Thursday, September 25, 2008

Question....

If we find it harder work on our muscles to walk up and down hill than on flat, do ants find it harder to walk up walls than over floors?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Canberra Times

Big news. I have decided upon my newspaper of choice in Australia.

This might seem like a minor decision, I live in NSW so there are only a few to choose from (while there are a few national papers, Australian newspapers tend to be city or state focussed, like in the US).

Regional papers here (unlike the UK) are owned by people with money (News Ltd or Fairfax) and cover national stories, genuinely interesting local news (because, unlike counties in the UK, state governments actually have a lot of power) and some international stuff.

As a PR agency, we get all the papers from across Australia into the office each day, and my friendly colleague Kat goes round handing them out so we all make sure we read at least one. Since my arrival, Kat has made sure to give me a good mix of papers so I get the hang of them all; the Financial Review, Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, The Australian, The Courier Mail, The Brisbane Times...

I quite like the Courier Mail, but today I chose my favourite.

The Canberra Times.

Now Canberra is famous for being boring. The capital city in a specially carved out territory, famous for having no nightlife, no good restaurants and a disproportionate number of politians per capita.

But don't let that put you off.

The Canberra Times is essentially like reading The Times (of London) newspaper. It even has a Times 2 section with nice features to mull over while you eat your lunch. Its got a larger than normal world news section and makes me feel a little more part of the big wide world of a morning.

So while I will keep a bit of variation in my media diet to ensure I stay familiar with all the papers, the day I get the Canberra Times will be my favourite.

Boring

Do you ever start a blog post and realise that what you were writing is fundamentally rather dull?

Yeah, me too.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A meme

I stole this meme from Cathy, and hereby pass it on to Polly (as she features so much):

1. My uncle once: stuck a child’s highchair suction toy to his forehead and left it there so long he had a big red circle blister for days. My uncle is a bit like that. I used to think he was a pirate too.

2. Never in my life: ... Gosh. What a lot of choice. There are a lot of things I haven’t done. Been to Mauritius is one of them. Eaten a bat is another... how long have you got?

3. When I was five: I learnt to dive, the day I went to sea. I jumped aboard a pirate ship and the captain said to me; we’re going this way, that way, forwards, backwards, over the Irish Sea, with a bottle of rum to warm my tum and that’s the life for me....

4. High school was: something Americans went to while we made do with distinctly less glamorous senior school.

5. I will never forget: Umm.....

6. Once I met: Boris Johnson at a book launch and offered to teach him how to use his BlackBerry properly, but the next day was 7/7 so he had other things on his mind.

7. There’s this girl I know: but I don’t think you’d like her

8. Once, at a bar: always at a bar. That’s what I say. Bars are good. Especially cocktail ones. And wine ones.

9. By noon, I’m usually: Starving hungry.

10. Last night: I found out that a children’s TV programme only I seemed to remember *actually exists!*

11. If only I had: learnt how to work my oven yet I could have lasagne for tea. But I haven’t. So I can’t.

12. Next time I go to church: will probably be for someone’s wedding. I like weddings, which makes the church bearable.

13. What worries me most: is my to do list. No, probably not most... What worries me most is that one day all my family won’t be walking this earth. And I will miss them. Is that rather morbid? Sorry. Was a silly question.

14. When I turn my head left I see: Polly’s forehead

15. When I turn my head right I see: all sorts of paperwork pinned to my desk divider.... and a heap of business cards I need to rollerdex properly

16. You know I’m lying when: I gloss over something. I hate lying.

17. What I miss most about the Eighties is: how long the summers seemed to be back then.

18. If I were a character in Shakespeare I’d be: miserable probably. Great man, generally depressed characters. Wouldn’t mind being a witch in Macbeth... bit of sisterhood going on there, but they don’t get together often enough... (ho ho ho).

19. By this time next year: I will RULE THE WORLD (ahahahaha! <-- evil laugh)

20. A better name for me would be: Super Pom (according to Polly. Polly, now is perhaps the time to go for a drink methinks)

21. I have a hard time understanding: chinese. And Japanese. And Hebrew. And Lebanese. And Americans ;-)

22. If I ever go back to school, I’ll: be going to a parent’s evening probably. Oooh, scary grown-up thought.

23. You know I like you if: I add you on Twitter, Facebook, put you in my phone, MSN you... generally hang out with you.

24. If I ever won an award, the first person I would thank would be: the judges. For accepting my bribe.

25. Take my advice, never: Eat Shredded Wheat

26. My ideal breakfast is: surprisingly currently muesli with strawberries. Mmmm.

27. A song I love but do not have is: those ones that you love (largely from the 80s and 90s) but don’t know the name to. Shazam should come up with an itunes search option where I can hum it in the general direction of my PC and it tells me what to buy.

28. If you visit my hometown, I suggest you: go and check my tenants are looking after my house. Because if I found out you were there and hadn’t checked my little home was still standing I would sulk

29. Why won’t people: do everything I tell them? That would be cool.

30. If you spend a night at my house: make sure it’s not a Wednesday. It appears the bin men/ladies come on a Thursday morning, and the boss lady shouts at them and its all rather loud

31. I’d stop my wedding for: a charging elephant

32. The world could do without: an awful lot of the people in it. Oh, and bananas and onions.

33. I’d rather lick the belly of a cockroach than: lick a lot of the people in the world. Or bananas or onions.

34. My favourite blonde(s) is/are: the Kinetics crew. Good girls, them.

35. Paper clips are more useful than: a lot of things. Especially if you bend them into different shapes. Then you can pick locks and stuff.

36. If I do anything well it’s: talk. And make lasagne. I make lasagne very well. Mmmmm, lasagne.

37. I can’t help but: eat once I have thought about eating.

38. I usually cry: at films and often books but much less likely real life.

39. My advice to my child/nephew/niece: be good to your auntie, she will take you for manicures when you are big.

40. And by the way: It’s going to be 31 degrees in Sydney on Saturday. Ho ho ho.

Does sexism still exist?

As regular readers will know (because I have said it a few times by now), I never used to consider myself a feminist. I went to a girls school, was raised with two sisters by parents who honestly believed we could rule the world if we wanted. I wasn't a feminist because, frankly, I didn't need to be. I had it easy.

Since moving to Australia, I have been working hard to get to know the people I need to know within my industry. Which is technology. And have come across a lot of groups and events for women in IT (as well as plenty for people of any gender whatsoever who work in IT).

I went along. I met people. I had some great conversations and I can honestly say they are some of the most supportive communities I have encountered. But something didn't fit right for me. I had it explained by a number of the women I spoke with; the problem was I am not a true geek, and am not into hard coding, which is why I don't feel the pressures of the female minority.

OK I thought, I am not going to argue. But deep down I couldn't help thinking these women were turning to a safety net which merely served to highlight the gender barrier.

But over the last week I have changed my mind.

I don't know whether its Australia (I certainly never saw this in the UK) or whether I am just more exposed in a new business network, but suddenly I am seeing people make comments and judgements which - frankly - I don't like.

It started with a mailer, depicting a woman in her undies and trying on various different costumes (this video was to get us all excited about the whole company/group bash in a couple of months - a bash I was, until this mailer, excited about). My company within the group is almost entirely women and none of us was impressed, feeling it made it acceptable for the men in the group to think of us in an unprofessional light.

Add to that the fact that I have never had it pointed out to me so many times before that Emily Is Female. I used to be in PR, in technology, good, bad, indifferent... but never before quite so adamantly that I Am Woman (and all that that implies in truth or stereotype).

Overly sensitive? Maybe.

But then there was the discussion in a Google Group I am part of. The group is designed to foster innovation within the technology industry in Australia. A fab cause and a group I enjoy being a part of. Except today one member made a flippant remark along the lines of; "I didn't mind being sat there, because PR girls are rather hot", or something.

I now understand the need for women to stick together because on all these occasions I have felt like I couldn't speak up about how inappropriate I thought things were, because it would place me outside of the collective.

In the second instance I settled for a light hearted reply aimed to bring the inappropriateness to the attention of all, while attempting to remain jovial. ("Thanks for the write up, but I wanted to add that as well as being hot stuff, PR girls are of course also often highly skilled professionals in their field.... ;-)"). But the original writer interpretted it as being sensitive... which lead to me emailing an apology to him (he did then reply and apologise too... so we are all square).

I am not entirely sure where this post is going, except in a plea...

Please can I be Emily again? Emily who comes to work, does her job, goes to the pub, talks about things she is interested in and has character traits that are all her own? I would much rather that than Emily The Girl, who is bundled into a big box marked "Female" and dismissed (or worshipped) merely for her collective identity.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Said it. Did it.

Steve Jobs on Apple in 1996

"If I were running Apple, I would milk the Macintosh for all it's worth -- and get busy on the next great thing. The PC wars are over. Done. Microsoft won a long time ago."-- Fortune, Feb. 19, 1996

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Viral marketing gone too far

Big Tim Bond posted this video on his blog, and not only did I laugh outloud, but I forwarded it to my whole company so there is now laughter ringing out all over the office.

Check it out. Love it.

Monday, September 15, 2008

How clean is your house?

Today I emailed the property manager for my lovely new flat, having successfully moved in on the weekend (thanks Polly for the help!)

The email was to say that the move had gone well, but that the flat had not been professionally cleaned as we had discussed. In fact in places (the bathroom drawers for example) it was downright disgusting. There was a not inconsiderable list of dirty things, broken items (the large TV...) and the like, otherwise I wouldn't have bothered letting them know.

I wanted them to get someone around to clean it, because I hate even cleaning my own charcoaled food off the oven and I am damned if I will do someone else's.

But my delightful new property manager said (or tried to, but seemed to miss half the words out):

"No, it has been cleaned by our usual cleaners"

I replied:

"No it hasn't, or at least not properly. Do you want to come and look this evening?"

To which she replied (and I *love* this!):

"I can't, I am going to a tribunal this afternoon (!!!) And it has been cleaned"

So tonight, darling property manager... here is the evidence.... Now trust me, you don't get rid of me that easily. Expect my email with the evidence tomorrow morning. And call your cleaner again....



Queen Beens

I made a new dinner the other day, and it was sooo much nicer than it should be if you judged it on hassle-level.

Take:

One can of tinned tomatos
One can of canneloni beans
One can of tuna
Any veggies you have at the bottom of your fridge
Pepper and some mixed herbs
Garlic

Shove it all into a pan, heat.

Eat.

YUM.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Open source

I should preface this post by telling you all that my first ever client in the great world of technology PR was Red Hat. Red Hat (for those of you not in technology) is (arguably, I am sure) the world's most successful Open Source company. It's a competitor to Microsoft, but crucially while all the lines of code that make up Microsoft's Windows operating system are kept secret, making the software expensive to buy, Red Hat uses Linux - source code freely available on the internet. Because it's all publicly available (open source) programmers can take it, change it, improve it, build around it.... making the code better. While Microsoft is known for its unweildy lines of code, Linux is sleek and has much fewer bugs in it (at least by the time each full version is released). Because anyone can download the code, companies like Red Hat make their money by distributing it and supporting it (and when you are talking about business users those support contracts are worth millions - just like the Microsoft support contracts are).

Wow that explanation took longer than I intended.

Anyway, Red Hat was my first ever client and so I got bitten early by the philosophy of open source. Its a rather hippy theory - information and knowledge belong to the world. So companies like Microsoft with their proprietary, closed systems become *bad* while anything open source must be *good*.

In my line of work, when you are constantly meeting people who get a buzz from their technology (but also need to feed their children) it's easy to forget principles like this, but I was reminded this evening of my love for the philosophy when I re-watched an old favourite film of an old housemate of mine. Although nothing from Hollywood is ever very accurate, Antitrust is a great film. It tells the story of a Microsoft-a-like that spies on and kills programmers in their garage in order to meet its corporate targets for product development and get to market first.

If you watch it and want to know more, I can recommend Glyn Moody's book Rebel Code. I won't pretend it isn't a geeky book but I read it as a youthful 21 year old history graduate and loved it for the story before I understood the technology.

Open Source was a much hotter topic in the media six years ago. I worry that since then our interest has waned while we focus on other principles; environmentalist and the like. But I believe the world needs more people who are prepared to give their talents to the world, and wanted to make a little noise in my own small way to remind everyone of the great efforts of those who open source.

Monday, September 08, 2008

On buses and taxis

I couldn't decide today whether to write about Sydney bus drivers, or London cabbies... until I realised that combined they would make an uber-post. So here goes:

- Sydney cab drivers are pants. They don't know where they are going. And they don't offer a refund if you have to do all the navigating yourself (indeed on more than one occasion they have thrown the AtoZ onto the back seat and I have done just that). I have taken to carrying my own AtoZ. It's just easier and being pocket sized I can pass it forward and point at the appropriate road without my arms aching.

- It all makes me think wistfully of the London cabbie. Five years of running over pedestrians on the streets of London from the back of a scooter while they peer at an open AtoZ to memorise it really does pay off. They may be the UK's most expensive cabbies but you get The Knowledge thrown in free so it's certainly worth it. Plus their chipper banter really brightens up the endless queues into Soho on a Friday evening. London cabbies; I salute you.

- London bus drivers, however, appear to have learnt their manners from Sydney cabbies. Or walls. They stare dead ahead as you embark and you almost have to poke them if you actually want to pay your fare (perhaps Ken and now Boris are paying them extra to incentivise passengers to buy an Oyster card so no interaction is required). If you want to get on or off with a push chair, however, you are guaranteed a response from the London bus driver. A huff. I don't miss you.

- Sydney bus drivers, I think, are naturally morning people. As you embark they take the time to give you change, or merrily watch you swipe your Travel Ten ticket. They cry "Have a lovely day!" as everyone hops on and off - even if you exit via the middle doors. Having been raised in the land of the polite cabby (not the land of the cheerful bus driver) this takes me by surprise *every single morning* and makes me smile each day. I think Sydney bus drivers should be on the Australia immigration posters. They are fab.

The End.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Housekeeping

Next Saturday is the big moving day - I will be waving goodbye to North Sydney and heading out to the Eastern Suburbs to join all the other Brits in Sydney.

I fought it hard. I didn't see the point in moving all this way to mix with exactly the same people you would find on a standard night out in Clapham. But it soon became a Sunday habit for me to wake up and hop on the train to Bondi, so if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

I won't actually be living in Bondi - the suburb ends at my road, so one side is, and my side isn't. I will be living in Bellevue Hill so I reckon that's a bit less stereotypical.

Yeah I know. Fooling myself.

Anyway, because my packing will take about five minutes (putting it all back into the suitcases it arrived in) I used my excitement today for housekeeping jobs all in the name of recovering my bond.

I have scrubbed the bathroom from top to bottom (and replaced the shower curtain) AND ventured into the poisonous spider domain that is my back terrace. My housemate broke the news to me a week ago that "it didn't have a jungle of weeds when we moved in 12 months ago you know, and it needs to be returned in the state we found it."

Ooooh, gardening! Said I. Naively.

In the UK you don't have to keep your eyes peeled for the deadly and locationally choosy funnelweb spider (which kindly limits itself to the Sydney area). Or the killer redback... also a fan of Sydney. You don't even have to watch for the harmless yet terrifyingly large huntsman spider (rife in this part of the world).

No, in the UK I can limit my gardening panic attacks to the steady march of the teeny, unassuming and entirely harmless garden spider.

Luckily in the couple of hours of scrubbing around in a mass of woven weeds I spotted exactly NO spiders - deadly or otherwise.

I had a bit of a fright when my old friend put in an appearance from underneath a plant, but otherwise it was rather uneventful.

Still - I have just taken a long hot shower in the newly sparkling bathroom just in case one was hiding in the dirt on me! I know - but I never pretended to be a rational human being...

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Domestic Goddess or Domestic Demon?

Catching up on Monday's edition of the Canberra Times over lunch I came across this article about the rise of the domestic goddess (syndicated from The Guardian in the UK, hence it being all about this British trend).

I rarely read an article right to the very end, but this one I did because I found the discussion fascinating. The gist is; cupcakes, '50s dresses, knitting and even the WI are back in vogue. There are many possible reasons (personally I wonder whether its simply because cupcakes are nice but other explanations included a return to femininity and a rebellion against punk parents).

What made me think, however, was the sudden emergence half way through the article of a feminist warning us all that this is a Bad Thing.

Her opinion, it seems, hangs on the fact that women have spent a long long time fighting to get out of the apron-clad stereotype and this sort of cake-making, seamed-tights-wearing, jam-stewing behaviour will land us all right back into the kitchen (do not pass the careers office, do not collect two hundred pounds).

I utterly agree with her statements that we still do not have equality and I occasionally meet men who (despite their best attempts at "modern thinking") still think of women as collectively emotional and irrational. However, I think the feminist author quoted is picking the wrong battle ground.

These women like icing cakes, wearing pretty dresses, sewing, maybe even designing paint effects to make their home more homey. They also enjoy their friendship group of people with similar interests. I am not sure that feminism was supposed to be about depriving yourself of enjoyable pastimes.

There are a great many other things going on which I believe undermine the feminist movement much more than a bit of knitting. (For example this morning I received an email from a Women in IT group of which I am a member, launching the Million Dollar Babes Awards 2008 - for women who run successful technology companies turning over more than a million dollars per annum. I was so disgusted by the demeaning name that I have emailed them to ask for it to be changed. A simple dictionary seach shows that a word that is "disparaging and offensive" and implies "inexperience" is inappropriate here).

I think cake baking is harmless in comparison. Personally I like a Cath Kidston pinny as much as the next WI member, and I am all for a bit of burlesque resurgence to coax anyone out of Stringfellows.

As The Beatles once said; "Let it be". We can be awesomely ball-breaking in the boardroom, earning a fortune, playing rugby on the weekends AND knitting in front of Eastenders of an evening. After all - we are women!

Bristol City - a current affair story

I know, dear reader, shock horror! Its not all that often that my Thoughts On Everything converge with current affairs. But today, it's happened.

So what has got me all excited? The American Election!! Well, kind of.

It turns out that the Republican vice president candidate has a daughter, aged 17, who is pregnant.

While my office is busily gossiping about how shocking this is for a Republican candidate, I, across the room, was busy weeing myself laughing.

Why?

Because this mother-to-be is called Bristol.

And I have enough knowledge of Cockney Ryhming Slang to know that that is an unfortunate name. Her mother (who is lucky enough to have the entirely sensible name of Sarah) has named her after female appendages.

Hee hee.... still giggling about it.

Monday, September 01, 2008

For what will I be remembered?

I have a blog traffic counter on this blog (right at the very bottom of this page) which simply tells me how many people have read this blog (only since I installed the counter, so its not incredibly accurate).

The counter also links me (with my special password) to an online report of visitors too. It's all lists of nonsense and things I don't really understand but every now and then I like to check out the section called "recent keyword activity". This is, it seems, a posh way of saying "what did people google that led them to your blog?" and it has some fabulously weird things. Here are some of my favourites (you know who you are!)

- Fimo dragons (oddly my random fimo post generates quite a lot of readers! I wonder whether they are happy about what they found?)

- Where did the real women go? (have I revived feminism or just provided a landing page for a man frustrated by a string of unlucky dates with transvestites?)

- Laurel bush roots (was I helpful?)

- Should I or should I not move to Oz? (what did they decide???)

- Quaff work in the NHS (I have no idea at all what this took them to!)

- A bad side to everything glam (possibly not what they were after)

But I think my favourite one has to be:

- Farmers in their squelchy wellies ...

.... because I am convinced I would like the person who googled this. Unless they were weird fetishists, in which case I wouldn't. Either way it beats my friend whose blog was found once through the google search "normal girl sex". Classy.

Telephone etiquette

I have been pondering this post for a number of weeks now. (By that I of course mean that I keep forgetting to write it). Its been motivated by a noticeable change in telephone etiquette since arriving Down Under.

It seems that in the Land of the Oz everyone sees a ringing telephone as something that *must be answered*. While this may immediately seem like a good thing - yay, responsiveness and all that - I have to explain that actually its a lose/lose situation.

Imagine you are on the phone to someone and their mobile rings... no matter how important, enthralling or brief your own conversation, they will pick up the other phone too.

Now imagine you are calling someone who (unbeknownst to you) is already on the other line to someone else... they will pick up the phone to you and say "I can't speak right now, can I call you back?" You are left feeling bad for interrupting AND wondering why they answered in the first place (obviously they would have made themselves available, for the right incoming call - you just didn't make the grade).

Phones are routinely taken into meetings (and answered!!!). If you are sitting helping a colleague with a quick question and their desk phone rings they will answer it... because apparently the incoming call is more important than the two minutes of your time they just begged.

Because people find themselves juggling two conversations at once (sometimes answering their second phone without asking permission of the person on the first phone) its unclear who is talking to whom. Its not even unusual to have your call answered with; "Can I call you back?". No hello, no nothing!!

I would like to issue this plea to the people of Australia. Turn on your voicemail and leave the phone to ring. Owning a telephone does not make you at the beck and call of whoever calls, whenever they call. If its not a good time, leave it to ring.

Grrrrrr!!! Rant over.

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