Friday, November 28, 2008


It used to be my daily fitness walk - nothing as strenuous as a full gym workout, but a cheap and easy-to-schedule substitute. Somehow I got out of the habit, and yesterday was the first time I'd ventured up into the hills since last summer. Today, the view was even more beautiful than yesterday.

Sometimes I forget just how pretty my home town is.

(And no, that is not my house. If it were, I'd either have a mortgage hefty enough to buy someone a couple of those jewel-like islands in the Marlborough Sounds, or sell it and live off the proceeds for the next ten years. Lovely building, eh?)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Notes from Unemployment Land

It's been two weeks since my last contract ended (not counting the 2 days' work I found at the end of last week), and the novelty of having all this free time is finally wearing thin (missing the income has something to do with it). TLM is still attending daycare on her usual days, but I pick her up earlier.

That extra mummy-and-daughter time at the end of the day has not been filled with fun activities, as I'd expected. I'm finding that even by 3pm, TLM just wants to relax with a Dora DVD or - if she's feeling energetic - smear acrylic paints all over the furniture. But the shorter daycare days will be cheaper so hopefully I won't be under financial pressure to get work.

My days have not been completely idle. This morning I washed down the front porch, which I've decided has been specially designed to catch and store as much dirt as possible. Yesterday I baked a batch of muesli bars for TLM's lunchbox. On Tuesday I hemmed up a pair of work trousers which I bought last year, before realising that they look rubbish on me. And on Monday I turned the bedroom rug around so that the non-worn-down end is now where we actually put our feet. That last one was actually hard work, because there were half a dozen pieces of furniture keeping the rug in place.

I've also been looking around for permanent jobs, but the interesting-sounding ones are all full-time.

Tarrah for now, I think I'll go for a walk in the hills.

Monday, November 24, 2008

It's called having priorities

I am not a shopaholic. Because if I was, I wouldn't have left The Editter's Tupperware party empty-handed; I would have bought the Madagascar lunch box, or a set of vegetable-freshness-preserving boxes or even the Happy Chopper. Though it was nice to see The Editter of course.

On the other hand, I discovered a wonderful clothes boutique called Scintilla. Not only did I want to try almost everything on, but several of the things I tried on looked good on me, which was a pleasant surprise. So, although I saved a hundred bucks by not buying any Tupperware, I spent some (and then some) at Scintilla. I liked the clothes so much I've even posted photos, so you can validate my taste.

Here on the left is the red tunic dress I bought, which looks great over jeans (and hopefully also over leggings or work trousers), with or without a t-shirt underneath.

And this is the sleeve detail on a cowl-necked black t-shirt which also looks great with jeans (have you guess I was wearing jeans today?), and hopefully also with skirt or work trousers.

Another boutique on the same street, Rose Petals, had some really costume jewellery (they also had some lovely trendy, cheap, clothes). I'm not a jewellery person - I don't even wear a watch. But this necklace pictured here would be a nice shot of colour (there's more blue on there than the photo shows) on those days when I go to work in top-to-toe black.

That is, if I get another contract.

Which reminds me. I'd better stop spending money.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Like putting money into a shredder...

The boy and I have a car each. But for a couple of months we had to make do with just the one, because the boy's car had something wrong with it. And two months passed before he could get it fixed because the spare parts weren't available. I think they had to be freighted in all the way from Japan. By canoe, I reckon.

So, two months came and went and finally, the spare parts arrived and the boy could get his car fixed. In that time, the car's warrant of fitness expired. The day before the boy drove the car to the mechanics' garage to get it fixed and warrant-able, he got a fine for having a car without a current warrant of fitness.

Ah, you say - but he hadn't been driving it. And he couldn't get the WOF because he was awaiting the sparts, etc. I said that too. So the boy rang the police (for they are the dudes who collect such fines). And it turns out that, if your car doesn't have a current WOF you'll get fined for it, whether you're driving it or not. The only way to avoid paying the 200 smackeroos is to hide it off the road, like in a private garage.

Well, that's all well and good if you have a garage (we do, but that's beside the point). But what if you're one of the huge proportion of households in or around the inner city who don't bloody have one?

It seems pretty bloody unfair if you ask me.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Taking Tinkerbell seriously

After about the twentieth viewing of Disney's Tinkerbell movie, I started to treat it as a media studies case. That's not to claim that I have any credentials whatsoever in the field of media studies. But I've heard enough dissing about Disney films like Pocahontas etc, to encourage me to have a go at analysing Tinkerbell.

The plot goes loosely like this: at the beginning of Tinkerbell's existence, she discovers that her fairy talent is as a tinker. Whilst exploring her new home and place of work in Neverland, we see that she is probably the only tinker fairy who is classically pretty - her main workmates are a plus-size boss-woman (voice by the enormously talented Jane Horrocks), a geeky boy fairy with oversized spectacles, and a Scottish boy fairy who looks like John Candy. Tinkerbell's best mates are a cluster of nature fairies; all girly girls and all looking forward to going to "the mainland" to make Spring happen. Tinkerbell decides she doesn't want to be a boring old tinker and tries to learn another talent. Along the way she accidentally destroys all the fairies' Spring work but saves the world from another Ice Age with a plan that includes much tinker-made machinery. Tinkerbell learns that tinkering is her thing, and to be proud of it.

So. Themes.

1. Tinkerbell's gadgets and automated Spring-creation allows the fairies to re-make Spring in a fraction of the time it took them to do it the labour-intensive way. Obviously this story is all about the triumph of industrialisation over agrarian economies. Those pointy-eared pixies would be stupid to go back to their old ways of working.

2. Tinkerbell initially wants to change the way she makes her living, but eventually learns that she can't be anything other than what she is - a tinker. Doesn't this concept contradict the Great American Reinvention myth? That you can better yourself, be whatever you want to be as long as you believe in yourself and work for it? Tinkerbell, meet Flashdance.

3. On the other hand, perhaps it's a positive message, that we should all accept who we are, regardless of what our respective strengths and weaknesses are.

4. Tinkerbell, and most of the other female fairies, have large, childlike heads atop grown-up bodies. This is very disturbing. At least Barbie is supposed to resemble a physically mature woman.

5. Tinkerbell wants to be a nature fairy like her friends. Her friends are like a high school girl clique, but nicer. Tinkerbell's workmates, fairies she ought to feel a bond with, are not. Tinkering is unsexy. Nature is sexy. But tinkering wins the day. Maybe Disney is trying to tell us that geekdom will inherit the Earth - but don't expect it to look pretty.

6. There is one fairy "of colour" i.e. she's black. I didn't see any fairies with Asian features, nor any with wide flat noses or frizzy hair. Hell, it's not like the producers had to go and find a bunch of actors to fit the range of human appearance and ethnicity. It's animation!

7. Vidia is a fast-flying nature fairy. She's a lot like the-woman-who-hates-me at work, though far prettier (and, of course, the latter is not a fairy by any sense of the word). She's the one fairy who isn't "nice", and she's the one who gets Tinks into trouble. Why oh why oh why did the animators have to make her a brunette! That's soooo stereotyped!

TLM doesn't seem to mind any of the above. So I'll probably be watching it again tomorrow morning.

Not just a gob-smackingly pretty face, y'know...

1. TLM was going through a pile of old greeting cards. She pulled one out, announcing "This is a grown-up card!". I looked up to see what was on that card - it had a photo of a couple having a steamy up-against-the-kitchen-bench kiss. I took it off her and put it in the recycling bin. Funnily enough, that was a birthday card to me, from a woman friend.

2. TLM was playing with a set of shape blocks, specifically with some pentagons. I said "You've got two pentagons there, and there are 5 holes in each pentagon. How many holes are there altogether?" TLM took an astoundingly short time to answer "Ten!".

Smugness ensues.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Her father's daughter

I always hoped that TLM would be more like her dad than like me - tall, clever, confident and allergy-free. So far, she's fulfilling my wishes.

But there's a downside to the fact that she's so much like the boy (albeit smaller, female and Asiatic in colouring). The downside is that she burns really easily.

My brother and I have that classic Chinese ability to turn almost black with sun exposure.
The boy, who comes from original English stock, has skin so white it's almost blue. When it's slightly off-white, that's when you know he's got a tan.

TLM's skin is so white it's almost English. She burns a little if she spends time outdoors even if it's very overcast (when it's very overcast my skin doesn't even get out of bed). Yesterday afternoon she spent an hour at the park, mostly covered up but un-hatted because it was so windy. Not long after, she started exhibiting the symptoms of mild sunstroke (I, on the other hand, don't even have tan lines around my sunglasses; the boy was safely tucked away in his darkened study playing computer games).

It's a shame that TLM is so sun sensitive. On the other hand, it's way better than having eczema.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The hard decision

When old people are portrayed in the media as cantankerous and grumpy, their anti-social behavious is usually offset by an admiration for having "attitude". And if it's a movie, that old person probably ends up passing on great wisdom to the younger person who previously resented them.

But what if an old person is cantankerous, grumpy, utterly negative, paranoid, unappreciative, demanding, suspicious, and miserable - and refuses to redeem themselves Hollywood-style? What if that person is your aging parent and you can see that in the near future you're going to have to make that choice?

Old folk's homes with Chinese-speaking staff and/or residents are pretty damned rare in these parts.

Slime in, cake out

I made a banana cake today; it was my first attempt. The over-ripe bananas which had been put aside in the freezer for the big day were dug out, microwaved and peeled. They were slimy and surprisingly elastic, and mashing them was harder work than I'd expected. But the end result was still really yummy and moist.

It was also really, really easy to make (apart from the banana-mashing) - even for me. Here's the recipe, which I found on the Internet:

Quick egg-free Banana Cake

2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp egg replacer
½ cup melted dairy free margarine
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 cup mashed banana
1 cup milk (rice, soy etc)

1. Sift and mix dry ingredients.
2. Add wet ingredients and mix until smooth.
3. Bake 40 -50 minutes at 190°C.

TLM liked it too, but the boy is probably waiting to see whether I suffer any delayed stomach upset from the big wedge I ate a couple of hours ago.

Friday, November 14, 2008

I shopped. I dropped.

Be warned - a proliferation of brackets follows...

I made the not-entirely-rational (seeing as I am now between contracts) decision to spend the last two days shopping. Yesterday was a helluva busy day; I literally shopped from about 9.30am until 3.45pm, with a short lunch break and a chat-with-friend break. Today, I forced myself to return home after finding a couple of fitted t-shirts that actually fit.

My other spoils include:
  • a navy cotton hooded cardigan (not the short, shaped jacket I was looking for, but it will do nicely in the meantime) from the up-market store, Kirkaldies
  • an ink-blue ankle-length skirt with white trim (having decided that spending the whole summer in long trousers for the sake of simultaneously obeying the What Not to Wear rules, and fulfilling my need to keep my legs well covered, would be slightly masochistic), also from Kirkaldies
  • a pair of straight-legged summer weight jeans, from Max (because even though there was a designer-wear sale on, I just couldn't bring myself to pay hundreds of dollars on a pair of Marc by Marc Jacobs jeans, even at discount).
Now that I have some decent-quality clothing to wear to my next contract/interview, there's a good chance that this current obsession with fashion goes the same way as my past obsessions (with travel, karate, painting, being a librarian, and creative writing, respectively) have gone i.e. away (though hopefully the writing and painting will find a way back into that particular portion of my brain).

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

On a happier note...

I got my hair cut today. It's a slightly shaggy bob which is just short of shaved at the nape, and lengthens subtly to chin length towards the front. (Before you say anything, I did not get my inspiration from Posh Spice.) I'm very happy with it, and even the boy - who has already expressed a preference for long hair on me - said it was nice. Even TLM was very approving.

So...does this mean a new job is on the cards?

Enforced leisure time

TLM and I were returning from a laidback morning at the library and playground, when I got a call telling me that my contract has been unexpectedly terminated - as of today. The reason given was that they'd run out of work for me to do, which is mostly true. But I think it's a bit shabby to make that decision on the one day I'm not at the office, and make it effective immediately (two weeks' notice is normal). Fortunately, the only personal items I won't be able to retrieve from the desk I shared, are a small disposable drink bottle and a packet of tissues. But I hadn't actually completed finished the piece of work I had taken over for the-woman-who-hates-me, so I would have expected at least to be asked to finish out the week.

I'm thinking that the people we've been working for are doing this, partly to keep the-woman-who-hates-me happy. She is, after all, their star worker and I'm just a newbie who doesn't quite know what to do with all those stab wounds in my back.

It's weird really, that after being in the workforce for 20 years, only now have I experienced, first-hand, the horrors of office politics.

The upside is, I now have 2 whole days free to shop till I drop.
The downside is, I don't want to spend any money because I don't know when my next contract is coming.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Life would be so much less stressful if I were thick-skinned and cocky

Halfway into the morning, I got an email from the-woman-who-hates-me, telling me that she'd taken over my documentation project (which I'd handed over for approval last week), because it was full of spelling errors, incomplete sentences and inconsistencies. At first, I thought Yeah, there probably were a couple of spelling mistakes that I missed; after a week of poring over the type looking for grammatical errors and URLs without underlining, there was bound to be something. No big. Though I was a bit pissed off that she didn't tell me on Friday and give me a chance to fix it up myself.

And then, the bomb hit.

Just before I left work, I got another email from her, casually mentioning that she's spent all weekend fixing my work and that certain people were "not happy".

Well, that was a whole new bucketful of downers.

For the rest of the afternoon I stewed over it. What could I have done to make people actively unhappy about my work? Was my pimp regretting that they'd ever taken me on? When I got home I ate a packet of Rocky Road Mallowpuffs and sat down to re-read What Color is my Parachute? 'cos, you know, maybe I was heading for a much longer break than I'd planned for.

When the boy got home I told him everything, and he was a veritable Mount Everest of support and solace. He also told me to get on the phone to my pimp and get it all sorted out. So I did.

And it all turned out to be an itty bitty anthill. The-woman-who-hates me wasn't fixing a shitload of shocking errors; she was just put my document through routine quality assurance (which, I admit, I was remiss in forgetting to do myself). People weren't unhappy with my work; they were just unhappy that they'd have to wait a little bit longer before seeing the completed document.

The-woman-who-hates-me was just f***ing with my mind, and doing a pretty exceptional job at it. I told my pimp that, in my defense, my co-worker had been less than helpful. She told me that she'd already suspected that the two of us had "issues", and that I needn't worry about my rep; it's still solid.

But y'know, if I wasn't such an oversensitive little flower with less self-confidence than a beneficiary in a Rogernomics economy, all this angst could have been avoided. I could have just told my pimp within the first week that a certain someone was out to get me.

Ah, we live and learn.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

While the US hangs to the Left, NZ swings to the Right

I ended up voting for Labour and the Greens again on Saturday, reasonably confident that Helen Clarke's government would get to continue the good job they seem to be doing balancing themselves between environmental awareness and economic pragmatism. So it was a bit of a shock when, standing at the newsagent's counter to pay for TLM's My Little Pony magazine (I got myself a Bust), I spotted the front page news - Labour has lost to National.

Despite the fact that we now have a right-wing government on our hands (and who know how many social welfare and conservation cutbacks they will be making in order to give big business a leg up?), I guess we will just have to wait and see. Maybe it will all turn out okay. At least we are no closer to declaring war on some unsuspecting oil-rich nation.

There is one definite silver lining though - Winston Peters, that bandwagon-jumping salesman, is out of the political picture. Way hey!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

List for Wednesday

Favourite TV show right now: 30 Rock (although Liz Lemon dresses far too well to be a date-challenged geek). It's so funny, the boy takes notes so he can quote the best lines at work the next day.

Most recent proof that I have truly emerged from 3 years of self-imposed sartorial repression, and am making the hell up for it: a pair of cherry-red patent leather round-y toed mid-heel pumps. And I haven't even started wearing the bronze sandals I bought last month (mostly because my toes would freeze off if I did).

The Little Madam's cutest feature right now: that she will raid her dress-up basket and emerge dressed as a fairy princess pirate baby jaguar. (And speaking of TLM, we had her measured today by the Plunket nurse. She is now a wopping 15.1 kg and 95 cm tall. Perfect.)

The least-funny thing that made the boy and I laugh like a pair of tiddly hyenas: when I told him that the-woman-who-hates-me had to go home sick yesterday, and added how sorry I was about it.

The annoying thing that happens almost every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday: my mum ringing me just as I'm trying to get TLM through her naptime routine. And I do tell her to ring at a different time. Every time.

The last thing on my mind: who the heck I'm going to vote for at the general election this Saturday.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Grownups night out

The boy and I went out last night to see a play called The Pillowman. We only knew about it because one of the actors is the husband of a friend, and we only went to see it because it sounded like some kind of early-Grimm adult fairy tale. Well, it was really good.

It's about a writer who's being interrogated by a good cop/bad cop team, over some child murders that have taken place recently. He's there because the murders bear close resemblance to some of his grisly - but highly inventive - short stories. But it's not all dark and depressing (and it does get even darker and more depressing than I've just outlined). Because it's full of really funny dialogue. And the stories he tells are Clive Barker-esque. I'm not completely sure that the mix of comedy and horror is a comfortable one (which reminds me a little of the movie Life is Beautiful). But I came away with my head full of memorable, shocking images and ridiculous ideas. To the writer character, his stories are the most important thing - worthy of living on after he dies, powerful enough to turn harmless people into monsters. Hmm...perhaps The Pillowman is making fun of those people who take literature so seriously?

This link will give you plot summaries of the play itself and of the stories told within it. Go have a look.