Ant City

I’ve been invaded by ants. They were everywhere. I found them in the office the other day, all over my computer and my paperwork. As I don’t eat in the office and leave crumbs about, I could only conclude that they were trying to get out of the wet weather, and make my life a misery at the same time.

Up until that point I was pretty certain that ants only frequented places that had an abundance of crumbs, not the inner workings of my computer tower. I had to bring out my hardcore surface spray and cover everything that I could see, and then some. There was no way I was sharing my personal computer space with a bunch of tiny black biters intent on holing up for a couple of days to keep their antennae dry. After nearly gassing myself during the process, I was ant-free and ready to go, which would have been nice in theory, but the toxic fumes wafting from every nook and cranny of my confined office-space was not congruent with my ongoing good health.

I decided to give it a miss for the remainder of the day and headed off to the kitchen, only to find an army of the tiny black titans surrounding the perimeters of my water cooler. It was ant-city scaling the sides of the reservoir and doing the backstroke in my fresh water. I had to ask myself, in a fit of pique, what the hell would a thousand ants be doing in my sacred filtered water if they were coming inside out of the rain?

I thought about what would be worse. Asphyxiating myself in the office or poisoning myself by drinking contaminated water that I had just downloaded three-quarters of a can of Mortein on.

I decided to cut my losses and go to the corner store and buy myself a coke and a chicken burger. As I pulled out of the driveway, a dozen ants scurried out from underneath the clutch and crawled up my ankle, biting me as they went. I nearly projected the car into the fence in an effort to take my foot off the clutch, put the brake on and jump out, all at the same time.

I sprayed what was left of the Mortein over the entire surface of the interior of the car. It was me or them.

I haven’t seen an ant since, but I’m buying 4 cans of Mortein tomorrow and getting the pest controller in next week.

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The bucket list

I’m thinking about putting a new list together of my goals, or a ‘bucket list’ of sorts, and do something about them before I’m too old to enjoy it.

I was going through some of my old stuff in some forgotten old boxes, as I do at times when I’m feeling nostalgic, and I came across an old list that I had put together a few years ago when my husband and I had just met. Yes, I keep things that long. Even though my husband tries his best to have spring cleans every other year, I’m what you might call a ‘Bowerbird’. Bowerbirds, for the uninitiated, are apparently unique to the Australian and New Guinea regions, and are birds that like to collect things to build elaborate nests with. Just like me, except I’ve never been to New Guinea. I can hang onto things for years. Just like that old list.

Some of the things I had included on that list were having a house on the beach, getting married, being financially secure, having a nice car and being healthy. Right now I have a house on an island that is surrounded by a beach, so I got pretty close. I got married to that wonderful man I had written about all those years ago, we are financially stable, but not rich, and I have a nice car and a motorbike as an added bonus.

Four out of the five is not too bad.

It’s funny how a battle with ill-health can change your perspective on things though.

Not long after I wrote that list, I was diagnosed with a brain tumour, and my life changed completely after the subsequent surgery. I was, and I still remain, dependent upon drugs to keep me alive, and my aspirations of good health became a thing of the past. Just getting up in the mornings and getting through each day, while working around physical limitations, was an achievement and a goal to aim for.

I’ve gradually improved, even though I’ve had things to work around. I wouldn’t say it has been easy, but it’s been life changing, and in some ways it has made me work harder for the things that I have achieved. If it weren’t for my illness I may not have achieved those things at all.

When I was well enough, I went back to college, and then university. I even went back to work and got back on a motorbike again. I changed jobs, graduated from university, studied other things, and even got a bigger motor bike.

So based on the above foundation, and my recent review in the dust, I have decided to put this new list together.

I’m going to get through this latest course and do something with it, like work from home so that I can move onto some other goals. I’m going to get a passport (finally) and stroll down the Champs Elysees in Paris, check out the Mona Lisa and visit Monet’s gardens. I’m going to get my eyes lasered, so I don’t have to squint anymore, even with glasses on, so I can actually see the Mona Lisa. I’m going on more motorcycle road trips. I’m going to relax a little more and smell the roses and the sea air that surrounds me. I’m going to spend more time with people that matter – like my husband – and less time worrying about people that don’t matter. I’m going to be wiser and more tolerant of less-than-perfect. I might even practice more patience. I’m going to wake up each morning and, no matter how crappy I feel, try to plant those feet on the floor and be grateful for at least one thing  before I stand up.

Time has definitely changed me. While I still have the wants, I feel more inclined to  be taking care of what I really need.

Tech help melt

I’m lucky to be here on my blog this evening. In fact, I’m lucky to be anywhere on the Internet this evening after the last day or two that I’ve had with Telcos, Internet Service Providers, and an Indian call centre technical help person.

I don’t doubt that ESL (English second language) technical help people know a little bit about technical help, provided you can understand what they are saying, and the information that you are giving them is not misinterpreted, but what I do doubt is that the problem that I had was anything close to what technical help I was provided with. Are you with me so far?

I’d like to add here that my problem started out in the usual fashion. My Internet died. As I have ADSL and not cable, and my telephone was still working, I concluded that the problem was with my ISP (Internet Service Provider). Using aforementioned communication device, I rang my ISP and was instantly transferred to one of those infuriating recorded voices and got palmed off to billing. I had to ring again to make it back into the technical help queue, and waited for about half an hour before I was greeted by a cheerful ESL operator who wanted to know how my day was going.

I told him that my day wasn’t as good as I would have liked it to be, based on my experience with my ISP so far, and that my Internet was down. He told me that it wasn’t, as I appeared to be hooked up at his end. There must be a problem with my modem, he concluded. I told him that my modem was fine up until approximately 50 minutes ago, and it was the lack of an ISP service that was giving me the trouble.

He refused to budge. It was definitely my modem that was the problem – he said, and he could help me fix it.

I went along with it. Any help is better than nothing, right?

So we got into my modem’s nifty little user program and commenced changing the settings. I rebooted the modem and waited. Nothing happened. Now there were no lights on my modem. It wasn’t even giving out a wireless signal to my laptops. Fantastic.

I told him what was going on and that now the problem seemed to be a bigger problem than what it started out to be. He told me that he had fixed my modem as best as he could and that he could not help me any further. I told him that considering that I still didn’t have the Internet, I didn’t think he had helped me very much at all. He told me that I would have to ring the company that I bought the modem from.

Gee, I wonder why I didn’t think of that before. Probably because it wasn’t a modem problem, it was an ISP problem. Now it was a modem problem.

I rang the modem company and they were very helpful. They ended up helping me reconfigure my modem settings because the settings were all wrong. I wonder how that happened? I also had to set up my wireless again, and my laptops, because the key had been changed in the developing drama, and I’d forgotten what was in my laptops when I’d first set them up. It’s funny how my mind goes blank when I’ve spent 4.5 hours in telecommunication hell.

I rebooted my modem router and after 5-10 minutes all the lights were blazing and I was once again reconnected to the other half of my life. It’s quite sad really. I need to get out more.

I found out the next day that it was indeed the ISP that was down. It was even in the news it was that big a deal. By the time I’d run the gauntlet with the ESL technical help person, and the modem technical help person, the Telco’s outage was fixed and it was back up and running again. If I had just sat on my hands and not panicked and reached for the phone, I could have been up and running again in 2.5 hours and had time for a couple of nice, relaxing herbal teas.

I’m a bit concerned by the fact that every media outlet in the country was reporting on the major outage of a major Telco provider, and one of their ESL employees hadn’t even been informed. In fact, I believe that nobody in his building in his overseas call centre knew about it, or somebody would have told him.

I don’t really need to point out the irony here, but I will. The abovementioned ISP is one of the biggest communication companies in Australia, and they can’t even send a memo.

The ‘Greed is Good’ Awards 2011 – 2012

I’ve been compiling a list over the last 12 months – probably a lot more if you take into consideration the angst – of my pick for the recipients of what I will call the ‘Writemystuff’s Greed is Good Awards.’ While it is not for me or any ordinary folk, to hypothesize on whether greed is actually good or not, the following are  giving the mantra a good run for its money.

  • Number 1 and primary recipient – the Banks. When aren’t they on this list? They’ve really outdone themselves over the years, and in 2011 – 2012 the themes are – Let’s raise the interest rates on mortgages without an RBA rate rise.  Let’s tack on a few more fees to credit cards, ATM usage, teller usage, and Internet banking. Let’s get rid of a few of our employees to cut expenses. Let’s throw a party for management to show our appreciation. Oh, and by the way, let’s announce our highest shareholder profit of…what was that?…. 2.78 billion?
  • Number 2 this year and hot on the heels of the banks are Woolworths and Coles, the two largest grocery retailers in Australia today. Talk about an oligopoly. Nobody else gets a look in. These two giants have cornered the market on just about everything, to the peril of the smaller suppliers of not only regular groceries, but fruit and vegetables, meat, wine, beer and spirits, and I hear they are even going into optometry and credit. Woolworths and Coles have their fingers in a lot of  pies, under a whole lot of different banners. Their favourite theme? Let’s have a price war and see how low we can go on a few select items, price our little competitors out of business, and then jack up the prices again.
  • Number 3, and generally a front runner in everything but the straight and narrow, are politicians. Even seasoned one-party loyalists are having a hard time in the 2011 – 2012 season making sense of the bullshitometre as the gloves come off and the scramble is on for a slice of the two-term-privilege-pie. Elections are looming, defectors and detractors are coming out of the woodwork, and a party mutiny is on spec in the wings. If somebody even suggests to me that this is all for the greater good and nostrils aren’t flared as the scent of lust, greed and power wafts their way, I will probably poke them with a sharp stick.
  • Number 4, although at times up there with the banks, are insurance companies. Experts at gaining maximum benefit for minimal outlay, and notorious for the classic ‘renege’ –  subject, of course, to the fine print that some unfortunates have failed to take into account. This was recently demonstrated in unbelievable clarity after the Brisbane floods, when some (should I mention names?) insurance companies failed to pay out, stating that ‘it’s all in the fine print.’ Up until that point, I never knew that there were different types of floods, and some weren’t covered by some insurance companies in the ‘fine print.’ Apparently flood means ‘water from above’ not ‘water from a swollen river that becomes swollen from water from above.’  You learn something new everyday. Who underwrites this stuff?
  • Number 5 is private health companies, who I believe, are in league with the devil – and the government, who is also in league with the devil. We pay out thousands of dollars a year, basically for nothing in my case, as I rarely use it. The public system offers me a better deal and I’m not out of pocket. When you do get hospitalised, you have an excess to pay for the days that you are in. If you are unlucky enough to get a doctor or an anaesthetist who doesn’t do Gap cover – well, you could be out of pocket a pretty pricey sum. And don’t start me about the ‘extras.’  There are definitely plenty of extras, but you don’t get them all, and what you do get you still have to pay for, and only get a percentage back. Sure, I could get the top Top cover, but I’d have to be driving a Rolls Royce and have a private plane waiting to take me to my summer house in France.

The above is just a small list. I have many more, but you get the idea. There is no point in ranting to the point of lunacy and scaring off my potential sympathisers all in one day. This is a blog, and I have plenty of time up my sleeve, provided I don’t get shafted by the bank, lose my house, can’t afford to eat, have a cardiac arrest from the stress, and can’t get medical attention because I don’t have private health insurance and the Liberal government has disbanded the public hospital system.

The things I have to say when I can’t sleep

I’m sitting here tonight, tapping away on my laptop keyboard, and I got to thinking about what I would be doing right now if I didn’t have all these amazing gadgets at my disposal to communicate with, and build a life around. The fact that I’m sitting in my bed typing away on my laptop, while my router, hooked up to my main computer in the office, picks up the signal and gets me onto the Internet, is pretty amazing. It’s more amazing considering that it wasn’t really that long ago – less than a generation- that we were reliant on everything BUT a computers to communicate with others.

I think about how easily I have slotted myself into becoming reliant on the new technologies, although I haven’t gone as far as to set my mobile phone up to be Internet ready, use an iPad, or set my Foxtel up to be Internet capable, I’m quite good at going through a few gigabytes of computer download each week.

I do a lot on the Internet these days. I buy books, I study, I organise my business, I update my website, and I talk to my friends. If I could get my groceries delivered to the island, I would probably do that too. I’m becoming a cyber hermit.

I can vaguely remember my time as a sunburnt, adventurous child, intent on getting out of the house for as many hours as possible in as much downtime as I had to play with out of school hours. Back then, chips were something you got hot from the corner shop, processors had some use in the kitchen, and ports were a name for our school bags.

My son, only the next generation, has grown up with CDs, computers, pocket mobile phones, iPods, iPads. I could go on, as it’s a long list. Suffice it to say that he is pretty adept at pushing buttons, tapping keyboards, downloading, and digitising. He doesn’t even know if he can get hot chips from the corner shop, because he never gets out.

It would be pretty fair to say that we are moving along at a pretty fast pace, and it’s getting faster than it was perhaps  only 50 years ago. With each generation that comes after this one, a little more of the old will be lost, and new social and societal structures will emerge in the changing environment.

It’s pretty hard to imagine, given the trajectory that we are on, what the world will be like in another 50 years. I’m hopeful for improvement, provided that we don’t blast ourselves into kingdom come as modern warfare techniques also advance  along with the advancing technologies, and some nut decides to press ‘the button.’

As per my previous rant about us losing the plot, we have a lot to learn about preserving the only place that we have to cohabitate on, despite our amazing technological advances in the last few years.

So, what would I be doing right now if I didn’t have all of these marvellous gadgets at my disposal? I’d probably be sleeping quite soundly and not getting on my cyber-soapbox bleating about the state of the world and some possible future lunatic with a big bomb and a trigger finger.

MT trenches

Well I’m still hard at it banging away on the keyboard and listening to the warblings of some supposed medical professionals that could’ve also taken an elective at university to improve their grammar somewhat, judging by what I’ve been subjected to these last few months.

Yes, I’m still raving about the MT training course that I have embarked upon in an attempt  to join the ranks of other MTs world-wide that work from the luxury their own homes. At some level I must be committed to my own suffering, because this stuff has been harder than any university study that I have completed in the past.

Having said that, I’m hoping that my time and training in the MT trenches is going to improve my skills to the point that employment from the home is a probability rather than the vague possibility it was a year ago when I started to look at giving the whole ‘commuting in the rat race’ thing the big flick.

The training consists of quite a few modules, half theory and the other half practical. I’m nearing the last module of the course now, the dreaded last practicum module, or ACC – Advanced Acute Care – to the layman. I’m ten months into the course, with anther two months to go to complete this last module and sit the final examination.

Sadly, I fear it isn’t going to be enough time.

I’m a stickler for timetables and order. I’ve run offices in the past and had to develop a fair amount of discipline while I was studying as well to prioritise my time, and mud tends to stick, so to speak. Time management was paramount then, and still is now, but no matter how I look at it, I can work my butt off for the next couple of months and get the last module finished, but still not leave myself enough time to study for, and sit, the final examination.

A dilemma? A disaster? It could be. But perhaps not. If I pay just a little extra money I can buy myself some extra time to complete my finals with ease.

I sure hope that I make enough money when I get out of here to pay for the course and all the extras along the way.

I’ve been assured that there is plenty of work, so you can expect in future posts to hear all about my progress, although I will be bound by the privacy rules and regulations, and names, dates, and experiences will be changed to protect the innocent, namely myself, from litigation.

We’ve lost the plot

I was flicking through my Foxtel cable channels the other evening in an effort to find something interesting to watch, without too much success.  As I’m not an avid watcher of everything that is going – including reality television, which I detest – it can get frustrating trying to find something that might meet the criteria.

I settled for a documentary based on the plight of the African lion which, if I believed what the commentator was saying, would be practically extinct in less than a generation if we didn’t do something to save them. They offered suggestions on what could be done, from protecting their environment to stopping the locals from poisoning the lions to save their cattle. The answer to me was glaringly obvious.

Get rid of the human pestilence, and what’s left of the ‘other’ part of the animal kingdom might stand a good chance of survival.

Let’s face it, we don’t really have a good track record for actually saving things. We tend destroy our natural environment in an effort to make ourselves at home in it, to the significant detriment of any other unfortunate species that might be perfectly okay with the way that things are, and have been for many millions of years.

I realise that these are harsh criticisms to flop around willie-nillie about my fellow human beings, but nonetheless on-the-money when you consider what we have done and the evidence to back it up. We are, in truth, one of the most successful species ever to have walked the face of this planet. I don’t say we are the only successful species, as there would be others that have been quite a bit more successful, if you take the ability to reason and verbal communication out of the equation. The dinosaurs, for example, ruled the earth for millions of years only to be all but wiped out by an alleged meteorite impact, and crocodiles and cockroaches – well, they are still here. The trouble with us is that our capacity to reason becomes unreasonably biased without proper adherence to what has come before us.

We upset the balance and make unreasonable demands on the natural laws. We overpopulate, we over-farm, we are over-the-top.

I agree that I myself am also part of the problem, but at least I am aware of it. Sadly, the majority don’t care, and we will keep on going until there is nothing left to sustain the immense population that the earth struggles to manage even now.

I have one very good idea that may appear radical and slightly unhinged, but my reasoning is sound. The birth toll exceeds the death toll. Modern medicine has the capacity to keep us alive longer and save otherwise  unhealthy and ill people, such as myself, who might have died. I’m not complaining, that’s for sure, I’m still here to get on my soapbox occasionally. What I am saying is that the increasing population is THE problem.

Seriously, has anybody ever thought about birth control?

Especially for those who can least afford more children, and continue to bring children into a world of misery, poverty, illness and suffering.

Forget about donating money to the overseas nations in an effort to give them a better life. Give them birth control. Educate them as to the long term effects of bringing children into their already overpopulated regions.

Sure, we are ingrained to breed, that is our right. But surely commonsense has to prevail eventually.

So kick me out of the room. I’m a non-player. But I’m not going to sit back and watch the world – which still has it’s moments of brilliance and breathtaking beauty – eat itself alive because of the actions of one of the most self-centred, destructive and dangerous creatures ever to walked the face of this planet.