Friday, March 30, 2012

My Second Favourite Thing: The Eraser Pen

Last week I wrote about my favourite thing in the world at the moment.  Today, I'd like to share my second favourite thing:

An eraser pen. While that might seem like an odd item to be the second favourite item that I have, let me explain. For my research, I spend a lot of time reading books borrowed from my university's academic library. These books are filled with underlinings, comments and general annoying writing that irritates me so much that I can't focus on what is in the actual book. Who are the people who write in these books and why do they do it? The point of underlining stuff is identifying important bits of the text, usually so that when you look over the text again you can easily see what you found interesting, relevant, insightful, whatever.  But these are library books, so chances are that the underliner won't be looking at these pages again. What's more, different readers are looking for different things. I might be looking for references to masculinity while my friend is studying ideology and her friend is into semiotics. What's relevant is different for each of us, so we would be highlighting different sections. Is it arrogance - do they think they are helping future students by identifying the parts of the text they thought were important? Because, if that is the case, then the genius who made the below comment in a chapter called 'Masculine or Homosexual' is doing no-one any favours:

Yup, pretty darn insightful. A chapter that explores the relationship between masculinity and homosexuality does contain sentences that reference homosexuals. Who'd have thunk it? 

I think there are two different types of people in the world - those who think it's fine to deface books by writing or highlighting in them or dog-earing the pages (Why? Get a bookmark! Use a bit of paper!) and those who believe books are sacrosanct and should be respected. (On a side note, when I was 13 I had a massive fight with a girl from my high school that involved both tears and foot-stamping when she dog-eared pages in the copy of The Power of One I loaned her. To put it in context, if she had cut off the ears of a small furry puppy and mailed them to me I could not have been more shocked at her actions. It was the best book in the world! And there was a movie version that starred Stephen Dorff!* And I loved Stephen Dorff and was going to marry him after I finished high school and became a wealthy writer and then he and I would campaign in South Africa to overturn apartheid! Me and Stephen Dorff!  Together Forever! FOREVER! If the Internet had been around then I would have de-friended her, blocked her on Twitter and left a nasty comment on her Facebook page, I was that outraged. ME AND STEPHEN DORFF WILL NEVER GET MARRIED NOW BECAUSE YOU DOG-EARED MY BOOK AND I WILL NEVER EVER SPEAK TO YOU AGAIN AND YOU CAN'T EVER USE MY PINK HIGHLIGHTER OR MY ALADDIN* PENCIL EVER AGAIN! EVER! Between the hormones, the bitchiness and the insanity you could not pay me any amount of money to be a teenage girl again. Ever.)

Where was I? Oh yes, the writing in these books clearly causes me to become rage-y and insane and what some may consider slightly unbalanced (I consider it eccentric and part of my unique charm. YMMV.). The eraser pen allows me to quickly and easily remove any offending pencil marks from the books before I read them, saving me hours of angst and every real-life friend I have hours of boredom listening to my passionate denunciations of the type of people who write in books.  This pencil eraser has made me a better person and a better friend (and a little bit less crazy. Every little bit counts.).

That, readers, is why I love my eraser pen and why it is currently my No.2 favourite thing. Next week, No.3, a sock and a shawl and pictures of a chicken carcass. Until then, have a good weekend :)

* Remember Aladdin? Wasn't it awesome? I'm a feminist and I know it's wrong but I love me a good Disney princess. Add a couple of catchy tunes and my principles fly straight out the window. What's an underlying anti-feminist conservative ideological conspiracy compared to singing A Whole New World at the top of your lungs? Patriarchy wins every time.**** What is it they say - hell has all the good music.

** Whatever happened to Stephen Dorff***? I bet he's fat now and has a receding hairline. It's good that Nelson Mandela was able to sort out that whole apartheid situation since Stephen Dorff and I didn't work out.  

*** IMDB tells me he has actually been acting pretty consistently over the last two decades and starred in Sofia Copolla's latest film. He's not fat but does have a receding hairline and is kind of weird looking. I certainly dodged a bullet there. I love the Internet.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

My favourite thing, in advocacy of nurses and a new sock

Sleep and an Angry Bear

Lately, my insomnia has been out of control. Up until yesterday I hadn’t had a full night’s sleep for three weeks and I felt like a bear with a thorn in its paw and an annoying wildlife photographer called Bill photographing me constantly (and I would have eaten Bill if I’d caught him. I was that cranky). I went to the doctor and got a prescription for a new type of sleeping tablet, which proved to be just as ineffective as my old type of sleeping tablet. Apparently I have SuperInsommnia that can beat all of the sleeping tablets. Yesterday, I’d had enough – I took one of each type of sleeping tablet with a glass of hot milk and – praise the Lord! Who I don’t believe in – I was asleep by midnight and I woke up this morning at 8am feeling rested, peaceful, joyous and wonderful.  People who sleep well, is this what you feel like all the time? It’s excellent.

My Favourite Thing and the Joy of Nurses

Melbourne has become very chilly (shall I rename my blog All About The Weather? Cause I do seem to talk about it all the time), which means drum roll pulling out my hot water bottle! When I was younger, my mum used hot water bottles all the time and she was always like “Try a hot water bottle. They’re so warm and cuddly” and I was all like “Water bottle? You have to fill the kettle then wait for it to boil then fill it up and then find a pillowcase to wrap it in so you don’t get burned. Bleurgh. That's definitely too much work - I’m just going to turn up the heater.” Then I moved out of home and started paying my own electricity bill and all of a sudden, hot water bottles became a lot more attractive. Now I like to fill multiple hot water bottles and leave them places where I am likely to be soon, like my office chair or under the doona. Then when I sit down my chair/bed is already toasty warm and I am a very happy choppy (although I do occasionally find a cold hot water in an unlikely place... When was I going to sit at the spare dining table where the chairs are too short for the table and I feel like I'm eating at chin level? But I just put that down to the hot water bottle equivalent of buying ugly things online while drunk - I blame the alcohol.)

Beyond just warmth, a hot water bottle can make aches and pains feel better or just go away. Last year when I was in hospital I did about three hours of physio every day. This caused an ache across my lower back that made moving between sitting up and lying down really painful. I did tell the hospital staff, but the conversation went something like this:

ME: My back hurts.
STAFF: What kind of hurt?
ME: Just, you know, achey in my lower back. It hurts to move between sitting and lying.
STAFF: Is it as bad as the pain from your broken leg which we are using all of many years of expertise as well as a lot of time and equipment to fix at no cost to you?
ME: No, but…
STAFF: Well, use a bit of perspective and suck it up, princess. Here’s a panadol and some dencorub.

They were also unsympathetic when I complained about the lack of vegetables in the food and that I always missed morning tea because my physio went over morning-tea-time and without daily coffee and cake hospital was unbearable (It really was. Cake makes all the difference.) A hot water bottle fixed that ache right up. Hot water bottles – I heart you.

(On a side note, nursing is one of the most underrated professions ever. While a lot of the duties that nurses do seem menial and easily done by cheaper, untrained staff, a good nurse can be the difference between a happy, healthy patient and a depressed, unhealthy one.  When you’re having a shitty day because you haven’t slept for three weeks because the woman in the bed next to you gets night terrors at 3am every single night and your quiet, introverted self is going insane because the nature of hospital means you are with people all the time, having a nurse bring you a cup of coffee from her personal stash because the hospital instant coffee tastes like caffeinated dishwater can make it possible to get through the day. From a professional point of view, nurses deal with patients on the frontline – they’re the ones who notice the effects of medication prescribed by doctors who see their patients once a day, they’re the ones who know realistically the limits and possibilities of their charges. It’s an amazing skill to make a patient retain their dignity after helping them use a bedpan and then wiping their arse. Nurses should be given more respect and I’d like to point out that, again, a female-dominated profession lacks the value and appreciation that electricians, a male-dominated profession that requires a similar amount of training but much less formal education, receive. Why do you think that is?)

On the knitting side, I am still slogging away at my WWFY Henslowe.  I’m at the lace bit now which looks very pretty but requires me to pay attention, making it bad TV and traffic-stop knitting. So, I cast on for a pair of Spring Forwards, just to take the edge off my project monogamy.  I'm all for relationship monogamy, but project monogamy is cruel and unusual punishment.

You’ll have to trust me – they are very pretty. I love my iPhone, but really, its camera sucks.

Now I’m going for a walk. Feeling rested is really wonderful – my energy reserves are full. Modern medicine, like my hot water bottle I heart you too (with lots of sleep comes a lot of love to give J )

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Review: I've Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella

A few weekends ago I read a particular scathing review of this book, which (if I recall correctly) may have included the words “improbable”, “aggravating” and “hurl” (as in throw against a wall, not vomit).  As a long-time reader of contemporary female romance novels and crime/murder mystery novels, both genres which typically rely heavily on coincidence, happenstance and flukey chances, my suspension-of-disbelief instinct is very well honed. Always on the look-out for an easy, fun book and having enjoyed Kinsella’s books in the past, I reserved this title at my local library.(FN 1)

Yesterday was miserable, rainy and cold – the perfect time for an easy-on-the-brain English female contemporary romance novel (I will not use the phrase Ch--- L--. I just will not). I made a hot chocolate, forced my cat to sit next to me and purr and turned my suspension-of-disbelief-ometer up as high as it would go.  Unfortunately, there is no setting high enough to account for the improbable, aggravating and downright stupid plot point that this whole novel revolves around. (FN2).  Kinsella’s books generally revolve around the basic plotline of girl is with boy, boy is not right for girl, girl doesn’t realise it until she meets the right boy, girl dumps the wrong boy and gets together with the right boy. True to form, Poppy is engaged to the dashing Magnus, who has great hair but knows it, thereby exhibiting vanity, a cardinal sin in contemporary female romance novel’s heroes, who must be very attractive but not know it. We already know that this is not the guy for our gal Poppy. However, Poppy (apparently unversed in the conventions of this genre) hasn’t realised this yet, and on a champagne afternoon tea at a posh hotel gets a bit tiddly and loses her expensive family heirloom engagement ring.  Her friends all leave (of course! I know when my best friend is in crisis my first thought is “What time is the next bus out of here?”. That’s what friends are for, right?). Unable to receive a text message, she goes outside to get better reception and her phone is stolen.  Oh no, her phone is her life! What will she do without it! All her contacts and texts were in there! (That’s paraphrasing. There were more exclamation marks in the book.) However, instead of doing whatever any phone-savvy Gen Y would do in this situation – namely, ring their phone carrier, put a block on outgoing calls and get a new SIM card with her existing number – she spots a discarded phone in the bin, takes it out and starts using it as her number. Because of course it’s easier to use a stolen phone than it is to just go to any of the gazillion phone shops in London and get another bloody SIM card with your own number. But wait, there’s more, and it’s not a set of steak knives. Because this is a contemporary female romance novel, the owner of the phone happens to be a handsome, rich, successful businessman who, instead of doing what any reasonable person would do – namely ring their phone carrier and put a block on outgoing calls from the apparently expensive phone which was been stolen – he agrees to allow her to use the phone as long as she promises to forward all of the messages and emails she receives on it to his personal phone. Well, I know I would trust someone who has stolen a phone out of a bin with my confidential important business emails! That’s how I got to be a successful businessman in the first place, right – trusting random strangers who have already proven they have a flexible moral framework.  For sure.

You can imagine what happens next. I’m not going to outline any more of the story because if I do I may have to start banging my head against the desk and I’ve got a lot of work I have to get done today.  But the novel concludes..


..with Poppy leaving Magnus at the alter and then attending the wedding reception with her new man with the approval of Magnus and his family. Of course!


I probably wouldn’t have minded that the most important plot point is blatantly stupid but Kinsella made the fatal flaws of making her heroine largely unlikeable, unsympathetic and unfunny. The female friends, always fun in good contemporary female romance novels, are unlikeable, unsympathetic and unfunny. It’s not a relaxing experience if you want to reach into a book and slap some sense into the heroine (or, as I don’t support violence, give her a good firm talking-to) and it doesn’t make for good rainy-day-hot-chocolate reading. So, Kinsella, I’m going to have to give you an F grade on this one – 2 out of 5 stars.

(FN 1): I know they’re not designed to do this, but sometimes bad reviews make books sound more appealing to me.  Take, for example, Kim from Reading Matters' review of The Novel in the Viola. Everything she hated about the book made it sound like a perfect bathtub read. I borrowed it from the library, read it on a lazy Sunday afternoon with much enjoyment and scored of 3.5 out of 5.  On the other hand, there are books which I will never read, for example Sophie Kinsella’s Shopaholics series. I find the premise of those novels completely appalling, a view which this review completely reinforced.  Reviews can be useful tools with which to improve your reading pleasure if you approach them with discernment.

(FN2): Sometimes you really should just listen to the reviewer, though.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Homemade toasted muesli with blueberries and natural yoghurt

When I woke up today, the sunshine of the last few days had been replaced by grey, overcast, heavy skies and steady, constant downpour. Combined with an overall feeling of general shitiness caused by not enough sleep, too many late nights, too much socialising and a lack of spinach (Spinach, where have you gone? I've not been able to find out at either of my supermarkets for the last four days and I miss you! Please come back soon.), I felt the need for some comfort food. So, hobbling a recipe together from various online sources, I made my own toasted muesli.

The process was pretty easy. I melted one tablespoon of honey with one teaspoon of olive oil in a saucepan and then mixed the runny liquid with one cup of rolled oats, 1/2 a cup of bran flakes and two tablespoons of sunflower seeds. I spread the mix out quite thickly in a Pyrex baking dish, sprinkled with raw sugar and cinnamon and cooked it in the oven at 210 degrees for 10 minutes. I did a few things wrong - for starters my oven was much too hot. 180 would have been much better, but I was hungry and wanted my muesli right away! You're supposed to stir the mix a few times while it's cooking, which I didn't do because a) I'm lazy and b) I forgot, so the layer on the top was super crunchy and the underneath not toasty at all. I also should have used double the amounts of honey and oil to make it sweeter and more toasty. However, when combined with natural yoghurt and some defrosted frozen blueberries it made a healthy, delicious breakfast which is guaranteed to chase the rainy day blahs far, far away.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Random Friday

Some random Friday thoughts:

·      On exercise:
Did you know if you go for a walk every day, even just a short one, your bottom will become smaller. My underwear is getting too big! However, if you balance out your walk with red wine, your belly will become larger and your jeans will be more difficult to button, even with a reduced tush. Trufax.
·      On bitches on the Internet Part I:
After the non-event that was my 2011, one of my big aims for 2012 was to become more involved – not in any one particular thing, just more involved in general. One of the ways I have done that is through becoming more active in the online communities I’m involved in. Unfortunately, online communities on the Internet are like the massive Christmas parties held by the huge media organisation I used to work for – everyone’s invited and sometimes you get stuck talking to the bore from Digital Editing, the drunk from Customer Relations or the bitch from HR. And man, there are some bitchy women in online communities! I have read theories that people say horrible things on the Internet due to its anonymity and lack of consequences. I’m inclined to think that people on the Internet are themselves, but more so – the filters that polite society requires are removed. Either way, participating in online communities does seem to require a thick skin, a flameproof jacket and the ability to wade through a lot of crap to get to the good stuff.
·      On bitches on the Internet Part II:
On the subject of bitches on the Internet, do you guys read The Hairpin? You totally should – it’s great. How can you not love a website that posts about Cary Grant in a fun and intelligent way that I both respect and enjoy? Go on, give it a go - you'll love it.
·      On Robert Redford:
You know how sometimes you watch a movie or read a book and you just love it.  It makes you laugh, it makes you think, it makes you cry, you tell random people who really don't care about it and you just can’t wait to see it again. But when you see it again, this time with a more critical eye, you start to think that the story of Hubbell and Barbra Striesand isn’t a great tragic love story but that, in fact, Hubble was a bit of a dick whose ego was unable to cope with a strong woman and, really, he’s very pretty but Barbra really needs a man who can challenge and inspire her? Or that Heathcliff and Cathy probably wouldn’t have had such a great relationship since he’s a borderline sociopath and she’s manipulative and selfish? Well, the more I study Robert Redford, the more I feel like that about him. The guy’s very easy on the eyes, has a great set of shoulders and a spectacular pair of hands but he does not like women and, as a feminist, I’m not down with that. I think academia may have ruined Robert Redford for me. Curse you, feminist film theory and your ideological insights and critical analytical tools.
·      On music:
Sex and Candy by Marcy Playground is a great song. Thank you, iPod shuffle, for helping me remember.
·      On sleep:
This article in today’s Age says that humans used to sleep for two shorter periods per day and that the current habit of having one long sleep only came about with the development of light technologies that allowed people to do things at night. (Btw, there is a subeditor at the Age who should get fired for misleading headlines. They’ve been incredibly bad lately.) For me, insomnia is not about waking up in the night but problems with actually getting to sleep. My ideal sleep pattern would be to have two 12-hour sleep sessions over three days. I can’t see it catching on, but a girl can dream.

And that's all, folks. See you next Friday for more random musings.