29 April 2010

Mary Poppins for President

Since moving to Australia, I – daily – find myself discussing the merits of government involvement in ordinary activities such as regulating child care facilities, determining acceptable levels of corporate pollutionary discharge, and deciding when, where, or how the general public should be allowed to destroy their own health. Normally, I terminate these debates with a shrug and a dismissive proclamation of “Fucking Nanny Government!”

But today, my (weakly held and frequently contradictory) convictions are floundering somewhat against two similar but unrelated news reports. Here (in Australia), the news has been dominated – and by dominated, I mean non-stop commentary from all of the news outlets – by stories about the new and completely-un-debated-in-the-public-sector-law restricting cigarette packages from employing brands, logos, or colors while adding on a $2.40 tax (taking the price to $15.80) per pack. Back home (in Santa Clara County) the news has been dominated – and by dominated, I mean at least two people told me about it – by stories about the new and completely-un-debated-in-the-public-sector-law restricting the distribution of crappy theatrical promotional toys along with Happy Meals.
If they are so unpopular, just who is passing these shitty laws?

I’ll tell you who…Old People!
Old people dying of lung cancer who are fucking sick and tired of stepping on toxic plastic made-in-China caricatures strewn about their tidy homes by their fat diabetic grand-children who are jacked up on high-fructose corn syrup and genetically engineered soy meat-like fillers. How dare they use the government to make laws restricting public behavior!
America, more than any other civilized democracy (and by civilized, I mean not imposed by a foreign military) is completely deluded by the notion of freedom of the individual. No one is more surprised than me to hear myself dismissing the supremacy of the individual. Perhaps it is time to dust off my memories of Alexis de Tocqueville. Evidently he made a greater impact than I have recognized.
But that does not entirely address the issue of a nanny government. Let’s try a metaphor. Say, in order to develop his or her sense of personal identity you give a child a choice between playing with a teddy bear and a bag of marbles. After a quick cuddle, the child decides that sticking the marbles up his nose is more gratifying. After you return from the emergency ward, you give the child the same choice, with the same result. Time and time again, the child opts for the thrill of marble sticking over the safety of a stuffed animal, no matter how enticing you make it look. Would you stand behind the argument that the child must be allowed to decide for itself, even though you spend countless hours and dollars at the hospital every day? Or would you pitch those marbles into the sea?

I am bored with this subject now and have a sudden and inexplicable craving for tobacco, mini-cheeseburgers, and steelies.

27 April 2010

I Don't Care About Losing All The Money. It's Losing All The Stuff.

I am too tired from packing for a full-blown rant about stuff...I'll let the pictures do the talking:

December 31, 2006


April 27 2010

25 April 2010

Fee Fi Fo Fum

Australia has an amazing penchant for charging fees to NOT provide service. I will be paying over $80 to terminate my gas and electric service. I would retell the ridiculous argument I had with AGL employee, but I am reluctant to reprint some of the colorful vocabulary I was compelled to invoke – although I am sure the recording of the call will feature prominently at the next staff training session.

Recently, we were charged exorbitant fees to cancel some flights. Fair enough – we knew the risks when we bought the ticket – but now, each time we use the credit for a new flight, we are charged a ‘credit card service fee’. Upon trying to explain that we are not, in fact, using a credit card, we were informed that the fee is to cover the revenue lost from the fact that we are NOT using a credit card. It hurt my brain to even write that.

I have alluded to this topic in a previous rant about the Australia Post – but now I have further information. Not only will we have to pay $26 per month to NOT receive our mail while we are in between addresses, we will have to pay a termination fee to stop NOT receiving our mail…PLUS, we will have to pay $36 per month – retroactively to the date that we had initially stopped receiving mail – in order to have it forwarded to our new address (assuming we ever get one!...but that’s another rant altogether.)

So, for the foreseeable future, in addition to the initial postage paid to deliver a letter to me, I will pay to have it held, then pay to have it not held, then pay again to have it forwarded.

I hope no one at the USPS follows my blog…

23 April 2010

So Gentlemen, Deal Me Out - Do Not Try to Feel Me Out

It comforts me to imagine that the entire Department of Pharmacology is waking up with a collective headache this morning after last night’s farewell party. At least I am not waking up with three broken ribs, like someone I know.  Oh the high cost of chivalry.

Perhaps no single word in the human lexicon carries the weight of so much love as the word “goodbye”. It is an unfortunate aspect of emotive biology that we so often neglect to recognize and appreciate genuine fondness and camaraderie until the pressure of imminent departure squeezes deep felt emotions to the surface, where they are aired awkwardly – unless fueled by copious volumes of wine, beer, and handmade pretzels. Expressions of affection and gratitude roll off purple tongues most easily.

Neither are hangovers conducive to articulation of complex emotions. Therefore, do not expect me to blather on about how much I have enjoyed spending time with my colleagues, how much fun it has been working with the students and watching them blossom into free-thinking miniature scientists, or how very special everyone made me feel yesterday - or how sad I am to be leaving all of the wonderful people I have befriended over the last three years.

Besides, saltwater really mucks up my keyboard.

I guess I should drag my defended honor out of bed and make my poor shining knight some fried potatoes to wash down his panadeine.

09 April 2010

Give Up Cards and Dice and Go For Shoes and Rice

Footwear has always been at the forefront of my reasons for loving my current profession. Sturdy, comfortable, closed-toed shoes are an essential part of the uniform of a laboratory scientist. Safety considerations aside, I just feel at my most secure when I have a solid foundation between my un-calloused feet and the cold hard – not to mention uneven – concrete that blankets city landscapes. Sandals, slip-ons, and high heels make me feel vulnerable and off-balance when what I need most is confidence and stability.

But when we move to Adelaide, I will be leaving the lab and embarking on a whole new career in technical sales, a position that requires ‘professional dress’.
…which most certainly extends to ‘professional footwear’
…which I assume means no Fake Chinese Converse High Tops or flip-flops
…which means I have to go shopping.

I HATE shopping.

I am sure some among you are thinking, “Why not just wear simple black flats?”

There are at least 2 million pairs of simple black flats in Sydney, each with a subtle dissimilarity that makes them entirely unsatisfactory. I know because, in preparation for my job interview last week, I tried on every single pair. They are all too pointy, too square, too shapeless, too shiny, too dull, too gaudy, too ordinary, too delicate, too expensive or too ugly. In the end, I settled for cheap ugly plastic mary janes.

I also settled for those little black socky-thingies, which only show a little bit and make a world of difference in the comfort factor of my ugly plastic shoes. Besides, I see some pretty sexy women in expensive stylish shoes with those little socky-thingies peeking out from under the toe box. I despise blisters and I can’t stand my bare toes rubbing against a toe box but I hate nylons, so those little socky-thingies are going to make me very happy.

Although by no means a fashion template, I have nonetheless always had rather particular tastes when it comes to my wardrobe. I like things to fit a certain way. I like my pants to be a particular length, my shirts to cling in particular places, and my accessories to make particular statements. However, I have also always known that there would come a day when I say “Fuck it. These polyester slacks don’t look awful and they sure are comfortable. Besides, they are cheap and come in a variety of mix ‘n’ match colors!”

That day has arrived.

I am having to completely reorganize my mindset about clothing, not just to accommodate my new profession, but also to accommodate my changing body. I am finding it very helpful to think of my work clothes as a mere uniform, and therefore not bound by my stringent expectation that my attire reflect my mood as well as my personality (such as my Red Stag Karaoke Lounge t-shirt). By equating my polyester slacks to my lab coat, I can compartmentalize my compromise and preserve some of my dignity.

Of course, I always hated wearing a lab coat.