I’m over putting things together

Everything has to be assembled thesedays. Self assembly is the way of the lord. Since I moved it has been about putting crap together – crap from Officeworks, Fantastic Furniture and, naturally, IKEA. I’m not really wanting to see an Allen key again.

IKEA's Evil Instrument

I’m over it. Majorly. Why can’t you just add water and these things just pop up and assemble themselves?

I’m flatpacked to buggery. And I still have 8 IKEA Benno CD towers to do.

This weekend has been about the big blue Billy bookcase for Yoda’s room and then the monolithic “Expedit”. That took two of us a couple of hours of sweat, sore knees and general exhaustion. Not to mention major confusion. IKEA’s instructions are all drawings and arrows. Which mean mostly nothing. We had to consult the interweb and look at videos of way-too-clever handymen putting these things together in 2 minutes. Bastards!

We put our own video together of the Expedit assembly – with photos taken using the crapulent camera on my Nokia e63. If only the real life process was as quick as the bloody video!

I HATE SELF-ASSEMBLY!!!

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Birkenhead Point….very beautiful, very pointless

We went along to Birkenhead Point Shopping Centre/Outlet Mall yesterday in search of curtains. There was supposed to be a big Spotlight store there so we made the trek via a couple of buses and a walk in the heat.

Birkenhead Point is almost unrecognisable from the “downmarket” shopping market/area that I last visited over a decade ago. It has been completely modernised and rebuilt. They’ve taken the existing old buildings and simply built over them to give it a modern, outdoorsie, yet protected from the elements, kind of feel. Getting to the centre is not pedestrian friendly and signposting is confusing and inadequate. At one point we ended up in a car park underground with no way of getting out. I thought Sydney was trying to make everything more public transport/pedestrian friendly but not in the case of Birkenhead Point.

Once you’re actually inside the centre, the combination of old and new building contributes to a confusing rabbit-warren arrangement where we kept getting lost again and again. In the end it didn’t really matter because Birkenhead Point is completely pointless as a shopping centre or outlet mall. The shops were limited and the stock in the shops was even more limited. It was kind of a waste of half a day and we eventually gave up, caught a bus into town and to the Broadway Centre where we got a few things we needed for the new flat. Without the confusion and without getting lost!

Birkenhead Point’s claim to fame has surely got to be where it is located – situated on the water of Sydney Harbour near Iron Cove Bridge and the views are spectacular. Yesterday there was barely a cloud in the sky. We walked outside onto the terrace from the food court and couldn’t resist taking a few shots. Our city of Sydney was looking simply beautiful.

No need for us to ever visit there again…but at least we can say we’ve done it!

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My phone company is going to hell in a merged hand-basket!

Vodafone is destroying my phone company

Not happy, Jan. Not happy at all.

For the last four years I have been a customer of 3-Mobile Australia. Prior to that I had both analogue and digital mobile phones with Telecom / Telstra for 13 years. Telstra became a nightmare – no matter what plan I was on or what “special offers” they gave me, my monthly mobile phone bill was too expensive. And it fluctuated wildly from month to month despite my attempts to keep it at a manageable and regular amount.

There was no such thing as a monthly ”cap” with Telstra. It was just expensive and it was combined with indifferent customer service. I was going through a very, very hard time financially and I needed to make a lot of drastic changes to my normal way of doing / buying things. That’s where 3 Mobile comes in.
Suddenly there’s a new player in town offering $29 a month “capped” plans and the ability to see how much of the cap you’ve used right there on your phone. I could sign up for 2 years, get a not-so-nice 3-G mobile for $29 a month or I could do that and pay an extra $8 a month to get a mobile I was comfortable with. The LG U300. So that’s what I did.

I popped into their Marrickville store, signed up and my number was transferred over to 3 a few hours later. It was effortless, painless. The first month I got bill-shock because I didn’t understand the concept of a “pro-rata month”. My bill came in at almost $100 at the worst possible time. But that was the last time I suffered bill-shock and that’s four years ago.

3-Mobile aren’t perfect. But they’re okay for what you pay. I was disappointed when my gorgeous LG U300 became loose and split in half one day and they made me pay for yet another mobile on a monthly payment system. I was still paying monthly for the LG U300 and then there was yet another $10 a month for the U310 (just about the cheapest they had on offer at the time). There were very limited (and very expensive) pre-pay phones available on 3 at that time so I just had to suck it up.

Also, their customer service is based in a country somewhere just outside the third world and they don’t speak English so well over there. So it can be very frustrating when you have a genuine problem and you want to deal with them.

My final beef was that when my most recent contract was nearly up and I wanted to get the Nokia e63, they did f-all to assist. I had to fully pay out my previous contract and then sign up for a new 2 year contract and an extra “pack” for $8 to read email and for basic use of the internet. I felt my loyalty might have counted for something but, like Telstra, it counted for f-all.

So that’s the bad stuff….but there is much good stuff. Starting off with this: I know what my bill is going to be every month. I’ve got Yoda on 3-Mobile now and so we can call each other for 200 minutes a month for free. That’s fantastic. I can use any cap amount left over near the end of the month in international calls….to call Gustav in Sweden, for example. Lovely.

When I’m in the UK or Sweden, I’m in a “3-Like Country”…even though none of my calls are included in my monthly cap, they don’t cost a fortune…you get special international rates when you’re in a “3-Like Country.” I like, I like a lot!

Generally the mobile phone call connections are good and the mobile internet is okay. It isn’t super-fast but again, I knew all that when I went into my contract with 3. That’s the trade off for the pricing I reckon.

So what’s happening now?

Well 3-Mobile and Vodafone are merging. Which, in fact, is a load of dogs balls because what it really means is that 3-Mobile is disappearing and everything is becoming Vodafone. I stayed away from Vodafone for a reason when I decided to change phone companies. Vodafone is a shit company, a shit telco and, right now, is in the middle of being investigated by the Australian Consumer & Competition Commission for their lies about their service (snail-like-speed of mobile internet, calls dropping out etc. etc.) And Vodafone is out there selling, selling, selling to customers – promising the world and delivering nothing in return. Nada. Nil. Nought.

So this is the company that is taking over my phone company. Vodafone is taking over 3-Mobile, getting rid of the 3-Mobile brand (on which untold millions were spent in establishing) and basically making all 3 customers into Vodafone customers. Let’s get this in perspective: for the last few months Vodafone customers in Sydney CBD haven’t even been able to make calls reliably. Forget about the outer suburbs or the country – this is right in the heart of the Sydney central business district. And there’s recently been a case where someone was injured and needed to call for help…but couldn’t because Vodafone’s mobile service flaked out yet again.

I won’t even go into the issues of less competition in the market and how that leads to increased prices and less value for Australians generally….that’s for someone else to dissect. I’m just saying this: For the last four years I’ve been with a mobile phone company that isn’t too bad and one that has introduced me to new services like reading email on my mobile phone, checking newspapers on-line and even Twittering on the go. On the whole, I like being with 3-Mobile but now I’m going to be stuck with godawful Vodafone Australia. All 3 customers are.

Right now I want to talk about getting an additional handset or an upgrade but I can’t…just about every phone on 3-Mobile is “out of stock” and they recommend you go to a Vodafone shop and sign up with them. Oh great, thanks….so I go and sign up to pay more and suddenly have my calls drop out all the time. Thanks, but no thanks.

I want to get a Nokia e5 and I want to stay with 3 but I don’t think that’s going to happen. I don’t want to change phone companies again (I like to find something I’m happy with and then stick to it for a decade or two!) but I’m facing the awful prospect that I might have to reconsider going back to the evil empire…Telstra. They’ve started to catch up…slowly…with capped plans and such. Optus seems to have turned into a dip-shit kind of organisation since it was taken over by SingTel…so Telstra is looking like my only option.

The thing that gets me is this: Vodafone has always had a bad reputation in Australia whilst 3 has been seen as kind of hip. Why would you destroy the branding that millions were spent on to introduce to the country just a few years ago….and keep the branding of a company that everybody thinks is crap. And, with this ACCC enquiry, everyone KNOWS is crap.

In a couple of years time, when they’ve lost market share to Telstra, Optus or even a new-upstart company, will there finally be a management meeting where they say “THIS WAS A STUPID IDEA!!!” Already, the merger has been a disaster…everything was supposed to happen much faster…but it has been a disaster at every step. The integration of the two companies, their back-ends and their customer bases has been a nightmare….one step forward and four backward. The technical side of it has been causing them hell. Like trying to mate a cane toad with a koala. Hey guys, you don’t think all this might be a less-than-subtle message from Jesus to you saying “STOP!!!! THIS MERGER IS A STUPID IDEA…YOU’RE DESTROYING 2 MOBILE PHONE COMPANIES!”

As much as we all hate and loathe Telstra, I think they’re going to be the main beneficiary from this Vodafone takeover of 3-Mobile. It doesn’t matter what plans you offer people or how much monthly data you try and bribe them with…if they can’t make a reliable mobile telephone call to their husbands, wives, kids, friends…they’re going to be looking to get the hell out of there. Telstra offers the most reliable network in Australia at the moment….their pricing and nasty attitude to customers has seen them drop market share massively over the last few years. They’ve slowly started to pick up their game but I wonder how much longer they’ll have to….their new marketing plan might just need to be “Sign up with Telstra…your mobile phone calls actually go through with us.”

Meanwhile JudgeG is back in a mobile-Twilight Zone hell. There is a monster out there eating the wing off the plane…and it’s called Vodafone! Arghhhh!

Better Homes Than Mine

Something missing?

Every week, millions of people watch home decoration/improvements shows on TV, buy magazines on the subject and salivate at the thought of a visit to their nearest Bunnings mega-hardware store.

Not me.

I don’t think I’m cut out for this domestic “Better Homes & Gardens” bullshit.

Yesterday I spent a considerable amount of time at “Spotlight” – a fabric store – looking at curtains, curtain accessories, quilt covers and sheet sets. Over the last few months I’ve trekked out to Bunnings no less than three times – prior visits to that: zero.

I’ve had long conversations about paint colours and carpet colours and energy rankings on washing machines and even what kind of vacuum cleaner is best.

I wish there was a “Magic Flat Fairy” who cleaned, painted, furnished and moved you into a new place. All at the click of your fingers. Or “Flat in a Cup” where you just add water and “ta-da”, it all pops out out of a cup – the cleaning, the painting, the assembling, the moving and everything else.

It is hard for me to imagine that people actually get a kick out of spending their spare time doing this stuff. Now I love shopping for new stuff as much as the next queen but NOT for household furnishings! That’s for Mr & Mrs Western Suburbs or even Mr & Mr Darlinghurst….not for a white trash out and loud fag from Sydney’s inner west. No, no, no!

Yoda spent a couple of hours on various websites last night searching for quilt covers. Much time was spent ooh-ing and aah-ing over the IKEA website of course. IKEA, naturally, does not have standard Australian sizes in quilts. I am gently trying to persuade Yoda that perhaps IKEA might not be the best choice for his shopping dollar in this particular case. But I am fighting a losing battle.

My new quilt cover and sheets will come from K-Mart or Big-W: whichever one is having a sale and selling them dirt cheap. I can salivate for hours over a new netbook, mobile phone or digital camera….but bed covers get about 5 minutes thought before my eyes glaze over and I start to foam at the mouth.

Today’s happy homemaker project was the assembly of beds. New smaller beds because the bedrooms are slightly smaller and there is sooooooo much shit going in them. The luxury of a QUEEN sized bed is a thing of the past 😉  Downsizing to double is all about gaining that extra 6″ here and there!

Nothing comes assembled of course. So Yoda got stuck into the assembly of the beds today…I showed up late and offered some feeble assistance. Luckily it was all very logical. Thank you Fantastic Furniture for making the instructions understandable, logical and in English. And for not requiring two adjustable spanners and 3 people to assemble a bed – like it bloody well did with the last bed I bought from you 5 years ago! This time it was all done with Allan keys and bits that snapped or screwed together pretty much effortlessly.

Still, it was all too much effort for me…to think there are curtains to organise, a washing machine and other sundry items to be researched & purchased and 4 or 5 separate moving days to come before I’m settled into this new place…..

I’m no happy home-maker…good luck to the rest of the world who get off on this stuff…they can have better homes than mine. With pleasure!

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Sunday morning and I’m not happy!

In happier times (inflated)

It’s Sunday morning, the first day of daylight saving and right in the middle of a long weekend. I should be happy. But I’m not. I’m not happy, Jan!

Overnight my inflatable mattress has developed another puncture. This is the second inflatable I’ve had since moving to Yoda’s place. It blew out earlier in the week and we spent ages trying to track down where the leak was and then repairing it with a bicycle tyre repair kit. It worked for a few days but now the bed is flat again.

I am completely over it. I have at least another month or so of this until we move to the new flat and I can’t tell you how uncomfortable it is to sleep on a deflated, inflatable mattress. I’ve been doing it for two months now. Over it, over it, over it.

I finally gave up all pretence of trying to continue to sleep and got up to use the PC. But guess what, Yoda is downloading again so the internet connection is like Driving Miss Daisy. It seems almost every time I want to use the net, Yoda’s on his downloading some bullcrap or other. Compared to sharing an internet connection, sharing a bathroom is relatively easy.

So here I am, in my PJs, out of bed on a Sunday morning when I love to sleep in, and waiting an eternity for every internet page to load. I’m tired and grumpy and Yoda has taken a pill to get a few more hours sleep since he’s going out to a show tonight. Since the internet router is in my room I have a good mind to bloody well rip out the cord to his PC!

The Christopher Pyne Experiments

Evil Pyne

The right-wing anti-fun police had this post removed from the ABC’s Drum website. It is actually hilarious and should have been kept on the site.

http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:3ywF6oLQXBAJ:www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/09/27/3023063.htm

The Christopher Pyne experiments
By Marieke Hardy
Updated Mon Sep 27, 2010 4:13pm AEST

It seems there is nobody in the entire world who is loathed by Australia more than Christopher Pyne. (AAP: Alan Porritt, file photo)

I have had a great deal of time lately to think about Liberal MP Christopher Pyne. It was his appearance on last week’s Q and A that really cemented the process (“But… but… you didn’t cut Chris Bowen off mid-sentence,” he bleated to Tony Jones in his shrill little voice, causing a nation to, as one, silently pray for him to get attacked by a large and libidinous dog on his walk home), which led me to hold a few fact-finding conversations with various ‘demographics’ as I take my role as ABC opinion holder/commentator/taste-maker intensely seriously which you would probably be able to tell by my many searing political insights over the previous nine months.

Opinions on Christopher Pyne seem to vary, from “I despise his crinkly hair”* to “Seriously cannot watch Christopher Pyne. Parseltongue on television gives me the creeps”** to “When Chris Pyne says ‘Kumbaya’ I taste a little vomit in my mouth”***. It seems that nobody in the whole of Australia likes him. Which leads me to presume that perhaps there is nobody in the entire world who is loathed by Australia more than Christopher Pyne and that’s why I took it upon myself to conduct the following experiments.

1. Does Australia despise Kyle Sandilands more than Christopher Pyne?

It’s getting kind of tedious hating on Kyle Sandilands these days. I mean, when someone loudly announces to a table of dinner party companions: “You know who I just abhor? That fat-headed beard man from the radio,” it’s hardly bound to make waves socially. Every few months or so Kyle will say something about fat chicks or rape victims and everyone will fall over themselves trying to say how much they detest him, but it’s not necessarily interesting. You want to be controversial? Try telling a crowded bar that Hamish and Andy suck. Those two are like the untouchable twin Jesus brothers.

VERDICT: Australia hates Christopher Pyne more than we hate Kyle Sandilands.

keep reading this article

A post from the plane…24 July

Maybe 1/10th of my stuff. (Possibly only 1/20th actually!)

I started out with the intention to send in regular posts from my overseas trip in July/August of this year. I always start out with good intentions. I only got as a far as a writing a post on the Sydney – Seoul part of my journey about the horrible period leading up to going o/s. Having to move after a decade and sorting out the result of being a serial hoarder almost broke me.

Writing on the plane was supposed to be a bit cathartic. It wasn’t. I decided to shutdown the netbook and grab a vodka & tonic and veg out. Pretty much what I do every time I have to do longhaul flights. Anyway, here is a post I wrote on 24 July this year up in the air…

“It’s about an hour and twenty minutes into the flight and I’m just starting to relax a bit. The last couple of months have been amongst the most stressful of my life. All precipitated by the owner of the flat I rent(ed) and his need to sell the place.

One simple phone call from the real estate agent started a crazy roller coaster ride which continues to this day. Never has the phrase “I need a holiday!” been more apt. The idea to go to Stockholm for Pride week originated months ago but the holiday now seems like a last-minute circuit breaker than anything else.

Moving house is supposed to be one of the top life-stressing events but the stress is magnified when you’re a massive hoarder like I am. And when your solution to cleaning up is to throw miscellaneous crap into plastic crates, you end up with a massive amount of crates after a decade. And a massive amount of crap that needs to be sorted and culled.

Add to that a storage centre unit full of stuff that was quite relevant 14 years ago but is now outdated, outmoded and mostly falls into the category of “Why the hell did I keep that? What the hell was I thinking?”

Into this mix you can throw the fact that rents around my area have risen massively since I moved in a decade ago. And they continue to rise. Paying almost half my salary to rent a bog standard 1 or 2 bedroom flat – with the distinct possibility of a further increase in rent every six months – did not seem a realistic option. The Sydney rental market is completely insane.

Which is how I ended up sleeping on an inflatable “camp bed” in Yoda’s second bedroom (formerly his office until I showed up). The room I am sleeping in is packed full of crates of my stuff – a Stonehenge of storage crates if you like. There’s another storage centre with a unit that contains about 60 moving boxes and plastic crates of my stuff. And a separate unit that has bookcases, filing cabinets and so on.

I need to point out that this is what remains after weeks of severely sorting and culling my stuff. James and Yoda have been helping me sort the wheat from the chaff. Although at times it felt like sorting deckchairs on the Titanic as it was sinking. Without their help I would be well and truly sunk by now – and that isn’t a joke.

Over the last month we have organised 3 council clean ups, Salvation Army and Smith Family collections and even a last minute “Cheapest Load of Rubbish” visit to get rid of 25 bags of rubbish that wouldn’t fit into the – already overflowing with my refuse – bins at the back of my former block of flats.

It took two separate removalist moves over the space of a week as well as Grant driving a rented ute with a cage two facilitate the exit of JudgeG from his HQ of a decade. Not to mention a number of walking trips from the flat to Grant’s place using a hand trolley packed with…well, more of my stuff.

The whole thing seemed a bridge too far for me at times. I held it together mostly but did break down and have a good cry a few times during the final days. The crying should have been cathartic but it wasn’t. It didn’t make the move go away – it just delayed the torture for a few minutes each time. I’ve heard there are worse hoarders than me but, after the last month and a half, I doubt James & Yoda would believe that 😉

While all this was happening, Yoda and I went to an open inspection of a flat that we both really liked and could imagine living in. We just went for a sticky beak because we were around when the building went up years ago and wanted to see inside. Who came up with the idea “why don’t we see if we could get a loan and buy it?” Me? Yoda? Both?

The idea would have stopped right there – at the pie-in-the-sky stage – if someone had told us what a nightmare we were letting ourselves in for. Yoda had done this once before – almost two decades ago – and it seemed a very linear, sensible – if somewhat cumbersome – process back then.

Our experience over the last 6 weeks has been nothing like that. It has been one drama after another, one setback after another. That old bank advert where the customer is expected to jump through a hoop of fire – think that and double it. Even right down to the real estate agent quitting his job and not telling us right at the point we were to make an offer on the place. He just disappeared without trace – no messages or emails acknowledged or returned.

I’d like to tell you about the specific structural problems in the building we’re trying to buy into but it would cause me to cry – or to jump out of this very lovely plane. The building reports just remind me of that horrible 80s movie “The Money Pit” which I only saw on the insistence of one of my ex-boyfs. He ended up hating it too.

In beginning this process I realised we’d be caught in the middle of mortgage brokers, inspection companies, lawyers, real estate agents and banks. I just assumed it might all be a bit more sensible and streamlined. After all, people do it all the time, don’t they?

As at 2pm yesterday, Yoda and I were still at the lawyers trying to clean up shit. I was supposed to be on a “day off” getting ready for my trip. No such luck – that had to wait until last night. I finished some time around 1 or 2am. I had to be up at 4.45am. And I didn’t sleep well for those few hours – too much on my mind. So, with effectively 90 minutes sleep, I was up again to get ready for this plane trip.

Which brings me right back to the beginning of this post. Hoping to begin a mental detox program so that I can face a resumption of the ongoing saga of where to live. And yet another possible move.

Arrrghhhhhhhhhh!

There’s soooo much more to tell – and I remember every last detail. But right now I need to do something else…attract the hostess’ attention…

“Excuse me, another vodka & tonic please!”