Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Screw MTV, I just want my TV

New Television Antenna, Norman Rockwell - via Artchive

Nearly two months ago I wrote about our awful television reception and wondered how long we could avoid not having it seen to.  Well, I've cracked.  I can't stand it any more.

In my head it's like there's no connection to the wider world.  Sure, there are closed networks like Facebook to which I'm connected.  But I can't turn on the TV news with any assurance I'll see it, or tune in to a program that other people are talking about, to see if I like it.  It's like the unfiltered universe is off limits and it feels constricting.  Mrs G says she doesn't like having no choice in the matter, and I agree with that.  It would be fine if we were zealots about it and chose not to watch TV, but being forced to forego the televisual delights is just not working for us.

I reckoned we'd spent enough money on equipment in an attempt to fix this ourselves and, no disrespect to my brother (who has helped us with this so far), it was time to call in an equipped expert.

"Gary", from Raytronics, was here this afternoon.  They offer a free signal check and quote service, so I figured there was nothing to lose by having the guy over.  Fifteen minutes later he had it sussed.  My brother was right about the cable from the mast to the splitter needing replacement.  What he couldn't have assessed was the fact that no power was making it to the mast-head amplifier because the splitter in the roof is also pretty much kaput.  Signal at the antenna is fine, it's just not making it to the devices down here in the house.  The quote is very reasonable - not much more than it would cost for me to just buy the stuff and install it, but (a) I wouldn't have known whether I was getting it all done, and (b) someone else is doing it.  I call that a win.

By next Tuesday night we should have reliable TV reception, which we can choose to watch, or not.  A pity he couldn't fix it today, because Amazing Race Australia starts tonight.  :-(

Monday, 28 May 2012

Stop and smell the masonry

Bendigo's Capitol Theatre portico

Bendigo is full of old stuff.

Okay, that seems a bit obvious.  So obvious that I hadn't really paused to think about it very hard until one night last week when I found myself sitting in what must once have been the manager's office in the 1876 Union Bank in View Street, drinking fine French red with an old theatre friend and her fellow cast members.

When Mrs G and I were selling the idea of moving to Bendigo to the minions we contrasted the relative lack of buildings more than a few decades old in Canberra with the profusion of century-plus old buildings in Bendigo.  The city dates from the 1850's gold rush, so there's a lot of period architecture; from the follies of mining barons to the facades of old pubs on almost every corner.  "Look, minions, surely you'd be thrilled to live amongst all this history!"  They weren't too sure.

Admittedly, it is kind of easy to overlook all this built heritage around you while you're trying to go about your life.  Getting to work, doing the shopping, paying the bills.  And yet there's a statue of Queen Victoria, unveiled only two years after her death, on the corner of one of the main intersections in town.  We're on the other side of the planet from where she lived and reigned, and there's a bloody statue of her here!  Mind you, the state is named after her, so I probably shouldn't be that surprised.

Anyway, as I was sitting there the other night, gazing about this 130+ year old building, eating fabulous prawns and lapping up the company, my conscience prodded me to appreciate the fact that the profusion of white-haired motorists with hats on their parcel racks aren't the only old things here that should drive you to distraction.

Photo credit: David Stephenson, via Flickr

Friday, 25 May 2012

I, for one, welcome our help-desk overlords ...

Problem Exists Between Keyboard And Chair

True office story, for a bit of Friday levity:

This morning someone at the head office of my department sent a message to everyone else in the department who can book travel, outlining a problem she was having with the travel booking system and asking whether anyone else was having the same problem.  I looked at it briefly and satisfied myself I could think about it after I'd done all the other things I had to do this morning.  When I got back to my desk about 90 minutes later my inbox contained about 50 replies to this message, all of them advising "no problem".

(Why must people use "reply all" when their responses are unimportant to every other recipient?  Gaahhh!)

Amongst all the useless messages was the reply from the travel help-desk (yes, someone had been smart enough to forward the message to them).  It's worth quoting the text of their message in full:

Please be aware that problems with the travel booking system should be raised with the travel help-desk in the first instance.  We have the tools to identify, diagnose and rectify individual or system-wide problems.  In this case the only one with a problem was [name of original correspondent].

This message had also gone to every original recipient, who were thus witnesses to the beautifully constructed put-down at the end of the reply.  Genius.

Okay, it's not Dilbert but, as an example of how help-desks can get stuff right, I think this rates.
Have a good weekend everyone!

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Qualified in underwater basket-weaving

Simulated learning - see note below
That's how Mrs G sometimes jokingly describes her tertiary education experience.  Mine earned me "Bugger All".  In truth, we are both Bachelors of Arts (BA), mine in international politics, and while Mrs G has worked in her field of specialisation, the theatre/media industry, I've never been paid to use what's left of the knowledge I accumulated at university.

But when did a BA become a vocational course?  To insist that I should have been able to use that knowledge is to miss the point of a generalist degree.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Going Bananas

It's been a tough week, in which each morning the sun has risen later and each evening it's set earlier.  Winter is upon us, and we're still establishing ourselves in this funny little town, with no local friends and near non-existent TV reception.  

A bright point in this has been reading the Isaacson bio of Steve Jobs, and it's really pretty interesting.  This is the book on which the new film is supposed to be based (not the film already in production with Ashton Kutcher in the lead role).

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Ups and downs

A vast improvement.  Or, "Avast!  Improvement!"

It's been a roller-coaster few days in the Good Plates house-hold.  A birthday dinner with my Dad for the first time in a very long time, some housework and a pretty cruisy Mothers' Day.  But the highlights were watching our youngest minion make a breakthrough at karate and building a better wardrobe.  The lowlight was definitely responding to the realisation that one of our dogs had eaten a lot of rat poison.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Secrets and milestones

The Great Orion Nebula, M42

Among the books which have made a lasting impression on me are the Hitch Hiker’s Guide novels by Douglas Adams. While certainly not the first to combine science fiction and humour, these stories were so memorable and popular that Adams was compelled to make a lot of what he wrote subsequently either an extension or a reinterpretation of them. I’m not sure whether I would be happy being the victim of such success or whether I’d find it creatively confining.

Anyway, if you know that I’m a fan of this material, and have some familiarity with it yourself, it should not be surprising that the prospect of turning 42 years old tomorrow has me slightly bemused.

I can't shake the sense that it's filled with hidden meaning, that it's somehow special.  Indeed, will I wake up tomorrow somehow magically knowing the great question of life, the universe and everything, thus rendering the answer "42" meaningful?

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Comments made easier

A number of people have indicated (by other means!) that they've found the commenting arrangements too cumbersome and somewhat off-putting.

I'd like to encourage comments, so I've made it easier to do so by removing the need to be a registered user and to verify that you're not a bot.  We'll see how it goes.

Fire away!

Monday, 7 May 2012

Moving from "how" to "what"

It's amazing how setting course can make you relax.

Last week I was writing about the tension and frustration of fixating on near-term goals at the expense of mid- or long-term goals.  In the course of that post I referred to my long-term goal of writing an as-yet undefined manuscript of some kind.  However realistic it may be, almost everyone harbours an ambition to write a novel, or to publish something of substance.  In my case I've always felt it to be a little more certain than not, but I've been deterred by two major concerns:

  • my writing won't be good enough; and
  • my ideas will be hopelessly derivative.

Writing this blog is part of my response to the first point.  Honing my skills and putting my writing in front of an audience seems to me to be a good way to ensure my writing's up to snuff.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Not playing for sheep stations

Created at

There are quizzes and there are quizzes. Some are really challenging and some are walks in the park but, regardless of their difficulty, they present the only legitimate opportunity for me to use the large block of information in my head which would otherwise lie idle (probably around a pool, sipping cocktails through a long straw).

When it comes to difficulty, the annual quiz I used to co-write for Canberra Rep was never as impossible as QI, but certainly more challenging than your average breakfast radio quiz. Be that as it may, the radio quizzes are a good source of occasional free stuff if you can get through to be the contestant, and if you give enough correct answers.

Knowing my audience is pretty cluey, you should have no difficulty with this lot (answers at the bottom):
  1. What television cooking show returns to the screen this Sunday night?
  2. Where in your body would you find a cornea?
  3. Where would you find a ‘hospital corner”?
  4. Which team is currently at the bottom of the AFL ladder?
  5. (Music cue: excerpt of “Killer Queen”) Who recorded this song?
  6. Which city is hosting this year’s Olympic Games?
  7. How many carats are there in pure gold?
  8. What is the collective noun for a group of insects?
  9. Strawberries are the only fruit with its seeds on the outside: true or false?
  10. Who played “Bridget Jones” on the big screen?

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

If you want to plan a route you need a map

There seem to be very few areas of modern life that remain untouched by goal-setting.

It is with some fondness that I remember the displeasure of the lawyers in one of my first workplaces, when told they had to attend a “love-in” to set organisational and personal goals.  They were suffering the indignity of professionals who feel like they’ve been accused of not knowing what they're doing, and they were acting like a bunch of petulant teenagers.  It would have been cute if they hadn't wasted so much billable time bitching about it.

How things have changed.  These days almost everyone in an office job is compelled to participate in annual performance planning cycles, and while it can be regarded as time-wasting corporate arse-clownery, few now feel that the process calls their expertise into question.  There are also a lot of executives whose mentors attend to personal as well as professional matters.  It’s possible, and acceptable, to set very structured objectives for pretty much anything in your life.

I bring this up because I think the blog has been somewhat adrift over the past week or so, and my problem has to do with planning.