a little east of reality

Monday, July 31, 2006

job news

Yesterday applications closed for the jobs on offer in our branch. I got the non-ongoing level 5 job in June and now I'm going for the substantive (ongoing) 5.

As for all government jobs there was a list of selection criteria to address. Applications closed at 5pm and about 4.25pm I suddenly took a closer look at number 3 in the list of 4 criteria. I had thought it said, 'the ability to work in a team' and I had answered along those lines. What it actually said was, 'the ability to work independently, as well as part of a team'. As you can imagine, a rather scary half hour followed getting that extra information written in. A final check of all the documents and I clicked [send] at 4.59pm on the dot.

Just as well 'the ability to read the selection criteria carefully' wasn't on there. =)

Interviews will be held around the third week of August, so more news then.

Friday, July 28, 2006

extreme poetry

Tonight I went to a poetry slam for the first time. It was held at this dinky little cafe with a few old couches and a lot of floor space. The amp wasn't working, so they did an unplugged open mic while someone ran off to get a new amp. I've gotta be honest: leaning awkwardly against a wall waiting for things to get going, I could hear echoes of Danny Glover in my head (I'm too old for this @#$%!) I don't think my arty energy would have been dimmed by a comfortable seat. I only have to suffer for my own art, surely?

For all that, it was an impressive night. Australia's top slammer made a guest appearance and he was awesome - a real performance poet - interacting with the crowd, making us think, making us laugh. He took the 'chicken and egg' theme and ran with it to comment on various aspects of life, as edgy and honest and laugh-out-loud funny as a great stand-up comedian.

As for the rest, there were good and bad. The bad ones were of two varieties, both of which take themselves a little too seriously. The first variety think their poetry is good, when in fact it's simplistic greeting card verse. They come to the mic with puppy dog enthusiasm and fully expect applause at the end. And they get it...why? Because I don't think there's a serious poet out there who doesn't recognise that you have to start somewhere. I have no problem with these beginner poets and I'm definitely one of the people applauding them. At least they're at the mic, giving it a go. (I would have been there, too, had I realised they were having an open mic, but I didn't bring anything with me to read.) They might be lightweights, but their poems are not hard to listen to.

It's the second variety of deluded poet that drives me insane. These are the ones who are "deeply emotional". Every line is delivered with vein-slitting angst, agonising over the pain of the world (or their world anyway). Now if you can get this across in great poetry with meaningful imagery and words that tap into the listeners' harsh life experience, fantastic. But if all you're going to do is look painfully constipated while drivelling on about crying tears of blood into the abyss of night, then um...stop. Just stop now.

But wow, oh wow, oh wow - there was some GREAT poetry and not only that but also great performances of that poetry, really engaging stuff. One guy was just describing a night out on the town with his friends, but the way he captured the feel of a night like that and the look of the city at night was captivating. He made us feel like it was our own memory and we knew how these things looked and felt and tasted. Another guy used his three minutes to do three short pieces that were all sharp and witty. Most had a touch of humour, maybe because it lends itself to an interactive performance.

And so on. Good night, and I'll be at the next one.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

survival of the adaptive

Here's an interesting little piece that was in our latest work newsletter.

Did you know there's a whole institute dedicated to the pursuit of happiness?

The people behind The Happiness Institute believe life’s too short not to be happy, and that you can choose to be happy if you want to.

The jury’s still out on that, but if you’re interested, you can sign up for a free e-newsletter with helpful happiness hints and quotes, such as the following ones about change.

Happiness Quote
‘It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.’

Happiness Tip
Turn change from a negative to a positive by:
- acknowledging the reality that things never stay the same
- taking constructive action
- focusing on all the opportunities that lie ahead
- capitalising on this as a time to clean out the old ways and establish a new and better future, and
- using the opportunity to enlist support and help from significant others.

I found this interesting...not survival of the fittest, but of those most responsive to change. When I first went to Japan I embraced all the new things in my life with some gusto and I settled into my new life easily. After two months I had a surreal feeling as if I'd always lived there, even though I knew in reality that it wasn't so. And yes, I was very happy there.

When I came home to Australia it was earlier than planned, after a job fell through at the last minute. I was sad to leave, and although I love Australia, resisted the change with every negative emotion I possessed. In spite of finding work and moving to a new state I lived like a hermit (helped along by the cold winter and lack of money) and wished I was back in Osaka. And it took me a LOT longer to be happy here than it should have. Which was crazy, because whether it happened then or a year later, the plan had always been to come home. I should have accepted the change of plan and dealt with it.

It makes such sense. Those who cannot adapt to change spend their lives living in the past, or in the future. They never know the joy of living in the moment, because the moment is outside of their self-determined comfort zone.

I may have to sign up for this 'happiness newsletter' just to see what else they have to say. I could stand a little more 'happy' in my life.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

and on a related note...

This is a pretty cool idea.

WindowAlert is a unique, electrostatic, low-tack decal that may be applied to home or office windows. The decal contains a component which brilliantly reflects ultraviolet sunlight. This ultraviolet light is invisible to humans, but glows brilliantly for birds.

Death by Glass
Glass is ubiquitous and it's indiscriminate, killing the fit and the unfit," said Klem, a Muhlenberg College ornithologist who estimates that collisions with glass kill up to 1 billion birds a year in the United States alone.

"Buildings that we have created to be aesthetically pleasing are slaughtering birds." Although cell phone towers, oil spills and power lines raise the ire of conservation groups, those hazards pale in comparison to glass, Klem said. He estimates that only habitat destruction kills more birds.

When glass is clear, birds see only what's on the other side; when it is reflective, birds see only reflected sky and trees. Either way, they have little chance of survival."
I found it particularly ironic that:

...glass-walled structures abound even in places that rejoice in wildlife - from Central and South American ecotourism sites to Pennsylvania wildlife refuges.

when you just don't see it coming

Sparrow Aviation Administration Blames Collision On Failure To Detect Pane Of Glass
July 25, 2006

PIERRE, SD—Sparrow Aviation Administration officials are calling the Monday collision of an westbound sparrow with the window of a Mitchell, SD home a clear case of "controlled flight into glass," after the bird failed to detect a transparent windowpane directly in his flight path.

I've had days that felt just like that.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

the blogging experience

It’s been two weeks since I've written a post here. It's always so lame to come to the blog after time away and say, just like everybody else, "Sorry I haven't written. I've been so busy. " etc etc. But the truth is that the blog is not a job, it's an interest, and it sometimes has to take a back seat to the rest of life.

Even so, I miss writing when I don't do it. Last month when I was in Sydney I mentioned to my sister that I wrote a blog. She doesn't have a lot of experience with them and she was asking questions about why people write them. By the end of the conversation it became clear that she saw them as a vanity - like publishing your private journal because you think your personal thoughts are just that profound. She so missed the point.

Have I ever thought I had a witty thought? Sure. Have I ever wanted to tell the world I'm lonely or going through some painful experience? Sometimes, yeah, though I'm not as open as some in that sense. Do I think my life and thoughts are fascinating and must be made public for the benefit of humankind? Of course not.

But I do like writing things out. Something about the process is satisfying and I enjoy imagining that what I write will be read because it helps me choose my words. I also like the feeling of connection with other people. I hope I'll always get just enough comments that I know someone's reading my posts. How many people doesn't really matter, but I discovered early that writing to (perceived) empty space feels odd and even lonely.

I like blogs because they capture life in small moments. It's possible to get a sense of someone's life in the everyday, rather than just getting the big events like in one of those newsletters people send out at Christmas summarising their year. I'm often struck by how interesting an everyday life can be.

Sometimes it goes way beyond that. A few weeks back I read a blog entry by a woman whose daughter was born with a serious handicap. She's a happy kid, but she'll always face certain challenges. I'm being deliberately vague here, but at the time of the post, a member of her family had just made a huge decision that had a major emotional impact on her. It was raw and painful to read (and, I imagine, to write). I thought about how I would have felt in her place. I don't know if I really could understand exactly, but I wanted to try. People are interesting, puzzling, inspiring, and their experiences can be deeply moving.

I don't know all the reasons I write a blog, or why I read other people's blogs. I don't feel like knowing exactly why is important. I know I like having a blog of my own - not just being a tourist, but also having my own little spot in cyberspace. I also know that over the last year or so I've emotionally invested in a few people's lives. Where I used to see their blogs simply as a good read, I now see them as links to people whose lives and happenings I care about.

Even if I don't always have the time to update my own.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

family matters...or does it?

Families are supposed to be the building block of society, yet they are easily the most dysfunctional organisations on earth, especially in proportion to their power to damage us.

My family is nowhere near being the worst around, yet just last weekend (the big 70th birthday do) I was reminded of how quick-tempered and childish my father can be, and how his need for attention leads to stupid mind games and a tendency to (try to) play one child off against the other. The first four days were okay, the fifth not good and the last day it was as if he was trying to ensure I never came to visit ever again (which right now looks like a very attractive option). I find it frustrating and disappointing that he is, and has always been, so unwilling to put as much effort into his personal relationships as he always has into his work and sport.

I also realised once again just how difficult it is to really connect with my sister. We get along well enough most of the time ~ it's not a bad relationship ~ and I honestly love her and care about her life. We are seven years apart and have a turbulent history, but I'd really hoped that we would become closer now that we're both adults. To that end I've made an effort over the last few years to keep in contact with her, to listen more and interrupt less, to avoid being judgmental (big crime of mine when she was a teenager) and to see her at least once whenever I'm in Sydney (where she lives). Even so, I always have an underlying feeling that I'm interrupting her busy life, and I don't really feel any closer to her than I did a decade ago. You can't force someone to be friends with you, family or not, but I'd be lying if I didn't say it's also disappointing.

And sure, I play my part in this. I certainly did when I was young, but at that point you're pretty much a product of the home you live in. Even as an adult who is trying to fix her faults, I still can't claim to be some perfect family member. But I've been trying a long time now and it still feels like I'm in one of those little wheels where you run a lot but never get anywhere.

If family is so important, why do family always manage to make life so painful?

Friday, July 07, 2006

70 years young

I've heard it said that 70 is the new 50, and I think it's true. Here's my dad just turning 70 this week and he is still working (part-time, but he is a sports coach which is fairly active). Last week he filled in for a guy who was out sick from the A-grade table tennis team so they didn't have to forfeit. He's eligible, but everyone laughed at the idea that some geriatric was filling in and there was a general guffaw at the desperateness of the move...until he won two of his three matches. People tend to assume that he doesn't have to stay so skilled to teach disabled players, but they forget that his disabled players play in the Paralympics - they might not be able to beat able-bodied players who are at the same level, but they are still international level players and pretty damn good. And Dad got them there.

This makes the idea of turning 40 a little less worrisome, because I feel like I really do have a lot of my life still left to live. It's not a milestone I am particularly looking forward to, but if my dad is still living large at 70, I don't suppose I'll be settling in the mire anytime soon. Carpe diem, yo!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

whipping life into shape

What a great week I've had! It had two main themes and both made the week feel good.

1. I'm looking after the basics.
You know, I always have this theory running that if I could just nail down some important basics of life, I would enjoy life more and get a lot more done. Those basics? Sleep, health, money. Of those three, sleep has proven to be both the most important and the most neglected. Money has proven the hardest to achieve. Health I'm working out in bits and pieces. For example, this year I finally made space in my budget for regular visits to the chiropractor and this has had a big impact on my ability to do other things. Nutrition isn't really an issue, especially since I started cooking for someone else regularly, because I have to focus on giving them good meals each week and get them myself as a result. My finances are on track, but everything moves slowly.

Sleep on the other hand is all my fault. And this week, all my success. Four nights straight of "early to bed and early to rise" (with a good eight hours of sleep each night) and I feel like I could conquer the world. I haven't been this productive in weeks and it's actually a great feeling.

2. I'm reorganising my life.

I moved to a new desk at work - great chance to reorganise my workspace, file some stuff, ditch some stuff. I'm also getting the home environment up to speed; not only rearranging my room, but also doing some long overdue home repairs like changing tap washers, hanging pictures and fixing the electrical outlet I broke last week. Finally I've reorganised my finances - changed banks, sorted out my various accounts and set up a bunch of automatic payments to keep everything on track.

Life's good. :)