Monday, July 31, 2006

Sex by Cosmo

This coming Saturday I’m going out with some friends to Boho. And since the main purpose of this trip (putting aside the obvious: to get tipsy on expensive cocktails) is to wear my fabulous new bustier, I think I should probably make some attempt to look good in it. There are those who might claim that a week is not long enough to lose ten pounds and a pot belly, but I scoff at such cynicism. As long as I increase my amphetamine habit sufficiently, I should be fine.

So yesterday, I went to the gym. Really, I’m only mentioning this because I want to establish an excuse for the fact that I’m about to talk about a Cosmo article and I am a snob who doesn’t want her readers to think that she subscribes to Cosmo or anything. Not me. No. I only read Cosmo as part of my regular exercise regimen.

Anyway, so this (horrendously outdated) edition of Cosmo had one of those Sealed Sections. You know, Fifty Ways To Turn Your Man Into a Gibbering, Drooling Mess Who Will Buy You an Enormous Engagement Ring or whatever. For some reason I always assume that these articles are going to tell me something I don’t already know, or at least suggest a new way of doing something. No such luck, of course. Did you know that men like women to wear lingerie? And also, this just in: they enjoy fellatio. I know! What would we do without the intrepid Cosmo reporters?

But some of the tips from men…well.
“Don't forget to nip at my bottom lip every now and then. It's a bit of S&M mixed into an innocent make-out session.”
Nipping at someone’s bottom lip is S&M now? All I can say is, that guy’s going to get a major shock some day.
“Don't throw your head back and close your eyes while you're getting off. If you watch me going down on you, you're going to enjoy it twice as much.”
I’m not sure I like this guy’s tone.
“I love when our legs get intertwined like a pretzel during sex. It makes me feel like we're meshing together completely.”
I especially love when we don’t then realise it’s happened, one of us tries to move, dragging the other person with us, and we both end up falling off the single bed onto the floor, waking up the other people in the dormitory. Hypothetically.

The one thing that did catch my eye, though, was this line as part of an overly-complicated description of a sexual position: “it’s not just sex, it’s a bonding experience”.

Now. Far be it from me to preach sex as a sacred covenant between you and your life partner till death do you part. But sex as a bonding experience…is a novelty concept now? And only achievable in this one position, which by the way was called Splitting the Bamboo, and did my male readers just wince? Because there I was thinking that the joining of two bodies in the most intimate ways possible generally…oh, look, never mind. It’s Cosmo. What did I expect? Sincerity?

Holy crap, I have to stop posting about sex. I'm sorry. I promise I’ll be PG tomorrow.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Friday linkalicious

Today is the day of Hormonal Clumsiness. I don’t know if this is just me, but rather than the clichéd PMT symptoms – tears, crockery throwing, vast quantities of chocolate – I tend to lose all sense of spatial awareness. So far this morning I have whacked my head against the curved floor lamp that has been in exactly the same place for a year and a half, bashed my hip against the corner of a coffee table (twice), dropped my work security pass into a bin by accident and spilt a glass of water on my top. And it’s only 9.15am.

Despite this, I’m cheerful this morning. Why am I cheerful this morning?

Go and look at
this site and tell me you’re not in a good mood as well. Warning: not safe for diabetics. So sweet!

this display of inclusiveness makes me very very happy. I love the last line. “How can a gay bloke be a queen?” Well, sir, let me explain the common usage principle…

This story is funny-sad rather than funny-hilarious, but still interesting: opponents of an anti-smoking ban in bars claim that by forcing women to go outside to smoke, the legislators will increase their risk of sexual assault. Because bars are so much safer. Ha! Nice try, Mr Dahl.

this just makes me giggle. My favourite part is when he calls women “the gender which is involved in creating life”. Um. That would be both genders, actually.

Thursday, July 27, 2006


So, how are you with dating? Smooth? Awkward? Was there that one time that the date was going brilliantly, and she even agreed to come home with you, but you forgot that you left your anal beads prominently displayed in the shower and she left really suddenly and has never returned your calls since, and since then other women have become strangely unavailable and you think the story might have got around, and as a result you’ve decided that you’re a social pariah destined to die alone? That’s okay. There’s someone with less chance of picking up out there. At least, now.

Sometimes I find myself regretting, perversely, that I met and fell in love with the husband as young as I did (twenty) and therefore missed out on this world of dating. As a teenager dating wasn’t big. None of us had any money, for a start, and we were all indy and hip and stuff, so the preferred strategy mostly went: go to party, get drunk, get physical with person of choice, hang out a few times in the following weeks, start referring to one another as boyfriend and girlfriend.

Dating, as I understand it, is a whole different thing. It involves dressing up, and going out, and all sorts of issues about paying bills and there are rules about whether a first date should be for dinner or just coffee, and if you're going to kiss someone goodnight, where and when do you execute the move? And then there’s internet dating and speed dating and then someone decided that eating dinner in total darkness will help matters along (my favourite thing about that link is the effort that’s gone into the presentation of the food. Who cares? It’s dark!) and frankly, the whole thing’s sort of bewildering and exhausting.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not unsympathetic. I know that it’s hard to meet and get to know the person who turns out to be the one you can’t imagine living without. And I know that these novelty dating ideas are just ways of injecting fun into what, for some people, feels like a grim and humiliating exercise. I’m not oblivious to the pathos of the whole thing.

But come on. It’s also very, very funny.

The thing about dates, barring those that end in some sort of violence, is that even when they’re bad, they’re great. One of the few actual dates I ever went on, as a younger woman, was with a guy who’d borrowed his boss’s car to pick me up, and the date itself consisted on driving to a nice lookout, sitting in the car and chatting over a takeaway coffee. Which would have been fine, except that his boss (and he) delivered papers for a living, and to make that easier the front passenger seat had been removed, and so I had to sit in the back whilst he drove. And the lookout was a long way away. There was no second date.

A friend of mine still tells the story of a guy who insisted on paying for dinner, but then took her to a cheap diner and instructed her to order the soup because it was the “best value”. Then shared her soup. Then asked for extra bread. Then put the extra bread in his bag and took it home. The tales are endless.

So all of you out there who are single – eschew the speed dating and the organised activities and stick with the one on one dates. They’re where the comedy lies.

Now with 98% less content

The husband told me last night that he was going out to a dinner “until about 8 or 9pm”, and could pick me up from my social thing after that. Great, I said, then I shall go out and play Scrabble with friends, rather than spending the evening watching television with a cat on each knee.

At quarter to 10 I rang him to discover that they were just ordering dessert. At 11.30 he rang to say they were just getting a nightcap. We got home at about half past midnight. On a Wednesday.

So now I’m tired and hung-over and a little grumpy, and I have nothing but nothing to talk about. I decided to put off collating the poll results until the end of the week, because I’m still collecting data points (and having hilarious and interesting conversations with all and sundry) (and my page hits are way up, which I’m pretty sure is directly related to my liberal use of phrases like “ten inch penis” and “enormous schlong” which I would have to stop typing if I ended this) (oh, come on, like I wasn’t going to throw them in again) so I don’t have that as a conversation topic at my fingertips.

I could throw a bunch of random and hilarious links at you (such as
this one! Oh my God! Why? Why?) but it’s not really my style. So that leaves me with nothing at all.

Perhaps I shall just stick to drinking coffee and staring mindlessly at the screen. That seems to be working for me so far. Later, guys.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


Did anyone notice that my weekly book review lasted exactly one week? No? Excellent. Anyway, I got bored, so, new format: more books, less exposition.

Margaret Drabble – The Radiant Way (List book 203)
The story of three women who’ve known each other since university and now in their late forties, living in Britain during Thatcher’s second term. Divorces, mortgages, political uncertainty, murder. I have a fondness for books about people just living their lives, and this is one of those, but whilst the characters were believable enough I couldn’t get a handle on their deeper selves and motivations. A pleasant read, but – eh.

Steve Almond – My Life in Heavy Metal
A collection of short stories about relationships, men and women fumbling through their lives. For a debut piece, this astonished me. The prose is tight and controlled and exquisitely precise. Geek Player, Love Slayer especially captured me. It’s a story about office culture, in which the female narrator muses: when did Systems Managers, these timid nerdy men, become sexual players? I was curled up in the corner of a bar yesterday reading this, and laughing out loud, and then it shifted into a beautifully elegiac mood and just blew me away. He's written a couple of books since this was published, and I'll definitely be searching them out.

Alan Hollinghurst – The Line of Beauty
I enjoy this guy’s work generally, and this is one of his best works. I want to say that he writes about eroticism, love and self-discovery, which he does, but it’s difficult to separate that out from the more particular subtleties of emotion and behavioural norms in homosexual relationships. By which I mean, whilst I really like this guy and think he’s incredibly talented, I experience a level of detachment as a reader because he speaks so specifically for gay men. That’s not at all a criticism, though (oh woe is me, the straight privileged mainstream reader, for not every single book chronicles my experiences!), and it’s a book I highly recommend. Wonderfully cadenced prose which draws vivid images without over-explaining.

Poll politics

My stupid little poll continues, and I notice that my page hits are significantly up. Ha!

Things I have learnt so far:

Firstly: If you ask a female colleague to rate the qualities above (leaving out the enormous schlong option, because this is a professional workplace and you don’t want to get fired), your male colleagues get very defensive. And you will realise that perhaps it wasn’t the most politic move ever, although you and the female colleague have not deviated into Oh All Men Are Hopeless Anyway or anything, merely answered the question and moved on.

And you will therefore apologise to the male colleague who is now muttering about how All Women Are Fussy No Wonder They Can’t Get Boyfriends, They Don’t Know What They Want (well, actually, sir, we do. We want men with a sense of humour and we don’t care about looks. But thanks for playing!). And when he continues muttering about How You’ve Got To Laugh, Haven’t You, All These Single Career Women Complaining About Being Single When All They Need To Do Is Lower Their Standards A Bit, you will ignore him.

But when he then segues into I Don’t Know What Their Problem Is, Women Run The World Anyway, you will be unable to let it slide any longer, and you will say something like Well, It’s Funny We Don’t Seem To Be In Parliament Or On The Bench Or Earn As Much As You, Then. And there will be an uncomfortable silence.

And then your supply of free Pink Floyd albums will mysteriously dry up. But hey, at least you don’t have to have daily half-hour discussions about Roger Waters any more.

(I actually do feel a bit bad about this. I despise conversations which amount to ridiculing men, and I can see that the guy in question felt a little objectified. But we really weren’t discussing looks, or in fact analysing anything in detail – I just said, do you think sense of humour or intelligence or looks are more important, and she said, not looks, but the other two are important, and we moved on. Honestly.)

Secondly: If you ask your husband what he thinks women look for, he will prevaricate for ages and ages because he thinks it is a trap. And then point out that none of the things in question are the most important aspects of a relationship. And you will agree, because he is right, but you will feel mildly disgruntled that he steadfastly refuses to provide you with a data point.

Lastly, the necessity of discussing ten inch penises via (work) email will force several of your friends to employ hilarious euphemisms. My favourite so far is ‘wangadoodle’. I don’t know about you, but calling one’s equipment a ‘wangadoodle’ is heading into deal-breaker territory for me, ten inches or no.

Anyway, that’s quite enough genitalia talk for now. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Parentheses and a poll

Today you response to external irritants will be sharply slowed down. To struggle with it is not only difficult, but also useless, so do not try to do it.

So true, my friends. So true. You know that feeling, when you have to run in a dream, that you are running through knee-high sludge? That’s how I feel today. So, yes. I shall not try to struggle with anything, except perhaps staying awake.

And hey, wow, an entry that begins with how tired I am can only get better, right? I hope so, anyway, because I’m boring myself here. So let’s move on. And talk about penises. 10 inch penises!

(Genuine conversation topic or transparent attempt to gain web traffic? You decide!)

I’m stealing this topic from a friend who said he couldn’t risk posting about it. I hope he’ll forgive me, and I think we’ve all learned an important lesson about not telling our mum we have a blog, yes?

So, anyway, he was telling me that apparently these days what women want in a man, as opposed to humour, attractiveness, intelligence or earning potential (the last of these is a post all its own, but I’ll move on for now), is a ten inch penis.

My first thought was that the woman who told him this was having him on, but never one to jump to untested conclusions, I have taken a scientific poll (which takes the form of asking a bunch of my friends, and some people who work in a call centre. Hey, if it’s good enough for women’s magazines, it’s good enough for me).

(I should point out that I didn’t, in fact, ring a call centre and ask them this question. But it’s a tempting thought. Next time I get a telemarketer on the phone I’ll do them a deal; I’ll answer stupid questions about which phone company I associate with the term “innocence” and they can tell me whether the size of a man’s genitalia is of importance to them.)

(No, really. “Innocence”. Mobile phone companies and innocence. Oh, it is to laugh)

I will post the results tomorrow, but this is a plea for any readers to add their own results. Anonymously is fine. By email or via comments is fine. If you’re male, I want to know how you think women rank the following, and if you’re female I want to know how you rank them. Yes, I realise this is a heterosexist and severely limited poll and misses the more important things in life, blah blah blah. That’s not the point today.

So, if we’re talking about someone you would date, with an eye to a long term relationship, how do you rank the following:
Good Sense of Humour
Earning Capacity
Ten Inch Penis


Monday, July 24, 2006

Moral philosophy

I’m not a great one for taking personality quizzes: I already know who I am, thank you very much (remember, I’m a histrionic narcissist. I'm self-obssessed enough without knowing What Sort Of Fruit I Am. Disclaimers aside, however, this is fascinating.

Turns out that my closest philosophical match is John Stuart Mill (100% match, no less. I should maybe email him and suggest a date), which suits me fine. I’m a little disturbed that I accord with Ayn Rand to the tune of 69% (although I find the exact number ironic, since Ayn Rand, with her icky sensualised rape fantasies, is the last person I can imagine being keen on the concept of 69ing) but if I get to party with JSM I’ll deal. The philosophy I am least aligned to is cynicism, which amuses me a little.

But enough about me. Tell me about you.

Sydney weekend recap

Sorry about the absence of a Friday post. I flew to Sydney Friday to visit friends for the weekend. Lots of delightful eating, drinking, socialising and a lot of children’s books read (to a certain delightful small child, not to myself).

Good bits:

Ending up in a Bavarian-themed restaurant/pub/café place in the middle of Saturday and ordering (between four) two large beers, two coffees, a chocolate pudding to share and a hamburger. All at the same time. Turns out dark Belgian beer and chocolate pudding work fairly well together, but the poor waitress felt she had to check the order three times.

Discovering the world’s most enormous secondhand bookshop, which is on King St. I may need to move just so that I can live next to it. It’s quite literally a warehouse, complete with metal steps up to the second floor and piles of stuff everywhere. There are entire aisles dedicated to, for example, communism (next aisle: socialism: next aisle, fascism). There are ancient, hilarious copies of magazines like Razzle (I wanted to hyperlink that, but I don’t dare google it from work, so if you don’t know of Razzle, just imagine a 1974 copy of a cheap nudie magazine). And the fiction aisles, oh my God. I kept finding books that I didn’t know my favourite authors had written, and all for Cheap. I was in serious danger of bursting into grateful tears right there in Aisle 17. The husband had to lead me gently from the store before I spent our entire savings.

Not as good bits:

Budget airlines that refuse to allocate seats are awful. I flew to Sydney on my own, and therefore didn’t care where I sat, but the whole queueing and jostling and childish seat-saving is something I could really do without. On the way back the husband and I managed to get decent seats, and together, but only by adopting a territory-hoarding queueing technique of our own. I feel soiled.

Sydney traffic. It always frightens me, because I am a Big Wimp. Fine, but did the enormous truck thundering down a narrow road and swerving in front of my taxi have to carry the numberplate DIE 696?

Next time I’m going to have to spend more time there or tell less friends, because I pretty much spent the weekend going from café to restaurant to bar, which is lovely and fun and all but I could do that in my own city. Note to self duly made.

Basically I’m bad at travelling, and so despite all the wonderful food and hospitality and conviviality, I am very much looking forward to this evening, in which I shall cook something healthy and read a book by my fire with both cats piled on top of me. I did warn you I wasn’t an exciting person.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Fun Fun Fun

More fun with family court judgments

From the factual background of a judgement on an application to amend an access order:

8. The parties were subsequently unable to agree on various aspects of the child’s upbringing, being his schooling, and his involvement (at the father’s instigation) in the Roman Catholic Church and (at the mother’s instigation) in nudist activities.


(By the way, I’m not linking to these judgments, but in case anyone wondered, they are on the public record. Just so nobody thinks I’m committing an egregious breach of privacy or anything.)

More fun with the annoying co-worker

This might only amuse me, but I have to share that the first thing he did after getting in this morning was pick up the phone to his wife and immediately start telling her that his shirt has a mark on it and can she be more careful in the future with the laundry, and then launched into an informative little monologue about mixing whites and darks. This couldn’t have waited until he got home?

More fun with food

Yesterday I bought some of the delicious Greek yoghurt that is my current obsession (actual conversation with my mother - Me: “I’m addicted to the yoghurt they sell at that place. I think it has, like, crack cocaine in it or something.” Her: “Oh, I know. Have you tried the cappuccino flavour? That one has crack cocaine and…something even more addictive in it”. I love my mother, but the mistress of the off-the-cuff simile she is not.)

Anyway, I strongly suspected that I would crave it later in the evening, so I put it (in its plastic container, in a plastic bag) in my handbag. And then I ran for a bus, and on the bus discovered that the lid had come off the container and the yoghurt had oozed into the plastic bag. I had to take it out of my handbag and hold it on my lap to make sure the container, with its remaining yoghurt, stayed upright (well, what would you have done at this point?).

So basically I sat there on my crowded commuter bus with a plastic bag filled with thick off-white goop on my lap. For forty minutes. Fun times.

And yes, I know this anecdote has no point. Originally it was a segue in a post about oral sex, so count your blessings, okay?

I'm working on a longer and more coherent post about the concept of the Upper Hand in relationships at the moment. Any thoughts? Email me.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006


Morning, all. I’m tired and distracted today, and so I don’t have a coherent post. Short of turning to the wonders of modern technology, there’s not much I can do about it. So in substitution for narrative, here are two things that have made me smile today.

1. In an otherwise non-hilarious court judgement:

The father was born in August 1963 and was aged 41 at the date of the trial Judge’s judgment. The mother was born in August 1965 and was aged 39 years at that time.

Must have come as a surprise to her parents.

2. In case you don’t already know this, Gmail, which is run by Google, displays selected adverts based on the contents of emails. “Are you coming to Sydney this weekend?” will yield a link to “cheap flights!”, that sort of thing. Anyway, when clearing out my Spam folder this morning I noticed a link to Spam Primavera. As in, an actual recipe. This amuses me no end and I am hoping that I will receive a new Spam recipe every time I receive spam.

(That was way too much set up for a dull punch-line. My apologies)

(Also, Spam Primavera? Who would eat such a thing?)

Some days I just shouldn't post, I think.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Quick link

Apologies for the out of character post, but this post by Shakespeare's Sister made me want to stand up and cheer. Brilliant stuff. Go read.

Walking For Beginners

I’m a big fan of walking. If walking was a sports team, I’d be the one with the little pom-poms on the sidelines. If walking was a guy, I’d be writing Mr and Mrs Walking on my notebook, with little hearts over the ‘I’ of Walking.

(Actually, did anyone actually ever do that, the surname thing, or is it just one of those clichés? I mean, I had the obligatory posters of various rock stars and actors on my walls as an adolescent, but it never occurred to me that writing Mr and Mrs Slater on my notebook was a good way to spend time. Am I the odd one, here? I don’t think so.)

Where…oh, yeah. Walking is a good thing, and should be encouraged on all fronts. It’s cheap, it’s healthy, it’s environmentally friendly.

However. Judging by my attempt to navigate a crowded shopping strip at lunchtime, it is not easy. Never one to neglect my public duties, therefore, I’ve compiled a quick and easy guide to the Art of Walking.

1. You don’t need a destination. Walk for the sake of walking, that’s fine by me. I don’t seek to confine you in a destination-based paradigm. You do need a direction. That is, suddenly stopping short and walking backwards in order to – I assume – gaze at the dazzle of the shopping strip from a better vantage point, will earn you a hearty wallop from an umbrella. What can I tell you, ma’am? It was an accident.
2. Doorways, by their very nature, tend to be confined spaces. It may surprise you to learn that they are intended to act as passageways rather than meeting places. And yes, I realise it’s terribly important to stop and make sure that your friend has extricated herself from the shoe display (ha! Now I have a mental image of sentient Skechers, their little laces reaching out to entangle a hapless young thing in their midst…okay, moving on) and is joining you out on the street, but…could you maybe actually get yourself out on the street before stopping and waiting? Some of us have places to be that are not “hovering near the doorway waiting to exit”. Thanks so much.
3. Yes, it’s lovely that you have so many friends. You must be really popular, with your seventeen friends accompanying you shopping and all. Wow, it’s almost like you have an entourage. Seriously, I’m impressed. Now get the fuck out of my way.
(Okay, that wasn’t so much a walking tip as a bitchy little rant. These things happen)
4. Can someone tell me why the escalator rule has ceased to operate? The stand left walk right rule was pretty much ubiquitous when I grew up, and I’m not that old. Why does no-one follow it any more? I have, I’m not kidding here, missed trains because no-one would let me through on the station escalators before. Come on, folks, hustle.
5. Also, one that I saw this morning and is at least tangentially related: I have a lot of sympathy for old people who can’t walk fast and for whom getting across pedestrian lights in time is a challenge. I have less sympathy for old people who can’t walk fast, and yet decide to enter a pedestrian crossing (by the way, isn’t that phrase, “enter a crossing”, a little odd? It makes it sound more like a tunnel. Shouldn’t it be “step onto a crossing?” You don’t care. Okay then.) after the green man has turned to Mr Orange Don’t Walk, Run. And then all the traffic has to come to a complete stop and wait for them to complete their agonisingly slow hobble.

Okay, I feel better now.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Return of the Annoying Co-worker

The fact that my titles are increasingly sequel-themed is worrying me. Three weeks and I already repeat myself this much?


Do you know what is more annoying than having to stop working and listen to one’s co-worker talk, at length, about something entirely uninteresting and sometimes downright offensive?

“I can’t believe you’re only a [low-level government employee]”

"Ah, well, you know. Thanks, I guess"

"I mean, you probably don't even earn enough to buy your own lipstick!"



“I wanted to tell you something: I was having dinner with [important Sydney lawyer type, if you believe him, which I’m not sure I do] and he said to tell you, and this is straight from an important Sydney lawyer, so, anyway, I told him I worked with a girl who’s just graduated from Law, and he said to tell you that not many people have caught onto this yet, but if you want to get into an expanding area of Law, the place to go is intellectual property law in Information Technology, because you see, the internet is getting more and more common, and people communicate electronically more and more, and so it’s an expanding area of law.”

(Me, editing html tags and reading Gmail, hotmail and Outlook simultaneously): “…Right”.

Anyway, you know what’s more annoying than that? When said co-worker, after delivering whatever Captain Obvious monologue he’s felt the need to share, finishes with “Anyway, I didn’t mean to disturb you”.


Because, you see, he does mean to disturb me. He hovers over my desk thinking of something to say and then says it despite the fact that I am making a minimum of eye contact, keeping my face as blank as possible, and replying in monosyllables. He’s only saying that he doesn’t mean to disturb me because that forces me to say “Oh, no, that’s fine” and therefore enable him to launch into Captain Obvious Two: The Return of Captain Obvious. This morning I tried a new approach:

“Anyway, I didn’t mean to disturb you”

“Oh, well. Never mind. Have a good lunch”

Do you want to guess if that worked? No, that did not work. Apparently the fact that sounds came out of my mouth was enough encouragement to continue talking about, God I don't know, That Time He Captained An Important Rugby Team Whilst Simultaneously Defending Three high Profile International Drug Smugglers or something.

If I don’t update tomorrow, I’m counting on you lot to post bail, okay?

Introducing a New Segment: Monday Book Review

This is going to take a little bit of background, but bear with me. Or go do some work, I don’t care.

For my birthday this year, the wonderful Matt and Michelle gave me this book. I’m not normally one for book lists, because they tend to be biased towards white American men with an occasional Token Minority Voice (usually Toni Morrison) thrown in for good measure. But this book is amazing. It provides full page reviews of each of the 1001 books. It lists them in chronological order of publishing, so it forms a sort of history of the novel. It includes popular fiction where it’s considered influential; Dorothy Sayers, Stephen King, Isaac Asimov. And I am hooked. I worked out that I had already read 199 of the books on the list, and am now trying to work my way through the rest of them. This is proving more time-consuming than expected, because every time I go to the library I find other, non-List books that I want to read, and then I read them instead, and so he whole process might take me a little longer than the original estimate of eight years.

So I thought well, nothing like a public deadline to make myself do things, and I do so enjoy imposing arbitrary obligations on myself in order to turn a leisure activity into a social chore (…hang on), and so here is the Inaugural Book Review of a List Book.

Book 202: Everything Is Illuminated - Jonathan Safran Froer.

I was prepared to dislike this book. I thought it’d be gimmicky and trying too hard to be artistic and deep and unusual. I was wrong.

The plot interweaves two narratives into one story. Jonathan Safran Froer is writing the history of his family from the 1800s onwards, growing up in an Ukranian shetl. In order to piece together the history, he travels to the Ukraine, and with the help of a translator named Alex tries to search for a woman who helped his grandfather escape from the Nazis.

The sections concerning that trip are told by Alex, and a lot of the humour comes from his idiosyncratic use of English. They’re interspersed with the chapters written by Jonathan, in third person, narrating the life of his great-great-great-great-great grandmother. Jonathan sends his chapters to Alex, who comments on them and then sends back his own chapters, and the friendship between the two men exists between the lines of the narrative.

It manages to be self-reflective without being all Look At Me I Am Metafiction And So Very Very Deep In My Metafictionness. The narrators are funny and sad and completely knowable. The unavoidable bit where the Nazi atrocities are detailed is not gratuitous, which I really appreciated.

This is the most unliterary review ever, but suffice it to say, this is a really good book and I should really stop assuming that brilliant young authors (who have actually been published and achieved fame in a world I merely look at longingly from a distance) are actually pretentious and irritating. It’s just bitterness talking. The book rocks.

Boring Weekend Recap

Well, still no word on the Potentially Very Exciting Thing, but today’s horoscope says
Today you are expected by very pleasant meeting. Put on something elegant. All the rest will depend extremely on your own charm.
So that’s a good sign.

Anyway, moving on:

I got to my scrabble night half an hour early on Friday, to find that the hostess is not yet there, and settle on her porch to wait. She arrives five minutes later and looks very relieved to see me. She’s locked herself out, with her mobile inside the house. So I spring to the rescue and call a locksmith, who promptly takes an hour and a half to show up. By the time he does, therefore, there are six women huddled on the porch (remember how I said it was cold on Friday? Unsurprisingly, it was rather colder than that by 7pm. And also dark. And cold, did I mention cold?).

Once inside, the women swing into action, cutting bread and mixing salad and heating quiche (tres Francais, non?). Quote of the evening: “No wonder men like us. Look at how we all pull together and get things done. When you add sex to that as well, well, jesus.”

Words to live by, folks.

I won’t dwell on the result of the game. This is because it is a dull subject of no interest to my readers, and not at all because my opponent played Abseiled over two triple word scores and gained 140 points for one move. I’m not bitter at all, you understand. No sir. Not me.

The husband’s in Sydney this week, so I plan to spend my time reading by a fire and eating the Indian left over from the weekend (I am entirely incapable of cooking an appropriate quantity of food for two people. On Saturday I cooked Indian; channa dhal (serves 4-6) and Fish Masala (serves 6 – 8) with a couple of side dishes. I’m sure you can do the maths.) all on my lonesome.

And yes, I know you don’t care. But if I took that into account, what would I post about, hmm?

Friday, July 14, 2006

Scrabbling for content

It’s ten degrees outside at the moment. That’s pretty bloody cold, and I am inordinately grateful for a casual day that allows me to wear warm clothes.

Said warm clothes are red white and blue, by the way. (Well, black with a bit of red, blue jeans and a white coat. It’s the best I could manage. I don’t do colour.) This would be because I am going to a Bastille Day Scrabble Party tonight. There is no connection between Bastille Day and Scrabble. We did consider playing
French Duplicate Scrabble, but we dismissed it out of hand in favour of eating cheese and talking in ‘Allo ‘Allo accents. Come on, you would have made the same decision.

(Whilst I’m all with the linky linky, is it just me or does the owner of
this Scrabble-related page need to get a new hobby? They’re real, unadulterated examples, people! None of that manipulation of scrabble letters to make a dubious point for this crew, no indeed not.)

I am bringing the (French) cheese to this party. You know what goes with cheese? A nice whine. So without further ado:

1. I’m tired and I don’t really want to go out tonight.
2. It’s very very cold, and I like cold, but this is unreasonable.
3. Due to tiredness, hangover, and a feeling of nameless existential dread, I am eating stupid quantities of stupid food in stupid combinations. Soft black liquorice and Granny Smiths go surprisingly well together, but I’ve eaten enough to satisfy someone twice my size today, and it has to stop. Otherwise I'll have la nausée. Ha ha ha ha! Oh, shut up, it is too funny.
4. I am waiting to hear something fairly momentous (to me) and the person on whom I am waiting is waiting on someone else, and if I have to go the entire weekend before discovering the answer I shall be Cross. And yes, I realise this makes no sense to anyone but me. I’ll explain later. Or not.
5. When I am under-caffeinated, the last thing I want to do is deal with the galley kitchen used by our office. Little known fact: they’re called galley kitchens because although galley slaves were, you know, enslaved, they were allowed to have coffee breaks under the decree of King Louis XIV. And so they designed the galley kitchen to be really bloody small and crowded and inconveniently laid out, so that it took them absolutely forever to make a cup of coffee, and so they had an excuse to stand around for ages making small talk about how cold it was this morning and what do you think about that latest clash with the Huguenots then, and oooh is that a toasted sandwich, that looks good, I wish I had one of those.
(Disclaimer: this fact not actually factual)

Have a good weekend, guys.

Jour de bastille heureux, chacun

I can’t be the only person who thinks that big huge television screens in pubs are a bad idea. I’m not suggesting we make t-shirts or anything, but some sort of mobilising force might be in order. Do people not have televisions at home? Large, flat-screened, beplasmaed televisions?

(My spell-check is seriously pissed off at me for the word “beplasmaed”. We already have an uneasy relationship, and I think I might have pushed it over the edge. One day soon they’re going to find my body washed up on a shore, riddled with apostrophes).

Back to televisions. Why do they need them in pubs? Aren’t pubs distinguishable from the average home by the fact that they are conveniently located for socialising? I mean, you can drink and watch television at home, and it’s surely easier to hear the commentary that way. Pubs are for talking. I will brook no argument on this.

Although if they are going to insist on the screens, maybe they could be used for a more useful purpose. You know, like publican service announcements. (Look, I ration the puns, but there’s only so much repression I can take). Just every now and then, in between the pointless sports stuff.

The one I could have done with last night would have been TOMORROW IS A WORKDAY. Because good god. I have to stop coming into the office hung over.

Actually, I’m not as bad as I could be, but I’m far too tired to function well. Don’t expect mirth from me today, chickens.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

None of these things are connected

Is rocket science really the most difficult thing that there is? I’ve been wondering for a while, and if anyone knows, I’d really appreciate the answer.


I discovered
this oddly translated horoscope site recently (via the wonderful Mimi Smartypants), and I’m addicted. Today’s horoscope tells Taureans:

Today you will be estimated highly by the different people, and everybody without exception will begin to search for your attention. Now you can permit yourself to be capricious and not to accept the offers right away. Choose the best one.

How much does that rock? I am going to go out tonight and be estimated highly by the different people. I can’t wait.


Going out tonight, you say? Why, yes. Yes, I am.

For some reason July seems to be the month of People Leaving For, Or Visiting From, Far Off Places. Rarely seen friends now available, for a limited time only! Act now!

So, I’m out again tonight, and given that I’m spending the evening with a friend who insists on drinking red wine, we can safely assume that I will be hung over tomorrow. I felt the need to share this, because otherwise I know none of you would have expected me to be hung over at work on a Friday.

Mostly about snacking

I may be strange looking, less funny than I like to believe* and have an incipient drinking problem, but if there’s one thing I can do, it’s food. Cooking, eating, talking about it at great length. And today, I have taken it upon myself to talk about snacks. No, I have no reason for this. Just go with it until I have something of substance to post about.

Now, I’m not entirely weird about food: I can eat in public without people staring in horror…hang on. Before I carry on, can I just say something on the off-chance that a certain gentleman sitting two tables away from me at lunch the other day is reading? Thanks. Talk amongst yourselves.

Dear Sir.

I know soup tends to be hot. However, your particular slurping technique makes you sound like a blocked drain. An attention-seeking blocked drain with poor table manners. And for the love of all that is holy and sacred (eg, grilled haloumi): picking up your soup bowl and tipping the remainder directly into your mouth? Just…no. Please, for the good of humanity, eat at home. On your own. In a locked, and preferably soundproof, basement.

Yours in expectant gratitude, tanya.

PS: it’s a small friendly café. Your imperious tone is not impressing anyone, and the staff will remember you.

Okay, I’m done. The rest of you still there? So, I’m perfectly capable of eating in company, but I’m happiest when I’m eating on my own. And I’m a fidgeter, so ideally I like to eat things that keep my hands occupied for a long time. This leads to obsessive compulsive snack assembly.

You know how Jatz advertisements always show a tray on which every single little Jatz has a different elaborate combination of toppings, and you think, seriously, who on earth spends five minutes per cracker balancing things on top of each other? Well, that would be me. I construct these things one at a time. Ideally, a meal’s worth of things-on-crackers lasts an episode of Dr Who.

Because of this, there are people that accuse me of having “issues”. To those people, I say…well, I don’t say anything, because I have a mouthful of water cracker, spread with Philadelphia (the full fat stuff; life’s too short), topped with a smoked oyster (the sort packed in spring water) and a sprinkle of dill on top.

Try it. You can thank me later. Cracker, Philadelphia, oyster, dill. Go.

The other one, equally fiddly, was invented by the husband, so all royalties should be directed to him. Water cracker, smear of hot English mustard, chunk of tuna, dribble of fish sauce. I know, I know, but it’s really good. It’s like mutated English sushi; the cracker substitutes for the rice, tuna for, well, tuna, mustard instead of wasabi and fish sauce instead of soy. See? Genius.

Oh, and anyone who has not yet discovered the joys of a Hass avocado, bocconcini, and a glass of Riesling (it has to be Riesling; the lemon characteristics cut the creaminess of the avocado and don’t overwhelm the bocconcini, and shut up) really really should. To be eaten thus: one bite of avocado, one bite of cheese, one sip of Riesling. That, my friends, is my idea of the perfect evening.

Well, a perfect evening that doesn’t involve champagne cocktails and hedonistic sex with lithe young men. I like that sort, too.

I don’t know what my point was here, really. I just had a desire to talk about snack food.

*The other day I decided to tell the husband why he would be a total catch if he was single and yeah, I don’t know what brought that on: “Hey, honey, did you know there are many many women who would want you? Here’s some evidence to back that up. You should…umm…do nothing at all about it. You’re welcome”. He responded in kind, because he’s nice like that, and ended, as an afterthought, with “oh yeah. And you’re quite funny”. God I love faint praise. It’s so…what’s the word I’m searching for here? Starts with a D?

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

It's not that I have a problem, exactly: II

In the latest news from the mindnumbing tedium files, here are the results of a personality test I just took:


For some reason the IT boys, whilst being perfectly happy to allow me to take the test, wouldn’t allow me to access the definitions (truly, they work in mysterious ways), so here’s what had to say on the subject:

1. Excessive love or admiration of oneself. See Synonyms at
conceit. Conceit? Shut up, Judgemental fucker.
2. A psychological condition characterized by self-preoccupation, lack of empathy, and unconscious deficits in self-esteem. Okay, deficits in self-esteem? I’m confused.
3. Erotic pleasure derived from contemplation or admiration of one's own body or self, especially as a fixation on or a regression to an infantile stage of development. Does this mean that if I pose naked in the mirror after a shower and think hey, I’m looking pretty smokin’ this evening, I think I shall go and seduce the husband, I’m narcissistic? Or would it have to be more like, wow, my forearm is so attractive I think I just spontaneously climaxed? I mean, what are the parameters here?
4. The attribute of the human psyche characterised by admiration of oneself but within normal limits. Well, okay.

1. Of or relating to actors or acting.
2. Excessively dramatic or emotional; affected. Okay, so I tell a short joke or two after a drink. And okay, so sometimes a short joke can take up to half an hour because I insist on doing the actions and making hilarious asides partway through the narrative. And admittedly, every now and then I finish my interpretation only to realise that all my guests have gone home already. What do you want from me? I’m an artist!

And don’t think the irony of an entire post dedicated to this subject has escaped me.

It's not that I have a problem, exactly

You know, I just thought back, and I can’t remember the last time I went twenty four hours without alcohol.

That can’t be good.

But you know how it is; Wednesday there’s a party, Thursday is cold and a glass of port by the fire is a nice way to end the evening, Friday is a gossipy night full of angst and drama, and one can hardly have conversations like that without alcohol. Saturday is, well, Saturday. Sunday: you expect me to cook goats cheese and herb crusted fish with asparagus and couscous, and not open a bottle of wine to go with it?

That’s okay, I thought, I shall have a nice healthy sober week.

And then Angela and I had an hour to kill after work Monday, and the most logical place to kill it was a local bar. Only one glass of wine, to be sure, but still.

Last night, despite my best intentions, I went to dinner and a film with friends. The problem that was that dinner was at a place famed for its homebrew beer (and its wood oven pizza – words do not do it justice, and I don’t even like pizza much) and I think maybe they refuse to serve you food if you don’t buy a large pint of delicious malty goodness. I might be wrong about that, but I chose not to arouse the ire of the owners by finding out. They’re big guys.

And no, all pints are not the same size. Trust me here.

And since you ask, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest is pretty, and silly, and a little Marx Brothers in parts. No, I’m not much of a film critic. See it yourself. Do I have to do everything around here? Jesus.

Tonight I’ll be good. I’m almost sure of it.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Corporate Love-in

I was going to post about Friday’s love-in, but then I decided it was far too dull. Just because I had to sit through it doesn’t mean any of you should have to. See how much I love you?

I did learn a few things, though. And I think I should share.

Firstly, if you are giving a presentation to a bunch of important strangers, and you are nervous, and you get there early, and you find yourself in a room with only the Uber-boss and his second-in-command, and they are talking about Pink Floyd and which songs they like, the best way to make yourself less nervous is to insert yourself into the conversation by helpfully singing part of On the Turning Away to assist them with its identification. Because then later, when you’re watching all the managers of the other units give professional looking presentations using the corporate template, which you didn’t even know existed, and you are thinking to yourself oh my god, I not only have nothing to say but my visual aids suck and everyone is going to wonder why I am up there and not my manager, and everyone will laugh at me, you can think well, I’ve already made an utter, utter fool of myself this morning and at least I don’t have to sing during the presentation.

Also, full stops are overrated.

Secondly, nobody in my entire department has a clue what they are doing. We all cover it up with business mission statements that say things like ‘provide timely and relevant advice to stakeholders’, which is very helpful because otherwise I’d provide totally irrelevant information in my own sweet time.

“Tanya, can you check the latest amendment to the [Title of] Act and let me know what implications that has for our Chief Executive? I have to brief [Group of Important People] at 4pm. Thanks.”

"Sure"(two weeks later) “The Taningia danae squid has the ability to flash lights from strobe-light organs at the tips of two of its arms. Also, claws.”

Thirdly, I don’t have a thirdly. Except ‘corporate love-ins should have alcohol’, but let’s face it, you could substitute almost anything for the words ‘corporate love-ins’ and I’d still agree. So, you know.

Today's post is brought to you by the letter Q

It took me fifty minutes to get to work this morning, due to a broken down semi trailer and a lot of backed up traffic. Mind you, my co-worker has me beaten hands down here: his tram was held up for half an hour because some old guy on a golf cart insisted on pedalling (do I mean pedalling? I have never been on a golf cart. It’s one of those unrealised ambitions of my life that haunt me in the wee hours) down the tram tracks and refused to get off.

That’s sort of wonderful, I think. You’re some old guy on a little golf buggy, trundling along tram tracks because, you know, there’s no traffic to hit you that way, and then this massive noisy tram comes up behind you, really really fast, slams on its brakes and starts tailgating you at a crawl. Then you’ve got a hundred pissed-off commuters yelling at you out of the windows (I’m editorialising now, you know that, right?) and the tram is really very very large and can squish you like an insect …and your reaction is to shrug and keep trundling. I mean, okay, annoying if you’re a commuter. But the guy gets props nonetheless.

And I’m going to spend my lunch hour queueing in a post office. The glamour, it never stops.

Self-Aggrandising Bit

By the way, you will notice that I finally worked out how to make links (thanks Angela). I’ll add to them if the IT boys allow me to access the site. Also, I am told that people are actually reading this site. Well, more than one person, anyway. This is excellent and exciting and I am chuffed about it. I will be even more chuffed if you pass it on to all of your friends. Also, anyone wanting to lavish me with praise, money, alcohol or ideas for posts can email me at left.

I love you. You wouldn’t leave me, would you?

Monday, July 10, 2006

I have no idea what sort of day I'm having

I got to work at 7.15am today, thinking that I could therefore leave before rush hour. And then I realised I’d forgotten my security pass, and therefore couldn’t get into the building until 8am. Especially because one needs the pass to get in and out of each wing, so every time one wants to visit a bathroom it presents a problem. Bad.

The security pass was on my desk. Better.

The Telstra operator I talked to this morning told me it’d cost me $33 to have my sim card replaced. The startlingly young trainee at the shop gave it to me for free. I’m not sure which one of them was right, but I didn’t stick around to find out. Excellent.

As of half an hour ago, the IT boys have worked out that I cannot possibly be accessing for any work-related purposes. Terrible.

If this works, I’ve managed to blog from email instead. Pending.

I have no idea what sort of day I’m having.

On various losses

So, how about that international sports match, then? I wasn’t going to get up and watch the final of the World Cup, because I didn’t really care who won, but the wind woke me at 4am, so I build myself a nest on the couch and watched.

Now, I don’t know anything about football. Historically the only opinion I have offered is: they should totally make them play into extra time irrespective of the score, because sweat + world-class football players = good, good things.

And they say women don’t appreciate sport.

Anyway, total ignorance has never stopped me making comments before, so here we go.

Firstly, what’s with the whole “Italy didn’t deserve to win” thing? Dude. They won. By playing within the accepted rules of the game (and not, you know,
headbutting their opponent). That pretty much defines “they deserved to win”. Because if that isn’t the case, well, perhaps we should be looking at the rules?

Secondly, consider this a public service announcement. Just because Australia almost didn’t lose to Italy, and then Italy won, does not mean that Australia “could have won the World Cup”. We didn’t. We weren’t going to. If we’d beaten Italy we would have got trounced by someone else, because other countries are better at this game than we are. Okay? Deal with it, move on, go back to playing cricket.

Getting up early makes me cranky.


In other news, some asshole stole my phone at the pub on Friday. I suppose that this was technically my fault, since it almost certainly fell out of my bag, but come on. They could have handed it in. What are they going to get for the handset, $30? It’s going to cost me more than that to replace the sim card along, let alone get a new phone.

And have you ever tried replacing all the information in your phone book? It takes about five months. And I know that, because it’s been about five months since I last lost my phone. Damn it all to hell.

(Anyone who knows me and loves me and has a spare handset, please email me. I’ll buy you a drink.)


Nothing else to report from the weekend. I was accused of gallivanting too much in recent weeks, and my liver and wallet agreed with the accusation, so I divided my time between cooking, gardening and reading. Good times.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Looking at Friday

No blogging tomorrow, people. I have a corporate love-in to go to that will last all day and stop me accessing a computer. I’m hoping that the free food makes up for the excruciating boredom, but I think I’m probably hoping in vain.

Plus, did I mention I have to give a presentation? Normally, I have no problem with talking to an audience. I like the attention. But this time: well, there are so many things wrong with this idea, I cannot begin to tell you.

I don’t want to go into what I do for a living, because it’s dull, but basically I’m giving a presentation justifying the existence of a work unit which is completely and utterly useless, to a large group of near-strangers, all of them senior to me, and all of whom already know that the work unit in question is completely and utterly useless. I think my boss asked me to give the presentation because he didn’t want to risk the rotten eggs being thrown at him.

So let’s hope the food’s good.

And then tomorrow night (after I’ve changed out of my rotten-egg-besmeared work clothes and into jeans), I’m going out with two friends: Sarah, who is visiting from interstate, and Angela, who is responsible for the debacle of last Friday. I imagine that we’ll
grab a coffee and then sit in a park debating whether Beckett or Pinter better capture the rhythm of silence in speech. And by “grab a coffee and then sit in a park debating whether Beckett or Pinter better capture the rhythm of silence in speech” I mean “gossip about our partners and drink a lot of white wine”.

Anyway, my point was, have a good weekend and I’ll be back Monday.

Good friend

I’m not hungover. I should be, and the fact that I’m not suggests that I may, possibly, still be drunk. This is not good. This is not good in the immediate term, because I am trying to put together a presentation for tomorrow on a subject I know nothing about. And it is not good in the medium term, because the hangover will hit. It’s just waiting for a vulnerable moment.

I still claim that I could have happily stopped at the second glass of wine last night. But a very cunning guest bought the hosts a jar of hibiscus flowers in syrup: you place a syrup-soaked flower at the bottom of a champagne glass and fill with champagne, and voila, instant cocktails. So the hosts, Michelle and Matthew, bought a round of champagne.

I love champagne. So, you know.

And by the time that was done, the place was serving half-price cocktails. Well. You can all see where this is going, right? Let’s just leave it there and move on.

At one point I decided to buy Matthew a drink. Listen to this and tell me you don’t want to be my friend, because truly, I rock.

He was about to buy himself a drink, and I thought aha, I shall buy this drink for him. I didn’t articulate this, I just followed him around whilst he examined the whisky selection. So I was being odd and creepy from the outset. Then he asked for one and the bartender said Ah, that’s the best we’ve got, good choice, that’ll be $10. At which point I turned to Matt and said “I was going to buy you a drink but not if you’re going with that one, because, whoah”.

Three things I should point out here.

Firstly, Matthew is leaving the country in a few days, and I am going to miss him an excruciating amount. I can’t even begin to describe how much I love this guy, and I might not see him again for several years.

Secondly, he always, always subsidises me when the two of us go out for the evening. For years, he’s been choosing the nice bottle of wine in the nice bar and paying for it because he knows I can often only afford the cheap bottle in the seedy place down the road. He’s been unfailingly generous about this, and I’ve probably cost him a fair amount of money over the years. Note also that by this point in the evening he and his girlfriend have bought the entire room a round of champagne.

Thirdly, I’m not actually poor, or anything.

He hugged me goodbye at the end of the night and said, well, thanks for almost buying me a drink.

I’m such a good friend.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Exhaustion, exuberance and expatriates

Apologies for the interruption in service. I’ve had a brutal couple of days. Yesterday I worked ten hours without a break – well, no, that’s not true; I stole fifteen minutes to drink a cup of soup. Today was marginally better, in that I got in at 8am and by a breezy 3.30pm I managed to get outside for a cup of tea. God I love the public service. In the private sector I’d have at least got to send out for a sandwich or something.

But that’s over now. I intend to resume my normal indolent work life forthwith.

Given that I left work so late yesterday, we decided to go out to dinner. And I have officially decided that going to dinner on a random weeknight is brilliant.

We went to one of the largest Chinese restaurants in Chinatown. It was only part-full, but we had the good fortune to be seated next to one of those big round banquet tables. All the guests arriving at that table were carrying boxes and backpacks. The first one opened his box and set out eight enormous wine glasses. You don’t tend to see that in a Chinese restaurant. The next one brought eight different glasses. The next handed around printed programs. The others brought bottles of wine.

“They’re plotting to overthrow the government, right?”
“Definitely. Pass the rice”

And I’m going out again tonight, despite exhaustion, because that’s just the sort of jet-setting lifestyle I lead. And because it's the leaving party of one of my dearest friends in the world. It's at a place which, I am told, is the place to be these days. I’m not sure if that sentence usually ends with “…on a Wednesday” but we shall see.

I intend to bolster my emerging reputation as a bright young thing in constant demand (shut up) by drinking two glasses of wine, slurring something embarrassingly sincere about eternal friendship and then falling asleep in the corner.

I’ll keep you posted.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Monday mundanity

I dreamt last night that I came to work this morning to find a letter congratulating me on leaving this job, effective today. I don't have a new job. I'm a little tense this morning.

Reading articles like
this is not making me any calmer. Dear God. Somebody thought it was a good idea to teach this guy how to use a computer?

In uninteresting admin news, I'll be adding a shiny new links section as soon as I have time. Well, as long as I can work out how to add a shiny new links section. Stay tuned.