Monday, December 31, 2007

Because it's been a while since I blogged about productivity tools

For the last few weeks I have been using a great online "to do" list application, Remember The Milk. The more I use it, the more I like it.

In my opinion, its best features are the following:

It talks to Google products. You can integrate it with Google Calendar, or (my personal favourite), with Gmail. In Gmail your to-do list then becomes a right-hand column, so that someone like me who checks their email obsessively has no excuse for forgetting the tasks for the day.

It is super easy to add tasks. You can do it from within your Gmail account, from within Google Calendar, by sending the program an email, or on the Remember The Milk site. Minimally, it involves one click and typing in the name of the task. (You can add much more info about the task if you wish, though, including priority, due date, location, etc.)

The application is smart. For due date, for example, you can type "today", "tomorrow", "Wednesday", "1 Jan", "Jan first", etc, and it recognises all of these and converts them to its standard formats. If you are adding a task from within your email account, and include the name of one of your contacts (e.g. "call Richard"), it uses your email address book to auto-complete.

It probably has many more features I haven't explored yet, but one of the things I like about it is that you can get started straight away using a very minimal subset of what it can do, all of which is totally intuitive, and only begin using the more advanced settings and features if and when you find them helpful.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

The New Year's Meme

I've deleted the questions that bore or baffle me.

1. What did you do in 2007 that you’d never done before?

  • Handed in a dissertation!
  • Convened an entire course all by myself.
  • Went to Adelaide.
  • Tried being kinda sorta pseudo-fake-vegetarian.
  • Developed a Scrabulous addiction.
  • Went cross-country skiing and snow camping.
  • Went without sugar for a couple of months.
2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
 No, and yes, because clearly I like to delude myself.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
 A couple of friends did, but since I only see them once every couple of years now, I don't know if that counts as close.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
 My grandmother.

5. What countries did you visit?
 New Zealand.

6. What would you like to have in 2008 that you lacked in 2007?
 A well-paid job.

7. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
 The thesis.

8. What was your biggest failure?
 Not getting a single publication out.

9. Did you suffer illness or injury?
 Nope. At least nothing major enough that I remember it.

10. What was the best thing you bought?
 I didn't really buy stuff. Gifts, I guess. The juicer I bought Geekman for his birthday is awesome.

11. Where did most of your money go?
 Rent. Savings.

12. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
 Teaching. It was exciting (and nerve-wracking) to have my own course with my own 80-odd students all to myself to do with as I pleased.

13. Compared to this time last year, are you:
 a) happier or sadder? 
b) thinner or fatter? 
c) richer or poorer?
 The same, the same, and richer (see number 11).

14. What do you wish you’d done more of?
 Writing. (I know, I wrote a dissertation and all, but most of what I did on that this year was editing. I wish I'd written more new stuff, both academic and for fun.) Going to the gym. Improving my foreign languages.

15. What do you wish you’d done less of?
 Aimless web surfing. Procrastination in general.

16. What was the best book you read?
 Wally Lamb's She's come undone. More about that when I finally get around to doing the book meme I was tagged for.

17. What did you want and get?
 Finished with the dissertation. Parrots tame enough to sit on my hand. An apartment that doesn't leak (as far as we know).

18. What did you want and not get?
 An apartment with rent that doesn't make me shudder. A publication or two.

19. What kept you sane?

The internet. Hooray for online friends!

20. Who did you miss?
 Weekend Viking and Stellar Muddle, who moved back to NZ this time last year. Geekman, temporarily, while I was trapped in NZ looking after my mother back in June. And the same old friends I always miss: all the Christchurch crowd.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

People do things differently. And it always shocks me.

Case in point #1: That hard rectangular package is not a book.

The people we spent Christmas with this year (distant relatives, most of whom we had not met before) all gave each other DVDs as gifts. Not a single book to be seen. Has the DVD become the new default present? Even we were given DVDs, which is weird since there is no way they could guess at what we would like, nor even know if we had a DVD player. I don't have anything against DVDs, but they would never even have crossed my mind as a Christmas gift option.

Case in point #2: Yes, we like our stone-age very much

A line from a Christmas letter from a family friend whose daughter (my age) has recently (finally!) moved out of home:

"M- has only had time off work since Friday, and since she is now the only woman in the household, it has been a little hectic for her with all the preparation for Christmas and baking and so on." (Note that her husband, the writer of the Christmas letter, is unemployed with plenty of time on his hands.)

On the second day of Christmas...

... can you guess where we went?

And it's even all free range and nice to the environment and shit. Which is probably why we didn't get to see half of the animals (bloody bandicoots, hiding in the vastness). With a fake savanna the size of 550 football fields to roam in, why would you hang out near the bits the tourists are able to get to?

At least the cheetah was willing (or hungry).

Friday, December 28, 2007

I'm back, and unpixelated

Because really, why bother?

I had an, um, interesting Christmas. It had its moments. Presents were on the weird side, although the two I got from Geekman (lava lamp and laptop bag) were awesome. My mother and father did not win any points. The former gave me a book on how to pray properly, and gave Geekman one sock. (She hasn't finished knitting the other one yet.) My father gave me some hand lotion. Both forgot(?) to give my brother anything. To his credit, he didn't seem bothered. Maybe he would rather not have one sock or a book on prayer.

In more exciting news, I got to catch up with a friend's housemate. Meet Keiko, who seemed convinced my hair needed a little work...

...and then demanded a bite of my sandwich as a reward.

Friday, December 21, 2007

An excellent Friday night

I'm playing the most incredible Scrabulous game right now. My opponent began with a bingo, I countered with another bingo, and got another one two turns later. We are now five turns (each) into the game, and the score is 245 to 173. Only one of my turns has scored under 30 so far.

Also: homemade noodles for dinner.

You should be glad I tell my stories to him and not to you

"Geekman, today there was a spider!"

One raised eyebrow.

"In my office! And not just any spider. This one was an icky spider. It was extra spidery."

The other eyebrow lifts.

"No, really. It was like a spider that had read about how to be a spider and taken notes and practised hard, and started competing in the spider spideriness Olympics. It was an archetypal spider."

"The platonic spider?"


"So what did you do with your platonic spider?"

"I hit it with Pidgins and Creoles, A Reference Survey."

Thursday, December 20, 2007


Well, I guess it's been too long for this to be the result of this peckfest, but we do indeed have a new young rosellalet. (S)he is rather cute, all small and green, and constantly makes weird noises that I can only interpret as, "Watch me! watch me!" directed at his/her parents. Unfortunately (s)he is also extra nervous and every time I even move towards the balcony, let alone pull out my camera, baby's parents banish him/her to a distant tree.

I'll try to get a picture if they come back tomorrow or Saturday, but after that we will be away for Christmas, and we have decided not to feed the parrots any more on our return, in the hope that they might un-tame themselves before we are replaced with more dangerous bipeds (i.e. the teenage boys who are moving in here after us).

Local council turns hippy

This is the coolest initiative EVER.

All our local buses are now free if you are traveling with a bicycle! That means you can hook your bike on the front rack, jump in the bus, and not pay for a ticket.

If only I had known about this when we were house-hunting, it would have made the radius within which we could consider moving much, much larger.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

I think maybe I got scammed

If so, I maybe lost around $500. I'm still hopeful I should be able to recover it, even if it turns out it was a scam. What bothers me more is that I don't understand the scam. Not the how, nor the why.

More details later, once I'm sure I'm not mistakenly maligning innocent people.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Um, *gulp*

Or maybe I'll go do fieldwork in Papua New Guinea instead.


Dear Faculty Business Office,

I am urgently trying to find out when the local deadline is for [Grant Fellowship Application]. I tried to check your website, but could not access it. Could you please let me know when this deadline is?


Dear Styleygeek,

The information you require is on our website. It is down at present for maintenance. We will notify you when the site is back up.

Faculty Business Office.

I guess "urgently" means something different to them from what it means to me. Also, how hard would it be to just give me a date? I find it difficult to believe that no one knows this information without checking their own website.

Monday, December 17, 2007

The carnival of GRADual progress is up!

Go take a look. I'll still be here when you get back.

This should get me some interesting hits on Google

I was checking my spam folder today to see whether some real mail had been mixed in with it by mistake, and couldn't help but marvel at the creativity of some of the subject lines. For your ease of reading, and because I really can't help myself (categorization is what typologists do), I have sorted them into types. Feel free to add your own in the comments.

The scary:

Enormous monster phallus is every woman's dream. (I think this one could really ought to provide references. Freud would do, at a pinch.)

The up-to-date:

Get your wife better stimulation in year 2008
Don't let them laugh at your willy in 2008

The simple yet surreal:


The WTF category:

Biggish Penis Anderson (the body text of this one is "Phallus Sizable Ryan")

The "this person needs a better outlet for their creativity" category:

Be a big success in the pants when you enlarge your dick.
Get the flag pole that counts!
Your sexual life will sparkle with brighter colors.
Grow an anaconda out of your trouser snake!

And this one, which I am repeating in full, because it has some sort of serene poetic quality that I can't ignore (yes, each sentence was on a different line. That kind of helped, I guess, since it made it look a little like haiku spam):

Do not be loser, change your aggregate size.
Your girl does not admire to do it with you for reason of your device size.
This is your possibility to solve the trouble.
All you have to do is just put to use our male machine enlargement.
You will forget about trouble and your chick will be glad.

To add to the list of things I have found in my bed

  • A caterpillar
  • Onion skin

I have no idea either.

Friday, December 14, 2007

I don't suppose anyone knows...

...why 10 or so otherwise quite normal-looking academics were processing across campus this afternoon playing the Branle des chevaux (on trombones, drums and tambourines), led by a student holding aloft a stack of newly printed dissertations?

No, me neither.

Lessons learned

  1. Cycling very fast in the dark when you have no night vision is a bad idea.
  2. Doing so while drunk is worse.
  3. Cycling on the footpath is a good idea until it turns out someone has left a tree branch lying across it.
  4. Flying over your handlebars is kind of fun.
  5. Until you hit the ground.
  6. And you should let go.
  7. Of the handlebars.
  8. Otherwise your bicycle cartwheels through the air as well and lands on top of you.
  9. You don't injure very seriously when preserved in alcohol.
  10. But things in the bag on your back do.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

I can't get over how cool this is

This rosella has suddenly become totally fearless (or maybe his addiction has conquered all fear). He even climbed up my sleeve to my shoulder yesterday, just to explore.

Not homeless

We found an apartment. It's about $30 a week more than we were hoping to pay, but on the upside, it appears to be waterproof. Also quiet, and sunny, and a five minute walk from Borders, which are all the important things.

Given that all the other places at this end of the price-and-niceness scale rejected us, we suspect our application for this one was aided by the fact that the real estate company's fax number was wrong on their website, which may have delayed or doomed anyone not willing to wait around for half an hour to see if their fax really did go through.

I have to say, though, I'm not looking forward to dealing with a real estate company with this level of competence:

"Hi, I'm calling because I'm trying to fax you an application, and it isn't going through."
"Yes, our fax number on those forms is wrong."
"But we checked on your website, and the same number is there too."
"Yes, that's also wrong."
"We are planning to get someone in to update it at some point. But for now, let me give you the correct number."

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Best idea EVER

I have come up with a grant proposal idea that, if successful, will let me indulge in blog reading in the name of research.


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Addiction is a bad thing

Wild thing, you make my heart sing


Monday, December 10, 2007

Background on the first bit of the last post

Questions United have asked me when I am booking trips:

"Which state is Australia in?"

"Do you mean Tonga, Australia?"

"Oh, you mean Tonga, in Vanuatu?"

More Geekman honesty

(Related entry here.)

After a difficult phone call

"United Airlines really need to change their slogan. If I were them, I'd go with, 'Customer service: it's optional.'"


At the bicycle shop

Geekman: "I think I need a new inner tube."
Salesman, looking doubtfully at the bicycle: "I think you need a new tyre."
Geekman: "You need to understand: I'm really cheap. How much do I need a new tyre?"
Salesman: "Well, it's the reason why your inner tube burst."
Geekman: "Okay, then."
Salesman: "Our absolute cheapest cheapskate tyres are $24."
Geekman beams: "I'll take one!"

Sunday, December 09, 2007

More freaking houses

Places we have viewed since then.*

1. Extremely elegant building that simultaneously managed to be right in the centre of the city, and surrounded by a leafy heaven that dripped serenity. Wrought iron and stained glass everything. Extensive gardens with peaceful places to sit. Apartment on the top floor with a beautiful view, peeling paintwork, sagging, mouldy ceiling, and cat-pee flavoured carpets. $370 per week. Approximately 10 people at the showing.

2. Brand new apartment building a block and a half north of our current location. Two bedrooms, middle floor (so neither security problems nor leaking are likely), slightly larger than our current place, lovely balcony, brand new appliances, central heating and air conditioning. Swimming pool and underground parking. Nothing to dislike. Two apartments available: $360 and $380 a week respectively. 15-20 people at the showing.

3. Older apartment in a large complex, a bit further north, but still within cycling distance to university. A little smaller than our current place, but acceptable. No air conditioning and some windows face the busiest street in the city. This could make sleeping difficult in summer. $320 a week. 12 or so people at the showing, but most of them seemed to belong to the one family. Not sure what was up with that.

4. Gorgeous, extremely modern, brand new building just around the corner from us. Very large two-bedroom with all the pros of #2, except that it was on the ground floor, and had evidence of water damage. (Already! The builders haven't even quite finished yet and the freaking place is leaking!) The rent was listed as "negotiable", which is apparently illegal in this state. People at the showing: 3, presumably because they were confused by lack of rent prices. Other places in the same building are all over $420 a week, though.

5. Tiny ground floor two bedroom in a large complex opposite the shops two suburbs north of here. Security bars on windows and doors. Reasonable condition. Kitchen and bathroom are nice. Lots of storage space. No heating or air conditioning. $315 a week. Only one other couple at the showing.

We've applied for 1, 2a and b, and 3. We really want 2a, so we aren't quite sure what we'll do if the agent for 3 calls us before we've heard about 2. Or if we get offered 2b but not a. We would almost certainly turn down 1, but when we put in the application for that one we hadn't seen anything else yet that was even vaguely suitable and were getting nervous. If we don't hear from any of them by Tuesday, we'll put in an application for 5 as well.

We are a little bit frightened by the fact that a guy we spoke to at the showing for #3 said he and his partner had been looking for more than three months. But we suspect there may be discrimination at play there, since they were a gay couple and clearly not Australian in origin (maybe Indian?). It would suck to know that you might be rejected on either count.

Our applications for #1 and #2 look good on paper, although I couldn't provide proof of income. The application for #3 is a bit dodgier, since they required phone numbers for all our landlords going back ten years, and we couldn't remember most of them. (Plus half of them are overseas.) The form said forebodingly: "If full details are not given in this section, including phone numbers for EVERY landlord, we will not process this form."


*I realise this may not be the most scintillating of blog posts, but as much as anything, it is for my own benefit so that I have a record of the places we've been looking at.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Irritating email exchange of the week

Between me and a committee that will remain nameless:

Dear all,

At our last meeting, we decided that we would pay me for my website work in advance to use up the funds in account X that are due to vanish at the end of December if unused. See attached minutes. [Guy in charge of account] informs me this would need to be processed immediately in order to take place in time. Just checking this is still okay.


Dear Styleygeek,

Go ahead and send in an invoice. The amount in the account is $1116.80. Please invoice for the whole sum. We'll sort out your hours later.

Chair of Committee.

Dear all,

Chair says to go ahead, so I've sent in my invoice for $1116.80 to admin (copy attached). Please let me know if the information on the invoice is sufficient.


Two days later, the chair sends the following email to my advisor (not even cc-ing me: I only heard about it later).

Dear Styleygeek's advisor,

Styleygeek appears to have sent us some sort of invoice for her website work. You need to talk to her about this. For one thing, I'm not sure she should be invoicing as a contractor, but rather needs to fill out a timesheet with the work as she does it. For another, she has invoiced for the entire amount of money in the account, and this doesn't leave us enough to also cover tax and benefits. [Note: hence my invoice as a contractor, since then it is MY responsibility to pay tax out of the total sum received, and they don't have to cover benefits. I thought their first mail made it clear that this is what they wanted, since they asked for an invoice, not a timesheet, and told me to charge them the whole remaining sum.]

I wonder if she realises that she would need an ABN in order for us to process such an invoice [uh, yes. That's why I put my ABN on the invoice I sent in] and that she would also have to pay taxes [duh]. Maybe we should talk about this at our next committee meeting [in July].


According to the evaluations...

... my students want:

  • full typed up notes distributed at every lecture
  • a whole class devoted to revision before each quiz, assignment and exam
  • not to have to read or hear about any information that won't be on the exam
  • not to have to come to class if they don't feel like it, and not to have to expend any effort to catch up when they skip.
Silly me, I thought that university was about learning to make your own notes, to do your own revision, and about learning the occasional interesting thing for its own sake, rather than just for credit. Oops. My mistake.

If I didn't know that it was only a tiny minority of students making these comments, and if the overall evaluation statistics were not excellent, I would be seriously depressed.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Places we have looked at, or, I wonder what being homeless feels like?

1. A lovely two-bedroom central city apartment. Sunny, perfect condition, a little bigger than we have here. Rent = $370 a week (for comparison's sake, we are currently paying $320). Number of people at the showing: 20+. Many of them filled out applications on the spot.

2. A two-bedroom apartment three blocks north of our current place. Horrible horrible horrible. Big mould stains on the ceiling. Tiny and ugly and sunless. No bicycle rack or space. Swarming with cats (actually, I think this was a redeeming feature). Rent = $380 a week. Number of people at the showing: four.

3. A two-bedroom apartment in our current building. Slightly bigger than our current one. Windows in both bedrooms (we only have a skylight in one). Signs of water damage. Rent = $395 a week. Private showing.

4. A two-bedroom house about 20 minutes drive from university. Beautiful, sunny rooms. Lovely garden. Huge French doors in every room. Good condition apart from some roof tiles needing replacing, termite shields needing installation (WTF are termite shields?) and some garden work. Sale price = $330,000+. Offer would have needed to be made immediately. If it wasn't for the location (we'd need a new car) and for the fact it was the first place for sale we've viewed, I'd have made an offer.

5. A three-bedroom house around 20 minutes cycle ride (uphill) from university. Big garden with fruit trees. House in average condition, nice enough. Looks like it would be cold in winter, though (windows don't seal properly, minimal heating). Rent = $360 a week. Number of people at the showing: 30-ish? (And that was 10 minutes before the showing officially began: we were out of there by the time it really started).

What we are looking for:

(a) Two-bedrooms, easy cycling distance to university, no obvious water damage, rent preferably under $350 (although we are starting to realise that might be unrealistic). Long lease.


(b) Two bedroom separate title house or townhouse, within a radius that means we could cycle to university if we absolutely had to (i.e. within 45 minutes or so), good condition, $350,000 or under. Quick sale.

Why is this so impossible? We currently live in an example of (a), and I've seen plenty of (b) on the market in the past.


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Wow! Look at my funky comments options!

Thanks, Ianqui.

Monday, December 03, 2007


I briefly switched to Haloscan because of this and then I switched back again because of this.

And you missed all the excitement. Shame on you!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Oh, the humanities!

A printed notice on the Classics department fridge:

There will be a spring-cleaning on Monday. Anything ancient, stinky or otherwise suss will be discarded.

Next to this, a handwritten scribble:

Oh no! We'll lose half the department!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Parrot on a stick