Saturday, July 31, 2004

Feng Shui my life

The boy is really keen on getting Broadband, which will mean much quicker Internet activity than the present dial-up situation (and in turn, will make it worth his while playing games on the Internet).  He's already installed a firewall on my computer - no doubt he already has one on his own - so the next step is deciding which package to sign up for, the 1G or the 5G.

There's a complication factor, though.  I use my dial-up Internet account on the library bus laptop, for my MLIS audioconference sessions.  If we switch to Broadband at home, then I'll be getting rid of my dial-up account.  Then I'll have to ask work to set up an Internet account, especially for me.  What if they do, and I find a dream job and leave?   I'd feel kinda guilty.  But I don't want to pay for two Internet accounts.

Then I remembered something else.  The other night we did a switcheroo between the old bus laptop and the new one (both on lease), and I forgot to get rid of my personal dial-up settings from the old one before it got sent away.

And I've realised what a security risk it is to leave one's personal dial-up settings on a fairly public laptop in the first place.  So I have to get the boy to show me how to put that stuff on disk instead.

In less than an hour, my life started to feel cluttered.  Oh for the days when I just used computers without worrying about viruses, ad-ware, identity-theft and all that.  Actually those were the days when I only used computers at work,  so the systems admin folk worried about it, not me.

I want life to be simpler again.  Tomorrow I'm going to clear out all the junk in my study, as well as the box of junk at the front of the hallway, and the pile of concrete bits from outside the front porch.  That should do it.

Friday, July 30, 2004

If I were gay

If I were gay, I'd probably go for curvy women.  I thought of this is when I was leafing through a Marie Claire magazine today and looking at an article which portrayed women aged from 19 to about 60; there was a photo of each woman, naked, accompanied by a small amount of text quoting that woman's thoughts about her body image.

I was a little surprised at how many body shapes can fit into a particular dress size.  There were chubby-looking size 10s (that's UK size, which is maybe a 6 in US sizing), shapely size 16s and lots in between.  Of the ten women pictured, definitely the one with the sexiest body was a size 16, with a classic hourglass shape.

But the weird thing is, I don't personally want that shape for myself.  I would much rather be a tall, athletic type - one whose boobs don't get in the way when I'm moving about, and whose long legs make for fast running.

So what the hell does that mean - that I don't want to look sexy? Or that subconsiousley I really am gay, and attracted to ultra-fem women?

I hope I'm just reading way too much into this. 

sorry we have no books about feminism and beauty

I tried to help a couple of schoolgirls yesterday, who wanted to find information on cosmetic surgery and why women do it; I thought Susan Faludi's Feminist Backlash and Naomi Woolf's Beauty Myth would be really useful.  I was a little embarrassed, but mostly shocked when I couldn't find either title in the library catalogue.  So you can bet there'll be no copies of anything by Camille Paglia either.  I had to send the girls away with books on cosmetic surgery aimed at people who've decided to get something done anyway. 

On the other hand, we do have a book on sex for old people - what is the PC term for that anyway, senior sex?  The twenty-somethings amongst us thought the whole idea was just disgusting, while I personally thought it meant I'd have something to look forward to.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Giving 'em enough rope

In the next couple of months, there are going to be a bunch of new computers at the library; this means that there'll be word-processing facilities for the public, which we don't have currently.  People will also be able to bring their CDs and disks into the library, for use on the new computers.

I think this will open up a can of useless-user worms.  We have enough to do trying to help people use Hotmail on our sole Internet-enabled PC.  Most people have no trouble, but plenty come in to send e-mail, and don't know which website to go to, whether they have a Paradise e-mail account or a Yahoo, a Hotmail or whatever. 

One woman yesterday didn't know because her computer at home has been set up to download e-mails straight to Outlook - and she didn't  know her password either.

A little old lady (God bless 'er) was game to use e-mail, but didn't understand the difference between the Caps Lock key and the Shift key.  When she had finished typing in her e-mail, she tried to push the Send button with her finger!!

I can just imagine that, with Word etc available, we're going to be inundated with people who don't know where they've saved (or not saved) their documents, people who try to overwrite system files and people who can't understand why it's taking so long to download that lovely 3Mb photo of their grandchild....

I'd make a terrible teacher.

So it was nice to find Buffy Downunder.

My friend Tama drew this one - I can't wait for his exhibition. Posted by Hello

books and what people say about them

I've been collecting a list of book recommendations from the library staff, with the intention of doing a little display during NZ Library Week.   My idea was to get them to tell me the name and author of a book they recommend (it has to be available at this library), plus one or two sentences explaining why.

It's interesting what people choose to recommend, and how they express themselves about it.  For instance, I'd prefer if their choices are not books which are already popular - why bother pushing a book which is already being read by all?  Some of the staff have chosen well-worn chestnuts like Bridget Jones' diary, for example.  It's actually inconvenient, because it means I can't get hold of the book (it'll be on loan) to scan the cover in for the wall display, and to display the actual book.

Also, some people have sent me literally one or two sentences; some have very little to say (e.g. 'It's just good'); others have sent me one or two sophisticatedly worded paragraphs which look like the blurb you see on the inside cover of some high-brow 'classic'.

One of my co-workers has been very enthusiastic, suggesting obscure titles by Albert Camus, Paul Auster and a Swedish bestseller ("It's very funny, especially if you're Swedish!"). 


Wednesday, July 28, 2004

When it's so busy you can't even take five minutes to go to the toilet...

One of my workmates rang in sick today, which meant the rest of us had to cover for her.    I didn't have time to even consult my diary, which meant I forgot to mail off my cheque for the electricity bill which is due tomorrow.  Hell, I didn't even get to use the toilet until 4.55pm...

It's going to be busier than this next week, because there'll be two Information staff away - my boss (who's handy for doing each weeks roster, as well as the occasional information desk), and one of the three of us who drive the library bus.  Whenever a bus-driving staff member is away you can guarantee the rest of the team are in for a hectic time.

When I got back from driving the bus this afternoon, I discovered that the IT guy and the systems librarian were in the process of setting up a brand new laptop, to replace the one used on the bus (the one which I use for my MLIS audio-conference).  It was quite fortunate, really, because I was in the process of trying to start up Internet Browser on the old laptop, and it wasn't working.  Who ever heard of a person not being able to start up Internet Browser!  Anyway, we got my dial-up Internet connection set up on the new one in time for me to be just half and hour late. 


Tuesday, July 27, 2004

good grief

Yesterday my boy's nannadied in the UK, and he was a bit cut-up about it.  He thought he'd be used to people dying on him, because he's lost one or friends in the not-too-distant past.  But I don't think anyone gets used to the idea of death when it affects people they care about.   He told me it made his think that his parents would be next, though they aren't actually very old.  But I don't like to think of loved ones dying either.  The thought of my fairly fragile mother trying to cross a busy street, squinting to see whether it's safe to cross, makes me anxious and fearful.   Back when my sister-in-law's great aunt died, I felt bad that, when we'd visited her in hospital, I found it extremely difficult to find something to say to her.

Is it possible to be comfortable with death (not your own)?

Monday, July 26, 2004

when computer networks go bad...

Apparently, the network connection between our branch library and the main servers was down most of last week (Wednesday through to Saturday).  This meant that, while books could be issued out by noting the appropriate barcodes on a piece of paper, returned books and transit books were stacked in the back room instead of being checked in.

Whoever got to 'man' the branch library on the first day that the network was up again, was in for a busy day of checking in and shelving.

That person was me.

I don't know how many books there were, but I do know that I only got a little over half of them checked in and shelved in the four hours that I was there.  I would've got the rest done too, except the customers were taking up my time as well...

I was so busy I didn't even get time to surf the 'Net, as I usually do when at the branch (which is normally fairly quiet most of the time).

Sunday, July 25, 2004

comic book movies

We were in a comic book shop yesterday, and while I waited for the boy to finish browsing and selecting his purchases I noticed that most of the major comic book characters have by now  made it to either television, or the big screen - Howard the Duck, Tank Girl, Superman, Wonderwoman (who is probably due for a big screen update, one without all the dogmatism and patriotism), Batman, X-Men, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Hell Boy, Ghost World...

In fact, I had a really hard time trying to find a comic book which wasn't a manga, and which hadn't been translated onto film or tv.

So which one is going to be next?


We aren't at the level of DIY-ness where we're tearing down bits of the house with intentions of remodelling and redecorating; but we are having fun with our week-old power drill.  Last weekend it was the bookcase in the living room, this weekend it was my new computer workstation (if I'd forseen it's arrival I wouldn't've done so much rearranging two weeks ago).  Next week I'd guess it will be a wardrobe-organiser for the boy's 'den' (the spare room).  After that I may be able to think of places to put up shelves.  It isn't that I'm so keen on getting a whole bunch of kit-set stuff done - it's more that the boy seems really eager to put the power drill to use. 


Saturday, July 24, 2004

fear of fainting

These things make me faint:

1. drinking alcohol. 
I no longer drink because it makes me wheeze.  Sometimes when I've had only one or two drinks, I'd go all light-headed and then fall over in inappropriate places.  It might happen in the pub, which is embarrassing; it might happen at home in the kitchen, in front of the bench top so that I hit my head on the edge as I descend, which is worse. 

2. really hot baths.
Okay, I've never actually fainted in the bath tub.  But I have gotten really dizzy.

3. too-intense exercise, too soon after I've eaten.
This morning, I had a bit of toast and set off for the gym soon after.  My new work-out programme focuses on cardio work, by including a fair bit of interval training i.e. alternating cruisy intervals with all-out sprint intervals.  After a mere five minutes of doing this on the bike, I was light-headed and had to stop several times during the next exercise in case I fell over someone doing sit-ups.

4. drinking alcohol after a big meal.
The difference between this and 1. is that people normally eat before going drinking because it stops them from getting drunk too quickly.  I think when I have a big meal all the blood rushes to my gut, leaving very little resource to deal with any B52's which follow.

I've never tried wearing a really tight corset, but I'll bet that would be number 5.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Vengeance was not to be mine...

I have a tendency towards righteous indignation; for example, once when I was angle-parking in the city the driver of the car in the next space opened his door quite suddenly - resulting in little damage to his car door but a mighty big dent in the front corner of my car.  I was able to afford the panel-beating bill without much pain, but I wouldn't rest until I'd had him taken to the small-claims court (and won my money back).

So when I find that someone has parked their car across my driveway, preventing me from getting my car out of the garage and going to work, I get mad and I want to get even.  Several times over the last two or three years, I've had the satisfaction of seeing the offending vehicle towed away at the owner's expense.  It's fun, even.

This morning I had the opportunity to experience the same feeling - that of seeing some thoughtless driver get their just desserts.  I had to wait half an hour in the freezing cold for the Parkwise people to come by and assess the situation, and they rightly called the towing firm soon after. 

Unfortunately, the driver of the car turned up mere minutes before the tow truck did, no doubt thinking he'd escaped a hefty fine.  This was just what I didn't want.  I ran down my back steps, elbowing my boyfriend out of the doorway (who had only just got dressed for some important phone call), shouting 'Hey you! Are you the owner of this car?! ... etc'  The portly middle-aged man who'd snuck into the car seemed undisturbed by my exclamations, though my boyfriend seemed certain I was putting myself in danger of being knocked on the head. 

Although I was deprived of my revenge (the thought of this man returning for his car, only to find an empty space, then having to fork out eighty bucks to get it back from the towing firm), at least I was able to vent some of my anger on him (and without getting knocked out by the sizable recipient of my wrath).  Plus the Parwise guys, who were still sitting in their nice warm car, reassured me that the evil bastard would still be receiving his fine in the mail.  So all's well that ends well.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

imperfect skin

If you want to believe I'm utterly fabulous-looking, you'd better skip the following paragraph...
What scare I gave myself this morning at work, when I looked at my face in the mirror.  The light moisturizer which had, until now, been adequate for keeping dryness at bay, didn't work today.  The foundation which I'd applied before leaving home, and which looked perfect at the time, was all caky - I looked like the surface of some drought-stricken African mud-flat.  There were no emergency containers of foundation or moisturizer available, so I had to make do with picking off the flakiest bits and dabbing on a bit of tapwater for hydration.  This meant I had to walk around all day with naked zit scars on my chin.  I am a Libran after all, and I hate to not look my best.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

doing distance

Today was when I got my chance to try out Chatterbox, and audio-conferencing in general, for my MLIS class.  In the process of setting up the equipment, I discovered that the cheap headset I'd bought especially, didn't work. 
The class only took one hour and fifteen minutes, which isn't very long considering the on-campus class for the same paper is two hours.  It was probably long enough for me though, because the headset which did work didn't fit my head at all and I had to hold it to my right ear for the entire time.  It made typing very slow, and discrete snacking awkward.
It'll take a few sessions before my workmates remember  to leave all the lights on when they go home at 5.30 pm on Wednesdays, and perhaps a little longer to remember not to shriek expletives and rude stories to each other after 5pm.  And maybe next time my boss will refrain from pushing an empty steel trolley in and out of the lino-covered room during that time.  As for me - after I've been out to the garage to put stuff back, I'll know not to panic when the card swipe outside the library building doesn't seem to want to let me back in (because I found out it does work after hours).

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Trying to get interested in the Olympics

I'd set aside some display space for the Olympics, for next month; I'd assumed that the clever clog who thought it would be a great idea to have an Olympics display, would actually take on the responsibility of getting all that ready. 
I'm probably the person least interested sports events in the whole country; this used to surprise people, because us local-born Chinese were once known to go really overboard on the rugby-racing-beer-sports-mad thing just to be accepted as Kiwis.  Not only do I disapprove of gambling (therefore disapproving of racing too), have always preferred spirits to beer and am bored by rugby of all codes, but I can count on the fingers of one hand the sporting moments which have excited me:
1. the infamous underarm bowling incident.  If you're from a non-cricket-playing country, you can skip this and go right to number 2.  If you're  Australian or a Kiwi, you either remember it vividly or heard about it from your parents.
2. John Walker winning the 1500m at the Olympics back was a long time ago.
3. The first time a non-US yacht won the Americas Cup.  We weren't excited about the boat race as such, but we were excited about a non-American winning something off the Americans.
4. That time when I was playing an indoor Ultimate match; against all odds, my short self leaped and managed to grab the frisbee from aloft and away from the hands of my taller competitors, to land in the goal zone.
5. During the last Olympics, the NZ women's hockey team did bloody well, surprising everbody when they beat a whole bunch of other teams (only to fail towards the semis).
And that's five.
Anyway, back to this display at the library.  I thought I'd have three weeks to identify and chase up the person who'd find exciting and interesting books and pictures for the display.  However, all the schools in the area have given their pupils assignments on the Olympics already.  So I was asked very nicely to cobble together what I could, enough for a display starting today.  I, the most un-Olympically interested person in the country, had to find books'n'pictures about the Olympics.   I moaned and tried to fob it off to the only male library assistant; he did, after all, willingly do a display on the Wimbledon tennis.  But he pointed to a spreadsheet and tried to look busy.  In the end, I accepted this was going to be one of those things I have to do because someone has to do it.  And funnily enough, I started enjoying myself anyway...

Wasn't the end of The Amber Spyglass an anti-climax?

The boy and I were taking turns on reading Phillip Pullman's The Amber Spyglass, and I finished it the other evening.  I have to say that the ending was a little disappointing; there was quite a build-up and a witches' prophesy to fulfill, but what happened wasn't at all what I was looking forward to.  In fact, the ending to the His Dark Materials trilogy reminded me of the ending to the film The Fifth Element.  Like the movie, Pullman's story has a wildly imaginative setting and an interesting plot.  Like the movie, at least part of the ending made me think 'What??!?!?!'.....
Meanwhile, I've picked up The Girl from Purple Mountain (one of those memoirs of someone's grandmother in China who was unusually pretty and well-educated, and from a rich family - why has no-one written any stories about women from China who are actually representative of it's population i.e. illiterate, average-looking and dirt-poor?). 
I've also picked up A Magpie Stole My Heart, which is a collection of short stories and poems by graduates of the Whitireia creative writing programme (because a cousin and a friend have each contributed to it). 
And just to make my life even busier, I'm also about to start Vampire stories by Women; you can blame BtVS for my interest in vampires, witches and the occult.
That Management of Information Services reading is just going to have to wait...

Monday, July 19, 2004

Unintentionally AWOL

On Saturday, between a late breakfast and a determined trip to the hardware store (I was about to return something, and was ready for a fight), I got a call.  It was one of those phone survey callers.  I told him I wasn't interested in doing a survey but, perversely, he needed to determine whether I fell into the correct demographic first, before he would let me reject his questionnaire.
Less than five minutes after that doubly-annoying call, the phone rang again.  Expecting either my mother (perhaps there was a big discount on fresh meat at the supermarket and she wanted a ride) or that pesky telephone surveyor, I answered with less-than-dulcet tones.
It was someone from work.  Did I know that I was supposed to be manning the sole-charge branch library today?  Dang, I knew I should've checked the Saturdays roster this week!  The branch library opens for only two hours on Saturdays, and it was already an hour in.  If I left straight away, I would've got there just in time to turn on the computers and the lights for about ten minutes before closing up again.  So my quick-thinking co-worker covered for me, since she was only fifteen minutes drive away.  That left the main library with only the shift leader and two circulation staff, but fortunately it wasn't a monster-busy day at Central.
So the first thing I did when I arrived at work today (after apologising to my workmate and my boss) was to note down all my rostered Saturdays in my diary.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Two movies, a mailbox and a bookshelf

Last night we went to see Aaltra, a French-language film about two guys who hate each other but end up spending a whole lot of time together.  It starts out with the guys as neighbours-from-hell in the country; one is a farm hand and the other is a sad-sack who's trying out telecommuting.  They end up having a big scrap, a little too close to a large and unsafely-designed farm vehicle, and both end up in wheelchairs.  To cut a long story short (and it is quite long, at almost 2 1/2 hours), both wheelchair-bound men are on their way out of town when they are mugged and left without any money.  They get by on the kindness of strangers, but they're both obnoxious, greedy and inconsiderate sods who take advantage of anyone who'll help.   Aaltra is the name of the firm which manufactured the piece farm equipment which fell on them, and it's where the men both arrive at by the end of the story.  Far from being a feel-good story about foes who unite through common adversity, it's more of a dark comedy of two foes who... through common adversity.
And tonight, we went to see Hero, by Zhang Yimou (the director of Raise the Red Lantern).  It's a visually gorgeous movie about a small group of master swordsmen (and woman) whose goal is to assassinate the man who's been conquering all the Chinese states.  Like The Emperor and the Assassin, it's  basically about China's first emperor and some of the multitudes of people who wanted him dead.  The usual fighting-in-the-air, characteristic of traditional Chinese martial arts movies, is there.  The thing which really stands out though, is not the fighting nor the story - it's the cinematography.  Beautiful colours, billowing curtains, divinely lovely gardens, armies which would have required thousands of extras, this film is truly a spectacle.  I'm a bit cynical of the way the emperor is portrayed though - he's shown as a basically good man who just wants his country to be one peaceful nation - I read elsewhere that he was power-hungry and ruthless (he once ordered 450 scholars to be buried alive, just to prove a point).
Just in case you decide to go see Hero, I'd be interested to know whether you agree with me that Zhang Ziyi, who plays the servant Moon, really does look like a Chinese Winona Ryder.
The mailbox saga has ended.  Yesterday we: wrenched the sexy-but-useless new mailbox off my fence; I returned it to Placemakers and got a refund; I found an absolutely fab new mailbox at Heartlands which is just as sexy as the previous one but doesn't have the flawed key'n'lock system.  I don't normally get excited about mailboxes but this one will end all my mail woes.  Hurrah.
I had to buy an electric drill gun in order to get the latest mailbox mounted up on the fence, so we decided to put some shelves up while we were at it.  In the end, we settled for a kitset bookshelf.  At last we can house most of my books, plus all of the boy's DVDs and videos.  Unfortunately, we had to rip off the old too-small bookshelves which were painted onto the wall, and now we have some exposed ugly wallpaper in the shape of the old bookshelf.
Not the most fun weekend, but certainly the most productive.

Friday, July 16, 2004

Birthday wishes

The other day, my boy asked me what I would like for my birthday.  It's not for another three months, but it's a 'big' birthday and he wanted to give me time to think of something.  I've decided to do a list of things I might possibly ask for:
  1. a car stereo
  2. an engagement ring (ha!)
  3. The Return of the King on DVD, extended version (which may be released by then) - however he will probably buy it anyway.
  4. a clothes shopping spree
  5. a party - one which I don't have to do any work towards the organising of
  6. a flatscreen monitor
  7. a flash weekend away during which I can leave my credit card at home
  8. a subscription to the Journal of Popular Media (I think that's what it's called.  There are lots of articles on Buffy in them).

Bad Santa

hmmm....Blogger has changed the toolbar somewhat, but the "italicize" doesnt seem to work.  Nor does the "Font" change-y thing....
Anyway - Friday night at the movies.
We went to see Bad Santa.  It's a Coen Brothers movie, so it's about as twisted as you'd expect of them.  I thought it sounded like a bit of a laugh, and the boy came along without knowing what to expect.  This movie is the funniest, darkest story this year.  In fact, it's almost funnier than Zoolander (not really a fair comparison, since Zoolander isn't dark at all).  The boy was slapping his thighs and laughing his head off.  He doesn't do that at any old comedy.
Billy Bob Thornton plays an alcoholic Santa whose partner-in-crime is a dwarf; they're a Santa-and-elf team.  At the end of each Christmas season, they break into the department store where they've been working, and Santa cracks the safe while the elf runs around collecting luxury items specified by his girlfriend.  Santa is mostly drunken, violent, foul-mouthed and impatient with the children who come to sit on his knee and tell him what they want for Christmas. 
I won't tell you what happens because I want you to go and see it.  It is pretty dark, and there are many scenes which will make you cringe and blanch (as well as laught), but there is a happy ending that won't make you feel all cynical. 

All about Chinese in New Zealand

In a last-ditch attempt to find something about the effects of Chinese emigration to NZ, on China, I went back to Steven Young's Chinese website.  I didn't find anything there, since most of the articles were focussed on how the migrants fared once they arrived.  But I ended up e-mailing him and he very nicely replied with his thoughts on the subject. 
So anyway - if you have a burning desire to know what's being written about us Chinese Kiwis, there's a heap of interesting stuff here.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Times when I realise I still have a lot of learning to do on the job

My favourite part of my job by far is doing reference work. We don't have a reference desk, so all enquiries come to the Information Desk. So it's kinda frustrating when I've got a meaty reference question to work on, but can't devote much time to it because there is a queue of people waiting to:

1. get their newspaper crosswords photocopied,
2. have their lost membership cards replaced,
3. ask if there are any Mary-Kate and Ashley books in,
4. ask me to ring a taxi for them or
5. use the desk phone to ring home.

The reference-y things I tried to work on, but failed to have time to do properly, were:

1. Find a large, clear picture of a charging bull - unhampered by the presence of matadors, farmers, or cows. I found a guidebook on New Zealand bulls, but the animals were just standing around posing.

2. Find information on how Chinese emigration to New Zealand affected their respective hometowns in China - I'm sure the schoolgirl was supposed to work it out by reading what she already had, but she wanted something that explicitly answered the question for her.

3. Find a book containing diagrams and details of a UHF television aerial, sufficient to build one from - I did find a website all about different types of television aerials, but I didn't have time to read all the text on every page out loud to him (that's right, he claimed he couldn't read fast enough). He wasn't interested in noting the website address to read in his own time, because he was a cyber-phobe.

I suppose it didn't help that two of my customers gave up after the first ten minutes. Good info takes time...

high anxiety

This is when you're stuck in traffic on the way home, you still have half an hour's driving ahead of you....and you think you've got diarrhoea...

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Film Festivities

Last night I got a call from an old friend of mine whom I've known since I was about sixteen. She was a Taiwanese immigrant who was way ahead of the rest of the class in maths, but struggling to make herself understood in English. Since then, she's become a teacher, gotten disillusioned with today's kids taking education for granted, then emigrated to Hong Kong to teach at an international school where she gets paid big bucks to teach studious pupils.

I didn't know it at the time, but this friend is the one who introduced me to 'real' coffee, arthouse movies and good restaurants. Without her influence, perhaps I would've been a McDonalds-eater, an action-movie and chick-flick watcher, and a Starbucks regular. My friend is in New Zealand for the next four weeks, so we get to catch up in person really soon - cool.

We're both into the International Film Festival which is due to start on Friday - the boy and I are booked to see five films and she is planning to attending fifteen. We couldn't get tickets for Fahrenheit 9/11 as it was booked out, but it's no big deal because it's bound to come back on general release. I'm nore disappointed about missing out on Supersize Me, the documentary about a guy who eats nothing but McDonalds for a whole month to see what havoc it wreaks on his body. It's not that it's sold out, but that I booked tickets to see Bad Santa (Billy Bob Thornton plays a drunken department store Santa who is surly to children and has sex with his customers in the store) for the same night and didn't even realise that Supersize Me was in the programme.

Happy anniversary to me
I managed to get away with not telling anyone at work about it being my one-year anniversary at the library...until I was outed by a co-worker; she worked it out because her own one-year anniversary is exactly a week after mine. So my my attempts to avoid putting on morning tea for everybody may have been foiled.

Bad start to class
My first ever audio-conference, and first Management of Information Services class, were cancelled today due to technical difficulties with the university's Chatterbox server. I didn't find out until I'd parked the library bus and rushed in with the laptop and it's power pack - the manager told me. I was really quite disappointed, because everything was ready and I'd already worked through my lunch hour to make up for the time I was meant to be at work.

Unreality tv
I have realised that there's a huge gap in the way cosmetic surgery is depicted, between American and British television. On Extreme Makeover, when the patient gets liposuction or breast enhancement or whatever, all you see of the procedure is the initial consultation and a shot of the patient with marks all over their body. Next time you see the person, they're out of surgery and covered in bandages.

In a British documentary I saw last night about teens getting cosmetic surgery, you get shown so much more detail. I watched an eighteen-year-old getting a breast enhancement - I saw the flesh being cut, the surgeon's hand going into the incised area and shaking it around to make a pocket, a close-up of the saline bag being positioned under the breast muscle, and a final shot of a pair of breasts both completed save for the huge gaping wounds which hadn't yet been sutured. Small wonder that there's a whole lot more cosmetic surgery going on in the States than in the UK.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Today's goings on

The Mailbox saga Tonight I discovered that I can get into my mailbox, using a fish-slice and with the help of my handy Civil Defense torch. The boy had a go at getting the key in the lock, but he, too failed. We can't actually take it off the fence to show the people at the shop though - it's bolted on and the bolts are inside the mailbox...which we can't open because it's locked...

So it's definitely a stern call to Placemakers tomorrow.

Left Luggage A homeless guy asked to leave his stuff behind the Information Desk this morning. Usually we don't mind if customers do this as long as they realise that we don't accept responsibility if it gets nicked. The homeless guy wasn't actually using the libary though, except as a no-cost left luggage office. He'd been traipsing in and out of the building all day, delving into his backpack or the pockets of his two jackets.

He'll be annoyed when he comes back for his gear tonight, to find the library closed.

(We took his stuff to the police station across the road.)

Learning management stuff Tomorrow is my first Management of Information Services class. Because the on-campus class is scheduled for around midday, I've enrolled as a distance student. Instead of going to the university for 1pm, I run off the library bus clutching the laptop and cable at 4.45pm and hurriedly set it all up in the library workroom, just in time for a 5pm audio-conference session.

I wonder if it means anything that my first class of this trimester coincides with my one year anniversary at the library. (After tomorrow, I can say I've got a year's worth of library experience without feeling like I'm stretching the truth.)

I wonder if it means anything that the very last class of the trimester coincides with my birthday. Probably not, but I suppose I'll have two things to celebrate that weekend...

Monday, July 12, 2004

A very bad mailbox

A bit of a rant, I'm afraid...

Last month, when I had the new fence put up, I was in need of a new mailbox. The one I already had wouldn't do; it's one of those little metal boxes which you have to open by lifting the roof of it up, and wouldn't work on a high fence.

So on the Sunday before the fence was due to be completed (and the old mailbox rendered unusable), I set off to find a new one which would suit a high fence i.e. one which didn't have to be perched on top of a post.

There's a fancy kind of mailbox which I've seen advertised a bit, which is basically a large, flattish green box with a lid on top and a lockable door at the side. You fix it to the wall or outside of the fence, at any height you like. It retails for around three hundred bucks I think, so it was always a nice-to-have rather than a must-have.

I went to Placemakers, and found that most of their mailboxes weren't any good - they were mostly variations of the chalet-shaped one I already had.

I did spot one particularly striking one, though; it was stainless steel and looked remarkably similar to the big green beastie which I couldn't afford to buy. Apart from the difference in materials, it was smaller, and instead of a lockable opening at the side there was a lock which opened up the whole front of the mailbox (thus making it impossible to leave it unlocked without leaving it useless in the mail-holding department).

But it looked pretty cool, it would be able to hold a fair amount of mail, it was lockable, and it was a couple of hundred bucks cheaper than the green beastie - so I bought it.

I had problems from the start. Once in the lock, the key was often hard to turn, so it was either hard to open or hard to shut. This was frustrating, because it now took about ten minutes of patient manipulation to get my mail at the end of a long day at work. But I persisted, because I'd already bought it and it was already bolted to my fence. Yesterday I seemed to have a break-through. I'd been told by a key-cutter that if you have problems getting your key into a lock you should scrape a bit of pencil lead against the key. I tried this bit of advice, and sure enough, the key went in smoothly. I had no problem opening and closing the mailbox.

Tonight though, was a nightmare. I couldn't even get the key more than halfway in the lock. I am furious. I paid a hundred bucks for a mailbox which I can't even open to retrieve my mail. For all I know, streetkids may have been playing about with the lock, but I don't know. I just know it's really quite crappy that I will now have to break into my own mailbox.

I really hope Placemakers will give me my money back.

Just when I thought it was going to be an uneventful day at work...

On Mondays, I alternate having a later start/evening with a normal start and an afternoon at the branch library. Today is the day I do the latter, so I was cheerful in anticipation of an early-ish finish to the day.

I heated up my lunch in the microwave, got the transit books ready, put everything in my car and checked the mobile phone for messages. There was a message, but, to my annoyance, the phone had already used up all of it's prepaid credit. So I'd have to wait until I got to the branch, and use the phone there.

While I ate my lunch outside the library, I was still wondering how I could use ten dollars' worth of phone credit in one week. I was still thinking about it when I realised that I'd locked my car keys in the car. My wallet, the key to the branch library, all the transit books - these were now all out of reach, locked away in the car.

Lucky for me, I had a mobile phone. Even luckier, I could contact the AA via an 0800 number (i.e. a free one). Luckier still, I was able to find the number because a library patron had arrived half an hour before opening time and could lend me her AA membership card with the phone number on it.

In the end, the libary was opened 10 minutes late. It could have been so much worse...

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Holiday photos

It took most of the afternoon (and that was just doing the file transfers!), but here they are - the photos from our holiday.

While Adobe's photo gallery maker is convenient, it's not the greatest tool when you want to make a collection of pictures to add to an existing website. For one thing, the HTML is not that familier to me so it's not that easy to customise the result. Perhaps next time I'll go back to laboriously creating individual HTML pages myself; at least it'll look better. Hope you like the pictures...

Saturday, July 10, 2004

books books books

Nothing much happened today (I went to the gym, we had lunch at a noodle house, we went to Spiderman 2), so I've decided to write about books. These are some of the books I've read recently:

Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley - it took me quite a while to get into this book, because it's really quite wordy. To me, it's about the arrogance of mankind in attempting to interfere with nature, our irresponsible attitude towards nature, and how easily a creature who is full of good feelings, thoughts and intentions, can be coerced into becoming someone scary and murderous, through ill-treatment. I liked it.

Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass, by Phillip Pullman - I convinced the boy to buy me a copy of Northern Lights after hearing great things about it from kids in the library, a co-worker who's a fan of Young Adult fantasy, book reviewers and bloggers. We were both hooked after reading the first in this trilogy, and went on to buy the other two. I haven't yet finished The Amber Spyglass, but I know this - the story is really really good.

There's dark matter (the stuff which astrophysicists know must exist everywhere in the Universe but can't find), witches, the Church, bears who wear armour and talk, multiple worlds and people whose souls exist in the form of an animal (like a witches familiar).

Pullman's story could be interpreted as a thinly-veiled attack on the real-life Church, since they are the principle villians in the story. For another example, the heroes, two 12-year-old children, visit a world of the dead and find that there is no Heaven or Hell - when people die their ghosts simply exist in a grey, bland world of the dead forever.

It seems pretty damn sophisticated reading for children - though I suppose they are more sophisticated nowadays than when I was at that age (I read the Narnia stories, for instance, and they weren't so dark). Several of the characters are not clear-cut heroes or villains; in fact, the 'bad' guys do 'good' things and vice versa. I've had a hard time in the third book trying to figure out whose side certain people were on.

Heating Update
Meanwhile, I have a temporary, partial solution to my heating problem - I've rearranged some of the stuff in my art/computer/storage room, which is away from the kitchen and under an insulated ceiling. Now I have room to study in here as well as paint or use the computer. The more time I spend in here, with the little fan heater on, the less time I spend in the hard-to-heat lounge/kitchen. It'll do.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Home non-heating

I'm really going to have to do something about the non-heating situation at home. It's really quite chilly when it hasn't been raining (and often quite chilly when it has).

I have a 'character' home; it's almost one hundred years old, and it's design is not conducive to an evening of warmth and fluffy comfort.

For example, my kitchen is a lean-to (this means it was built onto the house some time after the house itself was completed), which means that the floor is on a slightly different level from the room next to it. It also means that it has no ceiling space which could have accomodated some nice, cosy blocks of insulation.

The Victorian (I think) house design was meant for sun-avoiding Victorian English people, which means they've cleverly arranged the windows in such a way that very little sun enters the house. I'm sure this is why, in the Winter, it is often colder inside the house than it is outside (in the frost!).

Like most staunch Kiwis, I have refused to consider installing central heating. Central heating is for softies and rich folk. Perhaps if electricity or gas were available cheaply, and the cost of installing central heating were lower, I would do it. Perhaps if I read a refereed scientific study which confirmed that New Zealand winters were indeed just as numbingly cold as those in Edinburgh, I could do it without feeling like a big softie.

So I get by on a 7-fin oil column heater in the lounge/kitchen. Notice I said lounge/kitchen, not lounge - remember that the kitchen bit is uninsulated, so that heat's going to go kitchen-wards and sky-wards.

Also, the boy's a smoker, and while he's considerate enough to smoke outside he isn't considerate enough to close the door behind him. He smokes in the kitchen doorway, which leads out into the cold, wild yonder (my backyard).

I've tried to think of a solution to this problem:
1. build a false ceiling to house the insulation (this leaves about seven feet of head space from the floor)
2. get assertive and close the door behind him every time the boy goes out for a smoke
3. Get a much, much bigger heater - or an outdoor heater even - for the lounge/kitchen
4. get used to walking around with an alpine sleeping bag on my back
5. move to a newer, more energy-efficient home (but I like my house, it's my first and only home-of-my-own; besides, I'm not ready for the stress of house-hunting again - it's only been thirteen years)


Thursday, July 08, 2004

Travels with my mother

I'm referring, not to a horrible nightmare of mine, but a book by Peter Calder. It's (so far, anyway) a funny/sad memoir describing a trip to the UK undertaken by the fifty-something author and his eighty-something mother.

When I read it, I find so much I can relate to:
"I found it hard to be around an often cantankerous and controlling old woman [who] grew up regarding herself less as a New Zealander than as an Englishwoman marooned in an alien land." She also talks at the top of her voice in public (and she's not even Cantonese!) and makes unconsciously racist remarks (also in public, and at the top of her voice).

I'm only about a fifth of the way through, but I bet that in the process of escorting his grumpy mum around the UK Calder re-discovers her lovable side. Just for taking on this task though, he's a better person than I.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004


I said earlier that I wasn't as relaxed as one would expect, following a holiday; I wasn't entirely accurate. My muscle tone is quite relaxed and thanking me for letting it lay about doing very little. I got myself to the gym today (much to my parner's chagrin, for it means I wouldn't be home till late), and even my gym gear is slightly tight (I'm not talking about lycra, I'm talking about baggy elastic-waist pants).

I suppose I've got to that age when takes less time to lose fitness and gain weight, and more effort to regain one's fitness and figure (if it ever happens). I'm even contemplating watching what I eat, but I've been brought up in a culture which values good food and the sharing of meals as a social act and an act of love. Rejecting my mother's large carbohydrate-laden meals is in fact impossible; it's tantamount to rejecting her.

Perhaps I have to consider just being a bit fat.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

wot holiday?

It's only Tuesday, and it already feels as though I never went away. People come back from holidays and tell me they feel rested. I didn't. I was antsy on the day I got back, and I haven't been sleeping very well since. Rested, I am not.

What I didn't realise was that one of my team-mates has taken off on her own holidays, meaning that we are once again short-staffed. It means that this week I'll be driving the library bus four days out of five - this is a nuisance if I want to go to work in a skirt. It's also the school holidays, so the place is buzzing with children and their parents; I don't remember the last time I signed up so many new library members in the space of an hour.

The good news is that I got a pay rise. I hadn't been expecting anything much, because the staff had all been warned that normally the only pay increases we would get would be cost-of-living increase i.e. one-point-something percent. But I, and no doubt several co-workers too, have had a pay rise of about eleven percent. In actual fact, its still peanuts - but it's quite a few more peanuts than before; almost as many peanuts as library assistants in big cities get paid.

Monday, July 05, 2004

behemoth in the rain

First day back from my holiday, I was scheduled to take the library bus out to the 'burbs for an evening visit. What made this a mildly daunting prospect were:

1. until tonight I had never ever driven a bus in the dark
2. I had only ever been to this place once before, two weeks ago, and in broad daylight
3. it's been two whole weeks since I even thought about driving a bus
4. at the time I take the bus out, it's rush hour and I'd have to cross lots of heavy traffic
5. it was raining heavily
6. my experience of driving the bus on the motorway, at motorway speeds, was limited

But I did it though. My fellow library-worker who accompanied me on the bus wasn't familiar with this spot before either, but we narrowly avoided taking a completely wrong turn which would probably have resulted in plentiful cussing in the dark. Crossing the heavy traffic didn't mean quite as long a wait as I'd anticipated, because I crossed over at the slightest hint of a gap - but this probably only works when I'm driving a bus and the traffic I'm fighting consists of cars.

So that's another scary thing I've conquered. Whew.

Back to reality

Well, that was my holiday for the rest of 2004. Fortunately, our first holiday together ever didn't result in big fights (well, we did have a tiff while we had a rental car and the boy forced me to navigate even though he knows I have no sense of direction and can't read maps). I did learn this about us; that he relaxes by playing computer games and reading, whereas I relax by sightseeing and doing touristy stuff. He's come back with some clearer sense of what he wants to do with his career, I've come back flabbier and impatient to get back to the gym. (As I've gotten older, I've lost fitness faster if I stopped excercising, and taken longer to get back into shape afterwards - to my dismay.)

The house has stopped smelling like it's been sealed up for the last couple of weeks (which it had), although the bedclothes still smell like a musty second-hand clothes shop (no doubt because they haven't been changed for three weeks). Yuk. It was enough to put me off my sleep last night.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

nervous energy and holiday lists

We arrived home a couple of hours ago, and I’m still all antsy. This happens to me every time I come back from holiday, but today it’s really bad. I’ve laundered, opened my mail (and seen the grade on my second assignment - a B minus, but it was the first report I'd ever written), unpacked and read most of my e-mail. But I’m still all un-relaxed and in need of, say, an hour’s walk up a steep hill, before I can feel calm.

With this much nervous energy, by rights I should be thin.

Then I found that I couldn't get into Blogger, so that avenue for release was out. And a moment later, I found that the computer had been re-infected, possibly by Bloodhound again. So that gave me something else to gnash my teeth about.

Holiday Lists
Most impressive accommodation: The Scarborough Lodge in Hanmer. Located just up the road from the famous hot springs, it’s one of only two which have been built on the front lawn of the home of a nice Dutch lady. Nice d├ęcor, plenty of air-conditioning/heating, nice bathroom, nice semi-private outdoor area.

Just as impressive was the Chateau Blanc Suites in Christchurch. For our money we got free Internet (one a single PC, shared by all the guests), a suite of well-decorated rooms, free transport daily to the supermarket, friendly service and a bottomless fruit bowl. Have I mentioned free Internet?

Best Highlights:
*The commentary on the TranzAlpine train ride. It was witty, full of personality, and even informative.
*The coach ride from Greymouth to Nelson. Great views.
*The ice room at the Antarctic Centre. The temperature was wound down to minus 15 Celcius, we were supplied with thick jackets and rubber booties, and the snow was real. There were even a wind-chill machine and scheduled storms.
*The weather in Christchurch. I couldn't believe how warm and sunny it was, considering it was mid-Winter.
*Watching the whales at Kaikoura.

Things I wish we'd done:
*Gone out for a seafood dinner at Kaikoura. This place is known for its crayfish and other yummy goodies.
*We weren't organised enough to, but we should've booked ourselves a caving trip while in Greymouth.

Things which probably no-one else while find interesting:
*I managed to find the local library at every pit-stop.
*The boy found his max-egg limit.
*I am probably too old to stay at backpacker places. The comfort levels of each hotel we stayed at was of surprising importance to me.
*I can't totally relax during a holiday if I'm spending time on the Internet reading library discussion lists and checking out the library vacancies.

Saturday, July 03, 2004

The Abel Tassie

Yesterday we went to the Abel Tasman National Park, to do a four-hour portion of the track. It's a good way to see some of the park without committing yourself to serious tramping work. As it was, after four hours I was really quite ready to get back on the coach to Nelson city. First we took a coach to Kaiteriteri, then a boat to Torrent Bay. We walked from there to Marahou, where we caught the coach back to the city.

I'd briefly agonised over whether to take my seasickness capsules before the boat ride, knowing that last time I took them I was bitterly unwell for an hour. But I did take them, after eating some toast, and it was okay.

There were some really cool views over golden sand beaches - just like you'd expect a sub-tropical island to look like.

The last half hour was the hardest though, because 1) we were so very close to the end of the walk but not quite, and 2) because my mobile phone went off and I didn't get to the phone in time to answer the call, then found out I didn't have enough phone credit to check the recorded message. Wondering who'd called is really effective in making me anxious!

It turned out that we finished the walk an hour early; if I'd known I would have pushed for some detours. Oh well.

Today is the last day of my holiday; tomorrow morning we fly back home and I'll spend some of that time doing laundry and airing the house out.

Funnily enough, we haven't managed to have dinner out in the entire time, but we've eaten breakfast/brunch out most days.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Greymouth - Nelson

The bus ride from Greymouth to Nelson has to be one of the highlights of any trip around the South Island. There were amazing views of the coast, with its wild swells and offshore rock formations (reminding me of the Twelve Apostles off the coast of Victoria, Australia).

We stopped at the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks for a look-see, which was pretty neat. I've been there once before, when I was the sole Kiwi on board the West Coast Express bus, so it was a bit of a trip down memory lane for me. For the boy, it was a first timer. The rocks are like a stack of pancakes, as you'd expect from their name. (There's a Cantonese sweet which is similar-looking; its made out of a stack of thin steamed cake layers, and looks less appealing than it tastes.)

Along the way we also passed through several defunct coal-mining towns which used to contain numerous dance halls and hotels (bringing to mind all the Western movies I've ever seen) and now consist of a few farms and a pub (of course).

We're gonna have to come back this way one day, and do the caving and rafting trips. Perhaps in the summer, so we can also do some kayaking around the Sounds (I've been assured its no fun at all kayaking in cold weather unless your're both experienced and enjoy being cold).

I think last night I slept in the softest, horriblest bed ever. It would sink without any resistance whatsoever, and whenever I turned over I rolled into the slumbering boy. I hope it doesn't result in my taking the other bed in the room.