You believe me now?

31 01 2008

Not long after we moved into our house almost 12 months ago, I walked from the bedroom across the passage to the bathroom—and saw a tiny scorpion! In the house. Near the bedroom. Freaked me out.

It was really quite small, so my first reaction (after the shock and horror) was to pick it up in a paper towel and dispose of it. I told my husband when he woke up—and told some other people over the next few months—but he and the rest of them didn’t believe me. They thought I must’ve seen an earwig or something like that. I know what an earwig looks like, and yes, we have quite a few of them here. But this was a scorpion. No-one believed me, so eventually I shut up about it. But I knew what I saw!

Well, tonight after watching some TV, my husband went to the fridge and told me there was a scorpion!! On the floor of the kitchen. This time I wanted proof so that all those nay-sayers would now believe me. Here are the photos. The vinyl tile shapes are 9 inch (22.5 cm) square, so you can see how small this thing is.

Maybe it’s an inch long. But hell, it’s a SCORPION not some damned earwig!!! And now I have the pictures to prove it. I don’t know how well I’ll sleep tonight…

Scorpion near the fridge

Scorpion on the kitchen floor


Training fails miserably

26 01 2008

I’m not sure if it’s the education system, or the specific customer service training that people get, but this YouTube video highlights how ANY information you receive from a customer service representative over the phone is suspect.

The issue is not that the customer service people didn’t have the information to hand (some obviously didn’t), but that even with the correct information, they didn’t know how to communicate it correctly to the customer.

Vote for TFP!

26 01 2008

One of my favourite blogs (listed in my blogroll on the right) is The Food Pornographer (TFP). No, it’s nothing like you think! It’s a blog written by a lady in Perth about her food and dining experiences and contains lots of wonderful photos of the everyday fare she eats at home, friends’ places, and in restaurants. I like her writing style, and her photos are mouth-wateringly terrific.

Anyhow, she’s obviously gained a bit of a following, as she’s now one of five finalists in the Best Food Weblog category in the global Bloggie Awards, which will be announced at the South by SouthWest Conference in Austin, TX in March.

Voting for the best blogs in the world closes on January 31, so you’ve only got a few days to get your votes in. You can cast your vote here:

You don’t need to cast a vote in all categories—just the ones where you’re familiar with the blog. And if you’re not familiar with TFP, go take a look at some of her posts, or just vote for her blog anyway!

BTW, in one of those ‘Twilight Zone’ moments, the South by SouthWest Conference is one I’d love to attend one day. I’ve listened to most of the podcasts related to web, user experience etc. from previous conferences, and they’re always good.

Slow posts lately

24 01 2008

I’ve been a bit lax in posting recently… There’s a few reasons for that:

  • I’ve set up a blog for my company newsletter and have been working through all those hints and tips I’ve accumulated over the years. I’ve been putting one into each post, and have been working through my old newsletters checking the currency of the information and making posts of each article if it’s still relevant. There’s still a long way to go… The neat thing about WordPress is that I can post-date articles, which means I’ve got one article a day ready to go for all of February, much of March, etc. So if I get caught up with other commitments, the posts will keep on coming.
  • I’ve been doing quite a bit of editing for my friend Char’s training materials, and updating my own Author-it instructional material to suit v5 (this has been much more time consuming than I first thought…)
  • Work has been pretty full on. I’m still only trying to do three days a week, but they’ve been very busy days (some 10 hours), and by the end of each I’m happy just to loll in front of the TV with my husband. Besides, it’s the height of summer here, and doing anything more energetic is too taxing (well, that’s my excuse anyway!).

I haven’t done anything on the quilt for more than a week—I packed up my sewing machine a week ago expecting to swap it with my Mum’s slightly newer model last week, but we didn’t get to see them in Bunbury as we had planned. We’re going over there on Saturday to see their new house (they moved in on Monday just gone), so I’ll pick up her sewing machine then and give her mine. Maybe I’ll get some more sewing done this (long) weekend…

Natural ecosystem

19 01 2008

The lawnmower guys came a few weeks ago, before Christmas. We’ve had a LOT of hot weather since then and the lawn out the front of the house is as dry as. It’s not dead, but we’re not watering it, so if we get a really long hot spell, it will die off. But the back lawn is a different story!

Again, we don’t water it, and until the lawnmower guys came two days ago, it was growing like a weed! Why? Because I think we have our own little mini-ecosystem happening out there. Here’s a pic of the fairly steep back lawn and fruit trees (with a back shed we don’t use hidden in the background):

Backyard ecosystem

So, what’s happening here? Why is this area so lush and green and rampant and the front so dry and brown?

I put it down to gravity combined with a septic and leach drain system! Our house is on a hill (as all houses in Bridgetown are), and we’re near the top of one hill. Our backyard slopes down quite steeply—it’s steep enough that we have three levels out the back separated by retaining walls. The final section has no retaining walls, but that’s because it just has some fruit trees and no buildings except two sheds. The main house is one level down from the road, and the three levels at the back step down from there.

With no sewerage system, the grey and black water waste from the house ends up in the septic tank, and then leaches in to the soil. If you look at that photo, you can probably guess that the septic tank is on the level immediately below the house! We’ve never found it, but we figure that’s where it is…

No wonder the lemon tree (closest in the picture and situated on the second level) is so prolific! It just LOVES the food and water it’s getting, and rewards us handsomely with more lemons than we know what to do with. I can’t deal with all the lemons—I freeze some, give some to friends, but now give the bulk of them to the local hotel which uses them for in the bar (that slice of lemon has to come from somewhere…) and in the restaurant’s kitchen.

The cycle of life at work.

Evolution of a quilt: 8

13 01 2008

Further progress this weekend… I picked up 5 metres of silver adhesive bias tape earlier in the week, expecting it to be enough. Well, it was only *just* enough for the wings and even then I had to fudge it a little using some offcuts to make up the full length.

I really liked the look when I ironed it on, but then I had to stitch it down—even though I used monofilament (invisible) thread, the holes made by the needle still show. I think that takes a little away from it. Anyhow, the wings are done. I still have to add bias tape to the body—I’m waiting on an order of some black bias tape, so I’m not sure if I’ll do it in that or continue the silver theme. I’m tempted to stay with silver, just for continuity, but black will be more like the colour of a real dragonfly’s body.

Silver wings

Close up of silver bias tape on wings

Because I was out of bias tape, I decided to start on the borders. But what fabric/colours to use? Off to the two fabric stores in town! The first didn’t have anything that ‘sang’ to me, so I decided to try the second store. (Yes, our town is only small—about 5000 people—but we have TWO fabric stores!)

After ‘auditioning’ a lot of fabric bolts (‘auditioning’ is the term you use when you’re trying out other fabrics against those you have, to see what matches, contrasts, fits, etc.), I chose a deep burgundy for the first border (the ‘frame), and a green leaf border for the main border. Here’s how it came together:

Corner with borders

Corner with borders

The next steps are to:

  • Add more leaves, possibly with some falling in to the border.
  • Add the bias tape to the dragonfly when I receive it.
  • Decide whether or not to add gold thread tendrils before it gets quilted, or after, or not at all—suggestions gratefully appreciated!
  • Decide on a backing. My initial thoughts are to do a plain backing (I have plenty of the burgundy fabric used in the frame, or I can get more of the leaf fabric), perhaps with a leaf or two appliqued on. The other thought is to use similar colours/tones to the front and piece another quilt as the back—maybe large log cabin blocks. But that will take a LOT more time!
  • After finishing the top, add the batting and the back, then either quilt it myself, or take it to a local lady (Judy) to quilt for me on her long arm machine. She did a terrific job on my “South of the Border” quilt, and she doesn’t charge a lot so I’m tempted to get her to do it as the finish will be very professional.

When we went over to see my parents a week or so ago, Mum offered to swap sewing machines with me. We both have old Berninas, but hers is a more featured model than mine and about 10 years younger (making hers about 25 years old!). Hopefully the swap will happen this week as we’re meant to be meeting them for lunch later in the week. I doubt she’s used her machine much, so it should work well. And my Bernina feet will work with it too.

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Darwin’s gene pool

11 01 2008

This picture is doing the rounds of the internet—I received it today. I have no idea where it’s come from, where the picture was taken etc., but you have to think hope that the process of natural selection might just prevent these idiots guys from breeding!

The caption with the photo is:

  • Home-made flotation device: $3.50
  • Hosting death BBQ in your pool: Priceless!
The gene pool?

If it’s not clear from the size of this photo, there’s an electric BBQ grill on the centre table (with the beers—a telling sign!), hooked in to a power board that’s floating on some plastic/rubber beach scuffs, and hooked in to an extension lead.

I guess these guys never came to grips with basic science, huh?

How many degrees of separation?

8 01 2008

Late this afternoon I get an email from someone I don’t know. Let’s call him Mark. He addresses me by name and tells me that someone else (let’s call him Larry) from some company I’ve never heard of has recommended me for some proof reading work.

I’m intrigued, so I call Mark. I tell him I don’t know Larry or Larry’s company. Mark fortunately remembers that Larry actually got my name from someone else—let’s call him Rob S. Somewhere in the dim recesses of my brain I vaguely recall someone of this name—he was the contact person at a printing company. But I’ve never met Rob. I only know his name because I recall that a friend of mine—let’s call her Kris—mentioned him some years ago when I edited some company prospectuses for her.

So, I do some work for Kris back in 2000/2001. She mentions my work to Rob. Sometime between 2001 and 2008 (!), Rob—whom I’ve never met and never done any work for—mentions my name to Larry, who remembers it and mentions it to Mark, who has enough information about me to find my website and send me an email requesting an hourly rate quote for occasional proof reading!

What’s that? Four or five degrees of separation?

BTW, Mark’s happy with my hourly rate quote over the phone and is happy to hire me to do work for him on an ad hoc basis, purely based on a recommendation. That’s what it’s all about! Love it.

Update (1 February 2008): It’s happened again! This afternoon I get an email out of the blue from someone I don’t know (M) who works for a company (A) I’ve never worked for. It’s a pretty generic email asking about my availability for some Word template work. I’m not available, so I respond saying so. I get an email back thanking me for a suggestion I made, and stating “I heard you were the best Technical Writer around – obviously your commitment speaks for itself!”

So, taking the bait, I ask who they’d heard that from. The return email gives me a name (J) and company (C). I don’t know the name, and I’ve never done work for company C. BUT… I have worked with someone (F) who’s currently at company C. Now, before you think, “Ah! That’s easy!”, let me tell you that company C is a global company with some 15,000+ employees in numerous locations throughout the world (think of a company starting with C + oil and gas…). I last worked with F back in 2002 or thereabouts. And I’m not even sure that’s where the connection is.

Cue Twilight Zone music about now…

Bird bath

6 01 2008

Early this morning, while I’m reading the Sunday papers in bed, my husband called out that there were seven twenty-eights on the back lawn. “Nothing unusual about that”, thought I, “we often have native birds out the back.” (BTW, twenty-eights, also known as ring-necked parrots, are bright green with a flash of blue tail feathers, a black head, and a yellow neck band—pretty birds.)

So I got up and wandered out to find that this family of twenty-eights were happily ‘bathing’ in our back lawn! Despite the recent hot summer weather, part of our back lawn grows prolifically—I think it’s over the septic tank/leach drain!

These birds were turning themselves over and over in the long dew-covered grass, obviously having a bath… In the lawn!

They emerged looking pretty scraggly as they were quite wet and had fluffed out their feathers. They must’ve had a good old wash for at least 10 minutes before they flew away. I could only get a couple of photos as they were mostly hidden in the long wet grass.

Twenty eights having a bath

Evolution of a quilt: 7

6 01 2008

I realise that most of my recent posts have been on this quilt. That’s because it’s been the Christmas/New Year break for most businesses in Australia, including my clients. While I have done some paid work, most of the people I deal with on a daily basis have been on vacation. Many return to work tomorrow, so my work commitments will ramp up again and the quilt will have to wait for the weekends.

Anyhow, this weekend was the final onslaught for some time. I spent 8 hours just today on blanket stitching the outlines for the grape leaves, plus a couple of hours at a friend’s place yesterday. My ancient machine doesn’t do blanket stitch and she had kindly offered me the loan of hers at any time. And she told me to take the machine with me when I left her place yesterday to continue the stitching. Thanks Bobbie!

So, where did I leave off last time? Ah yes. Fusing the grape leaves down. I fused some, did free motion embroidery for the veins, laid out the next lot, fused them, created the veins, laid out some more, fused them, etc. The metallic thread kept getting caught in the eye of the needle, so off to the fabric store to buy some special “Metallic” sewing machine needles, with big eyes. That helped.

Grape leaf with gold metallic thread veins

Then came the blanket stitching using Bobbie’s machine…. Ten hours of it! Did I mention how long a quilt takes to construct? You could NEVER sell a quilt for what it costs in time! Even using machine techniques. God forbid how much a hand pieced and quilted quilt would be.

Some leaves with blanket stitch

And the WIP (work in progress) quilt top under Bobbie’s sewing machine:

Work in progress

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