Productive long weekend

27 04 2009

Some long weekends are just about relaxation; others are more productive. My Anzac Day long weekend was a bit of both — and the relaxation and productivity actually went hand in hand… it’s not hard to do something if you’re enjoying it! The weather was fantastic, so that helped.

Some of the things I accomplished this weekend, very few of which were on my ‘to do’ list:

  • Updated personal and business accounts (not so pleasurable, but it has to be done).
  • Did some gardening — mostly clearing out the leaf litter near the now-exposed fence.
  • Installed Atlassian’s Confluence wiki on my PC — this was a pretty painless process (yes!), and I’m very impressed so far with the capabilities of Confluence and how it overcomes a lot of the issues associated with previous wikis I’ve worked on or with. I was also impressed with the deal — $5 for a 5-user system!! (Sorry, the deal’s finished now, in case you wanted your own.)
  • Made a luggage tag from an image in my mind of one I saw my friend Sue had at the conference. Documented and photographed the process, then wrote up the full instructions in a pattern, tested the pattern by making another luggage tag based purely on the instructions. I’ve now added this pattern to my Etsy store.
  • Packaged an Etsy order for a friend in Connecticut.
  • Watched a thriller of a football game on Anzac Day between Collingwood and Essendon — Essendon won at the death knock (sad).
  • Did some cooking, and visited a friend.

All in all, a relaxed stress-free weekend… There should be more of them!

Stimulus package — gone before we got it

26 04 2009

I’m the only one in our household to receive the $900 “Stimulus package” cheque from the Australian government, and it was all spent on Friday before I even received it!

We had to get 4 new tyres for my husband’s car and 2 for mine (there went $750+), and my husband has to have new prescription reading glasses (another $400+). We got home from getting the tyres fitted and there was my $900 cheque in the day’s mail. I had hoped to buy a new stove with it as the oven on the old one doesn’t work properly and can’t be repaired. But the tyre fitting people and the optician ended up being the recipients of Kevin’s largesse.

BTW, you don’t find out until later that there are a LOT of people who are NOT eligible for this $900 “Stimulus Package” payment. For example:

  • Self-funded retirees living solely off their retirement funds — even if those retirement funds are small — who don’t have a taxable income and therefore don’t pay tax (i.e. those over 60, and some under 60 whose Superannuation fund is tax free)
  • Pensioners and other welfare recipients (they don’t have a taxable income either)
  • Anyone under 18, even if they have a taxable income
  • Anyone with a taxable income over a certain amount ($100,000??) for the past tax assessment year
  • Anyone who didn’t submit a tax return last financial year

That eliminates a lot of people!

And I wonder if the $900 Stimulus Package was really just a con to get a helluva lot more people filing overdue tax returns. The media reports indicate that accountants and tax agents have been inundated with people trying to file before the deadline — in some cases, they haven’t filed a tax return for 10 years or more. No doubt many of these people have now filed so they can get their ‘free’ $900, but they haven’t received their tax bill or overdue penalty from the Tax Office yet. There could be a few nasty surprises in store — surprises that cost far more than the $900 they might or might not get.

The cynic in me says this was a very handy way for the Tax Office to ferret out all those people who have been lax in submitting a return, and all those younger people who just haven’t been bothered submitting a return since they started work. I suspect the Tax Office’s database (and therefore net) just got a little bigger…

New photos for Etsy store

25 04 2009

I realised that a lot of my photos just weren’t showing up very well on my Etsy store. I’d taken them several times, trying to get the light and resolution right.

One of the issues was that small items are hard to take with a bog-standard digital camera (no macro lens), and then there was the light and shadow, and my early attempts at reading and understanding the photo rules for Etsy. I thought that Etsy photos had to be 430 px wide, so I diligently resized everything to be 430 px wide… only to find out that 430 px is the minimum width, and 1000 px or wider is recommended to avoid blurry photos.

I also found out some more information on the Etsy Forums, including a link to this great tutorial on how to make a light tent or light box for taking photos of small things, and information on such new subjects (to me) as white balance, etc.

I fiddled around with the settings on my camera and experimented with my light box and my new (free!) OTT-lite daylight desk lamp, and hunted out my husband’s old camera tripod. After a good day of taking photos, loading them up, experimenting with setting after setting, I think I’ve got a better handle on taking photos of my fabric art items.

I’ve now uploaded the replacement photos for most of the items, and I’m happier with them. They’re still not perfect, but for the purposes of displaying my work, they’ll do.

And the light box definitely makes a difference.

Oceanic Blues

Oceanic Blues

Even incident reports can be funny

16 04 2009

I just saw this incident report from a client (who shall remain nameless). Normally I just skim these, but the first line of the incident caught my eye, so I kept reading. The incident wasn’t funny, but I laughed out loud at the final sentence 😉

BTW, “IP” is “Injured Person”.

There's even humour in incident reports

There's even humour in incident reports

Clever Seattle t-shirt

15 04 2009

I found this t-shirt downstairs at the Pike Place Markets in Seattle — I thought it was pretty clever and entirely apt for Seattle (note the dates…)! So much so that I bought one.

Witty Seattle t-shirt

Witty Seattle t-shirt

A nice Mastercard-style invoice

14 04 2009

A good friend of ours, Dave Gash, is a JavaScript guru amongst other things. Dave’s tried to teach me JavaScript and while I can understand what a function is trying to do, I can’t write the stuff!  Anyhow, when I was in southern California prior to the conference we both spoke at in Seattle, I asked Dave if he could make a thingy (technical term!) for my website that showed snippets of some of the testimonials and recommendations I’ve received from clients, conference attendees, etc. He said “Sure!” and a few days after the conference was over he had emailed me a prototype. With a little tweaking on my end to make it the right size, use the right font etc. it works a treat!

So I ask Dave for an invoice, and this is what he sends me:

Scouring looking for code to steal modify: $0
Approving nods at original author’s ingenuity: $0
Frowny faces at original author’s sloppy-arse code: $0
Reformatting code so I could frigging read it: $0
Ripping out and throwing away about 90% of it: $0
Merrily tinkering with it until it did what I want: $0
Adding ‘random’ feature original author didn’t think of: $0
Smug self-assurance that my version is way better: $0
Doing something nice for one of my best mates: $0
Total cost: One (1) outstanding lunch at Tip Top Meats [German restaurant in Carlsbad, CA]

…and would you look at that, you’ve already paid in advance! 🙂

Thanks Dave! I owe you one.

If you’re looking for someone who can get very techy with web stuff, Dave’s available for hire for long or short projects or even little bits like he created for me. His background is computer programming, but don’t hold that against him! He can work anywhere in the world via the internet (I’m in Western Australia and he’s near San Diego). You can contact Dave via his website: or email him at

My Etsy store is now live!

11 04 2009

After some months of making products, taking lots of dud photos, writing descriptions, defining shop policies, etc. I have FINALLY opened my Etsy store! Woohoo!

It’s called “Rhonda Made It” and it’s here:

I’m selling some of the little fabric pieces I’ve been making that I’ve featured on this blog, such as sets of coasters, landscape fabric art cards, bookmarks, etc. And there are some that haven’t appeared on this blog too — I wanted to keep some as a surprise! Go take a look!

I think I’ve mentioned before that there’s little to no money to be made in handmade crafts because you pretty much can’t charge for labour. My store is a case in point — some of the pieces took 5 or more hours to create, in which case they would be well over $100 even at a low $20 an hour for labour. The Japanese Meshwork, for example, took more than 8 hours to create plus there was a workshop fee of $45. I’m selling it for only $60, which *might* cover the costs of the workshop and the materials, but only just.

Anyhow, my store is now up. I’ll report back every so often as to the views it’s getting, and how the sales are tracking — or not.

rhondamadeit_banner_smaller(BTW, I have lots of timeout issues with Etsy on Firefox, but not on Internet Explorer, so if you can’t access the store easily, try it in IE — even if you’d rather not touch IE!)

Putting us into perspective

10 04 2009

We think our lives and our time frames are important. However, we are but a speck in comparison to some of the world’s oldest trees. Take a look at this 20 minute video of a talk by a chap called Richard Preston to get a different sense of perspective:

Danger is where you least expect it

8 04 2009

The local bushfires in January followed very soon after by the catastrophic bushfires in Victoria in February got me very spooked and fearful, especially as there’s a really big bush block down the hill directly behind our house. I’ve taken steps with the local authorities and have been assured — in writing — that the bush block behind us will be control-burned over the winter months this year to reduce the 15+ year fuel load from the forest floor.

So it was with a great deal of disbelief that I found out that the next door neighbour nearly took our house (and hers) out today with a fire! I had gone into town around lunchtime to collect the mail, etc. I was maybe gone 30 minutes. When I returned, my husband got me to sit down (he knows me well!) then told me that the 80+ year old woman next door had decided to rake some dead/dry leaves in a pile in the corner between our properties and pour oil (!!) on the pile and set it alight. Under a dry overhanging eucalypt tree. Next to a dry, rotting wooden fence. Down the slope from our property. And on a 30+C day after some weeks of fairly high temperatures for this time of year. It seems there was also an old car tyre in the pile too…

By some extremely fortuitous circumstances, the son of the neighbour across the road and his mates were outside her house having just finished some whipper-snipping of that neighbour’s property. They were talking and one said he smelled smoke, another said he heard crackling. The over-the-road neighbour immediately realised it was a fire, then she saw the glow and the smoke. So the young lads raced across the road to our place. They didn’t bother knocking on the door — they just hightailed it to the back of our house, grabbed the hose that was there and proceeded to put out the fire.

According to my husband, one of them tried to stamp on the fire (but it had oil on it and his pants got a bit burned as the fire went up his legs a bit), another split his pants scaling the fence. The fire started to go into the overhanging tree, but fortunately their very quick thinking meant they could get the water on to it in time and put it out. They also put out the main fire at the old lady’s property and the small fire that started on our property — some 10 feet or so from the house — when an ember flew into some dry grass and leaf litter.

I was away all this time and missed the ‘action’ — thank God. I don’t know what I would’ve done. My husband said that he didn’t have time to even think about putting on some protective clothing — it was that quick. But the boys actions were incredibly quick too — without their clear-headed, quick response, I hate to think what I might have come home to.

It seems that the next door neighbour thought that she could light a fire today as she thought the fire bans had been lifted (they don’t get lifted until April 26 — and then only if the conditions warrant it). But what was she thinking, lighting a fire in hot dry conditions in a corner of her block that adjoins another property, that is surrounded by dry vegetation, a rotted wooden fence and overhanging trees, and putting oil on it to get it started properly?? She also has a wooden house and a wood pile on that side of her house, for goodness sake.

After I got home and my husband explained what had happened, we went over to the neighbour’s house across the road and talked it over with her. She knows some of the old lady’s family and will call them to let them know what happened and to find out if they think the lady is mentally fit to care for herself (I was ready to report her to anybody who would listen!).

We also offered to pay for replacement pants for the guy who split his, and offered our heartfelt thanks. My husband had thanked the boys earlier, but it seems they took off pretty soon after saving our house and potentially our lives and that of our elderly neighbour.

There were so many ways this could have been much worse — only last week while I was overseas, our gardening guys came through and finished clearing all the overhanging branches from our side of that fence, including some very large dead and dry branches from the eucalypt tree that caught alight briefly. Also, where the embers came on to our property is where there was a lot of wild undergrowth and bushes that they cleaned out last week. Had that not happened, this fire may not have been so easy to put out.

The lads just happened to have finished working across road at the time of this incident — if they’d still been whipper-snipping, they wouldn’t have heard the fire, or perhaps even smelled the smoke until too late. With the slight wind blowing in the direction it was going, my husband, who has a VERY good sense of smell, hadn’t smelt a thing. The first he knew something was up was when he realised someone was fiddling with our hose out the back!

I think my guardian angel will get an extra big hug tonight!

Sarcophagus seats

5 04 2009

Cathay Pacific have some new seats in Business Class on the A340-300. Instead of the traditional layout where all seats face the front, and are usually in pairs, these seats are all singles and are at a 45 degree angle to the front. Each seat has sides all round (except at the front), giving you a lot of privacy. Under the tops of the privacy screens are tiny little lights which are sufficient for lighting a keyboard without affecting anyone else.

'Sarcophagus' seats on Cathay Pacific

'Sarcophagus' seats on Cathay Pacific

There are air bags in the seat belts! I’m not sure why, but they’re there… There’s in-seat power as well, and it takes any power plug so no adaptor is required. In fact, my Hong Kong adaptor didn’t work at all and I had to remove it and plug my Australian power cord directly into the socket to get power.

However, while these seats sounds interesting, I’m not sure I like them. There’s a sense of claustrophobia about them,  like we’re all arranged in some sort of weird way for a mass burial 😉 (thus the title for this post). And if you’re travelling with someone else, you’re quite separate from them in these seats — you’d have to raise you head/body to talk over the divider.

One thing I do like about them, though, is the silk pillow attached to the headrest and the default angle of the seat for take-off and landing. Very comfortable. The icon on the seat controls tells me that they lay completely flat, but I haven’t tried this yet.

The other thing I like is the remote control for the video and audio system — it displays the time to destination at all times (neat!), the flight number, airline and route (e.g. HKG — PER) (just to confirm you’re on the right one?). It also displays the title of the movie you’re watching or the audio you’re listening to, as well as the total time and the elpased time of the audio or video. And the text is very clear and easy to read.

Oh, and the video screen is quite large and is a widescreen one, so you get to see a movie really well. I watched “The secret life of bees” coming from Hong Kong (Dakota Fanning is maturing well as an actress — she’s great in this).

There are some good and bad points with these seats — I don’t like the hemmed-in feeling you get with them (they’re also not particularly wide so you can’t stretch your elbows out any distance). I do like the power outlet and the entertainment system. Though I wonder what the staff think of them — if you’re watching a movie when they’re doing the food and beverage service, they have to lean over the screen to hand you your tray, pour your wine etc.