It’s a little bit sham-y

Support your local, independent cafe!

Tourism Australia and the NSW ‘government’ are chipping in $2.5 million for Oprah Winfrey (Yes, she has a surname; no, it’s not TM) to visit Australia. Does she really need to raid the cash register at McCafe to fund her trip?

And now for something completely different…

Does this score Oprah the Guinness World Record for highest paid pro… talk show host?

An open letter to the neglected

This semester has been a particularly tedious one. During the intervals of insomnia, I have pondered topics including the value of social interaction, the importance of relationships, and how our perceptions influence our actions (or inaction).

I will start with a confession: Over the last month, I have made little to no effort to engage socially.

My study schedule has been demanding. Is this enough to justify my inaction? In a best case scenario, higher marks equate to higher earnings and increased social status. With full respect to those who pursue such goals, I must be honest and say that I cannot value material worth and status over a healthy mind. Friendship is a key part of that. Even for an introvert.

Formalised education is only one part of the picture for me. Yes, a certificate from an institution offers certain benefits, however I am loathe to hold one measure of one type of intelligence over all others. While I consider my further education a privilege and apply myself (often obsessively), I cannot say with honesty that this alone is the reason for my non-social behaviour.

So why then have I been so lax? Am I annoyed at or bored with the people I call my friends? Do I really value the interpersonal relationships in which I usually participate? How can I justify behaviour which conflicts with my values? I can’t.

I am not annoyed or bored. I do value the friendships (the real ones – not those in the ‘Facebook friends’ category) I am fortunate enough to be involved in. There’s just been so much to do, in so little time.

Are we as time poor as we would like to believe? Or does it come back to status? Being busy and important is such an ingrained dilemma. Ask someone how their weekend was – “Oh it was busy!”. Ask someone else how they are – “Oh I’ve been just so busy!”. Are we really that busy, or are we just talking ourselves up? Are we just making excuses to others and to ourselves to make peace with the possibility that we may be perpetual procrastinators?

I have a theory that if we really want to do something, we’ll find time. It’s a theory that has forced me to question my motivations (or lack thereof). Am I really so genuinely busy that I won’t find 10 minutes to check my email, 30 to get ready for work and over an hour of interspersed day dreaming? Nope.

We have been sold the ‘time poor’ mentality by clever marketing hacks and self-help writers clinging to quasi-psychological concepts. Yes, anxiety is real. Anxiety about running out of time is real. Is it the epidemic it is publicised as? No. Would Facebook, Twitter, etc be so economically viable and prolific if we weren’t feeling so time poor? “Facebook is crap, but I use it to keep in touch with friends, and I’m so busy – Facebook makes it easy”. Is that really code for: I can’t be bothered, so I’m going to publish a few self-promoting status updates per week so that a conglomerate of acquaintances can feed off the scraps of my ideal life? The perception of being time poor gives us so much creative license to justify an array of (ironically) unproductive behaviour. No time to clean – Too busy! Would love to stop and chat, but I shan’t – Too busy! Would stop and smell the roses if I hadn’t carelessly run them down with the lawn mower because I was so busy I had to move at lightening speed. Will the world end if we just take a moment and slow down?

I guess I’m disenchanted with cyber-socialisation. An email, instant messenger chat, text message, status update and/or tweet doesn’t really cut it for me when it comes to real friendship. There’s so much room for over analysis and so little contact that it just doesn’t feel worth it. I even hate using the phone to call people – I’ve no good reason to explain this reluctance. Maybe it’s introversion, maybe it’s because a phone wasn’t installed at home until I was a little older than most. So am I going to resume letter writing and wait for weeks with baited breath until I see a hand written envelope arrive in return? Maybe. For fun.

In the spirit of hypocrisy…

Dear Void of Nothingness,

I have missed you dearly, and apologise for the lack of attention I have afforded you.

Please accept my sincerest apologies.

Let’s be friends?

Agnes J. Stone

Notes on Votes

As much as I would like to vote myself into office, the thought of politics and all that beige makes me anxious.

This election I am shaking off any impulse to vote with blind party loyalty or invocation of the donkey. Instead I will vote for the party which best reflects the route I feel Australia should take over the next few years. But getting through the spin seems an impossible task! Can I even be bothered? Yes.

Despite the typos and sensationalism, the hacks over at www.news.com.au have provided something remotely helpful this election. Vote-a-matic 2.0 will assist you in determining which party best represents your views on key issues.

Get Up! know that we’re sick of reading and hearing about the election, so they produced this lovely little graphic to sum it up for us. Go to the party websites for more information, and to come to your own conclusions.

If you’re wanting to go all the way and become a Level 3000 Voter, head to Below the Line and customise your own voting card. It might not match your shoes, but it will co-ordinate with your point of view.

Many people complain about the time it takes to cast their vote. They say it takes up quality time out of their well earned weekend, and that their vote doesn’t matter anyway. Your vote will not matter if you draw genitalia on it. Your vote will not matter if you lodge a blank piece of paper. If you follow the simple instructions, and work out who you want to guide and represent our nation; it’s about as easy as something so important can get.

Sure, it takes time and skill to vote – Avoiding the propaganda thrust at you on arrival, queuing, waiting for the official to find and highlight your name in the special edition of the yellow pages, finally getting to the booth only to find that the bogan occupant before you had stolen the pen. But. Yes, full stop. But. At least we have a choice. At least we are given the right to vote. At least we aren’t living in a dictatorship. At least we aren’t going to be shot for making our own minds up.

If you really can’t be bothered learning a little about what might be in store for us depending on the outcome of this election, then you may consider voting for the party with the leader of least embarrassment.

Julia Gillard has come under fire for many things. “Why isn’t she in the kitchen?” ask some concerned citizens. We all know that Kevin Rudd was flicked with Julia’s hand. Whether or not she was in control of it at the time of the incident is another matter entirely. Is she trustworthy? OOOOO! Who knows? One positive I can see in the whole debacle is that at least the party took action when it seemed that their leader had lost his way. Or maybe they just know how to shoot a scapegoat… Julia is also dealing with being labeled a ‘ranga’ and ‘Fanta pants’. She feels the pain of discrimination. Her ear lobes are allegedly “too big” (All the better to hear you with?). Is this the person you want to represent you? Let’s move forward.

Tony Abbott. Perhaps the less said, the better on this one. If you or I, dear void of nothingness, happened to walk around in public wearing what can only be described as all-purpose-underpants, we would be arrested. Some say Tony Abbott has become a sex symbol throughout his campaign. If that man is a symbol of sex, then sign me up for celibacy. Some women think Tony is a sweetheart. The only effect he has on me is similar to the one which follows the ingestion of vast amounts of artificial sweetener. It’s not pretty. Let’s stand up Australia. Stand up for real action pants! If that was Tony’s election promise, maybe I’d vote for him.

Then there’s Bob Brown of The Greens. Yes, let’s – for a moment – celebrate the irony of his surname being the wrong colour. This guy is so willing to stand up for what he thinks is ‘right’ that he’s okay with getting shot at. Our political landscape is so dominated by the Labor and Liberal parties, that The Greens are often forgotten about, or shrugged off as hippies. Amazingly enough, they actually make some good points.

Alternatively, if you’re of the spontaneous persuasion you can just decide on the day. I have already been privy to the literature that the Christian Democrats Party (I know!) will be handing out on The Big Day. It makes for what can only be described as the opposite of compelling reading.

No matter which approach you take to determine how you will vote, I hope that the possible outcome is at the forefront of your mind. A vote is reflective of the voter. So… Who said they were going to draw a giant penis on their ballot paper?

Australia: The land of the free (Or so we’d like to think)

Dear Australian Government Australian Taxation Office,

Thank you for your kind note. I see that you failed to adopt the cost cutting measure I suggested during your previous collection. Are the extra 26 characters necessary? Perhaps you will reconsider.

I do hope that you, our politicians, the unmotivated and the 12 year old parents (They can order dinner, smoke, work on the next kid and drink their rum – at once!) have a splendid time spending the tax money. I feel privileged to be granted the opportunity to donate more money to your needs.

I beg you to use the funds to better our nation – Invest in quality education (The education system is going to have a hard time dealing with all the bogan offspring harvested during the previous baby bonus program), efficient transport, accessible health care, the environment, positive social change. Reward the hard working, support the genuinely needy.

You have 12 months to satisfy these requests. Alternatively, you could give my money back.

Sincerely,
Agnes J. Stone

Cleaning is educational

I have thrown the gauntlet at myself. A long standing item on my ‘To Do’ list has been the culling and reorganisation of my possessions. The plan is to only keep the items I love. Any items that don’t make the cut will be offered to others, with any rejects being donated to charity.

[Side note: Sure, I could skip the step of offering items to friends and family and just donate all of my cast offs to charity. If I can make someone I care about feel a little extra fabulous by giving them something I used to love, and if the items don’t end up in the garbage, surely it’s a positive outcome? I donate to many charities throughout the year. I don’t think I’m being too harsh by refraining from dumping things off at the local op shop immediately. If you think I am, then take the shirt off your back and donate it immediately!]

Hidden in the disarray was a bundle of forgotten currency. Surprise savings are always a welcome find. Nestled in amongst the treasure is a $100 note. A few years ago, R received a very generous gift from his grandmother. R kindly gave me one of the notes which (up until recently) I saved in secret, so that he could put it towards his first house deposit. It felt like a nice way of making sure that such a kind gesture from a remarkable lady would always be remembered. Now that R knows, he agrees.

Cleaning can also be educational. For instance, I have learned that on the 24th of October, 2008 at 5.20PM, I purchased powder room paper, peanut butter, orange juice (with pulp) and a free range chicken for a total of $26.77. I was served by Alex at register two, and paid 54 cents GST. R and I had arrived home from Paris a few days earlier and were craving rotisserie chicken. [Yes, more brackets – Little glass cased rotisseries are set up on the footpaths showcasing delicious smelling chickens and potatoes. I’m not an enthusiastic meat eater, however would gladly head back to Paris to sample the dancing poulet roti!]

I wonder what else I will stumble upon.

Degrees of freedom

Oh my. A statistics joke. I’m putting myself on notice.

Things I am looking forward to in the post-stats-exam world:
– Having the luxury of leisure time in place of bouts of procrastination intensive study
– Having the time to re-think my time management strategies
– De-cluttering and re-organising. The perpetual Lost and Found style of possession management is getting old.
– Using hyphens > subtraction symbols
– Catching up with friends
– Overcoming a personal hurdle. The thought of studying this subject was enough to send me into such a state of anxiety that I would feel physically ill. With the support of a passionate, empathetic and very patient teacher, I now have a confidence in my ability that I thought impossible. That said, the exam is still making me nervous, I just haven’t gone completely bat shit crazy yet. There’s still time.

This list will grow.

06.06.10:

– I am also looking forward to no longer dreaming about ANOVA summary tables, Tukey’s Honestly Significant Difference test, multiple regression analysis and Eta-squared. Study on a Saturday night, followed by dreams of statistics is only a smidge up from heading to the infamous seedy night club near by on my list of preferred weekend activities.
– In addition, I’m looking forward to doing things I like. It will be nice to have a brief respite before the next onslaught of study. I miss first year! I was so foot loose and fancy free. It was so much easier.
– I’m looking forward to studying a subject which will allow me to use my writing skills.
– Reading! I will have time to read for enjoyment!

07.06.10:

– I’m also looking forward to a break from procrastinating. It can be such hard work.

Dear diary

Today I:

– had some fun dressing to a theme (I wore a top with photos printed on it to go on a photo-expedition). Every outfit needs a little whimsy.

– ruined a pair of perfectly pretty shoes. The view was worth the walk along the muddy path and resulting wet feet.

– enjoyed getting “lost”, which I think is just a negative way of saying “I went somewhere unexpected and saw something new”.

– saw a hang glider/intensely-macho-butterfly-man take flight.

– thought about approaches to time, perspective, the role of stress, the meaning of friendship versus social validation, creativity.

– wore my panda socks. I can be thoughtful AND superficial. It’s called multitasking.

This one goes out to you, 301.

Oh all night study bender, how you transport me back to the sleepless nights of my youth. The sea of paper, the scrawled notes, the typo filled document, the aches caused by poor posture, the eye strain, the bad hair. The difference now is that it’s not the night before my assignment is due.

Dear Bed,

I miss you. Wish you were here I was there.

Sincerely,
Agnes

Open Source University™ – Philosophy 101

In the midst of your existential crisis, your mind may be flooded with questions. What is the meaning of life? Why are we here? What is the point of it all? Did Madonna really sing back up on this track? Is the deep voice hers? Am I following the right path? What do I need to do to find fulfillment?

Well wonder no more. This young chap has worked it all out.

If I’d known it was all this simple, I wouldn’t have danced to Joy Division. I wouldn’t own shares in Lilly and Pfizer. I would have stocked up on suits the decade before I was born.

WHY DIDN’T ANYONE ALERT ME TO THIS ANSWER SOONER?

Let’s wear wet-look ties and self actualise.

Sincerely,
Professor Stone

[Wasn’t the dancing towards the end of the clip top shelf?]