried!

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[Sorry about the no-posting yesterday – afternoon got crazy, then had an RSA lecture to run off to.]

First, a protected minute

Before I get too controversial/inflammatory, and mainly for the debating readers (a tragically large portion of my friends, if facebook is any measure of my life), here is all the more objective data:

  • the Burges Salmon LSE Open 2007 (Open meaning Independent and Composite teams could attend)
  • was free (ie- £0)
  • had 94 teams.
  • Beck and I, as Team Kath & Kim, broke (even my Mum knows what this means now) 4th, with rather low speaker scores. (A number of teams on lower team points had higher speaker points – see the tab.)
  • We were Semi-Finalists (before crashing out fairly spectacularly.)

The motions were:

Round 1: This house would Directly Elect the British Prime Minister.
Round 2: This house would Admit Taiwan to NATO.
Round 3: This house would provide tax breaks to married couples with children.
Round 4: This house would criminalise smoking and drinking while pregnant.
Round 5: This house would allow individual British people to sell their citizenship.
Quarter-final: This house would introduce a 28% flat rate of tax on any income above £9000 per year.
Semi-final: This house believes those suspected of crimes against humanity should be tried in British courts irrespective of where the crime was committed or the nationality of the defendants or victims
Final: This house would leave the European Union.

What we were expecting – The good

I did get a little homesick for Bubbles, Jimbo and Rock (indeed all of UNSW with their nicknaming prowess/appreciation) when we saw all the regular stereotypes you see at any Uni debating tournament: the Jesus Pirate, the Frodo, the Pisswreck, etc. (Yes, this post is now deeply in-jokey, normal people may want to return later.)

There was also the same high-stress individuals who get freaked if anyone moves across the screen during the tab, who move to the door when they’re OG and who laugh obediently at all the Convenors and CAs gags (which were, naturally, hilarious.) As one would expect, lots of nerdy types, law students, debating t-shirts, etc.

Another thing that goes under ‘Good’ was a chance to see D-Loh (chief cheerleader and grateful recipient of Aussie debating new) and Fitch, mostly because he’s Australian, even if he’s still Fitch.

What I wasn’t expecting / The bad

I think Beck & I both thought it would be a fun, safe thing to try – with lots of Australasian tournaments under out belts, what was there to know? Somewhat akin to eating at McD’s every time you go somewhere new, just to see what the differences are. We had no idea that British debaters are making an effort with their own style at Worlds – turns out 2 PoIs and not misrepresenting people is only for International tournaments (in some cases…)

Also, it turns out that two random Australian sheilas (sure, with some anti-Pom humour, better described as Pom-baiting/bashing at times, sure) weren’t all that welcome. We did make a few good friends, but I think if I go to another IV, I’ll judge to get to know some more people. I don’t really mind over-hearing teams referring to a loss to us, even with the DCA or CA as the judge, as inexplicable, but you’d think after 7 debates in 2 days we’d have come across a few more friendly faces. To be fair, the tournament was probably less friendly because there was no tournament accommodation and not much food, so none of the interaction that drives. So it was unlike any tournament we have ‘back home’ – but we did have lots of laughs between us about how leper-ish we were.

What was really strange was the number of people who asked where we were from, the followed our responses (UNSW & USyd) with a mention of someone famous from there (usually Fetherston, sometimes Ivan) but then always walked away. Yikes! I presume they googled us later and decided we were OK, but hard to say. Also, the people pulling faces in the Semi, which was not that friendly or helpful (we were exhausted and needed help – do not have 4-debates-in-a-day-stamina.) I’d like to think that any visiting/raiding Britons wouldn’t find any Aussie tournament so hostile.

In the end though, the final was a bit of a boozey, blokey ego-fest in a pub. As not all 8 members of the debate were that funny, it mostly was just tosh – we were soooo relieved to have crashed out when we did!

What I wasn’t too impressed by/The ugly

[Firstly, Fitch is a celebrity in the UK – in a good, generally non-infamous way. Think Neighbours star in a pantomime. Odd. ]

I would have thought a group of debaters would consider lack of female participation to be more of a thing – although the “Equity Officer” Willard was pretty funny, the lack of women was not. Sometimes all the PC-politics of AIDA etc does drive me crazy, but it is easy to forget we’ve got it pretty sunny, diverse and tolerant Down Under. An interesting insight into some of the more misogynistic adjudicators Kate & I had at Worlds.

So quite a negative entry – did actually have lots of fun with Beck, who was my ‘crash’ as well. Just the whole thing was odd, the debating was not what I expected, and it really was another planet!

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Yeah, so no post yesterday – am attempting to get back on the week-day update wagon, apologies to people worried that no post = problems.

Magical Glenda

I acutally spent International Womens’ Day at a Women’s Mentoring event for work. Interesting, inspiring and informative – great to meet some other Australians working in Construction here, as well as to learn more about other business units. Have met some other engineers working in other parts of the business that will make a good group, even if it is a poor substitute for the E&P Youngsters.

My moment of pride was the guest speaker, Glenda Stone, CEO of Aurora, who gave a really interesting talk about women in the world of work. Was so proud of her – felt a real Australian-ness despite her years in London. Felt giggly at stories that included wattle, smugly knowing what that actually is. Her comments on the matching of your strengths (through testing, analysis and awareness) with your passions/values were really insightful – more to be developed here later, when I’ve mulled it over more.
The Birthplace of Bureaucracy

Have had a few runs in with forms, procedures and general Britishness – moments where I’ve been close to loosing my composure due to the inane and pointless, not to mention onerous procedures I seem surrounded with. I have found myself one form away from loosing it on severaloccasions, but have mostly got it sorted.

I know it’s a cultural thing, but haven’t been as patient as I’d like. Soon I will actually have everything sorted, and it will diminish in severity, but a few cracks in my life-is-perfect run of late. But for some snatches of really gorgeous sun light, I might have been sad. Thankfully, lots of fun stuff to turn it around – that and venting on the guy at the Construction Health & Safety Test booking centre who asked me if the test I was attempting to book was for my husband….

“Last Time”

Am debating with Beck this weekend in the Burges Salmon LSE Open – was reluctant to come out of retirement (again not quite John Farnham, but close), but oddly think it will be fun and could not resist a free tournament. That’s right, £0. We’ve taken the team name Kath & Kim, both as a pop culture reference and as a tribute – D-Loh will be our main cheerleader, so we can’t loose.

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