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24 Aug / Ebola

Yesterday was a long day of travel. From the early morning alarm (2.45am) to the four hour plane trip across the Tasman, to the two hour plane trip up the coast to the two hour drive along the Bruce Highway and not forgetting the four hours of pointless waiting at the airport, it was all a joy.

The joy was admittedly, in getting all of that behind us, but although I don’t want to wish my life away I would quite happily edit out any traveling time as I’m quite adept at playing Alphabetty on my mobile phone for hours already without requiring a small person behind me to kick the back of my seat.

One thing that struck me as different from the same trip performed last year was the additional card required to be filled out by all passengers now entering Australia.

The official name of the document is the ‘Travel History Card’ but for the purpose of ease and truthfulness I’ll just refer to it as the Ebola card.

The card requires any incoming passenger to fill out their passenger details. Not only specifying the flight number, but also he seat you occupied during the flight. You know, in case you have Ebola.

It then goes on to find out who you are as a person. What your full name is, where you were born, and your date of birth. It then makes idle chit-chat as it goes on to inquire where you’ll be staying, and how someone, like from the plague arm of the Australian Government, can get in touch with you.

The second to last question is whether or not you’ve been in Africa in the past 21 days? How kind of you to ask. Why, no.

If you’re fortunate enough to be able to answer that with a Yes instead of a No there’s a special treat question, the equivalent of a bonus round. It gets down to the nitty-gritty and asks you to specify which part of Africa you’ve recently finished visiting. Or, did you go to Ebola-infestation areas or just travel to the un-Ebola places?

Before you think you’re getting away with just that bit, you need to sign the official document, because it’s official and you could get in trouble if you’re committing the offence of lying to the Australian Government, nay the Australian People.

Lastly, there was a handy card which was designed to be torn off the document that you’re meant to keep with you for 21 days. It lists the symptoms of Ebola and tells you what to do if you think you’re developing this often-fatal disease.

I tore off the section, and then put the remaining part of the card with my incoming travel documents as requested so it could be collected by a ‘Customs Officer on arrival in Australia.’

Just in case your steward on the airline hadn’t handed you the document to complete, there were tables located every fifty metres down the airport terminal on the way to the Baggage Claim Area and Customs. They came complete with large signs clearly labelled with EBOLA and showing the comforting international symbols for infected people. In red.

When we headed through the first section of Customs we used the SmartGate so there weren’t any officers to collect it from us. We then had a nice man stamp our arrivals card as we waited to collect our luggage. Finally we handed over our Incoming Passenger Card and SmartGate ticket to the nice lady who was scathingly telling people that they weren’t giving her the correct documentation. At least I did, my darling picked a better queue.

I handed over all three pieces of documentation, because the Ebola card stated clearly to keep it with the Incoming Passenger Card so the Customs Officer could collect it from me.

She sniffed and handed it back saying, ‘I don’t need this. We don’t collect those anymore.’ I hoped the sniff wasn’t from Ebola.

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22 Aug / Packing

After long hours of culling, arranging, and rearranging, I’ve managed to pack up most of the things that I’ll need for my forthcoming holiday.

Due to the slight differences in temperatures between the place that we’re leaving (-1C low / 12C high) and the place we’re traveling to (19C low / 27C high) at least most of the clothes we’re packing aren’t in any danger of being in use at the time.

First attempts to fasten my suitcase proved fruitless, and then I rediscovered the zip on the side that unzipped the lid so that the whole case was bigger and could fit more in.

I do have a small worry that I’ve packed more cardigans than I possibly need in a humid climate where the temperature struggles to fall below 20C at night, but part of the holiday fun is taking a whole lot of stuff that you don’t need.

Every year I commit to only taking the bare minimum of clothing that I can use, and then promptly forget this each time it comes time to pack because I can’t remember what it’s actually like on holiday.

It’s like the opposite of pain. Whenever I burn myself on the stove and flail around cursing until I think to stick my charred limb under the permanent source of pain relief in tap form in the kitchen and bathroom, it always feels to me like the pain is the worst it’s even been. I then think, I’ll remember how painful it is so next time I’ll be more careful.

And then the next time my natural clumsiness prevails, I realise that the memory of pain doesn’t encompass any of its true elements and it’s the worst it’s ever been again.

When I’m living my normal life in a temperate country I forget that west of us is a country that’s a living desert and which is hot to the point you don’t need heat pumps on 24/7 so the water doesn’t freeze in your toilet overnight.

I forget how it really feels to have heat on your body and therefore not require the many thicknesses of clothing that I currently am attired in.

I’m fairly certain that about five minutes after I step off the plane and walk across the tarmac – wavering in the heat – I’ll remember exactly. Until then, I’m overpacking.

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20 Aug / Exercising

Prior to embarking on my career break I purchased a treadmill. This was to ensure that I didn’t blow up to the size of a house while I was on a break.

I did also plan to wear it in during the months between purchase and said break, but there were other things going on which forbade it. Rest and couches and things that I don’t need to go into here.

The plan was to set up a kind of table over the unit, and put my laptop upon it, and thereby walk and type at the same time.

This plan turned out to be stupid.

For one thing, I don’t have a table that’s anywhere near treadmill-going-over shape, and for another thing it’s hard enough to type on a laptop when I’m sitting on the couch. Attempting to do it while I’m rhythmically moving is just asking for trouble. And typos.

So with this plan abandoned I had to think of another thing which would keep me occupied while I treaded away my waking hours. Or hour. Lets call it a half-hour and be done with it.

I’ve tried exercising in front of the TV before, and while there are aspects to it that are quite appealing, I’ve always tended to notice too much that I’m exercising to really have it as a method of distraction.

I could listen to music, or podcasts. It helps when I’m out pounding the pavements, so why not in the front room?

Turns out that’s only a distraction when I’m forced to walk somewhere by dint of not having another method of travel. If I try it when I can just as easily jump down from the treadmill… well. I’ll leave that to you to figure out.

Finally I hit upon a solution that both I and the treadmill could live with.

Playstation.

My old PS3 is in the front room anyway, and is barely used anymore due to the PS4 being in the room we actually use for living in and stuff. What a great chance to finally finish up some of those old games while working up a sweat on the treadmill. I was quite excited.

I should probably interject somewhere around here and mention that although I enjoy console games greatly, they don’t enjoy me. They especially don’t enjoy me when I die for the trillionth time in a row WHEN I’M ONLY PLAYING FOR THE STORYLINE and I can’t get any further.

It turns out that taking something you’re already fairly bad at, and combining it with rhythmic walking doesn’t actually go that well. Especially when you’re the type of someone who doesn’t really get the point of melee games, and then loads up Devil May Cry to see what it’s all about.

There was hellfire. There was death. There was destruction. And that was just the treadmill.

I may have to think up a new plan, but not to worry. I’m sure the treadmill doesn’t need to be used every day to be just as good value for money as it was when I bought it.

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18 Aug / Best laid plans

So when I said goodbye to my working life last week, albeit with a hacking cough that made the goodbye last a tad longer than it should, I had carefully thought about what I would be doing this week.

First of all, there was going to be a strict curfew and a strict wake up call. Just because I’m not working in an office, doesn’t mean that I’m not working, so getting up on time gives me an extra hour free which would usually be wasted on transit, so I could be super-productive.

Second of all, I wasn’t going to spend all day on Twitter. I was going to set myself a word count, and a time limit, and I was going to get sh*t done. On time. Overpromising and underdelivering or something like that.

Third of all, when I wasn’t doing either one of those things I was going to be catching up on housework that would more usually be shoved into the precious weekend hours. Now those precious weekend hours are even more sacred because they won’t contain the work that I used to do during them, but am now going to do all week long. Weekends are for gaming.

I was also a bit worried about how I was going to adjust. After all, I’ve been working for the same company full-time non-stop for the past twelve years. Not going into the office is going to take some getting used to. I may get emotional. I may get weepy. I may get overexcited and go bouncing around the house laughing and clapping.

This was my plan.

Instead, my darling chose this week to become sick. I’m aware that I bear some of the responsibility for this situation, given that I was infected with a cold my last week of work, but still it could be down to some other vagaries of the universe.

So, I didn’t wake up on time on Monday morning because the alarm didn’t go off because SOMEONE turned it off when he got up early to cough up a lung.

I also discovered how hard it is to concentrate on writing when someone is sitting forlornly on the couch looking for some kind of sympathy or something?

So day one didn’t go quite as well as expected. I still hit my word count, but it wasn’t the relaxing experience that I’d been looking forward to. That didn’t really matter though. My darling is sick, and he couldn’t help it, and he was going to work on Tuesday so it was just one day.

Tuesday morning started better. My alarm went off, and my darling got up and went to the office. I cleaned up a few things, put a few loads of washing on to take advantage of the mid-week sun, and then settled down to walk on the treadmill for my morning exercise.

I then fielded three phonecalls from my darling as he punctuated his journey home via making an appointment, going to the doctor, and then picking up his prescriptions. The phone is in a different room to the treadmill, and I have to wait for it to stop before I can go and answer. Safety first.

Needless to say when he finally turned up on the doorstep coughing and hacking I was tense. The kind of tension I expected to leave behind me in the office last week.

I would just like to point out to my darling (when you get around to reading this, if you ever do) that when I’m sick I don’t come into your place of work and sit by your desk expecting sympathy while you’re trying to get stuff done. I don’t think it’s too much to expect the same in return. I’d say ‘get your own house,’ but it already is so that would just lead to awkward conversations.

Still, I’m holding out great hopes for Wednesday. Yes, yes, I can hear the laughter at my six month plan from here.

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16 Aug / Enraptured

Last year I purchase a PS4 for myself for my birthday.

There was a lot of consideration involved, as it hadn’t been long since I’d purchased a PS3 for myself, and although I get use out of it I don’t really get enough use to justify buying a new model so soon after.

On the other hand, it was my birthday and it had been out for a long time already (months!) so it wasn’t like I was queuing at the Apple store or anything.

Back to the first hand however, I still hadn’t even played half of the games for the PS3 that I’d bought. Admittedly, this was because they suck eggs and you often don’t find that out until after making the purchase, but still this was a convincing reason for a second thought.

What finally tipped my hand was when The Chinese Room announced that they’d signed up to a Sony exclusive and were bringing their new game, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, out on PS4. Exclusively.

Once I heard that it was just a matter of when and which address to get it delivered to.

Since then I’ve been waiting. I’ve also been playing a lot of PS4 games and stuff, but mainly I’ve been waiting.

I loved Dear Esther. I loved the fact that you couldn’t lose. I loved the way when I accidentally walked off the side of a cliff (yeah that can happen) the screen went black and then a voice whispered ‘come back’ and I did.

Since then I’ve been waiting for a game which you can wander around in not-dying until it ends. If they invent a genre that this falls into, then I’m definitely heavily into that genre.

So, a mere year later, which in game-coming-out-time is a blink of the eye, and Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture finally came out.

I purchased it the first moment I had free time available and sat down eagerly to play me some rapture.

Estimated download time 11 hours.

Sony. For the players.

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14 Aug / New Home

I collect bird’s nests.

Not through any grand plan or design to collect them, but I like them and almost every year they just drop down from the sky ready for the picking.

Except for this year. The birds may be plenty, but it appears our real estate is no longer to their liking and they’ve staked their claims elsewhere.

The autumn leaves fell long ago, we’ve even managed to get most of them into the bin and collected off the property, but the tree branches were all bare.

There wasn’t even a penthouse suite trapped high above that a few good shakes and a poke with a broomhandle could convince down.

So it was with great delight that I came home tonight and found that I could add a nice compact family suite to my collection of small homes. It’s nice and fresh with a beautiful decor of brown with a hint of green moss, and a yellow twig.

It’s gone on the bench next to the rest of my array, and I can go to bed happily believing I’m a property tycoon, even if only for birds.

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I have currently just finished Wednesday on the count down of my last week of work before taking a six month sabbatical to concentrate on my writing.

Or gaming. It’s yet to be decided.

It’s getting to that time where there’s limited amount of hours available to do everything that needs to be done, but with every decreasing hour my ability to care likewise decreases.

There’s notes there, after all. Take all the loving attention that went into making them, and use them for their intended purpose. If they turn out to be unfit for purpose, surely it’s better to find out after I leave? Oh, wait…

Better for me, anyhow.

When I turned up sleep-eyed and sleepy-brained the other day, my team-mates observed that next week I could start to sleep-in during weekdays and wouldn’t that be a relief. I confidently asserted that actually I was going to get up at my usual work wake-up time because I was working, just on other things.

Their universal laughter may not have been entirely unwarranted.

When I mentioned working to another team in the office, they politely inquired if that was another term I used for gaming.

Yeah, it is, but that’s also beside the point.

With such low expectations I’m caught in that weird cross-fire between wanting to show them all, and wanting to ditch it and just give in to the inevitable.

It may need to wait until I have an insomniac night and the alarm goes at 5.30am before I find out which way I tumble.

But, hey. I can write at any time of the day. It doesn’t necessarily need to be during work hours, right?

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10 Aug / Bronchitis

Thank you Mr Google. You’ve just saved me $46.00 at the Doctor’s office, although you haven’t saved me any pain and suffering.

I do love the ability that we now have to Google all our symptoms, and perform a self-diagnosis the equal of many a doctor (as long as the doctorate relates to subjects other than human medicine).

Occasionally, I’ll have a freak-out. Usually that comes shortly after I type anything with the word lump into my search engine, and it reassures me that the most likely option in all cases is cancer.

Lump in roof of mouth? Cancer. Lump on little finger? Cancer. Lump on elbow after whacking it hard on the table? Definitely cancer.

Not wishing to pay my Doctor a visit so soon (four days) after the last time, I put my symptoms into my favourite search engine (after Duck Duck Go) and then pondered the information available.

I had specifically mentioned that I didn’t have a cold, only a cough, so the first thirteen pages were useless to me. Later I started to get to the good stuff. A cough without cold symptoms and no fever?

CANCER.

Or more probably Bronchitis which affects 5% of the adult population worldwide every year.

Not like this though. Not like what I’ve got. It may be unprecedented in the history of the world ever, but I think I actually have MAN-FLU.

Hold the presses. Stop the phones. Do any of those things that no longer count in this digital age. I could be front page news tomorrow. Or at least a link from the human interest section.

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08 Aug / Quizzes

There was a time in the recent past when I thought I had a well-rounded general knowledge of the world.

Sure, I knew that I didn’t follow the groups of people who think that hitting a ball by a variety of different means around a course or through wooden posts is the most interesting thing in the world, but no one has much interest in that sort of stuff, do they?

Turns out my general knowledge may more accurately be described as highly-specific-and-limited-to-television-and-movie knowledge.

The first round of a quiz held last night was luckily on movies, so I carried on thinking I was pretty good through that entire round. Nine out of ten. Boom.

The second round was on Tom, Dick and Harry (questions or answers to contain one of said names) and due to the fairly large incorporation of movie and/or television references I continued to shine in the reflection of my brilliance. Nine out of ten. Double boom.

The third round was food and drink. I eat. I drink non-alcoholic beverages. I felt confident. I thought that the monk who developed champagne was called Benedict because that’s what a lot of monks are called.

The sports round was even more disappointing than I’d expected. It was on modern sports. I could pull a few names out of a hat if it was a reference that had a couple of decades to seep into the national consciousness, but current references. Give me a break. You’ll notice I’ve stopped giving scores at the end. Boom.

There was a special list round. We discovered that the pink and white terraces weren’t one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. I don’t know why. They certainly didn’t last into the modern one.

True or False sounds like a round where you can guarantee at least a fifty percent victory. Apparently the way that works is by using the same answer throughout. If you change your answer each time due to a gut feeling, the odds drop way lower.

I’m now just pretending that I didn’t want to win the box of extremely nice food that was a prize for the winners. Or a bucket of the Christmas cookies that were the prize for the runner’s up. That’s why I told my team that the full name of the female lead character in Grease definitely wasn’t Sandra Dee. And Meat Loaf’s character in the Rocky Horror Picture Show was something like Richard.

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