Monday, August 27, 2012

Relief and reward

Lately, I've been working really hard. This can most obviously be seen because  my blog posts are shorter and appear more infrequently and contain many more photographs and exclamation marks. I strongly believe that hard effort requires reward and relief - so, if you've put in a 60-hour work week but still have another five documents to finish before you're done but you're totally knackered, it's better to take a night off, watch a Robert Redford movie and have glass of wine than keep pushing yourself to a 65-hour work week - the next day you'll wake up more refreshed and relaxed and not only will you be more productive, your work will actually be of a better quality.

Because I practice what I preach, above is my relief and reward for all of my recent hard work. When I received payment for my most recent job, I ordered myself a book I have been coveting for a long time. Last year I finished a Triinu scarf that apparently I never blogged about (??) which was totally gorgeous but, for whatever reason I never wore. Rather than let it go to waste, when my book arrived yesterday I frogged it, balled it up and, as soon as I finish this never-ending job I am currently on, I am casting on for the socks on the cover. With that to look forward to, I can get this document done.

I'm clearly more a carrot than a stick kind of girl :)

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Happy Monday! (and my blanket looks like arse)

Happy Monday, Internet!

I'm insanely busy at the moment but I just wanted to pop in and share the gorgeous sight I from my garden:

Spring has sprung (kind of - it was still pretty bloody cold on the weekend!) and one of my flower bushes burst into bloom overnight.

I took the opportunity to display my now-blocked blanket. It still looks completely like arse. I'm going to have to do some surgery on it to fix it but for now I am locking it in the naughty cupboard until I can bear to look at it. So much knitting for such a shitty result!

I hope all Melbournites get a chance to spend some time outside on this lovely sunny Monday :)


Monday, August 20, 2012

The good, the bad and the unexpected

The Good

Due to a laundry crisis (i.e. me not doing any) I ran out of warm pyjamas on the weekend. I grabbed a pair of my summer pyjamas and was delighted to find out this:

They are massively too big (and ridiculously sexy, of course)! They were so big that when I walked, they literally slipped over my arse and fell off. So, I am evidence that a healthy lifestyle (eating well and exercising regularly) result in a fitter, thinner you.  

The bad

Sam hurt his hand on Saturday at football so we spent two hours at the emergency room on Saturday waiting for him to get stitches and a tetanus shot (at no cost - thank you, health care system). He then came down with either the flu or a really bad cold on Sunday so I spent most of the day bringing him tissues and hot lemon drinks. It was a miserable illness-filled weekend.

The unexpected

A while ago I wrote about starting a blanket by knitting a garter stitch square . This is a pretty common practice with blankets and I was not expecting any surprises. I finished it yesterday and here it is (obviously unblocked). Does it look funny to you?

Look a little closer:

When starting this blanket I forgot that I knit much looser when I knit back-and-forth that I do when I knit in the round - like one stitch a centimetre looser. This extra size mushroomed out of my tightly knit blanket like Mt Vesuvius erupting over the poor citizens of Pompeii. It looks very strange!

I'm blocking it now to see if that makes a difference but I suspect that some serious surgery will be required to fix this project.

So, that's my weekend. How was yours?*

* I don't actually expect any comments in response to this (although I'd love to hear about your weekend if you want to tell me about it). The question is a shout-out to JadeLuxe. Rhetorical questions FTW!

Foxtel: How not to do customer service

I have had Foxtel for the last two years. I love Foxtel - I love the Real Housewives, I love the footy, I love TCM. I love IQ and the fact I can use an app to record shows when I am out and about. When I was in rehab last year after breaking my leg Foxtel was a lifesaver - the Woody Allen marathon that I watched meant that I had things to talk about at dinner parties other than bone density and the state of physio in the public system (very good but limited to rehab only, no ongoing care). At times when it felt like I was the only person in the world at home on a Saturday night watching the Real Housewives cheered me up and made me smile again.  I think Foxtel is great! But it is a luxury and, as a poor student, luxuries are the first thing to go when budgets get assessed. So, with great sadness, when my half-price offer expired a few months ago I rang up to cancel my account.  

It's not easy to cancel an account with Foxtel.  The person I spoke to asked me if she continued the current deal I had, would I stay? I wavered (..the Real Housewives really are a lot of fun..) but remembered my upcoming car service and stuck to my guns. Then the operator brought out the big guns and said 'What if I offer you an even better deal for three months...?'. I'm not going to give you an actual amount (because you will want to murder me with jealousy - it was that good) but this offer was gold. It was much too good to refuse and I signed up straightaway, but not before I made her repeat it twice to make sure I hadn't misheard. I was ecstatic.

However, the first bill came. I'd been overcharged. So I rang up and spoke to an operator. Let's call her J. The conversation went like this:
Me: I've been overcharged. I was offered a contract at this amount but the bill is for a different amount.
J: That's because you were on X deal. It says it on your notes.
Me: No, I wasn't. I was offered X deal, but I said no and I was then offered Y deal. Here are the details of the call I had if you need to listen to it to confirm I am correct.
J:  (sigh) Fine. I'll credit your account.
Me: Will this issue be fixed for the next three months?
J: (sigh, possibly rolls eyes at the temerity of customers ringing and asking her to do stuff). Yes.
Me: Great. Thanks.

You see where this is going. Unsurprisingly, all three of the bills in this contract period were billed incorrectly. Rather than ring up and speak to another J, as charming as she was, I wrote a complaint letter. I included dates and times of the calls so they could be checked and my information confirmed. This morning I received a call from B from the complaints department. The conversation went like this.

B: In your letter you said that you were overcharged. However, I checked your notes and you were charged that amount because you were on X deal. 
Me: Me: No, I wasn't. I was offered X deal, but I said no and I was then offered Y deal. Did you listen to the call?
B: No, I didn't.  (My head exploded a little bit at this point)
Me: So would you like to listen to the call and ring me back?
B: I don't need to because I read the notes. Since you are so unhappy with your Foxtel service, would you like me to arrange it to be disconnected?

Let me recap this for you. I've complained about a legitimate billing error that occurred repeatedly and a representative from Foxtel who didn't even bother to research either of the two calls I made rang me up to tell me I was wrong and offer to disconnect me. No apology, no offer of compensation and no details of how I would be refunded. I asked to speak to B's manager, L.

L:  I understand your frustration. However, the notes clearly say you are on offer X.
L: We don't do that. What we do is forward your complaint on to our executive team, who Follow It Up. If we listened to all the calls we recieved we would have as many call-listeners as we do people working in the call centre. That would be silly!
Me: You don't have to listen to all the calls. Just listen to the one I made. The information about it is it in the letter I wrote.
L: We’re not going to do that. Sometimes, errors get made. Sometimes customers don’t understand what the operators say. I appreciate we’re you’re coming from but you’re on a really good deal. If you don’t like it you can always cancel your service.
Me: I would like to be compensated for the time I have spent ringing you and writing to you about errors your company made and did not rectify.
L: Well, we’re not going to do that. What, you want us to pay you $25 an hour for your time?

Foxtel, you are not doing your customers a favour by allowing them to purchase pay TV from you. Customers are an integral part of your business model and without them, you wouldn’t have a business. When a customer contacts you with a legitimate complaint about an error that your company has made, take the time to research the error. Once you have actually done your research, treat your customer with respect. One way to start a call might be “Thank you for taking the time to contact us. We’re sorry that our error inconvenienced you. What can we do to make it right?” rather than "You're wrong. Please go away now."

I would have been happy with an apology, a refund for the amount I was overcharged and a free pen. Instead I got attitude from a company who couldn’t even be bothered doing basic research about my complaint. I could have been so impressed with Foxtel and how they dealt with me that I decided that they were worth spending money on and I should trim my yarn or book luxury budget rather than my TV money. Instead, I am wondering why I would give my money to a company that thinks so little of their customers. Shame, Foxtel, shame.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Book review: Naomi's Wish by Rachael Herron

Naomi Fontaine is a buttoned-up emotionally repressed and shy doctor who leaves her small town practice to go to a medical conference. While there she hooks up with a hot doctor for a night of incredible sex. On returning to work, she finds out that her absentee partner has hired a new doctor for her practice and it is ... (surprise surprise) her one-night stand! Et cetera et cetera et cetera.

I read a lot of romance fiction in my teens and twenties. I was studying hard and working in customer service - both occupations that can leave a person completely brain-dead by the end of the day. So, I read romance novels because they were easy to read, didn't contain any surprises and the good ones had a bit of humour in them as well. Then I started analysing romances from a feminist perspective and between the permitted rape stories ("He pushed her up against a wall and pressed his mouth to hers. Her protests died on her lips as she melted into his arms") and the stalking-by-any-other-name stories (hero fights against heroine's resistance until she releases he is really the one for her) and I had to stop reading them.  I do still occasionally dip my foot into the romance novel pool but my relaxation fiction of choice is now murder mysteries - equally predictable but less likely to induce feminist book-throwing rage. However, when I heard there were knitting-themed romance novels out, I couldn't resist (God knows I love a knitting-themed novel) and I've since read all of Rachael Herron's work.

This is clearly the best book out of the three published so far in this series. It doesn't stray too far from the accepted parameters of the romance novel and it contains talk of KNITTING, my favourite thing ever. It is certainly not perfect - there is a lot of heavily implausible plot crammed into the last 20 pages and the odd fact that whenever Naomi consults a knitting book the phrase she reads always relates exactly to her life (really? every single time?). But, other than that, thumbs up, Ms Herron. This book gets the job done and I really enjoyed the ride.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Ravellenics Closing Ceremony

My camera came back from the repair shop yesterday with a brand-new lens, so I thought I'd use the rare appearance of sunshine to play hooky for a few hours and go to the beach.

Look at that sky! It's gorgeous. The 'washed out' effect that used to be in my photos is gone,
 which makes me think it wasn't a setting but a problem with the lens.

I am so lucky that this view is at the end of my street! I do love living near the beach - looking at these photos makes me happy.

I took my knitting with me to the beach and, well, let's just say that I won't be getting a medal for my performance this Games.

This combined with four rows on the front panels of the cardy is the sum total of knitting I've done on my Ravellenics challenge. I am the knitting Olympics Steve Hooker! The truth is I just don't really like knitting jumpers. The thicker yarn feels really unwieldy and I find cabling stupid and boring and even though I want the jumper I most certainly do not want to take the time to finish it. If I wasn't so poor I would seriously pay someone to finish this because it's so close I can taste it yet so very very far away.  Bleurgh! Does anyone have a shawl or a pair of socks languishing away somewhere that they don't want to finish? I'll swap with you and I finish your wanted-but-unfinished project and you finish mine...? Well, a girl can dream.

Knitting valium and the first indication of spring

I've been a bit quiet on the blog recently. I've had huge deadlines at work and the inside of my head has felt like that episode when Rick's cat discovered caps lock (CAPS LOCK IS HOW I FEEL INSIDE, RICK). If I'd tried to write a blog post it would have looked like this:

[picture of lucy]
The end.

At 5pm on Friday when I sent off the final document my brain frenzy slowed down to this (!!!!!!). This is by anyone's measure still rather insane, so on Saturday I pulled this out of hibernation:

This blanket is basically knitting valium. Each row has about 850 stitches and every single stitch of those is a knit.  It's soothing and relaxing and incredibly peaceful to just knit knit knit knit knit knit knit knit knit knit knit knit knit knit knit knit knit knit knit knit knit knit knit knit knit knit knit knit knit knit ... (you get the picture) around a circle in a routine that will continue for hours and hours and hours until you decide to stop. It's the yarn equivalent of a sedative and, when combined with a Cary Grant movie marathon and lots of cups of tea and peanut butter toast, result in a perfectly relaxed blogger capable of transforming strings of words into sentences. Now I just need to find something worth saying... (baby steps).

Because everything looks better with Instragram:

In other news:

The rain finally stopped today so I was finally able to go for a walk outside. It felt fantastic. I was even more excited when I saw this on my neighbour's front yard:

Spring's coming! 

Friday, August 3, 2012

Ravellenics Day 7

Today is Day 7 of the Olympics and my Ravellenics challenge is going just about as well as Australia's quest for gold medals...that is, it is not going well at all with one exception.

The exception
 I finished the fronts and blocked the fronts and back. I was pretty chuffed at this stage - that's the majority of the knitting completed! Only two sleeves, two button bands and a hood to go. That is, I was chuffed until I noticed this:

Oh no!
The fronts are two centimetres shorter than the back!  Given that it took me literally five years to get around to finishing the fronts means that is absolutely no chance I am going to rip them back to fix this error, so I'm going to try to fudge it when I'm seaming it. Knitted fabric is very forgiving, right?

I was happily motoring on the sleeves, working them both at the same time to ensure that they were the same length (see - I learn!) when I noticed one of my needles was a bit bent. Used to my Knitpro metal sock needles I tried to bend it back into shape but casein =/= metal and *crack* - this was the result.

Urgh. I do not think I am going to get this cardigan finished in the next 10 days! Part of me suspects this will be my Ravellenics project for both this and the next Olympics in four years time...

RIP Maeve Binchy

Maeve Binchy died this week. I didn't know her personally and I wouldn't have recognised her if I saw her in the street but I loved her books and she was one of my favourite authors. It's her work I turn to when I feel sad and in need of a literary hug and Christmas won't be the same without the latest Maeve Binchy to take me back to the warm streets of Maeve Binchy's Dublin.  Maeve Binchy, thank you for the hours of sweetness and happiness your books brought me. Rest in peace.